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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Jam Studio: The Online Music Factory

I am the least musically talented person on Earth. So my first clue as to the awesomeness of Jam Studio was that it helped me create a song that sounded, well, awesome.

Unlike other music sites that require a pretty good ear and a knack for mixing notes and chords and rhythms, Jam Studio does it for you. That's why I would absolutely recommend this site to any teacher wishing to integrate original music creation in their lessons. Trust me, if I can figure it out, you can. And the kids? Forget about it! Jam Studio is so intuitive, they'll be cranking out songs in no time!

Check out this video to see not only the ease of operation, but also the built in sophistication provided by the site's features. And by the way, the interface? No more complicated than what you see in the screenshot above.

Cool, right? And that "Favorite Artist" feature is simply genius!

Now, you're probably wondering (like me) how much the All Access Pass will cost per student. Here's the best news of all: on the bottom left menu bar of the site you'll find an icon labeled "In the Classroom." This link provides teachers with the opportunity to request a grant, allowing their students free full access to the site. The grant process took me all of thirty seconds, and I was instantly approved. All students at my school now have the ability to create music and have their mp3 files sent directly to their emails.

Jam Studio is an amazing site, and I suggest you go there now and check it out for yourself.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Online History Simulations

Students get more excited about history when they actually experience some of its drama. Back in the day games like Oregon Trail were the absolute best when it came to computer simulations, so it's incredible to see how many free, online games have become available since then. Below is just a small sampling of what's available.

Move It

Move It challenges students to use trains, ships, and wagons to move goods across 1850s England, with limited time and money.

If you're studying transportation, economics, or even math, this is a cool site to explore. (Check out a previous post for some financial literacy simulations).

Building a Sod House

Building a sod house is just one of the many interactives available from the Smithsonian Institute (see the Use Technology section at bottom).

A great activity for classes studying the history of the Great Plains through either a novel or social studies.

Design a Room

Design a room for one of three different historical time periods.

Like Virtual Village below, this site can be used to create an original illustration for a story. After the student sets the scene, a simple application such as Greenshot can be used to clip it and save it.

Trench Mission

In this World War I simulation, guide your private through the trenches to deliver a crucial message to the commander, all the while avoiding the perils of trench life. I needed four tries to do it! I'm sure your students could do better!

Virtual Village

Okay, not nearly as sophisticated as the Sims-type games that are out there, Virtual Village still allows students to create a cool little village using a number of buildings and landscape elements. One of my students used it to create a village scene which she then copied and pasted as an illustration into an original short story.

Evacuation Game

If you were evacuating World War II era London, which items would you need? This is actually a pretty cool site to investigate in connection with not only WWII era novels, but also The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

Tenement Museum

Students choose an identity and create a passport as they embark upon their journey to America in the early 1900s. Includes interactive portions as well as videos of reenactors who share information in the first person as immigrants. Many printable items and teacher resources are available.

Need more sites?

For some American Revolution interactives, check out the Crossroads of the Revolution post at my Teach with Picture Books site.

Please leave a comment below for your colleagues describing your favorite interactive history site.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Children's Drawings, Come to Life

"What would a child's drawing look like if it were painted realistically?" That's the question artist David Devries asked himself, which in turned spawned The Monster Engine, equal parts book, exhibition, and Internet sensation.

In David's own words:
It began at the Jersey Shore in 1998, where my niece Jessica often filled my sketchbook with doodles. While I stared at them, I wondered if color, texture and shading could be applied for a 3D effect. As a painter, I made cartoons look three dimensional every day for the likes of Marvel and DC comics, so why couldn’t I apply those same techniques to a kid’s drawing? That was it... no research, no years of toil, just the curiosity of seeing Jessica’s drawings come to life.
As you can see, the effect is pretty cool!

So what's in this for teachers? I can imagine a similar activity as a neat cross-grades project, with a kindergartener drawing the original image, a fourth or fifth grader writer an accompanying story (perhaps as the kindergartener dictates it), and a high schooler creating the finished image.

For inspiration, check out David Devries' site, where he discusses the project, shows off more examples of his work, and offers a number of school presentation options. You can also get your hands on David's recently published The Monster Engine Book. That book, plus the video below, can serve as great models for getting your own project underway.

Thanks to Picture Books Anonymous for bringing this site to my attention!