I’m in Boulder, Colorado today for the Google Teachers Academy. The fun and learning starts in about an hour and a half, but before I head out I thought I’d quickly share a few links from our meetup last night with educators from around the country as well as a few sites I encountered listening to podcasts on my 8 hour drive from Wichita, Kansas, yesterday.

Google Office in Boulder, Colorado

These are going to be in a rather random order, since I learned these from different sources. I’ll try to provide linktribution for each.

Blabberize is a free, web-based tool for creating embeddable talking pictures, similar to the commercial (Windows-only) software program Crazytalk. H/T to Chris Clementi for this resource. Oh my goodness, can you imagine your students having fun with this?! (Lots of learning could be taking place as well as fun!)

In a past show, Oprah Winfrey interviewed some employees at Google about their jobs and what it was like working for the company, I tried to locate the video online this morning and was not able to, at least 1 YouTube version has been taken down because of copyright issues. Hopefully Oprah’s website will share/host this video clip at some point.

Verbal Planet is an excellent site to connect language learners to native language speakers for lessons over Skype. Tom Gromak is a #gtaco participant from the Watkinson School in Hartford, Connecticut. He just returned from a multi-week trip to China, and prior to his trip he used Verbal Planet to take five 45 minute lessons on speaking Mandarin from an instructor in Beijing. Cost? $50 total. It was great to hear lots of details from Tom’s trip last night, incidentally. His school takes kids on service learning trips to Cambodia and South Africa. His China trip this summer was solo, but they may take a trip to China in the future. This would be a perfect “digital witness” empowerment opportunity for Storychasers!

Spector Pro is commercial software used by some school districts to regularly take screenshots of student computers to document all online and offline activity. The website touts:

Install Spector Pro and start recording EVERYTHING your children or employees do on the computer and Internet.
Imagine a surveillance camera pointed directly at your computer monitor, recording everything that is done on your Mac. That is the idea behind the number one selling Internet Monitoring and Surveillance software, Spector Pro.
Spector Pro automatically takes hundreds of snapshots every hour and provides an easy-to-use, video-style playback tool so that you can see everything they do on the computer and Internet.

I have not heard of this program previously. I’m sure some will disagree, but a program like this could do a great deal toward creating a culture of perceived accountability and transparency for online behavior both inside and outside the classroom. I don’t remember who shared this with my last night. It is available for both Windows and Macintosh computers. Not sure about Linux-based netbooks.

One of the highlights for me last night was definitely getting to meet Ben Wilkoff in person. Ben isn’t participating in #gtaco but lives in the area and came up for our pre-con meetup. Ben told me about the “MrCUTE Jr. Shared URL/File Repository Plugin” which allows media files like videos to be made into repurpose-able learning objects inside Moodle. In the context of the professional development committee for the K-12 Online Conference, this is of high interest. Ben also mentioned TweetGrid can be used to create embedded, dynamic searches for Twitter conversations in webpages. That’s a new tool for me as well.

I know the learning here at #gtaco with this innovative group is just beginning! Now, it’s off to Google for the day! 🙂

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