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Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A Handful of Good Resources for Learning About Dinosaurs

How Do We Know What Dinosaurs Looked Like? is a new video from the crew at Brain Stuff. The video provides a short overview of the clues that paleontologists look for when determining how a dinosaur may have looked when it was alive. The video is appropriate for students at or beyond the fourth grade level.

Watching How Do We Know What Dinosaurs Looked Like? prompted me to look up some of the other dinosaur resources that I've reviewed over the years. Here are some of the better ones that are still online.

The Natural History Museum hosts a directory of names, facts, and figures for more than 300 dinosaurs. One of the ways that you can search through the database is by country. Select the "in your country" option to find the dinosaurs that may have roamed the land in what is now your country. The search results will display a grid of drawings the types of dinosaurs in your country. Click on the images to learn more the dinosaurs.

The Canadian Museum of Nature hosts a good collection of online games and animations about mammals, birds, and dinosaurs. A few of the games and animations are Canada-specific, but those and all of the others have a broad appeal. In the fossils section of the site I viewed an animation through which I learned how horned dinosaurs ate their food.

The Walking With Dinosaurs apps (free iPad appfree Android app) use a bit of augmented reality to take students on a virtual walk with dinosaurs. To use the apps you have to print out the "targets" that when scanned reveal a dinosaur's story. The apps also allow your students to include pictures of themselves in settings with the dinosaurs that they learn about through the app.

The following video from Untamed Science teaches us a bit about how dinosaur skeletons are reconstructed.


Now You Can Use Custom Avatars in Google Classroom Profiles

Google Classroom users, your long nightmare is over.  You can now use custom avatars in your Classroom profiles. Just like in any other Google Account now you can set a custom avatar. Your avatar can be a picture of you, your dog, or anything else that you see fit to represent you. Log-in and select "profile settings" to change the avatar picture in your Google Classroom account.

Applications for Education
This isn't a major update to Google Classroom, but I know that some teachers and students will be excited about it.

Thanks to Fred Delventhal for the Tweet about this Google Classroom update.

Many Ways to Create and Share Digital Stories

Earlier today I read Alan Levine's blog post Always Be Attributing. In that post he referenced a resource that anyone with an interest in digital storytelling should bookmark. 50 Web Ways to Tell a Story is a wiki of tools for creating digital stories. On the wiki you will find pages of tools arranged by output type (slides, audio, collage, video) and a page of tools that offer features for teachers (student account management).

Applications for Education
50 Web Ways to Tell a Story is more than just a list of tools. The wiki includes a page about developing story ideas. The Story Ideas page offers excellent story starter suggestions that can be used in almost any classroom setting.

Darwin's Original Notes Digitized

Since 2007 the American Museum of Natural History has been working to digitize more than 30,000 of Charles Darwin's manuscripts and notes. With a target date of June 2015, the project is nearing completion.  More than half of the documents are now available to search, browse, and read online. The collection of documents is organized according to periods of Darwin's work.

Applications for Education
Through the documents and sketches being digitized by the American Museum of Natural History it is possible for students (high school and older) to see how Darwin developed his ideas over time.

For younger students, Darwin, A Naturalist's Voyage is an outstanding virtual tour of Charles Darwin's nearly five year journey on the BeagleDarwin, A Naturalist's Voyage has fourteen segments chronicling Darwin's voyage from start to finish. Throughout the tour viewers will see sketches from the journey, hear readings from Darwin's journals, and learn about the journey as a whole. The virtual tour is not limited to just Darwin's work as a naturalist. Darwin, A Naturalist's Voyage explores social issues of the time such as slavery.

And don't forget that Google Maps offers Street View imagery of the Galapagos Islands. The imagery can take you underwater to view fish and sea turtles, to beaches to see sea lions sunbathing, and it can take along mangrove-lined shorelines. The imagery also lets you see inside the research facilities on the Galapagos Islands. You can explore all of the imagery on the Google Maps Views website.

H/T to Open Culture for the AMNH resource.

ContextU Expands Again - A Digital Textbook on U.S. History

Last spring ContextU launched as a site to provide students with the greater context for significant events in U.S. history. In the September the site expanded to include more content on the American Revolution. Last month it expanded again to provide content on the period between George Washington's and Andrew Jackson's presidencies.

Just like the other sections of ContextU, the "New Nation" section of ContextU features a table of contents that students can open to select an event, person, or theme to see it in the context of other events and themes. Through timelines, Google Maps, diagrams, flow charts, and text ContextU provides context for each chosen event, piece of legislation, or theme. Students can jump from event to event or from theme to theme by following the hyperlinks within each diagram.

Applications for Education
The advantage of ContextU over a textbook as well as many other websites is the ease with which students can see how an event fits into the larger context of the causes of events in U.S. History.