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Today’s Document: History through cartoons

What it is: Today’s Document is an awesome daily history site that I learned about from the Instructify blog written by Bill Ferris.  Today’s Document is based on the RSS feed from the National Archives. Jon White takes these daily documents from history and turns them into cartoons that illustrate the history.  Cartoons and drawings offer such an incredible and striking visual to accompany history.  They help flesh out what was happening and give students a way to connect to and characterize history. How to integrate Today’s Document into your curriculum: This is, simply stated, an AWESOME site.  I have mentioned before that history was not my strength in school.  I struggled with finding the story in history.  For me it was a lot of facts, dates, names, and places that I couldn’t seem to get a handle on.  A site like Today’s Document would have done wonders for my understanding of history.  The visuals clearly connect the facts with a larger story.  Even better, White publishes the story behind each cartoon along side it.  Today’s Document makes an incredible e-textbook complete with daily updates, links to videos, articles, primary sources, and additional opportunities to learn more about each topic.  Today’s Document would make a fantastic discussion starter in any classroom.  It’s natural fit would be in the history or civics class but could really be used in many disciplines including literature, writing, and even science.  Because Today’s Document uses cartoons to tell history, the site can be used with a wide range of age groups.  Even young students can look at the cartoons and follow the story each day.  Each drawing is linked to the original primary source document on National Archives with an invitation to dig deeper.  Within the preamble describing the cartoon, White often includes links to outside videos and articles that reinforce the daily document. Tips: I encourage you to take a look at White’s previous cartoons, you can do so by using the “previous” button or searching the archives by date.  He started this project in January 2010. Please leave a comment and share how you are using Today’s Document in your classroom!

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Maxwell for Google SketchUp

Posted by admin | Posted in Apply, Art, Create, Math, Middle/High School, Science, Secondary Elementary, Software | Posted on 21-11-2011

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What it is:  If you aren’t familiar with Google SketchUp-you should probably start here and here.   SketchUp is an incredibly powerful, FREE 3D modeling software that lets your students create impressive 3D models.  Maxwell takes SketchUp to a WHOLE new level.  Maxwell for Google SketchUp brings students advanced rendering in an easy-to-use package for free.  The best part: Maxwell is fully integrated so that you don’t have to export or use an external application to render an image. Rendering happens in “real-time” so as your students are adjusting their SketchUp models, they can see the changes in Maxwell.  Maxwell is compatible with Windows and OSX!  With Maxwell students can create materials, set lights and cameras and render 3D scenes.  These are incredibly powerful tools…I cannot believe that they are free (I’m a little nervous to say that too loud in case they decide to change their minds!).

How to integrate Maxwell for Google SketchUp into the classroom: Maxwell takes student work in Google SketchUp and polishes it up to a professional level.  Truly, the results are akin to what the professionals turn out!  The SketchUp/Maxwell combination are wonderful for graphic art classes, math and geometry modeling, advertising lessons, engineering classes, architecture, science models, etc.

Don’t let the impressive results fool you, I’ve had 3rd grade students who made some amazing models using SketchUp.  I look forward to introducing them to the Maxwell plugin so that students can see their work come to life in ways that they couldn’t do before.

At Anastasis Academy, we have several students from 2nd through 8th grade who are extremely interested and passionate about architecture.  Google SketchUp is where I send them!  Students can plan, create and build.  Maxwell will allow them to visualize their creations in totally new ways.

I don’t understand why more schools don’t put these types of tools in the hands of students more often.  Exposing students to tools like this, gives them the opportunity to explore their passions and interests.  The tools are getting easier and easier to use and the number of tutorials is astonishing.  You (the teacher) don’t have to know how to use these tools inside and out, your job is to let your students know they exist, and help them find the resources to use them.  No excuses!

Tips: Using rendering tools teaches students about materials, light sources, shadows, etc.  Use Maxwell to teach students these science concepts!

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Maxwell for Google SketchUp in  your classroom!

Comments (1)

Totally agree, Kelly. I hope more and more teachers embrace the role of guide on the side, as parents make it clear to the policy makers this is what they want for their kids. Maxwell sounds fascinating!

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