Tuesday, April 15, 2014

7 Sites for Helping Students Learn About Wildlife

Earth Day is coming up next week on April 22nd. This week before Earth Day is a good time for lessons about the wildlife that can benefit from the conservation efforts promoted through Earth Day. Here are some of my favorite sites and apps for helping students learn about wildlife.

Arkive.org offers an extensive collection of videos and images of plants and animals. The videos and images are cataloged according to animal, plant, eco-region, and geo-political region. You can navigate the galleries by selecting one of the broad categories then choosing a subject within that broad category. For example, choose the Antarctica eco-region and then you can explore all of the images and videos about plants and animals found in that eco-region. Videos on Arkive can be downloaded to for your classroom use. Arkive offers a dozen online games for kids. The games collection is a mix of quiz games and problem solving games. One of the games that I tried out is Animal Survival that required me to keep a Sand Lizard alive by correctly answering questions about Sand Lizards' daily lives.

Polar Bears International has some lesson plans for teaching about climate change, ecotourism, and conservation. You will also find links to a slideshow on Polar Bears and nice PDF about Polar Bears that contains an educational game. And if you would like to show videos of polar bears to your students, Explore.org has polar bear footage that you can watch here.

WWF Together features interactive stories about endangered animals around the world. Each of the interactive stories includes beautiful images and videos, facts about the animals and their habitats, and the threats to each of the animals. The animals currently featured in the app are pandas, marine turtles, elephants, tigers, polar bears, bison, whales, gorillas, rhinos, and snow leopards. Stories about sharks and jaguars are slated for addition to the app later this year.

Explore.org produces and hosts high-quality documentary films and photographs. The films and images focus on exploring the world and the work of non-profit organizations around the world. The films and images are organized by location and by charitable and or environmental cause. Explore.org is funded in part by the Annenburg Foundation. Part of the video gallery includes live webcam feeds of animals in their habits as well as recorded videos. Explore.org offers a lesson plan section for teachers. Not all lesson plans are appropriate for all grades and the lesson plans are labeled accordingly. All of the lesson plans are based upon videos hosted by Explore.

Wild Earth is a site that has organized more than three dozen live webcam feeds of animals. While watching the video feeds, registered users can chat with each other about what they're seeing. If the video feed is not live when you visit the website, you can choose from any number of recorded videos.

WWF Wildfinder is an interactive map through which you can see the distribution of more than 26,000 animals around the world. You can browse the map, search by region and ecosystem, or search for a specific animal. When you find an animal on the map you can open a tab of information about its habitat, whether or not its population is threatened, and view pictures of the animal.

NOAA's Games Planet Arcade offers twenty-five educational games for young students. The games are intended to help students learn about oceans, wildlife, and weather. Twenty of the games address topics related to marine life. While the games are not terribly complex or fancy, they do offer some solid information for young students. For example, the Humpback Whale Migration game isn't much more than a board game that provides students with information about Humpback whales. As students move across the board they are stopped at spaces offering facts about the annual migrations of Humpback whales. Sea Turtles and the Quest to Nest is one of the headline games of NOAA's Games Planet Arcade. The object of the game is to help a sea turtle avoid common obstacles on while navigating the ocean and the beach before laying her eggs and returning to the sea. About half of the games are hosted on NOAA's website and the others are linked to the websites of PBS, National Geographic or the Environmental Protection Agency.

CGP Grey Explains the Relationship Between China, Hong Kong, and Macau

This week CGP Grey released a new video about another tricky topic in political geography, the relationship between China, Hong Kong, and Macau. The four minute video covers the origins of the political separation of Hong Kong and Macau from China (spoiler alert! it's imperialism) and current relationship between China, Hong Kong, and Macau. The driving question behind the video is, are Hong Kong and Macau countries? Watch the video to find out.

Applications for Education
Like other videos from CGP Grey, this video is a fast-paced introduction to the topic. It won't give your students all of the answers, but it could definitely spark questions from your students that you can then have them investigate as part of a larger lesson.

Spacehopper - Challenge Students With Geography Puzzles Based on Street View

Spacehopper is a new geography game that I recently tried on the recommendations of Keir Clarke and Larry Ferlazzo. Spacehopper features geography questions that are based on Google Maps Street View imagery. Spacehopper shows you a Street View image and you have to guess where in the world the image was captured. You can click the clue button to have the country identified before making a guess. After three incorrect guesses the correct answer will be revealed to you. You can play Spacehopper on a global level or you can specify that you only want to see images from a particular continent.

Applications for Education
Playing Spacehopper could be a good way to get students to focus on thinking about all of the information available to them in an image. To make accurate guesses on Spacehopper, students will need to account for clues that could help them identify the pictured locations.  For example, in the image above students can see that it was taken at a beach, there is a sign that they can read, and if they clicked the clue button they would see that it was taken somewhere in the United Kingdom.

As I wrote about Geoguessr last month, while investigating the imagery in Spacehopper your students may become curious about the things they’re seeing. Then when they finally guess and discover the correct answers they may become even more curious about what they’re seeing. I recently saw this happen with a group of adults to whom I had just introduced Geoguessr. They quickly started investigating the Street View imagery in detail and asking questions like “what is the language on that billboard?”

Studygeek - A Math Glossary and a Collection of Free Math Tutorials

Studygeek is a free service offering hundreds of online mathematics tutorials. The site features a combination of written tutorials and video tutorials sourced from the web. Like similar sites, Studygeek organizes lessons according to subject and topic. For example, click on the algebra section to reveal all of the topics for which Studygeek offers tutorials.

Applications for Education
Studygeek was created for high school and undergraduate mathematics students. Those students in need of a quick refresher or a little help when they get stuck on their homework could find Studygeek to be a helpful resource. Students who don't need full tutorials may find that Studygeek's mathematics glossary provides enough help to get them on the right track to solving a problem.

Clipix - Create Portfolios of Files and Bookmarks

When we look for tools to create collections of files and bookmarks there is certainly not a shortage of options. Clipix is one such tool that I recently tried. Clipix will remind you of Pinterest or eduClipper in that you can "clip" images, videos, and links to save on digital clipboards. Clipix also supports uploading files from your computer to your Clipix clipboards. Each of the clipboards that you create in your Clipix account can be kept private or made public. There is also a privately shared option that can be used for collaborating on clipboard creation. Learn more about Clipix in the video below.

Clipix's basic functions are very similar to other services in the same market. The user interface on Clipix feels less cluttered to me than that of some of its competitors. The option to customize your clipboard background is a nice touch too.

Clipix offers Android and iOS apps that will synchronize with your online Clipix account.

Applications for Education
Clipix could be a good option for high school and college students who are looking for a tool to help them organize their research by course. Students could create a different clipboard for each course that they are taking. Each clipboard could be used to save bookmarks while doing research in each course or the clipboards could be used to simply organize projects that they have completed in each course.