Sunday, November 18, 2012

Read & Write - An Accessibility App for Google Docs

Read & Write is a free Google Chrome Web App that increases the accessibility of the text of documents in your Google Drive account. After installing the app you will see a Read & Write tab appear at the top of your browser window whenever you have a document open in Google Drive. Clicking that Read & Write tab will open a menu of accessibility options.

Some of the accessibility options include a picture dictionary and a talking dictionary. To use either dictionary just highlight a word then click on the dictionary that you want to use. The dictionary that you select will pop-up in your document. Read & Write will also read the text of your documents aloud. In the settings menu you can select from nine voices and three playback speeds. Learn more about Read & Write in the video below.

Thanks to Jen Deyenberg for sharing this handy Chrome app.

European Exploration - A Game for Learning About The Age of Discovery

Last week Glenn Wiebe published a list of iPad apps for history teachers. One item in that list that was new to me was European Exploration: The Age of Discovery. This free iPad app puts students in charge of exploring the "New World." In the game students are in charge of selecting explorers and ships to send out to the New World. Students have to manage the finances of their expeditions so that they don't run out of money before they can return home safely.

European Exploration: The Age of Discovery provides students with historical information about the explorers that are available to lead expeditions. Some of the explorers available include Giovanni da Verrazano, Christopher Columbus, and Juan Ponce de Leon. The explorers are graded based on their navigation, cartography, and shipkeeping skills. Each explorer has a different salary which students must account for when managing the budgets of their expeditions.

The object of the game is to unveil the entire New World. To do this students draw expedition maps and send out their explorers. If the expedition is successful it will earn money that students can then parlay into financing another expedition. Successful managers of European Exploration: The Age of Discovery will be able to manage multiple expeditions simultaneously.

Applications for Education
European Exploration: The Age of Discovery could be a great way to get students interested in the expeditions of early European explorers. To extend the game you could have your students research why some explorers in the game have higher navigation, cartography, and shipkeeping rankings than others.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Create Your Own iPad Games on TinyTap

TinyTap is a free iPad app that allows you to create simple games based on pictures that you take. The purpose of the games you build is to help young students (pre-K through grade 4) practice identifying objects and patterns.

To create a game on TinyTap you upload pictures or take new pictures and arrange them into a set. Then select each image to create questions about it. To create your question press the record button and start talking. When you have finished talking select a portion of your picture to serve as the answer. I created a small game about objects in my house. I took four pictures of things in my house. Each question asked players to identify the objects in my house. For example, when a player sees a picture of my kitchen he or she has to identify the tea pot by touching it.

If you don't have time to create your own games or you just want to see what others have done, you can browse the TinyTap Market. In the Market you can find a mix of free and paid games. A few of the free games that your students can play include "Dress for Winter," "Match It," and "Who Is Bigger?"

Applications for Education
TinyTap could be a great app for creating games that are tailored specifically to your students. You could create a game based on pictures of things in your school. Then your students can play the game to practice recognizing things like the school nurse's office and the names of people in the school office.

My Three Edublogs Awards Nomimations

The nomination process for the 2012 Edublogs Awards opened earlier this week. I have been fortunate to have been the recipient of at least one award every year since 2008. Thank you for all of your support over the years.

In year's past I've made a full list of nominations, but this year I'm only making nominations in three categories. Here are my nominations for the 2012 Edublogs Awards.

Best ed tech / resource sharing blog - Larry Ferlazzo
Best free web tool - Meograph
Best educational use of audio / video / visual / podcast - Keith Hughes (Hip Hughes History)

Every year there are lots of comments in favor of and against the Edublogs Awards. Whether or not you choose to participate in the selection process the awards process does bring attention to a lot of blogs, apps, and people. Every year I pick up a few new blogs and apps by looking through the nominations.

Games for Teaching Students About Balance and Stability

Rumble Blocks and Beanstalk are educational games developed and produced by DARPA's Engage Program. The games are designed for elementary school students to play to learn about and reinforce the concepts of balance and stability.

In Rumble Blocks students build towers by moving and placing a series of blocks. The object of the game is to build a tower that is tall enough and stable enough to support a "friendly alien's" spaceship.

In Beanstalk students balance flowers and bugs on a plank that is supported by a beanstalk. The better students get at balancing the plank, the taller the beanstalk grows.

Applications for Education
Rumble Blocks and Beanstalk are simple games that can be used to reinforce the principles taught in the hands-on lessons on which the games are based. Get the Rumble Blocks lesson plan here. Click here for the Beanstalk lesson plan.