Tuesday, March 12, 2013

MyLinkCloud - The iGoogle Alternative You've Been Looking For

The news of Google shutting down iGoogle (November, 2013 for existing users) has left people scrambling to find alternative start page services on the web. One alternative to iGoogle that I tried last fall is MyLinkCloud. MyLinkCloud just added a couple of important features that are attractive to longtime iGoogle users.

MyLinkCloud now supports RSS feeds. You can display the RSS feeds of your favorite blogs on your MyLinkCloud start pages. The other new feature in MyLinkCloud of note is the option to include search boxes in your start pages. You can include Google, Wikipedia, and YouTube search boxes on your start pages. Normally these features are only unlocked if you invite others to use MyLinkCloud, but if you use the links on this post, MyLinkCloud will waive that requirement for you.

MyLinkCloud continues to support the option to add sticky notes to your start pages as well as the option to create frames or groups of links on your start page.

Watch the video below for some ideas about how your might use MyLinkCloud with students.

Sketchlot - A Collaborative Whiteboard for All Devices

Sketchlot is a free collaborative whiteboard service that works on any device that has a web browser. I tested it on my MacBook, my iPad, and my Android tablet this afternoon. Sketchlot is designed for teacher and student use. Teachers create their own accounts and then inside that account they can create a list of students. Each student is assigned his or her own password to use to join a drawing shared by his or her teacher. Teachers can create as many drawings as they like and share them on an individual basis. Teachers can share their drawings to one or all of their students at a time. Students can create their own sketches to share back to their teachers through Sketchlot.

Applications for Education
There are few ways that teachers might use Sketchlot with students. Teachers could ask students to create and label diagrams and share them via Sketchlot. Students could use Sketchlot as a collaborative mind mapping tool.

Opus - Sample Math Problems Aligned to Common Core

Opus is a new service that aims to help middle school mathematics teachers discover sample math problems aligned to Common Core standards. To find problems on Opus search by entering a topic and selecting a grade. You can also find problems by clicking the "browse the Core directly" link on the Opus homepage. Either way when you find a problem you can save it to your free Opus account where you can then generate a Word doc or Google Document of all of your saved problems. You can also create an answer sheet in your Opus account.

Applications for Education
Opus is still quite new so the collection of problems offered through it is limited, but the idea behind the service is good. If you're a middle school math teacher looking for some practice problems to use with your students, Opus could be useful to you.

Monday, March 11, 2013

A Map of Nearly 100,000 Historic Places

Historic Places offers a Google Map of nearly 100,000 historic places in North America. Browse the map and click on the placemarks to discover historic sites all over the continent. Or use the search box to look for historic places in a specific area. Clicking on the placemarks in Historic Places will take you to more information about the location of the site and a link to learn more (links not included for all places).

Applications for Education
Social Studies students researching different areas of North America may find the Historic Places map to be useful in starting a search about the local history of an area. You might also find that your students will discover new-to-them historic places in their own backyards. If that's the case, plan a field trip to go learn more about those places.

H/T to Google Maps Mania.

WordPress for Beginners

Hosted blogging services like Blogger and WordPress.com can be great for teachers who want to quickly create classroom blogs. Through a hosted service you can have a blog up and running in minutes. Hosted services also manage all of the back-end things like software updates that most teachers don't want to spend time fussing with. But if you blog long enough there may come a time when you want to have more customization options on your blog. That's when you might turn to self-hosting a WordPress blog. In fact, that's what I'm doing with iPad Apps for School, Android 4 Schools, and Practical Ed Tech.

When I started self-hosting WordPress blogs I learned a lot by trial and error. I also learned a ton from consulting WPBeginner. WPBeginner offer free video and written tutorials for all of the basics and then some. On WP Beginner you can find everything from how to change your default font size to the pros and cons of theme frameworks to how to create a forum within your WordPress blog.

Applications for Education
If you've been looking to take your classroom blog to the next level by including a classroom discussion forum within it or by creating better-looking portfolio pages, WPBeginner is a good resource to keep bookmarked.