Monday, November 30, 2015

Polar Bears in Street View, Polar Bear Tracker, and Polar Bear Lesson Plans

Earlier today the Google Maps Blog featured Street View imagery captured by conservation organizations that are studying the effects of climate change on plants and animals. One of those organizations is Polar Bears International. I've written about some of PBI's work in the past and I think that this is a good time to revisit what PBI offers to teachers and students.

Polar Bears International offers a set of extensive lesson plans designed to help students learn about polar bears and their habitat. One of those lesson plans is called Street View and Polar Bears. In  Street View and Polar Bears students use Google Maps to explore the geography, geology, and ecosystem of the tundra around Churchill, Manitoba, Canada. At the end of the lesson students should be able to answer questions like "what are the characteristics of the subarctic tundra?" and "what would be some of the considerations for the construction of buildings, schools, houses, etc. in the subarctic?"

Bear Tracker is another feature of the Polar Bears International website. The Bear Tracker plots the travels of collared polar bears in Hudson Bay and the Beaufort Sea north of Alaska. You can view the travel paths of one or all of the bears on each map. The map also offers play the travel paths recorded over time.

November's Most Popular Posts on Free Technology for Teachers

Good evening from the Free Technology for Teachers World Headquarters in Woodstock, Maine. It's the end of the month and as I always do at this time, I've put together a list of the most popular posts of the month. This list is based on the number of views each post received on this blog. I use Google Analytics to determine which posts had the most views. Google Analytics is also helpful in discovering the search terms that people use the most when they land on That information sometimes helps me decide what to write about.

Here are this month's most popular posts:
1. Dozens of Great PowerPoints for AP History Students & Teachers
2. 5 Good Typing Instruction and Practice Sites for Kids
3. 4 Math Add ons for Google Docs
4. 3 Good Tools for Creating Rubrics
5. 10 Things Students Can Do With Google Keep
6. 7 Tools for Creating Flowcharts, Mind Maps, and Diagrams
7. 11 TED-Ed Videos on How the Human Body Works
8. Click to Spin - A Fun and Free Random Name Picker
9. Seven Web-based Tools for Delivering Flipped Lessons
10. A Fun App for Learning to Identify Plants and Animals

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Please visit the official advertisers that help keep this blog going.
Practical Ed Tech is the brand through which I offer PD webinars.
BoomWriter provides a fantastic tool for creating writing lessons. 
Storyboard That is my go-to tool for creating storyboards and cartoon stories.
AlfaTyping offers great, free typing lessons for kids. 
MasteryConnect offers a series of apps for identifying standards. 
Discovery Education & Wilkes University offer online courses for earning Master's degrees in Instructional Media.
PrepFactory offers a great place for students to prepare for SAT and ACT tests.
The University of Maryland Baltimore County offers graduate programs for teachers.
Boise State University offers a 100% online program in educational technology.
EdTechTeacher is hosting host workshops in six cities in the U.S. in the summer.
SeeSaw is a great iPad app for creating digital portfolios.
Lesley University offers online education programs for teachers. 
Southeastern University offers online M.Ed programs.

A Guide to Choosing a 3D Printer

3D printers and 3D design software can be powerful tools that allow students to develop and test designs for all kinds of objects from toys to car parts. Selecting and purchasing a 3D printer for your classroom can be a daunting task. Sylvia Martinez and Gary Stager offer some good advice about 3D printers in their book Invent to Learn. For a more exhaustive look at 3D printers on the market, take a look at the 2016 3D Printer Guide from 3D Hubs.

The 2016 3D Printer Guide from 3D Hubs is divided into five sections; Enthusiast, Plug N' Play, Budget, Kit/ DIY, and Resin. Each section offers reviews of a handful of printers. The reviews include a pro/con list for the printer, the price, reliability, software needed, and an option to get a sample print.

Applications for Education
If you have been considering purchasing a 3D printer for your school, the 2016 3D Printer Guide from 3D Hubs could be a helpful resource to consult.

To learn more about using 3D printers in school, take a look at this post written by Terri Eichholz.

H/T to Lifehacker for the 3D Hubs guide. 

5 Good Health & Fitness Apps for Students

A few years ago my school district received a grant to purchase exercise and sports equipment used in lifelong fitness activities like biking and snowshoeing. Part of the grant also went to developing programs to get people involved in lifelong fitness activities. I was reminded of this today as a new session of fitness classes kicks-off at the high school this evening. Further, I was reminded of some fitness and health apps designed to help students understand healthy diet and exercise choices.

Chew or Die is a free iPad, iPhone, and Android app that encourages people to try new healthy foods. The free app contains a series of healthy food challenges. The challenges include things like removing bread and potato-based starches with rice, trying a new vegetable, removing meat from your diet for a week, and sneaking more fiber into your diet. When you try a challenge take a picture of the food that you try and upload it to Chew or Die to challenge your friends to match your healthy choice. Click here for the iOS version. Click here for the Android version.

Sworkit Kids a free iOS and Android app designed to get kids moving with short, fun exercises. The app features workouts of five to thirty minutes in length (you pick the length). Each workout has a mix of fun exercises like diagonal hopping, crab walking, and hopping on one foot. You can choose exercises or let the app create a sequence of exercises for you.

Space Chef is a free iPad app from the Lawrence Hall of Science. The purpose of the app is to introduce students to healthy foods and recipes that they may not have ever tried or even heard about. Space Chef features a fast-paced game in which students have to quickly grab the ingredients for a recipe. The ingredients scroll past them in three streams or flight paths. Students are shown a recipe at the top of the screen and they must grab the appropriate ingredients as they stream across the screen.

Monster Heart Medic is another free iOS and Android app from the Lawrence Hall of Science. The app is designed to help students in elementary and middle school understand how the cardiovascular system is affected by diet and exercise. The app features a character named Ragnar that students must diagnose then help develop a plan to live a healthier life. Sabba Quidwai wrote an extensive review of the app here.  

Arthur Family Health is a free resource from PBS Kids. Arthur Family Health is designed to help parents, teachers, and students learn about common health challenges children face. Through videos, games (online and offline), and data sheets visitors to Arthur Family Health can learn about asthma, allergies, nutrition, fitness, and resilience (dealing with tragedies).

Learn Chinese with Pleco

This is a guest post from Jennifer Carey (@TeacherJenCarey) of EdTechTeacher, an advertiser on this site.

In the last few years, Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese) has become a prominent language in American Classrooms. As learning Chinese requires not only learning the spoken word, but learning a new text and character system, touch screen tools have become incredibly helpful in teaching students how to craft Chinese characters.

EdTechTeacher Pleco Source: Pleco

One of the best, free tools for students learning Chinese is Pleco, available in both Pleco iOS and Android Pleco. The free dictionary includes over 100,00 entries that are updated regularly. Students can look up words by Chinese characters, Pinyin (spaces and tones), or English and can even hand-write characters to look up information. Students can also cross-reference words by looking up character components and breaking down words into individual characters. Students can also use the Touch to Speak system to hear word pronunciation and sample sentences.

In addition to numerous free resources, there are several add-on purchases, including higher quality text to speech options, Document Reader with OCR recognition (you can upload content with your phone’s camera), and flash card creation. This is an excellent tool to add to your Chinese language learning toolbox.

For more tools to support student learning, EdTechTeacher has recently updated the App Recommendations on their web site.

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