What Tech Am I Using Today? Stormboard

Another day, another fun new tool to make my life a bit easier. Today, I’m exploring Stormboard.

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This is where you can select new things to post onto your board.

Stormboard is meant to allow folks to collaborate on project planning, and features a giant white canvas onto which each team member may post digital “sticky notes.” These notes can be moved around and even connected, and team members may comment on the ideas posted thereon.  Continue reading

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19 Pencils

Here’s a great pick from AASL’s “Best Websites for Teaching and Learning 2014” list. 19 Pencils is a one-stop lesson plan organizer, where teachers can find great lesson plans, save the ones they like, add their own lesson plans, and provide easy access of classroom resources to students. Phew!

19 Pencils features

Once you sign up, you have a Teacher Dashboard where you can save all of your lesson plans, add new ones, and save the online resources that go along with the lessons (all those links that you keep in your bookmarks folder!). Create a Class Page, and upload the resource to it with one click to share it with your students.

Class pages

If you want to spring for the premium version, you can also create quizzes and educational games (like word searches) and track student progress.

A New Look for Encyclopaedia Britannica

Hopefully, you’re all already aware of the amazing resource we have at our fingertips: Encyclopaedia Britannica School Edition. Britannica is the gold standard for encyclopedias, and its online content (available through the Applewild library website) is the perfect starting point for any and all research projects. The site has recently undergone quite the facelift, though, so I thought I’d point out a few things.

The Home Page

Home Page

It’s pretty easy to spot this change: the home page has been refined and simplified. It’s now so easy to choose a level and search from the home page. Hovering over each level reveals a search box, so you don’t even need to click through to start searching! The middle level replaces what used to be Compton’s Encyclopedia.

Tabs

Tabbed Search

Search results and articles are now tabbed, so even if you selected the elementary level (level 1), you can still see what comes up for middle (level 2) and high (level 3). This is really handy, because if you’re reading the middle level entry on Halloween and finding that it doesn’t quite cover what you need, one click will take you to the more detailed Halloween entry in the high level.

Content Types

Content types

There is now a sidebar that allows you to sort your results by content type. If you’re specifically looking for images, this is where you can easily narrow your search. This new sidebar also highlights a feature that was always there, but got little attention: the “Web’s Best Sites” feature. In addition to having its own content, Britannica has curated several outside websites that have good-quality content. Selecting this content type will give you a list of non-Britannica websites with content related to whatever you’re searching.

Dictionary

Dictionary

Britannica always had a built-in dictionary, but now it’s even easier to use. Simply double-click on a word, and a definition (from Merriam-Webster dictionary) pops up.

Table of Contents button

Table of Contents

To help with navigation, each heading within the article is accompanied by a button that will display the entire article’s contents, so students can easily skip to another section.

In general, the new layout has much less “noise,” so students should have a much easier time finding what they’re looking for. All the content in each article displays on one page, so students no longer have to click through several pages to find what they’re looking for (or neglect to see the multiple pages and miss out on lots of content). The interface is cleaner and more modern, and the content really shines through.

A great improvement! Go check it out!

Pocket

Pocket logo

It feels like the end of a years-long quest. Finally, after trying dozens of tools (LiveBinders, sqworl, Symbaloo, Delicious, Diigo, Scoop.It… the list goes on and on!), I have finally found The One. A tool that organizes my many (MANY) bookmarks, gets them off my bookmarks toolbar and into the Cloud, that comes with an iPhone app to put all my bookmarks in my pocket.

Pocket.

Pocket has everything I was looking for:

  • Interface. For me, a beautiful, simple interface is crucial, because so many bookmarking sites are filled with clutter that overwhelm me.
  • Browser extension. Pocket has a lovely little extension for your browser (I use Chrome) that makes adding a new bookmark as easy as clicking on a tiny pocket button. While many competitors have this same feature, I found that they asked for additional information (title of site, etc) and ran really slowly. With Pocket, clicking the button is all you have to do, and it works in the blink of an eye.
  • Tags. Before, my bookmarks were organized into folders. There are two problems with this system: 1) You can’t search for bookmarks in folders, and 2) Unless you want repeats, a bookmark only lives in one folder at a time. With tags, you can tag a single page with many words, putting it in lots of categories at once. Tags are also searchable, and you use Pocket to pull up all pages that have a particular tag.
  • Accessibility across platforms. Because I use two computers (home and work) plus an iPhone, I need my bookmarks to travel with me. By installing the Pocket app on my phone, I can access it from everywhere.

My Pocket homepage, with tags listed down the right side.

Technically, Pocket is a reader app. Originally called “Read It Later,” it was designed to clip articles, videos, and photos so that you can read them later, when you have time. Once read, you can archive them, or mark them as a favorite. The app is still useful in this way, and if you find yourself frequently coming across articles online, and want to hold onto them for a while, Pocket works beautifully. However, it has the power and flexibility to be used as long-term storage for your favorite recipes, blog posts, kitty videos, lesson plans, educational videos, and much more.

Pocket seems to have a pretty good following, and gets lots of love from tech blogs, so I’m hoping it will stick around for a while. Just in case, I still have a hidden folder with all my bookmarks. For now, though, the search is over!

Thanksgiving Symbaloo

This post is actually two rolled into one. First, it’s a post about a site that has collected Thanksgiving-themed games and activities and put them all in one easy-to-access place. The Symbaloo Thanksgiving Mix features word searches, flash games, trivia, and even coloring. If you’re looking for a fun activity during these last few days before Thanksgiving, this is pretty much one-stop shopping.

As if that’s not exciting enough, this post is also about the Web 2.0 tool Symbaloo. Symbaloo allows you to take your favorite bookmarks and links and turn them into a single page of tiles. You can also use Symbaloo to find other people’s “web mixes” and enjoy the sites they have collected curated. It’s a simple and fun way to bring together the sites you want your students to use, and display them in a graphical way.

Pixlr

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but it seems like every free, easy-to-use image editor has gone under. First, it was Picnick, now Aviary. I think I should stop posting about them, because as soon as I do a writeup, they go away. So let’s all keep our fingers crossed that Pixlr is here to stay!

Pixlr is a simple, web-based photo editor that allows you to add cool filters, frames, and effects to your pictures and photos. Using their free Open Pixlr Express, I was able to turn this familiar photo of Crocker:

Image

into a cool, vintage-looking one (complete with coffee stain):

Image

It’s a pretty fun tool to play around with.