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DIY Lessons

OpenedOpenEd not only lets you create innovative multimedia lessons at no cost, but they can be distributed via the service’s OpenEd.io to a class of kids for use on an iPad or an Android tablet. The classes can be livened up with multimedia content from BrainGenie, BrightStorm, EdCite and PBS. 



Plan and Teach

Planboard-ipad-1If your teacher lesson plans are staying put and not being shared among classes, Planboard can put an end to it. The Planboard software and Web site not only allow teachers to share their lessons with peers and parents, but its library of 4,500 standards and educational expectations can help align lessons with curriculum standards.

Freebee Friday: School Online

Open cultureAs online classes, eTexts and audio books invade the classroom, the question comes up as to how to get the best and leave the rest. Open Culture is a great resource for a teacher looking for unique material as well as studetns looking for extra help or enrichment. Rather than producing curriculum, Open Culture reviews and links to quality material for the K-12 class. There are more than 825 Open Culture approved classes, 550 audio books and 160 online texts.

Fighting Dyslexia with Androids

Ghotit bGhotit can help dyslexics learn to read and write with its Real Writer & Reader 3 for Android tablets and smartphones. In addition to a grammar checker, the app has a context-aware spelling checker and a word prediction routine that makes suggestions along the way. At any time, the phone or tablet can read anything to the student. Ghotit Real Writer & Reader 3 for Android supports any text application running on Android tablets and smartphones. You can buy a copy for $199 or use it for $29 a month.

Freebee Friday: Big Data on the Cheap

Predixion TreeViewCollab1.bmpAnalyzing big data and mining it for trends and opportunities is the future of business, but how to teach kids about it and how to go about prospecting for info? Predixion in the Classroom is an educational edition of its flagship Enterprise Insight software suite for schools to use to teach a generation of data miners. 




iPad Education

Itunes UApple’s iTunes U is not quite 7-years old, but it’s incredible how quickly its library of educational materials has grown. The site now has more than 750,000 pieces of classroom curriculum available and is growing everyday with more content. The iPad texts feature lots of things you can’t do with a printed book, like full-screen text for easy reading, embedded quizzed, 3-D animated maps and interactive simulations. Can’t wait to see what’s next.

Class in the Cloud

SmartSharpenWith the world moving to the cloud for everything from testing to math problems, it’s only natural that the software for working on images, video and Web pages goes there as well. In fact, Adobe makes it very attractive for schools to use its Creative Cloud infrastructure with the ability to pay a monthly or yearly fee for the apps.

Adobe’s current school Creative Cloud replaces the Creative Suite and does away with paying for software once and using it forever. The Creative Cloud’s 26 desktop programs are available on a subscription basis, so it’s like renting the software rather than owning it. There are currently more than 1.4 million Creative Cloud users.

The CC apps range from the familiar, such as Photoshop, Illustrator and Premiere, to lesser known programs, like Edge Animate, Phone Gap Build and Speed Grade. It even includes Prelude for adding or editing metadata to files and Story Plus for formatting scripts. To signify that they originate in the online world, rather than number versions they all have a CC suffix to their names.

Kuler-ColorWheelRather than having to load a new version ever few years, the software will be updated as needed rather than as a group. For example, Illustrator CC has a cool new Pencil mode for more natural freehand drawings and Photoshop CC is a step ahead of the version 13 with support for 3D Printing, Camera Shake Reduction and Perspective Warp. On the other hand, compared to older versions, Photoshop CC has lost the ability to drop an image in the clipboard directly into a perfectly sized file; it’s now a two-step process.

To get started, everyone who will need access to the programs will need an Adobe ID membership and log-in credentials. All of the CC programs are downloaded onto either a PC or a Mac and once installed acts like any other program. They leave behind a Task Tray item for instant access to Creative Cloud options.

All you do is pick the new apps from a list of available programs in the Adobe Application Manager, but you can’t have them all install at once, which can slow getting machines prepped for class. On the downside, while loading programs, you may find yourself typing in your password three or four times.

To avoid confusion, before you load any of the CC apps, you’ll probably want to uninstall any older versions of the software. If they remain, sometimes the older software will load, other times the new CC app will.

A word of warning for those schools with older computers: the Creative Cloud applications are currently a mixture of 32- and 64-bit programs, but over time, they will more and more be the latter. For example, Premiere Pro video editing software now requires a 64-bit computer.

AE_C4D-Integration_in AEPlus, the Creative Cloud only covers traditional notebook and desktop programs and not Photoshop and Lightroom extensions for iPads and Android devices. It’s a shame because they are an excellent adjunct to the more thorough and complete Mac and PC software.

While you need to load the CC apps over the Internet, they don’t require an online connection to operate, unless you want to store items in an online repository. The Adobe server will, however, attempt to identify and verify the license of each CC-enabled system once a month.

As has been the case for years, Adobe has hundreds of online teaching resources. The best are videos that show how to perform specific tasks, but there are also tutorials that can be adapted as lesson plans. Happily, they are project based, have step-by-step instructions and include time estimates. For those who have mastered the mundane aspects of the programs, Adobe has an innovative Master Class section with advice on how to perform specialty or hard to complete tasks.

Unlike most software companies, Adobe wants to know what you – and you or students think. Along the way, many of the CC apps have a place to click to request a new feature.

AE_C4D-Integration_C4DLiteWhile access to this variety of software would cost thousands of dollars per system, Adobe’s Creative Cloud for Students and Teachers costs roughly $20 per month for individuals if you sign up by April 14; after that the price jumps to about $30 per user. It includes two licenses for use on different computers. By contrast, you can license a single app for $20 a month and there’s a combo of Photoshop and Lightroom for $10 a month; you’ll need to sign up by the end of February to get the introductory price, though. The company has discounted plans for licensing the Cloud on a school- and district-wide basis.

A big bonus is that each Creative Cloud user gets a generous 20GB of online storage for each member for saving projects that are being worked on as well as finished items. This can take some pressure off of the school’s servers, but moving large files to and from Adobe’s servers will require a reliably fast Internet service to avoid frustrating waits for large files to load.

Because the apps can be updated individually, the Creative Cloud won’t stand still. For instance, the Cloud has recently added more than 800 fonts in Typekit as well as the ability to connect with a 3-D printer. Next up is the ability to synchronize files between the online and desktop worlds.

Adobe has made a lot of progress in making the various interfaces look and act like each other, but there’s still some work to be done here as well as a way to more easily move completed items from one program to another. Once that’s done it should feel like one app that does everything having anything to do with graphics, the Web or video.



Adobe Creative Cloud/Student

$30 per month; school discounts available

+ 26 up to date desktop apps

+ Complete selection for image, video and Web site editing

+ Programs get updated when ready

+ Lots of teaching resources

+ 20GB of online storage per user

+ School licensing options


- Can’t load all apps at once

- Tablet software not included

Full Service Storage

Premiere tutorialInstead of being only focused on making and storing video, the Web-based Pixorial service now allows the editing and storage of still images, making it a more complete online media network. All the editing and storage is done in a Web browser window, so it works on most recent computers, from Chromebooks to Android tablets. Not only can a school now import all sorts of existing media content into Pixorial, but it can store the output of a classroom of Web cams and everything can now be organized in albums, making retrieval and sharing much easier. Teachers get a free Pro account for their class that includes Pixorial services and 30GB of storage space.

Early Ed Helper

ClubVINCI -1With more and more schools adding Pre-K classes, early Ed curriculum is quickly moving from a luxury to a must-have. VINCI Education’s ClubVINCI has been designed especially for children from three to eight years old and works on iOS devices (iPads, iPod Touch systems and iPhones) as well as Android and Windows computers. The curriculum takes these little learners through a journey of discovery with virtual trips to the zoo, a farm and a robot factory. Along the way, a personal avatar guides them in picking up the basics of math, social studies and language so they’re ready for first grade.

Tutoring Anywhere

ZingPath Example[1]Adaptive Curriculum’s Uzinggo can turn any place at home into a classroom for math and science tutoring or enrichment. The online learning system features interactive elements, games and motivational tools for students between fifth and 12th grades for a variety of math and science courses. Along the way, parents and teachers can look in and see the student’s progress. The service costs $10 a month for each curriculum, $15 a month for both or $750 per year for a class license.



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