Wednesday, December 8, 2010

200 Years in Four Minutes

This video has been circulating around the blogosphere for a few days now and I finally got a chance to watch it myself today. In the video below Hans Rosling, co-founder of Gap Minder, presents 200 years of history in four minutes. The video focuses on the connections between health and wealth from 1810 through 2010. As you might expect, the video shows what can be done with Gap Minder.

Rosling has also presented some interesting TED Talks over the years. You can see one of them below.

Applications for Education
Both videos are models of using data to tell a story. While your students might not produce stories of the same depth of those made by Rosling, they could use Gap Minder to begin to create a story based on data sets they find or create.

100 Word Student Essay Contest

The Tween Tribune is currently holding a 100 word essay contest for students in grades 3 through 12. Tween Tribune will award $500 prizes to the winners in each grade and five $100 prizes to runners-up in each grade. Student essays should address the prompt, "how technology makes the world a better place." Entries are due by January 16, 2011. You can read all of the contest details here.

Applications for Education
Writing concisely can be a challenge for some students. Writing for this contest provides students with a good opportunity to practice the art of writing concisely. The $500 prize is a nice incentive too.

Find the Best - A Comparison Search Engine

Find the Best is an interesting approach to web search. Find the Best calls itself a "comparison engine." The idea is to provide users with a way to quickly compare multiple websites, reference materials, products, and services.

Here's how it works; select a category, choose a sub-category, then select the things you would like to compare in that sub-category. Find the Best will display your chosen comparison items on one easy-to-read page. I tested Find the Best by choosing the education category, then world country facts, then four countries I wanted to compare. Find the Best worked well for finding some basic facts on one page about the four countries I chose to compare. See my results here.

Watch the video below to learn more about Find the Best.

Applications for Education
It's not going to replace your favorite search engine anytime soon, but Find the Best could be a good little resource for students to use when they need to quickly find some basic information about a topic.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Seven Search Engines for Students
Beyond Google - Improve Your Search Results
Wolfram Alpha for Educators - Free Lesson Plans

Many Eyes - Many Ways to Make Data Visualizations

Many Eyes is an online data visualization tool developed by IBM. Many Eyes provides tools for creating a wide variety of data visualizations using your data sets or data sets hosted by IBM. If you're not interested in creating visualizations but just want to explore the visualizations created by others, you can do that on Many Eyes too. The visualization you see below came from the public gallery on Many Eyes. (If you're viewing this in RSS you may need to click through to see the visualization).

There are six categories of data visualization types offered by Many Eyes. Within each of those categories you will find three or four tools for creating visualizations. You will find common visualizations like line graphs, bar graphs, maps, and word clouds. You will also find some less commonly used and or more difficult-to-create data visualization displays like treemaps for comparison, block histograms, bubble charts, and phrase nets.

Applications for Education
Many Eyes could be a great tool for a wide variety of courses. In any course where comparisons of data sets are used, Many Eyes could help students produce visualizations to aid in making those comparisons.

Here is a related item that may be of interest to you:
Google Fusion Tables - Data Visualizations Made Easy

Test Drive a Chrome OS Notebook

Yesterday, Google made a big announcement regarding their development of Google Chrome OS. Originally announced last fall, Chrome OS is designed to be a completely web-based operating system. Since then Chrome OS has been available as a download for the technologically brave to use on netbooks. Now Google wants people to actually test it out on notebooks provided by Google. If you're interested in becoming a Chrome OS notebook test driver, Google wants to hear from you. You can apply to receive a Chrome OS notebook from Google. In exchange for the notebook, Google will collect regular feedback from you about your experiences. Applications will be accepted until December 21, 2010. Apologies to readers outside of the US, Google will only ship Chrome OS notebooks to US addresses.

Learn more about Chrome OS in the video below.

Applications for Education
In the future Chrome OS notebooks and netbooks could become a good option for 1:1 programs in schools. As I understand it now, Chrome OS won't allow downloads so you won't have to worry about students downloading programs you don't want on your network computers. Also by moving all of their work to the cloud, students will have a digital portfolio that they can take with them from year to year and school to school.