Monday, May 19, 2008

Kids Past - History Textbook and Games for Kids

Kids Past has put together an easy to read World History "textbook" for kids. Kids Past also offers five history games to which students can apply the knowledge the find in the textbook. The textbook and games correspond to each other.

Applications for Education
The Kids Past World History textbook could be a nice supplement to a classroom textbook or lesson. A teacher could use the games as a review activity for students. With the congruence between the textbook and the games a student could have two browser tabs or windows open and refer back to the textbook when they get stuck on a question. Educational games like those offered on Kids Past can be super opportunities to assess a student's learning in an informal environment that they enjoy. Educational games are also a method of allowing students to progress at a self determined pace.

Blog Talk Radio - A Skype Alternative

Blog Talk Radio is a free service that enables bloggers to host call-in shows. Blog Talk Radio is a completely web-based utility, there is no software to download. Blog Talk Radio works with your computer and a phone. Blog Talk Radio provides the place (number for participants to call) and records the conversation for you. The recordings are automatically archived and turned into podcasts for you.

Applications for Education
If you and your students have a class blog, Blog Talk Radio could be a great way to connect with other student bloggers around the world. Teachers can connect their class with another class to discuss any topic and gain alternative viewpoints on just about any topic. If you're wondering how to connect with other classrooms around the world, try a service like ePals or use your Twitter (here's a great example of teachers connecting with Twitter) network to find other teachers.

A Great Use of Facebook In the Classroom

Students love it, school network administrators hate it, no matter how you look at it, Facebook is a significant part of most teens' online lives. A colleague of mine is trying to capitalize on his students' love of Facebook by making Facebook an integral part of his literature course. What this teacher is doing is having his students create Facebook profiles for the characters in The Great Gatsby. The activity doesn't stop there. In addition to creating Facebook profiles for the characters he is having his students write wall posts and blogs as the character for whom they created a Facebook page. For example, the student who creates a Facebook profile for Nick might write on the wall of Facebook profile created for Daisy.

The obvious problem with this lesson is that most schools try to block access to Facebook on school computers. Despite that logistical problem, this lesson has great potential for students to really delve into character analysis.

A Marketer Reflects on Today's Office Workers

Seth Godin is a very successful marketer and author. Seth writes only one or two blog posts each day and each one is a gem. I'm sure that Seth's intended audience is not teachers and school administrator's yet I always seem to find something on his blog that has meaning or value for those of us in public education.

Today Seth Godin wrote a blog post, The New Standard for Meetings and Conferences in which he describes what conference and meeting attendees expect from their interactions with you. Seth writes "if you're a knowledge worker, your boss shouldn't make you come to the (expensive) office every day unless there's something there that makes it worth your trip. She needs to provide you with resources or interactions or energy you can't find at home or at Starbucks." Seth's argument is predicated by the idea that if video conferencing, online conversations, and collaborative online work spaces are constantly improving then what is the point of coming to an office if you're not going to be having interactions that cannot be had electronically?

Seth's blog post
got me thinking about the type of work that our students are going to be doing in the future. With transportation costs reaching all-time highs and web conferencing technologies constantly improving our students' future employers are going to expect that they can be productive using web-based applications. If an employee can, in a knowledge or data driven job, work from home or Starbucks and sporadically meet with colleagues then there is little financial incentive for the employer to maintain a large, permanent, cubicle-based office. The future work of our students is undefined, many will be working in jobs that don't exist today, preparing them to work with web-based technology regardless of content area has to be a function of today's teacher.

MapWing - Build Your Own Virtual Tour

Mapwing is a free web-based tool for creating your own virtual tours. If you have a digital camera and Internet access you can build a virtual tour. Mapwing virtual tours can easily be shared via url link or embedding into a blog or website. With Mapwing users can create a map of an area or building and then add placemarks with images along the map. The one feature I would like to see added to Mapwing in the future is the option of adding video to the placemarks along a virtual tour. The virtual tour embedded below demonstrates how a Mapwing virtual tour works.

Applications for Education
Mapwing could be used by students to illustrate the plot of a story. Students could construct the map of a story and then add images along the tour. This would work particularly well with non-fiction or historical fiction stories. The option to add captions to each image on a virtual tour might be a could way for students to create an original story using images they have taken or images they have found on the Internet. Mapwing might also be used by students to recreate their experience on an actual field trip or to tell the story of a family vacation.