Friday, June 26, 2015

Otus Releases an Updated Online Learning Environment

Last summer I reviewed an excellent online learning environment called Otus. The first time that I saw it I was impressed by the functions that it offered. Since then Otus has steadily added more features and this week released a completely revamped web interface for teachers.

In addition to a more intuitive user interface some of the features of the updated Otus platform that jumped out to me include real-time analytics updates, third party app integration, easier seating chart movements, and easier recording of information. The improved analytics menu updates and recalculates as you record information about your students. This is true whether you're recording behavior and attendance information or you're recording scores from assessments.

Admittedly, it had been a while since I tried to update my student roster in Otus. When I went to update it today I found it was easier than before as I simply dragged and dropped student names into place on my seating chart.

Otus now allows you to integrate select third party applications into your account. A couple third party applications of note are Khan Academy and OpenEd. OpenEd offers thousands of math and language arts practice assessments aligned to Common Core standards.

If you're looking for a new online course management system to use in the next school year, give Otus a try. I think you will be impressed by the capabilities it offers.

Projection Wizard - Which Kind of Map is Best for Your Project?

Projection Wizard is an interesting tool developed by Bojan Šavrič at Oregon State University. The purpose of Projection Wizard is to help cartographers select the best map projections for their projects.

To use the Projection Wizard select a distortion property from a menu appearing to the left of the map. Then use the highlighting tool to select the portion of the map that your project focuses on. After you make your map and menu choices you'll be shown a list of the projections that are appropriate for your project.

Applications for Education
Projection Wizard is a more advanced tool than most high school geography courses would need. That said, I would use the Projection Wizard to have students discuss the flaws of  various map projections. We'd also talk about why a particular type of projection is better than another for different types of projects.

H/T to Maps Mania.

Three Tools to Help Students Find Books to Read This Summer

Summer is here (in the northern hemisphere) and it is a great time to dive into some good books. If your students need help finding a new book to read, the following three websites will provide recommendations based on their interests. Of course, they can always ask their local librarians for recommendations too.

The Book Seer is a neat book recommendation engine that I discovered few years ago through Kristen Swanson's Teachers as Technology Trailblazers blog. The Book Seer is very easy to use. To get a book recommendation just type in the title and author of a book that you've recently read and the Book Seer will spit out a list of related titles and authors that you might enjoy. I tested the Book Seer with four different titles. The more obscure titles that I searched for, Snow in the Kingdom, and A Good Life Wasted didn't yield any recommendations. When I searched for The World Is Open and Hatchet plenty of recommendations appeared.

Your Next Read is a neat little site that provides you with a web of book recommendations based on the authors and books you already like. Here's how it works; type in the title of a book you like or author you like and Your Next Read will provide you with a web of books that might also enjoy. Click on any of the books appearing in the web to create another new web.

Compared to the Book Seer and Your Next Read 2Titles takes a slightly different approach to making book recommendations. On 2Titles you answer a series of eight questions about your personality and interests before answering questions about books you've previously read. 2Titles will try to prompt you to create an account, but that is an optional step that you can skip if you can find the "skip" link.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

118 Practical Ed Tech Tips Videos

Six months ago I started to organize the screencast videos that I've made over the years. I called the list Practical Ed Tech Tips. Since I started that list I've made an effort to add one or two new screencasts to it every week. The Practical Ed Tech Tips playlist now contains 118 videos covering all kinds of resources. Some of the topics covered in the playlist include Gmail settings, creating backchannels, digital portfolios, blogging tips, and building educational games. In the playlist you will also find videos about tools for flipping your classroom, videos on managing workflow, social media tips, search strategies, and media production. The entire playlist is embedded below.

The Open Library - Borrow and Read Thousands of Ebooks

If you're looking for some new books to read this summer, take a look at the Open Library  which is a part of the Internet Archive. The Open Library is a collection of more than one million free ebook titles. The collection is cataloged by a community of volunteer online librarians. The ebooks in the Open Library can be read online, downloaded to your computer, read on Kindle and other ereader devices, and embedded into other sites. Some of the ebooks, like Treasure Island, can also be listened to through the Open Library.



Applications for Education
Much like Google Books, the Open Library can be a great place to find free copies of classic literature that you want to use in your classroom. The Open Library could also be a good place for students to find books that they want to read on their own. The audio option, while very electronic sounding, could be helpful if you cannot locate any other audio copies of the books you desire.