Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Poe, Halloween, and Phys Ed

We're a full week into October and I haven't shared any Halloween-themed resources. That's unlike me. My excuse is that 2020 has been a year unlike any other. And even though we won't be trick-o-treating or passing out candy this year, my daughters and some of my students are still excited about Halloween. On that note, here are some Halloween-themed resources for language arts, science, math, and physical education. 

Language Arts
ReadWorks offers a collection of Halloween-themed articles for students. The bulk of the Halloween collection on ReadWorks features articles for a K-8 audience with a few 9-12 articles mixed in. The articles covered topics like the history of Halloween, pumpkin farms, and the history of ghost stories. Like all ReadWorks articles, you'll find comprehension questions and vocabulary sets to accompany the articles. A read aloud feature is also available in ReadWorks.

Edgar Allan Poe died on this day in 1849. His work is often read in schools at this time of year as it does have a dark theme that coincides with Halloween. In the TED-Ed lesson Why Should You Read Edgar Allan Poe? students can learn about Poe's guiding principles for writing, the recurring themes of his work, and the personal factors in his life that contributed to his writing. Find the complete lesson here or watch the video as embedded below. 

Physical Education With a Halloween Theme
Keeping Kids in Motion is a great physical education blog written by Justin Cahill. One of the free resources available on his blog is Fitness is Spooktacular. Fitness is Spooktacular is a kids fitness challenge for the month of October (adults can do it too). There is a downloadable calendar of little workouts that you can do with your students throughout the month of October. Each workout is represented by either a jack-o-lantern, a skull, or a bat.

Science Lessons With a Halloween Theme
SciShow Kids has a playlist of videos covering topics that are frequently connected to symbols of Halloween. Those topics are bats, spiders, skeletons, and the changing colors of leaves. In the video about bats students learn how bats use sound to find their way at night, how and why bats hang upside down, and how they rear their offspring. In the video on spiders students learn about the role of spiders in controlling flying insect populations and how spiders create webs. In the video about the human skeleton students can learn about the functions of the skeleton as well as how bones grow and heal over time. Finally, in the video on leaves students learn about the correlation between chlorophyll, sunlight, and leaf color.

A Math App With a Halloween Theme
Number Chase - Math vs. Zombies is a free iPad game with a Halloween theme. The game is has three virtual worlds each containing ten levels of basic math problems. The object of the game is to correctly solve as many math problems as possible before the zombies catch you. The math of the game is basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.

G Suite Becomes Google Workspaces - What's That Mean for You?

Yesterday, Google announced a rebranding of G Suite. G Suite will now be called Google Workspaces. That change is happening now for some domains, but won't happen until months from now for G Suite for Education users. The change from G Suite to Google Workspaces appears to be designed entirely for business users and doesn't appear to have any immediate impact on G Suite for Education users. That said, there are some potential changes in the future. I discussed those possibilities in this short video

What's Changing G Suite for Education Users?
  • Nothing for now
  • The name will change sometime in the coming months. 
  • There is possibility that G Suite for Education users will get some of the neat Google Workspaces features like using Meet picture-in-picture while collaborating on a Docs, Slides, and Sheets. Read more about those features here
Will the change the tools you can use?
  • No. 
  • All of the tools that you use now are staying the same in G Suite for Education. 

If you'd like an overview of why Google is making this change from a business perspective, take a look at this TechCrunch article

5 Digital Mapping Activities

On Monday I shared a couple of tutorials about measuring distances in Google Maps and Bing Maps. Yesterday, I shared a few resources for helping students understand map projections. This morning, I have some more tutorial videos that might help or inspire you to create digital mapping activities to use in your geography or history lessons. Here are five digital mapping activities you can do with elementary, middle, and high school students. 

Map Spreadsheet Data
The combination of Google Sheets and Google's My Maps tool makes it possible to quickly populate a map with information from a spreadsheet. I've done this to have students share research findings in a Google Form that then populates a Google Sheet that is then imported into Google's My Maps. Doing this eliminates the confusion that can occur when too many people try to edit the same map. Mapping spreadsheet data is also a good way for students to make correlations between information and its location in the world. Here's a short tutorial on how to map spreadsheet data. 

Create a Story Map
Storymap JS is a free tool that you can use to create a combination of a map and a timeline on the same page. This is a good way for students to make connections between historical events and their locations. Watch this short video to see how Storymap JS works. 

Label and or Color Maps in Google Jamboard
Google's Jamboard is a great tool that often gets overlooked in favor of other G Suite tools like Drawings and Slides. With Jamboard it is possible to insert a blank outline map then have students label or color it. Here's a demo of how that process works. 

Learn About Distance and Scale
Google Maps and Bing Maps both make it easy to measure the distance between two or more places. Just using the measuring tools can help some students get a better understanding of the size and scale of two or more locations. Try having your students guess at the size of two countries like the United States and China then have them measure to see how close they were. Tutorials on measuring in Google Maps and Bing Maps can be seen here

Compare Past and Present
In Google Earth there is some historical imagery available to view. You can also import historical maps found outside of Google Earth. Those historical maps that you import can then be overlaid on top of current map imagery. When you adjust the transparency of the imported map, you can make comparisons of historical maps and current map views. Here's an overview of how to import historic maps into Google Earth. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

LOC Mystery Photo Contest - A Good Test of Search Strategies

At about this time last year the Library of Congress hosted a mystery photo contest. They're hosting another one right now. Just like last year's contest the challenge is to identify the people in twelve pictures pulled from the library's moving image section. Before you say, "just do a reverse image search" you should know that the LOC has already done that and not found any matches. That's what makes this contest so difficult. Just like last year's contest, this year's LOC Mystery Photo Contest doesn't offer any real prizes other than the satisfaction of being right.

Applications for Education
If you're looking for a difficult search challenge activity to use with your students, the LOC's Who Am I? Mystery Photo Contest could be just what you need. Students will have to string together as many clues as possible in order to get to arrive at an answer.

On a related note, Dan Russell's The Joy of Search is a must-read for anyone who wants to get better at using advanced search methods. I also offer course on teaching search strategies to students. You can access that course here

Map Lessons from Mathigon

Last spring I wrote about Mathigon's Map Coloring Challenge. That's not the only map-based math lesson available from Mathigon. Mathigon's lesson on spheres, cones, and cylinders incorporates map projections. 

In Surface Area of a Sphere Mathigon includes an interactive diagram that illustrates the problem that cartographers have when trying to create maps of the world. The interactive diagram shows four map projections and the areas of the map that are distorted by each projection. Students can click on each of the map projections to see a comparison of an area on the 2D map to the same area on a globe. Overall, it's a good way for students to see how two dimensional world maps can distort the size and scale of an area. 

Mathigon's Map Coloring Challenge asks students to use as few colors as possible to color in all 50 U.S. states without having the same color touching two states at the same time. For example, if I color New Hampshire purple, I can't use purple on Vermont, Maine, New York, or Massachusetts but I could use purple on Pennsylvania.

On a related note the USGS offers a free map projections poster (link opens a PDF). You may also want to take a look at Projection Wizard as another tool for showing students how various projections distort the regions of the world. 

Applications for Education
Years ago I did a hands-on lesson with students in which they used strips of paper to create a globe that was then laid flat so that they could see the difficulty in creating an accurate 2D map of the world. Mathigon's Surface Area of a Sphere accomplishes a similar goal in an online format as does the Projection Wizard site mentioned above. 

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