Friday, May 22, 2009

Creating Cities of the Future

Remember the movie WALL-E? Everyone was evacuated from Earth to live on a fully automated luxury spaceship to spend five years on a cruise in space while the earth was cleaned up by an army of robots - WALL-E (Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth Class). But in the movie the earth is still covered in trash seven hundred years later. Could this really happen? Can man build a spaceship that could sustain life in outer space for seven hundred years?

Children watch cartoons and movies with elaborate futuristic worlds all the time. What if you asked students to create a new city for the future? Where would students choose to build a city? What would the city be like? How would the city be built? Would students create a city where everything could be easily controlled by computers? What would students include in their cities – housing, food, schools, entertainment, and jobs? Lots of questions.

Do you think only cartoons and movies have futuristic worlds? Let’s look at The Seasteading Institute:
In February the Seasteading Institute announced a contest for architects, engineers, students and hobbyists to design a seastead, a permanent, stationary structure that is specifically designed for long-term living in a marine environment. Participants were given a patented 3-D model of a seasteading platform to create an architectural design. The winners were announced May 18, 2009.

Check out these winning designs:

How can teachers bring real-world projects like this to their students? What software could teachers use to help students create future cities and worlds? How about Google SketchUp?
Students can create 3D models and share them with their friends. There are Training Videos, a warehouse of models that people have created to give students ideas, and a section that covers a list of features. Teachers can access the K-12 SketchUp for Educators section to learn about the free version and the Pro version.

Teachers and students can begin with the self-paced tutorials to learn the concepts of modeling with SketchUp from Google. Check out this Introduction to SketchUp:
Other tutorials are located here:

To help you get started check out the 3D Vinci site for K-12 ideas using SketchUp.

Google image found at:

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Advanced Thinking in Digital Storytelling

The Creative Educator Spring 2009

The foundation of any digital story begins with a good story, one with a point of view, a dramatic question, and emotional content. Bringing the story to life for the reader through the words of the story should be more important that all the transitions, visual and audio effects, background music and text styles that the students can add to the digital story. As an example of visual effect, instead of writing “He was walking down the street,” the student may choose verbs and adjectives to describe how a character was walking down the street, “With his head held high and slightly cocked to the side, teeth clenched, and shoulders back he strutted down the street like he owned the town” draws the reader into the story allowing the reader to be a more active participant.

Once a story is mapped out on a storyboard the students will be able to decide which technology tool will best add the effects, transitions and sounds to best bring their stories to life. If the students are using still images to illustrate their stories, panning and zooming can add a certain impact and dynamic feel to the story. But transitions can be a problem. Help students understand there should be a reason for using transitions to tell the story, not distract from the story. A great story could be lost to the viewer because the students crammed all the effects they could into the finished product. Just because they knew how to add all those effects doesn’t mean that those effects added anything to the story. Students need to learn that less is more.

So what about the background music? Does the story need music to give a dramatic impact to the story? The background music should set the tone, add to the pacing of the story and augment the emotional content of the story, not distract from the story. Let the students’ own voice personalize the story and also help students to decide what sounds, soundtracks, or sound effects can best enhance their stories.

The main focus in digital storytelling should be the writing experience with the technology as a tool to enhance and bring the story to life. There are many tools that students can use:
Audacity for podcasting the story
PhotoStory 3 to enhance the story with images and music
Movie Maker to add images, video and music to the story
Voice Thread to allow other students to add their comments to the story and the images
PowerPoint presentations

To read the entire article please goes to Spring 2009 edition of the magazine.

Virtually Restored Egyptian Temple

Students who are studying Egypt and the Ancient Temple of Karnak can now virtually visit the temple. Thanks to the University of California, at Los Angeles team who created the “Digital Karnak” students can visit a three-dimensional 69- acre site that’s filled with temples, gateways, obelisks and 100 sphinxes dating back to 1951 B.C. to 31 B.C.

Similar virtual sites have been created by this team – Rome Coliseum, Roman Forum and Pompeii’s Villa of the Mysteries. These virtual models can be seen through Google Earth. To read the complete article pleas go to:

So let’s look at Digital Karnak with Google Earth. Teachers and students will download the link to the desktop of the computer and once Google Earth is launched the file should appear in the left sidebar. No special hardware or software is needed. Begin by clicking on this link:

Students will be able to trace the development of the temple from the Middle Kingdom (1950 BCE) through the Greco-Roman Period (31 BCE). The model shows the chronological change in the temple as it was being built.

To access the Digital Karnak click here: Once you have arrived select from one of the following sections to begin your adventure.
1. Time Map
2. Experience Karnak
3. Browse Archive
4. Google Earth

There is also a large gallery of pictures at the Temple Complex Overview link found on the Digital Karnak page. What a great way to have your students take a field trip !!!

Image from Google Earth and the Digital Karnak:

Technology Integration

In March of last year Edutopia published an article on technology integration. Several points were made from the article:
  • Effective technology integration is achieved when its use supports curricular goals. It must support four key components of learning:
    o active engagement
    o participation in groups
    o frequent interaction and feedback
    o connection to real-world experts
  • Technology integration is achieved when the use of technology is routine.
  • Learning through projects while equipped with technology tools allows students to be intellectually challenged while providing them with a realistic snapshot of what the modern office looks like.
  • Through projects, students acquire and refine their analysis and problem-solving skills as they work individually and in teams to find, process, and synthesize information they've found online.

The goal is to effectively integrate technology into subject areas by allowing teachers to grow into roles as advisers, content experts, and coaches to the students. Technology should help to make teaching and learning more meaningful and fun.

Fast forward to April 2009, how are we using technology in the schools today? Take a look at this video from one high school in Gulfport, Mississippi.

Video Source:

What is your school doing to integrate technology into your curriculum?

To read the entire article:
Why Integrate Technology into the Curriculum?: The Reasons Are Many

To learn more about what works in public education please go to:
Edutopia - The George Lucas Educational Foundation

3 Challenges to Wiki Use in Instruction

The April edition of The Journal posted an article that dealt with the benefits and instructional uses of wikis to engage students. A wiki should promote evaluating, synthesizing, elaborating, analyzing, problem solving, decision making, knowledge, base construction, argumentation/justification and learning communities according to Wake Forest University.

So how can teachers use wikis to ensure higher levels of engagement with students? Three challenges were presented.
  1. Creating meaningful assignments: a wiki assignment should be collaborative with all students participating to complete the assignment. The process and outcome should depend on the collaborative success of the students. Some examples would be –
    a. The assignment is open and not closed
    b. The assignment requires participation
    c. The assignment uses the participation to move forward
  2. Grade Value for Constructed Input: a student’s grade should reflect their active participation within the wiki as well as the final product. Some examples would be –
    a. Working with and building on existing information
    b. Inputting new information
    c. Synthesis of ideas and relevant use
  3. Collective knowledge use: learning takes place for the students when they are able to apply what they have learned in some meaningful way. Some examples would be –
    a. Non-complex problems
    b. Preset solutions
    c. Inadequate time allowed for the recess

Wikis can provide an effective way for students to engage in higher-level thinking skills through collaborative learning. Teachers will need to plan carefully when and how to use wikis encouraging students to explore content, discover new information and work together towards a solution and/or final product. By using a problem-based approach students should acquire the skills needed for higher-level processing skills and complex problem solving skills.

To read the full article please go to:
Article written by Ruth Reynard: "3 Challenges to Wiki Use in Instruction," T.H.E. Journal, 4/1/2009,

Technology Empowers Differentiated Instruction

Technology offers a great potential to help students and prepare them with 21st century skills but how does that same technology help teachers differentiate instruction for all students? In January of this year ISTE provided several examples of classroom projects that helped students learn while keeping them engaged.

Certainly students enjoy school better and learn more with they are being taught in ways that respond to their readiness levels, interests, and learning profiles. Teachers can better meet these needs by changing four elements of their instruction: content, process, product, and learning environment. Teachers can differentiate their instruction by changing some of their instructional strategies, management strategies and including software applications, video streaming, the Internet and other technology resources. Differentiated Instruction should include digital-age literacy, inventive thinking, effective communication, and high productivity which should lead to better student achievement.

One way teachers can better understand their students is to do an interest inventory, survey, observations or interviews. You can check out Survey Monkey at:,
Free Online Surveys at
Zoomerang at

Differentiated Strategies
  1. Tic-tac-toe board of activities where students choose to demonstrate their understanding of a topic by making a choice from the board. To learn more about tic-tac-toe boards go to
  2. I-Search – students work individually or in pairs using the internet and other research tools to investigate a topic of interest. A couple of examples:
    a. I-Search Unit –
    b. I-Search Curriculum Unit –
    c. Webbe template and storyboard –
  3. WebQuests - students work collaboratively using web research tools to investigate a teacher-designed topic of interest. Examples:
    a. WebQuest page –
    b. Pre-Writing a Webquest –
    c. WebQuest Maker –
  4. R.A.F.T.T. – this strategy integrates reading and writing in a non-traditional way with students creating a product that illustrates their understanding.
    a. R.A.F.T.T. stands for:
    i. Role – the role of the character
    ii. Audience – audience for the product
    iii. Format – the way a student choose to show their understanding
    iv. Topic – the final product: who, what, when where, how
    v. Technology – software application used by the student
    b. What is R.A.F.T.T. –
  5. Jigsaw – students are assigned a subtopic of a particular topic of study within a group. Students research their subtopic and then “jigsaw” with other subtopic experts from the other groups to produce information about the subtopic. Once complete the student returns to the original or “home” group to share their knowledge. The home groups can build a wiki to share the information learned.

    For more information about differentiating instruction using technology go to

Ocean Explorer Brings Undersea Science to Life

Robert Ballard founder of the JASON Project

The JASON Project connects students with explorers during live sea expeditions to motivate and excite students about science. It’s called “telepresence” technology that enables an unmanned robot submarine to stay in the ocean 24-7. If a robot submarine finds a major discovery – maybe a lost city or sunken ship - experts in the scientific fields can be at a command center within 20 minutes, remotely controlling the submarine and its cameras. Through a live production studio students will be able to experience these breakthroughs.

How is this possible? Fiber-optic cables will transmit video feeds from cameras on the robot submarines to a command center at the University of Rhode Island’s Institute for Archaeological Oceanography. Other command centers are being built at 11 other oceanography institutes across the country which are linked through the ultra high-speed Internet2. National Geographic is spending $11 million to help build the live production studio.

Students at Internet2 connected schools will be able to view the remote camera images from the sea floor and listen to live conversations among the scientists. Rhode Island middle schools are connected to Internet2 and the district is building remote command centers in the school libraries. With this access the students will be able to see firsthand the explorations and be able to remotely control the submarines. How cool is that?

According the Robert Ballard the reason for targeting the JASON Project to middle graders was simple – he wants the future stars to be scientists and educators and if students aren’t interested in science by eighth grade he doesn’t think they will become interested in the upper grades.

To learn more about the JASON Project go to: