Thursday, September 4, 2008

Atlas of Our Changing Environment

The United Nations Environment Program has constructed a Google Maps mashup to displaying more than one hundred examples of environmental change. Each placemark on the map has close-up views of the land and a story about environmental change at that location. For example clicking on the placemark for Manaus, Brazil will reveal close-up imagery of site and detailed information about the environmental changes taking place. Users of the UNEP Changing Environment Map are also able to download the imagery or view the sites in Google Earth.

The End of Textbooks?

Professor Michael Wesch, producer of some fantastic videos about education in the 21st century, has started a great conversation on his blog. The conversation revolves around the topic of textbooks how some high schools don't allow textbooks to be taken home from school. I encourage you to read his blog entry and join in the conversation. Here is a part of a comment I made on the topic.
"At times I’ve been encouraged by my colleagues not to let the books out of the room because “you will never see them again.” Yes, there are textbooks sent home that I never see again, but the alternative of keeping them locked up on a shelf only to be taken out for in-class reading is far more costly to our education system than a dozen lost books."

In case you're not familiar with Professor Wesch's work, here is one of his very popular videos regarding education in the 21st century.

Zoho Docs - Chat and Edit at the Same Time

I'm a big fan of Zoho Show, in fact I use it to create all of my slide shows, and I think that Zoho Writer is a good product too. Until now if I was working in Zoho Writer and I wanted to open a slide show I had to switch over to Zoho Show to open it because each type of file was stored in a different place. Today, Zoho announced the release of Zoho Docs which will allow me to store and access my documents, slide shows, and spreadsheets in one central location. Google Docs has had this capability for quite a while so it was only a matter of time before Zoho caught up. Zoho didn't stop at catching up to Google Docs, they tried to surpass it by integrating Zoho Chat into Zoho Docs.

Applications for Education
Users have long been able to collaborate on documents in near real time using Zoho Writer or Google Docs. This is great for editing a piece of work, but not so great for commenting or communicating before making a change. Using Zoho Docs with the integrated Zoho Chat feature could be a great way for students to collaborate and comment on each other's work in real time. This could also be a useful feature for teachers to give live feedback to students that are not in the room with them. I'm thinking this could be great for teachers holding online courses.

Below is a short video introduction to Zoho Docs.

Electoral College Teaching Resources

Yesterday, I posted a link to the Google Election resources page. Today, I have seven more resources that teachers will find useful for teaching lessons about the Electoral College.

There are many many websites featuring different interactive election maps. Each of these maps generally use the red state v. blue state graphic to show how each state voted in previous elections and what the polls are indicating for the upcoming election. For the sake of brevity I'm only going to highlight three in this blog post. Each of the following resources offer something a little more than just a map

Five Thirty Eight, named after the total number of electoral votes possible, draws on polling data from multiple polling agencies to form a variety of possible scenarios and election outcomes. The blog section of the site seems somewhat biased, but the scenarios and data are useful nonetheless.

Electoral Vote's interactive map includes data for each election back to and inclusive of 1992. The really neat feature found on Electoral Vote is the animated map that shows changes in polling results over time. Visitors can watch the map change in relation to the changes in polling data over the course of a month or year.

270 to Win, named after the number of electoral votes needed to win, has neat election simulator demonstrating possible election outcomes. Visitors to 270 to Win will also want to check out the historical election data dating back to the first election. The historical data is categorized by state.

Electoral College Lesson Plans
NARA, the US National Archive and Records Administration, has built a great website for students and teachers. The teacher page offers links to detailed lesson plans. The lesson plan titled the Tally of 1824 is one of the most thorough Electoral College lesson plans that I have seen anywhere. The Tally of 1824 lesson plan addresses not only the basic process of the Electoral College, it also includes the ideas of faithless electors and the possibility of losing the popular vote but winning the election.

The Washington Post's Electoral College Prediction Map provides teachers with an opportunity to include math in a civics lesson. When you first arrive at the map you will see that it is blank. Users select each state to be a Republican or Democratic state. The counter on the side of the map keeps track of the number of votes for each party. Students can experiment with combinations of states to create different winning scenarios. Teachers could ask students to explore this question, "what is the minimum number of states required to win?"

Of course, I would be remiss not to mention again the great video from Common Craft that explains the US Presidential Election process in plain English. Here is the video.

A Great Lesson in Biodiversity

The BBC's Rebecca Morelle has published a great piece about the biodiversity of frogs found in the Costa Rican rainforest. What makes the piece great is the the videos of scientists holding the various frogs and explaining what makes each one unique from another. I couldn't embed the videos here so I linked the image below to the story.

Applications for Education
This article from the BBC and the accompanying videos could be used to introduce students to the idea of biodiversity.