Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Wayne State University report on e-learning

Thanks to Mike Wendland's Tech Today column in the Freep (Detroit Free Press) I learned about the recently completed 6 month study on e-learning conducted by Wayne State University.

The 94 page (yikes!) report, written by former Michigan state superintendent Tom Watkins, has a long list of recommendations for Michigan students and educators regarding e-learning. He says:
Some of the recommendations are bolder than others. Some are more plausible and do-able than others. Some will require changes in vision, imagination, and attitude; others will require changes in the law and bold leadership. All are offered to serve as a catalyst for productive change for our students and teachers.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Technology Enhanced Lesson Plans

Over 40 Michigan educators convened over the summer to create dozens of technology enhanced lesson plans.

In addition to the lesson plans, this website contains links to other sites that will be especially helpful to Michigan educators--links to the new "METS" (Michigan Educational Technology Standards), the Michigan Curriculum Framework, and the "GLCE" (Grade Level Content Expectations, aka the 'glicks').

Scroll down to the bottom of the page to see links to the lesson plans, organized by the content areas of ELA, Math, Science, Social Studies, and Technology.

And be sure to take a look at the list of educators who developed the lessons.

Hands on Banking Website

I picked up the fall Consumer Informaton Catalog from the credit union today and discovered a free CD called "Hands on Banking." Then I checked out the CIC website and found that "Hands on Banking" is available on the web!

Wow! What a thorough tutorial on banking, budgeting, and personal finance in general. The site is available in both English and Spanish, and there are four interactive tutorials to choose from: Kids (4th-5th grade), Teens (6th-8th grade), High School, and Adults.

There are downloadable teachers' guides for each level and even an online or downloadable financial dictionary. The site is closed captioned, and the narration may be turned off if desired.

Under "User Options" you'll also find a loan calculator and a savings calculator to help you with "what if" questions.

According to the Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy, the average high school student answered only 52.3 percent of questions correctly on their 2004 survey! You can read the complete press release in Word format here.

Students love money! And I'm sure they'd love learning about personal finance with interactive sites like those listed above.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Learning Essentials for Microsoft Office

This free* add-on to Microsoft Office is long overdue. Here is the description from Microsoft's website:

Learning Essentials for Microsoft Office provides students and educators with new education-specific tools for their familiar Office applications. Learning Essentials includes curriculum-based templates and toolbars for Microsoft Office Word, Microsoft Office PowerPoint presentation graphics program, and Microsoft Office Excel spreadsheet software, plus academic tutorials from leading education publishers. Learning Essentials helps students get started, stay organized, and successfully complete high-quality assignments. And for educators, Learning Essentials can help them easily create effective instructional resources, complete administrative tasks, and implement new teaching strategies.

Learn more about it on the Microsoft website.

*Learning Essentials is FREE with Microsoft Office volume academic licensing.

You can download a Flash demo of Learning Essentials here. At first glance, this looks like a nice addition to Office. I've only downloaded and watched the demo, however, and I'd really like to "test drive" the actual product. It looks very promising.

FREE LEGO Digital Designer Software

This free software is available for both Mac and Windows. The LEGO Digital Designer software allows you to create virtual LEGO models, and then to upload and share your creations with other designers on the LEGO website. Likewise, you can download models from other designers.

The software also keeps track of the pieces needed to actually build your model, and you can then purchase the bricks you need from the LEGO online store.

There are even 6 brief tutorials on such topics as how to build a flat roof, and how to build a basic house or a basic car.

Sure, it may not be as much fun as the real thing, but it's a lot easier to clean up and you'll never step on any LEGO pieces with your bare feet.

The picture is a car created by Julian Li, a 28-year old from Hong Kong. I downloaded this car from the LEGO site and took a screen shot of it in the LEGO Digital Designer Software.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Free Online Music Mixer Creates MP3s!

Don't laugh, but while reading my cereal box this morning I learned about the Cinnamon Toast Crunch Music Mixer.

This site allows you to play DJ and create your own music mix by using 6 of the over 50 available loops with fun names like "what up", "crazykeyz" and "glugglug."

If you choose to register for the site (email address required), you will be able to save your mixes online and, best of all, you can download an MP3 of your creations!

Although not as sophisticated as GarageBand, CTC Music Mixer is a lot of fun and your students will be able to create their own music to accompany a classroom multimedia presentation.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Free Streaming Video from PBS

While browsing ISTE's website I came across a link to PBS' American Field Guide. There are over 1400 streaming video clips in either Real Player or Windows Media Player format.

You may browse the categories-- animals, ecosystems, human history, livelihoods, earth & space, plants, public policy and recreation-- or conduct a keyword search and even limit your search by state.

In the Teacher Resources section you will find several "Units of Inquiry" intended for middle school or high school students. Topics include: fires, floods, flowers and plants, insects, landfills, mammals and others. Each unit includes lesson plans, content standards, downloadable documents, and links to the featured video clips for each activity in the unit.

The streaming videos pop up in a small window, but right-clicking on a Windows Media Player video will allow you to enlarge it to full screen. (I don't have Real Player, but I assume it will also enlarge the video.)

If your school is fortunate to have a unitedstreaming subscription you may find similar content in their collection, but this free service from PBS is definitely worth a look.

P.S.- I just discovered you can email a link to a specific clip! Teachers with a classroom website would be able to copy the URL and link directly to a video clip for students to access from home.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Internet Safety Site

Primary and Elementary students will enjoy learning about Internet safety from Faux Paw the Techno Cat. From the home page students will select their state, and then be taken to a screen with a short printed greeting from the "first lady" or "first gentleman" of that state.

There is a 5-10 minute Looney Toons style cartoon movie created by Brigham Young University that may be streamed or downloaded from the site. Or if you prefer, the story is also presented as an online book, and in a printable format.

Teachers may also download a worksheet, a discussion guide and vocabulary quiz and other printables to use in conjunction with the cartoon. There are even Faux Paw screensavers and wallpaper, and a fun & games section for kids.

This important information on Internet safety is presented in a way that is non-threatening to elementary age students.

Classroom Clipart and Photos

Rather than sending your students to Google to search for images (and having to cross your fingers and hold your breath that nothing inappropriate pops up), have them use Classroom Clipart where they will be able to choose from thousands of classroom appropriate pictures and clip art images.

Scroll to the bottom of their home page to the pictures of the week section and you can click on a link to dozens of pictures from Hurricane Katrina.

Please observe these terms of use:
These images can be used solely EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES in the K-12 classroom. This means that K-12 students may use these images for school projects and reports. Images in the Classroom Clipart collection may be used by teachers and students in print, multimedia, and video productions. Uses include, school projects, school webpages, school contests, and for school fund raising activities. These images are watermarked. A Classroom Clipart Logo/Copyright must be included and must not be removed from the image. When using an image on a webpage the image must include this link "Image Provided by Classroom Clipart"

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

New Orleans Satellite Imagery on Google Maps

Google Maps (http://maps.google.com) has just posted recent satellite imagery of New Orleans that allows the user to compare sections of the city pre- and post-Katrina.

There is an update link on the right side of the Google Maps home page, or you may type New Orleans in the search box.

To view the city pre-Katrina click on the satellite button. There is a red Katrina button that will display the same area post-Katrina.

I have posted a picture of the Superdome.

Outstanding Egyptology Site- Theban Mapping Project

I came across this site while reading the Christian Science Monitor's Sci/Tech RSS feed. The Theban Mapping Project is a very comprehensive and highly interactive site for anyone wanting to learn about Egyptology.

There are two main sections to the site: The Atlas of the Valley of the Kings features over 2000 images, interactive models of the tombs, 65 narrated tours, and a 3D rendering of one of the tombs. WOW! I could easily spend hours exploring this section.

The Atlas of the Theban Necropolis allows users a Google Earth-like view of the entire archaeological site using aerial photos that were taken back in 1979. You can zoom in and out, and mouse-over to see the name of each site, but clicking on the site for some reason did not provide the more detailed description that was supposed to occur. Until the additional interactivity is added, I believe most students and teachers will enjoy the first section more.

You'll also find a user guide, glossary, bibliography, timeline, links to additional Egyptology sites, and even information on becoming an Egyptologist!

I hope I have an opportunity to see these ancient sites in person someday. But until then I will have to enjoy a virtual visit at www.thebanmappingproject.com

For a more detailed description of this outstanding website, read the Christian Science Monitor article by Jim Regan here.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Emergency Preparedness

My thoughts and prayers go out to the victims of Hurricane Katrina. I can't even begin to imagine what the thousands of survivors have to deal with in the aftermath. I, like many Americans, would not know where to go, or what to do during the recovery process. A big thank you to the Librarians Index to the Internet (www.lii.org) for providing a link to the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) "Are You Ready? An In-depth Guide to Citizen Preparedness."

This 21 MB PDF file (204 pages!) includes sections on floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, thunderstorms and lightning, winter storms and extreme cold, extreme heat, earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides and mudslides, tsunamis, fires, hazardous materials, household chemical emergencies, nuclear power plant disasters, and terrorism.

This is, without a doubt, unpleasant reading material, but so very necessary to our very survival in the face of disaster, either natural or man-made.

FEMA also has sites for teachers, parents and kids with lesson plans, activities and many links to helpful websites that may be more age appropriate. Perhaps all teachers could use the Hurricane Katrina disaster as a teachable moment using these resources, and the thousands of pictures and first hand accounts that are already available on the Internet.