Friday, February 29, 2008

Free Technology For Teachers: Connexions - Open Source Learning

Connexions is a depot of open source textbooks and lessons. Connexions has thousands of open source textbooks that teachers and students can access for free. I have written about the benefits of open source software and programs in the past which you can read by clicking here.

In the video below Richard Baraniuk gives a fantastic explanation of the benefits of open source textbooks. The video is almost twenty minutes long, so for those of you who don't have the time to watch it all, I'll summarize some of the main points of Mr. Baraniuk's talk.
1. Open Source textbooks save public schools money.
2. Open Source textbooks are easier and faster to edit and publish therefore making textbooks more relevant to today's changing world.
3. Open Source textbooks are often collaboratively written projects leading to the representation of multiple points of view on a topic.
4. Open Source textbooks are peer reviewed by more eyes than a traditionally published textbook.

Free Technology For Teachers: Wind Energy Projects

The Kid Wind Project is a web resource for lesson plans and materials related to studying wind power. There are lesson plans and materials appropriate for elementary, middle, and high school students on the Kid Wind Project website.

Applications for Educators
Wind Power and alternative energy sources have been hot topics in the news over the last few years. Here in Maine there has been quite a debate over where to place wind turbines. The lesson plans on Kid Wind incorporate many aspects of the wind power debate that have been covered in the news. Kid Wind lessons are useful for teaching the science, geography, and societal issues related to wind power. The lesson plans and ideas on Kid Wind could be a good way develop a cross-content integrated activity. Kid Wind provides some free videos related to the lesson plans on their website.

The video below is not from Kid Wind, but it is a good resource for starting a discussion about wind power.

Free Technology For Teachers: Educational Uses for Ipods

One of my favorite websites, Open Culture, has reposted a list of ten ways to make your Ipod a better learning gadget. The list covers the basic uses of Ipods for education. The list also included a couple of more advanced ideas about using Ipods as an educational device.

My favorite item from Open Culture's list is the Ipod eBook Creator program. The Ipod eBook Creator is a means for turning your text documents (I'm thinking about my lecture outlines) into Ipod compatible formats that you can share with others via email or other peer to peer sharing devices. The Ipod eBook Creator can also be used to convert web pages to Ipod compatible eBooks.

Applications for Educators
I can see the Ipod eBook Creator being used in advanced placement courses with highly motivated students. As students' lives become busier they will need more mobile means of studying. Take a look around a high school AP class or other college preparatory class and see how many students are using a laptop as a study tool. Converting lecture notes and other study resources to a mobile format is one way to help busy students study.

Build Your Own Jeopardy

Wolfe Science has an open source Build Your Own Jeopardy program that works on Window and Mac platforms. This build your own jeopardy program is better than some of the others I've tried because you can embed video and audio files as a part of your questions.

The Build Your Own Jeopardy web page has sample games covering multiple subject areas beyond science.