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Monday, January 30, 2012

Create study guides using Brainflip Flash Cards

The lowest level of Bloom's Taxonomy is "Remembering."  Even though an educational goal should be for educators to get to the "Creating" level of the scale, memorization has it's place.  Students do need vocabulary words and the understanding of using those words to be able to effectively move up the levels of Bloom's.  So teachers have come up with all sorts of ways to help their students remember vocabulary words.  I remember Mr. Turley, my 8th Grade Science teacher help us remember the different bones in the body by coming up with some weird mental images such as the "Femur" is remembered by an image of a "feeble" old man, and he would walk around like that making us laugh and such a trick worked. Today, I can still remember what a "Femur" is just by that imagery.  Well, that happened in the 80's and technology has come a long way to helping us remember our vocabulary words.  One of the methods is for a teacher to create digital flash cards that can be used by students at home, school or on the bus.  I have a whole list of digital flash card makers that you can take a look at.  I already highlighted "StudyStack" as an excellent example of flash card makers.

Well here is another good one you might want to try.  It is called BrainFlips.

What is BrainFlips?

  • A site that easily lets you create flash cards using text, images, video, and sound.

What are some of the advantages and highlights of BrainFlips?
  • Add text, images, video and sound to each card.
  • You can study the cards in three different styles.
  • You can create as many sets of cards that you would like for free.
  • You can embed them into your class site so that they don't have to go to the BrainFlips site to use your flash cards.  Below is an example of an embedded flashcard set.

What are some disadvantages to using BrainFlips?

  • You can't pull in images, sound, and video from a URL which I really like to be able to do.
  • It only has the three modes of study.  Some sites turn the vocab words into study games.


1.  Go to and log in.  You can log in using your Facebook account or you can click the "Not a Member Sign up" button.

2.  If you are signing up using Facebook just click the needed Check boxes and then click the "Register" button.

3.  Once you are signed in and registered click the "Make Flashcards" tab at the top.

4.  The first time you try to create a flashcard set you might get this.  Just click the "Do not show again" check box and then the "Back to Builder" button.

5. Give your Deck a name and description so that you, your students, and others can find the right flash card set.

6.  Click in the "Question" box and type your vocab word or definition.

7.  To the right of the Question box you will see an Answer box and just above that you can decide whether you want just a "text" answer or if you want your answer to be "Multiple Choice."

8.  Type your answer into the "Answer" box and make checks in the boxes that apply with your idea of a good question.

9.  If you want to add a picture, video, or sound to your question, just click the appropriate icons found above you "Question" box.

10.  Navigate to your picture, video, or sound file and then double click on it.

11.  Once you are done with your first question you will click on the "Add Card" button to add another flash card.  You can also remove unwanted cards here.

12.  Once you are done with your flashcards click the "Study Flashcards" tab at the top.

13.  There are three methods of study.  Your students will choose the most appropriate.

14.  Introduction mode just flips through the cards.

15.  Traditional Mode lets your student click on whether or not they got the answer right.  If they click that they know the answer, then that card will not continue to show up.

16.  The Advance Mode forces the student to type in the correct answer.

17.  To embed the flash cards you need to click the "Embed" button down below your deck and then copy the code and paste it into your HTML code on your site.

Well that is all there is too working with BrainFlips.  This really is an easy method of creating flash cards that will give your students a little more reinforcement while studying their vocabulary words.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Google Chrome Tips and Tricks: Email notifications for Gmail

If your district is like our district and has moved away from using MS Outlook, and onto Gmail or Google Apps for Education, then you may feel a little frustrated with some of the features that Outlook has that you miss and wish you had with Gmail.  Well the good news is that so far I have been 100% successful in finding a way to do the same thing in Gmail, that I could do in Outlook.  I want to make a note though that Gmail is different, so the steps to accomplish the same task may be different.  If you install Google Chrome as your web browser then you can add a whole bunch of functionality to your Gmail.

One of the functions that many of my staff have missed was the ability to receive desktop notifications when you get an email; you know like getting a pop-up or a sound letting you know that "you got mail."  I personally don't really like hearing a noise when I get mail.  I get so much during the day that this can be annoying.  However, I just found a Google Chrome extension that has some really neat options on how and when you get a desktop notification.  I know that there are quite a few extensions out there that accomplish what this extension does, but so far this is the most user friendly and easiest to use that I have come across.

It is called, "Checker Plus for Gmail."

What does this Google Chrome extension accomplish?
  • Makes a sound when you have mail.  You can customize the sound.
  • Will check more than one email account.
  • Pops up a snippet of the email message.
  • Archive, read, and delete mail without having to switch back to your email screen.
  • Opens up "Mail to.." links from web pages.
    • Many of you might have trouble getting rid of Outlook, because when you click on a person's email address found on a website Windows tries to sent a message using Outlook instead of Gmail.
What are some disadvantages?
  • So far I haven't found any, I will list them here if I do.


1.  Make sure you are in the Google Chrome browser.
2.  Click on the "wrench" icon.

3.  Choose the "Options" option.

4.  Click the "Extensions" tab under the "Options" section found on the left side.
5.  Click the "Get more extensions" link.

6.  In the search box type in ? "Checker Plus for Gmail."

7.  Click the "Add to Google Chrome" button.

8.  Click the "Install" button.

9.  Once you have installed the extension, you will see a new icon next to your wrench.  Left click on it to see your messages.
10.  From this screen you can "Mark it as read," "Delete" it, mark it as "Spam," or "Archive," it.  Next to each message you will see a few icons that will allow you to "Star" it, "Open" it, or "Reply" to the message.  All without having to open up your Gmail.

11.  The easiest way to "configure" the settings of this extension is to "right" click on the icon and the click on the "Options" option.

12.  Under the "Notifications" tab you can change the sound, decide how long to view a popped up message, if you are away from your computer for more than a given time you can have a voice speak to you telling you the "Email subject" and "Hear the message."

13. Under the "General" tab you can add other options like the "Mailto" links  and the ability to compose a message right within the extension.

14.  There are a few other settings to explore under the "Accounts" and "Button" tab, but I didn't feel the need to discuss those simply because I don't know that I would actually use them, but you might and just need to explore these other options.

Well that is all there is to Google Chrome's "Checker Plus for Gmail" extension.  Let me know if there is any other options you would like me to explore to make your Gmail reading experience smoother.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Create and edit art, music, audio, and visual affects with Aviary's suite of tools

Unfortunately Aviary has shut its doors.  It's too bad.  The software and integration with Google was awesome.

Now that many districts are headed toward the "Cloud Computing" phenomena, educators need to rethink the idea of "installing" software.  Districts everywhere are saving money by having other websites host their data.  It saves on man power and equipment.  The problem some educators are finding though is that for the last 17 years they have been installing software to help them perform great and wonderful educational tasks, but they are not having that same ability that they once had to install software.  Cloud computing is awesome for many reasons, one of them being that students, teachers, and parents can access school assignments from anywhere in the world, and this only happens if their "document" isn't located on a single drive.

I was recently approached by a teacher who asked why a certain graphics program wouldn't work on her iMacs.  The answer was that the program is formatted for a PC.  The consideration is to then go and buy software that is compatible with the iMac.  I suggested that instead she uses some simple web 2.0, cloud hosted sites that allow student to have the ability to create and edit music, graphics, photos, drawings, visual and sound effects.

Today I would like to highlight an awesome tool that does all of these things and more called "Aviary."

Before I get in too much depth with what Aviary does, I would like to mention that it can be seamlessly incorporated with the Google Apps for Education suite.  If you are a district that already uses Google Apps, then talk to your system administrator about installing the Aviary for Education suite right onto your Google apps.  Advantages of this are that your documents that you create are found in your Google Docs folders, which make it very easy to access.

What is Aviary?
  • Aviary is a suite of creative tools that allows you to draw, manipulate photos, create music, create sound affects, contains screen captures software, and can even help create podcasts.
  • Here is a really short show and tell video showing off some of the tools you can use.

What are the advantages of using Aviary to other web 2.0 tools?
  • I like the fact that you have so many tools available on one website.
  • You can embed much of your work.
  • It can integrates with your Google Apps.
  • The tools that it has are pretty high end for an internet site.
  • As far as I know, there isn't any cost associated with any part of the site.

What are some disadvantages of the site?
  • Because of the high end tools, there is a learning curve.  You really need play and use the software to learn all the cool things you can do with it.  This of course, in my opinion really isn't a disadvantage.  Of course I look at all technology like that.


1.  There are really two ways to get to the Aviary suite.  One is to go to and if you have the tool integrated with your Google Apps you can go to your "More" option and click on the "Aviary" link.

2.  Once you are in to Aviary you will notice a different look depending on which version you are using.  Don't worry about which one because I haven't seen any difference between Aviary for Google Docs or just the plain Aviary, yet the intro pages look different.

Google Docs integration View.

Regular Aviary Site View.

Normally I would give a tutorial about the site, but because there are so many tools and so much that has to do with each tool, I will just post a few Youtube videos that will give you an idea about what each web 2.0 tool can do.  I do want to say one more thing and that is these tools really are worth taking a look at and find engaging and interactive methods that you and your students can use them in the classroom.

Aviary Image Editor

Aviary Music Creator 

Aviary Audio Editor

Aviary Vector Editor

Aviary Effects Editor (Not a tutorial, but this will show you a nice final project.)

Monday, January 23, 2012

Create Concept Maps and Diagrams with Cacoo

Concept mapping is a great way to get students generating ideas as a class, group, or individual.  As they prepare ideas for research papers or other reports educators often have their student create outlines, diagrams, and charts so that they can have a visual as to where the student or class want to go with their topic.

Today I would like to highlight a new tool, at least it is new to me, called Cacoo.

What is Cacoo?

  • Cacoo is a web cloud resource that allows the user to create diagrams, mind maps, network charts, electricity diagrams, and much much more.  
What are the highlights of Cacoo?
  • Color code parts of your diagram.
  • Add your own images and web links.
  • Has a huge library of stencils for you to use.
  • Collaborate in real time with others.  You can have more than one student working on the same diagram at the same time.
  • Share it out with other people.
  • Create 25 different diagrams before you have to consider payment options.
  • Its free to a certain usability
What are some disadvantages of Cacoo?
  • Well they are in it to make money as they should be and if you like what you see then you should consider payment.  
  • You can only create 25 diagrams before paying.
  • As a free customer you can only save it as a PNG file.
  • You can't embed your diagram into a web page or blog, you can however share a public link to the diagram.
Here is an idea of what the map can look like.  Note that you can get a lot fancier with this program.


1.  Go to
2.  Click the "Sign in" button.
3.  Create a new account or login with another service like "Facebook."

4.  Fill in the information and then click the "Create" button.

5.  Once you have completed your registration click the "Create new diagram" button.  This will open up a new page.

6.  One the right site of the screen you will see some of the options you can choose from to start your diagram.

7.  Play around with the stencil folder section and the shape section until you find the right style of stencil you want to use.  There are many awesome ways to build a diagram.  Once you choose a shape just drag it onto your sheet.

8.  To rotate the shape to different angles and to resize it, just use the "handles."  "Handles" are the little squares and the green dot. 
9.  To write inside the bubble shape, just double click the center of it.  You will now see a box next to your shape.  You can change the font size and color and manipulate the text in other ways.

10.  Use the "line" tool at the top to draw lines from each of your shapes.

11.  After you select the line tool, hover your mouse over the first shape and you will see a bunch of circles appear.  Click and hold on one of them and then draw a line to the next shape.  You should see that shape as well appear with circles.  Let go of the mouse button as you hover over one of those circles.  The two objects should now be linked.

12.  If you want to add your own image to the diagram just use the image button next to the line button.

13.  If your concept map gets to big, just zoom out a little bit using the zoom tool.

14.  After you are done with your concept map, click the "Export" button to save it as a PNG file.

15.  If you want to invite somebody to view your map, just click the "Share" button and type in the user's email address.  That user will now be able to edit the map with you.

16.  Make sure that before you leave the site you "Save" your diagram.  This is also the place where you can grab a public link to sent to others, so that they can see your completed work.

Cacoo truly is a great tool for educators who use concept mapping as a brainstorming tool in their classrooms.  Click this link to see other concept mapping web 2.0 tools.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Create Collaborative Drawings with

My children love to draw.  Young students love to draw.  Believe it or not I have seen Jr. High and High School students who love to draw as part of an assignment.  It is part of human nature for people to want to demonstrate their creative side by drawing.  What is more fun than just creating art? How about creating art with other people?  There are online tools out there in cybersapce that allow you to collaboratively draw and create art together in real time.  A big part of web 2.0 tools and cloud computing is the ability to collaborate and create a piece of work together and then share it with others.

Today I would like to highlight

What is Dabbleboard?
  • An educational tool that allows multiple people to draw at the same time.
What are some benefits and exciting features?
  • Your students don't need a login, just the address to your drawing board.
  • You can embed the drawing, save it, and share it publicly with others.
  • The basic kit is free and the basic kit has many options.
  • If you embed your drawing it is automatically updated to where others can see.
  • Insert documents and images from your computer or the web.
  • Your drawings can be multiple pages.
  • It has shape recognition so that you can draw that perfect circle, square, or triangle.
Ideas for using it in class:
  • Use it as another means of concept mapping.
  • Have your students give instructions on how to perform some skill.
  • Let your students collaborate together as they diagram cells, volcano types, wave types, etc...
What are some disadvantages of the site?
  • In this case it is what it is.  You don't get all of the bells and whistles that you might get when using PhotoShop or some other programs like Paint that you might expect.  But for the K-12 education this could be useful in many projects you might have them working on.
  • There aren't many pre-set shapes for the free version.
  • There isn't more than one font.
Here is a different tutorial using the actual software provided by Dabbleboard.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Create a virtual cork board/sticky note page for K-8 students.

Virtual cork boards and sticky note web pages are starting to become a pretty big hit for educators.  For those who have never heard of such a thing it is simply this:  You create a place (in seconds) where you, your students, colleagues, and parents can post information.  Most of them can be private or public.  Most of them can be embeded into other websites and blogs.  Posting is in real time so as soon as a student posts it shows up on your pages.  Some allow you to moderate your posts so that you can verify that they are appropriate before they go live.

What are the advantages and/or purpose of using one? you might ask.  Well, many of you might be using KWL charts in the front of the classroom, this could be an alternative.  Have you ever given a sticky note to all your students, had them write some information on the note and then post it in some location in the classroom?  If this is you and the mess, time, and organization of it makes it seem like such things aren't worth doing, then using a virtual cork board/sticky note might be a cool and unique way for students to virtually interact with the lesson.

I have listed on my web 2.0 page, a list of several different sites worth taking a look at that allow you in minutes to create a virtually cork board.  The one I would like to highlight today is called, "PrimaryWall."

What can you do with PrimaryWall?

  • Create an unlimited amount of notes to post on the wall.
  • Change the background to multiple templates.
  • Change the fonts.
  • Sort all the notes.
  • Set passwords to the wall so that only members of your class can access it.
  • You can set the name of the link.
  • Your students can view the notes and ask questions at a later time.
  • Share it by sending out a link or embedding it into your blog like I just did.  Feel free to play with it. Add a note for me.  NOTE:  You can't see the last note, because I had to shrink the size of my wall to fit on this screen.  You can also click this link to see the full sized version.
What are some disadvantages to using PrimaryWall?
  • It won't let me add my own background.
  • Some sites allow for videos and images to be posted.  This site does not, at least as of today it doesn't.
Tutorial below the wall.


1.  Go to:
2.  If you want to change the background and have the ability to name your links you should register.  The cool thing is that you don't have to have your students register to use the wall.
3.  Once you have registered and received an email with a verification link, you will get an opportunity to create a password for your wall.  

4.  Once you are ready you can click the "Create new wall" button to get started.

5.  At the top right you will see your setting options.  Click on the background to change it.

6.  Here are the different background to choose from.

7.  The font setting allows you to change your text to these font styles.

8.  The security settings allow you to decide who gets to see your wall.  I would just keep it to everybody.  This way they don't have to login to interact with your wall.  I would never put personal information on a public site anyway so I wouldn't care if everybody saw an educational wall.  Not to mention somebody just surfing the web could win the lottery if they could accidentally find your particular wall.

9.  Notice by the way that after you create a wall you will see the address to your particular wall in the address bar.  This is one way to share it with everybody.

10.  The "share" setting will give you a shortened, random link to your wall.  I would prefer using the one I mentioned above.  If you would like to embed your wall into a website you can copy the embed code here as well.

11.  Click the "Add a Note" button to start adding notes to your wall.

12.  Just fill in the information you want posted.  "Your name or nickname" is where your students when they add a note put their name, so that you can see who has participated.  They can leave it blank if you don't mind the note being anonymous. 

13. When you are done setting up your wall give the link to your students so that they can get to your wall and have them start answering questions.  Below is a graphic that lets you kind of see what a wall could look like.

Well you are on your way to creating possibly your first virtual cork board/post it note wall.