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 TeachersEyes 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!



Goal Book: Personalizing Education

Goalbook Beta Overview from Daniel Yoo on Vimeo.

What it is:  Goal Book is a platform, currently in beta, that helps educators come together to create and track student goals.  The interface is very Facebookesq in feel.  Teachers can create and track student goals from within Goal Book, sharing those goals with any other team member that works with the student.  Each time a goal or progress of a goal gets updated, the entire team that works with a student is updated.  Educators can keep each other updated with progress of goals, celebrate students, and share messages in Goal Book.  In addition to updating educators, parents are now in the center of the conversation.  They can see all progress, communicate with the education team that works with their child, celebrate successes and send private messages from within Goal Book.

How to integrate Goal Book into the classroom:  Goal Book is a fantastic way to keep every part of an education team up to date with IEP goals and progress.  No more keeping track of email threads, assuming someone else is taking care of a particular portion of the goals, or wondering what progress a student has made with another team member.  Goal Book brings all communication to one, easy to manage place.  I like that teams are fluid in Goal Book.  Here, the assumption isn’t made that every student has the same group of educators working on their goals.  The students you have input in are listed in one place and the team members associated with that student show up as well.

Goal Book isn’t just for students with IEP’s, all students benefit from creating and tracking learning goals!  Ask your students to think of a goal they would like to make for themselves for the semester/quarter/trimester in each discipline.  Record the goals and progress with students throughout the semester/quarter/trimester.  Celebrate with students when they have reached their goals and share these with parents.

At Anastasis Academy, we hold parent/teacher/student conferences at the beginning of each block.  We call this conference “Meeting of the Minds”.  This is a time where parent, teacher and student come together to write learning goals for the upcoming block based on the progress that was made the previous block.  Students play a big part in creating their learning goals.  One thing I would like to see from Goal Book is the ability to include students in the goal making/tracking process.  It is important to include students in the planning and tracking of THEIR learning goals.  Kids have to have ownership in their learning!

Tips: The Goal Book blog is worth subscribing to and following if you plan to use Goal Book at your school or in your classroom.  The blog will keep you up-to-date with the latest updates and information about Goal Book.

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Goal Book in  your classroom!

#ProjectPLN: Best. Issue. Ever.

We are getting geared up for the Best issue of Project PLN. Ever.  What makes it the best?  You do! With your submissions of the “Bests” in eduction.  This could be the best lesson you have ever taught (or learned), the best technology tool you use with your students, the best book on education, the best manipulative you use with your students, the best field trip you have ever been on with students…you get the point.

We all have a classroom favorite, this is your chance to share that favorite with the rest of us!  Please send us your submissions for the October issue by Sunday, October 2 (2011).  The issue will go live on Tuesday October 4 over at http://projectpln.com.  Send your submissions to ProjectPLN10@gmail.com

 

Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @ProjectPLN

 

Kelly and Nick

Project PLN Co-Editors

Friday Recap: Geeking over new apps, celebrating week 5

Whew, it has been a while since I have done a Friday recap.  Mostly because these days I’m just so happy to have made it through another week that I am celebrating other ways…like by taking a nap.

Anastasis Academy has just completed week number five.  Can I say how incredibly cool it is to see something that you pour yourself into come to fruition?  We have students! We end every week with a field trip learning excursion.  Awesome.

If you are interested in following our journey, you can follow our blogs (yes plural, we each have at least one, some overachievers have two…or more).  I’ve created a bundle that you can subscribe to in Google Reader.  Subscribing to a bundle means that you will never miss a beat…it will almost be as good as being here with us.  This is just the collection of teacher blogs.  Each of our students blogs as well, we can’t share those publicly because we use full student names.  Occasionally I may let you have a peek at some of our student writing by republishing the post anonymously.  For now you will have to take my word for it, these kids are amazing.

Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and YouTube.  You can be a super fan and like us on Facebook.  If you are ever in town, stop by and let us show you around!

This week I found some super cool apps.  I’m talking classroom changing here.  I couldn’t wait to blog my favorite find which is Demibooks Composer.  A BIG thank you to @ianchia for making me aware of its existence.  I can’t wait to see what our students come up with!  Demibooks Composer puts the power of interactive e-book publishing into the hands of every student.  I am geeking out here.  It is seriously cool.  Hurry up and download it while it is FREE.  I would have paid big money for this app.  Big.

 

Inside Story Flashcards: The world’s most interesting way to learn words

What it is:  First of all, how about that for a tagline?  “The world’s most interesting way to learn words” is a lofty goal for anyone to reach, but I must say, Inside Story Flashcards is doing a bang up job of it!  What makes these vocabulary flashcards so great is the accompanying pictures.  They are so appropriate for the words they are describing and offer a great visual to associate with the word.  In addition to the well matched picture, students can click on a speaker icon for audio of the word.  Students can choose to show or hide the definition.  Students can choose words at four different levels: Basic (includes words like seven, comb, typewriter); Easy (includes words like attire, inclined, endorsement); Medium (includes words like prodigy, monochrome, dank) and Hard (includes words like crepuscular, bedizened, atavistic).

The online flashcards are fantastic but there are also free printable flashcards for offline use!

How to integrate Inside Story Flashcards into the classroom:  Inside Story Flashcards are a superb addition to any classroom.  They are just the ticket for visual learners…petrified will forever more be associated with the kitten picture above in my mind!  These flashcards are a fun way to practice vocabulary and learn a new word.

Use the site with the whole class using a projector-connected computer or an interactive whiteboard.  Split students into teams to see which team can come up with the most creative sentence using the new vocabulary word.  The online flashcards also make a great creative writing prompt.  Students can use the newly learned vocabulary in connection with the picture displayed.

Students can practice their vocabulary skills on classroom computers using the “hide definition” feature.  Students can quiz themselves and then show the definition to find out if they are correct.

The print flashcards can be used in the low tech or no tech classroom.  Print out flashcards to keep in a writing inspiration station.  Students can use them to learn new vocabulary or to inspire writing.

Start your day with a new word.  This can be the “word of the day”, challenge students to use the word of the day in conversation at some point during the day.

Do you have students who are gearing up for the SATs?  Send this link home for some fun practice/learning time.

Tips: At Inside Story Flashcards, you can also purchase sets of flashcards with a theme.  I’m liking the cat and dog flashcards.  Can Haz vocabulary.

**For those who are wondering, I did write this post on my iPad.  It was not wicked hard…just different.

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Inside Story Flashcards in  your classroom!

Writing Prompts Tumblr

What it is:    Writing Prompts  is a Tumblr blog I learned about from @johntspencer on Twitter this morning.  It is a fabulous blog packed FULL of writing prompts to use in the classroom.  There are currently 247 prompts on the site but new prompts are added regularly (so subscribe to this one!).  The prompts are pictures coupled with a text prompt and are sure to get the creative writing juices of your students flowing.

How to integrate Writing Prompts into the classroom:  These Writing Prompts are a fantastic way to get your students thinking outside of the box and interested in writing.   Display prompts on an interactive whiteboard, projector connected computer, or at a writing center on classroom computers.  Students can spend 15-20 minutes of uninterrupted time just writing their thoughts.  Keep these in a journal so that they can go back through their writing and choose a 15 minute piece they would like to expand on.

A blog is the ideal platform for writing of this kind because students can re-blog the prompt along with their written piece.  Students can get feedback from teachers and peers in the form of comments on the blog.

The Writing Prompt Tumblr blog is the perfect addition to a classroom or student RSS reader.  New posts will be delivered as they are posted so your students will always have a fresh supply of writing inspiration.  I use Google Reader when I am at a computer, Reeder or Flipboard on the iPad.

Tips:  These prompts are best for secondary elementary, middle and high school students.  If you teach younger students, consider creating a writing prompt Tumblr of your own.  They are easy to get started with!

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Writing Prompts in  your classroom!

Thinking Blocks: Model math word problems with virtual mantipulatives

What it is:  Thinking Blocks is a great find by @matthewquigley who was nice enough to share his find and let me take the credit (I may have made up that last part…).  Thinking Blocks lets students model and solve math word problems by using online virtual blocks to visualize the problems in new ways.  Thinking Blocks includes blocks to model addition and subtraction, multiplication and division, fractions, and ratios.  On the Modeling Tools tab, students will find modeling tool videos on addition and subtraction, multiplication and division, fractions, ratios, decimals and percents, and algebra.  These thinking blocks were developed by Colleen King as she worked to help her students in their Singapore Math program.  While the concept of modeling word problems with the blocks is most closely associated with Singapore Math curriculum, it can be used to support any math program and is especially helpful to use with visual learners.  Students can use virtual blocks to model known and unknown quantities.  By modeling in this way, students are better prepared for moving from arithmetic to algebraic thinking because they learn how to break complex problems into their simplest form.   The activities on the Thinking Block website includes guided and independent practice opportunities.  The tutorials can be used for guided instruction.  Videos show worked examples from each section (addition, multiplication, division, fractions and ratios.  Progress tracking is built-in (currently this is only per session but the site notes that sometime in September this should be included for multiple sessions).  The Modeling Tool lends itself to independent practice.  Students can choose from hundreds of built-in word problems or enter their own.  Dynamically generated models let students check their own work.  A full screen option is included for use on interactive whiteboards.

How to integrate Thinking Blocks into the classroom:  Thinking Blocks is a wonderful website for exploring and demonstrating understanding of word problems.  Visual students will be keen on the ability to visualize math in this way, using the virtual blocks to represent word problems.  Because Thinking Blocks addresses so many different math disciplines, it is a great way to differentiate instruction for students at a variety of levels.

Thinking Blocks can be used with the whole class using an interactive whiteboard or projector-connected computer.  Students can take turns working out word problems on the whiteboard while students at their seats work to arrive at a common solution.  Students at the board can “phone a friend” if they need a little extra help or guidance.

Thinking Blocks would make a fantastic center activity on classroom computers.  Students could visit the center to practice some word problems and record a reflection about how the blocks enabled them to visualize the problem differently.

Be sure to bookmark Thinking Blocks on school computers and let parents know to bookmark the site at home.  I suspect this site could be a life saver for MANY students (I would have been one of them!)

Tips: You can adjust the difficulty of each model by adjusting the numbers addressed before students begin an activity.

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Thinking Blocks in  your classroom!

Presenting Learning with Stop Motion Animation

What it is:  At Anastasis Academy, we have some Stop Motion Animation PROS in the form of an eight year and ten-year old boy.  These brothers taught themselves how to use stop motion animation, proceeded to create several learning videos (without assistance from a teacher) and, if that wasn’t enough, went on to teach the rest of our students how to do it!  Incredible.  Nothing like starting the day with a little viral learning!  Today these two young boys stood before our junior high students (twelve to fourteen year olds) and taught them how to make a stop motion animation video.  The young boys are SO proud of their accomplishment and were incredibly articulate as they taught the older kids about stop motion, the programs that can be used for stop motion and talked about technique.  The older students followed along as the boys led them step-by-step through creating their own short stop motion video with a pencil or shoe.  The ten-year old then issued the jr. high a challenge: Create a stop motion video before the end of the school day to show me, I’ll give you tips on what you can improve on.  Above is one of the jr. high created videos that was presented.  It was incredible to stand back and watch kids teaching and leading kids this way.  The age difference was no barrier today!

Today, our students used the iMotion HD app on the iPad to create their stop motion animations.  This FREE app is powerful in the hands of creative kids!  The brothers have been using stop motion regularly to reflect on, or display learning.

The older of the two brother’s started learning stop motion using SMA (Stop Motion Animator) this is a free program that works using a PC, webcam and a whole-lotta (technical term) imagination.

For the Linux crowd, there is the free Stop Motion.

For the Mac crowd (cheers), there is the free Jelly Cam.

How to integrate Stop Motion into the classroom:  Stop Motion is a great way for students to create their own animated videos.  Students can use stop motion to display learning, as a way to reflect on learning, to tell a story, to demonstrate a time-lapse of a scientific process or just as a creative outlet.  Stop motion requires students to do some pre-planning.  First students have to decide what story they are trying to tell, next they have to decide how they are going to demonstrate that story visually, finally they need to move an “actor” frame by frame through the scene.  The results are pretty incredible (as you can see above).

Tips:Some tips from our Stop Motion PROS: Make sure not to move your actor too far each time or the end result will be choppy, make sure to move your hand out of the shot before snapping the picture, plan through your story BEFORE you start.

Check out our YouTube channel for more stop motion animation from our students.  The Bones, Gnome.Eaten.By.Jaws, and Anastasis Academy videos were all created by the 8-year-old! (P.S. The kids LOVE comments on their videos!)

This, my friends, is what happens when you give kids room to learn!  Onward.

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Stop Motion Animation in  your classroom!

Paper Toys: Architecture to print and build

What it is:  At Anastasis Academy we have several kids who are absolutely crazy for architecture.  Not only can they emphatically tell you that they want to be an architect when they grow up, they collect architecture Lego models, will tell you how they wish they could go back in history to meet Frank Lloyd Wright and will build and draw models any chance they get.  These are elementary students!  Today when I came across these Paper Toy models of famous architecture, I knew I would have to share with our students and, while I was at it, would share with all of you who may have your own budding architects!

On Paper Toys you can find and print paper models for:

How to integrate Paper Toys Architecture Models into the classroom: In addition to instantly reaching hero status among your architecture crowd, the Paper Toys Architecture Models is a great addition to the math, history and art classroom.   Students can put the models together digging into the different architecture styles, mathematical models represented by the architecture, and the history of the architecture.  Students can print and build the models (a great exercise in patience, perseverance and attention to detail).  Next students can attach their finished model to a base where they can surround it with math, art or history details they learned about the building to the base.  If they really want to get creative, they can twirl and swirl the words around using different color markers to create an informative landscape.

Students can dig in further and map the various models on a Google map.  If several students are creating models, they can compare and contrast architecture from different time periods, different geographic regions and identify the origins of the type of architecture.

Tips:  Be sure to check out the other Paper Toy models. Your students can build cars, monuments and much more.  New models are added every month!

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Paper Toy Models in  your classroom!

Flake Pad: Create geometric, symmetrical shapes

What it is:  Flake Pad is a very simple little website that lets students create geometric snowflakes using basic shapes and a grid.  To make their flake, students choose a shape and click a spot on the grid.  Students can add as many or as few shapes as they would like to their flake. When they are done the flake can be viewed off of the grid for a screen shot that can be included in other projects or it can be printed off.  I like Flake Pad because it gives students space to be creative and can be used to teach and practice symmetry.

How to integrate Flake Pad into the classroom:  Flake Pad is a great little site to help students understand symmetry.  Any time students click a space on the grid, the shape is added to multiple points on the grid.  Use Flake Pad on an interactive whiteboard or projector-connected computer where students can identify lines of symmetry on the flake that the whole class can see. With the pointer tool on Flake Pad, students can drag the shapes they have created to different points.  Have students in the audience describe what happens to the flake as the shapes are moved.  Do the lines of symmetry change?

Flake Pad can be used on classroom computers as a center activity.  Students can create their own flake, print the flake out and draw the various lines of symmetry with a ruler.

Use Flake Pad during a unit on weather.  Students can experiment with creating their own snow flake, print the flake out and use the print out to list characteristics of snow, or snow related vocabulary along any straight lines on their flake.

Tips: Flake Pad works from the Safari browser on an iPad….mostly. The line shape doesn’t work.  Students could still create their own flakes, print and add lines with a pencil…further practicing their understanding of symmetry!

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Flake Pad in  your classroom!