Scale of the Universe

One of my former students (who is still a Twitter user) pointed me to this fantastic animation of powers of 10 meters, called “Scale of the Universe 2.”  I think you’ll appreciate the design and relevance of the objects the authors, Cary and Michael Huang, use to help the user to understand the relevance of scale.  Just like Powers of 10, you can zoom from the smallest part of a cell to the edges of the universe.



The authors have a collection of science- and math-oriented animations at that might be worth checking out too.  They also have a clever little game called Get to the Top (with 82 variations).

P.S. If you’ve never seen the 1977 film, Powers of 10, it was a really incredible movie for its time and you can see it on YouTube.  Another animated version of this film can be found at the Powersof10 website.

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eLearning Tools for STEM

For anyone who has ever had trouble convincing your administration to give you the proper tools to teach online, I give you this little gift: eLearning Tools for STEM, published today in eLearning Magazine.


The tools for STEM eLearning

  1. Tablets
  2. Recording & editing software
  3. Jing
  4. Equation software and training
  5. Synchronous communication system
  6. Online homework system

Other head-turning resources for STEM

  • Wolfram Demonstrations
  • Digital libraries (a lengthy list)
  • Video collections (another list)
  • TI-SmartView

Other tips (about accessibility, computer labs, etc) can be found at the end of the article.

You can read about all the tools, and why I recommend them, by going to the article, eLearning Tools for STEM.

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Interactive Simulations from PhET

PhET (Physics Education Technology) consists of a group of scientists, software engineers, and science educators from the University of Colorado at Boulder, who are striving to create effective, interactive learning tools.  Their work spans the fields of physics, biology, chemistry, earth science, and mathematics.  Much care has been taken in the design of each simulation.  The developers use a research-based  strategy to implement the most effective visual cues for learning.  User-interviews are held routinely.   Members of PhET have learned that animated responses are effective, as well as,  the use of a “click and drag interface”.  There’s more:  each simulation comes with lesson plans that have been submitted by instructors.  The simulations are free and require flash and java to run.

Here is an applet on estimation:


Here is Calculus Grapher, which shows the relationship between a function and its derivative.


And a Plinko Probability applet that shows a histogram that approaches the Binomial Distribution.


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Sixty Symbols

Do you ever come across a Greek symbol in your reading and think, “now what does that stand for again?”  Professors and other experts at the University of Nottingham have made a series of YouTube videos that will (hopefully) jog your memory.  Their site is called Sixty Symbols (I wonder what they’ll do when they find more than 60 symbols?).

They also may make nice descriptors for those symbols you cover in class.  You can also embed the videos in an online course shell in the appropriate topics.

Here’s ∞ (infinity) for your any level of math class after the first discussion of interval notation.

And j (for imaginary numbers, which is i in many U.S. math texts).

Or how about ω (angular velocity) for that Trig class you’re teaching?

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Chemistry takes a hit too

So, perhaps we’re struggling a bit with the possibility of our course curriculum shifting a bit in math with the introduction of Wolfram|Alpha (or walpha, as I’ve started calling it – they should have picked a shorter name).   If you’re not struggling a bit, perhaps you haven’t played with it enough yet to really grasp the implications here.

Just so you know, whether they know it or not, the chemistry educators are going to have to think about this too.  Here are some examples:

Walpha will convert units.

It will give you all the chemistry of an element, a compound, or something more complicated (make sure to click on “more”).

It will compare the chemistry of several elements or compounds.

It will solve a chemical formula for a specific variable (make sure to click on “show steps”).

Walpha will do chemical conversions for you or do formula calculations.

If there’s a chemist in your circle of friends, perhaps it’s time they got to join in the fun!

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