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24 Aug 2011
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Inspire and Ignite Political Debate in the Classroom

Container Ban on River Passes

As a local New Braunfels resident and an educator, I thought the current river ban debate would make an excellent post for a research and persuasive paper assignment. It is also is a nice pairing with my recent Fakebook post as there are Facebook pages both for (“It’s Time to Protect Our Comal and Guadalupe Rivers“) and against the ban (“The River Belongs to Us Not City Council” & “Sign the Referendum to Recall the New Braunfels Container Ban Ordinance“). While I would not recommend using the actual Facebook pages for research as some of the comments have proven to be heated and inappropriate, teachers could glean both pages for arguments and direct quotes from both sides to provide a point of reference for the debate.

Last night the New Braunfels City Council by a vote to 5 to 1 banned disposable food and beverages from waterways within the city limits. This ban has ignited the interest of many residents who may or would not have been active in local government and want to have a voice… and a vote.

River Video taken August 15th, 2011 after a clean-up. 

Ignite Debate: Such a hot topic also proves to be a great fodder for classroom discussion and a wonderful vehicle for debate. Trying to say as unbiased as possible, I decided to build off of my previous Fakebook post:

New Braunfels City Council Meeting

  1. Teachers could create a simulated discussion to highlight basic arguments from both sides (by pulling quotes and posts from FB).
  2. Students would then get a RAFTS  assignment. (Consider all of the the parties (roles) that the ban will affect and all of the vested entities: NB City Council, NB Police, locals, residents on the river, river-oriented business, NB businesses, tourists, the media, state politicians). See Reading Rockets RAFTS info and templates.
  3. Based on their given or selected role, students would research arguments, statistics, and facts/info that would support their stance on the issue. The recent article from My San Antonio provides a great start.
  4. Students would complete a graphic organizer to record their findings before finalizing their project.
    1. Web 2.0: ExploratreePopplet, or HOLT Interactive Graphic Organizers
    2. iPad: Popplet or T-Charts (123 Charts for stats and data)
    3. iPod: T-Charts (123 Charts for stats and data)
  5. Students could then present their persuasive argument in multiple formats:

    Created with T-Chart app

    1. a news broadcast (using Videolicious and images from the council meeting and river)
    2. an letter/email to a local Congressman (When writing a letter/email, remind students to: know their facts, state their purpose, be personal, stay on message, don’t be partisan, be courteous, and request a response). Researching voting records and public stances for multiple congressional figures may help students locate Senators and Representatives that would be more sympathetic to their cause.)
    3. a website (Glogster EDU) or brochure/flier with all information gathered for or against ban that could be presented to locals and/or voters
    4. a persuasive essay
    5. a debate (live or virtually with Edmodo)
    6. a song/rap/poem (quick songs could be completed in using Songify)
    7. a proposal to provide alternate solutions to the ban or a revised law
    8. a 30-second commercial for or against the ban (check out Photostory)
    9. an interview with a RAFTS stakeholder

 River Video taken after Memorial Day, 2011 used in the media to support the ban


14 Aug 2011
Comments: 1

Surprisingly Educational Apps: iPad Blog Hop Host

In honor of the launching of Techchef4u’s Blog Talk Radio Show “Appy Hour”, I decided to cook up my first ever iPad Blog Hop Contest (the winner will receive a $20 iTunes Gift card!). The rules are fairly simple:

 

  1. Compose a blog entry on your blog with the title “Surprisingly Educational Apps”.
  2. Select one free iPad/iPod app: Apps can be covertly educational like Talking Tom or Songify or somewhat transparent like U.S. Quarters and Magnetic Alphabet Lite. The task is more to shine a light on these gems and highlight how they would or could be used innovatively for educational purposes. Please hyperlink to the app’s iTunes page.
  3. Highlight how it could be creatively used in the classroom (the app must not contain inappropriate material). Please include a screen shot or video (so others will fully comprehend your vision) with your apptivity description. Screenshots of apps can be pulled into Doodle Buddy, Popplet Lite, or ScreenChomp to be easily annotated. Chosen App can be used in conjunction with another app. 
  4. Include recommended age group and content area for your apptivity suggestion(s) within your post.
  5. Finally, include a link back to the iPad Blog Hop’s host site (www.techchef4u.com).

 

More info: The U.S. Quarters app is not innately educational like Number Line (activity-based) or Khan Academy (instructionally-based). Other than supporting the U.S. Congress’s mission to honor the federal republic and “promote the diffusion of knowledge among the youth”, the app itself doesn’t truly teach or produce anything more than basic facts about the fifty states (e.g. motto, date ratified, and symbols). Thus, it is up to us to create a surprisingly educational experience with this app… in a middle school mathematics classroom or elementary social studies… perhaps. I decided to showcase the app to teach mathematics vocabulary and proportional reasoning (scale factor)I will be including my full post on U.S. Quarters and the other apps we discuss before the 25th.

The winner will be determined by a group of Instructional Technology Specialists from NEISD and announced on my first installment of Appy Hours 4 U with my Co-host Yolanda Barker: Thursday August 25th at 10am. Submissions will be judged on creativity/ingenuity, supporting materials (screenshots, videos, etc…), and appropriateness for the classroom.

The winner will receive a $20 iTunes Gift card!



27 Jul 2011
Comments: 0

22 Apps 4 You (Parents' Appy Hour)

While many of us buy iDevices for ourselves, time and time again we find them cluttered with kids’ apps. Oftentimes we get little screen time for ourselves until after the little ones are off in bed. The devices are a wonderful tool for children of all ages but sometimes it is fun (and important) to take a few minutes to nurture our tech self, bring out our inner child, and find ways to improve productivity, feed the adult brain, and even customize the media we receive. To this end, I have put together a list of 22+ apps to do just that!

  1. Dropbox: Free (iPhone/iPad) This is a great app that has a lot of functionality. It will allow users to access documents in your Dropbox folder from any of your iDevices or have full modification capabilities from another computer you have added the account to. Modified documents will automatically sync changes to all devices/computers when saved. You can also create folders that can be shared publicly or with family/friends (great way to share photos and videos without uploading them). If you want actual remote access to your complete desktop, check out Splashtop Remote Desktop for iPad (free for iPad only) or Mocha VNC Lite (free for iPhone/iPad).
  2. Pandora Radio: Free (iPhone/iPad) Create your own stations by choosing the genres of music that you enjoy (Don’t have an iPad… check out their website). If you like Pandora, check out TuneIn Radio (free for iPhone/iPad) which also has a site and allows you to listen to 50,000 AM/FM radio stations around the globe.
  3. Dragon Dictation: Free (iPhone/iPad). Have you ever been in the car and had a gem you wanted to share with the world (or your friends and family)? This is a speech to text app. Tap and dictate (you can edit if Dragon didn’t get it quite right) and then email, copy, or upload to FB or Twitter when you are safely parked and at your destination. If you like this app, check out Dragon Go! (free for iPhone/iPad) which will search mobile sites (e.g. Yelp, Amazon, CNN, Ebay, news and blogs, Google, Wikipedia, etc…) for the information you dictate.
  4. Meeting Notes: $2.99 (iPhone/iPad) I haven’t had a chance to actually review this one but I have to say it offers a lot of functionality for those who attend lots of meetings (e.g. simultaneous meeting notes and audio recording, full text search and keyword tags, keeps record of attendees which integrates with your iPhone contacts, a seating plan which is great for those who have a horrible memory for names as I do, and much more).
  5. Totes M’ Notes: Free (iPad only). This one had a few bad reviews before the upgrade but I really like it for parents and secondary students. You can create and customize your own folders and then create notes within each folder which will all be visible on your shelf and can be emailed.
  6. Tour Wrist: Free (iPhone/iPad). This app is appsolutely amazing. Travel remotely from your iPad with a swirl of the wrist. Experience 360 tours in a whole new immersive way. Don’t have an iPad… visit their site. If you like this app, check out Aroundertouch (free for iPhone/iPad) which will give you similar beautiful 360 tours at your fingertips. USA for Kids ($0.99 for limited time – regularly $4.99 for iPad only does not offer tours but does highlight kid-friendly destinations and fun facts.
  7. Qwiki: Free (iPad only). Truly an information experience: type in any topic and receive a customized informational video. You have to see it to believe it. Don’t have an iPad… check out the site.
  8. Popplet Lite: Free (iPad only). This mind-mapping app could be used in so many ways. Create a family tree complete with images, a family chores chart, or a timeline. Don’t have an iPad… check out the site.
  9. Simplemind+: Free (iPhone/iPad). This app does not have the photo integration but is wonderful for a quick brainstorm (e.g. things I have to do to get ready for a party or work related topics). Don’t have an iPad… download a trial of the desktop version.
  10. Flashcards*: Free (iPhone/iPad). This app could be used with any age group that needs flashcards. Access the vast library of existing decks or create your own with Quizlet. See other apps (iPad/iPhone) that integrate with Quizlet. Will have to upgrade to Quizlet Plus to create your own decks with images.
  11. 123 Charts: Free (iPhone/iPad). This is basically a spreadsheet with graphing capability for your iPad that is so user friendly both elementary and secondary students can use it.
  12. My Congress: Free (iPad only). Access information about your local Congress members (websites, Twitter, News, YouTube, etc…). My Elected Officials is available for free for iPhone/iPad as well.
  13. Vocabology: Free (iPhone/iPad). Ever wanted to feed your brain and learn new words? Great app for learning vocabulary (note: may want to remove certain feeds as some may be slang or inappropriate for younger audiences).
  14. World Book This Day in History: Free (iPad only). Another way to feed your brain especially if you like historical events or need info for trivia.
  15. Book Chat: Free (iPhone/iPad). I have yet to examine this one but it appears to allow you to create virtual book clubs with friends, family, or others.
  16. Jigsaw Puzzle: $1.99 (iPhone/iPad). I snagged this gem when it was free. It allows you to customize  your own puzzle from your images or use the existing gallery images. You can choose 12, 24, 48, 0r 96 images and have your choice or piece rotation, timer, and screen modes. If you are not willing to dish out the $1.99, check out Super Slide Puzzle (free for iPad only).
  17. Chicktionary Lite: Free (iPhone/iPad). If you enjoy word games, this one is addictive, entertaining, and educational. See how many three, four, five, six letter words you can build from the letters given.
  18. Songify: Free for a limited time (iPhone/iPad). Turn mundane directions, lists, or vocabulary words into a fun jingle. (my so much to do today sample)
  19. 5-0 Radio Police Scanner Lite: Free (all). If you need some extra entertainment (especially over the tourist season)  check out this app and brush up on your police codes. Note there may be some inappropriate language and if you leave the app running it will drain your battery.

    Before Edward and Stefan, there was Pacey

  20. Videolicious: Free (iPhone/iPad). This app is fantastic for all age levels and allows you to quickly turn raw video clips and photos into a real masterpiece. Check out the process.
  21. PBS Kids Videos: Free (iPad only). Stuck in a Doctor’s office with your kiddos and you need to buy yourself a few minutes?This app is very easy to navigate and has quality child-friendly clips (not full length) from PBS (e.g. Curious George, Dinosaur Train, Super Why, Arthur, Sesame Street, etc…). If you need to get away or escape, check out Video Time Machine ($0.99 for iPhone/iPad).
  22. Mint: Free (iPhone/iPad). This is a great app to track all of your accounts and credit cards as an individual or a family in real time and create/monitor a budget. Check out their site for more info. Want to create a budget and chore tracker for your children, check out apps like iAllowance ($4.49 for iPhone/iPad) – this is one I have not reviewed.
Would love to start a discussion about favorite apps for
productivity, education, and media consumption for adults.