Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Save the Cell Phones!

A couple of weeks ago I finally caved to the marketing pressure of US Cellular and upgraded my mobile phone by using a bunch of reward points and $30. The new phone is great. I now have two smartphones kicking around my house that I can't use to call or text, but I can use to take pictures and connect to the web through my wireless network. My guess is that you probably have a similar situation in your own home.

These deactivated smartphones have a bunch of uses in the classroom besides weighing-down papers. If your network administrator will allow it, connect them to your school's wireless network to use them as response tools during a Socrative activity. Or use them as cameras for the creation of a classroom gallery of presentation pictures. When connected to a wireless network your students could use those phones for manipulating augmented reality layers through Aurasma.

Don't just chuck that old smartphone into a drawer, re-purpose it. Ask your students' parents to donate old phones to the classroom for students to use. Just make sure you clear out any old personal data before giving them to students to use.

Fun and Learning With Peep and the Big Wide World

Peep and the Big Wide World, produced by WGBH, offers a great collection of online games, videos, and offline activities designed to help pre-K and elementary school students learn and develop math and science skills. In all there are fifteen online games available through Peep and the Big Wide World. The games cover skills like pattern recognition, color and shape recognition, distances, and counting.

The educators and families sections of Peep and the Big Wide World offer great activities designed to extend the science and lessons provided in the Peep and the Big Wide World videos. In fact, when you're on the video page you will notice that there is a suggested Anywhere Activity listed with each video.

In addition to the browser-based activities Peep and the Big Wide World offers six free iPad apps for students. The iPad apps offer six of the games provided in the browser-based version of Peep and the Big Wide World.

Applications for Education
Peep and the Big Wide World is a good place to find resource for pre-K and early elementary school science and mathematics lessons. In your next newsletter or blog post for parents point out the family activities section in which parents can find activities to do with their children to support what they're learning in your classroom.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Mapfaire Offers an Easy Way to Make Online Maps

Yesterday I shared step-by-step directions for building maps with Google Maps Engine Lite. If your students aren't ready for Google Maps Engine Lite, take a look at Mapfaire.

Mapfaire is a free tool for quickly creating maps that contain simple placemarks. Using Mapfaire you can create a custom map that highlights places you specify. To use Mapfaire just sign in with your Google Account then name your map and start adding placemarks. To add a placemark all you need to do is enter a location then label your placemark. You can publish and edit your maps at any time.

Applications for Education
Mapfaire is not nearly as feature laden as Google Maps. But because it doesn't have as many features as Google Maps students should be able to get up and running with it much quicker than with Google Maps. You could have students create Mapfaire maps about all kinds of themes in history and or literature.

A Crash Course in Psychology

Hank Green has launched a new Crash Course series on YouTube. His new series is all about psychology. The first video was released yesterday and it has already been viewed more than 100,000 times.

Crash Course Psychology follows the same fast-paced format as the other Crash Course videos. The first installment offers an overview of what psychology is and some of the base concepts and their contributors to the field of psychology. Like other Crash Course videos you would have to watch it multiple times to catch everything offered in it. That said, as an overview for review or introduction it's fine.

Doodle Your Invention In the Doodle 4 Google Contest

The Doodle 4 Google art contest is back for the seventh year in a row. This year's doodle theme is "if I could invent one thing to make the world a better place..."

The contest is open to K-12 students in the United States. The winner will receive a $30,000 scholarship and a $50,000 technology grant for his or her school. Submissions for the contest are due by March 20, 2014. Submissions can be made online or through the mail.

This year Google and Discovery have teamed up to offer a set of classroom activity resources for teachers. Three activity packs will be available by the end of the month. The first activity is available now. The activities are designed to help students develop and share their invention ideas.