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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.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


Newstin is yet another site that provides access to a wide range of news items from across the globe. It isn't designed specifically for the K12 population but it has a very cool visual interface (sample shown below) that allows you to click on different main topics and narrow your search down to a specific article or news story related to that topic. As part of the visual display, the individual topics and stories are "tagged" to their respective location on the globe providing a geographic perspective to each story.

You can search through Newstin for different stories based on a variety of criteria. This includes searching by country of origin, topic (i.e. politics, economy, sports etc.) as well as being able to search by an individual (such as President Obama), an organization, company or region of the world. It is also possible to leave comments, and read comments left by others, on different news stories and this is where things might get inappropriate for K12 students. Newstin is a news aggregator of sorts so when you click on a particular news story of interest you are taken to the original site where that story is posted rather than viewing and reading the story within the Newstin environment. You can subscribe to the site in order to get regular updates on all "top stories".

With proper monitoring, this could be a good news source for middle school or high school students involved in a current events class or studying journalism. There could also be some interesting comparisions made in how different countries report on global issues such as the economy, health related issues and politics.

Free Music Archive

With a name like "Free Music Archive" you can probably guess what this site has to offer. Yep, free music. This is yet another great resource for music that is free and legal to use in your classroom projects. You can search through the music by genre, curator or keyword. The site isn't targeted specifically for the K-12 population so it may not be the best idea to have students go there directly but you could always download a selection of appropriate and relevant songs for them to pick from and make them available on a school network. If you are making podcasts, digital videos or any other multimedia projects that could be enhanced with music this would be a good place to check out.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Moodle Tutorials

Anyone using the Moodle course management tool might want to check out the Moodle Tutorial site, which has, not surprisingly with a name like "Moodle Tutorial", a large collection of video tutorials demonstrating how to do all sorts of things within the Moodle environment. This is much like a YouTube style video sharing site in that users can upload videos (as long as they have to do with Moodle) and share their videos with others. You can comment on other videos and also embed them on your site or blog. I have included a video from the site for your enjoyment. This is a general presentation/overview of Moodle.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Funding Sources

I wrote about Donors Choose a while back (read short posting here) but I have recently come across some other similar sites that are designed to help connect teachers and schools with donors who want to provide new and/or used supplies for classrooms. iLove Schools and ClassWish are two other similar sites to check out when looking for supplies or funds, or if you are an individual in search of worthy causes.

iLove Schools allows teachers to create wish lists of equipment and other supplies. Donors can look through the wish lists and then send items, both new and used, to the specific teacher or school.

ClassWish is very similar in that users can create wish lists. Donors are able to donate the required funds for a particular item on a list directly online and then that item will be purchased and sent to the teacher.

Both of these sites allow you to search for a specific school and teacher and you can sign-up to track a school and/or teacher so that you are notified when a new item is added to their wishlist. As a parent, I would rather do something like this than be asked to participate in fund raisers where I'm expected to sell or buy various overpriced products that I have no use for.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


MiEarth is a fairly new site that provides access to a growing selection of videos focused on the environment and what we can do to help keep it clean and healthy. The site is the result of a collaboration between the University of Michigan-Dearborn and Detroit Public TV. There are 5 main categories of videos to choose from. They are:
  • Green Team: Videos about environmental heroes throughout the state
  • Green Communities: Videos about the environmental work of local governments
  • Green Inc.: Videos about the environmental work of companies
  • My View: Personal videos from members and users expressing their viewpoints on the environmental challenges we face and offering their own solutions
  • For Kids: Educational videos on the environment for k12 students
You can link directly to different videos but currently there isn't the option to embed them in another site. You can also upload your own videos to the site and while I haven't tried this yet (I really don't have any of my own videos that are specifically about saving the environment) I would assume there is some kind of moderating that goes on to make sure the content is appropriate.

There is a small collection of teacher resources on the site that provides information and links to different environmental related activities, events and fieldtrips that teachers can plan or participate in with their students. The site is fairly new so the amount of resources and videos is still a bit small but this would be a nice resource to consider particularly if you are a teacher in Michigan, but also for teachers in other parts of the country and world.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The History Channel: 50 States

The History Channel has a great site with a wide range of resources on historical topics as well as many other areas of interest that would be appropriate for the k12 classroom. One resource in particular that I wanted to highlight today is their 50 States interactive map and games area. The interactive map (shown below) allows you to click on each state in order to learn about that particular state.

The screenshot below shows all the options available to learn more about the state of Michigan. The is the typical view of an individual state once you click on it from the main map. Each state has the same range of options and information available for students to explore. The "featured video" option was a little disappointing, however. When I was looking at the state of Michigan the featured video was about New Mexico. Plus, I had to watch a short commercial before the video started. I know they have to pay the bills but couldn't the featured video on the Michigan page at least be about Michigan?

Students can practice their knowledge of the states by playing one of the two flash based games that include "Name that Plate" and "Name the State". In "Name the Plate" players try to match the correct state to it's corresponding license plate in a race against the clock. Name the State is quite similar except you are trying to place the state in the right location on the map in a given amount of time. This site would be a great place to start when conducting research about the 50 states or when you're just trying to help reinforce basic United States geography.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Cycle

Since it is April, and Earth Day is coming up later this month, I thought I would share The Cycle, a website with a series of animated videos on recycling. Video topics include an overview of the concepts of reducing, reusing and recycling as ways to help the environment as well as several individual videos on the different common materials that can be recycled such as plastics, metal, paper and glass. These videos have a lot of great information to help kids and adults better understand exactly what can and can't be recycled. You can check out the overview video below or watch all the videos by clicking here. These would be a great way to jumpstart discussions with students or kick-off a recycling unit at your school.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


I just wanted folks to know that I will be at the MACUL conference this Wednesday (March 18th) through Friday (March 20th) at booth 814 in the exhibit hall. I will be working a booth for the University of Michigan-Dearborn, sharing information about our online Educational Technology endorsement program as well as other graduate programs we offer. My colleague Dr. Mesut Duran will be working the booth at times as well so stop by and see us if you happen to be attending the conference.

I should also point out that there will be a Higher Education Reception held at the Detroit Science Center on Thursday, March 19th for all MACUL participants. This reception is a great way to meet with representatives from a variety of colleges and universities from around the state of Michigan in order to learn more about the graduate programs they offer. You will also get a chance to tour the science center, which is a nice bonus. The reception is being held from 7:30-10:00.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Aviary Suite of Tools

I first read about Aviary a while back and was pretty impressed with the suite of photo editing tools they were developing. I haven't written about this amazing resource yet but now that they have purchased the online audio editor Digimix, and they are looking to add an even larger array of tools to their already extensive lineup, I thought it was time to share. Since they have so many web-based (and free) tools available and in development, and I must admit I haven't tested everything out, I will just share the titles and tools briefly here.

Currently Available in Beta

Phoenix is their image editor that has many of the same capabilities of Photo Shop. You can check out the video below to see some of the capabilities of this tool. It certainly seems to have the kinds of features teachers would want to be able to do basic photo editing so they could, for instance, prepare images before adding them to a class homepage. You can upload images or access them directly from a URL. You do need an account in order to save your work but Phoenix, like all the other Aviary tools, is web-based so it doesn't matter what operating system you are using nor does it require anything to be downloaded. Plus, you only need one account in order to be able to save with any of the tools.

Raven is a powerful vector editor that can be used to create logos and other types of artwork. The video below shows another time-lapse example of what you can do with this tool. As you watch, remember that this is completely free to use. This tool is actually in Alpha testing rather than Beta.

Aviary vector icons from mpeutz on Vimeo.

is referred to as a visual laboratory tool and it allows you to play around with images in a variety of ways. You can watch the video below to see a tutorial and get a sense of some of the things that can be done with Peacock.

Toucan is a color palette tool that helps you tweak the colors of your projects in order to find shades that go together. This is particularly useful for someone such as myself who is a bit deficient when it comes to finding colors that match. The video shows another tutorial that will give you a glimpse of Toucan.

Digimix fits nicely with this selection of tools not because it is an image editing tool but because they plan to offer it for free, it is web-based and it promises to be a very powerful tool. There are even more tools that are in development and they extend well beyond image editing to include desktop publishing, 3D modeling, font creation, word processing and much more. You can check out the screenshot below to see the current list of tools in development. This is something that is definitely worth keeping an eye on.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Creating an Online Classroom Environment

Considering that more and more states are requiring high schools to provide online learning experiences for students before they graduate I decided to share some of the different virtual classroom tools that are currently available. Let me first start out by getting some terminology out on the table. I am referring to the tools reviewed in this post as virtual classrooms but you may also see them called learning management systems (LMS), online learning environments, electronic learning systems or a variety of other variations on those terms. As with most of these kinds of tools there are free options, fee options and open source options to choose from. You can find the tools reviewed belowon the Virtual Classrooms page of the Ed Tech Wiki that I maintain.

Tools that cost money

Blackboard: This is a great tool with a wide-range of functionality and a help-desk to contact when you have problems. The problem is it isn't free and would require a district-wide subscription making it unrealistic for a single teacher to purchase and use.

Elluminate Live!: This is similar to Blackboard in the range of features and functionality. The one difference is that you do need to download the Elluminate Live! software and host it on a server.

Tools that are free but require a download

Moodle: This is an open source option that many schools and districts are adopting. The benefits of open source is that it is free and can be modified. The downside is that it doesn't come with a built in help-desk or support department. However, there is a great network of support around the Moodle environment that you can access if you are interested in using this tool. This is another open source tool similar to Moodle that requires software to be downloaded and hosted on a server. The best way to learn more about this tool would be to play around with the demo classroom they have or look at their tour.

Tools that are web-based

Chalksite: There is a free version of this tool that is fairly comprehensive. The downside is that only 5 students can subscribe with the free version. For a monthly fee you can upgrade to different options that give you more features and allow more students to use the system. They have a series of screenshots you can view as a tutorial of sorts through the environment.

This is a free tool you can use to create your own virtual classroom. They are affiliated with NBC so you will notice that logo on the site here and there. They have a nice video tour you can watch to learn more about this environment. They provide access to digital content from the History channel, National Geographic, NBC News Archives on Demand, all of which seem to be great additions but they cost money so be aware of that when considering how you might use this content in your site or courses. You can access lesson plans and other content created by the community of users (other teachers such as yourself) for free and use that content in your teaching.

Ecto: This is a free tool that is a cross between a social networking site and a virtual classroom. There is a large emphasis on allowing students to collaborate and on being able to access content generated by other users and instructors. As you can see from the video below, Ecto is being used for both online courses and for supplementing face-to-face classes. The video provides an overview of the features and also some user testimonials for this product.

edu20: This is another free, web-based option that has a huge range of features and tools. You really can't explore any of the features without first creating an account but this would definitely be worth the time to check out considering all you can do with it. The screenshot below shows the list of available features. There is a nice tour you can go through but you need to be logged in to see it, which means you need to sign-up for an account first. Did I mention the account is free?

NICENET: NICENET is run by a nonprofit and when you look at it, especially after seeing HotChalk and edu20, you may think it seems a bit boring or bland. I'm guessing NICENET doesn't have the same kind of financial support that the other tools have and so it has placed it's emphasis on providing a decent set of features in a logical and easy to use environment and not on flashy icons and colorful layouts.

WiZiQ: WiZiQ is a bit different from the other tools that have been reviewed because it is more about actively teaching and presenting information online to students. This tool would be good to use if you wanted to teach or demonstrate something to students in real time but it doesn't have the same range of features as the other tools to support a long term online course where you have assignments, regular discussions and so forth. WiZiQ has an interactive whiteboard you can use with students as well as real-time audio and video chat capabilities. This might be a good tool to use in conjunction with one of the other virtual classroom tools when you want to hold an online meeting with students to go over something. You can check out their tour to learn more about this tool.

Friday, March 6, 2009 is an incredibly easy tool to use that allows you to embed any file or URL directly in your own website or blog. I have included an example below of an embedded website. The website is the Wiki I maintain and you will notice that while you can scroll up and down the page you can't click on any of the links shown on the page.

Here is an example of an embedded file. This is a syllabus from one of my educational technology courses.

As you can see, you are able to zoom in and out, view the file or website in full screen mode and also print either one. All users will also be able to download any file you embed and there is currently no way to make any of your embedded files private or restricted to specific users. is free and you don't even need to create an account. You are asked to log in with a third party account such as Google, AOL, Yahoo or an Open ID account the very first time you use the service. You can retrieve your past "embeds" by clicking on the My Embeds option, which makes it easy to retrieve code from previous sessions. I see this tool being more useful for sharing files than websites. I think it would be a nice way to represent files you want to share visually rather then just providing links to these files and relying on people to download them.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


I wrote about the bibliography tool Zotero a while back and I'm excited to share another promising option in this category called Mendeley. It's a bit misleading to refer to these tools as just bibliography tools since they really allow you to do so much more. When I was a doctoral student I used EndNote to keep track of all the articles, book chapters, websites and other references I uncovered in my research and this was a great help in creating an accurately formatted bibliography for my dissertation. But the downside of a tool like EndNote is that it costs money (boo) and it is confined to just a single machine.

Mendeley is free (yeah) and it allows you to sync your list of references across multiple machines. However, that is just the beginning of the great features available with this amazing tool. Mendeley automatically extracts metadata such as title, author, publication, you know, all that stuff you normally have to type in yourself, and creates a new reference in your library. You can access and manage this library online and across multiple machines. You are also able to share your library with others and invite them to annotate the references in your library. Mendeley also supports full text searching of your articles and you can even capture citations directly from the browser, which is incredibly handy considering how so much of the research we do these days is online. You can even create bibliographies right within Word or Open Office.

I still have that same copy of EndNote I purchased when I first became a doctoral student but I don't think I'll be upgrading it anytime soon. Not with alternative options like Mendeley out there.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


Are you looking for a tool you can use to showcase your students' videos in a safe and controlled environment? Do you want your own video sharing tool that you can get unblocked in your district so that students can use it without fear of filtering? Then Fliggo is just the tool for you. Fliggo allows you to create your very own version of YouTube where you control the video content. You are able to control who adds content, who views the videos and who comments on the videos. This level of control is particularly powerful for the k-12 educator. You can create your own site with Fliggo, upload your students' videos, or other videos you want to share with them, and never have to deal with the headaches and questionable content found on those "other" video sharing sites. There is a great video tour you can watch to learn more about the many features of Fliggo. Like the many web-based tools out there, Fliggo doesn't care if you are using a Mac or a PC and it doesn't require any prior knowledge of HTML or programming in order to use it. If you are looking for a way to showcase student videos and facilitate the use of videos with your students than Fliggo is definitely worth checking out.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Picnik and Cameroid

Today I'm writing about two more web-based photo tools that are free and fairly easy to use. Picnik is an online editor and Cameroid allows you to take pictures with your webcam and then add a variety of different effects.

Picnik is an incredibly powerful photo editing tool that allows you to pull pictures in from all the major photo sharing sites as well as directly from your computer. It is completely web-based and therefore doesn't require any downloads or specific operating system. In fact, you don't even have to register in order to use it, which makes it even more accessible for classroom use. You can add special effects, backgrounds and text to your pictures as well as do all the basic editing tasks such as color correction, cropping, image resizing and much more. One classroom application of a tool such as Picnik would be to touch-up images before including them on your classroom website.

Cameroid is the equivalent of Photo Booth (Mac only) but web-based so the Windows users of the world can now join in the fun. Cameroid is a photo capturing tool with some editing features built in. One of the common uses of this tool is to take a self-portrait of yourself with your webcam and then add all sorts of fun special effects to create a very customized profile picture.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Humana Games 4 Health

Humana Games 4 Health is an engaging site where kids can play a variety of games that help reinforce healthy eating and living habits. Users can navigate around the town, stopping at different locations such as the Schoolzone, Hospital, Senior Citizen Center and Workzone. The screenshot below shows a portion of this community.

At each location they can learn different facts and information about healthy living. Most of the locations have their own games for students to play that also reinforce that specific information. For instance, at the Physical Therapy building you can play the Freewheeling Cycle Challenge where you navigate your bike around the course trying to avoid potholes and other obstacles while also needing to pick up water, fruit and other nutritious items in order to keep your energy level high. Students can also participate in The Horsepower Challenge, which is an offline challenge where students keep track of the steps they take and log them online as a way to track their physical activity.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

It was only a matter of time before the folks who brought us the helpful "Dummies" series of how-to books went digital and started creating how-to videos. has a variety of short videos that explain how to do all sorts of things. The videos are geared towards...well...dummies in the same way as the books. That is, they are easy to follow and learn from. Access to the videos is free and they are searchable by keyword and also categorized by topic. You can share the videos you find through a whole host of social networking tools but it doesn't appear that you can embed them directly into a website or blog. You may not find much for students to watch or learn from on this site but there is certain to be some topics that you may find useful. That's not to say that I would consider you a dummy or anything.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Science Video Resources

I recently read about the Periodic Table of Videos (I can't recall the blog or source where I read it so I apologize for not giving proper credit) and it prompted me to go back to my Furl Archive and search through for other science related video sites. I found a few more and thought I would share them all in one post.

Periodic Table of Elements
This site is maintained by the University of Nottingham and contains a great collection of short videos that describe each of the periodic elements. The layout of the site is very clever allowing users to click on any element they want to watch the associated video. The content and vocabulary of the videos are suitable for middle school and high school. These videos are hosted on YouTube so there may be filter issues when trying to watch these at your school.

ScienceHack is a collection of science related videos categorized by various topics. These videos are pulled from different sites across the net and not produced by ScienceHack. They claim to review each video before it is included in their database to insure that the content is scientifically accurate.

TestToob is focused on showcasing student created videos that are scientific in content. They have different contests that students can enter with their own videos and each video that is uploaded to the site is reviewed before going live. It seems like the site is interested in promoting science and video production in equal parts. You have to become a member, which is free, in order to view, post and comment on videos.

If you teach science, or are just interested in getting some ideas for different kinds of videos your students could produce, you may find these sites helpful.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Week in Rap

The Week in Rap is exactly that. Each week, a new rap recapping the important news is written, recorded and enhanced with relevant video imagery allowing you to learn about the entire week...through rap. The writing is very clever and the videos are well edited making them both informational and enjoyable to watch. I could see this as a great tool to use in a current events type class or just to help kids stay abreast of the major events taking place on a weekly basis. Check out the sample below, which recounts the week of news when President Obama was sworn into office.

The Week in Rap - Obama's Inauguration from Week in Rap on Vimeo.

You can subscribe to the site so that the new videos are automatically sent to your computer. Of course, since these are videos you will probably find they are blocked in your school but many of them include a link that allows you to download the video directly to your computer, thereby avoiding the problem of blocked content.

Storynory & AudibleKids

Storynory and AudibleKids are two sites that offer audio stories for download. They are built around a common premise but do have some notable differences.

Storynory features only free downloads so their collection is focused on classic stories, fairytales and even some original works that haven't been published elsewhere. You can subscribe to the site through iTunes in order to download their stories more expeditiously or just pick and choose the files you want. They have organized their stories into different categories and you can subscribe to the feed from individual categories as well.

AudibleKids has a few free titles but most of their content is for purchase only. They have a much broader selection of titles ranging from well-known picture books for younger kids on up to chapter books for middle schoolers. You are more likely to find up-to-date titles on this site and can expect to spend anywhere from a few dollars up to, and over, twenty dollars per audiobook.

Both of these sites could be used to bolster your school or classroom's listening library. Of course, another option would be to have your students record their own audio books by using something like GarageBand or Audacity and build your listening library organically from within your own school.

Wildlife Filmmaker

National Geographic has a great new tool called the Wildlife Filmmaker. This web-based tool allows you to use video from the National Geographic library of footage to create your own movies. The video clips don't have any sound and are fairly short but the library includes a nice range of animals. You can enhance your video by selecting sound effects of different animals as well as a musical background. There is also a feature that allows you to add basic captions to each clip and you can even add multiple captions to the same clip if so desired. Students don't need accounts, and therefore don't need e-mail addresses, to use this tool. It is free and works on both the Mac and PC since it is web-based.

This is what the editing interface looks like. It operates largely by drag and drop so students would be able to start using it without too much instruction. Finished movies can be shared by directly e-mailing them to someone or through a retrieval code that is generated when you save your movie. You can share this retrieval code with anyone you want to view your video. It's important to note that this retrieval code only takes you back to the completed video and doesn't allow you to continue editing your video. In fact, it doesn't appear that there is anyway to save a partially completed video and then come back to it again at a later time so students would have to have their video completely planned out and be able to finish it in one sitting.

You can preview the sounds and music by double clicking on the individual selections. However, I couldn't find a way to preview the video clips. In order to watch each clip I had to first drag it into the timeline and then view it there. This isn't a huge issue but it would take students a bit longer to sort through the clips and find the ones they wanted to use so it's something to be aware of. There is a nice selection of video clips and sound effects but don't assume that just because there is a video clip of an African Civet that there will be a corresponding sound clip of that same animal. Again, this may not be a significant issue but one I thought was worth mentioning.

I hope I don't sound too negative about this tool. If you are looking for an easy to use video editing application that allows your students to incorporate high-quality footage (without having to worry about file storage or copyright issues) then Wildlife Filmmaker is definitely worth checking out. I would love to see more tools of this kind come online in the future.

Monday, February 2, 2009


Password Bird is a great little tool that I recently read about on Kelly Tenkely's awesome blog. Password Bird is a great example of a simple yet powerful tool that you can use with your students. As you might imagine, this is a password creation tool. You simply enter a special name, special word and special date and Password Bird spits out a password for you that combines all three. If you don't like the first option then you can just keep generating new ones until you find one that works. This would be a great way to help kids learn how to create strong and secure passwords.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Quizlet is a nifty (yes I just used the word nifty) quiz generator that has a surprising range of options for testing your students' knowledge. It is largely designed around the flashcard premise so it really works well with vocabulary words or with facts that need to be memorized but if you browse through the different samples in their library of quizzes you will find that people have found ways to use Quizlet for a variety of subjects and purposes.

Each quiz that you create can be used in different modes that include Familiarize, Learn, Test, Play Scatter and Play Space Race. The last two are simple games that help reinforce the content in the quiz. The best way to learn about these different quiz modes is to watch the demo video they have on the site. You can make your quizzes available to the public or private to only those specific people you choose and you can make them accessible through a direct link or by sending e-mail invites directly from Quizlet. You can take quizzes without an account but if you want to keep track of your progress you need to sign-up, which is free. Having an account also allows you to create groups, for instance for your class, so that you can share quizzes directly with those groups. You could even have students create their own quizzes to be used by their peers.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Online Educational Technology Endorsement

The University of Michigan-Dearborn, where I am employed as an Assistant Professor of Educational Technology, now offers a completely online Masters in Education with Educational Technology (NP) Endorsement. If you don't want the Masters you can just do the endorsement, again completely online. The Masters with Endorsement consists of 3 core classes and 7 educational technology classes for a total of 30 credits.

Our emphasis in the endorsement program is on helping teachers learn how to teach effectively with technology across the curriculum. We aren't just interested in helping people learn how to use tools but instead we are focused on helping them develop effective strategies for integrating technology in meaningful ways so that they can provide enhanced learning experiences for their students. We also stress the use of technology for assessment and differentiated instruction and, in accordance with the new online learning requirements for high school graduates in the state of Michigan (and in other states in the near future), we have two classes devoted to the design and development of online learning. You can see the kinds of things our students produce by looking at a few of their e-portfolios (Student 1, Student 2, Student 3).

Many of our students have taken up technology leadership positions in their districts as a result of their completion of our program. Our students have taken positions as Technology Coordinators, led technology related professional development at the school and district level, been asked to serve on hiring committees for new technology administrators and have been requested to pilot and review new technologies for their respective schools and districts. This endorsement and Masters isn't just for teachers in Michigan either so don't let that stop you from inquiring further about the program. Please feel free to contact me ( with any questions you may have about the program. We would love to have you join the University of Michigan community.

21st Century Classroom Conference

Are you interested in seeing a 21st century classroom live and in action? If so, I have the perfect conference for you. The 21st Century Classroom Conference is being held at the University of Michigan-Dearborn on Tuesday, February 24th. You can register online for the conference and even enroll for university credit if you are interested. The conference is being offered jointly by UM-Dearborn, Wayne RESA and the One-to-One Institute.

Pamela Livingston will be moderating the conference and demonstrating a 21st century classroom with middle school students. Participants will be able to observe and interact with the students and Ms. Livingston as well as attend breakout sessions to learn more about the tools being demonstrated. You can read more about the plan at Ms. Livingston's blog. This is a great opportunity to move beyond just talking about what education could look like and start seeing it in action! Don't miss out.


Woopid, in addition to having a cool name, has a great collection of screen tutorials on a wide range of applications for both the Mac and PC. You can search through their vast library, which is categorized for easier searching, or even look through the many bundles they have available. Bundles are collections of videos focused on a particular application or system. For instance, you can access the Power Point 2007 bundle to learn more about the features and uses of that software. Or if you recently upgraded to iMovie 2008 you may want to check out the Tips and Tricks for iMovie 08 bundle. I can definitely see myself using these with my undergraduate and graduate classes, especially the courses I teach online. You might find these videos to be a bit over the heads of your younger students but even as a resource for you to bone up on different applications it really is worth checking out. You can watch the videos for free and without an account but if you want to generate a favorites list or share the videos by sending an automated e-mail from Woopid, you need to sign up. Of course, you could always just send the link to the video you want to share to people yourself and skip logging in altogether.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

MyClusta & Tizmos

I know there are a variety of different tools out there that allow you to create your own personalized start pages (I currently am using PageFlakes for this purpose) but there are a few new ones I recently read about on Paul Hamilton's great blog that I wanted to pass along. MyClusta and Tizmos allow you to create your own start page with the sites you visit most often represented visually as thumbnails, screenshots or some other logical image. These are both different from an RSS feed reader in that you don't have to pick just sites that are generating a feed but instead the sites you like to visit often or that you use frequently with your students. Tizmos provides a screenshot, updated every couple of days, for each website you choose to include while MyClusta allows you to pick your own image for each website if you so desire. Essentially, these tools let you take a favorite list of websites and represent them visually on a single page as shown in the screenshots below.

From MyClusta:
And from Tizmos:

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


ShareTabs is one of those tools that is very simple to use and implement in the classroom. As the name implies, ShareTabs allows you to share a series of URLs as tabs with your students. You pick the sites you want to share and the tabs are created for you. You then are given a link to these tabs that you can provide to your students and by sharing just this one link you end up sharing all the tabs associated with that link. It really is just that easy. Check out to see an example. I think this tool would be particularly helpful in an elementary setting where it will often times be easier to provide students with a single link rather than walking them through the process of opening several tabs in a browser and navigating to multiple sites. I have a hard enough time explaining that process to my dad...hope he isn't reading this.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Student Accounts on Wikispaces

Hello and Happy New Year! For those of you that have your own Wikispaces you probably already heard the news that creating your own student accounts is now even easier. You can use the User Creator tool (look under Manage Wiki on your space) to create the accounts and as always, e-mails are not required for student accounts. They make it easy to create a batch of usernames by allowing you to add suffixes or prefixes automatically and they give you the option of creating your own passwords or having them generated randomly. You can also make the students members of various spaces all in one step. Check out the Wikispaces blog on this topic to learn more about it.