Ladies and gentlemen, quite rarely do you see such an excellent triumvirate of educational potential than NORAD Tracks Santa. The ability to engage young learners with the prospect of watching Kris Krinkle, introducing the concepts of latitude and longitude using Google Earth, and being able to tie in writing and storytelling is a huge win in my book. It was with great satisfaction then that on my very first day of “getting back to basics” and reading my RSS feeds, I found the announcement that the 2011 countdown for tracking Santa is now live!
While the North American Aerospace Defense Command has been providing live Santa coverage on Christmas Eve via Google Earth for a few years now, it actually started more than 50 years ago as a complete fluke! Apparently a misprint in a Sears, Roebuck & CO. advertisement had eager young children hoping to talk to Santa dialing the operations hotline for CONAD, the predecessor to NORAD, instead of the department store. They were nice enough to keep doing it for the next 50 years, and thus the tradition lives on in the digital realm.
I don’t spend as much time writing and sharing sites and tools like this anymore due to my shifting interest in putting instructional practice before the piece of technology being used to enhance it, but having the ability to scaffold some real learning goals and standards on top of one of the most exciting days of the year for many students is something I couldn’t pass up today. There’s just too many opportunities to learn going on here in this site; countdown clocks generate conversation about time and calendars, maps skills, storytelling, history, but most of all, there’s a strong relational piece here; You can talk about and use the site all you want with your students, but in the end, they have to take it upon themselves to follow through come Christmas Eve, perhaps with the help of an excited parent or two, and actually follow the tiny sleigh and reindeer as they pull Father Christmas around the globe.
Enjoy the site, and enjoy the upcoming Holidays!