Peggy Sheehy is a trailblazer. Sheehy is a media specialist at Suffern Middle School. Her daughter nagged her for months to check out a project she was working on, so one day Sheehy created an account in Second Life. It didn’t take long for her to see the potential of the 3D virtual world in a classroom. She took the time to acclimate herself to Second Life then developed a proposal to buy a series of private islands for her colleagues to use as a tool for learning.
Now, before you begin to say BUT WHAT ABOUT…, Sheehy has already thought through it. She has a system in place to complete a comprehensive background check for any adult allowed on the schools private islands. There was training for teachers before the students ever saw the virtual world. The students went through comprehensive training that clearly explained what is appropriate behavior on the island. Sheehy said she only had to suspend the rights of one student temporarily. The kids realized right away how special an opportunity it was to be apart of the project and have been very careful with their behavior.
Stepping beyond the fear of disaster, Suffern’s Second Life presence has yielded projects as varied as a mock trial based on Of Mice and Men and an Entrepreneur Project. The feedback from teachers and students has been affirming, and the staff continues to find new ways to move their students into the virtual classroom.
Interested? Here are a few sites that might give you some direction.
Suffern’s Second Life Blog
Adult Clearance Procedure
Article From School Library Journal
Special thanks to the Lower Hudson Regional Info Center for connecting us with Peggy Sheehy at their tech expo.
Many of us have a core set of blogs we check everyday for insight and inspiration. Most of those blogs are text-base, yet there is a subcategory of blogs that focus on images. Photoblogs are blogs that feature pictures either found or taken. The layout and interface of a photoblog differs from the traditional blog. Typical photoblogs feature one picture at at time with a couple toggle buttons to move from one photo to the next. Some bloggers narrate their pictures and others let the photos speak for themselves.
I have to remind myself on a weekly basis that my students speak in a language of images–a language that sounds like broken English when I try to speak it. My mumbled and fumbled attempts are not in vain. My students understand that I am trying to show a level of respect for the world they are creating. I encourage you to consider this as you review your lessons and think about tweaking them for next year. If images are becoming the glue that holds our text-based lessons together, then imagine the power of telling a story or teaching a concept with images that are stitched together with words.
Photoblogs, Flickr, and other image-sharing sites are an untapped resources for transforming (or maybe even translating) our lessons for our students.
The picture above is from Shorpy (via MetaFilter)–a blog dedicated to photos taken 100 years ago.
Future Me allows you to write yourself and email and have it sent at a time of your choosing (dramatic music) in the future. While you may not have a flux capacitor you can get your students emailing themselves up to 30 years into the future (you can do much less).
Whether the site, the student email address, email as communication or the earth itself will still be around is uncertain but I am certain you could get some really interesting work out of students using this site.
Peter van der Krogt mixes science, history, and etymology to create an exhaustive database of the elements. This site is fascinating and brings a human element to a table of symbols and numbers.
It’s just odd questions people have asked that you can vote on. Everything from your weapon choice in a duel to choosing your favorite time period.
The nice thing about this site is it taps into student interest in couple of ways.
- They can participate by voting.
- The questions are odd enough to be interesting.
- It’s social in that it allows you to see how others are voting.
- It’s dynamic. Questions have a limited life, so new stuff is always moving in.
How would I use it?
- Just looking at charts, graphs and data for discussion would be useful.
- You could work in more math by having them keep track of the class response and compare it to the web response (ratios, percentages etc).
- I might also use the questions and data as writing prompts. – Why did you choose the _______ period as your favorite period to live in? Why do you think so many others agreed/disagreed?
- It’d be a fun icebreaker for the first few days of school.
Discover Magazine has opened to the public (no subscription needed) complete issues of their magazine dated back to 1992. The website gives you the options to browse, search by keyword, or use a simple list of subjects to look through the archive. What is more, each article has a side bar with related articles.
Ira Glass, host of This American Life, has taken the time to talk about the keys to great storytelling. In these videos (linked below) Glass shares tips on presentation and development of stories. I think I caught him saying “hell” twice, but the rest of the discussion is very relevant for anyone teaching storytelling.
Videos (via Your Daily Awesome)
Sound Seeker is a project of The New York Society of Acoustic Ecology. They are geo-caching sounds from all over the city. Imagine doing the same with your students. Using Google Maps API you could have a collection of sounds captured in your city, district, or the neighborhoods your students live in around your school. This exciting activity could be a lesson in GPS caching, a sociological experiment, a creative writing prompt, or a lesson in biology (capture the calls of animals or birds). Tom is borderline manic about the potential of Google Maps in the classroom. Tom, I give you more fuel for your fire!
Social Explorer lets you create easy displays of census data. It also has a built-in slide show generator and a report generator.
NASA has announced a contest to design a pennant to be flown into space on the STS-818 shuttle mission. From the official site:
The STS-118 flight of the Space Shuttle Endeavour will be the first spaceflight of an Educator Astronaut, mission specialist Barbara Morgan. STS-118 is also an important step in the ongoing assembly of the International Space Station.
It’s not enough to just come up with a creative design. Students must research their topic, and use what they learn to design their pennant. Then, they must write essays explaining their designs. The essays must tell how the pennants reflect the research about STS-118 or the Vision for Space Exploration.
Entries are being accepted now through April 10th by students ages 6-12. See NASA’s official announcement for details.