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Thursday, July 5, 2018

Learn About Lake Ecosystems on DIY Lake Science

For the Fourth of July holiday I took my daughters to play at a little beach on a local lake. My older daughter enjoyed gathering snail and mussel shells in her bucket while my younger daughter enjoyed playing with some beach toys. The smell of the snail and mussel shells that my daughter collected reminded me of a neat iPad app that I found a couple of years ago.

DIY Lake Science is a free iPad app designed to help students learn about lake ecosystems. In the app students will find a small simulation of a lake ecosystem. Students can change the depth of the lake, the temperature, and the general climate around the lake to learn how those changes alter the ecosystem. After using the simulation students can learn more about lake ecosystems in the DIY Lake Science video library.

The “DIY” aspect of DIY Lake Science is found in the directions for a dozen hands-on activities designed to help students learn more about lake ecosystems. Half of the activities, like “make a lake” and “freezing lakes” can be conducted indoors in a classroom or at home with the help of parents. The other half of the DIY Lake Science activities require going outdoors to learn how to measure the murkiness of water, find aquatic insects, and to see how run-off affects lakes.

A Lesson From the Evolution of My Bookmarks

One of the questions that readers ask me on a fairly regular basis is, "how do you keep track of everything?" The answer to that has remained largely the same for the last decade. My process is that when I find something interesting I bookmark it, review it, and, if I like it, I write about it here on Free Technology for Teachers. Once I write about something I tend to remember it better than if I just looked at it and tested it for a little while. The one part of the process that has changed over the years is just where my bookmarks get saved.

Delicious (or Del.icio.us)
Delicious was the first online bookmarking tool that I used. It was the leader in the field of social bookmarking for quite a while. Unfortunately, it started to suffer from feature bloat which prompted me to move on to Google Notebook. In the years after I stopped using it Delicious was bought and sold a few times before ceasing to operate. Mashable has a good little history of the evolution of one of the original Web 2.0 darlings.

Google Notebook
Google Notebook offered a simple way to save bookmarks into my Google Account. I cannot remember all of the features of Google Notebook today, but I do recall at various times using the collaboration option and the option to take notes while saving each bookmark. Google stopped development of Google Notebook in 2009 and shuttered the service completely in 2011.

Evernote
When Google announced that end of development of Google Notebook I moved my bookmarks over to Evernote. Evernote was smart in making it easy to import Google Notebooks into Evernote. At the time Evernote didn't place any limitations on the number of devices you could use with a free account. It was also at this time that I played with using Diigo for my personal bookmarks but kept going back to Evernote because their mobile apps were better than Diigo's. That said, I did use Diigo with student groups because the collaboration component was easier for students to use.

Google Keep
When Evernote started to restrict their free plan to use on only a couple of devices at a time, I moved my bookmarking activity to Google Keep. Google Keep didn't have as many options for organization of notes as Evernote did, but for my purposes Google Keep did everything that I needed it to.

OneNote
In January of this year I decided that I needed to get to know Microsoft's products a bit better so I started using OneNote for bookmarking. I'm now doing almost all of my bookmarking in OneNote and occasionally using Google Keep to bookmark or record quick notes.

Everything Changes
The lesson to take away from the evolution of my bookmarks is that everything in tech changes. While each change seemed like a big hassle at the time, after a week or two I was over it. Those bookmarks that I had in Delicious more than a decade ago aren't worth anything to me today nor are those that I had in Evernote four years ago. So the next time that a favorite ed tech service changes or shuts down, go ahead and groan for a bit but remember that an alternative will probably present itself in short order.

My Ten Favorite ClassTools Templates

There are dozens of great game builders, writing templates, and handy classroom tools on Classtools.net. I've tried nearly all of them over the years. My ten favorite Classtools tools are featured below.

The Dustbin game is an activity in which students sort vocabulary terms. Playing a Dustbin game can be a good way for your students to review key vocabulary terms. In a science classroom you could create a game in which students sort animal names into the categories of mammal, reptile, fish, and bird. In a geography classroom you could create a game in which students sort city names according to state, province, country, or continent.




The ClassTools Hexagons Generator lets you create an online hexagonal learning activity to share with your students. To use the template just enter a topic then a minimum of five terms related to that topic. For example, I entered the topic of "American Revolution" then entered the terms "Stamp Act," "Sugar Act," "Boston Tea Party," "Intolerable Acts," and "Olive Branch Petition." The generator then created five hexagons that my students can arrange online to show the connections between the topics. Students can also edit the hexagons to add explanations to the connections.


The Diamond 9 template has students write text into nine boxes that form a diamond shape. Students have to sort the boxes into order of importance and connection to ideas in other boxes. A space is provided for students to write a justification for placement of each box.

The Jigsaw template has students write keywords or phrases into jigsaw pieces. Students then arrange the pieces to show the connections between the keywords in the those pieces. Students can color code each piece in their puzzles.

The ClassTools Source Analyser provides students with a simple template that can help them analyze the resources that they want to use in research papers and presentations. The template asks students to answer five basic questions about the reliability and utility of a source. Three hint buttons in the template can give students further guidance in analyzing a source.

Mission MapQuest is a great tool for map-based quizzes and games. The concept behind it is simple, you create a series of clues that your students need to follow to identify places around the world. You can add as few or as many clues to your MapQuest as you like. When you're ready to have students try your MapQuest just give them the web address assigned to it. Watch the video embedded below to learn how to create your own map-based quizzes on Mission MapQuest.


The Classtools Fake SMS Generator is free to use and does not require students to register to use it. In the video below I demonstrate how to create a fictitious text message exchange between historical characters. As I mentioned in the video, the Fake SMS Generator could also be used to create visuals for lessons on cyber-safety and etiquette.



Connect Fours is a game in which that you have to create four sets of four related terms from sixteen terms displayed on the game board. Connect Fours is based on the concept of the connect wall in the BBC gameshow Only Connect. The idea is that you have to create four sets of four related terms from sixteen terms displayed on the board. For example, I created a game about the four major professional sports leagues in the United States. Sixteen team names are displayed on the board and players have to arrange the teams according to the leagues that they belong to. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to use Connect Fours to create your own review games.



The Random Name Picker and the Fruit Machine are two of those tools that can be used in almost every classroom setting. Both tools can be used to select names or numbers at random. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to use both of those tools.


Twister, like the Fake SMS allows you imagine what historical figures would have done if they had access to social media. On Twister you can create fake Tweets as if you were Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain, or any other person in history. To create a fake Tweet on Twister just go to the site and enter a name, a Tweet, and date stamp for your Tweet. Twister will pull a public domain image for the profile picture and show you the fake Tweet. Your fake Tweet will be given its own URL. You can also just take a screenshot of it to save it.

4-H STEM Lab - A Good Place to Find Hands-on STEM Activities for K-12

The 4-H STEM Lab is a good place to find hands-on STEM activities for students of all ages. Activities in the 4-H STEM Lab are organized according to topic and grade level. The topics are alternative energy, chemistry, electricity, engineering, and physics. As is often the case with resources like this, some of the suggested activities can be applied to multiple topics.

All of the activities listed in the 4-H STEM Lab contain materials lists and detailed directions for completion. Each activity page also includes a PDF that you can download to reference while completing the activity with your students. The PDF contains discussion questions that you can use to debrief after the activity is completed. For example, the Rubber Band Car activity PDF includes questions that ask students to consider other simple machines that could be powered by rubber bands.

Applications for Education
The 4-H STEM Lab's library of activities is still fairly small, but the activities that it does offer are well developed. I appreciate that the activities have possibilities for modification and extension based on your students' needs. The activities in the 4-H STEM Lab are a good fit for a summer or after-school enrichment program as well as being useful for traditional classroom settings.