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Friday, June 27, 2008

issuu Online Publishing Tool

issuu is a great little tool that allows you to take a set of PDFs and turn them into a professional looking flipbook that you can either embed or link to on your website, blog or wiki. I have provided several examples featured on the issuu website below. You can see that some print based publications are using this as an easy way to create an electronic representation of their magazines as shown in this first example.
You could also use issuu to create an electronic sketchbook to share drawings, illustrations or other images online as with this example.
This also seems like a great tool to use to create quick and easy electronic versions of student books and writing that you can then embed on your class website, blog or wiki. I couldn't find any such examples on the issuu website, otherwise I would have shared them here.

Sunday, June 22, 2008


PhotoShow is a wicked easy (I can't believe I just used the phrase "wicked easy") tool to use to create customized slideshows in virtually no time at all. You will most likely spend more time selecting your photos and waiting for them to upload then you will in actually making your slideshow. You can pick from dozens of themes for your show, add captions to each picture and select background music from their huge collection of songs without concerns about copyright infringement. Check out the quick little show I created of my daughter's trip to the farm this past school year.

This slideshow took me about 5 minutes to create and that was largely because I kept wanting to check out the different options, themes and features. You have a couple different options for output format including embedding it as I have done, sharing a link, as long as you set the slideshow as public, purchasing your show on a DVD (at $30 a pop this doesn't seem to be a great bargain) or even broadcasting it on Public Access cable TV where available. You can purchase a version of PhotoShow for Windows that has even more features including the ability to add video but if you are just interested in working with photos and don't have a great need to be able to export your shows the free web-based version is quite adequate.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Rethinking "Computers"

While wrapping up a session with my class the other day I started to go off on a bit of a tangent, as I'm known to do from time to time. The topic of my verbal wandering this time had to do with the mindset that computers and technology is what we do during that 45 minute period each week when we march our students down to the computer lab. With this line of thinking it's hard to imagine a teacher planning an extended series of lessons or activities that would require back-to-back days in the lab since the structure and rigidity of the school schedule wouldn't allow that. I do think we need to have assigned weekly times for computers just like we need it for other areas such as music, PE, art and library since we can't rely on every teacher working technology into their teaching when left to their own devices. But I also think we need to do a better job of making it possible for those teachers who want to incorporate technology in meaningful ways (more than just once a week for 45 minutes) to be able to do so on a regular basis. This means that some teachers may have more time in the lab because they make the conscious choice to use the technology that is available to them. I would be curious to hear how schools are adjusting their schedules or otherwise making technology available to teachers and students for more than just the assigned weekly trip to the lab.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Big Universe Children's Book Collection/Creator

The Big Universe is similar to LookyBook, which I wrote about in my last posting, in that it allows you to view and read a large selection of children's picture books online. These books can be embedded like the one I have included below. In addition to reading published books (without needing to create an account or login) you also get access to blogs by other authors and experts in the field of children's literature.

However, the real benefit of this site is that you can create your own picture book and share it online through the site or embedding it on your own site. This book creation tool is very comprehensive allowing writers to add a large selection of images, animations, backgrounds and other visual elements to their writing. This is a powerful tool to use to help kids bring their writing to life. I have included a user created book below about a gorilla and his adventures at school. The plot is fairly simple but I think it's a great example of how students can use the large library of clipart to visually represent their stories.