Today I’ll share a few of the resources I use to teach the fundamentals of physics. One of the most fun aspects of teaching physics is that it lends itself to so many entertaining and engaging activities and demonstrations in class. Along with chemistry, physics is probably the most hands-on science I teach; therefore, real-world demonstrations and activities are the bread and butter of my physics units. However, there are any number of situations in which hands-on demonstrations aren’t possible or feasible: a lack of funding or resources at a school, broken equipment, abstract concepts or perhaps a student is simply reviewing material at home. In these cases, animations can provide a tremendous amount of help in understanding the essentials of physics. Most of the resources I’ve listed here are collections of animations to help students learn (and teachers teach!) about physics.
The Physics Classroom – I’ve been using this site for years. It’s got well-written synopses of all the classical physics topics in student-friendly language, plus links to some basic animations and a range of practice problems. Extremely well-organized.
Flash animations for physics – A long list of small Flash files over a wide variety of topics. From a professor at the University of Toronto, Canada.
Math and physics animations – These animations aren’t great, but they clearly show the link between the math and graphic sides of physics. Also some calculus here, so probably more appropriate for upper high school students.
Physics Central – Animations, videos, images, current news blog, searchable experiments. This is a good all-around resource.
Sixty Symbols – Videos about physics and astronomy, with a little chemistry thrown in for good measure. A fair amount of applied science here, so that students can see real-world applications of classroom lessons. There are a lot more than 60 videos.
I’m back with another set of bookmarks for students and teachers. Because I’ve taught the IB Environmental systems and societies course for several years, this set of online resources is closest to my heart. Some of these links are here simply because I think they’re cool or fun. Many may also be applicable for studying biology and chemistry as well. Let’s get to it:
United States Census Bureau. Extensive database of global human populations. Can be used to create age-sex pyramids, as well as other applications.
Earth wind map. A cool interactive resource to check wind patterns in real time anywhere on the planet.
Wildlife survey field lab template. This PDF from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection has a good layout to help middle school teachers and students design their own field surveys.
GRID-Arendal Maps and Infographics Library. In association with UNEP. This is one of my favorite resources for teaching environmental science. Searchable by topic, keyword, or geography. All maps and images are free to share. Awesome!
Timelapse. Watch the world change over the course of nearly three decades of satellite photography.
As with my last post, this one is dedicated to sharing the random assortment of helpful bookmarks I’ve collected over the years. Like the first part of my bio resources, these are in no particular order, unless you consider where they fall in my browser’s drop-down menu some kind of order. Without further ado, some resources for your chemistry studies:
PTable.com. Hands down the best periodic table on the internet. Period.
Chemistry.about.com. A good, all-around general chemistry resource. They’ve updated the site format to include news and events, which may tie in nicely with MYP Criterion D: Reflecting on the impacts of science.
LibreTexts virtual chemistry textbooks. These are some fairly advanced materials which may be more appropriate for students in Diploma Program or AP chemistry classes. Organized around broad topics such as analytical chemistry, environmental chemistry, organic chem, and physical and theoretical chemistry.
IB Chemistry Web. This site appears to be meticulously maintained, and it’s closely aligned with the new IB Chemistry syllabus. Heavy on text, but a tremendous amount of resources for every part of the course.
PCCL Flash animations for learning chemistry. These aren’t fancy animations, but they clearly and simply demonstrate a bunch of key topics in general chemistry.
Molecular Workbench. Hundreds of engaging, interactive simulations in chemistry (and other subjects). Many include embedded assessments, and you can build your own simulation if you really get into it. You can spend hours with the MW.
Practical chemistry activities from the Nuffield Foundation. Over 200 activities you can do to teach or learn about chemistry. Some are virtual, but many require a science lab.
Behind the Scenes at MIT. As the website tagline says, “A series of two-minute videos relating concepts from textbook chemistry to current MIT research and applications in medicine, the environment, and energy.” A nice way for students to see the real-world applications of what’s happening in the lab and the classroom.
Off the Shelf Chemistry. A series of 18 chemistry labs for middle school and high school. Download PDF or Word versions to use in your own class/lab.
Chemlab.com from Truman State University. This website hosts the course materials for several university-level chemistry courses, but many of them are appropriate and applicable for high school.
Those are my Chrome chemistry bookmarks. After I’ve run through my resources for earth science, ecology, and physics, I’ll revisit all these subjects and add a second round of resources from my Firefox browser.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been updating various pages within my website, and as I work, I keep encountering all these different websites and digital resources I’ve bookmarked over the years. My bookmarks bar is organized by broad scientific subjects: astronomy,biology, chemistry, ecology, and physics. I’ve also got a folder dedicated solely to scientific games. I will share the resources in these folders in subsequent posts, organized by subject area. Once posted in the blog, I’ll then add all bookmarks to the general science pages in my website, but I thought I’d take this opportunity to share them with the broader global community as well. I have so many of these resources that I’m going to have to split the list into two parts – the bookmarks from my Chrome browser and those from Firefox.
Today: biology resources for students (and teachers!) in no particular order.
Bioman Biology. Interactive biology games on a variety of topics, including physiology, cells, ecology, genetics, evolution, DNA, respiration, and photosynthesis.
Carbon cycle animation from the University of Alberta, Canada. A simple but comprehensive flow chart (system diagram) of the global carbon cycle.
InstaGrok interactive concept maps. Pre-made concept maps showing links between a whole bunch of topics in general biology. Click on a term to see links to other biology topics, facts, websites, videos, images, or add your own notes.
Cells Alive! This site has been around for years. Good, easy-to-understand interactive cell models.
John Kimball’s online biology textbook. This guy has been teaching biology for decades, and he’s amassed an incredible amount of resources on his site around every conceivable topic in biology. It’s kind of an old-school site, but it’s thorough.
Learn.Genetics at the University of Utah, USA. I use the tutorials from this site extensively in my genetics and evolution units.
Bozeman Science biology playlist on YouTube. 76 videos! 76! This playlist contains videos that could be useful in AP Biology, IB Biology, Biology, and other life sciences, all from the amazing Paul Andersen.
Mitosis World Home at University of North Carolina, USA. An aggregate of several other biology resources.
Discover Biology animations from W.W. Norton & Co. High-quality animations that can be viewed straight through, step-by-step, or narrated.
Interactive transpiration animation from ScienceMag. Adjust plant parameters and environmental conditions to see different effects on the movement of water through plants. With some creativity, you could run a virtual lab from this animation.
Understanding Evolution at the University of California – Berkeley. Densely packed with information and thoroughly researched. I use this site as a main reference for my evolution units. The site has been around a long time and is showing its age, but it’s still highly useful.
Sex determination video at TED-Ed. One of many useful resources from the TED people. Includes a review quiz and discussion questions.
Biology for Life. A great website from Gretel von Bargen at Skyline High School in Washington state, USA. It follows the new IB Biology syllabus. Also linked to her Twitter feed. I use this site a ton.
Bioknowledgy. Probably my favorite site for IB Biology. Chris Paine in Shanghai has created an extensive library of resources and materials aligned with the new IB Biology syllabus. Includes presentations, videos, and guided revision questions, among other resources. Awesome!
I hope that’s a good start for now. If you find any helpful resources you think I’ve missed, please send them my way in the comments, and I’ll add them to the second batch.
Well, the first few weeks of the school year are in the books, and if you’re anything like me, you’re a little overwhelmed by all the ‘stuff’ you need to know to survive modern schooling. I’m not talking about content knowledge. I mean the ‘how to’ of navigating the virtual side of 21st-century education.
At my school we have 5 different official platforms where students and parents get the resources they need for classes:
Email: The official means of communication between school and home. It seems simple enough, but I’m finding that many students just haven’t developed the habit of checking their email daily. That means a lot of messages go unread until it’s too late – the deadline has been missed.
Moodle: A well-established online course management tool, IST has been using Moodle for several years now, and it has quite a bit of versatility once you dig into it. This is where everyone is supposed to go to find homework, class notes, and other resources for every unit, but teachers don’t use it in a consistent manner across the school. Unfortunately, it’s also beginning to look a little dated, and its interface is less intuitive than other options out there.
ManageBac: You’d think that a purpose-designed digital platform aligned with the International Baccalaureate’s Diploma Program and Middle Years Program would be a no-brainer for an IB World School, but it’s generating more questions than answers at my school. All the components are there – complete curriculum documentation and unit planning, assessment tasks, dropboxes linked to Turnitin.com, CAS and after-school activities, a gradebook function, and personalized calendars. However, teachers, students, and parents all see different sides of the platform, and no one is entirely clear about which parts we’re required to use and which are optional. There needs to be some serious professional development around this platform before we can fully take advantage of it, because right now it’s like a semi-operational Death Star: lots of potential power, but riddled with holes.
Google Classroom: My personal favorite of the platforms we use, Classroom integrates seamlessly with Gmail and Google Drive to make it easy to share announcements and assignments with students. It can automatically generate individualized copies of assignments (including those elusive student names in the file name!!) and it organizes student work into Google Drive folders accessible to both teachers and students. It incorporates the shared collaborative capability beautifully and makes documented feedback on rough drafts a breeze. Offline editing is also available for unreliable networks like Tanzania’s. Google Classroom also makes a paperless class an achievable goal – if there’s a 1-to-1 program at the school. Which we don’t have yet.
Ed-Admin: The clunky 1990’s AOL version of school management software, developed (I think) by a company out of South Africa. Our business office loves it, and the rest of the school seems to despise it. While it may be tweaked to meet the demands of individual schools, that requires phone calls and emails to HQ, who will then make the changes for the school. I suspect this platform is on its way out in the next couple of years.
Each one of these platforms brings strengths to the educational possibilities for our students; however, their interoperability is limited, and the resulting jumble of passwords and access points creates chaos for our students, families, and staff alike. In an ideal world, I’d like to see us rely on the Google platforms, since they’re relatively cheap, accessible from everywhere on the planet with an internet connection, and integrate with one another in a way that the other platforms don’t. Perhaps some ManageBac training and a commitment to the Google universe will simplify everything for our families and faculty.
Yesterday I posted a video made by one of my students about the sustainability of food resources because I thought it was a good example of what students can create when given creative latitude in the classroom. Then one of my fellow science teachers mentioned Tom McFadden, a science teacher who’s earned quite a YouTube following for his creative and engaging raps about science. Tom supports students creating science projects in other schools, and what he has enabled children to do is really quite impressive. He has a science blog here, and you can check out his YouTube channel here. I particularly like the science history rap battles. Here’s a particularly good one, which tells the story of Rosalind Franklin and the discovery of DNA’s double helix structure:
One of the things I love about Twitter is the sheer volume of ridiculously helpful and inspiring resources it brings me every day. With tools like Tweetdeck and Tweetbot, I get the best globally-crowdsourced information on science, education, educational technology, world news, and music – the categories most aligned with my personal and professional interests – on my homepage every single day.
Today Twitter delivered the following gem to my virtual door: “The ‘All-Time’ Best Science Sites on the Web.” The name is a bit misleading because the author, Larry Ferlazzo, links to some great resources in subjects other than science.
My advice: find a snack, click on the link, and spend the next long while exploring.
Yesterday I was searching for some content to help my 10th graders gain a deeper understanding of the mole concept, when I got distracted. Like really, really distracted. I started with the TED-Ed video asking “How big is a mole?” and ended up spending about 2 hours adding video lessons to all the units I teach: plant physiology, the solar system and deep space in grade 8, physics energy transformations and evolution in grade 10, as well as every single topic in my Environmental Systems and Societies class.
These video lessons are great for flipping my classroom, which enables me to introduce new concepts or content on students’ own time and use our contact time together to push their knowledge deeper. If you haven’t heard of flipped classes or blended learning, check out these hyperlinks for a basic introduction to the idea. Using Google Classroom and Drive are a big part of the blended learning experience my students get in science. I think the graphic below neatly summarizes what I’m describing.
Back to TED-Ed: Each video lesson contains a brief series of activities which scaffold students’ learning. There are some comprehension-check questions in the form of a brief “Think” quiz, some additional resources in the “Dig Deeper” section to promote further exploration and higher-order thinking skills, and some lessons also include a “Discuss” section including guided discussions with other students around the world. Overall, I think it’s a pretty cool way to learn, and it’s much more engaging for tech-savvy kids compared with my lectures and/or presentations in class.
Good morning. I don’t think of myself as someone who promotes or endorses products or services for commercial gain – I’m just a science teacher, after all – but I find myself constantly surprised at the sheer quantity of high-quality, exciting, engaging, and entertaining educational material available online these days. (How’s that for alliteration?)
At the end of the day yesterday I stumbled across Graphite.org, a new website that includes a rating system for different educational apps and programs. According to the Graphite home page, “Graphite is a free service from Common Sense Education that makes it easy to discover the best apps, games, and websites for classroom use.” It’s a pretty intuitive site to navigate, with filters for age groups (K-12), subject areas, platform (iOS, Android, Windows, Linux), and product type (app, online, software). Ratings are based on both content and
One of the things I like as an educator AND as a parent of two school-age children is the “Field Notes” section, where people who are actually using the applications describe what they’re doing and evaluate how well it works.
Here’s a quick list of a few things I found through Graphite that may apply to my classes, and which you may find useful as well:
I want to take this opportunity to introduce you to my MYP and DP science classes for the 2014-2015 school year. If you’re reading this, then you might have been in my classroom this afternoon. I’m posting the video below because I think it nicely summarizes what’s happening in the world of education today. Please watch it, then take a tour of my Google Classroom and Moodle sites with your child so that you have a complete picture of what’s happening at school. And of course, feel free to email me with any questions you have.