Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Interactive Christmas Sites for Kids

Turkey Day is almost here, which means it’s time to start looking at interactive Christmas sites for kids. There aren’t as many good sites for Christmas as there are for Thanksgiving, but let’s take a look at what I have found so far:




Celebrate winter holidays by Scholastic features Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa all on page complete with a teacher’s guide and holiday clip art for teachers to use. There are holiday articles to download on each holiday, as well as a section on printable crafts, recipes, and thinking questions. Clearly this is my favorite among all of the sites listed here. Check it out!


TRIM A TREE with JAN BRETT

Trim a tree with Jan Brett at her homepage! Using the tree template, kids click and drag the ornaments onto the tree. When they are finished, kids can print their creation and give it to a friend. Jan Brett, a popular children’s book author, has written several holiday books for kids including The Christmas Trolls and The Gingerbread Baby. Her illustrations are gorgeous, and she has newsletters available for teachers to incorporate her books into lesson plans. Her website is also full of interactive activities to match each of her books. In addition, there is a whole page full of Christmas related activities besides “trim the tree“.


CHRISTMAS TRADITIONS AROUND THE WORLD

At Santa’s Net there is an extensive list of how Christmas is celebrated around the world. There is also a list of multicultural Christmas recipes and a list of how to say “Merry Christmas” in different languages. There are Christmas songs, too, but they only are comprised of the lyrics - you can’t hear the music. Bummer.

NORTH POLE.COM

North Pole has several different activities all in one place! I have not had time to explore the site since it is so big. Here is just a small list of what you can do here:

  • Send a letter to Santa
  • Send a holiday postcard
  • Stories to read and color
  • Games to play
  • Recipes to bake
  • Puzzles and Activities
  • Sing Christmas Karaoke
  • Visit the toy shop (disclaimer, this takes kids to Amazon.com)

If you have a favorite holiday site, feel free to let me know about it in the comments section!


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Audio Books Online

Many special education teachers and reading teachers ask me about sites that have stories online where students can HEAR the book being read to them. While there are several sites that do this, very few of them have the words or captions that go along with the passage. These sites make good learning stations for students in your classroom. Here are some of my favorites:

Storyline Online is a website sponsored by the Screen Actors Guild. There are several celebrities who offer their talents to read a best-loved children’s book on video. Stream the video to watch the actor read the story complete with story book pictures and captions that you can turn on or off. A few of my favorites on this site are: Stellaluna, Knots on a Counting Rope, and The Night I Followed the Dog. This is a GREAT SITE! This site is for elementary school students.

Loudlit.org is a site that boasts “literature for your eyes and ears”, and they’re right. The website features novels, poetry, historical documents, children’s books, and short stories that you can read and follow along as someone reads it to you. You can stream the audio or download it. I especially like the poetry section since it helps students hear how poetry should be read with pauses and breaks. Famous pieces that are featured (and here are just a FEW): The Highwayman, The Raven, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and The Tale of Two Cities. This site primarily targets secondary students, but there are some selections for primary aged kids.

ByGosh.com is a good source for digital text online, although it doesn’t read the text to you. However, many teachers have the use of text-to-speech software that allows them to copy and paste text into the program to read it to the student. This site has items for elementary and secondary students.

At Childtopia, there are seven stories that you can hear read out loud to you. This is definitely geared for elementary school students.
My favorite of these sites used to be Tumble Books - not featured here since they have recently turned their site into a paid site. Previously their content had been completely free. If your school is willing to pay for a subscription, this site would be worth your time and money.

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More Contests for Students

The first contest is a poetry contest found though Creative Communication. The contest is open for K-12 sttudents and there are over $3,000 worth of prizes. The students who win the contest in each grade level category win money as well as a free copy of the anthology that is created from the winning entries. Schools with 15 or more kids accepted into the anthology will receive a writing achievement award and they are eligible for a $250 grant. There are three deadlines for this contest:

December 11, 2008 (for the fall 2008 contest)
April 14, 2009 (for the spring 2009 contest)
August 18, 2009 (for the summer 2009 contest)

The second contest is Global Schoolnet’s Cyber Fair 2009 contest. As stated on their website, “students are encouraged to prepare for the future - by thinking about the possible future, the probable future, the preferable future and the preventable future. Projects that best illustrate “future thinking” are invited to the World Future Society international conference in Chicago, Illinois, July 2009.” Click here for more information.

Astronomy Sites for Classroom Use

If you read this blog at all, you know my fascination with astronomy websites. I love space. I wanted to be an astronaut until the Challenger disaster in 1985. Now I use the web to get my fix on astronomy. Here are some more good ones:

Human Space Flight is a website where you can enter your city to see which space objects will fly by your night sky for you to see. It gives you the time of the object and how long it will take to pass over your location. Look up satellites or space shuttles!


Astronomy Picture of the Day
I did not post an example picture of Astronomy Picture of the Day because the NASA photographer does not give rights to copy his pictures without written permission, but these photographs are amazing and would lend themselves to good teaching points in the classroom.

The Exploratorium’s Observatory

The Observatory has great resources for Venus, Saturn, Mars, Mercury, sunspots and auroras. The interactive format allows you to click on different parts of the image to see more information. In addition, there are many more interactive sections of the site such as: Your Weight on Other Worlds and Your Age on Other Worlds.


The Solar System Visualizer

At first the Solar System Visualizer looks to be a very primitive site. There is an image of our solar system with the planets orbiting the sun. Okay… now what? The magic comes in by clicking on one of the planets - try Saturn or Uranus for example. You will see the planet in the middle of the screen with its moons orbiting in animation. BUT then you need to ZOOM OUT. Did you know there were so many bodies orbiting our planets? It was amazing. Check it out.

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Thanksgiving Sites for Kids

There are several interactive Thanksgiving sites that you can use with your students to teach about life in the 1600s and how the holiday began. All of the sites below have something different to offer, so check them all out!

Journey on the Mayflower is a wonderful site from Scholastic. It begins with an interactive timeline. With each stop on the timeline, there is a mini movie complete with sound effects and narration. Also explore the tab at the top of the site about “Daily Life“.



The First Thanksgiving, also from Scholastic, has wonderful slide shows depicting what life could have been like during the 1600s as well as a webquest for your students to complete.


Colonial House (PBS)

Colonial House from PBS has many different pages worth exploring. For example, there is a section on “375 Years Ago at 360 Degrees” with panoramas of the colony. Very cool! Also, you can play “Dress Me Up” to see if your students can match the correct clothing with the colonists for the time period. At the bottom of the home page, there is a section for teachers called “Educational Interactivities” with lesson plans completely written out for you. Thank you, PBS!


Welcome to Plimouth Plantation’s You are the Historian… Investigating the First Thanksgiving


This is one of my favorites! Plimouth Plantation’s You are the Historian allows students to be the historian and investigate the first Thanksgiving from the point of view of the Native Americans and the Colonists. As you click through your investigation, there are interactive activities with narration and sound effects to keep the youngest learner engaged.

Mayflower History

Mayflower History’s site, based on the book by Caleb Johnson, is geared for intermediate students, probably 4th grade students and older. Click on “Pilgrim History” to be taken to a page full of resources on the voyage, life in the new world, the Native Americans and more.

Madlibs Online for Kids!


Speaking of childhood favorites, remember Madlibs? We used to buy them at book fairs and take them with us on road trips to keep us entertained. Little did we know at the time, it was a fun way to practice parts of speech.

Now Funbrain.com has Madlibs online for kids! There are different themes to choose from: School, Once Upon a Time, Prehistoric, and Alphabet. Once you choose your theme, the Madlibs generator appears asking you to fill in a part of speech. For example, if it asks you for a “noun”, there are several floating nouns around for you to choose from. Click your choice and click OK to continue. When you are finished, a pop-up window appears with your printable story. Fun!

Tic Tac Toe in 3D

So you think you are an expert at the child’s game Tic Tac Toe? Now try it in 3D at MathsNet Interactive! This game was designed in 3D to prevent the first player from always winning. Instead of connecting three in a row to win, you have to connect two rows that meet at a right angle to form an “L”. You are the blue marbles, and the computer plays the part of the red. By clicking and dragging the 3D shape, you can rotate and spin the cube so that you can see your game board from all angles. Check it out! This would be a great follow-up activity to teaching about 3D solids in Geometry, not to mention it would also work well with an Interactive Whiteboard.

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Kids and Cookies: Division online

“Kids and Cookies”: Easy Division Site for Kids


Check out this cool “Kids and Cookies” site!

Students are presented with a problem: they have friends coming over and cookies to share. You can choose how many friends you have and how many cookies you want to share among all of them. If your cookies don’t divide out equally, you can put the cookie on the cutting board and chop it into fractions to share equally among your friends. The best part is there are printable “friends” and “cookies” that go along with the site so that kids can follow along at their desks. Kids and Cookies would be a great supplemental resource to use with the book The Doorbell Rang.

Try using Kids and Cookies with your Interactive White Board as well!

Interactive Whiteboard Links


If you have an interactive whiteboard (Promethean, SMART, or Polyvision), it’s always nice to know where you can find websites that work especially well with your board. A site that may not be suitable to use with your class in the computer lab could be very valuable once you use it with your interactive whiteboard in a whole group instructional setting.

As I was searching for interactive whiteboard links, I came across this site by ETTC (Educational Technology Training Center). The site has tons of links suitable for your interactive whiteboard. But the best part of the site is that the links are broken down by elementary sites, middle school sites, and high school sites. ETTC also separates the links by subject area: math, language arts, science, social studies, music, PE, art, software, tutorials, and other.

It’s the best list I have seen to date. I looked at about 70% of the sites under “elementary” and was astonished that the sites were of high quality. There is nothing worse than a hotlist of sites that stink.

Hall Davidson Speaks at Frederick County Public Schools, MD

Today I had the privilege of listening to Hall Davidson, head of the Discovery Educator Network, speak on a topic entitled, “Revenge of the Digital Natives“. He spoke of how the digital natives (children growing up with technology) have the ability to multi-task unlike any generation before them. While the amount of time these students spend watching TV can increase their inability to attend, they can also multi-task with several different medias and expect to learn with several different medias. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Digital natives typically spend 2 seconds on a webpage before they decide whether or not the page will yield the information they are looking for. What does this mean for teachers? Think of the media you use in your class. Mr. Davidson gave the example of how the old way to show an education video in schools was to play the whole 30 minute video. Now with resources like United Streaming, teachers have the ability to download a short video segment that narrows in on their objective that they are teaching. No more wasted classroom time!
Mr. Davidson also shared some websites that can be used in a new way to engage students in the classroom:

  • Google Lit Trips: Virtual field trips in Google Earth around famous works of literature
  • Google Sketchup: Construct a 3D building
  • Gcast: Call an online service, leave a message, and turn it into a podcast automatically
  • Poll everywhere: Participate in a survey via your cell phone and results are displayed on the website live
  • Jott: send yourself reminders via email by calling the Jott.com number

I have seen Mr. Davidson speak at the Day of Discovery in Silver Springs, MD back in August, and still find that he has new ideas to share with his audience. I hope to continue to be as motivated and excited about technology as he is!


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MD, VA, DC Day of Discovery

FotoViewr: Embed your Flickr photos into your blog!

FotoViewr is a cool new site that I came across today that allows you to access your photos from your Flickr or SmugMug account, create a slideshow, and embed it into your blog or website. Why do I like FotoViewr?

  1. You don’t need to sign up or create an account to use the site.
  2. Easily access your photos by entering your username and the “tag” of the photos you wish to view.
  3. Pick a “gallery” tool to showcase your photos.
  4. Embed the slideshow using the code Fotoviewr provides for you. The transitions remind me of PicLens (otherwise known as Cool Iris), which is a new way to search for multimedia on the web. The effects are very similar to what I see in FotoViewr. If you can’t see the slideshow below, try viewing this blog in Firefox instead of Internet Explorer.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Math Step-by-Step Help

Struggling with solving your math homework? Sometimes you have most of the problem figured out, but the last step is where you get stuck. Where do you turn to for help especially if you are working on Algebra, Calculus or Trig? Chances are that mom and dad forgot how to do this once they left a formal schooling environment. Try mathaway.com!

Using Mathaway, you can type in your problem ranging from Basic Math through Calculus (no option for Geometry at this time) and Mathaway will lay out how to solve the problem step-by-step. One of my friends was lamenting over Algebra homework - she had one problem left to do and was stuck. I sure don’t remember how to do this. Mathaway came to the rescue! It provided clear step-by-step directions on how to reach the solution.

I was more impressed with Mathaway for higher-level math than for basic math. For example, if I entered a basic math problem that was addition, subtraction or multiplication, Mathaway merely gave me the answer without showing me the steps or the process of how it arrived at the answer. (See below)


But if I entered a long division problem, it was beautiful! Everything was written out step by step with clear explanation. (See one step of this problem below.) Mathaway had similar results for the higher level math problems, so I can see where this site would be a life-saver.


Overall, I like Mathaway for higher-level math problems and not for basic math. I think this could be the key to helping students who are missing one step in a process, and don’t have anyone at home who can help them.


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Carve a Pumpkin Online

Welcome, Fall! October is here!

To get into the Halloween spirit, why not carve a pumpkin online? There are two sites that I have found that are fun.


The first one located at theoworlds has the most options for your pumpkin. It gives you to option to cut “freeform” or with straight lines only. When you connect the lines of your cut, then the piece automatically falls out of your pumpkin. You can change the background picture, add your own message, print your pumpkin, save it to view later, or send it to your friends in an email. Don’t forget you can turn on and off the spooky background music! As you can see from the picture above, the pumpkin is realistic instead of a cartoon. I like it!


The second pumpkin site is called the “Pumpkin Simulator”. You have a cartoon pumpkin to carve on, and when you are finished, you click, “done”. At that time, a lit candle is added to your pumpkin and spooky music plays. It doesn’t have any of the other options as the first pumpkin site, but it still provides entertainment! Happy Halloween!

Science Contest for Kids: ExploraVision


Thanks to Vicki Davis’s Cool Cat Teacher blog, I learned about Toshiba/NSTA’s ExploraVision contest for kids K-12. The contest challenges teams of students (working under a mentor) to:
  • choose a technology that is present in their lives
  • explore how it works, when and why it was invented
  • imagine and explore what the technology would be 20 years from now
  • write an in-depth report to convey their vision to others

Prizes range from $5,000 - $10,000 savings bonds, a toshiba notebook for the school, and special gifts for the coaches and mentors. See the website for complete details.

Why should students enter? Strengthen the following skills:

  • higher-order thinking
  • communication
  • organization
  • imagination
  • research
  • collaboration
  • writing skills

Deadline is January 28, 2009. What are you waiting for?


Image by ILoveButter from Flickr.



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Way Cool Science Sites for Your Class


Are you in need of some WAY COOL science sites for your class? Here are a few of my favorites:

Discovery Channel’s Volcano Explorer: Find volcanoes around the world; go inside a volcano, build your own and watch it erupt.

Volcano Maker: Build a volcano and watch it erupt. After you build your volcano, click the keywords to learn about the parts of a volcano. Cool sound effects. Very dramatic.

CNN’s Anatomy of a Volcano: Short, but effective, description of how a volcano erupts.

National Geographic’s Forces of Nature: Tornadoes, Volcanoes, Hurricanes, and Earthquakes, OH MY! Each section of the website has information and an interactive section. Facts and fun in one!

Explore Mars Now: Realistic images allow students to simulate what it could be like to explore Mars with robots and vehicles.

The Virtual Body: Interactive tour of the different systems of the human body. Available in English or Spanish. There is also a choice for a “narrated tour”.

Fossil Dig: Aimed at elementary school kids, this interactive dig is takes you along as you search for fossils.

Rock Flashcards: This site reads the name of the rock to you as it shows a picture of the rock.

NOVA ScienceNOW: science videos and interactive activities

Explore Butterflies! Build a butterfly habitat

3D Ant Farm: Need I say more?

EdHeads - Activate your mind: weather, simple machines, virtual knee surgery, hip replacement, etc

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Are You a Lurker? Join the Conversation!

Photo courtesy of Photocatcher via Flickr

Are you a lurker? Do you read blogs, gather information, and quietly slip away? Join the conversation! Feel free to comment on blog posts that interest you. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t see your comment posted immediately. I moderate comments before posting them to help cut down on spam from automated sites, but comments appear within 24 hours of submitting them. So join the conversation! Let us learn from you! Tell us your thoughts, opinions, perspectives, ideas…

The power of blogs lies in its community and the exchange of ideas from within. There is a community here on my blog, which is evident from the Cluster Map. So…

Peek-a-boo! I see you!

Tag. You’re it.

“Pixie” ideas for the classroom


Every year there is a program that I decide I adore. This year it’s Tech4learning’s Pixie - Check out the software overview by clicking the link. Our county purchased Pixie as part of Tech4learning’s Imagination Suite. We also received Image Blender and Web Blender as part of this package.

What is Pixie?
Pixie is a drawing and painting program that allows children to express their creativity and practice much needed educational concepts. There are hundreds of educational templates that are ready for your students to use within the program. You can also create your own activities for students to complete within Pixie.

RESOURCES
TRADING POST. This Tech4Learning website is a place where educators can upload their Pixie templates, activities, and lesson plans. They are there for you to download and use with your class! Sign up for free.

Tech4Learning’s homepage is a great resource for tutorials, tips, and support for any of their programs: Pixie, Web Blender, and Image Blender.

Recipes4Success is a great website that provides tutorials on this program and all Tech4Learning programs.

BEST FEATURES ABOUT PIXIE:

  1. Print multiple pictures: If you choose to print multiple paintings at one time, you can print as “trading cards” and trade your pictures with your friends. Think of classroom implications: if each child trades a different historical or literary figure, they can learn from each other’s cards. You can also print mini booklets, comic strips, and table tents.
  2. Share your pictures: Choose to play your pictures in slideshow format directly from Pixie. Add music, transitions, and have it run continuously. In addition, you can export your slideshow as a Quicktime video, a web page, or a full presentation.
  3. Export your pictures: Export Pixie paintings as common picture formats such as JPS or GIF. Now you can import them into Microsoft Office, Photo Story, Movie Maker, etc. This also means you do not need to have Pixie on your computer to view your pictures.

Language Arts Ideas

  • Create an ABC book. Give each student a different letter to stamp out with stickers or draw with the tools.
  • Create a noun sort by person, place and thing.
  • Sort words by consonant sound or vowel sound
  • Complete a Making Words activity using the letter stickers.
  • Create writing prompts for kids: Seasons, My Favorite Animal, My Hero, etc.
  • Graphic Organizers: Venn Diagrams, Story Maps, KWL, etc.
  • Sort words by syllables
  • Type and illustrate a poem
  • Create trading cards of literary figuresSort between real and fictional characters

Math Ideas

  • Import real pictures. Draw and label angles that you find.
  • Use the coins to show different ways to make the same amount of money.
  • Stamp out number sentences to illustrate them.
  • Symmetry with the mirror tool.
  • Expanded form


Science Ideas

  • Illustrate Life Cycles
  • Sort by Living and Non-Living
  • Illustrate the Water Cycle or the Rock Cycle
  • Illustrate weather for the week
  • Sort objects by sink or float
  • Label parts of an insect, parts of a flower, layers of the earth, planets in the solar system, layers of the rainforest, etc.
  • Food Chains and Food Webs
  • Food Pyraminds
  • Differences between whales and fish
  • Differences between the different types of rock
  • Create trading cards of different rocks, minerals, or elements

Social Studies Ideas

  • “If I were president” writing prompt
  • Label a map of the US by the intials of each state
  • Compare presidents or any 2 historical figures
  • Add a state stamp and fill it with stamps that represent resources available from that state
  • Color the regions of MDSort by community helpers
  • Sort by human, natural, and capital resources
  • Create trading cards of historical figures or current political figures
  • Create a postcard from a historical landmark or location

Art Ideas

  • Design a kite
  • Design a Christmas ornament
  • Paint a self-portrait
  • Label a color wheel
  • Paint anything!

Related Posts:

Recording Sounds in Pixie

Opening a Folder of Pictures in Pixie

Exporting a Painting as a .jpeg in Pixie

Classroom Ideas for Pixie

Create a website: Easy, Quick, and Fun with Weebly.com

While reading Darren Draper’s blog entry about Google Sites, I followed a link that he recommended for creating quick and easy webpages. He mentioned that he thought it was easier to create a site on Weebly.com than on Google Pages, which completely intrigued me since I thought Google was pretty darn easy. So, I clicked on Weebly to check it out. The result? WOW! Thank you Darren Draper!

Weebly.com has an easy drag-and-drop interface that allows users to create a website in minutes. There is also an interactive demo that walks you through the process to get you started. Basically, Weebly will provide you with a series of tabs to click on: “Elements” (where you add content), “Design” (pick a theme), “Pages” (to create new pages), and “Settings” (to manage what you have created). You also have the option to create a blog in Weebly. I haven’t tried this feature since I blog on this site. Users have the choice of buying new domains if they want or hosting their existing domains for free on Weebly. I love it! What a great alternative for people who do not want to deal with HTML code and managing content sites.

Using Movie Maker in the Classroom



Windows Movie Maker is free video-editing software included with Microsoft Windows XP. With Movie Maker, you can turn footage from your digital video camera into movies, share them on the Internet, and burn them to CD or DVD. Downloadable movies from online sources such as Discovery Streaming can also be edited using this software, just be sure you use a clip that has been flagged for “editing“.
Where can you go to download Movie Maker for your home computer? (Remember, you need to have Windows XP or higher.) Follow the link: http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/downloads/updates/moviemaker2.mspx

How can educators justify an educational activity like digital storytelling, which at first glance, seems an unlikely candidate for standards-based education? Ironically, the answer to this question can be found through a careful examination of a series of standards and position statements in the following article: TechLearning Article

Here are some additional resources you can use to become more proficient with Movie Maker:

1. Microsoft’s Movie Maker PageThis page contains various tutorials for the program and an explanation of the software.

2. Mighty Coach Tutorial on Movie Maker

3. Atomic Learning Tutorial on Movie Maker

Classroom Ideas for Movie Maker and/or using your Flip Video Camera:
  1. Edit Discovery Streaming videos to show only section you want to your class
  2. Remix Discovery Streaming videos to put together important concepts
  3. Have students research historical figures. Record their interviews
  4. Create a public service announcement.
  5. Create a commercial for a new product
  6. Record a school tour or classroom tour for back to school night.
  7. Record puppet shows, theater performances, debates, or speeches
  8. Record science experiments
  9. Record weather daily or shadows from the sun throughout the year
  10. Go on a nature walk and record items from your “treasure hunt”
  11. Record when a student has a success or a school project
  12. Download editable videos to create your own movies in Movie Maker. Mute the narrator and record your own facts.

Related Articles:
1. MD, VA, DC Day of Discovery (Using Movie Maker in the Classroom)
2. Testing the New Flip Video Camera

Pixlr: Online Photo Editor FREE!


Often teachers come to me and ask for a way to resize their pictures at school. Luckily, teachers have access to Image Blender, a photo editor by Tech4learning that allows them to do this, but they only have access to it in the computer lab unless they take advantage of "work-at-home" rights for this software. If teachers want to resize or edit digital pictures from the comfort of their own home or classroom, Pixlr is a great option for them.

There are several online photo editors. What makes Pixlr so special? It’s one of the only free photo editor that allows you to resize pictures in pixels. This is incredibly handy if you are trying to find a picture to fix exact pixel sizes for avatars or icons on websites. Pixlr was created for non-professionals and has many features including: resizing, cropping, layers, filters, etc. When you are finished with your picture, you have the option to save in JPG or PNG format.

Poll Daddy: Use Polls in the Classroom

At Poll Daddy, you can create polls that embed into your blog, website, social networking website, wiki, or others. Once a person responds to the poll, the results show automatically on their screen. Polls can be embedded by copying and pasting the HTML code that they provide you at the end of making your poll. You paste this HTML code exactly as it appears into your HTML editor or into “embed widget” on wikispaces.com. Think of how much fun a warm-up or a student station could be with Poll Daddy!

Games for the Interactive White Board

Promethean boards, Smart Boards, Polyvision Boards - I don’t care what you call them, they are all interactive white boards and work by interacting with your computer so that software and websites can be controlled from the board and not your computer station.

Interactive white boards provide an excellent opportunity for students to directly interact with content. It allows them to get up out of their seats, come to the board, and learn. What used to be a demonstration in a one computer classroom becomes an interactive group experience with an interactive whiteboard.

There are several websites that work well with an interactive white board. My newest find is “Roy: The Singing Zebra” at the Guided Reading and Reading Games with Roy website. This site has a WHOLE section of guided reading games created with the interactive white board in mind. By projecting these reading games, students can come up to the board and drag and drop answers into place. Have them do this as individuals or as teams. (See pic below for a sample from Roy’s site.)


Check out their list of games here. They have games for the alphabet, consonants, high frequency words, singular and plural, vowels, rhyming words, and words within words.
For those of you who already have Promethean Boards, check out these sites for additional resources:

Promethean Planet

Promethean USA

Promethean Learning

However, there are other sites that I have mentioned in previous posts that are still wonderful resources when used with an interactive white board:

Statetris: Like tetris, but with geographical locations

Lite Bright: Use to teach shapes, symmetry, and geometry

Interactive Clock: One of the best ways to teach time, in my opinion

National Library of Virtual Manipulatives

Create a Graph

Target Grants for Teachers


Target will award 5,000 Field Trip Grants of up to $800 each during the 2008-2009 school year. That adds up to 5,000 more opportunities for students to explore more of the world outside the classroom.

Visit the zoo. Go backstage at a local theater. Tour a museum. Explore more with a Field Trip Grant from Target.

Contests for Students and Teachers in MD

1. MICCA K-12 Desktop Publishing Student Contest
Description: The K-12 Desktop Publishing Contest recognizes several K-12 Maryland student winners each year. Individual students may submit an original, written product that has been computer-generated. The entry may be fictional or non-fictional about a topic of the student’s choice. The writing piece should be well-developed, organized, and accurate; contain few errors in grammar, usage, and mechanics; and have an appropriate format for the type of writing selected (poetry, letters, etc.). Most importantly, the presentation style of the writing piece should reflect the best uses of technology when: formatting text, choosing a font and layout, and selecting graphics that enhance the piece of writing. There are 4 grade level categories for this contest: grades K-2, grades 3-5, grades 6-8, and grades 9-12.
(I have seen entries win using Publisher, Microsoft Word, Microsoft Publisher, or Scholastic Keys.)

2. MICCA K-12 Graphic Art Student Contest
Description: The K-12 Graphic Arts Contest recognizes several K-12 Maryland student winners each year. Individual students may submit an original art product, color or black and white, that is generated with a computer. Entries must be completely computer generated, with no enhancements made using other artistic tools. The artwork should be mostly completed in freehand with a minimum of clip art or stamps; show originality and demonstrate elements of creative expression; have a center of interest that draws your eye in; be balanced with in the space used; and be unified so that all pieces flow with one another. The originality of the artwork is valued. There are 4 grade level categories for this contest: grades K-2, grades 3-5, grades 6-8, and grades 9-12. (I have seen entries win using Microsoft Paint, Photoshop or Pixie)

3. MICCA K-12 Student and Teacher Multimedia Contest
Description: The Multimedia Contest recognizes several K-12 Maryland student winners and one teacher winner each year for their creations using multimedia software such as KidPix, Pixie, PhotoStory, Windows Movie Maker, and PowerPoint. Winners’ creations are featured at the annual conference. There are 4 grade level categories for the student contest: grades K-2, grades 3-5, grades 6-8, and grades 9-12. (I have seen entries win with PowerPoint, Web Blender, MovieMaker or Photostory.)

Winners of MICCA grants and contests receive free membership to their annual technology conference in Baltimore to attend an award ceremony.

Grants for Educators

1. Best Buy Teach Award

Deadlines: October 12, 2008 and March 2, 2009
**I believe Best Buy only allows you to use the money on Best Buy products. This has to be carefully coordinated to make sure you are buying hardware that is compatible and approved with the FCPS network.

2. MICCA technology Grants

Deadline around Nov. 9, 2008 – $700

3. Toyota Tapesty Grants for Science Teachers

A partnership between Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. and the National Science Teachers Association, the Toyota TAPESTRY Grants for Science Teachers program offers grants to K–12 science teachers for innovative projects that enhance science education in the school and/or school district. 50 large grants and a minimum of 20 mini-grants, totaling $550,000 in all, will be awarded this year.

Deadline: January 21, 2009

Period Table: 2008 Style

Remember the boring periodic table from chemistry class in high school? Now there is a better way to learn about the elements.

The Periodic Table of Videos has an educational video on every element on the table. Click your element and a YouTube video will launch telling you all about it. The nice feature is that if your school system blocks YouTube, you can view the videos on an alternate server.

Tom Lehrer’s “The Elements”

Tom Lehrer’s “The Elements” is a sing along song created in Flash of all of the elements on the Periodic Table. It’s oddly addicting.

The Visual Elements Periodic Table

The Visual Elements Periodic Table displays a real photograph depicting each element. Scrolling over the pictures shows the element name and abbreviation. If you click the element, a separate window appears with basic information about the element.

Interactives: The Periodic Table



Interactives: The Periodic Table takes a unique approach to the periodic table. First, there are a series of tutorials for the student followed by 5 different interactive games to reinforce knowledge: Name that Atom, Building Elements, Which One of These Elements Doesn’t Belong?, Isotopes Quiz, and Ionic Bonding.


In addition, Interactive’s home page contains many interactive games to support learning in science, history, math, language arts, and the arts that are geared for middle and high school students.

Find Sound Effects with “Find Sounds” Search Engine


Okay, are you a teacher looking for sound effects to use in multimedia projects for your students but are not sure where to look? The “Find Sounds” search engine will make your life so much easier. This site offers many different types of audio clips for you to download. The only problem is that the sound effect that you find may not be copyright-free.
Here is a disclaimer from the Find Sounds site:

“When you perform a search using FindSounds.com or the WebPalette feature of FindSounds Palette, you obtain links to audio files hosted by Web sites throughout the world. The sounds in these audio files may be copyrighted and their use governed by national and international copyright laws. We do not offer advice on the fair use of these files.”

Therefore, teachers and students still need to do some basic research to find out if the sound can be used under fair use laws, but at least they have a starting point now. Even so, check out Find Sounds and let me know what you think.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Kitzu offers multimedia options for teachers and students


Kitzu is my newest find! I mentioned it briefly in an earlier post, but I finally had a chance to look at it this weekend. Kitzu offers free, copyright-friendly, and educational media packages for teachers and students to use in multimedia projects. Most packages include about six pieces of media around an educational theme from the 21st century that can include images, documents, audio clips, video clips, and illustrations. As a teacher, download one of these kits to use with your whole class. You will be amazed that each student uses the media differently to create a unique project. For teachers who do not know where to start, Kitzu is the perfect first step for integrating with PowerPoint, Photo Story, Movie Maker, or Adobe Premier Elements.

MD, VA, DC Day of Discovery

On Wednesday, August 13, 2008 I traveled to Silver Spring, MD for “The Day of Discovery” at the Discovery Communications Headquarters. In addition to breakfast, lunch, and wonderful door prizes, we were treated to two keynote sessions and three break out sessions that taught us how to incorporate “Discovery Streaming,” a paid subscription to a site that is packed with educational multimedia for teachers to use.

Scott Kinney presented on “The Media Evolution”. He supported the idea that media should be incorportated into the classroom as an instructional aid since 8-18 year old children spend 6 1/2 hours a day with media of some kind. Many teachers do not realize all of the skills that are needed to create media for school projects: researching, locate and gather resources, prewriting, writing, editing, storyboarding, and reading fluency skills.

Hall Davidson, Director of the Discovery Educator Network, presented on “Digital Media with Students in the Classroom.” He discussed scaffolding the use of digital media in student projects until students are comfortable with the skills. For example,
  1. Begin with creating PowerPoint presentations and embed videos from Discovery Streaming.
  2. Create slideshows from your digital images in Photo Story.
  3. Create videos and movies with narration in Movie Maker.
  4. Finally, create movies in Adobe Premier Elements and introduce chromakey skills to the kids.

In addition, Mr. Davidson told us about Kitzu, a website of resources for digital media for student projects and Jakesonline, a site of wonderful tutorials to get you started.

Matt Monjan presented “50 Ways to Integrate DE Streaming”. While most of this was a review since I saw matt speak a few times before, I still learned a few new tricks. For example, I discovered that you can now insert embeddable code, or widgets, into DS’s writing prompts and you can add more than one image. Also, if you search “AFI” in Discovery Streaming, you will find several film making video resources to use with your students.


Hall Davidson also presented on “Teaching with Cell Phones”. I spent most of the time on my phone so I forgot to write most of it down. However, I learned that you can podcast directly from your cellphone using Gcast.com. You can also upload video directly into YouTube from your cell phone. And did you know that you can take a poll from your phone using text massaging and see the results live on polleverywhere.com? I tried this out - SO COOL. Or try this one - if you send a text message that includes a fast food restaurant and a menu item to 34381 you will receive a message with all of the nutritional information about that food item. For example, text “McDonald’s Big Mac” to 34381, it will tell you how many grams of fat you are about to enjoy.
Dennis Swain presented “Embedding Multimedia: PowerPoint Presentations that Pop!” While I knew that we could embed videos and hyperlink to videos, I didn’t realize you could embed videos and still have all of the controls of Windows Media Player available (play, rewind, fast forward, etc). To do this, open PowerPoint and go to a slide.

  1. Click the “View” button on the top toolbar.
  2. Click “Toobars” and “Control Tool Box”.
  3. Click on the “hammer” button.
  4. Scroll to “Windows Media Player” and select it.
  5. Crosshairs will appear. Draw a box on the slide where you want the video to appear.
  6. Right-click the box. Choose “properties”.
  7. Click on the three dots on the box. (…)
  8. Browse to where your downloaded movie is on your computer. Select it.
  9. Under “playback options”, uncheck “auto start” and check “stretch to fit.”
  10. Click OK.
  11. Now you will see the embedded video with the Media Player controls. While the video is playing, you can right-click the video and choose “Zoom” and “Full screen”. Ta-Dah!


Thank you, Discovery Education!

RELATED POST:

Photostory Quick Tip: Saving as a Project vs. Saving as Final Movie

Talking Pets Fun For ESL Learners



Talking Pets is a site I came across today that allows you to select a pet (cat or dog) and make it talk by selecting a pre-recorded message or a message that you type on your own. Then you can email your talking pets to all of your friends. This site could provide incentive for beginning ESL learners to want to write in English so they can hear it spoken back to them. It can’t get any more fun than a talking pet reading your writing back to you!

Visit Mars with Google Mars


While Google Mars is not as exciting as Google Earth, it is still worth a visit. You can tour the planet by elevation, infrared, or visible surface. Zoom in or out of the planet and search by plains, ridges, craters, mountains, canyons, dunes, spacecraft landings, etc. Once you search for a specific place, often Google Mars will link to an article that you can read for more information.


On the “About Google Mars” page, Google provides this introduction, “This map of Mars, published by Percival Lowell in 1895, was the result of many years spent carefully studying the Red Planet through his telescope. Now you can do the same through your web browser. In collaboration with NASA researchers at Arizona State University, we’ve created some of the most detailed scientific maps of Mars ever made.”


I enjoyed it! Imagine being able to explore Mars from the comfort of your classroom. Take a virtual field trip today!

More interactive art websites

Again, I found a few more art websites by navigating my network in my delicious account. I think you will find them as fun as I did.



This is a collaborative art project that allows the user to submit an art piece, no matter how small, to be a part of the “biggest collaborative art project in the world.”


Scribbler is an interactive site where you draw a simple scribble or doodle. When you are finished, you click “start scribbler” and the site makes an interpretive scribble of your carefully created doodle. Interesting! Experiment with changing the colors as scribbler makes your piece for added beauty.


BRUSHster: National Gallery of Art

BRUSHster is an online painting canvas with different brush sizes and shapes as well as a variety of colors. The only thing I didn’t like was that I could only click “undo” and step back one time.





Collage Machine: National Gallery of Art
The collage machine makes collages (surprise!) with different shaped pieces of papers in a select number of colors. However, by changing the transparency of the pieces, you can make more of the limited choices you have.

Mondrian Machine
The Mondrian Machine is inspired by the art of Piet Mondrian, which consists of perpendicular black lines that subdivide his canvas colored with primary colors. This site is probably the most primitive of the bunch listed here, but could still serve a purpose in art class if you are studying this topic.



Surreal Painter
Create surreal art with the help of pre-made backgrounds and objects! After you create your masterpiece, you can share it with your friends. It will look like you spent hours in a high-tech art program when really it only took you a few minutes using this site. Be cool among your artistic friends!


Monday, December 15, 2008

Visit Planet Science! So Cool!

Planet Science is a site from the UK, which sometimes causes educators in the USA to pass it by. I don’t know why - many of the interactive, educational sites worth visiting come from the UK. Ok, so they spell things a little differently and use the metric system (like everywhere else but here)! Their sites still rock!

Planet Science has interactive games for K-12 students. I played a few of them and have enjoyed ALL of them so far. The first one I tried was the Smoothie maker. You can choose the ingredients to add to a blender to make your own smoothie. When you’re done, start the blender! The site will tell you how nutritious your smoothie is complete with how many grams of sugar and how many carbs you just drank in your smoothie. The best part is the “Smoothie” song the site plays as it mixes your drink. So much fun!

Next I tried Planet 10: World Builder (because Earth can’t last forever). The student creates a new planet by choosing many, many different things such as: size, orbit, atmosphere, shape, moons, terrain, organisms, distance from sun, etc. After you make all of your choices, you launch your planet into the atmosphere and see if it “survives” in space. After a lot of careful planning, I managed to burn up all the living organisms, evaporated my atmosphere, and got hit by a comet. Disaster. But so much fun!

Planet 10: Solar System is also a nice resource. Students can zoom into different planets to learn more about them. Fun! It has better graphics than Google Sky, but I’m not sure if the information is as detailed as Google Sky.

The site also has a list of science games on the Internet that are worth looking into as well as a parent page to get them involved. I love this site! Thumbs up from me!

A Visual Way To Read The News

There are several sites available that allows you to see current news articles in a different way. I like a few of them, and some of them I don’t understand at all.

The first one is the Spectra Visual Newsreader by MSNBC.com. The best way for me to describe it is a cross between an aggregator and a customized start page. The user has the choice of adding topics that he/she is interested in and the site will arrange your articles in a moving, interactive orb of news. It is hard to capture this as an image since the articles are always moving allowing you to zoom in on different topics. I like the colors and the movement. I felt like a baby staring at a mobile at nap time. Pretty! Pretty!

The next one is World News Maps by TSmaps.com. This one is a bit more simple. You have a world map. Click a country. Thumbnails of articles from that country appear. Simple. Easy. It’s okay. I can’t see myself using it personally. See below.


Third, is NewsGlobe sponsored by Yahoo.com. It looks very similar to Google Earth’s globe, except there are long red poles sticking out of the earth, which represent different news articles around the world. Obviously, this provides a visual representation of where the news is actually occuring at the time, which is helpful when teaching current events. However, I personally would still find myself going to Google Earth to show students the exact location of the article versus an approximate location. I did like how NewsGlobe has an “AutoPlay” feature that allows you to sit back and watch the news jump around the globe or an “interactive” feature that allows YOU to be the explorer.


Finally, there is a site called Doodlebuzz. This site boasts, “DoodleBuzz is a new way to read the news through an experimental interface that allows you to create typographic maps of current news stories.” Basically, you type a word in the search field. Then you start doodling on the screen to get the news to appear. The result, to me, is a huge mess. There are titles of articles all squished together and you have to keep doodling to get the rest of the story. Eventually you can click the article to be taken to the site featuring the article. It’s A LOT of work to get to the news. I don’t get it. I don’t understand why it’s worth the effort. I found this site frustrating, but “to each his own”, I guess.