Ed Tech Ideas

Tech Integration for Busy Teachers

Monthly Archives: March 2010

5 Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Kids Do

Fantastic advice from Gever Tulley, the founder of the Tinkering School. Gever notes that our children are growing up in a safety bubble imposed upon them by over-cautious parents, and are not being allowed to learn by doing as often as they should.

Here is his list of 5 dangerous things you should let you kids do:

  1. Play with fire
  2. Own a pocketknife
    Lay down a few simple ground rules like cut away from your body, always keep the knife sharp, never force it, etc.
  3. Throw a spear
    Our brains are naturally wired for throwing things and if you don’t use it, you lose it. Throwing spears helps them develop their visualization skills and their predictive ability.
  4. Deconstruct appliances
    Take things apart with your kid, even if you don’t know what the parts do, it’s very good practice for children as they will learn parts. This is also great to do with computers.
  5. Drive a car

Watch the 9 minute video below to learn about his reasoning for this advice:

9 Great Science Fair Sites

Science fairs have been going on for quite some time now. I still remember making a working electromagnetic telegraph with my dad in his garage when I was just a lad, strolling into my school gymnasium with my 3-fold poster-board tucked proudly under my arm, and knowing without a doubt that I’d be walking away with that 1st prize blue ribbon (until I saw Scott Johnson’s 5-foot tall tornado simulator).

If your school is planning on having a science fair, or if your students are simply interested in learning more by doing, here’s a list of great science fair resources to get you experimenting.

Discovery Science Fair Central

Science Fair CentralEasy to search using the Idea Finder, Discovery’s Science Fair Central has hundreds of resources and projects to get young scientists motivate and focused. The interactive Display Board help section is a must-see.

Science Fairs

This site has been around since 1995 and is designed to aid students in the most difficult aspect of their science fair experience; getting an idea.

Science Buddies

Great resource for idea finding divided into topics. There’s also a Topic Selection Wizard that guides you through a series of questions to help students narrow down their selection based on their likes and interests. After going through the wizard, there are follow-up resources to get students moving in the right direction.

Science Fair Adventure

Fantastic resource with comprehensive listings that feature science fair projects across several distinct categories, including chemistryphysicsbiology, and many more. Each project is listed in an easy to follow manner with step-by-step instructions on how to carry out the project.

Science Bob

Fun site – Science Bob has a lot of activities and experiments for students to try out.

All Science Fair Projects

Nice resource with different ways to search for science fair ideas. Probably the most useful is the Browse section which allows students to find ideas in 10 different categories.

100 Cool Science Experiments

Kids love watching videos and this site has (as the title suggests) has 100 great videos all about science experiments!

Parents Guide to Science Fairs

We’ve all seen it – the amazing exact replication of a nuclear reactor with flashing lights, sounds, and real smoke. The projects that didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that they were created by, well, a rocket scientist. This site helps parents define their roles in helping their child with his or her science fair project.

PBS Science Fair

PBS has a nice spin on science fair idea generating. Students click on a spinner and new topics appear with a link that takes them to more information about the topic that they chose. There’s even videos of the project in action!

Happy experimenting!

Top 3 Paragons of the Week – Episode 10

Paragons of the Week is a reoccurring post highlighting resources that I find to be worth mentioning. I come across 100s of useful tools for educators each week. Below are the top 3 “paragons” that I found this week that I feel teachers might dig. To view previous Paragons, click here.

1. SafeShare

Safeshare is a great site for showing YouTube videos without distractions. You simply enter the url of a YouTube video and Safeshare removes all the distracting related links and comments from the initial viewing page.

2. ABCya!

ABCya! is a word cloud generator very similar to Wordle that creates nice looking word clouds. The one-up ABCya! has over Wordle is that you may directly save your word cloud as a jpg without any registration.

3. Ribbon Hero

Thanks to klbeasley (via chamada) for this find. Ribbon Hero is an add-on for Microsoft Office that allows you to play a game within the office application (ie Word) that teaches some of the unique features of the program. Users playing Ribbon Hero earn points for doing different tasks within Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.

Top 3 Paragons of the Week – Episode 9

Paragons of the Week is a reoccurring post highlighting resources that I find to be worth mentioning. I come across 100s of useful tools for educators each week. Below are the top 3 “paragons” that I found this week that I feel teachers might dig. To view previous Paragons, click here.


1. Invention at Play

Invention at Play is a fantastic interactive website from the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. When asked what inspired them to become inventors, many adults tell stories about playing as children. The Invention Playhouse takes this fact and offers up great activities to increase problem solving ability, visual thinking, collaboration, and exploration.

2. Virtual Piano

As a computer teacher, I can see this site as having huge potential. Virtual Piano is a beautifully sounding piano that you play by typing on your keyboard. You can play Für Elise by following the key-pattern available. As this is in beta version, I’m guessing that over time, there will be more song choices and hopefully more learning connectivity with the computer keyboard.

3. Story Jumper

Story Jumper is a wonderful new site that allows children to create their very own books. You can create cover pages, add text, upload drawings or photos to illustrate your story, and you can use the StoryJumper clipart gallery, too.

Paragons of the Week – Episode 7

The Internet of Things

Just came across this via ReadWriteWeb and it got me thinking. From IBM’s Smarter Planet team, The Internet of Things is a 5+ minute video about data usage and how it is all becoming interconnected.

After watching the video, what are your thoughts? Do you think this an entirely positive direction we are heading? Will we continue to lose face to face interaction? How will this affect our future generation? Are we preparing them for this? Is society becoming too “big brotheresque?” Do people even care anymore if big brother is watching? Have we all become big brother, watching everyone else? Have we discovered that no one is doing anything truly interesting anyway, so why watch?

Great, Free Mind Mapping Tool

Bubbl.us is a fantasic mind mapping site that allows you to easily create and save mind maps.  If you, or your students have ever used Inspiration, you’ll find bubbl.us a no-brainer. If you haven’t used Inspiration, you will still find bubbl.us intuitive and easy to create and navigate.

Without an account you begin brainstorming straight away and are able to print or save your mind map as a jpeg or png. Sign up for a free account and you can save the mind map to work on later and/or have others edit it. Others exporting options will be added in the future.

Uses in the Classroom

As with Inspiration, bubbl.us is a great, free tool for brainstorming ideas solo, or with a group. Students from primary on up will find bubbl.us easy to use.  Email is not necessary to create an account so, if needed, each of your students could create accounts to save their mind maps for later use. Great for story idea generating, research indexing, or simply organizing thoughts.

Thanks to LifeHacker for this great find.

100 Ways to Show Children You Care

I saw this video the other day in the Twitterverse but don’t recall who shared it. It’s a great reminder about the simple things that we, as parents and teachers, sometimes forget about when we get caught up in all the other requirements of our difficult jobs.  The origin of the video is the Juan Uribe School in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Enjoy!

Top 3 Paragons of the Week – Episode 8

Paragons of the Week is a reoccurring post highlighting resources that I find to be worth mentioning. I come across 100s of useful tools for educators each week. Below are the top 3 “paragons” that I found this week that I feel teachers might dig. To view previous Paragons, click here.

1. Google Web Search – Classroom Lessons and Resources

Web search can be a remarkable research tool for students – and Google has listened to educators saying that they could use some help to teach better search skills in their classroom. The Search Education lessons were developed by Google Certified Teachers to help you do just that. The lessons are short, modular and not specific to any discipline so you can mix and match to what best fits the needs of your classroom. Additionally, all lessons come with a companion set of slides (and some with additional resources) to help you guide your in-class discussions.

2. Kubbu

Kubbu is an e-learning tool designed to facilitate teachers’ work and enhance the learning process. Teachers can create games, quizzes, or crosswords; make them available online for students, and then view and analyze the results.

3. Merriam-Webster Word Games

Thanks to Larry Ferlazzo for this find. Merriam-Webster Word Games is a nice collection of games that gets students thinking and improving their lexicon. There are crosswords, cryptograms, word searches, jumbles, and a plethora of other brainy games.

Clipart Etc.

With over 58,000 (and growing) pieces of free, quality, educational clip art, Clipart Etc. is a fantastic site for educators looking for images to enhance lessons, worksheets, presentations and use with IWBs. There are fantastic images for math teachers, art, music, science, and much more.

The Fraction Gallery offers over 470 illustrations that can be used for teaching and demonstrating fractions. Fractional representations are modeled in wedges of circles (“pieces of pie”) and parts of polygons. There are also clipart images of numerical fractions, both proper and improper, from halves to twelfths. Fraction charts and fraction strips found in this collection can be used as manipulatives and are ready to print for classroom use.

Thanks to John Kimzey for this great find.

Top 3 Paragons of the Week – Episode 7

Attribution: "Pinwheel Star" http://www.flickr.com/photos/40147761@N04/4193248881Paragons of the Week is a reoccurring post highlighting resources that I find to be worth mentioning. I come across 100s of useful tools for educators each week. Below are the top 3 “paragons” that I found this week that I feel teachers might dig. To view previous Paragons, click here.


1. Questionaut

Questionaut is a Math, English, and Science game from the BBC. The premise of the game is your standard question/answer delivery, but what I really like about this game is twofold. One, the artwork, created by Amanita Design, is amazing. You could get lost in just looking at all the beautiful details. The second thing that really brings this educational game to a higher level in my book, is that students will have to work and explore to be given the questions. Within each level, the player will need to complete a series of clicks to release the questions, adding a very subtle think-out-of-the-box element to the game.

2. Games for Change

I’m a big fan of quality educational games, and this site takes it to the next level. Games for Change is a non-profit organization which seeks to harness the extraordinary power of video games to address the most pressing issues of our day, including poverty, education, human rights, global conflict and climate change. As of this writing, there are quite a few dead links to the games (Balance of the Planet, ElectroCity, Globaloria), but I have high hopes that updates come soon as I really like the idea of this site.

3. Who Pooped?

You know with a name like Who Pooped this will be popular with the younger students. Who Pooped is a science site created by the Minnesota Zoo to help students to begin thinking like scientists. One way scientists learn about animals is by studying their poop — also called “scat” or “dung.” Who Pooped allows students to investigate various types of scat and try to match the scat with its creator. A very interactive site which would pair well with IWBs. Hats off to Larry Ferlazzo for the find.



Did You Know 4.0

More great reminders from Scott McLeod, Karl Fisch, and Laura Belstler. Quote of the video by Ray Kurzweil:

“So what used to fit in a building, now fits in your pocket. What fits in your pocket now will fit in a blood cell in 25 years.”

Enjoy the video.

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

Twitter and Blogging from a Newbie Perspective – Part 2

Part II of a 2-Part Post(click here for part I)

Hello? Is Anybody There?

On December 21, I created a Twitter account with my first real tweet being a link to my blog post “Did you Know” which was merely a quick sentence about the video being a great reminder. I didn’t receive any replies; no re-tweets; no direct messages… In fact, I think I heard a faint chirping sound of distant crickets. I quickly realized that there was no one following me, and I was following no one. I decided to spend the mornings of my winter break finding quality educators to follow.

Making Progress

My plan was as follows:

  1. I began the hunt at my co-worker Susan Sedro’s Blog and clicked through her blogroll, reading as much as I could during those quiet mornings before the world awoke. When I found one’s I liked, I would add them to my Google Reader.
  2. I would then search the about sections of the blogs to see if the writer was on Twitter, and if so, I began following them (The first few people to follow me back reads like a list of “who’s who in the educational Twtterverse” and includes such great educators as: @langwitches, @rmbyrne, @jenwagner, @coolcatteacher, @kjarrett, @courosa, @betchaboy, and many, many others). If you are new to Twitter, I’d recommend following them.
  3. After following about 50 or so people, I started looking at who they were following, and who was following them. It felt a little like stalking, but that’s kind of the way things work out at first. I would look at the basic Twitter bio, link to their blog, and scan through their last 20 or so tweets. If they were interesting (ie, tweeting about educational sites, useful practices in the classroom and not what they ate for lunch), I would follow them. I found amazing people like @cybraryman1, @shannonmmiller, @shellterrell, @ktenkely, @AngelaMaiers@Ginaschreck, @Larryferlazzo, @bjnichols, @web20classroom, @tomwhitby, and many, many more who I learn so much from every day.
  4. I signed up for The Educator’s PLN and Classroom 2.0 and “met” some great educators (@cspiezio, @GiseldaSantos, @vickyloras) from discussion groups and began to follow them.
  5. From the beginning, I shared things I came across, re-tweeted interesting tweets and tried to be as lurk-less as possible.
  6. I “tweeted” people as I wanted to be “tweeted.” I tried to thank people for a follow, reply to all direct messages and tweeted only things that I found interesting and useful.

Not All Addictions Are Bad

So after I reached the 100 follower mark, Twitter started becoming very useful. I began using TweetDeck so that I could stay more up to date on the action. I could send out questions and have them answered, I was gathering and bookmarking tons of new sites and resources that I never would have found BT (Before Twitter), and I found several different educators from around the world willing to embark on collaborative projects with my students. Very exciting!

Other teachers from my school began asking asking why Twitter, and wanting to know more about how I use it to enhance my educational repertoire.  The best single answer I could come up with to the question, “Why Twitter?” was, Twitter is like a focused Facebook without all the noise. If you spend time from the beginning following quality people who have something to add, Twitter will become an indispensable resource that you may find yourself asking how you lived without it for so long.

100 Days and Counting

Since 11/11/09 I’ve produced 40 posts, 276 tweets, I follow 562 educators, 396 are following me, and over 20,000 visitors have stopped by my blog. More importantly, I’ve found amazing resources, sites and ideas and have developed an amazing PLN that will continue to help, challenge, and expand my horizons in ways never before possible. I started out with very low expectations (not really the “shoot for the moon” way to go), and wasn’t really expecting to get anything in return for my time spent. When trying something new, I always try to follow the century rule: give anything 100 units (100 pages for a book, 100 days for a new exercise regime, etc) and step back and reflect after that time has passed. I would encourage new users to do the same when building a PLN.  It doesn’t happen overnight, but once cultivated, a quality network of professional learners will be an asset to be cherished.

Useful Resources

I found the following sites and posts to be über-helpful in building my PLN through Twitter and blogging:

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