One of our colleagues, an English professor and self-proclaimed book addict, once admitted that he always kept a book of literary theory on the passenger seat of his car so that he could read during red lights. While we can’t in good conscience recommend this, we do want to refer you to three free audiobook databases that’ll give you the ability to safely polish off a classic and drive at the same time.
- They make sitting in traffic tolerable—even pleasant
- We’ve also seen how enthusiastic our struggling readers are about them
- They’re completely free
- They give students’ digital access to many of the texts we use in our literature courses
Enhance your reading curriculum with these 3 free audiobook databases
To date, LibriVox has 6,483 audiobook titles and all of them are free. All of the works on the site are in the public domain and are read by volunteers. If you or your students are so inclined, you can become a volunteer reader. No experience is required and LibriVox accepts everyone regardless of their language, accent or delivery style. That said, we continue to be impressed with the quality of the readers.
Lit2Go is another free audiobook collection of stories and poems. Not only is the site sleekly designed and easy to navigate, you’ll also find an abstract, citation, playing time, and word count for each text. Many of the passages also identify related reading strategies. Each reading passage can also be downloaded as a PDF and printed for use as a read-along or as supplemental reading material for your classroom.
Open Culture is in the business of curating any cultural or educational media as long as it’s free. In addition to a nice collection of free audiobooks, expect to find free online courses, textbooks, movies and language lessons.
We just found out that NASA is calling all Earthlings to submit their names, along with a three-line haiku, to the Going to Mars with Maven contest. If you need a little incentive to get your submission in by July 1, try this on for size: The three most popular submissions will actually be written to a DVD and sent to Mars onboard the MAVEN spacecraft!
There is one caveat: Those who submit must be 18 or older. The good news is that teachers are allowed to submit on behalf of their students.
We think this is a great way to get students excited about science, space, space travel and writing. It’s also a creative way to help students make a personal connection to the MAVEN mission, which is scheduled for launch in November.
To learn more about the Going to Mars with Maven contest, or to view current entries, stop by their website by clicking here. You can also watch a video about the MAVEN mission below.
Click on the bookmark tab in your Internet browser. Is there any rhyme or reason to it? If you’re like us, it’s a mess of random webpages. Some of the bookmarks are mislabeled, some we haven’t checked in over a year—and when we want to find the sites we actually visit, we have to start excavating.
Enhance your collaborative learning techniques. Plant a Pearltree.
Pearltrees is a new visual bookmarking tool that makes organizing your webpage shortcuts intuitive and orderly. It also makes it easy to connect and browse web-content curated by other educators.
Why is it called Pearltree?
A “pearl” is just another name for a visual link to your favorite websites. Click on your “pearl” to see a screenshot of the webpage; click again and you’ll be routed there.
After you add your “pearls,” you can move them around your visual map (your “Pearltree”) and organize them however you want.
Pearltree also allows you to sync your account with Facebook, Twitter, email, or your own personal blog. This is ideal for collaborative learning projects; it’s also useful for teachers who want to share course content with their students.
If you’re looking for a few more apps to help you stay organized—or even apps to help enhance your collaborative learning techniques—check out our guide, Surfing for Substance: 50 No-Nonsense, No-Fluff Websites and Apps for Educators
We’re always looking for new ways to enhance our students’ collaborative learning experience, so we were excited to come across Populr, a new micro-publishing service. What’s that? It’s not really a social-media site. And unlike blogs (intended for a steady stream of information) and websites (tedious to set up and maintain), Populr allows you to build “POPs,” mini, one-page “websites” that:
- Don’t require upkeep
- Are highly targeted to the viewer
- Allows users to create and share sophisticated, but easy-to-set-up messages (that include images, video and sound files)
When your students collaborate on a project, they often exchange ideas through email, text message or face-to-face during class. All this certainly works, but Populr gives your students the ability to upload videos, PDFs, photos, and customize the layout in the same amount of time it would take to draft an email. And all your students have to do is drag and drop. To learn more about Populr, check out this video:
If you are looking for more collaborative learning apps, check out two of our recent blogs: “5 apps to unite your district and encourage collaborative learning” and “5 More Apps to Boost Collaborative Learning.”
17-year-old Andrew Schaper was frustrated that he couldn’t find a convenient way to keep track of all of his school work…so he decided to do something about it: He created Soshiku, a free homework and time management app for students.
Soshiku was originally created for high school and college students, but if your students know how to use a smart phone, and we’re sure they do, they’ll find it useful.
Soshiku allows users to:
- Organize assignments by course
- Receive text message and/or email reminders before each assignment is due
- Add assignments to a customizable calendar via the Soshiku website or text message
- Quickly see overdue and upcoming assignments
- Collaborate with partners by swapping notes, files, and messages
Free accounts allow users to:
- Keep track of five courses and 20 assignments (per course)
- Upload 10 attachments (per assignment)
- Document 20 tasks (per assignment)
It’s a small sacrifice, but you will have to put up with advertisements unless you upgrade your account for $5 a month.
Now that you’ve got your students organized, we thought we’d recommend one of our other time management blogs for teachers: 5 Time Management Apps Teachers Can’t Live Without. We hope these time management apps will make your daily grind a little smoother.
YouTube has been blacklisted by many schools. Some reasons for this are more legitimate than others, but even if you’re one of the lucky ones with access to the site, you’ll want to ensure that your students’ YouTube experience is safe for them and easy for you. You may think of yourself as a star-studded YouTuber (we thought we were too), but something tells us that you’ve never heard of these lesser known YouTube shortcuts and safety tips.
Declutter your viewing experience
You can control the videos you pull up, but you can’t control the random content YouTube recommends in the margins any more than you can control the comments users leave at the bottom of the screen. Not only are these distracting, they’re often inappropriate, especially for younger students. The good news is that if you download A Cleaner Internet app, you’ll be able to declutter your viewing experience so that it looks like this:
And not like this:
Cut to the chase
Tired of searching through long videos for the five second clip you actually wanted to see? We feel for you. Here’s a simple solution: Let’s say you want to link to a section of video that starts at 7 minutes and 2 seconds? No problem, simply add #t=07m02s to the end of the video’s URL.
Keep in mind that the #t= as well as the letters “m” and “s” will always need to appear in the URL. So if you want to link to a section starting at 3 minutes and 8 seconds, your URL will look like this: #t=03m08s
If you’re looking for an intuitive, no-hassle platform for editing your videos, YouTube actually has one built into the site. Now you can combine videos, trim and rotate clips, add text effects or music and even insert transitions.
Change the size and resolution of videos
It’s great when you can show full-screen videos, but often we come across useful clips that are too pixilated to show in full screen. In addition to the "full screen" option, there’s also a lesser-known viewing window that's larger than the standard size, but does not fill the entire screen.
Simply select the mid-size viewing option (a square icon) on the bottom right of the video window and adjust the resolution by hitting the resolution count (360p, 480p, etc).
This doesn’t directly relate to Internet safety, but knowing keyboard shortcuts will prove to be useful. Simply click on the video with your mouse to enable the keyboard. Now you can tap on the spacebar to start and stop videos and use the left and right arrows to rewind and fast forward. Additionally, the up and down arrows can be used to control the volume, and “Home” and “End” will take you to the beginning or end of the video, respectively.
If you’re interested in enhancing your credentials or taking your career in education to the next level, stop by our site to learn more about Marygrove College’s Educational Technology program. And just so you know, Educational Technology is only one of several online degree and certificate programs that you can pursue at your pace and on your terms.
You may be teaching younger students or preparing high schoolers for the SAT. One thing’s for sure: Regardless of whom you are teaching vocabulary building is an essential part of every teacher's job! And if we do it right, we can help students foster an appreciation for the importance of lifelong vocabulary development. These five vocabulary building apps are a wonderful way to bring technology, engaged learning, and just plain fun into you classroom on a regular basis.
Honorificabil—huh?: 5 Vocabulary-Building Apps
This is a great tool for students of any age and stage of language development. Download ProfessorWord on your classroom computer(s); run it whenever you bring up a website on the classroom projector and voila! Any time you run across a vocabulary word students don't understand, simply click on the word and view the definition.
This program is a fantastic ESL tool for native Spanish speakers or native English speakers learning Spanish. Access the Lingro website, type in the URL you want to visit, and Lingro will make every word on that site "clickable," allowing students access to instant Spanish translations. Students can collaborate, look back at recent words, and more.
Brain Blaze Root Words
Understanding root words is one of the most powerful tools a student can hone to suss out the meanings of unfamiliar words. Brain Blaze Word Roots Flashcards is an interactive app for students to test their root word knowledge solo, in pairs, or in groups. We can see a multitude of classroom game possibilities too.
Word Root of the Day
While we're on the subject of root words, we love this site that would provide a great way to start the day in any English class. Word Root of the Day is one of the most visually attractive, informative, interactive, and interesting platforms to see how roots help "grow" our words. Your students will look forward to each day's new root.
MindSnacks SAT Vocab
This app wasn't called one of the Best Learning Apps of 2011 for nothin’. Did you ever think the words "Fun" and "SAT Vocabulary building" could go together? We didn't either until we found the SAT Vocab - Mindsnacks app. Your students will get addicted—and this is one technology addiction we can fully support.
Try these new apps out on your students and see what they think. We suspect that your vocabulary building lesson plans will be even more effective when you use engaging tools your students can use both at school and at home.
Storytelling is an indispensable human activity, one that we use not only to convey our identity and experience, but also to convince others of our arguments. Because storytelling is so important, we believe it’s important that we encourage students to tell their stories—and in a way that challenges and inspires them. One way to get students excited about storytelling is by using a medium that they not only love, but are completely comfortable with: technology.
As with traditional storytelling, students must write, but what makes digital storytelling engaging—and often less intimidating—for students is that it gives them the ability to add computer-based images, text, recorded audio narration, video clips and/or music. If you’re looking for a few applications to get your storytellers started, we’ve got 5 of them to get you on your way.
Make Writing Less Intimidating with these 5 Digital Storytelling Apps
Scared of Words (Free)
The folks over at Learn Direct have created two digital story generators that give students visual and textual control over the plot. Once students have customized their character, dragged and dropped animals, food or accessories onto the pages, they’re asked to rewrite words and phrases in the story to reflect those changes. And once your students have created their masterpiece, they can either print or save as a PDF. In addition to this, they can even enter their story into a competition for a chance to have their book professionally printed and bound!
Marvel Kids (Free)
Pop culture can’t get enough of superheroes and neither can our students—which is why you may want to swing by Marvel Kids! We’ve talked about using comic book generators in the classroom before, but this website wasn’t on our radar at the time. With Marvel Kids, users can create a 1 to 3 page panel strip or, if they’re ambitious, a 1 to 22 page comic book where they control the sound effects, characters, thought bubbles and dialogue. Once they’re done, they can save to the desktop or print.
Storyboard That (Free; limited account)
Storyboard That gives students the ability to create rich and powerful storyboards without having to download or negotiate tedious software. Choose from either three or six frame templates and browse their library of over 25,000 images. And when you’re ready, start customizing your dialogue and text boxes.
The app is free, but users can only create two storyboards a day and will have limited editing capabilities. Monthly accounts ($2.79) give teachers unlimited usage and access to a portal for up to 50 students—which means that they can view all of their students’ storyboards, offer editing suggestions or collaborate with students to change them.
Talking Tom and Ben News (Free)
Tom and Ben, a dog and cat news-anchor duo, have a show, but you’re in charge of what they say and do. Younger students will love having them talk to one another, repeat what you say in turns and record it for playback.
Users are also able to customize the app by uploading personal videos! Just press the TV button in the app to record a video with the camera or choose one of your existing videos from your Photos gallery. Once your personal video is in the app, you’re ready to get this canine-feline duo talking.
Student Publishing (Free)
Want to make your students into published authors? No problem, Student Publishing will provide the platform to make it happen. Use Student Publishing’s online book-making tool to illustrate 12-page stories with paintable backgrounds, sticker graphics and uploaded photos. Use the PDF upload option to easily publish work your students create by hand or with other computer programs. But that’s not all! Student Publishing even gives you the ability to create a free, hardbound classroom book up to 64 pages long!
If you're looking for new ways to enhance your curriculum or capture your students' attention, download our guide, Surfing for Substance: 50 No-Nonsense, No Fluff Apps for Teachers.
We’ve all experienced the frustration of having a brilliant, ten-thousand-dollar idea and then stammering because we couldn’t conjure up the right word(s) to articulate it. Even worse than that is having to admit that we never knew the word we were looking for in the first place! You may pride yourself as a wordsmith, but be honest, this has happened to you—and it certainly happens to our students. Make stammering history and start your students’ vocabulary building routine with these 5 FREE (or nearly free) websites and apps:
5 vocabulary building websites and apps
This game is too cute for its own good—that is, until you misspell a word and experience the roosters’ curmudgeonly squawk.
As you may have guessed, it’s a chicken-themed spelling and vocabulary-building game and this one is truly a physical experience. Unscramble a “roost” of letters and create as many words as you can in as little time as possible. Spell your word and tap on it to reveal the definition. Not satisfied with your choices? Shake your iPad to shuffle the letters and get a “farm-fresh” look at your word options.
The Opposites (FREE for a limited time period)
This vocabulary building app will work for anyone between the ages of seven and seventeen. The Opposites asks students to match up pairs of opposing words in increasingly difficult levels. It starts easy enough, but gradually introduces your students to more challenging and ambiguous word combinations. Eventually they’ll be working with stranger and more esoteric pairings from biology, economics, medicine and poetry. Included is a customized, user-friendly dictionary designed specifically for the game.
With more than 100,000 multiple-choice questions and an intuitive system that refines word choice and grows with your students, vocabulary building is a cinch. Got a question wrong? No problem, the system will take note of it and schedule review and progress questions. Are your students preparing for the SAT exam? Are they reading The Life of Pi or studying The Emancipation Proclamation? How about one of President Obama’s press conferences? No problem, Vocabulary.com has a rotating section where users can create and share their own vocab lists.
Weird Word of the Day (FREE)
We were going to try to introduce this app in a witty way, but alas, they beat us to it: “Sometimes when I'm riding in my telega, and I come to a quadrivial, I get out my peirameter for a bit of stradometrical fun. Is this mazy description giving you a scotoma? Maybe you should download this free app and mundify the situation.”
This app contains over 15,000 new weird words, which should—if our math is right—cover you for the next 41.096 years.
Word a Day Visuals and Audio ($.99)
Say “vocabulary building” and watch your students’ faces sour. Pull out your iPad, say “Word a Day Visuals and Audio” and stop the groaning once and for all. This app uses funny illustrations, word scrambles, news items and audio content to help your students build and retain their vocabulary.
Economic downturn has a far-reaching arm, one that’s forcing schools, like most companies, to reevaluate their classroom technology budgets. Students love technology—no, actually, they demand it—and many teachers and principals are equally as enthusiastic about it. They’ve seen how students respond to touch-based math apps that make a high-stakes subjects like math fun again. They’ve also seen how classroom technology like infographics and clickers can enhance lectures and how simple social networking tools like Twitter can help improve both student and parent engagement. But as you try to improve your school’s classroom technology infrastructure and stay within your budget, we thought principals might consider these Dos and Don’ts:
Dos and Don’ts for funding your school’s classroom technology program
Don’t necessarily give every classroom a technological overhaul
Smart classrooms are all the rave, but not all teachers crave projectors and ELMOs for their classroom. Resist fads. Resist the notion that more technology = more learning and higher test scores. Resist feeling that every classroom needs to be technology-equipped and SMART.
If, for example, Mrs. Snell and Mr. Ableton only show YouTube clips or give Power Point presentations in their classrooms once a week, why overhaul their classroom when they could probably get by sharing a portable media cart?
Before you make a blanket purchase, figure out what teachers can and can’t live without and ask them to write up a self-evaluation/proposal. In it, have them give you a detailed account of how they currently use technology in the classroom. Next, have them tell you how and why they would like to use new technology in the classroom; additionally, have them identify the hardware and software that they are interested in.
Do make computers available outside of class for all students
Most students have at least one computer at home—and for those families with economic challenges, many schools have computer-loan programs. That’s great, but having a single computer for a family of three, four or five is sort of like having a single bathroom: there are going to be lines and fights over hot water.
To ensure that students always have computer access, make it a priority to have a computer lab where students can go before and after class, maybe even on the weekends. Depending on student need, you might even try running an open-lab for a few hours on Saturday and Sunday. You might even experiment with an overnight laptop-loan system. Many schools have used this to great success.
Don’t stop getting creative
We’ve written about online fundraising sites in the past, but they’re worth bringing up again. When your budget is stretched thin, use the Internet and reach out to the global community. Car washes, fundraisers, silent auctions and bake-offs are great, but they provide a limited amount of exposure. When you use websites like DonorsChoose, AdoptAClassroom, GoFundMe and Chipin, your able to register your classrooms and write about the things students (or classrooms) need. Donors from around the world can search by location, school, teacher, etc, to find a cause that resonates with them. You, your teachers and their students can tell people to donate to their class or create a Facebook account—whatever it takes to get people to your website who will adopt your class.
Do reach out to local communities and businesses
When I was in high school, my biology teacher wanted to start a one-for-one program where every desk in his classroom was computer equipped. It was a private school with limited funding, so instead of appealing to the principal (or the parents), he reached out to as many local businesses as he could to see if they had any spare computers they’d like to donate. The response was overwhelmingly positive. In fact, one telemarketing company ended up donating 50 computers (along with hardware accessories like monitors, printers and keyboards). The only thing he had to do was enlist a helper (me) to carry the computers down a few flights of stairs. Not a bad deal, huh?
You might be interested in becoming an educational technologist; maybe you want to become a principal and are considering a Master of Arts in Educational Leadership. Perhaps you are interested in professional development or classroom technology and would like to earn a Master’s in the Art of Teaching. Whatever the case may be, Marygrove College has several online masters’ programs tailored to fit your needs—and your wallet!