TeachersFirst Edge

New web 2.0 tools appear each day. Many of these tools were not originally intended for classroom use, but they can be powerful learning tools for today's techno-savvy students and their more adventurous teachers. These sites appear (and frequently disappear) very quickly, launched by creative techno-geeks out there in the world.

Many of these tools require a higher-than-average set of teacher tech skills or some extra monitoring to assure student "safety." TeachersFirst Edge reviews these "tools on the Edge" carefully, and with specific ideas for using them safely and effectively in teaching and learning. Reviews point out any safety or policy concerns for the tool and offer links to management tips for each concern.

Especially popular is this subset of the Edge: BYOD Dream Tools: Free tools that work on any device. Look for the device agnostic tool tag in any review.

This is the world your students already know. Try teaching in their vernacular. A little adventurousness makes for powerful learning.

See General Tips for using Edge Tools - a must for first-time users

Browse the full listing of detailed safety/school policy tips or save time by reading them as needed from each tool review.

Learn about school web filtering, a critical issue with many "Edge" tools

If you try one of these tools and find it especially useful, be sure to leave a comment on it to share your students' successes with other teachers. If you know of another tool that teachers would find beneficial, please suggest it via our webmaster account, as a "suggested resource."

Here's the Edge:

 

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Fotojet - PearlMountain Technology Co., Ltd

Grades
K to 12
1 Favorites 0  Comments
 
Create beautiful photo collages, cards, and posters easily with Fotojet. Choose from over 320 templates and upload pictures directly from your computer or Facebook. Edit photos for...more
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Create beautiful photo collages, cards, and posters easily with Fotojet. Choose from over 320 templates and upload pictures directly from your computer or Facebook. Edit photos for size, exposure, rotate, flip or mirror, add text (and edit), and more. When finished, share using links or download as a JPEG or PNG file.

tag(s): collages (19), graphic design (30), images (238), posters (30)

In the Classroom

Create cards, posters, or photo collages for any classroom presentation. Share what you created on your website or blog for students to review or for students who were absent. In the younger grades, teachers would be the ones creating the project. Have students create presentations to "introduce" themselves to the class during the first week of school. Link or embed the introduction presentations on your class wiki and have others guess who they are about. Use this tool with your 1:1 art class for students to practice design principles and techniques. Share student projects with parents and others via URL. Be sure to demonstrate HOW to use this tool on your interactive whiteboard or projector.

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Closr (Beta) - Closr.it

Grades
K to 12
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Engage your audience with zoomable images using Closr. Create an account and upload an image to begin. Add "Spots" and descriptions of any location on the image. Use the zoom ...more
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Engage your audience with zoomable images using Closr. Create an account and upload an image to begin. Add "Spots" and descriptions of any location on the image. Use the zoom feature to zoom in on any area on the image. Highlight and describe information. When finished, share using the embed code, URL, or social media links. Free plans include creating up to 5 canvases. Currently this site is also available as an iOS App.
This site includes advertising.

tag(s): images (238)

In the Classroom

Share Closr with your school's art teacher as an excellent way to highlight and feature details on artwork. History and science teachers can use Closr to zoom in on parts of the microscope, cells, historic buildings, battles, and more. Have students upload an image to demonstrate different parts of plants, landforms, or shapes found in images.

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Watchkin - Alan Cheney

Grades
K to 12
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Watchkin provides tools for a safer and cleaner view of YouTube videos. Use Watchkin to remove text, comments, thumbnail images, and most ads from any video on YouTube. Copy and ...more
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Watchkin provides tools for a safer and cleaner view of YouTube videos. Use Watchkin to remove text, comments, thumbnail images, and most ads from any video on YouTube. Copy and paste the video URL into the Watchkin search box for automatic redirection to the clean version of the video. Install the bookmarklet on your search engine toolbar for easy video clean up while on the YouTube site. If your district blocks YouTube, then the videos may not be viewable. You could always view the videos at home and bring them to class "on a stick" to share. Use a tool such as KeepVid, reviewed here, to download the videos from YouTube.

tag(s): internet safety (117), video (213)

In the Classroom

How often do you find great clips and video shorts from YouTube and you cannot show them or are afraid to show them even if you can get them through the school filter? Try using this to show clips or long videos to your class via an interactive whiteboard or projector.

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Google Takeout Tool - Google

Grades
K to 12
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The Google Takeout Tool is a backup service to your Google account. It allows you to back up and create an offline archive of your information stored on Google. Select ...more
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The Google Takeout Tool is a backup service to your Google account. It allows you to back up and create an offline archive of your information stored on Google. Select what you want to archive then choose next. Choose the format to receive your archived data and delivery method. Receive data through email or directly into your Google Drive account.

tag(s): organizational skills (103)

In the Classroom

The Google Takeout Tool is perfect for use when changing email accounts or using multiple accounts. Archive all desired files then upload to your new account when ready.

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SurveyPlanet - SurveyPlanet, LLC

Grades
K to 12
1 Favorites 0  Comments
 
SurveyPlanet makes creating surveys, polls, and quizzes quick and easy. Create an account with your email and see how many free features they have for you! The basics include unlimited...more
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SurveyPlanet makes creating surveys, polls, and quizzes quick and easy. Create an account with your email and see how many free features they have for you! The basics include unlimited questions and responses, color themes, various types of questions, a bank of questions for many different industries, and then there are special free features. Some of these are storage of your survey and results for a year, four types of results charts, duplication of surveys, survey embedding and much more. SurveyPlanet supports over 20 languages.
This site includes advertising.

tag(s): assessment (81), polls and surveys (40), quiz (73), quizzes (81)

In the Classroom

Use SurveyPlanet for daily quiz questions as a formative assessment or to check for understanding of a previous lesson. Use as an anticipatory guide for introducing new content. Use to check for understanding after a lecture or demonstration. Use a class account to have student groups alternate to create a new poll for the next day. Older students may want to include polls on their student blogs to increase reader engagement. Have students create polls for after a project presentation. Use polls to generate data for math class (graphing), during elections, or for critical thinking activities dealing with the interpretation of statistics. Engage students using "real" data from a survey of issues and current events that matter to them. Use it to serve as a class voting device. Students can use their mobile devices to answer the survey. However, it is best to create them on a laptop or desktop.

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Digital Storyteller - Center for Technology and Teacher Education Univ. of Virginia

Grades
1 to 12
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Find a one-stop shop for digital storytelling at this site, created by the University of Virginia. Produce quick and easy digital storytelling projects and find detailed instructions...more
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Find a one-stop shop for digital storytelling at this site, created by the University of Virginia. Produce quick and easy digital storytelling projects and find detailed instructions for creation. Begin with the idea map. Go to the script and prepare your dialogue. Narrate and record the script. Add images to go with your words. The site also lists other resources featuring digital storytelling. Join the community blog to grow and explore other peoples' ideas. Enjoy the featured story to find an excellent example.

tag(s): digital storytelling (109)

In the Classroom

Emerge your class into higher level thinking skills and the 21st century skills involved in a digital storytelling project. Take any and all subject matter and dig deeper into the curriculum. Start small and gradually build up in complexity and depth. Draw or take your own pictures for this project, or find Creative Commons images for student projects (with credit, of course) at Compfight, reviewed here. Start by sharing the example on an interactive whiteboard or projector. Brainstorm examples with the content you are currently studying. Use digital storytelling as an alternate form of assessment. Be sure to post all student work on your website, blog, or Edmodo account to share with others.

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Safe YouTube Videos - Wessam El Mahdy

Grades
K to 12
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Confidently share YouTube videos without distractions or offensive comments with Safe YouTube (no registration required!). Paste the URL of a YouTube link into the bar to generate a...more
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Confidently share YouTube videos without distractions or offensive comments with Safe YouTube (no registration required!). Paste the URL of a YouTube link into the bar to generate a safe view link and begin viewing. Use links provided to download or share through social networking sites. If your district blocks YouTube, then they may not be viewable. You could always view the videos at home and bring them to class "on a stick" to share. Use a tool such as KeepVid, reviewed here, to download the videos from YouTube.

tag(s): classroom management (105), internet safety (117), video (213)

In the Classroom

Share "distraction-free" videos on an interactive whiteboard or projector. Removing distractions and having confidence in removing any offensive content makes for a better learning experience. Use this tool to limit distractions for your ADD/ADHD, Autistic, unfocused Gifted, and other special needs students. Less distraction = better learning experience for all.

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Patch - Tim Armstrong

Grades
6 to 12
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Patch is an online newspaper created to provide local information to its readers. By default, readers see top news for the USA including trending information, business news, and arts...more
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Patch is an online newspaper created to provide local information to its readers. By default, readers see top news for the USA including trending information, business news, and arts and entertainment. Personalize your feed by entering your zip code or city. Share your story or photos by clicking on "Post on Patch" and following the instructions. Create an account to share your story and photos. Commenting on articles does not require an account. Comments are public, so be sure to check articles before sharing.
This site includes advertising.

tag(s): news (177), newspapers (54)

In the Classroom

Patch is ideal for use when learning about your community. Create a link on classroom computers for students to read and explore. Become a contributor to Patch by sharing stories of events and information from your school and classroom. Have students contribute top stories locally with those from around the nation (or world). Put in the name of any city in the US for students to read about local information. If you have penpals or collaborate with another classroom via Twitter, learn more about their community through Patch.

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Picasa - Google

Grades
K to 12
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Organizing and editing photos has never been easier! Download Picasa to any platform (iOs, Windows, or Linux). The downloader will recognize the system you have. Open Picasa and choose...more
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Organizing and editing photos has never been easier! Download Picasa to any platform (iOs, Windows, or Linux). The downloader will recognize the system you have. Open Picasa and choose to scan the entire hard drive or just documents, pictures, and desktop. Pictures display in a library view in Picasa. Pictures appear in folders based on the location on your computer. Add new folders easily under the Tool Menu --> Folder Manager. Double click on any photo to enter Edit mode. The Basic Edit button ("wrench tool") includes many recognizable tools (be sure to click "Apply" with these tools when done making changes). Included are Crop, Straighten (to fix a slanting horizon), RedEye, I'm Feeling Lucky (to adjust color and lightness to what the computer chooses as a better shade), Auto Contrast, Auto Color, Retouch, Text (easy tools for the color, font, size, and transparency of the text in the text box), and Fill Light. The Tuning tab (brightness icon) includes Fill Light, Highlights, Shadows, Color Temperature, and Neutral Color Picker. Use the sliders for each of these tools to make adjustments. Find a large variety of tools in the Effects Tabs (looks like a paintbrush) Sharpen, Sepia, Black & White, Film Grain, Soft Focus, and many more! Click "Share" to upload to Picasa Web Albums. You will need to create an account, and then it is easily accessed through your Drive or Google Tools! Other "Share" options include Email, Print, Export, Shop, Blog This, Collage, Video, and Geotag (to Geotag your pictures in Google Earth).

tag(s): editing (48), images (238), photography (145)

In the Classroom

Use this tool anytime for editing photos for use on class blogs, wikis, or in presentation tools. Use one of the many Presentation tools reviewed by TeachersFirst here. In primary grades, this tool could be useful for teachers to use to edit pictures from a field trip, science experiments, and more. Share the editing process with younger students using an interactive whiteboard or projector. Edit together! Encourage older students to use this site themselves on images for projects or presentations. Use this tool in photography or art classes. Use the editor to edit pictures to fit styles of pictures when doing historical reports or to set a mood. Use text options for the photos themselves to tell the stories. Use the Geotagging feature to geotag the location of the pictures (camera locations need to be turned on in the camera before taking pictures) taken to embed in Google Earth.

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Game of Chromes - Meredith Martin

Grades
5 to 12
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Game of Chromes is a printable set of flash cards teaching about Google and Google tools. Choose "Open Editor" in the tools to edit and customize for your needs. When ...more
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Game of Chromes is a printable set of flash cards teaching about Google and Google tools. Choose "Open Editor" in the tools to edit and customize for your needs. When finished, print double-sided on cardstock to use.

tag(s): computers (61), flash cards (44), search engines (65), spreadsheets (15)

In the Classroom

Print this set of flash cards for use when introducing or reviewing Google tools. Modify and change the cards to fit any unit. For example, create a complete set just for Google Documents or Google Search. Have students edit the flash cards for review on creating slide shows or spreadsheets. Use this set of flash cards as an opening when presenting information on Google to other teachers and staff.

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Simple Sticky Notes - Simnet Limited

Grades
1 to 12
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Find your sticky notes with the click of a button. Post your important notes or lists to your home screen on your computer quickly and easily. Download the software and ...more
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Find your sticky notes with the click of a button. Post your important notes or lists to your home screen on your computer quickly and easily. Download the software and begin writing notes. Easily delete with one button. Change color, theme, or text type on each sticky note if you desire.
This site includes advertising.

tag(s): brainstorming (24), graphic organizers (45), note taking (29)

In the Classroom

Stay organized and never lose that sticky note again! Make notes for conferences, lab materials, books needed, or even parent conferences. Use on your interactive whiteboard to create a fun brainstorming session. Use as a way to motivate unorganized students. Post a link on your class web page as a tool for students and even parents! Post on student computers and fill with inspirational messages, vocabulary or spelling words, or even for reflection questions.

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Bingo Card Generator - Christopher Herdt

Grades
K to 8
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Create Bingo cards in no time with the Bingo Card Generator. In the boxes provided, enter any word list and choices for free space, card size, and number of cards ...more
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Create Bingo cards in no time with the Bingo Card Generator. In the boxes provided, enter any word list and choices for free space, card size, and number of cards to make. When finished, choose the "Generate Bingo Cards" to print.

tag(s): printables (35), worksheets (51)

In the Classroom

Use the Bingo Card Creator to create Bingo games to review any topic with small groups. Instead of saying the word that is on the Bingo card, give the definition (so students must find the term) or a math problem whose answer is among those on the card. Create sight word bingo cards for younger students and ESL/ELL students. Bingo is an excellent review tool for science or social studies. Put a short description of a vocabulary word into the space. Tell students the name of the vocabulary word and see if they can find it on the Bingo card. Alternatively, do the reverse and write the vocabulary word on the card and read the definition to the class. Encourage students to create bingo games for each other as a review or to engage the audience during oral presentations. Learning support teachers can create them together with students as an engaging way to review. World language teachers (and students) can create bingo cards to reinforce vocabulary.
 

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Spruce - Spruce

Grades
K to 12
4 Favorites 0  Comments
 
Add text to any image in seconds with Spruce. Choose from millions of free photos or upload your own and add text in the box. Drag and reposition text and ...more
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Add text to any image in seconds with Spruce. Choose from millions of free photos or upload your own and add text in the box. Drag and reposition text and the image as needed. When finished, download to your computer or share on Twitter or Facebook with links provided.

tag(s): images (238), microblogging (40), social networking (111), twitter (50)

In the Classroom

Although this tool's focus is with Twitter images in mind, Spruce has multiple uses. Add text to classroom images for your Twitter feed. Upload images for use on your class web page of class projects, field trips, school events, yearbook, newsletter, and more. Add whatever text you desire. Create a class book about reptiles, landforms, current events, and more. Then use Page Flip-Flap, reviewed here, to turn the images into an online book. Why Page Flip-Flap? It has a page-turning effect!

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Daily 140 - Zach Hamed

Grades
8 to 12
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Don't miss information from your favorite tweeps when you sign up with Daily 140. Sign in and add the Twitter handle of five people you want to track. Each day ...more
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Don't miss information from your favorite tweeps when you sign up with Daily 140. Sign in and add the Twitter handle of five people you want to track. Each day receive an email with a list of all new people they have followed and tweets they have favorited.

tag(s): microblogging (40), twitter (50)

In the Classroom

Sometimes it is hard to get started with Twitter. Take advantage of the daily emails to find people of interest to follow or stay current on the latest education conversations. Use Daily 140 to stay up to date with other educators, politicians, The White House, and more. To get started following other educators see A List of Twitter Educators by Subject Area, reviewed here. If your class is following a scientist, engineer, politician, or any other professional, share the daily emails with students. Looking for more ways to use Twitter in the classroom? Read more about Twitter at TeachersFirst's Twitter for Teachers page.

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Plickers - Nolan Amy

Grades
1 to 12
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All-inclusive student response is what Plickers is all about. Students do not need to have Internet access. Responders use individualized QR Code cards (print a set FREE from Plickers),...more
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All-inclusive student response is what Plickers is all about. Students do not need to have Internet access. Responders use individualized QR Code cards (print a set FREE from Plickers), to answer questions. You use your mobile device to read the QR Code cards that students hold up. Create an account and get started immediately. No need to wait for an email response. There is a demo to use, or see the Help page for detailed instructions for adding classes, students, and questions (with or without images). You can save student responses to your online Plicker account.
This site includes advertising.

tag(s): assessment (81), DAT device agnostic tool (132), qr codes (24), questioning (34), quiz (73)

In the Classroom

Create greater student engagement and increased student interest in your classroom with Plickers. Students give their input anonymously. Print out Plickers' cards and hand out to students. Use an interactive whiteboard or projector to explain how the Plickers cards work. Create questions, with or without images, and add multiple choice answers. Project your questions and possible answers. Have students hold up their card in the position that reflects their answer. Use your mobile device and Plickers mobile app to scan the cards. You will see a bar graph with student responses on your mobile device. These can be saved to your Plicker account. Use Plickers to answer exit questions or to see what students remember from the previous day. Use for formative assessment to identify misconceptions that students may have at the start of a unit. There are cards with larger fonts for young students or the visually impaired. ESL/ELL teachers could use this for vocabulary or sentence structure practice. Unless your school or district has access to a matte-finish for laminating or mattte-finished plastic pockets, you may want to collect the cards at the end of class.

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Apricot - Just Apricot

Grades
2 to 12
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Apricot is not your average prompt generator. Use Apricot to have parents become collaborators in their child's education. With an Apricot account, create an online classroom or multiple...more
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Apricot is not your average prompt generator. Use Apricot to have parents become collaborators in their child's education. With an Apricot account, create an online classroom or multiple classrooms within the same account. Invite students to join using a code provided by Apricot for each class. Moreover, if you choose, invite parents to join and read their student's responses to the prompts you create. Send parents email alerts for only the response(s) you wish to share. Find an introduction Vimeo video on their blog (a link at the bottom of the landing page). This works on any browser based computer and on iPads. At the time of this review the site was planning to add an option to write a personal note to the parents when sending the prompt.

tag(s): parents (50), writing (337), writing prompts (89)

In the Classroom

What a great tool to get your students writing daily! Not only language arts teachers will benefit from using this tool. Any subject teacher can create prompts about the topics their students study. Use Apricot as an exit ticket to see where students have misconceptions about the lesson presented. For days when you need some help coming up with a prompt, look at Thought Questions, reviewed here, to get a few ideas. Send responses to parents easily by having them sign up for the code. Parents will not automatically get responses. You can select which responses to send them.

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Universal - Free Algebra Equation Solver - Stanislav Kublanovsky and Yuri Matiasevich

Grades
6 to 12
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Download the Universal - Free Algebra Equation Solver software from this site. This is the only section of the site that is FREE. However, this tool alone makes the site ...more
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Download the Universal - Free Algebra Equation Solver software from this site. This is the only section of the site that is FREE. However, this tool alone makes the site fabulous! The Algebra Equation Solver solves and explains algebraic equations with step by step instructions. Verbal and written commentaries accompany each solution. Think of it as your free, at-home Algebra tutor! Large, colorful fonts and clearly expressed equations on a whiteboard view offer easy viewing options. Use the four toolbars, the menu bar at the top, and the status bar at the bottom to navigate any problem.
This site includes advertising.

tag(s): equations (149), exponents (41), logic (215), problem solving (222)

In the Classroom

Introduce this site on your interactive whiteboard or projector and use throughout the year to demonstrate and practice solutions to any Algebra problem. Be sure to include a link to this download on your class web page for students to use at home. Share with parents who are looking for tutoring or support for their student.

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Hott Notes - Joel Riley

Grades
1 to 12
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Get Hott Notes to create sticky notes, lists, or scribbles, to keep on your home screen. Never again have your sticky notes get buried on your desk or lose their ...more
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Get Hott Notes to create sticky notes, lists, or scribbles, to keep on your home screen. Never again have your sticky notes get buried on your desk or lose their stick and fall off the wall! If you have a Windows machine, download the program, and find the hot notes icon on the task bar. Easily create a note, list, or scribble at no cost. Add an alarm feature to a note or change colors of notes. Lists have a check off feature to help keep track of each item completed. Done with a note? Click it away. Never buy or lose your important sticky notes again. See the download section for directions about how to take your computer desktop stickies with you everywhere!

tag(s): note taking (29)

In the Classroom

A teacher's life is full of many things to remember. Keep sticky notes wherever you go on your computer desktop, in a folder, and on a USB mini-drive. Students love technology so encourage sticky note reminders. Use as a way to have students vote for choices. Allow students to add a sticky note to your computer after finishing an assignment. List all materials needed for lessons and labs on your sticky notes. Gather them from multiple places and still keep track. Use as a way to brainstorm with your class and later eliminate unneeded ideas. Keep weekly vocabulary or spelling words on Hott Notes for all of your student computers. Use as a method for tracking behavior.

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Trends24 - Trends24

Grades
9 to 12
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Track trending topics and tweets in any country you specify with Trends24. Select a country and view the breakdown of the trending tweets by minutes, hours, or days. Choose between...more
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Track trending topics and tweets in any country you specify with Trends24. Select a country and view the breakdown of the trending tweets by minutes, hours, or days. Choose between the Timeline breakdown or click on Cloud. Tweet trends show as a word cloud, with the most popular topics showing in a larger font. Click any hashtag name to view the tweets showing for that trend. Are you new to Twitter and hashtags? Find information to help you at TeachersFirst's Twitter for Teachers page.
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tag(s): microblogging (40), twitter (50)

In the Classroom

Use this tool to look at the topics that are trends in the various countries. Compare and contrast the top trends and how they differ from other countries that are neighbors or are far away. This tool is helpful in understanding political or cultural issues that extend worldwide or affect more than one region. Use the trending topics to understand the point of view of various countries. Look at news reports or causes for the change in the trend. Twitter trends could be useful in any subject area but especially useful for current events, civics, health, and economics.

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ProjectWriter - BoomWriter

Grades
2 to 8
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Develop and manage group writing projects with ProjectWriter. Created by BoomWriter, reviewed here, this site specifically provides support for expository...more
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Develop and manage group writing projects with ProjectWriter. Created by BoomWriter, reviewed here, this site specifically provides support for expository writing across any content area including built-in vocabulary tools. Begin by creating a project and breaking content into smaller, manageable sections. Enter assignments stating requirements such as word count, due dates, and more. Receive submissions in real time as students submit work for your review. After receiving all submissions allow students to review anonymous submissions and vote for the best entry.
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tag(s): digital storytelling (109), essays (21), expository writing (39), interactive stories (30), vocabulary (319), vocabulary development (116), writing (337)

In the Classroom

ProjectWriter is perfect for use when incorporating Common Core Writing Standards into any content area. Encourage students to read other students' writing for ideas about what makes informational writing interesting. Create a friendly competition within your grade level by starting a project and choosing a winner. Create new projects throughout the school year for any and all subjects.

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