May
29
2009

Say “hi” to Google Wave

picture-14Looks like there’s a new tool in town – Google Wave.  It’s basically a real-time communication platform.  One-stop-shopping for email, IM, wikis, chat, project management, and social networking. The press about it so far has been very, very positive.  One reason for the raves is that it is open source – so extensions and applications can be fitted to it in order to modify it to your specific needs.  It will be released later this year (according to the Google site).

Here are a few links to help you get a feel for it:

GoogleWave sneak peak (from Google).

Article about its release.

A guide to the terminology (but of course, there’s new jargon!).

A video clip showing a demo of it.

A few of the extensions that have already been demonstrated will allow collaboratin with maps, auctioning extensions for selling things, rating /reviewing items, and extensions that push content out to an existing blog.  Looks like this could be very interesting.  Keep your eyes and ears open.

Written by rheyden in: Teaching Tools | Tags: ,
May
27
2009

Dung Beetles

Horned BeetleWhen I grow up, I want to be Terry Gross (the host and interviewer on the NPR show, Fresh Air).  She’s got to have the best job in the world.  For those of you who are fans of the show, you know that Terry Gross interviews the world’s most interesting people – from politicians, to artists, to scientists, to authors, to musicians, to entertainers.  And she’s so good at it.  She asks the best questions and always gets the full story.

She didn’t let me down this month when she interviewed Doug Emlen (University of Montana) who is an entomologist who studies dung beetles and has become an expert in insect weaponry.  Dr. Emlen described the creatures he studies and their amazing horns – so elaborate and intricate.  He walked Terry through a vivid description of the beetle’s turf battles and how they use their fancy armor to protect, defend, and establish sexual dominance.  His tales of collecting dung beetle specimens from around the world were entertaining and delightful.

Past Fresh Air episodes are all available online as podcasts.  Here is a link to the 40-minute interview with Emlen.  You can also find some amazing video of the dung beetles fighting.  And Dr. Emlen’s web  site includes a gallery of gorgeous photos of the beetles he studies.

This stuff is like biological bon bons.

May
24
2009

Make a Book Online

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Here’s an online utility that you might want to consider using for student projects – - online book creation sites.  Sites like Lulu, XLibris, and Bookemon are free utilities that allow you to create a book, using your own assets (text and images).  These sites are well designed, easy and intuitive to use.

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In order to build your own book, you go to the site of your choice, create a free account, upload your pictures or text (word documents) and the site creates the book for you.  On Lulu and XLibris, you can create your own cover design. In the case of Bookemon, you can go further and design your own layout, adding text boxes, borders, and frames.

Once your book is just as you want it, you can publish it and  – if you want – buy a copy.  The price of the printed book depends, of course, on a variety of factors (e.g. length, color, type of binding) but you can typically purchase a 50-page physical book for about $20.  On the Lulu site you can list your book in their online catalog for others to purchase and you can offer up ebook versions of it for people to download.

On the Bookemon site, you can share the online version of your book with others either by providing a link or embedding code into your web site or social networking site.

Here’s a 41-page book on Acadia National Park that one of Cheryl Hollinger’s (Central York High School) students created using the Bookemon site.  The photos above are pages from this students’ book.  Her wonderful creation gives the reader a very good feel for the park – both scenically and biologically.  And she was careful to provide references and options for more information at the end.

Poetry, cookbooks, memory books, or books on a topic (like Cheryl did with her students) all sound like useful and creative ways for students to express themselves.