Celebrating America’s Diversity

This infographic begins in the year 1820. What was going on in the world in 1820 that makes this infographic begin there. Do you agree that it should begin there? Should it begin earlier, or later? What were the biggest factors that led to immigration to America? Where did the immigrants settle in America? What […]

celebrating-americas-diversity-family-history-month-2011_50290d3e5e9b9_w1500.pngThis infographic begins in the year 1820. What was going on in the world in 1820 that makes this infographic begin there. Do you agree that it should begin there? Should it begin earlier, or later? What were the biggest factors that led to immigration to America?

Where did the immigrants settle in America? What was going on in each state that led to the number of immigrants, or lack there of? The infographic only talks about how many immigrants are in each state. When did the immigrants travel there and why? For instance, North Carolina has a recognizable immigrant population. What is going on that we have so many? Why not other states?

Blog: http://visual.ly/celebrating-americas-diversity-family-history-month-2011

Modern American Financial History

A friend once told me that he once had a history teacher who, because she had studied history teacher, she foresaw the recent recession coming. Let’s hope that she got all of her money out of stocks before it happened. There is also a saying that history repeats itself. Looking at this infographic, what do […]

modern-american-financial-history_502919833e38f_w1500.png

A friend once told me that he once had a history teacher who, because she had studied history teacher, she foresaw the recent recession coming. Let’s hope that she got all of her money out of stocks before it happened. There is also a saying that history repeats itself. Looking at this infographic, what do you think?

By comparing and contrasting each economic down turn, what are some of the similarities and some of the differences? What are factors that may contribute to the next economic down turn?Answer the same questions for each economic upturn? Does it simply take time to come out of a poor economic time, or are there certain things that can be done to help it along?

Finally, do you and your students think that once we are out of this recession, we will be done with them for good? Probably not, but what can you and your students do to prepare for the next one? The next one will probably happen when your students are adults, and starting jobs. What should they do to prepare of a recession while they are just starting out in life?

Blog: http://visual.ly/modern-american-financial-history

100 Years of Change

Ask your students to imagine the world in 1913. Do they think of fashion, lack of modern technology, impending world crisis? Would any of them chose to go back and live in 1913? Based on this infographic, life was very different 100 years ago. Choose a few of the ways life has changed and ask […]

Ask your students to imagine the world in 1913. Do they think of fashion, lack of modern technology, impending world crisis? Would any of them chose to go back and live in 1913? Based on this infographic, life was very different 100 years ago.

Choose a few of the ways life has changed and ask your students to share how they think it is different. For instance, what is on the list of top five companies today and 100 years ago. What was the average income, and what was the percentage of people with a high school diploma. Do your students think this is better or worse?

Blog: http://visual.ly/100-years-change

A Perspective on Time

There are a few things that are really difficult to convey to students. I remember how hard it was to help my social studies students understand what caused the seasons. Yes, I taught a lot of science while teaching social studies. Distance and time, on the outset, seem simple. But comprehending the vastness of time, […]

There are a few things that are really difficult to convey to students. I remember how hard it was to help my social studies students understand what caused the seasons. Yes, I taught a lot of science while teaching social studies. Distance and time, on the outset, seem simple. But comprehending the vastness of time, when looking at history, and distance, when looking at science (or visa-versa), are hard for us to comprehend. In the words of the source blog for this infographic,

Humans are good at a lot of things, but putting time in perspective is not one of them. It’s not our fault – the span of time in human history, and even more so in natural history, are so vast compared to the span of our life and recent history that it’s almost impossible to get a handle on it.

There are lots of great infographics and visualizations that help to compare all manner of vastness, and here’s one.

Beyond the Boom

The Fourth of July is a celebration of this country’s independence from Britain. As yesterday’s infographic showed, what occurred on July 4th, 1776 was not even recognized in England, and barely even shared. Also, as yesterday’s infographic showed, some Americans do not even understand what we celebrate on July 4th, aside from chemical reactions in […]

The Fourth of July is a celebration of this country’s independence from Britain. As yesterday’s infographic showed, what occurred on July 4th, 1776 was not even recognized in England, and barely even shared. Also, as yesterday’s infographic showed, some Americans do not even understand what we celebrate on July 4th, aside from chemical reactions in the sky, alcohol, cookouts, and family gatherings. So what is the biggest thing this country does to celebrate this random day at the beginning of the summer? Shoot off fireworks, and this infographic shares this information in a great way.

The fireworks industry is a billion dollar industry, $940 million for the Fourth of July, plus New Years and other celebrations throughout the year. And launching a spectacular show requires more than just a lighter. Aside from the chemistry involved in creating the firecracker, it also requires physics to know at which angle to shoot it to reach the ideal location. How many people on neighborhood streets are doing physics problems as they light the fuse?

In addition, this infographic shares the difference between a variety of shows across the country. It shows how much is fired, how much it costs, and how many people view the various shows. Why do you suppose some shows are more popular than others? What information needs to be gathered in order to give a better idea as to the reasons behind the popularity.

Finally, ask your students to choose a topic, find something that stands for this topic, and use it in an entire infographic to share data, just like this infographic did in its use of firecrackers.

Blog: http://visual.ly/beyond-boom-how-fireworks-work

Happy America Day

Today’s infographic is from dailyinfographic.com, and shares a brief history about our celebration of America and her independence from Britain. Surprisingly, six percent of Americans do not realize that we are celebrating our independence from Britain. Some even thought Mexico. First of all, please make sure you students understand that while what is now the […]

Today’s infographic is from dailyinfographic.com, and shares a brief history about our celebration of America and her independence from Britain. Surprisingly, six percent of Americans do not realize that we are celebrating our independence from Britain. Some even thought Mexico. First of all, please make sure you students understand that while what is now the United States of America was colonized by a variety of countries (not including Mexico or Japan or China), we sought our independence from Britain.

Many also do not understand the insignificance of what we celebrate. We celebrate the colonies adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4th, and only two signers of the document did so on the 4th. In addition, we actually declared our independence on July 2nd. But imagine what would have happened to this document had we lost the war?

This infographic is a great representation of what Americans believe is important on July 4th. While I do not believe the date is significant, aside from knowing which day to set off fireworks, understanding that we did this at the end of the 18th century, before the Revolutionary War, is the important concept, and that we fought Britain for the right to rule our own country. Other important concepts include the fact that we won because Britain more or less gave up due to financial burden and obligations at home, as well as my theory that Britain never thought we would succeed. It is true that many countries did not believe we would succeed, that this was simply an experiment doomed to failure. However, I believe this played a great role our success. I believe that if Britain had realized how successful we would have become, she may have continued the fight. But also, we have helped her a great deal in two world wars, maybe should would have given up sooner and let us become more established.

What are your thoughts and the thoughts of your students?

Blog: http://dailyinfographic.com/happy-america-day-infographic

David’s “Great Moments in EdTech History”

A few weeks ago, Dean Shareski wrote a blog post (Great Moments in EdTech History), where he said,

I wanted to look back at my personal journey into educational technology and share a few instances of “aha moments” that I think many can relate to.

I so agreed with the items on his list – except for the coffee one – that I thought I would write my own. It’s not intended to be an improvement, and I suspect that many folks will not “relate” so well with some of my moments – ’cause you’re just not old enough, sonny.

My First Experience with a Personal Computer and BASIC

It was a Radio Shack Model I and this was when the hottest PCs on the planet were made by Radio Shack. The “aha” for me was when I realized that this was a machine that you operated by communicating with it. You typed in instructions and it followed.  It even gave you instructions on what keys to press to do what you wanted, and you could change the functions of the keys by changing the instructions.  In the way that only a few technologies in our past had, this was going to change everything.

I had to learn to program, because when the central office purchased the first set of computers for my school (Radio Shack Model IIIs – 16 kilobytes of memory), they didn’t know that you had to purchase software.  So I learned to write BASIC code, so my students would have something to do on those computer – and that changed my life.

My First Apple IIe

The district I became director of tech in had also used Radio Shack TRS-80 computers. But times were changing, and we wanted to step up to the modern, sleeker and more state-of-the-art Apple IIes. They came with a 5 1/4 inch floppy disk that provided a tutorial for operating the machine. Booting it up I was presented with a light green pixelated outline drawing of an Apple computer. The outline of a floppy disk animated into view and the door of the external disk drive appeared to open.  The disk slid into the drive and the operating light of the drive came on —– and it was red. Shudders went through my body and the earth’s crust seemed to shake under my feet. A color other than green. WOW! Anything was possible!

My First Modem

This was actually not such a stupendous moment since it took about three months to get my Apple IIc to communicate with the Hayes 300 baud modem, for which the district had paid $500. But when it finally worked, computers communicating over a distance — well that was cool.  ..and the 300 baud was not a disappointment since it’s pretty much faster than I can read.

A user’s group of school districts in my area (Micro 5) set up a bulletin board system (BBS) so that we could support each other through our computers.

Al Rogers and FrEdMail

Al Rogers the father of FrEdWriter and FrEdMail

This was perhaps one of the greatest pivot points in my career. I knew of Al Rogers (see left) from his FrEdWriter software, a free word processor for Apple IIs. Al had developed a (BBS) whereby a district had its own bulletin board computer (Apple IIe with a 10 MB hard drive) that other modem-equipped school computers could dial into. Teachers and students could post messages (and other writings) to the BBS. In the middle of the night, the district bulletin boards (called nodes) would dial each other passing messages back and forth that were addressed to readers outside the local district. So I could write a message for a teacher in Australia, and over the night, it would be passed from node to node appear in the recipient’s mailbox the next morning.

From “25 That Made their Mark” (2005) 1

A few weeks later our state Department of Public Instruction (DPI) called me asking if I would be willing to pilot a project for a FrEdMail network in our state, with seven other districts. We were called sysops (system operators), and it was the coolest thing ever. We did projects called HistoryLink, WeatherLink and it’s when Global Grocery List started. I joined DPI three years later and sysop’ed the state network, among other things.

My First Presentation with a Mac

The Macintosh, with its mouse, graphical interface and 3 1/2″ disk, was another game changer. But what I remember most about my first Mac production, a presentation for Micro-5 was that....I shadowed everything!

Telnet, FTP, IRC, Gopher

One of the other consultants at DPI had been approached by a university person offering an INTERNET login through his university. She offered it to me.  I’d been able to email in and out of THE INTERNET for some time using FrEdMail. But I had not been able to actually connect. Logging in with TelNet, FTP gave me access mountains of text files located on about a hundred computers around the world. Then Gopher came, which provided a much more usable way of getting to files. Gopher was a world of interlocking menus, starting with a master menu at the University of Minnesota (go you gophers). Selecting options took you to other menus on other host computers until you ended up with the file you needed. Gopher meant that we no longer needed those secret incantations (ftp open 42.32.222.4, cd 97/files/, get listofearthquakes.txt) to navigate the Internet. The ideas you were looking for became your navigation.

The World Wide Web

WWW had been around for a while before it really caught on. It wasn’t until Marc Andreessen (as an undergraduate student at the University of Illinois – Urbana-Champlaign) created Mosaic that people started to see the potential. With the Mosaic software, you could mouse around, click on words to link to other documents, and see pictures. Now the information itself became the steering wheel for content navigation.  It was also cool that the default background color for web pages was metal gray.

HTML

The best thing about the World Wide Web and Mosaic was that you could show it to people and they didn’t yawn.  Non-techies began to get it, that there was something potentially mainstream about this Internet thing.  One afternoon (1993), while at DPI, I’d reached a lull in my work and downloaded a tutorial for coding HTML.  I was aghast at how easy it was and by the end of there afternoon, I’d already written a web page with hyperlinks and images.  Over the next couple of months I covertly created a mock-up web site for the department and showed it to the assistant superintendent for instruction.  Even though he was not a techie and had his secretary print out his e-mails. he instantly realized the potential and assigned me to create a web site for the agency.  It was the first state department of education web site and was launched in 1994 – on the same day that our newly elected (conservative) legislature demanded a 50% reduction in staff for DPI.  I volunteered for layoff a few months later in exchange for a severance package and have not be traditionally employed since.

Meeting an Inventor

In 1997, I was doing some consulting and training for Advanced Network and Services and their ThinkQuest project.  Part of my work was staffing booths at conferences and giving away ThinkQuest CDs.  Late one afternoon I was working a booth at a European SchoolNet conference in Dublin and a man walked by, in something of a hurry.  He glanced over, stopped and asked, “What is ThinkQuest?”  My partner, a TQ representative from The Netherlands, and I explained it to him and he said, I’ll try to get back here after my talk,” and hurried off.  My partner turned to me and asked, “Do you know who that was?”  I shook my head (which rattled a bit).  “That was Robert Caillaiu, one of the inventors of the World Wide Web.”

I was impressed, though I’d never heard of Caillaiu before.  About an hour later, he came back, fast talking, energetic, possibly a little A.D.H.D., and he asked a lot of questions, and finally asked how I wrote my HTML.  I told him that I’d created a Hypercard stack for my editor, and he said that he had done the same.  He glanced over and asked if that was my Mac laptop, and nodded, “Yes!”

He pulled out a disk, slid it into the slot of his laptop, and copied his Hypercard HTML editor and handed me the disk, which I copied to my Mac. 🙂

Alas, my hard drive crashed a week and a half after I returned home and my dreams of framing Caillaiu’s code and mounting it on my office walls were dashed.

PHP and MySQL

Your first inclination is to skip over this one, but these two acronyms (of which I’m not going to bore you with their complete spelling) elevated me to full wizard status.  HTML enables us to publish information on the web.  MySQL, however, collects, stores, and selectively delivers information, and PHP causes that information to behave in useful and interesting ways.  Sounds pretty tedious, but without these two, we would probably never had seen a Web 2.0.

For me, out of these two acronyms came Citation Machine, PiNet (no longer supported), Hitchhikr (defunct), Education Podcast Network, Class Blogmeister and many others.

Blogs, Wikis and Twitter

Web 2.0 elevated us all to new levels of experience and accomplishment, and it hasn’t slowed down yet.  But what probably impacted me the most was RSS.  I won’t go into detail, except to say that while PHP & MySQL enabled us to do interesting things with information, RSS empowers us to do interesting things with conversations.

Mobile Computing and Apps

Mobile computing has been around forever.  I own an  Apple Newton, which was the coolest things on land and sea in 1993.  But Palm was king for years, because it did about three things really well.  Then the iPhone and the iPod Touch came along with their apps and a burgeoning community of talented and creative app builders – and then the iPad – and we had devices we could carry around with us that could do or become just about anything we could imagine.  These are truly personal machines that, by nature, become more than they were when they launched – and not because of the original designers, but because of people like us with useful (and no limit of useless) ideas and the skills to remold the machines to make them happen.

What’s next?  Well isn’t that what we’re about in education.  But it seems that in this time of incredible creativity, we seem defenseless against powerful interests who want to standardize education, for the production graduates who can be monetized.  Will we serve the beast or do we nurture our children and their uniquely boundless capacity to continually and freely invent futures that serve us all.

1 McLester, Susan. “25 That Made Their Mark.” Technology & Learning Magazine. Nov 2005: 5-15. Web. 22 May. 2012. <http://goo.gl/cxJFt>.

 

It’s What I’ve Learned…

skitched-20111028-072827.pngBrenda and I went to a book signing last week at the celebrated independent bookstore, Quail Ridge Books & Music. It was Lions of the West, which has apparently already received much acclaim, Raleigh’s News & Observer saying the author “..should be declared a national treasure.” ((BARNHILL, A. C. (2011, Oct 16). Morgan looks westward through eyes of history. News & Observer. Retrieved from http://goo.gl/gFw4V))

North Carolina born Robert Morgan, spent about 40 minutes of that evening reading from a simultaneously published book of poetry, stemming from his research for Lions of the West, but most of that time talking about the history of America’s westward growth.

Known as a “poet, novelist and short-story writer” ((Department of english at cornell university. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.arts.cornell.edu/english/people/?id=97)) and recipient of an Academy Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Cornell University English professor has written one other history, a similarly acclaimed biography of the nearly mythical American icon, Daniel Boone (Boone: A Biography). Lions of the West starts with Thomas Jefferson, and the Louisiana Purchase, which included

…all of present-day Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska; parts of Minnesota that were west of the Mississippi River; most of North Dakota; nearly all of South Dakota; northeastern New Mexico; northern Texas; the portions of Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado east of the Continental Divide; and Louisiana west of the Mississippi River, including the city of New Orleans. ((Wikipedia contributors. (2011). Louisiana purchase. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Louisiana_Purchase&oldid=458992606))

The book ends with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which added all or part of,

..California (1850), Nevada (1864), Utah (1896), and Arizona (1912), as well as the whole of, depending upon interpretation, the entire State of Texas (1845) that then included part of Kansas (1861), Colorado (1876), Wyoming (1890), Oklahoma (1902), and New Mexico (1912). ((Wikipedia contributors. (2011). Treaty of guadalupe hidalgo. InWikipedia, The Free EncyclopediaWikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Treaty_of_Guadalupe_Hidalgo&oldid=459017384))

..and was negotiated by Nicholas Trist, Jefferson’s grandson, by mariage.

I found it interesting that a majority of people who came to hear the talk were at least as old as Brenda and I, most of them much older. This was a generation who grew up on westerns. But what became clear from this talk and much of the revisionist history that has emerged in recent years, is how little we know about this era that so defined a generation of youngsters.

And this brings me to the second thing I found interesting about Morgan’s talk. It was a compelling story that he delivered powerfully, eloquently, and certainly unhampered by the charms of his southern roots. But it wasn’t until a conversation with Brenda, during our drive home, that it occurred to me why his talk was so compelling. Brenda said that she liked the way Morgan wasn’t trying to sell the book, and I realized that it was his perspective. The story that he spun in his talk was about what he’d learned during his research.

One area he said that he dug into was Mexican history, written from that country’s viewpoint, by Mexican historians. Many of Morgan’s statements began with, “What surprised me was..” Among his surprises was that Mexico was supposed to have won that war. They were, according to European observers, far superior to the United States in almost every way. Another surprise was James K. Pope, the North Carolina born 11th president. The author now believes that Polk was one of America’s six greatest presidents. An especially unlikable man, Polk was the only president who accomplished everything he’d promised voters, including spending only one term in office. Another surprise was how many of the Indian wars actually involved Indian tribes as allies to the American “cavalry.”

But it was this angle that I think especially charmed me, that Morgan did not talk about what he knew. He spent a half hour talking about what he’d learned.

..and of course, this brings us around to one of my continuing themes, that learning, learning practices, the sharing of learning, and what you can building from your learning, are far more important today than even the very best practices of teaching.

“Here’s what I’ve learned,” I think, is a golden key for unlocking the learner-impulse in others.

Visit to the Museum

A picture of Mona Lisa rendered with spools of thread and scene through a crystal ball

It might sound more like the truth to say the Brenda got me out of my office yesterday for a visit to the museum, but it was actually my idea. The North Carolina Museum of Art has recently moved into a new building. I would love to say that it is a beautiful structure, but my most honest observation is that that it’s strange and interesting — which is often what I say about art that I like.

I’ve come to see art museums differently since some folks I met at a conference took me to a an art museum in Shanghai for a visiting collection from Europe. Three things struck me anew as I looked at those works, painted hundreds of years ago. First, I suspect that locals as they saw these works back then, must have been in awe. Pictures were probably not very common and the skill of rendering them may have seemed magical.

Secondly, I am fascinated much of the art that I see up close, because it’s like going back in time. You are looking at a scene through the eyes of someone who is there. You see that this is what they thought of themselves, not what historians think of them. I guess the history teacher in me would call it primary source documents.  But it’s a lot more organic and immediate than that.

Finally, I am astounded at the cleverness of their world, their houses, farms, towns, cities… They probably weren’t up to code, but I suspect that their houses were constant works in progress. They needed an extra room, and the found a way to add it, even if it meant digging it into a hillside.

The two biggest differences that I see between my world and the ones I saw through the eyes of those artists yesterday is that they lived without electricity and we’re living without large animals among us. 😉

– Posted using BlogsyApp from my iPad

There are Always Consequences

Mapping an appurtenance point during a GIS field trip on Auckland — photo by Cristel Veefkind (( Veefkind, Cristel. “GIS Field Trip.” Flickr. 14 Mar 2007. Web. 15 Jan 2010. <http://www.flickr.com/photos/zusje/420919459/>. ))

I was just scanning the news and saw “West Virginia Expands Science, Technology, Engineering, And Mathematics Education with ESRI Software.”  I think that this is great and that West Virginia and other states should invest in ramping up their STEM programs.  But am I the only one who feels a spasm in my back as we STEM here and STEM there and continue to be feed the line that Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics are THE key to a prosperous future?

We are not in this state of near desperation today, struggling to fund education and other essential services, because people didn’t have enough STEM.  This happened because some educated people thought that they could game the economic system for their own selfish and greedy gain, under a “see no evil” administration, and that they could do it without consequences.

What history teaches, is that THERE ARE ALWAYS CONSEQUENCE

Interestingly, I find that the article, appearing in The American Surveyor, was actually written by ESRI, the GIS software that West Virginia is licensing for its schools, and that the focus of its use and the state offices that are promoting it are all social studies.  I guess that “West Virginia Expands Social Studies with…” doesn’t have the right punch — that it wouldn’t make us more “competitive” in the culturally diverse global market place.

Am I the only one who is afraid that the cost for STEM is Art, Music, Drama, and history, culture, geography, and economics?

Thinking and problem-solving are over-rated, if you don’t have a valid context to think and solve within.

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