Friday, January 18, 2013

Create Multimedia Booklets With Simple Booklet

This week someone asked me if I knew of a free tool that students can use to take the content of Word documents and put them into an ebook format. That question prompted me to review Simple Booklet again. Simple Booklet is a service offering free online booklet creation and publishing.

To create a book using Simple Booklet just sign-up for a free account and click create. Select the layout template that suits your needs. To add content click anywhere on the blank canvas and a menu of options will appear. You can add text, images, audio files, videos, and links to each page of your booklet. In the field for adding text there is an option to copy from Word documents.

Each page of your Simple Booklet can have multiple elements on it. To include videos you can upload your own files or select from a variety of provides including SchoolTube, TeacherTube, YouTube, and others. To add audio to your pages you can upload your own files or again select from the online hosts Last.fm, Sound Cloud, or Mix Cloud. When you're done building pages in your Simple Booklet you can share it online by embedding it into a webpage or you can share the unique link generated for your booklet.

Applications for Education
Simple Booklet offers a free plan. You can register on the site or use your Google Account to register for Simple Booklet. Simple Booklet now offers a very reasonable plan for educators who want to create and manage student accounts. For $5/year teachers can create and manage student accounts.

Simple Booklet could be a good tool for students to use to publish multimedia stories. Students could use Simple Booklet to create a small portfolio of their work using videos, images, sounds, and text.

Distributing Files With Facebook and Google Drive

A few years ago I wrote a series of posts about how I was using a Facebook page to keep students and parents informed of important things happening in the classroom. You can find that series through these links; part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4. This morning I read about a service that would allow you to share large files on your Facebook page. I was just about to use it when I remembered that I could accomplish the same thing by using Google Drive and posting a link from files in my Google Drive account on my Facebook page.

You can upload videos, audio files, PDFs, Word documents, and just about any other file to your Google Drive account and you can make access to the file public if you want to. This is how I occasionally share some of my large PDFs. Grab the link to the file by clicking the share button in your Google Drive account then select "anyone with the link" as your accessibility setting. Now you can paste that link into your Facebook page for your class or your school.

Applications for Education
As I wrote a few years ago and still say today when people ask, I think that having a Facebook page for your class that students and their parents can Like is a good way to increase the distribution of information about your class. Students and parents need to be reminded to visit classroom websites, but very few students today need to be reminded to visit Facebook. Try this out by putting a helpful file like a course syllabus on your the Facebook page for your class.

Get Eight Good Mac Apps for Free

Stack Social is currently running a promotion through which you can download eight useful Mac apps for free. The combination of apps would normally cost you $117. I grabbed the bundle of apps because I wanted to try the video conversion app and screen capture app included in the bundle. The bundle also includes the Type Fu typing game which may be of interest to some readers.

To download this bundle of free Mac apps you do have to register for a Stack Social account and Tweet or Like Stack Social on Facebook. It took me about two minutes to complete the registration and social sharing requirement. It's a small price to pay for a nice collection of apps that would otherwise cost you $5 to $30 each.

H/T to Lifehacker.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

13 Good Resources for Social Studies Teachers

I recently met an old colleague of mine for breakfast. Steve and I team taught a course together for a couple of years before he retired a few years ago. During our conversation he said to me, "Richard, what I knew you were good at was finding things our students liked." Coming from Steve, whose opinions I hold in high regards, took that as a compliment and as a reminder that I haven't published a good list for fellow social studies teachers in quite a while. Therefore, this evening I sat down and combed through my archives to pick what I think are some off the better free resources for social studies teachers and students.

Museum Box is a great tool for creating virtual displays of artifacts that you find online. By using Museum Box students can organize images, text, videos, links, and audio clips about any topic that they're researching. When completed , students' "boxes" become digital dioramas.


Mission U.S. offers two interactive journeys through two important eras in U.S. History. The journeys are designed as role-playing games or missions. Both games can be played entirely online or downloaded for play on your PC or Mac (you do need an Internet connection to save a game in progress). The first mission in Mission U.S. is set in Boston in 1770. Students play the role of 14 year old Nat Wheeler who, after the Boston Massacre, must choose to side with the Loyalists or the Patriots. The second mission in Mission U.S. is set in Kentucky and Ohio in 1850. Students take on the role of a fourteen year old slave named Lucy. In the mission students escape slavery in Kentucky and navigate to Ohio.

Hip Hughes History is a fantastic YouTube channel that I promoted a few times in 2012. Hip Hughes History is a series of short, upbeat lectures on topics in US History and World History. The videos are produced by Keith Hughes, a high school history teacher in Buffalo, New York. A sample video is embedded below.


Meograph is a digital storytelling tool that I featured a couple of times in 2012. Meograph provides tools for creating map-based and timeline-based narrated stories. When you watch a Meograph story (click here to watch one about women's rights in the USA) you will notice that it is very similar to a watching a narrated Google Earth tour. That is because it is based on the Google Maps and the Google Earth browser plug-in. As the story plays you can stop it to explore additional content in the forms of videos, texts, and images. Meograph has an education page on which they are featuring examples of using the service in education.

The Google Cultural Institute offers 42 new online historical exhibitions. The exhibitions feature images, documents, and artifacts from some of the most significant cultural events of the last one hundred years. The exhibitions are built as interactive slideshows that you can scroll and click through to discover the artifacts and stories.

European Exploration: The Age of Discovery is a free iPad app that 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.

GE Teach is built around the Google Earth browser plug-in. The purpose of the site is to help teachers develop lessons in which students explore spatial distributions. Visitors to GE Teach can select from a variety of physical geography and human geography layers to display and explore. A fantastic feature of GE Teach is the option use the "two Earths" mode to show two maps side-by-side. In the image below (click to view full size) you can see that I have used the Earth on the left to view climate regions and the Earth on the right to view population density. The "two Earths" mode could be useful for prompting students to make comparisons and or correlations between two maps.

  History Engine is an educational project developed by The University of Richmond for the purpose of giving students a place to explore stories of American life and publish their own stories based upon their research. I was initially drawn to History Engine by the map and timeline that was featured on Google Maps Mania. The History Engine map allows students to search for stories by selecting a decade on the timeline then clicking a location on the map. Students will find stories about ordinary citizens making minor news in their communities as well as stories about famous Americans like George Washington.

History Animated offers animated online tours of notable battles and strategies and the outcomes of each battle in the American Revolution, the War of 1812, the American Civil War, and WWII. History Animated's maps show troop movements throughout the wars. Students can advance through the tour at their own paces using the fast forward, pause, and rewind buttons.


 Go Social Studies Go is a nice site developed by Kenneth Udhe, a social studies teacher in Michigan, for his students and the world. Go Social Studies Go is essentially a series of multimedia books about common social studies topics. The site is divided into four main sections; World Geography, World Religions, Ancient History, and Colonial America. Within each section is a series of booklets containing text, pictures, videos, and links to additional resources.

Gooru is a service that aims to provide teachers and students with an extensive collection of videos, interactive displays, documents, diagrams, and quizzes for learning about topics in math, social studies, and science. As a Gooru member you have access to hundreds of resources according to subject areas such as social studies,  chemistry, biology, ecology, algebra, calculus, and more. Within each subject area you can look for resources according to media type such as video, interactive display, slides, text, and lesson plans. When you find resources that you want to use, drag them to the resources folder within your account. Gooru also offers you the option to add resources to your folders even if you did not find them within Gooru.

 Dipity is a great timeline creation tool that allows users to incorporate text, images, and videos into each entry on their timeline. Like most good web tools, Dipity has a collaboration option and has multiple options for sharing your timelines publicly or privately. Each entry to a Dipity timeline can include multiple types of media which allows users to add more detail and information than can be included in a traditional timeline. If you want to import Tweets and other social media messages, you can do that too on Dipity. Dipity will work on your iPad.

  iCivics offers seventeen educational game for students. The games introduce students to the roles of citizens and government in the United States. Students who register for a free iCivics account can pause the games and come back to them at a later time. Click here for a list of all of the games offered by iCivics. All of the iCivics games have curriculum units connected to them.

A Simple Tool for Finding SAT & ACT Vocabulary Words on Any Website

During a workshop that I ran on Monday someone noticed the Professor Word bookmarklet that I have displayed in my Chrome browser. So during a break I showed off what Professor Word can do and I've decided to share it again here.

Professor Word is a service that can help students learn new SAT and ACT vocabulary words. Professor Word operates as a browser bookmarklet in Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Safari. When you're reading a webpage click on the Professor Word bookmarklet to quickly identify SAT and ACT vocabulary words on that page. You can also use Professor Word to get definitions for any unfamiliar word on a webpage. To get a definition just highlight the word a small dialogue box containing the definition will appear.


Applications for Education
Professor Word could be a great little tool for students to use to not only read definitions, but to also see SAT and ACT words used in "real world" context.