Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Google Cultural Institute

A week ago, one of my favorite bloggers, Julie Greller, posted information about the Google Cultural Institute on her blog, "The Media Specialist's Guide to the Internet". I started looking at the material, and before I knew it, was lost deep in the site in a totally new places enjoying entirely unexpected material.
Don't you love sites like that?

To fully enjoy the site would take some time, so bookmark this one as a great resource to revisit again and again. It currently has 42 online exhibits. Some of my favorites were:

The World Wonders Project
Using street view and 3D technology, Google brings historic sites right into the classroom. You can browse the available sites by geographic location or by theme. My son is waiting for the "lottery" to see where his overseas architecture assignment might place him, so I found the architecture theme helpful!

Google Art Project
Museums from around the world are showcased in this site with 156 collections available for viewing and 51 available in "museum view"---like you are really there! This project is interactive, allowing the visitor to create an account and develop a gallery of art to share with others.

The Auschwitz Album
This period piece is just one of many historical "snapshots" that can be viewed on the Google Cultural Institute by simply moving the timeline. Several years ago, I was able to tour the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. with my family, so the Auschwitz Album had special meaning to me. This album draws the viewer into the tragedy by providing a scroll through the event in chronological order. There are large arrows on the sides of the page, but if you use the large scroll box at the bottom, each picture and each paragraph can be placed in the center of the screen to convey the powerful story.

Whatever your subject, whatever your personal interests, the Google Cultural Institute will have something of interest for you and your students. Just take the time and explore!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Back to School Stress?

The adrenalin that has kept teachers running since school started in August is beginning to wear thin, and it is now time to refocus, regroup and re-energize! One way to do this is just to relax....seriously, just relax and breathe! There is even a app to help with that of course: Relax Melodies.

Relax Melodies is a white noise app with sounds that can be mixed and saved for meditation, sleep, and study. These sound mixes can be set to multiple alarms There is a free version with 46 sounds and a $2.99 paid version with 94 sounds . I always start with the freebies, but with this app, I bumped up to the paid version because it allows you to play the sounds while using other apps--even while playing your music.
My favorite mixes include classical music with urban rain and thunder.

This app would be great for use in the classroom to create the perfect tone for studying/work and is a cheap way to bring the outdoor sounds to that windowless classroom.

This app was recommended by my son, Joshua. As an architecture student in college, he spends long hours on projects in common areas but really requires solitude  With a good set of headphones, this app allows him to disconnect from the noisy environment and focus on his work.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Earth Day Web Sites

Earth Day is on April 22 and blogger, Keith Ferrell, has pulled together some great resources for this special occasion in 7 Earth Day Sites You Didn't Know About.

Not planning any Earth Day activities?? Ed Tech Ideas is still a site well worth the visit for teachers and students alike. It includes oodles of links to some great educational sites, all neatly organized for easy access.
For example: 11 Sites for Fraction Practice  and 60 Educational Games Sites That You've Probably Never Seen.

I found this site today through Twitter from TCEA. Stay connected and learn!!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Can you survive without technology?

Today is the "National Day of Unplugging": 24 hours of "digital detox". From sunset on March 23 until sunset of March 24, participants are encouraged to power down ALL devices in order to slow down your life in this hectic digital world.

This information was first sent to me by a friend who knows my penchant for "family time" and quiet time, and she wanted to know if technology had finally managed to change the rules of my household. In short, had technology changed me and my priorities?

This is a great question for all of us. As educators, is technology changing our classrooms for the better? As parents, is technology enhancing our relationships with our children or driving us apart. Do the friendships we have grow deeper through technology or keep us all functioning at a false level of interaction? In this day of sharing so much information, do we run the risk of diminishing our relevance? 

In looking into this "National Day of Unplugging", I was very surprised by the technology professionals involved in encouraging weekly sabbaticals from technology use, saying that it " more power in their day-to-day lives".

So, how will you be participating in this "modern day of rest"? I plan on spending the evening with friends, totally devoid of technology! Can you survive without technology? If not, at least take the time to think on these things. Then, of course, post your thoughts on Twitter, Facebook, a wiki, or a blog  : )

For information on the National Day of Unplugging, visit the Sabbath Manifesto.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Follow AppAdvice on Twitter
With so many apps out there, it can be difficult to know what to pick or, sometimes, what is even available. There is help out there, and the newest find for me is This site caught my attention today when Dr. Solis tweeted about something near and dear to my heart: COFFEE!! Actually, coffee apps, but it sent me off to look at this great web site. is an easy to navigate site that has organized apps in a variety of ways. The home page has the latest news on apps. This morning I found out that Garmin is going to be using Google street view in its new Navigon Mobile Navigator App. I really could use that!  It also has AppReviews. After looking at some of the reviews tonight, I added a new word game to my collection by downloading Word Crasher Blitz--slightly addicted to those word games!

In AppGuides  apps have been organized into "highly detailed sub-groups" to help you find the best of everything.Need a drum sequencer app? Of course you do, and there are actually twelve listed in a group and they are ranked as "essential" , "notable", "decent", and "other".

AppCharts lists the top 100 apps for both iPad and iPhone, free and paid, and AppBase quickly finds what is new out there.

AppAdvice also has something called AppLists, "handpicked bundles of apps" related to your interests, hobbies, or habits....which brings me back to what started this whole thing: coffee! The tweet this morning simply mentioned a collection of apps for coffee lovers like me. Perhaps a visit to will feed your habit or hobby as well!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Socrative Student Response System

My laptop was totally fried all last week, so I was spending the weekend playing catch-up when, as luck would have it,  Amy Mayer of Fried Technology tweeted the most amazing tool ever: Socrative, a student response system. I quickly set up a "room" and ran through all of the quick response options. Awesome!

Since it was such a great tool,  I wanted to try the quiz option in Socrative at school. The quiz creator was easy to use and all I had to do was share my ""room" with the teachers. Only 50 people can participate in an activity, but I hoped to snag as many interested teachers as possible!

Socrative is ideal for quick student responses from ANY device with a web browser. This means students can use a computer, iPod touch, or cell phone...on wi-fi of course! They can even share devices, passing to another student after responding!

The first three response activities rely on the teacher  asking an oral question and students answering by:
Multiple Choice, True/False, or Short Answer.

The Multiple Choice here has 5 choices, listed A through E, and this can't can't be changed. Still, this is a fast and efficient way to collect information from the class, and when one class is over, you "clear the class" with a simple push of a button and start over!

Need more? You can also create simple quizzes ahead of time that include short answer and/or multiple choice. Student results can be downloaded or e-mailed and are in EXCEL format. It will actually score any questions that were given in multiple choice form if a correct answer is pre-selected. On top of that, the quiz can be given in a "space race" game format with students in teams--and results are still available in that nice EXCEL spreadsheet.

There is also an "exit ticket" that asks students to rate how well they understood lesson information, to answer the question on the board and to tell in their own words what was learned.

This is an amazing tool, and I can't believe it is free for now--while it is in its "alpha mode!! To see a Socrative in action, there is a nice little video available on their site. There is also an Android app available and one on the way for Apple.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

I AM QR Crazy!!

Many thanks to the teachers and students on my campus for putting up with me this week. Fresh from TCEA and full of fun, new ideas, I got hooked on QR codes after attending a class by the Digital Goonies and just couldn't help myself! I put QR activities in the teachers' lounges,  hung QR codes in the hallways and placed little QR codes on the tables in the cafeteria for students to read. Students were actually asking me for more codes to read! It was really, really fun!

When I first heard about QR codes, I did't know why substituting one object for another would even matter,  but it is absolutely fun! It brings the "game" concept and the mystery of the "secret code" right into the classroom.

For those that missed the excitement this week at school, a QR code is a quick responds code that can be scanned, like a bar code. To read them, you need a reader on your device--smart phone or iPod Touch (needs a camera!). Digital Goonies recommended i-nigma, which can be downloaded from iTunes and from the Android Market . After trying several other readers, I agree that this is the fastest and easiest to use.

Once you can read QR codes, you are going to want to create them as well. Digital Goonies provided three great sites to get started with:, and

QRstuff has more output options (download, print and e-mail), but you can't change the background color.

QRhacker allows you to change the color of the background and foreground and add pictures into the code right on the site, though I struggled to find a suitable graphic that would work.The only output option is to download or screenshot. Also, when renaming a saved code, make sure you include the .jpeg extension or it won't open!

If you want to add text above or below the code, for creating flashcards or other labeled  codes, QRjuice is the fastest option. You can also change both foreground and background colors, but you have to e-mail it to yourself or take a screenshot of the code.

If you want to play with the colors of the QR code, you will need the 6-digit hexadecimal code. I just "Googled" that and quickly found a site by Visibone that has a wonderful cheatsheet listing all the different colors. Once and easy to use!

Since 30% of the QR code can be "destroyed" and still be legible, QR codes can be manipulate in any photo software---or even in Word--in order to add pictures, shapes, or cool designs. I am still messing with this, so the fun just keeps on coming!

If you still can't believe that these codes would add new energy and an element of excitement to your classroom, check out these websites for QR code ideas. If you need any help, just let me know!

The Best of QRCode
Free Technology For Teachers: Interesting Ways to Use QR Codes

Sunday, February 12, 2012

STAAR Resources

Teachers are working hard this year to prepare students for the upcoming STAAR and end-of-course exams, and this means they also need new, fun-filled, up-to-date resources to compliment classroom instruction as well. DynaNotes, a company that creates and sells instructional materials, has made some valuable tools available for FREE online!

The DynaNotes workroom currently has online tools available for 5th grade Science, 8th grade Science, and Biology end-of-course. However, the site also lists all other STAAR tests and states that free downloads and content are coming soon! So, keep an eye on DynaNotes in the future, and I will get back to you as they continue to add to their list of resources.

By the way, this great STAAR resources was given to our 8th grade Science teacher through her PLN. Get involved with your Professional Learning Network to learn and  share what you know.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Use Pinterest and Stixy for Instruction and Assessment

Wow! There are a lot of Pinterest pinboards out there, and with so many Pinterest users, this is a must see site: Pinterest: 13 Tips and Tricks for Cutting Edge Users. Don't forget, teachers, that Pinterest is great for personal use, but it can also be used for instruction to organize unit resources or collect information the class has found.

Pinterest may be great for instruction, but be cautious when encouraging student use. Since it allows the user to see all kinds of interesting boards, it may not be the best tool for students to use on their own. So, try Stixy for student use instead of Pinterest. The account is easy to set up using student school e-mails, easier to use than Pinterest, and, best of all, there is no long wait for an invitation. Our seventh graders had been introduced to Stixy as a semester assessment for their Texas History class and enjoyed showcasing their personal work and links. They then easily shared their board to their teacher's Stixy account by hitting the share button and adding her as a contact. This is a great tool for all kinds of projects!
Students used Stixy to showcase work and information as an assessment for the semester.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Books Should Be Free

For years, avid readers have been able to hang out in the library, scrounge around for a good read, and check it out....all for free. People are now re-discovering reading as they embrace e-readers and other digital devices, and many individuals are picking up more "classical" reading....because these are available for free in both text and audio versions.

 A great website to locate free audio books is Books Should Be Free. Like the other "freebie" downloads, the free audio books offered are those great classics that cry out to be shared with the younger generation, read for the first time, or re-read again and again. The site offers several options for downloading: iTunes podcast, audiobook file in m4b format, and even mp3. This allows for more options when downloading reading material for different  devices in the educational setting.

My favorite part about Books Should Be Free is the ability to stream the book directly from the site---the entire thing! Teachers could access just one chapter and stream during class. It also allows you to listen to the narrator for a greater length of time to determine how easy it will be to listen to the entire book. Free audio books are often recorded by volunteers....not James Earl Jones. I struggled with the audio of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Tales of Terror and Mystery---well read (I am sure) in the King's English, but it was just too much for me after just the first chapter!! Books Should be Free also includes links to Project Gutenberg ,which in turn offers specific formats for downloading the same books title, again for free.

With so much at your disposal at such a small cost (free!), take advantage of these audio books. Read a classic you have always heard about, revisit a childhood favorite, and then pass it along. After all....its free!!!

This great website was shared by Richard Byrne on his blog Free Technology for Teachers.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Apps for the Blind and Visually Impaired

I have a friend who was born completely blind, but despite this, she has made a wonderful life for herself, raised a family, and enjoyed a career as an online instructor. That being said, there are still areas of her life in which she must rely on the help of others: identifying dollar bills so she can mark them, matching her clothes after they are laundered, and shopping on her own. Now, with the help of technology, there's an app for many of these tasks!! is a web site dedicated to exploring apps and categorizing them for all users, and they have a page that lists apps beneficial for the blind and visually impaired. This list includes LookTel Money Reader, an app which tells the user the denomination of the bill just from a photo taken from their phone; Color ID Free, which can "read" the color of an item (such as the color of your pants or shirts); VM Alert, a video motion detector that will let you know when someone quietly approaches; and VizWiz, an app which can identify objects from photos taken on your phone.

This information should be shared with anyone who is visually impaired as the information could be life-changing, but it also includes apps that everyone could find useful. Awareness! The Headphone App is a must-have for joggers, Glucose Buddy for the diabetic, and 5- Radio Pro Police Scanner for those who hate to leave their police scanners at home!

This great site was mentioned by Mark Brumley on Twitter. Have you Twittered today??