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3, 2, 1 BLAST-OFF

Vhs space stationaNot many of us could expect to hitch a ride on a rocket to the International Space Station, but the Virtual High School has something that’s nearly as good. VHS’s 15-week Space Station Academy Course is a middle-school science curriculum that simulates a trip to low earth orbit with a variety of lessons that are thinly disguised as missions. Each class has a variety of videos, interviews with astronauts and interactive elements to help students feel they really are in the space station.

It all starts with pre-flight training that has the class go over the design of the orbiting structure, learn its scientific objectives and get trained on how orbits, rockets and weightless life works. It culminates in a simulated Soyuz launch to the ISS.

Vhs space stationbOnce the preliminaries are out of the way, the next few lessons concern the actual daily activities on the space station as well as learning about the zero-g environment and what happens to the body in space. Other activities include fixing the station’s solar array and making a robotic arm.

Finally, it’s time to go home and the post-visit phase includes lessons on reentry and the heat that builds up on the spaceships hull from friction with the atmosphere. The sequence ends with a review of all the concepts learned on this mission and the creation of a report that summarizes the activities.


Freebee Friday: Toontastic, Take 2

ToontasticAppIconPlayThe latest in teaching story telling (and listening) is Google’s Toontastic 3D, an app that can turn anyone into an animator. Just draw a few figures, link them with a story and narrate the content and the app does the rest. Available for Android and iOS phones and tablets, Toontastic 3D lets kids move characters and objects on the screen while adding music and a voice over. It’s perfect for everything from creative writing projects to a replacement for the onerous “what I did over the vacation essay”.

Freebee Friday: Online Algebra (and Calculus too)

DmozLooking for an online way to augment your math classroom? DMOZ has a slew of digital math classes that range from an animated look at the Telegraph equation to how to use the FOIL technique (you know: First, Outside, Inside, Last) to distribute a complex equation. Because DMOZ aggregates the content of others, the actual lessons range from incredible good to so-so.


Best of ISTE: itslearning Gets Smart

Its learningAs if the itslearning platform wasn’t good enough, the designers have gone back to the drawing board and revamped it with a new look that makes learning easier and more fluid. The interface has a sharper look that resembles an actual classroom and getting around it is simpler. Plus, so that nobody’s left out, it now includes an internal instant messaging portal for sending updates and questions back and forth. The service now works with just about any mobile device that a teacher, student or school can provide.


Best of ISTE: Instant Lessons

PivotedIn addition to Capstone’s extensive library of K-12 ebooks and digital curriculum, the company’s pivotEd now has 500 lessons for grades three-through-six. It doesn’t matter if your school uses PCs, iPads or Androids because the Capstone lessons and content can be delivered across the board. The first batch emphasizes collaborative learning with lessons like Classifying Mammals and Oceans Under Threat. Booth 1728.

Freebee Friday: Meaningful Minutes

Science in 60The Science in 60 series from the Los Alamos National Lab is an excellent way to introduce complex ideas to a class in a short period. There are episodes on mini satellites, explosives, influenza and arctic meteorites. All are told from the perspective of the scientists involved and give students a rare look into what a career as a scientist might be like while giving them valuable information and concepts. They are all just over a minute long and live on Youtube.


New Teaching (and Learning) Horizons

Discovery horizonReading Horizons is nothing new but version 7 of its Discovery product takes interactive learning to new levels. To start there’s an iPad app for K-through-third grade students that can put the entire reading program into a child’s hands; it’s free with a subscription to the service. The rest of Discovery hasn’t stood still, either with more Check-Up assessments as well as a tool for pacing the classroom’s lessons.


Freebee Friday: Social Studies Catches Up

MobyMax_Social Studies on TabletThink online curriculum and math and science come to mind, but MobyMax has a new set of materials for first-, second- and third grade social studies curriculum; the company’s fourth- through eighth-grade content is on the way. The interactive material covers four of the NGSS areas, including economics, geography, government and history and is personalized to each student based on their needs and abilities.

Freebee Friday: By the Numbers

OriegoMastering basic math can be taught as a matter of specific tricks and shortcuts that let you do just about everything in your head, and that’s where Origo One comes in. The company’s YouTube site has five free math videos that show how to do math without a pencil or paper in sight. There are minute-long clips on everything from the doubling strategy for adding numbers to counting by fives. Look for Origo One to add more in the coming weeks.

Super Slate

Slate screen480x480Adobe Slate is a great way to teach kids how to tell and show stories, but it has suffered from the lack of ability to incorporate videos from YouTube and other online repositories. Well, version 1.3 of Slate can do that as well as put Google photos into a story and has added a Vintage theme to its repertoire of settings. It remains an iPad exclusive with no Android app available, but you can use the online version.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Tech Tools are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.