Free Photoshop for Teachers and Students Online Adobe has just released a great tool for basic editing of photos.  The best part about it is that it is free and does not require installation.  Photoshop Express is a free online application that lets you do a variety of things to photos, including: Cropping, Rotating, adding effects, correcting blemishes and more.  This is not Photoshop CS3,  The advanced tools and layers functions are not available in this version, but in reality for teaching middle grade students and perhaps even primary grade students how to do basic photo editing it is very cool.  If you an advanced Photoshop user looking for a new version you will have to wait for Photoshop CS4.

5 Best Photo Applications for the Mac Classroom

Editing and Manipulating photos is becoming an essential part of the multimedia classroom. In considering which tools are best I looked at a few primary factors.  These include: Price, Capability, Ease of use, and educational value.

  1. Pixelmator- $59 Pixelmator is a very powerful photo editing tool that gives you photoshop like capability  in a easy to use affordable package.  Piximator lets you preform all of the basics like crop, rotate, change color and exposure level, but goes beyond to allow advances editing with layers. If you need an affordable tool that can do just about everything pixelmator is your tool.
  2. MacGimp- Free (Open Source) Gimp has been an open source alternative for editing photos for a long time.  As a result it has become a well developed open source application.  Although it is not as pretty and not as easy to use as Pixelmator, it is just as powerfull in regards to capability.  The price is somthing any teacher can afford, but there is a steep learning curve.
  3. I-Photo'08- $71 (Part of the i-Life suite)  I-photo is tightly integrated into many of the Mac applications, and is extreemly easy to learn and use.  It is a key componant to managing your photos, and does a good job with basic editing tasks.  On the down side I-photo is very limited, and will nt do any advanced editing.  It is simply a good tool to manage and preform  very basic edits to your photos.  I personally feel that it is not worth the upgrade price if a previous version came with your Mac, unless you are also doing a significant ammount of video work with i-movie whitch is included with the i-Life update.
  4. Photoshop Elements- 89.95 Photoshop is the industry standard for photo editing. The elements version takes out a few of the professional features, and makes the interface a little easier to use, but still contains a significant ammount of editing power.  It is an affordable alternative to its big brother.
  5. Photoshop- 299.95 Photoshop does not top the list primarily because of price.  It is simply out of range for most teachers.  For those that can afford it they also face a steep learning curve.  With all of these drawbacks, why is it on the list?  Photoshop is an extremely powerful editing tool.  It has the backing of a huge user base, so it is easy to find resources to figure out what you want to do.  Of the five this software ranks the highest in educational value, simply because the skills learned will likely carry over to the professional market.

(All prices based on academic discounts if availible)

Picturing History "US History as seen through the artists eye" Picturing History is a site develped by the National Endowment for the Humanities that has a collection of paintings, drawings and sculptures that have a connection to historical events.  The pictures themselves are great, but the are brought into context as you click on a picture.  You get a descrition of the historical event that inspired the artwork as well as a brief bio of the artist.  The thing that sets this site appart from others is it's amazing interface.  It uses a very well designed flash interface that makes viewing and researching the paintings easy and fun.  It is well worth taking a look.

ELMO Document camera

I have been using an overhead projector for many years in my teachin practice.  It was great, I could face the students when I write, I could copy worksheets on a transparency so the kids could see it, and more.  Although it was great it did have a few disadvantages.  First even whan in good focus small text was difficult to read at times, Wet erase markers were big and it was difficult to write small enough, and third you had to think ahead and make sure you had transparencies made. I reciently recieved a document camera that is connected to the HD Projector in my room.  The Document Camera is made by ELMO and the projector is an Epson.  It has been wonderfull and has a few inherent advantages over an overhead.  First it is ready all the time.  I can take any worksheet or book and put it under the camera and it is projected crystal clear on the screen.  This has been very usefull when using reference materials in which I don't have a class set.  I've put encyclopedia pages up about things that came up in classroom discussion.  The picutures are displayed in full color, and the text is easy to read.  It is easy to zoom in and focus on particular items.  I was worried that writing in pencil would not show up well, but it shows up on the projection darker and clearer that it is on the actual page.  I have been very impresses with this new tool, and it has significantly improved my instruction.  I'm sorry Overhead you will have to move to make Room for Elmo.

Activote with Activboard from Promethean Changed the Way I teach!

I have been using the Activboard with the Activate from Promethean for about 1 month now, and it has had a significant impact on the way I teach.  I assume that the use of any electronic whiteboard technology would have a similar impact but I have been very happy with the Promethean products.  Promethean focuses only on the education market so their products and software work great for schools.  They have a rich database of ready made activities so preparation is minimal.  Even if I do need to create activities from scratch, the software is easy to learn and easy to use so I can create lessons fast. The best part of the combination is the instant feedback I receive when using the Activote system.  The Activote is a remote where students can submit a multiple choice answer with up to 6 options, and the results are instantly recorded and with a tap of the board are displayed.  I often will do a poll on the fly just by writing the question with a marker so that I can instantly know whether or not the students understand a concept. I am converting my multiple choice tests to the Activote system because I can create the test for Activote in about half the time it takes to grade the test by hand. The Activboard has many features beyond the typical writing on the board that make it very powerful. The layers feature makes it possible to do many cool and fun activities. The multimedia tools work well.  The organization of the file system is it's one caveat.  It is a little difficult to figure out how they organize things, but over all it is great.

Don't let tech get in the way of good teaching.

Often we who love technology spend a great deal of time and effort implementing technology in our classrooms. In most cases it is a beneficial endeavor, but there are times when we get to focused on the tech that learning suffers. The biggest trap is time. Often we will spend inordinate amounts of time on a project with limited learning potential in order to implement a technology aspect to it. Other traps we fall into is testing a technology with the class and finding we need to use time to trouble shoot instead of teach. Upgrading to the most recent versions of software can also present problems. One example of this is that I have upgraded to the most recent version of office on my teacher computer but the student lab is still on the previous version. When I show students how to do something it does not match what they will see when they try it. Technology can be a great enhancement to our teaching but we must be aware of it's use to make surest does not get in the way.

Finding a Mac Blogging Application

In a recent post I talked about Microsoft Live Writer on a PC. Needless to say I was pretty impressed. Prior to using Live Writer I always took the time to go to the admin and type it on the website. Because my primary computer is a Mac so after using Live Writer I started my search for a Mac Blogging client. I must say first that although I settled on a winner, it was settling. The Mac Clients don't even come close to design, functionality, and ease of use to Live Writer. Although, there are a few outliers the two applications that stand out from the crowd are MarsEdit and Ecto. While my first inclination was to go with MarsEdit, and that is what I'm typing this on, Ecto has a little but more capability when it comes to formatting and adding things to the entry like keywords or ads. The media management however is not as strong. It's not that MarsEdit doesn't have some of the formatting features but they are buried and difficult to use. Ecto is not as pretty as the rest, but it does what you need it to do. I would like to see a single window interface, and easier media management, but it is very easy to format your articles and text like you want. One feature that is either not there or difficult to find is the ability to add columns. It is not important for this blog, but it is a feature I use all the time on my classroom blog for spelling and vocabulary lists. Inserting ads, and links is very easy, and it is possible to create your own scripts to make repetitive tasks a breeze. It's not often that Mac software is blown out of the water by PC apps, but in the case of Blogging clients Mac software doesn't even come close. But if you are on a Mac, your best option is Ecto.

Trying out Windows Live write

Windows Live Writer is a part of the Windows live tools available at .  The download aslo includes a variety of other applications for managing photos, making movies, email application, and IM.  As a side note if you are using outlook express, you should immediately download the new Live mail app.  it is a huge step up.

The live writer application is a blogging application that lets you blog right from your desktop.  It was very easy to set up.  I simply typed in the name of my blog, the user name, and password, and waited a few seconds as it configured everything.


Adding Photos seems to work good, and is far easier than adding them from the web interface.  It ads the picture to your windows live photo albums and links up so you are not using space on your server.


Adding Tables

Which is a great  way to organize.
Is also easy!

Unless trying to write sentences in them.



I think that the real value in this application is that it makes it very easy for both teachers and students to blog.  Because the interface is clean and far easier to understand than many of the web interfaces, it eliminates the barriers of entry into the blogging world.  Windows Live Writer is definitely worth a look and for the price of free why not?

Best Software for Mind Mapping

The Best software for Educators: Mind Mapping Software:

  • Inspiration & Kidspiration ($69 per license, Site license discounts available)  There are many mind mapping tools avaie but the one thats been around the longest is still the best.  The Inspitation software is for older students while Kidspiration is tailored for the primary grades.
  • Freemind (Free/Open Source) This is a great free alternative.  It lacks some of the really education related tools available in Inspiration but for creating mind maps it has everything you need

Jing Screen Capture Utility

Jing Website

Jing is a product that can capture either a still image of anything on your screen or a recording of up to 5 minutes of your screen.  Wouldn’t it be handy to show the students how to do something, rather than just trying to explain the steps.  Once you start using screen capture you wonder what you did without it.  It is great for taking a picture of a website, Google earth images, or application instructions.

Jing is made by Techsmith  who makes the best and most widely used professional screen capture applications.  This free version is easier to use and has most of the features that you would need as a teacher.  Jing is also Mac or Windows compatible.


ZOHO Writer for the Classroom

ZOHO Writer Website

ZOHO Writer is a word processing application in the cloud.  There is no software to install, and documents are all saved in the cloud making it easy for students to work on projects from home, the classroom or the lab without the need to transfer files with a USB Drive or disk.  Of the online Word Processors on the internet ZOHO Writer seems to be the most feature rich.  In addition to everything you would expect in a word processing application. It has great collaboration tools that are perfect for group projects.  It also has a great equation editor for High school Math and science Projects.

ZOHO Writer tightly integrates with Microsoft Office. It has a plug-in available for Office that allows you to open, edit and save ZOHO docs.  With tight integration, robust features, and and a great price (free) ZOHO Office is the best online word processor I have found yet.

Apples iPad-Where does it fit?

With the announcement of Apples new iPad devise there is a lot of skepticism among the tech analysts on whether or not this devise really has a market. I personally am glad to see Apple's judgment get questioned by the fan-boy media, however in this case I thing Apple has the potential to hit a home run. For me personally it answers a big need. I currently have an iPod Touch with a fair amount of money and time invested in apps for it. I am also in the market for a phone. So I should just get an iPhone and transfer all of that over, right? Wrong, AT&T has no coverage for my area. Besides that I no longer believe that the iPhone is the toughest kid on the block in the cell phone arena. Android based systems will quickly overtake the iPhones momentum, because they are open for developers, and open to all carriers. The iPad is the perfect answer for my problem, because the apps I use the most will still be available and even more useful on the iPad, and can easily switch to an android based mobile phone without giving up my Apps, or having to carry two pocket sized devises. The implications on schools could be tremendous, if Apple can refocus it's efforts on in the education market, and get a little more competitive pricing. This is a perfect student device because students can type, communicate, and have textbooks all in one relatively affordable device. There would be a need to disable some options such as itunes store, appstore, and there would need to be an easy method to image devices for a whole classroom. Whether Apple will work with these things and make it possible remains a question. If Apple doesn't there will likely be a similar device that will soon. Either way Apple has created a class of devise that will eventually revolutionize our classrooms. The days of each student having a computer devise are not too far away.

Snap Grades is the Best Online Grade-book!

I have used several different grade book solutions in my many years of teaching. In the past my favorite have been applications that are directly installed on my computer, but the one that I use now and don't foresee ever leaving is web based. I have used very expensive online solutions adopted by our district such as PowerSchool, but the interface seems to be an after thought. In my opinion the best option out there at any price is Snap Grade. It is very well designed and easy to use, but it also has many powerful features that make it perfect for about any situation.

Snap Grade's interface is probably one of the best thought out of any grade book I have seen out there. You enter the information about the assignments on the same page you enter the scores. It took me about 20 minutes to set up all of my students and classes and have the first scores entered. It was intuitive enough that I didn't even need to look at any of the help documents. I did have to look a little to find a way to do a missing assignment report, but everything else was pretty easy to figure out. Being web based, it is available from any computer, but they wen a step further and built a Mobile interface so it can also easily be used from an iphone, ipod touch, or android based phone. The mobile interface is not quite as easy due to limited screen real estate, but it is well designed. It is great to be able to wonder around the room and checkoff journals or spelling on my iPod. If you want a few more advanced features and the ability for parents to log on and view their child's progress, you pay a relatively low price of $49.95 per year. They also have options for group discounts the allow for school wide administration, and reports. If you don't need these additional features the application is free. It is free to sign up and try it out and it is well worth the time to try it out.

Educational Software for Science

There are many great educational out there that can make learning science a lot more interesting. Also, although it is probably not as much fun as live labs, educational science software, can be far more affordable than lab materials. I wouldn't suggest that we eliminate labs, but I think we could expand the lab experience by mixing live labs and virtual lab environments. Here is my list of a few of the best Educational Science Software:
Model ChemLab

Model ChemLab is a unique product incorporating both an interactive simulation and a lab notebook workspace with separate areas for theory, procedures and student observations. Commonly used lab equipment and procedures are used to simulate the steps involved in performing an experiment. Users step-through the actual lab procedure while interacting with animated equipment in a way that is similar to the real lab experience.
Phet Interactive Simulations
Phet Interactive Simulations provides several research based sims that covers topics from glaciers to pH Scale. It is provided by the University of Colorado, is web based, and best of all is free.
NASA Rocketmodeler III
Nasa Rocket Modler III allows you to adjust different variables in a model rocket to gain optimal hight and flight time. This tool is also free.
Interactive Physics

Interactive Physics allows you to model, simulate, and explore a wide variety of physical phenomena, and create nearly any experiment imaginable. If you can use a mouse, you can use Interactive Physics.

  • Create objects by drawing circles, blocks, and polygons
  • Measure velocity, acceleration, force, energy, etc., in metric or English units
  • Create ropes, springs, dampers, pulleys, slots, actuators, and motors
  • Simulate contact, collisions, and friction
  • Vary air resistance, gravity, or material properties
  • View results as numbers, graphs, and animated vectors
  • Hear and measure sound volumes, sound frequencies, and
  • Doppler effectsCreate visually appealing presentations by attaching graphics to objects

Interactive Physics allows you to model, simulate, and explore a wide variety of physical phenomena, and create nearly any experiment imaginable. If you can use a mouse, you can use Interactive Physics.

It would be fun to let children look at books and stories from the many worldwide cultures that we study over the course of the year. Yet developing that sort of library could get very expensive. Well this is where becomes very helpful. It is a very broad collection of children's books from a wide range of cultures and languages. The site is well designed and allows to browse based on a variety of methods for example age based or topic based. It also has powerful search capabilities.

Admittedly it is not a substitute for a quality collection of real books, but at the price of free it is a way to introduce books language and culture to our classroom without paying hundreds of dollars. Although it is free if you use it a lot, I recommend making a donation.

If you are looking to add international real books to your collection here are a few suggestions.

Find many more at:

Brain Pop

My Primary job is as a Special Education teacher. I really enjoy working with the students I have despite the learning disabilities. The challenge is in scheduling. It is difficult to help students an individual level, addressing the individual needs of each students. Enter Brain Pop. Brain Pop offers a vast series of flash movies that cover topics across the curriculum. the movies I have used are fun and entertaining while covering key facts and information. The movie is followed by a quiz that students can print out results to turn in. The movies and quiz take from five to ten minutes. This has become a valuable tool that I use daily in my instruction.

The downside is definitely price. It is somewhat reasonable for a whole school ($850) implementation as compared to other resources, yet the $150 price tag for English only and over $200 for bi-lingual versions put it a little bit out of reach for a single resource. Even with the price tag it may be worth looking at.

Download an informational brochure produced a great book Popular Science: Almanac for Kids that can be found on

Internet Safety for Students (CyberNetiquette)

When it comes to safety on the internet we can't be to careful we need to teach our students the importance of internet safety so that they don't make critical errors in judgment. We hear on the news frequently about predators who have posted false profiles on web sites and chat rooms to reach children and lure them into a dangerous and sometimes deadly situation. The police are doing what they can do by using the same methods the predators use to lure kids in, yet they can only stop and catch a small percentage of these predators. The best method of preventing this is to teach our children proper internet use and safety. Education is a powerful tool.

Over the next few weeks I will take a day to review a internet safety site so that you will have some resources available to teach your students. The first site is called CyberNetiquette which is produced by Disney it can be found at:

CyberNetiquette is a fun website with very attractive flash animations that kids can go though to learn about internet safety. The activities feature familiar characters such as the Three Little Pigs, Mr. Toad, and the ever famous dwarf Grumpy. These sites are good for students 3rd grade up to about 6th grade. They are not effective for lower grades because there is a fair amount of reading involved and it takes a basic knowledge of computing to figure out the navigation. The animations themselves are fun and visually appealing. The content is good but not real in depth. It covers basic rules, which would work good for a first introduction. The downside of the site is the obtrusive advertising. I even got a popup. I understand the need for advertising, but I do not agree on putting a popup for a credit card on a public service site intended for children.

I have used this site with my students and overall they have enjoyed it. Look for another safety site review next week.

Tux Paint A great tool at a great price.

Tux Paint is a free program that enables creative youngsters with fun easy to use tools to create amazing works of art. Tux paint is available to download for free, or it can be purchased on a CD-Rom for a very low price. The download is available at

The interface of this application is very appealing for kids. The screen is a fixed size with a palate of basic tools and a few special tools that make drawing and creating fun. You have your basic brush tool that you can easily change the size and color of. It also has a wide array of typical paint application tools. In addition to the basics is has magic tools that allow a child to paint with stars, rainbows, and many other unique things. It also has a set of stamps that have many animals, cars, and other pictures that you can simply stamp into your picture. I recommend that also download the stamp pack which greatly increases the amount of stamps available.

This application is good for schools because it is open source and can be installed on all computers in a lab or school free of charge. The downside to this is that he file management is poor, and becomes problematic when you get many students who have created many pictures. Tux paint will run on Windows, Mac OS X (Currently no Classic is available) and Linux.