Friday, September 20, 2013

Marine Data and Underwater Galleries

The Google Maps Oceans Street View provides a nice way for students to dive below the surface to see marine life in its natural habitat. But if you want to go beyond just looking at things, then Marine Explore is good site to note.

Marine Explore is an open data community in which scientists and others share data sets about oceans. As a member (membership is free) you can search for data sets according to location and type of data (temperatures, sea ice extent, pollution, etc).

Applications for Education
Marine Explore could be a good resource for students in marine science courses. The data sets could be used to create visualizations and correlations on services like the Google Maps Engine. Marine Explore provides some good tutorials on how to analyze data sets. Marine Explore is currently running a challenge contest in which users are asked to develop data visualizations. Some of the suggestions include exploring the effects of salinity in ocean currents, the routes of mobile data platforms, or compare datasets measuring the same parameter in different time frames.

Short Lessons on Equinoxes and Seasons

The autumnal equinox will happen this weekend in the northern hemisphere. If you're looking for some resources for teaching about the equinox and the change of seasons, I have a small collection of resources for you.

On National Geographic's Education page there are two resources worth noting. The first is a simple illustration of the position of Earth relative to the sun throughout the year. That illustration could support your use of this hands-on activity designed to help students understand the changes in intensity and duration of sunlight on their part of the world throughout the year. Both resources are appropriate for elementary school students.

Mechanism Of The Seasons is a video that I found on YouTube. The six minute video could be helpful in a flipped classroom environment as it covers the same information that your students will review in the National Geographic materials mentioned above.

Sixty Symbols offers an eleven minute video about equinoxes and solstices. It's not a video that most kids will find engaging, but I'm including it because in it you can see a demonstration of how you can use the free Stellarium software in your lessons.

Earlier this week I shared a nice video from NASA in which the Harvest Moon is explained.

If you would like some resources for teaching about the changing fall foliage, click here for a list that I recently posted.

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.