Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Annotation Studio - Annotate Shared Documents With Text, Video, and Images

Annotation Studio is a free document editing tool that I learned about a few weeks ago on Larry Ferlazzo's blog. This afternoon I finally gave it a try. The best way to describe what Annotation Studio offers is to think of it as Google Docs commenting if Google Docs supported videos and pictures in comments.

On Annotation Studio you can create a classroom in which you share documents. You can create documents from scratch by using the Annotation Studio text editor or you can import a Word document or a PDF. Once you have created a document you can share it with your class or you can make it public for anyone to comment on. The best aspect of Annotation Studio is that every annotation you add to a document can include videos, pictures, text, and hyperlinks.

Applications for Education
Annotation Studio could be a great tool to use to help add further explanation to documents. By using the video option in your annotations you could highlight and illustrate a point for students. For example, you might highlight a part of speech in a document then add a video explanation of that part of speech to the annotation that you create.

Annotation Studio does require students to register in order to use the tool. That could be a limitation for use with younger students. The initial set-up of Annotation Studio wasn't a terribly intuitive process, but once I got the hang of it I found it to have a lot of potential for future use with students.

7 Tools for Hosting Online Brainstorming Sessions

After yesterday's post about Limnu there were a couple of similar tools suggested on the Free Technology for Teachers Facebook page. I also received a couple of requests for suggestions for other similar tools. Here are some of the other tools that you and your students can use to host online brainstorming sessions.

Simple Surface is a browser-based tool for collaboratively creating outlines and mind maps.To get started with Simple Surface just click on "use for free now," double click on the surface, and then start typing. To create an additional thought box just double click anywhere on your board. To make sibling and child thought boxes use the enter and tab keys. You can edit the color and size of fonts. Your boxes can be linked to URLs too. Right-click on your surface to open the full menu of editing options.

NoteBookCast is a free whiteboard tool that will work in the web browser on a laptop, iPad, Android tablet, and Windows tablet. NoteBookCast is a collaborative whiteboard tool. You can invite others to join your whiteboard by entering the code assigned to your whiteboard. You can chat while drawing on NoteBookCast whiteboards. While you can create an account on NoteBookCast, it is not a requirement for using the service. You can create a whiteboard by simply clicking "create a whiteboard" then entering a nickname for yourself to use on the whiteboard. If you do create a NoteBookCast account you can save your whiteboards and create whiteboard templates to re-use.

iBrainstorm is a free brainstorming application for the iPad and the iPhone. The app allows you to record brainstorming sessions using a combination of free hand drawings and sticky notes. You can share and collaborate with other users of iBrainstorm. Sharing notes and drawings between users in a local setting is a simple matter of "flicking" an item to another user.

Realtime Board is a platform for hosting online, collaborative brainstorming sessions. Realtime Board is built with HTML5 which means that it works equally well on your laptop and on your iPad or Android tablet. Realtime Board provides a blank canvas on which you can type, draw, and post pictures. You can connect elements on your boards through a simple linking tool. The boards that you create on Realtime Board can be shared publicly or privately. To help you communicate with your collaborators Realtime Board has a chat function built into every board. Realtime Board grants teachers and students access to all premium features for free. In order to get the premium features for free you do need to complete the form here.

Stoodle is an online whiteboard service supported in part by the CK-12 Foundation. Through Stoodle you can quickly create a collaborative whiteboard space. On your whiteboard you can type, draw, and upload images. You can connect Stoodle to your computer's microphone and talk your collaborators while drawing, typing, or sharing images. Stoodle does not require you to create an account. Stoodle will work in the web browser on your iPad or Android tablet. Watch the video below to learn how to create a Stoodle room.

Padlet is an incredibly versatile tool with which you can do everything from sharing bookmarks to sharing sticky notes to running a microblog. To use Padlet for brainstorming open up a wall then invite students to join and share their ideas in sticky note format. Create a custom background for your Padlet wall and you can then sort the notes into categories. A complete playlist of tutorials on using Padlet can be watched here.

Last, but not least, Google Apps for Education provides a bunch of options for students to use to organize their thoughts. Students who prefer to illustrate their ideas can use Google Drawings to create a mind map then insert it into a Google Document. The commenting feature in Google Drawings and Documents makes it easy for team members to ask clarifying questions, make suggestions, and reply to questions and suggestions.

Applications for Education
Whether it is to solve a problem, plan a project, or develop new story ideas there are plenty of occasions in the course of a school year for students to brainstorm together. I still believe that nothing beats getting together in a room to swap ideas in person, but that's not always practical or possible. For those times when in-person brainstorming sessions are not possible, the tools featured above offer good ways to host brainstorming sessions online.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Limnu - Create Collaborative Online Whiteboards

Limnu is a service that enables you to quickly create collaborative online whiteboards. On your Limnu boards you can draw, type, insert images, and chat with collaborators. Every whiteboard that you create on Limnu can be saved as an image to review later.

Limnu's free service allows you to edit your whiteboards for up to seven days. In the free version of Limnu you can have three active boards at one time. The free version doesn't limit the number of collaborators that you can invite to work with you. Inviting other users can be done in two ways. You can invite other users by email or you can invite other users by sharing a link to your Limnu board. You can disable sharing at any time.

Applications for Education
Limnu lets you create sticky notes on your whiteboards. Students who are brainstorming together could apply sticky notes to their Limnu board then sort the notes as a group. The drawing tool in Limnu could be used by students to show connections between ideas in their sticky notes.

My Three Favorite Classroom Timer Tools

One of the challenges of teaching in a high school or middle school that uses block scheduling is many students struggle to focus for 80 minute, 90 minute, or longer blocks of time. I always try to break up blocks like this into shorter segments with breaks. To prevent breaks from running too long, I always use a timer. I also use timers to time break-out activities. Whenever it is possible to do so, I like to display the timer countdown on a projector or whiteboard so that all of the students can see it. These are the three timer tools that recommend more than any others.

Task Timer is a free Chrome app that you can use to time multiple tasks or events at the same time. The app works online and or offline in the Chrome web browser. After installing the app you can create a set of tasks that you want to time. You can run multiple timers at once or run them individually. The timer functions on a countdown basis. A chime sounds when time has expired on each timer.

Russel Tarr's Classtools Countdown Timer has two slick features. You can create and set multiple timers on the same page. This means that if you had students sharing in rapid succession you wouldn't have to reset the timer for each student, you simply move onto using the next timer on the page. The second feature of note in the Classtools Countdown Timer is the option to add music to your timers. You can have your countdown timers set to music. Mission Impossible, The Apprentice, and Countdown are the standard music options. You can add other music by using the YouTube search tool built into the timer.

A third timer option is to simply type into Google search "set timer" followed by an amount of time and a countdown timer is displayed. An alarm beeps when time is up. You can make the timer appear full screen without advertisements by clicking a little box icon to the right of the timer. You can see this feature in action in the video below.

3 Free Map Creators

This is a guest post from Jennifer Carey (@TeacherJenCarey) of EdTechTeacher, an advertiser on this site.

Maps are a great way for students to navigate their understanding of different topics. While it is useful for geography (of course), students can also use mapping to increase their understanding of a story in English, a lesson in History, studies in Ecology, and more. Here are three FREE tools that allow students and teachers to create interactive maps, and they don’t require a login!

Zee Maps

Zee Maps allows users to create interactive maps online for free (or an added fee for additional features). At the free level, it does not require a login. Users can import data from an existing spreadsheet or manually input information as they build their map. Users can add multimedia (images, video, or audio) in their markers and color code specific regions (zip codes, states, countries, etc). Another cool feature is that users can crowd-source information from their followers.

NatGeo Mapmaker Interactive

NatGeo has introduced a really cool, interactive map maker to the market. In addition to the traditional mapping tools of markers and shapes/colors, users can use a variety of base maps (political, street lines, topographical, and more) and then overlay various layers such as the distribution of endangered animals, climate, energy production, etc. This is a great way to bring mapping into broader realms of study. It is important to note that while users can create and print maps without sharing any personal information, if they want to share a map or save it to edit later, they will need an email address.


Scribble Maps

Scribble maps works both on the web and on mobile devices. Just as the name implies, the interface allows you to create maps by drawing. You can import map data from a variety of sources, including Google Maps, Open Street, and Night Sky; yep, you can even have your students map the heavens! You can insert color shapes or markers, text, and scribble on your map to create various lines and shapes. Users do not need to create an account to save their work or embed it online. In fact, you can even protect a map with a password.

These are only three resources for creating online maps. They allow students to delve more deeply into the world around them or, in the case of Scribble Maps, the skies.

Looking for more ideas for your English, history, or social studies curriculum? EdTechTeacher will be offering over 18 different workshop topics this summer in cities across the country. Learn more at ettsummer.org.