Thursday, March 30, 2006

Smartboard Resources
Might have posted this before. Here are links to a decent number of learning interactives and resources. Several links are bad; it might be worth doing a little sleuthing to get the correct links on our Wiki.

For fun and education, try Building A Sod House.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Ruby On Rails Goes 1.1 Slashdot
Seemingly lots and lots of cool improvements.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

E3 2006: Home
Missed GDC 2006? How about E3 2006?
Game Developers Conference 2006
Did anyone make it to GDC 2006 or GDC Mobile? There were almost four dozen sessions on mobile games alone; hundreds of speakers and sessions overall.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Order in the Court: An Electronic Field Trip from Colonial Williamsburg
Here we have the type of interactive we'd like to see much more of. Why?
1) It involves people. History education has become a littany of themes and concepts - boring.
2) It tells stories. You hear each participant's side, and you learn about each one.
3) It requires students to make choices.
4) It reflects big issues, but gets students involved in the lives of everyday people.
If you can find the context page for this interactive, let us know. Younger students would be interested in learning about what a hogshead is and should maidens be dunked for singing bawdy songs. Older students should engage in more discussion of the evolution of civil rights - and the obligations of all of us to work with the laws of the day.

Pedagogical qusetions: Is reading ok for an interactive? Or would sound be much more preferable? Do students get enough feedback and reward to keep them interested? Are we getting enough reinforcement of exactly when and where this occurred? What else could be added to allow students to learn more of the settings and laws of the day?

Friday, March 24, 2006

United States Senator - Lamar Alexander: "American History and Civics Act of 2003"
Yesterday, we had a fine lunch with Senator Lamar Alexander and 93 Ashbrook Scholars, and talked about Keeping the Teaching of American History in its Rightful Place in Our Schools.

Senator Alexander is a remarkable man - you may recall he ran for President; he was Governor of Tennesee, and was also U.S. Secretary of Education, and President of the University of Tennesee.

You may recall that the U.S. Senate actually held hearings on the poor state of History Education in the land. Sen. Alexander sponsored (with Sen. Reid and later others) S504, the American History and Civics Act of 2003. It passed, and the USG will spend $100 million by 2008 to improve the teaching of civics and history. Among the initiatives IS Presidential Academy for American History and Civics - which Alexander announced yesterday.

And that $100,000,000? If anyone from the US Department of Education Office of Innovation and Improvement is listening (or any other funder) we could do some amazing things with $3000 or $30,000.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Advanced Distributed Learning - Home
We haven't talked here much about SCORM and other online educational content standards - mostly because I haven't invested enough time to say anything intelligent about them. For awhile their website was so archaic, I was starting to consider it another roadkill on the US Government acronym/standardization/initiatives highways.

Their highly revamped site shows that they've picked up speed. ADL - the Advanced Distributed Learning Initiative - is a child of the Pentagon. Their "Plugfests" (the most recent held in Taipei) "provide ADL partners with the opportunity to synchronize the evolution and convergence of commercial authoring tools, learning management systems and Web-based courses with the evolving open-architecture specification."

SCORM - the Shareable Content Object Reference Model - "is a collection of specifications and standards primarily drawn from other organizations. SCORM provides the framework for developers, content providers, project managers and instructional designers to follow in developing their product to be reusable and interchangeable across a global scale.

Other standards and resources are at the site, as is a discussion forum: Implementing the SCORM forum.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

A Week at War: March 19-25 NY Times
What have you done so far this week? In three days in 2003, US forces had rewritten the land forces speed records, moving halfway across Iraq on the way to Bagdad. Marines in open-door vehicles had shown the force in town after town. 8000 Iraqi army troops had surrendered and many more were simply left to walk away.

On Day 3, a big planning concern was still tens of thousands of refugees who might leave their homes and Iraq itself if clashes with the Republican guard became protracted.

From the archives, this Times interactive summarizes the first week of the war.

How could we build a better version?
  • Full screen, more detailed map?
  • Audio Narration?
  • Animate force movements?

    CNN had much more info. CNN Sights and Sounds Archive.
  • Tuesday, March 21, 2006

    Three Years in Iraq AP
    The Associated Press offers this interactive summarizing the three years of the war in Iraq. I like some of the techniques uses in the Timeline: 4 main themes that highlight associated times along the line.

    Also, the rollover effect on the "Coalition Troop Strength" graph is a nice tough. Most people might miss it now, but I can see the effect becoming standard as time goes on.

    I will say that they could have added at least one more category: rebuilding successes. From this you'd have no idea that schools were reclaimed, staffed, supplied, powered; that local governements have stood up everywhere; that medical care is being delivered and food supplied.

    And there's just a hint at another fascinating story: Iraq's median age is just 19.2! Half should still be in school!

    Monday, March 20, 2006

    Today marks an anniversary, you know. Oh, that other anniversary? Yes. Also, three years since we started this blog.

    The incentive that day was not only to remark on the notable milestone in history, but to point out how interactive animations, sound, and video over the net were changing how people follow a war.

    Here are some multimedia presentations of latter operations, from Anbar Campaign.

    Perhaps we can locate some more Iraq interactives later this week.

    Friday, March 17, 2006

    Save Houdini Game PBS/The American Experience
    Here's a tidy little beat-the-clock game. The ticking clock focuses your attention a bit - and I couldn't solve it without reading the materials!

    Thursday, March 16, 2006 -- NEH EDSITEment Lesson Plans
    Yesterday I had a nice visit with the folks behind the TeachingAmericanHistory website and program. Their mission is to teach the teachers - to help K-12 history teachers learn and pass on a deep knowledge of our journey in developing freedoms.

    Much of their approach is to physically bring teachers and scholars together. Regular Saturday seminars are free to teachers, as are longer summer institutes. A a masters degree is also available. And this summer, they are trying something new with an on-the-road trip. Fifty teachers and professors will visit the sites of our early history in Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington!

    Our interest, of course, is particularly with the online, interactive portion. Under a grant/contract from the National Endowment for Humanities, the center is developing lessons on a number of topics. You can view the lessons here. The interactives they've developed so far are: Actually, to get the true interactive effect, you really need some worksheets from the lessons. These will get the questions going to use the maps to their fullest.

    Wednesday, March 15, 2006

    Ancient Greece Olympics BBC Schools
    Ready for the next Summer Olympics? BBC takes us to the ancient games in this fun interactive game. It didn't work well in my Firefox, you might switch to Internet Explorer. Are you careful enough to get the question at the end?

    Two more interactives
    are available. What would improve each if these?

    Tuesday, March 14, 2006

    How Bill Gates could really boost competitiveness Seattle Times
    Diane Ravitch has a different take on Digital Storytelling, in her Letter to Bill Gates.

    From a more southern perspective, Joseph Knippenberg comments on the college students who got a thrill from burning successive churches, and how their minds may have been formed (or not formed) along the way.
    21st Century Skills
    Really. So often we wonder what all these educational PhD's, E.D.'s, research organizations, etc. are doing while they are not helping to raise students' grasp of history, literacy, math and science. Well, here is a little glimpse. A column in TechLearning led us to these. Another makes the case for having kids tell their own stories.

    Hey, Dave. Maybe the dudes would have a little less angst if you taught them about those before them who had struggled and overcome.

    Monday, March 13, 2006

    Google Mars
    The always creative folks at Google today launched Google Mars. Much Geologic history there; it also reminds us of some of the work with maps being done at GMU's Center for History and New Media.

    Tuesday, March 07, 2006

    New Directions
    This blog, over the past few months, seems to have veered broadly, looking rather more at the context we operate in--and less at the detailed progress of online, interactive, sound-and-animation history telling.

    I'm going to try to change that focus back. The best way to do that is to get more developers involved. We've always intended this, of course, but have balked for reasons having to do with - in Kipling's great phase, 'a deficit in the budget'.

    Meanwhile, this week I've been looking heavily at Ruby on Rails. If you say, 'egads, no, not another programming language!', we won't blaim you here. 'Twas exactly my reaction a year ago. Butrubyisdifferent. I'm not a programmer, so I'll leave it to you to tear the language apart. I have, however, seen the promises of some 30 languages along the way, and my week with Ruby on Rails tells me that building web applications just took a big jump from Php/HTML.

    So, when we get a little better handle on Rails and Ajax here, we'll start searching harder for great interactive history examples. Meanwhile, head over to the wiki and see what you can add.

    Thursday, March 02, 2006

    The Silent Epidemic
    I can't fathom that this is still a "silent epidemic", but it sure is. And "epidemic" seems an insufficient word when you're talking 40-50% of major populations.

    Civic Enterprises today released this report on dropouts. You know the figures - 45% of blacks and inner city students dropping out. This gets behind the numbers and talks to the young adults who now see the mistake. Some highlights:

  • "As complex as these individual circumstances
    may be, for almost all young people, dropping out of high school is not a sudden act, but a gradual process of disengagement."
  • "66% of dropouts say they would have worked harder if their high school had demanded more."

    David Broder wrote a preview opinion of this study. His solution is simple and compelling. It directly confronts one problem: the lure to students of money now verses rewards later. His solution also avoids all the other issues - taking all the pressure off the schools and the NEA to fix the problems, and letting kids muck along through more years of a process that isn't working for them.
  • Wednesday, March 01, 2006

    iTunes Music Store Downloads Top One Billion Songs Apple
    It seems worth marking this milestone in the evolution of communications and entertainment. Last week, Apple sold its 1,000,000,000th iTunes song- making close to a billion dollars in download sales for Apple not to mention a revolution in the way consumers get their music.(Appropriately, the song was "The Speed of Sound"). Apple now sells more music than any of the pure media store chains.

    Along the way, Apple became a really big computer company again, passing Dell this winter in market cap. And this week, another hint at their comback - rumors of Apple buying Disney! Yes, Steve Jobs will have 7% of old Walt's legacy when the sale of Pixar is done. (Oh, and Pixar is 20 years old! What was their first film?)

    It would be amazing enough to think of these two companies as equally sized if one recalls all Disney's theme parks, studios, stores and branded items from diapers to watches to game units; not to mention its treasure chest film library, soon to be re-re-re-released on Blue-Ray high definition 7.2 surround sound splendor. Yet Disney also owns ESPN, ABC broadcasting, and all the affilate media and merchandizing therein. Wasn't it just a year or three ago that seemed ubiquitous and ready to take on MSN, Yahoo!, and AOL? And wasn't Apple the company everybody wrote off as gone? You go little fruit-emblazened company, you go!