Sunday, November 20, 2011

Why You Should Be Doing More with Google Earth

Google Earth can be used in infinite ways at all grade levels across all content areas. Chances are you are under-utilizing this amazing resource. I recommend that all teachers, regardless of subject area or grade level, spend 5 to 10 minutes each day using Google Earth for a daily geography lesson. It's hard for children (and adults for that matter) to develop a sense of where they are in the world. Google Earth can help them do that. I've done several Google Earth model lessons in classrooms recently. Each time, students are wowed and fully engaged. And each time, it's obvious that students lack an awareness of where they are in the world and knowledge of geography terms.

You don't need a teacher's manual or curriculum guide to teach with Google Earth. Simply look for ways to incorporate Google Earth into topics you're already exploring with your students. Visit the location of a current event. Explore the setting of a historical fiction text. Calculate the distance between locations. Use historical imagery to go back in time to a significant historical event. Locate the birthplace of a famous historical person. Take a virtual trip before you go on a field trip. Explore constellations, the Moon, and Mars. Use the weather layer to explore and predict weather patterns.

Imagine what could happen if you devote 5 to 10 minutes each day to exploring the world in Google Earth. Daily exposure to and work in Google Earth can help us raise a generation of learners with a global perspective.

Check out these resources to learn more about integrating Google Earth into daily teaching and learning in your classroom:

Directions for creating a Google Earth trip in Google Maps

Google Earth Across the Curriculum from Richard Byrne (@rmbyrne,

Google Lit Trips (virtual trips of settings of great works of literature)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Confessions of a Reluctant Techy

Guest Post by Andrea Ward

Currently I am the technology coordinator at my school.  A few years ago I would never have expected me to be here.  Why?  Because I don't always like technology.  I was anti-texting for a long time.  I was anti-MySpace and other social media.  I was anti-blogging.  I was anti-smart phones.  I have reluctantly found myself taken in by the siren's song of technological benefits.  In general, I still pick Lucille Ball over Amy Poehler.  I choose Buster Keaton over Adam Sandler.  I choose Pride and Prejudice over The Hunger Games.  I like the old stuff.  I don't like new stuff.  But here I sit writing this technology blog.  How did I get here?  3 things I have learned over the past few years have brought me a long way.

1.  Try it, You'll like it.
(Your mental soundtrack may not have gone there.  However having a 2 year old, my mental soundtrack will never be the same. I felt the need to share.)  On to the actual content of this post.  One of the first Instructional Technology presentations that I remember wasn't focused on the classroom.  I remember the Instructional Technology coach telling us that if we use it personally, we will use it in the classroom.  Something like that anyway.  I first heard this and did nothing with it.  I thought there were some neat things with Google, but I didn't want to change everything I was doing.  However, I couldn't resist.  I had to try it and I loved it!

Now I use Gmail, Google Docs, Google Reader, Google Earth, Google Maps, YouTube, Blogger, iGoogle, Google+, Facebook, Twitter, Google Images, Picasa, Picnik, Google Books, Google Scholar, Skype, Google Calendar and more.  I'm excited about SlideRocket although I have not used it yet. I do not use them all in the classroom or for teacher learning purposes.  In fact Twitter, Google Reader, and Blogger are about 98% personal.  I follow 73 people on twitter and at least 55 different blogs.  Only 3 of those are education related.  However, I now use Glogster, Prezi, Wordle, and Google Earth in the classroom.  I'm open to learning and using other things.  So try some new things, you'll like them.

2. It isn't all or nothing
Often with technology, we can get overwhelmed.  We hear of so many tools we can use and at some point we just shut down.  We don't see how we can use it all, so we don't use any of it.  We should NOT be thinking this way.  It isn't all or nothing.  Pick and choose what you would like to use, what works best for you.  I recently heard Jayme present alternatives to PowerPoint.  She showed us Google Presentations, SlideRocket, and Prezi.  I personally wasn't excited about Google Presentations.  Prezi is one with which I am comfortable.  SlideRocket is one that I have not used, but I'm excited about what it can do.  I don't need to use them all and love them all.

Another example is Jayme's "Getting Organized Online" presentation.  She showed us Symbaloo, ReadItLater, Wunderlist, and LiveBinder.  Symbaloo and Read it later are some that I might use.  LiveBinders seemed a bit overwhelming, so I'm not going to try it right away.  Wunderlist got me excited, but it isn't available for Blackberry.  So I'm working with EverNote and Cozi.  I might like them, I might not.  Now some of you are overwhelmed with the number of links I added and different things I mentioned.  Sorry!

3.  Don't be lazy!
I use Prezi too much.  I have gotten lazy about technology that I can use for me personally or for my classroom.  I have become satisfied with what I already know.  I haven't tried to learn new things.  Recently, I was listening to a fellow teacher list various presentation tools, XtraNormal, Voki, SpicyNodes, etc., etc.  And yes, I'm using etc. because I don't remember them all.  I should know about some of these!  I'm the technology coordinator and the extent of my creativity is Prezi!  I have become lazy.  Don't get satisfied with what you already know or you won't be learning anything.  And as teachers isn't that the point, learning something new.

So now you have 3 easy tips of how you can become more techy.  Go click on a link above and try something new.  There are lots of people around willing to help you out, including this reluctant techy.

Blog post written by Andrea Ward, Spanish teacher at Newton-Conover Middle School and member of NCCS Tech Team