Sunday, July 29, 2012

Exploring the Olympics on Google Earth and Google Maps

If you've been watching the Olympic Games and wondering how you might incorporate them in your classroom, here are couple of resources to investigate.

The Google Earth Blog has published a short list of Google Earth tours based on the Olympic Games in London. The list includes a fly-over tour of the marathon route, Street View imagery of the Olympic Park, and 3D models of some of the Olympic venues.

Google's London 2012 page includes a Google Map showing the distribution of Olympic medals. Visitors can see the distribution of medals according to medal color and country.

Applications for Education
When I saw the Google Map of medal distribution I immediately thought of a simple geography lesson. Students can browse for medal winners in other countries then research those countries. To take it a step further, you might ask students to investigate why a country produces exceptional athletes in a given sport. For example, you might challenge students to find out why South Korea excels at archery.

Larry Ferlazzo has a large list of Olympic resources going, I encourage you to check out Larry's list

Beyond the App - You Found an App, Now What?

This is a guest post from Sarah Emerling.

With all of the technology integration and the plethora of academic apps flooding the market, the time is ripe for teachers to take advantage of these teaching tools.  More and more, classrooms are incorporating iPods and iPads into everyday instruction.  This is such a gift for today’s students.  There is no denying that iDevices, when used efficiently, are some of our greatest teaching tools.  However, using this technology for effective instruction is a challenge that teachers need to face and accept.

There is a prolific amount of educational apps available for teachers and schools.  From simple flash card type math drills, to more elaborate science instruction and quiz format games, there are just too many apps to detail in any single blog post.  Still, apps alone do not make an efficient instructional tool.  By all means, teach the students how to use them, put them into practice, and utilize their brilliance, but without instruction, the apps are just another support device, not a teaching tool.  iDevices can be used in so many other ways, and as a student-driven instructional tool, they can’t be beat.  

Change how you deliver information
With the big push to increase the level of rigor in classrooms, note-making is an easy and engaging way to have students create their own notes, instead of simply copying down information given to them.  Utilize podcasts (either create your own using Keynote or Powerpoint or download free podcasts from iTunesU) and have students generate their own notes.  Give students a short podcast as an introduction to a topic and a time limit.  Students watch the podcast and create their own notes showing ownership of the knowledge instead of simply being given the information.  Additionally, students love the change from a teacher lecturing to holding the instruction in their hands.

Expand the definition of “text”
Text comes in so many formats; authors don’t necessarily write books.  Show students that the world is full of text by connecting with them on a musical level.  Use songs and music videos to teach literary concepts like author’s purpose, figurative language, and story elements (all while being careful of copyright law).  Students respond to the connection of language arts concepts to popular music.  By putting the music or the video on an iPod students are fully immersed in the experience, and therefore in the text.  Using this type of instruction is particularly helpful for non-readers or low-level readers.  For a student who struggles to read, upper level literacy skills can be difficult.  By giving the student text that is auditory, it takes away the struggle to read and puts the focus on the comprehension skills.

Make movies . . . and much much more
The newest generations of the iPod and iPad come with cameras and internal microphones.  Using these tools, students can create any number of projects, again addressing the synthesis level of Bloom’s Taxonomy.  Using the microphone, younger students can record weekly fluency reads for the purpose of teacher conferencing or running records.  Teachers can also have students record exit slips telling what they learned, additional questions, or summarizing the lesson.  Utilize the camera to have students vodcast.  Video-casting is a fun way for students to express opinions.  Vodcasting impressions of a book, or the details from an historical event is an engaging way to make predictions or analyze thoughts.  Have students create their own movies for any number of reasons - propaganda lessons in social studies, animated book reviews, or student led lessons on math topics.  Putting the devices in the hands of the students ultimately leads to creation-based learning at a level that can’t be delivered solely by a teacher.

Ultimately, putting an iDevice in the hands of students without proper guidance or instruction can lead to play and fun, but not always learning.  Using apps, and apps alone, with solid teaching can absolutely be beneficial to students.  But with the wealth of other resources that iPods and iPads offer, to only use them for apps is underutilizing this valuable tool.  The assortment of student-created products that can be conceived by using the other features of the iDevices is limitless.  It puts the ownership of knowledge into the students hands and makes for better instruction and ultimately better thinkers. 

Sarah Emerling is a special education teacher and a technology coach in Aiken County, South Carolina.  You can follow her technology integration as she chronicles her iLessons in a new blog: She also writes app reviews for   You can contact her at or follow her school tech and apps boards on Pinterest at

Saturday, July 28, 2012

This Week's Most Popular Posts on Free Technology for Teachers

This week I was in Limestone, Maine participating and teaching during the Maine School of Science and Math's STEM conference. In the evenings I stayed in a lovely little cabin across the border in New Brunswick. While the cabin was great for me and my loyal dog, it was not so good for Internet connectivity. The limited Internet connection in the evening resulted in fewer posts this week. I'll get back up to speed next  week. In the meantime...

Here are this week's most popular posts: 
1. 101 Math Questions
2. Aviary to Close Their Advanced Suite
3. Five Tools for Modern Postcard Lessons
4. 5 Ways to Use Google Sites in Schools
5. Use the YouTube Upload Widget to Collect Videos from Students
6. Meograph Opens Four Dimensional Storytelling to Everyone
7. Try Pearltrees for iPhone and iPad

Please visit the official advertisers and marketing partners that help keep this blog going.
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Lesley University offers quality online graduate programs for teachers.
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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Conduct Conference Calls for Free on Speek

Speek is a free conference call service that I learned about a few weeks ago on Larry Ferlazzo's blog. When you sign-up for Speek you create a URL for your conference call. Then enter the email addresses of the people that you want to join your call. When the recipient clicks the link and enters his or her phone number, Speek calls them and connects them to you and the rest of the conference. For now Speek only works in the United States and works best with less than ten callers.

Speek - Fast and easy conference calls on the go from Speek on Vimeo.

Applications for Education
Speek could be a good service to use to organize small conference calls for parent-teacher conferences or for small virtual department meetings.

Draw On Your Phone or Tablet to Search Google

This afternoon Google released a new way to search on your iPad, iPhone, Android tablet, and Android phone. Now instead of typing your query into the Google Search box, you can just handwrite a word or phrase to search. See it in action in the video below.

For now Handwrite for Google mobile only works on Android tablets running 4.0+, Android phones on 2.3+, and iOS 5+.

Applications for Education
Handwrite could be useful for students who are frustrated by trying to type search phrases on a touchscreen device.

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