Friday, December 27, 2013

11 Free Online Typing Practice Activities for Students

For the next few days I'm taking some time off to relax, play with my dogs, and ski with friends. Rather than leave the blog dormant for a few days, I'm re-running some of the most popular posts of the year. 

I've reviewed a lot of online typing practice activities over the years, but it has been more than a year since I updated my list. So this evening I put together an updated list of online typing practice activities for students.

Type Rocket is a free typing game from ABCya. Type Rocket is a sixty second game in which students make fireworks explode by typing the letters that appear on the rockets in the games. In the sixty second span of the game students try to correctly type as many letters as they possibly can. The rockets speed up as the game progresses.

Z-Type is a simple and fun typing game. The game has an easy level and a difficult level. The game is played the same way on both levels. To play Z-Type all that you have to do is go to the website and type the words that are falling from the top of the screen. When you have correctly typed a word a laser shoots it. The object is to shoot the words before they reach the bottom of the screen.

If you want students to take a break from the games, have them use Typing Speed Monitor for Google Chrome. Typing Speed Monitor is a Google Chrome extension that will track how fast you type and what keys you use most frequently. If you do a lot of writing online, Typing Speed Monitor is one way to get accurate feedback on your typing proficiency in real-world settings. The latest version of Typing Speed Monitor allows you to opt out of having it track your typing on domains you specify. For example, if you don't want it to track how fast you type on Facebook, you can exclude that domain.

Typing Adventure is a nice little game that young students can use to practice their typing skills. To play the game students just have to visit the game site, read the directions, and press start. The game scenario presented to students is a character leaping from stepping stone to stepping stone. To move along the path students have to type the letters of the stones they want to jump to. Students earn points based on speed and accuracy.

Good Typing is a free online typing skill development program. Good Typing provides 27 graduated lessons designed to help students learn to use their entire keyboards correctly. Unlike some free online typing programs, Good Typing offers support twenty different keyboard styles including US style, Japanese style, and several European languages.

Dance Mat Typing is a nice little resource from the BBC. Young students (four to eight years old) can receive clear, informative typing instruction through Dance Mat Typing. There are four levels for students to work through. Within each level there are multiple lessons and practice activities. The very first lesson that students receive is placement of their hands on the keyboard. Each lesson and practice activity offers instant feedback in visual and audio form.

Word Games offers a large collection of online word games and typing games. The word games range from simple word searches and crosswords to games that require players to complete sentences and phrases. The typing games are a mix of simple sentence typing for speed and games that require accuracy to "defend" a character or move a character through a scene. Some of the games featured on Word Games can be either downloaded to your computer, see Typing Defense, others can be embedded into your blog or website.

Typing Web is an online typing tutorial that provides instant feedback after every free typing lesson. Typing Web offers beginner through advanced typing lessons for free. You can register to track your progress or you can use Typing Web without registering.

Listen and Write is a great way for students to improve their typing skills and hear about the news. Listen and Write plays short audio clips of news stories and users type what they hear. The audio clips are relatively short, come in a few different levels, and registered users can track their progress.

Power Typing hosts a small collection of five typing games that students can use to develop their typing skills. Power Typing also offers typing lessons for Qwerty and Dvorak keyboards. The two games that I found easiest to access are Alphabetic Rain and See Don't.

Typing Club is a popular website offering free online touch typing lessons for students of all ages. Whether you use the Typing Club website or the free Chrome Web App the lessons work the same way. Typing Club provides 100 free activities that begin with the basics and progress in difficulty until you can touch type on your entire keyboard including the use of lesser-used keys like "<" and "{." As you type during each lesson you are given instant real-time feedback about your accuracy and speed. Unlike other typing lessons that make you wait until an activity is completed to determine your accuracy or speed, Typing Club recalculates that information with each keystroke.

Disclosure: Typing Club and ABCya are advertisers on Free Technology for Teachers. 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

More Than 500 Political Cartoons and 100+ Political Cartoon Lesson Plans

For the next few days I'm taking some time off to relax, play with my dogs, and ski with friends. Rather than leave the blog dormant for a few days, I'm re-running some of the most popular posts of the year. 

The Library of Congress hosts an online collection of more than 500 political cartoons and caricatures from U.S. History. You can search the collection by keyword and image type. Along with the images you will find links to related resources from the Library of Congress. You could use these public domain works to help students understand the political perspectives surrounding significant political events in U.S. History. A good model for political cartoon-based lesson plans can be found on Cartoons for the Classroom.

Cartoons for the Classroom is a service of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists. Cartoons in the Classroom offers more than one hundred lesson plans based on editorial cartoons created by the members of the AAEC. Each lesson plan is available as free pdf download. As you might expect, most of the lessons deal with current political and economic topics, but you will also find some lessons that are not time sensitive.

How to Use Haiku Deck on the Web

For the next few days I'm taking some time off to relax, play with my dogs, and ski with friends. Rather than leave the blog dormant for a few days, I'm re-running some of the most popular posts of the year. 

In November the popular iPad app, Haiku Deck, became available as a web app too. The new web version of Haiku Deck brings all of the awesome features of the iPad app to your web browser. With the web version of Haiku Deck you can create beautiful slideshows and share them on the web.

Haiku Deck offers a variety of themes and templates to use in your presentations. The best aspects of Haiku Deck are the integrated image search and the automatically resizing text. On each of your slides you can add images of your own or search through Haiku Deck's library of images. As you type text on each slide, the text automatically shrinks to fit in the space allotted. The shrinking text feature is great for encouraging students to minimize the use of text in their slide designs.

All Haiku Deck presentations created on the web can be shared through Facebook, Twitter, and email. All presentations can be exported as PPT files. And all of your presentations can be embedded into blog posts and web pages. Check out my presentation below.




To access the web version of Haiku Deck you may have to wait for a beta invite, but it seems that Haiku Deck is sending those out very quickly. 

Applications for Education
The thing that I've loved about Haiku Deck from day one is that its design tools help to focus students on telling a story with pictures and really knowing their material instead of relying on large chunks of text on slides. The integrated image search includes Creative Commons licensed images to help students find pictures that match their stories.


Click here if you cannot see the video.

5 Free Tools for Creating & Sharing Audio Recordings Online

For the next few days I'm taking some time off to relax, play with my dogs, and ski with friends. Rather than leave the blog dormant for a few days, I'm re-running some of the most popular posts of the year. 

Adding an audio message to your classroom blog or website can be a good way to help deliver important messages to your students and their parents. Posting an audio message, even if it covers the same content as a written message, can increase the chances that a visitor to your blog will take notice of something important. Adding an audio message to your blog or website is not difficult to do. Here are five free services that you can use to add an audio message to your blog or website.

Vocaroo is a free service that allows users to create audio recordings without the need to install any software. You don't even have to create an account to use Vocaroo. All you need to provide is a microphone. I used the microphone built into my MacBook to make the recording below. To create a recording just go to Vocaroo.com, click record, grant Vocaroo access to your mic, and start talking. After completing your recording, Vocaroo gives you the choice to publish it or to scrap it and try again. Vocaroo provides the option to embed the recording anywhere. Vocaroo provides the embed code for you. You can also download your recording, just look for the download link at the bottom of the page (it's small and easily overlooked).

SoundCloud is an online service for recording, hosting, and sharing audio tracks. You can use SoundCloud to upload and share audio recordings that you have stored on your computer. SoundCloud can also be used for directly recording a spoken track. One of the really neat features of SoundCloud is the option to comment on tracks as they are playing. To make a comment just play the track, click on it, then type your comment in the comment box. Your comment(s) will be attached to the spot in the track that you clicked on while listening.

Audioboo is a free tool for creating audio messages to share on the web. Using Audioboo you can record messages on your mobile device using Audioboo's free Android or iPhone apps. You can also record messages directly on the Audioboo website. Messages that you create can be shared by embedding your recording into a blog or website. You can also share messages by posting them to Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr.

Audio Pal is a free service that allows you to quickly and easily record audio messages to post your blog or website. You can record your Audio Pal message by phone, through your computer's microphone, or by uploading a recording. Messages are limited to sixty seconds so you must be succinct. After you've recorded your message, Audio Pal will play it back to you. If you like the recording, keep it. If you don't like your recording, click re-record. When you have a recording with which you're happy, enter your email address and an embed code will be sent to you almost immediately.

Record MP3 is another free tool for recording audio messages. To record a message using Record MP3 just grant the Flash recorder access to your computer, click record, and start talking. When your recording is complete you will get a link that you can post online or email to anyone you want to hear your recording.

MindMup - Create Mind Maps and Save Them In Google Drive

For the next few days I'm taking some time off to relax, play with my dogs, and ski with friends. Rather than leave the blog dormant for a few days, I'm re-running some of the most popular posts of the year. 

MindMup is a free mind mapping tool that can be used online, with Google Drive, and on your desktop. MindMup works like most mind mapping tools in that you can create a central idea and add child and sibling nodes all over a blank canvas. MindMup nodes can contain text and links.

When you're ready to save your MindMup mind map you can save it to Google Drive, save it to your desktop, or publish it online. If you publish it online, you can grab an embed code for it to post it in a blog post or webpage. 

Applications for Education
I've often had my students create mind maps as an exercise in making visual connections between important concepts, events, and people in a unit of study. MindMup can be used by any student without the need to create an account. That makes it suitable for students who don't have email accounts to use. MindMup mind maps that are published online can be made into collaborative exercises. Consider starting a MindMup mind map with a central idea and then share it with your students to complete as a group.