Bad Fortune, Good Writing Prompt

Bad Cookie, a fun site that gives fortune cookie fortunes. It makes a great opening line for a story or set the fortune as the character’s destiny and build the story around making the fortune accurate. It both makes writing the story more difficult and easier. More difficult in that the story now has constraints but it also gives you a starting point which helps defeat that “I don’t know what to write” feeling. You could also compose a haiku based on the fortune, make it a line in a limerick or translate it into the voice of various characters you’re reading or from the media.

Personal Google Maps

Google now lets you create online annotated maps with amazingly simple tools. You can add info windows (with html), plot lines and add polygons. It really is the easiest thing imagineable. Go there and try it. This example map has absolutely no point. I just made it on the fly to prove to myself how easy this is. Do you know how long this would have taken to do in the “old” days (earlier this year or yesterday really)? Things really are moving fast. I am so happy, it’s almost sad. via O’Reilly Radar

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Density of Gas

Want a way to explain density to your students? This Google video is worth a thousand words and about four thousand powerpoints. Really wild plus you get to say sulphur hexafluoride which is kind of fun. http://video.google.com/googleplayer.swf?docId=-5924038987398556208&hl=en link via Digg

Rollercoasters, Personal Pies and Data

U.S. Housing Prices The first example is an animated roller coaster ride of US home costs adjusted for inflation. It’s a pretty dramatic and entertaining way to look at the data (link from Digg). It makes a graph “real” in a way that I’ve never really seen before. Personal Pies Personal Pies (great title) is even better because it allows your students a lot of flexibility in the product they create and the data couldn’t be any more relevant to them. He’s created pie charts for his life- everything from portion of life with beard to number of states he’s visited (there is one non-school safe “pie” so be warned). This is a perfect project for students dealing with pie charts and percentages. (from Anil Dash) I think these examples are important because they prove that data (or anything else for that matter) doesn’t have to be boring or presented in boring ways. I try to think about two things when creating project/presentation or anything else- Is this going to fun and original? Is this personally relevant to my students? I guess both those really focus on engagement. It always amazes me how little attention the difference between engagement and silent acquiescence gets.

Second Life in the Classroom

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. […]

Photoblogs: Inexhaustible Sources of Inspiration

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. Photoblog […]

Writing to Your Future Self

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.

More Periodic Table Fun

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. (via MetaFilter)

Data Doing Double Duty

Buzzdash.com 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 Opens Its Archives

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. (via MetaFilter)