Friday, September 20, 2013

Collaborative School Project Idea - Create a Book Review Site

Amazon features book reviews from customers because we tend to look for recommendations from real people who have read the books that we're considering reading. You can recreate this same experience for students in your school.

Step 1: Have students create book reviews.
Book reviews don't have to be text-based. Your students could create short videos or podcasts in which they talk about their favorite parts of the books they have read. Along the same lines you could have students create "book trailer" videos. You can find five tools for creating book trailer videos in this post. To create a simple podcast have your students try SoundCloud or Vocaroo.

Step 2: Create a collaborative site.
There are plenty of free website builders and blogging platforms that would work for creating a review site. My choices for a site like this are Wikispaces or Google Sites. The ease with which you or your students can build pages and build navigation links is what makes Wikispaces and Google Sites my choice for a collaboratively created book review site. Wikispaces is probably a little easier to initially set-up, but if you're in a school that uses Google Apps for Education then your students will already have an account that they can use on Google Sites. The option to restrict students to editing specific pages in Google Sites is a nice option too. Click here for directions on how to do that.

If I was the teacher-librarian in the school I would probably create the site with pages aligned to genres or themes. If I would also include grade level labels.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

A Snappy Visual Dictionary and Thesaurus

Snappy Words is a free visual dictionary and thesaurus. Enter any word or phrase into the Snappy Words search box and it will create a web of related words, phrases, and definitions. Hover your cursor over any word or phrase in the web to read its definition. Click and drag any node to explore other branches of the web. Double click on a node and it will generate new web branches.

Applications for Education
Snappy Words could be a good resource for students that are stuck in the rut of using the same words and phrases repeatedly in their writing. Snappy Words will give those students access to alternative words and their definitions much faster than thumbing through a thesaurus.

Have You Googled Yourself Lately?

A few years ago one of my homeroom students blurted out,"hey did you know you're on Google?" I responded, "yes, if you Google me, my blog is the first thing you'll find." This got me wondering how many teachers, particularly young and fresh out of college teachers, know what happens when students or students' parents Google his or her name. Do you know? You should. Do your students know what comes up when someone Googles them?

Applications for Education
Call it vanity searching if you wish, but it is important to know what happens when someone Googles your name. This is true not only for teachers, but for anyone applying for a job or applying to college. At least once a year I had my high school students Google themselves. When I had groups made up of juniors (11th grade students) who will be researching and applying to colleges, I had them Google themselves and perform a "social media audit" to make sure that they didn't have anything on a social network that they wouldn't want an interview to see. You and your students can also create Google Alerts to help them monitor their digital footprints.

Geeky Measurements and Math in Google Maps

Google Maps and Google Earth are two of my favorite tools to introduce to teachers. I love it when people go from thinking of Google Maps as only a social studies tool to thinking about using it in other subject areas. One of my favorite resources to show to teachers is Tom Barrett's Maths Maps. Maths Maps are elementary / primary school mathematics lessons that require students to use Google Maps to solve the problems posed to them.

To complete the activities in Maths Maps your students have to use what is now referred to as "Classic" Google Maps (the older version, not the new beta version).  In Classic Google Maps there is the option to measure distances between objects and around objects in a wide variety of units. For example, you can measure distances in rods, furlongs, miles, kilometers, Olympic swimming pool lengths, and more than 50 other units. Some Google Apps for Edu users may have already been switched over to the new version of Google Maps. If you use an "@gmail" address to sign into your Google account, you have been switched over to the new version of Google Maps. If you want to use the measuring tools to complete the lessons in Maths Maps, you have to force Google Maps back to "classic maps." Below I've included directions for doing that and directions for using the measuring tools in Classic Google Maps. (Click the images to view them in full size).

How to Install and Uninstall Chrome Extensions

Yesterday, I shared a neat Chrome extension called WikiTube. WikiTube matches YouTube videos to Wikipedia entries. This morning I had a couple of emails from people asking how to add that extension to their browsers. Rather than trying to type the directions, I created the screencast video and annotated screenshots that you can see below. (Click the screenshots to view them in full size). One thing that I left out of the directions is that you should sign into your account before adding the extensions.