Friday, November 18, 2011

Kerbal Space Program - Create Your Own Space Program

Kerbal Space Program is a neat new program (still in beta) for Mac and Windows that allows students to create and manage their own virtual space travel programs. One of the highlights of Kerbal is that through the software students can develop and test rockets. In the testing phase students get instant feedback on the speed and potential orbiting path of the rockets that they virtually launch. Watch the video below for a complete overview of the Kerbal Space Program.


For clarification, the beta version of the software is free. The developers do plan to start charging $7 to download the software in the future though so get it while it's still free.

Thanks to my friend and colleague Mike Morrel for sharing this one on Facebook.

Study Stream - Language Learning Videos and Exercises

Study Stream is a new service for learning to read and speak Spanish, Italian, Japanese, and Portuguese. Study Stream takes an interesting approach to helping people learn these languages. The centerpiece of the Study Stream system is a collection of videos and articles in the language that you're trying to learn. The videos and articles are accompanied by side-by-side translations to help you follow along. From each video or article you can select words and phrases that you want to study through the study exercises provided by Study Stream.

Applications for Education
Study Stream reminds me a bit of a service called 22 Frames that also uses current, relevant videos to help students acquire new language skills. While I don't think it can replace formal instruction with a world languages teacher, Study Stream could be a good independent practice tool for students.

Catch - Capture and Share Notes Anywhere

Catch is a service that allows you to create bookmarks, text notes, voice notes, and images anytime you're on the web. Catch offers browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer. You can also use Catch on Android and iOS devices to save notes. You can find the Android and iOS apps here. Notes that you save to your Catch account can be just a simple link, a link with a note, an image that you capture on your phone, or voice message.

This week Catch announced a new feature called Catch Streams. Streams are collaborative sets of links and notes. With a free account you can establish up to three Streams. In each Stream you and your team can build collections of resources, brainstorm by sharing notes, and keep track of goals you've set.

Applications for Education
I often get ideas for a lesson while not near a computer. Services like Catch allow me to capture those ideas on my phone. Later when I get to a computer I'll expand upon my idea. Students who work the same way, might find Catch to be a handy tool for capturing their ideas whenever they get them. Catch Streams will enable those same students working on group research projects to collaboratively brainstorm and build resources lists.

Using Pictures for Current Events Lessons

Everyday the BBC runs a feature called the Day in Pictures that displays a small collection of photographs from around the world. For years I've used this resource as a conversation starter for current events discussions in my Global Studies classes. The Day in Pictures collections are part of a much larger resource from the BBC simply called In Pictures. The In Pictures resource provides hundreds of images in a variety collections and slide shows about current events throughout the world. Some of the slide shows even include narration. All of the images include captions explaining what is happening in the picture and a little background knowledge about the event being photographed.

Applications for Education
The In Pictures collections from the BBC are great conversation starters for current events discussions. The collections are also great supplementary material for students to use in presentations about current events. For visual learners the images from the In Pictures collections are helpful for providing visual connections and context to a story. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Resources for Teaching and Learning About American Thanksgiving

American Thanksgiving is just one week away. I'm sure some readers are looking for a few resources to use in delivering short lessons on the history and traditions associated with the holiday. If you're one of those readers, here are some resources that I've collected over the last few years.

Where Does Thanksgiving Grow? is a neat data set produced by Linda Zellmer at Western Illinois State University. The data sets contain information about where the main ingredients in Thanksgiving meal come from. The data sets are displayed on maps showing you which states produce the most and least of each ingredient. For example, click on the turkey production data set and you will see that in 2007 Minnesota and North Carolina were the leading producers of turkeys. You can access the data sets individually or as a comprehensive PDF poster.

If you're looking for a writing activity to do with the students in advance of Thanksgiving, National Geographic Kids offers a Mad Libs-like story writing activity. Funny Fill-In generates a funny Thanksgiving story based on the words that kids write in response to Thanksgiving prompts. Quiz Your Noodle is another fun Thanksgiving game available on National Geographic Kids. 

James Hollis at Teachers Love SMART Boards has developed an excellent list of Thanksgiving lessons that can be done using a SMART Board or other interactive whiteboard.

ABC Teach has numerous free lesson plans, coloring pages, and offline games that are designed for elementary school use.


 History.com has a dozen videos related to the origins and history of Thanksgiving as well as video about current Thanksgiving traditions. Below I've embedded History of Thanksgiving, but I also recommend watching Mayflower Deconstructed.


The Year We Had Two Thanksgivings tells the story of Thanksgiving 1939. In 1939 Thanksgiving was going to fall on the last day of November which caused merchants to be worried about a shortened shopping season. In response to this concern President Roosevelt proclaimed that Thanksgiving would be moved up one week. Some states chose to ignore this proclamation and celebrate Thanksgiving on the last day of the month anyway. The conflict was finally resolved in 1941 when Congress passed a law stating that Thanksgiving would always be celebrated on the fourth Thursday of the month. The Year We Had Two Thanksgivings is supported by ten primary source documents. Included in those documents are letters from merchants appealing to FDR to change the day of Thanksgiving and letters opposing the change.

PBS Teachers has two lesson plans/ sets of activities about Thanksgiving that correspond to a classroom viewing of the American Experience series We Shall Remain. You can watch individual episodes or the entire series here.

Last, but certainly not least, Larry Ferlazzo has an extensive list of Thanksgiving lesson resources. In general, if there is a holiday in the US, Larry has a list for it.