Category Archives: learning objects

Free math videos

Video seems to be the big thing to day 🙂
A while back I was asked by a secondary math teacher if I knew of any resources that she could use with her classes, and I was able to point her to a blog post I’d only just put up about Math in Movies.

Now I’ve come across this site called Brainstorm Math, which has a wide range of usefully categorised instructional videos on maths topics. Registering for the site is very straight forward (and free – although there are paid-for services available in other sections of the site). The videos I watched are all short instructional tutorials based on a specific maths concept – very useful for learners who want to review a part of the programme and prefer to watch and listen rather than read, or to make available to students in a class running a differentiated or self-paced programme for instance.

Despite the US-centric approach, worth a browse 🙂

Teacher collected online videos

The use of YouTube videos to help illustrate or augment classroom teaching has become almost ubiquitous in schools nowadays – unless, of course, you’re in one of those schools that has YouTube blocked by a firewall 🙂

Another issue is the time it takes to locate good quality and useful videos that are appropriate for classroom use. WatchNow is a new site that lists an ever-growing collection of excellent educational content that is categorised by subject area, and comes complete with a rating system and comments from other users.

The site is still in its infancy, but growing fast – worth a browse and bookmark. An interesting reference to it in this edutopia post – includes some useful advice on using YouTube video in the classroom.

History of the internet

History of the Internet from PICOL on Vimeo.

I’m almost finished writing the final draft of a chapter for a book that is to be published later this year on the 20 years since NZ introduced Tomorrow’s Schools. In it there’s reference to the enormous changes we’ve seen in education in relation to the use of the WWW as a means of accessing content and for communicating with each other. Seems that I have been doing a lot of reflecting lately about the distance we’ve traversed since the internet became a part of our lives, and the impact of this technology on almost every part of society. So it was of interest when I came across this Vimeo presentation on the history of the internet – providing a useful historical overview of the development of the internet from its inception in 1957 (it’s almost as old as I am!!) and thought I’d share it here.:-) It provides a succinct and usefully illustrated of the earlier years of the internet’s development and would make for a useful learning object for inclusion in courses needing this sort of background.

Modelling software

My colleague Paul told me about Yenka over the weekend, so I downloaded it and have been having a bit of a play. Yenka is a new generation of educational modelling tools from Crocodile Clips. Although it’s been around for nearly a year now, this was the first time I’d heard of it, and being interested in anything that helps with visualisation and learning, I wanted to try it out 🙂

If you’re a secondary science, maths, technology or computing teacher you’ll definitely find this of interest.

Yenka is a downloadable app for Macs and PCs, which is available free for home users, or for a small fee for educational use in schools. I like this arrangement as it’s yet another example of a product that can be introduced in the school environment for students to be able to use on their home PC by simply downloading at no cost.

Withiun the Yenka product there are a range of things you can do. Yenka Coordinates is a free modelling tool for teaching about 2D and 3D coordinates, while Yenka Sequences is an innovative tool for introducing programming. Yenka Electricity and Magnetism allows you to simulate the generation, transmission and use of electrical energy, in full 3D. And these are just some of the things available from a suite of opportunities focusing on the areas of science, computing, mathematics and technology.

For primary teachers, check out another product from the Crocodile Clips group – called Bunja, it’s an innovative educational toy for teaching mental arithmetic.

Dynamic periodic table of the elements

Every now and then I come across an online resource that makes me go “wow”, and is worth sharing. This dynamic periodic table of the elements is one of these. If you’re a chemistry student or teacher then you’ll definitely find this useful.

The table boasts lots of features, with an incredible amount of information crammed onto the one page, available in different views. This includes element names in dozens of languages, even Asian scripts, and the ability to switch between views simple, with names, with electron configuration, and inline inner transition metals.

The site’s developers also promise they’ll update details the day a new element is discovered or synthesized, and even keep up with new, more precise relative atomic weights as IUPAC publishes them.

You can even use the site offline – simply load the site in your browser, click around the tabs to cache most of the data, and then activate the Work Offline feature of your browser before revisiting the site. Most of the site will continue to function without Internet connectivity.

Thanks to all involved in the development if this resource, and for making it freely available.

Digital media literacy resource

I’ve been having fun exploring this great online resource from the North West Learning Grid aimed at encouraging learners to reflect on their current practices in the use of digital media and stimulate discussion and questioning. In each section of the resource the user is asked to respond to a number of questions about their media use, and at the end, they’re provided with feedback that suggests ways in which they could improve their media literacy skills. Users are then provided with a number of learning objects that they can work with to develop these ideas and understandings even further. These include more quizzes, games, and other online activities. I could see a number of ways that this could be used in classrooms – as an individual, group or whole class activity – or as ‘homework’ and an opportunity to engage with parents and caregivers too.

Maths in Movies

Ben, a Canadian educator on my Twitter list posted a link to this Mathematics in Movies site, developed by Oliver Knill from the Department of Mathematics at Harvard University. A great resource for maths teachers, particularly at secondary level, with each movie listed linking to the part of the movie with the math focus and a brief explanation of the mathematical aspects being considered.  Each movie is linked in a variety of formats, for viewing on whatever device you may have, including mobiles.

Knill’s website is also worth exploring for anyone interested in the teaching of mathematics and the use of technology in this process. On the site Knill explores some of the pedagogical questions, especially in web pedagogy and the use of technology in teaching which he shares on a pedagogy page.

Thanks Oliver for making such a rich resource available! A classic example of how each of us as educators can enrich the profession by using technology to share what we know and do.

Supporting interoperability…

My previous post appears to have exposed concerns shared by others about the way in which VLEs/LMSs etc are being integrated and used within our schools. The idea that the “promise” of these systems has yet to be realised is due in part to the change in pedagogical practice that is required of those using them, and in part also beacuse of the rapid changes in the technologies upon which these systems are built.

As we see a move away from a ‘walled garden‘  approach to a more open and configurable concept of a learning management system (or any system for that matter), the issue of interoperability becomes key. Just released is a report from SALTIS in the UK titled “Supporting Interoperable Learning Technology – a strategy for better e-learning in schools“, sent to me this morning by my friend Malcolm in the UK. This is an excellent read for those who may be unfamiliar with this rather technical field, as well as those who are working in the field. The concept of interoperability is well explained and illustrated, as is the historical development of standards which is helpful for those who are trying to ‘catch up’ with what has happened.

There’s also a useful discussion around content vs. community that reflects some of Paul’s comments on in my recent post – the fact that it’s not ‘either/or’, but both. On the topic of content, learning objects get a mention – highlighting the complexity of issues in trying to develop a standard for universally ‘portable’ content elements, and reinforcing for me that there’s still a long way to go yet before we’ll have something truly useful.

The scenario towards the end of the report titled “imagining an interoperable future’ provides a useful insight into what advantages there might be to learners and learning if we can succeed in achieving the interoperability vision outlined in the report. For my money this is an excellent starting point for schools looking at implementing any sort of system – begin by creating your own scenarios and building a picture of what you’d like to see acheived, then set about building it up with the tools and applications that will make it happen.

Download as PDF (2.2Mb, 24pp, published January 2009)

Debate Graph

My friend Malcolm sent me this link during the week to DebateGraph, an online global debate map. This will be of particular interest to the geography teachers out there as they are preparing for the 2009 school year, I can imagine a number of useful ways in which this tool could be used in a classroom to stimulate thinking and understanding about global issues.

Debategraph is a wiki debate visualization tool that lets you:

  • present the strongest case on any debate that matters to you;
  • openly engage the opposing arguments;
  • create and reshape debates, make new points, rate and filter the arguments;
  • monitor the evolution of debates via RSS feeds; and,
  • share and reuse the debates on and offline.

Debategraph provides a global graph of all the debates that enables you to visualise and deepen your understanding of the ways in which different debates are semantically interrelated, and ways in which these interrelated debates shape, and are shaped by, each other.

I’d love to hear of experiences of any teachers who make use of this in their classroom programmes??


The growing interest in a global energy crisis and the drive to find alternative fuels and ways of conserving our existing energy sources is a hot topic at the moment, and one that provides an excellent context for theme-based, cross-curricular learning at all levels of the school.

I’ve blogged previously about resources that have been developed for use in schools, including Electrocity, a simulation focused on energy use in the city and PowerUp, a 3D virtual world with an environmental focus from IBM. The latest I’ve discovered is EnergyVille, (referred to me by Clarence Fisher via Twitter).

EnergyVille is an interactive game that puts you in charge of meeting the energy needs of a city or around 3.9 million people. It’s certainly engaging enough, with plenty of opportunity for exploring the choices to be made and pondering the consequences – I could certainly see how this could stimulate lots of activity in a classroom.

Of course, when considering energy futures we open ourselves to lots of speculation and differing points of view, depending on who is promoting the alternatives (energy companies, governments, ‘green’ groups etc – all have their own particular bias.) According to the game intro, the game has been created by the Economist Intelligence Unit, and the assumptions for the game, both present and future, are based on their assessment of global facts and trends from numerous credible sources. The intro goes on to emphasise that there are a great many points of view in this debate, and that there are no easily answers. The important thing that is emphasised is the need to engage with good information and understand what the variables are and the consequences of these in any decisions that are made. If indeed this is what the game embodies then it gets a tick from me as a useful addition to the resource bank for teachers!