Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Shaping your words

It seems like every day there's a new web 2.0 site that has a million educational applications. Okay, maybe not a million, and there are certainly some sites that are just plain silly, but I found one this morning and thought immediately of all those 6th grade poetry notebooks out there. We used to do shape poems where the kids had to write their poems in the shape of the subject of the poem. For example, a poem about ghosts would be in the shape of a ghost. You get the idea.

This morning, I found a site that will make shapes out of your text. It's called Festisite and it has just a few limited shapes, but they are fun. Just in time for Valentine's day, you can create a Valentine like this:

How much fun can your students have?

Monday, February 9, 2009

Audiobooks for Anyone

Most everyone is familiar with the idea of talking books. My mother loves to listen to her talking books while she is knitting or doing chores. Here, at school, we have uploaded a number of books that the kids are reading in class. Even though some teachers resist having students use audiobooks, afraid that they won't actually read the book, it is good pedagogy for students who have reading difficulties or who are not fluent readers of English. Public libraries and audiobook services such as Learn OutLoud have large selections of books and poems readily available.

The state of Florida now has a reasonably large collection of audiobooks. From what I can tell, Lit 2 Go has a couple of hundred, mostly public domain, books, stories and poems. The best part is that these are free (unlike Learn OutLoud or iTunes). The database is searchable by author, genre or title, too, making it very easy to use.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

PIcture this

One of the things that I am constantly harping on is copyright and the ethical use of images harvested from the internet. In this new world of free access to so much information and so many images, it's hard for students to realize that the pictures and information that they have at their fingertips actually belongs to someone. It's harder still for them to come to grips with the idea that they need to give attribution to that owner when they use something.

This morning I opened my daily email from Free Tech for Teachers and found a link to Photol This website has over 150,000 copyright free stock photos and the only catch to using them is that you can't sell the originals . That's it. Free. Copyright free.

After reading the About page on Photol, I got curious about who the owner is. I used Whois to find out that the owner is in China and that the site has been up for several years. Whois is a valuable resource for anyone doing research and the site is something we ought to be encouraging students to use more often!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Play "Cash Cab!"

For trivia buffs, Discovery Channel's "Cash Cab" is heaven in a taxi. The idea is that unsuspecting cab passengers get into a taxi and the driver asks trivia questions. For each correct answer, players win money. It's a fun show to watch (or to participate vicariously in).

Now, you can play! Or, even better, you can play it with your class. "Cash Cab Games" is an interactive site that allows you to choose a character and then play the actual games played in the show. This would be an entertaining sponge activity for middle or high schoolers and one that I will recommend to teachers looking for something to do on a Friday afternoon.

Happy New Year!

Late, I know, but Happy New Year, anyhow.

It's been a long time since I added anything to this, but I've been finding some really interesting things lately. I joined the Free Tech For Teachers blog feed and I get something interesting and helpful nearly every day. The great thing about this blog is that the person who writes it starts with a cool tool that he's found and then gives some classroom applications for it.

One of the things that came through on this morning's post is Password Bird. Password Bird asks you three questions and then generates a password that includes letters and numbers. I'm going to use this next year during lab orientation so that kids who are having a hard time thinking of a password can get one that is strong and safe.

Another interesting tool (this one from Kathy Schrock's fabulous listserve) is Slideshare. This tool allows you to upload slide shows you've created, it then generates a script based on the text on the slides and allows you to share your show with anyone. The education side has a bunch of shows on all sorts of topics that you can download and edit for use in your lectures.

That's it from the lab for now!