Friday, January 27, 2012

Alien Buddies - An iPad App for Learning Shapes, Numbers, Letters

Alien Buddies is an iPad and iPhone app designed for pre-k students to practice recognizing shapes, letters, and numbers. The app provides leveled games in which students practice recognizing patterns and sequences. The activities for recognizing letters and numbers have audio and visual prompting modes. Alien Buddies normally costs $1.99 but I received an email from the app's publisher informing me that it is available for free today, January 27th.

A Google Maps Lesson Idea - Seasonings Around the World

On Wednesday morning I came across a neat article on NPR titled A Trip Around the World, By Way of Seasonings. The article is part of a series of recipes that call for using spices from places all over the world. The article gave me an idea for a Google Maps project in world history classes.

As any history teacher knows, discovering new travel routes for the spice trade was one of the motivations for early explorers. The idea I had was to have students research where those spices came from, which explorers went where, and plot that information on a Google Map or in Google Earth. Students using Google Earth could create a narrated tour of the world using the information that they include in their placemarks.

For directions on creating placemarks and tours in Google Maps and Google Earth, please visit my collection of Google tutorials.

Frozen Planet - An Interactive Exploration of the Poles

The Open University is a fantastic place to discover all kinds of valuable educational materials. From time to time I find myself getting lost in the content both on The Open University's website and The Open University's various YouTube channels. I was doing just that recently when I discovered Frozen Planet: Explore the Polar Regions.

Frozen Planet: Explore the Polar Regions features an interactive display through which you can view the history of polar exploration and the science of the polar regions. The interactive display is created through the use of the Google Earth browser plug-in and a timeline. You can click along the timeline to see and read placemarks on Google Earth. You can browse through and click on a list of important places in both polar regions. For further investigation and analysis of the polar regions you can activate a number of Google Earth layers within the Frozen Planet display. The display also includes videos about each region although the playlist for the Antarctic region is much longer than the playlist for the Arctic region.

Applications for Education
Frozen Planet: Explore the Polar Regions could be a good resource for both science and history teachers. In fact, Frozen Planet could be the basis for an interdisciplinary unit at the middle school or high school level.

Here's a fun fact that I learned through Frozen Planet: Explore the Polar Regions, five years after being the first person to stand on top of Mount Everest Sir Edmund Hillary was part of the team that completed the first complete crossing of Antarctica .

New Google in Education Ebook and Website

Yesterday, the Google Apps for Education team published a new ebook (PDF) titled A New and Open World for Learning. A New and Open World for Learning is all about using Google's products and services in education. The ebook is clearly a marketing vehicle for Google Apps for Education, but you will find some good examples of and ideas for using Google apps in your school.

As part of the same announcement in which A New and Open World for Learning was released, Google also announced a revamped Google in Education website. The aspects of Google in Education that are probably of most interest to classroom teachers are the lesson plan index and the classroom tools index. The classroom tools index provides links to information about each of the services available to teachers and students. In the classroom tools index you'll find some tutorial or how-to resources.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

New Google+ Safety Center for Teens, Parents, and Educators

Today, Google+ opened to students 13 years old or older. As ZDNet reported, in conjunction with opening Google+ to teenagers Google opened a new Google+ Safety Center. The Google+ Safety Center features a couple of guides to Google+ settings and functions for teens and their parents. The section for teens isn't much more than a basic introduction to Google+ settings, but the section for parents provides some solid advice and answers to common concerns that parents have about their teens use of social media.

In addition to information about Google+, the Google+ Safety Center offers resources from Common Sense Media about anti-bullying practices and digital reputation management.

Applications for Education
If you're considering using Google+ with your teenage students, you might have some parents with concerns about having their children using the service. The materials provided in the Google+ Safety Center could help ease their minds.

Some of the features of Google+ that could be of use to students are screen sharing and document sharing in Hangouts. Those two services could be helpful for peer editing and or peer tutoring. You and your students could also use the Concept Board app in Google+ Hangouts for collaborative brainstorming sessions.