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Landform Detectives

What it is: Today I was searching for websites and games that would enhance and enrich the Treasures curriculum.  MacMillan Mcgraw Hill’s reading curriculum is lacking (in my opinion) in the activities that it uses to help students learn grammar, vocabulary, spelling, etc.  Most of the suggested activities are not those that require any deep thinking (or in some cases any thinking at all) and usually involve some sort of copying out of the dictionary or filling out a worksheet type undertaking.  These don’t impress me at all.  So, last year I went through all of the Treasures curriculum, pulled out all of the essential learning and skills that needed to be gained.  I have since been on the hunt for engaging activities and games that will help students learn, practice, and create with the essential learning at the core.  Therein lies the rub.  As I scour the Internet for games and activities what I usually come up with is more worksheets.  The problem is, they aren’t labeled worksheet.  They are labeled “game” or “interactive”.  They aren’t really games or interactive (any child would tell you that!), they are multiple choice online worksheets.  I refuse to subject students to them.  Today I made the following comment on Twitter: “Dear educational game makers, an online multiple choice quiz is not a game, it is a worksheet. Please stop pretending it’s a game. Thank you.” I was delighted to get the following message back from Filament Games: “Dear @ktenkely. We know, and in fact couldn’t agree more. And thank YOU.” I had to explore just who this Filament Games was.  From their Twitter bio: “Filament Games is a game production studio dedicated to creating next generation learning games that combine best practices in commercial game development.”  I am delighted to say, they make incredible educational games that in no way resemble a worksheet!  Bravo! Landform Detectives is just one of the offerings from Filament Games (I’ll explore the others in separate posts).  In Landform Detectives, “a violent volcanic explosion immediately and forever alters the landscape.  Elsewhere, raindrops gradually pick patterns out of the rock over the course of thousands of years.  Can you recreate some of Earth’s most amazing geological features by uncovering the natural processes that shaped them?”  Now that is what I am talking about!  An engaging game that asks students to use what they know about natural disasters, weather, and the creation of landforms to discover and recreate how they were formed. How to integrate Landform Detectives into the classroom: Your students will travel the world to unlock the secrets of the Earth’s strangest and most awe-inspiring landforms as they play Landform Detectives.  Students will gain a new appreciation for mountains, valleys, and rivers as they solve the mystery of how they got to be that way and think about how long it takes for those processes to happen.  Your students will transform into geologists as they discover the suspects like ice, water, wind, and sand in the story of our Earth.  As your students travel the globe, they will encounter animated simulations, virtual scientist (Dr. Bob) who can give them more information, and an opportunity to recreate the formation of the landform.  This is an incredible way for students to “see” first hand just how landforms are created.  The site would be best in a computer lab 1 to 1 setting where each student can explore and discover at their own pace.  If you don’t have access to a computer lab, you could also use a projector connected computer or interactive whiteboard to travel the globe together.  If this is the case, allow students to take turns leading and guiding the exploration.  Hypothesize together about how the landforms came to be and how you might recreate them.  Then put those hypotheses to the test and try them out.  Discuss the outcome, did it look like the students expected? Why or why not? This really is an incredible way to learn about the Earth sciences.  There is just no way that a static text-book can compare to the rich game and media experience that Landform Detectives offers. Tips: Students can watch a briefing from scientists who share their understanding of weathering and erosion to monitor changes in soils that are used to grow plants for food and fuel. Please leave a comment and share how you are using Landform Detectives in your classroom.

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Screenr: Instant Web-based Screencasts

Posted by admin | Posted in Anastasis Academy, Apply, Blogs, Classroom Management, Create, Download, Knowledge (remember), Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Technology, Understand (describe, explain), video, Video Tutorials, web tools, Websites | Posted on 01-04-2013

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What it is: Have you tried to type the following into Google: “school makes me”?  If you haven’t, it is a sobering reminder of the state of education as perceived by students and society.  I started Anastasis Academy to change this reality for students.  My hope is that one day soon, the automatic suggestions that Google pulls are overwhelmingly positive.  Last week, I asked students at Anastasis Academy to finish the statement “school makes me…”  I didn’t prompt them or give them any additional details about how I would be using it.  The answers that we got are in the video above.  Pretty cool to see how even one year of freedom in learning leads to different perspectives.  I can assure you, these are not the words most students would have used about school prior to coming to Anastasis Academy.  In fact, in full disclosure, we have 2 students that are new to Anastasis.  They started only a few months ago.  They finished the statement with “bored” and “tired.”  *sigh* This was a sad moment for me.  I want more for these boys.  Later in the day they both happened to be hanging with me in the office for a few minutes.  One of the boys asked me why I had asked the question.  I showed them what happens when you type the words into Google.  “Oh, that is really depressing. So why did you ask us?”  I told them that I cared about what they thought because if there was something we could do differently as a school, we would do it.  Both boys asked if they could change their answers, “we were thinking school in general…this place isn’t really like that.”  There were no GRAND statements of how much they loved it and we are changing their world…give it time!

To create the video above, I needed to screen capture my Google experience.  I’ve long been a fan of Screenium but for some reason, it has decided to throw in the towel and is not interested in recording anything but audio.  Frustrating.  So, I set out to see if I could find an online screencast recorder that I could use.  Jackpot!  I found Screenr and it is my new go-to for screencasting.

screenr_logo_small

Screener is a web-based screen recorder that makes it really easy to create and share screencasts.  There is nothing to install or download (always a plus!), you can record on a Mac or PC, the video plays on all devices, and it is totally FREE!  Just click the record button, capture your screen and voice (if you want) and then share the link or download the video to use in other programs.  I downloaded my finished screencast so that I could make a little video in Keynote with our words.

How to integrate Screenr into the classroom:  Screenr is a fantastically simple tool that allows teachers to create detailed screencast instructions in minutes.  This free-to-use application can capture video of anything that is on your computer screen.  Audio can be included (or not) for any screencast.  The resulting video can be embedded on a webpage or blog, sent to students via email, or downloaded.  Screencasting is a great way to teach students how to use e-Learning tools or how to complete any computer assignment.  When I taught in the technology lab, there was never enough of me to go around.  Screencasting made SUCH a difference in how I spent my time with students!  Students could self direct learning, or remind themselves of that one step they forgot.  Instead of waiting for me to be available, students could keep working and my time was spent working to help students make connections in learning instead of just on answering process questions.

Screenr would be useful for students who want to share something new they learned.  Have a student who is JAZZED about coding?  Let them show off that passion by creating tutorial videos for other students.  Anything that is computer based and could use some explanation is perfect for Screenr.  Because you can embed videos, you can share them on a class blog or website.  If you tag your videos and posts, it will be easy for students to quickly search and find what they need as they work.

Screenr can be used for more than just tutorials.  Remember this video?  This is such a cool, creative use of a screencast.  Students could similarly show off their learning through screencasts of various programs on their computer.  Just takes a little inspiration and creative thinking!

Tips: There is a pro version of Screenr, I’ve found the free version to meet all of my needs for school/classroom use.

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

Comments (1)

Having tried several online whiteboards Screenr is the one I turn to when I want to illustrate mathematics examples online for students – see http://mathematicsforstudents.wordpress.com/2012/02/29/looking-for-examples/ for example.
I find it easy to use, also I can write with my graphics tablet easily using Screenr.

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