Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Countdown to 2009

Well, it won't be long now.'s new year countdown is ticking away the moments. See you in 2009!

The Energy to Change

2008 is on the way out and 2009 is almost upon us. What better time is there to reflect upon ways we can all make the world a better place in the coming year? Consider, for example, peace on earth and sustainability. A big step toward making our planet a more tolerable place for children, living things, and other, equally interested parties, is making more informed, better use of resources. We, all of us--administrators, teachers, media specialists, students, parents, community members--need to know how much energy we're using. WattzOn is a website that helps users calculate the amount of power needed to support all aspects of a chosen lifestyle. Before ringing in the new year, pause to consider how and why we can all reduce energy consumption and get a handle on climate change.

Related links:
  • It's later than you think. Take a look at Worldclock and you'll see why.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Construction Instruction: Sodaconstructor

One of the best ways to get pupils interested in school to construct learning experiences that are additively engaging, challenging, and fun. When students enjoy the process of experimenting with a concept and develop the desire to habitually ask, "Hey, why does this happen?" they're on their way to self-motivated lifelong learning. Good teachers do all they can to inspire, incite, and engineer such outcomes.

For example, dedicated Science teachers know that their learners need multiple pathways to understanding. As such, instructors can give students opportunities to play around with tools such a Sodaconstructor, an interactive tool that simulates the use and behaviors of masses and springs. Why is this good? Here are a few reasons:
  • For starters, the resource is intriguing. Once people see it, they want to play with it over and over again.
  • The wow factor in Sodaconstructor naturally generates a great deal of critical, higher level-thinking that's needed for comprehending the application of the Scientific Method. When students create interactive objects that move about as a result of masses and springs, budding engineers have an opportunity to adjust variables such as gravity, friction, and speed adnd hypothesize what should or will happen nezt.
  • Next, Sodaconstructor is accessible anywhere there's an internet connection. Think 21st Century learning--anywhere, any time.
  • Finally, it's free!
The best way to appreciate the power in Sodaconstructor is to give it a try. What are you waiting for?

Monday, December 29, 2008

Where to Go Bananas and Monkey Around with Lots of Data

Add context to your classroom content by having your students research and work with real-wold data. What's that? You don't know where to get that kind of data? No problem. Check out Infochimps. This site connects info-hungry visitors with a dazzling collection of free, redistributable data sets.


I'm Back!

Well, I've returned from visiting all of my relatives for the holidays. Though I hate to go a day without blogging, I purposely avoided posting for a few days. I'm proud to say that my family received the gift of my undivided attention.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Have a safe, happy, and copyright-free Christmas! The image above and other goodies like it are available from the United States Library of Congress by way of the Prints and Photographs Division.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Twas the Night Before Christmas...NORAD Style

Are the kiddies worried that the Man in the Red Suit may not arrive? If so, have them check in with NORAD Tracks Santa 2008.

Don't stay up too late. Santa does his best work when everyone's asleep!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Walking Through a Linux Wonderland

Anyone checking my blog can see that I've been taking it easy. Aside from slacking off from my posting and occasionally checking my mail, I've been playing around with all kinds of Linux distros. I'm fortunate to have a reputation for being a guy who takes worn-out PCs. I got a lot of old laptops and desktops to experiment upon in my quest for tried and tested tools for free computing. When I get aging machines I enjoy loading the hardware with all manner of open source and free software. For the last five days I've been working my way through all of the flavors of Ubuntu.

My wife, bless her, has been very accommodating with my holiday hobby. Antiquated computers adorn my home like scattered toys. My floors may be messy but they bear witness to my zeal. I've been installing, examining, reviewing, and testing stuff like:

I've known about and used these resources for a few years and I'm still eager to explore their potential. The kind individuals who invest time and knowledge in refining all of these variations of Ubuntu make the prospect of using the systems irresistible. That's why I'm on holiday from Windows and thrilled about touring an alternative operating system or two. Why not take the plunge and see what Ubuntu or one of its cousins has to offer? Better yet, burn a few Ubuntu CDs and give them to your friends!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Good Doggy!

Got old computers sitting around? Teach your old desktop and laptops some new tricks! Consider installing Puppy Linux. It's a small, fast operating system that runs from CDs, USB sticks and even hard disks. Puppy Linux has the potential to bring new life to an abandoned computer.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

May I Have a Word With You?

Language Arts/English teachers: You'll want to explore Lexulous (formerly Scrabulous, a game based on the commercial board game Scrabble). Lexulous is an addictive online word game that educators, pupils, parents, and others can use to build and hone vocabulary and spelling skills. To play Lexulous, participants generate words with a given set of letters (not unlike Scrabble). If you're hesitant about registering for an account, play the game in practice mode to get a feel for the action.

On a related note, Kotaku is reporting that Hasbro is dropping its copyright infringement lawsuit against the makers of Scrabulous.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Take It Easy: J2E

Every once in a while I run across something that's educationally useful and fun to play with, too. For instance, I stumbled across a playfully powerful Java-based (word?) processor that does some incredibly spiffy stuff. Although the site is for profit, j2e is currently free for individual users and worth exploring. It's just too easy to like this resource.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Key Resource

Hate having to access pull-down menus for features of a program? Use keystroke commands instead. Don't know the keystroke commands? No problem. KeyXL is an indispensable database of keyboard shortcuts (including shortcuts for Windows, Macintosh and Linux) that's searchable by program. Spiffy!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Everything's Under Control...Really

Teachers continually state that they want their students to do a better job of thinking. Many educators believe that popular culture seems to be anything but supportive such an endeavor. Ever wonder where popular culture originates? Ever wonder who decides what cognitive content will be generated and disseminated? Take a look at the Elements of Information Control.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Battery Low

Sorry kids, no real posts today. I'm exhausted.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Forever Blowing Bubbles?

A few months ago, I stumbled across a service called the Awesome Highlighter. After using it in a number of classrooms, I became an immediate user and fan and posted my experience with using the tool. The service is a godsend for educators, students, and parents because it allows anyone to highlight text on web pages and subsequently receive a small link to the highlighted page. Reading a page that has been touched with the magic of the Awesome Highlighter is a quick means of zooming in on pertinent information.

Well, there's another service I'm about to add to my teaching toolbox that, like the Awesome Highlighter, will be extremely helpful to me. Bubble Comment is a (currently) free service that makes it possible for anyone to share video comments with others on just about any web page. After signing up with Bubble Comment, using the service is a simple three step process:

  1. select a web page,
  2. record a video comment, and
  3. share the video comment with others.


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Too Much of a Good Thing: Piles of Files

Have a Mac? Running low on disk space? Want to know the sizes of files and folders on your machine? Check out Disk Inventory X.

Related links:

Monday, December 8, 2008

Augmenting Arguments: Debategraph

Famed polymath and writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe once stated that "Nothing is more terrible than ignorance in action." Intelligent people know this and constantly seek to clarify their understanding. We need to able to review, refine, and correct what we think we know about issues and situations that concern or affect us. More importantly, we, as educators and citizens, must model how we go about formulating, analyzing, and clearing up our thinking. The young minds we teach need help with and examples of strategies for dealing with the tough situations that create debate and controversy.

A website called Debategraph is an excellent tool for helping people get a better, more visual representation of contentious issues. There are rarely simple simple solutions to the innumerable disagreements, disputes, and differences of opinion that plague humanity. Thankfully,however, there are options. One course of action is getting a perspective of the ideas, opinions, and facts that permeate an issue. Debategraph has the power to make this possible.


Saturday, December 6, 2008


Know a student, colleague, friend, or acquaintance who is obsessed with the weight, style, and width of printed characters (in hardcopy and digital format)? Such individuals are unabashed fontophiles. They're the kind of people who are hungry for text. These crazed connoisseurs of letters, words, and paragraphs are constantly adding to and analyzing their alphanumeric appetites. They hunger for printed material. In addition to scanning any form of text for the value of its content, they're also assessing it for its aesthetic attributes. Take them out to lunch and they'll devour and relish digesting a menu as much as (if not more) than any entree. They're just as likely to snack on the contents of a few billboards on the way to the restaurant.

Fontophiles amuse and frustrate their friends with constant criticism of why some fonts are more or less pleasing than others. The misinformed use of fonts offends these folks. When writing, they spend more time choosing an appropriate font than they do composing text. Whether scrutinizing serifs or sampling a new selection of script, they lose themselves in their love of letters. They also tend to have very slow computers, having installed as many fonts as they can find.

If you know such a person and are looking for a great gift for your font fanatic, check out the Typographic Desk Reference. This tome is a thoroughly engaging reference guide of all manner of typeriffic terminology that's packed with over a thousand facts on typography. Your friend will positively appreciate ascender lines, groove on glyphs, and go hysterical over historiated letters.

Related links:

Friday, December 5, 2008

Opening Up to Open Source: IBM's Progressive Move

My good pal Joe rang me up today and brought something supremely interesting to my attention. He told me about a news story that caught his eye. While exploring Google News, he discovered that IBM is launching a line of computers that do not use Microsoft's Windows operating system. Instead, IBM's machines will combine its own open source Lotus Symphony desktop package with the Linux operating system. According to the news story,
"IBM claims the system can save businesses $500 to $800 per user on Microsoft software licenses and an additional $258 per user "since there is no need to upgrade hardware to support Windows Vista and Office."
That's important. Why? Even before the recent economic downturn, many schools lacked the funds necessary for maintaining Windows-based computers. Money was scarce even before money was scarce. With the added stress of the loss of what little funds they had, it's no wonder that many schools are coming around to the possibility of using Windows-free computers.

For the last three years, Joe has been investigating and using a variety of open source programs and freeware. He knows his stuff. Whether it's Inkscape, Audacity, or TuxPaint, Joe has been carefully researching all manner of computer programs that students can use for free. He fervently believes that the tools of learning can and should be free. With IBM's bold move, maybe they will be.

Related links:

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Put On a Happy Face

Many educators want to publish student work online. However, they are hesitant to post an accompanying image for fear of compromising pupil safety. Thankfully, Portrait Illustration Maker is available.

Related links:

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Easy from A to Z

Need to alphabetize a list of words? Drop by and let this useful site do the heavy lifting.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Express Yourself: artPad

Want to stimulate your creativity? Want to paint without making a mess? You're in luck. Check out artPad.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Remembering Rosa

Americans have always had a dream for a better life, a better world. Following a dream can be a difficult endeavor. On this day in 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama, an ordinary citizen with extraordinary courage challenged the status quo to persue a better life for all Americans. In a remarkable act of civil disobedience, a humble seamstress confronted a repressive code of behavior heretofore accepted by many Americans. Her actions made the nation examine its resolve to insure equal rights for its citizens. Rosa Louise McCauley Parks, a normally timid person, stood her ground. By refusing to obey a bus driver's order to give up her seat to make room for a white passenger, she effectively ignited the modern Civil Rights Movement. No matter what you teach, take some time today to use technology to help your students explore this important milestone in our nation's history.

Essential questions (as described by Grant P. Wiggins and Jay McTighe in their book Understanding by Design) are the "big ideas" wrapped up in questions that humans continue to ponder over the course of a lifetime. Such questions lack easy answers. They can be used to engage students and encourage them to seriously ponder the core or the essence of a topic being studied. Essential questions are extremely useful in revealing what pupils think about a topic. A few such questions related to the topic of equality and challenging norms include:
  • What are the most important skills for understanding what's right and what's wrong?
  • How do we know when we should make a stand for a belief?
  • What are the most important rights, responsibilities, and privileges of citizenship?
  • What must happen in order for equality to become commonplace in our world?
  • Will equality ever become commonplace in our world? If so, how? If not, why not?
  • In what ways do prevailing conditions in society begin to give rise to change?
  • What is this most important role of leadership in bringing about an important change?

Related links:

Tools for exploring/explaining this topic:

Fleeing the Flu


Had your flu shot yet? If not, Google Flu Trends will either reinforce your procrastination or move you to action. Why? Well, this nifty online resource is able to "estimate flu activity in your state up to two weeks faster than traditional flu surveillance systems." Roll up your sleeve and get ready for a slight sting. Lest you think that presenting statistics to persuade us to monitor and improve health conditions is a new thing, Florence Nightengale was hip to the process as early as the 1850s.


Friday, November 28, 2008

The Peferct Storm

Check this out: Need just the right picture to convey a concept? Chances are that you'll turn to Flickr to see what you can find. If so, consider using FlickrStorm. It's a nifty, quick way to search for Flickr images.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Today is a special day, a time when anyone and everyone should pause and simply acknowledge appreciation for blessings that might otherwise be neglected. I'm extremely grateful for all of the kind people who continually enrich my life with generosity and wisdom. This year has been especially bountiful in terms of the incredible number of gracious individuals who have blessed me with a veritable cornucopia of creativity, collaboration, company, and kindness. For all of this I am truly thankful and I want the world to know.

First and foremost among those who consistently serve up camaraderie and good cheer are my steadfast friends Joe and Michael. Ever present, ever patient, ever practical, my friends provide guidance and solutions that continually bring my ideas to fruition. My friends are powerhouses of can-do attitude. Both are equally imbued with mind-boggling reserves of energy, the wit of Mark Twain, and the patience of Job. No matter what the circumstances, Joe and Michael help me get the work done and usually make me laugh in the bargain. Whether the two of them help me plan and deliver professional development workshops throughout the nation via ISTE's NECC (2007 and 2008), FETC, or serve the classroom teachers and students I meet on a daily basis, their wise council always augments my efforts. Thanks, Joe and Michael!

Also key to my success are the efforts and assistance provided by my friends from Georgia Public Broadcasting like Patrice Weaver and Katherine Aiken who organizes the GPB TIE Network. I appreciate the rich resources and collaboration that my friends from GPB and TIE give me. Their efforts magnify my own and, though a growing network of other, committed indivuals, help to my ideas about change and 21st Century learning resonate through and beyond the state of Georgia. I'm thankful for meeting and having the opportunity to learn from the likes of such intelligent and giving people as Jeanne Auensen, Mike Horn, Pattie Morton, Shaun Owen, Cynthia Rutledge, Dana Ward, and many, many others who are involved with GPB TIE.

I appreciate the willingness of friends and other thoughtful people outside of Georgia who show me kindness and provide me a means of disseminating my ideas. I'm blessed with the advocacy of people who are helping me grow professionally. I thank my lucky star for people like Debren Ferris, a Project Manager at ISTE and the exceptionally talented folks who comprise the Google Teacher's Academy. Debren connects me with schools, administartors, and teachers who are interested in my ideas. She's helped me make new friends all across the country. My friends in the Google Teacher's Academy have helped me help others use Google's powerful resources to enrich learning experiences for countless young people--and all for FREE!

With so many blessings to smile about there's no way I could ever forget to be grateful for the men and women I work with on a daily basis as part of Georgia's network of Educational Technology Centers. This blog is a project I do on my own time outside of my capcity as an employee of the state of Georgia. That said, much of what I put into this blog happens as a result of what I see, do, and learn when I'm collbaorating with my friends and counterparts at other ETCs in Georgia. In the same vein, I am grateful for having the chance to be part of a great team within my own center and to have an angel of a boss who gives me room to explore new ideas.

For all of these and other beautiful blessings--my family, friends, and kind, Preclectic subscribers--I am most thankful!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Stating Stats

I just stumble onto StateStats. I find it very interesting because it ranks the popularity (in each U.S. state) of a given Google search query. StateStats is intriguing because it seems to rank search queries in terms of their importance to geographical regions. For example, according to the site, the term mittens tends to be searched by residents in northerly states and other locations where frost is more likely to form. This has the potential to be a very informative tool.

Just imagine what one might discover when exploring the following terms:

  • authentic learning
  • instructional technology
  • understanding by design
  • meaningful learning

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Alarming News

Although many swear that gobbling turkey is a perfect recipe for post-Thanksgiving nap, the tryptophan in turkey doesn't induce drowsiness. Despite the assurances of Science, doubters remain. Those who fear an overdose of Meleagris gallopavo will cause them to snooze the day away need only check out Karen's Alarm Clock. According to Karen, anyone can...

Turn your $2,000 computer into a $20 alarm clock! Set up to five different alarm times. Wake up to a beep, any wave or MIDI file, even a track from your favorite audio CD.

Now, if we can only find out to what to do with all those leftovers...

Monday, November 24, 2008

Sounds lIke Fun: Auditorium

Many schools are closed this week for Thanksgiving. Teachers and students are enjoying time with family and friends. It's a good time to play. That said, why not head on over to Auditorium? Once there, quit worrying about right or wrong answers and indulge in the process of exploring something new, something that challenges and delights.

Hajimemashite? It's Japanese for "Pleased to meet you."

Friday, November 21, 2008

Analyze This: Typealyzer

I just stumbled across something pretty intriguing, a site called Typealyzer.

What's interesting is that, when given a url to explore, Typealyzer probes and assesses the text at the web address and subsequently supplies an analysis/description of the author who created the text. For example, according to Typealyzer I'm this kind of person:

Note: Although I'd like to believe the analysis of my character is spot on, I rarely, if ever, don a sword and shield.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

See You in the Funnies

Today, I visited a class of gifted students in the Onion City. I was delighted to hear that the pupils were exploring comic strips. As an aficionado of sequential art, I was more than happy to share what little I know of the topic. Before I left, I suggested that the students take time to visit a nifty site called Make Beliefs Comix. It's a site where kids--heck, anyone--can easily generate a comic strip.

Related links:

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Life is Good

Here's a useful resource that can be used to make learning in your classroom more engaging. Consider supplementing your instruction with a veritable cornucopia of striking images. Thanks to a joint project from Google and LIFE magazine, media specialists, teachers, students--heck, anyone--can easily search through millions of photographs from the LIFE magazine photography archive. This treasure trove of images spans from the 1700s up until today. Most of the images have never been published and are just now being viewed for the very first time.


News Travels Fast: GNewsVision

Yesterday I shared an engaging blend of RSS-driven news and geography called MappedUp. Following on the heels of that post comes today's offering, a similar yet refreshingly unique means of tracking geolocalized Google News on a map. The site is known as GNewsVision. As news stories arrive, a plane automatically jumps from one country to another on a map.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

This Just In...

Social Studies teachers:
If you're helping students keep up with current events and want to blend in a little geography at the same time, consider using MappedUp. This nifty service tracks a large number of RSS news sources (i.e., hot stories and where on the globe their making a splash) and displays their latest items on a world map thereby delivering content with a healthy helping of geographical context.

Related links:
  • For those who like their content fresh and visualized, Newsmap has been around for a while and continues to be impressive. It puts story popularity into perspective.
  • Those who are concerned about a free and open press will want to swing by NewsCloud.

Catch a Tiger by the Tale

Calvin and Hobbes was a daily comic strip written and illustrated by Bill Watterson. The strip appeared in syndication on this day in 1985 and had a wildly successful run until December 31, 1995. Afterward, Watterson quietly withdrew from the public eye at the height of his career. Aside from an infrequent sign of his continued existence, he excels at confounding journalists and fans alike by enjoying a life of guarded anonymity. Despite their creator's reclusive nature, the irrepressible little fellow and his striped friend have firmly established a place in popular culture. That's a good thing, too because we can still learn a great deal from this duo.

Related links:

Monday, November 17, 2008

Can We Fix It? Yes, We Can!--Fantastic Contraption

Physics teachers:
If Chemistry teachers can encourage their pupils to use interactive technology resources to gain a better understanding of Science-related content, so can you. For example, send your students to Fantastic Contraption. It's a fun, online Physics puzzle game that's positively addictive. While learners are trying to master the game, they'll be much more receptive to content-specific facts. Enjoy!

Periodically Interesting

Chemistry teachers:
Sometimes, the skillful integration of technology allows educators to make well-known, yawn-inducing content much more engaging. By taking standard knowledge and infusing it with rich images and links to remote content, what was less than riveting becomes an interactive resource that generates new levels of interest in both students and teachers. Consider, for example, introducing your pupils to the 3D Periodic Table. Doing so is a fun and practical way to help those in your classroom latch onto fundamental concepts related to the elements.

You'll need to install a free VRML viewer for Internet Explorer known as Cortona. Cortona makes it possible for Internet Explorer to display an interactive, 3D version of the Periodic Table. Downloading and installing Cortona is easy. Just surf on over to the Parallel Graphics Cortona page and follow the instructions (as shown below).

By having students explore this novel and engaging interface for the Periodic Table, your learners will have useful means of visualizing the content you're trying to share with them.

Need an interesting segue for using the 3D Periodic Table? Look no further because history is on your side. On this day in 2006 the official naming of Element 111--also known as Roentgenium (Rg)--took place during a ceremony held at the Gesellschaft fur Schwerionenforschung (GSI) in Darmstadt, Germany, a "City of Science." Element 111 was discovered at GSI. It's official name, Roentgenium, honors Wilhelm Conrad Rontgen who discovered the existence of X-rays. Rontgen's achievement subsequently earned him the first Nobel Prize in Physics. Why not have your students get to know Roentgenium and other intriguing elements a little better by manipulating 3D models of them at an interactive whiteboard or on a laptop?

Related links:

Friday, November 14, 2008

Neat and Tidy

Many educators and students love Delicious, Diigo, and Google Notebook and use both of these productivity tools quite often. Being able to bookmark, tag, and annotate web-based resources and subsequently access them anywhere makes teaching and learning much more efficient and effective. That said, it seems that more schools would be encouraging instructors and pupils to employ and refine their use of Delicious, Diigo, Google Notebook, and related tools (i.e., services like CiteULike, Furl, LibraryThing, Ma.gnolia, Mento, Shelfari, et cetera) . After all, plenty of savvy businesses see the value in having their employees collaborate as they collect, categorize, and communicate the whereabouts of rich content. Simply put, the application of social bookmarking is a skill that 21st Century workers and leaders must possess.

Although, it doesn't really belong with social bookmarking tools, per se, it's easy to see why teachers and students will soon become infatuated with Tidy Favorites. Despite living in the age of hyper-connected content and collaborative consumers, there's still a need for private bookmarking. As archaic as the practice seems, some people still have a desire to save bookmarks on one particular computer. Those folks should check out Tidy Favorites. Why? Simple: people using Tidy Favorites can peruse their favorite personal bookmarks using an intuitive visual search engine and dashboard. True, Ma.gnolia uses pix, but what Tidy Favorites does is a little different.

As promising as Tidy Favorites is, it would be so much more robust if, like Delicious, Diigo, and Google Notebook and other tools, the content being bookmarked could be accessed via the web. The visual search feature is a killer attribute that others will probably emulate.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Now You See It: GMail's Voice and Video Chat

If you're an educator who uses GMail, you'll want to check out its new feature. According to the official GMail Blog, users will now have voice and video chat as part of their service. You'll need to install the plug-in to use this new service. Spiffy!


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

C'mon, Baby, Let's Do The (Text) Twist

My nephew (who has just started blogging) shared a nifty little game that helps him with his spelling. The game is called Text Twist. I doubt anyone will be able to access it from school but hopefully, folks will give it a whirl when they get home. It's addictive.

Related links: Here are a few other linguistic links that word-lovers will appreciate.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Take Time To Remember: Veterans Day

Today is Veterans Day. Do the learners in your classroom understand the significance of this day? The brave men and women who have served and are currently serving in America’s Armed Forces deserve our respect. Students should know why. The United States Department of Veteran Affairs contains educational resources designed to help teachers discuss the importance the day that began with the signing of the armistice that ended World War I. It’s never too late to learn.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Beware the Blob

Sometimes, pupils just need a little break. They need to have some fun. Strangely addictive, at first glance the blobby fellow who resides at Blob Sallad seems like nothing more than a bit of mindless fun. However, after tinkering with it for a few minutes, I thought back to lessons I used teach about bacteria and how such microscopic miscreants can reproduce at an alarming rate. By pressing the H key, visitors to Blob Sallad can split the blob. Press the H key over and over, and there'll be a lot of blobs. Press the J key and the blobs will join together. Press the G key and gravity either disappears or becomes active again. Bring your students to this quirky site and ask them what they think of the blob.

Related links:
  • Where do draw the line? Linerider wants to know.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Seeing the Invisible Hand: Visualizing Economics

A couple of weeks ago I ran into a high school Social Studies teacher who was lamenting how difficult it was to help her pupils understand economic concepts. I talked to her about Thinkfinity's impressive content partner, EconEdlink. I also suggested that she take a look at Swivel, a site with a mission to "make data useful so people share insights, make great decisions and improve lives." Since the practical and considerate application of economics is also concerned with helping individuals make better choices, I figured that the teacher could Swivel to help her pupils employ what they are learning in terms of real life issues. I also promised that I would contact her if I came across any other useful resources.

Well, I'll definitely be sharing a site called Visualizing Economics. The site is mainly concerned with US income distribution. It provides a number of rich visual depictions of monetary issues that ought to be welcome addition to classroom activities.


Thursday, November 6, 2008

Open Your Mind to Open Source

Yesterday, my pal Davide Rogers shared a wonderful resource with me and others attending his Open Source discussion panel. If you haven't heard of or seen Downloadpedia, drop by the site today. This online library of freeware, shareware and commercial software for Windows, Linux, and Mac is a wonderful addition to any educator's arsenal of tools for learning.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Out of This World Visualization

Yesterday, I presented a session with all kinds of resources for visualizing ideas. Even though I mentioned ways to conceptualize astronomy, I forgot to mention the following gem. Created by the student team of Michael VanDaniker and Andrew Lund, the Solar System Visualizer is a helpful resource that shows the motions of celestial bodies in our solar system.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

History, Hope, and Healing

What a moment to watch history, hope, and healing unfold! I'm sitting here in a Crowne Plaza hotel room in Atlanta, Georgia. My friend and co-worker, Mike and I have been following a number of media sources (both web-based and television) throughout the evening. Regardless of who won the election we both agreed that we and all of our fellow citizens need to put politics aside and get to work making our country the kind of nation where ALL children can grow up safe, smart, strong, and sure of hope and liberty. We need to be more than Democrats and Republicans. First and foremost, we need to be Americans.

Americans--real Americans--can and do rise above their differences to unite. Those who love this country may disagree. However, they are steadfast in their unwaivering dedication to the belief that everyone...everyone...has the opportunity to pursue a a better life. Americans, real, true patriotic Americans work together to build, maintain, and sustain a government of the people, by the people, for the people.

Obama's victory speech:

McCain's gracious concession speech:

"Whatever our differences, we are fellow Americans,"--John McCain

I went to sleep with the hope that made America famous.
I had the kind of a dream that maybe they're still trying to teach in school.
Of the America that made America famous...and
Of the people who just might understand
That how together yes we can
Create a country better than
The one we have made of this land...

What Made America Famous

by Harry Chapin

Seeing What Makes Politics Tick

I know it's going to be an interesting day.

For starters, I'm attending and presenting at GAETC 2008. When I'm not visiting with old friends and doing a little networking today, I'll be earnestly conducting a session where the participants explore tech resources designed to help students visualize instructional concepts. Preparing for the session (and another centered on digital video-editing) has consumed most of time during the last few weeks. I want the attendees to leave with new and useful ideas about how they can make learning more engaging, efficient, and effective.

In the midst of all this conference excitement there's a presidential election in progress. I'm so glad I voted early. That said, I'll probably be visiting Election 2008 powered by Twitter as well as the following sites:
Related links:
  • The internet offers politically-minded individuals many opportunities to critically examine the demographic forces in play that may be influencing decision-making. Dropping by a site such as allows informed and novice voters to explore population statistics that bring context to political debates
  • Presidential Watch 08 is a site that generates a map of the political blogosphere.
  • For the curious, digitized voting guides via If the offerings housed at the site are found wanting, users may apply for an account and create their own.
  • Sponsored by the League of Women Voters Education Fund, the site known as Vote411 provides all manner of facts regarding voting in the United States of America and worth visiting.
  • Since it's a pretty good bet that money plays such a major role in politics , the information at OpenSecrets should be required reading for voters.