Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Focus On Earth Day-Earth Day Resources

In the last of my Focus On Earth Day Series I want to highlight some of the websites that can help as you talk to kids, schools and districts about Earth Day. Here are some of my favorites.

Earth Day has information you can use on Earth Day and every day! You can find a listing of EPA events, plus a history of Earth Day and the Environmental movement in the United States.

Kids Domain Earth Day advocates celebrating Earth Day every day! This Kids Only site features activities, coloring pages, downloads and clip art.

PlanetPals - the ultimate website to find entertaining Earth Day information. Keep up-to-date with complete listings of Earth Day activities, teaching aids and earth science. Learning for all ages is available here but it is especially fun for kids! - Numerous resources and tips on how to make a better Earth Day for yourself and network with others.

Young Environmentalists In Action - learn about a problem, and write your letter voicing your opinion. Letter writing tips and more.

Thirty Activities to Celebrate Earthday - ideas for classroom or home.

Composting In Schools all kinds of info from Cornell University.

There are tons more resources out there. Also if you are on Twitter add #HappyEarthDay or #EarthDay to your tweet so others can see what you are doing. You can even use the Twitter Search to see what others are talking about. So go out, plant a tree, start recycling, or take your reusable bags to get groceries this afternoon. Happy Earth Day!

Image Courtesy Flickr Creative Commons

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Queen Bohemian Rhapsody Old School Computer Remix

If you have not seen this yet you have got to watch this...what a great way to use old computer equipment...program it like a DJ! (While it doesn't exactly fit in with this weeks them it is still fun!)

Focus On Earth Day-50 Ways To Go Green In The Classroom

In my continuing Earth Day series, today I want to focus on the classroom and what teachers and other education professionals can do to help the planet.

Back in June, 2008 the folks over at Teaching created a list of the top 50 Ways To Go Green In The Classroom. They have a few obvious suggestions like use a Power Point Presentation instead of printed notes , using email instead of memos, and turn off your computer in the afternoons. But they have some great suggestions that really make you stop and think. Here are a few of my favorites.

Compost heap: If your school isn’t willing to start composting, you can create a mini compost pile outside your classroom to get rid of some of your garbage, though it’s probably a smart idea to make sure it’s cleared with the administration and fire codes.

Calculate your carbon footprint: You can use this calculator to calculate your classroom’s carbon footprint, or the combined effect all of your students have on the environment. Then, discuss ways to minimize your effect on the environment.

Write with recycled pencils: This number two pencil is also made of recycled wood.

Unplug your mini-fridge: Consider sharing a mini-fridge with the teachers down the hall instead of having your own private refrigerator that soaks up extra electricity

Campaign for an Idle-Free School Zone: These Idle-Free School Zones are catching on and encourage parents who arrive at school to pick up their kids to turn off their engines and reduce pollution.

Student Environmental Action Coalition: This group provides information on local events and global campaigns that are devoted to saving the environment.

So head on over to Teaching and check out the rest of the list. If you decide to do any of these, drop me a line or a comment and tell me how you, your classroom or your school is going green!

50 Ways To Go Green In The Classroom

Image Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Monday, April 20, 2009

Focus On Earth Day-Save A Little Green Going Green

With Earth Day on Wednesday I am going to focus posts this week on tools, sites, tips and tricks you and your students can use to help the planet.

Today I revive an old post about ways to save energy in the classroom and tools to monitor energy usage.

There is a lot of talk in the media and the Internet about Global Warming and there is a big push to go green. Whether or not you agree with the politics you can agree that in the current state our country is in saving money is always something to look at. There is a new website that aims to do that, with a large focus on computers and computer equipment.

In the home and school computers are the largest users of energy. We expect them to be at our beck and call, ready, 24 hours a day to communicate with the world, take us to a far away place or entertain us. However this constant use and constant state of energy use puts a drain on our resources and a drain on our wallets. Climate Savers Computing mission is to raise awareness about energy use and to provide tips, tricks and solutions to the home, businesses and schools on how they can cut back on their energy use.

The site provides very easy to use information on how to set the power settings on your computer based on your operating system. There is also information on other ways to go green with your computer through computer recycling and other programs. One of the coolest features is the downloads section where you can download different types of cost-saving calculators that can be use as teaching tools.

So why not save a little green by going green. Check out Climate Savers Computing.

Climate Savers Computing

Image Courtesy Flickr Creative Commons

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Travel The World...Virtually Of Course!

We are living in hard times. Several states are asking local school districts to cut their budgets, sometimes in half. Teachers have to find innovative ways to keep their kids engaged and learning, while doing with less. Traditionally field trips have been a great resources help kids make connections to what they are learning about in class. Instead of just reading about Abraham Lincoln students can visit his home in Springfield or Fords Theater as part of a trip to Washington D.C. But honestly, unless you live in Springfield or near Washington D.C. those trips might be out of reach for "cash-strapped" schools and districts.

Introducing the Virtual Field Trip, where you can travel the world without ever leaving the classroom.
Wikipedia describes Virtual Field Trips as "guided exploration through the Web that organizes a collection of pre-screened, thematically based web pages into a structured online learning experience." Sounds cool huh?

While virtual field trips can never replace the hands-on experiences we want our students to have they can come close. But you may be thinking to yourself, where can I find these? Where do I start? The folks over at the LDS Homeschooling Blog have made it so easy. They have compiled a list of 100's of virtual field trips for your students to enjoy. The list is broken down into museums and buildings, science and nature, regional tours, factory tours, and educational webcams and videos. Here are a few of my favorite tours.

Alcatraz Island
Historical White House Tour
Smithsonian Institutional Tour
The Vatican Museum
Van Gogh's Virtual Tour
Safari Touch Tank
The Farm Tour
NYC's Virtual Central Park
Virtual Great Barrier Reef
Gibson Guitars
Ghirardelli Chocolate Making

This is just a handful of what is available and there are several other resources on the web for virtual field trips. What is great is that these can be done as a class or in small groups. I mean think about it, how else could you have every student have a different field trip experience on the same day, for free? So head on over to the Virtual Field Trip List and plan your next trip!

100's of Virtual Field Trips

Picture Courtesy Flickr Creative Commons

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Add A New Level Of Cool To Interactive Lessons...

As a user, teacher and all-around champion of Interactive Whiteboards in the classroom, I am always on the hunt for the best ways to use these tools.I remind my teachers often that anything you can sit your students down at a computer with headphones to do in isolation can be done as a group with a IWB.

Besides using the plethora of software available that is IWB specific, websites that offer a level of interactivity always catch my eye. Yesterday I discovered a great list over at the WebUpon Blog that highlights 10 Really Awesome Interactive Websites. While IWB's are not mentioned, why could these websites not be used that way! Here are a couple of my favorites from the list.

Alien Empire-Anything and everything you ever wanted to know about insects. Investigate insect parts, wars among insects and other really cool (and sometimes gross) things about bugs!

Interactive Radio-Find music for your classroom based on conventional methods like genre, era or location. But why do that when you can pick music based on your mood. Once you choose the site shows the artist and title. Lots of great stations here.
Mr. Picasso Head- My favorite from the list, this site gives you the opportunity to paint like Picasso. Choose a face, add features and make it abstract. When you are done print it out, save it or email it to your friends and family.

There are some really great other ones like the virtual autopsy (for older audiences), virtual kaleidoscope and more. So head on over to the WebUpon Blog and check out the list. You won't be disappointed!

10 Awesome Interactive Websites

Monday, April 6, 2009

Master Your Vocabulary With WordAhead...

When I was teaching in the classroom, my calling was to math and science. Those subjects always came easy to me because they are very linear, one thing leads to the next. One area I always avoided (and still do to this day) is English. I am, by no means, a "Master" of the language, I know enough to get by (and sometimes enough to get me in trouble!). Even as far back as middle school and high school when I was preparing for the PSAT and SAT I avoided the language sections as best I could and relied on the math sections to carry me. Had I had a website like WordAhead I might not have avoided those verbal sections.

WordAhead is a new way to study vocabulary words. Today the site contains 515 SAT level words with plans to add thousands in the coming months. What makes this site different from all the others is that each word has an associated video that gives the word, the pronunciation, definition, the word in a sentence and visual examples. Each video lasts about 1 minute and are very engaging for students.

Got a word that you think other students would need to know? Awesome, make a video using the tips on the Upload page and your video could be used on the site.

One of the most useful sections on the site is the Study Room. Here students have the option to either watch the videos for each of the words that are available or use the flash card feature and just learn the word and the definition. Students can do a search for specific words or browse the list in alphabetical order.

This is a really cool site that has the potential to be very useful for your students. So head on over to WordAhead and become a Master of Vocabulary!

WordAhead-Vocabulary Videos

Friday, April 3, 2009

Top 10 Great Things Technology Leaders Do...

It's Friday! So that means I step away from tools and websites and try to give you some insight into how great technology programs are run. In the past I have talked about energy savings, the future of assessment, and blogs to read to keep up with the ever changing pace of technology in education. Today I want to highlight a great article I came across on Tech and Learning.

Dr. Frank Rudnesky wrote a great article last summer on The Top 10 Great Things Technology Leaders Do. The list is taken from his book 50 Great Things Leaders Do: Let's Get Fired Up! published in 2007. The list highlights the leadership skills great technology leaders exhibit in their programs. Here are a few of my favorites...

Raise The Bar
- "For me, "Raising the Bar" is the prelude to all the great things that leaders do. Granted, everything you do is not off the charts, but your goal should be to create the best. If you are an educator, you see it all the time. Teachers, parents, and students sometimes do "just enough". We are preparing our students for jobs that may not yet exist but one thing is for sure, they will need technology skills for the rest of the 21st century."

Never Ask Anyone To Do Something You Would Not Do-
"Great leaders are not afraid to get their hands dirty. Don't be scared to chip in. As principal of our school, I've done just about every job. I have salted icy sidewalks, cleaned up dog poop, washed cafeteria tables, and painted walls. Granted, some people insist my time is mostly effective in other areas, but when you need something done, people are more willing to get it done if they see you getting it done for them. The same rings true in any organization."

Think Outside The Box-
"This is such an important component to technology integration. The great teachers that integrate technology in a seamless manner are always looking for ways to improve the teaching and learning process. These teachers use technology to take their students to places that other tools cannot."

Have Fun- "
Technology integration is a wonderful tool that can naturally differentiate instruction in multiple, fun ways. I have seen many students "tricked" into learning that was fun and engaging. If teaching is fun, enjoyable learning is sure to follow."

So head on over to Tech and Learning and read the rest of The Top 10 Great Things Technology Leaders Do.

Top 10 Great Things Technology Leaders Do

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Group Management...The Web 2.0 Way

Collaboration and "the ability to work in groups" are buzz terms that are associated with 21st Century Learners. Sometimes it is difficult to keep students organized or on task. That can all change with Web 2.0 Tools. Over at the Rated Colleges Blog they have a list of the Top 50 Web Tools For Group Projects. There are some well known tools and a few not so well known. Here are a few of my favorites.

- A task and goal manager that allows you to group up and share and view friends tasks.

Google Calendar- Share events, edit schedueles, keep everyone on task.

-A web-based Chat Program that allows you to set up password protected chat rooms, upload images and documents and go back and read transcripts of past chats. (Integrates with Basecamp, another Project Collaboration Tool.)

GroupTweet-Using your Twitter Account, create a Twitter Group to share ideas. up your own social network to create wikis, blogs, share files, chat, post links and more....and it is free!

Google Docs-Create documents, spreadsheets, and presentations, online and share them with other group members.

-Clip pages from the web, record notes and share them with the group.

Diigo-Social Bookmarking. Create a group and share all your bookmarks for the project.

So head over there and see what you can use to help kids collaborate and get things done!

Top 50 Web 2.0 Tools For Group Projects