LearnBoost - free online grade book and lesson planner and more

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LearnBoost is an online grade book and lesson planner that is available for free to educators. It has a grade book, lesson planner, attendance, reporting and calendar. It is easy to use, visually appealing, and you can share information with students and parents. The lesson planner is integrated with state standards and you integrate the whole system with Google Apps.

The grade book has easy inputs, real-time stats, grading scales and weighted assignments. 

The lesson planner makes it easy to create new lesson plans, align them with state standards and keep all your materials in one place. You can attach files and pictures, create assessments, and comment in the reflection section so you remember what you want to change for next time.


You can easily take attendance using a visual seating chart or list and quickly check student attendance history and records.


It allows you to easily create reports on classroom and student data so you can make decisions based on student data. 


Parents and students can have read access to view their progress.

The seating charts are visual and dynamic so you can try out different arrangements. 

Dynamic seating

You can also use it for scheduling and creating calendars and integrate it with Google Apps for Education. 

Flexible schedules Integrated calendars Google apps for education

They also have a blog where they discuss education technology, ed reform, policy, strategies and best practices, product releases, technology and tips for using LearnBoost. 

This is a great tool for teachers to use and it's free! It is full featured and easy to use.

Win a TI-NSPIRE X color graphing calculator - just comment on blog post

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Earlier this month, I wrote a review of the TI-NSPIRE X color graphing calculator. TI has graciously given me a brand new one to give away. So, if you want one, just comment below on the post and I will randomly pick a winner from all who comment.

It's a really great educational tool. Read the review here.

The Periodic Table of Videos - great resource!

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I've shared a couple of great periodic table resources in the past, including The Interactive Periodic Table of Elements (which is one of the most popular articles) and here's another great one: The Periodic Table of Videos.

The Periodic Table of Videos is a collection of videos on YouTube, created in a collaboration between the University of Nottingham's School of Chemistry and video journalist Brady Haran. The collection includes videos about all 118 elements and they are updating and improving the original videos while added more films about other aspects of chemistry, such as molecules. This is a great resource for any science teacher or student to use to help learn and understand more about chemistry.

Here is a link to their YouTube page. You can access the videos from the main page or from their YouTube page. The main site shows new videos and which videos have been updated.

Sooeet - online calculators and conversions

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Sooeet is a site with a plethora of tools and resources for students and teachers. It has conversion factor calculators, scientific calculators, and date calculators.

There are conversions for angle, area, clothing sizes, density, date and time, electricity, currency rates, computer how-to's, and much more.

It's another great tool.

Desmos - create media rich educational content online

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Desmos is a new web service that allows you to create rich educational content that works through a browser so that anyone can access it, no matter what operating system platform they are using.

It is free to sign up and use and even features the ability to collaborate on the content with others.

Desmos includes support for graphics, photos, math tools, and interactive lessons. You can create math lesson using the math tools, including graphing and equations. You can also the graphics program to create interactive diagrams where students can move the labels themselves.

It is easy to use and there is a blog and support page to help you out. It looks like a great way to create some great content for your classes.

Lessons are all licensed under Creative Commons but are visible to everyone.

Check it out.

Google Apps for Education - Guide to Going Google

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Everyone who knows me knows that I use a lot of apps and resources from Google. They are free, of high quality, and very useful. The Guide to Going Google is a resource from Google that helps educational institutions implement Google Apps for Education in their system.

It is divided by University and K12 Editions. The K12 section has information on promoting Google Apps for Education, the technical aspects, professional development and training resources for your staff, and much more.

Google Apps for Education is a great way for schools to save money on software and systems licensing, IT support, while getting some high quality systems to use with their faculty and students.

For schools that are thinking about implementing Google Apps for Education, this is the first place they should look.

Related Articles:

Google for Educators - Resources for using Google in school

Math Open Reference - free help in math

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Math Open Reference is a site that has interactive resources and information on different math topics. The pages are easy to read and understand and are a great resource for teachers and students.

The topics include Plane Geometry, Trigonometry, and Coordinate and Solid Geometry.

Livescribe Echo Smartpen - very cool and very useful

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I recently acquired a Livescribe Echo Smartpen to use and found it to be very useful. The Livescribe smartpens are pretty cool. They record what you write, and hear, and then you can load this into your computer to keep a digital copy of your written notes and even share your notes with others. 

The ability to record your hand written notes is very useful in Math and Science, since it’s very hard to take notes in these areas with a keyboard or even a tablet/pad. It can also make an audio record of what you say or hear as you are writing and it timestamps and syncs the written notes with the audio notes. 

Your notes get synced to your computer using a mini-usb cable and the Livescribe desktop application. There is also an application that you can get that will transcribe your handwritten notes into digital typeset notes. You can even search for words in your notes. The desktop application allows you to organize your notes and shows a thumbnail of each notebook. You can then view each notebook page and page forward and backward.

The pen is controlled by tapping on certain symbols in the notebook, which is pretty cool. You use this to select other applications in the pen, start, stop, and playback audio recordings and more. Inside the front cover of the Livescribe notebooks is a “calculator” that allows you to use the pen as a calculator. There are also controls on each page that allow you to change the volume on the pen, jump around your recordings, and even bookmark a spot in your notes.

You can share your notes and recordings as a pencast, PDF, or audio file. The desktop application has one-click sharing with Evernote, Facebook, Google Docs and Email. This means you can always have your notes available to you. You can also sync your pen notes to multiple computers. During meetings, one person can be the official note-taker and then share the notes out with everyone else. 

There are apps available also that you can download to add more functionality to your pen, including dictionaries, translators, games, productivity tools and more.

There is a vibrant user community and support team as well as resources for using the Livescribe Pens in Education. These pens are great for taking notes and then sharing and saving them. I can see a lot of great uses for these in education. The site has some great tips and uses for using the pens in school and even has reports of how the pens have helped increase student achievement. The Livescribe help website is easy to use and understand and makes using these pens very easy. Set up only takes a couple of minutes.

I had seen an early model a few years ago, but wasn’t interested because you needed to buy special paper in order for it to work. While you can still order the special paper, you can now print out your own too (as long as your printer is an Adobe PostScript-compatible color laser printer with a print resolution of 600 dpi or greater, which, luckily, mine is.)

The model I have is an 8GB pen. You get the desktop software, stylus tip, two ink cartridges, the cable, a starter notebook, and 500MB of personal online storage. The 8GB Echo retails for $199 so it’s not cheap, but it is another tool that can be very useful in education, business, and even just for taking personal notes. The 2GB pen is only $99. There are discount prices available to educators, anyone interested can email educationsales@livescribe.com  for details.

UPDATED: You can get 15% off the price of a Livescribe Pen by using this link (directly to Livescribe, not secondary vendor)

The main reason that I see these as an essential tool for many people is the ability to record hand written notes. Many people, myself included, take notes very efficiently with pen and paper, using symbols, diagrams, arrows, and the like to make the notes more meaningful. It’s also great for people who have to take notes using math and science equations and symbols. Being able to easy capture, save and then share those notes is a great thing.

Sources of Funding and Free Stuff for Teachers

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Teachers have always had to scrounge for funding and the current economic situation only makes this more of an issue. Even with government stimulus packages and big grants, teachers don't see much money for our individual use. We've all wished we had more money to purchase books, supplies, equipment, and other items for our students and our classrooms. But what do we do when the money just isn't there?
The first place to look is grants. There are a lot of grant sources out there. Not all of them are easy to get though. I always suggest that people ask for help from grant writers or other teachers who have been successful in getting grants. Most grants have tips and advice on their own web site also.

Some schools may qualify for Priority School District grants and other State and Federal grants. These are for low income districts and can be used for supplies and equipment to help with extra programs related to drop out prevention and improving student performance.

A great resource for funding classroom projects is Donors Choose. Donors Choose was actually started by teachers. You sign up for an account, fill out a project proposal, selecting the items you need from a variety of vendors, and then people with money to donate go to Donors Choose and select projects to fund. I have had multiple projects funded through Donors Choose. It is a very simple process and the staff can help you with any problems.

Corporate grants are another source of funding. ToyotaToshibaVerizon,MicrosoftBest Buy, and Target all have grant programs you can apply for.

Some vendors have their own grant programs, special pricing or can help you find grants to buy their products. Smart Technologies, Epson, Mimio andVernier are some of the companies that will work with you to hep you find funding.

Donations are another source. Local Businesses may be looking to donate money, supplies or equipment. Many companies would rather donate old equipment and supplies to a school rather than just throw it out. Your school gets supplies and the company gets a tax write off. I have gotten lab supplies from a DNA company that updated their labs, a computer from a small company that upgraded theirs, and our school has gotten office supplies and furniture from a nearby business that was moving their headquarters. Many teachers have contacts at area businesses through friends or family. Use these contacts to your advantage.

Do more with less. Look for cheaper or free alternatives to the major brands. There are a lot of manufacturers of interactive white boards out there. Shop around and find the best deal. Make your own white boards using melamine coated hardboard from a hardware store at a fraction of the cost of a commercial white board. 

Use free software and web services instead of paying for licensed software. There is a free resource for pretty much any paid software (check this blog you are reading along with some on my blogroll to the right).

Partner with local colleges. Sometimes they have older equipment that they can donate to you. They may also have grants that they can get that can also benefit the K-12 system.

Look for grants and funding opportunities on the web. TechLearning has a great section on funding tips. There is a Grant Guru column, as well as a data base of grant sources.

Edutopia and Nortel Learn It also have grant and funding resources. And of course, you can always "Google" for more information. Educational conferences are another great way to find funding resources and talk with vendors on different ways of funding purchases.

You can also look at professional societies for the subject you teach. For example, I use aviation and aerospace examples to teach physics. I have gotten grants and resource from the Air Force Association and American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA). Many of these types of groups have classroom grants. 

Animal Facts from Nat Geo - great resource

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National Geographic, an excellent resource for educators, has a wonderful site with Animal Facts that I learned about from Mary Beth Hertz (@mbteach) (who is a great educator and resource for other educators).

Animal Facts is a collection of facts and information on all kinds of animals. It is arranged by type of animal: amphibian, bird, fish, etc. On the right side of the page is a listing of animals alphabetically.

Each animal page has photos, resources, fast facts, and a map of where their habitat is.

Here's the page for Giant Squid:

You can also quickly share each page via Facebook, Twitter, Buzz, Stumble upon, and email making it easier to share with your students.

It's a great resource for teachers and students.

Free Resources on Concussions in Sports from CDC

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Heads Up: Concussion in High School Sports

Heads Up: Concussion in High School Sports is a great resource from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) for coaches, parents, teachers, and athletes. 

The site has posters, reference sheets, pocket cards, videos, training materials, and more, all to increase the awareness of concussions and how dangerous they are. The site and materials are meant to help prevent concussions from going unnoticed and leading to serious consequences.

All the materials are free to order and many are available as a free download. 

As a paramedic, I've treated dozens of high school students with concussions. Many where allowed to play even after showing symptoms. This is extremely dangerous and can lead to permanent brain damage, disability, and death. 

Share this information with all of the coaches, athletes, parents and faculty in your building or district and help keep our student athletes safe.

There is also a site for younger athletes: Heads Up: Concussion in Youth Sports.

Barcharts - quick study guides - some great free ones for students

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Barcharts is a company that prints up those colorful laminated quick study booklets you see at the bookstore and even supermarket. I've purchased a few over the years (Physics, Computer, Accounting) and found them to be very useful. They have quick study booklets on almost any topic from Biology to Physics to History, Economics, Cooking, Computers and much more. Different titles come different sizes, including full size (8 1/2" x 11"), pocket size, poster and more. They average about $6 each.

They also offer some free quick study booklets on some topics that are very useful for educators and students. The ones that I always share with my students are: Keys to High School Success, Keys to College Success, and Surviving the College Ride. They all include very useful tips on studying, time management, how to get help, and much more. They are all available as PDF file downloads.

There are also some fun free ones including Stupid Jokes, Umpire and Referee Signals, and Ramen Noodle Recipes.

Share this with your students.

BetterLesson - free K-12 lesson plans, materials and resources

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BetterLesson is a site that has a large number of lesson plans, presentations, resources, unit plans, curricula, and more from other educators. You can also upload your resources to share with others.

The site also allows users to comment and converse about the different resources. The resources are searchable and are sorted by grade level and subject. There are a lot of great resources on here.

It is free, but you do need to use your email address to sign up and then you create your account. This allows you to upload content and also "bookmark" resources to use later.

Arcademic Skill Builders - free online educational games

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Arcademic Skill Builders is a free online resource offering educational video games. These web-based learning games assist K-8 students with basic math, language arts, vocabulary and thinking skills in the classroom or at home. Students can play together in groups of four, eight or 12 students at one time. The games can be integrated into instruction with the use of a projector screen, interactive white board or computer lab. All Arcademic games are developed to align with state standards and the Common Core Standards.

The games are well designed, fun and educational.

Partnership for 21st Century Skills - tools and resources for educators

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The Partnership for 21st Century Skills is a national organization advocating for 21st century skills for students. The site has tools, resources, publications, and more to help schools and teachers help their students develop these skills.


bubbabrain - online education games and quizzes

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bubbabrain is a site that offers online educational games and quizzes. They are organized by grade level and course topic and include AP classes. It's easy to use and has some great games.

Most are quiz type games and if you get it wrong, it tells you to try again.

Century of Flight - History of Aviation

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Aviation is exciting, intriguing, engaging and stimulates our sense of adventure. My students love hearing about aircraft and how the physics they are learning applies to it.

Century of Flight is a great website that explores the history of aviation.It includes aviation myths and legends, early pioneers, helicopters, warplanes, space explorations, air ships, and much more.

Aviation can be used in any classroom to engage and excite your students.

Math and Physics Applets help students learn

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Mathematics      Physics

I learned about some very cool applets for math and physics from Dolores Gende the other day. These two pages and the applets were created by Walter Fendt.

An applet is an interactive animation (run with Java). These applets allow students to visualize and manipulate different things to explore and learn about the topics.

There are applets for arithmetic, algebra, geometry, trigonometry, forces, Newton's Laws, momentum and collisions, circular motion, waves, and much, much more.

These are great resources for teachers and students to use to better understand and explore these topics.

Applets on Mathematics

Applets on Physics 

The Rainbow Fish

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The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister is a picture book that parents seem either to love or to hate. It is the story of a fish, described as "the most beautiful fish in the entire ocean," with rainbow-colored, iridescent scales. The other fish call him "Rainbow Fish," and invite him to play with them, but he remains uninterested and aloof. A small blue fish follows him one day, asking for one of his scales, and is rebuffed. The rainbow fish ends up ostracized by all the other fish, and his scales begin to mean less to him with "no one to admire them." Taking the advice of an octopus whose suggestions he seeks, the rainbow fish gives all his scales away, one by one, until he is left with only one. Surrounded by many fish, each with one iridescent scale, the rainbow fish now no longer looked different, and he "at last felt at home among the other fish."

The story raises questions about being different versus one of the crowd, identity and self-worth, selfishness and generosity, the nature of beauty, and the meaning of friendship. Some people read it as promoting the message that we all should be the same, others as advocating for recognition of the value of inner beauty and generosity. To my mind, the story can be read as endorsing several contradictory ideas, which makes it quite philosophically interesting. I have found that it's very appealing to children, and easily sparks conversations about independence and conformity, being unique versus fitting in, and what friendship requires.

Fyels - free, easy, simple file sharing

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There are a lot of file sharing apps and services available. I just learned about Fyels from Lifehacker (another great resource).

Fyles is extremely simple and easy to use. The site is pretty much an empty page. The image above is the starting page for it. You simply drag and drop a file onto the web page and then it gives you a link that you send to whomever you are sharing the file with. Doesn't get much easier than that. There is no registration required. There is a 2GB file size limit though. You do get a password for each file you share so you can go back and delete it off their servers if you want.

This is another great way to share files with your students or colleagues (or friends).

Related Articles:

AVG launches file sync, backup, and share system called LiveKive

Rockets - a great project for the end of the year for any class

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I love rockets. My Bachelor's degree is in Aerospace Engineering and I've been interested in rockets since I was a kid. My dad worked on the main engines for the Saturn V rocket when he worked at Pratt & Whitney as a chemist, I've designed and manufactured parts for the space program as an engineer, and my senior project in college was designing a two-state-to-orbit space vehicle. I've found that all kids seem to have some interest in rockets and I use that as a great end-of-the-year project in my physics class.

Cover of the Rockets Educator Guide+

I found a great resource from NASA - The Rockets Educator Guide - that includes lesson plans and activity ideas. NASA's site is a great resource for this type of project. This guide has some great activities like rockets using film canisters, baking soda, and vinegar, paper rockets, altitude trackers and more. There is even a part on the history of rockets.

This week, I was able to show one class the live launch of the Shuttle Endeavor on NASA TV, which is currently showing video of a space walk. I also use the video from Rush's "Countdown" song.

I start the project with a video of a shuttle launch and Rush's Countdown song (written after they viewed a shuttle launch in the 80's). Then the students do a webquest on NASA's site that explains the science of rockets. We also discuss rockets and space flight and then start linking the topics we've done in the past to this project. I also bring in the chemistry behind solid rocket engines.

 Present Day -- Space Shuttle

The students then get model rocket kits and build the model rockets. The rocket kits are challenging and call for the students to read and understand the directions and figure a few things out for them selves. They have to perform a stability test on the rockets and then calculate the predicted altitude. When we launch the rockets, we use altitude trackers and some trigonometry to find the actual altitude and compare it to the calculated altitude. We then talk about what could have caused the discrepancies.

Computer drawing of a model rocket with the parts tagged.

You can extend the unit and do more activities from the educators guide. You can also have students research space missions, current spacecraft, and the future of space travel.

Discovery Education Streaming has some great videos and resources, including the "NASA at 50", "Bill Nye Great Inventions" and "When We Left The Earth: The NASA Mission" series.

The students learn a lot, see an application of what they have learned, work as a team, and have some fun. It's a great way to end the year.

Topics in this unit:
history of rockets
energy transformations
fluid dynamics
chemistry of solid fuel engines
Newton's Laws
air resistance

reading comprehension
manual dexterity
application of knowledge
problem solving

Resources needed:
computer with internet to connect to NASA website
NASA Rockets Educator Guide - free
Model rocket kits, engines, and launcher (available from a variety of companies and suppliers. I use Estes).
(funding for these supplies have been through Donor's Choose and an Air Force Association classroom grant).

Rockets resources:
NASA's Beginners Guide to Rockets: http://www.grc.nasa.gov/WWW/K-12/rocket/index.html
Estes Model Rockets - Educator Page: http://www.esteseducator.com/
Apogee Rockets - http://www.apogeerockets.com/ (click on "Educational")
National Association of Rocketry: http://www.nar.org/teacher.html