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NASA Eyes on the Solar System: 3D interactive solar system

What it is:   It is no secret that I am a big fan of NASA…I may, in fact, be a space nerd.  It is all so fascinating, mysterious and beautiful.  Whenever I do a space unit with students, I find that I have many kindred spirits.  Space seems to have that effect on all kids. Recently I learned about a new 3D interactive solar system that NASA has introduced thanks to @rmbyrne and his ever-full-of-useful-ideas-blog, Free Technology for Teachers.  Eyes on the Solar System is a 3D environment students can explore that has actual NASA mission data included inside.  Students can ride along with the Juno mission to Jupiter.  The Juno mission seeks to understand the origin and evolution of Jupiter and our solar system.  In the Explore Juno mission, students will learn more about the science, the spacecraft, and the mission with a 3D interactive.  Students can also explore the solar system on their own. How to integrate Eyes on the Solar System into the classroom:  Eyes on the Solar System is a super awesome way for students to explore our solar system.  Students can choose to join the Juno mission or explore the universe on their own.  This is a GREAT site to share with the whole class on a big screen (projector-connected computer or interactive whiteboard). With young students, explore the universe together on an interactive whiteboard or projector.  Have students prepare for their space mission and do a launch count down as a class.  Students can take turns being mission astronauts by interacting with the 3D solar system.  Other astronauts can take “official” mission notes and observations at their seats as they wait for their turn as mission first in command. Eyes on the Solar System makes a great center activity on classroom computers.  During a center rotation, students can each explore a planet or feature of our solar system and then report back to Mission Control (the rest of the class) with their findings.  Assign (or let students each choose) a different feature to study.  When the students come back together as a group, the whole solar system will be represented.  I have had students create “baseball cards” of everything from composers to planets.  Eyes on the Solar System would be a great place for students to start their exploration and research to gather “stats” about a planet.  Students can take a screen shot (on a Mac command+shift +4) of their planet for the front of the card and add the stats to the back of the card using a word processing or publishing program.  Print out a class set of each card and let students trade and collect all of the planets (and special features) of the solar system. Turn student exploration of the solar system into a creative writing project.  Students can go through the Juno Mission to Jupiter and write a fictional story from Juno’s point of view.  Do you have hesitant writers? What about having students create a graphic novel or comic book about Juno’s adventures through the solar system? Tips: Be sure to check back to Eyes on the Solar System periodically, new features, tours and news are being added.  “Just like the universe, ‘Eyes on the Solar System’ is expanding.” Please leave a comment and share how you are using Eyes on the Solar System in  your classroom!

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Playfic: create, play and remix text-based games

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, collaboration, Create, Evaluate, History, Interactive book, Language Arts, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Web2.0, Websites | Posted on 08-01-2013

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What it is: Playfic is a site that let’s users create, play and remix online text-based games.  I may have lost some of you already…but don’t leave yet! A text-based game is a genre of game that uses no graphics or sound, but instead, uses text to tell a story in an interactive world.  Think of a choose your own adventure tech-style.  Students can create a story that others can interact with by directing the story using words and phrases.  As an example, the story might be about a forest, describing what you can see East, West, North and South.  The player would type in a direction “East”, hit the return key, and the story progresses.  You can try out a sample text-based game here.

How to integrate Playfic into the classroom: Playfic has all kinds of good stuff for classrooms.  To create a story, students must first learn a little bit of coding.  Tutorials are included on the Playfic site, and are easy enough to get your students up and running in no time.  There is even a link to an Inform 7 (coding language) recipe book that will have your students dreaming up new scenarios and actively researching how to make them come to life.  Students can create games for each other while strengthening their writing and grammar skills.  This is wonderful for fictitious writing, but could also be used for students to explore “what ifs” in history and science.  Students can take a moment in time and dream up what might have been different about the world if the event hadn’t happened the way that it had.  As they are researching and learning about the actual event, they will also be analyzing why the event is important and critically thinking about it’s impact on the world we live in.  Similarly, students could explore a science experiment, hypothesizing what will happen and the different outcomes that might occur.

Teachers could create these choose your own adventure stories for students for new learning or review of a topic.  Wouldn’t it be cool to have a story using sight word vocabulary that prompted practice with the sight words?

I know a handful of students who really struggle with writing…it is PAINFUL.  These students are brilliant. They have great ideas to share. One of the students I have in mind came up to me today and said, “over break I taught myself Lua (programming language).”  Students like these will be all over this type of writing.  What a cool way to engage them and excite them about the writing process in a new way.

One of the things that I really like about Playfic is that it takes a lot of planning, organizing, and thought to create this type of story.  For some students the planning/organizing portion of writing is a real struggle.  This site would be so useful in teaching students the importance of those steps.  I also love that it will have them researching and looking up solutions for how to make their ideas come to life.  Just like we do every day in the “real world.”

Tips: The Inform 7 Recipe book can be found here. 

Leave a comment and tell us how you are using  Playfic in your classroom.

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