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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Humana Games 4 Health

Humana Games 4 Health is an engaging site where kids can play a variety of games that help reinforce healthy eating and living habits. Users can navigate around the town, stopping at different locations such as the Schoolzone, Hospital, Senior Citizen Center and Workzone. The screenshot below shows a portion of this community.

At each location they can learn different facts and information about healthy living. Most of the locations have their own games for students to play that also reinforce that specific information. For instance, at the Physical Therapy building you can play the Freewheeling Cycle Challenge where you navigate your bike around the course trying to avoid potholes and other obstacles while also needing to pick up water, fruit and other nutritious items in order to keep your energy level high. Students can also participate in The Horsepower Challenge, which is an offline challenge where students keep track of the steps they take and log them online as a way to track their physical activity.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

It was only a matter of time before the folks who brought us the helpful "Dummies" series of how-to books went digital and started creating how-to videos. has a variety of short videos that explain how to do all sorts of things. The videos are geared towards...well...dummies in the same way as the books. That is, they are easy to follow and learn from. Access to the videos is free and they are searchable by keyword and also categorized by topic. You can share the videos you find through a whole host of social networking tools but it doesn't appear that you can embed them directly into a website or blog. You may not find much for students to watch or learn from on this site but there is certain to be some topics that you may find useful. That's not to say that I would consider you a dummy or anything.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Science Video Resources

I recently read about the Periodic Table of Videos (I can't recall the blog or source where I read it so I apologize for not giving proper credit) and it prompted me to go back to my Furl Archive and search through for other science related video sites. I found a few more and thought I would share them all in one post.

Periodic Table of Elements
This site is maintained by the University of Nottingham and contains a great collection of short videos that describe each of the periodic elements. The layout of the site is very clever allowing users to click on any element they want to watch the associated video. The content and vocabulary of the videos are suitable for middle school and high school. These videos are hosted on YouTube so there may be filter issues when trying to watch these at your school.

ScienceHack is a collection of science related videos categorized by various topics. These videos are pulled from different sites across the net and not produced by ScienceHack. They claim to review each video before it is included in their database to insure that the content is scientifically accurate.

TestToob is focused on showcasing student created videos that are scientific in content. They have different contests that students can enter with their own videos and each video that is uploaded to the site is reviewed before going live. It seems like the site is interested in promoting science and video production in equal parts. You have to become a member, which is free, in order to view, post and comment on videos.

If you teach science, or are just interested in getting some ideas for different kinds of videos your students could produce, you may find these sites helpful.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Week in Rap

The Week in Rap is exactly that. Each week, a new rap recapping the important news is written, recorded and enhanced with relevant video imagery allowing you to learn about the entire week...through rap. The writing is very clever and the videos are well edited making them both informational and enjoyable to watch. I could see this as a great tool to use in a current events type class or just to help kids stay abreast of the major events taking place on a weekly basis. Check out the sample below, which recounts the week of news when President Obama was sworn into office.

The Week in Rap - Obama's Inauguration from Week in Rap on Vimeo.

You can subscribe to the site so that the new videos are automatically sent to your computer. Of course, since these are videos you will probably find they are blocked in your school but many of them include a link that allows you to download the video directly to your computer, thereby avoiding the problem of blocked content.

Storynory & AudibleKids

Storynory and AudibleKids are two sites that offer audio stories for download. They are built around a common premise but do have some notable differences.

Storynory features only free downloads so their collection is focused on classic stories, fairytales and even some original works that haven't been published elsewhere. You can subscribe to the site through iTunes in order to download their stories more expeditiously or just pick and choose the files you want. They have organized their stories into different categories and you can subscribe to the feed from individual categories as well.

AudibleKids has a few free titles but most of their content is for purchase only. They have a much broader selection of titles ranging from well-known picture books for younger kids on up to chapter books for middle schoolers. You are more likely to find up-to-date titles on this site and can expect to spend anywhere from a few dollars up to, and over, twenty dollars per audiobook.

Both of these sites could be used to bolster your school or classroom's listening library. Of course, another option would be to have your students record their own audio books by using something like GarageBand or Audacity and build your listening library organically from within your own school.

Wildlife Filmmaker

National Geographic has a great new tool called the Wildlife Filmmaker. This web-based tool allows you to use video from the National Geographic library of footage to create your own movies. The video clips don't have any sound and are fairly short but the library includes a nice range of animals. You can enhance your video by selecting sound effects of different animals as well as a musical background. There is also a feature that allows you to add basic captions to each clip and you can even add multiple captions to the same clip if so desired. Students don't need accounts, and therefore don't need e-mail addresses, to use this tool. It is free and works on both the Mac and PC since it is web-based.

This is what the editing interface looks like. It operates largely by drag and drop so students would be able to start using it without too much instruction. Finished movies can be shared by directly e-mailing them to someone or through a retrieval code that is generated when you save your movie. You can share this retrieval code with anyone you want to view your video. It's important to note that this retrieval code only takes you back to the completed video and doesn't allow you to continue editing your video. In fact, it doesn't appear that there is anyway to save a partially completed video and then come back to it again at a later time so students would have to have their video completely planned out and be able to finish it in one sitting.

You can preview the sounds and music by double clicking on the individual selections. However, I couldn't find a way to preview the video clips. In order to watch each clip I had to first drag it into the timeline and then view it there. This isn't a huge issue but it would take students a bit longer to sort through the clips and find the ones they wanted to use so it's something to be aware of. There is a nice selection of video clips and sound effects but don't assume that just because there is a video clip of an African Civet that there will be a corresponding sound clip of that same animal. Again, this may not be a significant issue but one I thought was worth mentioning.

I hope I don't sound too negative about this tool. If you are looking for an easy to use video editing application that allows your students to incorporate high-quality footage (without having to worry about file storage or copyright issues) then Wildlife Filmmaker is definitely worth checking out. I would love to see more tools of this kind come online in the future.

Monday, February 2, 2009


Password Bird is a great little tool that I recently read about on Kelly Tenkely's awesome blog. Password Bird is a great example of a simple yet powerful tool that you can use with your students. As you might imagine, this is a password creation tool. You simply enter a special name, special word and special date and Password Bird spits out a password for you that combines all three. If you don't like the first option then you can just keep generating new ones until you find one that works. This would be a great way to help kids learn how to create strong and secure passwords.