Archive for the ‘English Language Arts’ Category

PostHeaderIcon Death to Powerpoint

There are many presentation options in the cloud.  Powerpoint is not always the best choice when creating a presentation.  Depending on where the presentation will be shared and presented, I have found better options.  Cloud computing is helpful when you do not know where you will be presenting or if the machine you will use is a mac or pc.  However, keep in mind if the location you are presenting does not have internet access cloud options are not ideal.  Keep in mind the criteria Sliderocket writes about in their blog.


Pros:   This option reminds me of keynote in its end product.  The graphics and functionality are seamless and professional.  I really liked the user interface for editing and adding content.  You can easily embed any presentation into your website.  You can also export the presentation as a PDF (But you must be in presentation mode in order to do this).  Adding charts, media, and forms/polls is easy and integrated.  There are a lot of cool effects that you can use during the presentation.  Not to mention the ability to create your own theme.  It also allows you to add music to your slides that will auto play.

Cons:  You have to purchase a subscription to export your presentation as an editable presentation.  Flash-based utility (no iOS)


Pros:  Easy embedding into any site.  Also easy import of YouTube videos by merely pasting in the URL for the video.  I really like Prezi for an interest catcher.

Cons:  It is easy to overuse the zooming effects and some listeners to your presentations might become motion sick.  Be careful when using the zoom feature.  Limited background but this can be remedied with importing images.  It is flash-based so viewing on iDevices is out.  Hopefully they will come up with a HTML5 version soon.

280 Slides

Pros:  Very easy to use and embedding, downloading, and sharing of all kinds is easy to use.  One does not have to create an account which is nice in a school (but you cannot save to the site without a login).  The site is free and exporting in Powerpoint 2007 is very easy to do.  The user can import media and pictures.

Cons:  The user is very limited in terms of backgrounds.  Although you can import a picture as a background this is not as convenient as creating a theme.  This is a very stripped down version of powerpoint.  Flash-based utility (no iOS)


Pros:  Very easy to use, however, it is a unique presentation tool.  Instead of creating slides from original data, this product takes pictures, audio, video, and urls located online to create a stack of information.  An interesting idea and a new way to think about presentations.  The embed code is listed on the website and it can easily be posted to twitter and Facebook.

Cons:  If the data required is not online,  this solution would not be ideal.

Google Docs Presentation

Pros:  User friendly and connected to the users Google Account.  Another login is not necessary.  Product functions very similar to powerpoint.  Adding speaker’s notes is easy and any presentation can be shared and collaborated on in realtime.  Exporting can be accomplished from a PDF, text, and Powerpoint file.  Importing media and pictures is clear and understandable.

Cons:  Limited amount of fonts to choose from.  There are no layouts to choose from.  Objects cannot be rotated.






PostHeaderIcon Apple vs. Android

So I was reading a blog that did a nice job laying out public opinion on the Apple vs. Android discussion.  Should schools get iPads or Android Tablets?  Which is the best solution?


One of the big concerns with Apple is the way they are marketing the iPad.  Users seems to be looking for a netbook replacement.  They want to be able to hook in their peripherals.  They want USB, HDMI, & SD Card ports, not to mention the limits of Google Apps on iPads.  Android allows users to use Flash and other popular tools.  Though with the transition to HTML5, maybe Flash will not be such a big deal in the future.

I do wonder if jumping on the tablet band wagon is necessary….could education wait until the price goes down?  Are there cheaper options such as the Nook Color adding Android accessibility options?   Companies are rushing to come out with the next solution.  Is the first solution the best?  Should schools even be buying these things when students can bring them in to school to use on a wireless network?  Not all students have these tools…so buy a few instead of for all students.  Cellphones are quickly replacing laptops for simple and general computing.  Things change every day…I look forward to the next advance with interest.

Another user notes the ease in which Google makes app creation.  In the Google App Inventor, users can easily create apps.  This is ideal for students.  However, Apple caters to education and has a variety of educational apps.  Android needs to catch up to be a threat in that field.

To create an iPad, iTouch app there are a few more steps.

“First start by joining Apple’s iPad Dev Program ($99).  With your membership you will get iPhone SDK with Xcode, interface builder, ipad simulator, sample codes, video guides, forum, and performance analyzer.  Download and install the latest version of the iPhone SDK. Note, you will also need a MAC or  Mac Mini with the freshest Snow Leopard installed in order to run it. If you cannot afford a MAc. you may try to develop on a Hackintosh PC. Here is a tutorial on building a Hackintosh with Snow Leopard, no hacking required that might help you in your project.  There are some great places with tutorials and guides or forums to ask for help from other developers: Apple Dev Forum, iPhoneSDKiPhoneSDKForum.(Source)”

What will you choose?  Will your choose?  Take a look at your needs and reasons and then decide.


PostHeaderIcon Instablog — No Nonsense Blogging

Thanks to Free Technology for Teachers, I came across a relatively unknown site that allows instant one use blog posts.  This site allows the user to post a blog without the hassle of creating an account.  I can see this as an ideal way to introduce blogging at the elementary and lower secondary level.  When you are introducing the idea, you do not necessarily want to set up 420 (in my case) accounts for students.

According to the site Instablog, “Create a blog post instantly. No need to start, setup and maintain a blog. Just write your post and share it with your friends and followers.”  Upon creation, the user is given a website that can be shared with all via twitter,create a QRCode, facebook, email (anywhere).  Instablog also offers the ability for users to comment and the post can be public or private.  This deals with search engines and highlighting on the site.

PostHeaderIcon Floor Plans, Maps, etc.

During my many years of foreign language study, I became quite accustomed to the floor plan.  It was used on numerous occasions to aid understanding of vocabulary.  I then would spend hours with graph paper.  Now this was not the goal of the assignment, but of course me being a type a….it had to be perfect.  Thank goodness no other people have to feel the pain of graph paper with a couple of websites.

The first is called — you can create one floor plan for free.  I used this when I was rearranging my library.  It involves measuring to get things just right, but worth it in the end because it gave me a real picture.  It works right in the browser.  A true cloud experience.  The basic plan is free and allows the user to create one floor plan (1 project with 3 floors, and 3 designs per floor).  If you need more than one you can get a PLUS account (only $29 — one time fee) or created a new account for free.  The plan can be viewed in 3-D or 2-D.  Exporting the picture is also a PLUS feature but there are ways to access the picture…print screen or email.  If you like the product,  support it so it can continue to grow.

The second is called MapsAlive — maps were always my nemesis in school and therefore I try to utilize them the best I know how.  (a free 30 days…$29 after).  The cost is s definite draw back but the product is a sound one.  Within a floor plan, you can embed images.  The maps of all kinds are interactive and ideal for learning.  They work on the iPad, iTouch, and iPhone.  Many picture formats are available:  “You can use jpg or gif files for your photos and maps. We also support uploading scalable vector graphics maps in SWF format.”  The site also works with many different kinds of touch screens.  Not only floorplans, but also interactive pictures can be created with this cloud program.


PostHeaderIcon Virtual Author Visits

Skype an Author

According the the website: The mission of the Skype an Author Network is to provide K-12 teachers and librarians with a way to connect authors, books, and young readers through virtual visits.  Wouldn’t it be great to invite authors into your classroom or library to video chat with students before, during, and/or after reading their books? We are growing a list of authors who want to make that connection with you via Skype. Visit our Skype Overview page to learn more about Skype.

I have not yet used the service but it sounds very interesting.  I am amazed at how many authors are willing to Skype for little to no cost.  This is ideal for shrinking budgets.  From experience, it costs around $2000 to host a visiting author.  This is actually on the cheap side.  What if one could take this same $2000 and have 10-15 authors during the school year that relate to what the students are learning and interested in?  This sounds great to me.  Especially in a school of multiple grades…..there is no way to make every grade happy.  I am in a K-3 building and it is difficult to find an author that works for all levels.  What you end up doing it focusing on K-1 one year and then 2-3 the next year.  The range of reading levels is immense!

So check out Virtual Author visits and introduce your students to a variety of authors and experiences.  If you are an author check it out and sign up!

Directions for Teachers and Librarians

Directions for Authors

PostHeaderIcon Skype vs. H.323 Videoconferencing

Skype is a free video conferencing solution.  The user only needs a web cam and they are ready to go.  I have used the systems from Tandberg and Polycom and Skype really gives the 15K systems a run for their money.  Although Skype does not offer multi-point connections, a cloud website solves that problem (which I will discuss later).

How to connect teachers and other educators?  Skype realized educators were beginning to utilize their product.  Skype then created a section called Skype in the Classroom.  This has excited me immensely because it connects classrooms and projects.  Skype is accessible to everyone and is not limited to those with a 15K video conferencing system.  Whereas a school might have 1 video conferencing system, with Skype each classroom can have a webcam and the software.

But traditional video conferencing systems, with a bridge, can connect multiple people at the same time.  This is a fabulous feature if you are trying to have an event.  Blue Jean Network is a cloud website that allows simultaneous connections using traditional video conferencing units and webcams.  This is very exiting because prior to this site connecting a H.323 videoconferencing system with just Skype and webcams was not possible.  This left many free opportunities unavailable for those schools without H.323 equipment.


Examples of Skype Projects:

Skype Across the US — teachers are Skyping with 1 school from each state in the US.  Questions about each location are answered and time is left for questions.  You can find an example of the questions here from a connection I participated in with a school in Iowa.

Roar Book Club – Our middle school book club in South Carolina, USA hopes to connect with a class in the United Kingdom to discuss the book The Roar by Emma Clayton. Please contact me if you are interested, There are three different middle school book clubs participating, so we could chat with up to three other groups maybe four if that works better for your group.

Performances – My kindergarten students are learning about plays. They are reading many and learning parts of their own to perform. It would be fun to get to put the play on for an audience through Skype. This way the students can have a purpose and a live audience. This will make the learning more authentic for them. If anyone would like to put on a play for us to watch, it would be great as well. The play will be about 10-15 minutes long.

Pen Pals — students can write/email each other and meet via Skype.

Whats Your Weather – Kindergarten class is going to be studying weather and would like to talk with another class from other parts of the world (or US) about what their weather is right now. The unit will be covered in the next few weeks (April). If you are interested in kids discussing what they know about weather and what our current weather is, please let me know.

My favorite webcam is the BlueEye which is High Definition and the microphone is pretty good.  This can be found quite reasonably on

Enjoy and start Skyping!

More info here


PostHeaderIcon 150 Free e-Textbooks

So sorry for the lack of updates.  It is spring break this week and I have been a cleaning fool.  However, in one of my moments of rest I discovered a website filled with eTextbooks.  They are all free and in numerous categories including math, earth science, biology, art history, education, history, business, physics, and many more.  The author of the post will be including more as they are discovered.  So keep this link in your delicious or bookmark.

For more information on eTextbooks check out this post.

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April 2014
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