Monday, November 1, 2010

Computational Thinking Lessons from Google

Through Dan Meyer's blog I just learned that Google has recently released dozens of lessons for exploring computational thinking through the use of Python programming. Now if you're wondering, "what the heck does that mean?" don't worry, I wondered the same. But since Dan Meyer is one of the people in the edu-blog-o-sphere that I have great respect for, and since he wrote one of the lessons, I had to investigate exploring computational thinking through Python. Python is a programming language. Exploring computational thinking through Python is a series of lessons in which middle school and high school students use Python to try to put mathematics and science concepts to use.

Applications for Education
Exploring Computational Thinking is a series of lessons for designed to help middle school and high school students explore mathematics and science concepts. Google developed these lessons to use Python. As Google states in their Teacher's Guide Introduction to Python, the reason for using Python is, "A computer program gives students the opportunity to directly apply the algorithms they learn in class and provides them with a tangible reason for using variables rather than specific numbers in math."

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you: 
Math Class Needs a Makeover
38 Weeks of Algebra Lessons
200+ Free Mathematics Books

Put NASA TV On Your Desktop

NASA TV streams many different feeds to the web. Viewers can see images from the International Space Station, educational content, mission control video, press conferences, and more. Today, through Tekzilla I learned that NASA TV can be viewed via a Windows desktop widget. Watch the episode of Tekzilla Daily embedded below to learn more about putting NASA TV on your desktop.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
NASA Space Place - Where Science is Fun!
NASA Images - Embed Galleries of Images and Videos
Video - Space Shuttle from Hangar to Launch

Create Audio Slideshows With Shwup

Shwup is a new service similar to Animoto and Stupeflix for creating videos based on your images and audio files. At its most basic Shwup is a place for creating collaborative private photo albums. As the creator of an album you can select the best images and create a video for the group. You can choose to share your videos privately so that only those you invite can see them or you can share your videos on Facebook, Twitter, or embed them into your blog. Watch the video below to learn more about Shwup.

Applications for Education
Shwup could be a good way to share photos from your class with your students' parents. If you take your class on a field trip and have parents take pictures while they chaperon they could contribute to a private album you've created on Shwup.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Making Videos on the Web - A Free Guide
11 Techy Things for Teachers to Try This Year
Five Alternatives to Traditional Book Reports

My New Article for School Library Journal

As some readers know, I write a monthly article for School Library Journal. My latest article is now available for online reading. In Best Video Creation Tools I discuss online video creation tools and how they can be used in your classroom.

October's Ten Most Popular Posts

Image Credit: Vicki's Nature
Well another month has passed and Free Technology for Teachers keeps chugging along. In a few weeks Free Technology for Teachers will celebrate its three year anniversary (maybe Mark Spahr's class will make a cake for it). Little did I know when I started this blog what I was starting.

 In October I had the great opportunity to present at four different conferences. Thank you to everyone that came to my presentations and workshops. Hopefully, I provided value for the hour(s) you spent with me. Thank you to everyone who continued to support Free Technology for Teachers by Tweeting, blogging, and otherwise sharing with others the information you find here. Together we can help more teachers help more students.

Here are the ten most popular from October, 2010:
1. 5 Good Resources for the Learning the Periodic Table
2. What Would You Do With $2,000 for EdTech Purchases?
3. One Word - Sixty Second Writing Prompts
4. Best of the EdTech Web 2010 - Updated With Links
5. Interactive Romeo & Juliet
6. Videos of Middle School Science Experiments
7. New Visualization Charts in Google Docs
8. Twiducate - Social Networking for Schools
9. iPhone & iPad Apps for Special Education
10. Six Visual Dictionaries & Thesauri

If you're new to Free Technology for Teachers and you found any or all of the above links useful, please consider subscribing to the daily posts via RSS or subscribing via email.

Follow me on Twitter to see what I share beyond this blog (including the occasional update about my cats).

Thank you to the sponsors and marketing partners of Free Technology for Teachers.
Edublogs provides free blog hosting for teachers and students.
ABCya hosts free educational games for elementary school students.
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Simple K12 is my blog marketing partner.

Snag Learning Film of the Week - Emperors of Ice

As I've mentioned before, Snag Learning hosts nearly 300 educational films from PBS, National Geographic, Explore, and other reputable documentary producers. Along with each film is a list of discussion questions you can use in your classroom. Beginning this week, in partnership with Snag Learning, I'll be featuring one film per week from Snag Learning's library. 

This week's Snag Learning film of the week is Emperors of Ice. In Emperors of Ice viewers will dive under the ice with the penguins, learn how the Emperor Penguins select a mate and raise young, and interact with other penguins. Viewers will see how the Emperor Penguin is uniquely equipped to survive in the harsh environment of Antarctica. Finally, Emperors of Ice, produced by National Geographic, documents the potential effects of climate change on the Emperor Penguins of Antarctica. Watch a preview of Emperors of Ice below. You can find discussion questions here.
Watch more free documentaries
Applications for Education
Emperors of Ice could be a good video for a lesson about animals' adaptations to their environments. You could also use the film as part of a lesson about the effects of climate change on the planet. You might want to explore the Google Earth climate change tour about the Arctic then have students compare and contrast the effects of climate on the Arctic with those of Antarctica.

3 Midterm Election Resources for Students

Tomorrow, voters will go to the polls in cities and towns across the country. If you're planning to have discussions with your students about the midterm elections, here are three resources that may be of interest to you.

CNN Student News has a short segment today about the importance of the midterm elections. The segment appears about half-way through the video below. is an election resource that I learned about from Larry Ferlazzo. provides information about candidates on the ballots this fall. Enter your zip code and will generate a list of the candidates in your area and the offices for which they're competing.

I mentioned Vote Easy early last month, but it's worth sharing again. Vote Easy is an interactive map designed to help voters identify the Congressional candidate that most closely aligned with their views on a selection of twelve issues. Answer each question then specify how important that issue is to you. Based on those responses Vote Easy will indicate which candidate in your Congressional district is most closely aligned to your views.