Monday, July 9, 2012

47 Page Guide to Google Sites for Teachers

The rest of this week I will be running workshops on Google Docs and Google Sites with Kern Kelley and Alice Barr as a part of Google Apps Bootcamp NH. For the Google Docs section I will be using my guide to Google Drive and Docs for Teachers. For the Google Sites section I will be using a brand new guide to Google Sites for Teachers. Google Sites for Teachers was designed as a guide for new users of Google Sites. I have designs for expanding it to include more advanced features in the future. You can view the 47 page guide as embedded below.



I have stopped allowing downloads of this document. After seeing my documents downloaded and used for profit, I decided to stop giving away the downloads. 

Say Goodbye to iGoogle and Hello to Symbaloo

Last week Google announced that they are shutting down iGoogle, Google Video, and three other services. According to my Google Analytics reports, iGoogle is still very popular with readers of Free Technology for Teachers. If you're an iGoogle user who will be looking for a new start page, my suggestion is to try Symbaloo.

Symbaloo allows you to bookmark your favorite websites and arrange them into tile boards that you can share or keep private. Symbaloo calls the tile boards webmixes. You can create multiple webmixes arranged according to topics of your choosing. Symbaloo offers a free iPhone app and a free Android app that you can use to access your webmixes anywhere.

Applications for Education
Symbaloo does offer an education version, but the education version is not free except for individual use which doesn't make it different than signing up for a regular Symbaloo account. Symbaloo can be good for organizing a set of resources to share with your students or colleagues. You could also have students create their own Symbaloo accounts and create webmixes around topics that they are researching.

The War of 1812 in Animated and Google Maps

Inspired by a recent post on Google Maps Mania about Brock University's The War of 1812 in Maps I decided to revisit a couple of similar resources. Brock University's maps of The War of 1812 provides historical imagery of battle sites layered on top of Google Earth imagery.

History Animated offers an online tour of the causes of The War of 1812, notable battles and strategies, and the outcomes of each battle. History Animated's maps show troop movements throughout the war. Students can advance through the tour at their own paces using the fast forward, pause, and rewind buttons.

Learn Alberta has a nine-part resource providing maps of The War of 1812. The maps are arranged chronologically. Each map is accompanied by a short explanation. You can find a simple support document for the maps here. For history teachers in the United States, Learn Alberta's resources on The War of 1812 could be useful for providing an alternate view of the war.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Increase Student Engagement with Skype in the Classroom

Guest Post from Lisa Mims.

It’s always amazing to me how educators, can grab hold of something that wasn’t developed with us in mind, and make it our own. We have a knack for doing that, and we’ve done it with Skype. With Skype, educators are knocking down classroom walls,allowing our students the chance to hear from experts, and creating global learners.

I heard wonderful stories of teachers using Skype in their classrooms, and I envied them. I vowed that 2011-2012, I would take advantage of Skype.  At the beginning of the school year, I got webcams from DonorsChoose. Then I bugged my IT person for three weeks, until he finally came  in and hooked up my webcam. (Not that I didn’t know how, but I didn’t have administrative access).  We were ready!

My first experience was Mystery State. I connected with a teacher in another state. Our students exchanged clues in order to guess each other’s states. We did this several times with various classes throughout the U.S., during the school year.  Each teacher had their own preference  for how it was done.

We participated in the Global Read Aloud Project . Students from all over the world read “Tuck Everlasting” and then discussed it. I connected with a teacher in Mississippi, and our classes had a book discussion via Skype! What an opportunity to engage our students and promote critical thinking!

We Skyped with a marine biologist and a student marine biologist! The student biologist Skyped from a beach in Florida!  The questions were flying and our experts answered every one of them! On World Read Aloud Day, we had an author, a CNN analyst, and his wife read “A Wrinkle in Time”, a story we were enjoying for Read Aloud.

All of my connections were made through Twitter, but you can find experts anywhere! A parent, someone in your community, anyone who would be willing to Skype with your students, and provide that “real world” application so often missing from our lessons.  

An excellent resource, that I did not take advantage of last year, is Skype in the Classroom. This site gives you access to an enormous amount of projects, with people all over the world, who are willing to Skype with our students.

Helpful Tips for Implementing Skype in the Classroom
  • Make sure Skype is not blocked in your district. If it is, find out who can unblock it.
  • Create a Skype account.
  • Classroom management is a must! Assign jobs.
  • Make sure everyone can be seen and heard.

  • Do a test run before the actual Skype.
  • Make sure there’s someone there who can help if you need it, it could be a student.
  • Be prepared! My kids always had their questions on index cards.
  • Have a time limit.
  • Don’t panic if the tech messes up, it happens! :) Reschedule.
  • If Skyping with someone who has given of their time, send Thank you letters or notes. (optional)


There are so many ways to use Skype in your classroom, hopefully you will take advantage of at least one! Who you gonna call? :)

Lisa Mims is a 27+ year educator, who is still passionate about teaching! She is a 5th grade teacher in New Castle, DE. She loves discovering, and learning, about creative, techy, ways to engage her students. Lisa is the author of two blogs, Diary of a Public School Teacher! and Word of Mouth:Tech Tools and Resources! She can also be found on Twitter @BriteEyes49.

The Most Popular Guest Posts on Free Technology for Teachers

There is a trail through there.
Good morning from the Free Technology for Teachers world headquarters in Greenwood, Maine. I'm back from a week of mountain biking in the highlands of Iceland. If you're ever in Iceland, I recommend visiting BikeCompany.is and inquiring about tours.

In a classic case of "the Internet really does connect us," shortly after we met, one of the guides for the trip who is also a teacher said to me, "oh yes, I saw your name as a presenter for iPad Summit USA." Fortunately, we both recognized it was vacation and didn't spend too much time talking shop during the week. Although teachers never really do stop talking shop completely.

While I was away I ran guest posts from educators who were willing to share their experiences with you. Thank you to all of the guest writers who helped me out this week. Below is the list of the most read guest posts of the week.

1. One Music Class - One iPad - Now What?
2. The Teacher-Librarian is Your Best Tech Resource
3. Making Educational Blogging Work For You
4. Gathering Feedback with Socrative Classroom Activities
5. Creating Infographics with Middle School Students
6. Welcome to Online Textbooks
7. Tech Alternatives for the One Computer Classroom


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