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Rewordify: help kids understand what they read

What it is: Rewordify is a neat online app that helps struggling readers, ESL/ELL students, etc. improve their reading comprehension and vocabulary development.  Students can copy and paste a difficult passage into Rewordify and it instantly transforms the text by highlighting words it has substituted...

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Science of Everyday Life

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Evaluate, Knowledge (remember), Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Technology, Understand (describe, explain), video, Websites | Posted on 16-05-2013

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What it is:
Discovery Education and 3M have partnered to bring the science of everyday life into your classroom.  This fantastic collection of resources is for students in kindergarten through twelfth grade.  On the site you will find videos and interactives that help kids learn about the science around them and make connections to what they are learning in school.  Lessons are inquiry based and encourage exploration in life science, physical science, earth science and technology/innovation.  Virtual labs are interactive flash-based labs where students can discover more about science like wind energy.  At the Innovation HQ portion of the site, students can travel through time and look at innovations that they use in their every day life and “meet” 3M scientists. On the Student page, students can see a young inventors hall of fame.

How to integrate Science of Everyday Life into the classroom:  The Science of Everyday Life is packed FULL of great videos, lesson ideas, virtual interactives and student activities.  I really appreciate that the approach to lessons is inquiry based!  The lessons include great resources and encourage students to ask questions and dig deeper.  The virtual investigations and labs are also really well done.

Content is separated out by grade level, quickly find exactly what best fits your classroom needs!

The travel through time feature is really neat for students to explore.  This could be done as a class using a projector-connected computer or interactive whiteboard or used as a center exploration or individual activity in a 1:1 or lab setting.  Split students into smaller teams or have them explore a specific time period independently.  The timeline gives some basic information, and would be a great launching point for further investigation.  Students could turn this into a larger project where they connect the innovation from history with innovations today.  What learning had to take place in the past, in order for the innovation that we have today?  This would make a great compare/contrast activity for students.

Because Discovery Education is involved, you can anticipate high quality videos and related resources.

Tips:  The resources and interactives on the Science of Everyday Life are largely Java and Flash based.  If you are running these resources off an iPad, you will want to use an app like Rover (which allows you to view Flash), Photon, iSwifter, etc.

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  Science of Everyday Life in your classroom.

Physics Central: Nikola Tesla and the Electric Fair

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Apply, Download, Evaluate, Interactive book, Middle/High School, Science, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), Websites | Posted on 09-01-2013

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What it is: Physics Central is a fantastic website full of…you guessed it, physics! There are fantastic sections for students to explore science, activity books, experiments and activities.  Students can learn more about physics in action (physics as found in the world around us), meet physicists, and learn about physics research.  Physics Central will ignite a students curiosity in: sound, electricity and magnetism, force and motion, light and optics, material science, quantum mechanics, space and the universe, and thermodynamics and heat.  My favorite find on Physics Central so far (I’m sure there will be many more favorites the longer I explore) is the Nikola Tesla and the Electric Fair section.  Here, students will find a downloadable kit that includes a manual, comic book, and four related activities.

How to integrate Physics Central into the classroom: Physics has always been among my favorite sciences.  There is something about it that is fascinating to me. Physics Central is packed full of great resources to enrich your classroom.  The comics are a fun way to learn about famous scientists, inventors and events in science history.  The complementing activities bring the comics to life and invite students along on the journey of discovery.

Work with your students on a “PhysicsQuest” like Nikola Tesla and the Electric Fair and see what they come up with. Compare their results with the actual solutions (posted on the site).  Join the current PhysicsQuest with your students to help students recognize the fun and relevance of science.  You can register now for the Spectra: Turbulent Times quest.

Tips: Start a PhysicsQuest with your students, as an after school club, or as a home extension investigation.

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

Fold it: Solve Problems for Science and Change the World

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Apply, Download, Evaluate, Middle/High School, Science, Teacher Resources, TED Talk Tuesdays, Understand (describe, explain) | Posted on 14-01-2011

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What it is: Fold it is a puzzle game based on science that helps change the world.  Download the Fold It game and puzzles for free and contribute to the understanding of protein folding and amino acids. By playing this game, students take part in actually contributing to science.  The implications of the Fold It game are huge, playing this game helps scientists better understand protein structure prediction and protein design.  This means that by playing a little puzzle game, your students are contributing to better understanding of the role proteins play in diseases such as HIV, cancer, and Alzheimers, and even bio fuel technology.  Scientists collect data from the game to find out if humans pattern recognition abilities and puzzle solving abilities make them more efficient than computers at pattern folding tasks.  If it turns out that humans are more efficient, human strategies can be applied to computers to make the process even faster.

How to integrate Fold It into the classroom: If your students are currently learning about cells, proteins, amino acid, and biological make up, Fold It is an incredible way for them to really understand all of these working parts, while contributing to science.  The puzzle and pattern nature of this game should appeal to a wide range of students…who doesn’t enjoy a good exercise in pattern recognition and problem solving?  On the about page, your students can read the background “briefing” about the game and the science that they are contributing to by playing the game. There is also a Fold It wiki with great links for more in-depth learning and understanding.   Not only will your students be learning important science concepts (I’m talking the building blocks of life here!), they will also be actually contributing to science by playing.  How cool is that?!  There is a large collection of puzzles with new puzzles being released and completed puzzles expiring. Don’t know anything about biology? No problem, you can play the game without understanding the biology concepts behind it (although for me, knowing the background of what I am looking at makes it that much cooler!).  Check out the blog where you can read the results of how the game play has affected real science.

Tips: The idea of building games to impact the real world is incredible to me, the first time I had considered this was when I watched this TED talk by Jane McGonigal.  If you haven’t seen it yet it is worth a watch!  You can read my original post about this TED talk here.

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Fold It in your classroom.

Landform Detectives

Posted by admin | Posted in Geography, History, Interactive book, Interactive Whiteboard, Middle/High School, Science, Secondary Elementary, Social Studies, video, Virtual Field Trips, Websites | Posted on 19-07-2010

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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.

NASA’s Be a Martian

Posted by admin | Posted in Fun & Games, Geography, History, Interactive Whiteboard, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Virtual Field Trips, Websites | Posted on 22-02-2010

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What it is: I have always been intrigued by space exploration.  NASA’s Be a Martian feeds this intrigue by giving an up close view of Mars exploration.  Here students can virtually explore and learn about the human-robotic partnership that makes virtual exploration possible.  Students can become citizens (this requires them to create an account) or explore with an “Anonymous Tourist Visa”, which is how I explored.  Students can send virtual postcard messages to the Spirit Rover in her new home.  After composing their own message, students are taken to a virtual Mars where postcards with messages rain down.  Students can click on a postcard to read what others around the world have written.  In the map room, students can watch a video detailing the history of mapping and learn how NASA scientists map today.  Students can become virtual map makers by matching up map image fragments, and counting craters.  In Two Moons Theater, students can watch videos starring NASA scientists, explorers, and Mars.    Students can ask and vote on questions that they would like to see answered in the Polling Place.  In Tourist Mars Atlas, students can explore the surface of Mars and learn that there is more to Mars than a giant expanse of tan.   

How to integrate NASA’s Be a Martian into the classroom: Feed your students curiosity about space exploration and Mars with this great interactive environment.  Students have the opportunity to learn about the work that NASA scientists do, practice their observation skills in map making, and learn some great history about space exploration, and map making.  I really like that NASA has included a place for students to ask and vote on questions that they would like answered.  What a neat way to help students understand that we don’t have all the answers and that scientists ask questions, explore, and experiment to learn more.  I think that younger students (primary elementary) would really enjoy the crater counting activity.  Do this activity as a class using an interactive whiteboard/projector or individually as a center.  This will help students to look for detail and practice counting together.  Older students will enjoy trying their hand at mapping Mars and learning more about the history.  Have students learn about the Spirit Rover and her job on Mars before sending a message.  Some of the postcards include location information, it might be fun to track the locations of the postcards in Google Earth with placemarkers.  Then, explore Mars using Google Earth or Google Space.  The Google tools complement this site nicely.

Tips: There is an impressive contest section on NASA’s Be a Martian site, the deadline for entries is April 16, 2010.  The contest challenges us to come up with videos about Mars, interactive software or games, or write an efficient image processing application.  NASA is including us all in the exploration of Mars.  These challenges would be outstanding for older students to take part in…talk about authentic learning!

Please leave a comment and share how you are using NASA’s Be a Martian in your classroom.