Friday, October 28, 2011

Add Custom Maps to Your Android Phone

Here's a neat application that I stumbled upon this afternoon. Custom Maps for Android allows you to use .jpeg and .png images of any map to create a custom GPS map. To use the app add an image to your phone then specify two or more latitude and longitude points that are common to your map image and to Google Maps. The Custom Maps application will then allow you to find the distance between where you are and a point on your custom map. You can also use the your custom map without a GPS signal, but it does lose some functionality. You can find the tutorials for using Custom Maps for Android here.

Applications for Education
We have some walking trails connecting the middle school and high school in my district. These trails are used for cross country running, skiing, and snow shoeing during physical education classes. Because the trails are so wooded, they don't appear on Google Maps. It might be a neat project for the students in my district or districts like mine to create custom maps that could be used by other students, teachers, and community members utilizing the walking trails in town.

Royal Society Journal Archives Made Available Online

Royal Society Publishing recently announced that it has made the archives of its journals available online for the world to search and read. Any of their published papers that are more than 70 years old can be viewed for free in their entirety. In total, this makes 60,000 historical scientific papers available. Included in these archives are papers written by Benjamin Franklin and Isaac Newton. You can search the archives here.

Applications for Education
The archives of the Royal Society journals could be a valuable resource for students interested in the history of scientific topics. Theoretically, by using the Royal Society archives students could trace the development of concept from its start to modern day.

H/T to Open Culture.

Three Vocabulary Apps for Android That I'm Testing

This morning I had the opportunity to run a couple of short workshops at my own school. Other than the initial oddness of being "the consultant" in the place where I've worked for almost nine years, it went well. The workshops I ran were based around our new school agenda of helping students improve their vocabularies and in turn improving the SAT scores on which we're judged as a school. (For the record, I don't agree with teaching to a test, particularly one as flawed as the SAT. That said, I was asked to present some tools that teachers and students could use to practice SAT vocabulary so that's what I did this morning).

One of the things that came up in the course of a conversation in the workshop was the idea of having students use their cell phones to study. And since in my district Android phones outnumber iPhones by at least 10 to 1, I thought I'd test out some Android apps for studying vocabulary. Here are the three that I am testing on my own phone right now.

Vocab Builder, built by Gordon Hempton, was the first app that I installed. I chose it, in part, because it has the most 5 star ratings of any of the apps I browsed through. Vocab Builder also offers more words than most of the other free apps that I looked at. You can use the app to quiz yourself in a flashcard style of matching words to definitions or matching definitions to words. A good companion to Vocab Builder, from the same developer, is Beworded which is a "Boggle-style" word game.

Wordalation, developed by Appulearn, is the second app that I installed on my phone. I chose Wordalation because it offers a text to voice feature for hearing your vocabulary words and definitions pronounced. I also like that Wordalation presents the vocabulary words in groups of ten. Study a group of ten until you think you know them all before moving onto another set of ten words.

Vocopedia is the third app that I installed on my phone. Vocopedia offers a very large selection of vocabulary words that commonly appear on the SAT. To study the words you can use the standard flashcard method of reading a word and guessing the definition. You can also use the Vocopedia hangman game to practice identifying and spelling the words in your vocabulary lists. I have to admit that I'm not as keen on Vocopedia as I am the other two apps, but that could change depending upon the feedback I get when my students try these apps.

9 Sources for Historical Images, Documents, Videos, and Audio

Earlier this week I had the privilege to work with teachers from the Florida Virtual School at a conference sponsored by the National Council for History Education. Here are some of the resources that we used during the workshops. By the way, if you're interested in having me speak at your school or conference, please click here for more information.

The National Jukebox is an archive of more than 10,000 recordings made by the Victor Talking Machine Company between 1901 and 1925. These are recordings that were made using an acoustical recording process that captured sounds on wax cylinders. The recordings in the archive can be searched and listened to on your computer. You can search the archives by recording date, recording type, language, and target audience. The National Jukebox has also arranged playlists that you can listen to in a continuous stream. You can also embed the recordings player into your blog or website as I have done below.

Another great feature of the National Jukebox is the interactive Victrola Book of the Opera. The book contains 436 pages of history and descriptions of 110 operas. Recordings in the book can be launched and listened to within the pages of the book.

The David Rumsey Map Collection is a collection of more than 20,000 historical maps documenting places throughout the world. The maps can be searched by area, by time period, or by cartographer. The David Rumsey Map Collection is also available as a Google Earth layer.

LIFE has long been known for capturing and hosting some of the most iconic images of the 20th Century. Today, LIFE continues to capture and share outstanding imagery. LIFE Photo Timelines hosts timelines featuring images from the LIFE collections. Visitors to LIFE Photo Timelines can view existing timelines or create their own timelines using images from the LIFE collections.

The Avalon Project is a free resource that I use on a regular basis with a couple of my US History classes. The Avalon Project, produced by Yale University, provides digital copies of hundreds of original documents from a myriad of topics in US History.

The Travel Film Archive is a collection of hundreds of travel films recorded between 1900 and 1970. The films were originally recorded to promote various places around the world as tourist destinations. In the archives you will find films about US National Parks, cities across the globe, and cultural events from around the world. The films are a mix of color and black & white footage. The earliest footage is silent while the later footage is narrated. You can view the films on The Travel Film Archive site or on The Travel Film Archive YouTube channel.

FedFlix, hosted by the Internet Archive, is a collection of nearly 2000 films produced by the US government during the 20th Century. The topics of these films range from presidential speeches to agricultural practices to public health and safety. Some films are instructional in nature, for example there is a film for police officers on how to arrest someone. Other films are more informative in nature and some films are flat-out propaganda films. All of the FedFlix films are in the public domain so feel free to reuse and remix them as you and your students desire. The films can be downloaded or viewed online. Films can also be embedded into your blog or website.

The Commons on Flickr is a good resource for students in need of images for multimedia projects for history, literature, and other content areas. A requirement of contributors to The Commons is that all images are made available without copyright restrictions. Here is a list of institutions contributing to The Commons.

The US Library of Congress website is a fantastic place to find digital copies of more than ten million primary sources. To help you utilize the documents you can find on the site, visit the Library of Congress Teacher's Page. A part of the Teacher's Page is the primary source center. The primary source center walks teachers through the process of locating documents on the Library of Congress' site. The primary source center also provides guides for using various types of primary sources including political cartoons, photographs, and oral histories.

Google Books is one of my go-to places for old books and magazines. When you search, use the "full view" option to find materials that you can read and download in their entirety. You should also use the "date range" option to narrow your search to a specific range of publication dates.