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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

That Darn Economy

The recession has definitely started to hit the Internet as evidenced by the closing of several online tools recently. In the past week or so I have gotten e-mails from Circa Vie (timeline tool), Looky Book (online picture books) and Flowgram (slide presentations and tutorial creator) all saying basically the same thing. Due to a lack of money and an inability to generate revenue, they are closing their virtual doors. This is not surprising but always disappointing to see especially when it impacts great resources like these. This is definitely a reminder that "free" usually doesn't mean forever unless a source of funding can be established so we can never become too tied to a particular tool. Thankfully, there are other options out there that offer similar services and options. You can check out some of those tools by exploring the links below.

Timeline Tools
  • Dipity allows you to include images, videos and text in your timeline. You are also able to embed your finished timeline and share authorship with others so that they can add events to is as well.
  • AllofMe markets itself as a tool you can use to create a personal timeline of your life but there's no reason you couldn't use it to create timelines for a variety of other purposes as well.
Storybook Sites
  • BookPALS Storyline has a variety of popular children's books read by different actors that students can listen to. It's a great way to provide students with a chance to be read to by many different people.
  • SillyBooks allows children to upload their own writing to this site and read stories uploaded by other students as well. Each month a student story is selected and then turned into an animated movie and featured on the site.
  • Big Universe allows students to create their own online picture books as well as explore books that have been created by other users. You can embed your finished products in different websites and blogs once you are finished.
  • Tikatok is another tool that allows you to write, publish and embed your on book online. You can also order a print copy of your book for a price.
Slideshow Tutorials
  • Voice Thread allows you to upload entire Power Point presentations, add audio or text-based comments to your slides and even "doodle" on the different slides. Students can view the slides and add their own comments if you want them to.
  • Slideshare is a simple presentation tool that you can upload an entire PowerPoint presentation to for online viewing. You can also upload an MP3 with narration for your presentation if you want to add audio.
  • Vcasmo is an online tool that has many different features that can be used to create a multimedia rich presentation. You can include video, music, links and much more to enhance your presentation.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


MapTrot is yet another mapping tool that you can use to create custom maps online. It uses the familiar Google Maps interface and allows you to add multiple locations on your map. You can e-mail, embed, print and link to your finished map but you need to sign-up for a free account, which is very easy to do. MapTrot also supports layers in KML format and as a GeoRSS URL. With each location you add to your map you can provide a name, comments and url, which is a great way to give students more information or to assign a task associated with that particular location. MapTrot would also be an easy mapping tool for students to use to create their own maps. I could see kids as young as 3rd grade being able to use this tool due to it's simplicity of design and interface.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Photovisi is a perfect example of a simple tool that is also simple to use. It fits all my criteria for a tool to use in education.

  • Is it free? Yep!
  • Does it work on multiple platforms/browsers? Yep!
  • Does it require any downloads or installation? Nope!
  • Does it require users to register and log in? Nope!

What more could you ask for in regards to simplicity of use? You pick a collage/wallpaper template, upload your pictures and Photovisi does the rest. Once you have uploaded your images you can choose to download your collage in different sizes and then distribute it or use it as you see fit. The great thing about this tool is that kids could use it easily since it wouldn't require an account, login or e-mail. They could create collages on different subjects, historical characters, books and any number of other things as a way to visually demonstrate their learning or to accompany presentations or other multimedia projects.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Next Vista for Learning

Next Vista for Learning is an online library of videos that are centered around three main focus areas. Light Bulbs are educational videos created by students, teachers and other educators and they are designed to help individuals learn about a wide range of topics. Global Views are videos made by kids from around the world that provide insight into local communities, customs and cultures. Finally, the Seeing Service videos focus on the good works being done across the globe and help bring awareness to these charitable projects and, hopefully, will help inspire more of this kind of work.

The site requires that videos be kept short, 5 minutes or less, and they screen all submissions to check for inappropriate content. The collection is still rather small but this is the kind of project that has the potential to grow quickly once word gets out. Next Vista can be a great source of educational videos for your students. You can link to, embed and even download the individual video segments so being able to use these resources offline is even an option. I think the site is even more powerful because of the avenue it provides for students to share their own videos. I don't know if there are any plans for this, but it would be nice if there was some way to comment or participate online in discussions about the different videos. Currently, the site is largely designed to be a library of videos for viewing and not as a place to hold conversations around those videos. Obviously, you could use the videos in a social networking environment or some other discussion tool if you wanted to provide this type of experience for your students.

Mad Libs

I can remember doing Mad Libs during long car trips as a way to pass the time and keep my parents' sanity intact. Now, you can do Mad Libs online for free! This is a great way to have your students practice the different parts of speech and the site even helps support student learning by providing the option to either type in a word or select from a variety of appropriate choices as they float by on the screen. You can also add a Mad Lib widget to your blog or website so that users, such as your students, can play and practice at a moments notice. I have included the widget below so you can see how this works.

You can buy all the Mad Lib books from they site or just play online. The two main topics at the time of this posting were Mad Libs for President and Mad Libs American Idol (both books are available for purchse on the site). I assume these are updated and changed periodically but since the presdential election has been over for several months I'm not too sure on that. Once you finish either Mad Lib story you are given the option to print it but not share it in any other way.