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Monday, September 3, 2012

Exploring Mars with Kodu - A Lesson Plan

Microsoft, in conjunction with NASA and the California Institute of Technology, recently released a detailed lesson plan (link opens a PDF) about Mars exploration. The lesson plan is designed for middle school students utilizing the new Mars Rover worlds in Kodu.

In Search and Explore Mars students explore Mars for rocks and minerals. The lesson plan asks students to evaluate and analyze their findings. For example, students need to identify sedimentary and igneous rocks on Mars. In all there are 23 terms that students should become familiar with through the lesson.



Applications for Education
I gave the Kodu Mars worlds a test drive this afternoon. I'm not a skilled video game player by any stretch of the imagination, but I can see how middle school students would get hooked on playing the game to find and analyze rocks and minerals on Mars. I played the game on my Lenovo ThinkCentre and had a little trouble with the controls (again, that might be partly due to my inexperience with video games). In the lesson plan they do mention that a wired Xbox 360 controller is helpful.

Video - Surviving the Dust Bowl

As some readers know, I don't have a television at home so all of my "leisure" screen time comes through the web in the forms of Netflix, Hulu, Google Play movies, and occasionally PBS Video. Last night I was browsing through PBS Video when I came across an American Experience episode that I often use parts of when teaching about the Great Depression.

Surviving the Dust Bowl is an hour-long documentary of the stories of people who survived the Dust Bowl. I have found that the first-person accounts and archival footage captivated some of my students. Toward the beginning of the video there is one story of a family that refused government aid that really speaks to the resolve of some of the Dust Bowl survivors. 

Watch Surviving the Dust Bowl on PBS. See more from American Experience.

Applications for Education
If your students read The Grapes of Wrath, Surviving the Dust Bowl is a good companion resource that  tells "the rest of the story" so to speak. In fact, a six years ago an American Literature teacher and I teamed together and we did use The Grapes of Wrath and Surviving the Dust Bowl together.

Uncharted.fm Offers Great Geography Lessons

Uncharted.fm offers a series of progressively more difficult geography lessons and quizzes. In the beginning you're limited to one region and or continent at a time. As you master each region or continent you earn badges and unlock new challenges.

I really like the manner in which Uncharted.fm presents the lessons. In each lesson you're shown a country, the country's name is read to you, then you practice identifying it in two ways. You identify countries by choosing the name of the country that is highlighted for you. You also identify countries by selecting the one of the three highlighted that match the name you're given.

Applications for Education
Unfortunately, the only way that you can register to use Uncharted.fm is with a Facebook account. If that changes in the future, Uncharted.fm could be a great resource for students to practice identifying the countries of the world.

Explain and Send - A Screenshot App for Chrome

Explain and Send is a free Chrome extension that I have just installed in my browser. The extension allows me to quickly select all or a portion of my screen, draw on it, type on it, and share it. The extension installs in seconds and if you have synchronization enabled (click here to learn how) it will be available to you on all of the computers that you use. After you have created your screen capture you can share it via email, Twitter, or Facebook. You can also save your annotated screen capture to your computer.
Applications for Education
If you're a regular Chrome user, Explain and Send could be a great extension to have installed. The next time you're introducing students to a new web tool, create some annotated screen captures for your students to refer to whenever they need them.

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