Friday, October 31, 2008

October's Most Popular Content

For a while now, at the end of every week I've listed the week's most popular content. Since today is the last day of the week and of the month I thought I should share the month's most popular content. Here are the five most read blog items of October:

1. Great Timeline Builders
2. National Atlas Map Maker
3. 170+ Intelligent, Educational YouTube Videos
4. Math Games, Word Games, Strategy Games, and More
5. Fun and Educational Games for K-8

In the month of October the subscriber count for Free Technology for Teachers soared from just under 500 to nearly 900. A warm welcome to all the new subscribers. And a hearty thank-you to all of the people that have been subscribing for almost one year now. Next month is the one year anniversary of Free Technology for Teachers. If you haven't subscribed yet, please consider doing so. Subscribing only takes a minute and it will save you time as well as keep you update on all of the newest content on Free Technology for Teachers.

Math + Egyptian History = Good Learning Activity

I walked by one of our computer labs today and saw one of my colleagues using this activity with a group of Freshmen. Ancient Egyptian Math is a web quest developed for use with middle school students, but the high school kids I saw using it today seemed to be enjoying and learning from the lesson. The activity includes a little history as well as math.

Google Earth Gets Political (kind of)

One of the things that makes Google Earth and Google Maps so popular is its flexibility for representing so many types of data. Yesterday, on the Google LatLong blog I found a KMZ file representing the voting outcomes of each US Presidential Election since 1980. Much of the same information is also available in a Google Map (embedded below).

Applications for Education
This file and map is a good visual depiction of voting results, but more importantly it represents yet another way to incorporate Google Maps or Google Earth into the classroom. An interesting use of this concept in middle school or high school classes would be to have students gather voting data from a local or state election and place that data into a Google Earth project. For example, an question on the ballot in Maine this fall is whether or not to allow the building of a casino in Oxford County. After the election next week students could gather the break down of votes by county state-wide and create visual representations of the vote.

A Lesson Plan for After the Election

Teaching Tolerance is a monthly publication that I have received at school for a few years now. Almost every month I find something that eventually works its way into my classroom. Currently on the Teaching Tolerance website there is a good lesson idea about teaching tolerance for differing political viewpoints. The lesson plan provides a framework for holding classroom discussion in response to the outcome of next Tuesday's election. Additionally, there are suggestions for a writing activity. What I particularly like about the lesson plan are the suggestions for including the concepts of Mix It Up Day into the learning experience.

Applications for Education
The suggested lesson plan, Crossing Political Boundaries, provides a good framework for classroom discussion about politics. Having political discussions in the classroom can be a volatile/ emotional experience for some students having a good framework for conversation ahead can make the experience less emotional and more educational for all participants.

Engrade Disappears at a Crucial Time for Teachers

Throughout the week I have been receiving emails and blog comments about problems with Engrade. Earlier this week there were times when Engrade was exceptionally slow and some users reported not being able to access their accounts at all. As of Thursday at 11am EST I was still able to access my account. This morning I awoke to blog comments and emails asking me if I knew what happened to Engrade. The entire Engrade website is down, there is not even a "fail" message or a status page from Engrade. As of 12:10pm EST I have not heard anything from Engrade regarding the problems they are experiencing.

For teachers who have their grades on Engrade and no where else the failure of Engrade is a huge problem. In many school districts around the country today is the end of the first marking period. I feel awful for those of you that use Engrade. If you started using Engrade after I wrote my review of it August I feel partly responsible for your situation. I do try to avoid reviewing services that I think are not going to be viable in the long-run. I never suspected Engrade of being a service that would disappear almost overnight.

This problem with Engrade is an example of why some school districts prefer to host their own student management systems rather than rely on others. That said, two years ago my school district's servers crashed and took grades with them. The grades were recovered eventually, but it was iffy for a few days. Since then I have printed my grade reports every time I update my grade book.