Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A Last Minute Thanksgiving Activity for Elementary School Students

If your school is not one that has given students this week off, these last two days before the Thanksgiving holiday can be tough. Here's an idea for a last minute Thanksgiving activity to do with elementary school students. This idea could be applied to any significant cultural holiday.

The pictures we take and the pictures that we spend the most time viewing can tell us a lot about what we like. As a way to get students to share their favorite things about Thanksgiving, have them create some simple picture collages online. You can have your students use pictures of their own or search online on a site like Pixabay or the Creative Commons search engine to find pictures that represent their favorite things about Thanksgiving. Or have them make the collage to express what Thanksgiving means to them. Making a collage of the things that they are thankful for is another option.

Three registration-free tools for making collages.
Fotor is a free tool that students can use to create image collages and to edit images. Fotor can be used in your web browser, as a desktop application for Mac and Windows, as iPad app, as an Android app, and as a Windows 8 application. Fotor can be used without creating an account. With Fotor you can crop images, apply filters, add picture frames, insert clip art, and add text to your images. All of your work can be saved on your computer or mobile device.

PicMonkey is one of my favorite online image editing tools. To get started using PicMonkey you can upload an image by simply dragging it from your desktop to the PicMonkey editor. From there you can change things like saturation, contrast, size, and sharpness. You can then add custom frames and special effects like "Polaroid style" to your images. Want to add text to your images? PicMonkey provides a slew of font styles for your use. And if you have just one tiny part of an image that you want to enhance or obscure, PicMonkey gives you tools for that too.

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.

The Science of American Football

Later this week after eating the Thanksgiving turkey many Americans will sit down to nap in front of watch football games. Your students could be some of millions watching those games. Before Thanksgiving arrives take a look at Science of NFL Football from NBC Learn. The Science of NFL Football is a series of ten videos from NBC Learn explaining and demonstrating math and science concepts as they relate to football.

The list of topics covered in the Science of NFL Football includes Torque & Center of Mass, Pythagorean Theorem, Geometric Shapes, Projectile Motion & Parabolas, Vectors, Kinematics, Nutrition, and Newton's 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Laws of Motion.

Applications for Education
Every video in the Science of NFL Football is accompanied by a lesson plan appropriate for use in middle school classrooms. Click here to take a look at the lesson about Newton's 3rd Law.

Free Digital Photos and a Guide to Citing Them

FreeDigitalPhotos.net is a new-to-me place to find digital images to re-use for free. FreeDigitalPhotos.net allows you download and re-use low-resolution images without restriction. To download and re-use high-resolution images you need to publish a credit to the creator of the image. That's not a hard requirement to meet. To help you meet the requirement of crediting the photographer, FreeDigitalPhots.net offers a simple chart that outlines how to credit the creator of an image. The left side of the chart lists the ways the images can be used and how to credit the photographer for each use case.

Applications for Education
It is easy to simply right-click on images on the web and save them your computer. Just because it can be done, doesn't mean it should be done or that it is even safe (are you sure that you're only downloading an image and not something else along with it?) and legal to do so. Unfortunately, I frequently meet teachers who allow their students to engage in this practice. Fortunately, there is an easy way to stop that practice. The solution is to use images found on sites like FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

For more free images that your students can use, see this list of sources of Public Domain images.

How and Why You Might Want to Return to Classic Google Maps

About six months ago Google unveiled a new version of Google Maps and made it the default for people visiting maps.google.com. The new version has some neat features like built-in Street View tours. However, the new version of Google Maps doesn’t include the measurement tools found in the old version or what Google is calling “Classic Maps.” The measurement tools are great to use in math lessons as well as to simply help students understand the scale of distance. Furthermore, while the new Google Maps Engine Lite is an excellent tool for building custom Google Maps it can take quite a bit more time for students to understand.

If you want to return to Classic Maps, you can do so after signing into your Google Account. Google recently changed the location of this option. The screenshot below shows you where to find the option to return to Classic Maps.
Click image to view full size.

Keep this in mind if you do decide to return to Classic Maps, Google is not known for reversing course on product design changes. There is a real possibility that Classic Maps will disappear for good without warning at some point.

Applications for Education
To see how mathematics can be taught with Google Maps and Google Earth see Tom Barrett’s Maths Maps or Real World Math.

Unlike the new version of Google Maps, Google Earth still has measurement tools built into it. If you have access to Google Earth that’s another option to consider using in place of the new Google Maps.

Healthline Body Maps - A Good Resource for Anatomy Lessons

Healthline Body Maps features interactive 3D models for learning about human anatomy. Body Maps allows you to zoom-in on specific parts of the body or view the body as a whole. Whether you zoom-in on a specific portion of a model or view it as a whole, you can choose from eight layers to view. The layers start at the skin and end with the skeletal system. Body Maps has male and female models.

Applications for Education
If you are going to use Healthline Body Maps in your classroom, please beware that the models are very anatomically correct. Keep that in mind before sending your students to the site. In addition to the interactive models, Healthline Body Maps offers short videos that explain parts of what students see in the Body Maps.