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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.

 

Freebee Friday: The Museum without the Field Trip

SmithsonianEver wanted to take a class to see artifacts and documents from the past without ever leaving the classroom? Smithsonian’s Learning Lab can bring the exhibits to you and your students with online digital resources to enhance a variety of lessons. With more than a million Smithsonian items available, the pages are age- and grade-rated with hot spots that reveal more information if you hover over them. Because it’s a Web site, the Learning Lab works on just about any connected computer and there are always special exhibits that bring together elements of the institution’s collections. Best of all, you can forget about those worn out worksheets, because the site has a wealth of discussion questions and quizzes. It’s free, but you will need to sign up to go to the digital museum.

Freebee Friday: Land of the Free and Not So Free

Windows_logo_-_2002–2012_(Black).svgThe end of July and beginning of August represent a good update and the end of a valuable freebee. To start, on July 29th Microsoft’s free (and sometimes involuntary) upgrade to Windows 10 will end. It’s good because, presumably the pop-ups and come-ons just might be over. It’s bad because unless the offer is extended, the software will probably soon cost $120 for a fresh version of Home and $200 for the Pro version. That's not much solace for a school still using Windows XP.

On the other hand, next week represents the OS’s first birthday and with it comes a large (and needed) Windows 10 upgrade. There will be no wrapping paper, bows or cake with candles. The new software includes a more integrated way to take notes on a touchscreen as well as security enhancements and refinements to the Edge Web browser.

Freebee Friday: What, Where, How

MC183_LaunchTechnologyinYourSchoolsSuccessfully_spBoxlight has put together a nice primer on how to equip a school with the technology needed to teach called “Launch Tech in Your Schools Successfully.” With input from some of the brightest strategists in Ed Tech, the free 30-page booklet explores everything from forming a tech committee and setting goals to getting input and piloting new technology. There’s even a section on the five most common challenges to incorporating new educational technology. It’s free, all you have to do is register. 

 

Best of ISTE: Everyone (Really) Can Code

Ecc

We keep hearing about a shortage in programmers to invent the future of software, but few companies, except for Apple, are doing anything about it. The company’s Everyone Can Code (ECC) program hopes to get kids away from game and social media screens by putting them in front of screens for creating apps. ECC starts with an overview of how vital, creative and interesting writing programs for computers can be and moves on to the Swift Playground and programming language, which uses everyday common words as action items. It provides a base to build ever-more sophisticated apps and can connect with physical items, like sensors, cameras and things like Sphero robots. It’s as easy as it looks and the free service and software will be available as a preview in July, but will formally debut in a few months. This way of teaching coding should be part of every school’s curriculum.

 

 

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