Thursday, March 14, 2013

Three Tools Students Can Use to Create 3D Models Online

Your school might not have a 3D printer yet, but your students can still create 3D models online with these free online tools.

123D Design from Autodesk allows you to create models by dragging pieces together online then sending them to 123D Make where your models can be printed. From those print-outs your students can construct their models. Both 123D Design and 123D Make can be used online, on iPads, and on Mac and Windows desktops.

3DTin is a free web-based program for creating three dimensional models. 3DTin provides templates that you can use to develop models or you can build a model completely from scratch. The service is completely free to use as long as you allow your models to be labeled with a Creative Commons license and put in the 3DTin gallery. The gallery is a great place is to find examples of what can be created in 3DTin. Models that you create can be exported for use in other modeling software. Before you rush to try 3DTin you should know that you do have to be using a modern web browser that supports WebGL. For example, 3DTin will work with the latest versions of Chrome and Firefox but will not work with older versions of Firefox or Internet Explorer. 3DTin can be used as a Chrome Web App too.

Like 3D Tin, Tinkercad allows you to build 3D models within your web browser. Tinkercad provides pre-made pieces that you can assemble to build a model. You can also select a model from the public gallery and edit it in your Tinkercad account. If you create a free Tinkercad account you can save your work online. The video below provides a great introduction to Tinkercad.

Six Free Alternatives to PowerPoint and Keynote

Twice in the last week I've been asked for a list of free alternatives to either PowerPoint or Keynote. I've written a couple of these lists over the last five years, but some of the alternatives I've shared in the past have either gone out of business or started charging a fee. Here's my updated list of free alternatives to PowerPoint and Keynote.

Empressr is a fully functional, high quality, online slide show presentation creation and sharing service. Empressr has a couple of features differentiating it from its competitors. The first feature of note is the option of embedding video from multiple sources into your slide show. The second feature of note is Empressr's editor which allows users to draw, create, or edit images inside their slides. Empressr slideshows can be embedded anywhere.

Slide Rocket is a web based presentation creator similar to Empressr. Slide Rocket has some very nice features like 3D transitions and a collaboration feature for sharing the creation process with other users. Slide Rocket's interface is user friendly making it easy to include videos, pictures, or third party plug-ins. Slide Rocket also has a Google Drive app.

Prezi is a popular online tool for creating slideshows that don't have to appear in the linear format typically used in slideshows. This week Prezi introduced the option to include sound in your presentations. Check out the Prezi embedded below to learn about the new audio option.

Until Google Slides came along the slideshow tool in Open Office was the slideshow creation tool that I used instead of PowerPoint. Open Office's Impress's development is still supported and available to download for free.

Google Slides is the slideshow creation tool that I use to create roughly half of all of my slideshows (the other half I make in Keynote). I like using Google Slides for collaborating with colleagues and for commenting on students' slideshows. The publishing tool in Google Slides makes it very easy to embed your slideshows into your blog or website.

If your students have iPads, you have to try Haiku Deck. Haiku Deck is a fantastic free alternative to Keynote. The key feature of Haiku Deck that stands out is the integrated image search tool. When students type a word into Haiku Deck a set of Creative Commons licensed images will be shown to the students to use in their presentations.

Narrable Adds an iPhone App for Creating Audio Slideshows

Last month I shared a new service called Narrable that lets you create short, narrated slideshows in your web browser. One of the key features of Narrable is that you can add narration through your computer's microphone, through a phone call, or by uploading a separate audio file.

A few days ago Narrable launched a free iPhone app that you can use create audio slideshows. The free app allows you to record up to five minutes of narration for each of your projects.

Applications for Education
I initially learned about Narrable through Wes Fryer. Wes recently recorded a podcast with the one of the founders of Narrable to talk about how the service might be used for digital storytelling. The first part of the podcast is about the founding of Narrable after that it gets into a discussion of education. I recommend listening to the podcast here.

Narrable projects can be shared via email, Facebook, or by embedding them into a blog. Narrable could be a good way to get students to tell a short story by adding narration to pictures that they have taken or found online. Have students search for some Creative Commons licensed images arranged around topics that they're studying then record a short slideshow about them. 

Duolingo's Updated App Allows You To Learn a New Language Anywhere

On the first day of 2013 I encouraged you to try Duolingo to learn a new language. Duolingo is a free service designed to help students learn Spanish, English, French, Italian, German, and Portuguese. The service can be used in your web browser or on your iPhone. The latest version of iPhone app now works even without an Internet connection. You can complete practice activities offline and when you reconnect to the web your progress will be synced to your online Duolingo account.

Applications for Education
A number of practice activity formats are available in Doulingo online and in the iOS app. Students can practice translating real-world texts as well as simple rote translation activities. Students can also compete with their friends to get to the next level in the language that they are learning.

To learn on Duolingo students read, listen to, and translate words and phrases. For example, if a student wants to learn Spanish he or she will be shown Spanish words with translations. Students can hear the words pronounced too. Then to practice students type and or speak translations. The activities start out with simple words and phrases. As students become more proficient, Duolingo presents them with more challenging phrases. To help them track their progress Duolingo awards points and virtual badges to students.

H/T to TechCrunch

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Google Announces the Closure of Google Reader - Don't Panic, Use Feedly

Google Reader may have had a bigger influence on my life in the ed tech world than any other single app or service. Since the day I started using it in 2006 to now it has reliably served me fresh content from all of my favorite sites and blogs. So this evening when I learned that Google Reader is going to be shut down on July 1, 2013 I freaked for a minute. Then I realized that I'm not using Google Reader as much as I used to because for the last year I've been using Feedly to read most of my RSS feeds.

Feedly is a service that allows me to subscribe to all of my favorite sites and blogs. In my case, I've just synced it with my Google Reader account. Feedly has just announced that they have developed a service that will make it easy to transition from Google Reader to Feedly. I like Feedly because I can use it on my Android tablet, on my iPad, my Android phone, on my desktop, and in my Chrome and Firefox browsers. Feedly displays all of my subscriptions in a magazine-like format that makes it easy for me to quickly view 6-8 headlines and images on a page before deciding if I want to click through to the full article. From Feedly I can share articles to Evernote, Twitter, Diigo Powernote (Android), Facebook, and many other services. I can also simply save articles to read later in my Feedly account.

Feed Your Mind On The Go from Feedly on Vimeo.

Feedly is not the only alternative to using Google Reader. I have tried Zite, Netvibes, Flipboard, and Pulse in the past. You might also want to take a look at MyLinkCloud's new support for RSS feeds.