Tuesday, September 14, 2021

The Way of a Ship - Historical Math Problems

A couple of weeks ago I picked up an interesting book at my local library. It's titled The Way of a Ship and it follows the journey of Benjamin Lundy as he sails around Cape Horn in 1885 in one of the last square-rigged commercial sailing boats. 

The Way of a Ship is full of interesting facts about life on a four mast sailing vessel in the late 19th Century. It's also full of information about navigational practices used by captains to try to maintain a course and not run aground. And early in the book there's a great explanation of why sailing vessels were used for transporting coal around the world when steam-powered ships were already in service. As I read through those explanations I couldn't help but think of a list of questions based on the book, and 19th Century sailing in general, that could be brought into a mathematics class. In no particular order I've listed those questions below. 

  • Why were sailing ships used to transport coal if steam engine-powered ships (that burn coal) were available?
  • How efficient does a steam engine have to be in order to make be able to carry enough coal to cross the Atlantic ocean while also being able to transport additional cargo? (Answer is in the book. Or email me if you want to know). 
  • What is the equivalent land distance of one minute of latitude?
  • Why was it harder to calculate longitude than latitude?
  • How did ship captains account for the difference between magnetic north and true north?
  • How was speed calculated? What's the difference between 1 knot/hour and 1 mile/hour?
  • If a late 19th Century commercial sailing vessel wanted to cover 300 nautical miles in a day, how strong of a tailwind would it need? 
  • Why was it less expensive for merchants to store coal on sailing vessels than in warehouses on shores?
All of these questions have multiple possible answers. The point is to get students thinking about how mathematics was used in commercial sailing and is still used in sailing today. It's also fun for history teachers (as I was for years) to bring some mathematics in a history lesson. 

Five Fun Breakout Games for Online and In-person Classrooms

Disclosure: Breakout EDU is an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com. 

Like a lot of teachers, one of my biggest challenges last year was building a sense of community in my classroom. Without having more than half of my students in my physical classroom for more than a few days before we went back to online or hybrid instruction, it was hard for students to get to know each other. That said, there was one thing that helped build community more than any other. That was having students work together to solve challenges. At times I did that through game play and other times through completing troubleshooting challenges.

Breakout games, specifically Breakout EDU games, provide fun challenges for students to solve together. In solving those challenges together students begin to learn about each other and a sense of community and collaboration begins to build.

What is Breakout EDU?
Breakout EDU is a platform for finding and playing collaborative problem-solving games. There are Breakout EDU games that can be played in-person and games that can be played online.

Breakout EDU started as a service that offered kits of physical lock boxes that students would unlock by solving challenges. Those are still offered by Breakout EDU and you can find them on the Breakout EDU website by searching for games that have the “Kit” label.

Today, Breakout EDU also offers digital games. These are the games that you’ll want to try if you don’t have a physical Breakout EDU kit and or you’re searching for games your students can play online. You’ll find those games by selecting the “Digital” label when browsing through the games available on Breakout EDU. Take a look at my short video here to learn how to find Breakout EDU games for your students to play.

Whether your students play online or in-person versions of Breakout EDU they’ll have to use their best logical reasoning skills to solve the challenge of the game. All games start with a story or a premise for a series of challenges. The challenges are to unlock the locks (physical or digital) by cracking a code to find the numerical combination and or word that unlocks the locks. You should try to crack the codes yourself before assigning the games to your students. But if you need a little help, Breakout EDU does provide answer sheets for you to consult.

How to Use Breakout EDU
Breakout EDU’s digital games can be distributed to your students through an online classroom. You can create a Breakout EDU online classroom by importing your Google Classroom roster or by manually making a list of student names. Either way, students will have a class code to enter to join your classroom and they don’t need email addresses in order to play the digital Breakout EDU games.



Five Fun Breakout EDU Games for Team Building
Breakout EDU has an entire category of games designed for team building. Within that category you’ll find forty games designed for online play by elementary school, middle school, and high school students. Here are my picks for digital Breakout EDU games for team building.

Breakout the Zoom is a digital game that can be played by elementary, middle, and high school students. The premise of this game is that students are stuck in Zoomland where they can neither get into nor out of a Zoom meeting. Students have to figure out the solutions to scenarios to get the Zoom meeting working again.

Raiders of the Lost Locker will strike feelings of nostalgia into any teacher who grew up watching movies in the 1980’s. In this game designed for middle school and high school students players try to open student lockers that have been stuck shut for 60 years. After the game use the discussion questions to get your students thinking and talking about what they think school was like for their grandparents or great-grandparents.

Mission Nutrition is a digital Breakout EDU game for elementary school and middle school students. Solving the challenges of the game reinforces concepts about creating healthy, balanced meals. I like this game because it puts a fun spin on a topic that some students might otherwise find kind of boring.

Breakout the Beat is another digital Breakout EDU game that might stir some feelings of nostalgia in you as you assign the game to your students. In this game for elementary and middle school students they have to find the clues hidden in a teacher’s collection of “oldies” music to unlock some modern dance tunes. You could have your students play this game as is or you could copy and modify it to include some “oldies” of your own (young teachers, even the music you listened to in high school is “old” to your students today).

Spidey Goes to Class is made for early elementary school students to try their hand at playing Breakout EDU. In this game students work together to help “Spidey” unlock the things that he needs to put in his backpack for school.

Register for Breakout EDU Today!
You can try out all of these Breakout EDU games and hundreds more when you register for a free account. During the first two weeks you can try all of the games. After that you can access them all with a subscription to Breakout EDU.

Make Multimedia Mind Maps in Padlet

A few weeks ago I published a list of fifteen tools for creating mind maps and flowcharts. Padlet was one of the tools that I mentioned in that list. Since then Padlet's user interface was updated. The update makes it even easier than before to create a mind map or flowchart in Padlet. In this new video I demonstrate how it works. 




Applications for Education
Padlet's canvas format (demonstrated in video above) and capacity for inclusion of videos, text, hyperlinks, images, and audio recordings make it a great tool for students to use to show connections between resources that they've found in the course of conducting online research. It's also a good tool for simply creating text notes that are connected around a central idea.

Monday, September 13, 2021

Five Places to Find Dozens of Constitution Day Lessons

This Friday is Constitution Day in the United States. According to federal law all schools that receive federal funding have to teach some type of lesson about the Constitution on this day. C-SPAN, DocsTeach, and the National Constitution Center all offer either lesson plans or resources for building your own Constitution Day lesson plans.

Constitution Day Lesson Plans from C-SPAN Classroom
C-SPAN Classroom offers free lesson plans and Bell Ringers (discussion prompts) that were either designed for Constitution Day or can be used to meet the requirements of Constitution Day. All of the lesson plans incorporate short video clips addressing topics like enumerated and implied powers of Congress, interpretation of the Constitution, and checks and balances. You can find all of the lesson plans and additional resources in this Google Doc.

Constitution Hall Pass
The National Constitution Center offers an online program called the Constitution Hall Pass. The Constitution Hall Pass is a series of videos mostly featuring scholars discussing elements of the Constitution and issues relating to it. There are also a few "discussion starter" videos that are intended to get students thinking about how the Constitution can have a direct impact on their lives. I know from experience that this Freedom of Expression video and accompanying questions will get high school students talking.

Interactive Constitution
The Constitution Center's website features the U.S. Constitution divided into easily searchable sections. From the main page you can select and jump to a specific article or amendment. What I really like about the site is that you can choose an issue like privacy, civil rights, or health care and see how those issues are connected to the Constitution. 

DocsTeach
DocsTeach is a National Archives website that all middle school and high school U.S. History teachers should have in their bookmarks. DocsTeach lets you build online activities based upon curated collections of primary source documents. DocsTeach also provides some pre-made activities that you can give to your students. DocsTeach has twenty pre-made Constitution Day activities that you can use today. An additional 166 documents and artifacts about the Constitution can be found through a quick search on DocsTeach.

TED-Ed Lessons
TED-Ed offers a bunch of lessons that are appropriate for Constitution Day. Those lessons are linked below.

The Making of the American Constitution.



Why is the US Constitution So Hard to Amend?



Why Wasn't the Bill of Rights Originally Included in the US Constitution?



How is Power Divided in the US Government?



A 3-Minute Guide to the Bill of Rights


How do Executive Orders Work?



What You Might Not Know About the Declaration of Independence

Webinar This Thursday - Search Strategies Students Need to Know

This Thursday at 4pm ET I'm hosting the new version of my most popular Practical Ed Tech webinar, Search Strategies Students Need to Know

The updated version of this webinar includes new handouts for you and your students. These include templates for formulating lessons to teach search strategies and templates for students to follow when conducting online research. 

Other highlights of the webinar include alternatives to Google search (and why students should try them), how to build your own school-safe search engine (great for K-5 teachers), and tools and tips for helping students organize their research findings. 

This is a live webinar and there will be time for Q&A. The webinar will be recorded for those who register in advance but cannot attend the live session. Register here!