Sunday, September 15, 2013

Is Denali Shrinking? - A Mountain Math Lesson

Thanks to The Adventure Blog over the weekend I learned that Denali - AKA Mt. McKinley - has been re-measured. The mountain is now listed 83 feet shorter than the previously accepted height measurement. Visit The Adventure Blog for the full accounting of the change.  Reading the article reminded me of another mountain measurement lesson that I shared last year. That lesson is included below.

Last night I started to read Mount Everest, The Reconnaissance 1921 which I downloaded for free from Google Books. In the introduction there is a three page explanation of the methods used to measure the height of Mount Everest. An explanation of the differences in measurements is also provided in the introduction. Part of that explanation includes differences in snow fall, cyclical deviations of gravity, and differences atmospheric refraction when observations were made. I'm not a mathematics teacher and will never pretend to be one, but reading that introduction did get me thinking about a possible mathematics lesson.

Applications for Education
Turn to pages 10 through 13 of Mount Everest, The Reconnaissance 1921 and read about the difficulties of accurately measuring Mount Everest in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. It's interesting to note that most accepted measurements were more than 100 feet higher than today's accepted measurement. Tell your students that Mount Everest has shrunk over the last 100 years and ask them to solve the mystery of the shrinking mountain. 

On a mildly related note and on a promotion of a Mainer note, Snow in the Kingdom: My Storm Years on Everest by Ed Webster is one of the best books ever written about Mount Everest. If you enjoy good adventure stories and or stories about overcoming personal struggles, I think you will enjoy Webster's book. For my money, and I own two copies of it, it is far better than Krakauer's Into Thin Air.

How to Find Google Earth Files Without Opening Google Earth

One of the things that teachers almost always ask me when I introduce them to Google Earth is, "how do you find all of these files?" Google Earth has a lot of great layers of information built in. Simply open the "layers" drop-down menu in Google Earth and select a layer to view it (remember, the more layers you select the slower Google Earth will run). You can also open the "Earth Gallery" in Google Earth to find and add more layers to your view of Google Earth. You can also search online for KMZ and KML files to view in Google Earth. The directions for doing that are included in the screenshots below (click the images to view them in full size).

Enter a search term. In this case I am looking for files related to World War II. You could also do a search for something like "Maine Seafood." You have to enter a search term and do the search before you will see the screen pictured below.

In the advanced search menu select "file type" then select KMZ or KML.

Alternatively, you can search by file type by entering filetype: KMZ after your search term.

To clarify, you will have to open the file in Google Earth to see its contents. This method is just for finding files to use in Google Earth.

Collections of Historical Maps and Ideas for Using Them In Your Classroom

The David Rumsey Historical Map Collection is often the first place I go to when looking for old maps to use in a social studies lesson. The collection contains more than 100,000 historical maps documenting places throughout the world. The maps can be searched by area, by time period, or by cartographer. There is also a Google Earth layer based on the maps in the David Rusmey Map Collection.

Old Maps Online is designed to help you find historical maps of where you live or any other location that you enter into the search function. By default Old Maps Online searches for maps near your location. You can refine your search to a specific time using the timeline slider on Old Maps Online. Old Maps Online doesn't host the maps that you find through their search box. Old Maps Online refers you to the host of the maps. The David Rumsey Historical Map collection is one of the sites that is indexed by Old Maps Online. Old Maps Online also indexes collections from the British Library, Dutch National Archives, Biblioteca Nacional de Colombia, Harvard Library, and collections from nearly a dozen other libraries around the world.

Historic Map Works is an online gallery of hundreds of historical maps. On Historic Map Works you can browse for maps by continent, country, state, and province. Contrary to my initial experience, downloading the map images is not free. But, you can view more than half of the maps as Google Maps overlays using Historic Map Works's free Historic Earth Basic.

Applications for Education
One of the ways that I've used historical maps in my classroom in the past is to have students evaluate the role of physical geography in the outcome of significant battles in the American Revolution and the American Civil War. I've also had students use historical maps to compare our current understanding of the world with that of cartographers of the 15th and 16th centuries.

Glenn Wiebe recently shared a set of Smithsonian interactive activities in which students compare the views of modern cities with those of the 19th century. Glenn's post inspired me to look back at the historical map collections I've used in the past.

Register Now for EdCamp Online

The EdCamp Foundation in partnership with the MIT Media Lab and the National Writing Project have organized the first EdCamp Online. The event will take place on October 26. The event will use a new online tool called unhangouts that is based in part on Google+ Hangouts. You can learn more about unhangouts here. Registration is now open for EdCamp Online.

You might be wondering what an EdCamp is, the short explanation is that EdCamps are free, informal conferences organized by educators for educators. Anyone can attend and anyone can present. Last year I recorded a short Skype conversation with one of the EdCamp Foundation's founders, Dr. Kristen Swanson. (Thanks to Kristen for sharing the news of EdCamp Online on her blog last week). That video is embedded below.

Photo Collages as Writing Prompts

In a post on Android for Schools I wrote about using Pic Collage on my Android phone to create a collage to summarize my day. Pic Collage is a free app available for Android and iOS devices. The app allows you to quickly arrange pictures on a wide variety of canvas designs, add text to your images, and add stickers to your collages. From the app you can share your collage to Google Drive, Instagram, Facebook, Dropbox, and many other file sharing services.

Applications for Education
Students who struggle to get started on a descriptive writing assignment could benefit from first creating a photo collage about the event or concept that they need to write about. In thinking about the images that they select, they're also thinking about what they will say about each image.

Pic Collage is a good option for creating collages on Android and iOS devices. For a browser-based option I recommend trying PicMonkey.

See Angela Oliverson's guest post for more ideas about using PicMonkey in your classroom.