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Monday, April 8, 2013

Build a Word Kingdom on Dictionary.com

Dictionary.com is the default online dictionary for millions of people. But did you know that Dictionary.com also has word games for your edutainment? Dictionary.com offers six registration-free and fun word games. The two games that I like best are Miss Spell's Class and Word Kingdom. In Miss Spell's Class students are presented with twenty commonly misspelled words and quickly decide if the spelling they're looking at is correct or incorrect. Word Kingdom could be described as Zelda meets word search. In Word Kingdom players have to construct words in order to earn objects like wood and gold. Once enough objects are earned players can move on to the next level until they have built their Word Kingdoms.

Applications for Education 
If you're looking for some word games that your students can play independently, Dictionary.com's games are a good starting place. Linking these games to your classroom blog would make it easy for students and their parents to locate the games quickly and give them another good reason to check in on your blog.

Write App - A Simple Blogging Platform

Write App is a free service on which you can keep a private journal, maintain a simple blog, or do both. Write App is designed with a minimalist look and set of tools. You won't find options for multimedia elements, fancy themes, or any formatting tools to speak of. What you do get is a clean space to write and create digital notebooks for your writing. You can create multiple notebooks in your free Write App account. Each note that you write can be made public or kept private. Public notes can only be read, they cannot be commented on.

Applications for Education
If you're looking for an easy-to-use tool for your students to write a mix of public and private entries on,  take a look Write App. The minimalist format could help students focus on their writing instead of worrying about the look of their blogs.

Ten Good Video Sources for Science Students and Teachers

One of the great things about teaching today is the wealth of educational videos that are available on the web. No longer do we have to flip through catalogs, order a VHS cassette, wait for it to arrive, and hope that it is as good as the catalog made it sound. Now we can quickly access and screen educational videos. In fact, there is so much available that the challenge is sifting through it all. That's why I occasionally publish lists like this one to help others find educational videos online. Here are ten good sources of science videos for students and teachers.

The Spangler Effect is a YouTube channel from Steve Spangler Science. Unlike his popular Sick Science videos which are no more than short demonstrations of science experiments students and parents can do at home, The Spangler Effect videos offer longer (15 minutes or so) explanations of science experiments. The Spangler Effect videos explain the science of do-it-yourself experiments and how you can recreate those experiments at home or in your classroom.

On his website and YouTube channel Montana's 2011 Teacher of the Year Paul Anderson has uploaded more than 300 quality instructional videos like the ones about biology that are embedded below.


Gooru is a service that aims to provide teachers and students with an extensive collection of videos, interactive displays, documents, diagrams, and quizzes for learning about topics in math and science. As a Gooru member you have access to hundreds of resources according to subject areas such as chemistry, biology, ecology, algebra, calculus, and more. Within each subject area you can look for resources according to media type such as video, interactive display, slides, text, and lesson plans. When you find resources that you want to use, drag them to the resources folder within your account. Gooru also offers you the option to add resources to your folders even if you did not find them within Gooru.

Learners TV has organized hundreds of academic videos. They've also organized more than one hundred science animations. The science animations on Learners TV are organized into three categories; biology, physics, and chemistry.

ScienceFix is the blog and YouTube channel of middle school science teacher Darren Fix. On both the blog and the YouTube channel you will find more than 100 videos demonstrating various science experiments, demonstrations, and middle school science lessons.

MIT Tech TV is a collection of thousands videos produced by students and faculty at MIT. The videos are arranged into more than 600 collections covering topics in engineering, education, science, the humanities, and more. You can view the videos online and most of them are available to download. Roughly 300 of the MIT Tech TV videos are also available on a YouTube channel of the same name. There are a couple of playlists within the channel that could be of interest to high school and middle school science teachers. MIT Engineering K-12 is a set of twenty-six videos in which MIT students explain and demonstrate things like gas pressure, gravity, Boyle's Law, and the shape of sound waves. MIT Physics Demonstrations is a playlist of 44 short demonstrations. The videos don't have narration, just the demonstration. The explanation of the principle demonstrated is found in the description below each video. 

Bright Storm's YouTube channel offers video lessons for biology, chemistry, and physics. The videos are nothing more than an instructor lecturing with a whiteboard for a few minutes which could be adequate if a student just needs a refresher on a science topic.

NASA has a few different YouTube channels, but the one that has the most universal utility for teachers and students is NASA eClips. NASA eClips is organized according to grade level with playlists intended for elementary school, middle school, and high school.

Interactive Biology is a website offering a series of videos, quizzes, and study guides for biology students. The site offers study guides for sale, but there some good free resources available too. The best free resource found on Interactive Biology is the Interactive Biology YouTube channel. There are ten multiple choice quizzes based on information in the videos and study guides. Each quiz offers immediate feedback and provides a hint if you get a question wrong and want to try it again.

John and Hank Green's Crash Course channel on YouTube includes courses in chemistry, ecology, and biology. They're good videos, but they do go quickly so your students might have to rewind them a couple of times to catch everything.

A note about Khan Academy: I left Khan Academy off the list because it's the best known source of educational videos. Sal Khan doesn't need my help promoting his stuff.

Mapping History - Historical Patterns Animated

Some of my favorite social studies lesson plans included having students use maps to analyze data and identify patterns in history. Over the years I've done this with paper maps and digital maps. This afternoon I found a good site, produced by the University of Oregon that features lots of animated maps illustrating problems, patterns, and events throughout history. Mapping History is essentially a digital atlas of American, European, Latin American, and African history. Each section is divided into modules based on historical themes and eras.

Applications for Education
Mapping History is a resource that I have bookmarked for reference the next time that I need a thematic map to illustrate a pattern in history. I found that some of the maps will also be useful as question prompts. For example, this map prompts students to evaluate the extent to which the expansion of slavery in the U.S. was connected to the demand for cotton.

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