Friday, January 27, 2017

Three Things to Brainstorm Before You Search

One of the things that I ask students to do before they begin any research activity is to take some time to brainstorm. They might groan about having to do this instead of immediately typing or speaking search phrases, but it is good habit for students to develop. Here are three things students should brainstorm about before searching.

1. Brainstorming a list of alternative search terms and phrases to use in a search engine. It is easy for students to fall into the trap of thinking about a topic in only the way that they describe it or how you've described it to them. Stopping to brainstorm a list of similar words and phrases can open students to new ways of describing the topic they're researching.

2. What are the best formats for sharing information about the topic you're researching? If the topic is related to geography or geology, you might find a lot of value in refining the search to return only KML and KMZ files. Refining in that way will bring students to items that typically don't rank highly in search engines, but none-the-less contain valuable information.

3. Who can you ask about this topic? Asking the school librarian might be the best thing that students can do to improve their search results. The school librarian has knowledge of the databases available to students. Many students will struggle with those databases without guidance from a librarian.

You might also have your students try to develop a list of people they know (parents, other teachers, friends of parents) who have expert knowledge on a topic. Those experts can help students think about a topic in a different way.

Strategies like this one and many others are covered in Search Strategies Students Need to Know

A Great Example of Using Google Maps in Science

At almost every conference that I attend I offer a session about Google Maps and Google Earth. Most of the people that come to those sessions are social studies teachers. That is because there is a natural connection between maps and topics in social studies. But there are plenty of other subject areas and topics in which Google Maps and Google Earth can be helpful. One example of this comes from my former colleague, John Haley.

John Haley created a blog and a corresponding Google Map called Maine Geology Hikes. On Maine Geology Hikes John writes about interesting hikes in Maine that lead you to neat geological formations. Each placemark on the map includes a description with a link back to a blog post about the hike. The blog posts are more than just stories about hiking. He shares lessons worthy of inclusion in books on the topic of Maine geology.

Applications for Education
John Haley's Maine Geology Hikes is a great example of using Google Maps in an subject area outside of social studies. The model that John provides could be modified for any state or region. Google's My Maps tool offers a couple of ways that your students can collaborate to create their own geology hikes maps.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

The Climate Time Machine

Crafting my previous post about 40 years of snow data reminded me of a neat climate change demonstration for kids. NASA's Climate Time Machine is one of many activities that students can complete on NASA's Climate Kids website.

The Climate Time Machine is essentially an interactive timeline that lets students see the changes in the Arctic ice pack, temperatures, carbon emissions, and sea level over time. Students move the slider on the timeline to see how the ice pack has changed and how sea levels could change in the future.

Applications for Education
Besides the games and hands-on activities featured on Climate Kids students can work through the Climate Kids guided big questions wheel. The guided questions wheel walks students through the basic concepts and issues related to climate change. Six questions are featured in the wheel. Students select a question to discover the answers through the exploration of a series of smaller questions. Each question is addressed with a mix of image, text, and video explanations.

Wednesday Webinars Resume Next Week

In December and January I hosted a series of professional development webinars on Wednesday afternoons. A couple of those webinars sold out. After a week off, the series will resume next week at 4pm Eastern Time with a webinar on Mind Mapping and Collaborative Brainstorming. The following week the topic will be using Google Maps in multiple subject areas. And on February 15th the topic will be Search Strategies Students Need to Know.

There are two registration options for the February series of webinars. You can sign up for an individual session for $20 or if you register by January 31st you can register for all three sessions for just $30. Either way your registration includes access to the live webinar, unlimited access to the recording of the webinar, handouts, and the option for a PD certificate. Learn more on the Practical Ed Tech Wednesday Webinar page.

Richard, why is there a charge for the webinars? 
I explain the answer in this video

40 Years of Snow Data

The Snow Guardian is an interesting short film featured on National Geographic's YouTube channel. The film features billy barr (he chooses not to capitalize his name) who has lived alone on Gothic Mountain in Colorado for more than 40 years. For all but one of those years he has kept detailed, daily records of the snow pack. That data is now used by scientists studying climate change. The video is fascinating. Watch The Snow Guardian as embedded below.

Applications for Education
Besides the record keeping aspect of this story, your students may have a lot of questions about how billy barr has managed to maintain his solitary lifestyle in the mountains for more than forty years. I certainly had a lot of questions about that so I went and did a little searching on the web for answers. I found this excellent article from The Atlantic that answered most of my questions.

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