Category Archives: Online Tools

Tuesday’s Tool: Engaging Presentations with Prezi

Bored with the same old presentation software? Want to spice up your presentations and involve your audience? Prezi might be the alternative for which you’re looking.

Prezi is an online zooming presentation tool. The projects students are able to create on Prezi are more interactive for viewers and focus on the information. The presentation is set up to follow a path to lead the viewer through in an interesting and engaging manner. Emphasis is placed on focal points of the information and anyone going through the presentation will understand the importance of the message being conveyed. Prezi is a new and interesting way to present ideas. Check it out!

Carla Chaffin is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center.

Thursday’s Tip: Authentic Problems with INTERoBANG

I am always encouraging teachers to find real world applications for their content and to encourage students to solve problems.  The Partnership for 21st Century Learning lists problem solving and creative thinking as skills our students will need for their  future.

How do we engage in our students in wanting to solve authentic problems?

The website INTERRoBANG has just made these skills easier to teach and intriguing to students.  The website has masked the problem solving as a game, containing many missions for students from grade 6-12 to complete.  Students choose a mission, create a plan, solve the mission and post their findings using multimedia.  With a successful post, the team earns points and eventually can earn prizes.  INTERoBang also encourages teams to create missions, taking the thinking process to another level.

I haven’t used INTERoBANG with students, but the idea is exciting and intriguing!  Even if you don’t want to register and play the game there are some great authentic learning  ideas you could incorporate into many content areas!  Watch this video to learn more!

Carmen Marty is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center.

Alternatives to the Typical Classroom Website

School districts are cutting back on server space and software purchasing. This makes it hard to create and maintain usable classroom websites. Luckily, the Web is loaded with plenty of free alternatives.

You say your school is unable to purchase Dreamweaver? Try Nvu. For those who like to have more control than templates offer and no funds to purchase expensive software, NVU is a good alternative to the popular Dreamweaver.

Server space for websites is being drastically cut? If you’re okay with templates, Google Sites and Weebly both offer some great hosting options. With the right know-how, one does not have to be limited to templates, but both services offer a nice variety of templates with many features that will improve the interactivity of your site. Google’s sites offer seamless integration of the many Google tools also available for free. Weebly is a slick online web editor and host that also offers many interactive components to take your site to the next level.

Sometimes districts offer a small amount of space for a “templated” web page, but there are limits to resources. Simply tap into the many web-based tools that are free to users with an email address in order to enhance your students’ experience.

As mentioned above, Google offers many tools that can be easily converted to educational purposes. Google calendars provide both a self-standing website option and an embed-able element so that you can add this feature to your own site. Google Groups can provide a password protected space for discussion and file sharing. Google Docs give you the opportunity to produce collaborative documents, spreadsheets, images, surveys and quizzes, and presentations. Many of the tools on Google Docs can easily be “hacked” to fit teacher and student needs involving sharing and privacy as well as web publication possibilities. These free tools only skim the surface of what Google has to offer and did I mention it was all free? 😉

For lists of resources, teachers can utilize any number of social bookmarking sites. There’s Delicious which uses tags and clouds to create user-friendly interfaces and organizational systems. Diigo has many great collaborative possibilities. EverNote even takes the collaboration a step further and offers a desktop version for easy syncing. All of these tools can be used to provide students their own Internet-based libraries specific for their needs.

Communication is an important component of any teacher’s responsibilities. What better online tool for communication is there than the blog? Google has Blogger. WordPress is another great blogging tool and is utilized over at Edublogs. Blogs are free to set up and provide many opportunities for interaction with your students, parents, and colleagues.

This is just the tip of the ice berg when it comes to free tools that can provide an alternative to the traditional classroom website. Almost any online tool has a practical classroom application. What are some of the tools you use for your classroom website?

Zac Early is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center. You can read some of his other posts over at Suppl_eMINTS.

Big Huge Labs

I don’t know if any of you have had the chance to look at Big Huge Labs before, but it is well worth the visit.  This is a Flickr site so it is image based but as I look at some of the “toys” they provide, I think what a cool way for students to demonstrate their understanding, for example, during the “Explain” portion of an inquiry lesson.

Here are a few of their “toys” and ideas I came up with…

  • Trading Card – Provide information about an individual, concept, or new vocabulary word.
  • Badge Maker – Create a badge about a book character, historical figure, or even maybe a character trait.
  • Movie Poster – Great way to review a book.
  • Magazine Cover – Think about highlighting a concept by providing a magazine cover devoted totally to it.
  • Motivator – Another way to do vocabulary, concepts, or character traits.
  • Map Maker – Chart the path of explorers, westward expansion, the overtaking of empires.
  • Billboard – “If you’ve got something important to say, say it BIG. Billboardize your message and a fabulous photo!”
  • Captioner – Interesting to see if they really understand a character.

There are many more “toys” on this site.  I’m sure there are a lot of other ideas which I would love to hear about.  Let me know what you think and what you would do with these various tools at Big Huge Labs.

Terri Brines is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center.

A Delicious Way to Bookmark a Website

A colleague recently introduced me to Delicious, an online bookmarking site.  I’d previously been exposed to ikeepbookmarks, but I found the organizational structure of Delicious fit my needs better.

What do I like about Delicious?  Saving bookmarks is ridiculously easy.  My bookmarks are available from any computer with internet access, and my colleagues with Delicious accounts can choose to receive updates every time I add a bookmark.  Best of all, the bookmarks can be searched and I can categorize them any way I choose, nor am I limited by the number of categories, or tags I use.

Once you create a free Delicious account you can choose to add shortcuts to your  menu bar.  If I open a website that I think my colleagues would like, I click on the “tag” icon and enter it immediately.  No more logging into my web page program to copy and paste the link to a subject specific web page.  I’ve removed all those web pages and replaced it with a link to my Delicious account.  Now my colleagues that are in search of subject specific websites for class can access my Delicious account. It’s easier to keep my Delicious bookmarks up-to-date than my web pages, and I can easily remove links that aren’t being used.

I can make some bookmarks private (just for me to view).  The others are public, for teachers and students in my building to access.

Common Craft has created an excellent 3 minute video that explains social networking and shows how to create an account on Delicious.

Bookmarking in Plain English

Create your free account today and see how easy it is to access your information.

Diane McCormack is a PD4ETS graduate and currently a building technology facilitator for Afton Schools here in Missouri. To access Diane’s Delicious bookmarks, click here.

Google Earth in the Classroom

AntWeb- Google Earth MapWish you could “ travel to cities across the globe, dive into the depths of the ocean, explore remote islands and even fly to faraway galaxies”? You can!

Google Earth allows you and your students to explore the universe. Visit the Google Earth Download page to install Google Earth 5 on your computer. The Google Earth User’s Guide is a great place to learn how to get started. Google Earth Learn allows you and your students to learn skills and practice those by completing challenges.

How will you use Google Earth in your instruction?

Michelle Kendrick is a program coordinator for the eMINTS National Center.

Google Earth as a Collaborative Tool

Google Earth is a great way to help students read maps and develop an understanding of geography, but Google Earth can also be a great tool for sharing data during a collaborative project.

Google Earth allows students to add text, data and pictures to a particular location on a map. Locations can be entered into Google Earth using GPS coordinates or simply an address. Descriptions, data and photos can be added to each location.

All of this material can be saved as a kmz file for sharing with others. These files can be opened in Google Earth for display on any computer. Collaboration with students from different geographic areas can be facilitated by uploading the kmz file to a website or portal where participants from different schools can download the file and add their information.

The Google Earth tutorial is a great place to start in learning to add data to Google Earth documents.

The Google Earth Community also has some helpful tutorials.

Many projects that involve examining different geographic locations could be enhanced by using Google Earth. Consider how adding pictures and text to locations on Google Earth might add to a Flat Stanley Project .

Many science investigations could benefit from using Google Earth to record information collected from different geographic locations. The Pathfinder Science Project involves many such investigations.

What about Chewing the Fat ? In this online project, students from different areas collect examples of slang. In the How Much Does it Cost project ,students compare the cost of items in different areas of the world . The ideas are endless.

Do you have other ideas for using Google Earth for sharing information and data?

Michelle Kendrick is a program coordinator for the eMINTS National Center.

Cool Tool: Jing

The other day I was working on designing an online course and needed a program that I could create a screencast  in order to show participants how to complete a task. After searching the web, I found a neat little program called Jing.

Jing is an easy to use, always available program for creating screenshots and screencasts in any program. It simply sits quietly at the top of your computer screen as a gold colored half-circle. When you want to use it, you just scroll your pointer over the half-circle and options for using the program appear.

It worked great for making a video tutorial, with audio, outlining the process of what I wanted participants to accomplish. After using it for this purpose, I started thinking about how this could be used in a classroom. I could see this being used to capture that tough concept that you outline on the board for the students, and then post it on your website for the students to review later. Or, comment on student work that has been turned in electronically. Check it out for yourself at and see if you can find other uses of Jing. Don’t forget to check out the Overview Video on the site!

Chris Lohman is an instructional specialist for the eMINTS National Center.