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A digital notebook, locker, and collaboration grounds for project-based learning

Written by Gianfranco D'Aversa.

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OneNote can act like a digital notebook, locker, and collaboration grounds for project-based learning, mobile learning, and other portfolio-heavy approaches to understanding. Available for Android, iPad, and PC, OneNote is the original organizational tool–Evernote before there was Evernote, allowing students to separate notes into notebooks, and then pages within each notebook.

It allows for web clippings, audio notes, linking, hand-drawn notes, check-boxes, and other related artifacts of staying organized in the classroom. You can share notebooks and pages with collaborators as well. It’s also free and available for every major operating system, desktop or mobile.

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Scrivener: a built-in tool for creating outlines

Written by Gianfranco D'Aversa.

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A new generation of word processors has emerged as one of the latest steps in the evolution of education technology, and they can be a lifesaver to students faced with big research papers, theses or dissertations. Scrivener functions as a sort of Photoshop for text documents, giving writers multiple panes to shuffle around in the main window as they customize their workflow. Scrivener has a built-in tool for creating outlines, which is a must for beginning writers and stays useful throughout an entire academic writing career.

It also comes with the ability to view images, PDF files, Web pages and other media elements right inside the writing window, which can be a great help on those big research papers. One especially cool feature of Scrivener is an organizational tool that breathes new life into the tried-and-true method of using index cards and a corkboard to visualize the big picture of a long-form work. Shuffle the notecards around and their associated sections are rearranged in the document itself.

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Interactive mind maps

Written by Gianfranco D'Aversa.

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Not every student learns about mind mapping in school, but those who do almost never forget it. Professional settings the world over make use of the technique to energize the brainstorming phases of new projects. Popplet is a visual thinking tool that lets students use interactive mind maps to sketch relationships between notes and multimedia research material.

It only takes a few minutes to learn the control scheme, and the visual depictions of relationships between pieces of information can help students better understand and remember how the details of their project work together. The interface is fairly kid-friendly, also, which makes Popplet accessible even to elementary students working on their first report.

The Popplet mobile app for iPad cost $5 at the time of this writing, but accounts for the Web app can be had at no charge. If your students could use a fresh way to outline and brainstorm, Popplet might be just what they need.

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Create notes with typed text, handwriting or sketches

Written by Gianfranco D'Aversa.

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Whether or not you’re already using Evernote for your own purposes in the classroom, consensus resounds that it’s one of the most potent and flexible organizational tools ever to hit the market. A bit lighter and easier to use than OneNote, not only does it sync your notes across all devices and computers you use, but it outperforms most other note taking apps with its suite of features:

  • Create notes with typed text, handwriting or sketches
  • Save, sync and share files across multiple devices
  • Snap photos of whiteboards and book pages and search for text inside the images
  • Organize notes on multiple levels using notebooks and tags
  • Share notes with colleagues and classmates for easy collaboration

Evernote also offers tons of additional products that can make it an even more powerful tool for project organization. The Web Clipper lets students take snapshots of Web pages, annotate them and save them to their Evernote account to be shared with project partners or used later. On top of all that, Evernote’s core functionality won’t cost your students a cent. Premium accounts are available, starting at $5, but free accounts should work just fine for most projects.

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To Inspire Learning, Architects Reimagine Learning Spaces

Written by Gianfranco D'Aversa.

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As K–12 schools refocus on team-based, interdisciplinary learning, they are moving away from standardized, teach-to-test programs that assume a one-size-fits-all approach to teaching. Instead, there is a growing awareness that students learn in a variety of ways, and the differences should be supported. The students often learn better by doing it themselves, so teachers are there to facilitate, not just to instruct. Technology is there as a tool and resource, not as a visual aid or talking head. Gensler, a national architecture firm that’s working with a broad range of schools — from primary schools in redeveloping inner cities to NYU Magnet, Wharton, and Duke — is working with one of the global pioneers, the PlayMaker School in Los Angeles. Behind the venture is GameDesk, which views gaming as an interactive medium for learning.

Launched with a sixth-grade class, the PlayMaker program builds on play and explores how its young students can use a variety of tools and games to learn in new ways. Instead of classrooms, PlayMaker School has a suite of spaces that are interconnected physically and visually. There’s an ideation lab, a maker space, and an immersive gaming and learning zone where the students can try out the games they create and the software they develop.

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Open source games educate kids, teach how to code | opensource.com

Written by Gianfranco D'Aversa.

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A degree in economics from Oberlin College hadn’t prepared me for a career writing production-ready code. Despite my best efforts at slapping together crude HTML and CSS Django templates, my ability to contribute to our codebase was limited at best. So I started slowly teaching myself to code with online tutorials and lessons. After many disheartening starts and stops, I realized why I was having problems sticking with it: code lessons and videos felt like school to me, and I had no interest in returning to the classroom.

What we built next was CodeCombat, a game that teaches kids and students to code. Players use spells (JavaScript) to control their forces in a battle against Ogre enemies. And, on January 8 this year, we open sourced the entire project: servers, art, and all. You can literally clone our repo and have a working version of the game on your local machine in minutes.

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Stay on Track with the Teachit Timer

Written by Gianfranco D'Aversa.

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So, you want to get the most out of instructional time? Then think about adding an online timer to your teacher techbox. Although there are many from which to choose, check out Teachit Timer, a free and simple countdown tool that includes two nifty features: In addition to displaying time elapsed, it also shows the time remaining. And users can even choose to sound an alarm when time is up as well.

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iPad Archaeology - Studying Ancient Egypt

Written by Gianfranco D'Aversa.

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I always loved Egypt as a kid - I think was the mystery, the magic and the element of the unknown that created the romantic idea. That and Carter's discovery of Tutankhamen's tomb and the subsequent series of fatal events that surrounded the discover. I even thought I wanted to be an Archeologist at one stage. Whenever you go to a schools and see kids exploring Egypt for a project or inquiry based learning activity it always generates so much enthusiasm and energy. I thought it might be fun to explore some of the apps on offer for exploring ancient Egypt and the re-discoveries that have been made in the last 200 years.

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The London Array

Written by Gianfranco D'Aversa.

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Twenty kilometers (12 miles) from England’s Kent and Essex coasts, the world’s largest offshore wind farm has started harvesting the breezes over the sea. Located in the Thames Estuary, where the River Thames meets the North Sea, the London Array has a maximum generating power of 630 megawatts (MW), enough to supply as many as 500,000 homes. The wind farm became fully operational on April 8, 2013. Twenty days later, the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on the Landsat 8 satellite captured this image of the area. The second image is a closeup of the area marked by the white box in the top image.

White points in the second image are the wind turbines; a few boat wakes are also visible. The sea is discolored by light tan sediment—spring runoff washed out by the Thames. To date, the London Array includes 175 wind turbines aligned to the prevailing southwest wind and spread out across 100 square kilometers (40 square miles). Each turbine stands 650 to 1,200 meters apart (2,100 to 3,900 feet) and 147 meters (482 feet) tall. Each is connected by cables buried in the seafloor, and power is transmitted to two substations offshore and to an onshore station at Cleve Hill.

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Solar Dynamics Observatory Shows Sun's Rainbow of Wavelengths

Written by Gianfranco D'Aversa.

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This still image was taken from a new NASA movie of the sun based on data from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, showing the wide range of wavelengths – invisible to the naked eye – that the telescope can view. SDO converts the wavelengths into an image humans can see, and the light is colorized into a rainbow of colors. Yellow light of 5800 Angstroms, for example, generally emanates from material of about 10,000 degrees F (5700 degrees C), which represents the surface of the sun.

Extreme ultraviolet light of 94 Angstroms, which is typically colorized in green in SDO images, comes from atoms that are about 11 million degrees F (6,300,000 degrees C) and is a good wavelength for looking at solar flares, which can reach such high temperatures. By examining pictures of the sun in a variety of wavelengths – as is done not only by SDO, but also by NASA's Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph, NASA's Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory and the European Space Agency/NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory -- scientists can track how particles and heat move through the sun's atmosphere.

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Gianfranco D'Aversa

Mexico City // Rome // Foggia

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