Tag Archives: free

It’s not a mirage, there is a site helping students transition to college!

As we are entering into the lovely spring days of May and early June, many seniors are preparing to go to college as first time freshman. This can be a daunting situation, especially for someone who is the first person in their family to be attending a college or university.  Luckily there is a free Website to help them make the transition – Transitioning to College.  This site is run by Kent State University and is a sister site to the TRAILS Program – a real time assessment of a person’s information literacy skills from grades 3 – 12.

Transitioning to College provides text and video compilations to help students do the best they can as they move from high school to the college environment.  It has sections on what to expect when going to college; college libraries and what they offer from studies to socialization; tips for college research and projects; learning modules where current students provide advice and discuss what they learned from their own experiences as first time college students; resources for teachers working with high school seniors on how they can help prepare their students for college; free assessment tools to determine a high school student’s current information literacy skills and a section where users can share and/or view other favorite Websites on what it means to be a college freshman.

There are also videos on how to use academic libraries and their databases.  This is a skill not many students will be fluent in when arriving at college; but will be expected to use for their projects and reports.  For someone who has limited or no experience, using these services can be an intimidating task.  By visiting this Website and watching the videos, students have a resource where they don’t feel put on the spot or embarrassed to find ways to fix their lack of knowledge in this area.

Users also are taken step by step on how to develop the type of research paper their college professors will be looking for.  Some of these steps are acted out by college students in a more accessible manner than by just reading the text alone.

Links are provided to other aspects of college life.  There is a section on the steps one needs to take to get to and pay for college.  Users can find links for information on different aspects of life experiences one may encounter on a typical college campus.  Links to study guides and study strategies are a great help for first time students and are easily found on the site.  Time management skills is a big hurdle for many freshman who are on their own for the first time.  Information and links are provided to ease a student’s way into learning these skills.  There is also a section for students with disabilities.  Tips, videos and a list of disability friendly colleges are provided.

Finally, if users have additional questions – e-mails and phone numbers are provided for staff members at Kent University who might be able to solve the problem.  You can find someone at Academic Advising; Career Services; Computer Labs; Counseling; the Disabilities Office; the Health and Wellness Center; the Library; the Student Life Center; the Tutoring Center and the Writing Center.  Whatever your question is, there is someone who can help you find the answer.

So whether you are an educator, a student, a parent, a guardian or a friend helping someone who is going to college for the first time – Transitioning to College may be the free, reliable resource you are looking for.


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Filed under College, Free, Information Literacy, research

Make Science Come Alive with the Website ARKive!

I am surprised that I have not run across ARKive before.   I recently learned about this Website through my librarian listserv.  I am so glad that this information was shared with me so I can in turn share it with you.

ARKive is a not-for-profit initiative from the charity Wildscreen.  Its purpose is to use information contributed by the world’s best wildlife filmmakers, photographers, conservationists and scientists and present the material in a fun and interesting manner.  You do not need to create an account and the site is free.  Material is presented across age groupings from 5 through 18.  Of course adults can find plenty on the site to stimulate their interest as well.

You can search for information by species, places or topic designation.  Each category has multiple sub-categories so you can broaden or narrow your search as much as you need.   Photographs, news articles and videos are available to all users.

In addition to the prior methods of presentation, ARKive endeavors to make learning fun as well.  There is a blog where readers can read about and view quick facts with up-to-date news about wildlife from around the world.   You can sign up to have the blog sent to your e-mail whenever there is a new post.  The blog can be searched by recent posts or by category if there is something specific you are looking for.

ARKive also presents Team Wild.   You can join this “squadron of superheroes” as they work to protect and conserve the plant and animal species on our planet.  There are four teams you can join:  6 or under; 7-10; 11-13 and 14+.   Information is presented in an interesting and interactive manner.

Users can also choose to play Survival  – an endangered species game.  Players race against the clock as they go through a number of mini-games to discover the identity of our most endangered animals.  The game has beautiful color photographs and users will have to use all their skills in order to become a top survivor.

For those of you who are “arts and crafty” there are even activities that you can download for fun.  Be able to create origami of different plant and animal species, go on treasure hunts, create a shoe-box habitat  and  find links to other safe hands-on adventures.

So whether you are  looking to learn about science, have a fun interactive for your students or child or just having some fun while viewing spectacular images from around our planet, ARKive may be just the site for you.

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Filed under Free, games, lesson planning, research, Science, Videos

You Don’t Have to Work too Hard, Check Out Screenr.

Many people have enjoyed using Jing from one of my prior entries, but were looking for something that allowed for a increased recording time without a great deal of additional effort.  Never fear, Screenr is here.

Screenr allows you to video capture what you see on your computer screen and create a voice over audio file to accompany it.  The site is free and easy to use.  This is a great site for sharing lesson ideas with colleagues, teaching online skills to your students or sharing experiences (perhaps pictures you took and now can add the accompanying story) with friends online.

When you go to Screenr you are given a choice to make an account, or you can sign in with an existing account you have on Google, Yahoo, Twitter, Facebook, etc.  The choice is yours.  The site is free, no payments required. This is a Web based program, so you are not required to install or download any software.  The only things that is required is that you have Java capabilities on your computer.  Your computer will also need to have  a microphone if you wish to record your voice.  The site works on both Macs and PCs.

When you are ready, click the “record” tab.  A frame will open up on your computer screen.  You can enlarge the frame or minimize it.  You have the capability of recording your entire screen if you wish.  Once you have your size set up, open up the window of the information you wish to record.  The Screenr page disappears, but the frame you wish to record with remains.

Once you have what you wish to record on the screen and know what you want to say, click the “record” button.  The screen will count you down as “3…2…1” and then recording will start.   You do not have to speak throughout the recording, only at the parts you wish.  Whatever you do on the screen within that frame will be recorded for your viewers to see.  You can record from 5 – 15 minutes worth of material.

When you are done recording, hit the “Alt” and “D” key at the same time.   You will then be taken back to Screenr  where you can play the recording  to see if you like how it came out.  Then you can choose to delete it, publish it and/or save it.  If you want to save it, you’ll need to publish it first.  Just click on the button and a little over a minute later you are ready to go.   If you still want to save the video to a device,  just click on the “save” button and choose where you want the video to be saved.

You can also choose to share your video in other ways.  You can upload it to YouTube, but you will need to have a registered YouTube account to do so.  You can e-mail your friends the link, or embed the video into an online Website you have (Facebook, Jupiter Grades, etc.).  Once you embed the video, your viewers will be able to click on the page and watch it right there instead of having to go to Screenr‘s page to view the information.

So whether you are looking to share vacation memories, lesson plan ideas or information you wish for your students to view at home – Screenr might be just the tool you are looking for.

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Filed under Free, lesson planning, Websites for sharing

Ahoy Mateys… Pirate Pad Off the Starboard Bow

There are many Websites out there which allow you to have friends or students post thoughts, ideas and questions on one page; however, it is often the case the site runs slow or has issues.   PiratePad seems to have overcome these difficulties and it is also a free resource.

When you get to the site, you will be greeted by a frog wearing an eye patch.  This page provides you with a quick hint on how to get the site to work better if you are having trouble viewing the page.  Click on the frog to continue.  As soon as you do, you are taken to a page with a Web address you can use.  You are able to immediately start typing onto the pad.

You can give your page a name or change the colors of the text. Don’t worry if you want different colors or other features on different lines.  As you type, each line is designated with a line number to make it easier for you to make changes.   There is a simple “pad options” icon to help you decide how you want your page to look like.

What is great about Pirate Pad is that you can share what you created right away.  So if you gave your students a homework assignment to perform on Pirate Pad, you can literally create the page when the school day ends and the students will be able to interact with it the moment they get home.  You are given choices on how to share the URL.  You can copy the link and create your own e-mail or text to send to people you want to invite to work on the pad. There is also a ready made welcome letter you can e-mail out to those who you want to participate.

This site makes it easy to distinguish who shared what thought.  As each person signs in and contributes to the page, they are assigned a different color.  Their comments as well as their name in the chat window share that color.  This makes it easy for you to scan and see which students have posted and/or participated in the chat discussion.  There is also a timeline you can utilize.  For example, If you require the students to participate three times a week, you are able to verify their number of times logging in with this feature very quickly.

Pirate Pad is a great tool to have your students brainstorm about ideas, discuss issues for debate, work on group projects, review the day’s lesson, etc.  If you have a large class, you might find it easier to assign 4-5 students to a group and have 6 or 7 groups to ensure you don’t run out of colors.

While Pirate Pad may not offer as many bells and whistles as other sites, it does offer many features to make it a valuable resource.  This can be a plus if you have students (or you yourself) are familiar with basic set ups similar to a Word document, but have difficulty with information intense sites.

So whether you are using the site for a lesson or gathering ideas for a friend’s surprise party, Pirate Pad may be just the tool you are looking for.

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Did they plagiarize or didn’t they, that is the question.

I have had teachers and parents approach me many times to inquire if their child plagiarized a part, or even all, of a paper or project.  While most students (and sadly many adults) do not see plagiarism as a real issue, it is a serious topic. 
The generally accepted definition of plagiarism is – “The use of someone’s words, thoughts or ideas without giving them credit.”  This means even if your child’s friend gives them permission to use their book report, it is still plagiarized if your child does not list their friend’s name as the creator of the book report.
Below are some free Web sites you can use to learn what plagiarism is, check students work for errors and to see if indeed there are any sections that have been plagiarized.
Google Alerts – http://www.google.com/alerts
This is a good way to make sure students aren’t using work another teacher or student has written and placed on the web.  Go to the link and type in the words or phrase that concern you.  You will be notified by e-mail when the content you specified appears online.  It might not find all versions of the work, but it will find new instances if students are sharing them online.  This is also a nice site for you to monitor news events and other items you wish to stay updated about to share with your students.  You can type in phrases like “free technology for teachers” and be updated as items appear on the web.
Paper  Rater – http://www.paperrater.com/
This site helps high school and college students to improve their writing.  The site performs basic spelling and grammar checks and also checks the students’ work for plagiarism.  After scanning the text, it estimates the likelihood the work was plagiarized.  Another site that can be used by students and teachers.
Plagiarism Checker – http://plagiarismchecker.com/
Type or paste the text into the search box.  The site will then tell you if the work has been copied.  It also has handouts you can use to help students not to accidentally plagiarize and explanations of fair use.
Plagiarismdotorg – http://plagiarism.org/
This is the educational arm of iParadigm, the creator of commercial plagiarism detection software Turnitin.  This site can be used by students and teachers.  It has information on how to avoid plagiarism and when and how someone should cite a reference.  The site also has Webinars to help teachers instruct their students about plagiarism. 
Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL) – http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/
A place to learn about preventing plagiarism as well as having guides and exercises for lessons on: general writing, research and citation, subject specific writing, job search writing and English as a Second Language writing.   There is information for both students and teachers.

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Looking to create an interest spark? Why not try the site myBrainShark?

MyBrainShark is a wonderful, free site that works very well for e-learning situations and sharing of information.  It is a useful tool whether you are using it for work or personal projects.   You can create, share and track the number of views for a PowerPoint, document, video, photo album, Podcast that you have created PLUS you have the ability to create a voice over for each application.

Have you created a PowerPoint lesson you would like for your students to review when not in class, but also want them to have access to the audio parts of your lesson?  How about helping them analyze documents.  Did you want to create a Podcast?  Was there a video you created that you would like for the students to watch and respond to specific sections?  Did you want to show a series of Primary Sources and point out features for someone to investigate?  This page gives you the ability to add an audio voice over to any of the projects above as well as multiple other usages.  It allows you to combine multiple applications to create a multimedia presentation that will get the interest of your students or whomever you are trying to reach.  You can even use your cell phone to create the voice over.  No computer is necessary.

After you have finished your creation it can be shared by e-mail, posted on a Networking site or published on a specific Webpage.  This creates an ease of access for you to share information with people from different areas of your life.  

The first time you use it, there is a simple registration page that asks for a username and password creation.  Then you are ready to start uploading material you wish to present or create an audio soundtrack to accompany.  

If you are worried that certain animations in your PowerPoint won’t occur at the correct time, it’s no problem.  MyBrainShark recognizes the PowerPoint designation of the file and will allow you to choose when the animations take place.  

You can use the site to track how many views your posting has had.  You can even add a poll for your users to take to get personalized feedback on your presentation.

As with any new program, it may take a few tries of playing around on the site to become fully familiar with all the features.  Many of the features are similar to other programs you may already be using, which will make it easier to pick up quickly.

So whether you are looking to continue a classroom lesson, present information to students who may have been absent, share ideas and information with colleagues or just create a fun presentation with pictures and an accompanying stories from your vacation, give MyBrainShark a try.  It might be just the item you were looking for.


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Yes Virginia, credible sources DO count.

Whether young or old, frequent or intermittent user of the Web, there is a skill that is missing among many users of the Internet.  The ability to evaluate online resources for credibility.

The problem was so rampant with freshman and sophomore students that Acadia University created an interactive online program to help Web users learn some of the skills necessary to check the reliability of their online resources.  The Website is called Credible Sources Count. 

What I like about this Website is that not only are the activities interactive, but you are able to see the results for all possible choices.  This way, whether you chose right or wrong, you can see what the result would have been if you made a different choice.

While the site does not go in-depth into the topic, it is an excellent introduction on how to evaluate Web resources.  Even though it was written for college students to use, it is accessible enough for students 9th grade and up to use as well.

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Filed under Website Reliability