Category Archives: Cool Tools

Elegy for a Dead World – Writing as Gaming

The son, Goat 2, over at Learning, Play, Etc. has gotten my attention with a new game called Elegy for Dead Planet. The concept is fascinating, “Explore dead civilizations, write about what you find, and share your stories with the world.” It is not yet launched but appears to intertwine a gaming story with prompts for the gamer to complete and share. I could see my Tech Club running wild with this and even mElegy for a Dead World - Who is Shey most reluctant writers in my regular class could easily be sucked in. I just hope there is an opportunity to pilot the game in the classroom. As of yet, there seems to be no link for educators. Perhaps this will be another sneak attack like MinecraftEDU. My fingers are crossed that they will offer a trial for education. This could really inspire my students!

For an introductory video, see –



Filed under Cool Tools, Digital Storytelling, Uncategorized, Web 2.0, Writing

Lifehacker and Easy Peasy

Picture 6I enjoyed the presentation Ben Davis gave at UT-Martin yesterday.  He always has so much to share!  He off-handedly referred to and of course, I’ve already found lots of interesting stuff there.  I’ve visited before but had forgotten about the smorgesbord of information about everything from preserving herbs to making shelves to nice little downloads like Easy Peasey.
“Easy Peasy aims to require little or no additional tweaking or app installation beyond what you first get. Right out of the box, you can browse the web, organize media, watch flash video, and more. Easy Peasy includes Firefox, Pidgin, Skype, Transmission BitTorrent Client, Open Office, Banshee Media Player, Picasa, Cheese Webcam Booth, and the Open Office Suite, among other free and open-source tools.”

I’m thinking of getting a netbook, so it’s nice to have some options to whatever comes with my sweet new machine!  Thanks Linux.  Thanks Lifehacker.  Thanks Ben!

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Sue Waters has a handy-dandy top five list of common blogging mistakes. I wish I’d read this BEFORE I started blogging. Since I’ve been proselytizing about blogging lately, I thought it might be nice to warn my converts. Consider yourself warned. You are are now free to make the same mistakes, learn from them and rest assured that I would NEVER say “I told you so” because well, I can hardly remember what I said 15 minutes ago much less. . . What was I talkin’ about?
Blog! Make mistakes! Blog some more! Forget to blog for a while. Redeem yourself by blogging again!
And by the way, under #4 blogging mistake regarding pingbackNOW I know what a pingback is! Thank you Sue Waters!

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Filed under Blogging, Classroom Practice, Cool Tools, Resources, Writing

Google Earth Lessons

I love Google Earth! It’s such a cool toy. Here’s a great site that not only helps you get started, with some how-to help, but it also includes lessons to turn this great toy into a fantastic educational tool! I’ll be incorporating Google Earth in an even more productive way thanks to Google Earth Lessons. Don’t forget to check out the blog and other pages at this site. It’s chock full of resources!

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Alleviating Zoo Guilt – Zoo Borns

ZooBorns contains photos of all different types of baby animals from zoos and aquariums all over the world. The pictures are priceless and the captions are very informative, e.g., an adorable baby owl is described as being very capable of attacking humans. How preciously dangerous! baby owlWhat a great way to prepare for a trip to the zoo, research life cycles and share a respect for captive animals.

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DoGo News

Oh yeah! All the news that’s fit to be read by children! The editors of this site include children and adults. One of the editors is a 14-year-old whose claim to fame is his great duct tape ties! This would be a nice safe homepage for your classroom desk top. I’ll be asking my student of the day to choose their favorite “news” story to report on. This could be a great idea generator for writing and research. These may not be the current headlines, but they are definitely news.

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Filed under Classroom Practice, Cool Tools, Digital Storytelling, photos, Resources, Web 2.0, Writing

G-mail Accounts for Students

I have not tried this myself, yet. I would check the acceptable use policy at your school before putting this into use. The method came from one of the groups I belong to:An additional description of this method comes from Kim Cofino who suggests using this for elementary students.

Gmail for Student Accounts

The problem that many teachers face when having students create user accounts for web applications is that most applications require a valid e-mail address to create the account. There is a solution that I learned from Alice Mercer about harnessing Gmail to create “fake” accounts that applications will recognize as legitimate.

Create a legitimate gmail account at (e.g. Then, you can use that base account to “trick” web applications that require e-mail address to create user accounts. The way it works is that you add a + and a student name/alias after the gmail user name (e.g.,,, etc.)

The web applications will recognize those addresses as real e-mail addresses, but students never see an inbox. They cannot send nor receive e-mail because you haven’t actually created an e-mail account for them; they don’t have a password to sign into Gmail. Any e-mail (i.e. registration confirmations, etc.) that are sent to the username+name@gmail accounts will be delivered to the Gmail inbox that only you can access.

I have used this to register students for blogs, wikis, and other Web 2.0 applications. The one catch is that it does not work when registering students for Google applications, like Google Docs, Google Calendar, Google Notebook, etc.

Here are those instructions as steps:

1. Create a legitimate Gmail account at (e.g.
2. Add a + and a student name/alias after the Gmail user name (e.g.,,, etc.)
3. Start registering students for web applications
4. Check the inbox of your Gmail account periodically


Filed under Blogging, Classroom Practice, Cool Tools, Web 2.0, Writing