Friday, June 5, 2015

Google Adds More Underwater Imagery to Street View

For a couple of years now Google has offered Street View imagery that takes you underwater around the Galapagos Islands, the Maldives, and a handful of other places around the world. This week Google announced an expansion of underwater imagery. Calling it Street View imagery is a bit silly so let's call it Sea View imagery.The expansion includes 40 new destinations around the world.

The Sea View imagery will let you virtually swim with dolphins and whales, explore reefs, and dive with sea turtles. You can find all of the Sea View imagery in the Oceans Street View collection.

Applications for Education
After exploring the Sea View imagery students have students dive deeper with Marine Explore. 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).

Teaching The Hunger Games with Storyboards

Disclosure: Storyboard That is an advertiser on

Storyboard That is continuously building new teacher guides. Their guides provide dozens of lesson plans for teaching language arts skills through the use of storyboards. The latest additions to Storyboard That's teacher guides include lesson plans on The Hunger Games and Fahrenheit 451.

The Hunger Games teacher guide includes plans for teaching point of view, cause and effect, and character analysis. The plans call for students to create storyboards to illustrate their understanding of the characters, themes, and plot of The Hunger Games. Like all Storyboard That teacher guides, the lessons in The Hunger Games teacher guide are aligned to ELA Common Core standards.

To learn more about how to use Storyboard That in your classroom, take a look at the recording of this webinar that I hosted back in February.

Champion Reader - A New Reading Game on Teach Your Monster to Read

Teach Your Monster to Read is a series of fun game designed to help students improve the speed and accuracy with which they recognize letters and sounds. Students play the games as a friendly monster avatar. The latest update to Teach Your Monster to Read comes in the form of new game called Champion Reader.

Champion Reader provides the third level of difficulty in the Teach Your Monster to Read series. The game introduces students to alternate pronunciations of letters and multiple ways of representing the same sounds. Like all of the Teach Your Monster to Read games Champion Reader sends students on a quest to complete by accurately recognizing words, letters, and sounds.

Teach Your Monster To Read - Champion Reader from Dina Makanji on Vimeo.

Applications for Education
Teachers can create and manage their students' accounts on Teach Your Monster to Read. Creating Teach Your Monster to Read accounts for all of your students is a simple process. Just register yourself as a teacher then enter your students' names (first names only) or upload a CSV file of your students' names. Teach Your Monster to Read will automatically generate a password for each student. As the teacher you can log-in anytime to see your students' progress. You can also turn off the password requirement during your class. Turning off the password requirement during class could be helpful when you want to get students into the activities as quickly as possible.

Our Story - an App for all Levels

This week I am hosting some guest bloggers. This is a guest post from Susan Myers.

A group from an intellectually disabled class visits the media center once a week. During the year, we made bird houses, conducted science experiments, used the catalog to locate books, and listened to stories. I thought that these students could be authors and walked them through the different parts of a book. The students spent about five library sessions creating their stories. After watching the students make books using construction paper and markers, I looked into having them use the technology they just received - iPads (we are 1:1 with Macs, but the intellectually disabled students have a cart of iPads in their room).

The Our Story app starts by allowing the user to create a new story or using an existing one. The next screen is divided into four areas. Along the top, icons allow for sharing, printing, or saving. The left side gives access to the camera roll and to previously saved stories. Students will mostly use the main area which shows photos from the camera roll and the bottom area which is the storyboard area. Photos can be dragged into the storyboard and moved around within the storyboard. Clicking on a photo lets you type in text or speak your caption.

The Our Story app worked better than I expected for creating a story with the students. I decided to ask them to create a story about the school. The students really enjoyed walking around the school, taking photos of areas they found interesting. I found the option of typing or speaking for each photo extremely helpful as some students barely know the alphabet while one young man reads and writes on about a second grade level.

The app does require a hold down and drag action to move photos down into the storyboard area. Students with low motor skill abilities (like some of the students involved in this activity) may need one on one assistance.

The app allows students to share their work by printing (PDF format) or by placing the story on Dropbox, iTunes, or emailing it. For more information about the Our Story app, visit

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Learning to Program With MaKey MaKey in Elementary School

This week I am hosting some guest bloggers. This is a guest post from Julie Smith.

Computer programming has become the new "literacy" that many teachers and school districts are implementing to help students exercise critical thinking and problem solving skills. Students of all ages gravitate towards creating and implementing programs--large and small--that they create digitally. Our technology department recently purchased two MaKey MaKeys for every elementary ITRT to use when collaborating with teachers on special projects that involve computer programming.

What is a MaKey MaKey?

Basically, it is a small invention kit made for ALL ages. The kit comes with a small MaKey MaKey board, wires, alligator clips and a USB cable. You can take everyday objects and turn them into a touch pad that interacts with a computer program. Objects attached to the MaKey MaKey (fruit, Play-Doh, tin foil, copper tape) become "buttons" that replace a basic keyboard or mouse. Operate a computer game with play dough, fruit or even a glass of water!

When I first saw these contraptions my initial reaction was how in the world would we incorporate these devices with our demanding academic curriculum? The last couple of months my instructional technology team and I have had a ball coming up with strong academic tie-ins for using MaKey MaKeys and programming with our elementary students. I was astonished how easily and naturally programming and incorporating MaKey MaKeys have been, even for first graders! Just the other day I was working with first graders who were learning about the four cardinal directions. We had them create interactive compass roses by programming a sprite in Scratch to move north, south, east or west depending on the arrow key they pressed. Some students were even able to add voice recordings to their script!

To test their program, they hooked up a MaKey MaKey to their computer and attached their alligator clips to BANANAS. They called out a cardinal direction to each other and their partner had to tap the correct banana to make their sprite move in the proper direction. This simple activity stirred up such curiosity about how the MaKey MaKey circuit worked that the students wanted to extend their learning by testing out what other objects would activate their sprite.

Another MaKey MaKey lesson we did was with a 2nd grade class. The teacher said her students were struggling with counting US coins. Therefore, we hooked up the MaKey MaKey to a penny, nickel, dime and quarter and programmed Scratch to calculate the coin totals each time a coin was touched.

I hear that even high school students get quite excited over these devices. After all, I have seen most adults get giddy the first time they test out a MaKey MaKey. The engagement these invention kits bring to the classroom is extraordinary. I'm looking forward to discovering new ways to incorporate these kits into the K-5 curriculum!

A MaKey MaKey first experience (I LOVE the curiosity at the very end):

First Experience from Julie on Vimeo.

Programming and MaKey MaKey in action:

MaKey MaKey from Julie on Vimeo.

Julie Smith is an elementary Instructional Technology Coach for Henrico County Public Schools in Henrico, Virginia. She works with teachers and students in PreK-5th grade. Julie is the author of the blog, The Techie Teacher . You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

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