EdTech Roundup 4-21: Virtual Field Trips

Posted by Kate Sweeney on Mon, Apr 21 2014

We all want to show our students the world. Our students’ creativity and excitement over learning is what drives us day after day. Unfortunately, real world concerns are--well, a concern. Field trips are expensive, and distance often means that taking students to see sites relevant to classroom learning isn’t practical. Luckily, taking students on virtual field trips is easier than ever.

These resources run the gamut from simple online museum collections to interactive videoconferences with museum educators. Many are free, though some have a fee. What’s more, this is just a small sampling of virtual field trips available. If none of these meet your content needs, it’s very likely that a simple Google search will show you one that does.

Some of these virtual field trips have specific software requirements--most often QuickTime Player or Flash. Make sure you test them first, and coordinate with your school or district IT department to make sure you have the proper software installed.


Studying animals? The National Zoo in Washington, DC has webcams in the habitats of many of its residents. Watch the clouded leopards or naked mole-rats go about their business, or check in on the wildly popular PandaCam to see what panda cub Bao Bao is doing. Just keep in mind, animals can move out of view of the cameras--or spend the entire time sleeping--and manage student expectations accordingly. Take your study of animals one step further with a videoconference with the staff of the San Diego Zoo to learn about animal adaptations, conservation and many other subjects. There is a fee for this service, and the presentations are most appropriate for students in grades K-6.

The Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science in Miami has great videoconference opportunities with their science educators. Learn about space or the animals of the Everglades through a dynamic program that includes pre- and post-videoconference materials. There is a fee for this program.


Nothing brings history home to students quite like seeing locations and artifacts, but geography is a problem. Luckily, many museums and historic sites have virtual field trips and resources to help bring history into your classroom--even if it happened halfway around the world. The Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago has a virtual museum with tours of many of its exhibits on ancient cultures. The British Museum has online exhibitions with subjects as diverse as souvenirs from Japan and Iron Age Britain.

For some American history, take a look at Colonial Williamsburg’s Electronic Field Trips. You can subscribe for an entire season, covering many different topics in American history, or you can purchase individual programs. If your class is studying World War II, consider a videoconference with staff from the National WWII Museum in New Orleans. These interactive sessions cover many different aspects of the war, including the roles of African Americans, Latino Americans, Native Americans and women in the war, Japanese internment and Iwo Jima. Both of these resources have a fee associated.


If you can’t take your students to Paris to experience the Louvre in person, don’t fret. Three of its exhibitions are available on their website as virtual tours. You can also virtually visit the Guggenheim in New York by searching their online collection of artwork, or take a virtual tour of the Frick Collection, also in the Big Apple. The National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC also has four virtual exhibitions online, including one of Van Gogh’s paintings from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.


Have you found other great virtual field trips? Talk about them in the comments.

Common Core: Pathways to Richer Learning

Posted by Raye Wood on Mon, Apr 14 2014

Do a simple web search with any combination of words including "Common Core Standards" and you are likely to find hundreds of articles, blogs, op-eds and more giving you hours of information to sift through. If you're a lover, a hater or a "so-what-er" (okay, so that is a word I made up) of the Common Core, those simple searches will surely give you hours of reading pleasure.

Interestingly, when doing a web search of this sort, there can often be true gems of articles that discuss what real teachers are doing with the Common Core.

This article, from the Washington Post, discusses how three teachers are dealing with the Common Core. Three very different teachers with three very different answers. A common thread among these teachers is the need for increased thinking on the part of their students. That's really what the Common Core aims to do--beef students up on their ability to think. Why does this work? Can you prove it? How do you know? Those are all words that many Common  Core teachers are saying throughout their day.

This article, from the Daily Pilot, discusses how teachers are finding ways to create and implement lesson plans in math that directly meet the standards but promote student thinking, engagement and acceptance of failure.

Wait, what? Acceptance of failure? Yes. As crazy as it sounds, it is okay for students to be wrong. That's how we learn. By doing something wrong, then having the resources, methods and strategies to help us redo, rework and figure it out. This can be done alone, with a teacher's assistance or with peer support.

While the Common Core is not everyone's cup of tea, for now we are responsible for teaching these standards. Why not embrace them? Allow our students to fail. Push them to explain, provide evidence and proof. Most of all, let them think. Let them work it out. Let them question and wonder. The results may truly be much more than we could have hoped for.

Tools For Educators

Posted by Michael Herlan on Wed, Apr 09 2014

This week’s tech tip is a place where teachers can create custom handouts, activities and other resources.  Tools For Educators, is a website that offers many utilities such as: a word search maker, dice maker, printable board games, crossword puzzle maker, bingo maker, maze maker, domino maker, certificate templates, and word bank creator.  Tools For Educators offers so many possibilities for teachers to develop original content for students and the best part is that it is all free!

The first tool that I use often is the section of the website called Printable Board Games.  This tool allows users to create board games with pictures along with text or just all text.  There are twenty plus themes that users can use and print out for students to enjoy. 

The second tool that comes highly recommended is the Certificate Templates tool.  This tool is very useful when a teacher wants to create a certificate or an award for students.  There are over 70 themes and 1,000 different styles to choose from.  The text on the template tool can also be customized so that users can make any style certificate such as: formal, sports, school, holidays and other interesting designs.

The third tool that is valuable for educators is the Free Crossword Puzzle Maker.  Many web crossword puzzle makers on the Internet are not very easy to use nor often times print.  The Tools For Educators site allows teachers to use images and text for clues or just a text only puzzle as well.  The other powerful feature is that the puzzle maker also allows for a word search to be created on the same worksheet as the crossword puzzle.

Finally, the Free Bingo Board Maker and Crisscross Bingo utilities round out the main tools that I find useful in my classroom most often throughout the school year. The bingo maker allows for boards with images or just text.  The bingo boards are offered in the 3x3 and the 4x4 size layouts.  The crisscross bingo maker allows for the creation of boards that can be used in conversational activities.

I encourage everyone to check out this site today, I discover something new each time I use the website to create original content or certificates.

EdTech Roundup 4-7: Earth Day

Posted by Kate Sweeney on Tue, Apr 08 2014

Are you ready for Earth Day on April 22? It’s a great time to teach your students about taking care of the planet. Here are a couple of resources to help you get started.


In most areas of the country, recycling is fairly easy. Help kids get involved with the recycling program in your community by making a game out of separating recyclables. Online games at NASA’s Climate Kids and National Geographic’s Recycle Roundup will turn them into recycling experts. The EPA’s Recycle City is an interactive virtual town that lets kids learn more about recycling and other environmental topics. Aside from a ton of great information, Recycle City also has games and other activities that will keep kids focused.


If you want to teach your students to make even more of an impact, turn them on to composting. Composting can even be done in your classroom—if done correctly, there’s no odor. Learn the basics of composting with Willie the Worm at the State of Michigan’s website, then check out this cute video featuring Peppa Pig with more information. Then, build your own worm composting bin using this tutorial from the Washington State University Extension.

Climate Change

Environmental issues are much larger than your own city or town. Teach your students about global climate change with resources from NASA, the EPA (for young kids or teens,) or EcoKids. Use the resources I talked about last time to track environmental legislation in your state or in the Federal government. Encourage your students to take action to improve the environment in your area.

Inspiring Teachers, Inspiring Classrooms

Posted by Michael Herlan on Thu, Mar 27 2014

This week’s tech tip is a service for teachers and administrators who are looking for quality professional development.  The Teaching Channel is a video platform on the Internet that features groundbreaking and exemplar teaching practices that are being implemented in school districts around the country.  There are over 494,000 teachers that are actively engaged on the Teaching Channel’s forums and who participate regularly sharing ideas and best practices.  The subjects that are available are: the arts, ELA, math, science, social studies and special education.  There are however various topics available as well such as: assessment, behavior, celebrations, class culture, coaching, collaboration, common core, differentiation, digital literacy, engagement, planning and much more. 


To get started with Tch is simple, free, and quick by filling in the required registration form. Users will need to choose their role in their institution, the subjects and grades they teach, their interests and topics. Once registered, it is simple to find a variety of resources on a wide range of topics.  There are three main features of the Teaching Channel: a free lesson planner, notifications and video notes.  The free lesson planner allows users to save, schedule and get reminders on ideas that would work in the classroom.  The notifications feature allows users to get alerts via email when new videos that match your interests are available.  The final feature is video notes whereby a user can take time-stamped notes as videos are being watched and then share with other colleagues. 


Another interesting feature of the Teaching Channel is the Tch Recorder application in the Apple App Store.  Tch Recorder is a video recording application designed for teachers to model best practices, and to evaluate their own performance, as well as to gather feedback. On the Teaching Channel site, peers and coaches can quickly upload teaching videos to their private portal. All uploaded videos are saved to the teacher's private workspace and the groups in which they are working.


Check out the video overview of this fantastic resource!


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