Thursday, January 8, 2015

A Couple of Graphing Calculators for Your Chrome Browser

A few days ago I wrote about the new graphing calculator Android app offered by Desmos. In that post I neglected to mention that Desmos also offers a Chrome app. The Chrome app version of Desmos works like the web version. Along with all of the graphing functions Desmos allows you to share your equations and graphs. Desmos graphs your equations as you type them and redraws them as you alter your equations. is a free online graphing utility that is also available in the Google Chrome Web allows you to plot multiple functions through its dynamically re-sizing grid. To graph an equation on just click the "+" symbol to enter a new equation. One thing that isn't clear the first time you use is that you need to delete the existing default equations before you start.

Applications for Education
If your school has gone 1:1 with Chromebooks, Desmos and to a lesser degree could be good alternatives to trying to keep track of TI-84's or other graphing calculators.

Now Open - Duolingo for Schools

Last week the popular language learning service Duolingo announced that they were launching a version just for schools. Today, I received their press release announcing that Duolingo for Schools is now open to everyone. I planned to write a longer review of it, but Larry Ferlazzo wrote one earlier that is better than what I had to say. Larry is using the service with his students so I encourage you to read his review.

Duolingo is a platform that offers activities for learning Spanish, English, French, Italian, Irish, Dutch, Danish, German, and Portuguese. The service works in your web browser and is available as an app on Android, iPad, and Windows 8. Duolingo for Schools allows teachers to assign activities and monitor students' progress.

How to Assign and Manage Group Writing Projects Through ProjectWriter

Disclosure: BoomWriter is an advertiser on

Last month when I met with the founders of BoomWriter they gave me a preview of their new service called ProjectWriter. I teased it a bit last month. Today, ProjectWriter went live for everyone to use.

Through Project Writer you can create writing assignments for students to complete in groups that you organize. Students log into their BoomWriter accounts (you can manage those accounts) and select the ProjectWriter tab to see their group and the assignment. You can include a list of key terms that you want students to include in their writing assignments. The sample project that I developed has key terms that I want students to use in their essays about causes of the Civil War. Ken Haynes, BoomWriter's COO and a former middle school teacher, showed me a sample science writing project in which he asked students to include key vocabulary about the water cycle.

One of the nice things about ProjectWriter and BoomWriter is that your students do not need to have email accounts in order to use the services. As a teacher you can create and manage your students' accounts.

In the video embedded below I provide an overview of how to create a project in ProjectWriter.

The video above was added to my playlist of more than 40 practical ed tech tips.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

PicCollage, ThingLink, and A Visit to the USS Alabama

On Monday I had a great day working with teachers in Pensacola, Florida. I was supposed to fly home on Tuesday morning, but US Airways had other plans for me and I ended up spending a whole day in Mobile, Alabama. I made the most of the day by visiting the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park. I highly recommend taking a tour of the park if you find yourself with free time in Mobile. I took a lot of pictures while I was there and I've put the best ones (by comparison to my usual terrible picture-taking skills) into a Pic-Collage. I then took my Pic-Collage and dropped it into ThingLink to add some additional information to the things in my collage. That ThingLink is embedded below.

Watch the two videos that I made and embedded below to learn how to use Pic-Collage, PicMonkey, and ThingLink.

Using Timelines as Digital Portfolios and Reflections on Learning

We often think of creating timelines as just an activity for history lessons. There are other ways besides history lessons to use timelines in a classroom. One of those ways that I've been sharing in my workshop about multimedia timelines is the idea of having students build personal timelines as digital portfolios.

Building timeline can be a good way for students organize the things they have learned created in the course of a school year. Creating a multimedia timeline is a good method of displaying the things that students have created in the course of the school year.

Creating a timeline of things learned:
Read Write Think's Timeline Creator is a good tool for students to use if you just want them to create timelines of things they learned during the school year. I would have them add an entry or two for every month of the school year. The entry doesn't have to be terribly detailed as I'm just looking at this activity as a reflection and summary activity. RWT's Timeline Creator does not require students to have an email address or register for an account.

Creating a multimedia timeline as a digital portfolio:
Through a multimedia timeline creation tool students can combine videos, picture collages, audio recordings, and or Google Maps that they have made during the course of the school year. Again, I would have students add one or two items for each month of the school year. There are two multimedia timeline creation tools that I really like right now. Those are Timeline JS and HSTRY.

Timeline JS is a great tool if your school is using Google Apps for Education. Timeline JS creates a timeline based on entries made in a Google Spreadsheets template provide by Timeline JS. Your entries can include links to videos, images, and maps. I made a video on how to use Timeline JS. That video is embedded below.

HSTRY is the other multimedia timeline builder that I like a lot. HSTRY is a favorite of mine because as a teacher you can create an online classroom in which you monitor your students' work. With a HSTRY account you can build timelines in a vertical scroll format similar to that of a Facebook feed. To start the process pick a topic and upload a cover photo. To add events to the timeline just click the "+" symbol and select the type of media that you want to add to your timeline. You can add videos, images, audio, and text to the events on your timeline.