Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Wikispaces Introduces a Nice New Website Style

One of the questions that I am often asked is, "should I create a wiki or a website?" For a while my answer has often been to use Google Sites which can be used for both purposes. Today, Wikispaces introduced a new template that offers the flexibility to use Wikispaces as a website and as a tool for collaboration.

The new Wikispaces Editable Website Wiki Type allows you to Wikispaces to create webpages that don't show all of the navigation, editing, and discussion links that you typically see when viewing a Wikispaces page. The new Editable Website Wiki Type retains all of the editing and collaboration options that you have when using a standard Wikispaces page type.

There are two ways to activate the new Wikispaces Editable Website Wiki Type. If you're creating a new wiki select Editable Website Wiki Type during the set-up process. If you have existing wikis that you would like to convert to the new Editable Website Wiki Type sign into your wiki then open the "manage wiki" menu and then the "wiki info" menu to change the wiki type.

Applications for Education
The new Editable Website Wiki Type bridges the gap between websites and wikis. The new style could be perfect for having students create digital portfolios of work they have done in your courses. For more ideas on using wikis in education please see 5 Ways You Can Use Wikis.

Problem Attic - Quickly Create Practice Assessments

Problem Attic is a free service that allows you to quickly create practice tests and flashcards for social studies, language arts, mathematics, and science. Problem Attic has a collection of more than 45,000 questions from past New York Regents exams. To create your practice tests on Problem Attic you simply create a new document then browse through questions and pin them to your document. After you have pinned all of the questions that you want in your document you can arrange the order in which they appear in your document. Finally, before printing your document you choose and set the page formatting.

Applications for Education
Even though I live and work in Maine, one of my former department chairpersons was a big fan of using old New York Regents exam questions as essay prompts and review activities with his students. In my travels and work with teachers in other parts of the U.S. I've talked with other teachers who also like to use old exams for the same purpose. If you like to use old exam questions as review materials, Problem Attic is a service that you should try.

Historical Thinking Matters - Multimedia Investigations in U.S. History

Historical Thinking Matters features four fantastic historical thinking investigation activities for students. Through the investigations students learn about the Spanish-American War, the Scopes Trial, Rosa Parks, and Social Security.

Each of the investigations provides students with background information in the forms of video, images, audio, and text (both primary and secondary sources). As students progress through the investigations they can use the Historical Thinking Matters student notebook to answer guiding questions and take notes. At the end of the investigation students are asked to write short essays. After completing their essays students can email their work including the notes from their notebooks directly to their teachers.
Applications for Education
Historical Thinking Matters is site that every teacher of U.S. History should bookmark. Through the investigations students not only learn about the four events in the series, they also develop skills in analyzing primary sources. And ff you want to create your own historical thinking investigations, Historical Thinking Matters provides a good model to follow.

Organize and Share Lesson Resources on Claco

Back in March I wrote about a new social network for teachers called Class Connect. Since then Class Connect's founder Eric Simons has taken the service through some re-engineering and rebranding and has now re-launched his service as Claco.

Claco is part online filing and part social networking. Using Claco you can collect and organize resources into binders. The social networking piece of Claco allows you to  subscribe to other members' updates. When you subscribe to other members who have made their binders public, you can quickly "snap" their shared resources into your own binders. For example, in the screen capture below you will see that I am "snapping" one of Steve Spangler's shared resources into one of my binders.
In your Claco binders you can save videos, images, individual document files, and complete folders of files. As you can see in the image above, Steve Spangler shared a video that I snapped into one of my Claco binders.

Applications for Education
Claco could be a good place to organize your lesson materials and share some or all of them with other educators. If you're looking for a place to find new lesson ideas and resources, take a look at Claco.

Google Books for Android Gets Handy Updates

Google Books for Android has become my go-to reading app on my Nexus 7 and on my Galaxy Tablets over the last year. The wealth of free public domain books that I can find on Google Books appeals to my cheapskate frugal nature. I also like that I can search for and synch books across my computers and tablets.

Yesterday, Google released a couple of great updates to Google Books for Android. Now when you're reading a book from Google Play Books on your Android device you can highlight the name of a place to quickly find a Google Map for that location. Another new feature to note is a built-in dictionary. To use the dictionary highlight and hold a word. Finally, Google Books for Android now has highlighting and annotating options. You can now highlight words or phrases by clicking and holding on them. Then you can choose your highlighter color and start typing notes associated with your highlights.

Applications for Education
The new updates to Google Books for Android could prove to be great tools for students to use. Your students can use the highlighting and note-taking options to jot down their questions and thoughts while  reading a text you've assigned to them. For example, I might have students in my U.S. History course read a section of The Federalist Papers and while reading write down questions that they need answers to or write comments that they will refer to later during a classroom discussion. I have done a similar thing in my honor courses with paper copies of The Federalist Papers in the past, but now students can access their notes and questions wherever they are. Not to mention the dictionary option will help students quickly access clarifying information as they read.