Monday, March 19, 2012

Khan Academy: Forgetaboutit.

Go ahead, flip your classroom.  Learn to make your own Khan Academy styled videos for free.

Bill Gates loves the Khan Academy and CBS/60 Minutes has just brought them into the public conscientiousness with a recent feature story. (see the whole video below).

The Flipped Classroom concept is not new; it was not developed by Sal Khan, but with millions of dollars in support from the likes of Google, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and others, he is doing a pretty good job defining it.

The rest of the article is continued below the infographic.

Flipped Classroom Infographic

Created by Knewton and Column Five Media

I may be in the vast minority of educators that actually like the Khan Academy videos.  If I need to learn a new concept, I always turn to the Internet (anything from a forgotten Algebra concept to installing a bathroom vanity). I much prefer video tutorials to text directions; they fit my learning style better. I am also an intrinsically motivated learner.  This is may not be the case for your students.  Most students are not intrinsically motivated to learn something that is not directly relevant to their life.  Also, this form of content delivery may not fit a students preferred learning style.  This is where blended learning comes into play (which is a story for another day).  Khan can not replace teachers; his approach focuses on one leaning style,  it doesn't allow for higher order thinking, application, or discussion.   It can however be one ingredient in a student's personal education plan.

For what it is, Khan does work.  As an educator we would be foolish not to use it, or at least  "borrow" a chapter from their book. Khan is not high tech by any stretch of the imagination.   Sal Khan uses basic software to create his videos and so can you. Khan uses Smoothdraw 3 (free) as his digital whiteboard, Camtasia ($) to record his videos and a Wacom slate ($) to write. He then uploads the videos to his website, but he got his start uploading them to Youtube. This is nothing more than fancy screencasting.

Khan videos do not cover all subjects.  They are very basic, and may not fit perfectly with your curriculum.  The solution?  Make your own Khan inspired videos using a number of free tools.

1. The Hardware (the only part that is not free).  If you feel like you need to write in your screencast, your trusty old mouse is not going to cut it.  You may need a slate of some sort.  Forget that fancy Wacom tablet.  Head on over to and pick up a basic graphics tablet ($15).  If you are going to record on your desktop pc (most newer laptops have them built in), you may want to pick up a microphone ($4) too. * I do not work for Monoprice, they just offer a quality product and a very reasonable price.  They also have special education pricing and will accept a purchase order.

2.  The Software.  This part could be endless as we have so many options, so I will list a few that I have had personal success with.

  • Khan uses Smoothdraw 3.  I have personally never tried it, but obviously it works.  
  • Camstudio is a free screen recording software tool that you could use instead of Camtasia.  
  • Jing limits you to 5 minutes, but it is records, uploads, and stores all in one place. A personal favorite. 
  • Screenr is very similar to Jing, but it is browser based, no download required.
  • Screencast-o-matic - Browser based screen recorder like Screenr.  You can record for 15 minutes at a time with a free account or get unlimited recording time and more for only $15 a year.  Very impressive tool all around.  
  • Sketchcast is an online whiteboard.  Record and store your  videos all in one place. 
  • ShowMe (iPad app).  I had to add this one. If you have an iPad, this free app gives you a digital whiteboard, records your voice, and even uploads and stores your recording on their website.
Many more options are available.  Please feel free to suggest your favorites in the comments section.

3. Storage /Sharing.  While most of the screencasting tools above store your screencast, you may consider embedding them on a blog , Google site, or Edmodo group/class (Khan has an Edmodo Community that you can join for free.  In that community they have tons of math videos you can add to your Library).    If you decide to go the traditional (Khan way) and use Smoothdraw and Camstudio you will need to upload them.  For that I would suggest Schooltube or Teachertube over Youtube. They are both free, easy to use, and safe.  

Happy Screencasting. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Not Quite a Webquest: Web Bundles

True "Webquests" follow a very specific format originally developed by Bernie Dodge.  I always felt that this format was too constricting, not to mention time consuming.   The basic premise behind the Webquest is to give students a structured lesson online (where the media is). 

Enter the Bundle.  The concept here is to quickly "bundle together" several websites in a logical format to create an online assignment or research vessel.  The difference here is the emphasis on speed and efficiency of creation. 

The wonderful world of Web 2.0 tools is going to be our partner in this endeavor.  Literally dozens of sites enable the user to "bundle" multiple sites into one tidy package.  I have mentioned Livebinders before, but sites like, symbaloo, and jobtheweb all can be used in a similar fashion.  Please note that it is the streamline concept of creation and publishing we are going for here today, and not a specific tool.

HERE is a small assignment that I have bundled together for a colleague of mine that teaches 6th grade science. We will use it as our bundle example. I have used three web 2.0 tools to create the lesson and will explain the process in detail below.

(Update 3-20-12 - The inability to edit a stich after publishing has been a drawback for some.  If this is a sticking point for you, may I suggest you try instead.  The activity will look different, but the concept is still the same.)

Here is a ecology activity made my an amazing 6th grade teacher in my district.  She used bundlenut as the delivery device. 

A. The backbone of this assignment (which bundles the six pages of the activity together), is You paste a list of websites into a simple form on the website and it bundles them together.  You can add directions at the top of each page, which I find particularly useful when creating an assignment.  This tool is free and does not require a sign in. does have a few drawbacks.

1. PDF files do not display in the Stich and must be accessed using an outside link. I feel this takes away from the flow of the assignment, so to solve this issue I used another web 2.0 tool, to change the pdf into a flash format.  It is WAY easier than it sounds.  The site did all the work and it took literally seconds. is also free.  

2. You can not edit the Stich once it is published.  They claim to be addressing this issue in a future update, but until then I found it useful to compile my links and descriptions in a Word document and then paste them in the Stich when it became time to publish.

B. The directions page is written with a very useful website,  No sign in required.  This tool allows the user to basically create a static website using a WYSIWYG editor.  Html editing is also available.

C. Finally, I used a Google form to craft the assessment activity on page six.

One last suggestion for creating Web Bundles.  I strongly suggest you use a modern tabbed brower like Google Chrome. You will be doing a large amount of copying and pasting from one resource to the other.  Additionally, at one point in this process I had over ten tabs opened and Chrome handled the workload without a hitch.

Happy Bundling...

Monday, March 5, 2012

Edmodo - A PLN for you, your class, school, or district.

It seems like you can't go anywhere in the world of educational technology without someone mentioning Edmodo.  I have to be honest, until recently I did not understand what all the hype was about.  I primarily work with Middle and High School teachers to integrate technology.  I always felt that the "facebook like" experience would not be as appealing to students that actually used social networking.  For that age group, I tend to think that content creation is king (reference this post).

All my previous ideas about what Edmodo was came crashing down when I attendended FETC this year.  Edmodo was a major sponsor of the conference and as a result, each of the sessions had a separate Edmodo group for discussion during the session, and to encourage participants to "continuing the conversion" after the conference was over.   I now saw Edmodo in a whole new light.  It could be used for professional development, networking within the district and so much more.

Getting Started

Whether your thinking about using Edmodo with your class, for yourself, or as a district,  Edmodo holds your hand through the entire process.  Outstanding resources for each of implementation models can be found at

While Edmodo is an IDEAL tool for 1:1, it can still be a tremendously useful collaboration tool for a typical classroom.  This is how I conduct a training to introduce teachers to this tool.

1.  I download this PowerPoint from the Edmodo help sectioned mentioned above.  I modified a few of the slides to fit my needs better, and removed the animations (not a fan of objects flying in).  While I dislike PowerPoint for instruction as a general rule, I think it works well here to guide the session in a logical format.  Additionally, with all the screen shots I do not need to switch back and forth from the presentation to the application to demonstrate what the slide is trying to convey. 

2.  On the second page of this PowerPoint I embedded the video below to grab the attention of the group and as an overview of what was to come/possible.

3.  Finally, I am a huge fan of short handouts in professional development sessions.  It gives the teacher something to reference or share at a later time. They can also be easily modified to use with their students.  Long multi-page handouts can be hard to follow and waste paper in my option.  Here is a link to download the one page getting started guide that I created.  Feel free to use or modify it to fit your needs.

*Totally random plug for  They are an awesome online file storage service.   I used it to share the handout above with you.  A teacher's digital toolbox can never have enough tools and tricks.

Please feel free to ask questions or share your own Edmodo experiences in the comments section.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

iPad Apps for School Administrators

The iPad can be an incredible tool for the busy School Administrator.  Below you will find a list of time tested applications for the iPad.   I am in no way compensated by the app developers for the recommendations below, just sharing the good word.

Enjoy, share, add your own recommendations in the comments.  Special thanks to @ldnoggle for her input on this list.

* Denotes that the app also has an online/software counterpart that can be accessed using the same username and password.


(Update) Sending an email with an attachment - This is concept is often overlooked and can cause some frustration for the new iPad user.  On a PC you compose an email and then add the attachment from the email program.  You have done this probably thousands of times.   On the iPad that process in reversed.  You start with the file you wish to attach to the email (picture, pdf...) and "share" that file via email.  The link above is to a very well written article on the subject by the iPad Academy. 

* - You may be able to count on Apple releasing an updated iPad each spring, but you can’t count on the price of its apps to stay the same.  Apps fluctuate in price. Large developers typically hold app sales around the holidays, but many times, price drops are random and only last a day or two.  To take full advantage of these price fluctuations I use Appshopper.  Simply create a free account and tell Appshopper which apps you “want.” When the price drops, you will be alerted by email of the price change.

Google sync for iPad Calendars - By default the iPad will only sync your default Google Calendar to your iPad.  If you have multiple calendars you would like to view on your iPad, you will need to use Google Sync.  Be sure you are logged into your Google account and then click the link.  From the link, check the calendars you want to be viewable on your iPad and Save.

Add bookmark to the homescreen - You may find that you use the same website a lot (ex. an observation walkthrough you use daily in Google Forms).  Add that bookmark to your home screen and launch it like any other app.


*These apps also have an online/software counterpart that can be accessed using the same username and password.
File Storage
*Dropbox - A very popular online file storage service.  The desktop version automatically saves and synchronizes files saved to the special Dropbox folder on your computer to your online Dropbox account.  These files can be accessed online or from your iPad using the app.  Installing this app on your iPad also gives you the option to save files (pictures, pdfs, etc.) from your iPad to your Dropbox account directly.   Dropbox files in all three places (computer, iPad, and online) are completely synchronized.  (Free)

* - Similar to Dropbox, minus the desktop synchronization, plus more free storage.  Upload and share files online or from your iPad.  (Free)

News/Content Curation
Flipboard - Named Apple's "App of the Year" for good reason.  Any website with a feed can be subscribed through Flipboard.  Flipboard turns these feeds into a magazine like reading experience.  Not using Twitter?  Use Flipboard to subscribe to the following feeds: #edadmin, #edtech, #education.  For what it’s worth, this is my all time favorite app. (Free)

Zite - Apposed to telling Zite specific sites to pull from like you do in Flipboard; Zite in true semantic fashion uses a system of “likes” and “dislikes” (think Pandora) to learn your interests and then delivers you a personalized “newspaper” based on those finding.  A little creepy? Yes.  Cool? Definitely.  (Free)

Google Translate - Type or speak into the iPad’s microphone and this app will do a darn good job translating it to a number of different languages.  Translations are produced in both text and audible versions.  Could you use this app to have a basic conversation with a limited English speaking student or parent?  Maybe. (Free)

*Skype for iPad - Skype just works.  It is a very reliable instant messaging and video conferencing tool.  With the inclusion of the front facing camera on the iPad 2, using your iPad to video conference with other Skype users could not be easier. (Free)

Note taking and organization
*Evernote - An extremely popular web service made even better in app form.  Store notes, photos, to-do lists, and voice reminders, all one safe (searchable) location.  See some innovative ways Principals can use Evernote (Free)

PaperPort Notes (formerly Noterize) Type, hand write, or speak (voice memo or voice to text) your notes into creation. You can also annotate outside documents like.pdf files then export them directly to Evernote, email, Dropbox, and more. (Free)

Dragon Dictation  Voice to text recognition from the makers of Dragon® NaturallySpeaking® Good for note taking, email dictation, or updating social networks. (Free)

Skitch for iPad  Annotate pictures, screenshots, maps, and WebPages with shapes, arrows and digital ink/.  Share these markups via email.  (Free)

Pages, Keynote, Numbers  Apple’s answer to Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Excel respectively.  Open, edit, or create Word, PowerPoint, and Excel files directly in the app. Files can be exported via email so you will have no problems with compatibility. Seamless integration with other apps like Evernote, Dropbox, Box, and more are also a plus. ($9.99 Each)

Weather Channel for iPad A very useful weather app.  What school administrator doesn’t need to be a part-time weather man? Between weather related school closings and delays, student drivers, athletics, and planning outside events, you may find this to be indispensable. (Free)

Splashtop Remote Desktop - One of the only pay apps on the list.  This one is pure genius.  Install the app on your iPad and then download a small program to your computer from the developer’s website.  Run the program on your pc and use this app to view and control your pc from anywhere on your schools network!   A username and password on the pc side keeps the connection secure.   ($.99 - $4.99)

Common Core Standards: This app puts the K-12 Language Arts and Math Common Core Standards at your fingertips. Great for walkthroughs, meetings, etc...(Free)

Google Search. Instant access to all your Google Apps, as well as Internet search. You can also use this one as a QR code scanner or to search the web using the integrated camera (point the camera at an object and Google searches for it on the web). (Free)

App Shopper - The app version of the very useful website describe in detail at the top. (Free)

Qrafter - A dedicated QR code scanner and writer for the iPad.  (Free)

*Edmodo This insanely popular web service is now available in iPad form.  Network with your teachers and other administrators.  Join the conversation by contributing to classroom discussions at your school. (Free)

*Hootsuite  Dozens of these twitter management tools exist in the marketplace, but Hootsuite for iPad has a number of features that set it apart.  From scheduling your tweets, to “tracking columns,” this app has it all for the professional interested in networking. (Free)

EBook/.pdf Readers

*Kindle Amazon is a leader in the digital distribution of books, textbooks, magazines, and newspapers.  Do not have a kindle? You do not need to miss out.  Typically, Kindle books cost less than their paper counterparts. You can also “borrow” Kindle books from your local library.  All this and the ability to email .pdf files to your kindle account, make the Kindle app for iPad an ideal digital reading platform. (Free)

iBooks- Apples official answer to the eBook, digital textbook, magazine and newspaper market.  Purchasing books is simple, using your iTunes account. Open and save .pdf files from email attachments in the .pdf library section of this app for on the fly reference (Free)
Note: Depending on the iOS version on your device, your iPad may have come preloaded with this app.  If not, it is just a download away. (Free)

photo credit: la legra negra via photopin cc


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