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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Google Maps Engine Lite Renamed "My Maps"

Google Maps Engine Lite, a great tool for creating custom online maps, has been renamed to simply My Maps (not to be confused with "My Maps" that used to be in the old version of Google Maps). My Maps includes all of the features of Google Maps Engine Lite. My favorite of those features is the option to create multiple layers of placemarks in each of your custom maps.

Ideas for using My Maps in your classroom:
As I have written in the past, there are quite a few good uses of creating maps with multiple layers.
  • Multiple layers can be used for showing data differences on a year over year or month over month basis. 
  • You can display the same data with different base layers for comparison. 
  • Students working collaboratively on a map can be responsible for editing their own layers on the same map. 
  • If you’re using Google Maps Engine Lite My Maps to have students create literature trips (look here for inspiration), they can create a different layer for each chapter of a book. 
  • Students mapping the history of an event like the U.S. Civil War can create a different layer for each year of the war.
I will create an updated tutorial on My Maps soon, but in the meantime the following tutorial on Google Maps Engine Lite offers nearly everything you need to know to use the new My Maps. 

Wikispaces Changes Pricing for Non-Academic Wikis

Wikispaces has made a change to their pricing plans for non-academic blogs. Most K-12 teachers who are using Wikispaces won't notice a thing because of this change. However, if you are using Wikispaces with personal email address (Gmail, Hotmail, etc) instead of your school email address, you may have to confirm or re-confirm that you are using your wikis for school purposes. You can read the full announcement from Wikispaces here on their blog. To be clear, Wikispaces is still giving completely free access to K-12 teachers and students.

A Handful of Help Resources for Constitution Day

Tomorrow is Constitution Day here in the United States. If you're in need of some last minute resources or you just want to add to your list of resources for teaching about the U.S. Constitution, take a look at the items in the list below.

Keith Hughes of Hip Hughes History fame has a long playlist of videos about the U.S. Constitution. His playlist includes an overview of the Constitutional Convention, videos about each section of the Constitution, and videos about most of the amendments to the Constitution. I've embedded the playlist below.


The Constitution Center's website features the U.S. Constitution divided into easily searchable sections. From the main page you can select and jump to a specific article or amendment. What I really like about the site is that you can choose an issue like privacy, civil rights, or health care and see how those issues are connected to the Constitution. The Constitution Center offers an extensive list of lesson plans for each of the Constitution's articles and amendments. Select an article or amendment then scroll to the bottom of the page to find the lesson plans. Alternatively, you can find all of the lesson plans listed here.

iCivics is an excellent source of educational games that offer lessons in civics. Since its launch a few years ago, iCivics has steadily grown to the point that it now contains nineteen educational games for students. All of the games require students to take on a decision making role. To succeed in the games students have to apply their understanding of the rules and functions local, state, or Federal government. Some games require an understanding of the U.S. court system and or the Constitution.

Google and the Comparative Constitution Project offer a neat site called Constitute. The site hosts the constitutions of 160 countries. You can search the site according to country and or constitutional theme. Searching by constitutional theme is the best aspect of the site. More than 300 themes are outlined on the site. Select a theme then a country and the element of that country's constitute addressing your chosen theme will be highlighted. You can pin parts of the constitutions to compare them to each other.

Larry Ferlazzo has an extensive list of Constitution Day resources that you should also check out. 

Screencast-O-Matic - A Great Tool for Creating Screencast Videos

Over the last few weeks I have published a bunch of how-to videos like this one about creating stop motion movies. I've had at least a handful of people ask me in emails or Tweets about the tool that I use to create those videos. I use Screencast-O-Matic to create my screencast videos.

Screencast-O-Matic is available in a free version and a pro version. The free version allows you to record for up to fifteen minutes at a time (that is plenty of time for most screencasts), publish to YouTube in HD, and save videos to your computer as MP4, AVI, and FLV files. The pro version ($15/year) includes video editing tools, unlimited recording lengths, a script tool, and removal of the Screencast-O-Matic watermark. Both versions of Screencast-O-Matic include a highlighted circle around your cursor so that viewers can easily follow your movements on the screen. A webcam recording option is included in the free and pro versions of Screencast-O-Matic.

Applications for Education
Screencast-O-Matic can be used for creating how-to videos or simple flipped lesson videos in which you record yourself talking over a set of slides.

Screencast-O-Matic does require Java which means that it won't work on Chromebooks. Snagit for Chrome is a good option for recording screencast videos on Chromebooks.

Some Resources for Teaching About Scotland and the U.K.

On Thursday voters in Scotland will decide whether or not to leave the United Kingdom. If you teach current world events, you may find the following resources to be helpful.

CGP Grey's video The Difference Between the United Kingdom, Great Britain and England Explained provides a five minute overview of the differences between terms that some people incorrectly use interchangeably.


NBC News offers this breakdown of ten things to know about Scotland's independence referendum. The list includes some explanations of why Americans might be interested in the outcome of the vote.

The BBC (yes, they probably have a bit of bias on the topic) offers this overview of key issues at a glance.

The Edinburgh News (again, they probably have a bit of bias on the topic) offers this list of ten reasons for and ten reasons against independence.

Jeffery Hill has created a small quiz about Scotland's history and culture. You can find the quiz as a set of slides or as a PDF on his blog.


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