Monday, August 24, 2009

Academic Earth is a Time Top 50 Website

Earlier today Larry Ferlazzo posted the link to Time Magazine's list of the 50 Best Websites of 2009. On that list is Academic Earth. Academic Earth is a site that debuted in January of this year with the purpose of assembling high quality videos and entire video courses from the most prestigious universities in the United States. Visitors to Academic Earth will find lectures and courses from Yale, MIT, Berkeley, Harvard, Princeton, and Stanford. You can search for lectures and courses by topic, popularity, professor, or by university.

Applications for Education
Academic Earth makes it easy to find high quality, academically appropriate videos. These videos and courses could make a nice supplement to an advanced placement high school course. The videos can be embedded in your course blog where you can then have students watch and comment. Or you can, after embedding a video into your blog, post a questions for your students to answer as they watch a video lecture.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
30+ Alternatives to YouTube
YouTube Edu - 100+ Colleges on YouTube

Cash for Clunkers for Students

Today's episode of CNN Student News brings an overview of recent global headlines and a segment explaining the Cash for Clunkers program.
The episode is embedded below.

Applications for Education
If you have high school students, showing this segment about cash for clunkers may be a good way to get students engaged in a conversation about the economy and the US government's efforts to pull the economy out of recession.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Links You Might Have Missed - Economics Lessons
Measuring Worth - An Economics Calculator
The Economic Fairy Tale

5 Ways to Get Free Stuff for Your Classroom

Even when the economy is good, it seems that schools have trouble supplying teachers and students with all of the supplies that they need. When the economy is bad, the shortages are made worse. Fortunately, there are organizations designed to help teachers get the things they need for their classrooms.

1. Donors Choose is a non-profit organization with a mission of helping under-funded schools. Donors Choose uses the term "citizen philanthropy" to describe its program. Donors Choose essentially solicits funding from private citizens (and some corporations) which get to choose the projects they wish to fund. Donors can donate as much as they like to one or more projects. Donors Choose provides potential donors with information about the projects that need funding and the financial situation of the schools submitting requests. (Donations made through Donors Choose are tax deductible, but as always, check with your tax professional).

For teachers Donors Choose is essentially a "micro grant" program. Teachers submit requests for money for supplies that they need for their classroom. Requests range from $200 for basic classroom materials to $1000 or more for supplementary books. The next time you're wishing you had just a little bit more money to meet a need for your classroom, considering applying to Donors Choose.

2. Goldstar Registry is a free service for teachers to use to get school supplies. The idea behind Goldstar Registry is the same as bridal registry services. Teachers visit the Goldstar website and register for classroom materials that they would like to receive. Then if a parent or grandparent asks if you would like anything for your classroom, you can have them look at your online registry.

3. Classwish is a service through which teachers can find people willing to help purchase supplies for their classrooms. Classwish operates in a very similar manner to Donors Choose. On Classwish, teachers can create a wish list of supplies that they need for classrooms that aren't provided in their school budgets. People looking to help teachers can purchase products on a teacher's list and receive a tax deduction for their purchase.

4. iLove Schools is a non profit organization that aims to provide teachers with classroom supplies that their schools don't provide. iLove Schools operates in a manner similar to that of Donors Choose and Class Wish. To get classroom supplies teachers register on iLove Schools and create a list of items that they would like to have for their classrooms. Donors can visit iLove School to choose a classroom to which they would like to donate supplies.

5. If you love free stuff as much as I love free stuff, check out Go To Freebie. On Go To Freebie you can find free samples of everything from bath and beauty supplies to toys and school supplies. Go To Freebie has forums and feedback to share experiences and tips about the freebies. Go To Freebie could be a good resource for teachers that are looking for simple "prizes" to give away to students as recognition for levels of achievement. Something that I do with free samples at the beginning of each school year is give out free notebooks, pencils, and other school supplies as prizes in ice-breaking activities.

Bonus: If you have a classroom project that requires special supplies that your school cannot provide, it never hurts to ask local businesses for free or reduced price items for your project. This is especially true if the project is something that will be displayed publicly on an open-house night and you can display a thank-you sign on that night.

Mix Your Own NPR Podcast

NPR has offered their "mix your own podcast" service for quite a while now, but I hadn't revisted since its launch until today. I was searching for content to add to the side bar of my new teaching website,, when I thought that instead of specifying particular podcasts and videos for my students, I would provide them with links to places where they can find academic and intellectual material on their own. Therefore the side bar of my new teaching website contains links to NPR's mix your own podcast, YouTube EDU, iTunes University, and TED Talks.

NPR's mix your own podcast service allows anyone to create their own unique collection of podcasts from NPR's library of thousands of podcasts. To use NPR's mix your own podcast service simply visit the page, name your podcast, select keywords and content, and then subscribe to your new custom podcast.

Applications for Education
Students can use NPR's mix your own podcast service to create a podcast that is both interesting to them and informative. You could also create a podcast of content related to your course and link it up to your classroom blog or website.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
New Podcast About SMART Boards
5 Resources for Creating and Hosting Podcasts
30+ Alternatives to YouTube

GeoCommons Map Maker - Make Data Based Maps

GeoCommons Finder is a great place to find publicly shared data sets for use in KML files (Google Earth file format). GeoCommons Maker provides users a quick and easy way to take the datasets found in GeoCommons Finder and display those datasets on a map. Users can create multi-layered maps and customize the way those layers are displayed.

The video below offers a brief overview of how to create maps using GeoCommons Maker.

A product similar to GeoCommons Maker that you may want to try is the Thematic Mapping Engine.

Applications for Education
GeoCommons Maker is as easy, if not easier, to use as Google Maps. The benefit of using GeoCommons Maker is that students can find datasets without having to search the Internet for them. This should save time when you're trying to complete a lesson plan in one sitting. GeoCommons has datasets that are relevant for use in Social Studies, Math, and Science.

Update: as was pointed out in the comments, maps made in GeoCommons Maker can be embedded into a blog or website.

Discovery's New Teacher Survival Central

As any veteran teacher will can tell you, the first year is probably the most difficult year because there is so much to learn and do during the first year of teaching. My best advice is to find a mentor teacher who will work with you and help you throughout the beginning of your teaching career. My second piece of advice is to check out Discovery Education's New Teacher Survival Central. On New Teacher Survival Central you will find tips, ideas, and lesson plans that you can use in your classroom. There is a video series on New Teacher Survival Central offering advice on topics such as avoiding burn-out, increasing student engagement, and how to have successful parent-teacher conferences.

Another great source of advice for new teachers can be found in Kelly Hines's blog post Advice to a Newbie: Unwritten Rules.