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December, 2008:

Read It, Write It, Say It – Using Google Maps

Reading, writing and oral communication are extremely important skills in all academic areas. We can improve these skills through practice and authentic audience. Technology has made it easier for teachers to provide their students with an authentic audience. Blogs, Wiki’s, and podcast are some of the most popular tools for publishing student work. I think Google Maps, along with screencasting, provides another way to practice these communication skills and to publish map based stories.

Let me explain the process by using the Underground Railroad as an example. The first step is “Read It”. The students could use the Internet, history books, or historical fiction to learn about the Underground Railroad. They would write about the routes, history or people involved in the Underground Railroad. Then using Google Maps, they would create place marks on the map showing where the events took place. In the small boxes for each place mark, they would enter text, pictures, and hyperlinks on the topic. These maps can then be shared online and people could read what the students have written. If you embed the map into a blog posting the readers could leave comments for the students. A lot of teachers have done this using Google Maps, but the last step “Say it” is the added twist.

Using screencasting software the students can now show their map and record their voice explaining the map to the audience. I used Jing to do my story. It is free and easy to use. As an example,I created a three-minute sample about places I have lived. It isn’t great, but it does show how you can have your students create “map stories.”

Let me know what you think of “map stories.” If your students create a “map story” send me the link and I will feature it on my blog and in one of my workshops.


My Morning Paper

Since the mid 50’s I have read the Detroit Free Press almost every morning I have been home. That is over 17,000 mornings reading the paper.  I still enjoy going out to get the newspaper and sitting on the porch during the summer or at the dining room table during the winter and reading the paper. A hot cup of coffee and the newspaper is a great way to start the day.

It is obvious that the rest of the world doesn’t agree with me. The circulation of the Detroit Free Press is down 50% from its circulation peak. Last week my paper announced that they are cutting home delivery to three days a week. They will only deliver the paper on Thursday, Friday, and Sunday. My life is about to change. I know it is all about the “new” media, but I don’t like it. I was paper trained a long time ago and I like it.

Now I’ll either have to go to the store to get a paper or read it online. I also am concerned that a lot of people won’t bother to read the paper and will rely on television, radio and online news sites. They will get the sound bites and edited clips, but not the depth the paper offers. Also, most people won’t bother to read the editorials. A lot of people will only get news from people that they agree with and will skip the ones they don’t agree with them.

Life will go on, but it won’t be the same. I’ll miss it.

One old man,


Is there a Monster Under the Bed?

This is a great little project for second or third graders. It is coordinated by Ann Oro and Anna Baralt’. Both of these teachers are active in the K12 Online Conference and Twitter. Is there a better way to learn about adjectives in elementary school than drawing and describing monsters? Anna and Ann have designed the lesson, created a sign up page and even have a movie you can watch to learn more about the Monster Collaboration Project. You will be teamed up with another class. Take a look at the sign up page for more information. I just wish I was in the second grade again.

This is their description from their presentation:

“Learn how our Monster Project encourages creativity and the development of reading and writing skills while integrating technology into the classroom. Using monsters as a vehicle, students across the United States exchange written descriptions and recreate their partner’s monster without ever looking at the real thing. Teachers will discover free tools available online, connect drawing and writing tools, learn how to work with multiple files in a wiki, and equate various goals of the revised Bloom’s Taxonomy with an electronic platform. Lesson plans, tips, and resources are shared.”

To learn more visit the following links:

Overview from the K12 Online Conference – http://k12onlineconference.org/?p=338

Movie talking about the project and the curricular goals – http://k12online.wm.edu/k12online08ki08.mov

Sign up page for the 2009 project, Helpful Hints, books, and lesson plan – http://monsterproject.wikispaces.com/

Another Collaborative Tool

Inspiration  and Kidspiration are two great programs for teaching writing and for concept mapping. Numerous schools use these two programs. I recently visited a school for students who had problems with writing. One of the seniors told me he was planning on buying Inspiration to have with him in college. He used the outline mode in Inspiration when he was writing reports and the graphic mode when he was writing fiction. He was very excited when I told him there was now an online version of Inspiration that he could use for free.

MyWebspitation is a very complete version of Inspiration. I haven’t used Inspiration since I started with November Learning, but as far as I can see it has the same features as the commercial version (See Screenshot above). Most importantly, it has added the ability to share and collaborate on a concept map. You can invite people to work with you on your project by emailing them access to your project. You can invite multiple people to collaborate using one message.

If your students have used Inspiration, they will be able to use the web version without additional training. Great for planning group projects when they are working with other students from beyond they school walls. Also, it allows students access from home or school without parents having to purchase the softare.

MyWebspitation is another excellent collaboration tool to add to your toolbox. I hope you enjoy it.


Harry Truman

Since I live on the shore of Lake Huron just north of Port Huron, I had to share this little piece of insignificant history. Today I was reading  Truman by David McCullough. McCullough was talking about Harry Truman marrying Bess Wallace.

The honeymoon couple stopped by Chicago, Detroit, and Port Huron, Michigan. In Chicago, they stayed at the Blackstone. At Port Huron, they were at the beaches of Lake Huron, where the weather was as perfect as their time together. So sublime were these days and nights beside the ice-cold lake that for Harry the very words “Port Huron” would forever mean the ultimate in happiness.

I’m happy they shared the “ultimate in happiness” with me on the shores of Lake Huron. I just had to share a little local history.

By the way, I bought the book Truman online. I have read and enjoyed other books by David McCullough and I am enjoying this book also. What I didn’t pay attention to online was the length of the book. It is 1,100 pages long including the index. I don’t mind it being that big except I usually take books with me to read at the airport and on the plane. This book is so thick I can’t fit it is my computer case. So it isn’t a book to take on a trip. Instead I’ll be taking Don Tapscott’s new book Grown Up Digital: How the Net Generation is Changing Your World. I’m sure  it will be good, but once again I have three books started at the same time.

I had several people tell me that they have a Kindle: Amazon’s Wireless Reading Device and love it. It holds books, newspapers and other print material. It also has a easy to read screen and a lot of cool features. I’m only holding back due to the cost. I’m just not sure I would get my moneys worth out of it. It is very popular and there is currently a waiting list to buy one. If you own one, give me your thoughts on the good and bad points of the Kindle.