Category Archives: web resources

My Highlights From the 2011 NABT Conference

I came late and left early, but here a few of my favorites from the two days I spent in Anaheim, CA at the 2011 National Association of Biology Teachers meeting.

HHMI Night at the Movies:  On Wednesday evening, we were all treated to a movie night (complete with popcorn), emceed by Sean Caroll. The evening featured three movie “shorts” (about 10 minutes each) that are part of an evolution storytelling series called “The Making of the Fittest”.  The series is produced by HHMI and the Biointeractive team.  They are optimized for classroom use, each one features Sean, traveling with a research scientist to demonstrate and explain their research. Very well done and just at the right level for high school/introductory biology. Meeting attendees received a CD with the three films but they will be available for downloaded here. In the meantime, I found the three videos here (scroll down to find the links).

Biology Best Bets:  Every year I faithfully attend Sue Black (Inglemoor HS) and Nancy Monson’s (West Linn HS) “Biology Best Bets” because they always deliver terrific new ideas that come directly from their own classroom experience. This year marked their 15th (!) and it did not disappoint.  You can find their wonderful ideas, along with worksheets, handouts, and links here.

Biology and the Arts:  Diane Sweeney and Mike Judge (Punahou High School) gave a rousing workshop, chock-full of great ideas for integrating cooking, crafts, dance and music into AP Biology.  They’ve formed an AP Bio Band at their school and have recently cut a CD of their students singing biological lyrics set to popular tunes.  You can find their materials here. Lots of fun.

SpongeLab:  Until this meeting, I’d never heard of this Toronto-based company with a web site of the same name. Spongelab positions itself as a game-based, online learning resource.  Their website (which you can join for no cost) offers a rich library of very good-looking graphics, animations, and casual games.  Everything on the site carries a “cc-by” license and can be downloaded, embedded in your own site or PPT.  The site is supported by advertisements (from publishers) and they do sell site licenses for the games and the tracking data on your students who play the games on the site in your created “classroom”.  They also have a number of more serious games under development which, I’m sure, will be sold. They had a booth in the exhibit hall and I sat in on a session given by the company’s owner, Jeremy Friedberg. As you play games or use images on their site, you earn “points” which unlock new features and access to other goodies (employing what Friedberg refers to as a “game layer” into the site).

Epigenetics:  Louisa Stark, Director of the Genetic Science Learning Center, gave a terrific talk entitled, “Lamarck Wasn’t All Wrong:  The New Science of Epigenetics“.  Stark shared recent research revealing that the genome, far from being a static, fixed entity dynamically responds to all manner of external stimuli. Diet, exercise, maternal care, environmental cues, toxins – all can have an impact of which genes are expressed or suppressed.  Epigenetics is the study of changes in gene expression caused by mechanisms other than changes in the underlying DNA sequence (hence the name “epi”, meaning over, above, outer).

And as if that’s not cool enough, apparently these changes may remain through subsequent cell divisions and, in some cases, are passed along from generation to generation (thus the title of her talk).  Stark shared some wonderful resources on the University of Utah, Generics Science Learning Center web site that are well worth exploring.  Particularly powerful (and at the right level for 9th/10th graders) is the video explaining epigenetics research done with identical twins.

The general site:

Content on epigenetics:

Video on twins research:

Updates on AP Biology:  I sat in on a couple of the College Board sessions as well as Fred & Theresa Holtzclaw’s excellent session, “Help Your Students Succeed in AP Biology”.  Although there still isn’t all that much information coming from The College Board on AP Bio, I did learn a few new things.  Here are the key dates they shared:

February 2012  New Course materials will be available (including labs)

March 1, 2012  TCB will begin accepted AP Biology syllabi

January 1, 2013  All AP Bio syllabi are due

2013 will be the first of the new exam

They will be offering professional development both online and in summer workshops.  Fred Holtzclaw predicted that, since there are precious few authorized workshop instructors, the workshops will most likely fill up quickly (sign up as soon as you can).

The proposed structure of the new exam is currently looking like this:

Section 1: 

63 Multiple choice questions

6 In-grid questions

(90 minutes)

Section 2:  

2 Free-response questions

6 Short free-response questions

(90 minutes)

College Board officials suggested referring to the New York Times article (about AP reform) for representative samples of the question styles.

A few other things I learned from talking with others:

– The College Board is developing online materials to support teachers in the new curriculum.  They will include help for teaching the most difficult concepts and assessing student progress in meeting these objectives.

– The College Board will post a few sample audits” in early 2012 so that we can review what will be expected

– 50% of the 180k students who take the AP Bio exam currently score a “1” or a “2”.  Ouch.

It was surprising to me how little information about the new Framework was available at the meeting.  In fact, I would say that I didn’t learn much over what was said about it at the 2010 NABT.  From what I understand of the new Framework, there’s a lot of good news here.  When you think about it, biology educators should be excited and invigorated by this new direction!  Instead, mostly what I sensed was anxiety and concern.  My opinion is that the anxiety stems from a lack of information (we naturally fear what we do not fully understand).  While I understand not wanting to release flawed or incomplete information, there is sometimes greater risk in providing too little information. The College Board should be over-communicating about their plans and new materials.  Instead, it feels like they are holding all the cards, close to the vest, and dole out the information in small increments.  What a missed opportunity.

Eugenie Scott's talk at the 2011 NABT

Denialism of Climate Change and Evolution:  Eugenie Scott (National Center for Science Education) gave a rousing talk about science “denialism” and its impact on biology educations.  She pointed out ample and specific examples to show the remarkably similar approaches taken by deniers of both evolution and climate change.  The basic approach is to distract from the data with tangential issues (e.g. the peppered moths or “Climategate”) cast doubt on the issue (by cherry picking data or providing list of “scientists” who disagree or deny), and then plead for fairness so that teachers can “teach the full range of views”. The language used in the plea for fairness, of course, resonates with us, as Americans, who hold the principles of a democratic society near and dear. But as Scott points out, the job of a 9th grade biology teacher is not as simple as that. She gave us a number of excellent resources and urged any teachers having trouble teaching these issues in their schools to get help.

But, by far and away, my best moment from the conference was when I found (and purchased) my very own Charles Darwin bobblehead.  Oh yah.



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A Social Media Experiment at #NABT10

At the National Association of Biology Teachers (NABT) conference in Minneapolis this year, there was a little card (above) in the goodie participants were given at the registration booth.  The card urged anyone posting content related to the conference to add the identifying “hashtag“, #NABT10, to their postings. A hashtag is a short character string, preceded by the # sign, that serves as a marker.  A tag. An indentifier, so that others can find your stuff in the vast sea of information known as the world wide web.

For those not able to attend the conference, the hashtag made it easier to tap into the stream of content coming from the conference – photos, blog posts, tweets (from Twitter), Powerpoint slide decks – any of those items posted online that include the hashtag “#NABT10” can be easily found.

Here’s an example.  If you go the web site Tweetchat (a Twitter application that makes it easy to search Twitter with a particular hashtag), you can pull up all of the Tweets posted with that hashtag.  Here’s a glimpse of those (the real list is much longer and must be scrolled through).

In that list, you’ll find tweets that I posted during Sue Black and Nancy Monson’s excellent “Biology Best Bets” talk – their fourteenth such talk at NABT. Sue and Nancy give their audience the benefit of their combined 40+ years of teaching experience and shared the most incredibly creative ideas for demonstrations, labs and activities.  So, even if you weren’t with us in the room, you could get a “feel” for their talk from the tweets.  Not only that, I included the link to their handout (the url of which they gave us during the session) in one of the tweets.  It’s the next best thing to being there.

Here’s another example.  On Saturday morning, Richard Dawkins gave a featured speaker address – a Q/A session, attended by every biology teacher there.  The room was packed.  Scrolling through the list of tweets, you can see that both Stacy Baker and I were “live tweeting” the session, passing along quotes and summaries from the points that Dawkins was making.

And another.  Brad Williamson took photos of all of the 4-year divisions poster session posters on Friday evening and posted them in a Flickr slideshow.  Since he added the conference hashtag, that slide show is a breeze to find.

A little hashtag like this….just seven characters long….might sound like a small thing, but it’s a big step forward for the NABT organization.  A sign of good things to come as this community steps into the future in order to begin to realize the benefits that social media and online communities can offer to the NABT membership.

What’s next?  Livestreaming NABT talks over the internet?  Communities of new and experienced teachers, tapping into each other’s strengths in online work groups?  The AP Biology community contributing and conversing on this NABT Bio Blog? Professional development webinars?  Stay tuned…

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Using QR Codes in the Classroom


QR code. (Big Bozo, Creative Commons)

Raise your hand if you know what that funny looking black and white thing is on the brick wall above.  That is a QR code. What, you may well ask, are QR codes?  QR = Quick Response.  A bit of an unknown here in the U.S., but they are all over Japan (and have been for years) and are starting to make headway in Europe.


QR code billboard in Japan

Think of them as fancy, 2D bar codes.  First introduced in 1994, these are matrix codes that, when scanned, redirect you to whatever digital information has been encoded there (urls, whatever).  They are a very efficient and reliable way to provide a url in non-networked situation – e.g on paper, on a billboard, on a painted surface – anywhere.  A QR code can hold a lot of information  – up  to 4,000 characters.  Even a simple jpeg can be scanned into a QR code, faxed, and then read at the other end.

But how are these QR codes read?  With any one of a number of free QR code readers – free apps that can be downloaded to a cell phone.  In fact, most new cell phones come already pre-loaded with QR code readers.  Once you have the reader, you just aim the phone’s camera at the QR code, the camera registers the data, and redirects you to whatever information was programmed into the code.  If it was a url, your phone will kick start the browser and take you to the desired web site. Bee Tag is the reader that I use, and i-nigma is a very popular one. Here’s a very simple, short video, showing you how it’s done.

And how do you generate these QR codes?  With any one of a number of free QR code generation sites.  Like Kaywa or QRStuff.   You just enter the url (or other data) you want to encode and the site spawns a printable QR code for you. Voila!


A QR code embedded with my contact information.

Here’s what QR codes look like.  This one, by the way, is embedded with all of my contact information, the url for this blog, my skype and twitter IDs.  I use it on my business card.


Clever uses of QR codes (Creative Commons)

So, how might they be used in teaching?  At the simplest level, you could include them in a printed worksheet (for homework or on an exam).  Another idea would be to use small QR code labels in a lab – print them on ready-to-peel labels or tape them onto basic lab equipment (microscopes, glassware, sensors, binoculars, cabinets or drawers). The codes would would lead students to teaching videos or amplified safety information. QR codes printed on labels could be applied to bones or preserved specimens to lead students to further information or investigation.  Perhaps you could assign students the project of creating these QR codes for your lab supplies and equipment? Another possibility might be to use QR codes in an assessment – they go to the pre-determined site, watch a video or an animation, then answer questions about it. Use them for orienteering in an outdoor education course or on a field trip.  The QR codes could connect to maps or destinations on Google Earth. Have students create their own QR codes that they submit as an assignment. Maybe a “get-to-know-the-lab” scavenger hunt at the beginning of the year? Maybe have them printed on t-shirts as end of the year prizes?  Put them on business cards, luggage tags or make temporary tatoos out of them!  Just for fun, check out this video of a summer project, sponsored by a Japanese company to make a dramatically scaled QR code, out of sand.

What ideas do you have for using QR codes?


Filed under Teaching with Technology, Uncategorized, web resources

Screenshots – How to Make Them and How to Use Them

Do you know how to take a picture of whatever is happening on your computer screen (known as a “screenshot”) and then play around with it and fancy it up?  If you do, find another entry on my blog to browse.  If you don’t — read on!

A little "meta-thinking" image...

A little "meta-thinking" screenshot...

Taking a screenshot (and then futzing with it) can be a very, very useful thing to know how to do. For instance, you might want to highlight a few key elements of the shot, draw an arrow to point out a particular event happening, write an explanatory call-out in your own words, or layer an additional image on top of the screen shot.

I use screen shots primarily to give people directions. For example, I use them to provide step-by-step instructions on how to edit a wiki or how to sign up for Second Life and get your avatar.  Using screenshots to illustrate your story is really helpful, but it’s even better if you can annotate and draw on them.  Teachers can use screenshots as a way to determine whether or not a student has completed an online assignment.  For example, if you ask your students to complete an online activity for homework, ask them to email you a screenshot of the finished activity.  There’s only one way they can get that.

So, just to review how to take a screenshot on your computer.  If you’re on a PC, you just press the “Printscreen” (typically labeled “PrtScn”) button. That will save the image on your computer’s clipboard so that you can then paste it into any editing software.  If you’re on a Mac, you have your choice – if you just want a shot of the whole screen, it’s “apple/shift/3” if you want to decide which segment of the screen to take a picture of, it’s “apple/shift/4”.  That last keyboard combination on a mac turns your cursor into a cross-hair and you can click and drag to the exact dimension of your preferred shot.  In either case, the image gets saved to your desktop. If you add space bar to that last keyboard combo, your mouse becomes a camera and you can move it to whatever application you want to take a picture of.  Add “control” to either of the two keyboard combo and you save the image to your clipboard, instead of saving the image as a file to your desktop. (gotta love it)

Now, here a few free tools to help you with the futzing part:

1.  Jing.  This handy little free app works with both PC and Mac and it can not only snap a picture of your screen but you can record short videos of on-screen action as well.  You just download it and the icon sits on your desktop, to be used whenever.  You can save your images/videos to your computer or you can take advantage of Jing’s ability to host your shots on their server and spawn links to your created items.

2.  Evernote.  This one is really a powerful tool and can be used for much more than just screen shots.  It’s really an uber note-taking device – a way to clip, store and organize all your various notes, lists, and ideas in one, handy online place.  So you can type yourself textnotes, clip a web page, snap a photo, or grab a screenshot. Definitely worth checking out.

3.  Irfanview.  This is a PC-only, free tool that’s quite powerful.  You can certainly do screengrabs with it but it also has an image editor so you can resize, add call-outs, arrows, whatever.

4.  Screendash.  With this one you can capture images from your screen, a webcam or an iphone.  You can draw on the captured images, enhance them, add clip-art, change sizes.  LIke Jing, ScreenDash will save your images on their server and spawn a link for you as well.  Free and very easy to use.

5. FireShot.  This is an add-on for use with the Firefox browser so youll only be interested in this one if you regularly use Firefox AND if you have a PC (since this little baby is not available for MacOSX).  This little plugin provides a sert of editing and annotations tools that can be saved to your hard drive or uploaded to a public server.

6.  Grab.  If you’re on a Mac, you already have this one (in the Utilities folder).  Very spiffy.  You just tell it what kind of a capture you want to do (selection, window, screen, timed screen).  With this one you can include a cursor or a pull-down menu in your shot.

So, now that you know how to take and augment screenshots – what are some of your ideas for using them?

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To the Moon







Apollo 11 liftoff from launch tower camera




Where were you on July 20, 1969?  I put that question to my friends and family last week and I got a wonderful collection of answers. A common element in all their stories was a small, scratchy (typically borrowed) black & white TV set, with a large group of people, crowded around to watch the flickering images of the first walk on the moon. Breathlessly.

I was 11 years old and a camper in the Feather River Canyon in California, attending a two-week summer camp. Apollo 11 landed at 4:18 pm EDT, so that would have been 1:18, California time, just after lunch.  I remember crowding into a room behind the camp’s dining hall with a hoard of other people, straining to see the small black and white TV screen.  The only broadcast they could receive in that remote location happened to be in Italian (go figure) and so, between the scratchy image and the fact that no one present understood Italian, we had to piece together and narrate what we were seeing.  I can remember the distinct feeling that this was history in the making.  This was something special. And this was something that I would always remember.  

At 10:56 EDT, Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon, and the world watched.  Buzz Aldrin, emerged soon after. Over 2 ½ hours, the two astronauts collected 47 pounds (!) of lunar surface material and re-entered the lunar module.

We Choose the Moon site

We Choose the Moon site

Just as the folks at the John F. Kennedy library hoped, their re-creation web site, We Choose The Moon, is tuning Americans into their memories of the historic mission. This is a wonderful site, well worth the visit.  It’s a real-time mission reenactment, tracking the actual mission events (with historic images and footage), just as they happened 40 years ago. You can follow newsroom feeds, monitor the flight path, get updates from mission control (via twitter or from the Mission tracker widget on your web page or social media site).  It’s a very good example of the kind of teaching that can be done with new technology.  My only gripe about it is that they missed the opportunity to make it a 2.0 site by failing to invite people to share their memories and embellish the site with their perspective.  Too bad.

Aldrin's boot.

Aldrin's boot.

After you’ve taken a look at that site, take a look at some of the other, amazing online treasures in NASA’s vaults and others – it’s just incredible, what’s available online. NASA has just released newly restored Apollo 11 footage – excerpts really – from the take off, to the landing, and the lift-off back to earth.  You can find it in this New York Times article, along with a hilarious “hoax” video (scroll down to find that one) – and, yes, apparently some people still think that the whole thing was a hoax.  And, in case you wanted to compare, here’s the actual landing footage (pre-restoration).

Here’s a QT movie of the mission, put together by NASA.  And the official NASA site on the history of the mission. NASA has also posted the private taped conversations between Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins, recorded aboard the command module, Columbia, and the lunar module, Eagle, along with an audio database of other recordings.

You can find all kinds of downloadable images, videos and pdfs (from NASA) and here is the Apollo 11 image gallery (some great stuff to be found!).

The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum’s Apollo 11 site has lots of information on the mission, the crew, the spacecraft, the landing site and some amazing images. 

To get a better sense of the lunar landscape, here’s a QTVR image scape of the moon taken by Apollo 17 and first published on anniversary #35 of Apollo 11.  Use your mouse have a look around and around and around.

Unfortunately, as we learned from NPR this week, NASA isn’t the best steward of history. Check out this 7.16.09 story explaining how the original tapes of the Apollo 11 moonwalk probably destroyed during a period when NASA was re-using old magnetic tapes to reuse them for satellite data.   The newly restored video that I mentioned earlier was actually pieced together from a variety of sources, the best of the various broadcast clips.

Discovery Channel has an impressive archive of videos of the various NASA missions – lots of fun to explore there.  Just for fun, you can pick up a Lunar Module service manual or a space suit replica (for $9,500) on eBay. 



The Apollo 11 mission fulfilled President John F. Kennedy’s inspirational goal of reaching the moon by the end of the 1960’s.  But it did so much more for all of us.  It gave us the first images of the Earth, taken from the moon. Images that undeniably changed our perspective on our fragile planet and the need for stewardship. The mission showed us men, closely encased in technology, operating dials, levers and computers to sustain their lives in an inhospitable environment. The mission gave us courage to strive for things that might seem unattainable.  It made us explorers again.

When I asked my good friend, Louise, what she was doing on July 20th, 1969, she described the same scratchy black and white television that everyone else seems to remember and then went on to relate how she walked outside and looked up at the moon, marveling, and feeling a little, well, bereft.  She reminded me of the Shelley poem…

And, like a dying lady lean and pale,

Who totters forth, wrapp’d in a gauzy veil,

Out of her chamber, led by the insane

And feeble wanderings of her fading brain,

The moon arose up in the murky east

A white and shapeless mass.


Art thou pale for weariness

Of climbing heaven and gazing on the earth,

Wandering companionless

Among the stars that have a different birth,

And ever changing, like a joyless eye

That finds no object worth its constancy?


…And I felt the sway and tug of it, right along with her.

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Twenty of My Favorite Things

From The Sound of Music

From The Sound of Music

Recently, a colleague asked me what ideas I might have for interesting student projects that would take advantage of these new, participatory media tools.  I thought about it and started to make a list.  I came up with about 30 ideas but some of them were a little weak…. so I whittled the list down to 20 of my favorites.  And here they are.  With linked examples, where I had one. I hope you like…(and a yellow jelly bean to anyone who can name the song from the photo).

1.  5-Photo Story
Plan and storyboard a five- (or ten?) image story. Take the photos with a digital camera and post them to a Flickr group. Ask all members of the group to comment on each others photos. Design a rubric to guide the comments (in order to avoid platitudes or uniformed praise)

2.  Annotated Reading
Start a conversation around an article. Bookmark the article’s online location (using Diigo) and insert comments/questions. Provide the group with your bookmarked version (url) and then they add their comments/questions. Example.

3.  Wiki Process Journal
Create a wiki space for a group to use over the course of a project or an experiment. Team members keep their notes and observations about the process.  The group’s final product will be in some other form; the wiki is there to document the process. The process journal could be organized chronologically or by team member (with each team member owning a page).  The team could document their process with video, photos, or text.

4.  Project Timeline
Use a web-based time line creation tool (xtimeline, timetoast) to document a product/process or to plan a future project.  Comments are embedded in the timeline, document/photos are attached, and links embedded. The timeline is stored online so that others can view it, edit it, and add to it.

5.  Self-Published Book
A book is identified as the outcome of a particular process or project. The team works together to write the book and then self-publishes, using one of any number of online publishing sites (LuLu, Myebook).

6.  Animated Movie
Make an animated movie to tell a story, present a case, or explain a principle. (Goanimate makes animation easy, xtranormal is a unique movie generation service that converts a text description to a movie)

7.  Introduce Yourself
Make a media piece that tells your personal story (or your school’s story) to use for group introductions (back to school night?).  Animoto, IAMUNIQUE, Eyejot, or Wordle are all good tools for this sort of high-impact, at-a-glance”capture”.  Perhaps post all individual “introductions” to a wiki page?  Example.

8.  Create a Bell-Ringer
To wrap up a chapter, a unit, or slam home a complex topic, have students create a “bell-ringer” (using Animoto) to summarize the main points or the experience. ExampleAnother example.

9.  Put it in the Funny Papers
Use a comic generator (Pixton) to create a comic strip to explain a concpet, describe an assignment, or model appropriate team behavior.  First build the story with a mistaken conclusion or a wrong answer and then build it with the right answer. Have a discussion around the two scenarios.

10.  Build a Collaboration
Use VoiceThread to create a conversation around a series of images, a concept or a scenario.  Use the audio recording to narrate a series of still pictures/photos. Once complete, provide the link and all members of the team can comment on the story (leaving their own voice recordings embedded or commented through text).  With time, the recorded observations, insights, and suggestions from all team members are captured within the case’s VoiceThread file. Maybe even invite an outside expert to add comments to a class VoiceThread. A VoiceThread allows a group conversation to be collected from anywhere and then shared in one simple place. Here’s a terrific example of a Voicethread created by Tod Duncan (UC Denver) for his cancer biology course. And another example built by Kelly Hogan  (UNC Chapel Hill) for her non-science majors’ biology course.

11.  Presentations To-Go with Prezi
Traditional Powerpoint presentations can be boring and they don’t travel well without the presenter.  Create your presentation in Prezi which allows you to narrate, annotate, and focus the students’ eye on the points you consider most important.  Post your Prezi on your web site or put it on a CD. Students can create prezis too.  Here is an excellent example prezi presentation created by one of Cheryl Holinger’s (Central York High School) students.

12. Broadcast Yourself
With an internet connection and a webcam, you can create a live, broadcast show online with any of the interactive web streaming platforms (Livestream, Blogamp, or UStream). Broadcast an event, a talk-show, an interview, a field trip, a debate or deliver a live conversation with participants in different locations. Viewers can pose questions or comment in the chat window. The show can be recorded and archived for later viewing and reflection.

13.  Tell a Digital Story
Use digital tools to tell your story (a project, a personal story, a success story, a retrospective on a failure).  The Center for Digital Storytelling has a number of helpful tools and articles.  Example Stories.

14.  Produce a Film
Using small, easy-to-use low-cost video cameras (like the Flip camera), it’s relatively easy to create simple videos.  Video is an effective way to model behavior, demonstrate a successful encounter/experiment, document an event or a field trip, record an interview with a subject-matter expert.  Post your video online and use either veotag or bubbleply to annotate your video and direct students to particular segments.

15. Podcast It
Ask students to create a podcast (or a series of podcasts).  Short (3 -5 minute) descriptions or explanations, based on a script they write.  The podcasts can be simply audio or they can enhance them with video or still graphics (using Garageband or Audacity).  Podcasts can be posted and distributed online through iTunes or Odeo.

16.  Crossword
Use Crossword compiler to create an online crossword for others to complete.

17.  Analyze What You’ve Written
Challenge students to use Wordle to take a critical look at a report, an essay, or an assessment. Paste the entire document or block of text into Wordle and analyze the resulting map.  Are the most prominent words what you expected?  Does the document reflect the major points you wanted to make? If not, why not?  Make changes to the document and then paste the new version into Wordle.  Compare the before and after results.

18.  Locate Yourself
GoogleEarth works well for creating location-based stories (Darwin’s HMS Beagle Voyage, WWII battles, the expansion of the Roman Empire). Use it to visualize all of the member locations in a particular group or provide location context for research or world events.  Take someone on a tour of a city or a neighborhood by pre-locating place pins and recording your commentary with built-in audio recording.  GoogleEarth 5 also now includes historical imagery from around the globe and ocean images.

19.  Join the Blogosphere
Start an individual blog (your letter to the world) or do a group/class blog with rotating posting responsibility.  Blogs can be text-based or video blogs (vlogs). The best blogs have a strong voice, something worthwhile to say, and invite commentary.  Example, Howard Reingold’s excellent vlog.

20.  A Little Online Brainstorming
Online, shareable white boards (like Skribl or Scriblink) and mind mapping applications (like text2mindmap) can make a group brainstorming activity more interesting. Upload images, doodle, share the pen, chat and when you’re done, print, save, email the results.

Send me other favorite things, and we’ll get the list up to 40.  Or more!


Filed under Teaching with Technology, web resources

Video Tools

Picture 2Video is a powerful medium.  No doubt about it.  Not only does it have an emotional quality to it (that amplifies its impact) but it packs information efficiently.  The only catch is that when we show a video to students, we like to sort of narrate it, explain it, or at least provide context.  We like to point out important things, ask questions, or make sure that the students get all the connections. Those requirements usually mean that valuable in-class time is required to show video.

There are a couple of new online tools that could help with this dilemma. The first one I found is called Veotag.  With this application you can basically make a table of contents to a video (with chapter or topic headings).  The video plays side by side with your constructed table of contents. Students can jump to the various parts of the video by clicking on your pre-created links.  You can also add notes, tags, and comments to further explain or amplify what’s going on in the video. Your notes and the table of contents display next to the viewing window. As an additional benefit, if you are working with one of your own videos or a student-created video, these “veotags” are apparently automatically picked up by search engines so you’ll get more search engine traffic to your site by posting veotagged videos.

The other one you might want to try is Bubbleply.  With this tool you can add a data layer to run on top of any existing, online video. You can put text comments, images, or links in that data layer.  When you’re done, Bubbleply generates a new link. You then send your students to that new link and they’ll see your annotated version of the video. So, with this tool, they will see the video and your comments simultaneously in the same window.

At first I was thinking that these tools could be used to create teacher-annotated content videos so that students could watch them outside of class even when you’re not there to narrate them. But it occurs to me that they could also be used by students to create their own narrated videos.

Any other ideas?

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