Ed Tech Ideas

Tech Integration for Busy Teachers

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My Top 3 Brainstorming Tools

I’ve always liked Inspiration and Kidspiration for quick, easy to use ways of brainstorming. But with a $900 price tag for a 20 computer license, there just didn’t seem to be any reason to pay that money when there are several robust, free alternatives. In the past couple of years, these alternatives have come close to matching, and in many aspects, surpassing what Inspiration and Kidspiration can do to help students organize their thoughts. Here are my three favs, with a few honorable mentions thrown in to boot.

1. Diagram.ly

Just discovered this one and it’s already my favorite. Easy to use (really) drag and drop interface. Intuitive tool bar. Decent amount of shapes, lines, and clip art.  You have the ability to right-click on any shapes for editing options. Diagram.ly has a very Microsoft feel to it so if you have students who are used to using Office products, the learning curve with Diagram.lywill be easy. Another great feature is that there is no sign up, no registration and no download. You simply create your mind map and save (.xml, .jpg, .png, or .svg).

2. Grapholite

Grapholite is another great diagramming site that is, like diagram.ly, very “Microsoftesque.” Grapholitehas a generous amount of shapes, text boxes, arrows, flow chart icons, and blocks. Colors, fonts, and sizes are easily changed, and it’s easy to insert your own pictures directly into the diagram. Without creating an account (demo mode) users can create diagrams (there doesn’t seem to be a limit as to how many) and export their work as either a .jpg, .png, or .pdf. If you sign up for a free account, you can save your work online to be able to come back and edit it at a later time.

3. Bubbl.us

Another great tool, bubbl.us allows you to easily create and save mind maps. Without an account you begin brainstorming straight away and are able to print or save your mind map as a jpeg or png. Sign up for a free account and you can save the mind map to work on later and/or have others edit it.

Honorable Mentions

Hewe are some other sites worth checking out for brainstorming and flow chart creation:

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Mindset List

Beloit College has just released its annual Mindset List which aims to give the older world a look into the mindset of this year’s freshman class.  From a teacher’s perspective, I find this always to be an interesting list, as it gives me insight and reminders into what is normal for today’s youth. Although I try to stay as current as I can, I find that the older I become, it’s natural to become a bit detached from mainstream society.

The List

1. Few in the class know how to write in cursive.

2. Email is just too slow, and they seldom if ever use snail mail.

3. “Go West, Young College Grad” has always implied “and don’t stop until you get to Asia…and learn Chinese along the way.”

4. Al Gore has always been animated.

5. Los Angelenos have always been trying to get along.

6. Buffy has always been meeting her obligations to hunt down Lothos and the other blood-suckers at Hemery High.

7. “Caramel macchiato” and “venti half-caf vanilla latte” have always been street corner lingo.

8. With increasing numbers of ramps, Braille signs, and handicapped parking spaces, the world has always been trying harder to accommodate people with disabilities.

9. Had it remained operational, the villainous computer HAL could be their college classmate this fall, but they have a better chance of running into Miley Cyrus’s folks on Parents’ Weekend.

10. A quarter of the class has at least one immigrant parent, and the immigration debate is not a big priority…unless it involves “real” aliens from another planet.

11. John McEnroe has never played professional tennis.

12. Clint Eastwood is better known as a sensitive director than as Dirty Harry.

13. Parents and teachers feared that Beavis and Butt-head might be the voice of a lost generation.

14. Doctor Kevorkian has never been licensed to practice medicine.

15. Colorful lapel ribbons have always been worn to indicate support for a cause.

16. Korean cars have always been a staple on American highways.

17. Trading Chocolate the Moose for Patti the Platypus helped build their Beanie Baby collection.

18. Fergie is a pop singer, not a princess.

19. They never twisted the coiled handset wire aimlessly around their wrists while chatting on the phone.

20. DNA fingerprinting and maps of the human genome have always existed.

21. Woody Allen, whose heart has wanted what it wanted, has always been with Soon-Yi Previn.

22. Cross-burning has always been deemed protected speech.

23. Leasing has always allowed the folks to upgrade their tastes in cars.

24. “Cop Killer” by rapper Ice-T has never been available on a recording.

25. Leno and Letterman have always been trading insults on opposing networks.

26. Unless they found one in their grandparents’ closet, they have never seen a carousel of Kodachrome slides.

27. Computers have never lacked a CD-ROM disk drive.

28. They’ve never recognized that pointing to their wrists was a request for the time of day.

29. Reggie Jackson has always been enshrined in Cooperstown.

30. “Viewer Discretion” has always been an available warning on TV shows.

31. The first computer they probably touched was an Apple II; it is now in a museum.

32. Czechoslovakia has never existed.

33. Second-hand smoke has always been an official carcinogen.

34. “Assisted Living” has always been replacing nursing homes, while Hospice has always been an alternative to hospitals.

35. Once they got through security, going to the airport has always resembled going to the mall.

36. Adhesive strips have always been available in varying skin tones.

37. Whatever their parents may have thought about the year they were born, Queen Elizabeth declared it an “Annus Horribilis.”

38. Bud Selig has always been the Commissioner of Major League Baseball.

39. Pizza jockeys from Domino’s have never killed themselves to get your pizza there in under 30 minutes.

40. There have always been HIV positive athletes in the Olympics.

41. American companies have always done business in Vietnam.

42. Potato has always ended in an “e” in New Jersey per vice presidential edict.

43. Russians and Americans have always been living together in space.

44. The dominance of television news by the three networks passed while they were still in their cribs.

45. They have always had a chance to do community service with local and federal programs to earn money for college.

46. Nirvana is on the classic oldies station.

47. Children have always been trying to divorce their parents.

48. Someone has always gotten married in space.

49. While they were babbling in strollers, there was already a female Poet Laureate of the United States.

50. Toothpaste tubes have always stood up on their caps.

51.  Food has always been irradiated.

52. There have always been women priests in the Anglican Church.

53. J.R. Ewing has always been dead and gone. Hasn’t he?

54. The historic bridge at Mostar in Bosnia has always been a copy.

55. Rock bands have always played at presidential inaugural parties.

56. They may have assumed that parents’ complaints about Black Monday had to do with punk rockers from L.A., not Wall Street.

57. A purple dinosaur has always supplanted Barney Google and Barney Fife.

58. Beethoven has always been a dog.

59. By the time their folks might have noticed Coca Cola’s new Tab Clear, it was gone.

60. Walmart has never sold handguns over the counter in the lower 48.

61. Presidential appointees have always been required to be more precise about paying their nannies’ withholding tax, or else.

62. Having hundreds of cable channels but nothing to watch has always been routine.

63. Their parents’ favorite TV sitcoms have always been showing up as movies.

64. The U.S, Canada, and Mexico have always agreed to trade freely.

65. They first met Michelangelo when he was just a computer virus.

66. Galileo is forgiven and welcome back into the Roman Catholic Church.

67. Ruth Bader Ginsburg has always sat on the Supreme Court.

68. They have never worried about a Russian missile strike on the U.S.

69. The Post Office has always been going broke.

70. The artist formerly known as Snoop Doggy Dogg has always been rapping.

71. The nation has never approved of the job Congress is doing.

72. One way or another, “It’s the economy, stupid” and always has been.

73. Silicone-gel breast implants have always been regulated.

74. They’ve always been able to blast off with the Sci-Fi Channel.

75. Honda has always been a major competitor on Memorial Day at Indianapolis.

My personal favorites/shockers are 1, 11, 19, 27, 31, 32, & 68

Great, Free Mind Mapping Tool

Bubbl.us is a fantasic mind mapping site that allows you to easily create and save mind maps.  If you, or your students have ever used Inspiration, you’ll find bubbl.us a no-brainer. If you haven’t used Inspiration, you will still find bubbl.us intuitive and easy to create and navigate.

Without an account you begin brainstorming straight away and are able to print or save your mind map as a jpeg or png. Sign up for a free account and you can save the mind map to work on later and/or have others edit it. Others exporting options will be added in the future.

Uses in the Classroom

As with Inspiration, bubbl.us is a great, free tool for brainstorming ideas solo, or with a group. Students from primary on up will find bubbl.us easy to use.  Email is not necessary to create an account so, if needed, each of your students could create accounts to save their mind maps for later use. Great for story idea generating, research indexing, or simply organizing thoughts.

Thanks to LifeHacker for this great find.

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