Resource Highlight: Fragile States Index Data

Data used in the Fragile States Index from The Fund for Peace can be used to create many different kinds of visualizations and explorations: scores and rankings, country dashboards, comparative analyses, trend analysis, FSI heat maps, and so on.  Use it to see which indicators FFP says are getting better or worse in a country, to argue over the political importance/relevance of those indicators, and to spark discussions about methodology.

For example, the United States is a stable country, but according to the index it has been worsening over the years:

Data from the U.S. country dashboard

(One irritating thing about the site is that it’s not responsive, so you will have to enlarge the window until the whole thing fits if you don’t want to continually scroll side-to-side.)

Resource Highlight: the IT History Society

The IT History Society http://www.ithistory.org/ 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.

Resource Highlight: Hip Hop Sheet Music

If your class is researching issues in contemporary American society, you could create a soundtrack using already-recorded music — or you could get the sheet music and play it yourself.  To that end, believe it or not, there is a site that has sheet music for hip hop: http://www.hamienet.com/Hip-Hop/  The featured image above is an electric guitar track from Notorious B.I.G.’s “Mo Money, Mo Problems.”

And if there’s a song to which you want the notation, try creating it with Transcribe!, ScoreCloud, or TwelveKeys software (and remember to share it).

Resource Highlight: National Repository of Online Courses (NROC)

The National Repository of Online Courses (NROC) is a library of online course content for students and faculty in higher education, high school and Advanced Placement. It’s a non-profit project of the Monterey Institute for Technology and Education, an education think tank that is well-funded by competency-based education advocates like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  It also receives funding from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the James Irvine Foundation and from NROC member institutions.

Hippocampus.org has video presentations and interactive activities called simulations available in history, government, sociology, and economics.  These are openly available, and the content collections come from Chattanooga State University, National Geographic, Dallas Learning Solutions, the Virginia Historical Society, and Tom Christian and Thorp School District.

Marked as “contributor content” are the Statistics course and Religions of the World course.  These are available to NROC members only.

Resource Highlight: USAFacts.org

We’ve posted before about sources of U.S. government data, but there’s a new kid on the block: USAFacts, the brainchild of Microsoft billionaire Steve Ballmer. The new site takes publicly available data and makes it easier to query.

Endgadget’s review is mostly glowing: “Oh, and perhaps the most important thing: it’s just beautiful, thanks to help from Seattle-based design firm Artefact. True accessibility requires elegance and simplicity, and USAFacts has it.”

Apparently Ballmer found the existing plethora of resources frustrating according to Recode: “There’s no — at least, I couldn’t find an — integrated source of data, because to me integrated is important. If everything is integrated, everything has to add to 100 percent, no numbers can be taken out of context.”  He wanted something like the 10K report that companies file with the SEC, which is a comprehensive summary report of a company’s performance through financial statements.

CNN says he’s already spent $10 million on researchers in Seattle and at the University of Pennsylvania.  Furthermore, Endgadget reports that he’s willing to spend “several million dollars a year” to keep the service up and running — an important consideration when many transparency initiatives wither after the initial burst of enthusiasm and funding.

But TechDirt notes that the site is not without problems:

“The problem with Ballmer’s site is that it’s not properly open. There isn’t (enough) linking back to source data; there aren’t ways to examine how conclusions are reached; you can’t, in most cases, download their data…In many ways, it’s a black box – it tells you what they say the numbers say, but if you want to be certain, you don’t have any way to query the data properly…It’s a useful start, but it’s honestly hard to see it as $10m worth of a start. Three things that would improve it at once: 1) link back to the source material for each dataset; 2) show the working (and any conflicts in the data; 3) make the datasets downloadable in something other than PDF.

We recommend the site as a way of getting your students’ feet wet with data.  For deeper dives, there are more complete sources, where you can also see how the data were generated and download the datasets.


BulbgraphOnOffClicking on “Questions for Thought” in the overview brings up questions to focus poor readers on the section’s content.


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Resource Highlight: Social Networks and Archival Context (SNAC)

The Social Networks and Archival Context (SNAC) is basically a social network of archives. It’s a bit like one-stop shopping: it exists to help historians and other researchers make connections among the people they are studying by mapping the ways in which they can be connected through archival materials.

From the blog post introducing SNAC to the public:

Let’s look at an example of Shirley Chisholm in SNAC. In just the National Archives Catalog, Chisholm has an authority record and is connected to just five descriptions. There are a pictures of her, an interview, and more… But the Archives is not the only repository to collect Chisholm’s work: 51 collections in SNAC either list her as the creator or have a referenced to her. For example, Chisholm’s letters are located in the New York Public Library.

Not only can you find a single person in multiple archives using SNAC, but you can also find records for people and organizations associated with them — so for Chisholm, some associated names are “major historical figures like Presidents Jimmy Carter and Lyndon Johnson; Shirley Bernard, a professor and an active member of the National Organization of Women; and Constance Baker Motley, an important African American judge and social reformer.” (The featured image is of the network of names associated with Chisholm’s, which also shows if the names were connected apart from their connection through Chisholm.)

This makes SNAC a tremendous tool not only for doing historical research, but for situating research in context.

 

Resource Highlight: archiv.folx.org

Looking for a hornpipe, polka, or gavotte? http://archive.folx.org/ is an online database of traditional and folk music. Find recordings, videos, sheet music, and lots of other information on ethno music from (mostly) Europe.

Sheet music for the traditional reel, “Drogheda Bay”

Note: I personally have terrible memories of being forced to square dance in gym class.  But looking back, I think that what bothered me most was that it was contextless: lining up in the gym and dancing for no reason at all was just stupid and made everyone self-conscious.  Furthermore, if you managed to achieve any kind of facility with the steps, the bell was sure to ring!  However, I’ve also been to events where there were live musicians and folk dances that were a tremendous amount of fun for everyone.  So I think the context matters a great deal for your average student.

If you’re teaching American history, for example, why not have students watch a musical movie such as “Oklahoma” in preparation, discuss what people then needed to do to prepare for a dance, and then plan your own?  Let them dress up or play instruments, and then let the jam session continue from there!