I played Webkinz all weekend with my nephew. It’s a cute stuffed toy with a code to enter a virtual environment with tons of interactive games. Many schools use Webkinz as an educational tool or as a reward for good behavior. Gantz, the makers of Webkinz list the reasons why virtual world is educational but they left out one component – you have to use a map tool to add rooms to your virtual house. If. like my nephew, you have almost every room configuration possible, you definitely need the map to find your way from your beach room to your space room without getting lost. You can see all the different types of Webkinz animals at Amazon.
TheSteve0 tweeted this great article about programming in a team environment, but the ten points that are made transcend programming and can easily fit any team activity from a class project to sending a lander to Mars. With new/innovative workflows coming on the scene in the tech arena (eg the spread of AGILE) it is sometimes hard to look around at the insular structure of some working groups. Articles like this one give me hope that we can tip over the silos and all play together. Perhaps it is just the optimist in me. Here is my favorite:
3. No matter how much “karate” you know, someone else will always know more. Such an individual can teach you some new moves if you ask. Seek and accept input from others, especially when you think it’s not needed.
I definitely recommend that you head over and take a look at the article to see if it resonates with you as it did with me.
For all you K-12 teachers out there, and anyone who’s interested in a cool Geography educational tool, check out Earth Balloon. It’s a 20-foot high, hand-painted inflatable globe that can be used in conjunction with Geography lessons on a wide range of topics. Whereabouts, Inc., a company that specializes in Geography educational tools and programs, has created a traveling Earth Balloon program and will come to schools with their Earth Balloon and allow students to actually go inside the inflated balloon as part of the program. They’re based in the Chicago area, so I’m not sure how far they’re willing to travel.
You can even buy your own Earth Balloon and, really, what Geography class wouldn’t be way cooler with a giant inflatable globe that you can walk inside!
While trying to find folks to follow on Twitter I ran across the Plaid Avenger Plaidcast. The Plaid Avenger Plaidcast is a video series that highlights the thoughts of the Plaid Avenger on current global issues. These cultural geography hot topics are presented in a way that makes me think of a mix between John Stewart, a Ska front man and Henry Rollins. I hope to track down the Plaid Avenger at the AAG in Boston this week and get a behind the scenes exclusive of the masked marvels escapades. I hope to bring you more soon, but until then head over and check out the Plaidcast.
NASA has just unveiled a new skin for it’s Science website. The site is serves as the public face for all the nifty scientific stuff done down at NASA central. I have to say the thing look pretty spiffy. There’s lots of useful links right off the front page, including a section for kids and for ‘Citizen Scientists’. I might start adding that title to my name… Frank, Citizen Scientist!
KidsGIS is a cool project from a group of professionals and educators out in Oregon, who have been using MapGuide Open Source tools to create an open source geospatial portal as a tool for educating kids about environmental issues and about using open source software and open data standards. The project has an impressive group of sponsors, including the Open Source Geospatial Foundation, Autodesk, the San Diego Visualization and Supercomputer Centers, URISA, local governments and schools, and private companies such as Spatial Integrators and SPATIALinfo. They’ve been working on the project since 2005, I believe, and now have a protoype up and running, using data from a project where students collected their own data from a study area along the Willamette River and its tributaries. The plans are to improve and expand the functionality of the prototype GIS applications as they move into the next phases of the project.
I really like seeing project like this that really bring together a lot of partners in education, government and industry, and promote important initiatives, like better understanding of the environment. Plus, exposing kids to open source software and letting them participate in building the tools they are using is a great educational tool in itself. So, when you get a chance, check out the KidsGIS project and see what they’re up to, or even think about how you might be able to start a project like that in your own area!
Our reader Ed found another gem in Kardi Teknomo’s Tutorials Dr. Teknomo is a research fellow at Human Centered Mobility Technologies at Arsenal Research, Austria. He has an amazing research and publication background in GIS, statistical modelling and simulation, and other topics too numerous to mention. To share some of his amazing knowledge, he has created intro tutorials on topics ranging from statistical analyses like Kernel Regression and K-Means Clustering, to Monte Carlo simulation, to GIS. And that’s just for starters. Really, you just have to check it out for yourself. I know there’s about a dozen of them I’m going to go through.
The New York Times Books section features an interesting discussion about a book entitled, The Age of American Unreason by Susan Jacoby. The thrust of the book is that current American attitudes downplay the importance of education and intellectualism. The interesting part of this is she overwhelmingly uses geographic examples as proof of her thesis. In the last year or so, there certainly have been a string of high profile instances of people on TV with depressingly poor knowledge of geography. I’m just rather curious when geographic knowledge became a form of shorthand for intellectualism or lack there of? We’ve certainly covered the issue quite a bit in the past, but I find it interesting how persuasive it has become in other circles as well.
Are you participating in the The Great Backyard Bird Count this weekend? Led by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society, with sponsorship from Wild Birds Unlimited citizen scientists of all ages from around North America count the birds in their community to better understand bird dynamics, population change, weather,… Besides the cute pictures, the coolest part is the map room which lets you create a map of your state, region, favorite bird. It’s amazing that 15 minutes observation per person over four days provided so much information. If you need help the USGS and Birding.com provide bird identification websites with birdsongs. Bird Watching — What a great way to get people interested and involved in geography!
The Library of Congress is going Web 2.0 by making some of its photo collections available online at Flickr. This is a really cool project that not only allows users to see these amazing photos, but the LOC is also hoping that the Flickr community can help them out by tagging, commenting, and even provide captions or notes for photos that may be missing this information. Flickr is also promoting this project and perhaps others by creating a new publication model called The Commons for publicly held photographic collections. The hope is that other institutions will join in the effort and add their photos. What an amazing resource this has the potential to become!
There are over 3000 photos already up in the LOC’s Flickr collection, including several series of photos from the 1940s and the 1910s. These photos are an amazing visual historical record that document the landscapes, lives, and events of American history from the local to national and events, and if you have some time you should definitely check them out and maybe even add your own tags and comments. And, if you know of any public photo collections that you would like to see online, spread the word about this project!