Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Hack the News With Mozilla's X-ray Goggles

Mozilla offers some great tools that can help students understand how webpages are created. Thimble is one of those tools that I have featured in the past. It offers many great activities for students to complete to learn how to build webpages including webpages with animations.

X-ray Goggles is another great tool that Mozilla makes to help students learn the code that powers much of what they see on the Web. X-ray Goggles is a free tool that lets you remix any page that you find on the Internet. (Note, it doesn't change the way others see the page, it only changes the way that you see it). To use X-ray Goggles you need to install it in your Chrome or Firefox bookmarks bar. Then you can launch it on any webpage. When you launch X-ray Goggles you will be able to select images and text on a page and then shown the code behind your selection. X-ray Goggles will let you then alter the code to display new things on that page.

Applications for Education
Mozilla offers a free lesson plan called Hack the News that introduces students to the features of X-ray Goggles. In the lesson students will remix a news story by putting their favorite fictional characters into the page on which the story is published.

Read2Me - Free Text to Audio Conversion

Read2Me is a free service that will convert a webpage or an uploaded document into an audio file that you can listen to on the Read2Me website.

To use Read2Me you simply have to paste a link to an article or upload a file and then be patient while it converts to audio. When the conversion is complete you can hit the play button on Read2Me and listen to the text of the article spoken aloud. You can adjust the speed at which the narrator speaks. 60 seconds of audio can be produced for you without having to create an account on Read2Me. If you do create an account, you can have five minutes of audio produced per day. As a frame of reference, a typical article from a news website yields less than five minutes of audio.

Applications for Education
Read2Me could be a useful resource as a support to students while reading a news article. In the past I have used similar tools to play the audio of an article while my students were reading a printed copy of the same. This helped some of my students be able to participate in group discussions about a current events story.

Announcify is a similar tool that you might want to try for converting text to audio. I created a demonstration video and published it here.

The Practical Ed Tech Handbook for 2017-18

For the last couple of years I have published a free PDF titled The Practical Ed Tech Handbook. Over the weekend I updated it to include some new resources, remove some older ones, and edited it to reflect recent updates to some favorite tools. Subscribers to the Practical Ed Tech newsletter received a copy on Sunday evening. Now I'm making it available to everyone reading Free Technology for Teachers. You can access the handbook as embedded below via Box.com.

Applications for Education
If you're a tech coach/ tech integrator, consider using the Practical Ed Tech Handbook as a starting place for your next training session. Print a few copies then have folks look through it and circle the tools that they want to learn more about during your next workshop. I've done this at my own workshops quite successfully. And, of course, I would be happy to do this at your school too.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Built to Last - Purdue OWL

This fall will mark the tenth anniversary of Free Technology for Teachers. Over those ten years I have reviewed thousands of free resources for teachers and students. Some of those free resources have come and gone in a blaze of glory (remember when Second Life and Nings were the cat's meow?) while others have stood the test of time. Over the next couple of months I am going to revisit some of the free resources that have endured over the majority of the last ten years. With a nod to the Grateful Dead song of the same name, I'm calling this series Built to Last.

Purdue OWL is the first entry in my Built to Last series. Purdue OWL (Online Writing Lab) is a resource that I have been referencing since long before I started Free Technology for Teachers. I made it required bookmarking from the first time that my students had computers to use in my classroom.

Purdue OWL offers MLA, APA, and Chicago style guides for students to consult as they are writing research papers. The style guides have been updated to reflect current standards. Not only are samples included in the guides, students can also access detailed tutorials which are referred to as "workshops" on the OWL site.

Writing recommendation letters is one of the tasks that many high school teachers find on their plates in the fall. Purdue OWL offers an excellent guide to writing recommendation letters. One of the things that I like about the guide is that it includes advice on how to politely decline writing a letter of recommendation if it doesn't feel like a good fit for you and the student.

As long as we ask students to write research papers, we will worry about plagiarism. Purdue OWL provides an extensive set of activities that you can use to help your students understand what plagiarism is and how to avoid it. With the exception of this ten minute comparison activity, all of the OWL plagiarism lessons are at least thirty minutes long.

Purdue OWL may have a bit of a Web 1.0 look, but don't let that fool you. It is full of great resources for you and your students. Have you used any of the Purdue OWL resources? Which do you recommend? Send me an email and let me know. 

Try the Mega Seating Plan Android App

Last week I suggested using the Mega Seating Plan website as a tool for creating random and or assigned seating charts. Yesterday, I learned that Mega Seating Plan launched a free Android app. Mega Seating Plan's free Android app is a companion to the web app.

The Mega Seating Plan Android app will let you view your seating charts. The app also includes an option to randomly select students from any of your seating charts.

To use the Mega Seating Plan Android app you will have to create an account on the website and import your rosters there as well. The Android app is mostly just for the convenience of viewing plans on your mobile device and occasionally selecting students at random for group activities or participation in discussions.

Applications for Education
As I wrote last week, Mega Seating Plan could provide you with a quick way to shuffle the seating plans in your classroom. You might also use it to randomly create working groups in your classroom. To do that just arrange seats in groups then use the random assignment function to put students into working groups.