Monday, April 12, 2010

Create a Story from Your Search History

If you watched the Super Bowl this year, there's a good chance that you saw Google's Parisian Love video. The purpose of that video was to show off the places Google searches can take you. The video also demonstrates that a person's Internet searches can tell a story about him or her.

Through YouTube's Search Stories Video Creator you can build your own short story of featuring your chosen search terms. To create your Search Story just enter seven search terms, choose a search tool for each term (map, web, image, etc.), choose music, and click create. Watch my Search Story below.

Thanks to Fred Delventhal for sharing the link to this neat video creation tool.

Applications for Education
At first I didn't give much thought to the Search Story Creator other than "that's a fun tool." As I thought about it some more, I realized that creating search stories could be used as an ice-breaker activity in a classroom. Have students create a Search Story using search terms that they often use or that describe their hobbies. Then have the student share their videos with the class as a way to get to know a little bit about each other.

Google Docs Adds Very Useful New Features

Earlier today Google announced some significant enhancements to the Google Docs suite. The enhancement that will affect the greatest number of users is the addition of real tab stops and margin setting tools. These tools should provide users greater format flexibility than was previously available in Google Docs. Google Docs has also added a new commenting and chat system that will reside in the margins of your documents.

For Google Docs users who often create images and use images in their documents, Google has created an advanced, collaborative image editor. I can see the new image editor being used by a group of students to create mind maps and other academic diagrams.

Google Docs Spreadsheets users will also soon find useful improvements to the spreadsheet editor. These improvements include a formula bar for cell editing and drag & drop columns.

These enhancements to Google Docs will be rolling out gradually so if you don't notice changes today, just have patience. (BTW, as a Google Certified Teacher I don't get any advanced access to these new feature and will be waiting just like everyone else for my turn to try the new features.) Watch the short video below to learn more about the new Google Docs features.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Free 33 Page Guide - Google for Teachers
How to Publish a Quiz Using Google Forms
Google Tools Tutorials

Wolfram Alpha for Educators - Free Lesson Plans

Wolfram Alpha is one of those resources that contains such a depth of information and range of applications that it can almost be difficult to understand all of its applications. (Watch two brief video overviews of Wolfram Alpha here). To help educators understand some of the educational applications of Wolfram Alpha, late last week Wolfram Alpha launched Wolfram Alpha for Educators.

Wolfram Alpha for Educators is a collection of free lesson plans, examples of, and ideas for using Wolfram Alpha in the classroom. The lesson plans are currently arranged in three categories; mathematics, science, and social studies. All of the lesson plans are available as free pdf downloads. The lesson plans are labeled according to grade level, but you cannot see the grade level label until you download the lesson plan.

In addition to the free lesson plans, Wolfram Alpha has a small collection of videos featuring teachers explaining how they are using Wolfram Alpha in their classrooms.

Thanks to Derek Miller for the tip about Wolfram Alpha for Educators.

Applications for Education
As I mentioned above, Wolfram Alpha is an incredibly powerful search engine offering a huge range of applications for education. However, figuring out what those applications are can be difficult for some people. A quick review of the free lesson plans available from Wolfram Alpha for Educators will provide teachers with some ideas they may have overlooked in the past. For example, I would have never thought of using Wolfram Alpha for a creative writing project if I had not read about it in the Wolfram Alpha lesson plan collection.

Posterous Adds More Editing Options

Last week microblog service Posterous announced that they are not a microblog service. Posterous made that announcement as they unveiled three new blog post creation options designed to help it compete with full-fledged blogging services like Tumblr, Blogger, and WordPress. The most significant of the new features is a new option to construct blog posts containing multiple media formats. Posterous users can now arrange media elements however they wish within blog posts. Posterous also introduced the option for creating media galleries through a simple drag and drop interface.

Applications for Education
I've previously written about Posterous being a good option for quickly creating group blogs for students. In the past students could contribute their own posts to a Posterous blog, but now they can help each other edit and enhance blog posts. Using the new blog post editing options one student could contribute an image to a post and another could contribute video to that same post.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
TypePad Micro Offers an Easy Way to Start Blogging
Gaga Post - Group Blogging A Simple Yet Feature-Packed Blogging Platform

Planet Earth on iTunes - Get the 1st Episode Free

The BBC series Planet Earth was a huge hit when it aired last year. To celebrate the upcoming 40th anniversary of Earth Day, the BBC has brought the series to iTunes. The first episode, Pole to Pole, can be downloaded for free from now through Earth Day on April 22. The other episodes are available for $2.99.

8 Wonders of the Solar System - Interactive Tour

8 Wonders of the Solar System is a Scientific American interactive feature about the solar system. In 8 Wonders of the Solar System viewers explore the sites that future "space tourists" will want to view. The sites are depicted through the artist Ron Miller's drawings. The tour includes audio and video commentary about the featured sites. One of my favorite stops on the tour is the Peaks of Eternal Light on the Moon. The Peaks of Eternal Light are one of the few places in the solar system on which the sun never sets.

Applications for Education
I have to admit that I've never been terribly intrigued by space exploration, but 8 Wonders of the Solar System did pique my interest. 8 Wonders of the Solar System could be good resource for science teachers to use to get students interested in studies of the solar system. After viewing 8 Wonders of the Solar System, you could challenge students to create their own virtual tours of the solar system. Using Google Earth, students could create virtual tours of the Moon and Mars.