Friday, December 31, 2010

Amazon Introduces Kindle Book Lending

Earlier this week I shared some places where you can find free ebooks for your Kindle or other ereader. Yesterday, Amazon introduced lending of purchased Kindle books. So if you have bought Kindle books you can now lend them to others for up to 14 days. Borrowers do not have to have a Kindle device in order to read titles that you lend to them. Borrowers can read titles you lend to them on a PC, Mac, iPad, and other devices that have a Kindle reading app installed.

Not all Kindle books are eligible for lending. Books that are eligible for lending are marked as such. When you lend a title you cannot read it until it is returned to you. While that is an inconvenience, it isn't any different than what happens when you lend a physical book. Click here for directions on how to lend Kindle Books.

Applications for Education
Lending Kindle books could add a new dimension to school library programs. I didn't see anything in Amazon's documentation that would prevent school libraries from lending titles to students to use on their personal Kindle devices. The automatic expiration of borrowing after 14 days should mean that school libraries won't have to go chasing down "late returns."

Link Within - A Related Posts Widget

This post is more of a blogging tip than it is about a teaching resource.

Some of you have noticed that for the last couple of years I've manually posted a short list of related items at the end of most posts here on Free Technology for Teachers. There are widgets and blog plugins that will do that automatically, but all of the ones that I've tested resulted in significantly slower page load times or didn't work quite the way I wanted it to. That practice could be changing if Link Within works as well as I've heard it does.

What does it do?
Link Within is a free plugin (widget) for Blogger, WordPress, and Type Pad that will post a short list of related posts below each of your blog posts. The related posts come from your blog's archives. Each item in the list is displayed with text and a small image from your previous posts (if you used an image).

Why am I trying it?
Linking to related posts from your own blog is a good way to show visitors, especially first time visitors, some other work that you've done and keeps them on your site a little longer. It also helps readers find some more content that they may find useful. For example, if I write a post about "product X" but you've already tried "product X" you might be interested in a post I previously wrote about "product Y" that performs a similar function. Finally, for me this is the best benefit, using a product like Link Within saves the time of searching through the archives to manually generate a list of related items. If you're trying to produce 4-5 new posts a day, every minute counts.

Have you tried Link Within? Do you like it or hate it? Please let me know.

Pollmo - A Quick & Easy Poll Creation Tool

Pollmo is a free service offering an easy way to create and post simple polls online. Getting started with Pollmo is easy. Just head to their site, type your question, type your response choices, and select a color theme for your poll. Then just copy the embed code provided to place your poll on your blog or website. Don't have a blog or website? Then just direct people to the url assigned to your Pollmo poll.

Applications for Education
Placing a poll or survey on your course blog can be a good way to get some informal feedback from students about any number of things. Or you could have students create surveys and use that data in a lesson about mean and median. Students could create a poll and then try to determine what the results say about their class or school as a whole.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
MicroPolls - Web Polls Made Easy
Quiz Snack - Create Simple Polls and Surveys
Nine Survey Tools for Teachers and Students

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Sqworl - Visual Bookmarks Sharing

Sqworl is an online bookmarking tool that saves a screen capture of each page you bookmark. To help you organize your bookmarks, you can create multiple groups of bookmarks in your Sqworl account. Should you choose to share your bookmarks you can share one or all of your bookmarks groups via the unique urls Sqworl assigns to each group. You can add bookmarks to your Sqworl account by manually inputting urls, using browser bookmarklets, or via iPhone app.

See Sqworl in action in the video below.

Sqworl Screencast from Caleb Brown on Vimeo.

Applications for Education
Sqworl could be useful for sharing a collection of links that your students might need to complete a lesson. If students are using Sqworl, the visual aspect of Sqworl provides a helpful reminder of why a site was bookmarked and what that site is about.

Go to South Africa with Toyota

Toyota's International Teacher Program is expanding in 2011. Over the last twelve years the program has sent more than 600 teachers on fully funded trips to Costa Rica and the Galapagos Islands. In 2011 Toyota will send a group of US teachers to South Africa. To learn more about the program click here. To apply for the trip to South Africa click here.

H/T to Lucy Gray.

Cartoonize Yourself with Convert to Cartoon

Convert to Cartoon is a simple little website that takes your photos and adds cartoon effects to them. It's quite similar to service called Be Funky that's previously been reviewed on Free Technology for Teachers. To cartoonize your photos just upload them or provide the url of where they are hosted and click "cartoonize now." When the cartoonizing is done you can download your images to reuse anywhere you like.

Applications for Education
Convert to Cartoon is an easy way for students to create cartoonized versions of themselves, their classmates, their pets, or anything else to use in creating a comic strip or perhaps in a video service like Animoto.

If you're interested in some other ways to create cartoons and comics here's a list of 10 Ways to Create Comics Online.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Lucid Chart - Quick & Easy Chart Creation

There is no shortage of tools on the web to help people create flowcharts and mind maps (find nine good ones here), some offer more features than others and some are easier to use than others. One such tool that is both easy to use and offers a lot of design options is Lucid Chart.

Lucid Chart offers a simple drag and drop interface for creating flow charts, organizational charts, mind maps, and other types of diagrams. To create with Lucid Chart just select elements from the menus and drag them to the canvas. You can resize any element and type text within elements on your chart. Arrows and connecting lines can be resized, repositioned, and labeled to bring clarity to your diagrams. Watch the video below to see Lucid Chart in action (fans of the Beatles will definitely want to watch the video).

Lucid Chart charges business customers for their service, but makes all of their tools free for teachers and students.

Applications for Education
Creating flow charts or mind maps can be a valuable process for visual learners. The process of creating a chart can help students visualize and process the parts of multifaceted problem or concept. Lucid Chart makes it easy for students to create charts and share their charts.

Bee PDF - Broadcast PDF Documents

Bee PDF is a free service for hosting and sharing PDF documents. Upload your PDFs to Bee PDF to share them on their site and your own. When you upload your PDF, Bee PDF provides an embed code you can use to display your documents on your blog or website. You can  browse Bee PDF to view documents that others have made public on the site.

Bee PDF doesn't have the same visual appeal as these document sharing services, but it is quite easy to use.

Xtranormal To Start Charging for Much More

As Larry Ferlazzo reported yesterday, Xtranormal is drastically overhauling its pricing structure. Under their new policies users will now have to pay to publish or download any of their creations. To download will cost 120 Xtranormal points and publishing to the web will cost 100 Xtranormal points. From what I can see the minimum points purchase is 1200 at a cost of $15 USD. Having multiple characters in an Xtranormal scene will also require points. Xtranormal will continue to offer some free teacher accounts, but  their announcement about the pricing change doesn't say anything about student accounts.

It's a little disappointing to see Xtranormal change to this business model, but they do have to make money and as they said in their announcement they prefer this model to one which inserts advertising into their webpages or videos.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Free Guide - Making Videos on the Web
12 Ways To Create Videos Without a Camera or Software

Getty Games - Art Games for Kids

Getty Games is a nice collection of art-based games produced by The Getty Museum for younger students to enjoy. There are four categories of games, each offering a subset of games. Getty Games also offers directions for a selection of offline activities.

The four game categories offered by Getty Games are Detail Detective, Match Madness, Switch, and Jigsaw Puzzles. In Detail Detective players are shown four small pictures and have to identify which of those four came from the larger piece of art shown to them. Match Madness offers four games in which players match either match two parts of a picture together or match exact images. In Switch players are shown two pieces of art side-by-side and have to identify the parts that have been switched or altered. There are twelve jigsaw puzzles available on Getty Games. The neat thing about them is that players are shown the completed artwork and then choose how many pieces they want to have to put together to reassemble the artwork.

Applications for Education
After spending some time exploring art online at The Getty Getty Games could put the art into a "fun" context for students. The games might be a fun way for students to be reminded of some of the art lessons you've previous taught.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

National Geographic Atlas Puzzles

National Geographic is one of my favorite sites to visit because almost every time I visit it I find something I hadn't noticed before. This evening I had fun exploring and trying my hand at National Geographic's Atlas Puzzles. National Geographic offers 23 Atlas Puzzles in all. Each puzzle is an online jigsaw puzzle of a continent or country. There are political maps, physical maps, and human impact puzzle maps to try your hand at assembling.

Applications for Education
Assembling jigsaw puzzles can be a fun exercise for the brain as long you aren't missing any pieces. National Geographic's Atlas Puzzles provides some good exercise for the brain without the worrying of lost or missing pieces from a physical jigsaw puzzle.

Physical Education in the Snow

Image Credit: Banff Lake Louise
It's winter here in the northern hemisphere and for many of us that means snow. This is the time of year when many kids and adults hunker down and do indoor activities. But it doesn't have to be that way. There are plenty of fun things that can be done in the snow. If you're a physical education teacher looking for some outdoor activities or you have kids of your own that just have to get out of the house for a little while, consider trying some of the following.

NOVA, as a part of their program on Denali, has directions for building a snow cave and directions for building an Igloo.

Boys' Life offers a list of outdoor winter games as well as directions for building igloos and snow shelters.

In this video BBC Survival Expert Ray Mears teaches viewers how to make an igloo and what igloos were traditionally used for.

How Stuff Works provides information about building igloos and a good article about the Inuit people.

Making your own snowshoes is an activity that can be done indoors with the final product enjoyed outdoors. Mother Earth News offers directions for making your own snowshoes. How Cast has video directions for making an emergency pair of snowshoes.

When I was about seven or eight I was given a copy of The American Boy's Handy Book (Amazon link). That book is filled with fun hands-on indoor and outdoor activities including an entire section devoted to Snowball Warfare and other snow-related activites.

A Fun Video Explanation of Cavities

As a kid I dreaded going to the dentist's office (as an adult I still don't love it), but love it or hate it, if you have teeth you should visit it. One way to make the experience easier is to practice good dental hygiene and avoid cavities. To help kids understand how cavities start and grow, Josh Kurz produced a short entertaining video about cavities. Watch the video below.

Cavities from JoshKurz on Vimeo.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Combating Food Deserts
The Family Meal
Scrub Club Teaches Kids About Disease Prevention

Sixty Symbols - Video Explanations of the Symbols of Physics

From the same people that brought us the Periodic Table of Videos comes Sixty Symbols. Sixty Symbols is a collection of videos featuring scientists at the University of Nottingham giving short, sometimes humorous, explanations of the symbols of physics and astronomy. There are actually more than sixty videos in the collection now as more content is periodically added to the site. Click on any symbol on the Sixty Symbols homepage to watch a video. There is also a section devoted just to the solar system.

Here's a video from Sixty Symbols about Jupiter.

Applications for Education
As they state on their project page, Sixty Symbols isn't intended to be an online reference book rather it is just a place to watch and listen to some people talk about the subjects they love and know a lot about. Sixty Symbols could be a good place to find an explanation that might help students get a different perspective than that of a textbook or your explanation.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
The Elements Song With Pictures
Knotebooks - Create Multimedia Math & Science Articles
The Interactive Periodic Table

Monday, December 27, 2010

Mapping America - Census Data by Zip Code

The New York Times has taken US Census data and created some good mapped displays of that data. Mapping America offers four categories of maps that you can explore; education, housing and families, income, and race and ethnicity. In each category you can choose from a variety of sub-categories of display. Select a category and subcategory then enter your zip code to see a mapped display of the data from your community. The image below is of the map of the population in Portland, Maine holding a Master's degree.

Applications for Education
Mapping America could be a good way for students to learn more about their own communities, neighboring communities, or any place of interest to them in the US. Students can explore the data in the maps and research what it means for the community. For example, my Civics students recently completed a project in which they had to research some demographic data about their community and include that data in their development of proposals for stimulating the local economy.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Economics Lessons Using Planet Money Podcasts
Infographic - The Most Expensive Places to Live
Video - Project Based Learning Explained

Audio Slideshow - We Remember... in 2010

In what is sure to be a week in which many media outlets publish year-in-review slideshows and videos, the BBC has one that stands out. The BBC's We 2010 takes a look at the notable politicians, athletes, actors, and music stars that passed away in 2010.  The audio slideshow is nearly eight minutes long. And as with most BBC audio slideshows, captions are available to accompany the audio.

Applications for Education
As with most year-in-review videos and slideshows there isn't a lot of depth on any one topic. Where year-in-review videos and slideshows are useful is in refreshing students' memories of the year in news and providing a jumping-off point for further research and discussion of the year's biggest stories.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Build Your Own Year in Review Collage
Flocabulary's Year in Rap
27 Videos About Teaching Online

Folding Story - Collaborative Fiction Writing

Folding Story is a relatively new website where people can collaboratively create short stories. Folding Story users can start a story from scratch or contribute to stories started by others. Users can contribute to multiple stories and track those stories' developments in their account dashboards. Folding Story users can invite their friends to join their stories through email or Facebook Connect.

Applications for Education
The concept of Folding Story isn't a new one and could easily be replicated on Google Docs, Zoho Writer, TodaysMeet, Wall Wisher, or any number of other collaborative communication tools. The slight advantage of Folding Story is that there is a list of story starters already in place.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Imagination Prompt Generator
Random Writing Prompts
60 Second Civics

Get Free Books for Your Kindle (or other ereader)

If you or someone in your house got a new Kindle for Christmas, you're probably looking to load that thing up with good things to read this week (especially if you're on the east coast of the US where we've been hammered with snow). If you don't need the latest best-seller, you can probably find some great reads for free in a few different places on the web. The first place to look is in the free ebook collection on There you will find titles (some promotional, some public domain) made free by Amazon as well as links to Project Gutenberg, Open Library, Many Books, and the Internet Archive. All four of those places offer free downloads.

Some other places where you can find free ebooks are the Google eBookstore and Feed Books. While both places have large collections of free ebooks, I actually found Feed Books to be a little easier to browse by title and or genre. That said, the Google eBookstore offers more options for previewing titles and options for using their titles on Nooks and other non-Kindle ereaders.

Applications for Education
If you have students and or their parents asking you for advice on where to get more good reads for their new ereaders, direct them to some of the places listed above. Good reading doesn't have to be expensive.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Holiday Edition: How to Create Self-Graded Quizzes in Google Docs

I'm taking a few days off to relax and enjoy the holidays. Just as I did at this time last year, for the next three days I'll be re-running the most popular posts of the year. I'll be back on Monday morning with fresh content. Happy Holidays everyone!

In my free ebook Google for Teachers I included directions for creating and publishing a quiz using Google Documents forms. Recently, Dr. Mark Wagner published a blog post that includes directions for creating formulas that will result in quizzes created in Google Docs forms being self-graded. His post includes a video screencast and slides. I've embedded the video below.

Applications for Education
Grading quizzes can be a tedious task if you have many students on your roster. Creating and administering quizzes through Google Documents forms can save you time and save paper at the same time. By saving time on grading you can give students feedback quicker than before.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
5 Tools to Create and Administer Quizzes Online
47 Alternatives to Using YouTube in the Classroom
Google for Teachers II - Free Ebook

Holiday Edition: Historical Facebook

I'm taking a few days off to relax and enjoy the holidays. Just as I did at this time last year, for the next three days I'll be re-running the most popular posts of the year. I'll be back on Monday morning with fresh content. Happy Holidays everyone!

Facebook, the third most populated country in the world, is a huge part of many students' lives. Students do a lot of writing on Facebook. To leverage students' familiarity with Facebook for a history lesson, Derrick Waddell created a Facebook template for historical figures. This template, available through the Google Docs public template gallery, asks students to complete a Facebook profile for famous people throughout history. The template has a place for pictures, an "about me" section, a friends column, and a map to plot the travels of historical figures. Please note, this template will not result in an actual Facebook account being created.

H/T to Bill Gaskins.

Applications for Education 
Creating a Facebook profile for a historical figure could be a good way for students to record some basic information about that person. You could have each student in your class create a profile then have the students work together to figure out the connections between each historical figure. For example, I might have my US History students create profiles of the delegates to the Second Continental Congress then, as a group, determine the connections between the delegates.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
FedFlix - Movies from US Government Archives
Atlas of WWII
The Map as History

Holiday Edition: 12 Resources All Social Studies Teachers Should Try

I'm taking a few days off to relax and enjoy the holidays. Just as I did at this time last year, for the next three days I'll be re-running the most popular posts of the year. I'll be back on Monday morning with fresh content. Happy Holidays everyone!

One of the things that some readers may not know about me is that I actually do have a day job and don't spend the whole day on the Internet. My day job is teaching high school social studies. For the last couple of years my teaching assignments have been US History and US Civics. In the past I've also taught World Studies courses. Over the last few years I've come realize that there are some websites and free resources with which every social studies teacher should be familiar. Here is my list.

1. Google Earth. The possibilities for using Google Earth in a social studies classroom are almost limitless. In Google Earth students can tour ancient Rome, explore WWI and WWII battle sites, learn about contemporary news stories such as events in Afghanistan, or use Google Earth as an almanac of facts. Students, of course, can use Google Earth to create digital stories. Students can create tours of military campaigns, trace the lives of famous people, or map the expansions and contractions of political borders. If you're looking for some directions to get started with Google Earth, please see Google Earth Across the Curriculum.

2. Google Maps. While Google Maps doesn't offer nearly as many features as Google Earth, it is much easier to start using. Google Maps is completely web-based so students can create placemarks and tours from any Internet connected computer. For directions on creating placemarks on Google Maps, please see pages 25-32 of Google for Teachers.

3. Google Books. Google has scanned and put online thousands of books and documents that are in the public domain. For history teachers this means there is an abundance of books about famous battles, biographies, and other works that your students can access for research.

4. Google Scholar. Teaching lessons about notable US Supreme court cases? Need scholarly works to supplement the information in your students' textbooks? Google Scholar is great place to start that search.

5. National Archives Daily Document. Every day the RSS feed from the National Archives serves up a new primary document corresponding to that day in history. Along with the document teachers will find suggested classroom resources and suggested research links. The National Archives has also made available on Google Video hundreds of films from their records. US History teachers will find a use for just about everything in the National Archives' collection of films.

6. The Avalon Project is a free resource produced by Yale University. The Avalon Project provides digital copies of hundreds of original documents from a myriad of topics in US History. The Avalon Project is a good resource for students that need to find digital copies of original documents. For example, all of The Federalist Papers are available on the Avalon Project website.

Read the rest of the list here.

Holiday Edition: 131 Tips for New Teachers

I'm taking a few days off to relax and enjoy the holidays. Just as I did at this time last year, for the next three days I'll be re-running the most popular posts of the year. I'll be back on Monday morning with fresh content. Happy Holidays everyone!

Disclaimer: Publication of the tips in the slides does not mean that they are all endorsed by myself or by the advertisers on Free Technology for Teachers.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
140 New Things Being Tried In Classroom This Fall
How To Do 11 Techy Things In the New School Year
11 Techy Things for Teachers to Try This Year

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Holiday Edition: 140 New Things Being Tried in Classrooms This Year

I'm taking a few days off to relax and enjoy the holidays. Just as I did at this time last year, for the next three days I'll be re-running the most popular posts of the year. I'll be back on Monday morning with fresh content. Happy Holidays everyone!

Holiday Edition: 11 Techy Things for Teachers to Try This Year

I'm taking a few days off to relax and enjoy the holidays. Just as I did at this time last year, for the next three days I'll be re-running the most popular posts of the year. I'll be back on Monday morning with fresh content. Happy Holidays everyone!

1. Build a Blog or Build a Better Blog
Blogs can serve many purposes for teachers. You can use a blog to communicate information to parents and students. You can use a blog to create a running journal of classroom activities and lessons throughout the year. Blogs can be used by students to record and reflect on their own learning. Make your students contributing authors on a class blog and have them write a weekly reflection on their own learning.

Three good platforms for classroom blogging are Blogger, Edublogs, and Kid Blog. All three of those platforms are very easy to start as they don't require any technical knowledge on your part. All three of those platforms allow you to control your blog's visibility settings. Get directions for creating Blogger and Edublogs blogs here. (Disclosure: Edublogs is an advertiser on Free Technology for Teachers.)

2. Build a Wiki With Your Students
Building pages on a wiki is a great way for students to record and share knowledge about topics they've researched. Last year one of my classes created a wiki about 1920's culture in the United States. When everyone was done contributing one of my students made the observation that the wiki had more information than the textbook, he was right.

Teachers and students can also use wikis to create digital portfolios. Students can create and edit their own pages to show-off the work they're most proud of.

Wikispaces, PB Works, and Wet Paint provide free wiki hosting. I prefer Wikispaces because they provide free advertising-free wiki hosting to teachers. Learn how to use Wikispaces here.

3. Build a Website
So a blog doesn't provide quite what you're looking for and a wiki doesn't either? Try building your own website. On your website you can include calendars of assignment due dates (try Google Calendar), post reference videos and documents for students and parents, and even collect assignments.

Building a website used to be a difficult, technical process. That is not the case anymore. There are many free website creation and hosting services available on the web. Google Sites can be used to create a website containing blog and wiki elements. Learn how to use Google Sites in my publication Google for Teachers II. Some other website creation and hosting services you might want to try are Weebly, Webs, and Yola.

4. Create Videos Without Purchasing any Equipment
Video is a powerful form of communication. It wasn't that long ago that classroom video projects required possession of expensive editing software and other equipment. That is no longer the case. Today, anyone with access to the web can make a high-quality video production. Two of my favorite web-based video creation services are Animoto and JayCut. Of the two Animoto is the easiest to use while JayCut offers the most editing options. Learn how to use Animoto in my free publication Making Videos on the Web.

5. Create Maps to Tell a Story
Maps are obviously useful for Social Studies teachers, but did you know that you can also use multimedia maps to tell a story? Google Maps and Google Earth can both be used to create a multimedia story. Try having your students write the biography of a famous person by plotting points on a map and adding text, images, and videos about that person to each placemark. Visit Jerome Burg's Google Lit Trips to learn more about using Google Earth in a literature course. Visit Tom Barrett's Maths Maps to get ideas for using maps in mathematics lessons. Need some general directions for using Google Maps or Google Earth please consult my free publications Google for Teachers and Google Earth Across the Curriculum.

6. Try Backchanneling in Your Classroom
As staffing cuts create larger class sizes, it is becoming more difficult for some teachers to hear every student's question and or comment. Some students are reluctant to verbally share their thoughts in the classroom. And some students just have to blurt-out every thought or question they have as soon as they have it. Creating a backchannel for your students can address all three of those problems.

A backchannel is another name for a chat room in which your students type their questions and comments whenever they have them. You can then address those questions and comments immediately, have students reply to each other, or address the questions when time permits. Learn more about the uses of backchannels in my presentation about using backchannels in the classroom.

Here are some school-friendly services that can be used to host backchannels: Today's Meet, Chatzy, Edmodo, and

7. Join a Social Network for Your Professional Development
Social networks can be used for much more than just sharing pictures of your kids with you old high school friends. Twitter, Classroom 2.0, and The Educators PLN are great places to connect with other teachers around the world. Use these connections to gather ideas for improving your lesson plans, share and find great web resources, and perhaps virtually connect your classroom to another classroom. Check out the Flat Classroom Project for ideas about connecting classrooms around the world. View my resources to learn how to build your own personal learning network.

8. Use an Online Service to Save Your Bookmarks
Every spring just before school lets out for the summer and all of the school-issued computers are re-imaged, some of my colleagues come to me in a panic wondering how to save all of the websites they have bookmarked on their computers. This problem could be completely avoided if they would just try using an online social bookmarking service like Diigo, Delicious, or Google Bookmarks.

Using an online bookmarking service allows you to access all of your favorite websites from any Internet-connected computer anywhere. All three of these services offer browser add-ons that allow to save bookmarks just as easily as you would with the bookmarking features in Firefox or Internet Explorer. These services also allow you to share your bookmarks with others (your students for example) and to add comments to your bookmarks so you remember why you saved each one. Learn more about online bookmarking services in this video from Common Craft. Learn how to use Google Bookmarks in my free publication Google for Teachers II.

9. Get Your Students Searching More Than Just
Give students a research assignment and the first place that most of them will go to is There's nothing inherently wrong with that, but if that's all your students do they're not likely to find the best possible information. One of the ways you can do this is by introducing your students to Google Wonder Wheel and Google Timeline. Both of those refinement tools are built into Google Search. You should also show your students how to use Google's advanced search options. If your students are searching for information that contains numerical data such as distance and time, introduce them to Wolfram Alpha. Learn more about Internet search strategies and tools in my free publication Beyond Google. Learn how to build your own search engine in my free publication Google for Teachers II.

10. Have Your Students Create Podcasts
Creating podcasts is a great way for students to preserve oral histories or to hear themselves practicing a foreign language. Open source program Audacity and Apple's Garage Band are excellent platforms for recording podcasts. You can also record podcasts without installing software by using Aviary's Myna service or's voicemail service. If you need a free place to host podcasts check out PodBean or Blubrry.

11. Eliminate Inbox Overload
Get all of your students using Google Docs or Zoho Writer this year to eliminate the need for them to send you document attachments. Simply have them share their documents with you. You can edit their documents and grade their documents without having to open attachments. Using Google Docs or Zoho Writer will eliminate issues associated with students sending attachments that you cannot open. Getting your students to use either of these services will free up a lot of storage space in your email inbox.

Stay tuned later this week for a free PDF guide on how to use the tools mentioned above.

If this is your first time visiting Free Technology for Teachers please consider subscribing.

Holiday Edition: Google for Teachers

I'm taking a few days off to relax and enjoy the holidays. Just as I did at this time last year, for the next three days I'll be re-running the most popular posts of the year. I'll be back on Monday morning with fresh content. Happy Holidays everyone!

Google offers some wonderful tools for teachers, but I've learned over the last couple of weeks that while teachers are aware of many of Google's offerings like search, docs, and maps many teachers aren't aware of how to use these tools or what these tools offer beyond the obvious. Therefore, I sat down yesterday and started putting together this guide to using Google search, docs, books, news, and maps in the classroom.

This guide avoids some of the obvious things, like using Google Docs for collaborative writing, and instead focuses on some of the lesser-used Google tools options like publishing an online quiz using Google Docs. In all there are 33 pages containing 21 ideas and how to instructions for creating Google Maps placemarks, directions creating and publishing a quiz with Google Docs forms, directions for embedding books into your blog, and visual aids for accessing other Google tools.

Update: In July 2010 I released a companion to this guide titled Google for Teachers II.

You can download the document from Yudu or DocStoc.

Check out the guide in Yudu format below.

Enlarge this document in a new window
Publishing Software from YUDU

Check out the guide in DocStoc format below.

Google for Teachers

Holiday Edition: 7 Videos All Educators Should Watch

I'm taking a few days off to relax and enjoy the holidays. Just as I did at this time last year, for the next three days I'll be re-running the most popular posts of the year. I'll be back on Monday morning with fresh content. Happy Holidays everyone!

I've always found that a short 3-5 minute video can be a good introduction to a PD sessions and or make for a nice thought-provoking break during a PD session. Here are seven videos that I think serve those purposes well.

The "classic" of course is the various incarnations of Karl Fisch's and Scott McLeod's Did You Know? Version 4.0 is embedded below, but I still prefer this version.

Educational Change Challenge is a video that I came across just last week on the first day of ISTE 2010. It presents some good questions that teachers and school administrators should consider as they prepare for the 2010-2011 school year.

Here's another "classic" in the field. A Vision of Students Today, created by Michael Wesch, presents some important statistics about our students.

Social Media Revolution is a must-watch for all of those who think social media is nothing more than a time-sink. Here's a quote from the video that school administrators should take note of, "2009 US Department of Education study revealed that on average, online students out performed those receiving face-to-face instruction." Read all of the statistics in the video here.

And when you're wondering what teachers make, Taylor Mali has some answers for you.

Here's a good one produced by Kevin Honeycutt about the need for teachers to continuously improve, adapt, and adopt new strategies for reaching their students.

Finally, on a lighter note for fans of The Office. Don't let your classroom become like this one.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Holiday Edition: 5 Alternatives to Traditional Book Reports

I'm taking a few days off to relax and enjoy the holidays. Just as I did at this time last year, for the next three days I'll be re-running the most popular posts of the year. I'll be back on Monday morning with fresh content. Happy Holidays everyone!

1. Create book trailers. I ran a post about book trailers during the summer which you can read here. In short, a book trailer is a short video created by students to highlight the key points of a book. When creating their book trailers students should be trying to "sell" viewers on a book. To create their videos your students could use Animoto for Education, JayCut, or PhotoPeach. Learn more about these free video creation tools in my free guide Making Videos on the Web.

2. Create animated or stop-motion videos about a book's plot. To make an animated video try Memoov which is a free service that your students can use to create an animated video book review. Memoov allows users to create animated videos up to five minutes in length. Creating an animated video with Memoov can be as simple as selecting a setting image(s), selecting a character or characters, and adding dialogue.

If stop-motion videos are more your speed, Kevin Hodgson's Making Stopmotion Movies is a fantastic resource for directions and advice on making stop-motion movies.

3. Create literature maps. Using Google Maps or Google Earth students can map out the travels of character in a story. Google Lit Trips has many examples of teachers and students using Google Earth in literature courses. If you're not familiar with how to create placemarks in Google Maps, please see my free guide Google for Teachers for directions.

4. Create 3D augmented reality book reviews. ZooBurst is an amazing service that allows you to create a short story complete with 3D augmented reality pop-ups. Students could use ZooBurst to create short summaries of books that really jump off the screen.

5. Create multimedia collages about books. Glogster allows users to create one page multimedia collages. Students could create a collage containing videos, audio files, text, and images about books they've read. For example, a Glog about Into the Wild could contain images of Chris McCandless, chunks of text about the book, and this video featuring a song from the movie based on the book.

Holiday Edition: 7 Resources for Detecting & Preventing Plagiarism

I'm taking a few days off to relax and enjoy the holidays. Just as I did at this time last year, for the next three days I'll be re-running the most popular posts of the year. I'll be back on Monday morning with fresh content. Happy Holidays everyone!

1. The first thing I do when I want to check a student's work for plagiarism is to do a quick search on Google. If you notice that a student has strung together some phrases that you don't think they've written, put the suspected phrase inside quotation marks and search. You may want to search on Google as well as on Google Scholar. For more Internet search tools and strategies please see my free ebook Beyond Google - Improve Your Search Results.

2. The Plagiarism Checker, created as a project for the University of Maryland, is an easy-to-use tool for detecting plagiarism. Simply enter a chunk of text into the search box and the Plagiarism Checker will tell you if and from where something was plagiarized.

3. Doc Cop offers a free service for checking small documents and a free service for checking documents against each other. Doc Cop also offers a fee based service that will check large documents and do a more comprehensive check than that offered for free.

4. The Purdue OWL website is the number one place I refer students and parents to for questions not only about Plagiarism, but for questions about all parts of the writing process.

Paper Rater is a free service designed to help high school and college students improve their writing. Paper Rater does basic spelling and grammar checks, but the real value of Paper Rater is that it tells students if their papers have elements of plagiarism. Paper Rater scans students' papers then gives students an estimate of the likelihood that someone might think that their papers were plagiarized.

Plagiarism works just like many similar services. To use it, simply type or paste text into the search box and Plagiarism Checker will tell you if and from where something was copied. (Note: the name is similar to #2 above, but they are produced by different organizations).

7., produced by the same people that produce the commercial plagiarism detection software Turn It In, has a free learning center for students and teachers.'s learning center includes tips about avoiding plagiarism, definitions of plagiarism, and explanations of when you do or do not have to cite a reference. also hosts two recorded webinars addressing the topic of plagiarism in schools and how teachers can educate their students about plagiarism.

Holiday Edition: 47 Alternatives to YouTube

I'm taking a few days off to relax and enjoy the holidays. Just as I did at this time last year, for the next three days I'll be re-running the most popular posts of the year. I'll be back on Monday morning with fresh content. Happy Holidays everyone!

Some excellent educational content can be found on YouTube. However, many teachers cannot access YouTube in their classrooms. That is why I originally wrote what became one of the most popular posts to ever appear on Free Technology for Teachers, 30+ Alternatives to YouTube. That post is now fourteen months old and I've come across more alternatives in that time. Also in that time span some of the resources on the list have shut down. So it's time to update the list.

1. School Tube is a website dedicated to the sharing of videos created by students and teachers. School Tube allows teachers and schools to create their own channels for sharing their students' works. School Tube also provides excellent how-to resources, copyright-friendly media, and lesson plans for using video in the classroom.

2. Teacher Tube has been around for a while now, but I still run into teachers who have not heard of it. Teacher Tube provides user generated videos for teachers by teachers. Many of the videos on Teacher Tube have teachers sharing lesson plans in action. Some videos on Teacher Tube are simply inspirational. And other videos don't have teachers or students in them, but contain educational lessons none the less.

3. is a UK- based website of videos for teachers and about teaching. provides hundreds of videos available for free download. On there are videos for all grade levels and content areas. also has videos about teaching methods and practices.

4. Next Vista is a nonprofit, advertising-free video sharing site run by Google Certified Teacher Rushton Hurley. Next Vista has three video categories. The Light Bulbs category is for videos that teach you how to do something and or provides an explanation of a topic. The Global Views video category contains videos created to promote understanding of cultures around the world. The Seeing Service video category highlights the work of people who are working to make a difference in the lives of others. Watch this interview I did with Rushton to learn more about Next Vista.

5. Academic Earth is a video depot for individual lectures and entire courses from some of the top universities in the United States. Visitors to Academic Earth will find lectures and courses from Yale, MIT, Berkeley, Harvard, Princeton, and Stanford.

6. Snag Films and its companion site Snag Learning are great places to watch full length documentaries from producers like National Geographic for free. Snag Learning provides a catalog of educational films that are accompanied by classroom discussion questions.

Read the rest of list of 47 Alternatives to YouTube here

UJAM - Record Your Own Music Online

UJAM is a new service that aims to make everyone a singing sensation. Okay, so it might not make you a singing sensation, but it could help you create music tracks that you can share with friends and use in multimedia productions.

Here's how UJAM works; you sing or play an instrument while recording to UJAM. When you're done recording, use UJAM to alter the sound quality of your voice, turn your voice into other sounds, adjust the tempo of your song, and or remix a song to include your recording. UJAM is essentially an online, light weight version, of Garage Band. Watch the video below to learn more and see UJAM in action.

Applications for Education
UJAM could be useful for students to use to create music tracks to include in multimedia productions like documentaries, short story videos, or as background on a Glogster project.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Three Ways to Cut, Mix, and Mash YouTube Videos
12 Ways to Create Videos Without a Camera or Software
Free Guide - Making Videos on the Web

Thursday, December 23, 2010

11 Ed Tech Things I Got Excited About in 2010

It's that time of year when we take a look back at the last year. In 2010 I've written more than 1300 blog posts. Some of the things that I wrote about I got really excited about and couldn't type fast enough to share with all of you. Here are eleven ed tech things that I got excited about in 2010. (There are actually more than eleven, but I wanted to keep this post to a manageable length).

Mashpedia is an interesting service that matches reference articles from Wikipedia to materials from other sources like YouTube, Flickr, Twitter, Digg, and the web in general. The purpose of drawing materials from multiple sources is to provide users with a comprehensive view of current news stories and reference topics.

Wikipedia, somewhat unfairly, too often gets bad-mouthed by educators that don't understand how the content on it is updated and edited by a community of users. Because of that lack of understanding some educators don't allow students to access Wikipedia at all and are therefore depriving students of a general reference. Common Craft has a video that those educators should watch. Wikipedia Explained by Common Craft uses Common Craft's In Plain English style to explain how Wikipedia works. The video explains how Wikipedia entries are written, updated, verified, and maintained. Watch the video on Common Craft.

ZooBurst is a new website that offers an exciting free service. ZooBurst allows users to create 3D pop-up books using nothing more than public domain clip art and ZooBurst's web-based editing tools. Users can view ZooBurst 3D books in augmented reality by enabling their webcams (click webcam mode) then clicking the ZB button present on each story.

Hoppala is an augmented reality layer creation service that launched late last week. Creating an augmented reality layer is essentially a drag and drop process when using Hoppala. Watch the video here to learn more about creating augmented reality content using Hoppala.
Hoppala could be a great tool for students to use to develop augmented walking tours of their communities. Augmented reality layers could also be developed to complement the content of stories that students write. For example, if students write a story based in their communities they could then create a physical walk-through of that story supplemented with augmented reality layers.

Sweet Search is a search engine that searches only the sites that have been reviewed and approved by a team of librarians, teachers, and research experts. In all there are 35,000 websites that have been reviewed and approved by Sweet Search. In addition to the general search engine, Sweet Search offers five niche search engines. The niche search engines are for Social Studies, Biographies, SweetSites (organized by grade and subject area), School Librarians, and Sweet Search 4 Me (for elementary school students).

Wetoku is a free service for quickly conducting, recording, and sharing video interviews using your webcam. To conduct an interview just log-in to your account, click "start new interview," and send the invitation link to whomever you want to interview. Wetoku records the videos from both participants in the interview. When you embed the recording, the videos of both participants appear side by side. If you want to make your videos password protected, Wetoku gives you that option.

DROPitTOme is a free service that works with Drop Box to allow people to upload files to your Drop Box account without giving them access to the contents of your Drop Box account. For those not familiar with Drop Box it is a service that provides 2GB of free online file storage (by the way, that's way more than the 100mb offered). You can access your Drop Box from any computer and most mobile devices. You can also sync it across multiple computers.  Learn more about Drop Box in this video.  DROPitTOme works by synchronizing with your Drop Box account. After connecting the two services DROPitTOme provides a url that you can give to others to upload files to your Drop Box account. You must specify a password that has to be entered before an upload can take place. Give the url and password to those people you want to be able to upload files to your Drop Box account. Learn more about DROPitTOme in this video.

In late spring 2010 Google announced that more features would be coming to Google Apps for Education. In November those features were finally made available. Now nearly all of Google's tools can now be integrated into your Google Apps for Education account. This means that if there is a Google tool that you want the users in your Google Apps for Education domain to use, you can add it in. Learn more in the video here.

App Inventor for Android makes it possible for people without any coding skills to develop applications for Android-powered phones. Initially available to a select group of early adopters, App Inventor for Android was opened to the world earlier this month. App Inventor for Android is a drag and drop program for developing Android applications. Even if you don't have an Android-powered phone, you can still develop an application using the emulator built into App Inventor for Android. App Inventor for Android provides detailed step-by-step directions for building your first application. Watch the video here to see the App Inventor in action.

In the spring of 2010 JayCut relaunched its free, online, video editing service. JayCut has elements of iMovie and Movie Maker in a free online application. JayCut is free to use and your final product can be downloaded to your local computer. Here are some of the highlights of the JayCut editor:
  • Every element of your video can be added through simple drag and drop motions. The play length of each element in your video can be shortened or lengthened by simply dragging the ruler tools.
  • JayCut's API is free and allows you to put the JayCut video editor on your own website. Using their API you can install JayCut's video editor on your PHP-based website. JayCut offers step-by-step directions for installing their video editor on your website.
  • JayCut has options for adding slow motion effects, direct recording from your webcam, a green screen, and color editing.

The Google Apps Marketplace opened to everyone in March. Thanks to Fred Delventhal, one of the first apps that I learned was in the Marketplace is Aviary. Aviary offers free, web-based, image editing services and sound editing services. By offering their services for free in the Google Apps Marketplace, Aviary is allowing anyone using Google Apps for Domains (either education or enterprise editions) to integrate Aviary services into the Google services they're already using. When added to your Apps, Aviary will appear in your list of Google Apps services just like Docs, Reader, and all of your other favorite Google tools. Please note, to install Aviary from the Google Apps Marketplace you must have administrative rights to your domain.
So what ed tech things did you get excited about in 2010?