Free Vector Software: Best Editor and Drawing Tools

Looking for inexpensive ways to create VECTORS or scaleable graphics? Here are some amazing FREE or nearly free tools to get the job done… Hands down winner for features is Inkscape but it’s definitely fussy to learn and I would choose Vectr if you’re just getting started.

 


Paying $500+ for a new CorelDRAW Suite may not be the best investment for a graphic designer, especially a beginner. The same goes for Adobe’s stingy subscriptions. Give or take, most graphic design tools are built on the same principles. And more often than not, we need to create something simple and effective – an icon for our website, a logo, or just have some fun with vector art. Even for serious vector art, we probably never use all the fancy features big companies throw at us.

Thankfully, there is a free vector software that allows us to do what we want. In this article, we will cover the most popular and effective of ones.

Inkscape

Platform: Windows, macOS, Linux
Download link: inkscape.org

Inkscape is often called the GIMP of vector apps. It’s an open-source program with plenty of features that make you wonder why people aren’t selling it. And yet, it’s completely free. The app was released in 2003, and since then has become one of the most popular vector graphics software programs in the world. It’s available in 90 languages and across many platforms, including OS X and Linux.

The node workflow in Inkscape is similar to that of Adobe Illustrator and allows adding new nodes, as well as moving and editing them.

Helpful features like node aligning and symmetry are also available to use. Bezier curves and pencil tools work smoothly with graphic tablets, allowing users to create hand-drawn vector images of any complexity.

Inkscape also has image bitmap tracing, which is for converting rasterized images into vector paths. However, the feature is not as advanced as the one in Adobe Illustrator, and you may need some extra manipulations to make it work, or you’ll have to trace it manually.

Inkscape supports all popular formats, including SVG, EPS, JPG, PNG, PostScript and others.
The list of features the app has is beyond listing, and chances are it can do pretty much everything paid programs like Adobe Illustrator can do.

Full video tutorial here by Logos By Nick

At the very least Inkscape is nearly as good as Adobe Illustrator. Both programs share a very similar workflow and if you’re used to one of them, it makes it easier to make the switch. For logo designs and creating vector graphics, there won’t be much difference in whichever one of you use, apart from having an extra buck to spend on something else.

Tutorials: Inkscape’s website offers a wide variety of tutorials from beginner to advanced here. We also recommend Logos by Nick’s Youtube channel – it offers many excellent tips and workflows from a practicing designer.

Pros:

  • Many features, solid AI alternative
  • Works smoothly with tablets
  • Multiple platforms (Linux included)
  • Extensions

Cons:

  • Rare performance issues with big files
  • Some features are not intuitive – tutorials are needed

Vectr

Platform: Windows, Mac OS, Linux, Chrome OS, Web
Download link: vectr.com

Unlike Inkscape, Vectr is fresh blood in the yard. Which is good, because it means the development is shifted by industry demands, and not by the curse of bloatware.

This free vector art program was released just two years ago, but the pace of its development is truly magnificent. With all the features added recently, it’s hard to imagine what this product could be capable of in the future. However, developers are pressing that one thing stays unchanged – it will be forever free.

To compare Vectr and Inkscape is to make a great mistake – these two products are both in a league of their own. What Vectr lacks in features, it compensates for in intuitiveness. The learning curve on the program is non-existent: if you’re just starting in the design industry, you may be able to create your very first logo in five minutes after you start the program without having to skim through pages of tutorials.

Another advantage of the app is ubiquity – not only is it available on all popular platforms, but it also has a browser version with the same functionality as its desktop counterpart. That means you can work on your designs on your PC and then finish them in an internet cafe in the middle of nowhere.

From Vectr official website

The app allows all standard vector operations – creating and editing geometry shapes, curves, and paths. It supports multiple layers and pages, letting you organize your project. Vectr allows imports in AI, EPS, SVG, PNG, and JPEG file formats.

Another useful feature is the ability to share your projects simply by sending a URL to your colleagues, letting them view and edit it in a workflow similar to Google Docs. The development of full-scale collaboration with multiple people working on the same project simultaneously is currently underway, along with Marketplace and Versioning. You can literally watch the Vectr team’s backlog in the Open Roadmap.

Tutorials: vectr.com/tutorials

Pros:

    • Cross-platform and browser versions
    • Intuitive, easy to use interface
    • Easy sharing of projects
    • Integration with WordPress

    Cons:

    • Need to create an account
    • Some people report crashes – the new features may be unstable
    • Lacks advanced features

    Gravit Designer

    Platform: Windows, macOS, Linux, Chrome OS, Web
    Download link: designer.io

    We might be a bit subjective here. After all, Gravit used our icons. However, Gravit’s developers have much more to offer than having good taste.

    On a feature-wise specter, Gravit falls precisely between Inkscape and Vectr. It has more features than the latter while staying as intuitive as the former. And, like all the apps mentioned in this article, it comes with no price attached. Talk about balance.

    The app allows you to do everything you would expect from a vector software program: Create curves, edit paths, manage layers and use the knife function. It supports SVG, PDF, JPEG,.SKETCH and recently, EPS (finally!) formats for import and export. In addition, you can work on your projects across different platforms; Gravit Cloud allows seamless transition of files between desktop and online versions. A portable version is also available.

    Among the other handy things that Gravit features, there are vector assets that are available within the app. Gravit Designer’s library of assets includes icons, shapes, emojis, and illustrations – all of which can be combined and modified for commercial and non-commercial use.

    Even though the tool is free (according to developers, “there will definitely be areas in Gravit Designer in the foreseeable future, or areas surrounding Gravit Designer, that are subject to a charge”), bugs are being fixed and the most voted for features are being developed. You can see a full description of the new features in the Gravit Designer developers’ blog, along with a bunch of cool tutorials.

    Tutorials: Youtube Playlist

    Pros:

    • Huge library of vector assets out-of-box
    • Intuitive UI and workflow
    • Browser and cross-platform versions, all connected with cloud

    Cons:

    • Not yet clear what features will stay free in the future
    • No advanced features like the ones that can be found in AE or Inkscape

    SVG-edit

    Platform: Web
    Download link: https://github.com/SVG-Edit/svgedit

    SVG-edit is one of those tools that does exactly what their name suggests: It allows you to edit SVG’s, and create your own. It’s an online free vector program that is available in most popular browsers.

    The feature set is standard: Create shapes, draw with a pencil, convert lines to paths, colorize and add images. The result can be exported into popular web formats: WMP, JPG, BMP, GIF, TIFF, and of course SVG itself. The interface is pretty straightforward and reminds you of painting programs from the early 2000’s – nothing fancy here.

    One of the advantages of SVG-edit is that this open-source program can be easily embedded into your website, allowing your users to create and edit SVG’s of their own. The tool also allows you to quickly export results as HTML-code.

    Even though SVG-edit lacks features in comparison to apps mentioned earlier in this article, it still can be useful in some cases – especially for web developers. Freely available Github repository allows modifying the source code to your needs. Another plus would be that the tool is constantly being updated.

    Tutorials: Github

    Pros:

    • Simple, quick to use
    • Open-source web code

    Cons:

    • Lacks advanced features
    • Node-management is not perfect

    Honorable mentions

    Not a vector drawing software itself, but RollApp allows you to run some popular desktop apps online, in your browser. One, in particular, is Inkscape. So if Inkscape being only desktop was the only thing stopping you from using it, RollApp will seal the deal.

    This web tool really has some 90’s vibes to it. But if you’re a fan, give it a try. It’s available for free and there are enough features to make logos or other fancy web graphics. However, if you consider using FatPaint for commercial purposes, developers kindly ask to support them with a Pro subscription.

    A free web vector editor to create vector images. It allows export in SVG, PNG and JPEG. The clean UI is a bonus. It features everything you need to create a logo or an icon inside your browser.

    A graphics editor available for Windows, macOS and Linux. It’s primarily used for building math graphs and illustrations (the ones you often see in school math books). But if you feel like life is not hard enough yet, you can try drawing vector art using this tool.

    If you’re interested in free raster drawing software, check out our Best Free Drawing Software: Five Candidates article

    Have an interesting article to share with our readers? Let’s get it published.

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What’s Going On In the Brain Of A Child Who Has Experienced Trauma?

This is an important read/listen/watch especially at the beginning of the school year,,,


Educators are increasingly recognizing that students often have complicated lives outside of school that affect how ready they are to learn. Many students experience some kind of trauma in their lives, whether it’s a health problem, divorce, violence in their neighborhood, or a combination of experiences. Research shows these experiences affect kids’ brains and behavior — a challenge for teachers expecting to arrive in class and only focus on content.

Trauma-informed teaching has become a popular topic of conversation in recent years, as teachers try to adapt their methods to best serve the kids in front of them. It all starts with understanding what kids who have experienced trauma might be feeling. This TED-Ed video lays out the biology and reminds viewers of some of the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder:

  • intrusive thoughts
  • reactive symptoms like irritability and difficulty sleeping
  • negative thoughts like anger, guilt. and fear
  • avoiding reminders of trauma

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10 Reasons Kids Should Learn to Code

Thought the following article would be of interest to some…

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Coding Improves Academic Performance

Math: Coding helps kids visualize abstract concepts, lets them apply math to real-world situations, and makes math fun and creative!

Writing: Kids who code understand the value of concision and planning, which results in better writing skills. Many kids even use Tynker as a medium for storytelling!

Creativity: Kids learn through experimentation and strengthen their brains when they code, allowing them to embrace their creativity.

Confidence: Parents enthusiastically report that they’ve noticed their kids’ confidence building as they learn to problem-solve through coding!

Coding Builds Soft Skills

Focus and Organization: As they write more complicated code, kids naturally develop better focus and organization.

Resilience: With coding comes debugging – and there’s no better way to build perseverance and resilience than working through challenges!

Communication: Coding teaches logical communication, strengthening both verbal and written skills. Think about it: learning code means learning a new language!

Coding Paves a Path to the Future

Empowerment: Kids are empowered to make a difference when they code – we’ve seen Tynkerers use the platform to spread messages of tolerance and kindness!

Life Skills: Coding is a basic literacy in the digital age, and it’s important for kids to understand – and be able to innovate with – the technology around them.

Career Preparation: There’s a high demand for workers in the tech industry; mastering coding at a young age allows kids to excel in any field they choose!

 

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Evidence of Chocolates & Cherries

Evidence of Chocolate & Cherries

Life is interesting. Isn’t it always that way?

This year, and I must say the last few really, have been an extraordinary mix of devilish challenges and gleefully, exuberant joys. I’ve shared some of both with you over time on my feed in my “Evidence of…” posts.

Today’s will be a mixed bag, a bittersweet story, a chocolate covered cherry kind of thing if you will. For those of you who know me well, this serves an apt description for a story with an up and down side and for those of who are in the dark, I guess a quick side story is needed:

So here goes… I hate cherries! They hate me. It’s really that simple. Am I allergic? Who’s to say. I’ve never been tested. Few have believed I have an aversion to these red nasty berries over my 55 years of life, not even my own family for goodness sake. But how many times must one be tortured by cherries being hidden in tarts or other confectionery delights only to have them returned violently, “Witches of Eastwick” style, to prove that there’s a real issue? Really!!!

Suffice it to say the story ahead is pointedly poignant, at least to me. A real chocolate covered cherry story.

Many of you may know that I have been troubled with a degenerative and decidedly painful, but not deadly, condition that has slowly been sapping my strength and abilities to sustain a decent quality of work/life balance. And this has played havoc with two sides of my being:

On the one side is the calling that chose me back in sixth grade – that of educating.

I have know since as far back as I can remember that the art of educating learners is what I wanted to do. Why? It was partly due to my educational experiences, which if I must be honest, has been abysmal in many ways. I could recount details of having my left hand whipped simply because I used it to hold a pencil; or how I perfectly tied my shoelaces and cut circles left-handed and had to relearn both in a humiliating fashion; or how when my nose was crushed bloody by a kid on a swing in grade one, I was pulled in front of the entire school body by the Principal and ridiculed; or how I was told in grade five good spellers were born and not made; or how I had to go to summer school for two summers because teachers thought I was stupid. The list of assaults went on and I won’t bore you with more… but sadly there were more!

I knew they were wrong. I knew I was better than they were saying and I managed to prove that decades later when I graduated at nearly the top of my class and became a teacher.

Point being, I didn’t want ANY other learners to experience those set backs, those traumas, those teachers that thought they knew what they were doing and clearly did not, at least from my perspective.

The educator side of me , did not want to stop helping learners. I had more to give. More learners to support.

On the other side, was the family man. He had his own passions outside of work to follow. On this side too resided an incredible wife, fabulously interesting children beginning to branch out into the world and create lives of their own, and grandchildren. Ah, the grandchildren. These marvels can breathe life blood into dead bodies with no trouble at all. And they did with regularity. This side was equally important, probably even more so.

But as time wore on and as I became less able, there was not enough of me to go around. I began to fail… on both sides.

It started with cutting my work load and going halftime every other day. 3 years of that, then in the last year, I began coming home at the end of my working days and going straight to bed at 4:30 only to wake in pain at about 10 pm and not sleeping the remainder of the night. Misery of the most devilish sort.

My recovery days weren’t much better. Mostly sleeping. Definitely pain filled. Not much quality of life anywhere. And my mobility was tanking as well.

I wanted to work! I wanted quality of life and it seemed I couldn’t have both. And so I had a most difficult decision to make between my two passions: my calling and my family life. Seem a no brainer to you? It’s not I can assure you. Clearly, family comes out on top. Clearly. But letting go of a calling is beastly. You try it sometime. It’s like pulling teeth from your best friend or a baby perhaps. That’s the “cherry” in my story!!!

But then came the chocolate. And the chocolate was the best kind you can imagine and from two unexpected sources.

Firstly, was my farewell from work. To bastardize a phrase, I have alway said that I would “go gentle into that good night”. No fuss and no muss. I find farewell speeches nearly intolerable (platitudes, platitudes, platitudes). And I hate being the centre of attention. It’s the introvert in me (yes, you heard me correctly! Introvert! Ask my spouse). But after some heart-to-heart talks with my wife on the subject of closure, we decided to have a come-and-go farewell gig at our place on my 55th birthday entitled, “It’s My Birthday and I’ll Leave If I Want To”. You’ll hopefully recognize the reference to the Leslie Gore hit of the late 60s. At any rate, the idea was to invite people who had made a difference in my career, supported me in some significant way, in order to thank them personally. It was suppose to be a no gift affair and we’d cater the thing so we didn’t have to work too hard either.

The day turned out perfectly: it was sunny, rather warm, slight breeze and no bugs to speak of. We hosted upwards of 50 guests, some of whom ignored the no gifts clause. But the gifts/cards were incredibly thoughtful:

One teacher whom I mentored had her class make cards. These cards were hilarious because I had nicknames for a lot of the students and these students used those nicknames on the cards. One in particular was a constant talker that I playfully dubbed “Sir Chats A Lot”. His whole card took that theme and that’s how he signed it. Another added a bar code to the card because, don’t all cards have those? One student in the class who was rather special (she had ADHD inattentive type) and we connected rather well, made me an incredibly complex 3D card – An artistic masterpiece truly. These tokens of respect and caring are treasures. They all referred to me as Keith and I loved each and every one!

Another amazing friend in a school that I worked heavily with, polled all the teachers in that school and had them express in quotes how I had supported them over the years. She then assembled these into a picture frame keepsake. The quotes ranged from “helped me with seeing things more creatively, more clearly, more positively both professionally and personally” to “helped me see the joy in teaching”. From “helped me see how a truly passionate educator works within a system that doesn’t always support what needs to be supported” to “his work with staff was filled with enthusiasm and provided accessible and valuable information for educators of all experience levels!” What a keepsake and so unexpected that I was completely taken off guard.

There were others as well… cards with like-minded, and exquisitely expressed sentiments, bottles of bubbly, scotch, wine, bird watching paraphernalia, all things that told me that I was appreciated, known and going to be missed. Something I was not altogether convinced of…. Perhaps some of you will understand this point of view. Perhaps not.

I believe it’s completely impossible to assess one’s self-worth or impact accurately. Regardless, I am lousy at it. I am constantly reassessing what went wrong, how I could have done better, what I should have done differently. I beat myself up liberally after most classes, meetings, gatherings, presentations, workshops and inservices. I over think and reflect WAY too much I am told. I figure better this than not at all (as some people seem comfortable doing in the field in which I work). Be that as it may, the sentiments I received were well appreciated and, of course, overwhelming to say the least.

The second bit of chocolate came from likely my last visit to a classroom that I will have, at least in the short term and as a professional teacher. Just a wee bit of background before moving on with this tale:

My favourite level to teach was primary. In fact, the happiest teaching in my entire career was when I looped from grade 1 to grade 2 and back again. It was amazingly satisfying mostly because the second year tends to launch like an educational rocket to the stars! These grades are loaded with unstoppable wonderment and eye-popping amazement. Students are completely honest in their uncontrollable reactions, emotions often confusing you with their grandmother or mom or hugging your leg just because, or shouting in awe, “THAT WORD IS HOUSE!” for the whole world to hear. They’re simply the most precious people you’ll ever meet!

And so it was on the last Wednesday of the this school year, the last Wednesday of my career for all intents and purposes, I arrived to clean out my office. One needs to understand this process, for a classroom teacher, would be a daunting one, potentially taking hours and literally multiple dozens of boxes culled form local liquor stores – possibly frequented and collected over the year, but more likely collected in the panicked frenzy that occurs at this time of year when teachers get their marching orders (I’ve often thought it might be highly amusing for some clever News outlet to post cameras outside such stores to catch these frenzied fetchings as they unfold in the wild – but I’ve digressed again! ). But for me, the process would literally take minutes. I took my professional books to the staffroom, organized them into groups by topic, created a fancy label that essentially read in big bold letters “FREE” (If you know teachers this word also causes a frenzy. Teachers simply cannot resist free stuff of any kind! You could put out free petrified buffalo droppings and they’d disappear! No shit!), erased my hard drive, called to have my technology equipment picked up, put my personal stuff in one small box and took that to the car. All done! It was 9:05 AM. So now what? I had the rest of the day to fill.

I decided I would find a classroom and park myself in it and see if I could be helpful. Why not? I started looking around. Rockwood school, where I am housed, is a lovely K-6 school and coincidentally where I happened to start my Support Career in the Winnipeg School Division working as the South District Educational Learning Support Teacher (you try fitting that on a businesses card in anything bigger than 9 pt text!!!). It’s a lovely, familiar place. But on this day, late in the June, the entire elementary wing, that would be all grade 3-6, were at Fun Mountain! How dare they! I sauntered, as best I could with my ailing legs, over to the primary wing where I found a split grade 2-3 classroom available.

You have to imagine how this looked to the teacher for a moment. She’s working with her students planning their day. She has given each student a time table with half blocks spanning the entire day. Some blocks are already filled: the first block is filled with educational planning time, recesses are labeled as is lunch hour and the last half hour of the day is labelled clean up. The students are charged with filling each empty block with a different “educational” activity, something that they have done over the course of the year, in order to fill their day. Each student will have a different plan and each student can have free choice about how their day will progress. Rather a brilliant activity for a last days of school I thought. At any rate, this is what they were were up to, when a short, sad, grey haired, aged looking fellow dressed in casual summer wear, that the students didn’t know pressed his nose up against the window of the door to their room. Can you guess what happened next?

Distracted “mayhem” in a primary classroom can take many forms: complete off-task behaviours like squealing giggles, young ones running willy-nilly hither and yon, kids screaming AND flying about the room as if possessed (it happens usually after Halloween and you have to see it to believe it. It’s like watching San Andreas, the penultimate disaster movie staring Dwayne Johnson, in fast forward), but in this particular case, the class slowly raised their heads as they became aware of the strange visitor encroaching on the outer realm of their space. They lowered their pencils on their planners, then began flipping their gaze in a rather confused fashion towards the glass and back to their teacher as if to say, “who’s that creepy dude with sad basset eyes, grey bearded frowny mouth and saggy ol’ cheeks pressed earnestly against our door?” Giggles ensued, work ceased, and the teacher realizing that something was amiss, came to investigate!

After securing permission to enter (such a lovely teacher) and accessing the inner workings of the class, students again settled back into the task of planning their days, and I was put to work!

Almost immediately I was swiftly approached by a small, peppy, young lad who brought me back to his table to help him out, where incidentally two other fellows were perched engrossed. He was quite chatty and didn’t seem to need much in the way of assistance (a quick check in with the teacher confirmed my hunch he was fatherless), but there was still plenty of scaffolded support needed at the table.

Over the next few minutes, I noticed two things: first, lovely melodic music was playing. This is something the teacher frequently does in the class. Not an uncommon practice and it provides for an interesting environment at times. Secondly, was that more boys were gathering to this particular table for help.

This is when something magical happened. Something I will likely never forget! It stuck off cords deep inside me and tied up my career in the classroom in a way so appropriate, so perfectly, it seemed a divine gift I suppose, or at least one made just to remind me why I got into this business 33 years ago and why it’s the most important business to be in today. So what was it that happened?…

Lost Boy by Ruth B. began to play and the boys at my table began to sing.

I’m not sure if you’re familiar with this ballad or not, but I find it to be an incredibly beautiful and melodic account of Peter Pan and the Lost Boys of Never-Never Land! Add to that the image of a table of boys focussed on various educational tasks, I’m assisting some of them, singing the exact tune, the exact words right along with Ruth B. in spring warbler-like voices, clear, crystal, shiny and new!

I was stunned into my seat, blown there by the sheer magnitude of the innocent voices of these singing students. And I started crying; that and reliving significant moments of my career, much like rewinding a life before the long sleep I would imagine. It was… overwhelming and much too incredible to describe in more accurate details – it was all muddled and vibrant emotions.

About halfway through the piece, my fatherless little buddy noticed that I had tears running down my face and announces to the class, “He’s crying! Yay!”

Yay? Why “yay” I wonder briefly? But the song continues and I had no time for further rumination on the organic nature of the occurrence of this song in the playlist. Soon the rest of the class joined in the song, and I keep remembering highlights in fast emotional flashes; happiness mostly, but some sadness thrown in too.

Finally the the last part of the song is playing…

“Neverland is home to lost boys like me
And lost boys like me are free
Neverland is home to lost boys like me
And lost boys like me are free”

… and my fatherless buddy had the last words that were rather prophetic, although I am sure he wouldn’t have thought them so. When the song ended, he simply said, “it’s over.” And so it was.

I can think of no finer way of competing 33 years in the classroom than this. I thanked the students, thanked the teacher, bid them farewell and left classroom life behind, chocolate in hand.

5 Alternatives to Padlet

For the last 24 hours the Twittersphere has been buzzing about the recent changes to Padlet. While none of the following tools have as many features as Padlet, they all provide the core element of a digital wall to which you apply digital sticky notes. Here are five alternatives to Padlet. These are in the order in which I prefer them right now.

Lino

Lino, sometime referred to as Lino.It, provides digital walls or corkboards to which you can add sticky notes that contain text, images, videos, or document attachments. Notes containing video links will play the video within your Lino wall. Images can be uploaded to your notes. And you can attach document files to your notes for other people to view. Like Padlet, Lino lets you change the background color scheme for your walls.

The best feature of Lino is the option to create private groups. You can invite people to join your group via email. Once they have joined you can create private Lino walls to which all members can make contributions.

Wakelet

Wakelet is the newest entry into this market. It offers a clean and easy-to-use user interface. On Wakelet you can create what they call collections. A collection is a set notes that you create. Your notes can include text, videos, links, and pictures. The options for adding pictures are limited to either linking to an online image or using Wakelet’s Unsplash integration. Like Lino, Wakelet requires you to email invitations to your potential collaborators.

Dotstorming

Dotstorming was built for people to share ideas in the form of digital sticky notes and then vote for their favorite ideas. It works well for that purpose. Students do not need to have email addresses in order to vote on notes posted on Dotstorming. A free account allows you to have three topic boards at a time. The paid account ($5/month) gives you unlimited access. There is also a school-wide pricing plan. Watch my video embedded below to learn how to use Dotstorming.

Scrumblr

Scrumblr is a site that provides an online space to create and share sticky notes with a group. Scrumblr can be used by anyone to quickly create an online space for sharing stickies. To get started just enter a name for your space. The name you choose will be a part of the URL for your sticky note space. To add notes just click the "+" symbol in the bottom left corner of the screen. Double click to edit your existing notes.

Pinside

Pinside is a free online sticky note service. Pinside can be used to create boards of notes for yourself or boards to share with others. You can create a mix of private and shared notes within one account. Sticky notes on shared Pinside boards are designed for creating to-do lists. As each item on the the notes is completed you and or your collaborators can delete completed items.

This post originally appeared on Free Technology for Teachers
if you see it elsewhere, it has been used without permission
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The Cost of Innovation: When Does It Make Cents to Buy In?

Future Reality
Future Reality

I’ve been deep in conversations with colleagues as well as friends and anyone else who will listen about Learning Technology’s next three-year plan and what might be best to include in it. This has surfaced topics of discussion that have ranged from computational thinking & coding to mobile learning practices to assessment & digital portfolios; what these might look like and how best to implement these successfully at various grade levels; and our thoughts about what the next great innovation in the educational technology space will be.

We often turn to documents like the Horizon Report for guidance on such matters. It provides a look at the short, middle and long-term outlook regarding innovative practices and supportive technologies, the cost/benefits of these and likely adoption timing of said practices/technology combinations in various educational spaces (k-8, high school, and beyond).

One topic that continually is on our radar is Virtual Reality or VR. Check out some examples here : Flipside, Co-Spaces, Tinkercad, Unity, Sketchfab; 8 Amazing Uses of Vr That Will Blow Your Mind ; When VR Meets Education; 7 Top Educational Virtual Reality Apps ; Real Uses of Virtual Reality in Education; 10 COMPANIES WORKING ON EDUCATION IN VIRTUAL REALITY. A very promising technology that “refers to computer-generated environments that simulate the physical presence of people and/or objects and realistic sensory experiences. At a basic level, this technology takes the form of 3D images that users interact with and manipulate via a computer interface.”

“VR devices break down into two categories: high-end headsets, such as the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, or Sony PlayStation VR, and budget headsets that include the Samsung Gear VR and Google Cardboard along with accessories like headphones and haptic controller accessories.”

“Contemporary applications allow users to more authentically ‘feel’ the objects in these displays through gesture-based and haptic devices, which provide tactile information through force feedback. VR models can be created using a variety of CAD software such as Flipside, Co-Spaces, Tinkercad, Unity, and Sketchfab. These content creation tools along with the viewers can make learning more authentic, allow for empathetic experiences, and increase student engagement.” – excerpts from the Horizon Report 2017

For the last number of years, VR has held a position in the “four to five years out” and has only just this year moved into the “two to three years out” position in the Horizon Report. This is excellent news for educators and learners alike. It brings the benefits of VR learning and the creative spaces provided by application environments like Flipside or Co-Spaces to be leveraged in classrooms closer to reality.

There is no denying that VR in education has many educational benefits. It doesn’t take much looking on the Internet or elsewhere to find resources dedicated to this topic:

As Terry Heick said in Why Virtual Reality is So Important, “Through the use of digital technology, virtual realities can be designed precisely for human interaction for very specific reasons to create experiences not otherwise possible.

By suspending disbelief the same way we do when we read a novel or watch a movie, an artificial reality can be designed to enable experiential learning, scenario-based learning, social learning, workplace training, and more. Virtual reality can be used for pure entertainment–digital toys, video games, or to swim with whales.”

There are many reasons to laud the possibilities inherent in this blossoming new technology… Sylvia Duckworth presents some these in her Sketchnote fashion.

10 Reasons To Use Virtual Reality In The Classroom
10 Reasons To Use Virtual Reality In The Classroom

Here’s a few other samplings from around the Net:

  • Not possible in reality is likely possible in virtual reality
  • Virtual game-based experience increases students’ motivation/engagement
  • Bridging cultures and fostering understanding among young students
  • VR allow learners to collaboratively construct architectural models, recreations of historic or natural sites and other spatial renderings
  • VR engages students in topics related to literature, history and economics by offering a deeply immersive sense of place and time, whether historic or evolving.
SAMR Continuum
SAMR Continuum

If we were to look at the SAMR continuum model originally created by Ruben R. Puentedura, many VR tools would be considered transformative in nature, redefining how traditional tasks would be done; changing them so dramatically that the original task could not be completed in the same way NOT using the tool.

Co-Spaces Edu is a VR Creation/Coding tool that is gaining ground in the Division. Co-Spaces Edu is a creative platform for all ages and subjects. It complements traditional teaching methods by immersing students into a world where they can create, consume and connect with the curriculum on a completely new level, even through the revolutionary visual medium of virtual reality! Learners/Teachers can easily create 3D & VR content. They can code spaces with Blockly, JavaScript or TypeScript. Learners/Teachers can explore creations even in VR. Teachers can manage and observe their students’ creation process.

Sounds impressive, and it is! What’s not to like?

Recently some select members of our Division had a bit of tour of an amazingly promising tool called Flipside. This tool is probably best described as a VR film/animation making VR environment. On their website, Flipside describe their tool as “your own virtual TV studio. With nothing more than an Oculus Rift or HTC Vive, you can produce your own animated shows in real-time, whether they’re recorded or streamed live to the web.” Sounds incredible and the experience for “VR-naut” was immersive and unlike anything experienced before. Fully enriching, multiple opportunities for cross-curricular connections, much more flexible and forgiving than an actual film/animation making environment. Truly amazing, gobsmacking even! The ability for a learner to succeed in such an environment is huge.

What’s not to like? At first glance, nothing really.

Nothing that is until we look at accessibility. By accessibility, I am referring to total cost of ownership in terms of funds, at least, necessary for purchasing the hardware to provide the above enriched experience for a single VR-naut. As you may have surmised, It’s not inexpensive.

And here’s where we come to the crux of this article and perhaps speaks to the reason why VR hovers for now, just out of reach in the adoption timing stated in the Horizon Report: the costs may not yet justify the benefits.

Let’s look at the two scenarios, not from an educational stand point, because both provide experiences that are transformative and valuable in nature, but from a cost stand point:

Both platforms require a VR headset of some sort. Here’s the lay of the land in that department. Despite the fact that VR is still developing, some progress has been seen in the economic scaling of this technology. The cost to the consumer of VR hardware (headsets, in particular, but also prefer computer desktops to drive the headsets, particularly the Video RAM, RAM and overall speed requirements which are hefty) are steadily declining, as noted in the head­-mounted displays (HMDs) commercially available today: Google Cardboard for $11 and Samsung Gear VR for $80 or the Oculus Rift, a desktop VR device, is available for $599/HTC VIVE retailing for $799.

The “For Now” Cost Breakdown:

Co-spaces Edu:

  1. Google Cardboard: $10
  2. With an iPhone (possibly older phones and iPods), or Android Phone: $199 (or personal devices)
  3. Platform costs – Basic : free, Pro: USD $75 per year (best use for education)

Flipside

  1. Oculus Rift for $599/HTC VIVE for $799
  2. Desktop Device (minimum requirements 8GB RAM, intel i5 or better, NVIDIA GTX 1060 / AMD Radeon RX 480 or greater). One should note that minimum requirements are just that. This will allow ONE OCULUS RIFT/VIVE device to function with your Desktop, but not necessarily within the game or program that you want to use it with. Devices such as these will run somewhere in the the $1500-$2000 range and if you would like more than one headset connection, you will need more RAM, greater number of connection ports, potentially a faster graphics card and processor.
  3. Platform costs: at the moment an indy licence is $200 monthly for a single seat, or for a business licence, $1000 monthly. This may change as educational licensing is discussed, but this is not in place at the moment.

The cost to get ONE VR-naut into VR-land is approximately $211 for Cospaces per year( $10 + $199 + (US$75/50seats) ) and Flipside will be at least $4,099 per year ($599 Oculus Rift + $1500 Minimum Requirements + ($200 x 10 months of the school year) ).

VR has a definitive place of value, but are these kinds of costs an educational reality when so many other critical learning technology priorities are pressing as well?


Here are the facts as of the writing of this article and as best as I can present them. We have a transformative technology with great potential for enhancing some learners’ pathways.

The issue is, it will only impact a very few at present. Costs of Ownership help inform my decision making in many situations especially related to bigger ticket educational items as do solid educational rationales. Are the costs for one-person-at-a-time cycling through an experience, assembly-line style, to get at the true benefits of an incredible technology worth it? I not entirely certain, for a number of reasons:

    1. First off, I am sure that this is not meaningful practice! Using technology for technology sake when we can’t ensure we implement it using educational practices that are solid and effective seems backwards, inefficient and, at best, exclusive. Let’s take a minute to harken back to Smartboard days! In their heyday, these devices were a hot technology commodity, despite the fact they were essentially large mice allowing initially one (and much later on, up to four people) to manipulate objects at the same time on an interactive surface (although truthfully, in my experience, the implementation is most always done with one person touching the board at a time). When looking at the SAMR Continuum model, Smartboards primarily enhance learning, they tend not to be used in a transformative way. Teachers simply took existing ways of doing things and digitized them with no or hardly any functional change – for example a work sheet could be presented and completed digitally, usually by one person, with the rest of the class looking on. Not a terribly effective, efficient or a fully class-engaging activity.Sounding familiar? We may be setting up a similar situation with the VR-naut in the Flipside scenario. A school may only be able to afford one VR setup for the school. So one VR-naut gets to drive and be fully immersed in and benefit from the VR experience. And what of the rest of the class? Well, they can watch. Or they could be involved in other parts of a larger process involving planning for the VR-naut experience when it’s their turn, or supporting the existing VR-naut. But they are NOT experiencing the VR experience directly or often. This could be a problem. So how is this issue best addressed?
    2. Secondly, spending a lot money to impact a few rather than having a solid plan for impacting the many seems wasteful in times of fiscal responsibility and restraint.
    3. Thirdly, even the soothsayers and technology pundits involved in assembling the venerable Horizon Report peg VR technology as being “2 to 3 or more years out” of mainstream education. Should we wait then for the right time?
    4. Finally, the markets will hopefully play in our favour: prices for these devices, the headsets in particular, will continue to drop if the developers of such tools want to break into the educational markets at all.

It’s a tough decision to make. This decision is made even more difficult when we consider things like:

  • Are all schools device equitable? Do all schools have the same proportion of devices available per student? Is there a reasonable ratio of devices per student in the Division (say 3:1)? Do all students have reasonable access to devices?
  • Do all schools have ubiquitous wireless enough to handle B.Y.O.D. needs as well as all Divisional devices in the building? What’s needed to bolster and augment this in buildings? How are dead spaces addressed?
  • Are all schools prepared for a mobile learning, maker-space learning environments and what these mean in terms of pedagogical changes? Is the training in place? Does VR learning fit in a mobile learning milieu easily (hardware-wise/pedegoical-wise)?
  • What about assessment training and connecting this meaningfully to digital portfolio development? What supports are needed here? What are the costs?

These are all incredibly vital Learning Technology initiatives that need attention, training dollars and development & resource money. Where will this come from if monies are being redirected in large amounts to VR? Can this funding gap be offset possibly by parent groups? Possibly by fund raising? Possibly grants? Or even from school-based decision making. None of these options are sustainable or even desirable necessarily as they can promote the “haves and have-nots” syndrome. Yes, we could talk about priorities and yes, VR could come out on top. In my opinion, this could be a tragic mistake. The list above contains too many highly critical items, much more important and pressing than pushing forward into VR at this moment.

However, I wanted to be able to go back to my colleagues with some information to assist in trying to figure out how best to build this idea of VR learning successfully into our next three year plan. We could, after all, start small.

To that end, I have been casually surveying administrators, teachers, parents, business people from around Winnipeg over the holiday to get a sense of their thinking regarding this innovative technology idea. Here are their thoughts in brief:

  • Great idea. Love this VR stuff. Can you really create like that in VR? Virtual Reality is the future. I can’t wait for this to be brought into schools. How much time will my kid get to use this?
  • How can we justify these costs when classrooms can’t even manage wireless?
  • What about just regular devices for students? Are there enough of those available to students?
  • What did you say the costs were for just one student to use this technology again? Seriously? Your joking?
  • What about balance? Surely we don’t have to jump immediately into every new thing as it comes out!
  • What about evaluating things? Can’t we see if the benefits really justify the costs? How is this done effectively?

The general feeling was that the technology is incredible, but too costly at the moment. So how to proceed?


Maybe we need to set our sights on the what schools can actually use now rather on what they may be able to afford for all sometime. I have heard the term “pockets of innovation” over-used too often lately. People have used it to rationalize the purchasing of expensive technology before really evaluating whether that technology is an appropriate purchase for the learners for whom it’s intended. I find this statement used this way supercilious and in the end an unwise rationale. So not a pocket of innovation! What will our focus be then?

We should probably try to start small. Looking at what’s affordable today, we have the Google Cardboard glasses option and Co-spaces or Tinkercad that seem within reach. Flipside seems out of reach for the time being, despite it’s incredible potential. In fact, anything related to higher end headsets like the Oculus Rift or the VIVE seems financially problematic at this time! The requirements are simply too rich for the next few years. Building this into a three-year plan? Maybe a Professional Learning Community (P.L.C.) to explore Co-spaces, the effective use of Google cardboard, effective; efficient teaching/learning practices within and surround a VR environment; how VR and mobile learning dovetail; perhaps where VR fits in the new LwICT continuum. Those are the kinds of investigations we should be perhaps exploring in the plan.

I think it behooves us to take a step back, to slow down and to look at the quickly blossoming landscape of both augmented and virtual reality and see how it makes sense to infuse it into our existing system. This is going to take some careful thinking from a group of intelligent people. How do we start? How do we make it learning/learner focused? How can we make it cost-effective? How can it be sustainable? This is possible and perhaps the WSD VR PLC is the way to make this a VIRTUAL REALITY!

8 Tried and True Edtech Tools to Try in 2018

Steve Dembo on episode 222 of the 10-Minute Teacher Podcast

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

Follow @coolcatteacher on Twitter

Sometimes the best tools have been around awhile. Steve Dembo @teach42 talks about the tried and true tools that teachers should still use.

8 edtech tools to try in 2018

Richard Byrne, author of Free Technology for Teachers has several online professional development options  to check out: GSuite for Teachers, Teaching History with Technology, and Practical Edtech Coaching.

See all of Richard’s Courses at http://ift.tt/2lomeMO. Richard is not a sponsor of the show, however I am an affiliate.

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Enhanced Transcript

Tried and True Edtech Tools to Try in 2018

Link to show: http://ift.tt/2CcldyH
Date: January 2, 2018

Vicki: Today we’re talking with my friend, Steve Dembo @teach42, coauthor of Untangling the Web. He was one of my first blogs that I read, and first podcasts I listened to.

Steve, today for Ed Tech Tool Tuesday, what are some things that people need to try in 2018? Do we need to always be doing the new latest and greatest, or are there some things that maybe we might need to dust off?

Why Time-Tested Tried and True Tools Are So Useful

Steve: Well, I think it’s interesting, because a lot of times when people go to conferences, they’re always seeking out, “What are the ones I haven’t heard of before?” They’re looking for something new and shiny and sexy and so on.

But the reality is, the new ones are sometimes the ones that aren’t necessarily well established, that don’t necessarily have a good financial plan in place. They’re the ones that you can’t necessarily depend on still being there Monday when you want to start using it with students.

And yet, there are all of these great tried and true Web 2.0 tools, or online technologies that not only have a firm financial plan in place or they will withstand the test of time, and they’ve actually been well developed over the year, with new features and so on.

I think sometimes people — instead of focusing on what’s new and what they haven’t seen before — they need to be focusing more on making better and more effective use of the ones that are well established.

Vicki: OK, give us some of those well established.

Tool #1 Padlet

Steve: Well, I’ll take Padlet.

I think Padlet is a perfect first example because everybody kind of knows what it does. For a little while, everybody was talking about it because it was the greatest, newest, shiniest thing.

And yet nobody really talks about it much anymore. There’s an entire generation of teachers that aren’t familiar with Padlet because nobody’s evangelizing it anymore.

And, they have done a phenomenal job of upgrading it over time, of adding more educational-friendly features, of adding things like commenting, adding new layouts and columns and so on. So it can function sort of like a Trello, where you can have upvoting ala Reddit, making it a lot more interactive and kind of changing the nature of the way these Padlets can function so that it can fit a lot more needs.

And yet, a lot of people think, “Oh, I’m familiar with Padlet, or I’m familiar with Wallwisher,” (note: Wallwisher is now Padlet) and they don’t take the time to go explore, “What can it do for me NOW?”

Vicki: OH, and it’s such a fantastic tool to use. I don’t know why we keep thinking we have to use what’s new instead of using what absolutely just works, rock solid.

Are there any other rock-solid examples besides Padlet?

Tool #2: VoiceThread

Steve: You know, it’s funny because there are some that are very, very solid and dependable, like VoiceThread that haven’t necessarily evolved all that much,

Tool #3: WeVideo

and then you take others like WeVideo that have just done and an even better job of establishing really great business plans.

You know, they’re making most of their money on the personal accounts, on the business accounts, on the enterprise accounts and so on, which means that they can offer educators even more features for free and they keep on adding things in there, too.

One of the things that they added recently that I love is this “motion graphics” element. It’s basically like an after-effects, in a sense. And you can do some really incredibly brilliant and subtle things in it. If you really want to get creative and push the envelope, you can do some really mind-blowing green screen type things with the motion graphics. It’s one of the most full-featured video editing products out there, and considering that it will work on a Chromebook is just amazing.

Vicki: Yeah. It brings video in the reach of everybody, doesn’t it?

What else do you have?

Tool #4 Kahoot

Steve: Well, let’s see. A lot of times what I like is these ones that are doing consistent development. They’re listening to users and really putting in the features that the users are requesting and wanting to see. Kahoot has done a very nice job of that.

Tool #5: Sutori

One of the other ones that has kind of flown under the radar is a site called Sutori. Sutori has now been around for about I think a year and a half, maybe even almost two years. It kind of defies definition. It’s sort of created its own genre.

But what I really love about it is that they’ve got new features that are coming out every two or three months, and they’re all in direct response to the things that educators have been asking. That’s one of the things I demonstrate when I show this in presentations.

A lot of times people don’t really think the developers want to hear from educators, or that it’s going to have much of an impact. What they don’t realize is that a lot of these online ed tech tools — they’re teams of three or four people. The people who are answering the support questions are the same people who are doing the primary development on them.

So when you say to the support person in the chat room, “I’d like to see this feature,” or “If you did this, then I could use it with my students,” you’re talking to the people who can actually make that happen! So that’s another one that I’ve become a huge fan of.

Vicki: So Kahoot obviously helps us do quizzes, and our students can make them, and that’s awesome.

So Sutori… Is that really more for vocabulary? I haven’t used it.

Steve: No, it’s sort of… a way to sort of publish stories but in a sort of linear fashion. It’s sort of like a timeline, but it’s not a timeline because there aren’t necessarily and numbers. It almost defies definition, but it’s a way to publish something almost like a blog except that it is actually interactive. It can be collaborative ala Google Docs style.

If you’re not familiar with it yet, you should definitely — if nothing else — go to the website and look at their gallery. Their gallery has an excellent selection of great examples that would appeal to educators. One of the other nice things about it is that you can take any one of those, copy it to your own account, and use them as templates and just modify them to your heart’s content.

Tool #6: Wordle

Vicki: Now, before the show, you were even talking about Wordle. I mean, how can you explain that? That’s such a powerful tool, and I use it all the time with my students.

Steve: (laughs)

Wordle is sort of my litmus test. Now Wordle hasn’t changed one iota from the very beginning, which a lot of people can appreciate because we all know what it’s like when you pull it up on Monday with the students and all of a sudden it looks completely different. Wordle’s not going to.

But what I find ironic — that sort of encapsulates this whole problem of people only evangelizing the newest items in the tech scene — is that as soon as everybody’s familiar with it (and when I say everybody, I mean the people that are hanging out in Twitter chats, the people that go to ISTE, the people that go to the affiliate conferences) as soon as everybody knows about a web tool, most of those people stop talking about it, they stop blogging about it, they stop sharing it in presentations.

The net result is that when I go into schools and I talk to teachers and I talk to educators in general, I would estimate that more than half of them haven’t heard of Wordle. Most of them just have never even seen it, because no one’s taking the time to share it anymore because it’s not new to them.

Tool #7 & 8 WordPress and Edublogs

It’s sort of the reason why it doesn’t seem new and sexy to talk about blogging or to evangelize blogging anymore or show people how to use EduBlog, or how to use WordPress. And yet, you know what? There’s still a need for it.

Vicki: (agrees)

Steve: It may not be the newest and freshest thing in the world, but there’s still this whole generation of teachers that didn’t get the same exposure to it and haven’t had the same journey that we have.

Vicki: Well, when I do my “Fifty-Plus Tools” presentation, I always show how you can go on Wikitext and you can pull out, say, the Emancipation Proclamation, and you can put it into Wordle, and you really frontload that vocabulary. It’s such an important teaching technique, whatever you’re teaching, particularly if the subject you’re teaching is on public domain, and you can pull the text out and put it in there. It’s just a fantastic method.

So, Steve, as we finish up, what kind of inspiration do you have for educators who feel overwhelmed by all of this ed tech, to get started and try something new?

Inspiration for Overwhelmed Teachers

Steve: (laughs)

Well, the first thing to keep in mind is… I love doing this exercise during a presentation… I ask people to just raise their hands if they feel like they’re behind the technology curve. And nearly two-thirds to three-quarters of the audience will raise their hand.

The reality is that every single one of those people — just by being at a tech conference, by listening to podcasts like yours — you’re ahead of the technology curve. You’re far more tech-savvy than most other people, most other educators that are just… I don’t want to say just punching the card and going through the routine… but who aren’t necessarily seeking out new sources of professional development.

So first of all, I strongly urge people not to be so critical of themselves. But then it’s the traditional, “You have to make the time to do it.” There will never be a time when you say, “Boy! What am I going to do with all this extra free time that I have?

Vicki: (laughs)

Steve: It just doesn’t happen!

Vicki: No, it doesn’t.

Steve: So you have to schedule yourself that time. You have to build it in and say, “For this hour, I’m going to play. Because play is going to make me a better educator.” And not force yourself to feel guilty for not taking the time to play with a new technology.

Vicki: Yes, and as I always say innovate like a turtle. Take tiny little steps forward every day, because it’s about forward progress. We can all learn something new. Now I’m going to be playing with Sutori, so I’ve learned something new today.

Thank you so much, Steve. We will put all of your information in the Shownotes so folks can follow you.

Steve: Thank you so much. It’s been a pleasure talking with you.

Transcribed by Kymberli Mulford

kymberlimulford@gmail.com

Steve Dembo Bio as submitted


A pioneer in the field of educational social networking, Dembo was among the first to realize the power of blogging, podcasting, Twitter, and other Web 2.0 technologies in connecting educators and creating professional learning communities.

Steve Dembo served for ten years as Discovery Education’s Director of Learning Communities and led their Innovation and Strategy team. He is the co-author of the book Untangling the Web: 20 Tools to Power Up Your Teaching. The National School Board Association named him one of 2010’s “Twenty to Watch,” a list honoring individuals finding innovative ways to use technology to increase classroom learning. In 2013 he began serving the Skokie/Morton Grove District 69 as a member of the School Board. Dembo is a course designer and adjunct professor for Wilkes University where he serves as class instructor for the Internet Tools for Teaching course within the Instructional Media degree program.

Steve Dembo is also a dynamic speaker on the capabilities of social networking, the power of educational technologies and Web 2.0 tools, and the ability of digital content to empower teachers to improve student achievement. He has delivered keynotes and featured presentations at dozens of conferences globally including ISTE, TCEA, FETC, MACUL, GaETC, METC, CUE, ICE, TEDxCorpus Christi, #140Edu, EduWeb, .EDU and the Social Media Masters Summit. Dembo was also a featured panelist at Nokia Open Labs as an expert on mobile device integration in education.

Blog: http://teach42.com

Twitter: @teach42

Disclosure of Material Connection: This episode mentions an affiliate program. This means that if you choose to buy I will be paid a commission on the affiliate program. However, this is at no additional cost to you.  Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will be good for my readers and are from companies I can recommend. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” This company has no impact on the editorial content of the show.

The post 8 Tried and True Edtech Tools to Try in 2018 appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

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17 Useful CSS Cheat Sheets of 2017 | With New CSS3 Tags

[Estimated read time: 4 minutes]

CSS is an inseparable part of front-end designers and developers, probably because it’s the only real option to describe the presentation of a document written in a markup language. It saves a lot of work by controlling the layout of multiple webpages all at once.

Along with HTML and XHTML, the Cascading Stye Sheets can be applied to any XML document such as XUL, SVG, XML, and one can use it to render speech or other media. In most cases, browser support for CSS has never been a concern once you learn CSS. However, it’s is quite difficult for designers to remember all CSS properties and values.

To address this issue and increase productivity, most developers use cheat sheets. They are just a quick reference that helps you double check the snippet of code you’ve doubts about. To make your life easier, we are presenting some of the most useful CSS cheat sheets that will definitely help you get all the necessary elements at a glance. Since they all are freely available, you don’t need to pay anything. 

17. CSS Layout Cheat Sheet

This is a brief cheat sheet divided into 3 sections – layout mechanics, centering elements and common code. It is available on a single webpage in HTML format.

16. WordPress CSS Cheat Sheet For Beginners

The thing that makes WordPress so popular is its customizability. It lets you target very specific aspects of your website with CSS. On this page, you will find WordPress cheat sheet for default body class styles, post, format, menu, widget, common form and WISIWYG editor style.

15. Animations and Effects

This webpage includes transforms, transitions, animations, filters and target. All properties are well-described along with their syntax. If you are interested, you can learn several interactions methods and triggering animations and transitions with those interactions.

14. CSS Properties

If you are looking for descriptions and notes of important CSS properties and values, look no further than simple infographics of CSS_properties provided by genautica.

13. CSS Click Chart

CSS click chart provides dozens on example code to manipulate your elements, for example code for box sizing, adding text shadow, keyframe animations, gradients, transforms and much more. It also gives you live demonstration and browser support information.

12. CSS Grid

As the name suggests, its an ultimate CSS grid cheat sheet that allows you to draw (for testing purpose) any number of grids (both columns and rows) of any size.

11. Media Queries

The CSS3 cheat sheet for media query that contains the code for phone, tablet and desktop, with orientation.

10. Flexbox

The Flexbox Layout (flexible box) module offers a more efficient way to lay out, align and distribute space among items present in a container, even if their size is dynamic or not known. This page gives a detail on how to implement these flexible boxes.

9. CSS Shorthand Cheat Sheet

A very brief cheat sheet that shows the parameters of commonly used properties such as border, font, background, example, color, and more. It is available in JPEF format only.

8. CSS CheatSheet

This cheatsheet is packed with detailed information about different CSS modules, including attributes, pseudoclasses, fonts, colors, composition, filter, effects, transitions, animations, transformations, positioning, alignment, and more. It’s available in PDF format.

7. Practical CSS Cheat Sheet

This is a quick reference guide by Toptal. It includes some of the most important selectors, properties, units, syntax and other useful information in brief.

6. Interactive CSS Cheat Sheet

The interactive CSS cheat sheet consists of common codes that you can easily copy and paste in your project. With interactive widgets, you can generate code for styling gradient, text shadow, box, background, fonts, buttons, transform, border and more.

5. CSS3 Animation Cheat Sheet

The is a collection of preset, plug-and-play animations for your next project. To implement this, you have to add the stylesheet on your webpage and apply the predesigned CSS classes to the element you want to animate. That’s all!

4. Mega CSS3 Infographics

printable CSS3 cheat sheet, containing all the properties, selectors types and values in the current specification of W3C. All properties are provided in a different section, available in high-resolution PDF.

3. CSS Almanac

A quick reference guide to many features of CSS, organized alphabetically. Clicking on each element takes you to the new URL, where will you find a detailed information (along with examples) about the element you’ve clicked.

Read: 35 Impressive Ajax and CSS Loaders / Spinners

2. Comprehensive CSS3 Cheat Sheet

This is an ultimate cheat sheet including all important CSS3 tags. It is designed as an eye-catching infographics that is available in both PNG and PDF format.

1. Mega CSS Cheat Sheet

Read: 22 Creative CSS Hover Effects

This a long, detailed CSS cheat sheet of total 29 pages, available in PDF and PNG format. You can treat it as a small book that comes with a neat table of content. All elements like backgrounds, fonts, texts, grid positioning, etc. are organized into different chapters to provide better readability.

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Different Approaches To Using Student Blogs And Digital Portfolios

More and more educators are discovering the importance of having their students build some form of digital presence. Blogging is an excellent way for students to create their own online space, but what do you call this?

  • Simply a student blog?
  • Digital portfolio?
  • ePortfolio?
  • Learning showcase?
  • Blogfolio?

When I first started teaching in 2004, each of my grade one/two students had a scrapbook where they would paste their work samples each term. The goals of this process were: documentation, reflection, assessment and sharing with parents.

Often the same goals apply to the online equivalent of this scrapbook. But if we aren’t doing things any differently than 10-15 years ago, why are we bothering with student blogs? Why aren’t we still cutting and pasting in a scrapbook?

When blogs are used as more than substitution, they offer many advantages.

  • Research tells us that student work is of a higher quality when it involves an authentic audience.
  • The opportunity for feedback and discussion through an online presence is greater.
  • There are many skills to do with writing online, using technology, understanding digital citizenship etc. that are not only useful for students to know, but required in most curriculum standards.
  • Influencing your own digital footprints from a young age can be a powerful experience.

This post explores a range of approaches to student blogs and digital portfolios. We have included classroom examples, and encourage you to share your approach to student blogging in the comment section.

When To Set Up Student Blogs?

When I first started blogging in 2008, I didn’t really know what sort of blogging framework would work for me, but along the way I came up with a model that suited the age of the students, our combined experience, our objectives and our equipment.

This digram shows the progression some classes make from class blog to student blogs

The model I adopted was as follows:

  1. I established a class blog and wrote the posts, while teaching the students to write quality comments.
  2. As students became more familiar with blogging, some students start publishing guest posts on the class blog and learned posting skills.
  3. When I was teaching grade two, had limited computers and was new to student blogging, I didn’t think it was practical for all students to have have blogs. Instead, certain students who had demonstrated enthusiasm, parent support and blogging skills, earned their own blog. This added a new layer to the skill set of commenting and posting: maintaining a blog.
  4. When I was teaching grade four, had a one to one netbook program and had experience managing student blogs, I set up blogs for all students, as digital portfolios.

Throughout all four stages, quality commenting and parent participation is taught and encouraged.

Many teachers begin their blogging journey with a class blog and perhaps progress from there. However, you can jump in at any point of this framework.

You might only be comfortable with having a class blog initially. There is certainly nothing wrong with this approach, although keep in mind that aiming to have more student involvement at some point in the future can be advantageous.

At the other end of the spectrum, you might have the confidence, experience and equipment to set up student blogs from day one. Go for it!

Whatever your approach, a class blog always complements a student blogging program. It provides a home base where you can post assignments, showcase student work, publish recounts, communicate to parents, establish community/global connections and more.

How To Set Up Student Blogs

We have many resources in our Edublogs Help Guides that will walk you through the process of setting up student blogs. Sue Waters’ five step guide to setting up student blogs is a good starting place.

One really useful feature on Edublogs, that takes the hassle out of the logistics of student blogs, is called My Class. This is a tool that allows you to:

  • Easily create your student blogs after you’ve set up your class blog
  • Control the privacy of the blogs and control moderation settings
  • Read and/or moderate student posts and/or comments right from your own dashboard (no need to open up 25 tabs in your browser to keep track of what your students are up to)
  • Install a widget to the sidebar of your class blog and student blogs which links to all the student blogs in your class. This means students and readers can easily visit all the blogs, without searching, bookmarking, or adding links individually.

Digital Portfolio Expectations and Frameworks

Many educators refer to their student blogs as digital portfolios.

Academics and thought leaders often debate the meaning of the term digital portfolio. What does this mean? What does it look like?

Perhaps an useful alternative term is ‘blogfolio’ which Silvia Tolisana describes as the glue that can hold it all together in learning. 

Blogfolios are the glue that can hold all curricular content, goals and objectives as well as support school initiatives, observations, assessment and accountability requirements or personal passions, interest and projects together.

Diagram breaking down the concept of blogfolios

For the purpose of this post, we are less concerned with semantics and more concerned with exploring the different frameworks that teachers adopt. Hopefully considering how other teachers approach student blogs will give you some ideas on what would work for you and your students.

I have observed differences in how student blogs work in a variety of areas. There appears to be a spectrum in at least six key areas:

duration privacy content reflection quality control - 6 aspects of student bloggingLet’s break these down and consider where you might sit on each spectrum.

1. Duration

Some student blogs are only active for a year. The student might move up to a non-blogging class and their individual blog remains stagnant. This can be frustrating for teachers who invest time in establishing an effective system for their student blogs. It can also be disappointing for students.

Other institutions think ahead with a whole-school approach. At The Geelong College, which operates their own Edublogs CampusPress platform, there are long term plans.

Director of Teaching and Learning, Adrian Camm, explains the philosophy:

…each student from Year 4 to Year 10 at our College will have a digital portfolio that follows them throughout their time at the College and has a unique identifier accessible on the web.
The ability to export their content easily when finishing Year 12 to be used in the tertiary admission process or in future work endeavors has also been a key point…

Consider: If you’re investing time in establishing student blogs, how can you showcase this to the wider school community and motivate them to establish a school wide plan?

2. Privacy

Should blogs be public or private? This is always a contentious issue.

Ronnie Burt raised some excellent arguments about the advantages of public blogs a few years back, including the power of an authentic audience, ease of access, and the potential for collaboration. Ronnie noted,

If you hide student work behind passwords, then you might as well have them print everything out and hand it in the old-fashioned way. You are losing out on connections, extended dialogues, and the motivating factor of working for an authentic purpose.

In the comment section, there were some well considered opposing views.

J. McNulty argued the consequence of permanence,

Try to imagine that every stammering oral presentation, every 5th grade writing sample and every stick finger drawing you ever made in a classroom was permanently posted online, forever. As a teacher how would you feel if your class of iPad toting students were surfing through your complete “virtual portfolio” while you were trying to assign them an essay?  … Blogging is great but this new information era needs educators who fully appreciate the long term consequences of posting everything publicly.

There is a middle ground. At The Geelong College, students are encouraged to decide for themselves whether their blogs will be public or password protected.

Another option is to create a public blog but password protect certain posts or pages.

Consider: What are the pros and cons of having student blogs as public? Some schools seem to default to the private option if in doubt. Does this mean you’re giving up all the powerful advantages of posting publicly?

3. Content

What will form the content of your student blogs? What will they actually publish?

At one end of the spectrum is total freedom where teachers are less concerned about what the students are writing about, and more concerned about the students simply blogging and finding a voice.

At the other end of the spectrum, some teachers see the blogs as a space that must be in line with the curriculum and demonstrate what is happening in the classroom.

Certainly not always, but sometimes the age of the students influences this issue.

Julie Moore in Tasmania, Australia, teaches grade 2/3. The students begin by contributing to the class blog before some students establish their own blogs. Julie says,

Mostly – the children have a free spin on what they would like to write a post about. It gives them an outlet for writing about their passions/interests, and it then gives me an “in” for feedback and improvements to their writing.

She also finds this approach opens up a very wide range of possibilities to meet certain individual’s requirements.

For example:

Julie understands that the students do require some explicit teaching around blogging. She finds The Student Blogging Challenge a great way to achieve this. In addition, she runs a lunchtime club and a weekly timetabled blogging session.

Heather Alexander in Florida teaches year 9-12 ceramics. Her students use their blogs purely to document and reflect on their own art work, and respond to the curriculum. Teaching the same class multiple times, Heather has come up with a logistal framework to organize the student blogs,

What I have done is name all the students’ blogs with their class period prefacing the name so they appear in order on the page.

Heather encourages students to comment on classmates’ blogs and set up an effective system after finding students were taking too long to find a post to comment on.

I have students work in “peer blog mentor” groups. They self-select a group of 3 -5 peers and then I match their group with a group in another class. I moderate the comments so I can check for accuracy and completion before they are published.

This idea touches on the additional issue of feedback. Who will provide feedback to your student bloggers? Will you set up a peer system like Heather? Or will you personally visit blogs? What are your goals for feedback? Simple encouragement and conversation? Or scaffolding to reach learning goals? All questions to consider.

Can your blogging framework involve set tasks and freedom?

Somewhere in the middle of the freedom/structure debate, is the approach adopted by Adam Geiman, an educator from Pennsylvania. He used the first 30% of the school year to provide structure around tasks for his fourth grade students.

The students were given guidance, yet also had some freedom of choice in how they’d present set tasks. Some would do a Google Doc, while others would present their task as a comic, infographic etc.

For the remaining 70% of the school year, students were given more freedom and many came up with their own ideas on what they wanted to publish. For example, Jackson announced the new school trout, while Brooklyn talked about her new glasses. 

Consider: What are the needs of your students? Are you trying to engage them in the blogging process and help them find a voice? Or are you wanting the blogs to be a vehicle to demonstrate curriculum outcomes? Are these two things mutually exclusive?

4. Reflection

Some form of reflection is often a key feature of digital portfolios or blogfolios.

Educator Jabiz Raisdana, has documented some compelling thoughts on student blogging. He advocates for freedom, stating that:

If you want your students to blog effectively, give them the freedom to experiment and write about what interests them.

Stay away from portfolios and forced reflections on their learning, at least until they get the hang of it.

Wait until they find a voice, find an audience… before you push your agenda of meta-cognition and reflective learning.

Perhaps on the other end of the spectrum is the argument from Matt Renwick in his blog post ‘Think You’re Doing Digital Portfolios? Think again’.

Of course, all of the posted artifacts of student learning are accompanied with reflection, self-assessment, and goal setting for the future.
Otherwise, it’s only sharing content. Nice, but not necessary for students’ education.

Many teachers use a mixed approach

Teacher, Lee Pregnell, from Moonee Ponds, Australia, described how they include some set tasks in their grade 5/6 blogging program. One of these tasks is a weekly 100 Word Challenge response (see student Carah’s example) and a report on a Behind the News article (see student Mariana’s report on dreaming).

While the Behind the News task has some element of reflection, there are other set tasks that involve more meta-cognition. One of these is based around term goals. Check out the example by Alexis to see the format of this reflective entry.

What about our youngest students? How can they reflect?

Using tools like voice recordings can offer students with emerging literacy skills the chance to reflect. Kathy Cassidy is well known for providing all of her six year old students a blog. The students regularly used tools like Book Creator to document their thoughts and learning. Here is Gus reflecting on his writing. 

Another idea is to collate social media posts in a Storify like kindergarten teachers Aviva Dunsiger and Paula Crockett. Short student interviews and reflections offer a rich insight into learning. These innovative teachers have created a special section of their blog called ‘The Daily Shoot’. This is something Aviva has done with students from K-6. It is worth checking out.

Following in her students’ footsteps, Aviva even uses a blog of her own to reflect. What a mighty combination!

Consider: Most teachers agree that some sort of student reflection on learning is powerful. How can you incorporate this into your student blogs without making the process a chore or turn students off the enjoyment of blogging?

5. Quality

Would you like your students to document their learning journeys or their best work? Will your student blogs be process portfolios, showcase portfolios or hybrid portfolios?

This is a tough decision, but also one that can evolve as you go along. It also links back to the public/private debate. Do your students want every evidence of learning as part of their digital footprint?

Again, there is certainly middle ground. George Couros reflects on his dilemma about what end of this spectrum he would sit on: ‘growth’ or ‘best work’.

Since there are benefits in both options, it was tough to decide on one, so we ultimately went with the decision to go with both. The “blog” portion of my digital space allows me to share things that I am learning (like this article I am writing) while also aggregating my best stuff into solitary “pages”.

Consider: Is George’s approach something that could be worth exploring in your own blogging program?

6. Control

Many of these five areas are underpinned by the question of control. Who is in control? The teacher or the students?

Can there be a gradual release of control as the students become older and more experienced?

Perhaps there are some aspects of their blog that even the youngest students can have some control over?

For example:

  • Their title
  • Theme
  • Choice of tool or post format
  • Where they leave comments

Most teachers would agree that it’s important to consider how students can be in charge of their own learning. Digital portfolios and blogging offers a lot of potential for student-centered learning.

The My Class tool also allows you to hand over responsibility as you choose. You can begin by moderating all student posts and comments, and then turn off these settings as appropriate.

Conclusion

Are your student blogs igniting a passion for learning or are they just another chore to be completed?

How can you set up digital portfolios or blogfolios that allow for rich learning, creativity, excitement, deep reflection, collaboration and authenticity?

These are some key questions to ask yourself but in the end, sometimes you just need to throw in the canoe and start paddling.

Figure it out as you go. There is a big blogging community and support behind you.

Don’t let fear or indecision around student blogs freeze you into inaction. Worrying too much about whether you’re ‘doing it right’ can lead to not doing it at all.  At any level, student blogs provide benefits. Embrace them.

We would love to hear your ideas. Please comment and share your thoughts on student blogs. 

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Today’s news: Real or fake? [Infographic]

Today Students have a blizzard of information at the ready: on devices in their pockets, at school, in their homes, by their bedsides on their wrists… It’s almost a constant information “on” world.

Information and content floods to their eyes and ears in never-ending streams, torrents, downloads, feeds, & casts. How do they determine what is real an what is not. What matters and what doesn’t? Here’s a cheat sheet to help out.


At a time when misinformation and fake news spread like wildfire online, the critical need for media literacy education has never been more pronounced. The evidence is in the data:

  • 80% of middle schoolers mistake sponsored content for real news.
  • 3 in 4 students can’t distinguish between real and fake news on Facebook.
  • Fewer than 1 in 3 students are skeptical of biased news sources.

Students who meet the ISTE Standards for Students are able to critically select, evaluate and synthesize digital resources. That means understanding the difference between real and fake news.

There are several factors students should consider when evaluating the validity of news and resources online. Use the infographic below to help your students understand how to tell them apart.

Click on the infographic to open a printable PDF.

Media-Literacy_Real-News-Infographic_11_2017

Learn more about teaching K-12 students how to evaluate and interpret media messages in the book Media Literacy in the K-12 Classroom by Frank Baker.

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A blog dedicated to exploring, sometime seriously & sometimes with a healthy dollop of humour, the dynamic landscape of Innovation, Inquiry & Learning Technology.

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