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The Digital Scholarship Lab at the University of Richmond hosts the Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States. This online atlas contains more than 700 historical maps of the United States. The maps within the atlas are arranged into eighteen sections. As a student and teacher of history I was drawn to the sections devoted to population, territorial expansion, political parties and elections, and military history.



Many of the maps within the Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States can be animated to show changes over time. For example, in the section on States, Territories, and Cities you can view individual maps for each decade from 1790 to 1930 or you can click the "animate" button to see the maps put together in a time lapse animation. All of the historical maps in the Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States are displayed on top of a contemporary outline of the United States.



Many of the maps have interactive elements. For example, in the section on Political Parties and Opinions you can click on a county or state to see how people voted in that area.



To help students understand what they are seeing on each map, the Atlas of  the Historical Geography of the United States includes a text option that can be selected while viewing a map. Clicking the "text" box will display relevant information in the sidebar of the map.



Applications for Education

The Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States is a treasure trove of resources for teachers and students of U.S. History. In looking through the maps I could see a number of activities in which students compare maps from two categories and try to develop correlations between them. For example, I might ask students to compare maps from the section on Transportation with maps from the section on Boundaries.

Next Monday is Constitution Day in the United States. By law all schools that receive federal funds have to offer some instruction on on the Constitution. If you're looking for some activities to do with your students on Constitution Day, consider having your students explore one of the following interactive displays of the Constitution.



The Constitution Center's website features the U.S. Constitution divided into easily searchable sections. From the main page you can select and jump to a specific article or amendment. What I really like about the site is that you can choose an issue like privacy, civil rights, or health care and see how those issues are connected to the Constitution. The Constitution Center offers an extensive list of lesson plans for each of the Constitution's articles and amendments. Select an article or amendment then scroll to the bottom of the page to find the lesson plans. Alternatively, you can find all of the lesson plans listed here.



C-SPAN Classroom has a section called Constitution Clips. On Constitution Clips you will find the entire text of the U.S. Constitution. Within the text there are links to videos that are related to each article and amendment. The videos are a mix of scholars talking, news clips, and documentary clips. When you click on one of the links you will be directed to a page that contains the corresponding video. Below each video there are links to additional resources including lesson plans.

Nature Cat's Great Outdoors is a free app from PBS Kids. The app, available for iOS and Android, provides students with activities they can do outdoors in all kinds of weather. And there some indoor activities for those days when you really don't want to go outdoors.



To use the Nature Cat's Great Outdoors app students simply open it, press play, and select a "daily nature adventure." There are adventures for sunny days, rainy days, and snowy days. An example of a rainy day adventure is recording the sounds of rain drops and the sounds of splashing in puddles. The app has more than 100 adventure suggestions built into it. Students earn digital badges for completing adventures.



Nature Cat's Great Outdoors has a journal component that students can use to record observations and ideas. The journal lets students save audio recordings, type notes, and draw. Students can record and write on blank journal pages or respond to one of the prompts included in the journals.



Applications for Education

I love apps like Nature Cat's Great Outdoors because they have activities that appeal to students while also encouraging outdoor learning. Many of the activities in Nature Cat's Great Outdoors are excellent starters for elementary school science lessons.

Today, at 4pm ET I'm hosting a free webinar titled Making Great Handouts With Storyboard That Templates. This webinar will feature many of the new story cube and worksheet design tools that were added to Storyboard That for the new school year.



In Making Great Handouts With Storyboard That Templates you will learn how you can use the features of Storyboard That to create great-looking worksheets, story cubes, and instructional templates. Storyboard That's design tools are perfect for folks like me who aren't particularly artistically-inclined. That's because there are more than 40,000 pieces of pre-made artwork in Storyboard That that you can drag-and-drop into your designs.



Storyboard That is encouraging enterprising teachers to use the new worksheet and story cube design tools to make things that they can list on marketplaces like Teachers Pay Teachers. To that end, there isn't any Storyboard That watermarking applied to the materials that you make through their service. Finally, the end of this webinar will include some tips on listing your materials on TPT and Gumroad.



Click here to register for Making Great Handouts With Storyboard That Templates.



This webinar will be recorded for those who cannot attend the live broadcast. Everyone who is registered will be sent a copy of the recording, there is no need to email me to request a copy of the recording.

In the next weeks I'll be spending quite a bit of time working in elementary school classrooms that are equipped with iPads. One of the things that I'll be doing is helping teachers help their students make short videos. These are some of the apps that we'll be using. Teachers will try them with me and then decide which one they want to have their students. (The criteria for selection will be discussed in a future blog post here on Free Technology for Teachers).



Draw and Tell is a free iPad app that students can use to draw scenes on blank pages or to color coloring pages provided in the app. After creating their drawings or coloring a page, students can then record themselves talking about the drawings. That's an easy way for kids to tell a short story and save it in video form.



ChatterPix Kids comes from the same developers as Draw and Tell. ChatterPix Kids is a free iPad app that students can use to turn pictures into talking pictures. To create a talking picture just snap a picture with your iPad or import a picture from your iPad’s camera roll. After taking the picture just draw in a face and tap the record button to make your picture talk. Your recording can be up to thirty seconds in length. Before publishing your talking picture you can add fun stickers, text, and frames to your picture. Using ChatterPix Kids can be a great way to get students to bring simple stories to life.



Shadow Puppet Edu has been one of my go-to apps since its launch nearly five years ago. The free iPad app can be used by students to create audio slideshow videos. The app offers an integrated search tool for finding pictures from the Library of Congress, to search for images from NASA, and to find Creative Commons licensed images from Flickr. You can also import pictures and videos from the camera roll on your iPad. After selecting a set of images students you can arrange them into any sequence by simply dragging and dropping them into order. Then to create a story press the record button and talk while flipping through your images. Like the previous two apps listed in this post, Shadow Puppet Edu does not require students to create accounts or have a log-in ID.



Toontastic 3D is an app for making animated videos. The app provides students with three basic templates to follow and then customize each scene within their chosen templates. Their options are "short story" (a three part story), "classic" (a five part story), or "science report." Once they have selected a story type they will be prompted to craft each part of their stories in order. A short description of what each part of the story should do is included before students start each section. Students can pick from a variety of story setting templates or they can create their own within Toontastic 3D. Once they have established a background setting students then select cartoon characters to use in their stories. Students can choose from a wide array of customizable cartoon characters or they can create their own from scratch. After the characters are placed into the story scenes students can begin recording themselves talking while moving the characters around in each scene. Students can swap characters between scenes, change the appearance of characters between scenes, and move characters from one scene to the next.



Adobe Spark Edu is a relatively new version of Adobe Spark. The education version enables school districts to create accounts and grant students access to Adobe Spark's tools. It is because of the education version that I can recommend Adobe Spark Video for some elementary school classes. Adobe Spark Video is a good app for making audio slideshow style videos. Students assemble a series of pictures then record themselves talking about each slide. The pictures that students use can imported from their iPads or selected from the integrated image search results within the app. Students can also write on each slide. When writing on a slide, the font is automatically adjusted to fit in the space available. This is the app that I often recommend for making things like short history videos or a "highlights" video.

I haven't had to use it for a few years, but I do remember Infinite Campus' gradebook being infinitely frustrating. This morning, thanks to Larry Ferlazzo, I learned that the Infinite Campus gradebook is still frustrating to set-up. Larry shared a new Infinite Campus gradebook tutorial video created by a teacher named Ed Maltbie. Ed also published written directions for setting-up your Infinite Campus gradebook, but you'll have to visit Larry's blog post to get those.




Thanks to Ed for making the video and thanks to Larry for sharing.

In a post earlier today I shared an explanation of the Mystery Skype game and some places to find partners to play the game. But if you're not sure how to get started, Microsoft offers a detailed overview in the form of Become a Mystery Skype Master.



Become a Mystery Skype Master is a nine part course that walks you through almost everything you need to know to conduct Mystery Skype activities. The only thing it doesn't teach you is how to install Skype. (There are lots of YouTube videos about how to do that). The course includes ideas for variations on the "traditional" Mystery Skype activity,  how to use Mystery Skype if students speak different languages, and how to find Mystery Skype partners. In the course you will also find some practical classroom management tips for making your Mystery Skype activities run smoothly. You can watch the following video to learn those tips.



Last week I reTweeted someone's request to find a partner for a Mystery Skype activity. That generated some new connections, but it also generated a few questions from people who wanted to know what Mystery Skype is and what it entails.



What is Mystery Skype?

Mystery Skype is an activity in which you connect your classroom to another classroom somewhere in the world via Skype. The focus of the activity is to have students guess where in the world the classroom is located based on their knowledge of geography and culture. When the classes connect students aren't allowed to simply ask "where are you?" Instead, they have to ask questions like "are you north or south of 45N?" The students answering should only give "yes" or "no" answers. Watch the following video to see Mystery Skype activities in action.




Where to Find Mystery Skype Partners

Members of Microsoft's free educators community can complete their profiles to indicate that they are interested in participating in Mystery Skype activities. You can also find a list of potential Mystery Skype partners here.



If you're not a member of Microsoft's educators community you can try to find Mystery Skype partners through one of the many Facebook groups about Mystery Skype. And if you're on Twitter, try Tweeting with the hashtag #mysteryskype to find potential Mystery Skype partners.

Vocabulary.com is an excellent vocabulary study service offering thousands of vocabulary practice lists and activities for students in elementary school through graduate school. In addition to lists of SAT, GRE, and other test prep words, you can find vocabulary lists that are attached to novels, historical documents, famous speeches, and current news articles.



When you sign up for Vocabulary.com you will be given an assessment quiz in order to give you suggested lists with which to start your practice. After completing the assessment you can use the practice lists suggested by Vocabulary.com or choose your own lists from the huge gallery of vocabulary lists.



Applications for Education

One of the aspects of the Vocabulary.com activities that I like is the instant feedback for every practice question a student attempts. As you can see in the image above, if a student answers incorrectly on his first attempt, he will see the definition and the word in context.




The Digital Scholarship Lab at the University of Richmond hosts the Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States. This online atlas contains more than 700 historical maps of the United States. The maps within the atlas are arranged into eighteen sections. As a student and teacher of history I was drawn to the sections devoted to population, territorial expansion, political parties and elections, and military history.



Many of the maps within the Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States can be animated to show changes over time. For example, in the section on States, Territories, and Cities you can view individual maps for each decade from 1790 to 1930 or you can click the "animate" button to see the maps put together in a time lapse animation. All of the historical maps in the Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States are displayed on top of a contemporary outline of the United States.



Many of the maps have interactive elements. For example, in the section on Political Parties and Opinions you can click on a county or state to see how people voted in that area.



To help students understand what they are seeing on each map, the Atlas of  the Historical Geography of the United States includes a text option that can be selected while viewing a map. Clicking the "text" box will display relevant information in the sidebar of the map.



Applications for Education

The Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States is a treasure trove of resources for teachers and students of U.S. History. In looking through the maps I could see a number of activities in which students compare maps from two categories and try to develop correlations between them. For example, I might ask students to compare maps from the section on Transportation with maps from the section on Boundaries.

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