Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Week In Review - The Most Popular Posts

Good afternoon/evening/morning from Sydney, Australia where I'm waiting to board my flight home after a great few days at the Future Schools Expo. A big thank you to everyone that came to see me speak at the expo. And an equally big thank you to everyone that helped this country boy navigate the big city. Of course, none of these opportunities to speak at conferences would be possible without all of you who have helped grow over the years. When I started this blog nearly eight years ago I never imagined that it would take me where it has. Thank you for your support!

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. iStoryBooks Now Offers Premium Books for Free to Teachers
2. Canva for Education - Lesson Plans Incorporating Visuals Across the Curriculum
3. Simple Search Strategies Your Students May Be Overlooking
4. Five Common Mistakes Made When Starting a Classroom Blog
5. 5 Free Tools for Creating Whiteboard Videos
6. Text to Speech in Google Earth
7. TinyTap Introduces Challenge Mode for Building Games on iPads and Android Tablets

Registration is open for the spring and summer sections of my popular online courses Getting Going With GAFE and Blogs & Social Media for Teachers and School Leaders. Graduate credits are available for both courses. People who are subscribed to the newsletter receive a discount on registration.

Please visit the official advertisers that help keep this blog going.
Practical Ed Tech is the brand through which I offer PD webinars.
BoomWriter provides a fantastic tool for creating writing lessons. 
Storyboard That is my go-to tool for creating storyboards and cartoon stories.
Versal is a great tool for building interactive online course components.
MidWest Teachers Institute offers online graduate courses for teachers.
PresentationTube provides a good way to use PowerPoint to create flipped lessons.
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.
The University of Maryland Baltimore County offers graduate programs for teachers.
Boise State University offers a 100% online program in educational technology.
EdTechTeacher is hosting host workshops in six cities in the U.S. in the summer.
SeeSaw is a great iPad app for creating digital portfolios.
PrepFactory offers free SAT & ACT prep for students.

PrepFactory Offers SAT & ACT Practice Exercises and Tutorials

Disclosure: PrepFactory is currently an advertiser on

Last month PrepFactory launched a free service for high school students to use to prepare for the SAT and ACT. PrepFactory offers students a series of tutorial videos and written tips to help them prepare for both tests. After completing a tutorial students can test themselves in a series of practice questions. Each question set is timed and and limited to chunks of ten questions at a time. Students can earn badges for completing tutorials or question sets. In the video embedded below I provide an overview of PrepFactory's features.

Applications for Education
As I wrote last month, I am not an advocate for standardized tests like the SAT and ACT, but I realize that they are tests that many students have to take. PrepFactory could be a good service to help students prepare for the ACT or SAT.

Friday, March 13, 2015

The Black Death In 90 Seconds - Three Years Later

Almost three years ago now my friend Rushton Hurley sent me an email about a video that had recently been uploaded to his video sharing site Next Vista for Learning. That video was The Black Death in 90 Seconds. Since the day that Rushton emailed me I have had the video bookmarked and I frequently show it when I conduct workshops about making and using videos in the classroom.

The Black Death in 90 Seconds is a great example of teaching a lesson in a concise and engaging format. Anyone who has access to iMovie, WeVideo, or Windows Movie maker could create a similar video that is equally as entertaining and informative as The Black Death in 90 Seconds. I show the video to demonstrate that video lessons don't have to be boring and don't have to have a lot of high-end editing in order to be effective.

Thinglink Now Offers Verified Accounts for Schools

Thinglink is one of my favorite tools for creating multimedia, interactive collages. Last year Thinglink introduced Thinglink Edu. This week they took things a step further and introduced verified accounts for schools.

Verified Thinglink educational organization accounts will receive the option to give access to a managing teacher to view student accounts and group accounts from one dashboard.

Applications for Education
Verified Thinglink accounts should provide an extra measure of control and security for schools that are having students use the service to develop interactive images.

Last summer Shawn McCusker wrote a great overview of four ways to use Thinglink in the classroom. I encourage you to read Shawn's post here.

5 Free Tools for Creating Whiteboard Videos

One of the many things that we tried today in my Future Schools workshop was creating whiteboard instructional videos. Someone in the group suggested using those videos as layers in Aurasma that would trigger when students scanned a geometric shape. Even if you don't use Aurasma to showcase your videos, whiteboard videos can be helpful in helping students understand a process or concept. Here is a handful of tools for making whiteboard videos.

Clarisketch is a free Android app that has great potential for classroom use. The app allows you to take a picture or pull one from your device’s camera roll and then add your voice to it. While you are talking about your picture you can draw on it to highlight sections of it. Completed projects are shared as links to the video file hosted on Clarisketch. You can share the link to your Clarisketch video and have it play on nearly any device that has a web browser. Clarisketch is also available as Chrome app.

PixiClip is a good option for creating simple instructional videos in your computer's web browser. PixiClip provides a whiteboard space on which you can draw, upload images to mark-up, and type. While adding elements to your PixiClip whiteboard you can talk and or record a video of yourself talking. In fact, you can't use the whiteboard without at least recording your voice at the same time. Recordings can be shared via social media, embedded into blog posts, or you could grab the link and include it on webpage.

30hands is a free iPad app that makes it very easy to create a narrated slideshow and or whiteboard video. To create a basic narrated slideshow on 30hands all you need to do is import images from your iPad’s camera roll then press the record button below each image to record your narration. If you don’t have any pictures on your iPad you can take pictures using the 30hands app. 30hands also allows you to draw images instead of importing pictures. You can combine imported pictures with drawn images in your presentations. And you can draw on top of imported images. When your project is complete you can save it on your iPad or share it with the 30hands community.

Knowmia Teach is an iPad app for creating instructional whiteboard videos. The app allows you to create your video on a slide-by-slide basis. You can draw and talk on slides in the app. You can pause the app between slides. Images can be inserted into the backdrop of each slide which is great when you want to explain a diagram to students. An option for recording your face on each slide is also including in Knowmia Teach.

ScreenChomp was one of the first whiteboard iPad apps. Other apps have surpassed it in terms of optional features, but ScreenChomp still shines when it comes to ease of use. ScreenChomp provides a whiteboard on which you can demonstrate things by drawing and talking people through your instructions. You can draw and talk over a blank whiteboard or you can upload an image and draw on it while you’re talking. Either way, ScreenChomp records your voice as you go. When you’re done recording ScreenChomp provides you with a unique URL for your recording. Share that URL through email, social media, or post it on your blog for students to watch.