Thursday, February 28, 2013

Month in Review - February's Most Popular Posts

The first two months of the year have zipped along here in Maine and the year has been off to a good start for Free Technology for Teachers. I hope that the year is off to a good start for all of you too. For those you who live in the north and have had enough snow, don't worry because spring isn't too far away now. 

As I do every month, I've put together a list of the most popular posts of the month and here they are:

1. A Short Guide to Using Google Drive on Your iPad
2. A Teacher's Guide to Classroom Backchannels and Informal Assessment
3. 5 Uses of Augmented Reality in Education
4. A New Collaboration Option in Google Forms
5. 5 Good Task Management Services for Teachers and Students
6. Teaching Tree - Video Explanations of Computer Science Concepts
7. Wallwisher is Now Padlet
8. A New Crash Course in U.S. History
9. A Simple Tool for Cleaning Up Your YouTube Viewing Experience
10. - Video Timelines for Students

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ThingLink is a great tool for collaboratively creating interactive images.
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Vocabulary Spelling City offers spelling practice activities that you can customize.
MasteryConnect provides a network for teachers to share and discover Common Core assessments. is a provider of free educational games for K-5.
Lesley University offers quality online graduate programs for teachers.
The University of Maryland Baltimore County offers graduate programs for teachers.
Boise State University offers a 100% online program in educational technology. is hosting iPad Summit USA in Atlanta this spring.

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Take Your Students On a Virtual Field Trip of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History

Next week, on March 5 at 1pm ET, Scholastic is hosting a virtual field trip through the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. During the field trip David Baldacci will guide students through the museum to investigate important and fascinating moments in American history. The field trip is part of Scholastic's 39 Clues Reading Club's Decoding History activities. Scholastic has a 13 page PDF of pre-activity vocabulary and reading to get students ready for the field trip.

Watch Physics Demonstrations and More on MIT Tech TV

MIT Tech TV is a collection of thousands videos produced by students and faculty at MIT. The videos are arranged into more than 600 collections covering topics in engineering, education, science, the humanities, and more. You can view the videos online and most of them are available to download.

Roughly 300 of the MIT Tech TV videos are also available on a YouTube channel of the same name. There are a couple of playlists within the channel that could be of interest to high school and middle school science teachers. MIT Engineering K-12 is a set of twenty-six videos in which MIT students explain and demonstrate things like gas pressure, gravity, Boyle's Law, and the shape of sound waves.

MIT Physics Demonstrations is a playlist of 44 short demonstrations. The videos don't have narration, just the demonstration. The explanation of the principle demonstrated is found in the description below each video. 

Applications for Education
The MIT Physics Demonstrations videos could be helpful if you don't have access to the materials necessary to do the demonstration in your classroom. The videos could prompt your students' questions or you could ask students to research the answers to questions based on the demonstrations.

Resources for Lessons About the Iditarod and Dogs In General

This weekend the Iditarod sled dog race begins. If you're looking for some materials to use to teach about the Iditarod or dogs in general, take a look at some of the resources below.

The best place to start your search for Iditarod-related lesson plans in on the Iditarod Education Portal. There you will find lesson plans arranged by subject area. The Iditarod Education Portal includes lessons for math, science, social studies, and language arts. Take a look at this lesson (link opens a PDF) about friction to get a sense of the kind of lesson plans that you will find through the Iditarod Education Portal.

Scholastic offers a nice collection of materials about the Iditarod. Included in those materials is an interview with author Gary Paulsen in which he answers questions based on his experience in the race. The Scholastic Iditarod resources also include some history of the race and history of Alaska in general.

The Discovery Channel offers 37 video clips related to the Iditarod race. The clips cover information about the dogs, the mushers, the sleds, and the history of the race.

For your students who are interested in learning about the dogs used to pull the sleds over the 1100 mile Iditarod course, the American Kennel Club is a good place to find information about Alaskan Malamutes and Siberian Huskies. I should note that most of the dogs that run in the race aren't pure-bred dogs. I've met many mushers and one of my former colleagues is a musher (not in the Iditarod) whose teams that aren't what you might expect to see when you think of sled dogs. To learn about genetics and breeding of dogs I recommend National Geographic's article How to Build a Dog.

The From Alaska Educational Program has five pre-made units of study about mushing (dog sledding). Each unit has articles, images, and quizzes about mushing. Three of the units also include video and audio clips.

Snag Films hosts a couple of videos that may fit with your lessons on dogs too. The Nature of Things: Man and Dog is a 45 minute video about the relationship between humans and dogs and how that relationship has evolved over time. Dog Bless You is a five minute video about the first no-kill homeless dog shelter in Idaho. As someone who has two rescued dogs at home, I have a special affinity for Dog Bless You.

A special note about this post.
I write a post about the Iditarod every year and every year I receive critical comments about my decision to do so. As mentioned above I have worked with a musher and met many others over the last few years. I've seen how well those dogs are cared for and how much money those mushers spend on the care of their teams. I am very comfortable in saying that sled dog racing is not cruel to the animals. If I didn't believe that, I wouldn't post about the race. I also volunteer at a no-kill animal shelter and have rescued dogs myself, I wouldn't promote something that I thought endangered dogs

Flashcard Stash - Create Online Vocabulary Flashcards to Share With Your Students

Flashcard Stash is a free vocabulary flashcard service for teachers and students. The service makes it easy to quickly create flashcards and sets of flashcards. As a registered user of Flashcard Stash when you type a word into a blank flashcard suggested definitions and sample context sentences are provided to you. You can then choose to add one or all of those definitions and sentences to your flashcard or you can write your own definitions and sentences. When making your own flashcards you can include images. If you don't have time to create your own flashcards you can choose to work with some of the pre-made lists of flashcards.

Teachers registered on Flashcard Stash can create flashcard sets to share with their students. Teachers can create and manage multiple class lists within their accounts. Sharing class lists can be done by inviting students to view the flashcards via email or by posting a password-protected link to the lists on a class blog. The second method requires students to remember the password that you have created to access the list. Word lists can also be embedded into blogs or websites.

Students who are registered on Flashcard Stash can create as many sets of flashcards as they like. Students can also study pre-made lists like "100 words you need to know." When students are reviewing their flashcards they have a few ways to look at their cards. They can simply flip through cards in a "learning mode." The "learning mode" shows student their words on the left of the screen and the definition on the right of the screen. Clicking on the "stash this flashcard" tab on the card in "learning mode" reveals sentences that use the word. In "practice mode" students are shown a word from their lists and a set of definitions, they have to match the correct definition to the word they're seeing. "Match Game" is a faster paced version of "practice mode." 

Applications for Education
While it is not the fanciest looking flashcard service on the web, Flashcard Stash does provide some good options to students and teachers. I particularly like the option to create my own set of flashcards to share with my classes. 

Flashcard Stash does require students to have email addresses in order to create their own accounts. That's the only complaint that I have about the service. But as you can see above, you can embed the flashcards into your blog so that your students could see the words there.