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Friday, January 7, 2011

Interactive Guides to Global Issues

The Council on Foreign Relations has a nice collection of interactive guides to contemporary global political and economic issues. In all there are twenty-three guides in the collection. Some of the topics the guides cover are nuclear energy, the Iraq War, tensions in the Korean Peninsula, the global economy, and climate change. Each guide is divided into chapters. Each chapter contains videos, graphics, text, and timelines to help viewers understand the many layers of each issue.

Applications for Education
The Council on Foreign Relations' interactive guides are a good example of why digital materials are replacing textbooks. Even the most recent social studies texts at my school don't include the depth of content for the global economy, Iraq War, and most of the other issues covered by the interactive guides available from the Council on Foreign Relations.

Future Me - Send a Letter to Your Future Self

Future Me is a neat service that lets you write an email to your future self and have it delivered to your email inbox at a time that you schedule. It's easy to use Future Me. To use Future Me just type your email, select the date you want it to be delivered on, and then enter your email address. You can choose to keep your letter private (default setting) or make your letter public (anonymously) and placed in the gallery of letters.

Applications for Education
When I learned about Future Me my first thought was that it would be great to have students use Future Me at the beginning of a school year. Students could write about what they hope to learn that year, what they do or don't like about school, and goals that they have for themselves. Then at the end of the school year students can read their letters and see how they've changed over the year.

11 Art & Music Resources to Try in 2011

All week I've started the day with a list of good resources to try in different content areas. To wrap up the week I bring you eleven good art and music resources to try in 2011. Earlier this week I shared mathematics resources, science resources, language arts resources, and social studies resources.

The Museum of Modern Art offers a sizable collection of online resources for teaching art lessons. Part of that collection is a series of lesson plans, but there are also collections of art for students, an art game for young (5-8 years old) students, interactive activities for older students, and podcasts about art and artists. The MOMA lesson plans collection can be searched by theme, artist, medium, or subject. If the lesson plans in the collection don't offer quite what you're looking for, MOMA has free resources you can use in developing your own plans. MOMA offers many images and PDFs that you can use in developing own lessons and or slideshows.

The Getty Museum has introduced a new way to view art, augmented reality. As employed by The Getty, augmented reality creates 3D displays of art from printed PDF codes displayed in front of a webcam. The example that The Getty provides in this video is a 3D display of one of the cabinets of curiosities created by Albert Janszoon Vinckenbrinck. If you want to try it for yourself after watching the video, the directions are available here.

Art Babble is a video website designed and maintained by the Indianapolis Museum of Art. The purpose of Art Babble is to provide a place for people to learn about the creation of art, artists, and collections through quality video productions. Visitors to Art Babble will find videos related to many forms of and formats for art. Browse the video channels and you'll find videos covering a wide array of topics including abstract art, European Art and Design, African Art, graphic design, glass, sculpture, surrealism, and much more.

Smarthistory is a free online alternative to expensive art history textbooks. Smarthistory was developed by art history professors Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker. Smarthistory features more than just images of notable works of art. Videos lessons, VoiceThread lessons, and audio lessons about eras and themes in art history are what make Smarthistory a valuable resource. Students can browse all of the resources of Smarthistory by artist name, style of work, theme, or time period.

MOOM, the Museum of Online Museums, is a list of museums that offer online exhibitions. In some cases the museums include virtual tours and in other cases the museums online exhibits are simple photo galleries. Some of the notable museums featured in the Museum of Online Museums include the Smithsonian, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Incredibox is a neat website that allows you to create unique rhythms and sounds from drag-and-drop menu. The sounds in the menus are recordings of a Bobby McFerrin-like artist making "human beat box" sounds. You can experiment with different sound loops, choruses, and instrumental sounds to create your own unique sound loops. To use Incredibox just head over to the website, select the English or French version, then start mixing sounds by dragging from the menu to the "people field." Every time you add a new sound a new person appears in the screen. Click a person to delete the sound he represents.

Having students experiment with rhythms on a drum set is usually a very loud experience for the students and for anyone within earshot of those students. That probably explains why my elementary school music class was held in a room behind the cafeteria kitchen and hundreds of yards away from any other classroom. Fortunately, developments in technology have made it possible for students to experiment with drum rhythms on a quieter scale than was previously possible. One such tool that makes this possible is Monkey Machine. Monkey Machine is a free web-based program that allows students to experiment with drum set sounds and rhythms. Using Monkey Machine students can customize the selection of drums and cymbals in their virtual drum set. Monkey Machine also allows students to customize the tempo in their drum tracks and the frequency with which each drum or cymbal is played. All tracks created using Monkey Machine can be downloaded as MIDI files.

The San Francisco Symphony's website Keeping Score is a comprehensive website full of educational materials about composers, scores, musical techniques, and symphonies. There are two elements of Keeping Score that should be of particular interest to educators. The most immediately accessible section of Keeping Score is the interactive education elements that contain videos, images, and texts that tell the stories of composers. The interactive section also features explanations of musical techniques, the history of notable events and themes in the symphonic world, and analysis of various scores.

The Science of Music, created by the folks at Exploratorium, is a fun series of lessons and activities about music. The Science of Music offers six exhibits containing interactive elements for students to use in exploring rhythms and sounds. One of the exhibits that I particularly enjoyed experimenting with is Kitchen Sink-o-Pation. In Kitchen Sink-o-Pation students build syncopated rhythms using kitchen appliances, pots, pans, and glasses. In addition to the interactive exhibits, Science of Music hosts four short movies featuring musicians talking about the science of music. Science of Music's questions section is a list of six questions commonly asked about music. Each question is provided with a detailed answer and explanation. Try this one as an example, why does my singing sound so great in the shower?

Classics for Kids, produced by Cincinnati Public Radio, offers lesson plans, podcasts, and games for teaching kids about classical music. The lesson plans are designed for use in K-5 settings. All of the lesson plans are available as PDFs. Activity sheets are also available as accompaniments to recordings of classical composers. In the games section of Classics for Kids students can develop their own compositions or practice identifying music and composers. As a reference for students, Classics for Kids offers a dictionary of music terms.

Arts Edge, produced by the Kennedy Center, is a collection of podcasts, lesson plans, and links for teaching music and culture. The podcast directory is where you will find an eclectic collection of podcasts featuring music ranging from Jazz in DC to Music from China. The "Teach" section of Arts Edge is a good place to find lesson plans for teaching music and culture. As a teacher of US History, the lesson on Civil War music caught my attention.

Bonus Item: Herbie Hancock performing at TED. 

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