Resource Highlight: Libraries+ Network

Had enough of “big data”?  Check out the consortium effort to rescue “small data” created by the U.S. federal government data at the site Libraries+ Network.

The Libraries+ Network is a nascent consortium of research libraries, library organizations, and open data communities with a shared interest in saving, preserving, and making accessible born-digital federal government information upon which researchers, citizens, and communities rely.

The effort is particularly focused on federal agencies who’ve had their funding cut (or are proposed to be eliminated altogether).  Their videos and blog are a terrific way to introduce students to the issues in data gathering, storing, and accessing.

Resource Highlight: the IT History Society

The IT History Society is an international group of over 700 members working together to document, preserve, catalog, and research the history of Information Technology (IT). One of their most useful things for students and teachers on their site is an International Database of Historical and Archival Sites, where you can look up and research everything from pre-Apple history to ZZT-oop (an early in-game scripting programming language). The databases are listed alphabetically, and can be sorted by institution or country.

PROGRAM UPDATE: Evaluating Fake News

New for 2017, WorldView Software’s U.S. Government: An Interactive Approach has resources for learning about how to distinguish real news from fake.

Chapter 5: The Media overview section “Newer Media” has been updated to discuss the propaganda phenomenon, with corresponding factual and conceptual questions for assessment as well as additional vocabulary terms in the glossary.

Screenshot of the updated Chapter 5: The Media.

And that’s not all!  The Tutorial: Social Media has been updated to include information on how to evaluate news articles, including the handy flowchart from the Featured Image for instant appraisal (this updated tutorial is also available in American History II: Reconstruction to the Present).

Finally, the Graph: Primary Sources of News has been updated to show how online news sources overtook other mediums:

Screenshot of the updated Graph: Primary Sources of News

BulbgraphOnOffArt images can be used to discuss the differences between visual and textual sources.

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THOMAS retires

The Library of Congress has retired the THOMAS legislative information service and replaced it with The new portal is more up-to-date technology-wise (including responsive design, so it works on any size device), and has more features that make it useful for teachers.

Among those features are:

  • Congressional Record
  • refined searches
  • status of legislation tracker
  • downloadable xml bulk data on bill status
  • committee hearings and reports
  • legislative and member email alerts
  • executive communications
  • status of nominations
  • text of treaties
  • video integration
  • member pages

This last feature is really great, because has information on past members as well as current ones, lists of legislation sponsored and cosponsored (and how far they got in the journey to become law), and biographies.  If you’re looking for congressional documents from the first 100 years of the U.S. Congress (1774-1875), they can be accessed through A Century of Lawmaking.

Have more questions? See the FAQ section here

BulbgraphOnOffUse a data visualization (map or graph/chart) to deepen students’ understanding of quantitative information.

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#EdTech: WiFi Hotspots and the Digital Divide

As you may know, in late March, the FCC approved an expansion of  Lifeline discounts on phone service to include home internet access.  While this may help some, the truth is that in some areas, it still won’t be enough, whether because of lack of money and/or of infrastructure (such as the lack of broadband services period).  The digital divide is real:

Nationwide, families in neighborhoods with median household incomes below $34,800 — the lowest fifth of neighborhoods nationally — are five times more likely not to have access to broadband than households in areas with a median income above $80,700 — the top fifth, according to a Center for Public Integrity investigation.

This blog has previously noted (see #EdTech and the Human 1.0) that not only is internet access critical, how it is accessed is also critical.  Mobile is great, but to really do research or create something, the power, capabilities, and input devices of a desktop are necessary.  That previous post also noted survey research that illustrates the large and growing gap between people who can access the internet in many ways, and those who do so primarily through their phones.

One solution to this dilemma is mobile wifi hotspots — portable 4G LTE WiFi devices using cellular networks to create a personal broadband Internet hotspot.  Public libraries are pioneers in using this technology.  The New York Public Library trialed lending wifi hotspots with the help of grants from the Knight News Challenge; this is from their grant proposal:

The program will provide essentially 24/7 quality access to those who are currently limited to accessing the Internet during a 40-minute, once-a-day time slot at one of NYPL’s 92 physical facilities, allowing them to continue to learn, work, explore, and create even after library doors have closed. In short, this effort will connect wired users who live in disconnected households, fostering an expanded community for reading, learning, and creativity.

NYPL’s initial program was for the 2014-2015 school year, as it worked in partnership with the NYC school system, and lent to parents with children enrolled in the library’s educational programs.  It was so successful that a second round was approved, with expanded eligibility for borrowing.

Depending on where you live and what kind of access your students have at home, such a program might be worth developing in your school district.  If funding is tight, in addition to grant money there are programs that can assist.  The biggest one is probably the E-Rate program from USAC that provides discounted telecommunications services for schools and libraries.  According to the U.S. Department of Education:

The Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) is an independent, not-for-profit corporation created in 1997 to collect universal service contributions from telecommunications carriers and administer universal support mechanisms (programs) designed to help communities across the country secure access to affordable telecommunications services. USAC carries out its functions as the administrator of the federal universal service programs and Universal Service Fund (USF) under the oversight of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). USAC administers universal service programs for high cost companies in rural areas, low-income consumers, rural health care providers, and schools and libraries.

Note: As a company, we have an interest in this.  Increased access at home means you could “flip” your class and have students use our programs at home as well as at school.  As Jessica Rosenworcel, a member of the US Federal Communications Commission, has noted, the “homework gap” of students without broadband at home are “holding our education system back” because teachers won’t assign digital homework if they fear that their students lack safe and consistent Internet access.

BulbgraphOnOffHave a question about what a program element does? Click on the Help icon for detailed information.

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Open Educational Resources (OERs)

Open Educational Resources (OERs) are freely available, openly licensed documents and media that are useful for teaching, learning, and assessing.  OERs are part of the movement for open access to code, data, and information, and have the power to revolutionize how you teach.

If you’re new to OERs, a really great starter kit explaining the concept has been assembled by the folks at Edutopia, available here.  They go over the terms used in OER discussions, such as explaining what “creative commons” licensing is, and introduce resource collections.  More resources are also available from OERCommons and from the Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources (CCCOER).

While WorldView Software’s programs are not OERs (they are copyrighted), they are still free to preview, which means that teachers can access the material — which is up-to-date, written by content-area experts, and has been correlated to state and national standards in social studies — and use it in the classroom or assign it individually to students.  Because it’s software, it’s able to handle much more content than a regular print textbook, yet flexible enough to use as workbook for practice or enrichment.

Our business model depends on the value we add; where we make our money is from the ability to save responses (including computer-graded assessments) and to run reports on those responses, including aggregate reports for your class.  This “back-office” action allows you to spend more time on customizing instruction for each student, reflecting on your own teaching process as you interpret the aggregate reports, and on deep research.

One other note: the more OERs you use, the more bandwidth you’ll need.  If your school, library, or consortium doesn’t already apply for the e-rate for schools and libraries, definitely put the application deadline on the calendar for next year!

BulbgraphOnOffConceptual questions test students’ ability to use their knowledge of the material in analysis, such as making inferences and evaluations.

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Internet Trends 2016

Mary Meeker, an analyst at Kleiner Perkins, does what is commonly regarded as an annual tour-de-force presentation on internet trends at Code Conference. The data give a dynamic picture of where the world is and where it seems to be heading.  Why should educators be reading this? Two reasons: it’s a way to introduce your students to forecasting, and it’s a way for you to see how your teaching environment may change with technology.

Meeker’s latest is available here, and we highly recommend you read it.  All 213 slides of it!  (Keep a browser window open while you read — if you don’t speak finance, you’re going to want to do some googling.  There’s a video of her presentation as well, but being able to research while you read will help more.)

First, this is a pretty good preview of what the world holds in store for your students.  Use it to spark debate and discussion — can they dream up ways in which these trends will manifest in their own lives? What alternate futures can they envision?

One way to envision the future is to tell stories suggested by the data.  The National Intelligence Council has been doing this for several years, and the publications in their Global Trends archive are available to the public. In the  report imagining the year 2030, the following scenarios were made into stories, each written in the style of and from the point of view of a different person:

chart summarizing potential worlds in 2030(A new Global Trends report is published every four years following the U.S. presidential election, so the next one is in the process of being prepared.)

Your students can either examine the data presented and evaluate the conclusions, as this commenter did on Twitter recently for Meeker’s Internet Trends 2016 report:

You and your students can take a turn at generating data and telling their own stories of how they think things might turn out.  And remember, it doesn’t have to be global data — it could be data about their school or city, for example.

A terrific example of this type of analysis is Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 document, which will be used as a blueprint to determine their political and economic future.  The reformation includes diversifying their economy away from oil dependence, opening their culture (marginally) to women and expatriate labor, and their politics away from dependence on the biggest buyers of oil, particularly the United States.  “Saudi is basically diversifying away from the dependency on one revenue source, one country source, and one market to many markets,” according to one expert.

The second reason to read Meeker’s presentation is because it gives some insight into how the edtech environment is changing, and in what directions.  For example, when she talks about ‘hyper-targeted marketing’ she’s talking about what data can be collected and analyzed to better serve your audience — the same thing can be done for students.

slide titled "Hyper-Targeted Marketing = Driving Growth for Retailers / Products / Brands"
Slide from Mary Meeker’s 2016 Internet Trends presentation.

What will be done with the resulting data that will be collected, aggregated, correlated, and interpreted from everything in or around your classroom?  Aside from the privacy issues, what will it mean for teaching and learning?  What does this mean for the way you assess a student’s grasp of a concept? How will test design change?  How will classroom management change?

Or consider how the growth in video — use of which is one of the defining features of “Generation Z” — will impact your teaching process.  It’s not a question of if you’ll be incorporating video, but how.

BulbgraphOnOffFactual questions test recall — use them to check students’ grasp of the material.

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