Friday, January 23, 2015

Symbaloo - A Great Platform for Visually Organizing Your Favorite Sites

For quite a while now Symbaloo has been a popular visual bookmarking tool. Yesterday, I visited with Symbaloo's CEO and one of their developers here at the BETT Show. Later this year they will be adding some new features that will help teachers see the resources that their students use the most. I cannot tell you more about those features, yet. The other outcome of my meeting was learning that Symbaloo is a completely self-funded and profitable enterprise. What that means to you and me is that the company isn't influenced by venture capital funding and that its current business model is successful. So if you like Symbaloo's free service now, you can plan on it continuing to be free moving forward.

Symbaloo is an excellent service on which you can visually organize your favorite and most frequently used websites. Symbaloo allows you to bookmark your favorite websites and arrange them into tile boards that you can share or keep private. Symbaloo calls the tile boards webmixes. You can create multiple webmixes arranged according to topics of your choosing. Symbaloo offers a free iPhone app, a free Android app, and free Windows mobile app that you can use to add to and access your webmixes anywhere.

Applications for Education
Symbaloo does offer an education version, but the education version is not free except for individual use which doesn't make it different than signing up for a regular Symbaloo account. Symbaloo can be good for organizing a set of resources to share with your students or colleagues. You could also have students create their own Symbaloo accounts and create webmixes around topics that they are researching.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Memrise - A Nice Platform for Studying Languages, Math, Science, and More

Earlier today at the BETT Show in London I spoke with a representative of neat service called Memrise. Memrise is a service through which you can learn vocabulary for a new-to-you language, study science flashcards, review math problems, or review content from any of the hundreds of online course offerings on Memrise.

Review on Memrise happens in a manner that is a blend of flashcard flipping and quiz question answering. After signing into your Memrise account select a category that you want to study. Then within that category choose one of the many sub-topics. For example, I chose History & Geography then selected Capitals and within that topic I selected Canadian Capitals. To review the capitals Memrise showed me a few capitals and locations in a flashcard style before hitting me with a few quiz questions. That pattern repeated until I had worked through all of the capitals. I earned points for correct and timely answers. My points helped me move up the leader board for the activity that I chose.

The content on Memrise is contributed by users who develop and share materials. If you don't find materials suitable to the topic you're studying, you can develop and share your own online review course on Memrise.

Memrise offers Android and iPad apps to complement the online platform.

Applications for Education
Memrise offers Memrise for Teachers. Memrise for Teachers will allow you to add students to your online account, assign courses of study (sets of review materials) to them, and track your students' progress through Memrise activities.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Use Google Sites File Cabinet Templates to Create a B-Roll Media Gallery

Over the years I've written a lot about the idea of creating b-roll galleries of images, videos, and sounds for your students to use in their multimedia projects. In building a gallery of media that you and your students have created, you're building a resource that students can dive into when they need media for their projects. Google Sites is one platform on which you could build a gallery of media. Use the "file cabinet" template to create a page in your Google Site. Then use Custom Page-level Permissions to allow your students to upload and download media on that page. Video directions for using Page-level Permissions are available here.

Click image to view in full size. 
Click image to view in full size. 
Click image to view in full size. 

Remind Launches Support for Spanish in Their Mobile Apps

Remind, the popular text messaging service for teachers, has just announced that they are now supporting Spanish in their free mobile apps. To use Remind in Spanish download the app then make sure that your iPhone or Android phone settings are set to Spanish.

I emailed Remind's CEO Brett Kopf to ask if teachers would have to install the app twice or send messages twice in order to reach students and parents in Spanish. Here's what he had to say,

"No, bilingual teachers don't have to use a separate Spanish app to send messages to students/parents in Spanish. They can type in Spanish, just as I am now: "Me lla mo Brett" (My name is Brett). The new version has a user interface that is 100% in Spanish -- no translation needed. This helps bilingual teachers bridge a challenging language gap and communicate more effectively with students/parents who are not as fluent."

Applications for Education
Anytime that you can engage with more students and more parents, it's a good thing. This update to Remind's mobile apps will help teachers keep more parents informed about the good things happening in their classrooms.

Two Ways to Share Bundles of Links With Your Students

Trying to get all of your students to the same set of websites at the same time can be a frustrating experiences. Just a couple of mistyped characters can create a frustrating experience for everyone. One way to avoid this situation is to post all of your links on one course webpage or in a blog post. Another solution is to use a link bundling service that will group all of your links together into one package. Then instead of sending out a bunch of individual links you can just send one link that will open all of the bundled links for your students. Here are two services that you can use for just that purpose.

Bitly is one URL shortener that I have been using for years. It's simple to use, especially if you use the bookmarklet, allows you to customize URLs, and it offers good statistics about the use of your links. Bitly offers an option for bundling bookmarks into one package that you can share with just one link. Bitly bundles can be created collaboratively if you invite other Bitly users to bundle links with you. The nice thing about Bitly is that you can view how many times a link has been used. So if you have 25 students and the link has only been used 20 times, you know that at five students aren't where you need them to be.

LinkBunch is a free service that you can use to quickly send a group of links to your friends, colleagues, and students. To use the service just visit LinkBunch, enter the links that you want to share, and click "Bunch." When you click on "Bunch" you will be given a URL to share with anyone you want to see the links in your bunch. When someone clicks on the URL for your Bunch he or she will be able to open the links you bunched together.