Sunday, November 25, 2007

Christmas Web Sites for Teaching

It’s one month to Christmas, so I thought you might be interested in some web sites that either
  1. teach about Christmas or
  2. use the idea of Christmas to help teach other content or
  3. are just fun sites to use at Christmas time.
The sites cover a diverse set of topics such as planetary orbits, biology, literature, writing, mathematics, and history. Activities include scavenger hunts, webquests, and writing a newsletter.

A search for Christmas at yields this page -- -- which includes sites for all grades K-12, information from other countries, Colonial Williamsburg information, a lesson based on Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree, some interactive sites, suggestions for books to read, a site in French, scavenger hunts, webquests, planetary orbits (with the help of NASA), the words to many Christmas carols, high school biology, and others.

When I searched for Christmas at Apple Inc., they wanted to sell me some Christmas music from their iTunes store. But, I also found on the search results page a free widget (for Mac OS only) called Christmas Countdown. The widget keeps track of the number of days until Christmas.

Microsoft Corporation lists a site where you download a Word template for a Family Christmas newsletter. Of course, you can use this template in class, too, for your students to create their own newsletters.

The Ohio Resource Center lists a variety of lesson plans when I search for Christmas. The search results page includes a plan for mathematics and the number of gifts you receive from your “true love” and a plan about character development in literature using Truman Capote’s A Christmas Memory.

The Discovery Education Streaming web site has video clips about Christmas during the Civil War, English Christmas customs, Christmas during World War I, and multicultural Christmas celebrations on its search results page.

At Teacher Tube the search results page includes French Christmas songs sung by animated penguins and Who’s Who at the North Pole, a PowerPoint presentation for introducing search engines to elementary students.

This next web site could be just for fun or, perhaps, for practice in some foreign languages since it’s available in German, Spanish, French, Italian, and Japanese as well as English. NORAD Tracks Santa 2007 begins a countdown on December 1, 2007. An activity for children of all ages is available each day. On December 24 you can track Santa on this site. If you want to track him in 3D, be sure that you’ve downloaded Google Earth to your computer first. At the site you can learn how this annual tracking of Santa began in 1955 and how it continues to this day.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Creative Commons Finds Digital Media You Can Use

I’m creating a PowerPoint presentation and I’d like a photo of a lone tree in a sunset… but, I don’t have anything in my set of photos that works. I could search for one on the web… but, then I’d have to get permission from the owner to use that photo. Isn’t there a QUICK way to do this LEGALLY?

Yes, there is a quick way to find images and other creative works that we are allowed legally to use in our multimedia products!

What is Creative
Creative Commons ( is a nonprofit organization that provides free tools that educators and others can use to mark their creative works with the freedoms and/or restrictions they choose. And, of course, we can use Creative Commons to help us find others’ creative works that we can use.

If you’re the creator and you want to license your work…

If you want to apply a Creative Commons license to some online work you’ve created (e.g., a blog or a web site), you select the license you want and include the provided HTML code in your work. This code creates a button--“Some Rights Reserved” or “No Rights
Reserved”--that acts as a notice to people who are viewing your work that it is licensed under a Creative Commons license. Also, Creative Commons-enabled search engines will be able to find your work due to the metadata contained in the HTML code.

You can use a Creative Commons license for any work which is protected by copyright law. That includes “books, websites, blogs, photographs, films, videos, songs and other audio & visual recordings…” Creative Commons licenses are not, however, designed for software code. Instead, consider either the Free Software Foundation or the Open Source Initiative, both of which are designed to be used with software. You may want to use Creative Commons licenses for software documentation, however.

You may use a Creative Commons license to indicate how you want others to be able to use your copyright rights. But, you may not go beyond what copyright law permits. And Creative Commons lice
nses do not affect fair use.

Key terms used with Creative Commons licenses include…
Creative Commons licenses have three parts:
  • the Commons Deed (human-readable code, a summary of the license’s key terms),
  • the Legal Code (lawyer-readable code, the actual license), and
  • the metadata (machine-readable code, so customized search engines can find these works).
The Creative Commons license elements are:
"Attribution… you must attribute the author and/or licensor in the manner they require.
NonCommercial… you may not use the work in a manner primarily directed toward commercial advantage or private monetary compensation.
NoDerivatives… you may only make verbatim copies of the work, you may not adapt or change it.
ShareAlike… you may only make derivative works if you license them under the same Creative Commons license terms."

If you would like to use someone else’s creative work that has a Creative Commons license…

When you see a Creative Commons “Some Rights Reserved” button, that means you can use the work without asking for permission as long as you use it as the Creative Commons license indicates. If you want to use it in a manner not permitted by the license, you need to contact the creator and ask for permission. Generally spe
aking, Creative Commons licenses are royalty-free licenses.

When you decide to use a work that has a Creative Commons license, read the license carefully to be sure that it fits what you want to do. All Creative Commons licenses require that you provide proper attribution.

If the work contains content you recognize from elsewhere--music, video, photos--you may want to be sure that the individual who has licensed the work
under Creative Commons truly owns the rights to do so.

When you accredit the use of a work licensed by Creative Commons, be sure
“(1) to keep intact any copyright notices for the Work;
(2) credit the author, licensor and/or other parties (such as a wiki or journal) in the manner they specify;
(3) the title of the Work; and
(4) the Uniform Resource Identifier for the work if specified by the author and/or licensor.”
Also include the URL for the Creative Commons license of the work. There are additional requirements for derivative works or samplings.

To find works which have Creative Commons licenses (in other words, how do I find that “lone tree in a sunset”?)…

  • Go to
  • Choose a search engine tab
  • Enter search query
  • Check the license requirements that fit your needs
  • Then click "go" to find Creative Commons-licensed media that you can legally share and reuse for free
  • This photo (right, "Lone Tree Sunset") can be found at and license information can be found at
  • When you are at the photo's web page, scroll down to find the Creative Commons information at the bottom right of the screen. You see two icons and a short phrase. When you pause your mouse over the first icon, you see the phrase Attribution; over the second icon, No Derivative Works. Those two icons give you a quick summary of the license. Click on the short phrase Some rights reserved. to go to the site that explains more about the license.

Some videos about Creative Commons…

Wanna Work Together?

Prof. Lawrence Lessig Explains Creative Commons Licensing

*NOTE: I have summarized what’s involved in Creative Commons licensing in order to provide a “quick read” for readers not aware of this very useful option. Please visit the Creative Commons web site ( for details and a more complete description.

*NOTE: Creative Commons does not provide legal advice. Neither the Creative Commons web site nor this blog is designed to cover important issues for which you may wish to consult with a lawyer.

*NOTE: Creators in the United States may want to register with the U.S. Copyright Office. Creative Commons licenses do not replace, but are, rather, an addition to an existing copyright.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Sticky Notes for Your Web Pages

Have you ever bookmarked a web page… and later --when you looked at it again-- wondered why? Have you saved several web pages in the process of searching for teaching ideas on the web… even though there were only specific items on each page that you wanted to use later? MyStickies ( can help!

With MyStickies you can post the digital equivalent of sticky notes on web pages… wherever you like. And you can access these stickies from any computer with Internet access.

MyStickies is a free service that works with both Macs and Windows-based computers. (The company would, however, appreciate donations to help cover their costs.)

An extension is available for the FireFox browser. Extensions will soon be available for the Safari and Internet Explorer browsers. An alternative to using a browser extension is to use a bookmarklet.

After the browser extension is installed there are several ways that you can post stickies to web pages. I was most successful with pressing the ALT (OPTION) key and click-dragging a note to the desired size. It also worked to press the ALT (OPTION) key and then to click to create a note. The MyStickies site lists some other techniques, also.

After you post a note, you can type your comments on it. A tag button allows you to create tags that can help you sort your notes.

You can also create sticky pages on which you place whatever sticky notes you want. You might use a sticky page for a “to do” list or to jot some notes as you are researching.

You can access your notes, tags, and sticky pages through your MyStickies account.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Interactive Web Sites... Science, Music, Computer Science, Reading, News, Games

Well, I certainly enjoyed checking out these interactive web sites! I tested several objects--cork, metal key, rubber ducky--to see which ones would conduct electricity and, thus, turn on a light bulb. I watched an animation of how the continents were formed, saw the muscles involved in blinking the eye, and viewed the changes in a forest as time passed. I played with chords and a pop-up piano. And I played a variety of games which were fun and which focused on academic content. And that was just with three of the eleven sites in this week’s post. I’ve listed several sites with notes on their content. Enjoy!

Learning by Seeing: Fun Visualization Tools That Educate by Jim Moulton
Formerly a classroom teacher and currently a consultant and blogger, Jim Moulton recently shared some web sites which provide a variety of tools for learning.
  • categories of “learning tools” are short and long web interactive lessons, short and long web visual lessons, web sites, science data, science imaging, short and long science as inquiry, science hardware, and science software
  • “tools to do science” allow you to create a graph, use a time, print a ruler, print graph paper, …
  • the National Science Education Standards (NRC, 1996) are used as the framework
  • free, organized by ages
  • excellent virtual projects
  • lessons, trainers, and utilities
    • lessons… 37 lessons in 7 groupings, including scales, intervals, and chords
    • trainers… 10 trainers in 3 groupings, including key, guitar, and chord
    • utilities… chord calculator, staff paper generator, and matrix generator
  • has a pop-up piano
  • some sections are tutorial, others are exploratory
  • shows how the world changes over a given period, sometimes faster, sometimes more slowly than normal
  • activities and projects that illustrate time, including instructions for creating time-lapse sequences
  • movie clips illustrate how a variety of things change over time… some actual footage, some animation… some instructive, some fun, all interesting
  • links to organizations, essays on time, time-lapse photography, and museums

ClassroomNews, October 2007, lists new resources on the Internet…

Google Earth looks at the stars
  • vs. 4.2 allows users to view the sky
  • provides information about stars, planets
  • includes imagery from Hubble Space Telescope
  • virtual tours through galaxies
Computer science lessons and materials
  • materials for teaching computer science in K-12
  • lesson plans, learning modules, code segments, presentations
  • must be a Computer Science Teachers Association member to download its resources
  • materials have been reviewed by educators
Reading web site for young children
  • designed to help develop reading skills of infants, toddlers, and preschoolers
  • interactive stories, games, music
  • babies and toddlers, preschoolers, and grown-ups
  • children’s stories, nursery rhymes, coloring and doodling pages
  • Grown-Ups… articles, advice, videos
Blog from Sally Ride Science for teachers
  • introduces new topics for discussion, using experts
  • one thread was “Should Pluto Be a Planet?” and entries debated the merits of reclassifying Pluto as a “dwarf planet”
  • another thread followed educator-astronaut Barbara Morgan
  • current thread is careers in science

Other good sites for children include…
  • kid-friendly, many resources that can appeal to kids, music, games, coloring
  • interactive games that reinforce academic concepts
  • ideas for parents, resources for teachers
  • math games are great and focus on concepts like finding patterns and measurements
  • games incorporate characters from shows
  • online component of Time For Kids magazine
  • organized by grades
  • news that’s interesting to children
  • great resource for non-fiction material
  • helps them stay abreast of current events
  • has good content-area vocabulary
  • games, homework helper
  • worksheets, lesson plans, and graphic organizers
  • games that reinforce academic skills in different content areas
  • interactive games in formats that are familiar to kids
  • links to educational and fun web sites