Tag: web2.0 (page 2 of 3)

Still Just Searching? 20 Google Tools to Test Drive

Google is almost universally known for its powerful search tool (Okay, I realize some intelligent life in another galaxy may not know about Google yet, but I’m sure they are working on that.). And it’s fair to say that the numbers of users of Google Maps, Reader, and Gmail is certainly vast and continues to grow. However, if you have never taken the time to explore beyond these wonderful tools, however, it is certainly worth the time. Google continues to innovate, and there is an incredible array of tools that have potential for the curriculum. The following is a sampling of Google resources that are a good place to start your exploration.

  1. Image Search.  Not a new tool, but there is an important feature that many educators may not be aware of. Utilizing the advanced search feature, users can find images that are licensed for various types of use, meaning students can access images without worrying about copyright issues.googleimage
  2. Knol. Somewhat similar to Wikipedia, Knol lets users create articles, called Knols, based upon topics of their choice. Knols can be individual or may allow different levels of collaboration. Images, documents, and other content can be included.
  3. Groups. Similar to Ning, Groups lets users create sites around a particular topic or interest. Host discussions, share resources, add images or video, create a custom appearance, or browse and join an existing group.
  4. Picasa. Google continues to add features to its popular photo editing tool. Users can geotag images using Google Maps, create collaborative galleries, and, with the most recent feature, identify and tag images using face recognition technology. Picasa identifies all of the photos in a collection with the same person’s face, allowing for easy identification and organization.
  5. Sites. Essentially a wiki tool from Google. Users can create collaborative websites about whatever topic they choose. Choose from a variety of templates, embed external features, add Google Maps, documents, images, and more.
  6. Building Maker. Uses images and Google SketchUp to allow users to create photo-realistic, 3D models of actual buildings. Approved models can be added to Google Earth. A bit challenging at first, but could be a great tool for older students.
  7. Translate. Translates text into any of 52 languages. If you click on the Tools and Resources link, there is an embeddable widget that allows visitors to translate your website with a single click. Great tool for teachers of students with families of languages other than English.
  8. Public Data Explorer. Just released this week, this tool from Google Labs allows data sets to be visualized in an interactive format, allowing users to view changes over time.
    public data
  9. Moderator. Lets a user post topics or questions, and group members can vote for or against posts, or enter responses or questions. Might serve as a potentially valuable tool for formative assessment or determining topics of interest for discussion.
  10. Voice. Free voicemail from Google. Users get a local number, which can be set to ring to any other number (Mine is (817) 601-5850–feel free to call!). Also, users get a text version of the message (albeit a bit rough, but, hey, still pretty amazing!). You’ll need an invitation, which can be requested through the site. Responses may take a few days.
  11. Mars. Really cool site that allows users to view infrared, elevation, and visible maps of Mars, and to focus on different types of geographic features, such as mountains, valleys, plains, etc.
    Google Mars
  12. Custom Search. Handy tool for creating a customized Google search bar that can be added to any website. One of the most useful features is that it allows teachers (or, even better, students) to select the specific sites from which the search results will be taken, eliminating the confusion that can result when results come from the entire Web.
  13. Alerts. Simple tool that will send an email message when websites publish new information about a chosen topic. Great tool for keeping up with news or current events topics.
  14. Life Magazine Photo Archive. Galleries of images from the pages of Life magazine dating to the 1750s, available for student projects.
  15. Fast Flip. Search and find news from a wide range of sources in a quick-access, visual format. Additional results can be accessed by…you guessed it…flipping through the page (clicking-and-dragging).
    Google Fast Flip
  16. Squared. Experimental search tool that returns results in a table format similar to a spreadsheet. Breaks results down into useful sub-categories. For instance, the search for Haiti pictured below resulted in categories such as currency, languages, ethnic groups, etc. Results can also be exported into Google Docs or in an Excel-compatible, .csv format.
    Google Squared
  17. Archive Search. View authentic archival resources such as newspaper articles with this search tool. Although most archives have a cost associated with their use, many are free. The example below is from a 1948 edition of the Palm Beach Post.
    Google News Archive Search
  18. Image Swirl. Experimental image search tool that returns results as an interactive web of interrelated results. I can see some potential for visual learners or younger students, particularly.
    Google Image Swirl
  19. City Tours. Google Maps tool that suggests walking tours of various locations. Most interestingly from an educator perspective, students can create their own custom tours using the My Maps feature of Google Maps. I can imagine tours of neighborhoods, cities, local historical landmarks, etc.
  20. Transliteration. Not to be confused with Translate, Tranliteration converts Roman characters into phonetic spellings in 19 different languages. In other words, it gives users the pronunciation of words in their own written languages. This is how Google Transliteration sees this sentence in Greek. (There is a joke here, but it’s too obvious, even for me.)
    Google Transliteration

TCEA 2010 Presentation Links

What’s New in Web 2.0?

Presentation Links List

Death By PowerPoint (Presentation)

Google Docs
iSpring Free


Session Discussion Wall (I will try to address any questions as soon as possible!)

Creating Custom Video Channels

One concern I have heard expressed by teachers with regard to the use of video sites such as YouTube, TeacherTube, etc. in the classroom is that students tend to waste a lot of time searching for relevant (or irrelevant) content. One solution is to create a personalized channel that contains the videos which the teacher wishes to focus upon as resources. The two resources described below allow teachers to create lists of favorite videos, customize the look of the channel, and more. When working on a project or conducting research, students need only to visit the teacher’s channel to find a previewed list of useful resources to get them started.

YouTube channels offer users a wide range of tools. Visitors can view videos uploaded by the channel owner, favorited videos, or channels being followed by the owner. They can also view the owner’s profile information, “friend” the channel (if they have a YouTube account), leave comments on the channel, view recent activity, and more. To create a personalized channel, a YouTube membership is required. New accounts automatically have their own channel. The following video provides a great explanation of the general tools for customizing a YouTube channel. More information may be found on the YouTube support site.

Below is an image of my own site. The large, featured video displays my most recent upload. to the right is a list of other uploads and favorites. By clicking on the Favorites link, students can view a complete list of all of my favorite videos, the ones I want them to focus on.



YouTube is a fantastic resource for teaching and learning. However, the obvious reality is that many schools’ filtering policies do not allow students to view YouTube videos while at school. Sites such as TeacherTube, SchoolTube, and Edublogs.tv offer alternatives that are usually unrestricted. A site I just discovered that offers the ability to create a video channel using mutliple sources is Vodpod. Vodpod allows users to create customized lists of favorite videos from a multitude of sites (I successfully tried YouTube, TeacherTube, and Edublogs.tv.) as well as uploading and sharing their own videos. The interface is extremely simple, using a toolbar button to add a video from the site where it is housed. Users can tag their videos, add descriptions, and choose from six templates to customize their display. The image below is from my own new channel.



Vodpod is a powerful tool on several levels. First of all, it is an extremely easy-to-use tool for creating a database of your favorite videos. Secondly, it creates a channel that is clean and easy to navigate. It also opens videos in a popup window, rather than simply linking to the host site, meaning students are less likely to be distracted and have their attention wander. The customized site comes complete with its own, custom URL, making navigating to the site easy for students. Finally, its compatibility with school-friendly video sites makes it much more practical to many educators.

Both of these resources offer valuable benefits for the classroom teacher. These include less time off-task, better reliability of resources, and less worry about inappropriate content.

Web 2.0, Constructivism, and Creativity

The Constructivist educator should be excited by current trends in education and technology. creativityConstructivists emphasize such traits as active learning, discovery, construction (setting goals, self-assessment, research, creativity, etc.), situated learning, cooperation/collaboration, choice, automony, reflection, and complexity (Alessi, 2001, pp.32-35). The teacher takes on the role of a facilitator, guide, and co-learner as much as is possible. Learning is driven by students, and it is immersive, flexible, and responsive to student needs and goals. Constructivists value creativity, through writing, designing applications, and making works of art.

In 2007, the International Society for Technology in Education released its National Educational Technology Standards (NETS•S) and Performance Indicators for Students. This document provides educators with a blueprint for designing educational and technological experiences to equip students to thrive in the modern, connected world. ISTE emphasized these categories of skills:

  • Creativity and innovation
  • Communication and collaboration
  • Research and information fluency
  • Critical thinking, problem solving, and decision making
  • Digital citizenship
  • Technology operations and concepts

Clearly, these objectives are in harmony with constructivist principles. Given the increase in the numbers of educators who are subscribing to the constructivist school of thought, it is reasonable to assume that these objectives can and will be embraced with increasing fervor, and we are seeing that. Students are publishing their writing, collaborating with students around the globe, adding to the global body of knowledge, being given opportunities to explore and direct their own learning, and much more.

Unfortunately, however, a lingering education climate that focuses on basic skills in but a few subject areas and standardized tests all too often leads us as educators to neglect to foster our students’ creativity and relegate it to secondary status. Sir Ken Robinson, an internationally renowned expert on creativity and education, shared his thoughts on the need for a greater emphasis on creativity in the 2006 TED Talk below. The video is almost 20 minutes long, but it is well worth the time. Robinson is an engaging, thought-provoking, and funny speaker, and the time will pass quickly.

The reality is that technology will continue to develop and take on many of the basic tasks that we humans have traditionally undertaken. Daniel Pink (2005) wrote of this in his book, A Whole New Mind, and described the forces of automation, abundance, and Asia (outsourcing) as necessitating a new emphasis on “right-brained” skills, and creativity could be interpreted as the over-arching theme.

The tools of the Internet as we know it today continue to evolve in ways that are very reflective of these kinds of Constructivist ideals, as well. Web 2.0, by its very nature, is about creativity, collaboration, communication, and access to information in many forms at any time. In particular, the opportunities for creativity and innovation that today’s Internet provides are increasingly diverse and exciting. Web 2.0 continues to offer new opportunities for students to explore and express their creativity. Students can create works of art, add artistic touches to photographs, edit and produce videos, create music, share and even publish written works, create dramatic multimedia productions, and more. The following are but a very small sample of the types of sites that are available for nurturing our students’ creative abilities. Many more tools can be found at Amy Hopkins’s wiki from her presentation at the TCEA 2009 conference.


  • Imagination Cubed –easily create and share drawings with mutliple tools, including stamps.
  • TheBroth–collaborative drawing/painting site.
  • Google Sketchup–tool for creating 3-dimensional drawings.
  • Queeky–create and share drawings with lots of great drawing tools.
  • Comic Sketch–create comics, comic books.


  • Photosynth–create panoramic images.
  • Animoto–create animated slideshows incorporating images, text, and music.
  • Skitch–edit photos, annotate, add drawings (Mac only).
  • Blingeasy–add lots of special effects to images, such as glitter, animations, backgrounds, etc.
  • Storyblender–add voice and animations to images.


  • Jumpcut–easy to use and powerful online video editor.
  • Jaycut–edit and share videos online.
  • Animasher–create custom animations.
  • BubblePLY–add speech baloons to videos.


  • JamStudio–create music by selecting ryhthm, instruments, and style.
  • Noteflight–write music in standard notation and hear it played back.


  • Tikatok–wonderful tool for publishing student writing; includes images, writing prompts.
  • Bookr–create and share virtual books with virtual, “turning” pages.
  • Blurb–write, illustrate, even sell your own books online.


  • Alice–3-D programming environment allows students to create animated movies and games.
  • Scratch–allows students to create animated stories, games, music, and art.
  • Kerpoof–uses drag-and-drop interface to create animated stories, pictures.

Presentation (I added this category because this medium is becoming increasingly visually and artistically complex.):

  • 280slides –create presentations, add PowerPoint slides, search/add media inside workspace.
  • Prezi –create stunning presentation with zoom effects.
  • Sliderocket –Flash-based presentation tools with beautiful special effects.

There can be made a compelling case that we have not only neglected, but actually squashed our students’ creative juices from their bodies. Hopefully, the tide is turning, however, and these types of Internet tools, which students are already discovering on their own, will begin to play a more prominent role in our classrooms.

Alessi, S., & Trollip, S. (2001). Multimedia for Learning: Methods and Development (3rd ed.). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Pink, D. (2005). A Whole New Mind: Moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age. New York: Riverhead Books.

Sketchcast Back! (Well, Almost)

I wrote a couple of months ago about the disappearance and assumed demise of Sketchcast, the site that offers tools that allow users to capture drawings as they are created, record narration, add text, and share online. It had become one of the favorite apps of several teachers I had shared it with, and I was quite disappointed to see it go away. During the Christmas break, I typed in the URL for the site in faint hope it would yield a different result. Much to my stunned amazement, Sketchcast popped right up, as if nothing had happened. I logged in, and the account credentials worked fine, too. The only sign that anything had been afoul was that the creation tool is not back online. When the link for creating a Sketchcast is clicked, users are informed that it will be back online soon. I certainly hope so! I haven’t found another site that does what Sketchcast does as intuitively. I will keep clicking on the link every few days, and I’ll update when it is fully back to operational.

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Web 2.0, Meaningful Learning, and Student Achievement

I had the privilege of presenting at the Texas Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development’s annual convention in Galveston, Texas on Monday. I took the opportunity to broadcast my presentation live for the first time, too. I shared ways our district’s teachers are using blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other free tools to engage students and to apply skills that can be used across the curriculum. If you’re interested, you can view it below:

The slideshow is below with the links to the resources I shared.

Goodbye to a Really Cool Tool?

Well, after at least 3 months of hoping against hope, I’m ready to concede to the demise of Sketchcast. This was a really great site that allowed users to create narrated flash drawings and embed them into blogs, wikis, etc. I first wrote about Sketchcast about a year ago. I had a lot of teachers who enthusiastically embraced the site, so I know there is disappointment. Fortunately, the cycle of Web 2.0 usually means that a replacement of some sort will make an appearance shortly.

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