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Freebee Friday: Hooked on Freebees

Phonics freebeeMastering phonics is the usually first step towards reading and writing fluently and Primary Concepts’ FREEPhonics is ready for your school. Housed inside an eBook, FREEPhonics has 82 lessons that teach the basic sounds to our earliest learners and how they fit together as the basic building blocks of language. There are sections on vowel pairs, blends, diphthongs and the whole package has been designed to be a fun introduction with exercises that add, switch and remove letters from existing words to see the effect. It’s all free, but you need to register.


Freebee Friday: Decoding the Media

Look sharpThe election is happily over but the analysis and Monday morning quarterbacking is only starting. Project Look Sharp is a free product from Ithaca College for teaching media literacy so that kids can more fully understand what political and advertising messages are actually saying. It’s composed of a series of short videos that are accompanied by a presentation for the teacher to curate that goes a long way to deconstructing the message, the source and the audience. Chock full of political cartoons, ads and speeches, the clips provide a forum for discussing who produced the message, its credibility and who is the target of the item. The course goes a step deeper by analyzing who might be harmed or helped by their proposed plans.

Freebee Friday: App Direct Support Line

Apple repairForget about calling Apple if a bunch of iPads get broken. The Apple Support app can help with everything from checking product manuals to seeing the hours of a local Apple Store. In addition to resetting a password and reporting damage to systems, the app can set up a text or chat line with a technician to help diagnose a problem or answer a question. If your iPhone is having issues, just turn to Apple’s latest iOS app for support.


Freebee Friday: Easy as A, B, USB-C

Kensington usb cAnyone who’s lucky enough to have gotten a new computer lately is likely to encounter the USB-C port and the realization that it won’t connect to much of anything in the school. That’s where Kensington’s white paper on the new standard fits in. It not only explains the reason for the shift in technology and what it’s good for, but also the need for a dock to help it connect. The report wades in on security and mobility aspects of the new standard and the current generation of docks available. It’s a must-read.



Freebee Friday: Give Tech a Chance

Boxlight posterBoxlight has put together a poster and guide that can help make your school’s tech program more complete and successful. Able to be printed at any size, the Acrobat file has the top 5 challenges of incorporating new tech as well as info on everything from getting input on buying decisions to creating a tech committee. 




Freebee Friday: Google Gets a Sharper Focus

PhotoscanAs if the Google apps for editing and compiling photos and videos weren’t strong enough, the company has revamped the lineup and added some cool new ideas to digital photography. The new apps reveal a new photographic landscape for phones.

To start, there’s PhotoScan, a new app that is aimed at turning old analog photos into sharp digital ones for editing and manipulation. It’s as if your iPhone or Android phone now has a flatbed scanner built-in, but oddly, the software doesn’t work with tablets or Chromebooks.

Photoscan bJust put the photo onto a flat tabletop or pin it to a vertical corkboard and aim the phone at it. After positioning the photo in PhotoScan’s interface, press the capture button. Don't worry abouit trying to get rid of glare, we'll take care of that later.

Then the screen will will have four large dots on it that you need to aim for. They individually turn blue when PhotoScan is done optimizing the image’s sharpness, color balance and removing any glare. Last task is to frame the image and rotate it if necessary.

Photos editThe technique uses sophisticated artificial intelligence to simulate how we look at images to optimize them for our eye. The results speak for themselves with excellent sharpness and color. More to the point, it's a glare-free image. On the downside, it can’t help a ripped or severely curled picture.

Still, PhotoScan is perfect for everything from maps and cartoons to photos for a family tree. All told, it took about half a minute per shot to turn old photos into new digital images.

The revamped Photos app still can archive and share pictures for free if you agree to have them compressed, but now it has better editing tools and a more flexible automatic fix button. There’s the choice of a dozen preset enhancements for the image’s overall look as well as a technique for turning the sky bluer or warming up skin tones. If you want to, you can manually change the sharpness, light and color with a slew of individual slider controls.

The two apps work like hand in glove for getting the best shots out of a phone or turning old photos into new photos. Best of all, they're both absolutely free.

The $2 Million Question

Samsung contestIf you could get a slew of new STEM gear to help your students learn the next-generation of skills you would, right. What if it was free? Samsung’s 7th annual Solve for Tomorrow contest is giving away $2 million of tech equipment to schools working on 21-st century projects, like solar cars, advanced prosthetics and making the world a safer place. Hurry, the deadline is November 15, 2016.


Freebee Friday: Election Day Lesson

Pollingplace_1750After three years of screaming, insulting and stretching the truth past the breaking point, Election Day is finally here. Well, almost here. While many schools will be closed, or serving as polling stations on Tuesday, there’s a big lesson to be taught here: the act of voting is as important as the results.

Here’re a few choice Web sites for building an election day lesson around.

  • Before you get started, take a look at what FactCheck has to say about what the candidates have to say about each other and the shape of the country.
  • Then, go to InfoGroup’s analysis of what separates Republicans and Democrats.
  • You can take a big step back in time with 270 to Win’s election maps from the first (1789) to the last (2012) elections. You can see how history might be changed if a state goes one way or another, like Gore taking Florida in the 2000 election.
  • CNN will have all day/all night coverage of the results, culminating in late night electoral college vote counting as the west coast results come in. Election
  • Nate Silver, pollster par excellence will have minute by minute updates on the race at his FiveThirtyEight site.
  • It’s hard to remember, but every House representative, one-third of the Senate as well as gubernatorial and local races are underway. Election Projection has been following the polls from day one and will have a roundup of the results. 
  • Don’t miss Politico’s interactive map of the states and how they’ve voted during the day.
  • You might even want to run your own in-class election to see how the sentiment of the class compares with the rest of the nation. The American Statistical Association has sponsored a mock election among students. Its results give Clinton victories in both the popular and electoral college polls.

Regardless of whether you call it an early night or stay up all night glued to your computer or the TV, Wednesday will be another school day. It’s an extreme understatement to say that there will be plenty to talk about.

Freebee Friday: Getting the Class Pet

PetsIt’s been shown that a class pet can help open up autistic children and assist with their socialization, and Pets in the Classroom wants to provide it. They provide grants to get that gerbil, rabbit or hamster along with care instructions and lesson plans. But before you and the class gets too excited, you need to read the section about whether your classroom is ready for a pet.




Freebee Friday: Back to School Tips

Apperson back to schoolThe first day back at school is always awkward for both teachers and students, but Apperson has an eBook with tips on how to make it a more meaningful time. "Back to School" includes 50 ideas, from helping kids understand their feelings to what every classroom needs.


Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Tech Tools are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.