Jul 17 2013

Graphite: Unbiased Reviews of Apps, Websites & More (by educators, for educators)



With the millions of websites and mobile apps out there vying for attention from educators, it’s difficult to know which ones are really educationally sound and worthy of class time. Sure, there are hundreds of sites that “review” apps, but this one is different in many ways.


First, keep in mind that Common Sense Media (the organization behind this site) is a non-profit group with a solid reputation for providing resources for teaching digital citizenship. Second, apps are reviewed by a team of vetted educators and “field notes” are provided by teachers from all over the globe. Third, the reviews are two-fold: a Learning rating and a Teacher rating. The Learning rating is based on solid pedagogy. And finally, the search capabilities are amazing- filter by grade level, subject, resource type, etc.


The site is still young and growing- but I am confident that it will become a major player, if not the industry standard, in educational technology reviews!

BTW- this was probably the greatest “takeaway” for us from ISTE 2013. If you missed it there, take a look at the recording here!

Apr 6 2013

How I quickly share text online- and avoid character limits (take that, Twitter!)



There may be times when you need to post some text somewhere online but don’t want to mess with editing a website, making a new blog post, or logging in to edit your wiki, etc. For example, someone recently asked me (via Twitter) about my presentation schedule for an upcoming conference. The problem- Twitter only allows me 140 characters and I needed to share quite a bit more than that. And I didn’t want to log in and make a post on my blog and give out the URL- what a hassle!

A while back, I would’ve used www.textbin.com to enter some text and just paste the link to my note. Unfortunately, that website is now in the Web 2.0 graveyard. So why not www.heypasteit.com?

The idea is simple- just type or paste text into the text box on the website, click “Paste Online” and it generates a unique URL for your note. You just share the URL (or just the code) and give it to whomever you want. That’s it! No accounts. No logins. Just paste & share. It’s not fancy, doesn’t have some of the more advanced features that other similar sites have (like http://pastebin.com/). But it’s clean and simple.

If you want to see how it looks on the receiving end, here’s my note I referred to earlier about an upcoming conference schedule: http://www.heypasteit.com/clip/0RHC. Notice you can download the text as a file (.txt).

I can think of all kinds of uses for this. I’m sure you can too- but will you remember it’s there for you when you need it? And will the website still be there or will they have been gobbled up by Google? Only time will tell. Until then, I’m going to use it to my advantage!

Apr 1 2013

For April Fool’s: Flip text upside down with Flip Text!



This site has no real practical uses other than to annoy your readers, email recipients, or students. But it does make for a great prank!

Simply go to the site, enter your text, click the button to flip it, then copy the resulting text to paste back into an email, blog, website, or wherever you want. See, this blog post looks like this when flipped:

Annoying, right? Just a word of caution- not all blogs, websites, and email clients will accept this upside-down text and will substitute something entirely different (like a font substitution) filled with illegible symbols and characters.

Want to be even more vexatious- turn the font color to white! Just saying…



Mar 17 2013

Who’s bringing what? Stop the back-and-forth emails with Sign-up Genius!



It happens all the time- your team, group, or class decides to have some party, get-together, or luncheon requiring everyone to sign up for something. Once upon a time, sign-up sheets were posted outside an office door, cubicle wall, or lounge bulletin board. Then someone had a bright idea: “Let’s email each other what we are signing up for!” And so the email madness begins. You know, it goes something like…

Sally decides to bring fruit salad, and so does Jill. Their emails to the whole group cross in the ether. Tony decides to bring a corn casserole but forgets to email the whole group and just emails the person coordinating. Then Sally sees Jill’s email and retracts her own and decides to bring a Jell-O salad at the same time Jill decides to bring an Apple-Walnut tart. So in the end no one brings fruit salad, three people bring corn casserole, and the plasticware was left off the list!

Sign-up Genius pushes this to the cloud and takes care of it all… and yes, its FREE! So let’s say we are having an end-of-year party at school and we need parents to donate certain things. So here is the sign-up sheet for all to see and use (go ahead, try it- it’ll just send me an email):


No, we aren’t really having a party, though that would be all kinds of fun!

A few great settings that can be selected in the creation process:

  • Can require an access code to sign up for items
  • Can ask customized questions
  • Users can leave their own comments
  • Notify me by email when someone signs up
  • Send reminders to group members X days before the date they signed up
  • Allow a list member to “swap” slots with another member

So for the love of all things good, please pass this on to your room mothers, PTA coordinators, party planners, your Aunt Anne, and anyone else who needs people to sign up for things- it will save a lot of time and hassle (and keep those insane “Reply to All” email messages to a minimum).

Dec 11 2012

Remember Everything! Every time! Access Everywhere!- With Evernote!




Let me apologize ahead of time- I get real excited about Evernote. You may even call me an Evernote evangelist of sorts.

I have not blogged about Evernote before now for a couple reasons:

  1. There aren’t enough words to do this justice.
  2. Hasn’t everyone already heard of Evernote?

There are only a few programs that I launch daily that I cannot live without- and Evernote is one of them. What is it and why do I need it? Those are the hardest questions of all so let me see if I can summarize it:

  • A platform to let you remember and access all of your information when you and where you need it
  • Your digital life coach and manager
  • Your lifesaver in time of need
  • Your agent of change- start leading a “paperless” life

Evernote works on the concept of “Notes.” You add a note to your account using a device (computer, tablet, phone, etc.). The note can contain text, of course, but can also contain a photo, a link, a file, almost anything digital. You can then access that note at anytime once it is synced to the server. You can also share that note with others when you want!

Rather than be bore you with the details, here are some practical ways I use Evernote:

  • Post-it note replacement- Instead of writing something down on a little note, I just whip out my phone and make a quick note within Evernote. I then can access that note later.
  • Son’s football practice schedule- I take a picture of the printed football schedule (called a “snapshot” in Evernote). Then that text in the photo is searchable. Let me repeat that- any text in any image is searchable (sort of like the way scanners use OCR). This works even for handwritten text within an image!
  • Take a picture of a PPT slide during a presentation
  • Take snapshots of business cards, then trash the card itself
  • Take snapshots of receipts- I inevitably will misplace paper receipts. Taking a snapshot makes them searchable and can show them to the store so they can get the information they need for exchanges and refunds!
  • Take a snapshot of a diagram or poster on a bulletin board, etc.
  • Take a snapshot of a book I’d like to read or buy later (since I won’t remember the title or author on my own) Continue reading

Nov 10 2011

Walk on the Wild Side


Well, contrary to popular belief, I am not dead, maimed or otherwise deposed. I guess I’ll just say I’ve been busy. It’s been a while since I posted (hanging head in shame), but I’m back! We’re finally into the swing of school, and things are settling into a routine… I’ll probably get it under control around the beginning of May :-)


I’m posting today about a cool website my dear buddy Janet showed me a while back. It’s an awesome avatar maker sponsored by the New York Zoos and Aquarium called BuiLD YouR WiLD SeLF. I love this and I know kids do too. To start, you put in your name and decide whether you are a girl or a boy. Then you can customize your avatar with choices of hair, eyes, mouths, and clothes. That’s if you want a human avatar like this one.

Continue reading

Aug 17 2011

Not Stupefy… Boolify!



This interactive website allows student to see the effects of using Boolean operators (AND, NOT, OR) in a standard Google search. Simply drag the puzzle pieces to the stage, enter the keywords, and watch as the number of hits goes from millions to thousands to just a few.

In my example, searching for “Dallas” OR “Cowboys” yielded about 217 Million hits. Whereas changing the operator to AND yielded about 17.4 Million hits. This is a great way for students to visually build Boolean searches and instantly see the effects on search results (which are displayed below the stage).

While you’re there, check out the page full of lessons, including a great video about Boolean searching in plain English!

Apr 8 2011

Automatic Screencasts with Screencast-O-Matic



When it comes to creating screen recordings for tutorials and such, there are many options available.

For high-end users who need lots of options (and are willing to sell their firstborn, you may prefer Adobe’s Captivate. I’ve used that for years (thanks to volume pricing for our district) and love it. It has every bell and whistle you could ever want.

And then there’s Jing- a nice, free offering from TechSmith, the makers of Snag-it. It has it’s limits and disadvantages (like the way it must be installed and runs in the background, etc.), but it’s a very useful tool.

Wink is another nice screen capture tool, but its user interface and appearance looks like it was left over from 1995.

Once upon a time, there was one of my favorites, Screentoaster. That now resides in the Web 2.0 graveyard.

Taking it’s place is Screencast-O-Matic. This cool screen capture tool is awesome for many reasons:

  • It’s totally web-based with nothing to install.
  • Your screen recordings are automatically saved to and streamed from their servers.
  • Screencasts can be embedded or linked to.
  • Captures include audio and text captions (notes).
  • Captures can be downloaded as mp4, flv, or avi files.
  • And best of all, it’s FREE! FREE! FREE!

Here’s a screencast I made to show users how to embed images in a Kidblog post.



<iframe width=502 height=383 frameborder=”0″ scrolling=”no” src=”http://www.screencast-o-matic.com/embed?sc=cXe0qToQD&w=500&v=3″></iframe>

Jan 15 2011

Earth-Touch: Free Hi-Def Nature Videos to Download



This site comes to us courtesy of South Africa- appropriate since the site is a collection of incredible video footage of the natural world including animals and the environment. Moreover, the site allows you to actually download the videos in standard def or HD (720p)- or you can choose to stream it directly from their site if you so wish. The ability to embed their videos in your own site is not a feature (yet) so click on this screenshot below to be taken to their page with this incredible video:

As you can see, they provide more than just video- it’s sort of an interactive encyclopedia that just happens to have some of the best video footage around.

Sep 27 2010

Shahi: A Flickr Visual Dictionary



This simple but useful website allows a user to enter a word then defines that word using lexical content from Wiktionary. No big deal, right? The best part is that it simultaneously pulls up images from Flickr, Google Images, or Yahoo. This way, students can instantly visualize what is being defined. Here are a couple examples (interesting enough, type in “goonie” to see what you get!):