Catch the Google Wave

Screen shot 2009-11-17 at 9.56.57 AMI’ve got a Google Wave account and have been diligently passing along as many invites as I can to educators who definitely need this incredible service. I know that many of my friends don’t exactly understand why they need the service. My pals have been using old-fashioned email for so long that they are still thinking of digital communication in a paradigm that Google Wave is washing away. Thank goodness two amazing individuals of Lifehacker renown, Gina Trapani and Adam Pash, have written The Complete Guide to Google Wave.

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Show Me the Money: MAPLight Illuminates Money And Politics

If you’re helping pupils navigate the confusing realm of politics, civics, law, and other issues related to government, consider asking your learners the following question: Is there a connection between campaign donations and legislative votes? Although the answer may seem laughably obvious, the implications of the response are anything but amusing. What might inform a neutral observer’s answer to the question? What evidence could a citizen use to seek clarification? Is there a beacon to guide a truly curious individual on such a quest?

Enter MAPLight.org.

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MAPLight, uses a public database to shine a light on the links that exist between campaign donations made to political figures and legislative voting records. Not surprisingly, there are more than a few politicians who do not appreciate the glare of such attention on their behavior and decisions.

UPDATE: After writing this post, I came across a news item that seemed particularly relevant to the point I was trying to make. Robert Pear of the New York Times reports,

“In the official record of the historic House debate on overhauling health care, the speeches of many lawmakers echo with similarities. Often, that was no accident. Statements by more than a dozen lawmakers were ghostwritten, in whole or in part, by Washington lobbyists working for Genentech, one of the world’s largest biotechnology companies.”

I’ve included a citation for any teacher or student who may be wish to refer to the article.

Pear, R. (2009, November 14). In House, Many Spoke With One Voice: Lobbyists’. New York Times. Retrieved November 14, 2009, from http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/15/us/politics/15health.html?_r=1&hp

Related resources:

  • If you’re teaching students how to gain a better understanding of the government of the United States, you’ll want to get acquainted with the Sunlight Foundation because it also provides a great deal of clarity.
  • Visitors who access Capitol Words are able to track and visualize the most used words in the Congressional Record. The words being tracked and visualized are displayed in more than one manner. They appear in a word cloud as well as in list view.
  • Kim Rees of Periscopic (an impressive interactive design firm specializing in information visualization), points out that curious educators, pupils, and citizens should also explore Congress Speaks as it’s a great way to review the words spoken by the 110th Congress.

Well-Rounded About Every Corner of the World: GeoCube

A long, long time ago many people thought the earth was flat. Today, we know it’s not. In fact, according to HERODOT, the European Network for Geography in Higher Education, these days, it’s cubed.

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Geocube is an engaging, FREE, online resource devoted to the exploration of geography. With an interface based on the appearance of a Rubik Cube, its six faces and 54 topics invite users to learn more about our planet.

Freedom is Never Free: Understanding Veterans Day

DF-SC-84-11899It began with the signing of the armistice that ended World War I. Yes, today is Veterans Day. Do your students understand the significance of this day? Do they understand what it mean to truly pay respect to veterans? What are some of the ways veterans are (and should be) honored in our society today?

Encourage your pupils to stop and think about the brave men and women who have served and are currently serving in America’s Armed Forces. They deserve our respect and students should know why. The United States Department of Veteran Affairs contains educational resources designed to help teachers discuss the importance this day.

It’s never too late to learn.

Related resources:

History, Poetry, Music, Math, and Science…a Perfect Storm of Learning

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On this day, November 10th, in 1975, the freighter SS Edmund Fitzgerald (a taconite carrier) sank during a storm on Lake Superior. All of the crew, 29 nine men, perished. The event was memorialized in the lyrics of singer Gordon Lightfoot‘s popular ballad, the Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

Though sad, this historical event presents an engrossing opportunity for students and teachers to collaborate and engage in interdisciplinary research. It’s a perfect storm of learning.  Delving into what lead up to the tragedy allows pupils to explore elements of:

Diving into this and other historical events, using them as case-study investigations into why and how things happen, makes learning more rewarding and allows students to integrate technology resources in a more meaningful manner.

Related resources:

We’ll Always Have Paris…

In honor of National French Week, I’d like to share a beautiful learning tool that I hope teachers of French language and other budding Francophiles everywhere will appreciate. The resource I am referring to is a web-based version of the the plan of Turgot (one of the holding of the Image Databases / Catalogs from the Rare Collections of the Kyoto University Library). It’s a captivating depiction of Paris, district by district, as it looked in 1734. The map wasn’t completed until 1739. Interested? If so, take a look at even earlier renderings of the City of Light. Bonne nuit, mes amis!

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