Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Some Cool Sites

The Bread Art Project - Art that people have created on bread using their computer.  Also gives you the opportunity to create your own art on bread.  Pretty funny, but for artistic people, a different way to express yourself.  First, choose your type of bread, and then how "toasted" you want your bread "canvas" to be.  There are different tools to paint with as well as different shapes and templates.  The whole site is Java and Flash, so make sure you have the latest updates.  Why visit the site?  Every creation means a dollar donation to support "Share Our Strengths"  Give it a shot and view the gallery.

A new video search engine that seems very promising is Blinkx.  It offers plenty of different categories to choose from when doing your search.  When you complete a search it will find videos from different video sites.  It will either play within the site, or it will take you to an outside link.  So if you are looking for a video, Blinkx would be a great starting point.  Hope you find some success.

Sync.in is another site offering real time document collaboration and conferencing.  One feature that I have not seen in others is that there are color highlight trails for each author making it easy to see who is making each edit.  Any changes that are made to the document are stored on the server and can be undone at any time.  All edits are also kept on a "recorder" so that anyone who missed the collaboration can go back and see what was done.  There is also a chat feature as well.  It seems very promising.  Reminds me of Crocodoc.

AutoMotivator gives you the opportunity to create your own motivational posters.  You know, the kind we see in EVERY administrators office!  Haha.  Now you can create your own, print on nice paper and frame.  The site that is hosting the AutoMotivator also has some tools and widgets that you could use for your website or blog as well.

Rock the Quote is a search engine where you can look up famous quotes by people as well as search for famous speeches.  Search by topic of speech as well.  Would be really good for English and Social Studies teachers.  There are currently over 1500, with more being added.

MyOats - Create some spectacular images just using your mouse.  You can then drag lines to change the shape after you have already made your lines.  You can change colors, zoom in and out, etc etc.  Hard to explain.  Fun to do and play with.  Give it a shot and see what you can create.

iNudge - Using a 16x16 matrix and different instruments you create your own sound and beat.  I kind of liked this.  I am not musically gifted, but someone who is will probably spend quite some time on this site.  Definitely worth visiting.  Entertaining to say the least.

My Weekend Without Technology and Media

I love when I get a Tweet or see a website that sparks thoughts.  I saw a Tweet from Steven Anderson about an experiment where students go A Day Without Media.  I participated in a Great Banquet (A religious reflection weekend) a couple weeks ago.  Part of the weekend was leaving everything behind.  That meant no phone, no watch, not even my wallet.  The weekend went from Thursday night through Sunday afternoon.

Now, I want to point out that I was not where I was able to experience my normal routines.  So, it was not like living my daily life without my Cell Phone or Laptop.  There were instances where I would reach for my pocket all weekend like I was grabbing my phone (I really could have used the iPod function at least to drown out snoring).

The hardest, or weirdest part of the whole experience from the "connected to media" side of things, was never knowing what time it was.  I don't wear a watch.  My phone is my watch.  So I would always go for my pocket when I wondered what time it was, but my phone was not in there.  We rely so much on time and schedules and due dates.  None of that mattered this weekend.  When the weekend was over, I tried my hardest to fight the temptation to pick up my cell phone first thing.  It worked...for about an hour!

I am the type of person that wants to know what is going on in the world.  I like to watch the news.  I like to keep up with sports.  My phone gives me that any time I need it.  My phone is how I communicate with so many friends.  Whether it is Facebook, Text Messages, or Twitter, it is how I talk to people.  It is how I know what is going on in the lives of my friends and family.  Five years ago, knowing any of that did not matter as much.  It is now a staple in so many of our lives.   

Our students feel the same way.  My school has a policy that if a student's cell phone is being used, or goes off in class, it is taken away and then returned at afternoon detention on Friday.  This inability to have their phone so often sends many students off the deep end.  Many don't care, because they just go home and get an old phone to use temporarily.  That is how common they are in their life.

So much of what the students are saying in A Day Without Media I think is what so many of us adults would say as well.  Many people are saying over and over that this constant media connection is a generational thing and that society is losing kids to this constant attachment to teachnology and the media.  The thing is, we as adults and parents are right there next to them.  The difference is, we as their parents have a job to educate on responsible use and encouraging interactive behavior.

So challenge students in you class to experiment going without technology.  See how long it takes them to break.  See how many can do it.  See how their daily routines change.  See if they even know how to live without technology and media today.  What is the worst that could happen...they read a book?

Twitter Tuesday - Some Interesting Apps

First I found today via Ozge Karaoglu on Twitter.  It is a Google Labs App that allows you to search a Twitter name and find people.  The Follow Finder by Google is interesting, yet fairly new.  I typed in my own name and only got three people it recommended.  I tried it again for the heck of it while writing this post and it gave me multiple pages worth.  It provides me Tweeps I might like, as well as Tweeps with similar followers.  Just another way Google is trying to get into the Twitter Universe.  It is a Google Labs project, so with time, it might end up being more useful.

Next is a site that most of the people that I follow on Twitter visit weekly, but probably don't realize all it can do.  Every Sunday a poll is posted for the topic on #edchat.  The site TwtApps has most than just a poll.  You can see in the image below all that they have to offer anyone on Twitter.  And although they advertise as business solutions, education is a business.  We are in the business of educating!

If you use Twitter with your classroom or school, you could easily use many of these TwtApps
- Use TwtQpon to tweet a homework or test coupon and the first student or first couple of students to reply gets the reward. 
- Use TwtAway and have a contest for your students to enter randomly for extra credit points. 
- Use TwtVite to invite students/parents to a play, athletic event, classroom activity, test, etc. 
- Use TwtPoll and TwtSurvey in your classroom the same way you would use a paper poll or survey. 
- Use the TwtFAQ to create a place for students to ask you questions about a project and it allows you to respond in more than 140 characters.

In the end all these apps can be used to increase traffic to your Twitter account and make it much more interactive.  Anytime you give students a reason to do something for rewards, generally they will participate.