Sunday, March 29, 2009

5 Fun, Interesting, and Educational Things on Twitter

I've written a lot about Twitter as a tool for personal and professional learning. The blog post Seven Ways to Find Teachers on Twitter is one of the most read posts ever on this blog. I read hundreds of tweets a day, many of those tweets share links that are interesting and educational, but don't quite fit with the intent of Free Technology for Teachers and therefore I don't blog about them.

This morning I had the idea to start saving some of those aforementioned links along with the name of the Twitter user who shared the link and post my favorite five tweets of the day. I'll post the link along with the name of the Twitter user. My intent is two fold, first to share interesting links and second to help people build their Twitter networks. (Out of respect for privacy, I will not share Twitter users who have protected their updates. Likewise, if your updates aren't protected but you still don't want me to link to your Twitter id, please contact me at richardbyrne at

I welcome feedback on this idea. If you think it's a good idea or if you think it's a rotten, terrible idea please let me know.

1. Nine Great Reasons Why Teachers Should Use Twitter from @mrslwalker

2. 360 Degree Views from the Peak of Mt. Everest from @misterlamb

3. Transforming Teaching In Plain English from @angelastockman

4. Smart Board Revolution Ning from @paulawhite

5. Thoreau Page

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Newspapers to Blogs - Blogging Through History

This morning the CBS Sunday Morning Show had a good, but long segment discussing the demise of the newspaper industry. Later in the show, they ran a shorter segment featuring the Fast Draw team making comparisons between developments in the history of newspapers to the current evolution of blogging and crowd-sourced news. The video draws a comparison between the development of steam powered printing presses making newspapers more plentiful at the end of the 19th century and the Internet making news websites and blogs plentiful today. The best part of the video is the visualizations at the end. If you have a two and a half minutes, the video is worth watching.

Watch CBS Videos Online

Applications for Education
There are a couple of items in the video that could be used in a history classroom. The video mentions the role Thomas Paine's and other pamphlet makers' roles in American Revolution. The video also mentions the role of improved printing presses and yellow journalism in the dissemination of news in US history.

The visualization at the end of the video makes it clear that the history of the news industry has a repeating pattern.

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The Planets in Orbit Visualized

When I was young, one of the fixtures of elementary school science was building a model of the solar system. I built one, my younger sister built one, and by the time my younger brothers went through school, I was a solar system model building expert.

Today, I found on the excellent Chalk Dust blog a link to a visualization of the planets in orbit. The visualization was created by Gunn Interactive. Using this interactive visualization tool students can see the different rates of orbit for all of the planets. Students can zoom in and zoom out to see more or less of the planets. Students can also adjust the speed of the orbits.

Applications for Education
This interactive visualization of the solar system is a great resource for elementary and middle school science classes. Students can see the differences in rate of orbit from planet to planet.

Here are some related resources that may be of interest to you:
A Tour of the Solar System
Star Child - Space Lessons for Young Astronomers
Amazing Space

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Just Watched "Shift Happens"... Again

I just watched an updated version of "Shift Happens." Earlier this month Maine announced that the one-to-one laptop program is expanding to include all high school students. I'm very excited about the expansion of the program. Unfortunately, it seems that not all teachers and administrators are as excited as I am. I've already heard rumblings that some schools are considering not participating in the program. Perhaps those teachers and administrators should watch "Shift Happens" too.

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BrainyFlix Vocab Contest - Voting Starts Tomorrow

BrainyFlix is a contest that asks students to create short videos demonstrating the meaning of SAT vocabulary words. All of the videos have been submitted and posted on the BrainyFlix website. Tomorrow, the voting begins on the BrainyFlix website. If you're looking for an educational online activity for your students, have them watch and vote on the vocabulary videos.

Applications for Education
Students across the country will soon be taking the SAT. Watching some BrainyFlix videos might not be a bad way for students to review vocabulary words.

A couple of related resources that may be on interest to you are:
EduFire SAT Flashcards
PrepHub - Collaborative Test Preparation

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Special Note for Email Subscribers

Yesterday, some subscribers to the email feed for Free Technology for Teachers may not have received updates due to a problem with FeedBurner (the service I use for email delivery). This appears to be just a glitch and you should now be getting emails from Free Technology for Teachers on the regular schedule again. I apologize for any inconvenience.

Weboword - Vocabulary Visualized

Weboword is a fun little website designed to help students learn new vocabulary words. Each of the vocabulary words on Weboword have cartoon drawings depicting the meaning of that word. Students are encouraged to submit their own drawings to Weboword. Weboword also offers crossword puzzles for students to try. Weboword appears to be a relatively new website, but the idea of the website is a good one. I hope that Weboword is able to get some traction and become a larger depot of vocabulary words and activities.

Applications for Education
The idea of having students create drawings to depict the meaning of a vocabulary word is a good one. You can use the Weboword concept with any collection of vocabulary words that you may have. The words that are currently featured on Weboword are probably best suited to use in a middle school or high school setting.

A couple of related resources that may be on interest to you are:
Save the Words
Brainy Flix
Free Rice

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