Soundtrap Launches New Free Plan With Unlimited Storage

Soundtrap, the popular music and podcast creation tool, has announced unlimited storage and new features for their free tier. These changes will undoubtedly appeal to educators, and anyone else who is looking to create audio on a budget. It’s an exciting move and one that will help open more doors for creators. Here’s what you need to know.

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Pixlr X: Free Online Photo Editor

Pixlr X: A fantastic online photo editor that's easy to use

Pixlr has a reputation for providing high quality, free online photo editors. I have been using them on and off for several years now, and I keep coming back to them despite having access to more powerful brand name equivalents from Adobe and others. Pixlr started their journey with a free online alternative to Photoshop. Their next release was Pixlr Express, a more simple editor that anyone could use for quick fix and easy filters and effects. Last month, they unveiled Pixlr X, and I think it might be my favorite one to date. Here’s why.

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10 Pro Tips: Safari for iPad & iPhone

pro tips for safari on ios

Once upon a time, I sat down to write a blog post about ten of the awesome features you can take advantage of in Safari for iPad & iPhone. 15,000 words later, it turned into a short ebook, but more on that later, because I feel like now is a good time to wind back the clock and finally finish the blog post that never got published. So, without further ado, here are 10 Pro Tips for Safari on iPad and iPhone.

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Adobe Launches Spark for Education

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Adobe Spark has long been one of my favorite creative tools for educators to use in the classroom. It’s free, works on mobile or the web, and it has a suite of tools that can be used across multiple curricular areas. This week, Adobe unveiled Spark for Education, a service that is aimed specifically at schools and as you may imagine, it has a variety of useful advantages for teachers. Here’s what you need to know.

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123apps: Free Web Apps for a Multimedia Classroom

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In an increasingly digital world, students and educators find themselves dealing with multimedia files on a regular basis. This means creating them, editing them, and converting them are not uncommon tasks. Thankfully, there are free tools like the web apps from 123apps.com that can make things like this a whole lot easier. Here’s what you need to know.

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Try ReadWorks Digital for Comprehension Skills

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Are you looking for ways to test student comprehension skills online? If so, ReadWorks Digital could be just what you are looking for. This nonprofit company offers a completely free service for teachers that is aimed at making your students more successful readers. They have a library of lexiled, grade level texts that covers both fiction and nonfiction writing, and each selection is paired with a vocabulary work bank and formative assessment questions. Some texts even include text to speech audio. Here’s how it works.

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Spiral is 3 #Edtech Tools for the Price of None

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Recently, I came across an interesting website for teachers called Spiral. It has three collaborative tools that are completely free and aimed at 1:1 classrooms. The tools are web based, and work on laptops, Chromebooks, and mobile devices. Spiral integrates with Google Classroom and includes a full set of data tools to track student progress. Here’s a quick look at what each tool does, along with some ideas on how to get started using them.

1. Quickfire

As its name would suggest, the first tool is geared towards some fast data collection. The teacher creates a question for students, (ahead of time or on the fly), and students respond on their devices. The teacher can ask for text/typed responses, or they can choose the canvas option that lets students draw their answers on a whiteboard. Once all the answers are collected, the teacher can share any answer (anonymously) with the whole class in order to discuss it further as a group. Lesson data is saved to the teacher dashboard. Quickfire is perfect for lesson starters, topic reviews, checks for understanding and more.

2. Discuss

With Discuss, teachers can create an interactive slideshow that students can follow slide by slide on their own device. You can upload an existing PowerPoint or create your lesson from scratch with text, images and videos. Best of all, questions or tasks can be added to slides at different points in your lesson. It includes a back channel type option where students can reply and comment on peer ideas. Again, individual answers can be shared to the whole class by the teacher for further discussion, and all data is saved to the teacher dashboard area. Discuss is perfect for empowering quiet students, facilitating conversations around learning, brainstorming ideas on a given topic, or for synchronous online lessons.

3. Team Up

Lastly, Team Up is a group work tool that teachers can use to sort students into groups and have them work together in a collaborative space. Teachers can set a single task for the whole class or separate tasks for each group. While working in a Team Up space, students can collect ideas and build a presentation in much the same way that the teacher does in the Discuss app. Students can work on individual or shared devices to produce their final product. Team Up is perfect for facilitating collaboration and group projects.

See all the tools and register for your free teacher account at https://spiral.ac/

Help & Further Resources

Here are some resources to learn more about Spiral:

 

How to Use Microsoft Forms in Office 365 Education

How to Use the New Microsoft Forms

Have you seen the new Microsoft Forms? One of the most popular articles on my blog in the last 12 months was related to its predecessor – Excel Surveys. Not only did that post get a lot of views, but it also got a lot of comments from people with questions about the features of Excel Surveys, or more importantly for some, the features it did not have. You can still use Excel Surveys, but Microsoft are in the process of transitioning to something better – Microsoft Forms. This version includes automatic grading and built-in student feedback. Here’s what you need to know.

Getting Started

You can find the homepage for Microsoft Forms by going to forms.office.com, or you may see Forms listed in the Office 365 App Launcher. Both links go to the same place. Technically, Forms is still in Preview but you can sign in with your Office 365 Education account today and start creating surveys and quizzes. The new Microsoft Forms work on desktop and mobile browsers.

Once you are logged in, click the New button to create your first form. Replace Untitled Form with a title of your choice, and add a description underneath if you want to provide any directions or information for students or parents who are filling out your Form.

Building a Form

Tapping the Add Question button gives you access to the question types that are available to you in this new version of Microsoft Forms. The options include:

  1. Choice: for creating multiple choice questions! Tap or click the slider to allow people to select multiple answers. You can also tap or click the ellipses button to shuffle answers.
  2. Quiz: a multiple choice question that you allows you to select a correct answer for automatic grading. Tapping the comment icon on each answer choice lets you add student feedback for each selection. Multiple answers and shuffled answers are also available to you when working on Quiz questions.
  3. Text: to collect short (or long) text answers use the Text question type. Tap or click the ellipses button to include number restrictions like greater than, less than, equal to, and more.
  4. Rating: for adding a star or number rating. Could be useful as part of an exit ticket or for voting on class favorites. Ratings can be out of 5 or 10, and tapping the ellipses button will allow you to add a label at either end of this Likert scale.
  5. Date: a question type that only allows for an answer in date format.

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I Use DuckDuckGo, Do You?

DuckDuckGo

I have a confession to make. I haven’t “googled” anything for a long time. I haven’t run out of things to search for, (I still do web searches dozens of times a day), but for the last 18 months or so I have been using an alternative to Google, and I haven’t looked back once. Here’s why you might want to think about doing the same.

What is DuckDuckGo?

DuckDuckGo is a search engine that has several unique features that set it apart from the likes of Google, Bing or Yahoo!. Among the most important to me is privacy. DuckDuckGo does not collect or share any of your personal information when you complete a web search. It is, to all intents and purposes, completely anonymous. The same cannot be said for Google, Bing or Yahoo! who use this data to build a profile about you so that advertisers can target you with ads that inevitably follow you around the internet.

Privacy is Dead, Right?

The vast majority of the internet is free to use, but it’s not without a cost. There is an expression I like that sums this up well – If you didn’t buy the product, you are the product. Google, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Bing and others all offer compelling free services, but whether you know it or not, they also collect large amounts of personal data from you when you use their products. Cookies, ads and other tracking tools watch your every move and record your online activities.

The truth is, your personal data is valuable, and an increasing number of people are trying to get a hold of as much of it as they can. Grocery stores collect data on you every time you use a store card. Email marketers track the clicks they get from newsletters you subscribe to. Internet Service Providers, research companies, telemarketers, political parties and countless other people all want to know more about you so that they can use that data to their advantage. As consumers, educators, parents and citizens of a digital world, we need to be aware of this.

However, I think we need to do more than just educate ourselves. We need to go further and help inform others (especially teens) of the trade off that they are making when they first start using these services. Are you comfortable with the kind of relationship you are entering into with these services? Are there alternatives with better privacy policies? Is there any way to take a stand against this incessant data mining? Questions like these led me to DuckDuckGo in the first place and started me thinking more about online privacy.

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Is DuckDuckGo Any Good?

Actually, it is. I wouldn’t use it if it wasn’t. I started off using DuckDuckGo on a trial basis but I couldn’t help think I would revert back to Google or Bing before too long. However, I stuck with it for several days and doggedly refused to use anything else, just to see if it really could work for me or not. What I soon came to realize was that the search results I got from DuckDuckGo were actually very good, and when I compared the keyword searches with Google or Bing I got similar (or better) results.

It is also a growing service. Last I checked, DuckDuckGo was handling an average of 11.3 million searches per day. This number is nowhere close to the billions of searches that Google handles, but it is a number that is increasing all the time and it is testament to the fact that they serve up great search queries. This means a sizeable number of people do use DuckDuckGo as their default search engine.

Does it Do Any Tricks?

Indeed it does. DuckDuckGo has some useful options like themes, region and time sensitive searches, but you would probably expect features like that. It has a safe search mode that is enabled by default and there are numerous custom options you can explore in the settings, including the ability to turn off advertisements. You will also notice that, depending on what you search for, images, news, videos, definitions, maps and more appear as instant answers at the top of your results page. Music, recipes, weather, and movies are also among these results with the ability to play audio and video files from the search page, as opposed to visiting a site like YouTube that tracks your viewing history.

Instant Answer Search Results DuckDuckGo

However, the real power of DuckDuckGo is found in the bangs. Bangs are a way to quickly search thousands of your favorite sites with a handy keyboard shortcut. Bangs use the search engine on your favorite sites to give you exactly the results you need. For instance, let’s say you wanted to look for an external hard drive on eBay. You could go to ebay.com and type your keywords into the search box at the top of the page. However, with DuckDuckGo, all you need to do is type !ebay external hard drive and it will display the same website search results.

Note: You can do something similar on Google with a search query like site:ebay.com external hard drive, but this will give you a list of search results on Google’s website, as opposed to ebay.com, so it is an extra click if you want to view any of those results and it is more cumbersome if you want to view more information on multiple results.

As you can see below, there are bangs for all kind of sites and services on the web. In fact, as of today, there are at least 8,225 so the chances are high that a bang exists for the site that you want to use. If for some reason it doesn’t, you can make a suggestion for a website to add. You can use bangs directly from the search bar on DuckDuckGo.com or via the address bar in your browser if you make DuckDuckGo your default search provider.

DuckDuckGo Bangs

Is DuckDuckGo a Good Option for Schools?

Both Microsoft and Google have strict privacy options in regards to how it handles the data from teachers and students who use their services. That said, there is no reason I can think of as to why a school couldn’t use DuckDuckGo as the default search engine on school devices. For instance, it could form part of a great conversation around how the web works today. It is has safe search built-in by default and is also a great option for students when they graduate and are starting to think about using some of the same services as individuals – services that are not governed by the privacy agreements they were previously bound to between technology companies and their school.

Additional Resources for Schools: