Sunday, January 5, 2014

Seven Free Online Tools for Scheduling Appointments

If you have ever had to organize volunteers for an event, set appointments for parent-teacher conferences, or tried to organize a potluck, you know that it can become a communication mess. Fortunately, there are some good tools to help you out the next time you find yourself trying to organize appointments.

Doodle is a free tool for scheduling group meetings with the input of all group members. Doodle is essentially a polling platform. To use Doodle you create a meeting title, select a series of dates and times for a possible meeting, then invite people to choose the dates and times that work best for them. As the administrator of a scheduling poll you can set the final meeting time based on the most commonly selected date and time.

Calendly is a tool that integrates with your Google Calendar and makes it easy to create appointment slots with just a click or two. More importantly, people who want to schedule an appointment with you just have to click a time on your calendar and enter their names in order to reserve an appointment. Visitors do not have to have a Google Account to view or enter information into an appointment slot. Visitors who make appointments with you through Calendly can sync the appointment to their own Google Calendars, iCal, or Outlook calendars.

SignUp Genius is a free and easy way to create and organize online sign-up forms for all kinds of group activities. SignUp Genius creates a simple webpage on which people can sign-up for activities that you've specified. You can make your sign-up sheet public or private. Once you've created your sign-up list visitors to your list can sign-up for the activities you've specified. You can monitor the sign-up list as it is filled and visitors can quickly see which slots are already taken. SignUp Genius provides a myriad of themes and styles for your sign-up sheets.

Volunteer Spot is a free scheduling service that teachers, coaches, and others and use to coordinate volunteers. Volunteer Spot gives you the ability to post calendars and sign-up sheets online. When potential volunteers visitor your calendar they can see the days and times at which volunteers are needed. When the quota for volunteers for a particular time or day is reached, Volunteer Spot won't allow any more sign-ups.

YouCanBook.Me is a free scheduling tool that integrates with your Google Calendar. YouCanBook.Me allows people to book fixed blocks of time in your calendar. You specify the length of each block of time and the dates and times you are available. Visitors to your calendar click a block and enter their email addresses to reserve a block of your time. When a block of time is reserved you receive an email alert.

SignApp Now is a very simple tool for creating online sign-up forms. To use it all you need to do is enter a title and description of your event, set a sign-up deadline, enter a contact email address, and press "create." SignApp Now creates a unique url that you can then share with others that may be interested in signing-up for your event. Creating a sign-up form with SignApp Now is much faster and easier than trying to create a spreadsheet or other sign-up form. One catch with SignApp Now is that you  have to pay $1 to download your sign-up sheets. You can view them for free.

Wiggio is a collaboration tool designed to make scheduling group meetings easier. Wiggio is also intended to be used as a resource for group planning of projects. Some of the excellent features of Wiggio include a group calendar, a mass messaging system that works with cell phones and email, and a group polling system. For groups that are working on projects together Wiggio offers a shared folder for files and links. Watch the video below for an overview of Wiggio.

Kuizza - Online Flashcards and Quizzes

Kuizza is a new entry into the online flashcard and quiz market. The free service offers a simple way to create multiple choice quizzes. The quizzes can have questions with single or multiple correct answers. Any quiz that you create can instantly be viewed as a set of flashcards by simply clicking the "flashcards" button displayed along with each quiz.

Applications for Education
Kuizza seems to be designed more as a review/ study application than as an application through which you deliver graded assessments. Kuizza quizzes and flashcards go into a public bank that anyone signed into the service can access.

Who Is Behind Free Technology for Teachers?

Image credit: Jen Deyenberg
Over the last month there has been a big spike in new visitors and new likes on the Free Technology for Teachers Facebook page (over 70,000 likes as of today). I thought it would be a good time to post a little bit about me, Richard Byrne, and this blog.

I worked at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School for eight and half years where I taught social studies and language arts. While at OHCHS I started this blog as a way to organize some of the things I was finding online. Over time the blog grew in popularity thanks to many of you sharing links from the blog. My goal with every blog post is to provide something useful to K-12 teachers. For the last two years writing Free Technology for Teachers, speaking at conferences, conducting webinars, and providing workshops at schools has been my full-time job. I also maintain iPad Apps for School and Android for Schools.

Recently, I started writing Worms In the Fridge where I'm sharing what I've learned through the process of becoming a full-time blogger and consultant.

On a personal note, I have two dogs that I adopted from the shelter that I have volunteered at for five years, Harvest Hills Animal Shelter. When not working or playing with my dogs I enjoy skiing, mountain biking, and fly fishing. I consider myself lucky to live in western Maine where I can enjoy all of my favorite activities within ten minutes of my home.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Chart - A Comparison of Educational Blogging Platforms

I'm often asked for advice about picking the best blogging service for classroom use. Every school's and classroom's situation is a little different so it's not easy to make a blanket statement like, "blog service X is best for all teachers." To help teachers decide which blogging platform could be best for them, I created the following chart. The chart compares eight key elements of five common blogging platforms.

You can download this chart as a PDF through this link or click here to see it as a Google Document.

The Week in Review - Celebrating Zero Degrees

Good morning from Woodstock, Maine where yesterday we celebrated the temperature finally rising back up to 0F. This week someone asked me if my dogs like the cold and snow. My older dog, Morrison, can't get enough of the frigid, snowy weather. The colder it is, the more energy he seems to have. In fact, as soon as this week-in-review is written we'll be back outside for another romp in the woods. Wherever you are and whatever the weather is like, I hope that you have a great weekend.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. By Request - Ten Helpful Resources for Middle School and High School Math Teachers
2. Thinking Blocks - Model Math Problems on iPads, Interactive Whiteboards, and in Your Browser
3. 10 Tools to Help Students Keep Track of Tasks This Year
4. Updated - A Teacher's Guide to Classroom Backchannels & Informal Assessment
5. How to Create Simple Comic Strips With Storyboard That
6. 5 Ways to Add Interactive Elements to Your Videos
7. An Animated Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States

In January I am again offering my series How To Use Google Drive In SchoolClick here for registration details and a discount code. 

Would you like to have me visit your school this year?
Click here to learn more about my professional development services.

Please visit the official advertisers that help keep this blog going.
Practical Ed Tech is the brand through which I offer PD webinars.
Remind 101 offers a free tool for sending text message reminders to students.
IXL offers a huge assortment of mathematics lesson activities.
Typing Club offers free typing lessons for students.
Discovery Education & Wilkes University offer online courses for earning Master's degrees in Instructional Media.
MasteryConnect provides a network for teachers to share and discover Common Core assessments. is a provider of free educational games for K-5.
The University of Maryland Baltimore County offers graduate programs for teachers.
Boise State University offers a 100% online program in educational technology.
EdTechTeacher is organizing two iPad summits this school year.
Classmint offers a nice multimedia flashcard service.

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