Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Earthquakes 101 for Kids

National Geographic Education's Forces of Nature has been featured here in the past. This afternoon I revisited that resource and discovered a couple of other nice resources for teaching elementary and middle school students about earthquakes.

Earthquakes 101 is a short video introduction to the causes of earthquakes. The video is accompanied by a vocabulary list, a few "fast facts," and some discussion questions. After showing the video use the National Geographic Map Maker to illustrate the relationship of tectonic plates, fault lines, and seismic activity. To create this illustration select "themes," then "physical systems - land," then select the earthquakes and plate tectonics layers. This combination will show the seismic activity layer on top of the colored plate tectonics layer.

Applications for Education
National Geographic's Map Maker can be used without creating an account. The example I gave above of using it for creating an illustration of the relationship between earthquakes and tectonic plates is one of many illustrations you and your students can create. National Geographic's Map Maker offers six themes on which users can create custom map displays. Within each theme there are subcategories to choose from. For example, you can select the theme Physical Systems Land then choose volcanic eruptions to display on your map. Map Maker also provides drawing tool and marker icons that you can place on your map

Ad-O-Matic - Create Your Own Campaign Ad

The National Constitution Center currently offers a neat little tool called Adomatic for creating personal campaign ads. To create your campaign commercial enter your name, upload or take a picture of yourself, select a political party, select three campaign issues important to you, then let the tool render a video for you.

The Adomatic party options are Republican, Democrat, and Great New Party. When you create your video if you choose Republican or Democrat your video will be generally representative of the party's platform. The Great New Party renders a spoof video. I've embedded my sample video below (I uploaded a picture of my dog's face instead of my own).

Applications for Education
After your students create their videos ask them to think about what aspects of the two parties are represented in the commercials.

H/T to Tina Coffey - Another iGoogle Alternative

Google is closing iGoogle in November and I know that there are quite a few readers who are looking for some alternatives to it. If you are looking for an alternative this morning TechCrunch had a story about a new service called that you might like. is a new service that provides a personalized start page for you. allows you to organize and display information from your favorite websites and services. Your start page can be constructed of information from's suggested sites or from RSS feeds that you specify. I created a simple start page of information from TechCrunch, CNN, my Twitter feed, and Free Technology for Teachers. While it was easy to add content from's suggested sources, adding content from a non-featured source like Free Technology for Teachers required entering the feed URL rather than just the site URL.

Applications for Education
Hopefully, will soon make it easier to add content from non-featured sources. I would also like to see them add the option for creating multiple pages within an account and or have an option to share pages. When they do that it could be a good way to create start pages about your favorite topics. Until then, I think that Symbaloo is a better alternative to iGoogle.

Video - The Black Death in 90 Seconds

Yesterday, in an email from Next Vista for Learning I learned about this short explanation of The Black Death created by a teacher in California. The video was the winning entry in Next Vista's latest video creation contest.

Speaking of contests, Next Vista for Learning has launched a new video creation contest for teachers and students. Entries should be 90 seconds or less. The purpose of the videos is to teach something to others. The deadline for entries is December 21. Read the full contest description and rules here.

One Click Chart Editing in Google Spreadsheets

If you make charts in Google Spreadsheets you'll be happy to learn that yesterday Google introduced one click chart editing. To edit a part of your chart you just click on the element you want to change to the editing menu. You can also now drag the edges of your charts to resize them. Click here to read more about the new Google Spreadsheets chart editing options.