Monday, November 16, 2020

Five Activities for Geography Awareness Week

This week is Geography Awareness Week. This week is one of the many things that I look forward to every November. (Thanksgiving, football, and the end of the first quarter are some of the other things I look forward to). Even though I now teach computer science instead of social studies, I still enjoy good geography games, videos, and lessons. Here are some of my favorite resources and activities for Geography Awareness Week

Play Games!
Quizzity is an online geography game that uses a concept found in lots of map-based games. That concept is to show you the name of a place and then have you guess its location by clicking on a map. Quizzity quizzes you on cities all over the world. To increase the accuracy of your guesses you should zoom-in on a region before clicking the map. Each round of Quizzity presents you with six city names. Points are awarded for accuracy and speed.

Seterra offers hundreds of geography games in 39 languages. You can play the games online in your web browser or download the apps to play on a phone or tablet. In the following video I demonstrate four ways that you can play the online version of Seterra's geography games.


Go Geocaching!
Geocaching is a great activity to get kids outside for hands-on learning experiences. Last summer I outlined a handful of ideas for using geocaching to teach lessons on geospatial awareness, Earth science, and digital citizenship. Read more about those ideas here. If you can get parents to install the Geocaching app on their phones, geocaching could make for a great "at-home" geography lesson for parents to do with their kids.

Find the Towns of the Same Name
This is a modification of an activity that I did as a sixth-grader in Mrs. Carlson's class in Manchester, Connecticut. She had us use atlases to see how many other Manchesters there are in the world and where they are. Then we had to write a short blurb about each Manchester. The modern version of this activity is to have students choose a common town name like Manchester and use Google Maps to find out how many towns in the world have that name. Then on their Google Maps or Scribble Maps students can add placemarks in which they write about interesting things about those towns. Students can add videos and images to their placemarks too.

Make a Group Map of Stories
This is an idea that I got many years ago from my friend Jim Wells. Jim had his students write short stories of happy memories and then place those stories on a printed map. Today, you can have students do this on Google Maps or Scribble Maps. This activity can help students see the significance of place in the formation of memories. You can even have your whole class contribute to one map by having them enter their stories in a Google Form then using the corresponding spreadsheet to create a Google Maps of stories. My video on how to do that is embedded below. 

Find Out What Geographers Do
There's a lot more than just "make maps" to say in response to the question, "what are you going to do with a degree in geography?" The American Association of Geographers has a nice list of career paths in geography. Here's a "day in the life of a geographer" video from that same page. 

A Couple of Lessons on the Origins of Thanksgiving Foods

A couple of weeks ago I published a blog post in which I shared an ESRI Story Map of where traditional Thanksgiving foods are grown today in the United States. That story map covers where food comes from today, but it doesn't cover this historical origins of traditional Thanksgiving foods. That's an interesting topic of its own. It's Okay to Be Smart and TED-Ed offer video lessons that address the origins of traditional Thanksgiving foods. 

Through It's Okay to Be Smart's The Surprising Origins of Thanksgiving Foods students can learn how the most common, traditional Thanksgiving foods originated and evolved to what they are today. This lesson includes an explanation of how archaeologists and scientists determined that turkeys were one of the first animals to be domesticated in North America. We also learn why the turkeys we find in the grocery store today are so much bigger than those of just a few generations ago. 



Corn like that in the picture at the top of this blog post is often seen as a symbol of Thanksgiving. Today, corn and many products made with it are a staple of the diets of many of us. How did corn become a staple of our diets? What has enabled it to become one of the most cultivated crops in the world? And what are the consequences of cultivating so much corn? Those questions and many others are addressed in the TED-Ed lesson titled How Corn Conquered the World.

Applications for Education
In my post about ESRI's Story Map of Thanksgiving foods I shared directions for making your own story maps. Students could follow those directions to create story maps of their own about the origins of traditional Thanksgiving foods. The process of researching then compiling their story maps could address a number of topics including plant germination and genetics, westward expansion of the United States, and how traditions develop. 

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Two "Cool" Ed Tech Guys Take Questions & Share Cool Stuff - Episode 26!

Every week Rushton Hurley and I host Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions and Share Cool Stuff. During the most recent episode someone suggested that it should be "Two Cool Ed Tech Guys." We appreciate the compliment, but we're not that cool :) 

The recording of episode 26 is now available to view here or as embedded below. The resources that we shared during the broadcast can be found here on the Next Vista for Learning webinars page. We'd love to have you join us for the next episode which is this coming Thursday at 4pm ET/ 1pm PT. Register here


One of my "cool shares" in episode 26 was this video of Tommy Shaw (lead singer for the band Styx) and the Cleveland Area Contemporary Youth Orchestra. It's an unlikely pairing, but a cool one. 

Two Quick Ways to Check if a Website is Down or If It's Just You

My sophomore students have just started learning how to use the ping command to analyze various aspects of network connectivity. Reviewing that lesson with one of my students last week gave me the idea to create a short video that demonstrates using a ping command. But then I thought that if I titled it that way no one who could learn from it would watch it because it sounds "too techy." So instead I created this video that shows two ways to check if a website is down of if it's just you. The first method uses a website called Down for Everyone or Just Me. The second method shows you how to ping a website from the command prompt in Windows 10. The ping method will make you look super techy in front of your non-techy friends.
 

Saturday, November 14, 2020

The Week in Review - Roll With the Changes

Good morning from Maine where it has been a week all about rolling with the changes (insert REO Speedwagon earworm here). On the weather front we went from unseasonably warm temperatures early in the week to cold rainy to end the week. In school we went from hybrid classes to full online classes in the span of one staff meeting (on Zoom, of course). This is the second time we've gone to 100% online classes this year. Since August we've had weeks of fully in-person classes, weeks of hybrid classes, and weeks of completely online classes. In short, this fall has been all about rolling with the changes and doing the best we can for our students. 

I'm looking forward to spending some time offline this weekend. I hope that you have a chance to do the same after you take a look at this week's most popular posts. 

These were the week's most popular posts:

Through Practical Ed Tech I'm currently offering an on-demand course called A Crash Course in Making & Teaching With Video

Thank you for your support! 
  • More than 300 of you have participated in a Practical Ed Tech course or webinar this year. Those registrations help keep Free Technology for Teachers and Practical Ed Tech going. I couldn't do it without you!
  • Pixton EDU is a great tool for creating comics and storyboards. 
  • Wakelet is a great tool for making collections of resources, recording video, and more!
  • GAT Labs offers a great, free guide to using Google Workspaces in online classrooms.  
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