Monday, July 6, 2009

Vizerra - 3D Education Portal

Vizerra is a very interesting project that has great potential for use in World History and World Geography courses. Vizerra provides downloadable 3D models of famous places. All of the models offer users a tour of their selected site. Currently, there are five models and tours available on Vizerra. Vizerra aims to have a total of thirty 3D models and tours available for download by the end of 2009.

Applications for Education
Vizerra has a lot of potential for use in a World Geography and or World History course. The models and tours will provides students with ability to explore at their own pace. If you don't want students downloading content (or if your network administrator doesn't allow it), download the 3D models to your own computer and use them as a part of an instructional lecture.

Here are some related resources that may be of interest to you:
Wiki Field Trip
Map Trot - Easily Create and Share Maps
Fun Atlas Jigsaw Puzzles

Playing History - History Games

Playing History is a collection of 128 games related to topics in US and World History as well as civics and geography. The games come from a variety of sources across the web. Feedback on every game and suggestions for future additions are welcomed by the hosts of the site. Visitors to Playing History can search for games by using the tag cloud, by using the search box, or just browse through the entire list. I clicked on the tag "Supreme Court" and found nine games that I could use next fall in my US Civics course.

Applications for Education
Playing History offers a wide array of educational games for use in elementary, middle, and high school social studies course. Find a game that matches your curriculum and add it to your classroom website or blog to provide your students with fun review activity that they can use at home or at school.

Here are some related resources that may be of interest to you:
HeyZap - Strategy Games for Your Class Website
Think About History Trivia Game
200+ Free Games for Your Class Blog or Website

Specra - Three Search Engines in One

Specra is a search engine tool that allows you to compare and rank the results of a search across three major search engines. When you enter a search term on Specra it searches Google, Yahoo, and Bing. Results are displayed side by side and rankings in search engine are displayed. Specra is similar in concept to Triplify.

Applications for Education
Specra is a search engine tool that enables students to quickly search multiple search engines. Depending on the choice of search terms, results can vary quite a bit from one search engine to the next. If students can use three search engines at once it increases the number of resources available to them.

Here are ten other search engine tools that may be of interest to you.

Conversation with Common Craft - Looking Forward

Last Monday in the NECC Blogger's Lounge I sat down next to Sachi and Lee Lefever. Lee and Sachi are the producers of the excellent Common Craft videos. They were not at NECC to exhibit or present, but simply to talk with people. I had great conversations with both Sachi and Lee. The conversation that I had with Sachi revolved around how their service has benefited educators. Sachi said that they've only recently become aware of just how much educators enjoy and benefit from their work. I asked Sachi what they were planning to produce next. Although she couldn't say for certain what they're going to produce next, she did say that they are seriously considering producing something along the lines of “Internet Safety in Plain English.” I certainly hope that they do produce a video on that topic as it would be an educational resource for school and home. (For the record, I did check with them before running this post).

One of the things that Lee and I talked about is the dilemma faced by people like him and I regarding free versus paid services. We both agreed that we prefer to make content available to teachers and schools for free, but at the same time we are concerned about issues of copyright infringement and somehow being compensated for the time we spend creating content. Although we were not able to come up with a clear solution to this dilemma we both agreed that producing quality content is always the primary goal. That said, if educators want a quality company like Common Craft to continue to create quality content they do need to generate revenue somehow. This is not a problem unique to Common Craft, it is a dilemma faced by any company that offers a free service to the education community. Common Craft, VoiceThread, and other companies like them generally make their money from doing work for corporations or charging a fee to non-educators. As educators, particularly blogging educators, the way that we can support them is to make sure we give proper attribution and links whenever we can so that they can continue to offer free content and services to educators.

Here are some Common Craft videos that have been featured on Free Technology for Teachers in the past with explanations of how they can be used in the classroom.

Understanding Web Search in Plain English

Investing in Plain English

Saving Money in Plain English

e-Learning for Kids - Dozens of Activities

e-Learning for Kids offers dozens of courses for students ages five through twelve. e-Learning for Kids uses the term "courses" to describe what they offer, but "game" or "interactive lesson" would be a more appropriate description. e-Learning for Kids offers activities in math, language arts, science, computer skills, health and life skills, and ESL/EFL. Courses are listed with a brief description and a recommended age group. e-Learning for Kids is available in English, Spanish, French, and Portuguese.

Applications for Education
e-Learning for Kids has something to offer just about every elementary school aged student. Most of the activities are designed for individual or paired use, but there are some that could adapted for use as a classroom activity on an interactive whiteboard.

Here are some related resources that may be of interest to you:
Ten Fun Educational Games for K-8 Students
Download a Dinosaur
Whyzz - Helps Parents Answer "Why" Questions