Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Week in Review - The Most Popular Posts on Free Technology for Teachers

Good morning from Maine where I'm starting to prepare for Thanksgiving by going to the grocery store for the cranberry sauce and ingredients to bake the rolls that my sister-in-law has requested I bring this year. In this week-in-review I want to say thank you to everyone who has followed and shared my blog over the years. Next week will be the seventh anniversary of Free Technology for Teachers. I couldn't have kept it going without all of you. Thank you.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. 5 Good Typing Instruction and Practice Sites for Kids
2. 10 Good Resources for Geography Awareness Week
3. Three Good Ways to Use All Those Pictures Students Take
4. Padlet iPhone App Now Available - 5 Ways to Use Padlet in School
5. Three Activities for Geography Awareness Week
6. Frequently Overlooked Google Search Tools and Strategies
7. Tools for Creating Animations in Your Browser or On Your Tablet

There are still some seats available in my popular online course Getting Going With GAFE. The course starts on November 24th and runs for five weeks. There is an option to earn three graduate credits for completing the course. Click here to learn more.


Would you like to have me speak at your school or conference?
Click here to learn about my professional development services. 

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.
AlfaTyping offers great, free typing lessons for kids. 
MasteryConnect offers a series of apps for identifying standards. 
Discovery Education & Wilkes University offer online courses for earning Master's degrees in Instructional Media.
PrepFactory offers a great place for students to prepare for SAT and ACT tests.
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.
Lesley University offers online education programs for teachers. 
Southeastern University offers online M.Ed programs.

Sketch Nation Introduces Kids to Programming Ideas Through Game Creation

Sketch Nation is a free service that students can use to create their own simple video games.

Through the Sketch Nation platform students can develop their own games by selecting a game template then customizing it to their preferences. To develop their customized games students draw backgrounds and characters. Alternatively, students can import pictures to use as backgrounds and characters. In the advanced editor students can customize the actions within a game.

Sketch Nation works on iPads, on Android tablets, and in any modern web browser on your laptop.

Applications for Education
Sketch Nation isn't as robust as platforms like Scratch, but it does provide students with a nice introduction to some of the concepts of programming and game design. Click here for examples of teachers using Sketch Nation in their classrooms.

Thanks to David Kapuler for sharing Sketch Nation. 

Friday, November 20, 2015

Zaption Presenter Now Available to All Users - Make Interactive Video Presentations

Earlier this month Zaption announced a beta testing period for a new feature called Zaption Presenter. That feature is now available to all users.

Zaption Presenter will let you present a video in the front of the room and or stream it to your students' devices. Your students will be able to use Zaption Presenter ask questions directly from their devices while the video plays. Teachers can add questions to the presentations on the fly and have those questions appear on students' devices. Click here to take a tour of Zaption Presenter.


Applications for Education
Using Zaption Presenter could be a great way to keep students engaged in videos that you show to students. You can insert questions into your Zaption presentations on the fly and ask students to respond to those questions from their mobile devices and laptops. When you share a video through Zaption Presenter the video appears on students' screens along with any questions or comments that you have added.

Can't Wait for Google Expeditions? - Try This Alternative Method

Earlier this year Google made a big announcement about their Expeditions Pioneer Program. In that announcement they released a list of places that they would be visiting in North America, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, and the United Kingdom to give demonstrations and provide kits for Expeditions virtual field trips. Unfortunately for many of us, Google's plan for expeditions didn't include visits near us. If you're in that boat, Amy Mayer has good news for you.

In a recent blog post Amy Mayer explained how you can create your own version of Expeditions in your classroom. Her method includes the use of the Streetview app for Android or iOS and Google Cardboard. Google Cardboard isn't free, but it is very affordable. Check out Amy's post to learn how to create your own version of Expeditions virtual field trips.

7 Tools for Creating Flowcharts, Mind Maps, and Diagrams

This morning on Twitter I was sent a direct message from someone who was looking for recommendations for a free flowchart creation tool. Lucidchart was my immediate recommendation. Over the years I've reviewed a lot of other flowchart, mind map, and diagramming tools. Here is my updated list of suggestions for flowchart, mind map, and diagramming tools.

Lucidchart is a mind mapping tool that can be used in your web browser or on your iPad. The app and the website are both easy to use to create flowcharts, mind maps, and graphic organizers. Lucidchart offers a simple drag and drop interface for creating flow charts, organizational charts, mind maps, and other types of diagrams. To create with Lucidchart just select elements from the menus and drag them to the canvas. You can re-size any element and type text within elements on your chart. Arrows and connecting lines can be re-sized, rearranged, and labeled to bring clarity to your diagrams.

When it comes to organizing their thoughts some students prefer to use an outline style while others see large concepts better when they're in a mind map format. Text 2 Mind Map bridges the gap between the outline format and the mind map format by providing a tools for creating both on the same page. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to use Text 2 Mind Map.


Coggle is a collaborative mind-mapping service that is very easy to use. To create a Coggle mind map just sign-in with your Google account and click the "+" icon to start your mind map. After entering the main idea of your mind map you can add branches by clicking the "+" icons that appear next to everything you type. To re-arrange elements just click on them and drag them around your screen. Coggle is a collaborative tool. You can invite others to view and edit your mind maps. You can also just invite others to view by sending them an email through Coggle. All Coggle mind maps can be downloaded as PDFs or PNG image files.

MindMup is a free mind mapping tool that can be used online, with Google Drive, and on your desktop. MindMup works like most mind mapping tools in that you can create a central idea and add child and sibling nodes all over a blank canvas. MindMup nodes can contain text and links. When you're ready to save your MindMup mind map you can save it to Google Drive, save it to your desktop, or publish it online. If you publish it online, you can grab an embed code for it to post it in a blog post or webpage.

Sketchlot is a free collaborative whiteboard service that works on any device that has a web browser. I tested it on my MacBook, my iPad, and my Android tablet. Sketchlot is designed for teacher and student use. Teachers create their own accounts and then inside that account they can create a list of students. Each student is assigned his or her own password to use to join a drawing shared by his or her teacher. Teachers can create as many drawings as they like and share them on an individual basis. Teachers can share their drawings to one or all of their students at a time. Students can create their own sketches to share back to their teachers through Sketchlot.

Connected Mind is a free mind mapping tool that you can find in the Google Chrome Web Store. Using Connected Mind you can create free-form mind maps or use a template. A lot of mind mapping tools lock you into using straight lines between elements, but Connected Mind is not one of them. Connected Minds allows you to create mind maps in any configuration that you like. As it is a Chrome Web Store app, Connected Mind allows you to save your work online using your Google Account credentials.

Stormboard is a slick new service designed for hosting collaborative online brainstorming activities. Stormboard allows you to create an unlimited amount of "idea boards" or Stormboards with up to five collaborators on each one. Each of your Stormboards can include sticky notes, images, videos, drawings, and word documents. Moving items around on your Stormboard is a simple drag and drop process like the one you may have used on services like Padlet. Each item that you add to your Stormboard includes a commenting option that your collaborators can use to give you feedback on your ideas.