Monday, June 8, 2009

Debategraph - Diagrams of Global Debates

Debate Graph is a great resource that students can use to evaluate the many arguments in hot-button global topics. By providing webbed diagrams of arguments students can see and explore the many facets of debate.

To find a debate, visit the gallery of debates on Debate Graph. There are two options for exploring debates. The simplest way to is use the "explorer view" of a debate. The "explorer view" provides an easy to explore webbed diagram. To explore a debate students just need to click on any of the connected circles in a diagram. To explore a debate in the most depth, select the "mapper view" which gives you access to all of the information used in the creation of webbed diagrams. If you want to create your own debate diagram or contribute to one that is already started register for free on Debate Graph.

Applications for Education
Rarely are debates a simple two-sided matter. Debate Graph provides students with a great tool for exploring the many facets of debates. Students could also create their own Debate Graphs in preparation for an in-person debate with classmates.

Here are some related resources that may be of interest to you:
Opposing Views - Experts Debate Public Policy and More
ProCon - Helping Students Evaluate Controversial Topics

Lexipedia Webbed Word Connections

One of the best reasons for teachers to be on Twitter is the wealth of knowledge that is shared between users. Today, shortly after someone posted a link to my blog entry about Visuwords two other people posted responses each including a link to Lexipedia. Anne Marie also told us about Lexipedia in her comment on the Visuwords post.

Lexipedia, like Visuwords, provides the definitions of words along with a webbed diagram of related words and their definitions. In addition to definitions and diagrams, Lexipedia offers audio pronunciations of words although when I tested it the audio didn't seem to be working properly. In my side-by-side comparison of Lexipedia and Visuwords, both performed equally well, but occasionally offered different definitions and connections for the same word.

Applications for Education
Lexipedia, like Visuwords, is a good alternative to Visual
Thesaurus. Lexipedia makes it easy for students to explore alternative word choices and connections between words.

Typing Web - Free Typing Lessons

Perhaps because I never learned proper typing technique, I am fascinated by typing tutorials and games that provide instant feedback about my typing skills, or lack thereof. Typing Web is one of those tutorials that provides instant feedback after every free typing lesson. Typing Web offers beginner through advanced typing lessons for free. You can register to track your progress or you can use Typing Web without registering.

Applications for Education
Typing Web's free lessons are designed for individual use on home computers making it a good place for students to practice on their own. Typing Web does offer a paid service that allows teachers to create student accounts and monitor their students' progress.

Here are some related resources that may be of interest to you:
Listen and Write - Practice Typing and Hear the News
Touch Typing Practice

Google SketchUp Design a Shelter Competition

Google and the Guggenheim Museum have teamed up to create the Design a Shelter competition. Participants in the contest have to design a geographically appropriate shelter using Google SkethUp. After designing their shelters contestants must place their shelter models in Google Earth. The competition is an extension of the Guggenheim's Learning by Doing exhibition. All entries must be submitted by August 23. Anyone over the ge of 13 can enter. You can all of the contest requirements here or here.

The video below offers some information that you need to know in order to participate in the contest.

Applications for Education
It's too bad that this contest is being run in the summer (northern hemisphere) because it would be a great project for geography students and or art students to participate in. The concept of the contest could easily be applied to geography and or art class. By creating an environmentally, geographically appropriate shelter students can demonstrate their understanding of climates.

Here are some related resources that may be of interest to you:
KML Factbook - 2D and 3D Mapped Data Displays
Award Winning Google Earth Lesson Plans
Educational Google Earth Files

Free PDF Creation and Merging

This is a guest post by David Andrade who is a physics teacher in my home state of Connecticut. David writes The Educational Technology Guy blog. I do occasionally run guest posts on this blog. If you're a classroom teacher that would like to share with 7000 daily subscribers how you're using technology in your classroom, please contact me at richardbyrne (at)

Portable Document Format, more commonly known as PDF, is a great standardized format to use for files. Adobe Acrobat is one of the premier PDF creation and editing programs available, but it is expensive. There are free alternatives for teachers to use.

I post all of my files for students as PDF files so that they can not be edited. Also, everyone can get a free PDF reader, such as Acrobat Reader to view the files so I don’t have to worry about a student not having the software to view the file.

Creating the PDF file is very simple. I create the original file using a word processor or presentation program and then convert it to a PDF file using CutePDF Writer. CutePDF Writer is a free utility that installs onto your computer like a printer. You create your original file and then “print” it. Instead of selecting your printer, you select “CutePDF.” The software will convert the file to PDF form and ask you were you would like to save it. You can also use it to “print” any file, including web pages, to a PDF file. I use this often to save web articles for reading later.

There is also a free application available that allows you to merge multiple PDF files into one PDF file. Quick PDF tools is a great resource. The software is easy to install and very easy to use and the website has easy to follow instructions. You simply select the PDF files you want to merge in Windows Explorer, right click, select QuickPDF tools, and select merge. You can then order them in the window in the order you want them merged, and then select merge. It is really that easy.

I have used both applications to create PDF files from PowerPoint presentation handouts and then merge those PDF files with downloaded PDF files to create a single file guidebook that I use when teaching Google for Educators.

I love the ability to save any file as a PDF file. I use it to post files to my class website for students to use, as well as to make backup copies of files that I know I will be able to open on any computer, regardless of the operating system or software.

The First UN World Oceans Day

Today is the United Nations' first World Oceans Day. The Google Lat Long Blog has linked to six items designed to raise awareness and educate viewers about the oceans ans seas. As an avid fisherman I naturally gravitated toward the Google Earth representations of overfishing. The Where Will it Float Google Earth files may appeal to students' curiosities as it shows where a plastic bottle will go when tossed into the ocean. You can see all of the visualizations developed by Google here.

Applications for Education
These visualizations developed by Google for World Oceans Day could be used in Earth Science or Marine Science classes.

Here are some related resources that may be of interest to you:
Earth Day Resources from Scholastic
Viewing Earthquakes in Google Earth
Understanding the Water Cycle