A World Without Children, or at Least a Policy Without Them!

The thought experiments of certain social theories are not far off from such stories. So very many people have attempted to imagine the nature of a human isolated from social connections. Chapter XIII in Thomas Hobbes’ book, The Leviathan would be a good example. So, would be the calculations of many rational choice theorists, those attempting to find the self-interest in just about any human interaction.

— Source: northierthanthou

An interesting meditation on how the best (certainly the most widely read and influential) science fiction is always about social science.

Whether your class is studying politics, history, economics, or geography, there is fiction that imagines what changing a particular parameter or two of that world would do to social relations.  From the fantasy world of L. Frank Baum, author of The Wizard of Oz series, which can be read as an allegory of late 19th century American politics, to Ursula K. Le Guin, author of The Left Hand of Darkness, which examined gender roles and relations, science fiction can provide a window into examining your subject, helping students to make connections and evaluate arguments.

Spring Equinox

The March equinox is when the days and nights are of equal length as the days get longer and the nights get shorter in the northern hemisphere and vice versa in the southern hemisphere.  This change in the angle of the sun is the result of the earth’s orbit, which causes its tilting axis to point in a different direction.  And it means that spring is starting in the northern hemisphere and fall is starting in the southern hemisphere.  In 2017, the vernal equinox falls on Monday, March 20th.

Learn more about how the earth’s orbit and axis tilt work in WorldView Software’s World Geography Chapter 2: The Earth.  For example, you can use this graphic (with introduction and questions) to spark class discussion, or as a starting point for a demonstration:

Screen grab from World Geography

The equinoxes (like the solstices) are events that have huge impacts on life on earth (think: growing food).  And given that importance, they’ve had a tremendous impact on the development of methods to keep track of and predict their occurrence: mathematics.  For example, it’s thought that Stonehenge’s purpose is tracking solar and lunar movements:

Screen grab from World History A

WorldView Software’s World History A also has a terrific series of tutorials explaining how mathematics based on observance of astronomical phenomena developed in different civilizations:

  • Ancient Chinese Science, Technology, and Mathematics
  • Ancient Indian Science and Mathematics
  • Greek Accomplishments in Science, Technology, and Mathematics
  • Math and Technology in the River Valley Civilizations
  • Science, Mathematics, and Technology in the Islamic Caliphates
  • Technical Trends in Pre-Columbian Latin America

Use the equinox as a springboard into history!


BulbgraphOnOffUse the chronology entries to gain context for an event or an era, or as a starting point for further research.


Preview WorldView Software’s programs for free at company logohttp://www.worldviewsoftware.com/preview/

Famous Women Inventors for #WomensHistoryMonth

For Women’s History Month, check out one of the inventors profiled at Famous Women Inventors.  For example, Hollywood star Hedy Lamarr (pictured above):

Although better known for her Silver Screen exploits, Austrian actress Hedy Lamarr (born Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler) also became a pioneer in the field of wireless communications following her emigration to the United States. The international beauty icon, along with co-inventor George Anthiel, developed a “Secret Communications System” to help combat the Nazis in World War II. By manipulating radio frequencies at irregular intervals between transmission and reception, the invention formed an unbreakable code to prevent classified messages from being intercepted by enemy personnel.

Lamarr is a great example of someone who doesn’t fit the geek stereotype, which can lead to a fruitful classroom discussion.  And hat tip to Gringa of the Barrio for alerting me to this resource!

[Image is a publicity still from the movie Comrade X (1940). By MGM / Clarence Bull – eBay item 262147225708 – Archive copy at the Wayback Machine (archived on 18 November 2015), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=45092010%5D

Resource Highlight: Global Voices and Watching America

Ever wonder what the rest of the world is thinking? Global Voices is a collection of news articles and opinion pieces from around the world.

We curate, verify and translate trending news and stories you might be missing on the Internet, from blogs, independent press and social media in 167 countries.

If you’re wondering what the rest of the world is thinking about America specifically, look no further than Watching America.  This is a collection of translations by volunteers, with quick links to more content translated by machine.

WatchingAmerica makes available in English articles written about the U.S. by foreigners, often for foreign audiences, and often in other languages. Since WatchingAmerica offers its own translations, regular users of our site will enjoy articles not available in English anywhere else. We are a unique window into world opinion.

Particularly in an era dominated by fake news (and charges of fake news), news from diverse sources is extremely important. Break out of the bubble!

#EdTech Posts of Interest

Two very interesting recent posts from blog Seattle Education about edtech — where it came from, and where it’s going.

computer motherboard

You cannot fully understand what is happening with Future Ready school redesign, 1:1 device programs, embedded assessments, gamification, classroom management apps, and the push for students in neighborhood schools to supplement instruction with online courses until you grasp the role the federal government and the Department of Defense more specifically have played in bringing us to where we are today.

— Source: “How exactly did the Department of Defense end up in my child’s classroom?” by Seattle Education

Focus group results have been refined into sophisticated campaigns designed to convince us that digital education for children is superior to face-to-face instruction with a certified teacher. The goal? Put technology front and center in 21st century school redesign, and push human beings to the sidelines…If it’s innovative, it must be good. Personalization? Bring it on! And for students in underfunded schools with leaky roofs and tainted water, the arrival of technology brings a glimmer of hope that someone actually cares. But are we bridging a digital divide? Or are we setting our schools up for digital dehumanization down the road?

— Source: “Hybrid Learning, Cicada Killers & the Next Big Fight” by Seattle Education

As a very small social studies publisher, we see these developments from both ends: the DoD/DARPA connection is dominated by large companies and foundations with a particular guiding educational philosophy — one we don’t share.  We believe that learning requires true interactivity, and that true interactivity requires software that can respond to different interests.  Our design makes it possible for students and teachers to proceed as they see fit through our wealth of content, whether they want to get a basic grasp of a subject or explore it in depth.  Our software uses your web browser, which makes it as accessible as possible, to as wide a range of students as possible.

And while we provide in-program assessments at several levels, as well as reporting for teachers — although quite rudimentary compared to the meta data and para data described in the post! — we do not envision our software as a teacher replacement.  Everything we design rests on the assumption that a human teacher is guiding the learning process, and will be there to explain, assist, and evaluate.

It is possible to use digital educational tools that don’t demand souls as payment!

At the Intersection of Math, Geography, and Politics

Which would you rather have, a town council made up of at-large members or a town council made up of representatives from specific districts? The first is where each one is elected by the entire town and the second is where a council member is voted for only by residents in that district. If the answer is the latter, then you need to consider how the districts should be drawn.

That’s the work that Professor Moon Duchin at Tufts University is doing: applying research in the field of metrical geometry on mathematical measures of compactness to the problem of drawing political districts. She says:

People just have the idea that it means the shape shouldn’t be too weird, shouldn’t be too eccentric; it should be a kind of reasonable shape. Lots of people have taken a swing at that over the years. Which definition you choose actually has stakes. It changes what maps are acceptable and what maps aren’t. If you look at the Supreme Court history, what you’ll see is that a lot of times, especially in the ’90s, the court would say, Look, some shapes are obviously too bizarre but we don’t know how to describe the cutoff. How bizarre is too bizarre?

When districts are drawn compactly, they are fair.  When they aren’t you get gerrymandering, as in this example:

map showing two discontiguous areas making up one district
Illinois’ 4th Congressional District, 108th Congress

Learn more about redistricting (also known as reapportionment) in WorldView Software’s U.S. Government Map: Massachusetts 4th Congressional District.

[The featured image is the original cartoon of “The Gerry-Mander”, the political cartoon that led to the coining of the term. The district depicted in the cartoon was created by Massachusetts legislature to favor the incumbent Democratic-Republican party candidates of Governor Elbridge Gerry over the Federalists in 1812. By Elkanah Tisdale (1771-1835) and originally published in the Boston Centinel, 1812.]


BulbgraphOnOffWhen assigning students an internet project, remind them they can refer to the “Internet Research Primer” tutorial for help.


Preview WorldView Software’s programs for free at company logohttp://www.worldviewsoftware.com/preview/

How Landscape Managers Think about Local Landscapes

By conducting qualitative interviews with local staff … we uncovered four different narratives – in other words, storylines – about what Cornwall’s landscapes are, how they are affected by climate change, and how one should adapt to these changes. These four narratives conceptualise the Cornish landscapes as:

  • the region’s basis for economic growth
  • an intermediate result of an ongoing human-environment relationship
  • a mosaic of wildlife and habitats;
  • and a space for production, e.g. of agricultural goods.

By identifying these different narratives, we show that although superficially often understood as one and the same thing, the concept of landscape means very different things to different actors concerned with its management.

Source: How Landscape Managers Think about Local Landscapes

[Such differing conceptions obviously have a great impact on the policy options preferred. Pick a landscape in your area and survey how people feel about it (U.S. Government Project: Conducting a Poll) and how those feelings would impact the uses to which the landscape is put (U.S. Government Project: Environmental Impact Statements).]