Friday, March 1, 2013

It's Okay to Ask For Help

This is one of the rare times that I am going to step away from writing about technology and education on this blog and take advantage of having a large following to send out a personal message. If you want to skip this post, I understand, but I hope that you don't skip it.

This afternoon I received a phone call from a friend who informed me that one of our friends from college had taken his own life. The details are still fuzzy and the "why" may never be known by anyone other than our deceased friend. On the outside though everything looked "normal." He was a teacher at a small Christian school in Pennsylvania, a youth pastor, had a lovely wife (I was a part of his elaborate marriage proposal on New Year's Eve, 1999) and two young children at home who will now grow up without him.

I wish that I could ask Grant "why?" and remind him that no matter how down and dark you're feeling there is help available and that life will improve. But I can't now. I can, however, share my  story and tell you that it is okay to ask for help because people want to help you. A very small circle of my closest friends know that a couple of years ago I too struggled with the same depth of depression that I'm sure Grant was feeling. That changed on the first Friday of April, 2011 when that morning I walked into my principal's (Ted Moccia) office and with tears welling up told him that I needed help. Ted dropped everything that day to get me the help that I needed. That day my life turned around for the better, but it wouldn't have happened if I didn't ask for help. And believe me, asking for that help was emotionally the hardest thing for this New Englander to do.

I'm not sure how to conclude this post other than to say that whatever you may struggle with, there are people who will help if you ask. And if you don't have any struggles, help those who do.

I Need A Pencil - Realistic SAT Prep

I Need A Pencil is a free SAT preparation service provided by the CK-12 Foundation. The service provides students with 60 lessons and more than 800 SAT practice problems in math, writing, and critical reading. The lessons are based on questions that students typically encounter on the SAT. To track their own progress students can mark lessons as complete or as lessons to review again. After completing lessons students can jump to practice questions. Students can work through questions in the random mode or they can choose to only work with questions from one subject. To help students have a sense of how they might score on the SAT, I Need A Pencil tracks the questions that they have answered and projects a score based on practice problem answers.

Take a look at the overview of I Need A Pencil in the Slideshare presentation below.

Locate Free History Lesson Plans and Interactive Media Through Smithsonian's History Explorer

The Smithsonian's History Explorer is packed with lesson plans, interactive media, and reference pages for teachers and students. Using the search tools teachers can find lesson plans for every K-12 grade aligned to national standards for U.S. History. Teachers can search for lesson plans and other materials by grade level, resource type, historical era, and cross-curricular connections.

Applications for Education
I've used the Smithsonian's History Explorer on a number of occasions over the years. America on the Move is one of the features that I found through the History Explorer and used a few years ago in a ninth grade class.

America on the Move showcases the evolution of transportation in the United States. America on the Move is divided into three main sections; Exhibition, Collection, and Themes. America on the Move offers three well-designed educational games for students. Each of the games is requires students to analyze and process information about the history of transportation. In the first game, Where's Everyone Going? students match vehicles to their proper era to learn about transportation in that era. In the second game, Drive Through Time, students spin a clock to select a year. Then they select a scenario and mode of transportation appropriate for that scenario's era. In the third game, Be a Movie Director, students select a storyline and the modes of transportation necessary for the storyline. At the end the students will see the movie they created.

Google Apps Accessibility Guides for Administrators

Yesterday, the Official Google Blog had a post about the accessibility features of Chrome, Google Apps, and the Android OS. Included in that post is a link to the Google Apps accessibility guides for blind and low-vision users. The guides cover Gmail, Drive (including Doc, Sheets, and Slides), and calendar. If you're a Google Apps for Education domain administrator you will also want to take note of the Administrator Guide to Accessibility that includes recommendations for control panel settings as well as recommendations for screen readers. 

You can download this guide for personal use, not for redistribution, here.

How to Incorporate Video Into Your Haiku Decks

Earlier this week I shared 76 examples of Haiku Deck being used in school and then I shared Ken Shelton's great presentation on the importance of visuals in storytelling. Yesterday, Ken told me about Haiku Deck's directions for incorporating video into your presentations. This is a topic that a few people have asked me about this week so I think it's worth noting that Haiku Deck has published directions for incorporating videos.

While you cannot import videos directly into your presentations yet, Haiku Deck does suggest two ways that you can use video with your Haiku Deck presentations. The first method is to design your Haiku Deck presentation with a place holder for a video then export the presentation to Keynote or PPT and import your video into that file. In this regard you're using Haiku Deck as a design tool for a your presentations.

The second method for incorporating video into Haiku Deck presentations is take a screenshot of your video then add it to your Haiku Deck presentation. Once the screenshot is imported you can link to the video. Tapping the hyperlinked screenshot will launch the video outside of Haiku Deck.

You can read the step-by-step directions for both methods on the Haiku Deck blog.

National Geographic's Tools for Adventure Introduces Students to GIS

National Geographic Education has a nice interactive activity for introducing students to GIS and using maps to interpret information. Maps: Tools for Adventure asks students to interpret the data on five maps to solve problems and help animals. On the first page of the activity students select an animal that they want help. The students' choices are elephants, eagles, whales, koala bears, and panda bears. After making a selection students see a map that containing three layers of information; where the animal lives, where people live, and how people threaten the animal population. After examining the data students are asked to decide what can be done to help the animals.

Applications for Education
Maps: Tools for Adventure could be a good activity for introducing elementary school and middle school students to basic data and map interpretation. If you don't have a 1:1 classroom, you could recreate most of the activity by printing out the maps and distributing them to your students. To extend the activity transition your students into Google Earth where students can explore other data layers and develop new questions about the data that find in Google Earth. Take a look at these marine life Google Earth files to get started.