Sunday, March 27, 2011

This Week's Online Find:
The Google Art Project

Say what you will about Google -- and apparently a lot of people have a lot to say about Google (See Wikipedia’s Criticism of Google) -- but, for me, Google’s incredible tools have brought me the world, and I’m willing to put up with quite a lot for the pleasure of its company.

In its latest (at this writing : ) attempt to bring the world to my laptop, Google recently launched the Google Art Project, an online initiative to introduce me (and you) to some of the world’s most well-known museums and their most impressive works of art.

It’s hard to describe exactly how fabulous a visit to the Art Project is, but banish immediately from your mind pedestrian photographs of museum exteriors, and instead picture yourself virtually walking the corridors of The Metropolitan Museum in NYC, the National Gallery of London, Italy’s Uffizi Gallery, or the Palace of Versailles.

And don’t for a minute imagine yourself walking those corridors to view the tiny (albeit moderately enlargeable) thumbs of famous paintings that populate other museum web sites. Instead picture yourself -- if you can -- examining in minute, high-resolution detail the brush strokes of Van Gough or the symbolism of Gris; details you couldn’t see even if you were physically in the museum standing in front of the art itself.

At the Art Project home page, visitors can choose to virtually explore any of (currently) 17 museums around the world using Google’s famous Street View technology. They can view -- and navigate -- each museum’s interactive floor plan, learn about the museum’s location and history, and link to each piece of art in the museum’s online gallery, or to the museum’s own web site.

Or they might choose to examine one of the more than 1000 works of art displayed at the participating museums. A menu accompanies each piece of art, allowing visitors to read viewing notes for the piece, to learn more about the art and artist, and to link to more works by the same artist or at the same museum. Most impressive, however, are the high resolution images themselves, and the custom viewer that allows visitors to zoom into the paintings and view them in the kind of exquisite detail usually reserved for museum curators, noted art experts, and major donors.

In addition to viewing, examining, and enjoying the works of art at the site, the Google Art Project also allows visitors to create their own personalized collections and to share them with family and friends. The Google Art Project is truely an amazing place. Check it out for yourself!

And thanks, Google!

Monday, March 21, 2011

This Week's Online Find:
Paper Cranes for Japan

While natural disasters, such as the recent earthquake and tsunami in northern Japan, impact all thinking people, children often are the ones most deeply affected by such tragedies. And I’m not talking only about children who live in areas directly affected by destructive forces of nature. Children around the world seem to react most strongly to images of human suffering and, perhaps because they are so acutely aware of their inability to control or change such situations, they also seem to be most strongly compelled to do something -- anything -- to help the victims. Teachers often are hard pressed to find projects that can fill their students’ need to help within the context of the typical classroom.

If you’re a teacher looking for something your students can do to help the victims of Japan’s recent earthquake and tsunami, your search for a meaningful -- and doable -- project can end at Paper Cranes for Japan. The project -- a partnership among Students Rebuild, DoSomething, and Architecture for Humanity -- is designed to “inspire young people worldwide to support their Japanese peers,” by turning paper cranes into dollars for reconstruction, and eventually, into an art project that will serve as a symbolic gift from students around the world to the children of Japan.

For every paper crane sent in to the project, the Bezos Family Foundation, will contribute $2 to Architecture for Humanity’s reconstruction efforts in Japan. The project hopes to reach its goal of 100,000 paper cranes -- and a $200,000 donation toward rebuilding northern Japan. If you’re shipping more than 50 cranes, Students Rebuild will even pay the postage!

The Students Rebuild site includes a description of the project, a video on how to make an origami crane, an explanation of the legend of 1000 cranes, an overview of the reconstruction efforts in Japan, and more. Check it out -- and invite your class to join the movement to rebuild Japan!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

This Week's Online Find:
Teachers' Domain

Are you feeling dull and depleted as the school year drags to a close? Are your lessons sounding lifeless and repetitive even to your own ears? Do you notice students dozing off as you try to elicit enthusiasm for the same old lesson types you’ve been presenting since September? Are you desperately searching for exciting multi-media lessons, activities, and projects that will help you finish up the school year with the same bang you started it with? If the answer to each of those questions is “yes,” then maybe it’s time for you to take a quick field trip to Teachers’ Domain, a free digital media service for educators from PBS and its partners.

At Teachers' Domain, you’ll find more than 1,000 free media resources -- including video and audio, Flash interactives, images, and documents -- from such shows as NOVA, Nature, Frontline, Loop Scoops, and American Experience, as well as a tremendous variety of high-quality support materials for classroom lessons, individualized learning programs, and professional development. Support resources include lesson plans, introductory essays, teaching tips, extension materials, and suggestions for student-oriented and community-service activities.

Users can browse Teachers' Domain resources
* by standards -- state, Common Core, or national;
* by K-12 subject -- Arts, English/Language Arts, Math, Science, and Social Studies;
* by Public Media Series Collections -- including Between the Lions, Get the Math, From the Top at Carnegie Hall, and The Supreme Court;
* by State and Local Collections -- ranging from "Alaska Native Perspectives on Earth and Climate" to the "Ohio Collection of Digital resources" to "Teacher Picks" of favorite Web content for classroom use; and
* by Curriculum Topics and Themes -- including Biotechnology, Civil Rights, Climate Literacy, Cool Careers in Science, and Middle School Literacy.

In addition, Teacher’s Domain’s professional development resources include online courses (categorized by duration, grade, and subject) and teaching strategies (arranged by subject and type).

You must register to download, share, and save resources at Teachers’ Domain, but registration is free and easy. And, once you register, you can create a public profile to connect with colleagues, and use "My Folders" and "My Groups" to personalize the site by saving and sharing your own favorite resources.

Whether you’re looking for new lessons or new ways to present old lessons, Teachers’ Domain quickly will become one of your favorite destinations. But don’t take my word for it. Check it out for yourself! You can “test drive” up to seven resources at Teachers’ Domain before registering.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

This Week's Online Find: MathNerds

Remember when nerds were the super-smart, socially awkward kids no one else wanted to hang out with? Times sure have changed! Today’s nerds are the super-smart, socially-sought-after kids who understand things that everyone else wants to know. And -- who’da thunk it? -- many of those nerds are more than willing to share their smarts with the world.

Case in point -- This web site is a free service that provides students in kindergarten through college with help solving math problems. And the key word here is help. The math nerds at MathNerds don’t provide answers to questions or solutions to problems; they offer guidance and references that allow students (and teachers : ) to understand -- and solve -- problems themselves.

In fact, MathNerds – a volunteer network of mathematicians – won’t even help those who won’t help themselves. Although MathNerds will provide a basic hint to those who don’t even know where to start solving a problem, to receive significant help, users must have made a serious effort to solve the problem themselves and be able to show the work – right or wrong -- they’ve already done. According to the site, “the MathNerds equation is ‘no work shown from you = no help shown from us’."

MathNerds claims it isn’t a replacement for a classroom math teacher, but with prominent mathematicians standing by to help solve even the trickiest math problems within 16-24 hours, it seems like a pretty good substitute to me!

Only registered users can ask questions at MathNerds, but registration is free and easy and mostly intended to weed out spammers. And even casual visitors can view The Best of MathNerds to get a feel for the service.

Check it out!

Monday, February 28, 2011

This Week's Online Find:

Do you want to make a mint? Save a mint? Begin planning to spend a mint? Or do you just feel as though you could use a little help tracking and managing your daily finances? Whatever your financial planning needs might be, is a site you have to see.

This Intuit (TurboTax, Quicken) product is a safe, secure (with bank-level data security), and (amazingly!) free tool that allows you to bring together all your accounts (including checking and savings, credit card, brokerage, CDs, and IRA accounts) and see your entire financial picture in a single location.

But that’s not all! Mint also can automatically categorize all your financial transactions (using either its own hundreds of categories or your own); calculate average spending in any category to help you create a budget based on your spending patterns; compare your spending year-to-year or month-to-month; and help you plan for future expenses by determining which categories you can make spending cuts in.

Mint also provides lots of charts and graphs to help you track income, spending, net worth, and account balances over time. And if you’re too busy even to read the site's graphs, Mint will send you a weekly update summarizing the week's spending and saving activity.

And there’s more! Mint also offers more than 20 alerts to help you track your spending, protect your credit rating, and avoid overdrafts or late fees. For example, Mint can notify you if you’re going over budget, if bills are coming due, or if an account balance is getting low. It’s almost like having a full-time accountant in your computer -- and on your mobile phone.

Did I mention that Mint is free?

Mint, by the way, is a "read-only" service, meaning you can see, organize, and analyze your finances, but you can’t move money with this tool. Mint is compatible with all operating systems.

Check it out!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

This Week's Online Find: UJam

You’ve read about Teachers Who YouTube. You’ve heard, I’m sure, of the Rapping Mathematician, the Singing Science Teacher, the Harmonious Historians. And I’m sure you’ve thought, as have I, “If only….”

“If only I could read music.” “If only I could sing.” “If only I weren’t tone deaf.” “If only I could make music the way they do.” Well, my latest online find can’t make a musician out of a tin ear, but it can make music where none existed before -- even in your classroom!

UJam is a new, free, easy-to-use, cloud-based tool that allows users -- even those with no previous musical or instrumental skills -- to compose, produce, and publish their own music. And honestly (I promise!), anyone can do it.

First, sing a song or recite a poem or read a speech -- or just hum a little -- into your computer’s internal mic. Once you have a recording you like and accept, you’ll have the opportunity to turn that recording into a rap or a ballad or any of a large variety of musical styles. Choose a style, from 90 Tronics to Jazz Cat to Strumming Guitar to Happy Birthday Orchestra, a speed, and an instrument, and you -- or your students -- will be ready for next year's Grammys. Or next week's math lesson.

I can’t begin to tell you all the fun things you can do and create with UJam, but I can tell you that I had a ball with it. And I flunked piano lessons in fourth grade.

Check it out!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

This Week's Online Find:
Teaching Resources

OK, I confess. This week's site selection isn't really a new find, but it's one that's growing so rapidly -- and so brilliantly -- that I felt I had to let everyone know what's going on at Laura Candler's Teaching Resources site.

Laura isn't a stranger to Education World. She's been contributing articles and other resources to our readers for years. Those resources include (my favorite!) a three-part series on Goal Setting, with thoughtful and highly effective worksheets; an article on a terrific community service project called Rainforest Rescue; The Heart of Mathematical Thinking, an engaging math activty for Valentine's Day; and more.

Laura might not be a stranger to you either. Her Teaching Resources Facebook page is always busy, and bubbling with great new ideas from Laura and her fans. This year, however, Laura has assumed a new challenge. She's taken the year off from teaching to develop even more exciting resources for educators. Some of those resources -- her books (all of which can be previewed online), her Teaching Resources workshops, and her new (and, one hopes, first of many) eLearning slidecast course on classroom book clubs, for example -- bear a modest cost. Others, however, are free, and also well worth a visit!

Free resources include Candler's Classroom Connections, a weekly newsletter full of timely activities and useful and usable teaching materials; Teaching Strategies -- introductions to, instructions and learning materials for, a variety of teaching strategies, including mastery learning, cooperative learning, management, and more; and Laura's File Cabinet full of printables for nearly every subject area.

I could go on -- and on and on and on -- but you'll want to check out the site for yourself. Laura is simply one of the most creative teachers I know. If you're not quite as creative as you'd like to be -- or even if you are -- Laura's Teaching Resources will knock your socks off, and make teaching easier than ever. Check it out!

Monday, February 7, 2011

This Week's Online Find:
Guide to Going Google

Say what you will about Google, they are where they are because they do things right. And the latest thing they've done right is their Guide to Going Google for Google Apps for Education.

For those of you unfamiliar with Google Apps for Education, it consists of a core suite of communication and collaboration tools -- including Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Talk, Google Sites, Google Docs, and Google Video, as well as access to dozens of additional Google applications, such as AdSense, Blogger, iGoogle, Google Reader, YouTube, and many more. In fact, I highlighted several of those apps last October in a blog about Google for Educators.

Google, however, not content with the publicity generated by my modest blog -- or, apparently, by their own equally modest initial product promotions -- has truely outdone itself with its new Guide to Going Google.

The guide's K-12 edition outlines six steps to "going Google" successfully: Technical Integration (Plan your rollout), Outreach (Brand your system), Professional Development (Build training resources), Get the Word Out (Promote your migration), Launch (Go live), and Stay Up-to-Date (Keep current).

Included in this step-by-step (and steps-within-steps) guide are examples of how other schools have "gone Google," testimonials from current users, suggested timelines, videos, training strategies, handouts, user guides, and more. Nothing -- and I do mean nothing -- is left to the imagination. According to Google, "We designed this guide to be helpful for everyone from a 4th grade teacher who’s just learning about Google Apps, to a university CIO who’s been using Apps for years." Looks like they've succeeded.

And -- as usual -- Google Apps for Educators and the Google Guide are free.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

This Week's Online Find: Tweet About Acts of Humanity

Now that you've read the recent Education World article Full Tweet Ahead: More Teachers Using Twitter, are you ready to use Twitter in your own classroom? Are you simply looking for just the right project -- one with demonstrable social and educational benefits? If so, I've found the perfect project for you -- the Tweet About Acts of Humanity Project.

"Tweet About Acts of Humanity" is a simple classroom project developed by Mandayam Thirunarayanan, an associate professor of education at Florida International University, who's written extensively about integrating technology into education at all levels. The purpose of this project, according to Professor Thirunarayanan, is to encourage people to use the potential of electronic social networking to share with one another the acts of humanity -- large and small -- that take place every day around the world.

Why not add yourself and your students to the number of people performing those acts of humanity -- and tweeting about them?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

This Week's Online Find: The My Hero Project

Who’s your hero? Mother Theresa? John F. Kennedy? Paul Newman? Jackie Robinson? Michael Jordan? Oprah Winfrey? Who are your students’ heroes? Do you know? Do they? Doesn’t it seem as though heroes are becoming harder and harder to find?

Fifteen years ago, Karen Pritzker, Jeanne Meyers, and Rita Stern -- three mothers, writers, filmmakers -- concerned about the lack of positive role models depicted in the media, founded the My Hero Project, a child-friendly web site designed to encourage users to share the character and accomplishments of their personal heroes through original essays, images, and video. Today, My Hero is a global learning community whose mission is “to use media and technology to celebrate the best of humanity and to empower young people to realize their own potential to effect positive change in the world.”

The My Hero Project is particularly valuable to educators, offering many resources to help teachers help students find and emulate -- and share stories and images about -- their own heroes. Here you can find or submit lesson plans, access an educator’s guide to using the My Hero project, register for an educator’s account to receive additional (free) project-based learning resources, and -- a great feature for the classroom -- help students access resources about heroes from a monthly calendar.

Today’s featured stories are about heroes who stand up to bullying – including John Wallach, Bill Belsey, Erin Gruwell, and the Little Rock Nine. Who will tomorrow’s heroes be?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

This Week's Online Find: Ad*Access

"Poor Millicent. Her smile's the kind...that men leave behind." Do you know why? If you've forgotten Millicent, perhaps you recall Seaman Gregory Grumph, the meanest man in the Navy? Are you stumped over Grumph? Bemused about Millicent? Then you clearly haven't visited Ad*Access, part of the Duke University Libraries' Digital Collection.

The Ad*Access Project includes more than 7,000 advertisements printed in U.S. and Canadian newspapers and magazines between 1911 and 1955. Not only are the ads great fun, they're also culturally and historically fascinating, and will make a great addition to many classroom units or research projects.

The advertisements have been made available for use in research, teaching, and private study, and may be reproduced for those purposes. So what are you waiting for?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

This Week's Online Find: Kidblog is a blogging program for elementary- and middle-school teachers who want to provide their students with the benefits of blogging, without the safety issues associated with public blogging programs. Built by teachers, for teachers, Kidblog's tools and features are designed for safe and simple classroom use under close teacher supervision.

What do other teachers like about KidBlog?

* Setting up a classroom of bloggers takes less than 1/2 hour.

* Teachers have administrative control over all student blogs and accounts.

* Student blogs are private by default, but teachers can set up password-protected "semi-public" blogs to allow parents or other guests to view the blogs.
* No personal information is collected, and the site contains no advertising.

* Login is simple, requiring neither user names, passwords, or email addresses.

* KidBlog is -- as always -- free!

Kidblog is the perfect tool for teachers who want to safely integrate technology into their classroom writing program with an easy, engaging, interactive tool.

Check it out!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

This Week's Online Find: Scratch

Got an itch to get your students' creative juices flowing? Scratch it!

Developed by the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at MIT's Media Lab, Scratch is a programming tool that allows users to easily create interactive media, including stories, animations, computer games, video, music, and works of art -- and then share their creations on the Web. And it's free.

But is it classroom friendly? According to its Web site, "Scratch is designed with learning and education in mind. As young people create and share projects in Scratch, they develop important design and problem-solving skills, learning how to think creatively, reason systematically, and work collaboratively." Those certainly are skills that belong on everyone's core standards list.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that students quickly figure out how to use Scratch, whereas their teachers tend to need a little more guidance : ) But the Scratch site provides plently of direction, including Scratch tours, video tutorials, and an online community where educators can help one another. There's also a Scratch blog, Scratch tweets, and a Scratch wiki. How can you go wrong?

So far, nearly 200,000 users ages 5 to 69 (peak ages are 11-15; check it out) have created more than 1 1/2 million Scratch projects. Yours could be next!