Some Very Good Educational Apps and Tools to Help Struggling Writers

February 13, 2016
There are different reasons why struggling writers have problems with composition. Some of them are internal such as a disability of some sort, lack of motivation and confidence…etc and others are externally oriented like irrelevance of writing topics, inappropriate writing strategies and so on. In today’s post we are sharing with you a set of interesting iPad apps to help struggling writers build up their writing confidence and enhance their writing competencies.We have particularly focused  on three main areas:

1-Writers block 
Writers block can sometimes be crippling especially for struggling writers. Writing prompt generators can be a good solution to writers block. They provide writers with access to a plethora of of prompts to help them come up with creative ideas to write about. Below are is a collection of some good apps and tools for generating prompts.

Categories
Apps
Web tools for generating writing prompts
iPad writing prompts generators
Android writing prompts generators


2- Multimodal writing
Motivation can sometimes be a real problem with struggling writers. One way to trigger writing motivation is through engaging struggling writers in multimodal writing tasks characteristic of digital storytelling activities. To this end we have curated for you a list of some excellent digital storytelling apps and tools to use with struggling writers in class.

Categories
Apps
iPad Digital Storytelling Apps
Android Storytelling Apps
Chromebook Storytelling Apps
Web Tools for Digital Storytelling

3- Writing for authentic audience
Knowing that their written work can be read by an authentic audience out there on the web can be a great incentive to help struggling writers get seriously engaged with their writing. In the chart below we picked up for you some examples of writing platforms that provide struggling writers with opportunities to compose for larger audiences.

Categories
Apps
Blogs
Websites
Wikis

A Quick Overview of The Latest Google Drive Updates for Teachers

February 13, 2016
Since the start of the new year, Google Drive has released a number of key features and updates for both the web based version and the mobile apps. Here is a brief overview of some of the important updates as featured in Google Apps blog.


1- New Google Forms has become the default option for Form users
After having been opt-in only for few months, new Google Forms is now the default Form creator you will be using to design your forms. This revamped version of Google Forms has a number of added features and scripts which we will review in an upcoming post. Meanwhile,  for those of you not yet familiar with new Google Forms, here is a step by step guide to help you learn more about how to create and share forms in new Google Forms.

2- More formats, languages and filtering functionality are now supported in Docs, Sheets, and Slides apps for Android
Android Drive users can now import and export different file formats including: (Import .txt, .rtf, and .html (in Docs)), and (Export - .docx, .rtf, .pdf, .txt., and .html (from Docs), .xlsx, .pdf, .html, .csv, and .tsv (from Sheets), and .pptx, .pdf, and .txt (from Slides). Users can also open, view, and edit spreadsheets that are formatted as .csv or .tsv files.

3- Enhanced commenting features in Docs, Sheets and Slides
With this new update Google Docs for the web allows you to instantly add a comment by simply highlighting or hovering over the edge of a page. Additionally, Docs users can type in someone’s name and a list of suggested contacts will show up. With one click you can pick up a name from the list and send them an email notification.

4- Easily organize your folders and files in Google Drive
‘When looking at Search results or items in the Shared with me, Recent, or Starred views in Drive, you’ll now see one of two options in the toolbar at the top of the screen. If the item you’ve selected is not already located in My Drive, you’ll continue to see the option to Add to My Drive. Clicking on that option will add the item to My Drive and then allow you to move it to various folders.’

Two Excellent Web Tools for Creating Educational Video Games

February 12, 2016
Below are two excellent web tools teachers can use  with students to create educational video games. These tools are very simple to use and do not require any software download. You also don't need any coding skills to operate them. We invite you to check them out and share with us your feedback. Enjoy

1- Pixel Press


Pixel Press is an excellent application that enables you to draw your own video games. Teachers can create educational video games to use in class without the need for any coding skills. The process is very simple: use pen and paper to draw your game, take a picture of it via your iPad’s camera and Pixel Press does the rest and bring your game to life. You can either create on paper with ‘Draw-on-Paper’ and take a picture of it or use ‘Draw-in-App’ to directly draw on screen. When your game is created, you can then share it with the entire community in the ‘Arcade’.

2-  Scratch 


Scratch is one of the best free web tools I would recommend for teachers keen on teaching their students about how to create video games and animations. Scratch is a project designed and provided for free by the MIT Media Lab. It is basically a "a programming language and an online community where children can program and share interactive media such as stories, games, and animation with people from all over the world. ". All of these activities require students to practice a host of essential 21st century learning skills such as creative thinking, systematic and logical reasoning and working collaboratively. Students' final products can be shared in online communities for others to interact with, like and favour, and re-share.

Another Excellent Resource for Flipped Classrooms

February 11, 2016
Things You Should Know about Flipped Classroom is a great resource we learned through a tweet by Colin. This is a two-page PDF created by EDUCAUSE that provides an informative overview of the concept of a flipped classroom. It starts with a brief definition of what a flipped classroom is all about, then explains some of its models and how they are used in instruction. It then highlights some of the advantages and downsides of a flipped classroom and discusses its implications for teaching and learning. Things You Should know about Flipped Classrooms is definitely a must have resource we are adding to the flipped classroom resources we shared a few day ago.


A refresher, flipped classroom is a methodology, an approach to learning in which technology is employed to reverse the traditional role of classroom time. If in the past, classroom time is spent at lecturing to students , now in a flipped model, this time is utilized to encourage individualized learning and provide one-on-one help to students, and also to improve student-teacher interaction. While the instructional or teachable content is still available in class, however this content is mainly designed in such a way to be accessed outside class which is a great way for struggling students to learn at their own pace.

A New Free Course to Help Teachers and Students Learn The Basics of Animation

February 11, 2016
Pixar in A Box is a free online course created out of a partnership between Khan Academy and Pixar Animation Studios. The course introduces learners to the fundamentals of the art of animation. More specifically, learners get to experience first-hand knowledge of the techniques and methods Pixar engineers use to create movies and animations.


The course covers different animation-related topics each of which comes with ‘a design focused lesson appropriate for grades 5+, followed by a math focused lesson which is grade specific.’ The topics included are :
  • 'Environment Modeling: Explore how realistic blades of grass are modeled using parabolic arcs.
  • Character Modeling: Explore how clay models are transformed into digital characters using weighted averages.
  • Crowds: Explore how swarms of robots were created for WALL-E using combinatorics.
  • Animation: Explore how animators bring characters to life with the help of Animation curves.
  • Sets and Staging: Explore how virtual sets are constructed using geometric transformations.
  • Rendering: Explore how pixels are painted by solving systems of linear equations.'
Watch the video below to learn more about 'Pixar in A Box'


Courtesy of Open Culture

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13 Great Tools for Creating Your Own Maps to Use in Class

February 11, 2016
Today we have spent sometime going through our Map Tools archive and curated for you the collection below. These are some of the best tools out there that you can use with you students in class to create, annotate and share maps. We invite you to check them out and share with your colleagues.

1- Google My Maps


My Maps offers a high level of detail and customization. You can add directions, points of interest and color-coated location markers in different shapes (a drop pin, star, square or circle). You can also draw lines to indicated borders or routes and add multiple sets of step-by-step directions, too. All of this can be sorted easy-to-manage layers of information. My Maps can also be accessed through a mobile app.

2- Mapme

Mapme is a platform that enables anyone to build smart and beautiful maps without any coding. It allows you to turn on and off powerful features such as events, jobs, crowdsourcing, rating, reviews with a click of a button. Data can easily be imported into maps. The platform is a great solution for all kinds of organizations. It can be used by a local brewery organization to map breweries, a teacher can create a map for the class and ask students to contribute information to it, or a publisher to create individual maps for articles. For some great examples of Mapme’s possibilities, check out this list of maps. Mapme’s best feature is how easy it is to get the community involved and adding. No coding knowledge required.

3- ZeeMaps

ZeeMaps enables you to design and publish interactive maps with a whole range of features, including data imports from excel, csv and even Google docs.
The nice thing about ZeeMaps is that once your data is on there, the maps are highly customizable, allowing you to choose from custom icons, color regions, multimedia and more.You can also create custom fields without any development knowledge. Their three tiered access feature - viewer, member and admin makes this a great option for presentations and group data analysis projects. ZeeMaps offers free as well as paid versions. You can check out the options here.

4- Google Maps API


Probably the best known and the most often used, the Google Maps API is the standard for online maps that are easily integrated across platforms. Google Map’s API allows for street level views along with Google Places integration, providing information and even reviews for locations in which your audience might be interested. The maps are customizable by color, visibility levels and even labels. This high level of customization can require some coding but as usual, Google provides detailed tutorials. For those who really don’t want to take the time to sift through tutorials, there are other services that work with the Google API and quickly help you customize. Check it out here.

5- Mapbox

Mapbox is a great map-based solution for spatial analysis on the fly, making it easy to integrate location into any mobile or online application. Their goal is to “change the way people move around cities and understand our planet.”  Their coolest feature? The tool offers a Smart Directions API, allowing you to integrate live directions into your app. For example, when a courier accepts a task, Smart Directions generates a route specifically for their mode of transportation. If you’re looking to be the next delivery or service to door app, this one’s for you. It counts Pinterest, Evernote and Foursquare amongst its users. Mapbox calls itself a mapping platform for developers but the web-based editor is easy and a great place to start. Mapbox has starter packages for up to 50,000 monthly users and 1 style. For more, there are two premium packages to choose from with up 30 different styles. You need development skills to use Mapbox.

6- Umapper

UMapper allows you to create embeddable maps without a ton of coding expertise. Counting National Geographic, USA Today and the Huffington Post amongst its users, UMapper allows for the creation of geogames, interactive maps and for monetization through advertising. You can also choose from map providers - such as Bing, Google and Yahoo. UMapper provides detailed usage statistics on your maps. Packages are available in both free and premium packages.


Easily draw on maps and then share them with friends, completely for Free! Simple enough to be used by children, but powerful enough to be used by GIS professionals - Scribble Maps is the easiest way to draw and share maps with friends.


Quickmaps allows users to draw a quick map. It is very easy to use but it requires a sign up which is completely free. You can create maps using different tools and once finished you can then get a link to embed it in your class website or share it with others via email.

9-  Animaps

Animaps extends the My Maps feature of Google Maps by letting you create maps with markers that move, images and text that pop up on cue, and lines and shapes that change over time. When you send your Animap to friends it appears like a video - they can play, pause, slow and speed up the action!

10- World Map

World Map is an application developed by by the Center for Geographic Analysis (CGA) at Harvard  and allows users to create mapped data visualizations. All the maps created by World Map can be embedded in other websites or blogs. World Map also offers several video tutorials to help you start building your map.

11-MapFab

MapFab  is a  Google maps editor that provides you with a platform where you can easily create and share Google maps.

12- MapTiler

MapTiler is graphical application for online map publishing. Your map can create overlay of standard maps like Google Maps, Yahoo Maps, Microsoft VirtualEarth or OpenStreetMap and can be also visualized in 3D form by Google Earth. Only thing you have to do for publishing the map is to upload the automatically generated directory with tiles into your webserver.

13- Click2Map


Click2Map is another web application that enable you to easily create maps and add points of interest to any geographic location of your choosing. Click2Map allows you to import data, geocode multiple addresses perform batch updates, display directions, customize your own database. When done working on your map, you can download and use it on your own website or blog.