Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Three Good Places to Find Fun, Hands-on Science and Technology Lessons

Some of our most memorable learning experiences happen during hands-on lessons. The biology and chemistry lessons that I remember best involved doing something, not just observing something. Here are three good places to find hands-on science and technology lessons to try with your students.

For fun and educational hands-on science and technology projects I also recommend checking out the dozens of pages of projects listed on the projects section of Makezine.com. Whether you're looking for a fun learning activity to do at home with your kids or you're looking for a classroom project that will spark your students' creativity and imagination, Make Projects has something for you.

DIY.org is a neat website on which kids can find dozens of DIY projects that they can do on their own or with their parents. DIY.org provides videos and instructions on how to do the projects. After going through the directions kids then try to complete the project. When they've completed the project they can take a picture and upload it to their DIY.org portfolios. Kids can share examples of their projects through DIY.org. Kids cannot register on DIY.org without a parent's permission. Parents have their own DIY.org dashboards that they can use to track the activities of their children. Children registered on DIY.org have aliases and cartoon avatar pictures.

Scifun.org, written by a University of Wisconsin chemistry professor, features twenty-five fun and safe science experiments that can be performed with household items. The experiments introduce students to basic chemistry concepts through fun, hands-on activity. The experiments on Science is Fun are probably most appropriate for use with students in the fourth through ninth grade. In addition to providing detailed directions for conducting each experiment, Science is Fun provides an explanation of the chemistry at work in each experiment. Complementing the experiments are easy-to-understand explanations of many chemicals and elements on the periodic table. 

eduClipper Releases an Improved Website and Updated iOS App

eduClipper has released a new version of their popular web tool and iOS app. The updated site and app retain all of the great features we've come to enjoy about eduClipper while improving the look and feel of the service.

When you visit the latest version of the eduClipper website you will notice a new look to your boards. All clips are now the same size. The uniformity of the clip size along with increased spacing between clips makes clipboards easier to view and explore.

The latest version of the eduClipper iOS app has been designed to work the same way on iPads and iPhones. This update means that you can now create whiteboard videos on any device running iOS 7.

Support for importing content from Dropbox has been added to eduClipper too. If you're having students use eduClipper to create digital portfolios, the Dropbox integration could be helpful to them.

Disclosure: I am an advisor to eduClipper with a very small equity stake in the company.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Create Interesting KMZ Files on the Thematic Mapping Engine

Thematic Mapping Engine provides users with a very simple way to create Google Earth kmz files. Thematic Mapping draws on data provided by the United Nations to create maps depicting all types of development data and environmental science data. Users select a statistical indicator category, select a year or range of years, and the manner in which they would like the data displayed in Google Earth. If you're using a Windows computer you can preview your files before downloading them. Below is an image of the KMZ file I created using the Thematic Mapping Engine.

Applications for Education
Thematic Mapping could be used in Social Studies, Math, or Environmental Science courses. A map depicting GDP Per Capita would be useful in math if students are studying the differences between mean and median. The same map would also be useful in a Social Studies course where students are studying the distribution of wealth. There are a number of environmental science indicators available from Thematic Mapping one that may be particular useful for Environmental Science students is the CO2 Emissions Per Capita theme.

Thematic Mapping Engine recommends using Firefox as your web browser.

ExamTime Introduces New Options for Tracking Your Own Study Habits

ExamTime is a neat service that students can use to create flashcards, mind maps, and practice quizzes to help them study. Recently, ExamTime added some helpful new features.

The most significant of the new ExamTime features is the new performance tracking option. Performance tracking allows students to keep track of how they scored on practice quizzes, monitor which flashcards they know and which they need to spend more time with, and track their comprehension of nodes of their mind maps. That last option provides students with "tick boxes" that they can check when they feel like they have mastered the topics depicted on mind maps that they have created.

ExamTime's other new features include an improved, expanded flashcard display and a new resource "pinning" option. As all study materials created on ExamTime can be shared publicly, there is a large gallery of study materials for students to access. Pinning a resource from the public gallery is a way for students to quickly add review resources to their libraries of study aids.




ContextU - A Great Site for Exploring the Context of the Civil War

Ken Halla, the blogger behind the US History Teachers Blog, has been working on an excellent new site for students of US History. The new site is called ContextU and its purpose is to help students see the greater context for significant events in history. The first iteration of ContextU is focused on the American Civil War.

On ContextU students select from a table of contents an event, piece of legislation, or theme to see it in the context of other events, pieces of legislation, and themes leading to the start of the Civil War. Through timelines, Google Maps, diagrams, flow charts, timelines, and text ContextU provides context for each chosen event, piece of legislation, or theme. Students can jump from event to event or from theme to theme by following the hyperlinks within each diagram.

Applications for Education
ContextU is still in development, but what is available now is already quite good. The advantage of ContextU over a textbook as well as many other websites is the ease with which students can see how an event fits into the larger context of the causes of the American Civil War.