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Ed Tech Ideas

Tech Integration for Busy Teachers

Category Archives: Social Studies

Create Stellar Timelines with MyHistro

-Guest post by Mauro Pasi

Technology is being used more and more in schools all over the globe and teachers have an ever-expanding array of tools to use both for the class room and homework assignments. One of the newest additions is MyHistro, a free website to create timelines. Histros Inc., the company behind MyHistro has a background in history visualization. Their first project was Histrodamus.ee, an award winning website where people could learn about the history of Estonia using an interactive geolocated timeline. As good and original as it was, the website still had some limitations. Web 2.0 is all about collaboration and content creation rather than content consumption. Think about the Wikipedia revolution. Encyclopedias have been curated by scholars for centuries and are a great source of precise and reliable knowledge, and so is Histrodamus.ee, with its team of editors. Yet Wikipedia is an incredible tool that we couldn’t live without anymore and its secret lies in the collaboration between regular users. This very same idea is what prompted MyHistro. Teachers have now access to same design and functionality that made Histrodamus great and can use free and easy to make timelines to teach students around the world. These timelines allow students to study history interactively and socially, making history learning more appealing to digital natives who are more used to Social Networks than they are to books. Being on the Web the content is accessible from anywhere, even from mobile devices, thanks to their iOS and Android apps. But where these timelines really shine is in their three-dimensionality. We are not talking about the latest blockbuster movie here, we are talking about being able to understand clearly the what, when and where of history. I remember being a student myself and having to memorize names and dates without actually being able to connect the dots. Thanks to myHistro now the dots are right in front of you. These timelines can be played like a slideshow or browsed through in no specific order by clicking each single events on the actual timeline or on the map. They are a great way of presenting the class with some visual aids and very good studying material to prepare for a test because they contain all the notes from the teacher. Some teachers have been using them as assignments too, to asses the understanding of the topics they taught in the class as well as the writing skills of their students. Timelines and events can be co-authored, making them extremely good for group assignments. Embedded here is an example of a timeline created by a student. Don’t you think that this student now has a clear understanding of the whole picture, having had to pin point every single battle in time as well as in space?  

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Google Maps Tutorial – Start Here

Everyday Use

Google Maps is an incredibly useful tool, one that I personally use every week (often daily) to find my way around town, locate bus stops and businesses, get point to point directions, and to look up places I travel to (like the one below of our trip to New Zealand).

In School

I use it in school as well to teach students about geography, follow book plots, create maps of field trips, locate places they are learning about, and to take virtual field trips (zoom around the Colosseum below).

Start Here

Recently, Google came out with a great little Maps tutorial called Start Here. The tutorial takes you on a journey through Google Maps showing you how to do things like create maps with locations, photos, and links, get driving directions, use indoor maps, explore street view, and many other useful skills. This is a great tutorial for students and adults as well.

Geography Awareness Week

November 13-19, 2011 is Geography Awareness Week (GAWeek) and to celebrate, National Geographic has teamed up with Mission Explore to encourage students (and adults) to think and learn about the interconnectedness of our world.

Missions

Students can challenge friends, classmates, and family members to complete missions and earn badges in a variety of different ways. Some of the challenges include:

More

There’s a ton of resources within the site for teachers and students alike. Download a poster, the missions, activity books, explore the book list, watch videos, read articles, participate in a blog-a-thon, and more!  

Children of World War 2

From the BBC, Children of World War 2 is a great resource for kids who want to get a better understanding of what life was like for children during World War 2.  History lessons will usually focus on the major events of the war: The Nazis invade Poland, the German Blitz, the bombing of Pearl Harbor, D-Day, Auschwitz, etc. The human side of the story is often missed and that’s where Children of World War 2 comes in.

The well-presented, easy to explore site has 10 sections to delve into that inform kids about the war and what it was all about. From evacuations, to what homes were like,  food and shopping, daily life, and other interesting areas. Each section comes with some amazing photos with captions, some sections have writings (actual letters and speeches written by the various leaders), and also videos, and audio recordings of war-time events (Note: the audio and videos are not available in all countries).

Also, within each section, there are activities, challenges, and quizzes that add a bit of fun to an often sad topic.

Visit the teacher section for lesson plans, worksheets, a collection of all the media associated with the site, as well as links to other websites to further explore the topic.

The Children of World War 2 is a great resource for any unit of historical study of World War 2. It truly gives students a new, eye-opening perspective about some of the atrocities, and some of the simplicities that took place during this time in history.

Researching, Graphing and Publishing in Four Steps

One of my third grade classes is working on a unit of learning about, and deciphering the differences between developed and developing countries. They are investigating what makes a country developed, why certain countries develop and other don’t, and trying to figure out how we can close the gap.

Step 1: The Premise

We began by gathering information on 2 counties (one developed; the other developing) such as literacy rate, life expectancy, population, GDP per capita,  and other statistical facts that could be found online. They recorded their findings in a Word document. This information was later used to graph the results and to develop a better understanding of the differences between developed and developing countries.

Step 2: The Research

For most of the research, we used CIA World Fact Book. This is a great site with detailed information on every country in the world. It is fairly easy to find the information, but what I like even more is that the kids did have to do some thinking and searching to find the information they needed. Other sites we used were the BBC’s Development and Health, National Geographic’s People and Places, OxFam’s Wake Up World, and Heifer International’s Read to Feed.

Step 3: The Graphs

After all the information was gathered students went to Create-a-Graph and began entering their data. They selected specific data to compare 2 or more countries (i.e., literacy rates of Singapore vs. Afganastan; Life Expectancy of people in Singapore vs. Cuba; GDP of Singapore vs. The Philippines; etc.). We used Singapore for the developed country as that is where all the students live. The students got to choose which developing country they researched and, not surprisingly, a lot chose either Haiti or Afghanistan. (Note to self: next time, I will have students sign up for a country to avoid repeats).

Step 4: Publishing

After all the data was collected and graphed, the students downloaded their graphs as PDFs and I then uploaded them all to Youblisher to share their findings with people from around the world. You can take a look at their graphs here.

Create-a-Graph Step by Step Guide

Google-Siberian Railway

Moscow-Vladivostok: Virtual Journey on Google Maps

Here’s a pretty cool mash-up from Google. The great Trans Siberian Railway, the pride of Russia, goes across two continents, 12 regions and 87 cities. The joint project of Google and the Russian Railways lets you take a trip along the famous route and see Baikal, Khekhtsirsky range, Barguzin mountains, Yenisei river and many other picturesque places of Russia without leaving your house. During the trip, you can enjoy Russian classic literature, brilliant images and fascinating stories about the most attractive sites on the route.

Here’s a video preview, but to get the full experience, go to the site and follow the route on the map while looking at all the sites out of the train window.

Integration Ideas

Great for classes studying maps, Russian history and geography. Teachers could assign different sections of the route to each student and have student’s research the regions and cities along the route. Story starters: Students watch a section of the video and then write a story from the point of view of one of the original passengers. Math: Students calculate the distance between stops. Estimate how many miles of rail was used in construction. Estimate the weight of the rails.

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