Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Week In Review - Lots of Wires

Good evening from the Free Technology for Teachers World Headquarters in Woodstock, Maine. This week I wrapped-up a Practical Ed Tech webinar series on Monday and started thinking about the summer workshops. On Friday I visited the offices of CDW in Chicago where I learned quite about new servers (disclosure: CDW paid for the trip). They even left me somewhat unattended to look around. Though the little kid in me wanted to pull a few wires to see what would happen, I just settled for taking some pictures like the one to the left.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. Read & Write - A Great Chrome App That is Now Free for Teachers
2. Twelve Good Tools for Building End-of-year Review Activities
3. Four Ways for Students to Create Multimedia Magazines
4. Use Your Voice to Give Students Feedback on Google Drive - Cool Kaizena Updates
5. Quill - Writing Worksheets Made Interactive
6. Learning About and From Obsolete Objects
7. Spell Up - A Fun Way to Learn to Spell in Chrome

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Practical Ed Tech is the brand through which I offer PD webinars.
IXL offers a huge assortment of mathematics lesson activities.
Class Charts provides a great way to record and analyze student behavior information.
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.
ABCya.com is a provider of free educational games for K-5.
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StoryBoard That is a great tool for creating comics and more.

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GeoCommons - Browse Mapped Data and Create Data Maps

Maps can be a great tool for visualizing sets of data. GeoCommons offers a couple of good tools for finding mapped data sets and creating maps from data sets. GeoCommons Finder is a great place to find publicly shared data sets for use in maps. GeoCommons Maker. GeoCommons Maker provides users a quick and easy way to take the datasets found in GeoCommons Finder and display those datasets on a map. Users can create multi-layered maps and customize the way those layers are displayed. Click here to see a two layer map displaying demographic data regarding single parent households in theUnited States.

Maps created through GeoCommons can be saved as KML files, saved as images, or embedded into a website.

Applications for EducationGeoCommons Maker is as easy, if not easier, to use as Google Maps. The benefit of using GeoCommons Maker is that students can find datasets without having to search the Internet for them. This should save time when you're trying to complete a lesson plan in one sitting. GeoCommons has datasets that are relevant for use in Social Studies, Math, and Science.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Four Ways for Students to Create Multimedia Magazines

Years ago, one of the first uses of the iBooks issued to Maine's middle school students that impressed me was a magazine project completed as part of a civics lesson. If I recall correctly, the students used Pages to create their magazines. The students seemed to be highly engaged in creating the best magazines they that could. Their final products were printed. The students were quite proud of their work. Unfortunately, back then the web wasn't nearly as robust as it is today and the students' audience was limited.

Today, students can create multimedia magazines and distribute them globally through the web. Here are four good options for creating multimedia magazines and distributing them online. Jump to the end of the article for another idea about using multimedia magazines in the classroom.


Lucidpress is a slick for collaboratively creating multimedia documents. If you watch the video below you'll notice that Lucidpress has some similarities to Google Documents. In fact, you can use your Google Account to sign into Lucidpress and you can use items stored in your Google Drive account in your Lucidpress documents. Lucidpress has commenting and sharing features that are similar to Google Drive too. What makes Lucidpress different from Google Documents is the selection of layouts and the layout customizations available to you. I look at Lucidpress as being the best of Apple's Pages and the best of Google Documents combined into one slick service.



Update 12/26/2014 - SimpleBooklet is no longer free. Glossi has gone offline. 

Simple Booklet is a service that I've shared with teachers for a few years now. 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.

Glossi is a service for creating digital magazines. Glossi magazines can include images, videos, audio files, and links to external sources of information. The magazines that you create are displayed with page-turning effects. Your magazines can be embedded into your blog. Learn more about Glossi in the video below.




This post would be incomplete if I did not mention iBooks Author. If your school has modern MacBooks, your students can use iBooks Author to create and publish multimedia magazines. iBooks Author is a powerful too, but to master it takes more time than it does to master the three services mentioned above. To help you get started using iBooks Author I recommend spending some time with the following tutorial resources. Publishing with iBooks Author is a free 110 page publication from O'Reilly Media. I  just discovered the guide a couple of days ago and I wish I had found it earlier because it would have saved me a lot of time in learning how to use iBooks Author. Publishing with iBooks Author covers everything from copyright, DRM, and the End User Agreement to templates, layouts, media insertion, publishing, and distribution. You will have to register for an O'Reilly Media account to download the book (that does take a few minutes and requires email verification) but I think that's a small price to pay for an excellent free ebook. Publishing with iBooks Author is available to download as an ePub file and as a PDF.

Kinetic Media has a nearly one hour video that takes you through every aspect of creating an iBook with iBooks Author. The video covers everything from choosing a template to using custom HTML5 widgets in your iBooks. That video is embedded below.


If sitting through a one hour video like the Kinetic Media iBooks Author video is a bit too much for you, take a look at this playlist of 25 iBooks Author tutorials from DIY Journo. The videos cover the same things as in the Kinetic Media tutorial, but each tutorial is its own short video.



Applications for Education
Creating a multimedia magazine could be a good way for students to create a digital portfolio. To form a multimedia magazine students can pull together videos, pictures they've taken, and documents they've written throughout the school year.

Quill - Writing Worksheets Made Interactive

Quill is a service that provides an updated take on the old writing worksheets that most of us used in elementary school and middle school. The service offers more than just the writing practice activities, but that is its core feature. Here's how it works; students sign-in (email is not required) to find the worksheets that you have assigned to them. The worksheets contain spelling and grammar errors that your students have to identify and correct. Students submit their corrections and Quill shows them how they did by showing what they did correct and what they should have corrected. An explanation accompanies each Quill correction.

To assign a Quill worksheet to your students sign-in and create a class. Your class will have a code that your students enter when they sign in to use Quill. After creating your class you can start to browse through the pre-made worksheets. Each worksheet is labeled according to the writing skill that your students will practice while working on the worksheet. You can see the results of your students' work through your Quill dashboard. Learn more about Quill in the video below.


Applications for Education
The concept behind Quill isn't a revolutionary idea, but it is well-executed. Having the pre-made activities at your disposal and having the opportunity to quickly see how your students did on each activity will free up some of your time. You can then use that time differentiating activities to match the needs of individual students.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Pest World for Kids Pest Quest - Games and Videos About Insects and Rodents

Pest World for Kids is a fun educational website for students in elementary school and middle school. Pest World for Kids has a great index of pests which includes information on what they look like, where they are found, and how to prevent pest infestations.

Since the last time that I visited Pest World for Kids a series of short, educational videos has been added to the site. Pest Quest is a series of short videos about insects and rodents. The first episode in the series is embedded below.


The Pest World for Kids website has four fun educational games that students will enjoy playing as they learn about insects and rodents. In the teacher section of Pest World for Kids, teachers will find lesson plans to accompany a couple of the educational games. The lesson plans are tied to standards from the National Science Teachers Association. Students and teachers will also find science fair project ideas and research essay ideas on Pest World for Kids.

Applications for Education
Pest World for Kids is a great resource for teachers and students in elementary school and middle school. The educational games will draw students into the website and pique their interest in bugs and rodents. The lesson plans and science fair projects provide teachers with a means to capitalize on the students' interest.