This blog has MOVED (Doing all we can to help the housing market)

Written on 1:08 PM by Ur English Teacher

Please check out UrEnglishTeacher's blog over at its new address:

And if you haven't already, FOLLOW, FRIEND, and for land sakes, send a housewarming present!

Everything Old is New Again: Photo Editing Online

Written on 8:02 AM by Ur English Teacher

Hi, have we met? I'm Amy, and I love FREE stuff, especially if it's digital and therefore does not have to be stored in one of my overstuffed built in 1960 closets. Lately I've been noticing an amazing number of online photo editing tools that are quite special, no $ and no skills required.

My first love is With this cool tool, you can make not that great photos look like works of art . . . see?
You'll have to trust me that the original wasn't nearly that great because I'm not publishing it. Period. FotoFlexor also lets you add sparkly text, stickers, and try out hundreds (thousands?, millions?) of different frames and effect combos.

Personally, I have a love for all things vintage that rivals my love of all things free. That is what led me to Rollip respectfully requests mula for high quality images, but frankly my dear, the ones they show me on the screen are just fine. Check out this cool effect . . .
It looks like it could have been taken way back when I was little, but these are my own kids, and this was taken last week. Here's a comparison:

And these are not the only two sites available, of course there a bajillion more. Here are some of the best I know of. If you're using one YOU adore, please comment with the web address. (Check out the Filter section)

For completely free AND high quality effects, try the Poladroid Project. You drag and drop your photo onto the landing pad (that camera below is floating on my desktop), then watch your old time Polaroid develop. That's pretty SWEET! Neat little sound effects AND you get the nifty white edge (with texture). Coolio.
Ohh, it's just too cool. Watch this!

I'm adding an after the fact addition to this list that should NOT be ignored due to the new features they've recently added. Drumroll please . . . it's good old With hundreds of easy to apply effects and a not very obtrusive logo in the corner as the only drawback to the free account, Be Funky is an easy and versatile way to go. Multiple applications of each effect and settings within those. Cool!
BeFunky also provides the Uvatar maker you see on other sites. So far, I can't see a way to get to it independent of another service (ex, Facebook), but the Bebo site looks like the easiest/least obtrusive to access, and if you want to make cool pictures like this, you'll sign up for an account.
Next time there's a not so great photo taken of you or yours (Christmas dinner?), remember these cool, free sites and make yourself look as lovely as you are on the INside.
Merry Christmas Everyone! BE FREE!!!

The Latest, Greatest Web 2.0 Tool For Anyone With a Room

Written on 7:15 PM by Ur English Teacher

The latest and greatest Web 2.0 tool, in my humble opinion, is probably not what you'd expect, but please . . . at least read the first paragraph before you dedide this tool will not help you teach school this year!

It's And no, that's not the end of the first paragraph. Keep reading. Floorplanner (as was pointed out to me by a Mrs. Hutchins---thanks Vickie) is FAR more than just a really REALLY nifty eat-your-weekend tool for planning your decorating or remodeling project (which it is, BTW), it's a fantastic way to learn just about any math concept. The lesson plan Vickie shared with me included students creating a house with a given number of square feet (say 2000) that would get four people separate bedrooms and included certain amenities like bathrooms, a kitchen, a family room, a place to eat, etc. The house also had to have certain characteristics, say a circular entryway. (Pies are squared anyone?--Yes, that's a joke. Don't email me about it.)

If you're a language arts teacher, you probably have already stopped reading, but just in case you still are, here's the language arts aspect: Create a house, then advertise and sell it. You'll obviously need to do screen shots so people can see the looks of this incredible creation! There are SO MANY more things you can do with this. In my classroom, I enjoyed what I called the "Practical Research Project." This is where instead of writing about an academic topic, students actually researched how to do something, then wrote a research paper with the review of research that also included pictures and descriptions of a real project. Actual projects included retiling a kitchen, redecorating a bedroom, building a kit car and, one of my favorites though a little scary, building and finding the best propellant for a potato gun. (True story. Wayne Fishback wrote it like a CIA document including "Eyes Only" notifications. He's in the military now!)

So back to the topic. is an incredible tool. My own experience with it goes as follows: I wanted to redecorate the front rooms of our house, which due to poor design and decor were rarely used. I THOUGHT (silly me, lived here 6 years) that I knew the rough dimensions of said rooms, so I logged right in to Floorplanner and proceeded drawing some rectangualr boxes. See below:

However, I noticed that something was amiss. There was indeed not as much room on this wall or that as my drawing showed. What was up? I took out my handy tape measure and started measuring walls and openings. Low and behold (yes, I feel stupid), my rooms actually look like this:

After many, many hours of planning my IKEA shopping foray, placing furniture, checking the website for the EXACT measurements of EVERYTHING (I'm not a very "exact measurement" type normally, but this tool inspired me), I finally developed a design that looked like this:

(Many furniture stores give exact measurements of furniture on their sites, OR, you can just use the built in furniture pieces in the software, which are fairly average sized.) And then, maybe the coolest thing of all happend. I clicked the 3D button in the top right, and got a really TRULY amazing view from all angles and THROUGH MY OWN WINDOWS. OH MY GOSH! If I could have found anyone who cared, I would have called them to tell them about it!!! Look how COOL!
Free online screencasting tool
So, just in case you are not able to drive by my actual house and get the REAL view, BUT you still really care and want to know how it turned out, here is the (I think) astonishingly accurate result of my many hours of learning about measurements using

Prezi: Completely Amazing Non-Linear Presentation Tool

Written on 8:49 PM by Ur English Teacher

Here's my first foray into Prezi. I don't see an embed code option on the site, and I'd like to. Perhaps soon! But never mind that, there's so much there to be happy about, I hardly noticed.

Once again, my colleague Jill Malpass showed me this free Web 2.0 tool that is KILLER for education. It MIGHT be the most amazing thing I've seen this year. Jill made the comment that it was not easy to learn to use, and I agree in part. There are no text-based on-screen directions, though there appears to be a lot of tutorial info, which I ignored. I like to learn by doing, so I dove right in. Once I let go of the expectation that words were going to pop up and tell me what to do, I found the controls to be intuitive and even smart. I think students (Digital Natives) will have a MUCH easier time learning to use this tool than Digital Immigrants. Here's a screencast showing the basics of how to use it as well as what it does for the rest of us:

I'm guessing I don't need to tell you how this is educationally relevant, but just in case you want to hear it anyway, here are some things I'm thinking of . . .

1. Organizing thoughts on any topic. History? Not all events fit into a timeline, but even if they do, you can show that using this tool. What about connected events? Music from the time period? Put it in. Make it logical. Show how it "goes." Literature? How do two authors/works relate to each other? You can make two or more areas in your infinitely large presentation space, then show connections among elements both by how you connect the elements, how you place them, and how you use the arrows/connectors. AMAZING possibilities for making thoughts visible. (Apocalypse Now and Heart of Darkess anyone?)

2. Use this tool instead of a linear presentation tool (like PowerPoint--please, NOT PowerPoint! At least use Google Presentations or OpenOffice 3 if you just need some download & installation action in your life), to connect different subject areas. For example, if you're a science teacher studying the water cycle, students should make connections between that topic and the current drought we're experiencing (at least in my neck 'o the woods), and how does the water cycle relate to a hurricane? We've had a couple of those lately! Check that link up yonder to see what it looked like around my abode after Ike.

I bet you've seen Visual Thesaurus (lots of $) and Visuwords (free, but use my link or make your own, don't use the default or you may get a not so nice word). What if students made their own vocabulary maps like the ones found on those sites but with personal connections? They could even insert their own links, drawings, and music. They could show how their words relate to each other. What if I were trying to learn the word "obnoxious" or "noxious"? I could define them in my own words, but then I could also put in that I think Bart Simpson is "obnoxious," and that my Grandma's perfume smells "noxious" (no offense Grandma; it doesn't). In addition, I could add pictures that connect my own personal ideas. It might take Digital Immigrants 3 hours to do one word, but give your 3rd graders a shot. They'll pick it up MUCH faster than you or me and be adding each word in minutes.

I have about a million more ideas, but I'm guessing you're not still reading this. By now, you're probably playing with Prezi.

Are you a Digital Native or a Digital Immigrant? A 20th or a 21st Century Learner?

Written on 1:12 PM by Ur English Teacher

After reading some of Marc Prensky's controversial and thought-provoking work, I created the quiz below for a staff development session. The questions are there twice, yet the statements are reversed to show how shift happens and so that it can be used as a discussion tool.

Enjoy finding out if you are a Digital Native, a Digital Immigrant, . . . or somewhere in between!
(I also heard the term "Digital Refugee" last week. It feels useful, though perhaps is a tad demeaning, especially if used to the face of such a one.)

This quiz is not to make you "feel bad" about your 'hometown' (as some persons doggedly insist), but it is important for us to remember that kids these days may not be from our locale. It's something to think about while you're filing those emails you've been printing, if, that is, you're able to do more than one thing at a time.

Make Stuff Online for the Dad(s) in Your Life for Father's Day

Written on 6:23 AM by Ur English Teacher

I can't take credit for this idea, teacher Amina Bradford told me about it right after Mother's Day this year, and one of her colleagues thought of it: Use Wordle to create (or have your kids create) a "Beautiful Word Cloud". . . this time, about Dad. (Example for my Dad.) Put the word "Dad" in twice to make it the biggest. Download the image, then send it in to a photo printing service to have it professionally printed, pop it in a frame, and there you go! Unforgettable father's day present! Amina's friend did this for Mother's day and her students came up with words like "loud, squishy, and hungry." How awesome is that?

Use a tool like Glogster or Scrapblog to make a photo collage/book of you and your Dad. Fun! When you finish, download the image, or if you can't get it like you want it, blow it up so that you can see the whole thing on your computer screen, then hit the print screen (prt sc, maybe fn>prt sc on a laptop), then open your photo editing program (I like PhotoFiltre--free and amazing), and hit Edit Paste. Size/edit your image for sending off for professional printing or print on your color printer.

If you're REALLY getting into this idea, you could make a cartoon of your Dad using ToonDoo. How about showing an important event you remember or creating a little cartoon you with your little cartoon Dad and let your character say all those gushy things you might not say in person?

If you're doing this project with kids who can't write yet, try SumoPaint to let even the littlest ones draw Dad, or if you have a bonafide artist in the house, see what they can do with the amazing advanced tools SumoPaint offers. If you want to keep it simple, photograph your kids' drawings with your digital camera, then add them to your Dad Book or get them framed. You can use PhotoFiltre (again, it's free) to crop and intensify the color saturation to make them really pop.

You can make a whole book for your dad yourself or use a service like (start today) to have your book professionally printed.

Of course, Dad would love some text thrown in there too. Find some great quotes about amazing Dads. Add some of the lyrics of his favorite song in that Scrapblog or Glogster, or if you're going to turn all this great stuff into a video using Animoto, put that song in the background. And here's the English teacher coming out: Have your kids (or yourself) write a formula poem. They are surprisingly moving. Just make up a rule, then follow it, for example, every line starts with

Dad, Did you know that . . . ? and the poem will be called "Dad, Did you know?" Trust me, people will cry, probably including you when you write it or read it.

If you feel the need to give your Dad something more traditionally "Dad like" for father's day, how about making "The World's Smallest Toolbox" for him? I don't really know if a Dad would like this, but I WANT ONE!

$100 Document Camera

Written on 12:07 PM by Ur English Teacher

We call ours eyeCamD; you can call yours BETTER and CHEAPER! Stop paying $400, $500 or more for document cameras right now. Using a few supplies from your local hardware store, you can use a high quality webcam as a document camera with TONS more functionality.

-Logitech 9000 webcam (8 mega pixels, the Avervision CP150 is 3.2 mega pixels)
-PVC pipe (we used 1/2")
-PVC elbow
-3 layers of 1/2" MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard-kind of like particleboard but heavier) glued together to form a heavy base
-You can use velcro to affix the camera to the camera arm if needed or you can cut a slot for the bottom "leg" of the camera to go through.
-If you're into appearances, you can use black plastic paint to paint the PVC parts.
-If you're going to paint the base, coat it with a glue/water mixture first to seal the MDF or else you will use a whole can of paint on one base. No kidding. We did it.

In our district, shop students are making bases for our campuses. It's a great lesson for them and we're getting a really superior document camera as well as saving $16,500 for EACH of three new campuses that would have had Avervision document cameras!

To see more, visit