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Monday, September 12, 2011

3-D Tours of the Solar System in Your Browser

NASA's Eyes on the Solar System offers 3-D tours of the solar system in your browser. You can put the tours on auto-play or go through them manually. You also have the option to explore the Solar System without the guidance of a tour. I tried it both ways and found it much easier to use the tours as a guide for exploring the Solar System. The tours have some multimedia elements included in some of the stops as you move along. I used the tours on my Lenovo M90z ThinkCentre and found them to be well-suited to touch screen use.

Applications for Education
Eyes on the Solar System could be a great way for students to see how far apart the planets, moons, and stars are in terms of kilometers and time.

H/T to Brevity is the Soul of Wit

9/12 From Chaos to Community

This week's Snag Learning Film of the Week is 9/12 From Chaos to Community. This hour-long documentary chronicles the lives of people who came together to create or recreate a sense of community in New York after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. As always Snag Learning has a set of discussion questions to accompany the film. Watch a preview of the film below or watch the whole thing here.
Watch more free documentaries

New Comment-only Option in Google Docs

Earlier today Google added a handy new sharing setting to Google Documents. Now when you share a document with someone you have the option to give him or her "comment-only" access. Comment-only access means that the person with whom you have shared your document can only add notes to the margins of your document but cannot actually change the content of what you have written. In the past your only sharing options were "can edit" and "can view."

Applications for Education
My immediate thoughts when I learned about the "comment-only" setting went to peer-editing. Using the comment-only setting students can share their documents and get feedback without any risk of their peers accidentally making drastic changes to their documents.

I also think that the comment-only setting could be great for having students annotate the text of a primary source document that you may have found in the public domain. For example, I could have my U.S. History students annotate a copy of The Declaration of Independence.

H/T to Walter McKenzie.

Seven Ways to Build Custom Maps Without a Google Account

This morning on Twitter someone asked if there is a way for students to create online maps without a Google Account. The answer is yes and here are seven tools that students can use to build custom maps online. This post is for you Mr. Potter thank you for the inspiration.

Animaps is a service that was built for the purpose of allowing users to create animated Google Maps. The basics of creating maps in Animaps is very similar the process for creating maps in Google Maps. The main benefit of using Animaps over Google Maps is that you can create a tour of your placemarks that plays through according to the timing that you specify. Another benefit is that you can build in colored shapes to expand and contract to demonstrate patterns. You can also import images to your map from Flickr, Picassa, and Facebook. Click here to watch a demonstration of Animaps in action. You do not need a Google Account to use Animaps, you can register on the site or use Facebook credentials to log-in.


Weaving History has gone into hiberation and is not accepting new users at this time. 

is a promising website for history students and teachers. The purpose of Weaving History is to enable users to create timelines matched to maps. There are two basic functions that you need to know about in Weaving History; Factlets and Threads. Factlets are where you create short summaries about an event. Factlets include dates, places, names, and other relevant information. Threads are where you string together a series of Factlets. In the Threads view you can choose between "chrono view" and "geochrono view." Chrono view displays threads in a traditional timeline style with a list of Factlets below the timeline. The Geochrono view displays threads as placemarks on a map with timeline below. Click on any of the placemarks in the Geochrono view to see the Factlets connected to the events at those places.



Tripline is a service designed to enable anyone to record a trip they've taken or to plan a trip itinerary. What Tripline is really intended to do is to give you a platform to "present" your trips to others. To do this Tripline allows you to add details to each stop on your itinerary, add images, and add music to the presentation of your trip. When completed your map essentially becomes a slideshow tour. There are a few different ways that you can create trip on Tripline. You can use your mobile device to check-in at different locations and have Tripline plot those points for you. You can do that using Foursquare or by geolocating your Tweets. The other way that you can create trips on Tripline is to plot them directly on the Tripline site.

Build A Map is a new service that allows you to build layers on top of Google Maps. This is different than creating maps in the "My Places" feature of Google Maps. In My Places you can only add placemarks, paths, and shaded shapes. Using Build A Map you can add information from data sets, add shapes, and add custom labels. The service is currently in a private beta so you do have to register your email address and wait for an invitation to try it out. In the meantime you can watch the following video overview of the service.



Scribble Maps is a fun and useful application for drawing and typing on Google Maps. Using Scribble Maps anyone can draw and type on a map. All of the zoom options and most of the search options available on Google Maps are available when using Scribble Maps. You can zoom in on an area and then type text, draw a circle or a box around an area, you can even doodle stick figures or whatever you like on your map. Maps created by using Scribble Maps can be shared via email or embedded into your website. Scribble Maps Pro (an upgrade that requires a payment) allows you to import KML files, import spreadsheets, and import SHP files. Importing KML files allows you to add free-hand drawings on top of files that you may have already created for Google Maps or Google Earth. Importing spreadsheets makes it easy to quickly add placemarks to a large number of places. SHP file importation allows you to add custom shapes to your maps.

Quikmaps is a nice map creation tool that allows you to quickly draw, type, and insert icons on a Google Map without requiring you to have a Google Account. You can register directly on the site itself. Quikmaps is similar to Scribble Maps. Placing icons on Quikmaps is a simple matter of dragging and dropping elements. Maps can be shared via email or embedded into your blog or website.

UMapper is a custom map creation tool that allows you to create maps from just about any JPG, PNG, or GIF file. Using UMapper is a simple process of uploading an image and selecting a map service (Google, Yahoo, Bing) as the basis for the map. The finished maps can be embedded into your blog or website. UMapper also offers a platform for creating your own geography game. UMapper GeoDart is a simple game in which players have to locate the places the you specify. The directions for creating your own GeoDart game are contained in the video below.

7 Resources for Teaching and Learning Vocabulary

One of my teaching assignments this semester is to work with students who need extra help preparing for the SAT (all 11th grade students in my school are required to take it). I split the responsibility with a mathematics teacher. My focus is on helping the students develop their reading skills and knowledge of vocabulary. This assignment got me to go back in my archives of resources for teaching and learning vocabulary.

Vocab Ahead offers online study rooms in which students can take practice vocabulary quizzes. The quizzes provide instant feedback on each question as well as summary information at the end of the quiz. While taking the quiz if a student is stuck on an item he or she can click on the hint tab. Vocab Ahead also offers video demonstrations of SAT vocabulary words. Teachers can create their own custom video playlists and place them into playlist widgets.

Wordia is a free visual, video dictionary. Wordia features a selection of user-submitted and professionally created videos explaining the meaning of a word. The videos focus on the everyday use of words while the text accompanying each video provides the dictionary definition of the word. The video below explains the word literacy.



Word Stash is a free service that describes itself as "half vocabulary builder, half dictionary, and full awesome." Word Stash is pretty true to its self-description. At its most basic Word Stash is a dictionary that provides contextual examples to support the definitions offered. For many words, Word Stash provides an audio pronunciation. The vocabulary builder aspect of Word Stash lies in the fact that users can create accounts in which they create and save lists of words to study. Users can create as many lists as they like and expand existing lists as they go. Word Stash provides short quizzes based on the words a user puts into a list. In creating the study quizzes, Word Stash uses a spaced repetition algorithm to present users with words based upon how often they answer correctly or incorrectly. To create a list of words users simply need to click "stash" anytime they view a word in the Word Stash dictionary. Users can also share lists and study other users' shared lists.

Knoword is a fun and challenging game that tests your ability to match definitions to words. Knoword is played like this; you're presented with the first letter of a word, its part of speech, and the definition. You then have to fill in the correct spelling of the word. If you enter the correct word, you earn points. If you don't get it right, you lose points. You don't have to register to play Knoword, but you can register if you want. Registering for Knoword gives you the option to keep track of your game statistics. Registered users can also earn badges based on their performances.

Flashcards, either online or physical, still seem to be one of the preferred methods of studying vocabulary words. Flashcard Flash is a handy little search engine designed for one purpose, helping you find sets of flashcards. Flashcard Flash was built using Google Custom Search. Flashcard Flash searches twenty-two different flashcard services including Flashcard DB, Quizlet, and Study Stack all of which I've previously reviewed and found to be excellent services.

Words, Words, Words is a free vocabulary app for Android from Socratica. I have previously checked out some other apps from Socratica that I liked, and this one is no different. I like that the interface is very visually-pleasing and easy to navigate. Words, Words, Words can be used in a flashcard-like manner for familiarizing yourself with the words or in a quiz mode. Words, Words, Words offers audio to help users with pronunciation.

MyVocabulary.com offers free vocabulary lessons, word lists, and word puzzles designed for middle school and high school students. The vocabulary lists are based on books commonly used in middle school and high school classrooms. MyVocabulary.com also offers word lists and activities based on SAT vocabulary. Visitors to MyVocabulary.com will find stand-alone vocabulary lessons as well as activities to complement the reading of specific stories.

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