Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Online PDF to PowerPoint Converter as a Useful Teaching and Learning Tool

It's that time of year when things get busy and on top of that my wife is pregnant so I haven't had much time to post over the last 2 weeks. Thankfully here is a guest post from Anna who works for pdfconverter.com. It is a great tool that is quick, easy to use and completely free.

Free Technology for Schools has not received any payment for this post. 

Teachers today have a challenging task to incorporate the constantly changing and improving technology into traditional ways of educating students. Those teachers who readily accept innovation and are already incorporating technology in their classrooms are doing their students a great service.
As teachers are preparing these young individuals for the world of tomorrow, it can hardly be a good thing going through educational program without being in step with technology.
There are many wonderful ed-tech tools and resources that make the classroom more interactive and fun.
Free Online PDF to PowerPoint Converter is one such tool that can be very beneficial to both teachers and students. As its title clearly states, the tool turns PDF files into PPT slides and it works online, so there is no software installation required, which is very convenient for the classroom/computer lab setting.
We all know that MS Office files are best sent/shared in PDF form, because of this format’s most obvious advantages:
  • anyone can open and view the PDF file regardless the operating system or device they are using
  • PDF preserves formatting of the document and ensures that the recipient will see it just as its sender (creator) intended it.
So, when students have an assignment to send a presentation to their teacher or to peers in order to work on it together, the presentations will often be sent in PDF, in order to preserve their formatting when opened on a different computer.
When a teacher or peer opens the PDF and wants to make corrections, the quickest way to do it is to convert the PDF into its original presentation format.
The PDF to PPT converter is very easy and accessible, so it would be fun to practice using it in class. Once you go to the tool’s page here, you only need to follow three easy steps:

  1. Select file to convert.
  2. Type your e-mail address.
  3. Initiate the conversion process by clicking “Start.”
Experimenting with the Free Online PDF to PPT Converter is one way of making the students comfortable with using technology.
If you are concerned about the privacy of your documents, rest assured that the tool provider deletes all converted files within 24 hours of receiving it, and no data is ever shared with a third party. 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Contextual spell check with google documents

Google documents are a much more powerful tool than the simple cloud based word processing software I first discovered about 6 years ago. Now it is full of excellent and often Microsoft Word-beating features.
Contextual spell check is an example of one of these powerful features. I learned about this at this year's Bett conference in London from Mark Allen at his Google Apps presentation.

If you type into a Google Doc "Icland is an Icland".

If right-click on the first icland I get

If I right click on the second I get

The spell checker understands the context and that the same mis-spelt word is likely to mean Iceland in the first instance and island in the second instance. Very clever indeed!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

TeCoED: (Teaching, Computing and Education)

TeCoEd is an excellent resource site designed by Dan Aldred for the teaching of Computer Science and ICT. Dan's philosophy is that the best method of teacher development is sharing good practice  a philosophy I very much agree with.
The site is very easy to navigate with clear drop down menus on Raspberry PI, Computing, ICT, whole school tools and more. There are also some slide shows showing links to curated Scoop IT topics. I'm going to have to find out how to do that!
If you teach ICT or Computer Science or run Raspberry PI clubs or coding clubs, TeCoEd is a great place to start. Have a look at http://www.tecoed.co.uk/index.html.

“Why School? The Movie” Update - Got video?

Update from Will Richardson

A few weeks ago we posed a big question: Could our little edu-network make a REAL full-length documentary feature that incorporates kids in every aspect of the production process? It appears we’re going to find out. Within days, hundreds of you volunteered to help make this admittedly ambitious undertaking become a reality. (If you haven’t signed on and still want to help, fill out our survey now!) 
As a result, we have formed a core group of amazing people focused on marketing, fundraising and developing a comprehensive web presence. All of this structural support makes it possible for us to dig in deep and craft a compelling narrative for this film.
To reiterate, Doug, Josh and I decided right from the start that this film could and should be built by the people who are most affected by education policy—namely kids, parents, and teachers. Instead of just talking about the problems with school in its current form, we’d like to see “our” film driven by what the community is actually doing. So, we’re setting the bar as high as possible to show what happens when kids are given the opportunity to do meaningful work, and prove that we can transform the focus and function of school. The next step is to engage with everyone out there thinking, writing, creating, and putting their ideas into action for the benefit of kids.
We’d like to hear from you, get a glimpse of what you are doing, and potentially include footage of your kids doing meaningful things in and outside of your classrooms. Here’s how you can help:
Send us high quality HD video footage of kids, teachers and classrooms that we can use in a teaser trailer we are putting together to fundraise, promote, and build excitement for the movie. This footage will also help us better visualize what the final feature will look like, although at this point we are not specifically looking for footage or stories for that purpose (yet). Some ideas of what we’re looking for include:
  • Kids (and teachers) sharing ideas and creations publicly
  • Kids designing their own experience to learn through inquiry, research, collaboration, and creating
  • Kids (and teachers) collaborating with colleagues, classmates, and experts around the world
  • Kids creating works that have real value outside the classroom
Submitting your videos of powerful learning is simple. You may provide a link to videos hosted on YouTube, Vimeo, or anywhere else on the web. For this teaser trailer we will likely use only a few seconds of any clip so if there is a specific part of the video we should look closely at, please identify that. If we want to use part of your video in this trailer we will ask for you to send us a file in full HD (1080p) format and have everyone in the video, and their parents, sign release forms.
We’d love to get your submissions by June 1. You can e-mail Josh and Doug at  if you have any questions about the process.
Finally, we’re now also on Twitter and Facebook. Follow us and like us to keep up with our progress. Our new website will be up soon as well.
Thanks for all the support and enthusiasm you’ve already shown for this project. With your help we know it will be awesome!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Chris Hadfield: A living legend

This video is too good not to post. Chris Hadfield has done so much to stimulate public interest in Science and Technology since he has been on the international space station.
So here's to the first Music video shot in space. It truly is beautiful

Summit French

Summit French is a blog created by Doug Siegel. It is a homework blog where students can find out what they've missed for the week. It also has links to some excellent language resources.
You may wonder why this is worthy of a post? This is a great example of a simple but effective use of blogging to support learning. Doug posts regularly so that his students know that visiting the blog is worthwhile.
So Doug, here is my advice to you. Build on the excellent foundation that you have and try to get students to really interact with the blog. Encourage them to post comments, give them the opportunity to post and give each other feedback. The potential is unlimited.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

18 Myths People Believe About Education

This is taken from an interesting infographic courtesy of Dyeseka from Open Colleges. Some food for thought!

1. More Homework Means More Learning

Researchers have found that the connection between more homework and greater learning is tenuous at best. This is especially true for grade school and middle school students. In an effort to redesign the student workload, many districts around the US have begun prohibiting homework on weekends, holidays, and even week nights.

2. More Money Means Better Schools

Although school spending has increased over the past several decades, neither graduation rates nor test scores have budged from their relatively dismal standings. Since 1970, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) has been administered yearly to a representative sample of US students, and the scores have not correlated positively with the boost in expenditure and the rise of technology over time.

3. The Myth of Insurmountable Problems

Many policy makers are quick to blame society for underperformance in schools. But the belief that education can’t help is dangerous. Reforms that focus on the incentives of public schools lead to educational gains, and accountability and choice have often been shown to deflate the significance of social problems like poverty.

4. Test Scores Are Related To Economic Competitiveness

Consider Japan, whose current economy flags while its students continue to ace assessment tests. Or Finland, New Zealand, and Sweden, each of which produces at least as many research engineers as the US per 1,000 full time employees. Quality education can prevail in an economically challenged nation. There’s no doubt about it.

5. Schools Alone Can Close The Achievement Gap

The achievement gap is already apparent in students on their first day of kindergarten, due to a number of factors including economic background, educational background (how educated are the student’s parents?), nutritional intake, genetics, and parental guidance. Because of this contingency, researchers have argued that it reflects poor reasoning and poor policy to believe that school reform alone could ever close the gap.

6. Private and Charter Schools Are Educating Kids Better

NAEP scores of private and charter school students are no higher than those of public school students. Studies suggest that the “boons” of private schools may amount to nothing more than the exposure to other students with educated parents and affluent backgrounds.

7. Teachers Are Clueless About The Content They Are Teaching

Twenty-eight states require secondary-level instructors to have majored in the subject area they plan to teach. All candidates must pass content exams before completing their program or being certified to teach. Twelve states require elementary school teachers to have earned a content degree, and nineteen require middle school teachers to do the same.

8. The “Teacher-Proof Myth”

There are no teacher-proof solutions. None to be legislated, none to be bought, and none to be accessed virtually. The human task of helping a student cannot be replaced by automated learning models, nor by one all-purpose instructional method arising from trial and error. More trust must be placed in our teachers.

9. Our Teachers Work Less And Get Paid More

According to an OECD report, US teachers spend between 1,050 and 1,100 hours per year teaching – much more than in almost every country. Argentina and Chile are also high on the list. Despite high spending on education, teacher salaries across the world are far lower than those earned by other workers with higher education credentials.

10. Unions Defend Poor Teachers

Between 2006 and 2010, 245 teachers resigned or were dismissed in the US. This is because the unions have made an effort to monitor underperforming teachers in school districts across the nation. If students in one classroom are performing worse than students in another, it makes little sense to blame the teacher before considering other factors.

11. Student Achievement Has Been Deteriorating For Decades:

Contrary to popular belief, today’s students perform about as well as their parents in terms of standardized assessment tests and high school graduation rates. There is simply no hard evidence for the statement that student performance has been declining for decades. These are myths put forward by teachers’ unions and education policy makers.

12. Teachers Are Solely Responsible For Learning

Learning is an interactive process. Teachers are not the only people in the classroom who have valuable knowledge to share or responsibility to shoulder. Students, too, can teach each other and benefit from working together. A teacher is a facilitator, first and foremost.

13. The Disadvantaged Don’t Have The Same Capacity To Learn

There is no evidence that students from disadvantaged communities have a lower capacity to learn than students from privileged backgrounds. Economically challenged students may perform worse on assessments; experience anxiety and lack of control, which lead to underachievement; react negatively to authority; skip multiple classes on a regular basis; and abandon formal learning - but none of this is due to lower educational capacity.

14. Schools Don’t Matter

Intellectuals and politicians alike have claimed that education can’t save disadvantaged youth, and that the problem lies in socioeconomic policy and reform. However, since the instatement of acts like No Child Left Behind, schools have been instrumental in giving underprivileged students a chance to escape poverty. Education is power for the impoverished.

15. Small Classes Would Produce Big Improvements

Although research has highlighted the perks of reduced class sizes, especially in college settings, there is little evidence that it benefits students on a wide enough scale to make a difference. Considering the financial challenges of breaking students up into smaller groups, hiring more teachers, and investing in more resources, reduced class size should not be looked upon as a means of “saving” education.

16. Teacher Preparation Matters Little For Student Achievement

Although Teach for America has produced some excellent teachers with little to no training, the National Bureau of Economic Research has shown that beginning teachers with more extensive clinical training (like internships or certification programs) produce higher student achievement gains and retain their positions longer than teachers with less preparation.

17. Most Teachers Don’t Care:

If student performance is low, it doesn’t mean that teachers don’t care. Teachers become teachers precisely because they do care. But it is not an easy job. Educators face many challenges every day – say, with a particularly disruptive child or a time-crunch due to a school assembly - and do their best to help students succeed despite these difficulties.

18. Credentials And Experience Don’t Matter. Only Content Knowledge Does

It benefits every teacher to be an expert in his or her subject field, but experience is key. If instructors don’t know how to engage and audience and relate their knowledge to others, their expertise will be as good as useless in a classroom setting. Credentials and experience count.
When educators teach the same subjects and grade levels consistently, especially during their first five years of teaching, it behooves them – and their students - to be not only experts in their field but to have experience relating their subject to others. Experienced teachers are more organized, strategy-driven, and creative in the classroom.

Cited From: http://www.opencolleges.edu.au/informed/features/18-myths-people-believe-about-education/#ixzz2SpoIr8wb

19 Pencils

19 Pencils is a site that I (David) briefly reviewed a few months back and listed as one of my Top 100 Sites of 2011. Through some collaboration I've decided to revisit this site and check out all the "bells and whistles" 19 Pencils has to offer. After giving it a thorough run through my first impression is, WOW. This site has it all, and Kelly Tenkley of iLearn Technology said it best when she said, "This is a fantastically easy site to use!"

The first thing a teacher will notice when logging in are the abundance of tools that can be found in the online dashboard. This is the "control center" for the educator where they can create: quizzes, a class website, track student progress and more. All this is done in a very user friendly visually appealing way.

Quizzes - are offered as a multiple choice type question w/ one or more answers. This is very easy to do and is built around a "flash card" style system. Also, a teacher can track student progress on a quiz in the "my class" tab.
Class Website - Another great feature is the ability to create a class website which displays assignments, pre-approved websites (in an innovative thumbnail view w/ a summary), or quizzes. Also, a teacher can embed a badge/link into their own website for easy navigation to their educational 19 Pencil's portal.
Playground - This is a unique and sleek place where students can collaborate w/ their teacher in a chat window while still being logged into their "class view".
What makes 19 Pencils so great is that everything is being "housed" inside of 19 Pencils. What this means is that any website that a teacher decided to put up on their class pages is inside a frame w/ 19 pencils border and tools surrounding it. Also, this site is being filtered which is ideal for CIPPA and COPPA compliance. Finally, a user can search through 19 Pencils for other educational content to share and collaborate on.

I highly highly recommend checking out 19 Pencils by clicking here!!!

This was original posted on Technology Tidbits by David Kaluper Ed Tech blogger, consultant, professional development and tech integration specialist with 14+ yrs in K-12 schools.

Free Technology for Schools has not received any payment from 19 Pencils, however they are a paid advertiser of David's blog.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Zondle Crowd funding campaign

Zondle is a great piece of free technology which I wrote about a while ago. They are starting an interesting crowd-funding campaign to develop resources for the common core. If you are interested, read below.

zondlescape 036
The zondle crowd-funding campaign launches tomorrow!
Dear zondle friend,
As you almost certainly have seen by now (we can’t contain our excitement!), tomorrow we are launching our first ever crowd-funding campaign to enable us to develop zondle content especially for our community of users in the US: zondle Common Core.
Why is this worth supporting?
  1. You will have helped zondle to continue helping our 260,000 community members worldwide who have played 25 million questions in zondle games to support teaching, learning and assessment!
  2. Every pledge will be rewarded!
    Depending on your contribution, we'll send you a certificate, give a school of your choosing free access to the final Common Core content, send you some zondle stickers, temporary tattoos or zondle t-shirts, or even develop a version of the zondle Mobile app branded for a school of your choosing!

  3. Every dollar raised will be paid to teachers,
    paying them to create Common Core questions for students to play in zondle games (zondle will pay for all development costs)!

  4. A FREE zondle Common Core pack will be donated to a school
    on behalf of anyone who has pledged $25!

  5. The complete set of zondle Common Core packs will be donated for FREE
    to 20 of the most disadvantaged school districts across the US (if you would like to nominate a school district, please
I'm interested. What should I do now?
  • Our campaign begins TOMORROW (May 9th) on Indiegogo!

  • Please click here to read all about our campaign.

  • Please forward this email to anyone who you think might be interested in helping.
Thanks as ever for your fantastic support!

Ben, Doug and Wayne
PS If you would like to be one of the teachers paid to create (at $1 per question) or to proof-read (at $0.25 per question) zondle Common Core Math or ELA content, please email .

Are you a mentor?

This is a guest post by Dubier, an international school teacher in Sweden. It was originally posted here. 

Many times when you work at a school as a teacher, you will usually also be a mentor for a couple of students in a class.. It is usually quite stressful to keep up with the administrative tasks you have as a mentor.

Therefore is useful to use a tool to facilitate your work. The app I would recommend is Teacher assistant pro. It is available for iphone, ipad and Mac. It will also come out for Android. Teacher assistant pro allows you to keep track of your students in a very efficient way. I use it to keep track of my mentor students’ behavior. I like it very much when you can pre-install certain behaviors and with a few quick keystrokes, you have entered a particular student’s behavior. You can also add parents phone numbers and e-mail addresses and then, through the app, you can either call the parent or send a quick email. You can also sort the behaviors by color labels and points Isn’t that great? However, what I miss about this app is the sync ability to sync between iPhone and iPad or Mac. But otherwise, this app is the one I use the most in my role as a mentor.

Note to readers. This is about a paid app so is not free technology but I have allowed it because there is a free lite version. This is not an endorsement of this product by Free Tech for Schools. If we ever get paid to endorse products we will tell you.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013


I have recently been exploring MentorMob and have blogged about it.  It's been getting a lot of press lately on Twitter and is one of the better sites to come around for education in a long time.  At it's heart I'd say MM is a site for curating the web but there is much more to it then just that.

Whats to like:

  • Playlists - This is what MentorMob is all about, the creation of playlists.  These playlists are created by entering a URL of a site.  A thumbnail gets added as well as summary, skill level, and type of site it is (article or video).
  • Skill Level - This is great for educators as they can set their playlists to beginner, intermediate, or advanced.  This is an ideal way to build up a skill or teach a unit in a systematic way.
  • Community - A great way to see other playlists that are being created, what needs help on, and how to collaborate w/ others.
  • Sharing - A finished list can be shared w/ others via a link and even embedded and best of all is what a finished playlist looks like.
  • Moderation - A user can set their playlist to public/private to control who can view it.  Also, they can set it so others can only view it or edit it as well, and more...
A finished playlist is where MentorMob really shines and separates it from other web curators.  A person can go through a playlist step by step and check off what they know.  After they have learned a certain skill, completed a successful unit etc, they can move on to the next.

Below is my sample playlist for 21st Century Learning...

Create your own Playlist on MentorMob!

Finally, there is something known as MentorMob Pro account which is ideal for educators.  Where educators can build their playlist and bulk upload students/users in seconds.  Also, a pro account has access to real-time graphs which show exactly which playlist they are learning and on which step they are on.

I highly highly recommend checking out MentorMob by clicking here!!!!

This is a guest post by David Kaluper. Ed Tech blogger, consultant, professional development and tech integration specialist with 14+ yrs in K-12 schools. This article was originally posted here.

Monday, May 6, 2013

BoomWriter Storyteller Camp

Read on to find out about this exciting new innovative Summercamp from BoomWriter...

"This summer, students across New England will have an opportunity to come together online to write, edit and publish their own books inspired by Diary of a Wimpy Kid author and Massachusetts resident Jeff Kinney. Boston public broadcaster WGBH and the digital education company BoomWriter Media have teamed up to launch the BoomWriter Storytellers Camp to help middle school students maintain and improve writing skills during summer vacation. Through the collaboration, WGBH and BoomWriter Media are offering four separate one-week, online, curriculum-based and educator-supported camps that foster creativity and expressive writing."

“We are excited to work in association with WGBH,” said Chris Twyman, co-founder and
CEO of BoomWriter Media. “They are the best of public broadcasting and are in the hearts of
children everywhere. Together, we can inspire a love of writing, storytelling and learning,
while also facilitating critical thought and creativity for a new generation of learners. The BoomWriter platform provides 21 century students with a means of self-expression through writing that is both accessible and familiar and provides teachers with the tools for success.”

The new BoomWriter Storytellers Camp builds on BoomWriter’s existing web-based platform
and provides students with daily lessons and workshops before challenging campers with a
daily writing assignment. On the first day of the camp, participating campers are presented
with a prompt, or ‘story start,’ written by Kinney.

The prompt serves as the first chapter of a collaboratively written novel. After reading the
prompt, campers individually write the next chapter. After writing, teachers and trained
counselors review the campers’ writing and provide interactive feedback. When the daily
writing period ends, campers are given the opportunity to read select and approved
submissions from other campers and vote on their favorite additions to the story. The
submission with the most votes is accepted as the next chapter of the novel and serves as
the next day’s writing prompt.

For more information and registration click here!!!

This is a guest post by David Kaluper. Ed Tech blogger, consultant, professional development and tech integration specialist with 14+ yrs in K-12 schools.

Excellent new feature to Google Drive: Right click sharing

Dan Taylor in the Google in Education Summit group on Google posted about this excellent update to Google Drive. See below

Save time with right-click sharing from your Google Drive folder

For those looking to share files more quickly, listen up. You can now share with others directly from the Google Drive folder on your Mac or PC. To share a file while inside your Google Drive folder, simply right click the file, select “Google Drive” and then click “Share.” This new feature is rolling out over the next few days.

If you aren’t already using Drive for your desktop, check it out: http://goo.gl/vGnhG

The Answer Pad

The Answer Pad is a website/iPad solution I've blogged about before that is great for student assessment.  This is done by having teacher's use the website/interface to create students and classes and then let the students take a test/quiz on their iPad.  The teachers would then get instant real-time results.

However, that's just one great feature of The Answer Pad as I was lucky to receive a demo on their latest update called, Go Interactive.  Go Interactive allows students to use their iPad to respond/answer teacher's questions.  Basically, it turns an iPad into an interactive clicker device, where teachers get instant results.  What makes this such a useful feature is the way teachers can assess student's learning by some of the handy ways in which they can respond to a question, such as: yes/no, T/F, text, thumbs up/down, etc etc.

This is great for students who are shy and don't want to raise their hands to ask a question.  Now, all they have to do is type in a question on their iPad and a teacher will see who asked it.  Also, this is a great tool to engage students and Guided Learning.  This could be a great tool to use when watching a class video or reading a class story and wanting to get instant feedback.  I can even see this being used as a back channel chat.

Some other great features w/ Go Interactive is the ability to use it to answer any type of question for any subject such as: Spelling, Geography (there is a map template that can be drawn on), Math (interact graph paper to draw/plot data), drawing, etc etc.

I highly recommend checking out The Answer Pad by clicking here!!!

Below is a screen shot of The Answer Pad & Go Interactive in action, the left side of the screen is the teacher window and the right side window would be student's iPad....

This was originally posted on Technology Tidbits by David Kaluper, Ed Tech blogger, consultant, professional development and tech integration specialist with 14+ yrs in K-12 schools.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

The use of IT

This is a guest post by Dubier, an international school teacher in Sweden. Originally posted at http://iteachwithit.wordpress.com/2013/05/04/the-use-of-it/

I have been lucky to work at a school that has given me the opportunity to use IT products to develop my teaching. My school has contributed an iMac and an Apple TV . I have a private iPad and Macbook pro that I use as well. As I wrote in my documentation of My flip a few months ago, the iMac was only used when students did not have access to the internet at home. They used it to listen to audio files and also to watch the vodcasts. The beauty of having an Apple TV in the classroom is that you can easily connect it to a projector which in turn is connected wirelessly to the iMac. This was awfully handy if there were more in the class who had not had the internet at home or something else had happened so that they could not see the vodcasts. They could then sit together in front of the projector screen and take notes, while the others were working with the exercises that they needed to finish. Obviously this was not optimal and doesn’t exactly follow the Flip concept, but as a teacher it is important to be flexible and be prepared for all kinds of obstacles that can get in the way. More info about apple tv you can find at http://www.apple.com/se/appletv/airplay/

I have also used the ipad to connect to Apple TV many times. I used it the most as whiteboard. It happens some times that the students have the same questions and I have to explain the same thing for several students during the same lesson. Instead of wasting time explaining to every student separately, I connect the ipad to the projector through the Apple TV and answered the questions immediately. A small mini-review you might say. The Whiteboard app that I use is Doceri (http://doceri.com). Try it out and tell me later what you think. There are many different apps available but Doceri is the app I think is most comfortable to write with.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Create top quality booklets with Simple Booklet

Simple booklet is an outstanding website for creating high quality  web leaflets and sliders. I have been using the free version although there is a paid version and also a teacher account for $10 which includes 30 free student accounts. I have found the free version to be perfect for my needs so far.

Simple booklet integrates extremely well with a Google Account or Google apps account and when you go to sign up it gives you the option of logging in with either. You can also use a Facebook or Yahoo account or create a separate account. Once you have logged in, you are creating booklets with a couple of clicks. There are a range of format options and the editor is simple to use.

This is an exceptional tool for learning and students can quickly become producers of detailed well presented content. Teachers could also use of this to produce high quality revision materials and the school marketing team could use make excellent use of it for putting rich media on websites and across social networks. The integration with Google apps makes the integration of this piece of technology even easier.
Rather than carry on talking about it, it is probably more useful for you to see it in action so I am going to create this post in Simple Booklet (after I have proofread it first) and then I will embed it below. Below the embedded booklet, I will write the time taken to create the booklet from logging in to completion.

6 minutes and 12 seconds. It is quite a basic booklet but I think it demonstrates the usefulness of this tool.