Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Federal Budget Puzzle - Interactive Challenge

Turn on any cable news network talk show and you'll hear plenty of pundits putting forth their ideas for fixing the federal budget. But which ideas or combinations of ideas will work best is hard (impossible?) to determine. So that you can try your hand and fixing the federal budget The New York Times offers an interactive budget puzzle. Budget Puzzle: You Fix the Budget presents users with the projected budget shortfalls of 2015 and 2030. Users then have to make selections from a long list of budget cuts and or tax increases to close the shortfalls.

Applications for Education
One way that the Budget Puzzle could be used in a classroom is to have students try various combinations of cuts and tax increases to close the budget shortfalls. After developing what they think are the best solutions you can have students debate the merits of each other's plans.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Economics Lessons Using Planet Money Podcasts
Captains of Industry - Economics Simulation Game
Interactive Bills and the History of the US Mint

Polar Bears International Educational Webcasts & More

Polar Bears International is a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness about polar bear populations and conservation of their habitat. One of the ways that PBI strives toward that goal is through educational outreach programs like Tundra Connections. Tundra Connections is a series of live webcasts from the Arctic tundra in which viewers have the opportunity to ask questions of polar bear and climate change scientists. The current webcast series has ended, but the webcast video archives can be viewed now.  

Thanks to Steve Dembo for the link on Twitter.

Applications for Education
In addition to the webcasts and webcast video archives, Polar Bears International offers free lesson plans. PBI's educational tools section (separate from lesson plans) offers handbooks, quizzes, posters, and many links to external sites related to the study of polar bears.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Snag Learning Film of the Week - Emperors of Ice
National Snow and Ice Data Center
ARMAP - Arctic Research Mapping Application

Shorten & Share Multiple Links in One Package with Bit.ly

Last night TechCrunch reported that the URL shortening service Bit.ly is now offering the option to create a bundle of shortened links that you can share. Bit.ly Bundles will allow you to shorten many links and bundle them together in one package to share with just one link. When the shared bundle link is click it will reveal the list of links that you've included in your bundle. When signed into your Bit.ly account you can customize the bundle link and bundle name. Bit.ly Bundles could be a useful tool for sharing a list of important research links with your students.

Below is the video Bit.ly released to introduce Bundles. Bundles might not be quite as awesome as the video claims, but it's a useful service nonetheless.

Creating a Bit.ly Bundle is an easy thing to do. Just head over to Bit.ly then paste into the shortening box the first link you'd like to include in your bundle. Then click "shorten" and Bit.ly will provide a "Bundle" button (actually it will appear in two place). Click the Bundle button to shorten more links and add them to your bundle. When you're done adding links to your bundle, click share and Bit.ly will provide you with the URL for your newly created bundle. I've included below a couple of screenshots of the process.

Choose either button to create bundles

Bundle Preview

WeTxt - Free Group Text Messaging

WeTxt is a new service offering free group text messaging. WeTxt works with ten major cellular service providers to offer you the ability to send text messages to large groups at once. In addition to creating and sending initial messages, WeTxt offers an option for sending "reply all" messages. Messages can be sent from your mobile device or from your email account. A mobile calendar helps you keep track of items that you need to send out as text messages.

You should note that while WeTxt is free to use, you do still incur text messaging charges at the rate charged by your cellular service provider. Read the FAQ section of WeTxt for more information regarding their terms of service.

Thanks to Sam Gliksman for the link.

Applications for Education
WeTxt could be an option for sending group messages about school delays and cancellations, changes in field trip itineraries or other time-sensitive announcements.