Monday, February 3, 2014

The Art of Problem Solving

Last week Marilyn Just emailed me with a couple of suggestions to add to my list of mathematics resources. One of the suggestions that jumped out at me was the Art of Problem Solving. The Art of Problem Solving offers a variety of tutorial resources for students. Some of the resources are free and some are not. The highlight of the free resources is a catalog of more than three hundred short instructional videos like the one embedded below.

The bulk of the videos are designed for pre-algebra and algebra lessons.

Padlet Is Now Available in 14 Languages - Here's a Guide to Using It In Your Classroom

Padlet (formerly known as Wall Wisher) is a tool that has been used by teachers in a variety of ways for years now. I've often used as a collaborative know-want-learn chart and as an exit ticket tool. Padlet works on interactive whiteboards, on iPads and Android tablets, and in the web browser on your laptop. Recently, Padlet announced support for three more languages which brings their total supported languages count to fourteen.

In the guide embedded below I provide step-by-step directions for using Padlet in your classroom. The guide also includes ideas and directions for using Socrative and TodaysMeet. You can download the guide here and view it as embedded below.

How to Create Placemarks, Layers, and Polygons in Google Maps Engine Lite

Google Maps is a versatile tool that I've been using with students and sharing with teachers for years now. From simple virtual scavenger hunts to literature journeys to analyzing data in a geographic context, Google Maps has a lot of applications in the classroom.

Last summer Google unveiled Google Maps Engine Lite for creating custom maps. This tool will eventually replace the old custom maps option that is still available if you revert to Classic Google Maps. One of Google Maps Engine Lite's more noteworthy features is support of multiple layers on one map.

Creating multiple layers on your map is completely optional but there are quite a few good uses of maps with multiple layers.
  • Multiple layers could be used for showing data differences on a year over year or month over month basis. 
  • You could display the same data with different base layers for comparison. 
  • Students working collaboratively on a map can be responsible for editing their own layers on the same map. 
  • If you’re using Google Maps Engine Lite to have students create literature trips (look here for inspiration), they can create a different layer for each chapter of a book. 
  • Students mapping the history of an event like the U.S. Civil War could create a different layer for each year of the war.
Google Maps Engine Lite supports importing and mapping data via spreadsheets. This was previously possible if you used a Google Spreadsheet Gadget like Map-A-List, but the native support in Google Maps Engine Lite makes this easier than ever. As long as your spreadsheet meets the following minimum standards, you will be able to have the data mapped for you. 
  • Your spreadsheet should have three columns. 
    •  Names of places. 
    • Location (City and State or postal code or latitude and longitude coordinates). 
    • Description (information you want displayed within the placemark).
The Google Slides presentation below offers step-by-step directions for creating placemarks, layers, and polygons in Google Maps Engine Lite. Directions for sharing and embedding the maps are included at the end. (Use full screen mode to see all of the directions on the slides).

If you would like a copy of these slides, please open the editor (click the gear icon) then make a copy in your Google Drive account. Complete directions for that process are available here

For those who like to learn more about Google Maps and Google Earth, Google offers a self-paced course available with video-based and or text-based lessons

Elements4D - Exploring Chemistry with Augmented Reality

This is a guest post from Samantha Morra of, an advertiser on 

Augmented Reality (AR) blurs the line between the physical and digital world. Using cues or triggers, apps and websites can “augment” the physical experience with digital content such as audio, video and simulations. There are many benefits to using AR in education such as giving students opportunities to interact with items in ways that spark inquiry, experimentation, and creativity. There are a quite a few apps and sites working on AR and its application in education.

Elements4D, an AR app from Daqri, allows students explore chemical elements in a fun way while learning about real-life chemistry. To get started, download Elements4D and print the cubes.

There are 6 physical paper cubes printed with different symbols from the periodic table. It takes a while to cut out and put together the cubes, but it is well worth it. In Elements4D, the cubes then become the trigger that bring the elements to life.

Students point the iPad camera at a cube, and it will reveal additional information about that element.

With 6 cubes, students have 36 naturally-occurring elements. Through AR, they will learn their names, what they look like, and their atomic weights. Here are gold and carbon. (If a student clicks on element, they will get more facts about it.)

The best part, though, is when students put two cubes together, then they can see how they react and get the resulting compound and chemical equation. Notice, when they are not touching, Hydrogen and Oxygen are gasses. Put them together and, you guessed it, they turn into water.

One of the big benefits of these cubes is that students can “play” with elements that they could never handle in a classroom. In fact, students can even “play” with Plutonium. Here are the cubes for Plutonium and Bromine separately. Notice that Bromine is a liquid and Plutonium is a solid.

The really wonderful thing about this AR app is that it stimulates inquiry. After showing this app to students and teachers of different ages, the reaction has all been the same. They want to manipulate the cubes and see what happens. They are excited about chemistry.

Using Elements4D students could do a variety of these activities:
  • Create a log of different chemical interactions. Draw how each element looks individually and then how they look together. Take note of the state of matter, color, etc.
  • Pick one or two elements and see how all of the other element react with them.
  • View each element and create a chart sorting them by state of matter: solid, liquid or gas.
  • Try just putting gasses together, or liquids or solid. What kinds of conclusions can students make after observing what reacts to another element.
AR can make the 21st century digital classroom a dynamic place to teach and learn. We are just beginning to see apps and programs that are harnessing the potential that AR can have in the classroom. If you have not played with any augmented reality apps yet, check out Elements4D. You are in for a treat. This app works great and fosters inquiry and experimentation with chemical elements in a safe environment.

Samantha will be leading EdTechTeacher iPad workshops in Chicago and Cambridge this summer.