Thursday, February 25, 2010

Inquiry in Action | Download Free Science Activities,...

Inquiry in Action is a great site from the American Chemical Society that provides classroom activities for science teachers. There are downloadable materials, step by step instructions with pictures and much more.

This is the kind of site that I love to find. It has great resources, is free, and is sponsored by a group that is expert in the topic.

There is a very nice chemistry review section and the materials are good for general science and chemistry classes.

You can download the book, "Inquiry in Action, Investigating Matter Through Inquiry" free in PDF form. They also sell a printed version in a 3 ring binder for $24.95.

I love inquiry as a learning tool, but often find myself having a hard time creating inquiry activities. This book is a great resource and can also help you create modified activities .

Green Fluorescent Protein - The GFP Site

Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP) is a great site for science teachers. It talks about the discovery and uses of fluorescent proteins in science. There are some great applications as well as some controversial ones, so there are plenty of opportunities for classroom discussions.

There are some really impressive pictures, descriptions of the uses of GRP, links, classroom ideas and more. The college professor who runs the site is very approachable and will get back to emails and will help you use the material in your classroom.

It's an interesting topic and the pictures alone can get your students' attention.

Classroom Chuckles - Humor for Educators

Classroom Chuckles is a great site for educators to get a smile or a laugh. It's a great way to refresh yourself after a rough day.

The site has postings from educators that are funny anecdotes, student blunders, and more.

Here's an example of a classroom chuckle: "Yesterday we were learning about our country. At the start of the lesson I showed the class a picture of the American Flag and asked, "What flag is this?" One of my students said "That's our country's flag." Then I said, "And what is the name of our country?" The student replied, "Tis of thee!" "

You can also sort them by grade level also - pre-school, elementary school, middle school, high school, and college.

Give your self a little chuckle each day.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

FETC Virtual Conference Spring 2010

FETC is a great educational technology conference held in Florida. They also run a virtual conference that is very good. The next virtual conference is April 22, 2010, from 10:30am to 6pm EDT. Did I mention that it is 100% FREE! Heck, you can even "attend" in your pajamas.

The virtual conference is easy to navigate and contains video presentations, discussion forums, vendor sites, and more. It is well worth your time. Everything is also archived for future reference in case you can't do all of it in real time.

There are even drawings for freebies from the vendors.

You can register for it here and get more information. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in learning more about educational technology and how it can improve teaching and learning.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Free Stuff - summary of free things I use to save money at school

Everyone in education knows that money is always a problem. We never have enough for our classrooms. But, there are ways around that. Free stuff means that you can allocate your limited funding to things you can't get free. There are also grants out there, but they can be hard to get (some grant applications are over 10 pages long!). So here is a list of free resources I use to save money at school (and at home).

1. Google Docs and Open Office. Why pay for Microsoft Office when Google Docs and OpenOffice are free! 90% of what I do can be handled with Google Docs. When I get something that is more intense and needs more features, I use OpenOffice. Our school district has been looking at Google Apps for Education, which could save us tens of thousands of dollars a year in licensing fees. The other great thing about Google Docs is that your files are online. No more worrying about copying files to a flash drive to bring home. No more excuses from students that they left their paper at home.

2. Don't print!! I try not to print or copy when I can. I do have some students who don't have computers or broadband internet at home, so I have to print some things. But, I have 8 computers for students in my room so I don't print things for class. Each class has a classroom blog (read more HERE) that I post resources, information, and class assignments on it. For computer assignments (virtual labs, research, webquests) the students just click the link. I don't have them print their work, they just email it to me, or post it as a comment to the blog. It saves time (no copying) and saves paper and toner.

3. Websites, email, and blogs for communication. The classroom blogs, my class web site, and email are all great ways to communicate. Most people have email or at least a phone that gets messaging. If schools could confirm that all parents and students have email or text messaging, or internet access and we could stop printing memos and notices. (Every teacher at my school has school email, yet the school will send an email AND print the memo - what a waste of paper).

4. Evernote - I use Evernote as a note taking system. No paper needed! I have my notes organized by topic. I have reference notes, lesson plans, tech tips, and much more on here. What I really love, is that I can access my notes from any internet enabled computer or cell phone. I also like the ability to "clip" web sites into a note in Evernote. What's great, is that hyperlinks on the web page are kept when clipped into Evernote. You can also attach files to your notes. Free accounts can only attach images (JPEG/PNG/GIF), audio (MP3, WAV, AMR), PDF, and digital ink files. I try to convert most of my files to PDF anyway for cross-platform support. (Here is some info on how to create PDF files for free on your computer, or online. ) I can access my Evernote files from any internet connected computer or smart phone too, so they are always available to me.

5. Textbooks, who needs them? I don't use a textbook with my physics classes. The book we have is outdated and hard to understand. We have a lot of them and they are in great physical condition so the district won't buy new ones. But that's OK because I don't need them. I use some websites and free physics textbooks I've found instead. No money spent on books that average $120 and will be outdated in a couple of years. No worrying about lost books.

I use as an online resource and interactive textbook for the students. I has demos, animations, and more. I also found The People's Physics book which is available online or as a download. It is really well written and has some great examples in it. I then supplement these with other websites and resources for each section.

6. Engrade - Engrade is a free online gradebook for teachers. I have all of my classes listed here and each student is given an access code so that they can see their grades any time they want. I also give access codes to the parents so that they always know how their student is doing. It is accessable from any web enabled computer and you can generate multiple reports and export the data if needed. The great thing, no paper and no money spent.

7. Free professional development - I use my Personal Learning Network for free advice, tips, and resources - why spend money to attend professional development sessions when you can find so much out there for free. Here's my article on getting started with a PLN. And I love virtual conferences, which are also free. Most major conferences have virtual counterparts, such as FETC and TechForum.

Here's some more stuff on professional development on a budget.

8. Sugarsync - Sugarsync is an online system that backs up your files and allows you to access them from any web enabled computer or smart phone. There is a free, 2GB capacity account available. What is really great is that it keeps your files in sync among multiple computers. Make a change to a file on computer A, and it is automatically uploaded and sync'd with their servers and any other computers you have specified. You can even open/edit a file directly from their server and it will automatically sync the changes you make. I keep my school files on here so that I can work on them and access them at home and on any computer at school. No need to buy flash drives that can get lost or damaged. Just have your files on your computer and available online.

9. Free educational technology magazines - There are a lot of educational and educational technology journals and magazines out there. I have two favorites, both of which are free.

The first one is Tech&Learning magazine, which I am a TL Advisor for. I write a bi-monthly blog and do product reviews for them. The magazine has a lot of great articles and resources for teachers. They also run educational technology conferences around the country. The conferences are a great way for educators to see what is new and how to integrate technology into their classrooms.

The other one is THE Journal. THE Journal is another great resource with some really good articles, tips, and information for educators.

Both magazines also have great websites with a plethora of information. You can subscribe to either an electronic or paper version of the magazines.

The articles and information in both magazines are well written, timely, and relevent and well worth reading.

10. Free educational web sites - way too many to list, but easy to find! Google is your best resource for finding great things online and then use your PLN (See #7 above) to find more great resources.

11. Donors Choose. Donors Choose was actually started by teachers. You sign up for an account, fill out a project proposal, selecting the items you need from a variety of vendors, and then people with money to donate go to Donors Choose and select projects to fund. I have had multiple projects funded through Donors Choose. It is a very simple process and the staff can help you with any problems. I have been able to get a lot of great materials and equipment for my classes through Donors Choose.

I hope this helps you with some ways to save money. Please share your ideas with us!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Biology Animation Library - Dolan DNA Learning Center

The Biology Animation Library from the Dolan DNA Learning Center is a great collection of animations for Biology. They have animations about cloning, DNA transformation, gel electrophoresis, polymerase chain reactions and much more. The animations can be used online (Flash required) or downloaded for later use and viewing.

These animations are a great way to show and explain these biology concepts.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Discovery Education STEM resources

Discovery Education STEM Connect is a great resource for teachers looking for more resources for teaching Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.

There are lesson plans, example projects, and resources for each area of STEM and they are divided by Grades 6-8 and 9-12.

The resources are very useful and easy to implement.

You do need an account to account to get to this page, but you can sign up for a free educator account (which also gives you access to the Discovery Educator Network which has even more resources).

Another Discovery Education STEM resource is the Siemens STEM Academy. This also has a great many resources for teaching STEM topics, including resources, links, and lesson plans. There are also professional development opportunities and Siemens Foundation grants and opportunities.

Explore them and see what they have to offer.

Challenge Based Learning

Challenge Based Learning is a resource from Apple that provides resources for teachers to use the "Challenges" in their classroom. The program leverages multimedia resources and "challenges" students to solve a problem working in teams. There is a lot of information and resources available for teachers and you can use their example challenges or create your own.

This is a great resource for teachers who already use Project Based Learning, or who want to start using this type of educational approach. Students learn content, communications, critical thinking and teamwork.

I have already found some great resources and ideas from this site.

If you have used this program, please share your experiences with us.

iGoogle as an organizational/educational tool

I love iGoogle. It is my main start up page and I use it to stay organized. I have my Google Bookmarks, Google Reader feed, Google Notebook, Google Tasks, Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Finance stock prices, Evernote, Google Docs, Twitter Gadget, Google Voice, Contacts, Weather, and Google Translate all on my iGoogle page. This allows me to quickly select web pages from my bookmarks, check my email and calendar, review notes and tasks, access my Evernote notebooks, check Twitter, check my Google Voice, and access my Google Docs all from one page. I can even post to this blog from it.

A lot of information is available to me at a glance. Throughout the day, I am able to keep informed and organized because I don't have to look all over the place. Everything is right in front of me.

I also think that iGoogle is a great tool for students. They can do everything I listed above, keeping their assignments, resources, and calendar all on one page for easy viewing and access. No more forgetting about things. Everything is right there for them. There is even a Facebook gadget. This means that they can be socializing on the same page that has their homework and notes.

Colleagues always ask me how I stay so connected and organized and iGoogle is my answer. Students of mine who use it have said that they love it and it makes them less likely to forget about assignments and upcoming tests.

It is easy to set up. All you need is a Google account and you are on your way. Go to Google's home page and click in the upper right hand corner on "iGoogle". Select a theme, and then start adding the gadgets that you want. Click and drag to move the gadgets around. It is really that simple.

Try it out and share your ideas with others.

Share your iGoogle gadgets that you love.

Related Articles:

List of Resources I've recently posted to Twitter

Here is a list of the resources I have posted on Twitter recently:

Tech Tip - how to mask your email address -

Google Maps adds Lab features like aerial tilting view -

Tips on Using Google Buzz -

Surf Dog promotes literacy in children of all ages.

Online Tech Tips - Google Buzz -

20 Free Apps for the Web 2.0 Student - and some more -

Digital Textbooks - online resources to replace your textbooks -

Blogs as a teaching tool - some ideas for teachers and examples -

Resources and tips for Using TV in the classroom -

Evernote - note taking, web capture, image search & much more-great resource for getting organized-

Aviary online graphics editors and web screen capture -

Science Lesson Resources - some great material -

Alternative to Microsoft Office - OpenOffice - now with improved performance -

Google Chrome Browser review and features -

Tech Tip - are you being recorded in your classroom?

Great new Web 2.0 Resource from Discovery Education -

Tech Tip - What Does "beta" mean -

Some great PowerPoint tips and resources: ,


Monday, February 8, 2010

Review - Palm Pre+ and Pixi+

(Disclaimer - I am not being compensated in any way by Verizon or Palm for this review. This is simply my take on a new smart phone and how I am using it in education).

I recently got a Palm Pre+ on Verizon. I have been a Palm user for over 10 years, starting with a Palm IIIxe, then T3, LifeDrive, TX, and Centro on Verizon. I've been anxiously awaiting the Pre on Verizon since it was announced by Palm back in January 2009. My wife got the Pixi+.

I'm not going to write a full review of the Palm Pre+ or Pixi+ because that's been done plenty of times (here is Precentral's Review). I'm going to discuss how Palm's revolutionary operating system (webOS) and the Pre are great for me as an educator.

For more in depth info on the specs of these phones you can go to Verizon's site, or Palm's site (Pre+, Pixi+).

Both phones run Palm's new operating system, webOS. WebOS is built on a Linux base and uses web technologies for programming. This means that it is very easy for people to develop apps for it. It allows for multi-tasking, which is unusual for a smart phone. The user interface is bright, easy to read, and easy to use. WebOS also has unobtrusive notifications of incoming calls and messages, allows you to sync and merge multiple accounts, contacts and calendars. It is very easy and intuitive to use with finger touches and gestures doing most functions. It also supports multi-touch gestures. WebOS's ability to multi-task is great, and all apps are handled as cards think "windows" on a PC. webOS also has "Universal Search". Simply start typing at the home screen and it will search your phone (contacts, calendar, etc) and the internet for the search term. It makes finding anything very easy.

The hardware is beautiful. The Pre+ looks like a black, smooth, pebble and fits nicely in your hand. Both the Pre+ and Pixi+ have rubberized backs to make sure they don't slip out of your hand.

The Pre+ has a larger screen than the Pixi+ and a slide out QWERTY keyboard. The Pixi+ is thinner and has a candy bar format with the QWERTY keyboard fixed in position. The Pre+ has 16GB of memory and the Pixi+ has 8GB. Both have Bluetooth and Wifi. They both have great web browsers, email systems, and MMS (text and picture messaging) and there are thousands of apps available for both phones. Both also have digital camera's and LED flashes. The web browser displays web sites just like your computer's browser does and then you can just zoom in on different parts of the page. This means no more "mobile" versions of web sites.

A very cool accessory is the Touchstone charger. The Pre+ simply sticks to this little round charger using magnets and the phone charges using inductive technology. When the phone is on the charger, the screen displays the time and any notifications.

I use my Pre+ every day in my job as an educator and it truly makes my life easier. When I wake up in the morning I go over to the phone on the charger and see what notifications I have (emails, texts, alarms and alerts). I can address those right away or just put them off until later.

I can quickly look at my calendar for the day (synced with my Google Calendar), check notes in Evernote, check my email, RSS feeds (Google Reader), Twitter and Facebook and get my self ready for the day. I also check the weather using the Weather Channel's free app.

I can use the built in Google Maps and GPS for directions and use the media player to listen to music, videos, or use a streaming music service like Pandora (free) to get some great music.

Once at school, I use it for appointments, reminders (memos), taking notes, checking email, RSS feeds, Twitter, Facebook and more from my Personal Learning Network. The multi-tasking feature means I can have apps open and running in the background while doing other things. I can even have multiple web pages open using different cards, just like I use multiple tabs on my computer. There is also a YouTube app for viewing videos. Full native Flash support is available now and the Flash app is scheduled for release by Adobe shortly. The ability to see Flash in the web browser is very important to me and education since many educational sites and science sites use Flash for demos, videos, and more. The updates are done over the air and can be automatic.

I have a scientific calculator and unit conversion app on it for use with my physics classes. I also use it to take notes, store my lesson plans, access student info and grades, and much more no matter where I am in the building.

The webOS and great hardware allow me to do so much of the things that I can do on my computer with my Pre+. It doesn't matter where I am in the school or what I'm doing, I have my files, a great web browser, email, and apps to get my work done.

I think it's a great smart phone for educators and it's just as good for students. Students can do research, take notes, go online, check email, and use tons of educational apps in their studies. (see the related article below).

The only downside to the phone is that it doesn't have the best battery life. UPDATE: The February update did bring enhanced battery performance and the battery can be switched by the user (unlike Apple products). The update to webOS 1.4 also sped up actions and applications and made a variety of other improvements.

The multi-tasking really makes things easy for me. I can have Pandora on playing music, and have multiple web browsers open, my URL shortener and a Twitter client and be able to post information to Twitter and my blog. Since all of the apps are running, there is no delay when switching from one to the other.

Overall, I am very impressed with the Pre+ (and my wife loves her Pixi+) and have found it to be a great tool for work and for fun. It is easy to use and very powerful.

I recommend it to anyone looking for a new smart phone or looking to purchase their first smart phone due to it's power, usefulness, and ease of use. The Pre+ and Pixi+ are available on Verizon Wireless and the original Pre and Pixi are available on Sprint.

It is also great for education. I'm hoping Palm will come out with a PDA version and maybe a netbook/tablet version with webOS. It is easy to use and powerful - perfect for students.

Related Articles:

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

52 Movies every Tech Geek should See

This is just a fun read. It's a list of 52 movies that every tech geek should see. I've seen almost all of them.

It's just for fun, but some of the movies can also be used for inspiration for uses of technology, or even ideas for future technology.


Monday, February 1, 2010

Practical Physics

Practical Physics is a collection of physics labs and experiments, activities, and more. There are also lesson plans, tips, and guidance on how to teach different concepts in physics.

I was very impressed with the collection of materials and was especially impressed with the guidance for teachers. This section can help teachers break down and explain concepts better.

The site breaks things down by major physics topic. There are also sections on physics applications and physics at play which can help teachers give their students an example of why this concept is important or useful.

There are also links to other physics resources.

I found this site to be very useful and very easy to use and have already used some resources from it in my physics classes.

Interactive "How the Human Brain Works"

How the Human Brain Works is a great site that makes it easy to see how the human brain works (obviously).

It will also highlight different parts of the brain that are responsible for different functions like hearing and vision.

It is free, easy to use, and easy to understand.


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