CheckThis: Student websites without a login.

Have you ever wanted to have students create a website, but either a) students did not have accounts on an appropriate hosting site (i.e. wordpress, blogger, google sites, wikispaces, etc), or b) you don’t want students to waste time on complex coding or layout?  If so, then CheckThis.com might be what you’re looking for.

This site is a simple tool for creating websites for quick feedback, but without the hassle of having to log in.  It’s as simple as heading over to CheckThis.com and clicking the Start a page now tab.

You or your students will be directed to a blank slate ready to insert information and links quickly.  Add a title, and then select one of the green tab options to insert text, a link, or a video.  Unfortunately there is no content uploading feature, so images and videos need to be hosted on Flickr or YouTube rather directly on the page.

Once you have inserted your content, then in the top right corner of the page you can select from a few options before publishing.

Selecting the Settings Gear will allow you to mark the page public/private/hidden, as well as how long the page will last.  This second feature is great for concerns of privacy.  Students work can be marked Hidden and to expire in One Week.  This will give you time to assess the information, but greatly reduce the chances of someone maliciously finding your students.  This combined with the anonymous nature of publishing provides parameters for strong protection of students that other publishing platforms cannot provide.

The Paint Drop will bring up various Appearance options such as the background image and basic color selections.  This will allow you to customize your page, but not provide so many distractions for students needing to quickly publish their information.

When the page is completed, selecting the Publish option will allow students to publish their site without a sign-in or opt to use Twitter, Facebook, or Google to save their work.  If work is published without a sign in, a link is given to bookmark for future editing if modifications are needed.

Suggested Student Uses:

  • Quick 1-2 period websites to present research
  • Share group brainstorms with the rest of class
  • Create a website instead of a report and include video and images

Suggested Teacher Uses:

  • Create quick web portals for various learning topics
  • Create quizzes that will expire in one week
  • Make a simple class website

Spicy Nodes

Spicy Nodes is a powerful mind-mapping tool. That uses algorithms to produce interactive movement between the components of the mind map.  Overall it gives it the feel of having weight and elasticity to the ‘nodes’ or mind-map bubbles.

It is still in a Beta testing phase, so there are still some bugs to be worked out.  I found that the larger files tended to be quite slow, so it might not be ready yet for mapping EVERYTHING you’re thinking, but it has some nice potential for education.
When creating your NODEMAP, as they call them, you have the option to choose some basic STYLES, which give you a starting background color, node color, and connector style.
EDITING CONTENT is admittedly a bit tricky.  You basically create an outline version of your mind-map, which will then be rendered into the nodemap.  It would be nice if you could edit the nodemap itself, but at the moment this is not possilbe.
When EDITING DETAILS you can add an optional description that will show up when the node is clicked.  One nice feature is the ability to load IMAGES and VIDEOS directly from the web into the nodemap via a copy/paste of a URL.  You also have the option of customizing the colors if you’re a control freak like I am!
Once you have all of the content set, you can go back to EDIT DETAILS and at the bottom of the page you will be given a few options.  GET URL will give you the nodemap url, that you can email to others, or paste into a link on your page.
To EMBED the nodemap directly into your own site, choose GET HTML.  Select the size you want the embed object to be; copy the code; then use an appropriate EMBED GADGET  to put the nodemap right into your page.
Below is the nodemap that I have in my class page.  I wanted to highlight the additional resources available to my students, and found that they often did not go to the links (or even know they were there!).  I have created this nodemap, and will be adding links and videos as they are relevant.  If you would like to see it actually in action you can visit my Grade 7 Math page.