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Google for Educators

  What it is: Google is more than just a search engine, at www.google.com/educators you will find Google Tools for your classroom along with great ideas others are using Google in their classrooms. Google’s classroom tools include book searches, Google Earth, maps, news, iGoogle (a place where...

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8 alternatives to Google Reader

Posted by admin | Posted in Blogs, For Teachers, professional development, Teacher Resources, web tools, Web2.0 | Posted on 12-06-2013

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8 alternatives to Google Reader

I’ve been in mourning over Google’s decision to shut down Reader.  MOURNING.  Honestly, I love having a centralized location for all of my favorite blogs.  It is like my own customized newspaper delivered each morning.  I’ve been using Google Reader since about 2007, and in that time I’ve amassed an enormous collection of favorites.  Whenever I find something I want to remember or be able to go back and read, I Tweet it out and then immediately favorite it.  I can’t tell you how often I go to my Reader when I’m remembering something great that I favorited that I want to revisit or share.  Daily.

Google Reader is closing the door on July 1st.  I’ve been trying to pretend that this day isn’t coming.  Denial won’t stop it.  Today I decided to settle in and start going through my favorites to save them to my Pinterest boards.  I’ve found some great alternatives for Google Reader, but I have yet to find one that transfers both current RSS feeds and favorites.  I talked to Feedly on Twitter and they said that they are working on it.  I haven’t seen this feature added yet.  Not willing to lose all of those favorites, I’m going through the painstaking process of saving them elsewhere.  On the upside: I’m being reminded of the brilliance I’m surrounded by online.

If you are looking for a replacement RSS feed reader (say for your favorite blog…*ahem*) here are some great alternatives.

1. The Old Reader is in beta, it was built to be a replacement for Google Reader.  It looks a whole lot like the Google Reader you know and love.  For those super geeks (own it!) you can even use the same keyboard shortcuts.  This option is free but is currently browser-based only…no mobile apps yet.  Alas, that is where I do the majority of my reading.

2. Feedly is a good RSS reader alternative.  In addition to collecting your RSS feeds for you, it has a news suggestion algorithm that will suggest other articles that you will probably find interesting.  Great unless you have a reader like I do…then it becomes an endless rabbit hole that is hard to walk away from.  Feedly also has a great social aspect that makes it easy to share with friends and post to social networks.  With Feedly you can choose what type of layout you prefer. You can easily transfer all of your current subscriptions from Google Reader to Feedly.  Feedly comes as browser extension and mobile app.

3.  News Blur is similar to Google Reader, you can share articles, save for future reading, star them or start your own daily “burblog” of news stories that you want to share with others.  It comes in mobile app format.  Now the bad news: free accounts are capped at 64 blogs and 10 stories at a time (this would never do for me). Premium users pay $24 a year to subscribe to as many sites as they want.  The worse news: currently they aren’t allowing free users to sign up.  Dang. It.

4. Pulse lets you keep up on the blogs that you subscribe to, but it primarily recommends stories it thinks you will enjoy.  Pulse looks a little more like Feedly and will also let you import your Google Reader feed (mobile version only).  Articles can be saved, shared, browsed, sorted by category.

5. NetVibes is a RSS reader and a social aggregation service.  Basic accounts are free which will do what you need to follow your feeds.  You can add widgets like weather, Twitter, and top news stories to your NetVibe dashboard.  The bad news: there aren’t any mobile apps.

6. Feed Demon is not only an RSS reader, it also lets you set up keywords to be alerted about.  If a keyword appears in a feed (whether you subscribe to it or not) it will apear in your feed.  It also lets you subscribe to podcasts, it automatically stores them in a directory and makes it easy to save them to a mobile device.

7. Flipboard recommends feeds but also lets you subscribe to RSS feeds.  The layout is beautiful and looks like a magazine.  You can also add your social networks including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  It brings your online life together in one place.  Favorites can be saved. Flipboard is available for the iPad, iPhone, Android, Kindle Fire and Nook.

8. Feedbin makes it easy to subscribe to new feeds by domain or by feed url. You can import your current feeds using the OPML import feature.  You can organize all of your feeds by Tags. Just like Google Reader, Feedbin has great keyboard shortcuts that will help you get through your news efficiently.  Feedbin is not free, it currently costs $2/month.  The biggest benefit (and the reason this will most likely be my choice) you can connect Feedbin to the Reeder app!!  I currently use the Reeder app to read my Google Reader feeds.  I absolutely LOVE Reeder, It is such a beautiful way to read, save, share, etc. all of my RSS feeds.  Reeder is still working out a solution for July 1st.  In the mean time, it is available for free in the iTunes app store and you can connect it to Feedbin.  Reeder is working out the ability to connect it to other readers as well.

RSS feeds are a great way to bring professional development to your fingertips ever day.  Don’t let the demise of Google Reader stop you from learning!

myHistro: timeline/story/map/picture mashups created by you!

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Art, Create, Evaluate, Geography, Government, History, Knowledge (remember), Language Arts, Middle/High School, Science, Secondary Elementary, Social Studies, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), Virtual Field Trips, web tools, Web2.0, Websites | Posted on 23-10-2012

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What it is:  myHistro is a really great site (and app!) that lets students combine maps and timelines seamlessly into one great presentation of information and understanding.  myHistro is more than just data collection, it is a way to share stories.  With myHistro, students can create a rich timeline/map mashup complete with additional text, pictures and video.  The result is truly incredible!  It is easy to get started, just create an event and associate it with a time and place.  Events can be gathered together and turned into stories.  Stories, in turn, can be used together to create a collection.  Stories can be viewed in multiple ways, by events on a timeline, in chronological order with a page flip feature like an album, or as a story summary of chronological events.  Create as many events as you would like and add as many photos as you like, all for free!  The finished product can even be downloaded into Google Earth format for offline storage. Completed Histros can be embedded in other blogs and websites for maximum usability.

How to integrate myHistro into the classroom: myHistro has SO many uses!  At Anastasis, we just completed an inquiry unit on who we are.  myHistro was a perfect tie in for students exploring family histories, heritage and tradition.  Students could add pictures, and stories along with the interactive map of where events were taking place and a timeline where they could see it all unfold chronologically.  This is like a family tree on steroids. Pretty outstanding.  Even better? It ties directly into Geni (blogged about here).  

myHistro isn’t just for family trees.  It could be used for students mapping out history chronologically, mapping out a fictional story, creating a story map for their own writing, mapping how ideas and invention spread, looking at explorers, migration, etc.  As I said, the options are endless!

myHistro is collaborative, students can create projects together and even invite parents to join in the learning.  Pretty cool!

As a teacher, you can ditch the text book and help students really visualize that history in new ways.  A completed myHistro can be embedded in your class blog or website for students to access without having to visit multiple sites or login.

There are a number of fabulous myHistro stories that you can borrow to share with your students.  They can view these to learn more about events in history, or they can go on a fact checking mission to double check the validity of the stories created by others.  Definitely worth doing!

Tips: myHistro also happens to be an app.  Find it in the iTunes store.  This can be your first download on your new iPad mini ;)

Leave a comment and tell us how you are using  myHistro in your classroom.

Help me personalize education for EVERY child!  Donate (even just your coffee money!)  and spread the word about the Learning Genome Project.

PowToon: AMAZING free animation tool

Posted by admin | Posted in Create, Interactive Whiteboard, Knowledge (remember), Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Subject, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), video, web tools, Websites | Posted on 16-08-2012

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What it is:  I have discovered my new favorite creation site.  Holy wow this is a cool tool.  Basically, it makes you (and your students) look like rockstars when they present.  You know all of those super cool animated videos that tell a story through drawings on a whiteboard?  Now you can make those all on your own with a super simple drag-drop tool.  Meet PowToon.  It is awesome.  I’m a little addicted to playing with video creation…no joke.

PowToon has a great mission: “to address all the frustrations that people have with power point and keynote and add animation and killer design.”  You don’t have to be super tech savvy or design skills to create spectacular animated presentations.   The goal here is to help people communicate in a way that conveys ideas.  Best of all…it is FREE!  Woot!  Also, PowToon loves education, they want to help teachers and students create great content that is visually engaging, captivating and fun to make.

Right now PowToon has 5 design styles (with more coming).  Added with your student’s creativity, these animations are going to be fabulous.  Finished videos can be shared all over: YouTube, Facebook, Google Plus, Pinterest, Twitter, exported or embedded.

PowToon is currently in Beta version. Sign up for an early look at this super cool creation tool.  I got my invitation within a few hours.  #bam

How to integrate PowToon into your curriculum: PowToon is a fantastic way to share ideas and story.  Communication is a vital skill.  The ability to express ideas and story in a succinct, clear manner is crucial.  Today, students have another facet of communication to learn…visual communication.

PowToon would be a great addition to the design thinking routine.  Students can use PowToon to share their ideas or to “prototype” an idea.  Students can create videos to show math processes, explanations of complex concepts, review new learning, teach others, explain processes, tell stories, or present research.  The possibilities are really endless and students will come up with hundreds of other creative uses.

Teachers can use PowToon to create animations for students.  This is a great way to present new information or ideas for discussion.

Tips: The PowToon Interactive Tour and How to Create series are very helpful to watch prior to creating your first animations.

Please leave a comment and share how you are using PowToon in your classroom!

Storify: Turn social media into a story

Posted by admin | Posted in collaboration, Create, Middle/High School, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Web2.0, Websites | Posted on 25-04-2011

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What it is: Storify has just been released to the public!  I have been playing with this site for a few months and am excited that I finally get to share it with all of you.  :)  Storify lets you create stories based on Tweets, photos and videos.  You can search multiple social networks from one place, and drag elements into your story.  Re-order elements and add text as needed.  Storify lets you take those little bits of information shared over time and turn them into a story.

How to integrate Storify into the classroom: If you are using social media in the classroom, Storify is a fantastic addition.  Use Storify to create weekly stories of tweets, pictures and videos from your classroom that can be sent home to parents.  Create a story of learning based on a collaboration between classrooms as a way to chronicle and reflect on the collaboration.  Build a semester or year-long story as a sort of online scrapbook that can be shared with families.   Invite other classrooms to take part in writing a collaborative story 140 characters at a time using Twitter.  At the end of the project, each class can use Storify to create an original story from the tweets. Send out links, book recommendations, and other resources used throughout the week using Twitter.  At the end of the week, create a resource Storify for students to access.

Storify makes it simple to create and share social media stories.  Storify stories can be shared with a unique link, emailed or embedded in a blog or website.  Very cool!

Unsure about how to use Twitter in the classroom?  Check out my posts on it here, here and here.

Tips: Because Storify is based on social media, anyone can add to your stories!

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Storify in your classroom!

Storybook Web

Posted by admin | Posted in Apply, Interactive book, Interactive Whiteboard, Language Arts, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Spelling, Understand (describe, explain), Websites | Posted on 02-08-2010

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What it is: Storybook Web is “based on popular children’s stories by authors Scoular Anderson, Debi Gliori, Mairi Hedderwick and Frank Rodgers.”  There are a number of fun activities on this site including the ability to listen to the author’s reading excerpts from their stories and answering questions about how they came up with ideas for writing.  Students can choose from one of eight stories, each story has a related game, word bank activity, and videos/audio for reading the story and interacting with the author.

How to integrate Storybook Web into your curriculum: Storybook Web is a fun way for students to interact with stories, making connections to the authors of the stories and the themes that they are reading about.  This site helps students think like an author.  It gives them an inside look at how authors think about writing.  Use this site as an introduction to a writing activity.  Students can watch the author videos and get an inside look at the process that a writer goes through.  This can be done using a projector connected computer or interactive whiteboard.  Storybook Web would also make a nice addition to a writing center on classroom computers.  When I taught second grade, I set up an “editing and publishing” center on my classroom computers.  Here I gave students access to an online dictionary, thesaurus, word processor/publishing program, and Read Write ThinkStorybook Web would be an excellent addition to a writing center.  Students can go to be inspired, encouraged in the writing process, and given a place to practice their own writing.  I like the word bank on Storybook Web, word choice is hard for beginning writers.  By interacting with the word bank activity on Storybook Web, students will begin to think about their own word choice.  You may want students to go through their own writing and pick out words that they would add to their word bank.  I have found that activities like this make students think about the words they are using.  Often, students will self-edit and find richer vocabulary to use in their writing.

Tips: This is an easy website for emergent readers and writers to navigate.  Students can choose to have the site narrated for them or they can turn the audio off and read on their own.

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Storybook Web in your classroom!

Kerpoof: Make a StoryBook

Posted by admin | Posted in collaboration, Fun & Games, Interactive book, Interactive Whiteboard, Language Arts, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Spelling, Teacher Resources, web tools, Web2.0, Websites | Posted on 27-04-2010

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What it is: Kerpoof is a website that I use often with my students, I like it so much I have written about it a few times before here and hereKerpoof has just added a brand new Make a StoryBook tool.  Kerpoof’s Make a Storybook is an excellent addition to the already great lineup of Kerpoof tools.  Here students can create their own picture and story books.  They can use Kerpoof’s backgrounds, props, and characters or draw their own illustrations.  Students can write their story in both text boxes and speech bubbles.  The interface is extremely user friendly, kids will pick it up in no time!  The sidebar has thumbnails of each page that students have created, making it easy to see their progress.  Students can save their finished Story Books on their Kerpoof account to share with other students, download the finished Story Book to their computers, or print out their completed stories.  

How to integrate Kerpoof’s Make a StoryBook into the classroom: Kerpoof’s Make a StoryBook is a fantastic place for students to “publish” their written work.  Students can practice writing fairy tales, poetry, collaborative stories, fables, math based stories, illustrated science journals and non-fiction books.  Kerpoof offers the freedom of creativity, students are only limited by their own imaginations.  Set up your classroom computers as a publishing center where students can create a finished, published piece of work.  Create collaborative class stories using Make a StoryBook on an interactive whiteboard or projector.  Print out finished stories and add them to your classroom library for other students to “check out” and read.

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Tips: In addition to the new Make a StoryBook, Kerpoof has added another fun activity called Spell a picture.  Students can choose a background for their picture and use the letters below to practice spelling words.  As they spell, pictures pop up that begin with those letters.  As they continue spelling, Kerpoof narrows the pictures down to the one that a student has spelled.  For example, when students select “c” pictures of a cow, cat, corn, car, cab, and cap pop up on the scene.  As they continue selecting letters, the pictures get more specific and Kerpoof points to the suggested pictures of what has been spelled.

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Kerpoof  in your classroom.

The World of Peter Rabbit

Posted by admin | Posted in Fun & Games, inspiration, Language Arts, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Websites | Posted on 02-04-2010

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What it is: Beatrix Potter has captured the imaginations of countless children with her classic Peter Rabbit tales.  The World of Peter Rabbit is as enchanting as the stories, bringing Beatrix Potter’s incredible artistry to life.  The whole site is fashioned into a virtual popup book where students can meet the characters, watch videos of the stories, play games, and find fun things to make and do offline.  Students can play a game of find Peter (before Mr. McGregor does!), take part in an Easter egg hunt, collect snowflakes to earn special downloads, help Peter find his way through a maze, and play a vegetable picking game.  Students can read character descriptions of each of Beatrix Potter’s characters and even watch video clips of Peter Rabbit.  Students can also create their very own interactive Peter Rabbit puppet show.  They can star in the puppet show by uploading a picture of themselves or a favorite pet.  

How to integrate The World of Peter Rabbit into the classroom: I can’t remember the last time I was so utterly captivated by a website.  The site is absolutely beautiful and true to Beatrix Potter’s classic characters.  If Beatrix was still alive, I imagine this is the site she, herself, would have built.  Introduce your students to the classic Peter Rabbit tales with this site.  My students fell in love with the characters and were eager to hunt down the books in our library.  Invite your students to star in their own puppet show, each show will be unique as students make decisions about what will happen to their characters.  Allow students to view each other’s puppet shows.  After reading through character descriptions, students can write their own Peter Rabbit tale, staying true to the character traits they read about on the site.

Tips: Students can learn more about Beatrix Potter by visiting “The World of Beatrix Potter“, they can even explore her home in the Lake District with an interactive map.  Beatrix Potter would make an excellent subject for an author’s study.

Please leave a comment and share how you are using The World of Peter Rabbit in your classroom.

Online Audio Stories

Posted by admin | Posted in Fun & Games, iPod, Language Arts, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Websites | Posted on 24-02-2010

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What it is: Online Audio Stories is an impressive collection of free audio stories online.  The audio books are all free and downloadable.  The online version of the story includes accompanying text for students to follow along with.  The short stories will transport students on a fun adventure of listening to fairy tales and classics.  The extensive collection includes stories by Mark Twain, Robert Louis Stevenson, Brothers Grimm, Tales of Time, Edgar Allen Poe, Emily Bronte, Aesop, Lewis Carroll, Edward Lear, Joseph Jacobs, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, William Blake, Oscar Wilde, Louisa May Alcott, Hans Christian Andersen, William Shakespeare, and many more.  The stories are read with excellent voice, inflection, and timing, making them a joy to listen to.  

How to integrate Online Audio Stories into the classroom: These Online Audio Stories will transport your students to new magical worlds and adventures, they will allow struggling readers to enjoy stories that may be just out of reach otherwise.  Online Audio Stories will help increase student vocabulary and improve listening comprehension skills.  Students may not choose to pick up these classics in the library, but they will enjoy listening to the stories online.  This is great exposure to the classics!   If you have computers in your classroom, set them up as a reading/listening center that students can visit during silent reading time.  Because the Online Audio Stories are free to download, these are also perfect for downloading to an iPod or MP3 player.

Tips: Let parents know about these free online stories, they make great bedtime stories, listening enjoyment for long car rides, or for a fun listening experience any time.

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Online Audio Stories in your classroom.

Signed Stories

Posted by admin | Posted in Foreign Language, Interactive book, Interactive Whiteboard, Language Arts, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Websites | Posted on 04-02-2010

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What it is: Signed Stories is an excellent online story site that I learned about from The Techie Classroom blog.  Signed Stories makes hundreds of children’s stories available online accessible in British Sign Language and in text, pictures and sound.  This site has it all.  Students can read the story, watch it signed, and listen to the story.  This enriches literacy on a variety of levels.  Deaf and hearing alike can benefit from this excellent free website.  These are published stories and include a variety of popular titles.  Books are sorted into categories including adventure, baby and toddler, fairytales and folktales, families and friendships, funny, open house, slimy scary, or students can browse all books alphabetically.

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How to integrate Signed Stories into the classroom: Signed Stories is a fantastic add to any literacy classroom.  Students can read, listen to, or watch a book signed.  The site is accessible to all language learners and has engaging popular stories that students will love.  Expand your classroom library by pulling up Signed Stories during reading and allowing students to read online.  Signed Stories also adds great discussion to the classroom about different ways that people learn.  Students can expand their sign language vocabulary by listening to familiar stories and watching them being signed.  This is also a great site to send home.  Kids can practice their reading even when their isn’t an adult available to read with them.

Tips: Check out the Resources page for links to other interactive story sites.

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Signed Stories in your classroom.

Kerpoof: Update

Posted by admin | Posted in Art, Fun & Games, Language Arts, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, web tools, Websites | Posted on 29-01-2010

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What it is: Kerpoof is one of my favorite creation tools for elementary students, it allows them to draw, create pictures, cards, books, and even movies.  My original post about Kerpoof can be found here. Kerpoof has added some new features that make it worthy of another post.  Students can now save their pictures, cards, stories and drawings locally (on their computers).  On each canvas is a JPEG icon that will allow any picture to be saved to the computer locally.  They are working on making it possible to download the movies locally soon.   Kerpoof also introduced info bubbles.  In the Make a Picture object library, students can drag out a picture onto the canvas.  Now there is a new question mark button that shows up on an object.  When students click on the question mark, a little bubble of information pops up.  Students will gain all kinds of information from these little fact bubbles.  They can learn everything from: who wrote Treasure Island, to learning the national animal of Australia.


How to integrate Kerpoof into the classroom: Kerpoof is an outstanding creativity program for the classroom.  With there education accounts and these new features, it is even more useful in the classroom setting.  Now that students can save their pictures created on Kerpoof locally, they can use their Kerpoof creations in new ways.  Upload the saved JPEG to the class website, blog, or wiki, or add illustrations to a word processing program.

Use the new information bubbles to start a Kerpoof scavenger hunt.  Ask students specific questions ahead of time or instruct students to research broader topics like “dinosaurs” or “Mexico”.  After students have found answers to their assigned questions, they can do more in-depth research using library or Internet resources.  After research is completed, students can come back to Kerpoof to create a picture, story, essay, or movie including information that they learned.


Tips: Be sure to check out Kerpoof’s lesson plans, they have just added a new lesson called “Programming Wizards” designed to teach students about how computers work and how to build, design, and test a program.  Very cool.


Leave a comment and share how you are using Kerpoof  in your classroom.