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21 Jun 2011
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Cool Tech 4 Kids to Beat the Heat: Part 2: Virtual Vacation

Travel the World at the Drop of a Pin

Virtual Vacation: As heat, inflated gas prices, and the economy deter us from travel, consider a staycation via a virtual field trip. Consider taking a free trip to Paris, the National Zoo, Ellis Island, or the Taj Mahal without paying a cent or leaving your wonderfully climate-controlled abode.

iPad: Aroundertouch (by far my favorite… can’t believe it is still free), Tour Wrist (totally my new favorite: your iOS device becomes a portal to the world. You really have to see it ti believe it!), Fotopedia Heritage (also has a website) & Paris, Atlas of the World, GTTZoo Lite, Pocket Zoo Free (has live webcams of penguins and polar bears as well as videos of other animals), World Book’s World of Animals (free through 7/10), Cooper’s Pack Seattle or Alaska (both paid), Kids World Map, Library of Congress Virtual Tour, Explorer: The American Museum of Natural History

Web 2.0: Fraboom (interactive online Children’s Museum for ages 6-12), Google Art Project, 360 CitiesScholastic Global Trek, National Zoo Webcams (Switcheroo Zoo: Make & Play with Animals at this virtual zoo), 100 Virtual Trips, 7 Panorama Wonders of the World, A Walk in the Woods (Spanish), Ellis Island, Virtual Space

Virtual Tourism Lesson

Have your child send a postcard from the destinations they visit: Post Card Creator (Web 2.0) or Animal Greetings, Flat Stanley (paid app), or Card Shop (paid app). Consider creating a travel journal using the apps iDiary For Kids or MaxJournal (both paid) or Catch Notes (which allows you to capture ideas and experiences in text, voice, images, and locations). Collect thoughts on summer travels and anecdotes for a future scrapbook. Compose a top ten list of places they would like to visit.

Wanna have even more fun? Create your own panoramas using Photosynth (also a website ** with multiple examples), AutoStitch Panorama or Panoramatic 360 (last two paid). Share your panoramas at ViewAt.org or Photosynth. (If you plan on actually traveling this summer – what better memories to keep than 360 tours of some of your favorite spots.)

Even consider creating your own geocache treasure or scavenger hunt using an iDevice and Google Maps and/or Google Earth (both have app and website counterparts). Did you know Google Maps now has street view? Put on some ambient music to set the tone (check out NatureSpace), order some ethnic cuisine, and it is almost as if you were there.

Landa Park 360 Tour with Photosynth

For all of you Voracious Virtual Voyagers, check out Google’s: What Do You Love Site (as seen on Mashup) to locate more information (e.g. articles, photos, blogs, books, discussion groups, videos, maps, and debates) on any of the places you visit that spark your interest.

Google: WDYL (Eiffel Tower)

Stay Tuned over the next couple of weeks for upcoming Part 3: Books & Storytelling and Part 4: Scrapbooks, Timelines, Arts & Crafts. Did you miss Part 1: Imaginative Play & Games?

Tune in: Thursday June 23rd at 8pm to Social Geek Radio where I will be a guest discussing cool technology for kids (apps and Web 2.0 tools) that they can utilize on these hot summer days.

**If the virtual tour doesn’t work on your computer, you will need to download Silverlight. It is quick and painless and it fixes the issue once you exit and reload your browser.

Please Comment with your favorite apps (and Web 2.0 tools) for virtual trips and tours.


20 Jun 2011
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Cool Tech 4 Kids to Beat the Heat: Part 1: Imaginative Play and Games

As we are already in triple digits and haven’t even celebrated the 4th of July, many parents are opting to stay indoors rather than brave the blistering heat. While we will make the occasional trip to the Children’s Museum, Magik Theater, and Schlitterbahn, my focus has been trying to come up with alternatives to playing in the heat.

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ImageChef.com Poetry Blender

If you are like me and have two young boys (or children of any age for that matter), you are probably looking for something to keep your kiddos busy… indoors. If I am not prepared, activities around the house may be as simple as block day (where we dump all of the Mega Bloks out on the floor and build various structures) or city day (which consists of pulling out all of our Fisher Price toys…airport, barns, zoo, cars, people, etc… and arranging them into something that resembles a metropolis of sorts).

These activities are fun but given some more time to prepare, I like to arrange activities that bridge the gap between fun, technology, and instruction. The activities listed are broken up into categories and are accessed via the iPad. (Upcoming posts in the series will focus on both apps and Web 2.0 tools).

As I am also a bargain app shopper, the majority of apps suggested are… FREE (or moderately priced)!

ImageChef.com - Custom comment codes for MySpace, Hi5, Friendster and more


Imaginative Play: Many of us remember tea parties and puppet shows so the idea of using technology to foster imaginative play is not so far-fetched. While Toca Tea Party may only appeal to preschool and elementary age children, Puppet Pals & Sock Puppets will bring joy to all who are young at heart.

Tea for Two or More

Need ideas for your next Puppet Show? Check out Three Little Pigs, Three Billy Goats for some great examples of puppet shows (both are paid). Plums Rhyme and Tortoise and Hare Puppet Show (includes step-by-step video workshop for how to make puppets and create a show) are both free!

Legos, Board Games, and Puzzles: Cure Boredom!

Let Your PegLight Shine Brite!

Create Your Own Wordventure

Have an overcast day or an early morning? Check out 225 Kid Outdoor Games (games for ages 2-16 from around the world – paid app).

Don’t have an iPad? Consider creating your own board game (Tools for Educators) or dusting off Uno and Connect 4.

Stay Tuned over the next couple of weeks for upcoming Part 2: Virtual Vacations, Part 3: Books & Storytelling,and Part 4: Scrapbooks, Timelines, Arts & Crafts.

Tune in: Thursday June 23rd at 8pm to Social Geek Radio where I will be a guest discussing cool technology for kids (apps and Web 2.0 tools) that they can utilize on these hot summer days.

Please Comment with your favorite apps (and Web 2.0 tools) for imaginative play and games.


14 Jun 2011
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12 Tips for Blogging Success

As I was listening to the Newsworthy Blogging podcast from the Social Geek Radio show on my way to work, I had the desire to take notes (should have launched Dragon Dictation). While the tips from Susan Young were intended for blogging for business purposes, the ideas themselves are truly for a universal audience and apply not only to blogging but education. Below I have compiled the 12 Tips for Blogging Success gleaned from Susan Young’s Social Geek Radio blogtalk and have added some anecdotal insight.

My Six Word Memoir

  1. Purpose – What is the purpose of your blog? This is about content. Find your niche and stick to it. People need to know what to expect. Also make sure you have enough knowledge, resources, and content to generate multiple posts on the topic. (I chose Techchef4u for a few reasons. I wanted to make sure it was general enough to encompass any instructional technology I discussed but clear enough to convey the message that I enjoyed creating technology integration resources for anyone and everyone that choose to dine on them. Much like the Joy Of Cooking. =)
  2. Frequency – How often should you write? Susan likened blog posts to a phone call. If you have something to say, call (post a blog). If you have a valuable message and don’t just post to post, this will build credibility. (I keep a notebook of ideas for blog entries and will prioritize them based on teacher and instructional need. I try to keep it timely… Blog on Demand, if you will.)
  3. Good Headlines – The headline and first few opening lines are crucial to keeping reader interest and letting them know what to expect. Look to magazines with snappy headlines and borrow and adjust accordingly. (Oftentimes, I will have a vision for the entry but will not compose the title till the body is complete.)
  4. Keywords: This gets in to a bit of search engine optimization. She mentioned using Google to determine the percentage of people searching for a phrase (the order and arrangement of the words counts) and that these engines like fresh content (no repeats or old info) and numbers in the headlines.(While I have written a 5 part iPad series, this was more due to the fact that I didn’t want to publish 5,000 word blogs. I don’t think I have truly capitalized on the top 10 lists but want to really try and focus on these bulleted lists to drive some of my posts).

    Questions to Ponder

  5. Word Count: This goes back to adding value. There is no set length for a post. It is more about presenting a clear message… whether it be in 3 sentences or 3 paragraphs. (I tend to have to reel myself in as I want to compile and assemble all available information and research on a topic. I will spend hours searching through other posts that mention or discuss a similar topic (e.g. Flipping the Classroom) and incorporate them as additional information in my post. I need to reconcile with myself that it is okay to have a simple post … not a research analysis of a topic.)
  6. Grammar: Blogs are not reports. They tend to be more conversational. Don’t ramble. Present a clear, concise message that carries your writing style. (I really enjoy this aspect of blogging. Being a Leo and Italian, I naturally like to talk and love this form of media to be conversational and yet still convey my message. So much better than a static handout or info sheet).
  7. Reader-friendly: Readers are bombarded by media. If they see a list of 100 tips or large bodies of text… most will not commit to read your blog. Make sure it is full of white space, easy on the eyes, and something that your reader can gleen the gist by scanning. (I will typically write all of the text first and then break it up into smaller sections to make reading and searching for information a more user-friendly experience)
  8. Photos: include relevant images and photos that connect to the written message, break up the text, and highlight some of your personality. My goal for each post is to try to highlight Web 2.0 tool(s) (Google Squared, Big Huge Labs, Flikr PoetQuiki, etc..) using screenshots or embed code. My intent is to ensure that everyone leaves my blog with something they can use…whether it be an idea or a tool).Big Huge Labs Billboard
    1. (If I just need a cool photo, I will use Morgue File
    2. If I have photos that I would like to add some pizazz too, I use PhotoFunia.
  9. Videos: To reach all learners and communicators, incorporate a video or vodcast from time to time to highlight multiple modes of communication. It is also a great way to attract and build rapport with your readers as this will highlight your manners and personality. Consider transcribing it for those who would prefer a text version. (I love including videos but many of them are project-based in nature, like Sock Puppet Shakespeare or Signs of Math. I am looking forward to starting to sprinkle my blog entries with personal vodcasts. For now, these are still scripted. I am too much of a perfectionist to get these in one take.)
  10. Humor & Creativity: You have the podium. Are readers engaged enough to read on? Drop the jargon and be yourself. Weave in your personality and style. Ask open-ended questions to engage your reader and promote discussion. (I tend to like to play with words and be conversational so the media of blogging has been a great outlet for me to test new recipes and ideas.)
  11. Comments: Respond to and acknowledge comments. No one wants to be ignored. We want our message to be well-received. Just because you didn’t receive any comments, doesn’t mean that nobody read it. (Just because someone didn’t fill out a comment card doesn’t mean they didn’t enjoy their meal or experience. It was just a few weeks ago that I learned about “pingbacks” and started seeing other blogs hyperlink to mine as I had done to theirs. I am hoping I get the opportunity to have a more personal level of communication, but for now I am just enthused that people are visiting the kitchen and sampling the dishes… hoping I will soon receive a few comment cards.)
  12. Reposting & Repackaging: If you are going to repost a blog entry, it can’t be dated. Freshen it up a bit. Consider repackaging your top 10 blog entries or a series as an ebook or PDF document as a resource for teachers. (I will typically repost an entry if I have revised or added to it (e.g. added Bloom’s Taxonomy of Apps to Hot Apps for HOTS post). Yet I had never considered creating ebooks for various topics. I love the idea as well as the accessibility of repurposing it. Hoping to have a Joy of Cooking: the iPad edition released towards the end of summer.)

Here is my first vodcast. This was inspired by the idea of truisms & six word memoirs.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ImqwNLPJXkE?rel=0&w=425&h=349]

I am very excited to have the opportunity to be a guest on Social Geek Radio Thursday June 23rd at 8pm. We will be discussing cool technology for kids (apps and Web 2.0 tools) that they can utilize on these hot summer days.

Check out Miguel Guhlin’s post for more blogging tips. (Thanks, Miguel, for the tips and the feature.)


09 Jun 2011
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Magic of the iOS 5

Check out the New iOS coming this Fall! It makes me shed happy tears. Appsolutely Amazing! Now I know how it felt to follow the Beatles. Nothing short of greatness!

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZYx4S8K0IMs?rel=0&w=560&h=349]

Also Check out the iCloud capabilities for iTunes.

If you are a total iPad Geek like me, check out this Magic of the iPad Video. Wonder if the iOS6 will have these features:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LAhP-yLJJ9s?rel=0]

Am very curious how the texting and cloud sync will be integrated into classrooms and education…


06 Jun 2011
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Edistorm

I was so inspired by this on Friday I just had to set up an account and start playing! I have created this Edistorm for my iPad Lessons course as a forum and repository.

“The name Edistorm is a mashup of Thomas Edison and Brainstorm and is inspired by Thomas Edison’s idea factories” – gotta love the clever nature of the mashup – not to be confused with editstorm.

Features: Below are the samples of the iPad edistorm I created for my tech camp class. The interface is very easy to use and provides multiple storm templates (e.g. 3up, Reading & Analyzing Nonfiction, Features Advantages Benefits, Pros Vs. Cons, and a 2 & 3 Circle Venn Diagram). You can add additional idea sticky in multiple colors, respond/comment to any additional idea (all comments on that idea are threaded within the sticky note), use idea votes (a “dotmocracy”), and even get ideas for your storm from the idea bots. Very clever and fully functional… did I mention it was all in real time and there is no limit to contributors? Edistorm also offers a Report feature which allows users to export the storm to a spreadsheet or PDF.

Edistorm: Category 2

Edistorm: Category 1

There’s an App for it: Another nice feature is the Edistorm app. You have to sign in to your account to access your storms. Once you do, you have full access to vote, comment, and view posts. This is great for teachers to keep track of their storms and students to contribute to their storms on the go. Gotta love the mobility! (The site also works on the iPad without the app).

Edistorm App

Edistorm works w/out the app too!

Here is a great video highlighting the features of Edistorm with a To Kill a Mockingbird theme.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SMYobdFJ8ps&w=560&h=349]

Sharing & Collaboration: While I was really excited about the prospects of the storms, public does not necessarily mean “public”. Public is only accessible to anyone with a Edistorm account so users who want to participate must create a free account. I was initially hoping that there was just a link I could send users and they could participate with out having to log in. There is…. but it is only found by making the edistorm private and then they still had to login. Wishing there was an embed code on this and that the sharing was a little more intuitive. (If I am missing something… please let me know… =). Due to the sharing confusion, I decided to send out emails to all students who were enrolled in the class. When they sign up for an account, they will need to create the account with the email address that the storm was originally shared with. Once they sign in, my storm will be available for editing, collaborating, and contributing. This was my work around.

Examples of Use in the Classroom:

It appears that they will be announcing new educational features at ISTE so stay tuned… 

I am very eager and excited to see what they have in store! (Follow them on Twitter.)


03 Jun 2011
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Today's Meet

Todays Meet is a Web 2.0 tool that is free, requires no logins, and works off of any iDevice. It allows teachers to instantly create a virtual room for students to speak up. The tool can be used for discussions, brainstorming, preflecting, formative assessment, and even exit tickets. Responses are limited to 140 characters or less (much like Twitter). This type of online response is considered micro-blogging due to the size of the post.

myspace graphic is done on Gickr.com
Make your own animation

Other Ideas for Todays Meet:

  • Pop-Up Discussion: Try spicing up an educational video clip by creating a Today’s Meet virtual room via mobile devices. Students could post questions and answers to the film as they go or could even highlight character traits, discover elements of light and dark imagery, discuss misconceptions and vocabulary, analyze quotes, practice Socratic questioning, summarize, or locate Shakespearean references (see Raise the Curtain & Raise the Bar post) – almost like a virtual dialectical notebook. VH1 used to do something similar with Pop-Up Videos and many television shows (the Voice which claims to be the “most digitally integrated show on television”) will run Twitter feeds at the bottom of the screen. Not only is this form of media engaging – it is a great way to track comprehension and to have an ongoing discussion.
  • Evaluate Posts: Todays Meet also allows you to print a transcript of the discussion which is wonderful for counting and evaluating posts. I even had a teacher print it out, black out the names, and use it for a starter the next day. Students were asked to evaluate the spelling and grammar in the posts. What a great extension!

Things to be mindful of:

  • Public Access: Because there are no logins, anyone with the url can access and contribute to the group (which could be good if you wanted to chat with another class in another district, city, around the world, etc… but not so good for other obvious reasons. This is why I typically only leave the room open for two hours.). 
  • Student Info protection: it may be wise to have students use names that are generic or give them a # to avoid having student information made publicly accessible.
  • Inappropriate Comments: There is no way to remove or delete the comment from the feed. This may worry some teachers but I liken it to a student blurting out an inappropriate comment in the classroom. There would be no way to delete this comment from the minds or ears of his/her fellow classmates either. I would handle this incident similarly to how a teacher would handle the student who blurted out in class.
  • Setting Ground Rules: Ground rules should be taught prior to conducting a Todays Meet discussion. Students should be give a purpose for the discussion and instructed to stay on topic, be respectful, and post quality not quantity. If you want your students to raise the discussion level, these guidelines should be set and reiterated prior to initiating the discussion.

Do not let these issues deter you from using the tool in your classroom. Just be vigilant and have a plan in place for tackling these issues if and when they arise. While the site is publicly accessible, I have had no issue with inappropriate use to this date.

Using Todays Meet with an iDevice: using Todays Meet in conjunction with a mobile device virtually eliminates many of the limitation issues of the tool in that the devices can be used in the classroom, lab, or an auditorium, and they provide more of a 1:1 solution. If using Todays Meet on an iDevice, the easiest way to approach this is to create a web clip to the Todays Meet site on each device and then have students launch the web clip and simply type in the name of the room after the url. This way if the room changes every two hours, students aren’t redirected to other rooms and the web clip will work all year in any classroom.

Check out this video from LearnitN5 for a quick tutorial and explanation

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Na_rg6Ok7LM]

Check out some articles which reference how it is used in the classroom:

Interested in Web 2.0 tools for discussion? Check out Edmodo, Edistorm (this one is phenomenal – check out this video), LinoIt (works on iDevices), and Corkboard.me.
Below is a screenshot of the Todays Meet handout for the site and some supporting resources

 

 

Check out some of the responses from our Appy Hour via Today’s Meet!

 

pimp myspace with Gickr
Make your own animation


01 Jun 2011
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HOT APPS for production: Raise the Curtain and Raise the Bar

Just experienced a presentation with Marco Torres (check out his alaslearns site) and felt inspired all over again. He shared some great apps for research, mind-mapping, and note-taking. Given some time to explore apps, I found some additional resources for producing & directing productions from the iPad. Let the show begin! (all apps listed are free unless otherwise stated)

I have been toying for some time on creating a lesson around modern day Shakespearean references found in music. I came across Sock Puppets today and absolutely fell in love. I decided to use it as the media for this project. (Notes about Sock Puppets: I love the sock puppets and backgrounds and the app is extremely easy to use. The only downside(s) are you can only record a 30 second show, if you talk too fast without pauses puppets will not open and close their mouths normally, and the upload to YouTube sometimes takes awhile. With in-app purchase, you have the ability to import your own photos as backgrounds, extend your recording time, and choose from more socks & props.) Found Sock Tube Presents in iTunes: these are vodcast parodies of feature films. Great inspiration and some fabulous ideas for how to handle props and staging if students choose to videotape their own socks vs. using the app – please view prior to showing to students to ensure content is appropriate as some tubes contain adult & mature content.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A76t_vvQ-tE&w=425&h=349]

As mentioned in Puppet Pals lesson, there is a process to creating a final product. Below I have highlighted apps for each stage of the process. Also, consider the reason for the production: are you a teacher creating content for students or are you looking for a students centered project based on challenges, big ideas, and essential questions?

Research: While not all projects will necessitate research, some will require at least some background information. Check out some of these fantastic resources:

Qwiki Shakespeare

View William Shakespeare and over 3,000,000 other topics on Qwiki.

Mind-Mapping & Note-taking: The first thing a student will want to do before creating a show is to get their thoughts on paper. Here are some great apps for mind-mapping:

SimpleMind+ Shakespeare planning

Ophelia Character Trait Popplet (Image created w/ Qvik Sketch)

Storyboarding & Scripts: Now you will want to make sure you have a solid script and a storyboard:
Acting & Practice Your Lines: No one wants an actor that hasn’t rehearsed unless you are practicing improv (and even that takes training). Check out some of these apps for learning your lines:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pzowz4u7Ksg&w=425&h=349]

Production: How will you produce and what media will you use?
Submission: How will students submit their projects? If they are creating a video, these can be uploaded to You Tube and then embedded in a teacher website or blog. If students would like to submit images, scripts, presentations, and videos to one place, consider using an app:
  • Dropbox: You can create a Public Folder and still keep your shared files visible
  • iFiles: You can create documents with voice recordings too (this one is paid)
  • MobileMe iDisk: This will work with Mac accounts

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RwhYjXb7f20&w=425&h=349]

All Shakespeare info compiled from Wikipedia, Blurtit, Brandon Powell, & Yahoo Answers
Consider extending the Shakespeare activity by asking the question, “How has Shakespeare influenced modern day society?”. Students can extend the web with more topics and descriptions:
  • Add more information about Shakespeare
  • Locate other Movie adaptations (compare & contrast)
  • Identify what play each of the listed movies is an adaptation of
  • Find more songs that have Shakespeare references
  • Identify the line in each of the songs listed that references Shakespeare and what play it originates from
  • Create a playlist for a Shakespeare act (explain why each song is relevant: mood, imagery, character traits, allusion, quotes, etc…)
  • Write a letter as if you were another Shakespearean character inquiring help or answers from Juliet (ala The Juliet Club in Verona). Write back some sage advice from Juliet.
If you don’t have an iPad, then you don’t have an iPad…. BUT you do have access to some wonderful Web 2.0 tools for production. Consider exploring Web 2.0 tools that utilize cartoons, animation, and/or movie-making.