Tag Archives: tablets

Online Resources for the Winter Olympics

by Tom Klonoski

Winter Olympics poster

A vintage Winter Olympics poster | image courtesy Library of Congress

The Olympic ideal of building a better world through sports can serve as the basis for a unit that hits many social studies standards, including those dealing with multiculturalism and international cooperation.

The 2014 Winter Olympics, which begin February 7th, will be held in Sochi in the southwestern Russia. The city lies along the Black Sea and is near the Caucasus Mountains. Skiing and some other alpine events will be held in the resort town of Krasnaya Polyana.

You can make a unit on the Winter Olympics more engaging by incorporating online content, perhaps by using an interactive whiteboard or tablet computers. Here are some websites that provide useful background and other content on the XXII Winter Games. Have students use them to create graphs and charts of medal winners, track Sochi temperatures, map the Torch relay, create posters about their favorite events, or compare and contrast the Ancient and Modern Olympics. As always, preview the sites, articles, and videos to make sure they are appropriate for your students.

General Sites

Elementary Students

  • Sochi MascotsShow students pictures and videos (in Russian, with English subtitles) of the Sochi mascots. Have them use one of the mascots as a character in a story or draw a picture of a mascot they would choose if the Olympics were held in their city or state.
  • Easy Snow and Ice ExperimentsUse a video of a skating or skiing event to make students curious about the science of snow and ice. Then try one or more of these simple and quick experiments about observing ice, making frost or snow, melting ice cubes, and more.
  • Measurement OlympicsAdapt this flexible program to give your students opportunities to make measurement predictions and practice using a variety of measurement tools, such as stop watches, rulers, and measuring cups. Begin by discussing how important the measurement of time and distance is in many of the Winter Olympics events. Help students understand how close many Olympic races are by listening to and discussing the Olympic Musical together.  

Middle School Students

  • Decimal Olympics GameThis free download from Teachers pay Teachers includes materials for a fun and educational review of decimals as teams of students “compete” in several events.
  • Country ReportAsk pairs of students to select a country with athletes competing in Sochi. Have them use print and digital sources to create a written or oral presentation about the country. Elements might include a summary of its history; facts about its climate, geography, and culture; a picture of its flag; a map; and a chart or table indicating the number of Winter Olympic medals its team has won over the years.
  • Sochi SportsThis lesson (one of several developed by the Australian Olympic Education Committee) focuses on the various sports in the Winter Olympics. Have groups of students choose a sport to research and create a multimedia presentation to share their findings with the class.

High School Students

  • Science of the Winter OlympicsThe National Science Foundation and NBC Learn produced these 16 short videos to explain the physics, biomechanics, physiology, and mathematical principles behind particular Olympic events.
  • The Olympics as a Model for Creating Genius?Encourage students to discuss or write about the ideas in this provocative short video produced by the PBS Idea Channel about society’s ability to develop intellectual and athletic talents. 

Want more ideas and resources for Olympics-related lessons, activities, and free printables? Check out these sites: TeachersFirst, Scholastic News Winter Olympics, TeacherVision Olympic Games, Winter Olympic Printables,  NEA Resources for the 2014 Winter Olympics, Activity Village Winter Olympics, and EducationWorld’s Gold Medal Olympics Activities.

How do you plan to discuss the Olympics with your students?

Tom Klonoski is a consultant for Green Light Professional Development. 

Is Google Play for Education a Better App Store?

by Erin Dye

In a world where tablets are becoming as ubiquitous in classrooms as pencils and paper, the need for high quality educational apps continues to rise. Developers have sought to meet the demand for such technology by creating and releasing new apps every day. But sometimes it isn’t so easy for teachers and administrators to find the best app to pair with a given lesson. That’s where the new Google Play for Education comes in.

Designed specifically for educators, Google Play for Education is an online marketplace filled with educational apps, books, and videos. But what sets it apart from other app stores?


We’re really impressed with Google Play for Education’s search capabilities. Let’s say you are looking for an app to supplement your lesson on multiplying fractions. You can open the Apple App Store and type “multiplying fractions” into the search bar, but your only results will be the few apps that include those exact words in their titles because the App Store is not searchable by keyword. Google Play for Education makes it easier to customize your search, allowing teachers to browse by subject, keyword, grade, or even Common Core standard. Let’s hope Apple follows suit with improved search filters.

Approved Apps

The quality of apps available on these markets is a huge concern. Google has asked teachers to review thousands of apps, marking approved apps with a yellow badge. These badges have the potential to be a more useful metric than a “most downloaded” list.

Purchase Orders

Another useful feature of Google Play for Education is how it allows teachers to buy content using their school’s designated purchase orders. Streamlining the purchase process encourages educators to use more apps and digital content in their lesson plans because they’ll no longer have to worry about when and if they’ll get their money reimbursed. This is something Apple has been lacking.


However, Google Play for Education is not without its drawbacks. The biggest one we’ve encountered so far is accessibility. As of now, the store is only accessible to teachers and administrators with a school Google account. Students, parents, or other interested parties (such as bloggers and reviewers) cannot even browse the store’s content. A personal Google account won’t cut it. While this requirement nicely highlights the fact that Google Play for Education is designed just for educators, it creates a significant roadblock between customers and content.

For a more in-depth look at what Google Play for Education has to offer, check out this video. Overall, we think this market has the potential to be better for both teachers and developers. What do you think?

Erin DyeErin Dye is a consultant for Green Light Professional Development with extensive experience creating digital materials for interactive whiteboards and iPads. She writes about IWBs and free online resources for teachers.