Thursday, May 21, 2015

Who Cares That You Rode Your Bike?

As long time readers of know, every Saturday I publish a week-in-review post. In that post I always include something about what I'm doing that weekend. In the summer that is usually biking or fishing. In the winter it is usually skiing or snowshoeing. And it almost always involves my dogs. Recently, someone asked me why I do this by asking, "who cares that you rode your bike?"

I stumbled into doing the week-in-review posts six or seven years ago when a former colleague suggested it to me. She also suggested that I add a little personality to my blog. I took her suggestion and started to include a little blurb about my life along with the list of the most popular posts of the week. Over the years I've heard from lots of people in-person and virtually who tell me that they like that little personal touch. And more than a few have commented that my mention of an activity has reminded them to get outside too. I'm a big believer in the power of exercise to stimulate creativity. Many of my best ideas come to me while walking in the woods, riding my bike, or skiing. It's also important to remember to balance work with play.

And just a reminder, if you feel like you can't keep up with my pace of posting, I do offer a once-per-week email summary of the most popular posts of the week. That email comes from my blog. You can sign-up for the weekly email here.

I'll be covering topics like this one and more in my online course Blogger Jumpstart!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

ABCya Story Maker - Draw and Type Stories

ABCya's latest online tool is a tool for drawing and typing stories. ABCya Story Maker is a free tool on which students can draw pictures then write text to support their pictures. Story Maker provides lots of drawing tools for students to pick from. After drawing a picture students can click the text icon to type. Stories can be one page or multiple pages. When students have finished writing they can print their stories and or save them as PDFs.

Applications for Education
ABCya Story Maker can be used by students without registering on the site. Story Maker could provide a nice way for students to create visuals to complement their writing. Or the visuals that students make could inspire their writing.

Thanks to Kevin Jarrett for telling me about ABCya Story Maker.

Athenir - A Search Engine With Visualizations of Related Terms

This afternoon I had a nice Skype conversation with a Stanford student named Nick Hershey who has built a nice search tool called Athenir. Nick has lots of neat things planned to add to Athenir this summer, but for now it is a search tool. When you enter a search term on Athenir you will get results from Yahoo along with a graphic of related search terms. In that regard it reminded me of Google's, now defunct, Wonder Wheel tool.

Applications for Education
Athenir could be useful to students who are struggling to see connections between search terms and or are need of assistance in changing their search terms.

Riddle - Create Image-based Polls and Quizzes

Riddle is a new service for creating polls, quizzes, and what they call commenticles. The polls and quizzes that you create in Riddle can be image-based or simply text-based. If you choose to use images to represent answer choices you can have text appear below the image. Commenticles are polls that are based upon an article that you share. The purpose of a commenticle is to survey an audience for feedback about an article that you have shared with them. All polls, quizzes, and commenticles created in Riddle can be shared by embedding them into a blog post as I've done below or by sharing the poll's link on Twitter (I did that earlier today), Facebook, or any other social network.

Applications for Education
Riddle's format of using images as response choices could make it a good option for giving informal quizzes on topics that require a lot of visuals. For example, a quiz on fractions might use pictures which represent various fractions. A quiz on art history might use Riddle to showcase works of art of answer choices.

Classkick - Distribute Assignments and Give Feedback Through Your iPad

Classkick is a free service for creating, distributing, and assessing students' work through iPads. Through Classkick you can create an online classroom through which you distribute assignments to students. Students join your class by enter the class code into the Classkick app on their iPads. Once they've joined your classroom you can start distributing assignments.

The assignments that you create in Classkick can be based on screenshots, imported images, drawings, text, or voice recordings. Classkick lets you see what your students are working on within the app. You can give students feedback on their assignments directly through the app. Students can ask you for help while working in the app too.

Applications for Education
For classrooms that have iPads for every student, Classkick could be a great tool not only for distributing assignments but also for providing individualized feedback to students while they are working. The option to record your voice to create questions could be a great aid to students who struggle with reading but would otherwise be able to answer a question or explain a process to you.