iCivics.org is a great resource for secondary educators teaching social studies, government, and civics courses. Originally founded by former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the non-profit site provides full-unit lesson plans, interactive activities and games to engage students on important topics such as the foundations of government, the Constitution of the United States of America, and the 3 branches of government. There are also a wide variety of interesting games to help students apply their knowledge in real-life situations. (The games are created in part by Filament Games – the same company who works with the JASON project and BrainPop!)
All of the materials on the site are free, but there are additional resources and game-play options when teachers and students create free accounts. I forwarded the link to the Social Studies teachers on my campus, especially since a lot of the curriculum matches up with the 8th Grade curriculum here in the state of Texas. It seems like they have enjoyed using it so far – hopefully it can help you, too!
PhET Interactive Simulations
The University of Colorado Boulder continues to update the interactive science simulations on the PhET website. These free sims are excellent ways to expose students to often complicated topics in new ways. The site was originally designed to deliver physics simulations and virtual labs, but they now offer all kinds of tools for chemistry, biology, graphing, and other math/science topics. I recently discovered the teacher resources, that include lesson plans, handouts, and assessments that help teachers better integrate these simulations into their classrooms in a meaningful way. Users can upload their own activities or documents, and as they are reviewed, the best ones are given “gold star”, high quality status.
This site is described as a free, online social studies course for secondary students. Although social studies is mentioned initially, I found a great deal of connections and lessons that specifically match my 8th Grade Science standards, including life cycle of stars, relationships between ecosystems and living organisms, and basic chemistry. I love that it works to answer big questions about the universe and major developments that have occurred throughout its history.
The Big History site is extremely well organized, and includes all kinds of resources for teachers. There are PDF documents, lessons, notes, quizzes, and explanations on how units might be used complete or as parts added into an existing curriculum. There are also a few extremely detailed PBLs (Project-Based Learning Assignments) in the Buck institute format. The PBL documents even have day-to-day guides and very helpful tips for implementation.
Teachers must sign up for an account, but it is completely free and I received my confirmation email immediately. I think that the resources available on Big History would be great for Pre-AP level Science and Social Studies at the middle school and high-school level.
Looking around on my Edmodo account for the first time in a few months, I saw some interesting posts and links to a new product called Educanon. From their website, eduCanon is described as a personalized, “online learning environment to build and share interactive video lessons.” It is a free product that allows teachers to build interactive questions and opportunities for immediate response directly into YouTube videos. It can be used on available content from places like Khan Academy or TED, or can be added to videos that teachers upload themselves. The videos and required questions can be assigned to students, and teachers can keep track of students’ individual viewing histories and progress on the assessment questions.
It seems that eduCanon was officially released in beta version in early September, and I did a little research to find out that the creator Benjamin Levy was able to create this free product in part due to sponsorships with the MIT 100K Entrepreneurship Competition and LearnLaunch. Since eduCanon seems pretty new, I couldn’t really find a lot of discussion about it on other educational technology websites. The reviews I did read from teachers was pretty positive, and I’ll be curious to see if the message about its possibilities spreads.
I created an account, and it seems pretty easy to load in videos and add questions. I haven’t assigned any videos to students to view, but I love the feature that will not allow students to fast forward past new content they haven’t already viewed. It also seems to have the potential to give great data in a pretty easy-to-read format. This tool looks like it would be great for teachers looking to encourage more interaction and better comprehension for videos provided as part of a flipped classroom model.
Crash Course – US History
Crash Course is a YouTube channel that takes major courses like US History, Biology, and Chemistry and breaks them down into 10-15 minute episodes on key topics. The videos are quick-paced explanations by narrators John and Hank Green and include graphics, important quotes, and plenty of sarcastic comments and jokes. Some of the content might be beyond the middle school level, but I know that I found some segments within the episodes that might be good for introduction or review of a key topic. I linked above to US History, but there are also currently crash courses in World History, Literature, Biology, Chemistry, and Ecology.