Friday, November 9, 2012

Google Earth in Education: On-Air Hangout Part 2

Join the creators of Google Lit Trips (Jerome Burg) and Real World Math (Thomas Petra) for another conversation on Google Earth's role in education.  Forty-five minutes wasn't enough time to cover all of the topics that we wanted to, and so we are adding another hangout date: Friday, November 9 at 8pm Eastern.  We'll be discussing further the development of our websites, favorite features, strategies for implementing geo-lessons, the future role of Google Earth in education, and much more.  

Once again, this is a Google Edu On-Air Hangout that takes place on November 9 at 8pm Eastern on Thomas Petra's Google+ page.  You can post questions live during the Hangout or tweet them in advance to @RealWorldMath or @GoogleLitTrips. Use the Twitter hashtag #earthedu.

In case you missed Part 1 of the discussion, the video is provided below.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Super PACs for Education

My Super PAC Can Beat Up Your Super PAC!
If the most common solution to solving a problem is to throw some money at it, then the equally common response is "We don't have enough funding."  It would be fair to anticipate this sort of reply even more so in a time of a national economic crisis, but surely we can scrape together a few cents for those things that are really important - like, for instance, Education or maybe a flooded city.

Now, I'm not saying that money solves all problems, but there is evidence all around us of how times are tough and perhaps some extra cash couldn't hurt.  (Have you been to Staten Island lately?)  Yes, things are getting better.  The economy seems to be steadily recovering, but for quite a while it would seem that everywhere you looked peoples' out turned-pockets were empty, that is, unless you were supporting a political campaign.

According to The Sunlight Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, the amount of independent expenditures for this election has amounted to over 1.2 billion dollars.  Independent expenditures are primarily the campaign ads for television or radio that we have enjoyed so much (cough) in the past year.  This is money that has been raised by political non-profits, unaffiliated party committees, political action committees, and Super PACs.  What's made this election so different from the past is the introduction of the Super PACs.  Since the U.S. Supreme Court decided in its Citizens United case that corporations have a right to free political speech, Personal Action Committees could now raise unlimited funding to support campaigns, provided they didn't coordinate with the candidates.  You see, corporations are people, my friend.  There are almost a thousand Personal Action Committees today, but while the initial concern was that large corporations would be indirectly funding the campaigns, that hasn't been the case.  The Center for Responsive Politics reports that 80% of the PAC money has come from the top 100 individual donors, while less than 0.5% was contributed by publicly-traded corporations.

Since the beginning of 2011, Super PACs have raised a total of $623,588,019.71.  According to Sunlight, 75% of that money is spent on negative campaign ads.  The three largest Super PACs combined have raised almost half of the total PAC money: Restore Our Future ($142,645,946), American Crossroads ($99,828,397), and Priorities USA Action ($66,182,180).  The two largest PACs support Mitt Romney, while Priorities USA Action supports the re-election of President Obama.  So it would seem that if a worthy cause came along, there is some money out there that can be generated.  That's good news if you are Karl Rove or live in Hoboken, N.J.

During this campaign season, I have been dismayed at how little education has been raised as a campaign issue.  President Obama supports recruiting more Science and Math teachers, and he has made it easier for college students to get student loans.  I'm never sure of what Mitt Romney says, but regardless, neither candidate has come forward with a thoughtful plan towards the education reform I feel is needed.  Education reform needs leadership and ideas more than it needs money, but I'm sure any district would benefit from a stronger budget.  Maybe all of those Super PAC donors can help?  There are over 50 million students enrolled in elementary to secondary schools in the United States. If the $623,588,019.71 of SuperPac money was split equally among the 50 million students in the United States it would only amount to $12.47 per student.  That doesn't seem very impressive, but what else could it buy that might help schools?  Here's a list I came up with; you may want to add your own in the comments.
  • 226,759,280 healthy school lunches (source)
  • 188,966,066 pints of orange finger paint (source)
  • 1,247,176 iPads (source)
  • 1,895,404 iPad minis (source)
  • 25,203 school janitors (source)
  • 14,130 school nurses (source)
  • 17,321 elementary gym teachers (source)
  • 18,896 high school band teachers (source)
  • 30,708 teacher aides (source)
  • 100 elementary schools built in 2008 (source)
  • 103,391 SMART boards (source)
  • 4,988 school buses (assuming $125,000 per)
  • 124,967,539 crayon boxes (64 ct. with sharpener!) (source)
  •  72,594,647 kick balls (source)
In just a few days all that loose cash will be freed up for other purposes.  Instead of that bake sale, consider a more ambitious approach and start your own Super PAC for Education.

I'm District 671 and I approve of this message.

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Saturday, October 20, 2012

Mark your calendars!

Had enough of Biden vs. Ryan? Obama vs. Romney?  Well, mark your calendars for a kinder, gentler debate: Burg vs. Petra.  Join the creators of Google Lit Trips (Jerome Burg) and Real World Math (Thomas Petra) for a conversation on Google Earth's role in education.  We'll be discussing the development of our websites, favorite features, strategies for implementing geo-lessons, the future role of Google Earth in education, and much more.  This is a Google Edu On-Air Hangout that takes place on November 2 at 7pm Eastern on Thomas Petra's Google+ page.  You can post questions live during the Hangout or tweet them in advance to @RealWorldMath or @GoogleLitTrips. Use the Twitter hashtag #earthedu.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Chrome Apps for Assistive Technology

You have the best seat in the house to learn with educators around the world. 
Over 110 Hangouts. Over 70 presenters. 
All free on Google+. Education On Air.  

I could use a little help with this one.  As you can see above, I'm going to be presenting a different type of topic than Google Earth in a Google+ On-Air Hangout on October 16.  The subject is Chrome Apps for Assistive Technology and it falls under my current role as an Assistive Technology teacher.  Assistive Technology is a growing area in the field of Special Education.  It involves finding applications and devices that can enrich the lives of children with special needs.  With the present boom in technology, there is a rapidly changing amount of possibilities.

In the Hangout, Christine Rosario and I will be highlighting a new website,, and its list of Chrome apps for Assistive Technology.  The site was built by John Calvert and Mark Surabian.  It reviews a number of apps for vision impairments, hearing disorders, ESL, developmental delays, and more.  To watch the Hangout, go to my Google+ page on October 16 at 6pm Eastern.

 Please pass this post on to any Special Education professionals or other interested persons that you may know.  Most often there are helpful tools that exist but people just aren't aware of them.  So please help me spread awareness of this great new resource.

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Monday, September 17, 2012

More than a music video

Arcade Fire
If you haven't seen Arcade Fire's The Wilderness Downtown video online, I'll pause 5 minutes while you familiarize yourself.  It's quite the blend of computer design, music, video, art, and Google Earth.  It came out in 2010, but it was new to me.  I think it's a pretty neat presentation for a number of reasons.

From the moment you see the Home screen you should be aware that this is more than just another music video.  Before you get distracted by the random flocks of computer generated starlings swarming across your screen, you'll see that this is billed as a Chrome Experiment.  Chrome Experiments are Google's open source "showcase of creative web experiments" made by designers who are pushing the limits of what modern coding can accomplish.  This particular video was written and directed by Chris Milk and built by A Radical Media Production in HTML5.  I don't know how they created all the effects but they certainly had my attention.

The video starts off by loading a number of different sized windows that will populate your computer screen.  The windows pop in and out with scenes related to the video.  This brings us back to the reason why Google is listed as a contributor on the Home screen and why you are asked to enter the address of the home you grew up.  As the song progresses you'll notice some  windows contain Google Geo views of your address - some are Google's Street View while others are arial photography from a bird's eye point of view.

Those birds and the trees never seem to go away.  Towards the end you are encouraged to write the younger you a postcard in the "tree-script" and try your hand at drawing trees yourself.  This portion of the video concludes with more birds flying in to perch and take off from your creations.

So, it's a pretty cool video and I liked the song, but I see a lot more in it.  First, it involves the viewer from the beginning.  You get to see your own personalized version with your address and then you get to add your own artwork to the mix.  That's a terrific hook and so I wonder how this format could be used by advertisers?  I don't think it would work with M&Ms bouncing across the screen or a Ford Taurus cruising on a scenic highway, but it's a better hook than the "Choose your Ad experience" they've come up with so far.  The video is a promotion for Arcade Fire after all, remember?  I think something done well like this would be an effective advertisement if it just ended with Drink Coke.  I see a lot of potential.  Even better for advertisers, it also includes a social element.  The user can share their postcard or video with others and spread it further.  I don't know why it took 2 years to finally reach me but I'd like to see more productions like this.

Now I'm not advocating for more advertisements online but I can appreciate the fact that content providers need revenue.  So whether this format is used for advertising or pushing some other message, I think the mix of modern coding, art, and social media is a winning idea.

If you still haven't tried it out, here's my video creation.  You'll find different levels of success with your address depending on whether Google has Street View in the vicinity.  One more thing: be sure to watch for the little dot of the jogger running in the Google views.  I'd love to know how they got him to follow the roads.

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Monday, September 3, 2012

The other PBL - Passion Based Learning

Louder Than a Bomb
Louder Than a Bomb (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I usually cringe a bit when I hear edu-buzz words like "engaging" and "passion".  I'm not saying they aren't important sentiments; it's just that those terms are used so often.  But I won't argue against the word choice of the new PBL - Passion Based Learning.  It's a perfect title for a growing trend in education.

 Passion Based Learning isn't a new concept.  We've probably all experienced our own form of it at least once in our lives.   I'll define PBL as finding something that interests kids and using their motivation to build parallel strengths.  Sports, clubs, and arts programs have been doing it for decades, but finding a place for it in the traditional curriculum is a different matter.  For some reason it has been difficult to produce a profound inspiration in the time between the school bell rings.  One reason is that each child has his or her own personal strengths, interests, and (as Gardner would put it) intelligences.  Advances in technology and pedagogy have enabled educators now to take a more concentrated effort towards individualizing instruction, but how does this work in a full classroom?

I think a key element of PBL is presenting a variety of topics or activities. Most children have a narrow focus of the things they are passionate about, so your first goal would be to expand upon that.  Get out of the textbook and show them something new.  In a similar vein, your offerings should come in multiple formats: visual, auditory, tactile, etc.  For example, Lego Robotics seems to be a popular choice of passion based learning for STEM programs.  Use your imagination and look to your professional networks for ideas.  You'll find a ton of material from organizations such as NASA available online for free.  Not everything is going to be a winning choice for everyone but neither is a homogeneous curriculum.

Another important characteristic of passion based learning is time on task.  Have you ever had a group of kids excited about a topic and then dashed their interest on the rocks of "moving on".  It's amazing how some teachers are slaves to their Teacher Editions and testing schedules.  When you find something that interests students, then provide the time to magnify and expand upon it.  Go off the beaten trail and spend an extra day on the topic or develop an extended activity.  Google is one of many companies that provides employees with time to work on special projects unrelated to their jobs.  Some of the features you use in Google applications came from these very pet projects.  What if you gave your students 20% of class time each week to do the same?  Imagine a room with different groups of students working on SketchUp models, learning the piano, performing Shakespeare, and working on video production.  It sounds chaotic, but it also sounds fun.  Give them the time to cultivate their interests.  If a group of students want to go even further, then consider setting up an after-school club.  Lego Robotic programs started out small and grew into events held worldwide.

Students are going to need guidance and so some form of coaching or mentoring is required.  This would be the perfect time to incorporate expertise from outside of the classroom.  Architects and scientists may seem like solid choices but remember the first rule is variety.  There are plenty of professionals and non-professionals that can offer wisdom and support.  I've seen examples of programs that involve months of expert guidance that conclude with an awards ceremony.  The Louder Than A Bomb teen poetry slam is a great example of this and how students can achieve greatness with mentoring and the time to flourish.

Showing relevance to life outside of school is listed as one of the Nine Tenets of Passion Based Learning compiled by Kimberly Vincent.  This is embodied in the much acclaimed video produced by a YMCA program for children in North Minneapolis.  I'm speaking of course about Hot Cheetos and Takis by Y.N. Rich Kids.  The video has gone viral on YouTube with over 2.25 million views.  The Beats and Rhymes program has professionals helping kids write lyrics about their lives.  They've produced 8 albums of songs covering topics such as bullies, summertime, rainy days, and yes... snacks.

Like project based learning, passion based learning provides the opportunity to learn additional skills and benefits that you wouldn't normally find in teacher-centered instruction.  Time management, working with a group, assuming role-specific responsibilities, prioritizing, extended research, following advice and taking criticism, managing resources, learning new tools, striving for mastery, and communication skills are some that come to mind.  No doubt you'll notice that many of these would be considered "life skills" that you and I deal with each day.

Perhaps the ultimate goal of passion based learning is to use it to develop subject-area content knowledge.  The problem hasn't been the concepts in mathematics, science, social studies, and so on, but rather how they have been presented.  So use their "passion" as a way to show how the curriculum is relevant.  Use the rocket club as the way to teach physics.  Construct mathematical knowledge with SketchUp models.  Incorporate dactylic meter in your poetry slam.  Use the snack video production as an avenue to address nutrition.  Call it the long con if you like, but if the students are interested in becoming experts you'll have an easier time getting them to a level of mastery in a subject area.

The album notes for Y.N. Rich Kids' The Kids Do Stand a Chance might provide the best argument for passion based learning - "We all have something that we are good at and we must find it inside ourselves and carve out our own destiny."

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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Robots Attack!

I'm always amazed at the recurrence some ideas seem to take in my day.  Maybe I'm just being hyper vigilant but lately the topic of robots keeps popping up.  The August issue of iste's Learning & Leading magazine arrived proclaiming "We Love Robots!"  I've seen a lot of buzz about STEM learning with Lego Robotics but perhaps we are playing into the hands of our new overlords.

ro·bot  (noun)
    1. a machine that resembles a human and does mechanical, routine tasks on command.
    2. a person who acts and responds in a mechanical, routine tasks on command.
    3. any machine or mechanical device that operates automatically with humanlike skill.

This post could go in a couple of directions based on that definition.  My first inclination is to ponder who the robots in education are?  An argument could be made that traditional schooling has been preparing students to perform as robots, but I'll steer clear of that weighty topic.  I'm thinking more along the lines of 'computers in education', or is it 'education in computers'?  When students go to a computer lab are we just plugging them in and allowing the computer to manage the learning process?  The line is increasingly becoming blurred as to whether computers are used as learning tools or whether they are assuming the role of the instructor.

This past week Audrey Watters addressed this conundrum in the 2012 Learning 2.0 Virtual Conference with her presentation: Robots in the Classroom.  I've been a fan of Audrey's Hacked Education blog for some time and she didn't disappoint with a thought provoking presentation on the role of robots in Education.  From Isaac Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics to robot essay graders, she posed a number of ethical questions on just how far educators should hand control over to machines.

We don't normally think of computers as robots, but they can be a "mechanical device that operates automatically with humanlike skill."  In fact, as Audrey pointed out, computers are exceeding humans in certain educational roles.  Computers are being used as robo-graders for millions of standardized tests each year, and I'm not just talking about the bubble questions.  Robo-readers are also being used to grade the essay portions as well.  A New York Times article reported one automated reader "can grade 16,000 essays in 20 seconds" (I can hear all the English teachers groan from here).  Computerized tutoring is another rising trend.  It's hard to argue against a computer's effectiveness in this role when it has the capacity to adapt to the myriad of learner differences much more easily than a classroom teacher.  Some Florida schools found it more economical this year to offer summer school online than to offer site-based instruction.  Learner management systems are also becoming more advanced with personalized options.  So is it possible that we may see the day when an entire school district goes online for the entire school year?  That really isn't that far-fetched of an idea.  The question we need to ask ourselves is whether or not these are intrinsic improvements for Education.  Are these developments occurring for efficiency or for economic reasons?  Does computerized instruction dehumanize learning?  Most people would agree that a computer is a tool but we are fast approaching a threshold where this tool may become another member of the faculty.

Science fiction author Sir. Arthur Clarke once said "Any teacher that can be replaced by a machine should be."  To that end I would refer the machine to Asimov's First law of robotics: A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

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Monday, August 13, 2012

Live the Olympic dream

Although the 2012 games have reached their conclusion, the Olympic dream is being born in the hearts and minds of young athletes from around the world. So why not join them?  I don't mean for you to shave seconds off your 10,000m run or work on your double-pike dismount.  What I have in mind is adopting the strategies that got those athletes in London this summer.  Try to apply these lessons in your personal life and profession, and encourage these virtues in your students.

Now I haven't ever been in the Olympics myself, but I did take part in a regional version some years ago.  In 2005 I raced in the 6-man outrigger canoe events at the South Pacific Mini Games held in Palau.  The highlight was a 30K race through the rock islands that took us over 2 1/2 hours to complete.  Just to be able to compete against nations from around the Pacific made the six months of training worth it.  Safe to say that was probably my peak as an athlete, but after watching hours of the current Olympic coverage with its non-stop commentary and video-bios of the athletes, I think I've gleaned some pieces of advice we can all strive for.

1.  Set goals

We encourage our students to set goals but we do this enough with ourselves?  Your goals for the school year don't have to be performance-based alone.  What achievements do you want to accomplish?  Perhaps you've considered recording some flipped classroom videos or creating a series of IWB lessons?  Start blogging or learn a new application; there's always new technology to learn.  Maybe you could create a Google Earth activity and submit it to RealWorldMath (hint hint).  The beginning of the school year is one of the best times to set goals.

2.  Aim high

I don't think any of the athletes went to the Olympics without intending to earn a medal.  Aim high when you set your goals and make an impact.  A high jumper doesn't improve his score by keeping the bar at the same level.  Set your goals to a task that you can achieve and then raise the bar.  You're capable of tremendous growth if you challenge yourself.

3.  Find a coach

There isn't any reason why you need to do this alone.  Find a mentor to help you work towards your goals.  The best coaches provide support and motivation with a critical eye on performance.  Their experience can help you avoid mistakes and setbacks so listen to their advice.

4.  Dedication

This is probably the hardest part but it is also the most admirable.  The vast majority of Olympians got to where they are by years of dedication to their sport.  Stay on top of your goals and don't allow any slips.  Even the smallest lapse in dedication can have an exponential effect and so this is a mental challenge more than anything.  A close partner to dedication is sacrifice.  If you have trouble making your goals, prioritize your time for maximum effectiveness.  More than anything, your dedication will determine whether or not you achieve your goals.

5.  Be patient

Patience goes well with dedication but it's a mixture of optimism and pessimism.  For any large challenge, you need to be realistic about the difficulties you will face, and the time it will take to overcome them.  What you thought would take one quarter may take three.  Believe in yourself and what you are trying to accomplish.  Your confidence will carry you through troubled waters.

6.  Overcome adversity

As I write this, Spain is giving the current Dream Team a hard time in the gold medal game.  Guor Marial, Caster Semenya, and Oscar Pistorius were just some of the other incredible stories of Olympic athletes overcoming adversity.  While your challenges may not be as dramatic, you can be sure to face times of difficulty.  Don't get discouraged by the problems you face; they'll be part of learning process and add to the satisfaction in the end.  Use your hardships as motivation to strive harder.

7.  Work with a team

Just as a coach can lend you guidance and support, you'll find it amplified when you work with a team.  Your team might consist of grade-level colleagues or correspondences from your social networks on your venture.  Each member will have strengths to contribute so adjust the scope of your project accordingly.  Encourage and learn from another.  As a team member you're not working only for yourself, so be someone they can rely on.

8.  Represent something bigger

Olympic athletes often remark on how they persevere for their country.  You may not be working at quite the same scale but it doesn't mean you can't represent something bigger.  Perhaps you are trying to contribute to your field or your profession in some way.  With the Internet it is easier to reach a greater audience and magnify the significance of your efforts.  Make your mark in a profound way by contributing to the global knowledge base.

Hopefully these are some points you can incorporate into your aspirations.  To live the Olympic dream is to push towards goals, persevere through hardships, and to strive for excellence. You don't have to be a gymnast to adopt these traits.  Good luck with your endeavors this year and let the games begin.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Start your school year off right

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 09:  Pupils wait f...
(Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)
Just when you pulled the lawn chairs out of storage, it's time to think about heading back to school.  Before you put down your lemonade, take a moment to consider which Real World Math lessons you will be using during the next school year.  Personally, I use at least one Google Earth activity each quarter with a particular class, but it may depend on your students' abilities. If they haven't used Google Earth before, then it may take some time to get them orientated. The following Real World Math lessons would be good introductory activities to teach beginners some basic Google Earth skills:
  • Line Patterns - using the Path tool
  • Mazes and Labyrinths - navigating & working with folders
  • Estimating Distance - using the Ruler tool
  • Water Problems - using the Elevation Profile tool

You may want to use a Real World Math activity at the logical spot in your curriculum but I would often slide something in out of sequence.  Instead of running the gauntlet through several chapters on fractions, why not introduce an exploratory activity or take time to incorporate some project-based lessons.  Of course, prerequisite skills are an important factor to consider, but I think students would appreciate a change of pace.  Studying mathematics doesn't always have to be done in a linear fashion.

Also keep in mind that many of the Real World Math lessons lend themselves to cross-curricular activities. Coordinate extension activities early on with the Science, History, and English teachers on your team.  Oil Spill Estimates and Whale Watch are just two of the activities that can be explored in different disciplines. 

I would love to hear of your experiences with the material throughout the year. Please give feedback - the good and the bad - by emailing or use the site's contact form.  

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Monday, July 23, 2012

Up and running

Driving Cars in a Traffic Jam
(Photo credit:
I wanted to do a quick post to thank everyone for the positive feedback I've been receiving with the new incarnation of The new site is up and traffic is running smoothly. So far, so good.

 I had some apprehension over blocking part of the site off with password protected pages. My concern mainly stemmed from the fear that teachers wouldn't want to explore the site further than the first page. It needn't have worried, as the password requests have been coming steady and strong. I think my response time has been good as well; I usually get a reply out within 1-12 hours.  The added bonus for me has been the words of praise and encouragement I've received with the requests.

 This brings me to the main thought of this blog post. I've often been asked why I bother to put so much time into the site when I don't receive any compensation for it. It's a question I've asked myself, but truthfully, it's the intrinsic value of producing something for others that keeps me going.  Daniel Pink hit the nail on the head in his book Drive.  In Drive he examines what it is that motivates us as humans.  Based on scientific studies of the past, he concludes that there are three essential elements that will encourage us to accomplish things: autonomy, mastery, and purpose.  I can affirm that all three are present in what I do.  I have complete autonomy with Real World Math.  It is my creation and I am my own boss.  I have a personal investment in it.  I've strived to what I do well, and so the idea of mastery is also evident.  From learning the Google Earth application in the beginning to using HTML formatting and video production, I've found the work holds my interest and challenges me to do better.  Perhaps most importantly is purpose.  As Pink describes it, "the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves".  Most assuredly, I would not keep up the site without the response and interest from others.  I feel that I am providing something others want.

And so, I would like to thank all of you who have visited the site, requested the password access, and especially for the kind words you have shared with me.  You have encouraged me to do more and to do it better.

Friday, July 6, 2012

The new site is up!

The new site is up and running!  The entire staff here at Real World Math (me) has been working around the clock transferring files from the previous website and adding polish to the new one.  It's still the same URL but it has a new look and features for teachers and students.

The biggest change is that the site is now built to accommodate teachers and students.  Whereas the old site was intended as a resource site for teachers only, the new site allows students to retrieve the necessary Kmz downloads.  They can also view the Google Earth tutorials, videos, and additional content I'll be adding in the future.  The teacher portion of the website is now password protected.  The material on these pages includes the lesson write ups,  teacher downloads - such as lesson notes and answer keys, and a link to the blog.  My main intention for setting up the site in this way is to make it easier for teachers to share material with students.  I anticipate making some adjustments throughout the next year, so please let me know if you would like to see some feature added or improved.  The website, password and all of the materials are still free.  I hope it looks like a pay site, but it isn't.  To receive the password to the site, simply fill out the Contact form listed in the menu.  It would be helpful if you include a note with your job description.  I realize this isn't a fool proof deterrent for students.  I'll just have to rely on my teacher 6th sense.

Another reason for the format changes is that the website material is now in it's fifth year.  We all know that technology waits for no one, and so I'm trying to modify the content to better fit the times.  For instance, the browser feature in Google Earth's main window was not available when I constructed the majority of RWM activities.  I think the browser can be utilized even more in Google Earth lessons and serve as a connection to Real World Math from within the application.  I'm also trying to consider how to format activities so that they can be performed on tablets or smartphones.  Devices like these weren't available when I first started the website.

While transferring files to the new website, it became obvious to me that some of the material needs improvement.  A lot of this has to do with my improved skills with HTML and video work, but mainly it's because of outdated material.  Some of the files are over 4 years old and so I'm finding a lot of dead links in the Kmz's.  I've spent the last four days editing The Iditarod Challenge Kmz.  It seems that one of the resources I relied on heavily is no longer on the Web so I had to find a lot of new material.  While I was at it, I reformatted the placemarks with HTML and new image links.  I think it's one of my best activities and now it looks awesome.

In parting, I'd have to say that it was strange watching the old website fade away.  It was something I invested countless hours on and so it was kind of like saying goodbye to an old friend.  The last time I saw the visitor count the final tally was 184,772; which is at least 184,000 more than I'd thought I'd have.  I can't tell you how much your visits to have exceeded my expectations and driven me to do more.  I sincerely hope the new incarnation will have as much success and be the start of something better.  Thank you.
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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

We're moving!

By the time you're reading this, Real World Math may have already moved to it's new home.  Since MobileMe is no longer doing web publishing for Mac's iWeb, I've been forced to look for a new host.  After some deliberation I've gone with Weebly.  The URL for the site will still be  It seems that I'll be able to make the upgrades to the site that I've been wanting to make for some time now.

Key among this is allowing students access to the site to retrieve downloads for Google Earth, while at the same time restricting them from all of the teachers' content.  I'll be accomplishing this by password-protecting some of the pages.  Hopefully it will make for a blended experience for anyone who visits the site.

I've been working on this for a while now, but there's still work to do.  I had forgotten how much content was on the site!  The framework is in place so what I mainly need to do now is add the downloadable materials.  While doing this, I've realized I need to make upgrades and edits to most of the material.  This will take longer than I anticipated, so please bear with the mess while I sort through it all this summer.  Hopefully you won't find too many files unavailable.

As I mentioned before, the teacher portion of the site will be password protected.  Teachers will be able to send a request for the password via a form on the site.  But I need a password!  How 'bout it?  Any suggestions?

See you on the other side!  Hope you like the new layout.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Design Learning Experiences with Google Earth

Ever wanted to create a lesson for your students using Google Earth?  That's the subject of my PD in your PJ's presentation this weekend.  Mine is just one session of many being brought to you by the guys from The State of Tech.  The entire conference is being held as a series of Google+ On Air Hangouts.  You can choose to participate in the live presentation or just watch it as a spectator.  Fill out this form if you want interact and ask questions live during my event.  I'll be sharing a lot of information from basic to advanced with you, but I hope to have a lot of time for Q&A.  If you're interested in using Google Earth next school year, then now's the best time to start your PD.  I hope you can join me.

June 16 @ 4pm EST join my Hangout on Google+

Session Description:
 Go beyond the virtual tours and utilize Google Earth to its fullest potential.  This presentation will give you tips on how to design learning experiences with Google Earth.  You'll learn how to add and format your own lesson content, how to use Google Earth's tools, how to share your work with students, and lots of simple ways to make your work shine.  Make Google Earth the learning environment your students crave.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

PD in your PJ's

The State of Tech “PD in your PJ’s” Online Conference

Announcing the first ever “PD in your PJ’s” free online Ed-Tech Conference, Saturday June 16th 2012, brought to you by The State of Tech podcast, ITIP Ohio, and Google in Education.

No travel, no hotels, no meals, no subs, no registration costs, and no fancy clothes needed. Instead this conference is totally free and totally online!
Conference website:
  • Saturday, June 16th - Noon to 5pm (Eastern Standard Time)
  • Over 25 sessions covering a variety of Ed-Tech topic from Google Apps to BYOD to digital textbooks and more.
  • Presentations done by teachers, technology directors, and other Ed-Tech leaders from around the world.
  • All sessions will stream live from the conference website using Google’s Hangouts On Air technology. (Note: you do not need to have a Google+ account to view the live video streams.)
  • Optionally participants can sign up to join in the session Hangouts as a guest panelist to participate live with the presenters.
Please visit the site today to check out the great scheduled sessions, and pass this along to all the educators you know.  If you use Twitter, please use the hashtag #pdinpjs

Conference organized and led by The State of Tech podcast -
Special thanks to ITIP Ohio - - for co-sponsoring this event, and Google in Education - - for providing Hangouts On Air.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The future of Google Earth

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JUNE 06: Brian McClendon, ...
When I was at the Google Teacher Academy a little over a year ago, I had the opportunity to ask one of managers what Google Earth would look like in five years.  I have a vested interest in the product, not only because relies so heavily on it, but also because I model 3D buildings for it.  They passed on the question at the time, but after listening to Brian McClendon's press event for Google Maps today, it would seem as though I have my answer.

The VP of Google Maps outlined the progression of Google Earth and Maps throughout the 7 year history of their development.  He said that Google's mapping applications have been built around the principles of comprehensiveness, accuracy, and usablity.  No doubt, Google has gathered the most comprehensive geo-data in the world.  It's quite astonishing when you see how far Google's mapping efforts have come in a relatively short time when you consider the subject matter is the world.  In 2006, 37% of Google Earth was covered in high resolution imagery.  McClendon states the number today as 75%.  In 2008 Google had mapped 13 million navigable miles in 22 countries.  By 2012, the number had increased to 26 million miles in 187 countries.  This increase comes in large part from the contributions of users from around the world.  Additionally, 5 million miles have been gathered for the Street View.  Street View has always seemed to me to be a sign that Google was not going to rely on user-supplied content forever.

This makes sense and provides one of the clues as to why Google sold SketchUp earlier in the year.  It's also a bitter pill to swallow for me personally.  I am one of the thousands of people who uses SketchUp to model 3D buildings.  I would like to think that the 53 models I've done for Google Earth are of the highest quality; but, I'll admit that some are much better than others.  The disparity is even greater when you compare the work of the master modelers with the novices, and when you consider that not all models are geometrically efficient.  If Google wants a product that is consistent and accurate, then it isn't in their best interest to rely on the work of hobbyists.  [Ouch, that hurt to write.]  And so, it would seem now that the geo-technology has once again reached a breakthrough moment.

Peter Birch, Product Manager for Google Earth, skirted around these points, although SketchUp was never mentioned by name in the entire presentation.  He shared a demonstration of Google's new textured 3-D mesh rendering.  We saw an early version of this "automated technology to extract 3-D from aerial images" in Google's Building Maker.  I wasn't a fan of this modeling technique at the time because, although it was easy to model with, the results were no substitute for buildings modeled with SketchUp.   But Google's current version provides the solution that is comprehensive, consistent, and accurate.  It uses a much greater amount of data called "oblique imagery" that is collected by planes.  The photo imagery of a city is gathered from all angles in a series of gridded flight patterns.  Next "stereo photogrammetry" constructs the 3D models out of a textured 3D mesh from the images.  It was an impressive demonstration and showed just how far Google has come since Building Maker.  Now Google can create a 3D city that is complete without the gaps of missing buildings, has a consistent textured appearance, and it will be deliverable across all devices.

This is just the beginning.  Google has only mapped a dozen or more cities around the world with this technique but as they so obviously demonstrated - there doesn't seem to be a limit to the growth they can accomplish in a matter of years.  When SketchUp was sold, I had a feeling my modeling would become obsolete.  It remains to be seen what extent this will come to fruition, but I anticipate I'll be reduced to the 21st century equivalent of modeling a ship in a bottle.  It makes me sad and a bit angry when I think of the hours that so many users contributed to help create much of Geo Google's value without any thought of compensation.  At the same time I am envious of Google's ingenuity and the prospect of the future.  Indoor maps for subway stations, hiking trail maps, and a greater amount of interactive tours are on the near horizon.  I suppose the lesson learned is- if you're going to embrace technology, then it doesn't make sense to stand in the way of progress.

You can see the full press conference below.  The stereo photogrammetry is covered at 37:40

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Sunday, May 13, 2012


Just came across ThingLink tonight and it seems like a pretty versatile app.  With ThingLink you have the ability to make your images interactive.  Hover your cursor over the image above and you'll see what I mean.

Upload an image of your own or from Flickr, FaceBook, or a different web source, and then add content tags.  Your tags can have text, sound, web links, videos, or you can even add an image in your image.  Videos tags use YouTube, Vimeo, and TED, while images can be tagged from Flickr, Instragram, and more.  You can make audio tags linking to SoundCloud, iTunes, and Spotify.  There's a lot more ways you can tag an image, so take a look at the examples in their gallery.

ThinkLink images can be embedded on a webpage and shared with other editors.  One of the first things I tried out was embedding ThingLink in a Google Earth placemark.  It works!  That might prove to be redundant but it could also be a quicker way to edit placemarks with more content links.

I don't know if Instagram was worth a billion dollars, but I can see a lot more uses with ThingLink.

Special thanks to iTeach blog for introducing me to this resource.

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Friday, April 13, 2012

4th Anniversary of Real World Math

Real World Math had its Fourth Anniversary the other day.  Not sure if it seems longer than that, or if time has flown by, but I'm certainly glad the site is still reaching new people.  I'm sorry that I haven't been as diligent with adding new activities.  For months, I've been bogged down with a colossal lesson for RWM.  I literally have a crack team of experts from around the world helping me with it, so I am anxious to see its completion.  Beyond that I can certainly promise that you'll see some activity on the site soon.

First, you'll notice some changes in the Tutorial section.  I've added some tutorials for editing Google Earth placemarks with HTML.  I think this is a great addition because I've always wanted to have other teachers contribute lessons to Real World Math.  In the this section you'll find specific examples of HTML formatted placemarks that will help you to create your own Google Earth tours and activities.  All you'll need to do is copy the HTML code, enter the content information you want, and paste it in the placemark's description box.  Designing your own placemarks will be much easier now.  So start creating and share your lessons with all of us!

Otherwise, I've been surprised with a few Google Earth features in the past week.  First, I hadn't noticed the Add Image... button and Add Link... buttons in the placemark editor.  I suppose it came as part of the most recent update of GE, - funny that I didn't notice it.  The other surprise came this evening; it finally dawned on me to view RealWorldMath from within Google Earth's browser.  It turned out to be quite convenient because I found that I could download the RWM files directly into Google Earth without going through any middleman.  Is this how you use the site?  Funny that I never considered that.

Not so funny was viewing some of my older activities.  One of the problems with using web-based resources is that they sometimes disappear.  You may have noticed in my materials some dead-end links or images that won't load.  This is because the sources that I used no longer exist or they've changed their web address.  Very frustrating.  I have a lot of material to go through so it would be helpful if you could send me a kind email if you ever encounter some dead links in RWM lessons.

Finally, I have a lot of work in store for me to prevent Real World Math from becoming a dead link.  Apple is discontinuing their MobileMe web hosting services this summer, so that means I have to find a new hosting solution.  Either I migrate to iCloud or I need to publish with another service (any suggestions?).  Rest assured that all is safe.  I own the domain name so wherever I end up you will still reach me at  Hopefully the next four years will be as satisfying as these.  Thanks for all your support.
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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

SimpleK12's Online Education Conference

Attention Education friends – You’re invited to a one-of-a-kind PD event that’s going to be a lot of fun …
and best of all, it won’t cost you a dime!

Come learn with educators from around the world at the Online Education Conference: An international conference that’s 100% FREE!

This PD event has been sponsored by SimpleK12, one of the leading providers of 21st century teacher professional development. Join the Blue Bunnies as they camp out in the SimpleK12 offices for 24 hours straight, bringing you the best-of-the-best conference sessions with presenters from around the world. (Thanks for organizing such an incredible FREE event, SimpleK12!)

Online Education Conference - Details

  • What: A 24-hour training extravaganza for educators around the world!
  • When: Wednesday, April 25th, 2012 – Thursday, April 26th, 2012
  • Where: Online – Join LIVE from your computer or mobile device
  • Cost: 100% FREE!
  • Register:

What sessions can you attend?
Sessions will be running all day and night … so pick and choose whatever works best with your schedule. There’s something for everyone! 

What can you learn about?
Perhaps the better question is, “What WON’T you learn about?” Conference sessions cover ALL of the latest educational trends and topics, such as:
  • Google Earth
  • iPads for Education
  • Free Web Tools
  • 21st Century Student Projects
  • Blogging
  • Google Maps
  • Podcasting
  • and more!

What are you waiting for?
Registration is free … but space is limited. Don’t wait – Reserve your seat now before it’s too late! Sign Up Here:

What’s not to love?!
No Travel. No Registration Fees. Lots of Fun. A Great Learning Opportunity. Need I say more?!

Help spread the word about this FREE, international online conference. Tell as many educator friends and colleagues as you can! Don’t let anyone miss out on this incredible learning opportunity!

See you there!