Monday, February 28, 2011

This Week's Online Find:

Do you want to make a mint? Save a mint? Begin planning to spend a mint? Or do you just feel as though you could use a little help tracking and managing your daily finances? Whatever your financial planning needs might be, is a site you have to see.

This Intuit (TurboTax, Quicken) product is a safe, secure (with bank-level data security), and (amazingly!) free tool that allows you to bring together all your accounts (including checking and savings, credit card, brokerage, CDs, and IRA accounts) and see your entire financial picture in a single location.

But that’s not all! Mint also can automatically categorize all your financial transactions (using either its own hundreds of categories or your own); calculate average spending in any category to help you create a budget based on your spending patterns; compare your spending year-to-year or month-to-month; and help you plan for future expenses by determining which categories you can make spending cuts in.

Mint also provides lots of charts and graphs to help you track income, spending, net worth, and account balances over time. And if you’re too busy even to read the site's graphs, Mint will send you a weekly update summarizing the week's spending and saving activity.

And there’s more! Mint also offers more than 20 alerts to help you track your spending, protect your credit rating, and avoid overdrafts or late fees. For example, Mint can notify you if you’re going over budget, if bills are coming due, or if an account balance is getting low. It’s almost like having a full-time accountant in your computer -- and on your mobile phone.

Did I mention that Mint is free?

Mint, by the way, is a "read-only" service, meaning you can see, organize, and analyze your finances, but you can’t move money with this tool. Mint is compatible with all operating systems.

Check it out!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

This Week's Online Find: UJam

You’ve read about Teachers Who YouTube. You’ve heard, I’m sure, of the Rapping Mathematician, the Singing Science Teacher, the Harmonious Historians. And I’m sure you’ve thought, as have I, “If only….”

“If only I could read music.” “If only I could sing.” “If only I weren’t tone deaf.” “If only I could make music the way they do.” Well, my latest online find can’t make a musician out of a tin ear, but it can make music where none existed before -- even in your classroom!

UJam is a new, free, easy-to-use, cloud-based tool that allows users -- even those with no previous musical or instrumental skills -- to compose, produce, and publish their own music. And honestly (I promise!), anyone can do it.

First, sing a song or recite a poem or read a speech -- or just hum a little -- into your computer’s internal mic. Once you have a recording you like and accept, you’ll have the opportunity to turn that recording into a rap or a ballad or any of a large variety of musical styles. Choose a style, from 90 Tronics to Jazz Cat to Strumming Guitar to Happy Birthday Orchestra, a speed, and an instrument, and you -- or your students -- will be ready for next year's Grammys. Or next week's math lesson.

I can’t begin to tell you all the fun things you can do and create with UJam, but I can tell you that I had a ball with it. And I flunked piano lessons in fourth grade.

Check it out!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

This Week's Online Find:
Teaching Resources

OK, I confess. This week's site selection isn't really a new find, but it's one that's growing so rapidly -- and so brilliantly -- that I felt I had to let everyone know what's going on at Laura Candler's Teaching Resources site.

Laura isn't a stranger to Education World. She's been contributing articles and other resources to our readers for years. Those resources include (my favorite!) a three-part series on Goal Setting, with thoughtful and highly effective worksheets; an article on a terrific community service project called Rainforest Rescue; The Heart of Mathematical Thinking, an engaging math activty for Valentine's Day; and more.

Laura might not be a stranger to you either. Her Teaching Resources Facebook page is always busy, and bubbling with great new ideas from Laura and her fans. This year, however, Laura has assumed a new challenge. She's taken the year off from teaching to develop even more exciting resources for educators. Some of those resources -- her books (all of which can be previewed online), her Teaching Resources workshops, and her new (and, one hopes, first of many) eLearning slidecast course on classroom book clubs, for example -- bear a modest cost. Others, however, are free, and also well worth a visit!

Free resources include Candler's Classroom Connections, a weekly newsletter full of timely activities and useful and usable teaching materials; Teaching Strategies -- introductions to, instructions and learning materials for, a variety of teaching strategies, including mastery learning, cooperative learning, management, and more; and Laura's File Cabinet full of printables for nearly every subject area.

I could go on -- and on and on and on -- but you'll want to check out the site for yourself. Laura is simply one of the most creative teachers I know. If you're not quite as creative as you'd like to be -- or even if you are -- Laura's Teaching Resources will knock your socks off, and make teaching easier than ever. Check it out!

Monday, February 7, 2011

This Week's Online Find:
Guide to Going Google

Say what you will about Google, they are where they are because they do things right. And the latest thing they've done right is their Guide to Going Google for Google Apps for Education.

For those of you unfamiliar with Google Apps for Education, it consists of a core suite of communication and collaboration tools -- including Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Talk, Google Sites, Google Docs, and Google Video, as well as access to dozens of additional Google applications, such as AdSense, Blogger, iGoogle, Google Reader, YouTube, and many more. In fact, I highlighted several of those apps last October in a blog about Google for Educators.

Google, however, not content with the publicity generated by my modest blog -- or, apparently, by their own equally modest initial product promotions -- has truely outdone itself with its new Guide to Going Google.

The guide's K-12 edition outlines six steps to "going Google" successfully: Technical Integration (Plan your rollout), Outreach (Brand your system), Professional Development (Build training resources), Get the Word Out (Promote your migration), Launch (Go live), and Stay Up-to-Date (Keep current).

Included in this step-by-step (and steps-within-steps) guide are examples of how other schools have "gone Google," testimonials from current users, suggested timelines, videos, training strategies, handouts, user guides, and more. Nothing -- and I do mean nothing -- is left to the imagination. According to Google, "We designed this guide to be helpful for everyone from a 4th grade teacher who’s just learning about Google Apps, to a university CIO who’s been using Apps for years." Looks like they've succeeded.

And -- as usual -- Google Apps for Educators and the Google Guide are free.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

This Week's Online Find: Tweet About Acts of Humanity

Now that you've read the recent Education World article Full Tweet Ahead: More Teachers Using Twitter, are you ready to use Twitter in your own classroom? Are you simply looking for just the right project -- one with demonstrable social and educational benefits? If so, I've found the perfect project for you -- the Tweet About Acts of Humanity Project.

"Tweet About Acts of Humanity" is a simple classroom project developed by Mandayam Thirunarayanan, an associate professor of education at Florida International University, who's written extensively about integrating technology into education at all levels. The purpose of this project, according to Professor Thirunarayanan, is to encourage people to use the potential of electronic social networking to share with one another the acts of humanity -- large and small -- that take place every day around the world.

Why not add yourself and your students to the number of people performing those acts of humanity -- and tweeting about them?