Friday, March 1, 2013

National Geographic's Tools for Adventure Introduces Students to GIS

National Geographic Education has a nice interactive activity for introducing students to GIS and using maps to interpret information. Maps: Tools for Adventure asks students to interpret the data on five maps to solve problems and help animals. On the first page of the activity students select an animal that they want help. The students' choices are elephants, eagles, whales, koala bears, and panda bears. After making a selection students see a map that containing three layers of information; where the animal lives, where people live, and how people threaten the animal population. After examining the data students are asked to decide what can be done to help the animals.

Applications for Education
Maps: Tools for Adventure could be a good activity for introducing elementary school and middle school students to basic data and map interpretation. If you don't have a 1:1 classroom, you could recreate most of the activity by printing out the maps and distributing them to your students. To extend the activity transition your students into Google Earth where students can explore other data layers and develop new questions about the data that find in Google Earth. Take a look at these marine life Google Earth files to get started.

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. Timelines.tv - Video Timelines for Students

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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.
ABCya.com 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.
EdTechTeacher.org 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