Multimedia Science SALE – December 2016 – 50% Off

End of the year sale on all chemistry, physics, and teacher tools software and materials on Teachers Pay Teachers.

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Multimedia Science Materials On Teachers Pay Teachers Site

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Multimedia Science creates teaching software and materials in the areas of Teacher Tools, Physics, and Chemistry.

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These materials can be found on the Teachers Pay Teachers site.

 

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Multimedia Science Teacher Tools Pinterest Pins

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Visit Multimedia Science’s Pinterest site for pins of available physics, chemistry, and teacher tools software and materials.  Includes general items of interest about teaching.

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Multimedia Science Teacher Tools Pinterest Site

Posted in Art of Technology, Chemistry, Computer Games, Effective Teaching, Future of Learning, Life Of A Teacher, Online Learning, Physics, Science, Software, Teacher Tools | Leave a comment

Free Screen Capture Software

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Sign up on the right to get your copy of Multimedia Science’s Screen Capture software.

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The Screen Capture software allows you to capture graphics from portions of your screen up to 800 x 600 pixels in size. When you click start, a window appears that you can drag anywhere on your screen. When you have the object or area of the screen that you want to capture, you select it by dragging and holding your left mouse button around that area. That portion of the screen can then be saved to a bmp graphics file.

Product Type: Software – Teacher Tool
Curriculum: Any
Level: Grades K-12 & College
Requirements: PC computer, Windows XP or newer

The software is downloaded as a zipped file, InstallScreenCapture.zip. Upzip and run the InstallScreenCapture.exe file and follow the directions to install the software on your computer.

Please e-mail mmscience@multimediascience.com if you have any questions.

Posted in Effective Teaching, Software, Teacher Tools | 2 Comments

Teacher Curriculum – Save for the Future?

Teaching & Technology by Multimedia Science
Teacher Curriculum – Save for the Future?
Many Man/Woman Hours Lost

Overview

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During my 30 years of high school teaching, I taught several levels of physics and chemistry and a number of different math courses.  Most of the time, other teachers were very generous in donating materials and ideas. On at least one occasion, the materials I received consisted of one or two pages in a file folder.  Also, the limited time that we had to spend together meant that much of the materials that I used, I had to develop myself.

Especially during my first three years of teaching and whenever I was given a new preparation, and often several new preparations, my classroom materials were, at times, generated the night before.  But over the years, I gathered a set of loose leaf binders housed in cardboard boxes unit by unit for every course that I had taught.  The boxes for the courses that I taught more often were filled with materials that had been tried, tested, and revised in the classroom.  There were folders with masters to create copies for all of the handouts, laboratories, and tests that I needed.  I gathered video clips, made overheads, bought software, made applications for use with the SmartBoard, and even created many of my own simulations and software.

But what happened to all of those materials when I retired?  I took them home and no one ever used them again.  The school that I was teaching at was not in the middle of an inner city ghetto, but one of the best in the country.  While there, I suggested several times that there should be a set of filing cabinets with places for all curriculum for every course to be stored.  Following are some of the reasons why I think it should happen and some of the reasons it did not.

Hours Upon Hours

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Many people are under the illusion that the majority of a teacher’s working day and hours are spent in the classroom.  But classroom hours are really like the tip of an iceberg.  For more on this see Life of a Teacher – Part 2 at http://darngoodsolutions.com/blogB/life-of-a-teacher-part-2/

A significant part of a teacher’s time is spent outside of the classroom, preparing for class by creating, selecting, organizing, and practicing the use of their curriculum materials.

The Life of a Teacher.bmp

The diagram above shows many of the “duties” that a teacher needs to perform. Note that many of these, including grading, communications, tutoring, extracurricular activities, meetings, training, and developing curriculum, do not happen in the classroom. The duties that I want to consider in this article are those in yellow, the duties of curriculum development.

Let’s look at a few examples of what is required to create some typical curriculum materials.  My examples will be based on my background as a science teacher, but there are similar examples for each curriculum area.

First, let’s look at creating a physics or chemistry lab.  The easiest way to start is to find a lab that is already written either on the Internet or from one available from a text book publisher.  This will take to search and research and make sure the selected lab covers the curriculum material that is desired.  One has to be sure that the required equipment and chemicals are available, find them, and then the solutions have to be made.  The lab has to be tested and revisions made as required.  Most likely the questions will need to be revised to fit the specific curriculum, terminology, and level of the students.  If a lab cannot be found externally, one will have to be created from scratch.  It is not unusual for the creation of a lab to take ten hours or more.

How about finding and choosing a video clip for use in class.  Showing the entire movie is seldom useful or advisable.  In order to get a few five minute clips, one has to watch the entire movie, taking notes of the exact times to copy.  So a five minute clip could easily take a couple of hours.

Tests usually require the creation of three versions, an A and B for students sitting next to each other and a C test for students who are absent.  These tests should be changed every year to thwart students who save and give the tests to their friends.  The creation of a set of tests could easily take several hours.

Perhaps you see a simulation that could be useful for your classes.  One has to preview the simulation, take data from the simulation, create plans on how to use the simulation, and then revise the plans after using them.  Again, many hours are involved.

I could go and on about the hours required to create PowerPoint presentations, lesson plans, lecture notes, classroom activities, handouts, answer keys, etc.

How Many Total Hours?

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So, in my 30 year career of teaching, how many hours of preparation time have I accumulated?  I will estimate that it is at least 10 hours per week.  I’m pretty sure that is a low estimate, not including many hours spent over the summer.

10 hrs/week x 30 weeks/year x 30 years = 9000 hr = 375 days ~ 1 year

This is one of the reasons it is so hard for new teachers to jump right in and be great teachers in their first few years.  It takes too much time to develop the materials and repertoire that quickly.

What’s To Be Done?

Every school department should have a set of filing cabinets to store master copies of all materials by course and teacher organized by unit.  Materials included could be lesson plans, handouts, overheads, lecture notes, and quizzes and tests.  A similar storage should be also be setup for digital files on a dedicated computer located in the library or on the school or district’s server.  Materials included could be electronic copies of the materials mentioned so far, movies, PowerPoint or Prezi presentations, and used software and software locations.

Yes, it would take some effort to organize these materials, place them in the repositories, and occasionally weed out old materials.  This could be done during an in-service day or a workshop day during the summer.

But the payoff could be enormous.  New teachers would have ready access to materials already vetted for use with the course and students.  And new teachers are often given multiple different courses to teach and in different rooms.  Not having to spend hour after hour reinventing the wheel would give them time to be prepared for class and spend more time with their students. It seems to me to be a no brainer proposition.

So Why Hasn’t It Happened

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Here are a few of my thoughts on why some sort of repository of teaching materials is not a standard procedure in many schools.

A lack of time is also an issue for administrators.  When I worked in engineering, a group leader seldom would supervise more than four engineers, and a manager seldom more than 20.  In our school, one principal and 3 assistant principals supervised over 100 teachers and numerous secretaries and aides.

  • It is difficult to figure out whose responsibility it is to get this job done. Can a principal know enough able to determine the form and methods of gathering and storing materials for each department (science, math, music, etc.)? Even the department heads would have trouble.  How about a science department head who teaches chemistry trying to oversee the physics and chemistry materials.
  • It is difficult to allocate space for the materials to be housed. The science classrooms were spread across the building and the science storage rooms were small, cramped, and overfilled as well.  Most teachers kept materials in boxes on the top of cabinets in their rooms or in filing cabinets, again in their rooms.  This caused problems when teaching in several rooms since a teacher could not access materials in one room when teaching in another or even on a preparation period if someone else was teaching in that room.
  • A philosophy on the part of both administration and teachers that teachers should develop their own materials, methods, and styles. Part of this culture is due to how isolated teachers and administrators can be captured in their individual classrooms and offices.  Most teachers are only free one period a day or less and, unless another teacher is also free that period, they find it hard to meet.  After school is taken up with meeting with students, clubs, and sports responsibilities.
  • A sense that new teachers should “sink or swim” in their initial years of teaching. It takes (at least in Pa) three years to obtain tenure, so these years are years of intense evaluation.  New teachers are often given less than desirable teaching schedules with low level courses and several preparations.

    Overview

    It is time for state education departments, superintendents, school principals, department heads, and teachers to rectify this problem.  Start now to create a curriculum materials repository program in your school(s).  Reinventing the wheel is just spinning away hours of hard labor that can be better spent taking the old materials to the next level and time with students.For those districts and schools that are already doing this, kudos.  Spread the word about how your system is set up and how it is working.

    This article brought to you by Multimedia Science.

    fMultimedia Science Materials On Teachers Pay Teachershttps://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Multimedia-Science

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FaceRig Software – 3D Avatars – Useful Teaching Tools?

 Overview

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“FaceRig is a program that aims to enable anyone with a webcam to digitally embody awesome characters.  The output can be recorded as a movie or streamed to Skype, twitch, Hangouts, or any service that traditionally uses a webcam in real time”.
~ FaceRig Steam Service Ad

I recently ran into the FaceRig software available from an online gaming service called Humble Bundle for the grand sum of $5.40.  See the following URL:

https://www.humblebundle.com/streaming-software-bundle

The software is also available from the FaceRig website for around $20.

https://facerig.com/

The software is quite sophisticated and a harbinger of technology to come.  First you choose a 3D avatar and background.  Then, by using your webcam, the program maps dots onto your facial features.  Then when you talk or move your head, those lip, face, and head motions are mimicked by your avatar.  The results can be recorded and are extremely realistic even without tweaking the extensive optional control panels.

Example Movie

As a teacher, the first idea that came to me was to create a recorded avatar that could be used by a substitute to introduce and explain a planned lesson to my classes.  You can view this short and incomplete video at:

http://www.darngoodsolutions.com/free/trump2.mp4

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I’m sure that with a little experimentation, teachers could come up with multiple creative uses for these avatars.

Pros

  • Once set up, the software is very easy to use
  • There are a good number of provided avatars with several more that can be downloaded for free
  • Facial movements are mimicked quite well by the software – this includes eyes, eyebrows, mouth, and lips
  • It is easy to produce the final video with excellent results
  • Sound special effects can be added – great to mask the identity of your voice

Cons (see the suggestions below)

  • The software takes a bit of time to set up properly
  • The interface is confusing in some places
  • Laughing and other uttered noises other than speaking do not look realistic
  • The video is saved in the .webm format which is not uniformly supported
  • The software has trouble mapping your face if you are wearing glasses
  • So far I have been unable to figure out how to import new backgrounds into the software
  • There seems to be a few bugs that can be worked around

Suggestions

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  • When setting up the connection from FaceRig to your web cam, note that this control is NOT in the opening screen Options but located in a set of controls on the right (green) after you Launch and click on the UI+ button in the controls at the top(dark blue) of the screen
  • In order to get your face to show up in the small viewing box and your videos to come out right, you may need to experiment with the image sizes that are available
  • You can convert the .webm videos produced by the software into other formats (.avi, .mp4, etc.) by using the free Zamzar online tool:
    http://www.zamzar.com/convert/webm-to-mp4/
  • I found that setting the sound options on the opening screen and choosing my webcam as the audio source did not work. What did work was not seeing this option at all.

Conclusion

This software would seem to be on the cusp of the 3D and 3D avatar “revolution,” bringing this technology to the “masses.”  The quality of the end product and the final ease of use far outweighs a few bugs and some time to get the software set up properly.  Teachers should find a multitude of uses for their created 3D avatar movies in their classes, online, and in communications with students.  I would give the software a 4 out of 5 star rating and when the bugs are removed a strong 5 out of 5 star rating.

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Brought to you by Multimedia Science

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Evolution of Education and Authoring Software

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In The Beginning

First there was machine language and the nerds saw that it was good.  Then came programming languages from Fortran to Basic to Java to C++ and the average teacher saw that it was still way too complicated and the learning curve prohibitively high.

Meanwhile teachers found solace in being able to use their chalkboards and overheads which turned into Smartboards and PowerPoint presentations.  In many ways PowerPoint was the first of many examples of authoring software designed to create programs without programming.

But programs like PowerPoint, while relatively easy to use, did not have the power to create interactive or game like presentations or software.  This led to the era of “death by PowerPoint” in many classrooms.  PowerPoint is a great tool but came to be used too often.

The Internet

Somewhere during all of this the Internet began. Teachers saw great potential for the Internet to create content to reach students and allow students to do their own research online and to communicate with the teacher and each other.  Again teachers were put off by the complexity and difficulty of creating their own web sites.  So, another type of authoring software emerged, only online.  Web services like Moodle and Blackboard allowed teachers to create more sophisticated online content than they could create using PowerPoint.  And this content was online.  Of course, if your school didn’t have access to a server to run Moodle, or the money to buy a subscription to Blackboard, or high speed Internet service, or access to computers, you were out of luck.

The Trade Offs 

It seemed that as each new way of accessing and creating content evolved, the problems for teachers remained the same.  Were they able to create content without a large learning curve.  Was the content more powerful and interactive than PowerPoint.  Could the teacher and their students get to the content easily?

For many teachers, it was a lot easier to search and use the free materials available on the web, than learn and take the time to create their own.  But, then teachers had to design their teaching around those materials whether that worked with their own ideas and curriculum or not.

Game Makers & Coding

Another set of authoring tools also became available, game makers.  Two of the most popular are Scratch and Gamemaker, both of which have free versions.  Teachers could use these programs to help teach their students basic programing and coding or use them to create their own teaching games.  While the learning curve is fairly easy, it takes time to create good games.

Here is an article about my experiences running a high school game creation club.

This is where I started to create my own classroom games, demonstrations, simulations, and tutorials, using an authoring program called Clickteam Fusion.  Clickteam Fusion, which also has a free version, is a more powerful version of game maker authoring software.  It is very affordable and has a learning curve similar to the other low end game making software.  This is the program I would recommend for teachers wanting to create their own software for classroom use.

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One of the important things to consider, is which platform you want to have your software run on: PC, MAC, Android, or iOS, or web based.  Most authoring programs favor one or another of these platforms, and most do not support all of them.  Clickteam Fusion, for example, is made mainly for the PC but has exporters for Android, iOS, and HTML5. But the exporting takes another level of effort and expertise.

Here is an article about my experiences using Clickteam Fusion entitled How Multimedia Science Began – The Molecule Doesn’t  Stop Here

From there, one can move on to more complicated and 3D programs like Unity which are both much more complex, require the use of a programming language, but vastly more powerful.

Next Generation of Web Based Authoring

As the Internet became more popular, the number of and power of Internet based authoring took off.  We have already mentioned Moodle and Blackboard that incorporate content creation with student date collection.

One of the newer content creation Internet programs I ran into was called Versal.  A summary a review of Versal follows:

Versal is a set of Internet based tools that allow teachers (or others) to create Internet courses.  There are core tools (like text), viewers (like Prezi), and labs (like Typing test), many of which are both useful and creative.  A course could be created with text, graphic, and video content; utilizing a number of types of assessment tools; including mathematical simulations, world maps, and other special content.  While not complete by any means, Versal is a tremendous start on a course creation tool of the future.  There are a few bugs in implementation and there is a definite but easy learning curve.  The included tool tips and video tutorials help immensely in making the learning process easy.

Versal has a lot of content creation power along with ease of use.  Unfortunately the price is not cheap and must be paid on a monthly or yearly basis.

Here is the full Versal review.

mAuthor

Recently, I had a chance to check out one of the newer Internet based authoring programs, called mAuthor.  While the program has a number of similarities to Versal, it seemed much more powerful.

mathor

Some of the highlights of mAuthor are:

  • Can be used by non-technical personnel
  • Output is in HTML5 format which is accessible from any device, operating system, or browser
  • The editing mode is (WYSIWUG): What you see is what you get.
  • There are 120 ready-made activity types & modules tailored for K12 educational products

After signing up for a 30 day free trial, I was able to easily use the modules to create pages mixing text, graphics, videos, online content, and quizzes.  And there were over 80 plus modules left that I did not have time to preview.

As an example of what is possible with mAuthor I previewed a project created with it, called High School physics.

physics

Again, the downside for teachers, is the prohibitive cost of mAuthor.  The program is designed for text book publishers or large organizations.  This is a shame, because mAuthor could be very useful to educators with a bit of technical background and creativity.

Here are several video tutorials that illustrate how to use mAuthor.

The Future of Authoring Software

I’ve just touched on a few of the bewildering choices of presentation, game, and content authoring software that is available and will become available in the near future.

There is little doubt that authoring software will continue to evolve.  The platforms and operating systems will also evolve and / or change.  But, the power and sophistication will increase, while the learning curve will decrease.   Most likely and hopefully, the prices will go down as well.

Just imagine what our national cadre of teachers could do if they were given the time and tools to create and share their own curricular materials using a cheap and powerful authoring software.

Maybe mAuthor will create an mAuthor light that has less bells and whistles and is affordable for the average teacher.  Hope springs eternal.

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Computer Game Creation Club – Part 1: Choosing the Authoring Software

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Overview

I started a club for students to create computer games at the high school where I taught.   The school had a computer lab with 20 PC computers which we used after school once a week.  It became popular with students who lobbied for the club to meet more than once a week.  This is the first in a series discussing topics that other teachers might find useful in starting a club of their own.

While I have an engineering background and some basic programming knowledge, I decided it would be better to have several pieces of authoring software available.  This software is designed to build game applications with little or no programming required.

Authoring Software

There is quite a selection of free software which can be used to make games.  Here are a few:

Clickteam Fusion (free demo)

Free Demo

Clickteam Fusion provides you with everything you need to start creating software of your own imagination and design.  From multimedia applications and presentations, to exciting games and stunning screensavers, you can be creating, sharing, and even publishing your work in no time.

Fusion is made to run on Windows but there are modules for porting your applications to Flash, iOS, Android, and HTML5.

Users can add their own extensions if they can code in C++.

There is an online support community that creates user extensions, sample application files, and will answer questions.

Scratch (free)

Scratch makes it easy to create your own interactive stories, games, animations, music and art – and share your creations online.  You can create everything from single frames to navigable worlds.

Scratch can be run from a Windows, MAC, or Linux computer with a version of the Adobe Flash Player.

Projects are uploaded and can be shared on the the Scratch website

There is also a Scratch discussion forum like the one for Fusion.

Gamemaker (free lite version)

Design your very own games using easy-to-learn drag-and-drop actions – you can create professional-quality games within very little time.  You can make games with backgrounds, animated graphics, music and sound effects.  And when you’ve become more experienced there is an easy built-in programming GameMaker Language (GML) which gives you the full flexibility of creating games with GameMaker.

GameMaker has a Studio Free version that is Windows only and two paid versions of the software that have additional functionality.

GameMaker also has an Internet forum for users to find additional information and ask questions.

Final Comments

There are other authoring software programs, like the 3D game creator Unity, that you can find by searching the Internet.

Our school decided to buy an educational site license of Multimedia Fusion, since the cost was reasonable and that was the program that I had the most experience with.

Students ended up using a combination of all three of the above programs along with programming languages like Java.  Some students spent a lot of time making graphics in other programs like Photoshop.

From my experience, Scratch is the easiest to learn, while Clickteam Fusion and GameMaker are more difficult.   Along with the increased difficulty comes more power and the ability to do more things.

My favorite was Clickteam Fusion since I had been using it for a while.  The extensions from other users allowed me to draw lines between moving points and create drawing tools inside of my applications.

 

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The Categories Game Maker – Make Games for Any Grade or Curriculum

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The Categories Game Maker software allows teachers to create fun and exciting Jeopardy like review or assessment games for any curriculum that can be played with classes using a computer and projector system.

A created Categories game consists of up to 70 questions in up to 7 different categories. Each category consists of 10 questions, worth from 10 to 100 points. These questions can be created using text, graphics, movies, animations, and sound.

Try out a sample of a Categories game.

Get a copy of the Categories game maker. On sale at 20% off.

Sample question screen.

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Some of the features of Categories are:

  • the ability to create, revise, save, and load games
  • create questions by typing in text or adding graphics, movies, animations, or sound files
  • a timer that allows each team a set amount of time to answer questions
  • create answer keys that can be saved, loaded, revised, and printed
  • before playing the game, create up to ten team names
  • the game keeps track of which questions have been asked and team scores
  • ability to save team names, questions asked, and scores in the middle of a game
  • final scoring screen which allows scoring adjustments and printing of the final results
  • a game schematic with help for every screen and a set of video tutorials available online

A set of tools to help create your questions:

  • Screen capture – copy portions of the screen and add the graphics to your questions
  • File Finder – find and copy graphics and sound files
  • Multiple Choice Question Maker – make multiple choice questions with graphics and text
  • Free Form Question Maker – make questions with graphics, text, and a set of drawing tools

Example made by the Multiple Choice Question Maker

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Life Of A Teacher – Part 2

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As a follow up to the graphic organizer of a teacher’s life below, here is a more detailed analysis. It compares the common perceptions against the reality. There is a reason for teacher burnout and that is the heavy workload where much of the work lies beneath the surface and is not seen by students, parents, and the public. And sometimes even by administrators.

Check out the article here.
http://darngoodsolutions.com/blogB/life-of-a-teacher-part-2/

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Is Podcasting In Your Future?

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In simple terms, a podcast is an audio recording that in available for listeners on the Internet.  Podcasting came from Portable On Demand Broadcasting.  It’s pretty easy to create a podcast by using a computer, microphone, free software, and a web site to post our podcast.

A podcast can then be listened to on any computer connected to the Internet that can play MP3 files and once a podcast has been downloaded, you can listen to it at any time in the future.

Podcasts would seem to have a lot of potential educational uses.  For example, they could be used in the classroom, used for student review,  and help auditory learners.  Students could develop skills by making their own podcasts using them for research projects and class presentations.

Creating a podcast is usually broken down into a series of steps such as preproduction, recording, postproduction, and publishing.  It is important to do a good job during preproduction to avoid lost time and effort later.  This means tackling the subject matter, the nature of your audience, who will do the hosting, how long the podcast will be, and what tools will be used to do the recording, postproduction, and publishing.

I’ve collected a few links that add more details on the uses for and creation of podcasts below.  The YouTube video illustrates how to create the audio for you podcast, using Audacity, a free audio editing tool.

Teacher’s Guide on the Use of Podcasting in Education

Podcast for Free in the Classroom

Educational Podcasting

Creating Podcasts with Your Students

Multimedia Science Sound Effects Software

The Sound Effects software allows you to create, save, and load sound files that include five sounds that can be played by clicking on colored buttons from the Play Sounds screen.

Sound Effects Software Link

Use the sounds to get your students’ attention, indicate whether question answers are correct or incorrect, remind test takers to move on to a new section, play recorded directions, or help make your point.  By using a small sound clip of background music and the loop sound option, you can create an audio environment for students to work in.

Sound Effects includes several screens that make it easy to create sets of sounds that can be saved for later use.  The software comes with several sample sound sets.

playsounds
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Versal Internet Course Creation

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Versal is a set of Internet based tools that allow teachers to create Internet courses.  There are core tools, viewers, and labs, many of which are both useful and creative.  A course could be created with text, graphic, and video content; utilizing a number of types of assessment tools; including mathematical simulations, world maps, and other special content.  While not complete by any means, Versal is a tremendous start on a course creation tool of the future.

Here is a more detailed review.

Posted in Art of Technology, Effective Teaching, Future of Learning, Online Learning | 2 Comments

Primary Sources: America’s Largest Teacher Survey

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What do 20,000 public school teachers have to say about teaching, evaluation, standards, and collaboration.

You can see the survey results and download full reports and infographics form the completed study on the Primary Sources website.

Posted in Effective Teaching, Future of Learning | 3 Comments