Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Let the Games Begin - An Interactive Map of Issues Surrounding the Olympic Games

The 2016 Summer Olympic Games begin at the end of this week. The lead-up to the games has been full of new stories about physical, political, and economic conditions in Brazil. ESRI has published an interactive storymap about all of these issues. On Ready or Not, Let the Games Begin you can scroll through a story that features summaries of stories about construction of Olympic venues, issues regarding displacement of residents of Rio de Janiero, the zika virus, pollution, and security around the Olympic Games. At various points in the story you can click on maps to learn more about each issue.

Applications for Education
Back in 2008 I had students in my ninth grade world geography course write persuasive essays on the question of whether not the Olympic Games benefited the people who lived in the areas immediately surrounding the event venues. Ready or Not, Let the Games Begin provides students with background on the 2016 Olympic Games that they could use in making persuasive arguments about this year's Olympic Games.

H/T to Maps Mania

Free Guides to Windows 10 Accessibility and Deployment in Schools

A few weeks ago Microsoft released more than 200 free ebooks. Those ebooks cover everything from Windows 10 accessibility settings to keyboard shortcuts to school-wide deployment of Windows 10 (links open PDFs). The list of free ebooks isn't limited to just Windows 10. As you browse the list you will find free guides to OneNote, Outlook, and the entire Office suite. For the IT professionals the list of titles includes plenty of guides to server set-up and maintenance as well as database management.

Applications for Education
If your school is using Windows 10 or will soon be using Windows 10, take a look at the Windows 10 accessibility settings to keyboard shortcuts to help you get up to speed on the basics. The entire library of free Microsoft ebooks can be found here.

H/T to Lifehacker.

Try DropItToMe to Collect Files from Students and Colleagues

DropItToMe is a free tool that you can integrate with your Google Drive, Dropbox, or OneNote account. DropItToMe lets you collect files from anyone and have those files directly deposited into a Google Drive, Dropbox, or OneNote folder. The beauty of using DropItToMe is that people sending files to you don't see the contents of the folder. So rather than creating a shared folder in which everyone can see everything submitted, you create one folder to which anyone can contribute but only you can access the contents. Watch my video embedded below to see how the DropItToMe system works.


Applications for Education
This morning I received an email from a reader who was looking for a way to collect pictures from her school's student body to use in the yearbook. She didn't want to use a shared folder because she didn't want to risk having students accidentally delete files. She also didn't want to use email because then she'd be inundated with email attachments. DropItToMe was the perfect solution for her because she could collect lots of pictures from the student body without having to share a folder or get flooded with email attachments.

Monday, August 1, 2016

The Tricky Thing About Free Gradebooks - And Two Alternatives to Engrade

This afternoon I received an email from a reader who was looking for an alternative to Engrade. Engrade is a gradebook tool that has been free to teachers for a long time, but starting in September Engrade will no longer have a free option. I do have a couple of suggestions for free alternatives to Engrade. Those are Otus and EasyClass. Google Classroom also has a simple gradebook available to teachers.

My recommendation of Otus and EasyClass come with the caveat that you should make a gradebook selection in conjunction with your school's IT director so that you're both on the same page in terms of tech support and compliance with local student data security regulations. And if your school has an LMS that they want you to use, you should use that instead of venturing out to use a different system on your own.

Otus is designed to be a complete LMS (learning management system) for teachers. In addition to the gradebook you have options for sharing assignments and delivering quizzes directly to your students' inboxes. Otus provides teachers with a library of instructional resources (videos, texts, interactive review activities) that they can share with their students. Third-party resource providers are integrated into the Otus LMS. A couple of notable third party applications are Khan Academy and OpenEd. OpenEd offers thousands of math and language arts practice assessments aligned to Common Core standards. Otus is free for individual teachers to use. Otus can also be purchased for district-wide implementation which includes additional reporting tools for administrators.

EasyClass is also intended to be a complete LMS for teachers. On Easyclass you can host classroom discussions, post assignments, post resources for students, and deliver online quizzes to your students. Easyclass discussions and assignments allow you to post notes to the whole class. Assignment notes include due dates. Discussion notes don't include due dates. Both types of notes can include file attachments and links. Through the quizzes option in Easyclass, you can create multiple choice, true/ false, or essay quizzes. Pictures can be included with your quiz questions. You can make instant feedback available to students at the end of the quiz (except for essay questions). Quiz scores can be sent directly to your Easyclass gradebook.

Reminder! TechSmith Is Ending Popular Free Products - Try These Alternatives

Back in May TechSmith announced that they are ending support for some popular tools that they had offered for free for years. This afternoon I received an email from TechSmith reminding me that on August 31st they will be ending support for ScreenChomp, Snagit for Chrome, and Knowmia. Here are some alternatives to Snagit for Chrome, ScreenChomp, and Knowmia.

Alternatives to Snagit for Chrome:
Nimbus Screenshot is a free extension that allows you to capture screen images and create screencast videos. Screencasts recorded with Nimbus Screenshot can be saved to your local drive or to an online Nimbus account. I chose to save to my local drive then upload to my YouTube channel. You could also save to your local drive then share to Google Drive or another online storage service.

Evernote's Chrome extension now includes a screenshot tool. Images are saved directly to your Evernote account where you can then annotate them with drawings and text.

CaptureCast is a great tool for creating screencasts on a Chromebook. CaptureCast is rather easy to install. Your recording length is unlimited. You can record your webcam while recording your screen which you cannot do with the Nimbus tool or Snagit. Set-up of CaptureCast is easy too. For folks who don't want to use YouTube to share recordings, CaptureCast lets you share directly to a Vimeo account.

Alternatives to Knowmia and ScreenChomp:
30hands is a freemium iPad app that makes it very easy to create a narrated slideshow and or whiteboard video. To create a basic narrated slideshow on 30hands all you need to do is import images from your iPad’s camera roll then press the record button below each image to record your narration. If you don’t have any pictures on your iPad you can take pictures using the 30hands app. 30hands also allows you to draw images instead of importing pictures. You can combine imported pictures with drawn images in your presentations. And you can draw on top of imported images. When your project is complete you can save it on your iPad or share it with the 30hands community.

Educreations is a free iPad app that turns your iPad into a whiteboard. You can use the app to illustrate concepts and narrate what you’re doing on the screen. You can draw images from scratch on the Educreations iPad app or you can upload images and draw on them. Your completed lesson can be shared directly to others or made public on the Educreations website.

ShowMe was the first whiteboard app that I ever tried and it is still good. ShowMe is an app for creating and sharing whiteboard-style lessons on your iPad. To support teachers, the Show Me website is building a gallery of lessons developed and shared by teachers. Each day there is a “Show Me of the Day” that is added to the gallery of lessons.