Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Ask Me Anything Tomorrow - Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions and Share Cool Stuff

Tomorrow afternoon at 4pm ET/ 1pm PT Rushton Hurley from Next Vista for Learning and I will be hosting the 27th installment of Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions and Share Cool Stuff! We already have a nice list of questions submitted for this week, but we're always happy to have more submitted during the live broadcast. If you'd like to join us for the live broadcast, register for free right here

What kinds of questions do we answer? Almost anything! We've been asked about making videos, Google Classroom management, instructional strategies for virtual classrooms, podcasting, and even what are middle names are. Join us tomorrow and ask us anything!

Here's the recording of the last week's episode. All of the previous recordings can be found here

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Ten Ideas for Using Google Earth in Your Classroom

In this week's Practical Ed Tech Tip of the Week newsletter I mentioned that in my free handbook I have a list of ideas for using Google Earth in your classroom. If you're not subscribed to the newsletter or you are and you didn't have a chance to scroll through the handbook, here's an excerpt from the Practical Ed Tech Handbook. 

1. Take a tour of new and interesting places.
This is the most basic activity that you can do in Google Earth. The web and mobile versions of Google Earth have pre-made tours called "Voyages" that your students can view. Stops on the voyages include notes about the notable landmarks in the tour. The desktop version of Google Earth also has pre-made tours. You can also find tours made by others and use them in Google Earth.

2. Play Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?
March of 2019 Google added a version of the classic computer game, Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? to Google Earth. The game can be played in the web version of Google Earth as well as the iOS and Android versions. Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? isn’t the only game or quiz you’ll find in Google Earth. You can find them all by opening the Voyages tab in Google Earth.

3. Take and or Create Literature Tours
Google Lit Trips is dedicated to helping teachers use Google Earth tours in literature lessons. In a literature trip students explore the places that are significant in a story and or the places that are significant in an author’s life. The desktop version of Google Earth has built-in tools for creating tours of landmarks around the world. The web version of Google Earth doesn't have the same tour recording tools.

4. Global scavenger hunts.
Create a scavenger hunt for students to complete by using clues and finding the answers "hidden" throughout the globe. This can be a fun way for students to test their knowledge of physical and human geography.

5. View a Timelapse of Coastline Changes.
Thanks to historical imagery available through the Google Earth Engine you can view historical satellite imagery in Google Earth.This allows viewers to see how things like coastlines have changed over time. You can piggyback on that visual to prompt students to investigate what makes a coastline change.

6. Map and Compare Datasets.
Mapping datasets can be a good way for students to create visualizations of species diversity and distribution or to see economic data as it relates to geography. It is possible to take a dataset that is in a CSV or Google Sheet and have that data appear in Google Earth. To do this you will first make a map in Google’s My Maps tool and then export a KML from My Maps to import into Google Earth.

7. Layer Images Over Maps.
The desktop version of Google Earth lets you layer images over a view of the world. Adjust your zoom level to cover more or less of the map with your image. Adjust the image's opacity to let the map faintly show through the image. This is a great way to show students a comparison of a historical map with a contemporary map. Try using this method to show how coastlines and waterways have changed over time.

8. Measure Distances for Math Lessons.
Google Earth includes tools for measuring distances in a variety of units. Students can use the measuring tool to complete activities designed to help them understand distance, scale, and units of measurement. Tom Barrett’s Maths Maps page is a good place to find lessons that incorporate measurement.

9. Explore the Moon or Mars.
The desktop version of Google Earth includes a moon view and a Mars view. Select the moon view or the Mars view then click on some of the placemarks in the NASA layer. Your students could even create a narrated tour of the moon or Mars.

10. Use Google Earth as an Alternative to PowerPoint.
The next time you're thinking about having students give a presentation on a place that they've studied in your geography lesson, have them create a Google Earth tour instead. They can use their custom placemarks shown in full size as an alternative to using slides.

Two Games That Illustrate the Dangers of Distracted Driving

Last week someone emailed me looking for some alternatives to an old New York Times feature called Gauging Your Distraction. It was a Flash-based game that illustrated the danger of texting while driving. I didn't have any alternatives in my archives so I did a quick Google search and came up with a couple of alternatives to Gauging Your Distraction. These games are designed to help students see how easy it is to miss something important just by glancing at a phone screen for a second while driving. 

Driven to Distraction is a game in which players have to try to read and answer text messages that pop onto the screen while a view of the road scrolls along. While answering the messages players also have to look out for road signs and stop whenever a stop sign appears. The game is pretty basic, but effective. It should be noted that the game is hosted by Kwik Fit which is a UK-based tire store so the hosting of this game is probably more of an SEO play than anything else.

Cards of Distractability is a game that challenges players to respond to text messages from a friend while also taking note of the road signs while traveling down the road. At the end of the game players try to identify which signs did or didn't go past them. This game is hosted by a law firm that is probably hosting the game as an SEO tactic (it worked). 

And on a related note, here's a video about testing your ability to make observations about changes around you. 

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.