Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Explore Petra in Google Maps

Google's Street View imagery is continuously expanding. The latest update takes us to Jordan where we can virtually explore the ancient city of Petra. Much of the imagery used in the new Street View imagery was captured by placing the Street View Trekker camera. Take a quick tour of the imagery by watching the video below.

The latest update to Street View imagery isn't limited to Petra. Other historic sites in Jordan are included in the new Street View imagery. The imagery includes Mount Nebo and the Dead Sea. Click here for the complete collection of Jordan Street View imagery.

Applications for Education
Much like the Street View imagery of other UNESCO world heritage sites, the new Street View imagery of Petra allows students to virtually explore a place that can't be done by simply flipping through pictures in a book or on a website.

A Brief History of Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

On Thursday morning millions of Americans will watch the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.  If you and or your students are curious about how this tradition started and how it has evolved, Macy's has the answers for you. Macy's Parade History offers a short timeline with video clips explaining the history of the parade. On the same site you will also find pictures from past parades as well as a map of the parade route.

History offers the following short video about the history of Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Geography, Geology, a Myth, and a Search Challenge

Over the years I've written a bunch of posts about creating search challenges for students (find three here, here, and here). I like to use image-based search challenges as a way to introduce students to a variety of search strategies and tools. The latest search challenge that I've developed involves a bit of geography, geology, and folklore.

The challenge set-up.
1. I share the following two pictures.

2. I ask students to find the camel in the second picture.
3. The search challenge is to find out which mythological person rode that camel.
4. Students are asked to identify the connections between the camel and the shoe.
5. Students have to explain how the camel in the picture was actually formed.

The challenge explanation.
If you want to use this challenge with your students, feel free to do so. Click on the pictures to enlarge them and then download them in full size.

1. The camel is outlined in the picture below.

2. Students need to think about mythology beyond the usual Greek mythology that they tend to default to. The picture should give students a clue or two that this "camel" isn't in a typical environment for a myth or folklore involving a camel. They should rule out stories that center on a camel in a desert environment. Eliminating those stories will narrow the list of possibilities.

The camel is actually at the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland.

3. Once students figure out where the camel is located, they should be able to discover that the camel is part of the story of Finn McCool (also written as Fionn MacCoul or Fionn mac Cumhaill).

4. The shoe is representative of Finn McCool's shoe that, according to the folklore, he lost while fleeing from the wrath of Scottish giant, Benandonner.

5. The camel is actually a basaltic dyke.

3 Good Tools for Creating Rubrics

A good rubric can help students understand what is expected of them and it can help teachers score students' assignments consistently. Over the years I've tried a variety of tools for crafting rubrics. The first ones I created were done by hand on a photocopied grid (late 90's at the University of Maine, Farmington) and in Word Perfect documents. These are the tools that I now recommend for generating rubrics.

The old, reliable. 
How long has Rubistar been around? Long enough that I was using it before I started this blog in 2007. Rubistar is a rubric creation tool offered by On Rubistar you can select from a variety of pre-made rubrics and modify them to your needs or you can use the pre-made rubrics as they are.

New, quick & easy.
Quick Rubric is a free tool for writing, editing, and printing rubrics. On Quick Rubric you can create a rubric that is tailored to your points/ scoring system, the quantity of descriptors that you need, and utilizes the exact language that you specify. You can save as many rubrics as you like in your free Quick Rubric account. You can copy and modify rubrics your account so that you don't always have to start from scratch when creating a new assignment rubric.

For the Google Apps users.
Online Rubric is a Google Spreadsheets Add-on that enables to you create rubrics, enter scores, and email scores to students all from one place. Online Rubric provides very clear instructions for each step of the processes of creating a roster sheet, creating a rubric, and emailing grades to students.

Disclosure: Quick Rubric is owned by the same company that produces Storyboard That, an advertiser on

7 Holiday Flying Tips & Tricks

Thanksgiving in the U.S. is just a couple of days away. This marks the unofficial start of the holiday travel season in the U.S. I've been fortunate to speak at enough conferences and schools over the last few years that I've averaged more than 100,000 air miles every year. In other words, I've picked up a few tips to make flying a little less stressful. At this time last year a friend and former colleague asked me to share my top tips for reducing airline travel stress. Here are my top seven tips.

1. Check-in online as soon as possible. Most airlines let you check-in for a flight 24 hours in advance. If you don't have a pre-assigned seat and you want a chance at getting the best seat possible for your fare class (there are different fare classes beyond just coach or first), check-in early. Be aware that some airlines charge a fee if you don't check-in online.

2. Get there early! This is obvious, but it cannot be stressed enough.  Other than the holidays, summer is the busiest leisure travel time which means there are lots of people in the security lines who are unfamiliar with the process. Unless you have TSA Pre-Check or elite status on an airline, be prepared for long security lines. My friend Jess reported that the security line at Bradley International (Hartford, Connecticut) took more than an hour last weekend.

3. Plan for delays and cancellations. Even if it is bright and sunny at your home and at your destination, there can be delays to your flights. Before you get to the airport look at alternate flights to your destination that are available on your airline. You can do this by doing a dummy booking on the airline's website (stop before the field asking for your credit card). Write down those flight numbers and keep them handy in case of significant delay or cancellation. This will save the airline agent time and relieve a bit of your stress if you know what your options are.
Remember this when delays and cancellations occur; the airlines don't like delays any more than you do. The gate agents, flight attendants, and phone agents are probably more stressed out by the delay than you are. Getting huffy with them and saying things like "I'll never fly this airline again" won't help you or anyone else. (Insider info: Most flight attendants don't get paid for time on the ground when the aircraft door is open).

4. Know your airline's reservations desk phone number. When your flight gets delayed or cancelled you will have to wait in line to see an airline agent. Get on the phone with the airline's reservation desk while you're waiting in line. Often you will get through on the phone before you get to the front of an airport line. Give the phone agent the alternate flight numbers that you found before you left your house.

5. Bring a small power strip and make friends. There are never enough outlets to go around in an airport terminal. Bring a small power strip (I found one at Walmart that has four outlets with a one foot cord) and then you only need to find one outlet to charge your phone and those of your friends, family, or strangers.

6. Join the airline's frequent flyer program. Even if you only fly once a year, join the frequent flyer program. You can use the miles for things other than flights. For example, I only fly on United and Delta when US/ American doesn't fly to where I'm going. I collect miles from those trips and have used them for magazine subscriptions, gift cards, and even "bought" a coffee maker through frequent flyer miles.

7. Pack snacks. If you're traveling with small children, you probably have this covered. For the rest of us, it's a good reminder. I always pack a Clif Bar or two in my laptop bag. It's amazing what a couple of hundred calories can do for your mood during a flight delay.

Bonus tip for the nervous flyers: I was once a very nervous flyer too. That changed once I realized that the pilots want to land safely just as much as I do. Pilots won't fly unless they feel safe. Those sounds you hear the plane making, they're normal.


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