Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Debugging JavaScript with Firebug
I've been using Firebug by Joe Hewitt (official Mozilla page) to help discover all my Javascript errors (an awful lot for as little code as I use). This screencast leads you through the use of Firebug.
Need an Icon? Try iConDB. Cool interface!
Adobe Labs; ActionScript 3

Exciting things are happening at Adobe/Macromedia. (I think. You may be better set to interpret them than us).

First, we mentioned this winter the arrival of Adobe Flex. This caught attention in the programming community as AJAX mania took over. This month, there's a new release: Flex 2.0 beta 3.

Second, Adobe is, depending on your perspective, seeing the Open Source train coming, or jumping on the Open Source Bandwagon. Either way, they have radically altered the way they release software, and you get the early peeks as well as the freebies to go with it. Adobe Labs
is where you'll find them.

And the biggest early peek is Actionscript 3. 3.0 promises to be a dramatic leap forward; much advanced (and much faster) than the unloved version 2. It comes with ActionScript Virtual Machine 2, which apparently is so different that AVSM 1 will remain to handle legacy code. Meanwhile, AVSM 2 is reported to be extremely fast, while Actionscript 3 is much more like a modern programming language, and reportedly demands more coding discipline.

While that sounds scary to designers, the payback is supposed to come in the use and reuse of modules. Shipping with the beta flex package is ActionScript Libraries
and Flex Data Services. And, there's lots more. Check the Mike Chambers Podcast and others.

All of this will end up running in the new FlashPlayer 9, which is now available.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Bridging Differences: A Dialogue Between Deborah Meier and Diane Ravitch Education Week
Perhaps nothing but the debate on the war is as devisive as the debates over education; and that's too bad, because only the kids really loose in such contention. Last fall I was at a meeting of committed, creative, industrious leaders who labor tirelessly to each bring some creative new solution to the education mix. In the back scowled non-stop a union rep, a reporter, and a anti-reform college prof, all of whom could see nothing but evil in the designs of the participants.

This article wonderfully bridges some of the gaps between the opposing camps. Some out-takes:

Unlike Deborah, Diane has long supported an explicit, prescribed curriculum, one that would consume about half the school day, on which national examinations would be based. Diane believes in the value of a common, knowledge-based curriculum, such as the Core Knowledge curriculum, that ensures that all children study history, literature, mathematics, science, art, music, and foreign language; such a curriculum, she thinks, would support rather than undermine teachers’ work. Deborah, while strongly agreeing on the need for a broad liberal arts curriculum, doubts that anyone can ensure what children will really understand and usefully make sense of, even through the best imposed curriculum, especially if it is designed by people who are far from the actual school communities and classrooms.

Yet both of us are appalled by the relentless “test prep” activities

Deborah is a pioneer of the small-schools movement. Diane, while not an opponent of that movement, has questioned whether such schools have the capacity to offer a reasonable curriculum, including advanced classes.

We found that we were both dismayed by efforts in New York City to micromanage what teachers in most K-8 schools do at every moment in the day.

The establishment of a national curriculum and national testing has its dangers, Diane concedes, but the consequences of preserving the status quo may be even more dangerous for the nation’s future. On this point—opposition to preserving the status quo—both Diane and Deborah agree.
Reading this, you might get confused as to which is the conservative! Well, ff we didn't agree with both of them, we wouldn't be sacrificing our career to work at an alternative.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Faces of the Fallen washingtonpost
This Memorial Day, it's worth a visit to the Washington Post memorial of all those in uniform who have died in the war.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Battle Lines: Letters from America's War's Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History
In honor of Memorial Day, the Institute has launched the final installment of Battle Lines: Letters from America's Wars. "Chapter Five: The End of War" is comprised of letters about defeat, victory, death, and war’s lasting effects. The letters, all from the Gilder Lehrman Collection, include correspondence from James Monroe, Robert E. Lee, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Douglas MacArthur read by professional actors.

Listen to readings, see transcripts, and examine original letters at:

A soon-to-be teacher reminded me this weekend of the importance of original source material. This series is one of the most elegant presentations of original source material we've seen.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Worldmapper: The world as you've never seen it before
Not much time to play with this here, but you can! Use 'Map Index' or 'Map Categories' to choose a map. Try Population Year 1, Population Year 1500, Population Year 1900.

What will Edward Tufte say?
Block scheduling Not helping high school students perform better in college science InsideUVA
Seemingly little to do with History and Interactivity, except for this: we just know so little about what works and what doesn't in education. Witness the recent switch to "Block Schedules". Classes are too short to get anything done, went the cant. Make them longer and kids will learn more.

Well, there may be some merit to that if a class is really flowing and all of the students are highly and intellectually engaged.

But of course not all classes are like that, and many students are not at all engaged. So here we find some results on how block scheduling helped science students by the time they arrived in college.
Flashforward Blog ? Podcasts
The folks at the FlashForward conference and site have a few podcast items. Maybe the conference sessions will follow?

And related, Mike Chambers is podcasting on things Adobe: Flex, Flash, etc.
Excellence Without a Soul: How a Great University Forgot Education Harry. R. Lewis

This sounds intriguing enough: it's compared with The Closing of the American Mind, one of the books that got us out of engineering and into history. The topic is more narrowly aimed at Harvardperennially a good target because of it's mythic staturebut the lessons swing wider.

It's a good time to remember that not one of America's 50 best universities recently required an American History class of its students. Few students of any age or class will have written a paper on the life of a Washington, Madison, Hamilton, Churchill, St. Gregory, or any other non-popstar.

The Wall Street Journal has a review today.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Happy Start of Summer!!!
Today we hauled the BigAssGrill over for a cookout for the kids at the Jr. Hi. The first thing to be noted was that it was not raining, and the sun was shining--which would definitley not have been the case last week or the week before.

The second thing to be noted was the math skills of the teaching staff, who had some trouble with the concept that 380 kids will eat at least 380 free hamburgers and hotdogs--not 250 or less.

The third thing to note is that this is just a warmup for the busy summer grill season - starting with the grand parade and wienie throwing on Monday. Last year 1000 went - well like our fall hotcakes - so this year we'll cook up 1500 doggies to toss to the children old and young.

You don't toss wieners in your parade? Huh! Gives the ole ball-park feel to the event!

Monday, May 22, 2006

Share Your OPML ? Top 100 Feeds
In playing with and searching through the newer hipper coding & design sites, we found a new addition to this blog - the nifty sidebar that does a dom-scripted tree of related blog feeds.

It still needs some tuning, and we'll geth there. Meanwhile, thanks to Dan who created this great goody.

The scripts work on OPML - Outline Processing Markup Language. There's lots more fun coming from OPML, and the list here has the top 100 blog subscriptions of that community.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Audio | Creative Commons
If you're developing history interatives, you'll want to put this one near the top of your bookmarks. A huge resource of Creative Commons licensed audio to add to your storytelling.

You'll recall we featured here a couple weeks ago OYEZ, OYEZ, the audio record of the US Supreme Court. A great treasure trove right there.

Yet developer's will find even more to cheer about in the music sections. Including a fantastic resource in its own.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Podcasts from PBS
Last night the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer brought a segment on iPods (Online NewsHour: Apple's Ipod is a Technological Phenomenon -- May 15, 2006 (RealAudio)). Are they divisive? Do they isolate people? Or do they result in even more community?

A very recent convert to MP3 conference downloads, I'm still jumping with joy at attending conferences worldwide whilst driving down I70 weeks after the conference closed up. Probably prattled on about it 5 times last week alone.

So of course my reaction to the broadcast piece on iPods was, "can I get a podcast of the story on podcasts?" Naturally.

Indeed, since we last looked, PBS has seriously upgraded its podcast feeds. The big list is here:
Podcasts from PBS
And of special interest to us:

American Experience
Encounter the people and events that have shaped a nation.


The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow
A documentary about segregation from the end of the Civil War to the dawn of the modern civil rights movement

Listen to first-hand accounts by people who experienced, endured, and survived Jim Crow.
Texas Ranch House
A living history series in which modern-day adventurers are transplanted to a Texas ranch in the year 1867.

Watch videos of the ranchers in action.
Download weekly episodes in MP3 audio format.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Timeline of Art History | The Metropolitan Museum of Art
I've been trying to think of what to say about this beautiful page. Perhaps we should just leave it at that!

Or maybe I should offer it as a work in progress--and a window on the state of page scripting. And, perhaps we should add the word ambitious. Either way, if you are a student of art history, there should be a great deal of info here. As a student of interactive web stories, the best part probably comes when you click on any of the panels in the scroller timeline at the top. This takes you to a different setup using the same central scroller, but with maps for each era.

All of this is implemented with DHTML onclick pseudo-links and in-the=page Javascipt. Some of the DOM scripting gurus these days might frown on these choices - I personally haven't decided on the whole onclick issue. Still, with some simple scripts and NO Flash, they've added some neat features to a very complex site. Kudos...and see you at the next version!!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

What Would You Like to See from Game AI? Slashdot
Today's post comes under the "Way Out There in the Future" department. We've seen some cool stuff coming in under CSS/Javascript/AJAX/API Mashups/.... What about the really really cool stuff? What about AI?

Can you put a little in your learning app? Now that you have lots of tools to access the server without reloading a page? How would you use it?

An interesting mental excursion. Have fun.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Career/technical education: The solution to our dropout crisis? Fordham Foundation - Gadfly
Far too many students drop out and miss the education - and diploma - they need. No news here. What we are hearing over and over is that it is boredom - not failure - which drives the majority out.

Liam Julian here takes a look at Career Academies and other vocational hands on work solutions to keeping kids in school.

I put this here to tickle your minds and reiterate. This site is not another Wikipedia; it is not about college prep. For one thing, I'm way out of high school and I still don't usually want my history to be "college prep".

Take a simple Bible story. I didn't get them; maybe you didn't either. Yet Wikipedia forces us through a hearing of every anal analyst on the spectrum of whether Shem son of Noah was Archaeologically proveable. That's not the point.

I want to be culturally literate, and so does the dude who wants a small mechanic or landscaping shop. And neither of us wants to slog through tomes just to find out the story.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Slashdot | Head Rush Ajax
Can't say the budget will allow us to order this and review it for you, but Barry Hawkins offers his take on Slashdot. This sounds like my kind of book!
Like its forerunner the Head First series, the Head Rush line approaches learning a given technical topic with the principles derived from studies in cognitive science, neurobiology, and educational psychology. It comes as no surprise that the classic approach of turgid, monotonous, visually-fatiguing tomes is not the ideal way to have someone learn a topic. Learning is aided by having variation...

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

F-Shaped Pattern For Reading Web Content (Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox)
Does this tell you anything you didn't know? Users read your content from left to right and from top to bottom, with their attention fading out quickly.

They also read headlines and pullout boxes more than other content.

Still, this study of eyeball tracking by Jacob Neilson is getting traction in the blogspere, so our readers get it too!!

Monday, May 01, 2006

Here's an interesting new twist. Markus Szumovski (Austria) has created Wiki software dedicated to timelines.

Now, this implementation is set up for broad world history. But you can install your own copy and cover and period or subject you want.

Meanwhile, customize the original Wiki. In particulr, switch to "People Only" mode. This switches off the labels and events and just lets you see who lived when. While you're there, add Phillip to Alexander's timespace.

The software has some basic work to do...the back button sends you to the start condition, and it's hard to tell how to navigate and zoom. But this makes for some interesting thinking.