Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Interactive Virtual Aquarium and Marine Science Lessons

Shedd Aquarium in Chicago has a great collection of interactive learning activities. The activities are categorized according to grade level and vary in format. Some of the interactive activities are like video games (Squish the Fish for 1st graders) while others are more like virtual scavenger hunts (Conservation Investigation). The games and virtual scavenger hunts could easily take students an hour or longer to complete and the students would learn something new throughout the activity. In addition to the interactive activities, Shedd Aquarium provides a host of great Marine Science lesson plans for grades K-12.

Biz Ed - Economics Lessons and Virtual Field Trips

BizEd is a great resource for economics lessons and virtual field trips. I started using BizEd a few years ago and it has been a valuable resource to me ever since. BizEd is a UK based website so some of the lessons and activities have to be manipulated a little bit for use in US classrooms, but the overall value of activities is fantastic. Some of the highlights for teachers are frequently updated lesson plans, a comprehensive glossary of terms, slide shows available for download, and fantastic virtual field trips. BizEd even has an RSS feed that provides subscribers to updates in the lesson plans, activities, and reference section of BizEd.

Applications for Education
BizEd's virtual field trips and interactive activities make learning about economics a hands-on experience for students. The BizEd virtual field trips are very comprehensive, but they can be easily shortened or altered for your needs. The developing country field trip, based on Zambia, is one that I've used successfully for three years with my 9th grade students.

The BBC's Day in Pictures - Worth One Thousand Lessons

The BBC runs a feature every day called the Day in Pictures that displays a small collection of photographs from around the world. For years I've used this resource as a conversation starter for current events discussions in my Contemporary World Studies class. The Day in Pictures collections are part of a much larger resource from the BBC simply called In Pictures. The In Pictures resource provides hundreds of images in a variety collections and slide shows about current events throughout the world. Some of the slide shows even include narration. All of the images include captions explaining what is happening in the picture and a little background knowledge about the event being photographed.

Applications for Education
The In Pictures collections from the BBC are great conversation starters for current events discussions. The collections are also great supplementary material for students to use in presentations about current events. For visual learners the images from the In Pictures collections are helpful for providing visual connections and context to a story.

Free Technology For Teachers: Websites That Keep Users' Attention

Yesterday, Techcrunch ran a story with this image (among others) in response to Morgan Stanley's evaluation of Internet trends. As you can see in the image to the left part of the story was about why Facebook is growing faster than Myspace. The explanation offered in the image to the left is based on the visual design of a site including the placement of advertising and the type of advertising displayed. As I thought about it I realized the explanation given and demonstrated in that image does explain exactly why I use Facebook and not Myspace (I did use Myspace at one time). When I'm evaluating websites to include on this blog one of the biggest items I take into consideration is the number of advertisements and the intrusiveness of the advertisements. If there are too many advertisements or the advertisements are intrusive to the point that they detract from the educational value of the website I do not include those websites on the blog.

To see if this pattern of gravitating toward websites with less intrusive advertising held true for high school students I did a little survey with my students. Only a handful of my students use both Myspace and Facebook, but of the ones that do use both all said that they prefer Facebook. Interestingly, all that use Myspace exclusively say that the advertising is annoying, but that they stay with Myspace because that is where their friends are and or they're more familiar with Myspace. So in the case of my 60 students familiarity and friends were worth the annoyance of intrusive advertising. My little study is inconclusive so I'm going to do a little more research tomorrow with some students by having them evaluate some of the websites I've written about on this blog or have considered writing about on this blog. In the meantime if you have any ideas about what makes students gravitate toward a particular website or use one website over another, please leave a comment.

Just For Fun - Mac v. PC the Euro Version

Just thought I'd pass along some humor for the devoted Mac users out there.