ePals

I recently “attended” a webinar about reaching reluctant readers, and the presenter frequently referred to ePals as a resource. In that context, he explained it as a great place for age-appropriate articles that would entice fans of nonfiction to read. Sign up for the service and articles from Smithsonian are delivered straight to your inbox.

It wasn’t until I went onto the site to sign up that I saw the true scope of ePals, and its intended purpose. While it hosts a great variety of teacher-friendly resources (lesson plans, projects, articles), it is in fact a service that matches up classes around the world as pen pals. A teacher simply signs up and makes a profile, indicating the type of classroom he or she is interested in connecting from (Spanish-speakers, students in China, students in grade 3).

Watch this video for a quick overview.

The site makes communicating with classes around the world so easy, with video-chat and email services incorporated. You can search for a class to talk with, or join a project that other classes are doing. With all the great resources (from trusted sources like National  Geographic, Cobblestone/Cricket, and Smithsonian), your class can read an article on global warming, then discuss it with another class in Argentina! Having a common discussion point can help to dispel any awkwardness.

Even if you aren’t interested in connecting with international classes, the resources on this site are top notch. There are some great project ideas, and Learning Centers with games, quizzes, articles, and videos on topics in science, current events, and books.

The site has a lot, which means it can be a bit overwhelming. I encourage you to take a look, though, because ePals is a portal to all kinds of innovative learning.

Everything You Will Ever Need for Martin Luther King Day

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. Image via Wikipedia

I’ve found the motherlode. A website so comprehensive, I didn’t think such a thing could ever exist. Cybraryman has put together an exhaustive collection of MLK resources, from lesson plans, to exploration sites, to articles, and even puzzles. Check it out here!

Fun fact: Often, we assume sites with the “.org” domain are reputable. Sometimes, people use this to their advantage. One example of this is martinlutherking.org (I won’t link to it here). It’s a site I use in my lessons on evaluating websites for bias; it’s a propaganda site by a white supremacist group! 

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.

Many Eyes

Take a dull data set, and turn it into an eye-catching, easy-to-understand, and manipulatable visualization. Many Eyes is a very cool tool to turn numbers and words into pictures of all kinds– graphs, trees, word clouds, phrase nets, and even world maps. You can use the existing visualizations and data sets, or upload your own data set (in the form of words or numbers) and select how you’d like to see it.

Many Eyes is useful in the classroom to show relationships between concepts, and relative sizes of facts and figures. You can make it as simple (words from a page of text) or as complicated (a set of statistics) as you want.


In order to see the visualizations, make sure that you allow Java applications.

Fakebook and Twister

This is a really fun and innovative way to gain interest from students by putting information into the format of well-known social networks.

With Fakebook, you can create a fake Facebook-like page for literary characters, historical figures, or anyone else you can think of. You can also explore pages already created by other users. It’s a fun way to interact with the format without having to deal with advertisements or issues of privacy.

Twister, a fake version of Twitter, allows students to create fictional status updates. The creative uses of these tools, which were originally made by teachers, are endless!

Google Crisis Response

Google Crisis Response aggregates valuable research tools and resources that can help in response efforts after major disasters. Their most recent effort is in response to the New Zealand earthquake, and features Google Person Finder, incident reporting, phone numbers to emergency assistance and local officials, and Google Earth maps with the latest data. This is a really fascinating way to keep on top of current events, and to watch how a natural disaster unfolds.

 

If you’re a Google Earth fan, you can also find additional maps to download and view in Google Earth. These maps include interactive time-lapse animations, trajectories, and aerial photographs of each disaster.

You can also view their coverage of previous disasters. Check out their coverage of the DeepWater Horizon oil spill, or the Australian floods.