Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Oh Those Pretty Pictures....

In today's age of instant access to content students can get their hands on vitually any image they want or need. Of course, as responsible users of the web, we teach our students that they need to properly obtain images for projects or reports. And sometimes finding images that students can use copyright free can be an ordeal. There has to be resources out there. Guess what? There is. Laura Milligan at VirtualHosting has created a list of the 100 best stock image sites for use in the classroom. Stock images are those that anyone can use, copyright free, which means you can use it in, pretty much anyway you want. (Although it is still a good idea to stick to educational use and cite the source.) Below are a few of my favorites.

FreeFoto-FreeFoto claims to be “the largest collection of free photographs on the Internet.” They’re available for offline projects as well, as long as you’re not using them to make a profit.

Cepolina-On Cepolina, you can choose to save photos in up to five different formats.

Studio 25- This attractive site lets you upload and search images.

The NOAA Library- Breathtaking science and nature shots are available at this site. Don’t forget to check out the “Meet the Photographers” page which includes short bios and descriptions of the featured photogs.

Liam's Pictures From Old Books- Discover hard-to-find illustrations from old books, “most with multiple high-resolution versions.”

Insect Images- Find all kinds of photos of creepy crawlers here.

Microshots- This site specializes in microscopic images.

Remember, this short list is just that, a short list. There are 93 more sites to explore. So head over there, find some images and create something awesome!

100 Sources For Free Stock Images

Friday, March 27, 2009

Eductional Blogs You Should Follow...Now...Right Now!

On Friday's I try to give you educators out there in Internet Land professional development opportunities and resources. One of the best PD resources is right here. Blogs are a great way to learn from colleagues and other professionals in your curriculum area. Lots of people have some great ideas to share, all you need to do is go out there and find them.

"Mrs Smoke" over at the Making Teachers Nerdy Blog has created a list of some really awesome Education Blogs that all of us should be reading, daily if we can. What is so different about this list is she has blogs for just about ever curriculum area you can think of. Of course there are the ol' standards like Technology Integration and Educational Administration, but she also has classroom blogs for grades Pre-K through 5, blogs for art teachers and librarians and business ed teachers and drama, special ed, the list goes on and on and on.

Because of different web filtering across the country some of these may not be available but they are worth reading in your off time anyway. Mrs. Sugar invites you to post a blog you want to share with others in the comments section.

So go forth and connect with other classrooms and professionals through blogs!

Educational Blogs Worth Reading

Image Courtesy of Flikr

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Provide Answers Effortlessly...

Regular readers of this blog have read about my attempt to provide technology integration and assistance to 18 schools in my district. It is very challenging sometimes to provide the help that teachers and staff need. Wouldn't it be great if I could just point them to a website that answered some of the basic questions I get everyday like what is a cookie, or how do I teach my students what Netiquette is, or how do I use Movie Maker?

While I should create a website (and I am) to help my teachers answer these questions there is a great resource out there from Center for Instructional Technology at the University of South Florida called Tech-Ease that I can point my teachers to. This is a great site that is basically a giant FAQ database on everything tech. There are topics on the Internet, Hardware, Files and Sharing, Email, Images, Chat and Classroom Management. When you choose your topic there is a list of common questions that teachers or other tech users might ask. For example in the hardware section there are questions like what is a flash drive, or how do I burn a CD in Windows XP? The questions are basic for those of us who work in tech everyday but very common for those that don't. Each section also provide additional links to other resources that users can consult when they have questions.

All of the information they provide is great. Very easy to use and understand for even the most basic technology user. All of that is great. But wait! There is more! There are video tutorials available that Professional Development Coordinators or Instructional Technologists can use or point teachers and staff to on a wide variety of topics. Podcasting, Google Earth, Windows Movie Maker, Wikis, and How To Create Interactivity With iPods are just a few topics. Oh wait there is more. There are some really great guides for users to download on even more topics like PowerPoint, Inspiration, Nvu, Google Docs, Social Bookmarking, Second Life, I really can not list them all. You just need to head over there and check it out!

I was an instant fan of this site. I even learned a thing or two. So next time a teacher or staff member has a question or you want to brush up on your skills check out Tech-Ease, oh, and subscribe to their podcast in iTunes. You will love it!

Tech-Ease-Quick Answers To Real Classroom Technology Questions

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Connect To The Outside World...Skype In Schools

The current push in education is making our student more globally competitive and to help them connect to the world outside of their own. Whether you agree with the methods state departments of education use to get this message out we can all agree that we need to get our students to see the world beyond their own communities. Field Trips are always good but very expensive. Virtual field trips are also fun, most of the time free but most often it is hard for students to interact with the subject matter. What if there was a way to connect to guest speakers, other classrooms, other countries, and what if it was free?

Most tech people have heard of Skype. It is a free program that allows you to use voice or video chat to connect with other Skype users. For a small fee you can even call land lines (however this is not needed if you connect to other Skype users.) I can do workshops all day long on how to use the program and how it can be used in the classroom. But I need a resource to connect my classrooms to other classrooms. An now I have found it!

Dan Froelich is the Instructional Technology Professional Development Coordinator for The North Carolina Teacher Academy. He and a dedicated group of Skype users have created an awesome wiki entitled Skype In Schools. This is a place teachers, technology coordinators and directors and others who are invested in technology in education can go to connect with other Skype users. The site has a large database of users and classrooms, listed by state that you can invite to your classroom. There is a great section on the experiences students and teachers have with Skype and a great section on supporting research that discusses why we should be using Skype in our classrooms.

One of the coolest sections is the Want Ads. Here anyone can post who they are and what they are looking for in terms of a connection. Just browsing around I found a class that wanted to talk to another on Seuss Day, a middle school group that was looking for another group to Skype and blog with and directors wanting to connect to other directors to talk about assessments and networks.

The wiki has great information on getting started with Skype and how to introduce it to your students. So if you are looking for anything and everything Skype head on over to Dan's Skype In Schools wiki. When you check it out, you can find me on Skype. Just look for Steven.W.Anderson and you can tell me what you thought!

Skype In Schools

Monday, March 23, 2009

The 4 Twitter Add-In's For Firefox That You Must Have...

A couple of posts ago you read about my obsession with Twitter and how it is becoming more of a part of the classroom. Then you read about my love of Firefox and how if you are not using it, it is time to switch. Today I combine my two most favorite programs in to a supper social-networking hybrid. Here is a list of the top Twitter add-ins for Firefox:

TwitterFox: The most popular add in for Twitter. The add-on places a Twitter icon at the top of your browser which can alert you when your friends update their stream. There is also a field for you to type your latest updates, preventing you from having to visit the site itself. Very handy for the busy Firefox user!

Twitterbar: An interesting add-on. Rather then take up valuable browser real estate, this add-on places a gray Twitter icon in your search and become active when you click on it. You are then able to post your message directly to your Twitter account. If you leave your cursor over the icon your letter count appears giving you an idea of how much more you can type. Does not give you status updates for your friends.

TwitKit 1.0: TwitKit places a side bar onto your browser which can be opened can closed at your request. This add-on offers tabs which breaks down your account by various categories to few specific information. You can type your updates and submit through the window, as well as view all recent updates by your friends. An aspect of this add-on is that you can customize it, though it’s a little restrictive.

Twitzer: Tired of the 140 character limitation? No worries, Twitzer offers you an opportunity to type what you want and post it. The add-on will take your text, summarize it, offer a link for your friends to click on so they can read the full text version. If you want to share more with less, then try out Twitzer!

Keeping Students Up To Date-Assign A Day

Assign A Day is an online calendar management system designed for teachers and students. It’s a free service that allows you to create and manage your classroom online and share assignments with your students. The interface is incredibly intuitive and is a great way for you to post current and upcoming tasks. Just register (it’s free to do so, and doesn’t require much information to get started), create a calendar, and begin posting. Set the dates of your assignment and a description and you’re ready to go.

The calendar can be viewed in grid or list form, and adding assignments is easy. You can then choose to share your calendar with other educators to edit in case you want to collaborate. I think the best part is students don't need an email address or even register to use the calendars. You simply supply a calendar ID and students/parents can find your stuff. No ID? No problem. Users can search by teacher last name.

A couple of things to think about. If you decide to use the calendar for personal use it will be deleted. (There are tons of other programs for that anyway and why would you want your students to know when your dentist appointment is anyway!) Also if you don't post anything for two weeks the calendar will be deleted. So if you are just trying it out the site suggests to add the word "Demo" to your calendar title so it won't disappear.

The whole thing is powered by
4Teachers.org, creators of such tools as RubiStar and QuizStar. This is a great tool for teachers to make sure their students no longer have the excuse “I didn’t know that was due today!


Thanks To Instructify For Parts Of This Post

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Ideas To Inspire Technology Greatness...

Teachers ask me all the time for technology ideas on a wide variety of subject areas. Some days I can get 30 questions from 30 different teachers but they all might be asking the same sort of question. One day it might be questions on how to use Google Earth and the next it might be all Smartboard questions. It sure would be helpful to have list of easy ways that these tools can be used in the classroom.

Mark Warner has created a site that does just that. (The idea came from another teacher named Tom Barrett. He collaborated with over 100 teachers to get ideas on all these topics.) Using some Google Presentations teachers can see how various technologies can be used in the classroom. He has included presentations on a wide range of topics including Interactive Whiteboards, Netbooks, Twitter, Google Earth, Google Docs, Webcams, and more. There is also some really good information on curriculum topics like math, science, writing, art and music.

Each presentation gives teachers several ideas on ways to use the specific technology in their classroom or ways technology can support the specific content area. The presentations are short and offer some really good ideas. I guarantee that you will learn at least one new way to do something in your classroom, if not more.

So head on over to Mark's Ideas To Inspire Website and achieve Technology Greatness!

Mark Warner's Idea's To Inspire

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Smart Notebook 10 Video Series- The Page Sorter

In today's episode I talk a bit about the functions of the page sorter and how you can use it to create dynamic, interactive lessons.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Why Use Games In The Classroom...

Often, games are used in the classroom as rewards or incentives for tests or good behavior. Sylvia Martinez would make the argument teachers should be using games in their classroom much more often than they do, and use them for solid learning. She has created a wiki as part of a presentation on games and gaming in the classroom. There is a plethora of resources! Everything from research on why games should be used in the classroom, lists of casual games to play, how virtual worlds like Second Life can be used for learning, to, how to design games effectively to facilitate learning. It's all there, in a very easy to use list.

So the next time your administrator wants to know why you are playing games when they come to visit your classroom send them over to Sylvia Martinez's wiki.

Games In The Classroom

Beyond The Bubble: Technology And The Future Of Student Assessment

As educators we understand how important life long learning is. For that reason, today I step away from websites and talk a little about research. There is a lot of great research out there on how technology is used in the classroom and how it has the possibility of boosting student achievement and eliminating student behavior issues. Now there is a really good report out about how the way students are assessed needs to change to keep pace with our changing classrooms.

Education Sector is an independent, nonpartisan thinktank that aims to challenge the conventional thinking of education. From their website;

"We are committed to achieving measurable impact in education policy, both by improving existing reform initiatives and by developing new, innovative solutions to our nation's most pressing education problems. The ultimate beneficiaries of our work are students. Our mission is to promote changes in policy and practice that lead to improved student opportunities and outcomes."

In February the COO, Bill Tucker, published a report entitled
Beyond The Bubble: Technology and The Future of Student Assessment where he outlines where testing is currently and where it needs to go and how technology can be used to better understand what our students are learning, and, more importantly, how our students are learning. It is a facinating report and a very easy read.

While you are checking out the report, take a look at some of the other research they have on their site. There are several topics from all aspects of the education arena.

Beyond The Bubble Report

Education Sector Thinktank

Monday, March 16, 2009

Realize Your Goals...43 Things

One of the things I always tried to teach my students was to understand goals and goal setting. I told them that no matter how small, life should have goals. No matter what you do, you should always strive for something. But how do you keep track of all the things you want to do? And how can you get motivated to do reach your goals? 43 Things is here to help.

43 Things is a community of people that help you reach your goals. When you complete the registration you jump right in and list your goals. You can have a list a mile long or focus on one or two things at a time. The site then connects you with the community that shares a similar goal(s). You can track you progress by recording your thoughts in your journal and you can cheer on others as they reach their goals.

So how can we use 43 Things to help students? Simply, we can start a conversation about goals. A teacher could easily start with a class related goal. Everyone completes their homework each night for a month or each student makes an A on the next test. This can work well with younger students. With older students, say high school, the site could be used for setting goals for getting into college or for graduation. The possibilities are truly endless. The bonus is that students can connect with each other and help motivate each other to reach their goals.

The site is also good for grown-ups. We all have something we strive for or a goal we want to reach. I encourage everyone to set up an account and start reaching your goals!

43 Things

Friday, March 13, 2009

Save A Little Green When You Go Green...

There is a lot of talk in the media and the Internet about Global Warming and there is a big push to go green. Whether or not you agree with the politics you can agree that in the current state our country is in saving money is always something to look at. There is a new website that aims to do that, with a large focus on computers and computer equipment.

In the home and school computers are the largest users of energy. We expect them to be at our beck and call, ready, 24 hours a day to communicate with the world, take us to a far away place or entertain us. However this constant use and constant state of energy use puts a drain on our resources and a drain on our wallets. Climate Savers Computing mission is to raise awareness about energy use and to provide tips, tricks and solutions to the home, businesses and schools on how they can cut back on their energy use.

The site provides very easy to use information on how to set the power settings on your computer based on your operating system. There is also information on other ways to go green with your computer through computer recycling and other programs. One of the coolest features is the downloads section where you can download different types of cost-saving calculators that can be use as teaching tools.

So why not save a little green by going green. Check out Climate Savers Computing.

Climate Savers Computing

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Take Your Classroom To Space...CyberSpace

There is a big push in education to create the "virtual classroom." Many colleges and universities have been offering courses that are taught 100% online for several years. Now states are joining this trend and offering high school courses through distance learning means. But where does the regular, everyday elementary, middle or high school class fit into this trend? How can a teacher, that teaches in a physical classroom everyday, take their classroom to cyberspace?

There are programs like Blackboard that allow teachers to create online, virtual classrooms where students can communicate with each other through discussion boards, post projects and download class materials at any time. Blackboard works for colleges and universities because they can afford the program. More and more school districts are moving towards using Moodle but that takes time to set up and the training involved can cost money and time also. There has to be, not only a free, but easy way to take the classroom online.

NICENET is an free, online resource that they call the Internet Classroom Assistant (ICA). Setting up your class takes two minutes. All you provide is a username, password and email address. All your students provide is a code that you are given at registration for your classroom. ICA takes removes the requirement of an email address for student participants. This is a big plus for time-stretched teachers.

Once you have set up your classroom there are several spaces to explore.There is a class discussion board where the teacher or participants can create and respond to posts, a document manager for class notes or assignments, a personal messaging center that allows users to send private emails with attachments to the teacher and a fully integrated schedule page showing a calendar what assignments are due when.

When you create your classroom there are a few options ro review. Teachers can have total control over the ICA. They can not allow students to create posts, just respond to them, they can turn off internal emailing except to just the teacher and they can turn document commenting on and off. The ICA is fully customizable, allowing you to create a virtual classroom that is just like your physical one.

So, if you are looking to take your class to Cyberspace definitely give NICENET's Internet Classroom Assistant a try.

NICENET's Internet Classroom Assistant

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

TimeSpace: World

News happens 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 (or 366) days a year. It is easy to forget about the rest of the world when there is major events happening in our backyard. We want our students to be more globally connected. And following the news is a great way to do that. But how can you find major news events with out boring your students to death with online news services. Welcome TimeSpace: World

Created by the Washington Post TimeSpace: World is a visual news service that shows all the major hotspots for news on an interactive map. Each location is represented by a box that shows how many related news items there are for that area. The further you zoom in the map, the more hotspots you see. When you find a hotspot you can view articles, videos and photos related to all of the stories in that area. This would be a great tool for social studies teachers to use when talking about different parts of the world or for language arts teachers to use when reading a particular text.

A bonus feature is you can track the number of stories related to a hotspot by using the slider at the bottom. Under the slider you can see a graph of the number of total news stories, so you can track when news happens.

TimeSpace: World helps to make that connection beyond the classroom and keeps students connected to the global society. Check it out!

TimeSpace: World

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Your Life In 140 Characters Or Less...The Twitter Experiment

Anyone who is anyone has a Twitter account. From President Obama to Shaq to your next door neighbor people are jumping on the Twitter bandwagon to tell the world their story. Even I have a Twitter account (web20classroom) and keep readers of this blog updated with my live Twitter feed on my page. But there is one group of people who are flocking to Twitter in record numbers. Teachers. But how are they using it and how are they bringing it to the classroom?

A group of college students at Plymouth State University have created a wiki for educators on all sorts of Web 2.0 Tools. They have information there for podcasting, bloging, wikis, social bookmarking and Twitter. What I found very interesting are the links they have collected that point to classrooms and teachers using Twitter. They also have links to some great articles on how Twitter works and the educational value of using microblogging.

Web 2.0 Primer-Twitter

Once you have your Twitter account you will need to follow some people. Over at PBWiki Gina Hartman has created a space for educators to find other educators to follow. The list is broken down by subject area. And once you join you can add your own information so others can follow you.


Monday, March 9, 2009

Making Models...Google SketchUp

3D projects in my day involved either shoe boxes or sugar cubes. Google’s SketchUp is a free download that lets people create virtual 3D models with just a few clicks of the mouse.

It’s easy to get started playing around, but more of a challenge to get it working the way you want it (at least for me, who likes to “play first, read the directions later”). If you do need some help, you can find great tutorials on You Tube by the author of SketchUp for Dummies, that can help you get started.

SketchUp is a great way to teach area and volume, or to plot out a room arrangement or design a car. You can even import elements from the 3D Warehouse, where others have done the work for you. It also integrates with Google Earth, and has several different options for sharing your creations.

The program is a free download for Mac and Windows. There’s a pricey Pro version, which appears at the top of the download page, so look below the “Download Pro” button to find the free version. Once it’s installed, have fun with virtual model-making.

Google SketchUp

Reposted From Instructify

Friday, March 6, 2009

Smart Notebook 10-Attachments

In today's Smart Video I explain the Attachments tab and how you can use it to store files so that you always have what you need when you are teaching.

Internet Explorer Is So Old School....

If you are still using Internet Explorer it is time to come out of the dark ages and realize there are more and better options out there. Everyone has their favorites. From the standards of Safari, Chrome and Opera to the more specialized browsers like Flock for social networking and Camino for the Mac there are several options to choose from. However, in my opinion they all pale in comparison to Mozilla Firefox. If you want total control over your browser and browsing experience then it is time to make the switch to Firefox.

Download Firefox 3

Go ahead, download it, install it, and come back here. It's ok. I will wait.....

Ok now that you have Firefox installed it is time to jazz things up a bit. Firefox has the ability to add programs called extensions to really make Firefox your own. There are 1000's to choose from. I currently have over 20 that I use everyday. From Twitter to weather to iTunes control to Evernote I rely on these add-ons everyday. There are 100's of lists out there that claim to have the "must have" extensions. Here are a few of my favorites.

ComputerWorld Top 20 Extensions
Mashable's Top 30 Extensions
Geeks Top 5 Extensions

Now that you have accessorized your browser it is time to trick it out! Firefox allows you to choose themes to truly match your personality. Are you a Carolina Fan (I'm sorry) there is a theme for that. Favorite color pink? There is a theme for that. What Firefox to look more like a Mac? There is a theme for that. There are 1000's. Check them out!

Themes From Firefox

So go forth! Break the bonds of Internet Explorer. Get out there and show your browser who is boss!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Smart Notebook 10-Adding Content

In today's Smart Video I demonstrate how to add your own content to the Gallery and make the content you add searchable.

A Beginner's Guide To Podcasting...

More and more teachers and students are venturing into the world of podcasting. Some teachers are using podcasts made by others to suppliement what they are teaching while others are creating their own. Ultimately I would love to see more teachers and especially students creating and sharing their own podcasts among themselves and the community. But where do you start? Do you have to have an iPod or speciality recording equipment? Nope! Let iLounge show you the way.

iLounge prides itself on being the place on the net for all things iPod. If you need help picking the right iPod for your needs or are looking for the latest reviews of apps for the iPhone or iTouch then you really should check out iLounge.

While all those features are great, we want to know about podcasting. iLounge has a special section that most educators would agree is the most comphrensive guide for creating podcasts. The guide has step-by-step instructions on everything from equipment to recording programs to getting your podcast published in iTunes so that others can subscribe and get new episodes as you produce them.

If you are looking for examples of what others are doing with podcasts in their classroom check out these websites and listen to what kids can do! While you are at it check out iLounge and learn how you can get your first podcast created and published in a matter of hours!

WillowWeb Radio
Newfound Elementary Podcasts
Coral Gables High School Podcasts


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Smart Notebook 10-Tables

In today's Smart Notebook 10 video I demonstrate the use of the Table Tool.

Webpages In Power Point...LiveWeb

Have you even been to a presentation where the presenter fumbled back and forth between their Power Point and the web. Admit it, you have done it. Heck I have done it! But no longer! LiveWeb to the rescue.

LiveWeb is a Microsoft PowerPoint add-in available for versions 97-2007 that allows you to embed a live, workable view of a webpage into your presentation. There is a tutorial to guide you through the process of adding, which makes this add-in very easy to use. You can even have the page set to refresh every time you view the page in your presentation so you have the most acurate visual of the page.

The only downside is that you have to run the presentation on the machine where LiveWeb is installed. But the installer is in a little zip file that you could easily put on a flash drive and run it when you needed it.


Calculations On The Fly...InstaCalc

Calculators can be fun. Graphing calculators can be even more fun. We can even teach our kids to do calculations in Excel. But what if you want to create calculations for specific events like to see if calculations mentioned in a literature book actually work or students want to work out debt to earnings ratios for a high school level economics class. What do you do? You turn to one of the greatest Web 2.o tools around...InstaCalc.

From The InstaCalc Blog- "It's called InstaCalc for a reason: answers appear as you type. Your time is important, the computer's time is not. Spend less time waiting, more time doing. Normal calculators and spreadsheets make you type and press Enter. Change the numbers, press Enter. Change the numbers again, press Enter. Why this extra step? Imagine having to press "Enter" every time you typed a key in Word. Decades of spreadsheets and desk calculators have conditioned us to tolerate this pause between entering numbers and getting an answer. Break free."

See your work as you go, just like working on paper. You can see how you got an answer and change the numbers in real-time. You don't have to switch between viewing a cell's results and editing the details.Regular calculators erase your equation to show you the results. You have to keep track of previous results yourself - will you write them down each time? And if you want to change an answer, you need to retype the entire calculation.Sure, spreadsheets can have multiple equations, but they only show you one cell at a time. For the other cells you see a number like 81.879 and have to guess or remember how it came to be.

There are two features I really like. The first is readable equations. If you type 6.6 Billion into a cell, your result will be written as 6,600,000,000. We know that students sometimes have a problem learning complicated equations. They can get lost in the flow and don't understand how everything fits together. InstaCalc makes this process easier with the readable equation feature. Check out the example below with the Distance equation.

The other feature that is really cool is two-fold. Once you create a custom Calc you can share it with the world or you can embed it, live, on your website or blog. When you share it it becomes searchable on the site so others can find it. You can also share the Calc via a link. Head over there now and check out the interesting Calcs created. Below you can see an example of a live Calc I have embedded from the site.