Monday, January 10, 2011

So You Want to be a Blogger? (or a better blogger?)

During my Classroom 2.0 Live appearance (the recording is now available) on Saturday morning I was asked to recommend a "first step" for teachers who are just beginning to use technology in their classrooms. My response was to start a blog because through the process of developing a blog you can learn a lot of skills that carry over into other technology applications (that's the condensed version of my response). If you're considering starting a blog or you started one once but didn't do much with it, the 30 Days to Kick Start Your Blogging Challenge sponsored by Edublogs is for you.

The 30 Days to Kick Start Your Blogging Challenge is a series of daily tasks to get your blogging started on the right foot. The challenge started today (the challenge is self-paced so don't worry about starting a day late) with directions for creating your first blog on Edublogs. The directions include some very helpful tips about picking your display name, blog url, and blog title.

If you're not brand new to blogging, but you would like to kick your blogging up a notch, 30 Days to Kick Start Your Blogging has some good stuff for you too. Each day, in addition to the beginner challenges, there are advanced challenges and tips for bloggers who are looking to improve their blogs. Today's advanced challenge is to write a post on one of the following:

  1. Ten questions to ask my blog – Take on the role of reporter and ask your blog ten questions, documenting the responses from your blog eg When did you start? Why did you start? What is your most exciting moment? Where does your future lie? etc 
  2. “Life as a Blogger” or “My life as a blog!”
  3. 10 things you should know about blogging.

In the interest of full disclosure I must mention that Edublogs is a paying advertiser on Free Technology for Teachers

Learn Boost Adds New Reporting Tools

Learn Boost, a free online gradebook service, recently added some new reporting features. There are new reporting features for analyzing the grades, assignments, and attendance of your classes as a whole. Reports on individual students are also available in the new Learn Boost reporting tools.

In the whole class reporting mode you can get reports on the average score on particular assignments. You can also see a break down of the types and frequency of the assignments you give. The attendance register now allows you to quickly see which students in your classes have the most absences and tardies. The reporting features for individual students includes a break down of a student's performance on individual assignments compared to their classmates.

Raw Scripts - A Free Screenplay Scripting Tool

Raw Scripts is a free online screenplay scripting tool. Raw Scripts provides formatting options for dialog, narration, action sequences, scene transitions, and other elements of screenplays. You can try Raw Scripts without creating an account or logging into the service. If you decide you like Raw Scripts you can sign into the service using your Google or Yahoo account. Should you decide that you need an offline copy of your scripts, you can export your script while retaining the formatting.

Applications for Education
Whenever I have students produce video projects in my classroom, I require that they write out a script before they start to record video or audio. Raw Scripts could be useful for creating those scripts in an easy-to-follow format.

Snag Films Introduces an iPad App

Snag Films, a great website for watching free full-length documentary films that I've written about many times, recently launched a free iPad app. The Snag Films iPad app doesn't include all of the films from the Snag Films library yet, but they're working on it. Don't have an iPad? Enter to win an iPad from Snag Films here. Learn more about the Snag Films iPad app in the video below.

Applications for Education
I love Snag Films and its sister site Snag Learning because it makes high quality documentary films available to teachers and students at no cost. If your school is putting iPads into the hands of students, this is an app worth considering installing on those iPads.

Explore Monticello with the Monticello Explorer

Recently, while looking for something completely unrelated, I stumbled upon the Monticello Explorer on The Monticello Explorer is a series of virtual tours of Thomas Jefferson's estate. You can explore Jefferson's home and the grounds of his plantation through self-paced tours in the Monticello Explorer. Narrated video tours are also available through the Monticello Explorer. In fact, the narrated video tours are probably the best part of the Monticello Explorer.

Applications for Education
The Monticello Explorer is a great way to learn not only about Thomas Jefferson's home, but also about the man himself. Through the video tours viewers learn about Jefferson's slave holdings, his thoughts about the importance of working efficiently, and his desire to entertain his guests with interesting books and artifacts.

11 Health & Phys Ed Resources to Try in 2011

Last week I started each day with a list of eleven good resources to try in various content areas. I hadn't planned on continuing that practice this week, but after numerous requests I developed a few more lists. Here are eleven good health and physical education resources to try in 2011. You can find all of last week's lists here.

Sugar Stacks is a good website for understanding how much sugar is in the food and beverages that we consume. Sugar Stacks lists popular food and beverage items in ten categories. Every item is pictured with a stack of sugar cubes. Each sugar cube represents four grams of sugar. This is a great way to see just how much sugar you really consume in your favorite snack or beverage.

Get the Glass is a game produced by the California Milk Processor Board. Obviously, the game is designed to promote milk consumption. The game takes students on a journey with the milk-deprived Adachi family as they try to break into "Fort Fridge" where they will find an unlimited supply of milk. Throughout the game students will learn about the benefits of drinking milk and making healthy beverage choices.

Cool Food Kidz is a kid-friendly website about nutrition, exercise, and general health. Cool Food Kidz provides easy-to-read lists of things they can do to take care of their health. For example, there is a list of "building healthy habits" tips which walks kids through ten basic things they can do to keep themselves healthy. Cool Food Kidz also provides students with tips for dental health and tips for keeping their brains sharp. The tips for eating out section offers advice to students on picking a healthy lunch and healthy snack foods.

Nourish Interactive is a great resource for elementary school health and nutrition teachers. Nourish Interactive offers lesson plans, printable guides and forms, resources for parents, and games for students. In the printables section teachers will find things like fun coloring pages as well as educational pages like "name the food group" and "exercise tracking sheets." The parents' section of Nourish Interactive offers parents tips on teaching healthy eating habits at home. The parents' section also offers tips and recipes for cooking healthy food with kids. The games section of Nourish Interactive contains ten online games for elementary school students. The games are designed to reinforce the lessons learned from parents and teachers using the teaching resources on Nourish Interactive.

Fat World is an educational video game funded in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The game isn't designed to tell students what they should or shouldn't eat rather it is designed to get students thinking about the results of food choices. In the game students explore the socioeconomic, geographic, and cultural factors that influence the nutrition choices people make. Students will also explore the roles of the government and interest groups in the marketing of foods. Fat World is available as a free download for Windows and Mac users. 

  The Ad Decoder is produced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The game appears on the B.A.M. (body and mind) section of their website. BAM is full of great resources for health and physical education teachers. The Ad Decoder provides students with two virtual magazines which they flip through to see examples and explanations of advertising tactics used to grab the attention of tweens and teens. After flipping through the magazines students can test their new knowledge.

We all know that sleep is important and that there is a correlation between the amount of sleep students get and how the perform in the classroom, but what about us? Are we, as teachers, getting enough sleep? National Geographic has a quiz to help us answer that question. The Secrets of Sleep quiz asks ten questions related to your sleeping habits. The quiz uses your responses to tell you if you're getting enough sleep and, if necessary, what you can do to improve your sleeping habits.

Snag Learning hosts an excellent film titled The Family Meal. The Family Meal is a twenty minute film about obesity in America, its causes, its effects, and the disappearance of the family meal in American homes. The film focuses on how developing the habit of eating "family meals" at home can reduce the rate of obesity in American children. You can watch the film and view a discussion guide here.

Scrub Club is a website designed to teach students why they need to wash their hands. The Scrub Club offers videos, comics, and games designed to promote healthy hygiene habits to prevent the spread of diseases like the flu. For teachers, Scrub Club offers free downloads of posters, cartoon books, and lesson plans to promote hand washing. The downloads are available in English, Spanish, and French.
Google Maps can be used by physical education teachers and or health teachers to have students plan safe routes for bicycle rides. To take the assignment a step farther you could have students plan a route, measure the distance, and calculate how many calories a person could burn on that route. There are numerous calorie calculators on the web that you could use for that second step, here is one to get you started. 

The Health Hut has a list of forty infographics health and wellness infographics worth exploring. Here are a couple of the infographics in the list grabbed my attention as being useful for health teachers and science teachers: Eating Out: From Bad to Worse gives a run down of worst items to order at popular chain restaurants including Chili's, Applebee's, McDonald's, and Wendy's. The Future of Food is a series of nine infographics produced by Wired. The infographics illustrate the global demand for food, what that demand means for farmers and for the planet, and how that demand could be met in the future.

Bonus Twelfth Item just because I couldn't leave this out. 
I'm a big fan of introducing students to outdoor recreation and sports that students can pursue for a lifetime as an individual, activities like skiing, hiking, and swimming. I also think that physical education doesn't have to stay indoors when it's cold outside. Therefore I wrote about some winter outdoor activities in this post last month.