Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Email Delivery Problems Resolved

I just realized that some subscribers to the Free Technology for Teachers email may not have received today's or yesterday's email. FeedBurner, the service I use to delivery the email, has been experiencing some problems during the last 24 hours. I apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused. Email delivery should be back to normal now.

Tagedu - Human Edited Search Engine for Lesson Plans

Tagedu is a new search engine dedicated to helping teachers find resources to use in the classroom. Tagedu searches tags associated with websites rather than the text of a website. The idea is the tags assigned by people to websites are more indicative of a website's content than basic text search.

I gave Tagedu a try this evening and found that the results pages are little lean right now. When I searched for the tag "US History" I didn't get any results although when I searched just "history" I did get some decent results. I didn't count all the resources available, but it seems that between Larry Ferlazzo's blog and this blog you could find just as many resources.

What I like about Tagedu is the human edited aspect of the service. Compared to doing a generic Google search for lesson plans, Tagedu is a great service.

Applications for Education
For teachers new to the profession that need help developing lesson plans, Tagedu could be a good asset. Tagedu seems to eliminate most of the websites selling lesson plans which makes it appealing to me because I could never understand why anyone would buy a lesson plan.

34 Ways to Use RSS

Louis Gray is a tech blogger that I've been following for about six month now. One of the topics that he often explores is the myriad of way in which RSS feeds and readers can be used. On Monday, he had a guest writer, Mike Fruchter who posted a great piece titled 30 Different Uses for RSS. The list is primarily focused on average consumer uses of RSS, but there are some suggestions which could apply to educators. Fruchter suggests subscribing the President's Weekly Radio Address and subscribing to the NASA feed.

Applications for Education
Extending Fruchter's idea I've listed some uses of RSS for educators and students.

1. If you maintain a blog or website for your classroom, using a service like RSS Mixer to place related content from websites related to your content area is useful for helping students to discover content that they might not otherwise access.

2. If you have students tracking topics over the course of a week or more, consider having them use RSS readers. Generally, there are far fewer distractions, advertising, in the content delivered via RSS than there are on the actual website or blog.

3. For those conducting or taking classes online, RSS is a must. This is particularly true if your class requires contributions to discussions. Following an RSS feed is much easier than trying to see who posted what, where.

4. Piggybacking on #2 above, using an RSS Reader like Google Reader is great way to keep yourself current on developments in your content area. If you're new to using RSS start small by subscribing to a handful of the websites and blogs that you visit regularly. After you accustomed to reading content in an RSS reader, you'll find yourself adding subscriptions.

Still not sure what RSS can do for you? Watch this short video from Common Craft.

Freshman Fund - Give the Gift of Education

Freshman Fund is a fairly new service that I learned about through Center Networks. Freshman Fund is essentially a gift registry for 529 college savings plans. Users can register on the website to receive contributions to their 529 plan.

This service looks like it could be a good way for "long lost" relatives to donate to a child's college savings fund. This holiday season when "that" uncle or aunt asks what they should give to your child you can direct him or her to Freshman Fund through which they can make a contribution to the child's 529 savings plan.

This video recorded by Allen Stern of Center Networks features Freshman Fund's founder explaining the service.

Lesson Plans for Geography Awareness Week

Next week, November 16-22, is Geography Awareness Week. In preparation for Geography Awareness Week, National Geographic has published a good list of free lesson plans and activities. The lesson plans are categorized according to grade level. One of the activities that I think would be a lot of fun and a great way to get a lot of students involved in Geography Awareness week is to create a wall size map of the Americas. Click here to read more about creating a wall size map of the Americas.

View Ancient Rome in Google Earth... A Chance to Win Stuff Too

I'll start this blog post by stating the obvious, I love Google Earth and Google Maps. Today, Google gave me another reason to love Google Earth. Starting today, the public gallery of layers now includes a 3-D fly-over tour of Ancient Rome. You can explore more than 6000 3-D drawings of buildings in Ancient Rome. At each placemark in the tour you can explore historical information. The short video below shows you how to access this new layer as well as some of the things that can done with the Ancient Rome layer.

Applications for Education
The Ancient Rome layer is obviously useful for history teachers, but could also be useful for literature teachers. Literature teachers may want to provide their students with some visual perspectives of stories that students are reading.

Google Earth is useful in so many content areas because of its flexibility. Over the course of the last twelve months I've seen, and shared with readers, examples of using Google Earth in History, English, Math, and Science classrooms. If you feel confident developing curriculum using Google Earth, you may want to consider entering the Ancient Rome 3-D Curriculum Competition. Winners receive a prize package that includes a MacBook and $500 gift cards to Target or Office Depot.

Code of Best Practices... Media Literacy Education

Fair use practices with regard to using copyrighted materials in the classroom can be a complicated and confusing topic for educators. The Center for Social Media at American University has published a document, The Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Literacy Education, to guide teachers and provide clarity about the use of copyrighted materials in the classroom. The document is twenty pages long and can be downloaded here or you can read a summary of it on the Center for Social Media's website.

The video below is an introduction to the document.