Sunday, November 15, 2015

Three Good Ways to Use All Those Pictures Students Take

Take a look at almost any student's cell phone and you're bound to find hundreds or thousands of pictures and videos that they taken. As teachers we should put our students' picture-taking and video-taking habits to good use. There are three ways to utilize students' picture-taking habits in your classroom.

Create a b-roll gallery.
Rather than making students scour the web in a quest for public domain or Creative Commons media, let them search in a classroom gallery of media. Create a shared Google Drive, Dropbox, or Box folder to which students can upload images and videos that will allow other students use in slideshows and other multimedia projects.

Create digital portfolios of physical work. 
Have students snap pictures of work they have done on paper or another physical medium and upload them to a folder that is shared with you. Of course, students can also link to digital projects. SeeSaw, Tackk, and are great platforms for projects like this.

Tell a story.
Did your class recently go on a field trip? If so, your students probably have a slew of photos from it. Have them use those to summarize the highlights of what they learned during the field trip.

Are you trying to get students to tell stories about themselves? In that case, let them use photos to tell that story.

Adobe Spark and Pic-Collage are good tools for telling stories with pictures.

5 Good Typing Instruction and Practice Sites for Kids

Last week I wrote a post about AlfaTyping which is a good site for creating and managing online typing courses for your students. Since I published that post I have received a couple of requests for other online typing instruction and practice sites. Here are some of the others that I've tried over the years. I have tried to exclude Flash-based games from the list. offers a slew of fun typing activities for kids. One of my favorites is Typing Rocket. Typing Rocket is a sixty second game in which students make fireworks explode by typing the letters that appear on the rockets in the games. In the sixty second span of the game students try to correctly type as many letters as they possibly can. The rockets speed up as the game progresses.

Typing Club is a popular website offering free online touch typing lessons for students of all ages. Whether you use the Typing Club website or the free Chrome Web App the lessons work the same way. Typing Club provides 100 free activities that begin with the basics and progress in difficulty until you can touch type on your entire keyboard including the use of lesser-used keys like "<" and "{." As you type during each lesson you are given instant real-time feedback about your accuracy and speed. Unlike other typing lessons that make you wait until an activity is completed to determine your accuracy or speed, Typing Club recalculates that information with each keystroke.

Z-Type is a simple and fun typing game. The game has an easy level and a difficult level. The game is played the same way on both levels. To play Z-Type all that you have to do is go to the website and type the words that are falling from the top of the screen. When you have correctly typed a word a laser shoots it. The object is to shoot the words before they reach the bottom of the screen.

Dance Mat Typing is a nice little resource from the BBC. Young students (four to eight years old) can receive clear, informative typing instruction through Dance Mat Typing. There are four levels for students to work through. Within each level there are multiple lessons and practice activities. The very first lesson that students receive is placement of their hands on the keyboard. Each lesson and practice activity offers instant feedback in visual and audio form.

Power Typing hosts a small collection of five typing games that students can use to develop their typing skills. Power Typing also offers typing lessons for Qwerty and Dvorak keyboards. The two games that I found easiest to access are Alphabetic Rain and See Don't.

10 Good Resources for Geography Awareness Week

Geography Awareness Week begins today. This is my favorite academically-themed week of the year because I have enjoyed learning about geography and teaching geography for as long as I can remember. If you're looking for some resources to use this week, take a look at my list below.

Geography Games
Spacehopper is a game based on Google Maps Street View imagery. Spacehopper shows you a Street View image and you have to guess where in the world the image was captured. You can click the clue button to have the country identified before making a guess. After three incorrect guesses the correct answer will be revealed to you. You can play Spacehopper on a global level or you can specify that you only want to see images from a particular continent.

Smarty Pins is a Google Maps game develop by Google. Smarty Pins presents players with a trivia question that they have to answer by placing a pin on a map. Players earn "miles" for correctly placing a pin on the map. Players can lose miles for answering incorrectly and or taking too long to answer. Games are available in five categories; arts & culture, science & geography, sports & games, entertainment, and history & current events.

Where is...? is another good game geography game. This game uses a popular format for geography games; the name of a city is presented to the players and they have to click the map to guess where the city is located. Players are given immediate feedback on their accuracy in the form of a measurement, in kilometers, of the distance between their guesses and the correct answers.

GeoGuessr shows you a Google Street View image and a clue to try to guess where in the world the imagery was captured. Playing GeoGuessr is a fun way to get students to look at all of the visual and text clues they have in order to form a good guess as to where in the world they think the imagery came from.

Capital Toss is a free geography game from ABCya. The game has a state capitals mode and a country capitals mode. In both modes of the game works the same way. The name of a state or country appears at the bottom of the screen and three rows of capital names scroll across the top. When the correct capital name appears players virtually toss a ball at it. After ten correct answers players can choose a new ball. Three consecutive incorrect answers ends the game.

Instructional Resources
The USGS offers free topographic maps for most of the United States. The maps can be downloaded as PDFs through the USGS store. The maps can be used in the 27 suggested topographic maps lessons found in the USGS education site. All of the lessons are rated by grade level and time required for completing the activity. In the list of lesson ideas you will find suggestions for lessons about typical geography topics like coordinates, scale, and map projections as well as lesson suggestions for less common things like analysis of stereo aerial photographs and analysis of humans and hydrography.

Overlap Maps is a free service that can be used to quickly compare the size of countries, states, provinces, and some bodies of water. To create a visual comparison of two countries select one country from the "overlap this" menu and select one country from the "onto this" menu. The comparisons you make are displayed on a map. You can make comparisons from different categories. For example, you can overlap Lake Erie onto New Hampshire.

As you would expect National Geographic has a lot of resources for teaching geography lessons. Head to National Geographic's activity catalog to search through hundreds of activities and lesson plans covering a wide range of human and physical geography topics. The catalog search can be refined by grade level, but unfortunately cannot be refined by topic so you'll have to browse to find the topic you want to cover in your classroom.

Geography Videos
CGP Grey offers a handful of videos containing geography lessons. Two of my favorite are embedded below.