Behold: Creative Commons photo searching made easy!

I am often looking to find good images to use for educational purposes.  Personally, I’d love to find public domain images (see my post on the MorgueFile.com), but often that’s not possible, and the next best thing is the Creative Commons.  Many of the photos are available for use with attribution.  The problem is finding the images easily.  Flickr does have an advanced search function, but it’s kind of clunky in my opinion.  Behold, is a search engine that makes the job easy.

Choose to find pictures with a variety of levels of usability.  Do make sure to read the Creative Commons licenses and make sure you are properly attributing the sources, as they may have various levels of usability.

A simple search of “polar bear” with free to use and modify checked turned up this example of super cuteness!

Photo by Mr. Theklan

 

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Maps Galore!

I have just stumbled across the best source for high quality maps of all sorts of wacky types.  Over at Reddit there is a group that aggregates great map images.  Unfortunately it has an unfortunate name that makes it educational unfriendly, and might get stuck in your schools filter, so be warned.  The group is called Map P*rn, which is the unfortunate part, however, the site is moderated and the content is only full of sexy maps.

Tons of old maps, new maps, fantasy maps, enough to satisfy even the most fanatical map loving humanities teacher.  Below are a few examples of a few that I found in a minute of browsing.

Urban Heat vs Green Spaces

Wildlife of the United States

1635 Siege of Dutch Fortress

The MorgueFile: Free images

Modeling digital literacy is HARD.  One of the hardest parts (for me at least!) is finding good images that are free to use without copyright infringement.  Quite often I just don’t have the time to find sources and reference them properly, so I end up not using any images at all (or unfortunately, using education as an excuse to use whatever I want, even though I’d probably jump all over my students for that!).  So what are we to do?

Well, my new favorite source of great images is the MorgueFile.com.  A site with high quality images for use by anyone needing reference source material.  The description on their site at the bottom of every page is:

This morgue file contains free high resolution digital stock photographs and reference images for either corporate or public use. The purpose of this site is to provide free image reference material for illustrators, comic book artist, designers, teachers and all creative pursuits.

Most of the photos at the MorgueFile.com come with their own modified CC license that allows users to use and modify images without even needing attribution (although it’s always appreciated).  

About the only thing you’re not allowed to do is claim the photos are your own or use them in a stand alone manner.  For teachers this is great!  Grab a part of a photo, work them into a website design, or clip it to fit a worksheet, but do modify them to suit your own work.  (If you use a Mac, then masking and transparency can be a quick easy way to modify it right within the document you are creating.)

Here are a few examples of great pictures available at the MorgueFile.com:

Blue Circuit Board by ppdigital

Photo by Jane M Sawyer

Photo by Ivan Melenchon Serrano

Photo by Penywise

Dropbox

I’m sure many of you are aware of Dropbox, so I’m not really going to spend much time explaining how to set it up, but I really felt that I needed to include a quick post extolling it’s many virtues in order to slot it into my Top 5 #edtech tools!  If you’d like to sign up for Dropbox, then head on over to Dropbox.com.

If you want a full run down on how to use Dropbox, from the simple to the very advanced, then I suggest that you head over to The Ultimate Dropbox Toolkit & Guide.

If you’re not already using Dropbox for your #edtech life here are some reasons I suggest you investigate it!

  • Great way to have access to all your files from any computer at school, home, and your mobile devices.
  • Host your own class website (I use mac iWeb to create my site, and Dropbox to host it.  You can check out my G7 Maths page here if you like)
  • Keep important documents synced to your phone or iPad for easy access.  I keep my daily schedule as a PDF synced and ready to go!
  • Use it with a PDF annotator on your iPad to grade student work and send it back.
  • Share files by sending simple links rather than attaching files.  This is great for sharing files too large to email.
  • Use sendtodropbox.com to create a virtual inbox that students can submit attachments to via email.
  • Syncing just about anything you can think of!  The Ultimate Dropbox Toolkit & Guide has a ton of ideas.

 

Posterous: Class blog with no logins!

I have 2 rules for using technology in my classroom:

  1. send students to as few external sites as possible, and
  2. no new usernames and passwords!

That’s why I love embedding so much.  However, what are you supposed to do when you want students to share blog posts and comment?  Surely you must need to have them sign up to a blog service?  No longer!  Posterous steps in and fills this void nicely with a simple, but elegant solution that allows users to manage a blog that others can post to via email.  As a teacher, you can manage what Posterous calls a Space, and invite students via email to post blog entries.  Students simply send an email to a simple email (yourblogtitle@posterous.com).  Students can even include pictures and videos in their posts which will show up on the post.

To get started, head over to Posterous.com, where you will be asked to sign up.

Once you have created a login, you will see the following menu on the left side of the screen.  Select MANAGE SPACES.

This will bring up a list of all of your spaces, and on the right hand side you will see the option to create a new space.  You can choose to create Public Spaces that are open for everyone to see, or Private Spaces.  Private spaces will even allow you to password protect your site should you choose to.

When you create your site you will give it a name, and it will then create a suitable URL.  Your URL will be linked to the email students will use to post, so you may want to keep it as simple and easy to remember as possible.  You can always change the URL later through the setting menu though.

Once you have create a space, you might want to fiddle around with the settings.  If you select manage spaces you should get a screen that allows you to change the basic settings.  There are about 40 different themes to choose from, and you can select the options you want for posting and comments.  If you are setting this up as a student blog, then I suggest that you have CONTRIBUTORS CAN POST, and ANYONE CAN COMMENT selected.  MAKE SURE you have checked the  MANAGE COMMENTS tick box though to prevent spam and any other outside sources commenting on your class blog.

After you have set up your Space, you can invite students, parents, teachers, etc to post to your blog.  Click on the MANAGE MEMBERS tab on the right side of the page.

You will be asked to ADD PEOPLE TO YOUR SITE.  Simply copy/paste in your students emails, and select the CONTRIBUTORS tab.  I might suggest adding parents as FOLLOWERS so that they can see their student’s work, but not interfere in the discussion.

Students will receive an email, and be able to start posting via email immediately!

If you’d like, you can go to my G7 Math blog, where I have a specific post for my students explaining how to post using email.  (NOTE: This site will be up and running Term 2, so currently there are no student posts!  They’ll be there around mid-January if you’d like to check back then).

I have successfully posted from Gmail, my iPhone with a photo attached, and my iPad with a video attached.  My class webpage simply has a link to the blog, so students still only need one website, and one login (their emails).

If your not interested in starting a class blog without logins, but want students to make some simple webpages, you might want to check out my recent post on CHECK THIS.

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

I Choose To Go Deeper: Choose Your Own Adventure Videos

I used to love choose your own adventure books as a kid.  I would read them over and over to get the most favorable ending, often skipping ahead to see which way I really wanted to go.  Some might have called it cheating, but really I was curious and couldn’t resist finding out what ‘might have been’ (plus there is some research that suggests spoilers increase enjoyment!).  I imagine many of our students are the same way, and a bit of mystery might be a good thing to get them to delve deeper into an issue.  Choose your own adventure books are actually pretty tough to create and it’s easy to get lost, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to harness videos and the web to make interactive choose your own adventure videos instead?  Well, YouTube makes this possible with a little linking and annotating.

I’ve found a great tutorial from Greg Kulowiec (via Richard Byrne’s FreeTechnology4Teachers.com) on how to make a Choose Your Own Adventure Video using YouTube.  There also is a nice flowchart on Greg’s blog that you should check out.

For me the beauty is that you can create a single shell video to embed into your class page, which will then serve as a portal to a series of other videos, either student, teacher, or 3rd party created.  Student inquiry and presentation can thus become an avenue for other students’ inquiry.  Challenge your students to help others choose to go deeper.

Suggested Uses:

  • have your students create and share choose your own adventure reports
  • link student videos together into one single embeddable video
  • create a video with links to various other YouTube videos for students to explore
  • create a single video entry point for your Flipped Classroom videos.  This way ‘distractions’ will be meaningful tangents to learn from.