New Week, New Tools, New Lessons

Today was a pretty cool day. I got my first taste of installing an NComputing system. I put it in our elementary library to expand the number of stations available for students to use. The main computer it is running off of is a base model ($500 w/monitor) HP with 2GB RAM and XP Pro. All went pretty smoothly. We used Logictech keyboards and mice and 17″ Princeton LCD monitors for each station.  It would be nice if the directions would tell you that the serial number and product key for the NComputing software was really the one for the little station modules, but other then that things went well.

Then I got to play with another really cool tool. An iPod Touch. 32GB. WiFi. Google Maps. GMail integration. Movies. Podcasts. And more than I can list here. I truly only had a few minutes off and on during the day to mess with it, but I have to say it is one fine piece of electronics.

I figured since I was picking my son up from school today while my wife is away on a field trip with her students, this was a good chance to look cool(er) to my seven year old. I asked him if he wanted to check out the new tool. He said sure and took it from me. Since I was driving us home, I had to hope he could understand my directions since I could not physically show him. I told him where the power button was at and how to slide the Unlock switch over to get to the menu. I commenced to offering several other fine points about the new iPod. He was kind of quiet (actually, he had not said anything during my spiel). I figured the volume must have been up a little on the earbuds, so I spoke a little louder:

“You know, Son, if you want to turn the volume down just slide your finger across the bottom of the screen!”
“Thanks, Daddy. I know that.” (Me internally: What? I just figured that out!)

“Well, in case you want to move around in the video, slide your finger across the top of the screen. The timeline will show up and you can move the cursor.”
“Yes, Sir. I figured that out.” (Me internally: What? I played with that for a bit before I could do that.)

“If you get tired of the movie, you can always click the square on the bottom of the iPod to go back to the menu and then click, I mean touch, Music. Then you can scroll down to the artist or song you want.”
“Yes, Sir. I already did that, too. I’m listening to TobyMac now.” (Me internally: Hmm. New blog post?)

My son has only occasionally played with my video iPod, but the navigation is totally different. He does well on any computer we put him in front of, but the Touch is a different ballgame. Isn’t it? Maybe not for these kids.

So, in summary:
1. I figured out the NComputing system is pretty easy to install and seems to work well in our library setting.
2. The iPod Touch has some incredible features for educational use. I need to explore it more for that purpose.
3. Apple did a phenomenal job on the navigation in the Touch.
4. Never think I will be able to teach my son much about computer-based tools. I need to sign up for lessons from him, instead.

Now, where is that Blue Snowball USB mic that came in this morning. “Hey, Son. Can you show Daddy how to hook this thing up?”

Google Docs and the Writing Process

Janelle BenceGoogle has teamed up with Weekly Reader to create lesson plans for the revision stage of the writing process.  This is a great way to learn revision while collaborating in a cool read/write web sort of way.  These lesson plans are directed toward teenage students, but any teacher worth his or her salt can adapt and modify to fit other ages.

Learning Google Docs has saved our middle school campus a ton of time by sharing documents and spreadsheets campus-wide eliminating the need to walk to check a sheet in the office or meet just to agree on a revision or final copy.  Our students need to begin learning this process as well.  Revision is the toughest part of the writing process because the ownership is so near and dear (or laziness sets in).  Take this chance to engage your students in the process by utilizing the free tools we have available on the Internet.  You will be surprised how many decide to voluntarily work on their writing at home.  Seriously.

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60 Second Science

P8012712Secondary Science Teachers,

Looking for a great primer to warm up the science class?  Needing some quick supplementary media to add to your curriculum?  Or do you just want to know what is happening in the science world?  It is a struggle to keep kids excited about science when their main concern is passing the TAKS test instead of truly understanding the concept for something more than a multiple choice answer.  They must be engaged.

Well, 60 Second Science has just the ticket.  It is a part of Scientific American‘s web presence.  You will find topics in categories such as animal and pet, archaeology, biology, computers, Earth science, environment, energy, climate, health, math, physics, and more.  You can visit their blog and read the short posts (which link to more in-depth content for further study), view videos, or even subscribe to their podcast via iTunes.

Some of their recent posts include:

I would say some of this content can be used with elementary grade classes with the right modifications.  Some of the content just might be a bit over their heads.

Thanks to Tim over at Top 101 Web Sites for Teachers for the heads-up.  Keep up the great work, Tim!

Photo Credit: Me; my son “operating” on a frog in a dissection kit made with some type of Jello substance.

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Track Animals using Google Earth

P4200262Love Earth is an organization located in the UK and part of the BBC.  Their work is geared toward educating the public about the earth’s systems and its inhabitants.  Loaded with beautiful still photos, videos, and blogs, this site is a powerful resource for any grade level science teacher. 

One of the cool things I found here is tracking animals and their migratory patterns.  Love Earth presents their data via Google Earth.  Key points in the pattern from the weekly updates have blog entries and other media to extend the experience for the user.  Take my advice, science teachers.  Check this site out.  The kids will absolutely love the experience it provides.

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Camtasia for FREE!!

If you have ever wanted to be able to record what you were doing on your computer screen for either archive or playback at another time (think tutorials, review, video, etc), then this is the software you need. Camtasia has long been recognized as the leader in screencasting software. The only downside is that they do not have a Mac version yet, but you never know. I heard rumor it might be in the works.

So, thanks to a post by Miguel Guhlin on this offer, you can go download Camtasia’s last version (3.1) for free. Considering the newest version (4.0) runs around $100 or so, this is a great deal. Take advantage of it. It is an awesome tool to use in the classroom.

Download here.
Get your software key here to unlock it.
Check out some tutorials here.

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More Free Media Resources for Educators

I found a neat collection of free videos that are online for streaming right to your PC/Mac for many purposes. Take a look at the following topics.

  • Teaching Reading 3-5 Workshop- This video workshop will show intermediate elementary teachers how to help their students transition from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.” Supplemental classroom programs provide further exploration of each topic.
  • Teaching Reading K-2 Workshop- This video workshop addresses critical topics in teaching reading for K-2 teachers.
  • Teaching Reading K-2: A Library of Classroom Practices- This video library shows the teaching practices of K-2 teachers across the country as they introduce their students to reading through a variety of methodologies.
  • Teaching The Children of Willesden Lane- This set of video and Web resources with curriculum guide helps middle and high school teachers teach the Holocaust-survival book The Children of Willesden Lane by Mona Golabek.
  • Write in the Middle: A Workshop for Middle School Teachers- This video workshop helps middle school teachers learn effective practices and strategies for writing instruction.

Teaching Multicultural Literature: A Workshop for the Middle Grades- This video workshop introduces middle school teachers to ethnically diverse American writers and offers dynamic instructional strategies and resources to make works meaningful for students.

Annenberg Media

These are just a very few of the listed topics. They range from administrators creating great campuses to science(tons) to math (tons) to pedagogy to many literacy-based videos. The registration is free. Don’t miss out on this. There is a lot of great information provided here by Annenberg Media whose goal is:

Advancing Excellent Teaching in American Schools Annenberg Media uses media and telecommunications to advance excellent teaching in American schools. This mandate is carried out chiefly by the funding and broad distribution of educational video programs with coordinated Web and print materials for the professional development of K-12 teachers. It is part of The Annenberg Foundation and advances the Foundation’s goal of encouraging the development of more effective ways to share ideas and knowledge.Annenberg Media’s multimedia resources help teachers increase theirexpertise in their fields and assist them in improving their teachingmethods. Many programs are also intended for students in the classroomand viewers at home. All Annenberg Media videos exemplify excellentteaching.

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National Geographic Lesson Plans for ALL Grades

If you found yourself in need of some geography lessons for your K-12 classroom, then do I have a deal for you.  National Geographic Xpeditions has been nice enough to share lessons, projects, and maps on their site by grade level. There is a wealth of information available for educators to take advantage of. 

Here are just a few of the items that the My Wonderful World blog pulled from the site to share:

  • Map your class! – (can be adapted for various age groups)Have students locate on the map (e.g. with removable stickers) countries from which their families immigrated to the United States.
  • 20 QuestionsPlay – 20 questions with a world map!
  • Name Game – Have students name a world location for each letter of the alphabet.Name GameHave students name a world location for each letter of the alphabet.
  • Country Comparisons – Have students research and then compare and contrast two countries.
  • Map your community – Have students look at a variety of maps, and then get them to create a map of their neighborhood or school with a key, title and appropriate map conventions.
  • Locate Earth’s Physical Extremes – Maps4Kids – Maps4Kids provides a series of “top 10” lists about the Earth.
  • Locate Earth’s Political Extremes – Maps4Kids – Maps4Kids provides a series of “top 10” lists about the Earth.
  • Seven Wonders – Maps4Kids – Use the lists at Maps4Kids to have students locate and research the history of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
  • Top 10 lists – Have students use other available resources to research and compile their own “top 10 lists” and locate them on the map.

These are just a few of the items National Geographic has made available.  Go try it out for yourself.  There are some awesome resources out there for free for EVERY grade level. 

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Hey English teachers! Show your students this citation machine!

Dave Warlick has a great little tool you might find useful in your own writing as well as with research projects with your students. The Citation Machine will work in either APA or MLA format. Want the citations to look right? He seems to have it down pat.

WARNING: This little tool gets very slow around the end of semesters when college kids begin final drafts of their papers. I guess that shows you how popular a tool it really is, huh.

Try it out.

Podcasting in the Classroom

Tim Wilson, a technology integration specialist from Minnesota, hosted a session at NECC last year (NECC will be in San Antonio June 2008). The audience put together a list of classroom uses for podcasting. Tim blogged about it and offers this list:

Collect field notes during a science field trip
Living museum, researching characters
“Radio shows”
Creating audio guides for local museums
Teacher powerpoints
Early language learners, (rhyming, etc.)
Staff development
Language learners recording assessments
Discovery Education videos
Science reports
Art projects
Digital portfolios
Weekly classroom news
Serial storytelling
Reflective journals
Summaries of school events
Broadcast school sporting events
Roving reporters
Capturing oral histories (family history)
Podcast vocab words and spelling lists
Flashcard practice with iFlash
Musical compositions
Soundseeing tours

Since podcasting is new to many in our school district, I thought I would offer this list up and see if anyone was interested in trying it out.  If you are, give me a call.  We have the equipment available for our staff to try these things out.

Any other ways to use podcasting that you can think of?

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Ask A Biologist

Arizona State University is offering science students and teachers a great opportunity.  Have a science question?  Post it and let them help you out.  They call the site Ask a Biologist.

While you are there, subscribe to their podcast.  You are going to find some great stuff here!

Thanks to the folks over at the Generation YES blog for pointing it out to me.

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