Thursday, March 27, 2008

Free Technology For Teachers: Digital Booktalks - Movie Trailers for Books

From the University of Central Florida comes a really great website that should get kids interested in books. Digital Booktalk provides "movie trailer" style videos about books. It's a great idea, for most kids the "book trailers" are far more interesting than reading the dust jacket of a book. In addition to the video introduction, Digital Booktalk provides information about the reading level (lexile range), the genre, and the length of each book.

Applications for Educators
Digital Booktalk is a good resource for helping students select independent readings that are interesting to them and reading level appropriate. Digital Booktalk has a companion site called UB the Director which provides lesson plans and
ideas for having students make their own "book trailers."

Free Technology For Teachers: Photoshop Express

Adobe's PhotoShop Express is a new, free, web based version of Adobe's very popular PhotoShop software. PhotoShop Express doesn't have all of the features that the regular PhotoShop offers, but compared to other free photo editors, PhotoShop Express is very good. For schools that cannot afford or justify the cost of buying PhotoShop, the free Express version is a great alternative. PhotoShop Express introduces students to many of the basics of digital image editing. The skills students develop on PhotoShop Express will serve them well if they have a need or opportunity to use PhotoShop in the future. If you're wondering if introducing students to PhotoShop Express over another free program is a good idea, consider that PhotoShop is one of the most ubiquitous image editing programs in the publishing/ media industry.

Free Technology For Teachers: Video Timeline of Iraq War

This week Frontline is airing a two part series called Bush's War about the War in Iraq. Regardless of where you stand politically, the Frontline website has some good resources for Social Studies teachers. One of the aspects of the Frontline website is the annotated video timeline of US and Iraq relations. The timeline span begins in the 1980's and continues through today. Along the timeline Frontline has inserted 175 videos related to US/ Iraq relations. Frontline has also posted on their website a list of news articles and editorials related to the War in Iraq. The readings are sorted into categories roughly matching the sequence of the documentary.

Applications for Educators
Frontline's documentary, Bush's War, in and of itself is a good resource for social studies teachers. The various features of the accompanying website are excellent resources for Social Studies teachers. The video timeline is good way to for students to explore the ins and outs of the War in Iraq. A teacher could break a class into groups to study in depth one year on the timeline through videos and readings. Then the class could collaborate to make a timeline in their own words highlighting what they think is most important. (I did something like this last year where I had my high school students create a presentation about the War in Iraq that they could share with elementary school students).

Here is the video introduction to Frontline's documentary Bush's War.