The Final Frontiers Get a Little More Accessible

Posted on September 24, 2010. Filed under: Mathematics, Science |

by Tim Cushman

Jules Verne would have liked Robert Ballard.  Verne wrote about the mysteries of the seas while Ballard actually explored them.  Dr. Ballard is best described as an underwater archaeologist; the man who led explorations that uncovered sunken vessels including the Titanic, the Bismarck, and John F. Kennedy’s PT-109.  Robert Ballard has had a long and successful career fueled by curiosity and an interest in using technology to transform how we explore the world around us.  We need more of today’s students to become tomorrow’s  Robert Ballards.  Creating interest in science and technology careers is the purpose of STEM, the Obama administration’s “Educate to Innovate” initiative.  Two tools that bring the depths of the ocean and the expanse of the universe a little closer are Nautilus Live and Worldwide Telescope.

Thanks to the Internet, access to the real-time exploration efforts of scientists like Robert Ballard is now a possibility.  Ballard’s new website, Nautilus Live, provides 24 hour live video and audio streaming from twenty different cameras on board multiple ships and exploration craft.  Engineers will be exploring the Black and Aegean Seas as well as the Pacific in the pursuit of discovering ancient wrecks and learning more about aquatic life.

Microsoft has teamed with NASA to bring the cosmos to life with their Worldwide Telescope project.  The beauty of the Worldwide Telescope is that the vast amount of data and images has been blended together to create a rich visual experience for the user.  Information that has been traditionally limited to scientists working in observatories is now available for free.  The Worldwide Telescope can be download at and includes various tours and tools for engaging astronomers of all ages.

Do you find either of these useful and how has it made learning science, math or technology more relevant?

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

Effective Teaching Strategies Implemented

Posted on February 6, 2010. Filed under: Elementary School, Interactive Whiteboards, Science, Social Studies/History, Teachers | Tags: |

Fran Mauney

This week was one of those weeks when I was proud to be a teacher and part of this profession!  Teaching poetry to first graders during Literacy Week by using the Smartboard and the Flip camera energized me. Teaching fifth grade students, during their Arts Day, to make movies using Movie Maker inspired me. Demonstrating the use of Activexpressions to third graders while they reviewed for their Civil War test motivated me, and showcasing excellent teaching strategies to student teachers validated why I became a teacher over 27 years ago.

I was honored to showcase one of our Title 1 schools that has raised the bar for technology integration to a higher level. Dr. George Lipscomb, from Furman University, brought his Technology Integration class over to Hollis Academy to see real life examples of technology integration in the classroom. They were able to observe two lessons which actively involved all students, engaged the learners, and set high achievement goals for students by using technology.  Students from a third grade single gender classroom performed a Reader’s Theatre play as a news team from the Civil War.  Students rehearsed their parts, then the teacher filmed them using the Flip Video Camera.  While he worked with the small groups, others were doing SSR, and others were on the computers working on Compass Odyssey and Fast Forword. He later made a movie using Movie Maker and shared it with his class and others on Teacher Tube. The fifth grade class was reviewing for their science test.  In preparation for the class, the teacher used her Flip Video camera to videotape two students  at a time reading the review questions. She inserted each video clip into an ActivInspire Flipchart on the Promethean Board, and the students used their Activexpressions to answer these questions. She reviewed the results at the end of the test, exported them into Excel and the class decided if they were ready for the test or if they needed to review more. They were able to analyze the data and make an accurate decision based on their results.

This has inspired me to make a Scope and Sequence chart for the new ISTE standards and I need your help.  I have created an online brainstorming wall at  Could you add some project ideas that correlate to the ISTE standards by visiting : ? I think you will find this website extremely helpful as you brainstorm ideas with others.

One last thought, the Winter Olympics begin soon, so here are some websites you might enjoy using with your classes as you plan lessons that can be integrated with your standards.


Enjoy teaching next week!

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

You Say Potatoe…

Posted on September 23, 2009. Filed under: Elementary School, English/Language Arts, Foreign Language, General, High School, Mathematics, Middle School, Science, Social Studies/History |

by Tim Van Heule
Distance Learning Coordinator

Education always has some great buzzwords… developmentally appropriate, instructional time, differentiated instruction, etc. But what about virtual field trip?

As the economy continues its downward spiral, virtual field trip is a buzzword that continues to gain popularity. If you can’t take your students to a location, take them via a virtual field trip! But are all virtual field trips created equal? Are there different versions of the virtual field trip, maybe an e-field trip? Are they the same thing, or if there are differences, what are they?

The difference between the two is more a difference in the language. Both allow teachers to take there students to destinations outside of the classroom; however, one is highly interactive while the other is not. What I term as the virtual field trip involves the use of videoconference, incorporating live audio and video communication. This type of virtual field trip is highly engaging, allowing students to speak and interact with content experts (content providers). Does this mean that what I term is the e-field trip is a lesser activity? Absolutely not, both of these activities provide students with valuable  opportunities that enhance the curriculum.

This link (please note this video plays best in Internet Explorer) is an example of a virtual field trip that one of our schools participated in during the 2008-2009 school year. WYFF, our local NBC affiliate, produced this video as they highlighted how teachers are becoming more creative to provide opportunities in the classroom in light of a poor economy. The students connected with the Discovery Center of Springfield as they learned more about magnets during a program titled, Magnet Mania! While I agree that teachers are finding ways to be more creative in light of the current economic situation, I don’t agree that the use of a virtual field trip such as this is only due to economics. Through virtual field trips such as these, our students are able to connect with an expert in the field who reinforces the standards being taught in the classroom.

Unfortunately, not everyone has access to this equipment that allows these connections to occur. You have to ask yourself, “What can I do with my students if we do not have videoconferencing equipment in my school and/or district?” This is where the e-field trip comes in. I’ve always been impressed with eFieldTrips. I think they do a great job of producing interactive web-based content. There programs contain great visuals, appropriate use of audio clips, and the content is appropriate in length. While doing a little research for this post, I also found the Utah Education Network and their Virtual Field Trips.  One thing I really like about this site is that you can tour anything in any of the content areas, and if the content you are searching for is not available, there are links and tutorials for you to create your own virtual field trip that you can share with others. This is a great project that students would find meaningful.

Again, this is just a difference in the meaning of the terminology. I don’t consider one to be more correct than the other. The important thing is that they both provide opportunities to enhance the curriculum while providing engaging opportunities for the students.

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

We’re going on a field trip…

Posted on November 14, 2008. Filed under: Elementary School, English/Language Arts, High School, Instructional Coaches, Middle School, Science, Teachers | Tags: , |

by Tim Van Heule
Coordinator of Distance Learning

Who doesn’t love a good field trip?

Field trips are vital to education, providing opportunities to see how the curriculum applies to the real world.

For example, in first grade, students learn about apples and pumpkins – how they grow, their uses, etc. Of course, it’s only logical for the students to visit an apple orchard at the end of the unit. This example makes it really easy to see the real world application, but what about geometry, or advanced biology? How can we show real world application for these subjects, while being practical and realistic?

The cost of travel makes it difficult, often impossible, to visit the museums, centers, etc. that reinforce the curriculum. Local venues are easier to attend, but the addition of meals, accommodations, and admission fees to venues at a distance cause the costs to increase dramatically. The cost of fuel is dropping rapidly while I write this post, but we have seen fuel prices soar in the past few years, a trend that is likely to continue as global demand increases.

This is where the Virtual Field Trip comes in. While it would be ideal to visit the museum, cultural center, etc. the Virtual Field Trip allows us the opportunity to experience the next best thing – an interactive visit to the venue while saving money and valuable instructional time.

In the past few weeks Greenville County Students have been to science centers in Ohio (CoSI) and Missouri (Discovery Center of Springfield), cultural centers in Georgia (Center for Puppetry Arts), as well as museums (National Baseball Hall of Fame). We are utilizing higher-end videoconferencing equipment from Tandberg to make these opportunities a reality. Some readers would probably wonder why we aren’t using Skype, but many content providers at museums and centers connect through dedicated ISDN lines or through IP, providing a higher quality call with superb audio and video.

WYFF, one of our local media outlets, featured Virtual Field Trips in a recent story, highlighting the reasons for the increase of these opportunities. Some of the reasons cited in the WYFF piece have already been discussed at length in this post, including the rising cost of fuel, and opportunities to reinforce the learning in the classroom.

There are great free Virtual Field Trips available, but there are costs associated with many others. However, these associated costs are minimal in comparison to actually attending the museum or center. For example, content providers may charge between $50-$250 per program. Additional fees may include the use of the ISDN lines and/or bridge that connects the school and the content provider. Overall, these associated costs are outweighed by the benefits of utilizing Virtual Field Trips within the curriculum as we provide our students opportunities that reinforce learning.

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

SMART’s Notebook Software Version 10

Posted on July 13, 2008. Filed under: Elementary School, English/Language Arts, General, High School, Instructional Coaches, Interactive Whiteboards, Middle School, Science, Teachers | Tags: , , , |

by Tim Van Heule

I recently downloaded Notebook Software Version 10 from SMART Technologies. As a SMART Exemplary Educator, and a former Peer Educator, I like to make sure that the training and support I provide on SMART products is current and knowledgeable.

There are many great features that have been added or improved upon. The “Alignment Tool” is one that many teachers have been most excited about – aligning objects on the page is easy now. And the “Properties Tab” has combined all of the object options in one place, including new object action additions. Of course there are new pens – the “Magic Pen” and the “Shape Recognition Pen.” The “Table Tool” is also a welcome addition, including features for text and screen shades in each cell.

The only concern I have relates to the inital installation of the software. You have to enter in the serial number from the board in order to receive the product key needed to activate the software. Finding the serial number is not difficult; depending on the model of the board, the serial number is either on the bottom of the pen tray or on the back of the board. The serial number also always starts with “SB” for SMART Board. The product key is emailed to the user. My concern arose because I imagined teachers across the county struggling at they tried to locate their serial number, getting the email and then entering in the product key. I have since learned that the product key can be used multiple times, even throughout the entire school. So, if the product key can be used throughout the school, why do you need it anyway?

Any previous versions of SMART Notebook also need to be removed, along with the driver, but do not remove the gallery.

I’ve been using SMART products for the past five years, and I think that this release is one of the more exciting software upgrades from SMART. Have your serial number available and download Version 10 at this link today.

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )

Google Earth vs. Microsoft Virtual Earth

Posted on November 2, 2007. Filed under: Elementary School, High School, Interactive Whiteboards, Middle School, Science, Social Studies/History, Teachers |

Google Earth vs. Microsoft Virtual Earth
by Tim Van Heule

“Zoom in on my house!” students yell out enthusiastically as the teacher works with the 3D rendering of the earth.

Google Earth and Microsoft’s Virtual Earth are wonderful software applications for use in the classroom.

Both are available for download, but are also accessible from the web:

These applications give users the possibility to explore cities and landmarks, as well as general mapping. Both have 3D rendering capabilities; however, Microsoft Virtual Earth has the edge in terms of clarity and detail of the buildings. See below Manhattan-GE and Manhattan-VE.





Google Earth incorporates many layers with including options to see results for local dining and lodging as well as incorporating shared content from YouTube and National Geographic.

Both have options for traffic updates…

Google Earth, the newest version 4.2, also allows the user to view the stars via the Hubble Telescope.

Google Maps has incorporated a new “Street View” where the user can “travel” down the street.

It’s easy to spend HOURS on both…  but more importantly it’s easy to use these tools in the classroom for mapping and for bringing the world to the students in your class. So, if you haven’t yet, check them both out and start using them today…

Technorati Tags:

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )


    The School District of Greenville County – Instructional Technology Department


    Subscribe Via RSS

    • Subscribe with Bloglines
    • Add your feed to Newsburst from CNET
    • Subscribe in Google Reader
    • Add to My Yahoo!
    • Subscribe in NewsGator Online
    • The latest comments to all posts in RSS


Liked it here?
Why not try sites on the blogroll...