ArcGIS Explorer Online

What it is: ArcGIS Explorer Online is a neat mapping experience powered by BING that lets you use, create, and share ArcGIS (Global Information System) maps online.  The online software lets you read and write ArcGIS maps that can be used with the website, ArcGIS for the iPhone, and ArcGIS desktop version.  Mark up maps with notes that have photos, text, and links embedded directly in the map. Measure distances on the map and include them as a layer of the map.    Create a presentation in the map that guides viewers from one location on the map to another.

ArcGIS lets you create an interactive map experience.
1. choose a basemap to display your GIS data on top of.
2. Click on one of the map notes shapes to add a GIS note to your map.
3. Click "edit note" along the bottom of the note and add text, a picture, and a link.
Create a slideshow presentation of you map by clicking "Edit Presentation"
Click "Capture New Slide" to take a screen shot of your map to become a slide in the presentation.
Format the slide with the formatting tools above the map. View slides in the slide pane to the left of the map.
Click the home tab to return to the default tool bar. (You can switch back and forth between the two).
Click Measure to measure distances on the map. Click "add to map" if you want to add the measurement to the map.

How to integrate ArcGIS Explorer Online into your curriculum: ArcGIS Explorer is an impressive online mapping tool.  Use it to create guided tours for your students that can be played on classroom computers as an independent learning system or on the interactive whiteboard as a whole class map tour.  Embed links to informational websites, pictures relating to learning, and text to help guide your students through their journey.  Do one better by asking your students to create a map where they layer information, pictures, measurements, etc. on a map.  Students could create and swap tours of their home town with pen pals/blogging buddies around the world.  Create historical maps by adding notes with primary sources, pictures, links to additional learning (or blog posts that your students have written), and text that indicates the importance of the place.  Create literary maps by making note of key locations in literature that students are reading.  Students can add a note to the map with a quote from the book or a description of what happened there.  When they are finished reading, students can create a presentation/tour of the literature by creating a slide out of each place in the book.  An interactive literary tour of learning beats a traditional book report hands down!  ArcGIS would be a really neat way to plot a Flat Stanley project in the elementary classroom!

Tips: ArcGIS requires the Microsoft Silverlight plugin to work.  You can download Silverlight for free directly from the ArcGIS website.

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

Edublogger Alliance Wack Wall

In the last year I started two edubloggers alliances (you can learn about them here and here).   I have had wonderful teachers from around the world join me on this journey of blogging, commenting, and supporting fellow educational bloggers.  As it stands, there are nearly 200 educators who have committed to reading, commenting, and encouraging other bloggers.  I am still truly amazed at the results of this “crazy” idea I had.   Many have asked me when I am going to start another alliance or when I will open it up for more to join.  My answer, I have NO idea.  You see, when I started the edublogger alliance, I committed to commenting on each and every post that members of the alliance posted.  I did really well with this until the end of the school year hit.  I am still commenting, but I can’t seem to get through the 400+ edublogger posts in my Google Reader.  It made me re-think the reason I started the alliance in the first place.

My initial goal was to encourage others in their blogging.  It can be hard for those new to blogging to break into the “club” and stick with it long enough to gain readers.  My thought was, if we could encourage each other from the beginning of the blogging journey, more would stick with it.  The problem?  There are teachers who are new to blogging every day!  I can’t keep up with it on my own and yet I still have a desire to help those who are new to blogging.  My solution?  Create an edublogger alliance social network on Wack Wall.  I know what some of you are thinking: “is she out of her mind?  I already belong to 15 social networks, subscribe to countless numbers of blogs, follow people on Twitter, how in the world am I going to keep track of one more thing?!”  This isn’t my intent.  For those of you who feel overwhelmed by the prospect of joining ANOTHER social network, don’t.  It won’t hurt my feelings.  I get it…I feel the same way every time a new social network pops up.  It is too much, I can’t keep track of it all.  But, I also know that there are thousands of educators out there who would like to try their hand at blogging but need a support system.  You need someone to encourage you, answer your newbie (or not so newbie) blog questions, help you figure out how to blog with your students, help you navigate the blogging platform choices, etc.   You need a place to be plugged in with others who are working through all of this themselves.  Don’t misunderstand, the Edublogger Alliance is for everyone; of course I would love to have all of you join!  I just don’t want you to feel an obligation to sign up for one more thing if you are already overwhelmed.

Let me be clear, I am by NO means an expert of any sort on blogging, I just know that I wish that I had someone to guide me in my blogging journey.  I wish I had someone to ask questions, and sort through WordPress and blogging etiquette with.   My hope is that this will be a place where blogging educators can come together, share what is working and what isn’t, ask questions, and get answers.  I want it to be a place where those who have been blogging for a little while can help those who are just dipping their toes in.  I want it to be a place of discussion and encouragement.

If this social network isn’t for you, if you are already stretched in a million directions, that is fine…I truly do understand.   I will ask you to keep your ears open and offer it as a suggestion for those new to blogging, or those looking for a place to connect with other educators.

Below are a few screen shots of the new iLearn Technology Edublogger Alliance with some explanations about how it works and what you can expect to find there.

The dashboard is your
On the blog tab you can write, share, or read a blog post.
Add the link to your blog on the link tab.
Join a group to find others using your same blog platform, or to share blogging tips, tricks, and ideas.
Start or add to a discussion on the forum page.

If you are interested in joining me on this journey, you can sign up here.  Don’t forget to pass this on to all those teachers who are deciding to try blogging for the first time this year.  They are going to need help!

Sharendipity

What it is: Sharendipity is an excellent online tool that lets you easily create your own learning and educational game.  You can do this by using one of the Sharendipity ready-made templates, or you can create a game from scratch.  There just isn’t always a quality game for students to practice with when you need one.  I know I have found myself wishing that I could find a game focusing on the exact phonic skill or a game that used the vocabulary that we were working on in class.  Often those tailor-made games just don’t exist.  Sharendipity is the answer, making it simple to create your own custom games.  Games are a fun way for students to practice a new skill and they make a great quick center activity on classroom computers.

How to integrate Sharendipity into your curriculum: Create games that are tailored to your students learning needs.  Sharendipity makes it easy enough to create fun games, you can create one in the time it would take you to make copies of worksheets.   Use one of the ready-made templates for the easiest game creation, or if you are feeling brave, start from scratch and make your own.  You can upload all of your own images to Sharendipity making customization really easy.  Consider using pictures of your class, school, or students as the background of a game.  Your students are sure to love seeing familiar faces or landmarks as part of the game.  These games are great for fact practice and recall in math, vocabulary, spelling, phonics, or geography where quick recall of the basics is key.  Sharendipity will walk you through each step of the game making process and when you are finished, you can share the url or embed the game in a class website.  If your students are a little older, they can make their own Sharendipity games to practice with.  Students can create games for their classmates to play as a way to study.  I have students who were constantly creating games and practice activities for my classroom; they got really good at it!  If you are teaching in a computer lab, Sharendipity is a fun way for students to create “original” content for their wiki, blog, or website.  At my school, we buddy up older grade level students with younger grade level students.  It was fun for the older kids to create special games for their buddies after learning about their buddies favorite things.  For example, one student found out that their buddy loved basketball and created a basketball themed spelling activity for them.

If you collaborate with another class or another school, it would be neat to swap customized games with them.

Tips: If you are braving creating your own game, be sure to check out Sherendipity’s learning center for a great guide on how to use the tools.

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

DragON Tape

What it is: DragON Tape is a web application that lets you create video “mix tapes” (mashups) of YouTube Videos.  DragoON Tape is really simple to use, just search for a video by YouTube URL or subject and drag it down to the timeline.  Add as many videos to the timeline as you want and save it.  DragON Tape makes it easy to give your students access to several videos with just one url.

How to integrate DragON Tape into your curriculum: DragON Tape is a simple way for you to create a mix of videos for your students to watch, collected under one url.  DragON Tape is very easy to use and share, you can create a video mashup in no time.  This is a great way to send video collections to students and colleagues.  If you have access to YouTube at school, students could create their own DragON Tape mixes on any subject.  Students can mix the best of the best videos on a subject to share with classmates.  This year, I had my students make video commercials advertising Free Rice that we uploaded to YouTube.  DragON Tape would be a fantastic way to collect all of the student videos in one url so that students and parents could watch the student creations in one place.  DragON Tape is easy to fast forward and rewind through making it perfect for this type of class video collection.  Want to see DragON Tape in action? Check out this phonics mix I made in under 2 min!  Another thing that I like about DragON Tape is the way that it isolates YouTube videos against a black screen when it replays them.  There are no distracting comments, advertisements, or related videos suggested.  DragON is perfect for the projector-connected computer, interactive whiteboard, or on computer lab or classroom computers as part of a guided learning activity.

Tips: DragON Tape requires an email for registration.  If students are creating mixes, consider creating and using a class email address as the login credentials or used a @tempinbox or @mailinator temporary inbox address.

Please leave a comment and share how you are using DragON Tape in your classroom!

Treasures MacMillan McGraw Hill Supplement

I am not a fan of canned curriculum.  It has some benefits and is relatively easy to teach, but there is a lack of differentiation for different learners and the activities for practice are often shallow.  Treasures has some fun stories and themes but they are really lacking in their activities to practice the essential learning.  The activities are often shallow and don’t change from first grade to fifth grade.  The same copy from the dictionary activity is suggested for learning vocabulary for every unit in every grade level.  I created the Treasures supplement as a way to help teachers provide students with multiple ways of practicing the essential learnings.  I just finished the supplement for unit 1.  This is the supplement for first through fifth grade.