Please don’t ask me the name of this website if you ever meet me in person because I think I’ve found almost as many ways to garble the title as there are years in an epoch. I don’t know why I can’t remember it as it is quite simple and makes perfect sense, but for some reason my inner Jeff Foxworthy keeps coming out and trying to re-name it, “This Here Day”.
As I said, this site is quite simple, and it is a great visualization of our place in time and in the universe. I happened to be about to do a Systems Thinking unit based on the book, Zoom, by Istvan Banyai, when I came across “Here is Today“, and it really added to our discussion about perspectives, big picture thinking, and connectedness. I was afraid the concept of “Here is Today” might escape my third graders, but the comparisons included on this website seemed to make quite an impact on them. They made great observations about the “Big Idea”, and how this related to practically everything we have learned this year, including our recent field trip to the Toyota Factory. This was also a great lead-in to our Old Faithful, the Powers of Ten video.
Remember, Here is Today. Better yet, just click on the link!
I have a Fun Friday video for you of a young man named Audri and his very complex Rube Goldberg contraption. Audri was 7 when he made this video, and aspires to one day study robotics at MIT. I have no doubt that he will achieve all of his dreams! If you feel like playing a virtual Rube Goldberg game, you can head on over to Goldburger to Go at PBS Kids.
Last November, I posted about a new toy that was expected on the market this April. I just received an announcement from Fat Brain Toys that they have GoldieBlox in stock now for $29.99.
In case you don’t remember, GoldieBlox is the creation of Stanford graduate, Debbie Sterling. She intends to produce a series of these toys that are designed to encourage young girls to engage in engineering. The first kit of the series, GoldieBlox and the Spinning Machine, includes a book and a project kit. The minimum recommended age is 6 years old.
In my first post on GoldieBlox, I mentioned my discouragement in finding so many online toys that were labeled with traditional gender roles. I applaud Debbie Sterling’s attempt to even the playing field by creating an engineering toy that may have more appeal for girls, but I still hope for a near future when there is no distinction. That being said, this looks like an interesting educational toy, and I would love to get feedback from anyone who uses it with students or their own children.
“Change the Equation” is a website that is devoted to “Inspiring Youth in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math”. It offers current news about S.T.E.M., resources for learning about S.T.E.M., videos, and sobering statistics (called “STEMtistics”) about how far behind the United States has fallen in the areas of math and science education. The “Change the Equation” blog is also very informative. From this site, I found my way to their YouTube Channel that features some videos from their “S.T.E.M. is Cool Video Contest”. I particularly liked the one below, which really summarizes the value of learning math and science in school to prepare for those “cool” jobs like designing video games.
Silk is a website that touts itself as “Interactive Generative Art”. Since this is Fun Friday, I feel okay about sharing this site with very little practical educational value because it is entertaining and, actually, a bit meditative. The concept is simple – use your mouse to start drawing. Once you begin, a tool palette will appear in the top left, allowing you to go full screen, save your picture, reveal the controls, undo, share, and start new. If you share, the link provided will actually show the construction of your design.
Music plays as you draw. This might be a good center for students who need to calm down, or to get their minds off some of the problems at home. It also can be used to teach symmetry. Or, you can use it for no reason at all, other than that you feel the need to create something beautiful.
There is an iOS app of Silk, but it is 99 cents. While you have the chance, I advise you to play the web version for free.
iSolveIt is brought to you by the Center for Applied Special Technology. CAST is “an educational research & development organization that works to expand learning opportunities for all individuals through Universal Design for Learning.”
Currently, there are two app for iDevices: MathSquared and MathScaled. What I like about both of these free apps is that they allow multiple people to register on one iPad, so when they are using it they can just log in, and continue with the level they last accessed. I also like that the apps have a few levels which allows you to work at your own pace. Another advantage is that each one has a “Scratch Pad” option, allowing you to make notes to help you with your game. And, finally, I am thrilled by the reasoning skils that are required to play each of these games. These are not “drill and kill” games.
What I didn’t like was that I could not find the instructions for either app within the app itself. I ended up going to the iSolveIt website to figure out what I was supposed to be doing for both games. The website has helpful directions and videos, but it would be nice to be able to have tutorials within the app.
If you like Sudoku and Ken-Ken, then MathSquared is the game for you. If you like balancing equations in Algebra, then MathScaled will appeal to you. Or, you can neglect all of your other duties for the next few days, and try both.
One of my colleagues shared this video the other day that had been shown at one of our district trainings. On one hand (with one, two, three, four, five fingers), it’s quite funny. On the other hand, it is a bit scary – because we probably all had teachers like that at one time or another. Sometimes, as teachers, we get frustrated that our students don’t understand, but forget to try teaching the skill a completely different way that they might comprehend more easily. Many times, they can discover the method on their own with a little bit of guidance. This video reminds me that I need to constantly monitor my students’ understanding, and to be ready to offer alternatives instead of getting upset when they don’t “get it”.
Here is the YouTube link in case you are unable to view the embedded video: http://youtu.be/KdxEAt91D7k
My 2nd graders showed so much zeal for our unit on building bridges that I have been on the hunt for other ways to satisfy their curiosity. Though “Discover Engineering” seems to be geared more toward older students, there are still a few activities and games that my 2nd graders would enjoy. There are links to games, videos, and activities related to engineering under the “Cool Stuff” tab, as well as other recommended sites. One of my favorite videos from the site, “The Spirit of Innovation”, is embedded below. I will definitely be adding it to my “Inspirational Videos for Students” Pinterest board.
Over a year ago, I posted about the beautiful video, “Nature By Numbers” by Cristobal Vila. Ever since I discovered that video, I have shown it to my students when we study mathematical masterpieces. Recently, I found out that Vila had created another amazing video, “Inspirations”, that explores his admiration for the artist, Escher. According to Vila, “So I looked into that enormous and inexhaustible source of inspiration that is Escher and tried to imagine how it could be his workplace, what things would surround an artist like him, so deeply interested in science in general and mathematics in particular.”
Again, the students studying mathematical masterpieces would love this video. I love the idea, too, of thinking about what inspired the person who inspires you. It would be an interesting project to assign your students to design the room of someone from history, and to scatter carefully chosen artifacts throughout that would speculate on that person’s particular muses.
For our Fun Friday post this week, I am sharing with you two videos recommended to me by some of my colleagues. The first video was created by a 7th grader for a Science Fair project in which she sent a rocket equipped with cameras (and a “Hello Kitty” doll who just happened to “fit perfectly”) very high. The second video, which you can visit here, is an interview with the young lady from ABC news. Quite honestly, I thought the first video was a fake until I saw the interview. This 7th grader is very mature, and I think your students might find her pretty inspiring. Here is a quietube link to the first video in case you would like to show it without all of the YouTube distractions.