Wednesday, July 27, 2011

New Geographic Features Labels in Google Earth

Earlier this week Google added some new labels to Google Earth. Now when you turn on the "Borders and Labels" in the Layers menu you can view labels for mountain ranges, deserts, and plains. For large mountain ranges, deserts, and plains that can't be viewed in their entirety without zooming way out, you can mouse over a feature to see the full extent of that feature.

Applications for Education
Google Earth has added these new labels just in time for back-to-school season. Try them out with your students by opening the Layers menu on the left-hand margin of Google Earth and clicking the "+" icons to expand your options.

5 Google Plus Tips from Tekzilla

Tekzilla Daily is one of my favorite web shows for learning about fun and useful apps, sites, and technology tricks. The short episodes provide me with just enough information to get started exploring something new on my own. Today's episode of Tekzilla Daily is about Google Plus. I'm currently using Google Plus, but still learning the ins and outs of it. By watching today's episode of Tekzilla Daily I picked up a couple of handy bits of information and I think you can too. Watch the episode below.

Applications for Education
Even in my limited use of Google Plus I have seen that it could be another good place for educators to connect with each other and share professional resources.

CNN Student News Explains "Debt Ceiling"

What is a debt ceiling? This week's special summer edition of CNN Student News tackles that topic in five minutes. The episode explains what the term "debt ceiling" means and what it means in the current political landscape of the United States.

Click here if you cannot see the video.

Three Purposes for Classroom Blogs

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One of the most common requests for workshops that I receive is to help teachers create and utilize blogs in their classrooms. Over the last few years I've run blogging workshops many times and each time the workshop is a little different and hopefully a little better than the last.

This year I've run my blogging workshop more frequently than ever and have now arrived at what I think is a simple, but strong framework for introducing teachers to classroom blogging. I now introduce workshop participants to classroom blogging by outlining three fundamental purposes of blogging. Those purposes are distributing, discussing, and demonstrating. What follows is a brief break-down of each of these purposes.

At its most basic blogging is done for the purpose of quickly and easily distributing information to others. In the context of education this means distributing information to students and their parents. That information could be anything from assignment due dates to course notes to articles and videos that supplement your classroom instruction. Here's a cartoon explanation that I made about one of the benefits of teachers having blogs. 

This is where blogging becomes more than just an exercise in disseminating information. As a teacher you can post prompts to which your students write replies in the form of comments. Better yet, make students authors on a blog and have them post prompts for their classmates to respond to. The prompts could be in the form of a reflection written by a student, a thought-provoking article from the web accompanied by questions, an image, a video, or perhaps an embedded VoiceThread

The great thing about using blogs for classroom discussions is that it provides students with more time to reflect on what they're being asked before sharing their responses. Blog discussions also provides a forum for shy students to express themselves with written words instead of possibly staying out of a in-classroom conversation. 

By making students authors on a group blog or by having them maintain their own individual blogs they can demonstrate what they've found through research, what they learned, and what they have created to demonstrate their learning. In other words, your students' blogs become digital portfolios of what they have done in your classroom. One of the benefits of putting these portfolios on the web is that other students can view and learn from them. Another benefit is that now other teachers, school administrators, and your students' families can quickly discover the great work your students have done.