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Webspiration Wednesday

Today I instituted Webspiration Wednesday at my school.  I have noticed over the years that second semester seems to be lacking motivation and morale January through March.  Maybe it is because winter is STILL dragging on, maybe it is because it feels like a long stretch before spring break, or maybe it is because the complaints of the year are really settling in.  I have noticed this phenomenon in all the schools I have been in.  During last weeks #edchat on Twitter, I learned that low morale is a common problem that most schools face.  As we talked about ways to boost morale, I thought about the ways that my amazing PLN boosts my morale every day.  They encourage me, give me new ideas, and reignite my passion with the great links they share.  I wanted to bring some of that to my school.  I wanted teachers to have a chance to laugh together, and enjoy each others company, and get away from the teachers lounge which can end up being a place to gripe about everything that has gone wrong that morning. Last night, in a moment of divine inspiration, I decided that it was high time for Webspiration Wednesday.  So, this morning I sent out invitations to the entire staff to join me for Webspiration Wednesday lunch in the library.   Teachers trickled into the library, lunches in toe, and we sat down and watched a TED Talk together.  I chose “Sir Ken Robinson Says That Schools Kill Creativity”.  It was a great Ted Talk to start Webspiration Wednesday with, not only is Sir Ken Robinson inspiring, he also has a great sense of humor.  He had us laughing together (which as it turns out is a great stress reliever) and thinking about school and our students in new ways.  After the video had ended a spontaneous and lively discussion ensued about those kids that we have in our classrooms that we are stifling.  We offered each other ideas for giving them room to be creative.  It was fantastic.  We all left are short 25 min. lunch feeling refreshed and ready to take on the rest of the day.  I wonder if the students noticed a difference in teacher attitudes after lunch?  I plan to hold Webspiration Wednesday every week and have asked my PLN on Twitter to join in using the hash tag #webspirationwednesday if they come across inspiring articles, videos, lessons, stories, etc. Now a disclaimer, I did not ask permission to start Webspiration Wednesday.  I just did it.   Sometimes I think it is better to ask forgiveness (if need be) than to ask permission.  In our #edchat discussion, we talked about who should have the responsibility to boost morale in a school.  My answer was everyone has that responsibility.  I decided to take my own challenge and be the one who tried something new, something different.  Will you be that person at your school?  What boosts your morale? What have you seen work well in the school setting? Below is the TED Talk that we watched together, I believe you will find it inspiring. I have said it before, and I will say it again, my PLN (Personal Learning Network) on Twitter has been a great source of joy, encouragement, and friendship.  I have never met 98% of my PLN in person, and yet they are always there for me, cheering me on and offering suggestions when  I fail.  If you haven’t made the leap into the world of Twitter, I highly recommend it.  If you are looking for a top notch group of educators to follow, may I suggest the Edublogger Alliance group?  Once you are on Twitter, be sure to join in on #edchat.  There are two #edchat conversations that take place every Tuesday.  I can feel myself getting smarter as I learn from the BEST educators in the world every Tuesday.  Just follow the hash tag #edchat and be sure to add it to the end of your Twitter messages to participate.  I can promise that you won’t be disappointed. If I am speaking Greek to you, take a look at @shellterrell’s posts about #edchat and PLN’s.  She will have you joining in the conversation and fun in no time!

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NASA’s Be a Martian

Posted by admin | Posted in Fun & Games, Geography, History, Interactive Whiteboard, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Virtual Field Trips, Websites | Posted on 22-02-2010

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What it is: I have always been intrigued by space exploration.  NASA’s Be a Martian feeds this intrigue by giving an up close view of Mars exploration.  Here students can virtually explore and learn about the human-robotic partnership that makes virtual exploration possible.  Students can become citizens (this requires them to create an account) or explore with an “Anonymous Tourist Visa”, which is how I explored.  Students can send virtual postcard messages to the Spirit Rover in her new home.  After composing their own message, students are taken to a virtual Mars where postcards with messages rain down.  Students can click on a postcard to read what others around the world have written.  In the map room, students can watch a video detailing the history of mapping and learn how NASA scientists map today.  Students can become virtual map makers by matching up map image fragments, and counting craters.  In Two Moons Theater, students can watch videos starring NASA scientists, explorers, and Mars.    Students can ask and vote on questions that they would like to see answered in the Polling Place.  In Tourist Mars Atlas, students can explore the surface of Mars and learn that there is more to Mars than a giant expanse of tan.   

How to integrate NASA’s Be a Martian into the classroom: Feed your students curiosity about space exploration and Mars with this great interactive environment.  Students have the opportunity to learn about the work that NASA scientists do, practice their observation skills in map making, and learn some great history about space exploration, and map making.  I really like that NASA has included a place for students to ask and vote on questions that they would like answered.  What a neat way to help students understand that we don’t have all the answers and that scientists ask questions, explore, and experiment to learn more.  I think that younger students (primary elementary) would really enjoy the crater counting activity.  Do this activity as a class using an interactive whiteboard/projector or individually as a center.  This will help students to look for detail and practice counting together.  Older students will enjoy trying their hand at mapping Mars and learning more about the history.  Have students learn about the Spirit Rover and her job on Mars before sending a message.  Some of the postcards include location information, it might be fun to track the locations of the postcards in Google Earth with placemarkers.  Then, explore Mars using Google Earth or Google Space.  The Google tools complement this site nicely.

Tips: There is an impressive contest section on NASA’s Be a Martian site, the deadline for entries is April 16, 2010.  The contest challenges us to come up with videos about Mars, interactive software or games, or write an efficient image processing application.  NASA is including us all in the exploration of Mars.  These challenges would be outstanding for older students to take part in…talk about authentic learning!

Please leave a comment and share how you are using NASA’s Be a Martian in your classroom.

Comments (5)

What an excellent way of teaching and learning about space. Way cool!

This looks like a great site to use in the classroom or at home for kids who enjoy space. In my child’s school, they have a “Project Fair” each year and this would be a great idea to help with a project dealing with space.

Authentic learning indeed! It’s wonderful when entities like NASA encourage kids to become involved. AND acknowledge that we certainly don’t have all the answers.

This looks like so much fun. I’m so annoyed that these tools are available to these kids and I was stuck with poorly copied images from an out of date textbook. Great find and share.

I know, I am always bummed that I didn’t get to learn with these tools when I was a kid. That is probably why I geek out about them so much now…gives me a chance to learn like a kid!

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