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How long is life?

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Posted on 31st December 2005 by Judy Breck in Subject Sampler

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forest
There is a scale to the life of an individual as described in the Science News article here. The ratio of the size of an elephant and a mouse relates to their longer and shorter lives. Recently discoveries have been made about plants as well as animals. From the article:

“When you walk in a forest, it looks random, but it’s actually quite regular on average,” [Enquist] West says. “People have been measuring size and density of trees for 100 years, but no one had noticed these simple relationships.”

The researchers have also discovered that the number of trees of a given mass in a forest follows the same scaling law governing the number of branches of a given size on an individual tree. “The forest as a whole behaves as if it is a very large tree,” West says. /blockquote>

General Science

Bombers to jumbo passenger jets

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Posted on 30th December 2005 by Judy Breck in Terrorism Undermined

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Today the keys the Frankfort, Germany American Air Force Rhein-Main Air Base were turned over to the manager of the Frankfort civilian airport. The military buildings will be bulldozed and replaced by hangers for the new jumbo passenger jets. Sixty years ago the base began its key role in the Cold War. The history lesson for today from GoldenSwamp.com is: things can get better. The key is to make it happen instead of saying it cannot.

Classical Languages Instruction Project

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Posted on 29th December 2005 by Judy Breck in Subject Sampler

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column capital
Visit this project here to sample Homer, Plato, Pindar, Virgil, and others. Selected works are given in text and interactive audio. This superb resource is based at Princeton University.
Languages

StickyShadows

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Posted on 29th December 2005 by Judy Breck in Mobile & Ubiquitous

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This brand new project called Socialight invites you to join its beta here. There are fun social things to do with the virtual sticky notes. I can think of some of those in the educational venue and bet something like this will become practice in the future of learning. If you are a teacher, imagine what StickyShadows could add to a field trip. Or if you are a museum curator imagine putting the identification of exhibit objects into StickyShadows that set a visitor’s mobile phone to vibrating as she approaches. via SmartMobs

Be a storyteller in a pocket

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Posted on 28th December 2005 by Judy Breck in Mobile Learning

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free,audio,books,volunteer
Here is a way for you to add literary content to the global virtual knowledge ecology: Volunteer to read a chapter for LibriVox. In the spirit of the project’s slogan, acoustical liberation of books in the public domain you will help to create free podcasts. The LibriVox volunteers have already recorded a slice of important literature. The download catalog of free recordings is here. Literature.
via SmartMobs

Clinton impeachment added to textbooks

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Posted on 27th December 2005 by Judy Breck in Schools We Have Now

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The Associated Press story here is a rare hard look at the limited, preshaped view of history textbooks force upon our kids. No doubt, if President Clinton’s impeachment is in the textbook it will also soon be a required standard subject for regimented testing kids face to advance in school. What do you suppose would have made it into the textbooks in the space devoted to the impeachment if the textbook gurus had decided not to include the disgrace of this President? The AP story elaborates:

The most commonly used texts give straightforward recaps of Clinton’s toughest days, with some flavor of how it affected the nation. Absent are any the lurid details of his relationship with Monica Lewinksy that spiced up daily news reports and late-night talk shows as the scandal and impeachment played out in 1998 and early 1999.

”It should not be in the book for titillating purposes or settling scores,” said Alan Brinkley, the Columbia University provost who has written or contributed to several history text books. ”It should be in the book because of its significance to our recent history.”

The giveaway of the power the textbook industry has over young minds is in the phrase “because of its significance.” Exactly who decides what is significant and what is not? The answer to that is very important, because only what is deemed significant by those in charge is put into the books. When the basis of curricula is textbooks it is the textbook writers who decide what the upcoming generation knows about the past. It’s as simple as that. In an Internet based curriculum significance is not limited to a small container whose contents are selected and packaged — and required for passing tests (materials all created for pay and profit BTW).

The mobile cascade is underway

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Posted on 27th December 2005 by Judy Breck in Mobile Learning

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For what great change will 2006 be remembered? I hope it will bring peace, health, and joy across the world. Whether that can happen is unknowable. A great change that seems more and more certain is that 2006 will be the year when mobile phones took over dynamic content, leaving the PC in the dust, wired down to desks.

In just the past 24 hours I have seen two interesting indicators of much more to come. Last night Fox Cable had a special on evangelical Christianity. It included video of an enthusiastic pastor marching to and fro while preaching from a rock-concert-like platform to 120,000 people. He read Scripture from St. Luke from his Treo phone. This morning on WCBS radio they were carrying a story about how you can watch the ball drop at Times Square at midnight this Saturday on your mobile phone screen.

Let us hope learning catches this wave. The kids have the phones already.

Santa Claus world geography

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Posted on 24th December 2005 by Judy Breck in Emerging Online Knowledge

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santa sleigh report
Christmas Eve is an excellent opportunity each year to study world geography through NORAD’s live tracking of Santa’s Sleigh here. Using heat sensing high orbiting satellites, the agency keeps a close eye on progress of the trip by sensing heat from Rudolph’s nose. As this post was made, the sleigh full of toys steered by the jolly old elf was just being pulled away from Moscow by the reindeer.

UPDATE: The tracking of Santa Claus by NORAD in 2008 is here.

Shrinking cinema: smaller and better

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Posted on 24th December 2005 by Judy Breck in Connective Expression

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If you don’t believe the hype that cell phones can convey ideas, visit the cellular short films contest here. The Vision Statement from this Ithaca College CellFlix Festival concludes:

Produce the best 30-seconds of small-screen cinema, and walk away with the $5,000 grand prize – and the satisfaction of knowing that you’re helping to make the world a smaller and more beautiful place.

via SmartMobs

Rainforest for toddlers: energetic sloth?

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Posted on 24th December 2005 by Judy Breck in Emerging Online Knowledge

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Snook PBS Big Big World
The graphical rainforest here is from the PBS promo of its new televison show for toddlers: It’s a Big Big World. Snook, the “energetic tree stoth” who leads the activities has a funny name since sloth means lazy. There’s a lesson in there somewhere for the pre-K word-sponge stage.

The new program has caused the creation of new characters and graphics that are engaging and informative for the just-post-diapers set. Although the old medium of television was still the basis for the conception and building of the show, its characters and graphics have already crept into the new digital environment. The show’s website is interactive on a PC or laptop. Dance with Snook, for example, demonstrates dance steps with icon figures with toddler proportions. A keyboard of steps lets you make up a dance. The true meaning of sloth is still present in the slow download — but that is changing fast. What next? My thought would be that Snook is a perfect leader to guide graphics for the smallest mobile users into their phones so the children can keep these lessons handy in their pocket.

A third way now for girls to learn

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Posted on 23rd December 2005 by Judy Breck in Mobile & Ubiquitous

The front page article today here in the New York Times about the lack of a toilet for girls in impoverished Africa keeping them from school offers only two options. Both options seem insurmountable and little hope is offered. The options are 1) fix the schools so the girls stay, or 2) the girls stay home and don’t get educated.

There is a third option: 3) provide the girls with digital virtual learning. My guess is the colonial imposition of the idea on Africa that they must have schools modeled after Europe will one day be overcome. In the new year that lies before us the one-to-one $100 laptop will be available. Mobile phones are becoming pipes to learning. I think laptops and phones for the girls when they stay home is at the least something to be done to deliver education now. My guess is that is going to be more workable—culturally as well as technically and financially—than supplying equal at-school sanitation for young women.

School/Net Namibia’s Hai Ti stories

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Posted on 23rd December 2005 by Judy Breck in Open Content

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Namibia Hai Ti comic book
To entice teachers and students into the digital world SchoolNet Namibia is producing and distributing Hai Ti!, a comic strip that spreads the word about the ways that computers and the Internet can transform learners’ and teachers’ lives. All about it and read one of the comic books online here.

Ion propulsion to push Dawn into orbit

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

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ion engine
The NASA mission website here for next spring’s Dawn launch includes an explanation of ion propulsion. A link on the page to the ion propulsion game leads to a tutorial on basics of the technology and a virtual chance to design an ion engine. Energy

Blogs link up a new kind of knowledge net

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Posted on 22nd December 2005 by Judy Breck in Blogs, Wikis and Swarms

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Yesterday when I blogged the website on Ancient Human Occupation of Britain my post was picked up at the weblog Archaeology in Europe. When I went to that blog, another post there was what the archaeologist David Beard who does the posting called “A very nice Website giving information about the ancient city of Aptera.” One more click, and I was wandering virtually among ancient Minoan stones reading old stories of the Muses.

These connections and the authority that they inherently have bring an important new sort of directness to online learning. People are forever saying the Internet is like an encyclopedia — but that implies editors, who are deciding what is true and should be written. With the ancient Brits, the archaeologist’s referral, and the author of the Aptera article something different is happening. The reports are direct from people engaged in their subjects, not from people paid to write about subjects others are engaged in. Blogging seems to be a new way to move among the directly engaged. How else would I have found the Aptera site? How else could you now read that site’s recounting of this very old story?

Alternative legends claim the city of Aptera took its name following a musical competition between the Muses and the Sirens held in the Temple of the Muses. At the time of the competition the city which was to become Aptera was renowned as a centre for musical expertise.

The Muses emerged as victors of the competition, a defeat which left the Sirens in such a distressed state that their feathers fell out into the sea, where they were transformed into the small ‘white islands’, in Souda Bay. It is from this legend that the city takes its name, Aptera meaning wingless.

Observing Herpetology

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Posted on 21st December 2005 by Judy Breck in Subject Sampler

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lizard head
The Ancient Human Occupation of Britain website which was the last post I made is an entry into a collaborative network among researchers. The link here is an individual herpetologist’s website — the central node of a network he has assembled about his expertise: the reptiles of Guiana. The herptologist has created a small network of fieldwork, labwork, and information about Guiana. The smaller network links repeatedly and relevantly out into the open Internet for related webpages. To be able virtually to observe a science as it is undertaken this directly is a gift of the Internet to both working and would be herpetologists. Other sciences and studies of all kinds are emerging similar virtual observation networks for their knowledge as it develops. Animal Sciences