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Oct 31, 2011

Cells Alive!

Cells Alive! is a site focused on cells (I know, I know, not a surprise).

Jim Sullivan has offered his entire 30 year career of capturing live cells on camera. There are some great interactive animations and some really amazing "caught on film" clips of cell reproduction.

Check out cell biology. This section contains two fill-in-the-blank type charts for animal and plant cells. You can choose whether to hoover over the animation or the list of terms at the bottom of the screen. Underneath the animation is an annotated list of for each term which can give students far more information about each part of the cell. As well, everything in the interactive section of the site is very cool.  

There are rules for downloading the information but if you stay on the site (instead of downloading) you can use almost everything for free. The goal is to get you to purchase individual downloads and, if you become a heavy user of the site, it may be something to think about. Purchasing the downloads is how the creator of the site funds this project.

In a Biology classroom this could be used to introduce or help visually explain different concepts in cell reproduction. In a middle school science classroom this could be used to help study the different parts of the cell or talk about relative size of different objects (see How Big is a...?).

This is the type of site I love to find. Someone with an expertise has decided to share. Have a great time exploring the site and using this in the classroom.  

Oct 21, 2011

NASA/NSTA Web Seminars

Instead of wandering aimlessly through NASA's teacher resources, how about a guided tour? 

The NASA Explorer School project (NES) has sponsored a series of PD web seminars focusing on STEM. NES gives educators access to NASA: their scientists, research, missions, and facilities.

You can "attend" the web seminars live (each is offered a couple different times during the school year) or you can watch an archived version of them. The advantage of attending them live is the ability to interact with the presenters and other teachers. Each seminar focuses on a NASA activity, discusses implementation strategies, classroom modifications, ideas for extensions.  The project planners clearly understand teachers' schedules since most of the seminars are during after school hours.

These types of projects support NASA, support teacher groups (in this case the NSTA), support technology in education, and they are just that little wow factor students are expecting. What more could you ask for?

Oct 19, 2011

Minute Physics

Ernest Rutherford said: "Physics is the only real science. The rest are just stamp collecting." I'm not sure I agree with this Nobel Prize winner (especially since it was in Chemistry) but, following his lead, I present another physics resource. 

Minute Physics, a channel from Henry is a series of minute-ish long videos covering different physics concepts. The music is calming, Henry's voice is clear and his explanations concise. The animations are simple and easy to follow.

What a wonderful way to start a class, allow the teacher to take attendance, introduce a concept or begin a critical thinking exercise.  In a high school classroom these videos could introduce the concept for a lecture, an experiment or a just a fun way to get the juices flowing after lunch. In a middle school classroom this could be used to blow the minds of some of students and, help answer the question, why is the sky blue? Check out there is no pink light. While is won't answer the exact question, why is the sky blue?, it will begin a conversation about light, wavelengths and how reflection works that many younger students will understand.

Explore and enjoy!!

Oct 17, 2011

Creative Commons

Creative Commons is a site that holds a huge amount of information.  Much of it is legal in nature but there is a "search engine" that will allow you to do searches focused on free resources.

Content licensed under creative commons is free to use, reuse, share, modify and call your own. It was created by individuals who have chosen to share their content/material without any want of payment. In some cases the content can even be used for commercial projects.

The search engine allows you to search a number of different sites with creative common content. This can take some time but when using this engine you never have any questions about copyright or licensing.   

Explore a little and see what you find.

Oct 14, 2011

Amusement Park Physics

Alright all you Physics teachers out there, are you trying to find a fun way to connect the concepts of friction, force and energy (potential and kinetic)? Well, I think we've found one: Amusement Park Physics has students use all their base knowledge about friction and energy and apply it to a real world problem: designing a roller coaster.

The nice thing about this little flash "game" is the physics focused feedback.  After the roller coaster passes or fails its test run (if it fails you get to watch the little car fly off the track or crash and burn) you can hoover over each section of track and get specific feedback about why that selection worked or did not work and then go back, and re-design the track. 

An entire experiment or presentation project could be done. Students could set up tables with what sections they choose and why for each trail. Group presentations could be done to display:
1. What roller coaster worked and was "most fun".
2. What problems the group ran into.
3. All the physics behind each section.
4. Equations explaining speed and the potentail energy of the coaster.

This could be turned into a wonderful, problem based experiment for 11th and 12th graders taking a physics course in high school.  In an AP Physics class the addition of ALL equations and math needing to be shown and explained would bump things up a notch.

Oct 12, 2011

Taylor Mali - "What Teachers Make"

This is not a typical post for me but, I am feeling a bit down. I continue to try to find positive things online about teaching and teachers but they are few and far between.  Amongst stories of teachers sleeping with students and scandals of cheating on standardized tests are stories of state level governments trying to take control of pension funds and do away with tenure.

I left the classroom eight years ago and many of the reasons had to do with people's inability to see reform as a good thing but, there are limits. Standing on the necks of our teachers and looking down at them is not the appropriate place to begin a conversation about reform.

I see the generalized view of teachers in this country as one of a group of lazy people who enjoy their summers off, so focused on their salaries and benefits that they would rather strike (with the children suffering) then just take what they're offered. This group of people are not to be treated as professionals.

It is depressing. Why would you want your children taught by people who felt this way?

I am reminded of a conversation I had with my mother, a 30 year veteran of the K-12 classroom who holds a PhD in education:
"Mom, I'm going to get may masters degree and start teaching."
"Why in God's name would you want to do that?"

If teachers feel this way, no wonder others view the profession in such a bad light.

...And then, Taylor Mali's "What Teachers Make" shows up in my inbox one more time and I

Here's to teachers.

Oct 10, 2011

Target Practice

Karyn Hodgens, a math teacher on is creating math lessons with real world applications.  It sees simple but taking into account prior knowledge, the dynamics of groups, what can really be taught (e.g. no dice because it promotes gambling) and the length of a traditional class period and the parameters become pretty tight.

 Target Practice is a great example of a teacher using what she has, teaching a new concept in a practical way and having students stretch beyond their grade level within math.

The video is a bit long but you can easily write out a lesson plan as you follow along.  There's also a great tip about compasses and large circles, with reference to another video. Even if all you take from this video is that reference, it's worth it.

A nice little project with the outcomes being students that understand the concept, build something together, expand their knowledge and enjoy themselves in a math class.  Sounds like something to pay attention to to me.

Oct 5, 2011

Documentary Dish

Documentary Dish is a great site with videos covering space, nature, technology, history, the environment and health. Videos range in length from 2 minutes to a full 50 minutes and longer.

The videos would work great as an introduction to a particular unit or lesson. 

Check out the Galapagos Volcanoes video in the nature section.  It could be used to discuss volcanos, the Galapagos Archipelago or as an introduction to species diversity. It's a quick (5 minute, 30 second) but beautiful and engaging video.

The 55 minute video about the Wright Brothers in the history section is a great way to illustrate how experts and innovators work through problems and teaches about the Wright Brothers.

Lastly, check out the shows section.  A dozen shows with multiple episodes covering topics about space. 

I found a couple broken links, mostly videos that have been removed from youtube but overall, this is a great repository of videos that can be used with a number of different age groups in a number of different content areas. 

Oct 3, 2011

Who Am I? - A History Mystery

The American History Museum has a great little flash game: Who Am I? After looking through the museum's online exhibit: The Price of Freedom (section three covers the Civil War) and beginning to study the Civil War this game could be used in a number of different ways.

Using primary sources (writings ad objects) individuals involved in the Civil War are quickly brought to life. This simple, short game could be used as a discussion starter, a project starter, a class ending activity or even, a way to introduce a Civil War unit.

In a middle school or high school classroom students could play the game, pick one of the individuals and, using the game as a jumping off point, could do more research on the individual to create a presentation for the rest of the class. It is a wonderful way to make a topic, like the Civil War, more relevant to students.