Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A Few Resources for Learning About Birds

About a week ago while walking my dogs I started to notice the sounds of birds returning my neighborhood. This morning a little fluffy bird landed outside my window stayed long enough for me to take a grainy picture of it. If you live in a northern climate like me, you and your students are probably starting to see the birds return too. Here are some resources for teaching and learning about birds.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology offers more than 7,500 hours of recordings of nearly 9,000 bird callss. The recordings are published on the Macaulay Library site. You can browse for recordings recommended by Macaulay Library or you can search for a bird by name. When you find a recording you can also see a Google Map of where the recording was made. While the recordings cannot be downloaded for free they can be heard for free. Click here for an example.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has a YouTube channel that offers some nice mini documentaries about birds. I've embedded a video about Snowy Owls below.

Untamed Science offers a nice video about bird migrations. Physics of Bird Migration provides some short explanations of why birds fly in V formations, how they navigate thousands of miles and return to the same places every year, and how they prepare for a long migration. The short video is embedded below.

The Canadian Museum of Nature hosts a good collection of online games and animations about mammals, birds, and dinosaurs. A few of the games and animations are Canada-specific, but those and all of the others have a broad appeal. The three games that I tried were focused on the adaptations of animals to their environments. In the mammals section I played a game about the adaptations of polar bears and grizzly bears to their environments. In the birds section I played a matching game in which I had to pair the beak of a bird to the adaptation it represented. And in the fossils section I viewed an animation through which I learned how horned dinosaurs eat their food.

JohnnyAppl - Play Trivia Games and Plant Real Trees

Update April 2016: This appears to have gone offline. 

JohnnyAppl is a fun online trivia game that is perfect for Earth Day. JohnnyAppl offers a variety of trivia quizzes that you can play anonymously or as a registered user (via Facebook log-in). Similar to Free Rice, the game is supported by banner advertising on the right-hand side of the screen. The revenue from the advertising is used buy and plant trees through the Eden Reforestation Program.

As a player on JohnnyAppl you are credited with helping to plant a tree after correctly answering 150 questions. Don't worry, you don't have to answer all of them in one session. JohnnyAppl has trivia bunches of quizzes in categories including geography, vocabulary, science, and technology. After answering ten questions in a quiz you are given a score that shows you how you did compared to others taking the same quiz.

Applications for Education
JohnnyAppl is a site, like Free Rice, that I would like to on my classroom blog as a fun and somewhat educational resource for students to use during some free time if they finish a lesson early or are simply looking for something fun to do at home.

H/T to CNET. Releases an Updated Chrome Extension for Learning a Language Online is a free service designed to help people learn a new language while browsing the web. Today, released an update to their Chrome extension.'s updated Chrome extension enables you to highlight any word on a webpage then double-click on it to find its definition and hear it read aloud to you. You can also add the word to a list of words to review in your free online account. And for every word that you look up using the extension a flashcard is created and added to your free Lingualy online account.

Applications for Education's Chrome extension could be a good tool for students to use for support while reading webpages in the languages that they are trying to learn. For example, if I have a student who is trying to learn French and is reading a French newspaper online, he could benefit from using when he encounters a word that is new to him.

10 Topics for School Blog Posts

I frequently hear people say, "I don't know what to write about," when I talk to them about maintaining a school or classroom blog. One of my suggestions is to think about what your students' parents want to know about. What do they ask you about at open house night or parent-teacher conferences? Think about that for a few minutes and you'll have a some good blog topics. I did that yesterday as I was preparing for my webinar Blogs and Social Media for Teachers & School Leaders. Here's the list of blog post topics that I developed.

  • How to manage your child’s web use
  • How to talk to kids about web use
  • How to prevent the summer slide
  • 5 fun, free educational activities to do at home (think Maker activities)
  • 5 local field trips to do on rainy days
  • 5 local field trips to do on sunny days
  • A glossary of Tween vocabulary
  • 5 things parents should know about Facebook/ Twitter/ Instagram/ Snapchat/ YikYak
  • 5 tasty and healthy snacks to send to school
  • How to talk to kids about bullying
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