Friday, April 23, 2010

Finds of the Week: April 19-23

1. Online-Stopwatch: Let's start with a simple tool this week that has many uses: a stopwatch. This is a great tool that you can use to project on the board while students are doing individual or collaborative work. And there are a multitude of different timers you can use, including a full screen stopwatch that you can use to count up or down, an egg timer (watch the sand as it counts down), a countdown analog clock timer, and, if you want an explosive time in class, a bomb countdown timer. You even have the option of creating your own timer with custom sounds, and you can specify the time that would be on it for starting every time! For example, here is a bomb countdown with a sound more fitting that always counts down from one minute.

As an added bonus, this site has an online clock (an analog that can display Arabic or Roman numerals or digital) for class units where you are working on time or Roman numerals. Online-Stopwatch even allows you do download the timers, or even embed them in a website or blog!

2. Tagxedo - Tagxedo is an alternative to Wordle for a place to create a word splash. Tagxedo is in very early beta stages, and hasn't even been around for a month yet. I wanted to share this site last week, but there were still a lot of bugs that went with it, so it wasn't quite yet ready to be shared. There were issues with trying to upload new shapes to match the words into, issues with adjusting colors, and you couldn't save at that point, though you could always take a screen shot (Command-Shift-4 for us Mac users).

But this week, things have changed! Working with shapes is working wonderfully, adjusting colors works well, and users can save! At the right is an example of words from last week's finds in the shape of a key.

Word splashes are great ways for students and teachers to analyze speeches, written essays, and selected reading materials to help identify patterns in writing and concepts of emphasis.

3. Wolfram|Alpha - Wolfram|Alpha is a relatively new search engine that doesn't work like the traditional search engine. Wolfram|Alpha is a great resource for when you are looking for up to the minute data, such as the current price of a stock (here is current info for AAPL). When in an economics class, you can take the data readings from the same time each day and compare the differences, leading into a converstation as to why it may have gone up or down. For any stock, just type in the stock abbreviation in the search bar, and the information comes right up.

The best way to learn exactly what Wolfram|Alpha could do for you or your classes is to try different things out. The examples page gives you many different ways to use the information aggregated at Wolfram|Alpha. You can enter your birthday to see what events happened, including when the sunrise and sunset were, important mathematical and scientific revelations, and exactly how long ago your birthday was. Wolfram|Alpha even gives an answer to the age old question of, "Which came first? The chicken or the egg?" Of course, you might not agree, but that's a new discussion.

For math and science teachers, Wolfram|Alpha can be a very handy tool for exploring how to solve complex equations, as the search engine is built from Mathematica. This example shows how to integrate an indefinite integral. Many might look at this as a way for students to cheat on their homework, and it is true that some students might use it as such. At the same time, many once thought that using a calculator or computer should be considered as cheating, but the advancement of being able to use tools such as these help us all press on into a deeper understanding. Always remember that the tools are there to help enhance the learning, but the students will still have to demonstrate their knowledge. If they just use Wolfram|Alpha for the answers and not the learning, it will show up on their quizzes and tests.

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