Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Backstit.ch - Another iGoogle Alternative

Google is closing iGoogle in November and I know that there are quite a few readers who are looking for some alternatives to it. If you are looking for an alternative this morning TechCrunch had a story about a new service called Backstit.ch that you might like.

Backstit.ch is a new service that provides a personalized start page for you. Backstit.ch allows you to organize and display information from your favorite websites and services. Your start page can be constructed of information from Backstit.ch's suggested sites or from RSS feeds that you specify. I created a simple start page of information from TechCrunch, CNN, my Twitter feed, and Free Technology for Teachers. While it was easy to add content from Backstit.ch's suggested sources, adding content from a non-featured source like Free Technology for Teachers required entering the feed URL rather than just the site URL.

Applications for Education
Hopefully, Backstit.ch will soon make it easier to add content from non-featured sources. I would also like to see them add the option for creating multiple pages within an account and or have an option to share pages. When they do that it could be a good way to create start pages about your favorite topics. Until then, I think that Symbaloo is a better alternative to iGoogle.

Video - The Black Death in 90 Seconds

Yesterday, in an email from Next Vista for Learning I learned about this short explanation of The Black Death created by a teacher in California. The video was the winning entry in Next Vista's latest video creation contest.

Speaking of contests, Next Vista for Learning has launched a new video creation contest for teachers and students. Entries should be 90 seconds or less. The purpose of the videos is to teach something to others. The deadline for entries is December 21. Read the full contest description and rules here.

One Click Chart Editing in Google Spreadsheets

If you make charts in Google Spreadsheets you'll be happy to learn that yesterday Google introduced one click chart editing. To edit a part of your chart you just click on the element you want to change to the editing menu. You can also now drag the edges of your charts to resize them. Click here to read more about the new Google Spreadsheets chart editing options.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Google Reminds Us That Soon All Docs Will Be in Drive

When Google launched Google Drive back in April we knew it was only a matter of time until all Google Docs users would have to transition to Google Drive. That's not a bad thing in my opinion. The day of compulsory transition to Google Drive seems to be getting much closer. Today, Google published a blog post declaring Google Drive is the new home for all your Google Docs. The blog post included the news that if you haven't transitioned yet you will see a prompt to transition the next time you visit Google Docs. You can choose to continue to use the "old look" for a while by selecting that option in the settings menu, but that option will eventually go away too.

If you're looking for a guide to Google Drive, I published one in May. It is embedded below.

Google Drive and Docs for Teachers 2012

Picture Book Maker - Create Children's Stories

Earlier today I wrote about Stop Frame Animator from Culture Street. After playing with the Stop Frame Animator I tried out another of Culture Street's tools, the Picture Book Maker. The Picture Book Maker allows students to create six page stories by dragging background scenes into a page, dragging in animals and props, and typing text. All of the elements can be sized an positioned to fit the pages. Text is limited to roughly two lines per page. Completed stories are displayed with simple page turning effects. Stories created on Picture Book Maker can be printed.

Applications for Education
Picture Book Maker could be good tool for elementary school students to use to create short stories that they can print or email to share with their parents. If you have students who struggle to start a creative story, have them pick an animal from the menu and write a story about that animal. The story that I created was about a penguin lost in a forest (I think my mom is going to love it when the printed story arrives in the mail).