Monday, November 23, 2009

Brainpop Animations

I love Brainpop. I have used these videos in classrooms from 1st grade through 7th grade. Even though Brainpop is animated, the information is complex but presented in a clear and entertaining way. Each video is 2 - 4 minutes long, and my students especially enjoy Tim's themed T-shirts! The quiz is a great way to get whole class feedback. With a school subscription, you could use it in a computer lab, but I find it perhaps more useful to use an LCD projector and a screen, so that we can pause, replay and discuss portions of the videos.

Even though it is subscription-based (see below), there are a number of free videos you can check out.
I use these videos in three main ways:
  • INTRODUCTION: I might show a video first (ex: Black Holes) to spark kids' interest and help them generate questions about an upcoming lesson. Also, I can use the quiz as a pre-assessment of the class' collective knowledge.
  • REVIEW: After an activity (ex: kids acted out the life cycle of stars of varying masses), I play the video and hearing the vocabulary in the video helps them solidify their previous learning experience. (ex: "Hey - That's me! I was the nebula!")
  • EXTENSION: If students finish an activity early, or need more challenging content, I will have then watch other videos extending the current curriculum (ex: Big Bang, or often in Technology class, I will have advanced students watch information about binary code or the internet)
However I use it, the kids love it. Check out Brainpop or Brainpop Jr. for more information.
You can sign up for a 1 week free trial with an email address, and one year subscriptions range from Family ($99) to Teacher ($175) to School ($975) to customizable District options.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Worthwhile Workshops

I am sitting here in beautiful Palm Springs at one of my favorite conferences of the year - CSTA. This got me thinking about the best workshops I have attended. Here are my favorite the three that I felt were most organized, inspirational and worth the money!

Steve Spangler's Boot Camp
(K - 8, multiple locations): I have pined after Steve Spangler's Science in the Rockies for years, but had the opportunity to attend the more economical Boot Camp this fall in Chicago. It was wonderful. He is a businessman and comedian, but a teacher at heart. His presentations were concise, engaging and taught solid science concepts. Plus, you get a whole box of fun stuff to take home! The workshops should head west in the spring.

Project WET (CA) - There are various workshops offered throughout California. Upon completion of the workshop, participants get the Project WET Curriculum and Activity Guide. (The ONLY way you can get the book is through the workshop.) It covers chemistry and conservation topics around water and is truly outstanding. I was fortunate to take the workshop with Kathy Machado at the Santa Clara Valley Water District. She was an excellent facilitator, takes pride in the extensive work she has done at the Water District, and is able to offer the books for free. Her next workshop is March 5, 2010 and I can highly recommend her presentation. (All Project WET workshops are free, but some districts charge for the book.)

4-H Embryology
(Northern CA) - This was quite a drive up from San Francisco, but it was well worth it. June Stewart teaches a two-hour (free) Embryology class in Auburn, CA. I have never met anyone as passionate about and dedicated to teaching embryology as this woman. The workshop is generally in mid-February, and at that time you can order or pick up rented incubators, fertile eggs, and curriculum materials. These are not materials you will shove in a file cabinet somewhere. I used everything and my students enjoyed the experience immensely. I was terrified to hatch birds for the first time, but the program alleviated all of my fears. June is available by phone for any questions and the Extension office will take any un-adopted birds back for up to one year and place them in homes with local 4-H kids.

These are my top three. What's your favorite national or local gem?

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Did You Know?

As I was completing my video entry for the 2009 Google Teacher Academy, I kept coming back to a phrase I heard somewhere, "We are currently preparing students for jobs and technologies that don't yet exist, using technologies that haven't been invented, in order to solve problems we don't even know are problems yet." That line has stuck with me since I first heard it.

I meet so many teachers that think we are instilling knowledge into children. The best teachers think that we are teaching students how to think and learn, for most of the knowledge itself will become obsolete.

For my project, I was determined to find the source of this great quote.

My search led me to The Fischbowl blog and a post about the original PowerPoint presentation, entitled "Did You Know?," created by Karl Fisch and Scott McLeod. Apparently, XPLANE has reworked the information into this thought provoking video (2007).

UPDATE (7.6.09): Here is an even more recent version (2008).

This particular version has an expanded focus on the idea that "we are living in exponential times." This is truly incredible and no doubt has significant implications for education. This only strengthens my theory that, as a teacher, I don't know everything... I CAN'T know everything. I may be more educated and have more experience, but I am learning right along with my students every day.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

RIP: iMovie 06 download is no longer available

So, I'll admit it, I haven't been keeping up on my Mac news. I heard about Steve Job's health issues, the new iPod Shuffle and the contract-free iPhone, but somehow I missed this - Apple pulled their iMovie 06 download?!

I was horrified by the new iMovie 08. However, I was mollified by Apple graciously providing a free download of iMovie HD 6 to all registered users of iLife ’08. This afternoon, a young filmaker asked me how to "get that version of iMovie that's cool" because she doesn't like "the one with the star." So, I head over to my trusty link and... gasp!... page not found! Apparently, on Jan 27, 2009, blogs started to report that Apple had removed the download page for iMovie HD 6 in preparation for their iMovie 09 release.

Oh, how I wished I had archived that dmg....