Friday, January 11, 2013

10 free Social Studies Android Apps

Android devices can be extremely useful in the classroom.  Just as IOS devices, student can connect and engage with content with apps on their smartphones or tablets.  Here's a list of 10 free Android apps for Social Studies:

1.  United States Constitution - This app allows students to explore the United States Constitution along with other historical documents.  Here's a list of the listed features via Google Play description:


- Searchable US Constitution and Articles of Confederation
- Resizable text
- Ratification Dates of Amendments
- Bios of the signers
- Constitution timeline
- Declaration of Independence
- Articles of Confederation
- Gettysburg address
- Mayflower Compact
- Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen
- Star-Spangled Banner
- Emancipation Proclamation
- I Have a Dream

2.  Smithsonian Channel - The Smithsonian Channel app provides full videos from an assortment of topics like Science, Nature, History and Culture.  Some videos can be over a hour long in length.  History videos range from documentaries about Abraham Lincoln to documentaries about the Great Depression.

3.  Google Earth - An excellent tool released from Google.  Google Earth allows you to explore the globe and even points out points of interest from the area that you are looking at.  Bring a breath of fresh air into your Geography class with Google Earth!

4.  History Pin - History Pin is a great way for students to explore areas beyond geography and demographics.  With History Pin, students can explore areas through photos that other people have "pinned" or even capture a photo from a event that is happening at the time they take the photo.

5.  White House - The official White House app provides everything from videos, photos, and articles from the goings on around the White House.  This would be pretty useful in Government class.

6.  America's Economy - This app from the US Census Bureau provides information based on 16 key economic factors about the current status of the US economy.  This is really good if you are teaching Economics and about how the strength of the economy is determined.  Here's a list of some of the features of the app from Google Play:

Key Features

• Quick overview of indicators measuring the U.S. economy
• Detailed page for each indicator with trend data
• Share indicators on Facebook, Twitter and via email
• View release schedules for indicators

• Set up notifications and custom views  

7.  US Presidents - A great app to learn about the president of the United States.  The app includes facts about the presidents, vice presidents, and their years in office.

8.  50 States - Need to brush up or learn the 50 states of the United States of America?  This app provides information for all 50 states including: population, state flag, state bird, geography, etc.  Another great app for your Geography students.

9.  Countries of the World - If you are studying in World Geography, this app will help you study different countries across the globe.  Information includes: capitals, populations, languages, GDPs, religion, and other useful info.  Certainly more engaging that reading all that info from a text book!

10.  Congress - If you want to engage your students in happenings of legislation, this app is great.  Here's a list of features from Google Play:

Keep on top of Congress.
* Find your representatives, see how they vote
* See what bills are coming up for a vote next
* Search for bills and votes you should know about
* Stay on top of floor activity, committee hearings
* Be notified of just about everything

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Building a digital portfolio with Livebinders

With today's classrooms starting to use more online resources to enhance the learning experience, the question could be raised on how we showcase and catalog what teachers and students are doing in the classroom.  If students create an online project or online document, how can they share that with their fellow classmates and others around the world?  Thanks to Livebinders, this question has been answered - all while being free and extremely easy to use.  

Livebinders is a free online service that allows you to collect resources and create online binders to share via social media and embed on your blog or website.  Here's a great post from the Livebinders blog about how educators are using Livebinders: 10 Great Ways that Educators are Using LiveBinders.  

Digital portfolios is a excellent way to showcase what students are doing in the classroom.  Remember when you were in elementary school and you drew a picture or got a good grade on a paper - where did it usually end up?  Mine typically was pinned on the refrigerator by my parents or got placed in a folder - which I only looked at it every so often.  Thus, this raises a question, "What is the point of doing a project or any other activity that will just end up getting thrown away or put aside for only one or two people to see?"  

That is what I love about the idea of having students create digital portfolios - they can go back at any time and reflect upon their learning and they can share what they did with everyone they want.  Part of the learning process, I believe, is to discover, create, and share.

For example, here's my Educational Technology Livebinder shelf:

As teachers, we should focus on learning ourselves.  Thanks to Livebinders, I am able to discover, create and share resources on things live educational technology, social studies, pedagogy, etc.  Now, put this tool in the hands of students - do you think this would engage students more if they were to create their very own "digital portfolio" for what they were doing in class?

Students can make their Livebinder their own - adding photos, website links, Youtube videos and upload documents.

Once the student has added content to their binder, they can share via social media, email, or simply grab the link or embed code for the binder:

Here are some of my favorite ideas that students can use Livebinders for:
  1. Collect/organize blog posts - their own or fellow classmates
  2. Create a "My Evernote" tab - students can insert links to certain Evernote notes
  3. Research - students can use the "Livebinder It" browser extension to add a website link to their binder
  4. Comment on fellow classmate's binders - Livebinders allow you to add comments to a binder, which is great for peer review. 
  5. Upload lecture notes - whether it be a Evernote note link or a MS Word doc, students can upload/insert their class lecture notes.
There a ton of ways teachers and students can use Livebinders.  If you are also concerned with customer service, from a teacher standpoint, to help you with the website, Tina and Barbara (makers of the website) are my favorite by far.  A few months ago I need to make a correction to my user ID - I simply contacted them via Twitter (@livebinders) and within a hour or so it was done.  I've contacted other websites that I use at least twice about technical issues I've experienced and never heard back.  Tina and Barbara actually do care about you and your students and the experience you have on the website.  I've been a member of the website going on two years now and I've been blown away by the service and experience I've had.  

If you do plan to use technology in your classroom, Livebinders would be one of my top picks to use. 

Here are some other blog posts I've done over Livebinders in the past:

Livebinder It Tool

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

5 ways to use Evernote in 2013

Happy new year!

As we begin a new year, some people might be looking for ways to "go digital" and have everything organized in a easy and simple program.  With so many tools out there today that allow you to do just that, one of my top picks is Evernote.  I've been using Evernote for a couple of years now and I'm still finding ways to use Evernote to organize everything I need to.  If you are curious about Evernote, here are 5 ways you can use Evernote in 2013:

1.  Organize your Tweets on Twitter

Planning on using Twitter a lot this year?  Twitter is my main social networking site for my professional development in education - and I've run across a multitude of resources shared from people I've followed.  So many resources in fact it would take weeks to go through them all.  If you are looking for ways to organize your tweets from Twitter, Evernote can take care of that.  First, you'll want to follow @myEN on Twitter.  Once you've done that, @myEN will send you a link to sign in to your Evernote account and from there you can connect your Evernote and Twitter account.  From that point, simply put @myEN in any tweet you send and it will automatically be put in your Evernote account.  
With that being said, however, there are apps you can use on your tablet/mobile device to share your tweets to your Evernote account.  Here is a blog post from that suggests some apps that will help you do that, "9 Things to Capture from Your Twitter Stream and Apps to Help You Do It".  

2.  Scan your paper documents into Evernote

Have a ton of paper documents that you wish you could digitize?  With Evernote, you can get make all of those hard copies into digital copies and organize them so you can easily and quickly access them wherever you are at.  I recently introduced Evernote to one of my former students and explained how it could help her with her studies and also catalog and organize her lecture notes (my full guest post about this, Evernote for the Social Studies: Evernote in History Class, can be found on Melissa Seidemann's (@mseidemann) blog,  Here's a snapshot of one of her lecture notes that she captured with the Evernote app on her Iphone:

You can do this via the Evernote app or another app compatible with Evernote.  One app I recommend is CamScanner (IOS & Andorid), which allows you to share in the cloud and save as a PDF file.  Once you have captured the document on your mobile device, it will be in your Evernote account - which will be with you whether you are on your phone, computer, or tablet.  You can also scan documents into your Evernote account with other devices besides a phone or tablet.  Here is a list of devices that will streamline the process,
3.  Clip articles while browsing the internet

Ever run across a interesting article or recipe on the internet and when you later try to find it you can't?  With the Evernote webclipper, you can clip the article and have it whenever you need it.  Here's an example of a article I clipped using Evernote:

What is also great about Evernote, is that it also provides a way to clip only the article without the clutter of the ads or page features.  Using Evernote Clearly (another browser extension), you can clip the article itself and get rid of any ads that are on the page that it is located on.  Here's an example of how a article looks using the standard webclipper and the same article using Evernote Clearly: Standard vs. Clearly (links open in Evernote).  Either way, you can "clip" the article into your Evernote account and have a copy of it in your account.  

4.  Explain with Skitch

It's one thing to describe what you are talking about, however, if you are trying to explain something to someone it can be a lot more effective to show them what you are describing instead.  With Skitch, you can capture your computer screen or markup a photo and place arrows or dialogue on it to describe in detail what you are explaining.  
Here's an example I provided in another guest post on, Evernote for the Social Studies: Evernote & Skitch.  What is great about Skitch is that you can take the photo and mark it up directly from the Skitch app (available both on IOS and Android), which makes life a lot easier.  As with this photo that I took while at the Palo Duro Canyon, I am able to show what "Red Claystone" looks like.  This works especially well in the classroom in trying to accommodate your lessons to include examples of the topic.  Skitch, now owned by Evernote, also allows you to upload your markups and photos directly into your Evernote account.  This way, if you are on the run and want to snap a photo and mark it up later, you can easily access it from your Evernote account and modify it when you are ready.  You can also do the same thing while on your computer and want to show examples of something or even trying to help someone with tehnical support.    
5.  Share your resources from Evernote with note and notebook links

Now that you have a plethora of resources, how do you share them from your Evernote account?  You have two options at this point, you can either a) share an individual note or b) share an entire notebook.  All of the following images were captured using Skitch for Windows PC: 

   If you choose to share an individual note, you can choose different options, as per the given example below:

If you choose to share an entire notebook (which you can do this by simply "right clicking" the notebook in Evernote you want to share and select "share notebook"), which is really useful if you use it to gather resources which you want people to be able to access at their convenience, you can create a public notebook link that will allow anyone to view or join the notebook:


Hopefully these are some good starting points for you if you are interested in using Evernote this year.  With so many different things you can do with Evernote, you'll find out that it can make life much easier.  You can find out more about Evernote and about other apps that work with Evernote at:

If you are a educator and would like more resources for Evernote, please feel free to visit my Evernote Livebinder, Evernote for Educators: