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??