Archive for May, 2012

Skype in the Classroom

Skype in the Classroom is a global community of educators who partner to create learning experiences for their students. Imagine using this resource to communicate in real time with students in neighboring cities or states. Think about the opportunities for students to practice foreign language skills with students from other countries. Students might participate in mystery Skype calls, where classes connect online and give clues to help each guess the other’s location. They might also have opportunities to learn more about the setting of a book they are reading or a subject they are studying. The site provides the means for teachers to connect through a members-only directory and includes a directory of resources such as videos, websites, and teaching ideas.

One project from the site was an invitation from a teacher in Bahrain who was hosting an online safety conference. He was interested in connecting with a guest speaker knowledgeable about the topic of online safety and cyber bullying. This idea caught my attention because it could be adapted for a variety of subjects. For example, a teacher might invite a university professor to speak to a class about science-related topics or host a university counselor to speak to students about college admissions. Speakers from another country or region might provide information about their culture. Skype in the classroom opens endless possibilities for collaboration with experts in a range of fields.

Image: Stuart Miles /


CNN Student News

CNN Student News is a 10-minute, commercial-free news broadcast designed for middle- and high-school students. The news video may be downloaded as a podcast and is also available as a streamed video. The site features a transcript of each show, a Media Literacy Question of the Day to be used for discussion, and a weekly newsquiz that covers materials from each week’s student news broadcast. Teachers may sign up for a Daily Education Alert email which provides the topics being covered in each show and contains links to downloadable maps related to the locations in the headlines. CNN Student News also maintains a blog, From A to Z with Carl Azuz, which offers students opportunities to comment on stories in the news.

Image: Salvatore Vuono /


EmergingEdTech provides information concerning various instructional technology resources. Topic include blogs and blogging; interactive white boards; Twitter; virtual labs; iPads and more! Features include a long list of tools and web resources for teachers, a selection of tutorial videos, and a YouTube channel.

One interesting article from the site, “100 Ways to Teach With Twitter,” provides ideas for using Twitter in the classroom. In the college classroom, Twitter can be used in many ways, from sending announcements to communicating with students without sharing cell phone numbers. Suggestions for class activities include following news stories, politicians, creating stories, and conducting educational “treasure hunts.” Many of these activities could be adapted for the middle school or secondary classroom.

Additional teaching ideas are presented in another article from the site, “Teaching and Twitter.” This article suggests that students might read a chapter and then present a concise synopsis using Twitter. Another suggestion is that students might follow a famous person tied to key current events, (for example, a political candidate during an election year) and then report to the class. Students might also share hyperlinks to information related to topics discussed in class.

In my own practice, I have found that Twitter is useful for discovering instructional resources and for developing a Personal Learning Network (PLN) by connecting with like-minded educators. In the article, “25 Ways to Teach with Twitter,” Cole presents ideas for using Twitter for professional development, as well as tips for appropriate “tweeting” etiquette.

Image: jscreationzs /

White House 101

White House 101 presents facts and information about the White House and its place in American history. Site features include biographies for each president, fun facts about various presidents, and pictures and facts about Presidential pets. Historical information is also available on the site. Visitors can take a virtual tour of the White House and learn about its history and its residents. Information is available about the Vice President’s Residence, the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, Camp David, and Air Force One. The site also presents information for those interested in fellowships, internships, tours, and special events. A video series offers behind-the-scenes glimpses of life inside the White House. This site provides historical information that could be used for history lessons and projects in upper elementary, middle school, and secondary classrooms.

Image: Chuck Felix /

Newseum Digital Classroom

Newseum is an interactive museum located in Washington, D. C. that features galleries of artifacts related to news stories around the world. A preview of must-see features of the museum includes exhibits related to 9/11, the fall of the Berlin Wall, Watergate, the Unabomber’s cabin, and more. The Newseum presents a collection of newspaper front pages from around the world. Each front page thumbnail links to the website for the featured newspaper.

Another feature of the Newseum is the Digital Classroom which showcases a collection of video lessons related to social studies, civics, English, government, history, technology, and journalism. Each lesson includes a lesson plan, a viewing guide, and related links to additional instructional resources. Plans are designed to be used to prepare students for a Newseum field trip, but can be implemented as standalone lessons.

One informative lesson explores the Civil Rights Movement. The video lesson presents historic video footage and explores the role of the press in civil rights. The video presents the Civil Rights era from the perspectives of people who experienced it, including Congressional representatives; news editors and reporters; and civil rights activists.

The video guide features warm-up discussion questions, questions to consider while watching the video, and quotations featured in the presentation. The guide also includes questions for group discussion and activities for exploring civil rights, the First Amendment, and the role of a free press in American society.

The lesson plan includes an instructional activity in which students research answers to questions related to key events, court cases and people involved in the civil rights movement. It also features Dr. M. L. King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” The letter was written in response to a Birmingham newspaper article entitled, “A Call for Unity.” The article was written by African-American clergy and urged African-Americans to withdraw from public demonstrations and seek justice through the courts when their rights were denied. The lesson also features newspaper articles published in the 1950’s and 1960’s as well as modern-day articles related to historical coverage of the Civil Rights Movement.

Image: Salvatore Vuono /

Evaluating Websites

The Internet can be an excellent source of information on a variety of topics. However, web-based information may not always be reliable. Publishing documents on the web is easy and inexpensive; therefore, “buyer beware” is a good rule of thumb when using Internet resources. While many websites provide reliable, trustworthy information, there are just as many that are inaccurate or even deceptive.

Students learn critical thinking skills by evaluating and selecting high-quality sources of information. In my classroom, I have used resources from the University of California, Berkeley for teaching students how to evaluate websites for academic research. An evaluation checklist is also available in several formats and may be reproduced for classroom use.

Image: jscreationzs /

The JASON Project

The JASON Project was founded in 1989 by Dr. Robert D. Ballard who discovered the wreck of the Titanic. In answer to the many students who contacted him with questions related to his discovery, Dr. Ballard began to look for ways to bring scientific discovery to the classroom. The JASON Project links students in grades 4-10 to real scientists and engages them in scientific research and expeditions led by leading scientists. The JASON Project offers an online curriculum and professional development training to prepare science teachers to implement the curriculum.

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