Subscribe to this Blog Add to Pageflakes

Friday, May 30, 2008


LookyBook is a great resource for sharing high quality picture books with students via the Internet. I recently read about this tool on Kevin Jarrett's blog and I agree with him that it would be a great site to use with an interactive Whiteboard. You can access the books and even embed them without signing up for an account, which is a bonus when working with elementary students. Whenever you can utilize a tool without having to sign-up 25, 50, 100 students it is a definite plus. However, in case you are wondering, registering does allow you to comment on books, much like writing a review, as well as create your own bookshelf of books from their collection.

I have embedded a book below to show how this works. If you click on the eyeballs it will show you a larger version of the book. Of course, you could go directly to their site and view the same book but I always like the option of being able to embed content into my own sites such as a Wiki, blog or class homepage because it means my students don't have to learn a new URL just to access the content.

You will notice that there isn't any audio so students don't get any assistance in that regard with reading the book. Obviously, you would have to think about the best way to use this type of tool and take into consideration the reading ability of your students. Considering the cost of pictures books, I like the fact that I can share a broader range of books with my students without having to purchase hardcopies. It's also a nice little break for the environment!


If you do any kind of screencasting to create video tutorials or for any other purpose you might want to check out Screencast-O-Matic (great name huh?). This is an unbelievably easy tool to use to capture your onscreen activity. You can record audio via a microphone and have the option to upload and use their server space or save your video as a Quicktime file. It is web-based so you need to be online when you use it but you can record work in offline applications such as Word or anything else you might want to demonstrate. Once you are done recording you can add notes to different portions of the video that will allow your viewers to jump to those sections and read your comments, which will appear as unobtrusive pop-ups at the bottom of the viewing screen. I tried this out and without even signing up for an account I was able to make a simple clip that I then brought into Final Cut Pro (though I imagine it would work in other editors as well) and incorporated into a larger video project I was editing. I didn't need to record audio so I can't comment on that but the video quality was quite good. I'm really not sure what they could do to make this tool any easier to use. It may not have all the features you are used to in a screen capture tool but you can't beat the ease of use and quality for the price (free). You can check out the demo video below to get a better idea of how this tool works.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Dipity and Time Tube

You are probably wondering what a tool named Dipity allows you to do that could be remotely educational. Well, if you are interested in creating timelines with your students then Dipity is a tool you might want to try out. It is web-based and free (isn't everything I write about?) and takes advantage of the many benefits of Web 2.0 functionality, which means you can add images and video from around the web, embed and share your finished timeline and even geographically tag the different events or entries on your timeline. Timelines can be viewed in multiple ways including as a flipbook on a map and, of course, as a traditional timeline. Check out the timeline I have included on JFK to get an idea of the kind of thing you might be able to create. Timelines can have multiple authors as well.

TimeTube is a mashup from Dipity that allows you to type in a keyword and then have a timeline automatically generated that includes a variety of videos that match your specific keyword. I like the concept of this but since there isn't a clear way to filter out videos you can get a lot of oddball stuff included in your timeline. For instance, when I used the search term "JFK" I got news footage and historical video clips along with a clip of a comedian who was talking about JFK and a video of people dunking a basketball to a hip-hop soundtrack. I realize I could have tried to refine my search term but it would be nice if you could edit the timeline once it was created to weed out the videos that don't fit with your educational goals.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Just for Fun

I wanted to share some tools and resources that I have come across in the past few months that are more for fun then for education and since we are fast approaching that time in the school year when achieving educational objectives is becoming increasingly difficult this seemed like a great time for this particular posting.

Face in the Hole
The name of this tool pretty much says it all. The site has a variety of pictures of different celebrities where they have removed the person's face and replaced it with a hole. You get to upload a picture of yourself and put your face in the hole, thus replacing the celebrities face with yours. I have included a sample picture showing myself as Lance Armstrong after winning one of his many Tour de France titles.

Play My Game
Play My Game is similar to Face in the Hole in that you get to add your image to something, but in this case you are adding your image to one of their pre-made games. The games are rather simple and fairly limited but as I said at the beginning, this stuff is more about fun then learning. I tried to upload my own picture to a game but kept getting an error message telling me my picture couldn't be uploaded so I decided to share one of the games on the site that featured our Commander in Chief instead.

Once again this is a tool that allows you to work with an image of yourself to create a new customized look. While it can be used for all sorts of fun applications, I do think it has some educational value in the sense that you could take images of students and "cartoonize" them as a way to protect their identities. These images could then be used as profile images on social networks, wikis, blogs and other tools you may have students use in the classroom. I realize students can have a profile without an image, or use an abstract image such as a basketball or lion to represent themselves, but BeFunky does provide another option to consider. Check out my funky look!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

TuxPaint: An Open Source KidPix

I read a review of TuxPaint by Marilyn Western in the Spring/Summer 2008 issue of the MACUL journal that landed on my desk just yesterday and I had to share it with my dedicated legion of readers. As Marilyn mentions in her review, TuxPaint is an open source alternative to KidPix, which means it is free and available for both Mac and Windows. I realize KidPix is available on both platforms as well but of course it isn't free. I encourage you to look over Marilyn's review for some great ideas on how you may use TuxPaint but really, if you have used KidPix you can do essentially everything you have been able to do with that software. If you aren't familiar with KidPix or applications like it, then check out the screenshots I have included to see some of the ways you can use this graphic arts/drawing program.

Students can create their own drawings, design habitats for an assigned animal, visually represent math problems, work with a teacher created template, insert personal pictures in their creations and much more. It is definitely worth a look and the price (free) is certainly right.

Monday, May 12, 2008


NBC has introduced a new online resource for teachers and students called iCue. Notice how everyone is trying to cash in on the whole iPod revolution by making sure to put an "i" in front of whatever they create? I heard there is even a state out west called iDaho. Where will this stop? Any way, back to iCue.

I didn't sign-up for an account yet but I did sit through the demo, narrated by Tim Russert no less, and it provides a nice overview of the tool. The demo focuses on the presidential campaign for 2008 but this is just one example of the many topics students can learn about with this tool. The main strength of iCue seems to be it's huge library of video clips from the NBC newsroom. Students can access "cue cards" that are video clips pertaining to different topics. The cue cards also have keywords, can be tagged with new keywords and include transcripts and additional information about the featured subject or event. Students can add notes to them, save and categorize them and share them with their network of friends within iCue. In that sense, this is really a social network with a huge collection of topic specific video clips.

There are games for students to play and a forum where they can discuss different issues. The theme of the content is certainly focused on history, politics and current events but it seems like an engaging way to learn about these types of things. Since the site is so dependent on video, many teachers will probably find it necessary to get the site unblocked in order for students to make full use of it.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Crayola Physics

There are two cool and very simple tools I recently came across that are designed to help kids learn basic concepts of physics in a fun and engaging way. The tools are called Crayon Physics (Windows only) and Phun (Windows and Mac) and were recently reviewed on the iLearn Technology blog that I follow. I had seen Crayon Physics before and shared it with my graduate students but this was the first time I had seen Phun. Both programs are very similar in what they allow students to do but Crayon Physics presents a task (moving a ball from one location to another) while Phun doesn't provide a specific task for students to complete. With both programs students are able to create shapes and see immediately what impact gravity and friction has on those shapes. That's a pretty simplified explanation of what can be done with these great tools but the best way to explore their capabilities is to watch the respective demo videos.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

TeachersFirst is an online resource that provides teachers with lesson plans, learning activities, web reviews and much more. You can sort through their collection of resources by different classifications including subject & grade. They are currently offering a full service membership for free to the first 100 teachers that sign-up. They also have a regular free membership that provides access to a limited range of their resources, which is available regardless of how many people sign-up.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Apture the Experience

I recently learned of a great new tool called Apture from the Weblogg-Ed blog, a fine blog that I follow regularly. I was intrigued by what I read so I decided to look at Apture myself. At first glance it seemed to be quite similar to Snap Shots, which I use on this Blog and a Wiki I maintain. Like Snap Shots, Apture allows you to link to other content and display that content in thumbnail preview windows. Snap Shots, and other services like it, automatically provides a snap shot (thus the name) of any webpage you may link to on your website or blog. Apture takes this process about 15 steps further. You can link to websites, news articles, images, videos, audio and even files such as PDFs. In addition, you can have multiple content sources linked to a single topic.

As I watched the tutorial video on the Apture site I couldn't help but think about how I consumed content and information as a child. We would read books in a very linear fashion. After all, books don't make much sense if you randomly jump around from page to page and paragraph to paragraph. But the nature of the Internet has blown that idea out of the water and Apture is a perfect example of this because it allows you to access content from so many different sources and in so many different formats. I think this has the potential to provide students with a much richer learning and research experience as readers of information but I also think it has huge potential for them as writers of online content. They can have the experience of weeding through content and deciding what they want to link to in order to augment their text and tell the story they are sharing. It's a lot like writing a traditional research paper where you have to find references to support your claims but instead of just citing relevant quotes you can share a huge array of multimedia content and really bring your writing to life.

The way Apture works is that you write your content first and then go back and add your links afterwards. Of course, it is web-based, multiplatform and free to use so I can't think of a single reason why you shouldn't at least try it out. I have put it to use in this posting so you can start to get a sense of what it can do. The list of topics below is simply to give you an idea of the different kinds of links and media that can be added. I want to add this to my UMD EdTech Wiki but that process is still underway at this point.

  • Grand Canyon
  • Civil Rights
  • Global Warming
Now that I've had a chance to work with Apture a bit I thought I'd add a few more comments about this tool. I found it relatively easy to use but it was necessary to refresh my browser on several occasions when adding links. It is still in Beta so there are probably a few kinks to work out but I enjoyed using it. The other thing I noticed was that when I had Snap Shots and Apture enabled it was almost overload with all the pop-up thumbnail windows flying all over the screen so I just turned off Snap Shots.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Build Your Wild Self

I learned about Build Your Wild Self several months ago but I can't put my finger on the source so I apologize for not giving credit where credit is due. This is a great site for helping kids learn about animals and the different features (wings, fins, claws, horns) that allow them to survive in their respective habitats. Students can create their own "wild self" much like they would create an avatar by picking a human head and body and then adding different animal body parts in place of their arms, legs, ears, eyes and much more. They can even select a background image for their creature. Once they are done they get to read about the different body parts they selected and see how those parts are unique to an individual animal and help that particular animal. I used Build Your Wild Self with my daughter's class last week since they were researching the different types of animals and they had a lot of fun creating their own wild creatures. The site doesn't require a log in or registration and when they were finished they could easily save their creature as an image file to use later in Power Point presentations they will be doing. Here are some other ideas I had on how teachers could use this tool.

  1. Students could create their own wild self and then use that image as their profile picture for different online tools they use. This would allow them to visually represent themselves in a safe way.
  2. Students could create a wild creature and then design a habitat that would be best suited for that creature based on the different body parts it had.
  3. Students could be assigned a habitat and then asked to design a creature that would be able to survive in that habitat.
  4. Students could create and name a brand new creature and write up an informational guide about their new creature. This could even be turned into a class book on mutant animals or some other catchy topic.
As with any tool like this the students (this was a 2nd/3rd split class) wanted to play a lot and had fun just clicking through the different body parts so I think it is important to allow time for some of this exploration before you ask them to complete specific tasks.