Thursday, February 4, 2016

Three Examples of Students Creating Real-World Products to Solve Problems That Mattered to Them

In many of my presentations I try to make the point that "real world" problems are whatever problems that matter to students. That problem could be figuring out how to get into college, how to earn some money, or how to better prepare for an exam that feels important to them. In my presentation Leading Students In a Hyper-connected World I share some examples of students who have identified real world problems and then done something about them.

Vocabulist is a free tool that was developed by a high school student named Ahan Malhotra. He built Vocabulist to help him and other students more easily create vocabulary review exercises. The tool allows students to upload documents and have vocabulary words extracted from them. Vocabulist then matches definitions to the words. The matched words and definitions can be shared to Quizlet to study as flashcards. Watch my video below to see how Vocabulist works. Read more of Ahan's story here.


George Burgess developed the Gojimo app as a teenager to help him prepare for geography exams. Three years later Gojimo has expanded to offer review activities for geography, history, mathematics, and language arts. Gojimo also offers ACT and SAT prep. Though only an iPad app at first, it is now available as an Android app and as a web app. Read more of George's story here.

Chow Checker was developed by students was developed by Christina Winsor DiMicelli's students at Hampstead Academy in New Hampshire. The app was submitted to and won Verizon's Innovative App Challenge in 2013. Chow Checker is a free Android app that anyone can use to search for foods and discover which allergens may be in them. Chow Checker users can create profiles of their own allergens to help them keep track of the foods that contain allergens that can affect them. You don't have to create a profile in order to use the app. You can simply enter a food's name or part of the name ("trail" instead of "trail mix" for example) and view the common allergens that it contains.

Resources from #TCEA16

Over the last two days I had the privilege to give six presentations at the TCEA conference in Austin, Texas. As I always do, I put the slides and other resources from my presentations online at Practical Ed Tech. The six presentations that I gave were:

  • Classroom Uses for Google Books
  • Ten Common Challenges Facing Educators
  • Mind mapping, timelines, and collaborative brainstorming 
  • Discovery, Discussion, Demonstration 
  • 24/7 Learning
  • Leading Students In a Hyper-connected World.
When you land on my TCEA resources page you may be greeted by a pop-up offering the opportunity to subscribe to the Practical Ed Tech Newsletter. That is a free newsletter that I send out every Sunday evening and only on Sunday evening. In the Practical Ed Tech Newsletter I share my favorite tip of the week along with a list of the most popular posts of the week from Free Technology for Teachers

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.