Hello again, it’s been a while …

          Sorry that it’s been three weeks since my last post. I’d be lying to you if I told you that I’ve been working on something for you that whole time. I haven’t. I’ve mostly been reading stuff for myself and contending with the same weather that is driving you a little bit crazy right about now. I hope you all had a great February break and are healthy and ready to tackle the long stretch that is March.

          Anyway, I thought I’d drop in this week with another small collection of things I’ve been sampling since I last wrote. Here are my latest top 5 TED Talks: 

  • Seth Godin on the tribes we lead: Best-selling author and “agent of change”, Seth Godin talks about how people create, spread and implement ideas. Godin also explores the notion of tribes returning thanks to our many ways of connecting. The last part of the lecture speaks on the importance of leadership and of being brave enough to stand up against the status quo to start a movement … I think we could all learn a thing or two about that.
  • The Omnivore’s Next Dilemma: Fascinating talk by Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma and The Botany of Desire, about how we can use all we know to create sustainable and environmentally conscious food. 
  • Yann Arthur-Bertrand captures fragile Earth in wide-angle: Using stunning pictures, audio and video, photographer and journalist Arthur-Betrand illustrates the vastness of the Earth – and humanity’s connections to it. The last portion of the video is a promotional for Bertrand’s 2009 film, Home, which you can view online for free. Before clicking to watch the movie, make sure to click on some of the images of the interactive globe. 
  • Dan Ariely asks, Are we in control of our decisions?: This presentation is for anyone who’s ever wondered why they make bad choices over and over again. Behavioral economist, author of Predictably Irrational, talks about how our instincts or intuitions often lead us astray. 
  • The Surprising Science of Motivation: Motivational speaker Daniel Pink presents his “case” for why we should rethink how we organize our businesses and create incentives for great work.

BONUS FIND: The Newseum site is one that I’ve recommended in the past as it lists over 100 national newspapers and displays the daily front page for easy comparison. Now this website has also created Newsmania, a currents events game, in the format of a multiple choice quiz show. It’s cute and I encourage students to use it at home to brush up on their general knowledge … In school, I’ll still consider it a “game” and shut it down (sorry).

Just a reminder for teachers and students that the LMC will be closed for MCAS testing all week. Thank you for stopping by and I hope you find something worthwhile. See you all tomorrow.

Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2010. All rights reserved.

The World Wide Web as Interactive Learning Tool

[Editor’s note: The staff writer forgot that last post he promised to write this week about why subscription databases like Big Chalk E-Library are better for academic research than the general Internet … that post is still coming]

               I love checking out the on-line resources that teachers use when they come into the LMC, so that I can share them with the rest of the school. Most times, teachers talk with me about those websites, but sometimes we either forget to share or are too busy during the period to have a discussion. Even when we don’t talk, however, I do take notice of the kinds of interactive sites that teachers are incorporating into their lesson plans. Here is a small collection of some good sites I’ve seen teachers using, and others I’ve found myself.

              Interactive Writing Resources: I believe Ms. Sullivan first introduced me to the Read Write Think.Org site. I saw her students using Essay Organizer recently in the LMC and it reminded me that there are other tools at this site to help students organize their writing and research assignments. This site is dependable as it is hosted by the National Council of Teachers of English.

               Interactive Math Resources: I don’t recall which math teacher recommended I visit The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics website (sorry), but it is a great site with a number of on-line activities and lesson plans for grades k-12. The NCTM’s Illuminations site is not only for math teachers as some of the calculators and graphing tools lend themselves to lessons in other subjects, such as science, social studies and art.

               Interactive Geography Resources: I’ve always loved maps, but like most Americans I’m not a geography whiz. I know much of the obvious information; the continents and oceans, important mountain ranges, rivers and deserts. I can name the fifty states of my country, but not their capitols (any longer). I can identify all the countries south of my homeland, but don’t really know all the provinces (territories?) that make up Canada. It’s a good thing there are some great places online to brush up on these skills. Here are three worth checking out.

  • United States History Maps: These offerings from Annenberg Media are full of challenging and interesting maps that chronicle the history of the United States. Some maps focus on the natural landmarks of the country, while others are about Native American tribes and the history of settlement and expansion.
  • Games at Sporcle: I’ve mentioned this little site before, and while there are many games/ quizzes that are rather silly (Kate Winslet Oscar Nominations? The Lost Quiz?) a few allow you to brush up on the names of the U.S. States, Countries of Europe, South America, Asia and Africa, and the U.S. Presidents  (Warren G. Harding and Rutherford B. Hayes, why do I always forget one or the other?)

               Interactive Biology Resources: I’ve seen biology classes on various sites learning about DNA, chromosomes, and heredity. Not too long ago, Ms. Willwerth’s classes used PBS’ DNA Workshop to explore replication and protein synthesis. One of my favorite finds is the Dolan DNA Learning Center website. According to the website’s information, part of their mission, “is to prepare students and families to thrive in the gene age.” Its many interactive offerings range in difficulty, and the resources I sampled were well designed for a novice scientist such as myself.

               Interactive Chemistry Resources: I know that many textbooks nowadays come with discs and access to on-line activities that supplement the book. Unfortunately, I haven’t had a chance to explore any of these electronic resources, yet. Instead I offer three activities that I found interesting. Please remember that I am a chemistry tyro.

  • Match the element to its symbol. It’s not as easy as it sounds. Sure many elements reveal their hand with their unimaginitive abbreviations, but there are some tricky ones (I’m looking at you Potassium (K) and there are A LOT of elements.
  • It’s Elemental is a “game” that challenges you to pick the correct coefficient to balance chemical equations. You can choose up to fifteen equations to challenge yourself and the difficulty ranges from beginner to advanced. (I didn’t explore beyond beginner because I got three right in a row and wanted to feel like a winner.)
  • Interactive Periodic Table. I know that there are many of these out there, and I have seen and used quite a few. I found this one from the American Chemical Society (ACS) easy to use and recommend that you explore its features. I’m pretty sure it’s very good because it comes from the ACS and there was a lot of information I didn’t really understand.

               Thank you for stopping by and I hope you find something worth using in your classroom if you’re a teacher . If you’re a curious student, I hope you explore the many links for yourself. Have a safe and great Super Bowl Sunday and I’ll see you all tomorrow.

Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2010. All rights reserved.