Google Lit Trips

Yet another fantastic way to use Google for education! Google Lit Trips were created by teachers as a way to teach literature as a completely out-of-the-box experience. Rather than simply reading a story, students use Google Earth to go along on the journey of each character, following their geographical trail. Books for K-5, 6-8, and 9-12 are all available, though the selection is understandably small.

You can even create your own Lit Trip with your students, researching locations, finding quotes, and delving deeper into your source material. The site offers directions here.

This site, created by educators, is truly a labor of love, and a brilliant way to bring literature to life.


Encyclopedia of Life

The Encyclopedia of Life is a free, online encyclopedia that catalogs Earth’s diverse life-forms. The encyclopedia was created with the support of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, which, if you listen to NPR, you’ll know is “committed to building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world.” In keeping with this theme, the site is filled with gorgeous photos, sound bytes, and videos so that you can see and hear different species. Each entry also contains taxonomic information and a complete list of sources, making it a great resource for studying life, biodiversity, and ecology.

The writing and tone of this encyclopedia is scientific and academic, making it more suited for older students, but it can certainly be used as a media resource with younger kids who are interested in animals.

National Geographic Field Test: On Everest

National Geographic does an incredible job of pulling together words and images to tell powerful stories. Right now, they’re co-sponsoring (with The North Face) an expedition to Mt. Everest. They have sent a photographer and a writer to accompany mountaineers up the deadly mountain, and their trek is being documented every step of the way.

With dispatches arriving daily, you get a truly in-depth look at just how much goes into a trek like this: the preparation, the waiting, the endurance. The most recent dispatch (including video) recounts the story of how their photographer, Cory Richards, had to be rescued from the mountain after experiencing chest pains and shortness of breath. It’s pretty gripping stuff!

In addition to the current expedition, the site has pulled together great resources on the history of Everest, including this fascinating article on the evolution of climbing gear from the days of Sir Edmund Hillary to now.

Vocab of the Week: Browser Extensions

Whether you’re using Firefox, Safari, or Chrome, you can add all kinds of programs to your browser to personalize it. Browser extensions (also called add-ons) are small programs or apps that can be installed in your web browser to do all kinds of things, from preventing ads, to taking notes, to adding things to your Amazon wishlist.

Installation is simple, and typically involves going to your browser’s extension store or gallery, finding one you like, and clicking “install.” If you’d like to read more specific instructions on how to install extensions on your specific browser, check out this detailed article from Guiding Tech.

While there are literally thousands of extensions out there, I’m just going to start with one. That’s right, just one. Perhaps I’ll make a regular feature to let you know about more, but to avoid overwhelming you, I’m going to start with something that everyone can use.

A Cleaner Internet has created an add-on that turns busy YouTube pages (with their potential for inappropriate video recommendations and offensive comments) into clean, simple pages showing only the video you want. Once you’ve installed the extension, visiting YouTube will stop looking like this:

and start looking like this:

This is so useful when you’re trying to show an educational video to a classroom of students! Often, when I’ve shown YouTube videos to students, they get distracted by all of the recommended videos on the side of the page, and beg to watch them. Sometimes, there are inappropriate words or images included in the ads, comments, or other videos on the page. This extension solves all of that.

To install the Cleaner Internet extension, just head over to their website and click “Install.” The site will figure out what browser you’re using and download it. This particular extension can also be set up to clean Amazon pages, too, if you’re interested!

Once you get comfortable installing and using extensions, you can find so many more by using Google to search “top 10 best extensions for…” and add on your browser of choice. You’re sure to come up with all kinds of great stuff. And stay tuned for more suggestions!

Cool Stuff: The Scale of the Universe


This amazing interactive model has been floating around for a while, passed along via Facebook and other social networks. It presents different organisms, buildings, and planets to scale so that you can see their relative size differences. You start at the level of a human, but can scroll to zoom in to the level of strings (the quantum kind, not the yarn kind), or out to the non-observable universe. It’s quite a journey! Each object that is shown can be clicked on for an explanation (which is a good thing, because I had no idea what quantum foam is).