Thursday, September 20, 2012

7 Good Sources of Creative Writing Prompts

For some students the hardest part of starting a creative writing assignment is generating an idea to write about. Here are seven good sources of writing prompts that you can share with your students.

The Imagination Prompt Generator randomly generates prompts for starting a fictional story. Imagination Prompt Generator is part of the Creativity Portal which offers ideas for free creative projects. Most of the project ideas in the kids section of the Creativity Portal are appropriate for elementary school and possibly middle school age students.

Story Wheel is an app for the iPad and iPhone that is designed to promote audio storytelling. Spin the Story Wheel on your device and when it lands on an image, dictate a short story based on that image. When you are finished recording, you can play your story back with animations generated by Story Wheel. The basic Story Wheel app is free. You can add more thematic sets of images like the Pirate theme to the app with a $.99 in-app purchase.

Image Credit
Toasted Cheese is a daily writing prompt site that publishes prompts on a monthly calendar. The whole month is laid out for you with a different prompt each day. Don't see anything you like on the current calendar? That's okay, click through the previous months to find old prompts. Periodically, Toasted Cheese holds writing contests which you can learn about by clicking on the links on the calendar. The writing contests are based on one or more of the prompts from the calendar.

One Word is a simple writing prompt generator. The way it works is the user clicks "go" on the One Word homepage and they are presented with one word. Users then have sixty seconds to write in the text box whatever comes to their minds regarding that word. The idea is not so much to write definitions of the words, but rather it is to write sentences using the word.

Plinky is a good place to find writing prompt ideas. Plinky provides users with a new writing prompt everyday. The benefit of Plinky over other writing prompt websites is that once you've created an account you can see how other Plinky users responded to the prompt.

Write Rhymes is a fun little site where you can find a word to rhyme with just about any other word. I tried to use words for which I couldn't think of obvious rhymes, but each time Write Rhymes came up with something. To use Write Rhymes simply type a word in the text box then option-click on it to see a list of rhyming words.

Quotes Daddy, as you might guess from the name, is a compendium of quotes from famous and not-so-famous people. Each day new quotes are featured on the homepage of Quotes Daddy. If you have a class blog you can add a Quotes Daddy widget to your blog.

Tree Planet - Nurture Virtual Trees and Help the Environment At the Same Time

Tree Planet is a game that has a similar double bottom line concept as Free Rice. You play the game and the game's developer does something good for the world. In Tree Planet you plant and tend virtual trees. To plant the tree you have to dig soil, fertilize, and water your seeds. As the tree grows you need to protect it from hazards like sheep and loggers. When your virtual trees are fully grown Tree Planet and its partners will plant a real tree in Mongolia, Republic of Sudan, or South Korea. Tree Planet has partnerships with the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification and World Vision.

Tree Planet is available for Android and iPhone. I actually installed it on my iPad just to test it even though it's not optimized for iPad display. I also installed it on my Nexus 7. I preferred the iOS version because the Android version required an extra download of 40mb of images after installing the app. The developer is South Korean and the pages in App Store are written in Korean, but the app can be used in English.

Applications for Education
Playing Tree Planet could a good way to teach young students about the responsibility of caring for plants. Students could log into the game daily to maintain their plants until they have reached maturity. Once your students' virtual trees have reached maturity you could launch into lessons about the countries in which your students real trees will be planted.

H/T to The Next Web

Interactive Whiteboards 101

Danny Nicholson is an interactive whiteboard expert who I've had the pleasure of seeing in action a few years ago. Since then his blog, The Whiteboard Blog, has been one of my go-to places for information about interactive whiteboards.

Today, Danny published a new post that every teacher new to using interactive whiteboards should bookmark. Interactive Whiteboard #101: A Short Primer offers information that can be used by teachers who have Promethean, SMART, Mimio, and Easiteach interactive whiteboards. A few highlights from the post; Danny recommends having a Dropbox account and a large USB stick, he refers readers to some free resources for all boards, and explains the basics of using IWBs.

If you're new to using IWBs, check out Danny Nicholson's Interactive Whiteboard #101.

A Google Guide to Google Apps Accessibility

Yesterday, Google released a short PDF all about accessibility of Google Apps. The Administrator Guide to Accessibility (link opens a PDF) is a twenty-one page guide to accessibility settings in Google Apps. The guide covers accessibility settings for Gmail, Calendar, Drive, Docs, and Presentations. The guide also covers apps that are not fully accessible yet including some features of Sites, Chat, and Groups.

Applications for Education
If you're a Google Apps administrator in your school, this guide is for you. If your school uses Google Apps for Education and you work with students who use assistive technology, this guide could be a handy resource for you too.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

An Updated 63 Page Guide to Google Drive and Docs

Back in May I published a 57 page guide to Google Drive and Docs. That guide was well-received by many people some people even used it in their own presentations at ISTE 2012 (in some cases with permission and in some cases without). Since I originally published that guide Google has added a couple of new features to Google Docs. Therefore, I have updated my guide to Google Drive and Docs for Teachers. I've embedded the new version below. If you have used Scribd to embedd the older version in a webpage somewhere, don't worry the new version should automatically appear for you.

I have stopped giving away downloads of this document. I have adopted this policy for two reasons. First, I have found many instances of people not honoring the Creative Commons license of my previous works. Second, pageviews and in turn ad revenue, are the only way that I am compensated for the many hours that I put into creating these resources. I apologize if this policy causes an inconvenience for you. You are free to use Scribd to grab the embed code and place the document in a non-password protected webpage.