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Google Earth: Sparking Global Awareness

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AASL Standards for 21st Century Learners
Inquire, think critically, and gain knowledge.
Draw conclusions, make informed decisions, apply knowledge to new situations, and create new knowledge.

If you are like me when you first heard of Google Earth almost 10 years ago you probably downloaded the app and then searched for your home, your parents house, and then lost interest after that.  You may have even revisited the app on occasion to get a street view before in important interview using the flying person guy that leans forward as he sails into place.

Google Earth Street View Icon

Google Earth Street View Icon

Oh, wait a minute that was Google Maps! The two applications have become similar, but Google Earth has so much more to offer you and your students. Read here if you want a quick comparison, The differences between Google Earth and Google Maps

As an educator you may have used Google Earth or Google Maps a few times during social studies units or to teach mapping skills.  You might have thought that this was an untapped resource and saw value in the application but felt too overwhelmed to investigate in detail.

Today after reviewing Kentucky’s Core Academic Standards and watching a thought provoking video “Earth, Planet of Altered States”  I found on the amazing OpenEd website (a great resource for standards based learning).2015-07-06_23-33-31

After viewing the above video from the OpenEd site I knew there must be a way students could find their own examples of human impact on the environment and in turn be motivated to pursue a solution to the problem.  So today, I challenged myself to try find a way to use Google Earth to support the following standards:

MS-ESS3-3 Human Impacts – Apply scientific principles to designing a method for monitoring and minimizing a human impact on environment and

MS-ESS3-4 Human Impacts -Construct an argument supported by evidence for how increases n human population and per-capita consumption of natural resource impact Earth’s systems.

I was motivated to begin looking for examples of  human Impacts here in Kentucky.  I began searching using the ole stand by search,you know the one, typing in a known address.  I began by updating the Google Earth program  on my computer and typed in the address of a local school 2010 Leestown Middle School, Lexington, Kentucky.leestown1

As I stared at the image I wondered, if any human impact had occurred and how would I be able to measure the impact?  I discovered that Google Earth offers an archive of images and I could “turn back the clock” by selecting the historical imagery button located in the top left corner of the image.


As I clicked through the images I noticed a few changes.  Do you notice any changes over the years?








As I looked at the images I found myself making several hypothesis about human impact such as run off due to loss of green spaces and I also noticed the slow growth rate of trees.  I also found myself wanting to view a greater impact over time.  Where else in the world could I witness human impact or even impact due to natural occurrences such as earthquakes. That is when I turned to one of my favorite news sources for students and teachers. Newlea a daily news site that allows the teacher/student to search by topic or find articles that support the Common Core.  Teachers may also customize the reading level using student Lexile levels, assign questions, and create quizzes.


I found the Science tab and began scanning for recent news articles related to human impact or natural disasters.  I found several articles about the recent earthquake in Nepal so I typed in KATHMANDU, Nepal in the Google Earth search box and did not find any visual results.  Apparently there have not been any recent “fly overs” to record the recent destruction.

So following the natural flow of an investigative mind I tried another approach. I returned to Google and typed in the keyword search below.  I wanted to know how I could track earth changes using Google Earth, but mistakenly typed in Google Maps.  Nevertheless, I stumbled onto a great resource for students.  A resource that I think will spark a desire for more project based learning events.


Google Earth Outreach opened my eyes to many different ways other are using Google Earth and Google Maps to not only learn about the world we live in but create a positive impact. 2015-07-06_22-29-52

After viewing a few of the case studies….2015-07-06_22-35-40


I ran across something a little closer to home.  The coal fields of Eastern Kentucky and the environmental impact Google Earth has documented of the past years.  This might be something a student would want to investigate further or it would at least help them to understand that environmental impact is near to home.



After reading through the case study and viewing the links provided, I headed back to the Google Earth site and typed in “Central Appalachia Mountaintop Removal” and checked the box at the bottom left “Global Awareness”. Zoomed out and Google Earth provided for me yellow boxes marking several mining sites.  I was able to click through the time line and view the effects of the mining process over time.

Here is Lindytown, KY in 1996


Dec, 2003




After viewing the images I was wondering if this information is still relevant today?  I can see the physical Earth impact of mining, but what about the other lasting impacts?  To help me answer that question I turned again to Newslea  Look what I found using a keyword search “coal mines”!  Timely and relevant.  I wonder what else I can find?  Do Eastern Kentucky coal mines effect Central Kentucky?


So my journey to learn more about Google Earth ended (or will begin) with a deeper desire to learn more about how coal continues to impact Kentucky’s future and also how Google Earth and Newslea can change my instructional approach to science, social studies, and even writing standards. I wonder what my students will discover once they begin using Google Earth for more than looking into their backyards?


Powtoon helped me Bring Awesomeness to my Introduction!


Click on the image to play

Thank you Powtoon for providing an easy to use template to create animated slideshows. If you can create a powerpoint and know a little bit (very little) about video editing you can quickly create your own customized presentation. Students can use the provided templates and just fill in their own words or they can modify the slides like I did adding their own images and custom slides.

Build Your Wild Self – Springboard to Science Writing

printImageBuild Your Wild Self sponsored by New York Zoos and Aquarium and will motivate students to research and write  Build Your Wild Self is a cool tool to create avatars using different animal parts and attaching them in a human body. Children can easily create a wild creature following simple steps.

The best part about this tool is that you don’t need to sign up. Start with choosing the human body and browse through the different parts that you can add such as nose, hair, legs, arms etc.Then add some animals ears, bottoms, tails, backsides, arms, face and headgear. As you choose the body parts, you can also hear the sounds of the animals. When it is over, choose a background and click I’m done.

Here are some ideas for you how to use this tool with your students:

  • Student can create a story about their new wild selves.  How did they become this exotic creature?  Were they born this way or was it a terrible lab accident?
  • Students who are learning about animal adaptations can describe their animals and explain how the adaptation is helpful and necessary for the animal’s survival.
  • Once the animal is created the program provides information about each animal that is represented. Students can choose to research each individual animal and support why or why not this animal could survive in a given habitat.  How is each body part suited for a given environment?
  • Explain why this animal is truly a fictional animal.
  • Show how this animal represents your true self.  The student has to reflect upon their strengths and weaknesses and support their conclusions.

Spell with flickr and geoGreeting

letter D letter I Educational Brick letter x word magic game letter i letter E

m word magic game letter a Line Word red letter G letter N Foam Play Mat Letter E Crossword dice letter T

letter E letter L letter e letter M Crossword dice letter E Brick letter N Foam Play Mat Letter T letter A Brick letter r Y

To celebrate my new job as Dixie Magnet Elementary’s Librarian/Media Speciaist I created this image using using Spell with flickr.  This tool can be used to dress up a teacher’s classroom blog or allow students to practice spelling words online.

geoGreeting is similar to Spell with Flickr in concept. The difference is that geoGreeting shows images of various buildings photographed from a satellite from Google Earth. The effect is instant, because the website preloads a bunch of images for each letter of the English alphabet.  If you mouse over any of the letters, you’ll see the location of the building on a global map.

Students could input various words and investigate one of the locations from the image.

Students could also use the images to mash up in other applications.


Click on the image to use the interactive geoGreeting site


Use to Create a Masterpiece

recite-25180--1249404127-xlhdbp offers teachers and students an easy format to create eye catching posters and signage.

For this poster I shared my thoughts about how teachers approach technology in the classroom.  More often than not they find a neat tech app then try to fit it into their curriculum. Most of the time the application is forced and student products are not what they had envisioned.

I plan to use this site to create signage for the library and create student posters.  Students can also use the site to create images to mash with other applications such as Powtoon, Flipsnack, and Biteslide.

Flora and Ulysses : The Illuminated Adventures – Book Club/Classroom- Pre – Reading and Student Published Writing

floraFlora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo and Illustrated by K.G. Campbell has already been awarded the 2014 Newbery Award, 2013 National Book Awards Longlist for Young People’s Literature, and 2014 Camellia Award: Alabama Children’s Choice Book Award Nominee for grades 4-5. Now for Kentucky students it is a 2015 nominee for the Kentucky Bluegrass Award (grades 3-5) and I must say this contest will add up to a win!

If you would like QR codes for the 2015 Kentucky Bluegrass Nominees page down my site or click here.

The book opens with the rescuing of a squirrel after an accident involving a vacuum cleaner. Comic-reading cynic Flora Belle Buckman is astonished when the squirrel, Ulysses, demonstrates astonishing powers of strength and flight after being revived.  However, the reader soon discovers that it is hard to be a cynic when you are loved by a squirrel that is “born anew”!

Classroom Resources

Teachers can find several classroom discussion questions and prompts online.  Here a few resources I found extra helpful.  Below you will see how I adapted them for a lesson I shared with our Christian Home School Group.

download (3)2015 Texas BlueBonnet Award Master List Resources – I found this list the most helpful and used several of the links to create my lesson. Also includes a Reader’s Theater from the introduction of the book.

downloadResources Provided by Candlewick Press – Here you will find a Teacher’s Guide and a Discussion Guide which includes before reading and after reading questions, classroom projects and activities, vocabulary building,writing prompts, and character analysis activities.

download (1) – This site has author website links, Meet the Author interview videos, Book talks with Kate DiCamillo, Book Trailers, Lesson Plans, Kate DiCamillo’s Name Pronunciation and so much more.  Watch yourself while visiting the site. The site is fun to browse and you may find yourself researching other favorite books!

imagesKids Wings – Has a literature guide for $12.95 plus they provide some other additional links for support materials.                                              Be sure to page down to see them all.

download (2)Pinterest Pins – Here you can find a bit of everything related to the book. I like Pinterest, but I find that it take a lot of click before I see what I am looking for, however if you are a visual person you will enjoy browsing.

download (4)The document below is an excellent resource from Samantha Green’s Mysteries Serious Reading Book Club – If you have not visited her site yet this is must stop.  Great resources that contain engaging graphics.

“The Illuminated Adventures of the Amazing Incandesto!

Book Club (Classroom) Pre-Reading Activities

For this activity I was working with a local Home School group.  The students ranged in age from 3rd to 5th grade.  To introduce Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures to the club I first found a few graphic novels that highlighted superheroes.  I wanted to use graphic novels since each time Ulysses is seen in action the illustrator K.G. Campbell drew him as if he was in a comic book/graphic novel.

The students brainstormed answered to the questions below as I wrote their responses upon the whiteboard.

What are Superheroes?

How do we identify them?

Where do we find them?

I soon found out they know A LOT about super heroes and are very eager to share.


“She changed into her pajamas, lay down, and Imagined the Words Emblazoned on the Ceiling Above Her.”

CCR: Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.

As our discussion continued I asked them, How are graphic novels or comic books different from novels or short stories?” They quickly grabbed the sample graphic novels and began pointing out how the  words are written in short sentences and how the pictures told the story as well.  While they were reading the graphic novels  I asked them, Why are some words in boxes and others are in bubbles? Why are the bubbles shaped differently?  Some had noticed the differences in the speech bubbles, but had not thought about how the speech bubble is  a component of visual literacy which helps the reader know what is happening in the story.  I then shared a few of the different types of speech bubbles.

“Holy Bagumba!”

The students then created their own speech bubbles to share.  This was interesting because even the shyest of students held up a speech bubble to share.

I then read to the students the first seven chapters of the book.

Once we reached the last page the students were beginning to predict of some of Ulysses’ super powers!


“Holy Unanticipated Occurrences!” 

At that time we paused for some snacks. Cheese Bites and Sunflower seeds!  I figured these kids were like most squirrels!

“The average squirrel cogitation goes something like this: I wonder what there is to eat.”
“This “thought” is then repeated with small variation (e.g., Where’s the food? Man, I sure am hungry. Is that a piece of food? and Are there more pieces of food?) some six or seven thousand times a day. (DiCamillo, p. 10)

“I am Ulysses. Born Anew.”

While they were snacking we watched the video below. I selected the video because it not only related to the idea that a squirrel could become a superhero, but it also highlighted Photoshop, an image editing software.  This is technology some of the students may even have at home. Some of these types of applications are also available on phones.  Art comes in many forms and I wanted the students to see the process take shape right before their eyes. The fast motion screenshot allowed that to happen.

“An Unassuming Squirrel”

Once the students were inspired I gave them an image of a squirrel and some colored pencils. I asked them create their own super hero squirrel.

“Do Not Hope; instead, Observe.”

Now that we have a super hero just how do stories begin?  Most students do not realize that writers get their ideas from real life adventures.  We then watch the first 3 minutes of an interview with Kate DiCamillo where she explains how she got the idea for this illuminated adventure.

By now, the students were ready for some pre-writing so I gave them a blank Comic Grid and asked them to begin a story.  It was no surprise when they quickly began writing and revising, and of course sharing…lots of sharing!

 “He Will Become Known To The World As Ulysses!”

img014“Squirtel!” said Flora out loud; she felt a surge of delight at the zippy idiocy of the word. It was almost as good a word as Tootie. 

CCR: Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.

Before the students were dismissed I reminded them that the vocabulary in the book is written on a very high reading level and they may not be able to determine the meaning of the word by just using context clues.  I encouraged them to write down and define any words they found difficult or just find interesting.  To help them organize their new words I gave them this Foldable.

There are lots of fun words in the book. Some of them are just funny to say out loud. Here are several of my favorite words and phrases: foreboding, treacle, redolent, posit, irrevocable, appellation, hyperbole, nefarious activities, preternaturally calm,  concussion, euphemism, unremitting darkness, inconsequential, capacious, sepulchral gloom, treachery, malfeasance, vanquish, arch-nemesis, and vehemently.

Looking for some more book related handouts? Teachers Pay Teachers has a complete novel study made by Catch the Buzz for $14.99 The guide contains a list of vocabulary words and student worksheets.

Actually, she thought it was terrible. It was sickly sweet nonsense. There was a word for that. What was it? Treacle. that was it.

Book Club/Classroom – Post Reading Activities

****At the time of this post I had not met back with the students.  The following is what I plan to do with them, but as any teacher knows you must read the room to decided what will actually work.  I will revise and post more pics after I have met with the group. Thank you for your patience.

CCR: Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.

images (1)As the students arrive I will ask them to write any or all interesting vocabulary words onto the whiteboard.  They should either write them as a quote from the book or they can create their own original sentence.  The students will then be asked complete the “Are you Wordier Than a Fourth Grader? handout located in the Serious Reader Discussion Guide (pg. 6) by Samantha Green Mysteries – Full document located at the top of the page.  Students will work in pairs and will be encouraged to read their sentences aloud to the group.  We will define the words and discuss how usage develops imagery, defines characters, and how rich vocabulary may help the reader become a better writer.

“Flare Up Like a Flame, Remember Those Words”

CCR: Analyze how and why individuals, events, and ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.

Slide1To help the students prepare for discussion and refresh their memories concerning The Illuminating Adventures they will be given a Graphic Organizer for Summarizing the events of the story (taken from One Happy Teacher).  The summary just focuses on one character so I will ask each pair of students to concentrate on the major characters: Flora, Tootie, Ulysses, Flora’s Mom, Flora’s Dad, William Spiver, and Dr. Meescham.

Students will share their summaries with the group.

images (2)It would be impossible to discuss Flora and Ulysses:The Illuminated Adventures without doing a bit of writing.  Flora’s mother is a struggling romance novelist, her neighbor Tootie is an avid poet who both reads and recites poetry, and of course Ulysses, who is not only a super hero, but is also a poet!

I have a few writing activities I will suggest to the students and depending on age and ability I will guide them to create either a poem, a digital story, or a book analysis.

“I Was Moved By Your Poetry”

Diamante Poem

CCR: Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.

Students can use Read, Write Think’s Diamante Poem generator to write a Diamante poem.  The application walks the student through the entire process.  The process is very simple and students can have a finished product within minutes.  Final creations can be saved and revised later, emailed, or saved as a .pdf file for publishing in other formats.  I would suggest that the students either print their final copies for display or upload them to their student blogs or digital portfolios.

Below is an example I created.

“He will Defend the Defenseless! He will Protect the Weak! He will Write a Poem”

Found Poetry

CCR: Make strategic use of digital media and visual displays of data to express information and enhance understanding of presentations.

Now this next application is a bit more advanced and might take a bit of patience for the user.  Google Story Builder  allows the student to create mini-movies that feel like a document is being shared via Google Docs. If students have used Google Docs before they will really appreciate the idea of characters working on the same document.  Students will be asked to revisit the book and look for quotes that define the characters feelings, motives, conflicts, etc. and also quotes that move the story along.  Then they will use those quotes to tell a story.  Sort of like Found Poetry but now they have to think about why the character would say the quote and if a character would change the structure of the message. Music can also be added to finish out the product. The final product can be share within the student google account, Facebook, twitter, etc.


Click image for hyperlink to site

“And if you truly are a Super Hero How will you Fight Evil?”


CCR: Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.

As you recall, during the pre-reading activity I asked the students to begin a comic book story with a super hero plot.  Now some of the students may appreciate the graphic novel/comic book effects of Flora and Ulysses more than writing a poem.  With that in mind, I will give them the prompt that I created using Buncee.  Buncee reminds me of Biteslide and Powerpoint.  If you have $10 in your budget students could use the paid version to create unlimited slides similar to a comic strip for 1 month.  They could either use the provided images, upload images from internet, scan hand drawn images, or use the drawing tool to create digital images.  Student can us existing sound bites or record their own. It really is a multimedia, easy to use canvas, just wish it was free! One drawback to the free verison besides only getting to create two slides was the embed code.  The code I was given I did not work with WordPress.  However, I was able to share via Twitter and Facebook.

Click the image to open link

When you click on the image it will take you to the 2 slides I was able to create using my free account. The image is large be sure to click on the 2nd page for the writing prompt.

 the 2 slides I was able to create using my free account. The image is large be sure to click on the 2nd page for the writing prompt.

Within each slide I was able to embed moving objects, sound/music, hyperlinks,and images.

“The Typewiter Keys came to Clacking Life.”

Book Analysis

Powtoon is a free animated video that has a great template that can be adapted for any assignment.  In fact, it already has a template entitled Book Report.  Plus any of the templates can be book trailers or even comic strips.. So don’t let the template fool you, students can share any written, visual or oral work. A student could even animate a poem.  Powtoon has the feel of a video editing software and PowerPoint all in one. What makes it really nice is that it is FREE!  Younger students can keep it nice and simple or older students can pull out all the stops!  Below is an example of a template students can modify.

“Do you think that’s good?” Flora whispered to Ulysses, “Do you think that’s Good Writing?”

Creating a Rubric

As educators, teachers have the responsibility to create assessments that encourage students to work towards a higher level of achievement. Rubrics are motivational tools for students, especially when students are involved in process. Students who are involved in the process of creating a rubric have a better understanding of the standards, gradations, and expectations of the assignment. Students also feel as if they have a “voice” within the classroom.

For guidelines how to create a student generated rubric visit the following websites:

Behind the Scenes, Part 2 — Creating a Rubric By Megan Power  

Kathy Schrock’s Guide for Educators – Teachers Helpers – Assessment & Rubric Information, Grades K to 12    

3 Rubric Makers That Will Save You Time And Stress     

“Her mother had bought the Lamp with her first royalty check from her First Book, On Feathered Wings of Joy, which was the stupidest title for a book that Flora ever heard in her life.”


Students can publish their work either as a pdf printout, via social media, embed into student blog, or email to parents.  Please allow the students to decide how they would like to publish.  Depending on your audience and school policy be sure to take note of private or public sharing settings.


8th graders use Padlet to create Online Posters to Support Climate Change Argument


Mrs. Armstrong helps her student use her cell phone QR reader to access the shared document.

In March I approached Mary Beth Armstrong an eighth grade science teacher about collaborating with her during one of her inquiry investigations.  I have known Mary Beth for several years and have worked alongside her during my tenure as a ninth grade science teacher.  She is an outstanding teacher and is always looking for ways to keep her instruction fresh, aligned, and timely.  She shared with me a lesson Generating Arguments about Climate Change that appeared in the March 1012 issue of Science Scope Magazine, a middle school science teacher journal sponsored by the National Science Teacher’s Association NSTA.  She and Melissa Bowlds, eighth grade science teacher, were going to execute the same lesson.  The lesson centers around students researching in teams of 3 and creating a paper poster project, then presenting their project to the class.  We decided that Mrs. Armstrong’s class would complete an online poster project using Padlet and have the students present in small rotating groups and Mrs. Bowlds would teach the lesson as written in Science Scope.

Once the students were introduced to Padlet and had created their accounts Mrs. Armstrong needed a way to access all of the finished products.  It would be too cumbersome to have each group email their final products to Mrs. Armstrong.  Also, this would be very time consuming to open each email, click on the link, and then view the project.  We needed to create one document that all students could access.  We decided that OneDrive a component of Office 365 (Outlook) would work nicely.  Every student and district employee has access to their own Outlook/Office 365 account and OneDrive allows documents to be shared and edited by others.

I created the document Climate Change Argument Link Share  and shared it with the students.  The students quickly access the document and began sharing their links. Once you open the document if you would like to view student projects hold the CtrL key and left click on the link.  The link should open in a new tab in your web browser.

Click on the images below to access student Padlet poster.



s johnson


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