Tech Salad

With Crunchy Bits and Bytes

Month: February 2010

Whoosh-free Classroom

iChat is an important communication tool here in Goochland County. Still, it can be a distraction sometimes. Even when we set our status as “away” we can hear alerts. With so many teachers carrying their laptops, we constantly hear the whoosh of buddies joining and leaving iChat.

Here is a little video showing how to shut off the whooshing sound.

How Far?

Mrs. Hood’s students are reading a novel in which a character travels from his hometown in Vietnam to Cleveland, OH. They will be using Google Earth to explore the journey. I have put together this brief video to show them how to use the ruler tool. I am measuring the distance between Flint, MI, and Birmingham, AL, two locations in one of my favorite books, The Watsons Go to Birmingham, 1963.

Picture 2

PlayPlay

Google, Maps, and Critical Thinking

Today I was back in Mrs. Yearout-Patton’s class playing games, and while the kids compared results, I walked to the back of the room to look at a poster. It reminded me of the maps I had showcased on my blog back in December of 2008. You can read all about them on the original post.

When I clicked on the link to show the maps to the class, I found out the link now takes you to the Google Insights for Search site. Here, you can enter a search term and get the graph of the popularity of the search term over the past six years, and a map showing the popularity of the term in every state of the Union.

I entered a few random terms, for example, jambalaya. It turns out the popularity of searches for jambalaya is cyclical. Every year, during the first ten weeks of the year, the graph spikes, then drops dramatically. I am guessing this corresponds to Mardi Gras. Everyone wants to celebrate by making a yummy Louisiana recipe.

Screen shot 2010-02-18 at 12.14.54 PM

The search is also most popular in Louisiana, which surprised me. If they make this every year, I’d assume they know how to make it. But, you know what they say about assuming…

Screen shot 2010-02-18 at 11.08.15 AM

But, that static image does not tell the whole story. That is the sum of searches since 2004. Here’s the progression over time.

Hmmm….Why did the popularity of jambalaya surge outside of Louisiana after 2005? And then again during the last football season? It is mazing what Google can tell us.

Do You Have a Right?

While I was at home after the blizzard, I read about an interesting online game on Twitter. The game, created by the folks at ourcourts.org, aims to inform us about the rights afforded to us by the United States Constitutions and all its amendments. Today, we will play this game in Mrs. Yearout-Patton’s class.

In the game, the player runs a law firm that aims to represent individuals who have been treated unconstitutionally. The firm has to accrue prestige points by winning court cases, then the points are used to hire additional lawyers, buy desks for the lawyers, and furnish the waiting area. As potential clients walk into the office, the player has to listen to their complaints and decide whether constitutional law is relevant to their case. Then, the player has to match the client to a lawyer in the firm specializing in cases related to the particular amendment that addresses the complaint. Each lawyer has a set of skills labelled with numbers corresponding to amendments. As the lawyers go to court and win cases, more skills (more amendments) are unlocked.

I REALLY like this game. First, the complaints brought to the firm by its clients represent situations that could happen in real life. They require some interpretation (critical thinking) by the player in order to match the complaint to its corresponding amendment. Second, there is the speed. If the player takes too long figuring out which lawyer can help the client, the client will walk out in a rage, literally. The speed is in the brain, not the fingers. The player does not have to type fast, or click fast, just recall, understand, and apply fast. The more you play, the more you review the amendments from different angles. The game builds understanding, and it is much more entertaining than a textbook.

There is only one thing I don’t like about the game: the music. It drives me nuts!

Here is a picture of me (in the green bow) and my partner, Chuck Freepress, who is conferring with our very first client prior to their court date.

Picture 1

Update: The kids liked the game so much they were sitting on the floor around the power outlets when the laptop batteries ran out. Not a single student was off-task and there was lots of collaboration and laughter going on. One group even failed to notice the lunch bell…

Virtual Space Station

How do you know where “up” and “down” are in space? I’m not sure. Maybe I can email one of these astronauts.

Take a look at this video tour of the International Space Station, and share with your students. It is really cool and is sure to start some interesting conversations.

Spring, Please!

Today is our 7th snow day in a row. Everyone I knows keeps congratulating me on the record snowfall, acting as if I should thank the patron deity of teachers for my good fortune and joy. I do have to admit I’ve enjoyed the time at home with the kids, the lazy mornings, the hours of uninterrupted learning and reading, and the beautiful scenery out my window. Beyond the second snow day, though, diminishing returns kick in with a vengeance.

We’ve had almost as much time off due to this snow as we had for our winter break, at which time I had a glorious time relaxing. The difference is in the suspense. When will we go back, and how will we get everything done then?

I know everything will work out in the end. For now, each day is a bit less enjoyable than the previous one, and the rest of the year looks more frantic by the minute.

My Yard

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