Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Math Playground Cooperative Project

Math Playground is a great website for all kinds of math activities. Math Playground has a great selection of math games, puzzles, and word problems categorized by grade. The website also has section where students can view videos of math problems being solved and explained. Students can submit their own math problem video suggestions on Math Playground.

The really exciting thing about Math Playground is the Mathcasts 500 Project. The idea behind the project is to have students add to a continuously expanding Voice Thread about math. Students add their own problems and solutions to the Voice Thread to share with other students around the world. Embedded below is a sample from the Mathcasts 500 Project.

Applications for Education
Math Playground's Mathcast 500 Project is a great way to introduce students to Web 2.0 tools while at the same time helping them to learn math skills.

Congressman Kirk Wants to Block His Own Website

Rep. Mark Kirk of Illinois would like to ban access to Second Life and all commercial social networking websites and chatrooms. Rep. Kirk previously sponsored similar legislation that had support in the House but failed in the Senate in 2006. Yesterday, Rep. Kirk held a press conference to announce his support of banning access to Second Life and commercial social networking websites at schools and libraries that receive federal aid. The legislation Rep. Kirk sponsored in 2006 was written broadly enough that any website allowing interaction via registered comments could be considered a social networking website. Youtube for example has a commenting system that would fall under this category.

A quick look at Rep. Kirk's campaign website reveals that he has endorsement videos hosted by Youtube on his campaign website. Under the broad language of Rep. Kirk's proposal, access to his own campaign website could be blocked at public libraries on the grounds that it contains elements of commercial social networking. Like most politicians seeking election or reelection Rep. Kirk has a Facebook profile. Would Rep. Kirk like to block potential voters and constituents from accessing positive information about himself?

I am certainly not against taking measures to protect students when they're online, but taking broad stroke measures is not the way to do it. Educating students about avoiding online dangers is far more effective than preventing them from accessing any website that might have potential dangers. Finally, of all websites to single out, why did Rep. Kirk pick Second Life which has better built in protections than many other social networking services and games?

Minnesota Zoo Adventures

The Minnesota Zoo has some fun activities and games that students can use to learn about tigers and wolves. The tiger portion of the Minnesota Zoo's website has five games designed for students age 10 and above. There are five activities or games in the tiger section. All five games can be played online.

The Wolf Quest game connected to the Minnesota Zoo's website has more features and can be played for longer periods of time than the tiger activities. The Wolf Quest has to be downloaded and installed in order to be played. Wolf Quest is available for PC and Mac operating systems.

Applications for Education
The three of the five tiger activities are loosely connected to each other. In the first game students track down a loose tiger by using a variety of clues provided to them. In the second game students design a zoo exhibit to house the tiger in. Then in the third game students find a mate for the tiger based on information they gather about tiger biology. Together these three activities can be used to make a great lesson plan about biology and using research to solve a variety of problems.

Photoshop Express Update- Now Embeddable

Photshop Express, the slimmed down, online version of the very popular Photoshop software has just released two updates. First, Photoshop Express can now be used with Flickr. The more important update is that Photoshop Express now has an embeddable player that users can place in a blog or other website. For those not interested in embedding their galleries in other places, Photoshop Express still assigns a unique url for each gallery.

Applications for Education
When Photoshop Express launched in late March I wrote about how it might be used in education. You can read that blog entry here. The way I'm currently using Photoshop Express with some of my students is by having them create slide presentations to match the creative stories they're writing about what they imagine a trip to India would be like.