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Dr. Crick’s Double Helix Sketch


Posted on 22nd February 2005 by Judy Breck in Subject Sampler

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has put some very interesting Francis Crick Papers online for the first time. The pages here display papers Crick kept from 1951-53, the time when he and James Watson were discovering the double helix structure of DNA. The above sketch was drawn at the time by Crick. To enlarge the sketch to actual size, click here.

Let’s Hear It For MuLiMob


Posted on 22nd February 2005 by Judy Breck in Emerging Online Knowledge

A fascinating article in this week’s Feature here proposes that the mobile phone industry supply phones using a lot more languages. People who study such things say there are 6000 languages left on Earth but they are dying off fast. Why not help to preserve languages by supplying phones to people who still speak them in remote places in Africa, Asia and elsewhere? It would not be an act of preservation charity thinks the article author. He says,

Catering content and services to the thousands of minority language communities languishing in now-stagnant markets may be the next major step the wireless industry needs to take in order to boost sales and revenue to the next level.

Support MuliMob! – which stand for Multilingual and Mobile.

Open Content for Little Countries


Posted on 19th February 2005 by Judy Breck in Emerging Online Knowledge

IJEDICT is a brand new journal aimed at leap-frogging the digital gaps affecting little countries and rural areas. Its editorial team is literally from around the world. You can subscribe here for free. I know nothing more about it than what it says about itself:

The International Journal of Education and Development using Information and Communication Technology (IJEDICT) is an e-journal that provides free and open access to all of its content.

Open is good.

Keep An Ear on Vocel


Posted on 19th February 2005 by Judy Breck in Emerging Online Knowledge

This mobile applications company makes learning software which can be downloaded for a fee. On their homepage here click on “Products” to see what is coming soon. One of the new products is a language tutor. This is the future of learning visible coming down the pipe. Now why doesn’t some community-minded enterprise become a sponsor and pay for open use of the language tutor? I’ll bet that will be happening soon. Kids killing time waiting for a bus learning a language – that is going to be a beautiful thing.

Apache Texts and Fonts


Posted on 19th February 2005 by Judy Breck in Open Content

The number of languages spoken and read around the globe was declining steadily until the internet came along. Now not only has the decline halted. Languages are being resurrected, preserved and brought to new life. A fine example of how that is being done is the University of Virginia Electronic Text Center collection of Chiricahua and Mescalero Apache Texts here – of texts published in book form in 1938. It is the only place on the Web I have ever seen to require an Apache font to use the search box. No doubt the digital magic by which their language is being enlivened would have impressed the medicine men who worked for Apache Chief Geronimo.

How Soon Will Learning See the FlashLite?


Posted on 18th February 2005 by Judy Breck in Mobile & Ubiquitous

The small screen menu shown above is an illustration from Macromedia mobile vice president Gary Kovac’s article here on FlashLite.
Kids already have the mobile phones that can display the menu, which is built in Macromedia’s FlashLite software. FlashLite and its integral FlashCast can interface compelling content, bring in dynamic content and be customized. Here are a couple of future visions of six menu options students could select to use until learning the content, then subsituting other tutors:
An eight-year-old’s menu: multiplication drills, grammar tutor, dictionary, geography by country, a safety first tutorial.
A fourteen-year-old’s menu: chemical table of elements, driver’s ed basics, syntax drills, bi-language drills, historical fact of the day, active earthquakes animation.
FlashLite swings open a fantastic new door for learning, and the door is located right in the kids’ hands. Those of us who worry about learning have seen a brighter world in FlashLite.

Wireless Philly


Posted on 17th February 2005 by Judy Breck in Mobile & Ubiquitous

Philadelphia could be wireless within a year reports the New York Times today here. “This 135-square-mile metropolis will become one gigantic wireless hot spot, offering every neighborhood high-speed access to the Web at below-market prices . . .” the article states. Why? The mission statement of the Wireless Philadelphia Executive committee is here. It concludes with a pledge to work “to maximize the social, developmental, and educational return.” Ben Franklin invented fire departments and established the post office in Philly. Why not invent a 21st century municipal service in the city Ben loved?

Wireless in Rwanda


Posted on 16th February 2005 by Judy Breck in Mobile & Ubiquitous

Get the news here that all of Rwanda’s secondary schools will be wireless by 2017. I know of no such expectation for secondary schools in the United States.
Just as the building of land line telephone infrastructure has been leapfroged over in some developing countries by going straight to wireless cell phones, 21st century education innovators are making seminal strides in places like Rwanda. We will learn from them.

Putting Learning in the Kids’ Hands


Posted on 15th February 2005 by Judy Breck in Mobile & Ubiquitous

Today Nokia announced a new agreement with Macromedia opening the way for exciting new Flash content on cell phone screens. What that means: compelling Flash content for mobile phones will be created. OK, let’s think about that for a minute. The kids all have cell phones. Why not build Flash content from which they can learn stuff they need to know? Like what? Math drills, grammer rules, history timelines, geography images it can all be right there in their hands.
The three little screens illustrated above are from the Macromedia webpage for FlashLite, its small screen software. The sample screens are for products and directions, but are plenty big and clear for learning content.

Old Dog Doctors and New Clicks


Posted on 15th February 2005 by Judy Breck in Emerging Online Knowledge

Yesterday an old dog doctor saved my cat’s life by spotting a sloughing infection and removing it surgically before it became inoperable. A younger vet on his staff did not recognized the kitty’s problem two days earlier and the old doctor said “I have not seen one of those in many years.”
I can call him old because he and I are about the same age and undoubtedly seem old to more and more younger people. I was glad he was old because his diagnosis and surgery were performed with knowledge and experience young puppies just don’t have.
When I told him I am writing a book about the internet and education he began a tirade against young vets who just click around until they find something on the internet and then treat their patient. He is absolutely right that acquired wisdom and facility are not online and never will be. What is online now is what he would have looked up in print in his younger years. This old dog is too wise not to look something up wherever he needed to. The pups get in trouble not by where they look things up, but by sloughing something off because they never saw it before.

Better User Experience for the Little Ones

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Posted on 14th February 2005 by Judy Breck in Mobile & Ubiquitous

This week’s “mobile internet thinking space” Feature has a report here about how things are getting better when we try to figure out how to use our new cell phones. When these little ones of the computer interface family offer content in a more friendly way they will be awesome places to learn. Kids already have the cell phones. Soon grammar, algebra and history will come into focus on their small screens and education will morph forever into a new era.

Mark Twain’s Memory-Builder


Posted on 11th February 2005 by Judy Breck in Subject Sampler

Play a revised, now interactive, version of a game invented and patented in 1885 by Mark Twain. It is part of the University of Virginia’s rich and fascinating website called Mark Twain in His Times.

Go Bearcats! Public School Online


Posted on 9th February 2005 by Judy Breck in Schools We Have Now

The New York Times today has an article here about an online public school in Branson, Colorado. The school’s website complete with the pep phrase “Go Bearcats!” is here and the school deserves our cheers. So does the New York Times for covering the subject of online schools which MSN seldom mentions although there are at least 100 such schools in the United States and the number is growing fast.
Among the most interesting facts in the Times article is that Branson is able to use its $5,600 per pupil annual state allotment to provide each of its students with a free computer and high-speed internet access obviously leaving plenty for teaching costs after the one-time computer purchase. Brick and mortar schools can find a lesson here. The numbers work for Branson when the pupil gets the computer. As free wireless access spreads and computers keep getting cheaper internet deprived pupils will be on the bad side of a new digital divide.
There is, of course, concerned expressed in the article that some of the kids who go to Branson do not do well. As usual, the kids are blamed for lack of motivation. The usual doubt is left to linger that online schools are flawed. But we should look instead at the Branson kids who do well and learn from these Bearcat achievers. Go Bearcats!

Luminescent Bacteria


Posted on 8th February 2005 by Judy Breck in Subject Sampler

Very surprising sorts of golden swamps can be caused by luminescent bacteria. Webpages here explain bioluminescence: producing light by biological organisms. The pages, in Polish and English, are from the Department of Pharmaceutical Microbiology of the Medical University of Gdansk Poland. They are a superb example of a nugget of specialized knowledge expertly explained and delightfully illustrated for the benefit of students across the world. The drawing above is from the site in Gdansk.

Tale of the Ravenous Marsh Mole


Posted on 8th February 2005 by Judy Breck in Open Content

Here is a quick tale – for those who think it is hard to find good websites – of a science hunt that nailed its prey. The New York Times Science Times today has an article about the star-nosed mole who can eat 10 mouthfuls of earthworm in 2.3 seconds. The Times says the journal Nature has a report from neuroscientist Kenneth C. Catania describing the ravenous mole. The Nature article is not open content; reading it requires a paid subscription. Googling Catania’s name leads us to this Innovations Report found in an excellent reservoir of science articles whose distinguished sponsors make the best things in science these days free. The credit for the above picture is Kenneth C. Catania