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ISTE 10 Recap: From Add-on Technology to Essential Technology: Constru

One of the sessions I attended at the ISTE 10 conference was Elliott Soloway and Cathie Norris’s entitled: “From Add-on Technology to Essential Technology: Constructing 1-to-1 Aware Curriculum”.  It is hard to go wrong with a session by Elliott Soloway, his humor is contagious. I...

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Smithsonian Quests: Learning through discovery and collaboration

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Apply, Art, Character Education, collaboration, Create, Evaluate, Foreign Language, Geography, Government, History, Inquiry, Knowledge (remember), Language Arts, Math, Middle/High School, Music, PE, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Social Studies, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), Web2.0, Websites | Posted on 07-05-2013

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Screen Shot 2013-05-07 at 3.18.12 PM

What it is:
Smithsonian Quests encourage students to explore learning through discovery and collaboration.  As students learn, they can earn digital badges for their quests.  Students can explore their own interest through a series of online activities while incorporating knowledge and skill-building in the online quests.  The quests ask students to explore a topic of interest as part of a standards-based curriculum or as a student-driven after school activity.  By signing  up for Smithsonian Quests, you will receive an invitation to join a grade-level based group in the Smithsonian Quest Community.  Students from kindergarten through adult learners can join Smithsonian Quest and collect badges.

How to integrate Smithsonian Quests into the classroom: Smithsonian Quests is a great program that connects transdisciplinary learning with digital badges.  As your class works through the site, they will start to realize how they have been learning, exploring, connecting and acting.  Students can unlock a badge by completing a set of quests that go with it.  Some Quests are independent and others are collaborative.  Quests get reviewed by a group of “specially selected experts” before badges are awarded.  Badges include: oral historian, historical biographer, cool curator, cultural storyteller, portrait reader, community historian, symbols spotter, correspondent, dirt detective, art advocate, environ-scientist, culture keeper, eco-journalist, time traveler, H2O hero, conservation campaigner, invasions investigator and tree hugger.  Quests include things like listening to audio, taking pictures, recording, etc.  As you can see, there are quests for every interest!

When students sign up for quests, they get invited into a group (class group when the teacher sets up the account), can add friends, see the badges they have collected, and view friends who are online.  Students also get an online journal where they can reflect on learning or update their status with the kind of learning they are doing.

I like that these quests can be done collaboratively (a whole class goal to earn the digital badges by learning?) and that they are  largely discovery based learning.   The quests really challenge students to dig deeper in learning and often lead to additional questions.  Quests can also be completed individually by students.  Students can explore areas that are high-interest for them. These Smithsonian Quests would be a fantastic end of the year project where students are driving their own learning but working toward a known goal.  Spend the last week of school with a time for students to share their learning with others.

As we head into summer break in the United States, consider suggesting Smithsonian Quests to parents as a great summer-time learning opportunity.

Tips:  Register for free and have a look around to see all of the cool opportunities for your classroom!

I’ve been nominated for a Bammy Award for Educational Blogger.  I’d appreciate your vote to help spread the word about iLearn Technology.  Vote here.  Thank you for your continued support!!

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

Rustle the Leaf

Posted by admin | Posted in Character Education, Evaluate, Interactive book, Language Arts, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Social Studies, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), video, Websites | Posted on 17-08-2010

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What it is: Rustle the Leaf is an enchanting site that I learned about from @alexgfrancisco’s excellent blog ZarcoEnglish-Tool of the DayRustle the Leaf is a collection of online comic strips that teach about the environment.  The comics star Rustle the Leaf (don’t you just love the name?) and his friends.  Each comic is designed to help kids think about and understand their relationship to the planet and how their actions affect the Earth.  The site has a great collection of teaching resources that include lesson plans, offline games, and comics.  In the kids fun section, students will find Earth Day e-cards, printable cards, computer desktops, printable posters, and book downloads.

How to integrate Rustle the Leaf into your curriculum: I feel like when I was in elementary school (in the 80′s), that protecting the environment was a much bigger theme in schools than it is now.  Maybe it just isn’t as widely taught at the schools I am in, or maybe it has been cut out of curriculum because it isn’t tested on.  Regardless, the environment is as important to teach today as it was when I was growing up.  Rustle the Leaf is a fun way to help your students think about and understand environmental issues.  Use the site as the basis for a unit around Earth Day or help your students understand that everyday is Earth Day by reading and discussing a new comic every day.  The comics would be great discussion starters at the beginning of the day.  The resources on Rustle the Leaf are really well done, these can be used throughout the year, monthly, or all together as a focused unit.  Set the desktops on classroom computers with Rustle the Leaf wallpapers as a daily reminder of how to care for the environment.

I have a feeling that students will fall in love with the Rustle the Leaf character.  If this is the case for your students, they may enjoy creating their own Rustle the Leaf comics about the environment.  They could even create a Rustle the Leaf comic reminding others to turn off the water or lights to be posted next to sinks and light switches in the classroom.

Tips: At the bottom of the Rustle the Leaf homepage in the left sidebar, you will find links to animated shorts starring Rustle the Leaf.  These are entertaining and have a great message that tie directly into the comics and lesson plans on the site.  Don’t miss them!

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Rustle the Leaf in your classroom!

JASON Science: Eco Defenders

Posted by admin | Posted in Interactive Whiteboard, Middle/High School, Science, Secondary Elementary, Virtual Field Trips, Websites | Posted on 21-07-2010

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What it is: Eco Defenders is another excellent Filament Games simulation/interactive.  In this game, students design “alien” invasive species and set it loose on an imaginary ecosystem.  Students must use their knowledge of ecosystems, adaptations, and competition to design a simulation of an invasive species.  Students find out that when an invading species occupies the same ecological niche as native species, they can cause problems for the ecosystem.  The game allows for a lot of customization and decisions for students as they choose one of three ecosystems and then design their own alien.  As students go through the simulation, JASON host researcher, Russell Cuhel, will ask questions about how invasive species invade an ecosystem giving students the chance to be the expert.  Before students play the game, ask them to click on the “Learn More” link where they will receive a tutorial for the game and some background information about invasive species.  Students can learn about different kinds of invasive species that exist in our world.


How to integrate Eco Defenders into the classroom: In the Eco Defenders game/simulation, your students will: design their own invasive creature, watch their creature as it interacts in the ecosystem and competes over resources with native creatures, and analyze the interactions among the organisms in the ecosystem.  Students will select a creature to target in the ecosystem they have chosen and then design a species that will compete in the same ecological niche.  Students will design and then run a simulation to test their invader.  Afterward, they will discuss what happened with the virtual host scientist, go over the results, and analyze the data.  The great thing about this game/simulation is that no two students will have the exact same results.  Eco Defenders is best in a computer lab setting where each student can play individually.  After students have experimented and run through the simulation, come together as a class and discuss what students observed.  What made their invader successful?  What would they change for the next time?  As students learn more about ecosystems, eco niches, and invaders throughout the unit, have them run through the simulation again and see if they come up with different results.  If you can’t manage access to a 1 to 1 computer setting, play the game as a class using an interactive whiteboard or projector-connected computer.  The class should discuss each decision, weighing the pros and cons, before making a move.  As the students work through the simulation, talk about what they are observing and what tweaks might change the outcome of their simulation.

Tips: JASON Science is worth a look.  The tag-line of JASON Science is “Education through Exploration”.  I couldn’t agree more!

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Eco Defenders in your classroom.