Saturday, May 17, 2008

Debunking "Third World' Myths

This is an amazing video. It starts out a bit slow, but it's worth watching. The video's from the TED website (the same people who gave us the Ken Robinson video).

"You've never seen data presented like this. With the drama and urgency of a sportscaster, Hans Rosling debunks myths about the so-called "developing world" using extraordinary animation software developed by his Gapminder Foundation. The Trendalyzer software (recently acquired by Google) turns complex global trends into lively animations, making decades of data pop. Asian countries, as colorful bubbles, float across the grid -- toward better national health and wealth. Animated bell curves representing national income distribution squish and flatten. In Rosling's hands, global trends -- life expectancy, child mortality, poverty rates -- become clear, intuitive and even playful."

The Internet Circa 1993

The video says it all:

News in Foreign LanguagesNews in Foreign Languages

If you're trying to get students to practice their listening skills in foreign languages, the web site Open Culture has an interesting article. on some web sites that post podcasts in simplified foreign languages. These are newscasts and the article says that there are versions in French, German, and Latin. Nothing on Spanish, though.

Friday, May 16, 2008


I'm reading the book The Brain the Changes Itself by Norman Doidge. It's an interesting examination of the concept of "neuroplasticity". Essentially, the author argues that the brain is not as "hard wired" as we used to think. He provides examples of recovering stroke victims and people labeled as "retarded" who are able to rewire their brains to do things they weren't supposes to be able to do. The author holds out the prospect that in the future we might be able to rewire our brains so that we can learn languages with the facility that children do. There are amazing prospects for advancements in learning, but there are also some ominous possibilities here as well.

The book talks about curing OCD, stroke damage, and a host of issues. It's definitely worth a read.

Global Issues Initiative

The PBS Teachers site has an interesting article on a group of students at a Catholic school in California that has produced a website where the kids interview people on global issues. Take a look at the site here. The students select global issues that interest them and then interview people in the community who are important in that field.

Is this something we could do in our classes?

The Perfect Library

The Telegraph published a list of the "110 Best Books". Subtitled, "the perfect library", the list has an interesting assortment of books from a wide variety of genres -- from classics to poetry to history to science fiction. Worth a look.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Kindergarten in Germany

The Wall Street Journal has an interesting article about the reintroduction of play into kindergarten. One of the key features is getting kids out of doors and focusing on exploration rather than traditional academic subjects. There's no research on the effectiveness, but German teachers are apparently impressed by the kids creativity and focus. An interesting trend...

5 Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Children Do

Gever Tulley, the founder of the Tinkering School, has an interesting talk about how not to overprotect your kids. The sum of his argument is that we need to allow our kids to explore or they'll never develop the instincts they need to thrive in the world. It's interesting and pretty timely.

C-Span Student Video Contest

The C-Span website has posted the winners of their 2008 Studentcam contest. There are some really interesting videos with topics ranging from health care to the elections to violence in video games.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

RPI Requires Engineering Students to Study Abroad

Rensselaer Polytech in Troy, NY now requires its engineering students to study abroad. Yet another sign that globalization is everywhere... Take a look at the article here.

Library Thing

librarything is a web site that cataloges your reading preferences and sort-of acts like the Amazon recommendations page. The difference is that it's not trying to sell you anything. You can sign up at There are some interesting features including book discussion groups, the ability to browse other libraries, and the like.

NY Public Library Podcasts

The New York Public Library has a new page on iTunes. It's got some pretty interesting conversations with the likes of John Updike, Umberto Eco and others. There's a really amazing "Jazz Oral History Project". It's got something for everyone.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

College Visits in a Virtual World

The New York Times has an interesting article on something called College Week Live. On the site, around 150 colleges participate in a virtual college fair and you can visit the schools and talk to admissions reps. Take a look at the article and the site. The author concludes that while College Week Live does not replace a traditional campus visit, it is a reasonable way to take a look at schools.

Prealgebra and Algebra Video Game

I ran across this in one of the education newsletters I receive. It looks pretty interesting. Check it out here.

DimensionM™is an immersive video game world that engages students in the instruction and learning of mathematics. Pre-algebra and algebra objectives are covered through a series of missions that bring math into a world that today's students understand. Students become so captivated in solving problems that they forget they're learning but they don't forget what they've learned.

Research with our programs demonstrates how well they align with the way today's students learn and how naturally immersed students become in their learning. The result: increase in student motivation, increase in time on task, and the ability to apply their learning in real world situations that have meaning for your student.

Flexible implementation models DimensionM is designed to support multiple instruction models. Using the latest 3-D, first-person video game technology, students complete missions by entering reality-based environments where they challenge themselves in single-player format or they can challenge others in a fast-paced multi-player format. Having single-player or multi-player game formats provides schools with flexible ways to meet the needs of various implementations including: lab, classroom, extended-day, home extension, intervention, and special events.

Comprehensive resources support math mastery Powerful DimensionM Teaching Modules provide teachers and students with interactive 2-D story introductions, instructional support and practice. These modules support teachers during class instruction or students can use them as a self-directed resource to improve their performance in the game.

Four AP Exams Are Axed

According to the Washington Post 4 of the lowest enrollment programs -- Italian, French Literature, Latin Literature, and Computer Science -- are being removed from exams being offered next year.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Five Minute University

Don Novello used to have this character "Father Guido Sarducci" that he played on Saturday Night Live. I ran across a video of him discussing his idea for the "Five Minute University". It's pretty amusing but made me think: is this how kids view their education?

Take a look and share your thoughts.

Using Google Earth in the Classroom

Google Earth is a really interesting source -- it gives satellite images of places around the globe. Google has now posted a page that collects lessons for teachers to use that gives step-by-step instructions on how to use it as a classroom resource. The site also has sample lessons on such things as teaching latitude and longitude, village life in India, math lessons, and the like. Take a look here.

Declining Student Population?

The Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education just released a demographic study of college-age students in the near future. The results are pretty interesting. In brief, there are significant shifts of student populations. The Northeast looks to see a declining student population while we here in Virginia look to have what the study terms "manageable growth". Also noteworthy of note is the rapid expansion of the number of Latino students, both nationally and in Virginia.

A brief collection of graphs summarizes the report here.

For the full report, go here.

Blogging the Chinese Earthquake

The web site Global Voices is covering the Chinese earthquake with some pretty interesting live-blogging going on. Take a look here.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Online Classes -- the Future of Education?

NPR had a really interesting story about online classes being offered by an outfit in Virgina know as Virtual Virginia. It's worth a listen to. You can see Virtual Virginia's website here. They offer a host of AP and non-AP classes in the humanities, mathematics, languages, and the sciences. I'd be curious to see what people think of the programs they offer.

Talk Like a Pseudo-Intellectual

For the past several years, I've been a regular reader of the web site AL Daily. It's a really interesting collection of articles from journals on a host of topics. If you'd like to be on top of current intellectual trends, but don't have the time to read the several dozen magazines required to do so, this is the place for you. Right now, there are articles on such things as :

Encyclopedia Britannica’s sales for its 32 volume set peaked in 1990. Today, paper encyclopedias are in deep trouble...

The current employment rate is 95.3%. Better still, out of 300 million Americans, roughly 299.999954 million were not murdered today. But if you just watch TV...

The 40,000 Chinese restaurants in the U.S. come to more than the number of Burger Kings, McDonald’s, and KFCs combined...

Golf in decline: the number of people who play the game 25 times a year or more fell to 4.6 million in 2005 from 6.9 million in 2000...

Lawrence of Arabia’s story looks today less like a chivalric romance than like a case of imperial arrogance run amok...

The Space Age began with the launch of the Soviet Sputnik on October 4, 1957. From that day, no one could think of earth, or of space, in the same way...

The arts build the sets for that interior theatre of the mind and fill the stage with vivid characters who mingle in memory with the people of our lives...

Two Million Minutes

There's a new documentary out, Two Million Minutes that takes a comparative look at the education systems in the U.S., India, and China. The filmmaker has a definite point of view with which you may not agree, but the film does provide food for thought. The title of the film refers to the roughly two million minutes the average student spends in high school. The documentary follows six students, two each from the U.S., India, and China and chronicles their activities. It's short -- about one hour -- and I've got a copy if anyone would like to take a look. Here's the trailer: