Monday, March 16, 2009

Create a Homepage With Scholastic Homepage Builder

Every time that I explore the Scholastic website I find something that I hadn't noticed on my previous visit. On my most recent visit to the Scholastic website I discovered that they offer a free website builder for teachers. The Scholastic Class Homepage Builder has a simple and intuitive user interface with very clear step-by-step set up directions. While you can embed videos and some other media, the Class Homepage Builder is really designed for teachers making their first attempts at creating an online resource for their classrooms. The Scholastic Class Homepage Builder allows teachers to include Scholastic News headlines, assignments, post announcements, and pre-made online activities for students.

Applications for Education
The Scholastic Class Homepage Builder provides teachers who have never made a blog or website with an easy-to-use tool to get started creating an online presence for students and parents to visit. The themes, layouts, and pre-made activities that can be included in the homepage are designed for students in grades K-8.

Here are some other free resources for creating a class homepage:
Free Webs

On Sugar

An 8th Way to Find Teachers on Twitter - We Follow

To follow up on the popularity of my blog post Seven Ways to Find Teachers on Twitter I thought that I should share the news of a new service that makes it quite easy to find educators on Twitter. We Follow was launched over the weekend by Digg founder Kevin Rose. We Follow is a user powered Twitter directory. You can add yourself to the education directory by simply sending a tweet to @wefollow followed by the hashtag "education." For example I added myself to the education directory this way @wefollow #education. I also added myself to the technology and blogger directories using the same method.

We Follow ranks every Twitter user in each directory by the number of followers that they have. For example, in the education directory I'm currently ranked 28th with 1,216 followers and Kevin Jarrett is ranked 14th with 2071 followers. By the way, if you're not following Kevin, you should be. He shares a lot of great thoughts about elementary education and technology in the elementary classroom. As it is a user generated directory, there may be some people in the directory that aren't actually academic educators, but have chosen to use that hashtag anyway.

Overall, We Follow may be the easiest way to find teachers on Twitter. If you would like to follow me on Twitter, my user name is rmbyrne.

If you're not sure what Twitter can do for you, please take a moment to read the introduction to my post Seven Ways to Find Teachers on Twitter. If you're new to Twitter, you may want to start developing your network with these ten people.

Finally, for an excellent video introduction to Twitter, please watch this video from Common Craft.

Award Winning Google Earth Lesson Plans

Today, Google announced the winners of their Google Ancient Rome in 3D Curriculum Competition. There were three winners in the grades 9-12 category and three winners in the grades K-8 category. On the Google for Education site you can find each of the winning lesson plans in pdf format. One of the winners in the 9-12 category, Benjamin Johnson of Hampden Academy in Maine, created a video overview of his lesson plan. I've embedded the video below.

Applications for Education
If Roman History is a part of the curriculum that you teach, these lesson plans provide an excellent opportunity to integrate technology into your instruction.

Howard Zinn's A People's History in a Free Digital Form

Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States is a book that my school's history department uses as an alternative and supplement to the standard US History textbooks. This morning I learned from the US History Teachers Blog that you can find a free digital copy of the book on the website History is a Weapon. Each chapter is published a separate file so that you don't have to scroll through 600 pages to find what you want. You can access the book here.

To learn more about Howard Zinn watch his presentation for Authors@Google from November 2008.

Applications for Education
We seem to lose a few copies of it every year to students that don't return it. Now we have a place where we can find an electronic copy for students to read.

The video provides students and teachers with some insight into the author's thoughts.

New Updates Coming Soon from Pixton

Through Allen Stern's coverage of the SXSW conference I've learned about an upcoming improvement to the comic creation tool Pixton. Some readers may recognize Pixton from my list of comic creation tools. Pixton is an intuitive drag and drop comic creation tool. Pixton not only allows users to choose the characters for their comic, they can also create positions and poses for the characters.

In the next 1-2 months Pixton will be making a new editing tool available to users. Users will be able to take their comics and put them into motion with the Pixton Remixable Cartoon Animator. You can see a preview of the tool here or watch the video embedded below (I apologize for the pre-roll commercial, I have no control over that).

Applications for Education
Pixton offers a version of their service specifically designed for classroom use. Pixton for Schools allows teachers to create private rooms that only their students can access. This allows students to share work with each other, but no one else.

Good Advice for Student Travelers

Spring and Summer (in the northern hemisphere) is typically when most student travel takes place. My school has a group of students and two teachers going to Greece for a week in April (yes, I'm a little jealous). Today, I came across a good list of tips for travelers staying in youth hostels. This list is written by Justin Wright, a twenty-something digital nomad who writes about travel, freelancing, and other assorted twenty-something thoughts. His list is simply titled 5 Tips to Protect Your Stuff in Hostels. It's common sense advice that every student should read before checking into a youth hostel. If you have students traveling this spring, print this list and share it with them.

Explore the Cycle Wins at SXSW!

As Mashable and other tech blogs are reporting, Explore the Cycle won the SXSW (South By Southwest) award for best educational web resource. I wrote about Explore the Cycle last month as a resource for teaching about recycling, consumerism, and environmental science. You can read more about Expore the Cycle here.

Another great educational web resource that was up for the same award is Tenement Museum. Tenement Museum is an interactive virtual museum designed for elementary and middle school students to experience what it was like to be an immigrant to the United States at the beginning of the 20th century. I actually used Tenement Museum with my class of special education students and they enjoyed using and learned quite a bit from the experience.

If you haven't looked at these two excellently designed resources, I encourage you to take a few minutes to try both.

For High School Students - Buying Your First Car

Today's episode of CNN Student News includes some good advice for high school students (and adults) to consider before buying that first used car. The car buying advice appears in the middle of the episode. The video is embedded below.

Applications for Education
This video might be worth including in a driver education class.