Tuesday, December 8, 2020

You.com - A Future Rival to Google Search?

This afternoon TechCrunch posted a story about Richard Socher's new venture called You.com. You.com has a lofty goal of replacing Google as our go-to search engine. 

You.com's homepage is short on details right now, but it appears that it will be a search engine that doesn't rely on advertising for funding and that it will give you greater control over the privacy of your search activity. It sounds promising, but so did Blekko when it launched with a similar goal of being a better search engine ten years ago. If you have forgotten about Blekko as I did until today, here's the Wikipedia page about the defunct search engine

 I like the idea of a search engine results pages that aren't influenced by advertising or prior search activity. That's one of the reasons why I encourage teachers and students to try alternatives to Google Search from time to time. I hope that You.com can follow through on its goals. I've already registered for the beta list. You can do the same right here

The Growth of Mount Everest - A Math and Geology Lesson

Mount Everest is nearly a meter taller than it was a day ago. No, it didn't actually grow a meter overnight. China and Nepal have agreed on a new measurement for the height of Mount Everest. There are at least two lessons that can be developed out of this news. 

One of the reasons for re-measurement of Everest is the 2015 earthquake in the area. Some geologists argued that it may have caused a drop in snowcap of the mountain. Other geologists contend that it has grown overtime as a result of shifting tectonic plates. It's also worth noting that Chinese and Nepalese surveyors haven't always agreed on how to measure the mountain. Whatever the reason for the re-measurement, there is a lesson here for students. 

The height of Mount Everest is measured using trigonometry. Chinese surveyors use the Yellow Sea as sea-level and Nepalese surveyors use the Bay of Bengal as sea-level. From there fixed line-of-sight points are used in measuring distance and height. Here's a good, basic overview of how that works. CBBC has a more basic overview for younger students

Pages 10 through 13 of Mount Everest, The Reconnaissance 1921 (available for free in Google Books) explains the difficulties of accurately measuring Mount Everest in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. It's interesting to note that most accepted measurements were more than 100 feet higher than today's accepted measurement. Tell your students that Mount Everest has shrunk over the last 100 years and ask them to solve the mystery of the shrinking mountain. 

SciShow Kids has a good video about how mountains are formed. It's appropriate for elementary school students who haven't previously learned about tectonic plates. 

TED-Ed also offers a lesson that explains why the height of Mount Everest changes. Why is Mount Everest so Tall? explains why the peak of Everest is so high, why other mountains are longer from base to summit, and how mountains are formed. 

A Virtual Tour and Videos for Learning About Breaking the Sound Barrier

Chuck Yeager died yesterday at the age of 97. He was the first person to fly an airplane faster than the speed of sound. The BBC's article about Chuck Yeager's passing included some archival footage of his flight in the Bell X-1 that he flew. Watching that footage reminded me of the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum's VR Hangar app which included virtual tours of the X-1 and other famous aircraft and spacecraft. 

Unfortunately, the VR Hangar app is no longer available. But you can see the Bell X-1 in the Google Arts and Culture app as well as on the Google Arts and Culture website.

TED-Ed offers a lesson about breaking the sound barrier. The lesson is called The Sonic Boom Problem and it explains how a sonic boom is created and how math is used to predict the path of a sonic boom in the atmosphere. 

Here's some archival footage of Yeager's flight in the Bell X-1.

Formative Adds New Features for Creating Great Online Assessments

Formative is an online assessment platform that I've used and recommended for years. There are two features that keep me coming back to it. First, you can create questions that students respond to with free-hand drawings that they make on their computers or tablets. Second, you can upload documents and images to then add questions that appear directly on the documents and images. 

This week Formative announced a few new features that I like and I think you'll also like. First, there is now an integrated image search. Instead of having to find an image then upload it to your assessment, you can now just search within Formative and insert an image from the search results. Second, you can now link existing classes to your Google Classroom. Third, Formative will now automatically format hyperlinks that you include in your assessments.

For my friends who teach social studies, Formative has a new collection of history assessments that you can quickly copy into your account. The new assessments come from Stanford History Education Group and Open Stax. 

If you've never tried Formative, take a look at this video to see one of my favorite Formative features in action.

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