Thursday, July 22, 2021

See the Elements Present in Common Products - The Periodic Table in Pictures and Words

The Periodic Table of Elements, in Pictures and Words is an interactive site that shows students how each element is used or is present in familiar products. When students click on an element in the interactive display an image of a familiar product or object appears along with a description of the element and its characteristics. For example, if you click on aluminum an image of airplane appears along with a description of aluminum, its uses, and its characteristics.

The Periodic Table of Elements, in Pictures and Words was created by Keith Enevoldsen. He also offers free PDFs of The Periodic Table, in Pictures and Words. Should you choose, you can support Keith by purchasing a poster of the table.

Applications for Education
The Periodic Table of Elements, in Pictures and Words could be a great resource for middle school science classrooms. It also provides a nice model for an assignment in which you have your students pick an element and then try to identify as many products as possible that contain that chosen element.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Three Places to Find Fun and Interesting Math Problems

Giving students some clever math problems that tie-in a "real world" situation or topic can go a long way toward helping them see how math skills are skills they'll use for a lifetime. The following three websites all provide good math challenges to use with your students. 

Would You Rather? is a website maintained by John Stevens for the purpose of sharing quick and fun math challenges for students.  Would You Rather? presents a picture with a mathematics problem that asks "would you rather?" Most of the questions have a financial aspect to them. One of my favorite examples is this challenge that asks "would you rather go on a 5 minute shopping spree in the store of your choice or get a $2,000 gift card to the store of your choice?" Would You Rather? offers a simple worksheet that your students can use to analyze the choices presented to them in the challenges.

Math Pickle is a free site that offers dozens of fun and challenging math puzzles for students of all ages. The puzzles are designed to foster collaborative problem solving over the course of 45 to 60 minutes. Almost all of the puzzles are presented as a series of small, connected problems that students need to solve to complete the puzzle presented to them. The puzzles can be viewed as slides and or downloaded as PDFs.

Expii Solve is a series of seventy sets of word problems. Within each set there are five problems aligned to a theme. For example, the most recent problem is about cell phones and distance that radio waves can carry. The problems within each set on Expii Solve vary in difficulty so that you can pick the one(s) that best suit your students. Or you can let your students register on the site and self-select the problems that they want to tackle. In fact, that is how the site is intended to be used. Students can get instant feedback on their answers to the problems that they try to solve. Students who need a bit of help solving a problem can use the hints and tutorials linked at the bottom of each problem page.

Changing Search Predictions

Google has a lot of help search tools if you know how to access them and use them. Just opening the advanced search menu often shows students a new world of search refinement possibilities. However, Google also has a couple of search options that sometimes do more to distract than to help. Those options are "autocomplete with trending searches" and "personal autocomplete predictions." Fortunately, you can turn off both of those options. 

To turn off "autocomplete with trending searches" simply head to the Google search preferences page while you're signed into your Google account. Then scroll down and select "Do not show popular searches."

You can turn off personalized autocomplete predictions by going into your personal results page then unchecking "Show personal results." 

Applications for Education
Neither one of these features is inherently bad, but they can contribute to distracting students from their intended query.

Short Lessons on the Value of Money

Last week TED-Ed published a new video lesson titled Why Can't Governments Print an Unlimited Amount of Money? The purpose of the video is to explain how governments, particularly the United States federal government, were able to spend trillions of dollars on COVID-19 economic relief programs in the last year. The video explains the role of central banks in controlling the money supply and the concepts of inflation and quantitative easing. There is also an explanation of government bonds, why they're sold, and who buys them. Overall, it's a solid video for middle school or high school students. 

Why Can't Governments Print and Unlimited Amount of Money? is the latest of many videos about money and economics that TED-Ed has published over the years. A couple that dovetail with the latest video include What Gives a Dollar Bill Its Value?, What Causes Economic Bubbles?, and What Causes an Economic Recession?

Applications for Education
Before showing either Why Can't Governments Print an Unlimited Amount of Money? or What Gives a Dollar Bill Its Value? I'd ask students to think about some products they purchase and what contributes to the price and or price increases of those products.

All of the videos are suitable as introductions to larger lessons. To that end, I may have students watch the videos in EDpuzzle where they can answer some questions about the videos as an assignment.

Here's an overview of how to create an assignment in EDpuzzle.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Three Ideas for Encouraging Students to do Research in Digital Archives

Yesterday morning I wrote about the challenge of getting students to use resources like academic databases and digital archives in their research. This morning I received an email from a reader who asked if I could share an example or ideas of how to encourage students to use digital archives in their research. The following are three suggestions that quickly came to my mind. 

Show Them
A simple way to encourage use of academic databases and digital archives is by showing them how to navigate those resources. For many students the obstacle to using academic databases and digital archives is simply the frustration that they experience when “it doesn’t work like Google.”

Challenge Them
A fun and effective way to encourage students to use academic databases and digital archives is to have them solve search challenges that are based upon items found in the digital archive or academic database of your choosing. When it comes to creating search challenges there is no better authority on the topic than Daniel Russell. He is the the author of The Joy of Search and Google’s Senior Research Scientist for Search Quality and User Happiness. His book and corresponding blog, SearchResearch, is full of examples of using interesting images and factoids as prompts for research practice challenges. Included below is an example of a search challenge that I created for students studying local history in Maine.

            The Prompt: Everyone knows that Hannibal Hamlin (Abraham Lincoln’s first Vice President) lived on Paris Hill in Maine. What you might not know is that Paris Hill was the home of another person who participated in a notable first.

        Your challenge has three parts:
  • Identify the significance of the airplane pictured below.
  • What is the connection between the airplane and Paris Hill?
  • Find out what kind of car was driven by the person who represents the connection between the airplane and Paris Hill.
  • Make or find a list of all of the people who flew on this airplane.
  • Utilize resources on the Maine Memory Network website to attempt to identify the type of car driven by the person who represents the connection between the airplane and Paris Hill.

Require Them
A third tactic to encourage students to utilize an academic database or digital archive in their research processes is to make it a requirement in the assignments that you give them. When they produce the bibliography for their research papers and presentations, make it a requirement that at least one or more references are drawn from one of the databases or archives that you’ve listed for them. While this can be an effective method of getting students to use academic databases, it’s not nearly as fun for you or them as solving search challenges. Try the search challenge approach first.

Want the answers? If you're interested in the answers to this challenge, please send me an email and I'll be happy to share them with you. 

Image source: Public Domain image hosted on Wikipedia.,_Southern_Cross_in_Brisbane,_Queensland,_ca._1928.jpg

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