turning stones

taking for a spin: tools for The Five 8s

Tag Archives: free

FREE Learning Guides and Teacher Resources

Image courtesy of shmoop.com

Whoa! I stumbled upon a great resource for study and teaching guides. And it’s all for free. Although there is a premium version if you want the whole package, but the free version is such a rich resource already. Shmoop includes a whole lot of materials covering Literature, Poetry, the Bestsellers, Shakespeare, US History, Civics, Economics, Music, Biography, and Pre-Algebra. Let’s say I am teaching Hawthorne’s The Scarlett Letter, I will find an overview, a summary, themes, quotes, the characters, an analysis of the work, probe questions, even photos, a link to related resources on the web and a corner for teachers with ideas for assignments and activities. You can even copy HTML and paste it on your class website, like this:

Shmoop learning guides The Scarlet Letter Assignments & Activities

Let’s face it — sometimes when you’re studying a work of literature intensely, you tend to lose track of the plot (who-did-what-to-whom-where-and-when). Sometimes it’s good to back up and just look at the bare bones of the story. Possibly understanding plot would be a lot easier if each character in the text you’re reading had a Facebook page and could simply update his or her status after each major event.

Here’s an example of William Shakespeare’s play Hamlet turned into a Facebook Newsfeed. This piece was written by Sarah Schmelling for McSweeney’s. (This link leads to the original document. This link leads to a mock Facebook page that makes Schmelling’s piece look exactly like it might look if it truly were posted on Facebook.)

Now it’s your turn to turn your text into a Facebook Wall. Check out Shmoop’s The Scarlet Letter summary, The Scarlet Letter plot analysis and The Scarlet Letter characters. Now try to reduce or summarize the plot of your text into 10-15 Facebook status updates, using at least five different characters.
Unlike Wikipedia, Shmoop is a credible academic resource written by educators and experts from America’s top universities, including Stanford, Harvard, and UC Berkeley. There are no individual authors named as Shmoop is a ‘corporate publisher’. And yes, Shmoop can be cited as a legitimate resource.
Try it out. Find your lessons. Shmoop it!
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Tell a Compelling Story via Social Media

Social Media is the main buzz nowadays. I’m sure it is becoming more and more difficult to find inhabitants of this planet who have not been exposed to social media. Just some figures I found:

Facebook Stats(www.facebook.com/press/info.php?statistics)

  • More than 500 million active users
  • 50% of active users log on to Facebook in any given day
  • Average user has 130 friends
  • People spend over 700 billion minutes per month on Facebook

Twitter Stats(www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/04/14/twitter-user-statistics-r_n_537992.html)

  • Twitter now has 105,779,710 registered users.
  • New users are signing up at the rate of 300,000 per day.
  • Twitter users are, in total, tweeting an average of 55 million tweets a day.

YouTube Stats(www.website-monitoring.com/blog/2010/05/17/youtube-facts-and-figures-history-statistics/)

  • Exceeds 2 billion views a day
  • 24 hours of video uploaded every minute
  • Average person spends 15 minutes a day on YouTube

Just looking at those stats we realize the power of these networks. And there are so much more than just those 3 most popular sites. They provide terabyte upon terabyte of information. When television/news networks cover events, information is not only provided by their field reporters, information is supplied by many sources. These networks follow trends of events in social media sites, tracking updates from warm bodies who are actually in the scene and airing opinions of those who aren’t. Our hobby or habit of typing updates, letting the world know what is happening around us and what we feel about it can be harnessed to come up with a unique story.

Enter Storify. Storify is a web application used to tell stories with elements from social media like tweets, Facebook updates, YouTube videos, Flickr photos, blog entries or others. You can tell your own story, a school event, news that have global impact, a weather report, a disaster. Readers can go to the original sources quoted and also retweet or reply and interact. When you’re finished, you can let your sources know that you have cited them in your story. You can share it on your social network or embed it on your blog or website.

Visit storify.com and send an email to get an invite. Testing Storify, I created my own simple story about what I did for onedayonearth.org here.

I just added another storify… made it in 5 minutes… here is XS Dress Me A Literary!

Storify from Burt Herman on Vimeo.

A Playground for Ideas

An online community for teachers. A forum for innovation and collaboration. A rich and powerful resource, WeAreTeachers combines the expertise of its member community, the knowledge base of its partners and the momentum of social media in providing and contributing ideas for teaching and learning. Listing resources on an myriad of subjects and grade levels, signing up and joining WeAreTeachers is easy and free.
Teaching and learning ideas are not limited to the use of technology. There are individual, group, short or long-term projects and activities. An intuitive search feature returns results that are quite specific to what you are looking for. There are plenty of links to other resources.

If you are a teacher with a blog, you can submit your link here and WeAreTeachers can help you get exposure. You can also sign up to participate in teacher panels as well as submit your teaching and learning ideas.

So what will this be about?

I like searching for ideas, resources, free tools teachers can use. Not only on infusing technology into their teaching, but also other ways of spurring students into learning. Activities that engage students, widen or deepen understanding. It can be in any subject area.
I will be combing the net for teacher blogs, organization websites, tech magazines and I will share what I find here.

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