Friday, November 27, 2009

K12 Online Conference Starts on Monday

The K12 Online Conference begins on Monday, November 30 with a pre-conference keynote to be given by Kim Coffino. The following two weeks will offer more than fifty virtual presentations from K-12 educators around the world. These presentations will be offered live and recorded for later viewing. The K12 Online Conference is a great opportunity to get ideas for strategies that you can employ in your classroom. You can visit the K12 Online Conference website to see "trailers" for the upcoming presentations. I've embedded below the trailer for Neil Stephenson's presentation, "Remixing in the Classroom: Engagement for History Students."

Find more videos like this on K12 Online Conference

Celestia - Explore Space on Your Computer

Celestia is a free space exploration simulation program. Celestia is a free download that works on Mac, PC, and Linux systems. The advantage of Celestia over other satellite imagery programs is that in addition to seeing the Earth's surface, students can zoom in on moons, stars, and planets. The user controls what they see. Operating the program is easy enough to be used by students as young as six or seven. The user guides for Celestia are very thorough and available in four languages.

Applications for Education
Celestia is easy enough for young students to operate, but at the same time offers enough advanced features to engage high school students. Celestia is a great tool for showing basic through advanced physic concepts. Teaching the concept of gravity to young students is simple and interactive with Celestia. There is a companion website to Celestia called The Celestia Motherlode that features educational activities that teachers can use.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Explore Google Sky
View the Moon in Google Earth
Solar Eclipse Simulation in Google Earth
Google Earth Links You Might Have Missed

National Geographic Video - The Human Footprint

The Human Footprint is a National Geographic film hosted for free by Snag Films. The Human Footprint uses statistics and great visual aids to show the impact of each human on the environment. For example, did you know that it takes more than 1800 pints of crude oil to provide enough disposable diapers for one child. During the film viewers learn about how some of the conveniences of modern life impact the environment. The film is embedded below.

Applications for Education
This video could be useful for anyone that teaches environmental science. As students view the film you could have them take note of the convenience items they use. Then after viewing the film have students try to develop environmentally friendly alternatives to those convenience items.

Survey - How to Respond to YouTube Being Blocked?

Yesterday, Miguel Guhlin had an interesting post addressing a question that has popped-up in the comments here in the past. Miguel's post WatchKnow YouTube Search - Blocked! explores two possible responses to an educator's request to unblock WatchKnow for classroom use. WatchKnow can best be described as YouTube meets Wikipedia. WatchKnow serves educational videos found on YouTube and other video providers such as National Geographic. (You can read more about WatchKnow here). Because WatchKnow uses YouTube videos, school districts that block YouTube also block WatchKnow.

Recognizing that there are dozens of alternatives to YouTube how should classroom teachers respond to not being able to access YouTube? Here are the options and their associated problems that I see:
1. Comply with the district policy and use an alternate video provider. The problem with this is that the catalog of videos on even the largest of alternate providers, is limited compared to YouTube. The video you want may not be available on another video provider.

2. Petition your district's administration to unblock YouTube. Provide them with as much research on the topic as you possibly can. Administrators may not be aware of the latest research on the topic, don't be afraid to provide it to them. My experience has been that most administrators want to make decisions that are grounded in data and research. If you're not aware of the latest research, ask your Twitter network as I did here. The problem is if you're shot down, you're back to number 1 above.

3. Use a third party client to download a YouTube video at home then play it in your classroom. There are a number of services that allow you to do this and YouTube does allow it in certain, limited cases. The problem here is that it is a violation of YouTube's terms of service to download videos for which they haven't provided that option. This presents a moral quandry, do you download the video so that you can provide what you feel is the best educational opportunity possible or do you comply with the law (which may or may not be enforced)?

I've created a short annonymous survey about this topic (you can also leave a comment). I'm curious about two things. How many districts block YouTube? How do you respond to the blocking of YouTube?
Update: You can view the responses to the survey here.