Collateral Learning

All posts in edtech

I realized that I was sending out way too many emails to my teachers so I’ve decided to sum it up in a “weekly digest” format.  Granted, many have appreciated the links I’ve sent, but many also ignore them.  By inundating them with fifteen or twenty emails a week, they begin to just ignore them.  Teachers are too overworked and as such may be forced to ignore great ideas simply because they don’t have time to implement them.  By sending out so many emails, I feel that I may have been adding to their burden.  Now I’m making it easier for them to just ignore one email a week instead of the multitude ;-) .  So here it is, my first installment:

Teachers’ Social Network:
Teachers Recess
Create a profile, chat, and network with other teachers is this free site.  There is a place to buy and sell supplies to/from other teachers, a live chat, personal blogs, a repository for you to upload files, and coming soon there will be an instant messaging feature.

EduBlog of the Week:
The Cool Cat teacher Blog
Great Educational Blog by Vicki Davis.  She is quite active on Twitter (see below) and has tons of great ideas and help.

Favorite Blog Posting of the Week:
No time to Pee: Making the case for teachers to empower their own profession

Want to make your own “YouTube” like page?
Free site with some great features, but as with all things free, the ads get a little annoying.

Want to poll your students using their computers and cell phones?
Poll Everywhere
Create a free account and take a poll of up to 30 users at a time.  They can text in an answer or use their computer.  You get live results that you can export into a PowerPoint and display to the class.

Keeping up with your colleagues in 140 characters or less… Twitter

Similar to your status in Facebook, Twitter lets you connect to friends and colleagues and connect to them in short 140 character updates.  Great place to ask questions, look for resources, or just taunt your neighbor.

Looking for Twitter accounts for teachers?
Twitter4Teachers (PBWiki)

Have no clue what Twitter is?  Here is some helpful guides:
Sue Waters’ PLN Yourself Blog
Twitter for Dummies
10 Easy Steps for Twitter Beginners
How to: Build Your Community on Twitter
How to NOT: Build Your Community on Twitter
The Twitter Glossary

Image representing Google Earth as depicted in...

Image via CrunchBase

I’ve been quite open regarding my love for Google, so this edtech tip should not surprise anyone. :mrgreen:

GoogleEarth is a great tool for education (more than just hunting for your house and seeing if you can count the missing shingles from your roof).  One great idea that I’ve passed on to a few of our teachers is using GoogleEarth as the starting point for creating Scavenger Hunts and WebQuests.  Depending on grade level, student ability, and comfort level of the teacher these can be as simple or as complex as you want.

The Scavenger Hunt

Most of us have done scavenger hunts before.  You’re given a series of items to find and the first to find all of them wins.  Usually the items are goofy: pictures of you next to someone wearing a striped pink sweater, a ceramic platypus, or a bass fishing trophy.  With a younger audience you could use the scavenger hunt to look for 3-D buildings, important sites, constellations (don’t forget the sky function!) and more.  For example, giving the kids a list of places to find will help them build an understanding of geography, land mass, location, mapping skills, and more.

The WebQuest

A WebQuestuses the power of the Internet and a scaffolded learning process to turn research-based theories into dependable learning-centered practices.” Basically there are four steps:

  1. Guidance- The teacher provides guidance by supplying questions, resources,and research options that will lead to a differentiated method of authentic assessment.
  2. Exploration and Discovery- Using various technological resources, students are guided through the discovery process by using the questions and resources provided in the assignment.
  3. Transformation and Application- Once the student has completed the questions and research, they can then apply their newly discovered information and grow as students.
  4. Presentation and Assessment- using a well defined rubric, the teacher needs to be able to assess if the students were successful in gaining the desired knowledge and whether or not the assignment was sufficiently successful.

Creating a WebQuest in GoogleEarth is done by creating a collection of placemarks, providing sufficient questions and resources (the older the audience, the more freedom can be given), and setting expectations and authentic assesment methods that will demonstrate the success of the assignment.  Creating the placemarks is simple, entering the data requires a rudimentary understanding of a couple HTML commands, and then you save the collection as a KMZ file that can be sent to users.  (For an excellent handout on creating placemarks, click here.)

For example, I created a small KMZ file for a WebQuest on the National Mall in Washington DC (click to download KMZ file).  By launching the file it will add the placemarks and information that I have put together to guide a student through some basics over the National Mall.  The final assessment of the assignment would be to take the information gleaned from the assignment and use it to reach an educated conclusion (such as focusing on the importance of the three monuments and the numerous speaches and protests which have taken place in the National Mall.)


There are a number of great sites for creatin webquests and using GoogleEarth.  Also look for sites where teachers share their KMZ files for you to use but don’t forget to contribute back to the community!

Geo Education HomeFind helpful information on using Google Earth, Maps, Sky, and SketchUp in your K-12 classroom.

Google Earth Blog

Google Earth Hacks – Google Earth Hacks provides links to interesting content found or created by users like you and gives you quick access to check things out in Google Earth.

Google Earth – A Free Public Resource – Providing Teachers with the tools needed to enhance their instruction using Google Earth®, the free program that brings the world to the classroom! A Website By and For Teachers.

Google Lat Long Blog – News and notes by the GoogleEarth and Maps team.

Google Lit Trips – KMZ files for literature tours in Google Earth.  Map important locations in the Aeneid, The Grapes of Wrath, MacBeth and more.

Making Movies with Google Earth

Ogle Earth blog

Real World Math – Using GoogleEarth to teach math lessons.

Spreadsheet Mapper 2.0

Using Google Earth – Learn tricks and tips to explore your world more effectively in Google Earth.

I love Google.  There, I’ve admitted it.  Just about every part of Google is great- GoogleMaps, Google Earth, Google Images, Google Video, Google Blog Search, Sketchup, GoogleReader, GMail, GoogleDocs – Everything (well, except for Google Toolbar which is absolutely wretched when it ends up on one of our student’s laptops.)  To me, Google is like my favorite restaurant: just about everything on the menu is good and they just keep coming out with better.  The big difference: for the most part, the great tools that Google offers are Free (the old college beer philosophy still applies: cheap is good, free is better.)

So, in proper form, these are a few of my favorite things:

1.  Everything GoogleEarth.  Whether it be Earth or Sky, GoogleEarth has it all.  You can email Google and get free GoogleEarth Pro licenses for your teachers (allows you to take high res pics, make video, runs a little faster), add all sorts of layers, and take you students on virtual fieldtrips of space and the Arctic when they otherwise would never be able to.  Some great sites include GoogleLitTrips which has layers that take you on walking tours of literature, do math lessons with,  not to mention with the GoogleEarth plugin you can play great timewasters such as Monster Milk Truck!

2.  GoogleMaps has use greater than just finding the closest Chinese buffet.  With the addition of Street View, GoogleMaps can be used to take walking tours of cities such as Paris, San Francisco, Memphis (TN), and more.  I’m here! is a neat application that allows you to “tweet” (for those non-Twitter people, such as myself, here’s what a “tweet” is) but also give a location as to where you are and plot it on Google Maps.  Even more intriguing is the mobile version.  Being that I’m a bit of a history/archaeology junkie, these sites caught my attention as well: The Digital Archaeological Atlas of the Holy Land and (UK) Online Archaeology.

3.  Keeping up with Google through different blogs is a great way of keeping up to date on software that is always changing.  There are some great blogs out there that cover GoogleEarth, GoogleDocs, and more.  Here’s a couple of one’s I tend to keep up with: Google Earth Hacks, Google Sightseeing, Ogle Earth, GELessons, Google Lat Long Blog, Google Earth Blog, and many more.

We, like many K-12 schools, face an interesting dilemma when it comes to making the web useful for our teachers.  When you are a multi-divisional school, how do you adapt technology usage for lower school as well as upper school kids without leaving out the fact that you also have middle school kids using it as well? Not to say that one division’s needs are any greater than another, each divisions needs are equally important, just different. So, for example, what upper school teachers may need is a repository for handouts, interactive wikis and blogs that help foster discussions and build upon the materials discussed in class. Lower School, on the other hand, needs Newsletter options- places to house images of events in the classroom so parents can see what is going on in the classes. When our school went to a new website, we were faced with this dilemma especially in what to do for Lower School so they could send out pictures without having to flood parent email boxes with gigs and gigs of data

My solution: Zoho.  Personally, I love Zoho.  It’s a great setup with many possibilities.  GoogleDocs is great (don’t get me wrong), but I love Zoho.  I think its the Notes feature (my favorite Office product right now is OneNote- I keep my life together with OneNote!)  Here’s the little presentation I put together for my Lower School teachers to see how to save a presentation to send out to their teachers:

My point is this (as if I ever really had a point…) sometimes adapting what is already out there is better than finding something new and re-inventing the wheel. By adapting software that is primarily used for presentations, teachers can send home neat little newsletters that they can share and work collaboratively on.