Category Archives: Teaching Tips

Thursday’s Tip: Search Google Visually

Though we do what we can to avoid internet searches in class, sometimes a Google search is called for when a student’s research comes up short. Maybe a bigger issue than appropriateness and security in such an activity is helping students sort through reading vast search results for their desired needs.

Luckily, Google Image Search provides a new way to look for information. Sometimes, a student may not know the best search terms, but he might know it when he sees it. The new Google Image Search lets you search by subject. Watch the video below and see how it works.

Of course, depending on your district’s filter, always be prepared that a Google Image Search might be a risky option. It’s always best to try it out for yourself before unleashing results onto your students.

Zac Early is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center.

Thursday’s Tip: Vanished-A Problem-solving Online Project from MIT & Smithsonian

An environmental disaster has taken place on Planet Earth and we need your help.” is how it starts.

An online project called Vanished, is a new opportunity for kids (ages 10-14 1/2) to be a part of a mystery game of problem solving and investigations. The goal of this project, created and run by MIT’s Education Arcade and the Smithsonian Institution, is to engage kids in on and offline challenges, collaborating with peers and experts, and solving the mystery of Vanished using the scientific method.

The project runs from April 4, 2011 to on or around May 31, 2011 and is only open to kids. It’s not too late to sign up, kids can jump in anytime and start the challenge. AdultTeachers and parents may sign up but can not participate or assist but only “watch”.

To be a part of the project have your kids visit Vanished, create an account, and begin the challenge. Or to learn more visit their About page.

Brooke Higgins is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center. You can read more at her blog Higgins Helpful Hints Blog.

Thursday’s Tip: NASA TweetUp – eMINTS Teacher @ Space Shuttle Launch

Veteran eMINTS teacher from Hillsboro, MO, Krissy Venosdale, and, is blogging and tweeting from NASA’s launch site this week. She was invited to attend and be a part of the NASA TweetUp.

“What is a Tweetup? A Tweetup is an informal meeting of people who use the social messaging medium Twitter. This Tweetup is an opportunity to learn more about NASA, explore NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida and experience a space shuttle launch.” Krissy, known as KTVee on Twitter, is one of a few applicants that will be allowed behind the curtain to share with the world what happens, moment by moment, at the launch of the Endeavor space shuttle.

T-Shirt Krissy made with her students names so they could "attend" with her.

She wants to bring this awesome event to her students and yours by sharing her experience. Her blog will provide a live countdown, videos, pictures, interesting facts, teaching ideas, and her latest tweets. You can even ask her a question that she will pass on to a real astronaut.

What a great way to get your kids excited all while learning about math, science, and more. Check out her event blog, Learning Endeavour: One Teachers Space Shuttle Launch Experience to learn more and be a part of the Friday launch.

Brooke Higgins is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center. You can read more at her blog Higgins Helpful Hints Blog.

*NASA, . “Connect and Collaborate with NASA.” 04apr2011. Discussion Board.
*“Endeavor.” Flickr – Koocheekoo. Web. 27 Apr 2011. <>.
*“NASA TweetUp T-Shirt.” Flickr – KTVee. Web. 27 Apr 2011. <>.

Thursday’s Tip: Handmade Visualization Toolkit

Via collection of data visualizations.

Reading and creating visualizations of data is a key part of schooling. Graphic visualization is covered in the social studies, sciences, and mathematics.  Instead of looking at textbook graphics or creating aids on graph paper, why not use a Homemade Visualization Toolkit like the one created by “visual thinker” Jose Duarte and create three-dimensional, real-life models of data similar to the one above.

The kit includes all the pieces you see below. This is how Duarte describes his project:

I am exploring new and simple ways to represent information. That is why [I] made my own visualization kit-tool that [I] use to make any kind of graphics quickly.

With it you can make any kind of graphics including: abstracts maps and diagrams, area graphs and charts, arrow diagrams, bar graphs, venn diagrams, time line charts, bubble graphs, circle diagramas, proportional charts, organization charts, and really, whatever you want.

All rights reserved by jose.duarte

Duarte is making his kit available for free. All you have to do is email him and make a request. Of course, if you don’t want to take full advantage of his generosity, you could create your own kit(s) and send him some of your results.

All images are from Jose Duarte’s Flickr page. Hat-tip goes out to the incredible visualization blog Information Aesthetics.

Zac Early is a instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center.

Thursday’s Tip: Why Should Teachers use Blogs?

There are many different tools that can be used in the technology-rich classroom. Tools that can be chosen based on what they do, or what they provide for students and the teacher. One tool that is often used in classrooms is a blog. As one second grade teacher found in her own classroom blogs can be used as a motivational tool for students who are reluctant readers and writers. Look at the blog to find out how she used blogging with her students to provide motivation: For the Love of Teaching.

Here are several examples of other classroom blogs that teachers are currently using to compliment and enhance their teaching and what is happening in their classrooms.

Mrs. Adams’ Third Grade Class
Krebs Class Blogs
The Greatest Middle School Blog in the World

There are many places teachers can go to create their own blogs, and many free services available. Your only job is finding the one that works for your classroom and your students. Some possible options to look into are Blogger, WordPress, and Blogmeister.

Just another tool to utilize in the classroom that offers endless possibilities for both teacher and students.

Angie Esser is an instructional specialist for the eMINTS National Center.

Eagle Watching With the World

The other night, I was reading through Facebook updates and ran across a link that two of my “friends” posted about the Bald Eagle UStream Cam in Iowa. Of course, I clicked on it and there was the 1 1/2 ton nest with an eagle roosting right in the middle of it.

Eagle Web CamAs I was telling my husband about how cool it was that I was, at that second, watching the female eagle re-adjust the 2 eaglets and 1 egg under her, he informed me that I was a bit behind; he had heard about it on public radio that morning. He told me that it was like the viral videos on YouTube but real time. I looked back down at the screen only to realize I was 1 in more than 177,000 people viewing the webcam at that moment and that the site has had more than 11 million views since beginning.

In a matter of minutes I learned that the pair of eagles have been together for almost 4 years in this area and have had hatched and fledged (got them to flight stage) 8 eaglets  total. This is their second nest in the area and was built in 2007; the first they built blew down in a storm. The nest is 5-6 feet across and deep and figured out that it weighs around 1 1/2 tons (3000 pounds). I took a couple of minutes and looked up details like how much a ton is, what you call a baby eagle, and what fledged means to answer some lingering questions I had…. Just think of where you could take this in your classroom.

The next morning, I opened my email to see a message from the people at The Futures Channel telling me about science videos and lessons they offer on their site for teachers to use to teach concepts such as Algebra and one of the links was to their Saving the Bald Eagle video. I started putting two and two together and figured what an opportunity for teachers to engage and excite their students with the wonders of science and math all through something that is happening right now.

The challenge now…how can you weave this cool, exciting, interesting, neat, real-time event in nature and resources into your day? How can you incorporate this topic and these tools into lessons that will help your students understand how science and math affects them every day for all their days to come but will also prepare them for the state assessment tests that are coming just around the corner? I know it’s hard to find the time with all the test prep booklets, worksheets, tests, ect. that you are given to use during this time but as eMINTS teachers I know you are always up for the challenge.

Brooke Higgins is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center. You can read more at her blog Higgins Helpful Hints Blog.

Friday 4ALL: Reaching Visual Learners

Click to watch the video.

Let images speak in your classroom. Choosing a great visual to share with students will often enhance a lesson. Visual learners make up 60-65% of the population. Thanks to Creative Commons licensing there are a wide variety of resources to assist you with finding the perfect image to engage students. What do you want your lessons to say?

Using images also instills creative thinking in your students. I recently saw Dr. Howard DiBlasi at a conference. One exercise he shared during his presentation was to put up an interesting photo. Then choose three or four students from the class. Ask one student to talk for thirty seconds about the image. When the thirty seconds are up, the next student may add to the story or create a new story, this continues until all four students have had an opportunity to speak.

To assist students with learning how to “read” a photo, you can use the SMART Notebook spotlight tool. For example, display an image from a historical time period on the SMART Board. Launch the Spotlight tool before students enter the room. Move the Spot Light tool over the image, ask students what they are noticing. Based on what they see have them predict what time period the image is from and support their prediction with evidence from the photo. Finally reveal the entire image.

The links below are some of my favorite sites to find fascinating photos. What will your lessons say?

Flickr-an image hosting and sharing website. Users in the Flickr Community may use the Creative Commons license so others can view and use their photos. Use the advanced search feature to find photos licensed under Creative Commons and follow the directions for citing images.

Pics4Learning-a copyright-friendly image library for teachers and students. The Pics4Learning collection consists of thousands of images that have been donated by students, teachers, and amateur photographers. Unlike many Internet sites, permission has been granted for teachers and students to use all of the images donated to the Pics4Learning collection.

Wiki Media Commons– a media file repository making public domain and freely licensed education material available to everyone.

Edupic-a teacher designed free image resource for teachers and their students.

Smithsonian Images-Browse or search through selected images from the Collections of the Office of Imaging and Photographic Services. Included are images from current exhibits, Smithsonian events and historic collections

NOAA Photo Library– has been built to capture the work, observations, and studies that are carried on by the scientists, engineers, commissioned officers, and administrative personnel that make up this complex and scientifically diverse agency. Most Images are Public Domain. Those copyrighted are noted.

Morgue File-Free images for your inspiration, reference and use in your creative work, be it commercial or not.

Carmen Marty is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center.

Teaching Tips: Using in Your Classroom

Some time back I shared how you might use a virtual corkboards as a collaboration tool in your classroom. Recently, a friend shared with me some updates that one of the online tools I highlighted has added. These new features make the tool even more dynamic. is expanding and adding features to make it more useful and collaboration friendly. Here are some of the new options offers:

Add Images – You can now add images to your board. All you need is the URL for an image location and you can paste it into a note by right clicking and selecting paste from the drop-down menu.

Mini Map Navigation – has always had a small map in the bottom right corner that, when clicked, will show you where all notes have been placed. Great to use when you know others are pasting notes to a board and you can”t find them.

Real Time Changes – There is no need to refresh your page to see updates others make to your page, casino they all happen in real time. When your students are collaborating with others outside of your classroom, everyone can see changes instantly.

Chatting – Sometimes when you and students are working with others that aren”t in the same room you need to do more then post a note on the corkboard, now has a chatting feature. Have your students change the name to their first name and they can begin chatting. As the teacher you can monitor the conversations and add to the discussion as well.

Embedding – One of the coolest new features (I think) is that now you can embed your page in any online tool that allows for embed code. Whether it be your website, wiki, Moodle course, or more, you can share what is on your corkboard page with anyone.

Corkboard Protection – Any finally, you can now show off your corkboards to others without the fear of them making changes. allows you to “lock” a corkboard and share a View Only copy. It”s a link to a protected version you can give to anyone without the worry that the content will be changed. is not a paying sponsor or advertiser on this blog just a great online tool that I can”t quit talking about.

Brooke Higgins is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center. You can read more at her blog Higgins Helpful Hints Blog.

Thursday’s Tip: Facebook in the Classroom

Yesterday, we shared some thought-provoking links in our “HD_Links” feature. One of those links was to a school district’s Facebook policies. Facebook is thought to be a decidedly-noneducational diversion among our social media choices. However, to make schooling relevant to our students and families, we have to meet them where they are. Our students (and their parents) are on Facebook.

According to the Council Bluffs Community School District Guidelines for Facebook™ as a Parent Communication Tool, here are a few ways you can use Facebook in your classroom:

  • Status updates are an example of authentic writing opportunities, a key component of learning to write with a purpose and for an audience.
  • We all want more parental involvement. Facebook provides many tools for making classroom communication easy and seamless.
  • In addition to opening up avenues of communication, Facebook users have the ability to invite other users with event invitations.
  • With pictures, links, and notes, it’s even easier for teachers to share exemplary student work.

Additionally, here are some other educational uses for Facebook:

  • Different classes can be organized using the new groups feature. Additionally, this new tool allows collaborative documents.
  • Discussion forums are available in the older groups allow for discussions to take place outside of the public wall.
  • Students could create fake or imaginary Facebook profiles for historical or literary figures.
  • The new group chat function would allow for students and teachers to have a discussion without being in the same room. Imagine the opportunities during the many snow days we’ve had this winter.

What are some other ways you could imagine using Facebook in your classroom?

Zac Early is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center.

Thursday’s Tip: Using Next Vista to Engage Learners

One way to engage students is through the use of video.  Sometimes it is challenging to find the perfect video to introduce a topic to your students.

I recently heard Rushton Hurley speak at the Midwest Education Technology Conference in St. Louis.  Rushton Hurley is the Executive Director for the project Next Vista for Learning.  Next Vista for Learning is a library of free videos for learners everywhere!  Next Vista videos currently center around three categories.  Light Bulbs, Global Views, and Seeing Service.  The videos are under five minutes long and are screened for weak content.  Videos can be streamed or downloaded.  Most videos are student and teacher created.

The Light Bulbs category introduces a wide variety topics from all subject areas.   The idea behind this category is that “learning is stronger with an engaging introduction.”  Here is an example of a Light Bulb about the Atomic Model.

The category of Global Views centers on students and teens introducing others to their school or community.   The goal of this category is to “help students understand the wondrous variety around the planet.”  View students’ in Yekaterinburg, Russia sharing their community’s unique monuments. Imagine the creative writing ideas which could accompany this video.

The Seeing Service category is a collection of good deeds.  “The hope is that students who wonder about their own value will see what the people in these videos do and realize that those are things they are capable of doing, too.”  Good deeds, large and small, from around the world are documented in this section.  One example of a Seeing Service video is Carry Someone’s Problems.  In this video a young girl shares her work with the Kisa Project and Afric Aid.

Next Vista is supported by grants and private donations.   Next Vista also offers video contest.  You can sign up for the Next Vista News letter.  This letter comes about once a month to your “inbox” and offers learning opportunities, overviews of newly posted videos, and tons of Web goodies!If you are searching for a clever and engaging way to introduce a new topic to students, check out

Carmen Marty is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center.