Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Discovering How Stuff Works

One of the reasons that I write this blog is that maintaining this blog gives me reason to constantly search for and discover new things. Sometimes what I find is new to everyone and other times what I find is only new to me and a handful of readers. This blog entry will fall into the category of new to just me and a handful of readers. This evening I spent quite a bit of time exploring How Stuff Works. Exploring probably isn't the best way to describe what I did, got lost inside How Stuff Works is probably a better description of what I did on How Stuff Works.

How Stuff Works is a product of Discovery Communications. On How Stuff Works you can find text information, videos, audio, and maps about almost any topic. I spent a lot of time looking at videos from the history and geography sections of How Stuff Works. Most of the videos are short, under ten minutes, but very educational. Visitors to How Stuff Works can find videos about the history and geography of every continent. The maps section contains maps representing a wide variety of data sets. All of the maps and videos I visited on How Stuff Works can be embedded into a blog.

Applications for Education
How Stuff Works is a great place for students and teachers to explore and find content on a wide variety of topics. Most of the content on How Stuff Works is appropriate for students ages 11 or older. The categories that seem to have the most direct relevance to schools are the history, geography, and science sections. Overall, How Stuff Works is just a great place for academically curious students and teachers to spend time learning about the topics that interest them most.

Understanding Web Search in Plain English

Common Craft has released another great video that teachers, librarians, and students will find very useful. This latest video from Common Craft explains how search engine rankings work and how to refine searches to find the information for which you are searching.

Here is Web Search Strategies in Plain English.

This subtitled version of the same video could be useful for ELL students.

Applications for Education
Take a group of students to a library to complete a research project and most of them will run to a computer and enter a search on Google or Yahoo. Before they start searching a quick look at the Common Craft video will remind them of the search strategies that they have been taught by you or another teacher. The Common Craft video is too short to be the only lesson students receive on web search strategies, but it is a great review resource.

Here are some other useful videos from Common Craft.
The Electoral College
Social Bookmarking
RSS Readers

Challenge Your Students With One of These...

The high school that I teach in is located directly across the street from a community college. Our students are lucky because the community college allows our seniors to take courses for free. This is a great way for some students to challenge themselves and get sense of what it is like to take college course. Most high schools around the world aren't located across the street from a college and therefore have to find other avenues for providing challenging curriculum to their seniors.

One way to provide challenging courses to students is to work through a college course online. Another method for challenging students would be to use the freely available curriculum and syllabuses available from universities like MIT to conduct your course for advanced high school students.

Open Culture has published a great list of free, challenging courses covering a wide range of topics from philosophy to physics. Open Culture also has a list of courses available on iTunes. If you're looking for a resource to challenge your most advanced and motivated students, check out the course lists on Open Culture.

Creative Collaboration With Scribblar

Scribblar has been heavily covered in the blog-o-sphere over the last few days. I first read about it on Monday on Center Networks. There are good reasons why Scribblar has been so well received and talked about this week, the biggest reason being, it's a great collaboration tool.

Scribblar is designed to be used by multiple users at once. Using Scribblar users can collaborate, in real-time, on the creation and editing of images and drawings. If you have an image you can upload it to your whiteboard where you and others can edit it or comment on it. The commenting can take place directly on the whiteboard or in one of two side bar chat options. Users can chat in text or in voice. The screen shot below shows some of ways that Scribblar can be used.

Applications for Education
Scribblar could be a great tool for students to use to comment on and peer critique art work and graphic designs. This would be useful when students are creating slides for a presentation or a creating other original designs. Scribblar could be a more effective collaboration tool than some its competitors because it does have two options for dialog, text chat and audio chat.