Tag Archives: research

Musicmap

Musicmap is an incredible interactive website project by Kwinten Crauwels, which endeavors to offer an  encyclopedic collection of music genres and their histories.  When you first visit the site, you will probably be familiar with most of the titles on the home page.  Click on any type of music, however, and you will be able to access many genres that, if they ever crossed the thresh-hold of your eardrums, you would be hard-pressed to identify their names.

Pop music, for example, offered up “Brill Building” and “Shoegaze,” two genres that sound more like commercials for men’s products to me than musical categories.  In case I had any doubt these existed, though, all I had to do was click on either one to get a definition, time context, and a suggested playlist of examples.

I can’t attest to the accuracy or reliability of Musicmap, but I certainly can recommend it to anyone with an interest in the history of music and in learning more about its extensive diversity.

Pop Genres, according to Musicmap
Pop Genres, according to Musicmap

 

 

A Bird’s Eye View

Located in the southern part of San Antonio, TX, Mitchell Lake Audubon Center is dedicated to the conservation of birds. Though it’s open to the public, the majority of the tourists are the birds who stop in the area during their migrations.  The Center offers field trip and guided tours, and is a must-see destination for local birdwatchers.

When planning a drone demonstration for my gifted students with Justin Moore, @texasbyair, Mr. Moore mentioned that he had done some work with Mitchell Lake.  My 5th graders were researching field trip locations, and I thought it might be the perfect match as they seemed mostly interested in nature and wildlife.  The staff at Mitchell Lake, especially Jake Stush, were very accommodating as we worked with them to customize a unique field trip for the students.  Mr. Moore and Mr. Stush teleconferenced with the 5th graders a couple of times to finalize the plans before the tour.  We wanted to show the benefits of using drones, and give the students the opportunity to learn more about the habitats the Mitchell Lake Audubon Center is trying to preserve.

On the day of our trip, 23 gifted students from 3rd-5th grades visited Mitchell Lake.  We separated the students into two groups. Mr. Stush took one group on a hike of the area near Bird Pond to learn more about the resident birds and how the sanctuary has changed over time.  Mr. Moore took the other group to get some drone footage of the region.

As the students learned about the importance of preserving areas like Mitchell Lake and used their binoculars to see some of the birds and other wildlife up close and personal, they also got to find out how drones can be used for scientific research.  Mr. Moore divided the students up into groups to give them jobs for the drone flight – allowing them to look up weather conditions, keep the launch/landing pad area cordoned off, take pictures and video, and to keep the drone in sight and away from obstacles and predators.

It was incredible to learn about this lesser-known part of San Antonio which actually has a huge impact on the ecosystem, as well as to allow students to see the amazing potential of drone technology to help us to work on improving our environment.

As I watched the drone take off, and saw curious birds circle it from a cautious distance while my students watched from the earth below, I felt that I was witnessing a certain kind of tentative balance among man, machine, and animal as we all try to learn how to exist together.

The next day, Mr. Moore sent us a highlight reel of our trip, using video from the drone, as well as video and pictures taken by the students.  He also sent a digital 3d map that was created from the drone’s footage.  It even included our school bus!  We talked about how the information could help the researchers at Mitchell Lake and how much we enjoyed our trip.

For more information about using Drones for Education, check out this post.  Thanks to Mr. Moore (@texasbyair) and the staff of Mitchell Lake (@MLAudubonCenter) for making our field trip so memorable!

Mitchell Lake

Don’t Gross Out the World

Creator of ClassTools.net, @RusselTarr, tweeted this site the other day.  My 1st graders have been studying countries around the world, and we have recently been discussing foods.  They really enjoyed “Don’t Gross Out the World,” from FunBrain because they thought many of the cultural traditions were unbelievable.  For example, how can it be true that some people think that it’s a compliment to burp loudly after a meal? Or, that asking for catsup could possibly be an insult in some countries?  I learned a few new things myself by playing this game with the class:)

Don't Gross Out the World game from FunBrain
Don’t Gross Out the World game from FunBrain

SXSWedu 2016 – Smithsonian Learning Lab

One of the interesting new resources I discovered at SXSWedu this year is the Smithsonian Learning Lab.  This ambitious project spearheaded by The Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access aims to give unprecedented access to the massive collections that have been digitized at the Smithsonian’s network of museums and research centers.  You can learn more about the Learning Lab’s intended mission here.

The Learning Lab offers images, recordings, and texts that you can, as a free registered member, curate into your own collections.  You can then annotate and make notes in your collection.  Adding your own files to the collection is another noteworthy feature. Collections can be shared, and teachers can assign collections to students in their rosters (similar to Google Classroom).  Here is a link to how teachers can use the Learning Lab.

Students under 13 need special permission to create collections of their own.  However, an elementary teacher could certainly benefit from using the images and other resources to supplement lessons. In a way, this Learning Lab is another type of virtual field trip, allowing students to see high resolution images of objects that might not even be on display at the museum any longer.

Here is a picture I found to place in my “Inventions” collection.  Any guesses as to the purpose of this object?

Image from Smithsonian Learning Lab: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Image from Smithsonian Learning Lab: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

 

Tried and True – Genius Hour

Students involved in an "Interactive Genius Hour Presentation"
Students involved in an “Interactive Genius Hour Presentation

On this blog, I tend to post about a lot of ideas that I find, and some readers don’t always get a chance to know if I ever tried them – or if they were complete flops.  This week, I want to feature a few past ideas that I did try and that were successful – and that I definitely want to do again.

Some might call it 20% Time.  Others call it Passion Time.  My first encounter with it was as “Genius Hour,” and so I’ve kept that label.  There are many versions, and many recommended ways to do it.  The crux of the matter, however, is that many educators have found that it is important to allow students to pursue studies in topics that interest them and have relevance to their lives.  I began doing Genius Hour several years ago with my GT 5th graders.  This past year, I expanded it to 3rd and 4th grades.  Every year, and with each grade level, I’ve done things a bit differently.  But I continue to do it because I have definitely seen the value.  I can’t imagine my classroom without Genius Hour – and once I introduce it to a group, they will not stand for it to be taken away from them.  If we ever miss it because of scheduling conflicts, I have a near mutiny on my hands.

You can see my Genius Hour Journey by going to the Genius Hour Resources page (there is a tab at the top of this blog).  I also have downloadables (I highly recommend the Challenge Cards – a big hit with my class this year!), as well as links to other fabulous Genius Hour Resources.  Scroll down to the bottom of the page, and you will see some recommended articles for “newbies” to Genius Hour.

Genius Hour is messy.  It’s loud, and there is absolutely no sitting down on the teacher’s part.  Most of the time, your students are learning about topics in which you have no expertise whatsoever.  It can be frustrating and extremely challenging to your sanity.

But, once you see the impact it has on your students, you will find that it changes your philosophy of teaching.  And, even the moments that are not dedicated to Genius Hour in your classroom will slowly become more student-centered and more meaningful.

 

Camp Wonderopolis

campwonderopolis

Many of you may be familiar with Wonderopolis, a fun site to learn about all kinds of topics that may have piqued your curiosity at one time or another – and even topics that you didn’t know might cause you to wonder.  This summer, the site is offering another free, online camp.  It looks a bit different than last year’s camp, as this year’s description suggests that you will be able to follow your own path of wonder, and there will be photo and video contests in addition to hands-on activity suggestions.  For more about Camp Wonderopolis, click here.

Interactive #GeniusHour Presentations

Pin the Name on the Tree
“Pin the Name on the Tree” Presentation

I’ve had many failures this year (which I will be outlining in some near future posts, I promise), but one message I definitely seemed to get across to my students was that I am done with ho-hum slide presentations that make everyone yawn.  A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned the awesome presentation that some of my 4th graders did recently.  This past week, we had some great ones from my 5th graders.

My consistent theme this year, when it comes to Genius Hour presentations, has been The Golden Rule.  If you wouldn’t want people standing in front of you for 20 minutes reading slides to you in a monotone, then why on earth would you subject your classmates to the same torture?  I haven’t outlawed slide shows, but I’ve shown the students that they are ineffective unless you are a passionate speaker with engaging slides.  After I gave them a peek at 101 Ways to Show What You Know, things got a lot more interesting.

One of my 5th graders has been researching her family tree during Genius Hour, as she had discovered that she was descended from Grover Cleveland.  I have to admit that I was pretty worried about how this presentation would go over.  How would she find a way to make her personal family tree interesting to the rest of the class?  I gave her some suggestions, but she had her own idea.  She made an actual tree, and put velcro on it.  Then she printed out the names of her ancestors, adding velcro to the back.  She divided the class into teams.  When it was a team’s turn, they picked a name out of the bag.  She gave them a clue, and they had to “pin the name on the tree” in the correct spot to get a point.  Total engagement.

The next presentation came from a pair of boys.  They have been working on learning how to do stop motion animation.  From the beginning, I had been reminding them that creating a video wouldn’t be enough.  The class was going to need to learn something from their presentation.  Of course, they could have created a video that taught something.  But that wasn’t what they wanted to do😉  When I think about all of the steps these boys went through for their project, I am blown away.

First, they taught themselves how to use the Lego Movie app.  When they couldn’t add their own voices to that, though, they taught themselves how to use iMovie.  They researched the history of Lego and of stop motion film.  They wrote facts on the backs of small pieces of paper.  Then they made short videos to give clues on how to find the small pieces of paper which were hidden all over the school.  They used the Aurasma app to link the clue videos to drawings they made (all of the drawings were related to their stop motion video).  The class was divided into teams of 3.  Each team had identifying drawings taped to their table (again – characters from their video).  Each team had three different clues that led to three different facts.  When the activity started, the teams would scan their first clue with Aurasma, two students from the team would go find the fact based on the clue video, and the third student would stay in the classroom to watch the stop motion video.  After the students returned, the boys used the Game Show app on the iPads to quiz the teams on the facts they learned.  Then, another round would begin.  This went on until every student had a chance to see the video and go looking for facts.

Did I mention – complete engagement and learning?!!!

Yep, this is a lot better than a slideshow…

For more information on Genius Hour, check out my Genius Hour Resources page here.

The boys quiz the class on the Lego and stop motion facts.
The boys quiz the class on the Lego and stop motion facts.