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TechCamp Spotlight: netTrekker

Last January I had the opportunity to listen to and participate in a short session on the benefits of using netTrekker. At the time, I hadn’t really thought much about netTrekker because (I thought) it’s a subscription-based service and I didn’t really like the idea of pushing a product. Thankfully the session enlightened me…


netTrekker is an education search engine…searching through it’s own database of public web sites. What makes netTrekker unique is that each resource has been reviewed and deemed appropriate and relevant by educators. The goal is to minimize time teachers and students spend searching through meaningless or inappropriate sites.

OK…the point…every teacher in Michigan has been provided access to netTrekker through Michigan LearnPort. Now, there’s a lot to say about Michigan LearnPort, but for today it’s only important to know that Michigan teachers can log in and complete professional development and other activities as well as gain access to netTrekker’s database of curriculum and standards matched sites and resources. Wow, that netTreker for free!

I’m very pleased to welcome Dawn Crawford from netTrekker to TechCamp to share with us how teachers can effectively implement netTrekker’s capabilities. It was Dawn who lead the session I attended in January and I thought she did a terrific job…that’s why I invited her to share her expertise at TechCamp. Welcome Dawn!


Weekly Web Wonder Webbies

This week’s Wonders are all nominees to receive Webby Awards.  The Webbies are probably the most prestigious web site award and represent the best of the Web.

  • Sometimes these links a little math/science heavy, so social studies teachers listen up!  American RadioWorks produces radio documentaries for both public radio and the Internet which you can download, listen to, and read transcripts.  Topics are both current historical.
  • Here’s a game worth investigating…use it to spark classroom discussion…and perhaps go farther.  World Without Oil simulates the first 32 weeks of a global oil crisis and asks the simple question, “What if?”
  • Sharkrunners is a game of oceanic exploration and high stakes shark research. Players take on the role of sharkrunners: daring and adventurous marine biologists who seek to learn as much as possible about sharks through advanced observation techniques.  This game was developed by The Discovery Channel to coincide with Shark Week.
  • This is an interesting site for parent as well as elementary teachers.  Handipoints is a site where students can collect online points for completing chores, homework, and simply lending others a hand.  It’s basically a reward system where points are collected and can be “spent” online…but the work is done in real life.  Pretty cool.
  • FactCheckEd is an educational resource for high school teachers and students. It’s  designed to help students learn to cut through the fog of misinformation and deception that surrounds the many messages they’re bombarded with every day.  With politics in full swing this year it’s worth checking out.

Madness, Superdelegates, Playing ball…


Top o’ the mornin’ to ye… or whatever. 🙂

  • The Science Museum in London brings to you Launchball…an experiment in physics that anyone can learn from. Use it to study forces, motion, energy, gravity, reflection…
  • I usually don’t like to point to sites with lists of more sites, but I’ll share the Best of History Web Sites with you. There are a lot of links…certainly a better place to begin than just a Google search.
  • Nothing says March like NCAA Basketball, so let me pass on a couple sites that allow you to incorporate the Madness into your math curriculum.

MACUL Keynote…Mary Cullinane

This post is being cross-posted on the MACUL Conference blog…

I’m sure someone’s post, maybe Steve‘s, gives a little background about our opening speaker, so I won’t go into the details. One thing I will mention before the action starts is that these seats are sweet! They’re soft and have a springy back…it’s going to be hard not to want to sit in here all day! Plus…and here’s a conference tip…I’m sitting in the row that in the across-room aisle, which means that I can stretch out my legs.

Rather than summarizing her presentation, here are a few of her nuggets of wisdom.

At the end of the day, all we really want is more of our own ideas.

It’s difficult to be open to the ideas of others…because, more or less, we’re pretty pleased with how we think and what we know. I think this is particularly true with educators…we think we have the necessary knowledge and expertise and it’s difficult to let go of the power.

What would be different at your school if your principal was called the “Chief Learner?”

Since I do a lot of professional development I witness a lot of strange occurances. Often as I stand in front of the teachers of the building I wonder where the principal is. Aren’t they part of the learning community? A little better are the principals who are indeed participating, but let me know that they’re behind with “this technology thing.” Where have they been? As the Instructional Leader of the building is there not the expectation that they should be held to high standards?

Be comfortable not knowing.

I just did a Google search on “new things” and got 98.5 million hits. Live Search (that’s from Microsoft) returned 588 million hits. How can anyone keep up with that? The answer is that you don’t have to…you shouldn’t try…you’ll be doomed for failure.

Lastly, and it wasn’t her last point, here are some questions that Mary encouraged us as educators to ask…

What if…We understood our customers…

We were guaranteed not to fail…

We knew exactly what we wanted a learning environment to look like…

We had resources, commitment, will, and courage…

How would you answer this? What are your visions…and should they be different even though we know we may never achieve them? (I thinking especially of resources.) Anyone want to leave a comment?

Gaze at the stars or perform surgery…

  • RACE is a project of American Anthropological Association and takes a look at how each of us perceives those of another race. This is a great site for everyone to explore.
  • HubbleSite offers everything you want to know about the space telescope as well as a huge gallery of incredible images.
  • The Japan Science and Technology Agency has created Earth Guide…a visual tour of the earth which is very cool to see.
  • Test your knowledge of U.S. states with this quick and easy site.
  • Perform knee replacement surgery, predict the weather, and explore other science topics on Edheads. This site is great!

Us/ing, ide@s, e-Learning…

  • Normally I might point you to something more practical, but this video is worth watching. The Machine is Us/ing Us is only about four minutes long, but it’s an interesting look at how today’s Internet is not what it once was…it’s better.
  • Since I’m not quite practical yet, visit the Mii Editor (pronounced ‘me’) and create a face for your self. Or have your students create their friend’s face. Or the face of a famous person. Or the cast of Romeo and Juliet. I know you can find a creative use for this fun tool.
  • e-Learning for Kids features several web lessons and activities for younger students and their teachers.
  • We hear about science everyday in the news, but may not recognize it. The Why Files provides science background taken from current event stories.
  • ide@s is a site from Wisconsin that provides educators with “teacher-reviewed, standards-aligned lessons, interactive tools, video, and other resources…” Check out the videos…especially the science demonstrations. This is an awesome site!

Wonders of Wikis

I have become more impressed with the ease of use of wikis to quickly create and publish content online. I use PBwiki to collect and share links and resources for the workshops we host. It saves me a lot time and cuts down on the paper that eventually winds up damaged or discarded…it’s always online for participants to use! Besides, it’s a great way for me to introduce participants to what a wiki is and how easy it is to put info online. I’m going to incorporate wikis into our Creating WebQuests online class this spring…we had been using QuestGarden, but it gave the last bunch of folks some trouble. (Although I see now that they’ve just upgraded the site, I’ll have to explore that later.)

Those uses, however, aren’t particularly collaborative…something that wikis are particularly great at. Ben, from The Tech Savvy Educator, came up with a good use for wikis…a Word Wall. And these two wikis, Flat Classroom Project and the Peru Conference Wiki highlight how wikis can be used to connect and share with students around the world. Want to see another? How about this fifth grade book study of Turn Homeward, Hannalee. If these projects seem a little overwhelming just think of a wiki as A Glorified Whiteboard.

If you’re interested in exploring your own wiki, visit PBwiki’s For Education page to learn more and start creating.