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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Month in Review - August's Most Popular Posts

Morrison waiting for the school bus.
Well it's the end of August and by now almost everyone is back in school. I hope that this year is the best school year ever for you and your students.  As I do every month I've assembled a list of the ten most read posts of the month. Before jumping to the list I want to say thank you to all of you who helped Free Technology for Teachers reach new heights for subscriber count and Facebook likes. This month we went over 38,000 subscribers for the first time and surpassed the 15,000 "likes" mark on Facebook.

Here are the most popular posts in the month of August:
1. 5 Ways Students Can Visually Explore the News
2. 7 Places to Get Free Supplies or Money for Your Classroom
3. Fresh Brain - Fun Tech Projects for Students
4. 5 Free Tools for Creating Book Trailer Videos
5. Activities for Introducing Google Tools to Teachers and Students
6. Try Splicd to Share Just a Portion of a Video
7. Teaching Math Through Culture
8. 5 Ways for Students to Publish in Under a Minute
9. Find Helpful Bibliography Templates in Google Docs
10. ScreenChomp - Create & Share Tutorials on Your iPad

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11 Resources for Teaching and Learning About the Forces of Nature

After last weekend's visit from Hurricane Irene I have forces of nature on my brain. I guess there is something about seeing a giant tree across your neighbor's yard will do that to you. Therefore, today I assembled a list of some of my favorite resources for teaching and learning about forces of nature.

This one is a couple of years old but it is still good. USA Today has a slide presentation explaining how tornadoes are formed and what to do if you find yourself in the path of a tornado. The slide show is controlled by the viewer who moves a slider at the bottom of the screen to explore the formation of a tornado.


Forces of Nature is a film produced by National Geographic designed to educate students about volcanoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, and tornadoes. The Forces of Nature website provides a nice list of complete lesson plans for teachers of students in grades K through 12. Even if you can't get a copy of the movie, most of the lesson plans and activities are still very usable. Teachers of grades K through 6 may also want to check out the National Geographic Kids page titled Ten Freaky Forces of Nature.

If you can't acquire the Forces of Nature film (available on Amazon $17.99), you may want to consider a similar film from National Geographic titled Violent Earth. Violent Earth can be viewed for free on Snag Films. Using Snag Films you can also embed the Violent Earth video into your blog, wiki, or website.

The USGS in partnership with the University of Utah produces the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory. The Yellowstone Volcano Observatory records and publishes data about volcanic activity in Yellowstone National Park. Much of the material on the site is very scientific in nature, but the Observatory website does offer some educational materials accessible to the non-scientist. The Yellowstone Volcano Observatory offers three videos about the volcanoes of Yellowstone. The Observatory also offers photographic tours of Yellowstone.


Shape It Up is one of many good educational games and activities on Kinetic City. Shape It Up is an activity that would be good for use in an elementary school Earth Science lesson. The activity presents students with "before" and "after" images of a piece of Earth. Students then have to select the force nature and the span of time it took to create the "after" picture. If students choose incorrectly, Shape It Up will tell the student and they can choose again.

Stop Disasters is a game designed for students to learn about natural disasters, disaster prevention, and city design. There are five game scenarios that students can play. Students can plan to prepare for hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, wildfires, and tsunamis. The scenarios are set in geographically accurate contexts of Europe, Asia, Australia, and the Caribbean.

The USGS produces a good assortment of resources for teaching and learning about earthquakes. The USGS has resources for teachers and for students on every grade level from elementary school through college. Not included in the teachers resource section, but including in the general education page, are these flash animations of earthquakes and seismic activities. For Google Earth users the USGS produces Google Earth files for viewing earthquakes. One set of Google Earth files that the USGS produces allows you to view seismic activity in near-real time (the file refreshes every five minutes).

Violent Earth, produced by National Geographic, is a film about the causes of earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, and hurricanes. It's an excellent documentary if you have the time to watch it. But if you're searching for a shorter video explanation of the causes of tsunamis, National Geographic has something to fit that bill too. Tsunamis 101 is a three and one-half minute video about how a tsunami is caused and why they can be so deadly. The video is embedded below.



Volcano Above the Clouds is a NOVA program that chronicles an ascent of Mount Kilimanjaro by a group of climbers and scientists. In addition to the video, Volcano Above the Clouds offers a large collection of materials and teaching guides for learning about volcanoes, glaciers, and climate change with Mount Kilimanjaro at the center of each lesson. As Mount Kilimanjaro is one of the Seven Summits of the world, NOVA provides a slideshow of the Seven Summits which puts Kilimanjaro into perspective relative to those other summits.

The BBC has a series of interactive guides that explain how natural disasters are caused. Included in this series is a twelve part animated explanation of volcanic eruptions. The series also includes explanations of hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, and tsunamis.

















For learning about earthquakes, the BBC has an animated guide to earthquakes. National Geographic offers an in-depth lesson plan for teaching elementary school students about earthquakes and volcanoes. National Geographic also has some excellent educational films about earthquakes, but if you do not have the budget to purchase them you may want to try Snag Films where you can watch full length documentaries like Violent Earth for free.

Hurricane Irene Before and After in Google Earth

Although not as strong as predicted, Hurricane Irene came and went leaving a path of destruction in its wake (some of my colleagues are still without power as I write this on Wednesday morning). To show the effects of Hurricane Irene on the topography of the east coast of the U.S. a reader of the Google Earth Blog developed a KMZ file with image overlays to show the before and after of Hurricane Irene. The KMZ file was developed using imagery from NOAA's Hurricane Irene Image Index.

Applications for Education
The imagery in this before and after KMZ file could be good for showing students how wind and rain shape coastlines. If you live in one of the areas that felt the effects of Hurricane Irene this KMZ file might start a discussion about any changes your students observed after the storm.

H/T to the Google Earth Blog, of course.

A Simple App for Learning to Read Music

Music Notation Training is a simple website on which students can practice recognizing music notes. The offers practice for both bass and treble clefs. To use the site just type the letters of the notes you see displayed before you. Each time you type a letter you can instantly see if you were right or wrong. There are a few progressions through the site so that you don't have the same sequence of notes all the time.

Applications for Education
If you're a music teacher looking for a simple reading practice activity, Music Notation Training might be for you.

Autodesk Homestyler - Design a Room or a House

Autodesk Homestyler is a good website for designing the interior of a room or of an entire house. The service is free and can be used without registering for an account (although registering for an account is an option). Using Autodesk Homestyler you can design the shape of a room, add closets, remove or add walls, and drop in furnishings. You can view your designs in 2D or 3D. In 3D you can rotate your room to get a better picture of the layout of your room.

Applications for Education
Autodesk Homestyler is designed for use by people who are remodeling or building a new room, but I thought that it could be used as part of mathematics lesson on area. You could give students an assignment to try to design a room in as many configurations as possible while still staying within a square footage parameter that you assign. You might also challenge students to see how many units of a particular furnishing can be placed in the rooms they design.

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