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What it is:  Zoo Whiz is a new education site that encourages kids to be “whizzes” in math, reading and word development.  There are levels and content for students from 5 to 15 years old.  There are over 11,200 interactive activities to help unleash the whiz in every child.  The games...

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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.

Smithsonian Wild: 206,340 images of animals around the world

Posted by admin | Posted in Geography, Interactive Whiteboard, Knowledge (remember), Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Understand (describe, explain), Websites | Posted on 28-03-2012

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What it is:  Smithsonian Wild is a site that I learned about from @shannonmmiller the other day through a tweet.  This is a part of the Smithsonian website that I hadn’t seen before, so I was excited to take a look at it.  Smithsonian Wild lets students explore 206,340 camera trap images collected at research sites around the world.  Animals are searchable by species name or location in the world.  The site is pretty incredible, it puts students up close and personal with animals and the research being done on the animals around the world. Students can view still images, videos, and information about the animal.  In addition, students can learn more about the research being conducted concerning animals around the world.

How to integrate Smithsonian Wild into the classroom: Smithsonian Wild is a great site to help kids see animals in their natural environment. Students can use Smithsonian Wild as a starting place for a research project, a creative writing prompt (students as field researchers), or as part of a habitats and environment inquiry unit.
Students will enjoy exploring this site. Wild animals always pull kids in and keep them excited about watching for what comes next.  This is a great one for a big screen like an interactive whiteboard or projector-connected computer.  The students will feel like they are right there with the animals. This is pretty much the next best thing, even the zoo can’t touch the number of animals that kids can see up close.  :)
This site is a fantastic way for students to learn geography.  As they “travel” to new places, they will be able to associate the country/continent with the animals that are indigenous.  Use a Google Earth Map to “track” animals by dropping a pin in the country that they are found in.  Students can attach images and facts to each pin on their custom-made map.

Tips: Are you students learning about animals and habitats? They should also make sure to take a look at these habitat websites and Arkive.

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Smithsonian Wild in  your classroom!

28 Tech Tools to Bring out the Story in History

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Apply, Create, Evaluate, History, Knowledge (remember), Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), video, web tools, Web2.0, Websites | Posted on 03-12-2010

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Below is an article I wrote for theapple.com.  For the full article complete with links, please visit the original article.

Kelly Tenkely | TheApple

When I was in school, I dreaded history.  I found it completely uninteresting, dry, irrelevant, and quite frankly…boring.  This was unusual for me.  Normally, I really enjoyed school.  Creative writing, language arts, science, and even math were fun.  History was unbearable.

I can count on one hand the things I remember learning in history.   I learned that in 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue,  that there was once a thing called slavery and it was abolished (I saw Roots in school at least 5 times), that there have been several wars and battles, and I remember my freshman history teacher breaking out in “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad” (though I can’t say why).   For me history was a lot of dates, strange names, places, and events presented as points on a line.  The goal of history was to memorize all of these facts and dates, recite them on a test, and repeat the process the following week. Sadly, that was about it.  It wasn’t until adulthood, and my introduction to the History Channel, that I realized that history is interesting.  History became engaging when it was presented as a story.  It really isn’t about all of the dates, places, and facts.  History is about people.  History is about story.  Students need more than the loosely connected events, people, and dates that fill history textbooks.  They need narrative. Textbook writers are boring, history is not.  In high school I vividly remember reading a first person account of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the horrors of nuclear war.  Why does this account stay with me? Because it wasn’t about the dates. It was about the emotions, the aftermath, the effects on human life.

How can we engage our students with history?  How can we help them make personal connections to the events of the past?

Access to history has expanded, students today have learning opportunities that have never been possible before.  Today students have the ability to view and read historical documents first hand, ‘interact’ with historical characters, and observe the events of the past through the eyes of the children who lived it.    Thanks to technology, students can be truly engaged in the stories of history.

Primary resources are the actual documents, artifacts, and writings from history.  These resources give students an up-close view of life in the past.

Primary Resources:

1.  The World Digital Library is a collection of primary materials from around the world.  Students can explore artifacts that will help them to better understand other cultures.  This incredible collection of resources brings museums from around the world into your classroom for your students to explore.

2. Awesome Stories is a collection of primary source materials separated by category.  Primary sources include images, videos, narration, slideshows, artifacts, manuscripts, and documents.  Awesome Stories is essentially an interactive textbook.  With the interactive textbook model, students are able to delve deeper into topics that interest them.

3. Picturing America takes hold of the notion that a picture is worth a thousand words and applies it to teaching American history.  The National Endowment for the Humanities is providing classrooms and libraries with American art masterpieces. Bringing our Nation’s artistic heritage into the classroom provides students with unique insights into the character, ideals, and aspirations of our country.  The program is free for schools and libraries, providing them with 40 high quality, poster-sized masterpieces, a teacher resource book, and the program website.  Picturing America  brings history into the classroom, helping students create authentic connections to the past.

4.  Primary Access is a web-based tool that offers students and teachers simple access to digital images and materials that provides them the opportunity to create personal narratives.  The idea behind the site is that if students are offered primary source documents, they develop better historical thinking skills.  Students use Primary Access to create digital historical narrative movies that help add to meaningful learning experiences.  The digital movie is 1-3 minutes in length and can contain images, text, movies, and student recorded narration.  Students have a place to write, research, narrate, view, and search within Primary Access.

5. Library of Congress on Flickr is a photostream of historical images on Flickr.  These incredible photographs will bring history to life for your students.  Many of the photographs have no copyright restrictions which makes it a great place for students to find images for projects that they are working on.  These are also great images to use in your classroom presentations, and as printouts for bulletin boards.

Videos have the unique ability to make students feel as if they are witnesses to history.

Historical Videos:

6. The History Channel has a wealth of resources to teach history in the classroom.  From online historical videos, to a daily dose of history with “This Day in History”, the History Channel brings history to life.

7. American History in Video has more than 5,000 free, digital, on-demand videos in its collection.  The videos allow students to analyze historical events, look at events over time through commercial and governmental newsreels, archival footage, public affairs footage, and important documentaries.  These videos will make students feel as if they were a part of history.

8.  Watch Know is another educational video site.  All videos are offered digitally for free.  Watch Know brings together the best education videos online into one convenient-to-search, safe site.  Students can interact and think critically about the videos by rating them and leaving comments.  There are more than 2,500 history related videos on Watch Know.

There are many websites that let students interact with history.  Whether they are playing a game or exploring a virtual world, these websites help students understand history in new ways.

Interacting with History:

9. Secret Builders Students ages 6-14 can live and play among fictional and historical characters in this virtual world.  Students interact with characters such as Shakespeare, Galileo, Motzart, Oliver Twist, Plato, Van Gough, and Amelia Earhart.  Students take quests, publish artwork and writings, play games, enter contests, and participate in a virtual economy and social life.  Students are given all the tools needed to build out the virtual world with their own ideas, activities and actions.  This virtual world has the added benefit of allowing students to interact with historical figures in ways that are meaningful to them.

10. Scholastic has an email sign up where teachers and students can receive fictional emails from historical figures.  These emails are written as letters from children who live in the past.  Get email letters from a young girl traveling on the Mayflower and a young Native American boy.  This is a fantastic way to give your class a glimpse of history through the eyes of two school-age children.

11. Scholastic’s “Our America” takes students on a journey through American history from the Colonial period to World War II.  Students learn about major events in the American story by reading journal entries from the people who lived them.  Students can complete their own journal entries about what they have learned.  Activities accompany each time period such as arts and crafts from that time period or designing a period home interior.

12. The Oregon Trail game is one of the memories I should have listed above.  I remember playing Oregon Trail in small groups on our classroom computer in fifth grade.  Through the game we learned about the hardships of being a wagon leader, how to build a team, and purchase supplies that would help us make the journey from Independence, Missouri to Oregon by way of the covered wagon circa 1848. This role playing game helps students connect to events of the past through play.

13. BBC Primary History has an extensive collection of activities, short readings, and a kids point of view on the Ancient Greeks, Romans, Vikings, Anglo Saxons, World War II, and Victorian Britain.  Students can explore interactive timelines, stories, primary source images, and much more.  Students gain a sense of what life was like during each time period.

14. Picturing the Thirties is a virtual web activity from the Smithsonian.  This virtual museum exhibit teaches students about the 1930’s through eight exhibitions.  Students will get an up close look at the Great Depression, the New Deal, the country, industry, labor, city, leisure, and the American people in the 1930’s.  The virtual museum is full of primary sources such as photographs, newsreels, and artist memorabilia.  Virtual video museum guides explain each exhibit to students.

15. The Secret in the Cellar is an interactive web comic that is based on an actual forensic case of a 17th century person that was recently discovered.  Through graphics, photos, and activities, students begin to unravel a mystery of historical and scientific importance.  Students learn how to analyze artifacts, and examine the skeleton to determine a cause of death.  As students act as historians, they will gain a wealth of information about Colonial life in America.

16.  Kids Past is a history website created for kids that covers topics including: prehistoric humans, the rise of civilization, Middle Eastern civilization, the Ancient Greeks, Romans, African civilizations, civilizations of India, civilizations of China, Byzantine empire, the Slavs, Islam, medieval Europe, Asia in the middle ages, ancient Americans, the Renaissance, the Reformation, exploration and expansion, Asia following the middle ages, the American Revolution, and the French Revolution.  All reading on Kids Past is kid friendly and age appropriate.  There are several history games based on the reading.  Students can also find historical quotes and songs about history that they can listen to online.

17. Historical Tweets- Students can follow history on Twitter.  With Historical Tweets, history’s most amazing men and women can be more fully understood 140 characters at a time.  These historical tweets can act as motivation for students to learn more about historical events.  140 characters is just enough to leave your students wanting to learn more.

Static timelines are a thing of the past, today’s timelines are interactive, informative, and fun to explore.

Interactive Timelines:

18. Franklin’s Interactive Timeline is an engaging look into the life of Benjamin Franklin.  Students can play, listen, watch, observe, and have fun learning about Benjamin Franklin’s legacy.  Students can explore Franklin’s life through themes such as Franklin’s character, Franklin as printer, at home, doing good, and on the world stage. This site breaks Franklin’s life down into manageable pieces for students and provides a well rounded view of Franklin.

19. Capzles is an interactive timeline creator.  Students can add photos, video, audio and text to their timeline.  Themes, colors, backgrounds, and background music can be added to the timeline making it unique and personalized.  Capzles brings the timeline to life and allows students to add story to the dates.

20. Dipity makes it simple for your students to create and share interactive timelines.  Students can embed YouTube videos, Twitter, RSS feeds, Blogger, Flickr, Picasa, Last FM, and more right into their timelines.  Dipity makes timelines relevant and fun for students.  Best of all, students are creating and viewing timelines in “their language” of Digital Native.

21. Time Tube is the perfect website for your YouTube addicted students.  Students can type in a historical event and Time Tube will create a timeline of related videos.  Students will be able to explore historical events through related videos.

Research papers leave much to be desired in the history classroom.  There are ways for students to show what they know in history without the dreaded research report.

Creating with History:

22. Domonation is an animation website where students can create cartoon animations with characters, dialogue, props, music, and special effects.  Instead of presenting knowledge about history through the traditional report, diorama, or poster, students can create a cartoon of an interview with a historical figure or an eye-witness account of a historical event.

23. Xtranormal is a site where students can create and direct their own animated movies.  Students can recreate historical events, or create cartoons about a historical figure.  Hold a historical movie day to showcase all of the animations that students have created.

24. The National Archives Experience: Digital Vaults is a site put together by the National Archives.  Students can create their own digital content mashups using primary resources.  Students are able to search photographs, documents, and other records collecting them to create a digital poster or movie.  Students can also create a Pathway Challenge.  In a challenge, students create a series of clues that show relationships between photographs, documents, and other records.  Other students can attempt to solve these challenges.  This is an incredible way for students to interact with history.

25. Creaza is a suite of web-based creativity tools.  There are four tools in the Creaza toolbox that will help your students organize knowledge and tell stories in new creative ways.  Students can arrange events in history with Mindomo the mind mapping tool.  Using Cartoonist, students can create comic strips and digital narratives about historical events or characters.  Movie Editor makes it possible for students to create movies with thematic universes, video, images, and sound clips.  Movie Editor can import historical film clips, sound clips, and images to tell a story.  Audio editor is the final tool in Creaza’s creative suite.  Students can splice together their own newscasts or radio commercials that display their knowledge of any historical event.

26. Animoto for Education is a site where students can create compelling and impressive digital content quickly and easily.  Teachers can use Animoto to teach complex concepts in history.  Students can showcase their understanding of history through pictures, music, and text.

27. Blogging- Assign each of your students a historical character to play.  They can research and learn about the time period, events, and people.  Students can then blog as if they were the historical character.  Other students can read and comment on the historical posts.

28. Museum Box is a website based on the work of Thomas Clarkson who collected items in a box to help him in his argument for the abolition of slavery.  Students can use the Museum Box website to collect information and arguments in a virtual  box of their own.  They can collect items to provide a description or add to an argument of a historical event, place, or time period.  Students can add images, text, sounds, videos, and external links to help them form their own virtual museum.  The finished box can be shared with other students, saved, or printed.  Students can view and comment on boxes created by other students.  This is a fun medium for students to learn and collect information about a historical event, person, or time period.

History shouldn’t be dry, boring, or irrelevant to students.  Technology makes it possible for students to interact with history in new and interesting ways.  Use these resources to take your students beyond facts and help them to realize the stories that make up their past.

A Walk in the Forest

Posted by admin | Posted in Geography, Interactive Whiteboard, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Virtual Field Trips, Websites | Posted on 23-06-2010

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What it is: The Smithsonian site is a wealth of outstanding activities and interactives.  In the Walk in the Forest interactives, students are guided through a virtual forest where they do field research using the same scientific methods and tools that Smithsonian scientists use to monitor forest biodiversity.  Students can act as dirt detectives, predicting which trees will thrive in each type of soil; learn about forest layers and the plants and animals that take up residence in each; identify a tree; observe seasonal changes; map the forest; and use amphibians as an indicator of the forest.  Each of the interactives has the option of narration (audio) or non-narrated (students read through the interactive).

How to integrate A Walk in the Forest into the classroom: The interactive activities on A Walk in the Forest are very well made.  They will have your students working and thinking like a scientist.  The activities are meant to be completed by individual students, but if you don’t have access to a computer lab, they would also be excellent as a center on classroom computers or on the interactive whiteboard or projector connected computer.  For whole class participation, send a team of scientists (your students) into the forest to investigate and collect data.   Give each student a job to do on the forest adventure.  For the students not at the board, create a field guide that they can fill out while they observe.   As an extension activity, students can create an Animoto or Prezi about what they learned in the forest.  They could also create a comic book style field guide about walking through a forest.

A Walk in the Forest is well suited to all elementary students.  Independent readers can complete the activities without narration while emerging or struggling readers could have the interactive narrated.

Every year, we have an outdoor education program for our 5th graders.  They spend a week in the mountains, in a forest, learning outside.  If you do something similar, A Walk in the Forest is a great preparation activity for students.  They can learn about the processes of collecting and analyzing data virtually before they do it in real life.

Tips: If you and your family are visiting national parks this summer, these are fun activities to do before hand that will transform your kids into scientists when they are exploring outdoors.

Please leave a comment and share how you are using A Walk in the Forest in your classroom.

5 of the BEST Virtual Field Trips

Posted by admin | Posted in Geography, Interactive Whiteboard, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Virtual Field Trips, Websites | Posted on 26-01-2010

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Kelly Tenkely | TheApple.com (Posted at The Apple.com)
Field trips can be amazing learning experiences.   They provide students with the opportunity to actively participate in education, offering learning possibilities that aren’t readily available in the classroom.  Unfortunately, it isn’t always practical or possible to take students on field trips.  Tight budgets, location, transportation, time, and resource restrictions can keep your students school-bound.  Virtual field trips can fill this void.  Virtual field trips have come a long way from the page of links they used to be.  Now students can explore the world with simulations that are so realistic, they will believe they have left the classroom.  Below are five of the best virtual field trips on the web:

Virtual Field Trip #1:

Smithsonian Museum
Not all cities have access to an incredible natural history museum like the Smithsonian.  This virtual tour is the next best thing to taking an actual field trip to the Smithsonian.

The Smithsonian Virtual Museum is truly remarkable.  Students can ‘step’ into the exhibits and take a tour through the entire museum in a 360 degree environment.  The virtual museum is made up of panoramic pictures of the actual exhibits inside the Smithsonian.  Using their mouse, students “walk” through the museum room by room. They can zoom in, look left and right, look up and down, and walk forward or backward.  Camera icons throughout the museum show students hot spots where they can get close to an exhibit panel.  As students explore the museum, they will see: the ocean hall, ancient seas, dinosaurs, early life, fossils, plants, mammals, African cultures, the Ice Age, Western cultures, reptiles, insects, butterflies, bones, geology, gems, and minerals.

Students can explore the various exhibits on individual computers in a computer lab setting or life size with an interactive whiteboard or a projector.  Split your students into groups and assign them an exhibit to explore and take notes on.  After students have explored and become the ‘expert’ on their exhibit, project the Virtual Smithsonian Museum on an interactive whiteboard/screen.  Explore the museum as a class. As you enter an exhibit, invite the group who explored the exhibit to act as tour guides.

Even if you have access to a natural history museum for field trips, the Smithsonian Virtual Museum is still incredibly useful.  Prepare for a field trip to your local history museum by visiting the virtual museum.  After the field trip, students can compare and contrast what they saw at the local museum with the Smithsonian.

Virtual Field Trip #2:

UPM Forest Life
A field trip to a forest is a wonderful way to learn about tree species, ecosystems, habitats, and animals.   The UPM Forest Life virtual field trip will have your students believing that they are actually in a forest smelling pine trees.
UPM Forest Life aims to teach about forest sustainability.  It does this by inviting students to take a virtual hike through a forest.  The forest is made up of panoramic pictures of an actual forest.  Students can zoom in, look up and down, left and right, and ‘walk’ through the forest with their mouse.  Students start their field trip with a virtual tour guide.  As students ‘hike’ through the forest, they will click on hot spots that reveal videos of forest life, pictures with information, and sounds.  Throughout the forest are opportunities for learning about forest planning, harvesting, regeneration, re-spacing, thinning, transport, recreation, training, berry picking, bird watching, hunting, fishing, natural forests, valuable habitats, deadwood, forest structure, water, native tree species, and the various animals that call a forest home.   This virtual field trip is impressive on individual computers and amazing when viewed as a whole class on an interactive whiteboard or with a projector.  Allow students to take turns acting as forest rangers. They can click on various videos, pictures, and information embedded in the forest.  Students can record their observations of the forest, trees, animals, and sounds they experience in an observation journal.

Virtual Field Trip #3:

Moon in Google Earth
The moon is no longer off limits for field trips!  Students can visit the moon virtually using Moon view in Google Earth.  Google Earth makes for excellent virtual trips around the world; in Google Earth 5.0 you can also take your students to the moon.
Moon in Google Earth makes it possible for students to take tours of Apollo missions to the moon, from takeoff to landing – all narrated by Apollo astronauts.  Students can explore 3-D models of landed spacecraft, zoom into 360-degree photos of astronaut footprints on the moon, watch rare TV footage of the Apollo missions, and, of course, explore the surface of the moon.   Take your virtual field trip to the moon as a class with an interactive whiteboard/projector, or send students on their own mission to the moon using student computers.  Assign groups of students to an Apollo mission to explore.  When the ‘astronauts’ return to earth, they can tell other students about their mission to the moon or write a newspaper article about their journey.

Virtual Field Trip #4:

Planet in Action
Real field trips don’t allow for adventures like a helicopter ride above the Grand Canyon, an expedition to Mount St. Helens, or a helicopter tour of Manhattan or Disneyland Paris.  Planet in Action makes all of these possible with the help of Google Earth.
Planet in Action is an outstanding way to bring learning to life.  Students can take a guided tour of the Grand Canyon, Mount St. Helens, Manhattan, or Disneyland Paris or take control and explore on their own.  These journeys are incredibly lifelike on an interactive whiteboard/projector.  Take your whole class on a virtual helicopter ride above famous landmarks that they are learning about in class.  First, watch the recorded tour and discuss the different landmarks as you see them.  Then ‘hire’ a student helicopter ‘pilot’ who can navigate a trip for the class.  On individual computers, students can create postcards of their virtual field trip or create their own virtual tour that can be saved and shared with others or with Planet in Action.  As students fly above the landmarks, a Google Map will show them exactly where they are in the virtual tour.

Virtual Field Trip #5:

AR Sights
Most students probably won’t have the ability to travel to the pyramids or the Eiffel Tower for a field trip.
Augmented Reality makes it possible to see these landmarks, and more, using Google Earth in 3-D.
Augmented Reality requires a webcam, browser add-on, and a printout provided by the AR Sights website.
After a simple graphic is printed out, it is held up to a webcam.  Students will see a landmark spring to life right before their eyes on the computer screen.  As the printout is tilted, twisted, and moved the landmark moves accordingly.  Students can view the famous landmark in 360-degrees, 3-D, and up close.  It is truly incredible!
AR Sights makes it possible to view Google Earth right in a web browser and then zoom into places of interest, looking at them in 3-D with Augmented Reality.  Students can ‘fly’ around Google Earth, when they find a place of interest, they will hold the printout up to the camera and explore the landmark.  This is an amazing visual method for learning about geography and famous landmarks.  If you only have access to one webcam, use it with a computer connected to a projector or interactive whiteboard for whole class exploration.

Geography, budget, and time are no longer field trip restrictions.  With virtual field trips, students can explore the universe using a computer.  These simulations are so realistic that your students will believe they have traveled the universe, actively participating in their learning.

Virtual Dinosaur Dig

Posted by admin | Posted in Fun & Games, Geography, History, Interactive Whiteboard, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Social Studies, Teacher Resources, Virtual Field Trips, Websites | Posted on 16-10-2009

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What it is: The Smithsonian site is full of amazing activities and interactives.   A few weeks ago I stumbled on their Virtual Dinosaur Dig interactive and immediately sent it on to our second grade teachers who are teaching a dinosaur unit.  During the Virtual Dinosaur Dig, students act as paleontologists who find a virtual fossil, learn how vertebrate paleontologists excavate the specimen, learn about the anatomy of the specimen and where it lived, view an illustration of what the specimen may have looked like, transport the speciman to a museum, and reconstruct the speciman (a stegosaurus) at the museum.  Each step of the interactive gives students information about the tools used to excavate, and why the tool is used.  Students get to virtually use each tool to excavate, transport, and reconstruct the dinosaur.

How to integrate Virtual Dinosaur Dig into the classroom: This Virtual Dig makes students virtual paleontologists.  The activity is perfect for a interactive whiteboard or projector.  Choose a student team of paleontologists who will help with the excavation.  Each student can use one of the tools and explain their portion of the excavation to the class.  While these students are at the board demonstrating the excavation, students at their seats can fill in their official “Paleontologist Field Guide” to record the steps and tools used in the excavation (I created the field guide for our second grade teachers and will post the pdf version below).  The Virtual Dinosaur Dig could also be used as a center activity for teams of paleontologists to visit on classroom computers or in a computer lab setting.  Students can fill out their Field Guides as they work.  After the virtual dig, set up a hands on dig.  Students can “excavate” chocolate chips out of a chocolate chip cookie by carefully digging with toothpicks.

Tips: I created this Paleontologist Field Guide journal to accompany the Virtual Dig.  Included in the pdf is an answer guide. Print these pages back to back to create a book that is folded down the center.  dino dig field guide The field guide asks students to match the tool picture with its name and order the sequence of events during the excavation.

Leave a comment and tell us how you are using Virtual Dinosaur Dig in your classroom.

Picturing the Thirties

Posted by admin | Posted in Fun & Games, History, Interactive Whiteboard, Language Arts, Middle/High School, Secondary Elementary, Social Studies, Teacher Resources, Virtual Field Trips, Websites | Posted on 11-10-2009

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What it is: Picturing the Thirties is another great virtual web activity from the Smithsonian.  This virtual museum exhibit teaches students about the 1930’s through eight exhibitions.  Students will learn about the Great Depression, The New Deal, The Country, Industry, Labor, The City, Leisure, and American People in the 1930’s.  Art from the Smithsonian American Art Museum are supplemented with other primary sources such as photographs, newsreels, and artist memorabilia.  Students can explore the virtual exhibits complete with museum guides that explain each exhibit to students.  The feature presentation of the museum is a series of interviews of abstract artists describing the 1930’s.  User created documentaries can be viewed from the theater’s balcony.  Students can visit the theater’s projection booth where they can find primary access and a movie making tutorial.

How to integrate Picturing the Thirties into the classroom: I am always amazed by the virtual content that the Smithsonian has produced.  Picturing the Thirties is an incredible virtual field trip to museum exhibits that will put your students face to face with primary resources that will help them understand the events and culture of the 1930’s.  This is SO much better than learning from a textbook!  This interactive site is a great way for students to explore the 1930’s and learn at their own pace.  This site is perfect for the computer lab environment where every student has access to a computer.  You could also take a class virtual field trip to the museum using an interactive whiteboard or a projector.

Tips: Make sure that students have headphones or speakers for this website, there is quite a bit of audio content.

Related Resources: Smithsonian Virtual Museum, UPM Virtual Forest, efield Trips

Leave a comment and tell us how you are using Picturing the Thirties in your classroom.

5 Best Virtual Field Trips

Posted by admin | Posted in Fun & Games, Geography, History, Interactive Whiteboard, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Virtual Field Trips, Websites | Posted on 11-10-2009

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Cross posted at:

5 BEST Virtual Field Trips

Kelly Tenkely | TheApple.com

Field trips can be amazing learning experiences.   They provide students with the opportunity to actively participate in education, offering learning possibilities that aren’t readily available in the classroom.  Unfortunately, it isn’t always practical or possible to take students on field trips.  Tight budgets, location, transportation, time, and resource restrictions can keep your students school-bound.  Virtual field trips can fill this void.  Virtual field trips have come a long way from the page of links they used to be.  Now students can explore the world with simulations that are so realistic, they will believe they have left the classroom.  Below are five of the best virtual field trips on the web:

Virtual Field Trip #1:
Smithsonian Museum

Not all cities have access to an incredible natural history museum like the Smithsonian.  This virtual tour is the next best thing to taking an actual field trip to the Smithsonian.

The Smithsonian Virtual Museum is truly remarkable.  Students can ‘step’ into the exhibits and take a tour through the entire museum in a 360 degree environment.  The virtual museum is made up of panoramic pictures of the actual exhibits inside the Smithsonian.  Using their mouse, students “walk” through the museum room by room. They can zoom in, look left and right, look up and down, and walk forward or backward.  Camera icons throughout the museum show students hot spots where they can get close to an exhibit panel.  As students explore the museum, they will see: the ocean hall, ancient seas, dinosaurs, early life, fossils, plants, mammals, African cultures, the Ice Age, Western cultures, reptiles, insects, butterflies, bones, geology, gems, and minerals.

Students can explore the various exhibits on individual computers in a computer lab setting or life size with an interactive whiteboard or a projector.  Split your students into groups and assign them an exhibit to explore and take notes on.  After students have explored and become the ‘expert’ on their exhibit, project the Virtual Smithsonian Museum on an interactive whiteboard/screen.  Explore the museum as a class. As you enter an exhibit, invite the group who explored the exhibit to act as tour guides.

Even if you have access to a natural history museum for field trips, the Smithsonian Virtual Museum is still incredibly useful.  Prepare for a field trip to your local history museum by visiting the virtual museum.  After the field trip, students can compare and contrast what they saw at the local museum with the Smithsonian.

Virtual Field Trip #2:
UPM Forest Life

A field trip to a forest is a wonderful way to learn about tree species, ecosystems, habitats, and animals.   The UPM Forest Life virtual field trip will have your students believing that they are actually in a forest smelling pine trees.

UPM Forest Life aims to teach about forest sustainability.  It does this by inviting students to take a virtual hike through a forest.  The forest is made up of panoramic pictures of an actual forest.  Students can zoom in, look up and down, left and right, and ‘walk’ through the forest with their mouse.  Students start their field trip with a virtual tour guide.  As students ‘hike’ through the forest, they will click on hot spots that reveal videos of forest life, pictures with information, and sounds.  Throughout the forest are opportunities for learning about forest planning, harvesting, regeneration, re-spacing, thinning, transport, recreation, training, berry picking, bird watching, hunting, fishing, natural forests, valuable habitats, deadwood, forest structure, water, native tree species, and the various animals that call a forest home.   This virtual field trip is impressive on individual computers and amazing when viewed as a whole class on an interactive whiteboard or with a projector.  Allow students to take turns acting as forest rangers. They can click on various videos, pictures, and information embedded in the forest.  Students can record their observations of the forest, trees, animals, and sounds they experience in an observation journal.

Virtual Field Trip #3:
Moon in Google Earth

The moon is no longer off limits for field trips!  Students can visit the moon virtually using Moon view in Google Earth.  Google Earth makes for excellent virtual trips around the world; in Google Earth 5.0 you can also take your students to the moon.

Moon in Google Earth makes it possible for students to take tours of Apollo missions to the moon, from takeoff to landing – all narrated by Apollo astronauts.  Students can explore 3-D models of landed spacecraft, zoom into 360-degree photos of astronaut footprints on the moon, watch rare TV footage of the Apollo missions, and, of course, explore the surface of the moon.   Take your virtual field trip to the moon as a class with an interactive whiteboard/projector, or send students on their own mission to the moon using student computers.  Assign groups of students to an Apollo mission to explore.  When the ‘astronauts’ return to earth, they can tell other students about their mission to the moon or write a newspaper article about their journey.

Virtual Field Trip #4:
Planet in Action

Real field trips don’t allow for adventures like a helicopter ride above the Grand Canyon, an expedition to Mount St. Helens, or a helicopter tour of Manhattan or Disneyland Paris.  Planet in Action makes all of these possible with the help of Google Earth.

Planet in Action is an outstanding way to bring learning to life.  Students can take a guided tour of the Grand Canyon, Mount St. Helens, Manhattan, or Disneyland Paris or take control and explore on their own.  These journeys are incredibly lifelike on an interactive whiteboard/projector.  Take your whole class on a virtual helicopter ride above famous landmarks that they are learning about in class.  First, watch the recorded tour and discuss the different landmarks as you see them.  Then ‘hire’ a student helicopter ‘pilot’ who can navigate a trip for the class.  On individual computers, students can create postcards of their virtual field trip or create their own virtual tour that can be saved and shared with others or with Planet in Action.  As students fly above the landmarks, a Google Map will show them exactly where they are in the virtual tour.

Virtual Field Trip #5:
AR Sights

Most students probably won’t have the ability to travel to the pyramids or the Eiffel Tower for a field trip.

Augmented Reality makes it possible to see these landmarks, and more, using Google Earth in 3-D.

Augmented Reality requires a webcam, browser add-on, and a printout provided by the AR Sights website.

After a simple graphic is printed out, it is held up to a webcam.  Students will see a landmark spring to life right before their eyes on the computer screen.  As the printout is tilted, twisted, and moved the landmark moves accordingly.  Students can view the famous landmark in 360-degrees, 3-D, and up close.  It is truly incredible!

AR Sights makes it possible to view Google Earth right in a web browser and then zoom into places of interest, looking at them in 3-D with Augmented Reality.  Students can ‘fly’ around Google Earth, when they find a place of interest, they will hold the printout up to the camera and explore the landmark.  This is an amazing visual method for learning about geography and famous landmarks.  If you only have access to one webcam, use it with a computer connected to a projector or interactive whiteboard for whole class exploration.

Geography, budget, and time are no longer field trip restrictions.  With virtual field trips, students can explore the universe using a computer.  These simulations are so realistic that your students will believe they have traveled the universe, actively participating in their learning.



The Secret in the Cellar

Posted by admin | Posted in History, Interactive book, Middle/High School, Science, Teacher Resources, Websites | Posted on 16-07-2009

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wib_opening_panel copy

What it is: A few days ago I wrote about the awesome interactive Smithsonian Museum, today I found another great activity on the Smithsonian website called The Secret in the CellarThe Secret in the Cellar is an interactive web comic that is based on an actual forensic case of a 17th century body that was recently discovered.  Through graphics, photos, and activities, students begin to unravel a mystery of historical and scientific importance.  Students can analyze artifacts, and examine the skeleton for clues to determine a cause of death.  Because of the subject matter of this web comic, this activity is best suited for middle school or high school students.

How to integrate The Secret in the Cellar into the classroom: The Secret in the Cellar activities and web comic are a fantastic way to excite students about the history of Colonial life in America and the science behind archeology.  This site takes students on a journey of discovery and critical thinking.  Throughout the web comic, students will find links to additional articles about the actual forensic case and the display at the Smithsonian Museum.  This activity would be best in a computer lab setting where each student can explore at their own pace.  Along the way, encourage students to keep a record of their inferences about how the boy died.  Before students complete the web-comic, discuss what conclusions students have come to based on the evidence.

Tips: Students can dig deeper into this site learning about bones, the lives of colonists, forensic anthropology, and learn more about the related exhibit at the Smithsonian.

Leave a comment and tell us how you are using The Secret in the Cellar in your classroom.

Smithsonian Virtual Museum

Posted by admin | Posted in Fun & Games, History, Interactive Whiteboard, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Virtual Field Trips, Websites | Posted on 06-07-2009

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Smithsonian virtual museum

What it is: I learn about great websites for the classroom from a variety of sources, I heard about the Smithsonian Virtual Museum from my dad.  This is the most amazing virtual look at a museum I have seen.  Students can take a self guided tour through the whole museum.  They can navigate room by room using their mouse to “walk” through the museum, or  navigate by clicking on the room or exhibit they would like to visit on the museum map.  Camera icons throughout the museum show students hotspots where students can get close to an object or exhibit panel.  This is a truly amazing way for students to learn about natural history.  Students can explore the ocean hall, ancient seas, dinosaurs, early life, fossils and plants, mammals, African cultures, ice age, western cultures, reptiles, insects, butterflies, plants, bones, geology, gems, minerals, and the hope diamond.  As students explore the museum, the map will show which exhibits have been visited and which have yet to be visited.  I am completely amazed by this site and could spend hours going through the exhibits myself, students will love it!  THIS is what virtual field trips should be!

How to integrate Smithsonian Virtual Museum into the classroom: Not all schools have the luxury or the funds to take a field trip to the museum.  Not all cities have great natural history museums like the Smithsonian.  This virtual tour is the next best thing to taking an actual field trip.  The museum can be viewed full screen which would be outstanding for an interactive whiteboard or projector.  The museum and exhibits will be life size for students to explore.  Allow students to guide the tour using the map and navigation tools.  As you “walk” from exhibit to exhibit take the time to stop and discuss what students are seeing and how it relates to what they are learning in class.  Students can also explore the Smithsonian individually on student computers.

It would be a neat assignment for a group of students to study the different exhibits in the museum.  The groups could explore and research the exhibit and then give classmates a ‘tour’ of their exhibit acting as exhibit guide with an interactive whiteboard or projector.

This is an incredible FREE resource that every classroom should use.  Even if you have access to a natural history museum for field trips, this site is still incredibly useful.  Prepare for the field trip before hand by visiting the Smithsonian Virtual Museum or follow a field trip with the site.  Compare and contrast your local natural history museum with the Smithsonian.

Tips: Make sure that you have all the appropriate plugins required for this site before using with students.

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