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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.