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31 January 2013

The Universe in a Nutshell

This morning I was working on resources for our Changing Materials wiki, for Mr. Harris' class, and came across this video.  It doesn't have to do with changing materials, directly, but it's very interesting, and I urge you to watch it.   It's rather long - 42 minutes.  So arrange a comfortable place, and watch.  I especially enjoyed Dr. Kaku's description of himself as a boy, and his interest in science and math.


Published on Aug 15, 2012
The Universe in a Nutshell: The Physics of Everything
Michio Kaku, Henry Semat Professor of Theoretical Physics at CUNY

What if we could find one single equation that explains every force in the universe? Dr. Michio Kaku explores how physicists may shrink the science of the Big Bang into an equation as small as Einstein's "e=mc^2." Thanks to advances in string theory, physics may allow us to escape the heat death of the universe, explore the multiverse, and unlock the secrets of existence. While firing up our imaginations about the future, Kaku also presents a succinct history of physics and makes a compelling case for why physics is the key to pretty much everything.

The Floating University
Originally released September, 2011.

24 January 2013

Little Alchemy

This blog has several secret field agents, who continually scour the web for sites, resources, trends, and generally good stuff that should be shared. This morning one of these agents, who is connected with ISOCS Class 4,5, where there is a lot of material changing at the moment, sent us a strong recommendation that we take a look at  Little Alchemy a Google Chrome App. Here's its description:
"Start with four basic elements, then mix and match them to create more and more awesome things.
Simple, yet addictive game! At the beginning you have only four basic elements in your library, but you can mix them and create a lot more. Combine them simply by dragging and dropping on each other."
There are 390 elements to create. How many can you make?  As with most anything on the web, the game has its own website (where you can play and find official cheats), and  there are other websites, reviews, hacks, solutions, blogs and wikis to help you along if you get stuck.

This game is available (as a beta) for our Android Tablets on Google Play; it can be downloaded as a desktop app, and on the iTunes store for iPhones and iPads

This is not chemistry, as in modern science.  It's alchemy: "The medieval forerunner of chemistry, based on the supposed transformation of matter, esp. that of base metals into gold." or "A process by which paradoxical results are achieved or incompatible elements combined with no obvious rational explanation." (link)

These screen shots from the official cheats page give you a sense of the game.  Some of the combinations are "scientific", some are humerus, some are visual puns, some are "common sense", but all are enjoyable!

22 January 2013

Who's Afraid of a Big Black Hole?

Are you interested in gravity, space and black holes? Then you'll like this BBC Documentry.  It's an hour long, so settle in and get comfortable.  The program page is here, where you can see the outline of the program:

  • Who's Afraid of a Black Hole? 
  • Understanding Black Holes 
  •  General Theory of Relativity 
  • Questioning Einstein 
  • Finding a Black Hole 
  • Super Massive Black Hole 
  • Quantum Mechanics 
  • The Big Bang 
  • Virtual Telescope 
  • Final Summary

Published on Apr 8, 2012
"Black holes are one of the most destructive forces in the universe, capable of tearing a planet apart and swallowing an entire star.

Yet scientists now believe they could hold the key to answering the ultimate question -- what was there before the Big Bang?

The trouble is that researching them is next to impossible. Black holes are by definition invisible and there's no scientific theory able to explain them.

Despite these obvious obstacles, Horizon meets the astronomers attempting to image a black hole for the very first time and the theoretical physicists getting ever closer to unlocking their mysteries.

It's a story that takes us into the heart of a black hole and to the very edge of what we think we know about the universe."

18 January 2013

Etiquette everywhere

I found this interactive guide to etiquette world wide this morning on Larry Ferlazzo's blog.

Although it's embedded here, and will work, this site is best explored on a large computer screen - click through to it's web page.

Be sure to read the comments below the interactive info graphic.  Check out the countries you know about from personal experience.  Is the information correct?

The Ultimate Guide to Worldwide Etiquette

"Etiquette varies widely from culture to culture. What may be perfectly normal in one country can sometimes be a grave insult in another. This ultimate guide to worldwide etiquette will help you avoid embarrassing (and sometimes dangerous) mistakes during your travels abroad."

15 January 2013


Important slide show to share from Teach with Video Blog: Learn To Avoid Phishing Scams

Not sure what "phishing" is?  "Phishing is the act of attempting to acquire information such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details (and sometimes, indirectly, money) by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication." (read the whole definition at Wikipedia.)

"Below is a quiz to help teach some of the tricks that are used when attempting to scam someone via email. This presentation was created to help to educate our teachers to detect phishing and scams so that they will not fall victim to these misleading and often very sophisticated email messages."

Avoid Phishing Scams from Steve Katz

Learn more by watching this video from How Stuff Works:

UPDATE 16 January 2013 -  For good advice about keeping your children safe from phishing scams,  read this page at Masheable: How to Protect Your Children From Phishing Scams.

14 January 2013

Looking Closely at Snow

It's that time of year - winter is back, in Switzerland, after a brief holiday of the Holidays, and i's snowing all week.  Time to look more closely at


This video is on  the American Chemical Society's Bytesize Science page:

Posted December 17, 2012
"The video tracks formation of snowflakes from their origins in bits of dust in clouds that become droplets of water falling to Earth. When the droplets cool, six crystal faces form because water molecules bond in hexagonal networks when they freeze. It explains that ice crystals grow fastest at the corners between the faces, fostering development of the six branches that exist in most snowflakes. As snowflakes continue to develop, the branches can spread, grow long and pointy, or branch off into new arms. As each snowflake rises and falls through warmer and cooler air, it thus develops its own distinctive shape."

Go back to my blog post from December 2012 about making paper snowflakes, if you want to create your own in-doors versions.

Snow Fall

Anyone who has anything to do with snow outdoors on slopes, should read Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek created by the New York Times. It is best read in a web browser that enables media - the story is more than text (though the text by itself is very powerful  the videos, audio, maps and wallpaper add to the reading experience).

After you've read the page - and do stick with it to the end - you can read about how it was created at Source
"...It’s an exemplary piece of multimedia journalism, and its many moving (and swooping and clicking) pieces have attracted intense attention from media commentators, but Snow Fall began life not as a demonstration of technology and design capabilities, but with a traditional, in-depth piece by Times reporter John Branch..."
It's an amazing, well written  story, and a  very interesting webpage-as-webpage.  It should be required reading for all our Middle School "Risktakers".

13 January 2013

Technology In Education: A Brief Introduction

Published on Jan 7, 2013 by RubenPuentedura
A brief introduction to fundamental aspects of using technology in education.

Ruben Puentedura, creator of the SAMR model, has shared the above video he created for the Kalmarsunds Gymnasieförbund (a school in Sweden) on his blog and YouTube channel.   The SAMR model helps schools select, use and evaluate technology and its use in education.

From http://cagelessthinking.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/SAMR.jpg

09 January 2013

15 Reasons Why Daydreamers are Better Learners

I recommend 15 Reasons Why Daydreamers are Better Learners, posted by William Koch on Monday, 7 January  2013 at the informedED blog for your reading list.

"The student’s eyes drift to the classroom window and the teacher’s voice fades from consciousness.
The daydream begins. It’s a familiar scene, one we have likely both experienced as students and struggled against in our students as teachers. But daydreaming is not what it might seem. Recent research in both psychology and neuroscience makes clear that daydreaming is an essential part of mental processing, reasoning and, yes, even learning..."
Read more: http://newsroom.opencolleges.edu.au/features/15-reasons-why-daydreamers-are-better-learners/#ixzz2HTMFwp5z"

07 January 2013

Using Diigo

At ISOCS, we keep website bookmarks to share on Diigo, a social bookmarking site.

Our page is at http://www.diigo.com/user/isocs-library.  We keep  lists for most of our units of inquiry and many of our subject areas.

diigo education pioneer Ours is an Education account, so that
  • We can create student accounts for an entire class with just a few clicks 
  • Students of the same class are automatically set up as a Diigo group so they can start using all the benefits that a Diigo group provides, such as group bookmarks and annotations, and group forums. 
  • Privacy settings of student accounts are pre-set so that only teachers and classmates can communicate with them.
  • Ads presented to student account users are limited to education-related sponsors.

On this page, you'll find a list of tools from Diigo: "bookmarklets", extensions/web apps, mobile and desktop apps, and web services.  Download or install one of these to one of your devices, and follow our bookmark stream with the rss feed.

SWFL Eagle Cam, Raptors, and Max


One of my web-friends on Flickr posted this photo this yesterday of an American Bald Eagle.

In her description under the photo, she links to the Southwest Florida Eagle Cam, where you can watch live streaming tv from the eagles' nest.  The Eagle Cam also has a Facebook page, and a Twitter ID.  On both those links you can follow the history of the Eagle chicks, and general news about the birds.

"Southwest Florida “Eagle Cam”, providing 24/7 live video stream of an active pair of bald eagles in their nest. These bald eagles have been coming to the nest for the past 5 years between the months of October- April." (from the Facebook page)
Screen shot of @SWFLEagleCAM 

from the SWFL EagleCam's Twitter feed


If you want to see more bird resources like this, go to the Raptor Resource Project's page, for links to their blog,  photos, maps (here and here), Facebook, YouTube and bird cam video streams. (When you watch the live video streams, keep time zone differences in mind.)

Live video by Ustream


Recently, those of us following the travels of the world's longest-tracked wild animal,  learned of the death of Max the Stork, at her winter home in Spain:
"Max, the Swiss-born stork who is the longest banded and tracked animal in the world, has died at 13.5 years of age in her winter retreat in Spain, said the Natural History Museum of Fribourg (NHM) on 27 October...Max, a female, was born in Avenches, canton Vaud in 1999. She mated for the first time at age 3 and raised 26 offspring in 11 separate occasions.
The Fribourg Museum in a statement thanked volunteers, supporters and the Affenberg Salem Park which helped track her movements for more than a decade." (read more at Geneva Lunch)
"Max the stork, the grand old lady of Swiss bird research, has been found dead in Spain at the age of 13 and a half. No other animal in the world has been tracked by satellite over such a long period, experts say.
The museum of natural history in Fribourg, which had tracked her since she was two months old, said in a press statement on Thursday that by the time the body was found it had been half eaten, making it impossible to determine the exact cause of death." (read more at SwissInfo)
You can read more at the Fribourg Natural History Museum's website. in French.

Uploaded on May 16, 2008 
Kinderstube im Nest von Sender-Störchin MAX in Tüfingen am 12.Mai 2008

What are the technologies involved in the stories in this post? Streaming TV,  uploaded video, news from RSS feeds, social photo sharing, blogging, micro-blogging, satellite transition and tracking, live-mapping, and probably some more that I've missed!  How much is accessible to Primary and Middle School students?  All of it, easily.  How much could these students contribute to, or recreate in a project of their own?

  • They can follow all the Twitter and Facebook streams to read the latest news about these birds, and other animals,  and the foundations that watch over them.
  • They can get involved in nature projects in their own area
  • They can create their own media about nature as they experience it (Examples here, here and here.)

03 January 2013

The SBB Ecocalculator

The other day, an IB Geography teacher web-friend wrote about a new feature of the online timetable for the Swiss Railway System, the Ecocalculator.  I use the SBB online train schedule all the time - at least once a day, often more, and I hadn't noticed this tiny addition to the web page.

ISOCS' Class 4,5 is going to visit the glass factory at Hergiswill next week.  Here's the train timetable page for that journey.  I've circled the Ecocalculator in red in the lower left corner of the page.

Screen shot

When you click on the Ecocalculator symbol, more information opens up:
Screen shot

The page tells us that "By making your planned journey by train you will generate 15 times less CO2 and consume the equivalent of 2,5 litres less petrol than if you go by car." The bar charts tell us about the "CO2 (Carbon dioxide), Energy consumption and travel time per journey".

Clicking on two further choices, we can learn more details of energy consumption, and usable time comparison:
Screen shot

For nearly all trips, taking the train will use less energy per traveler, and take more time. When you have a choice, which mode of transportation do you use?  What do you do if you don't have a choice?