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: the Met Museum’s Open Access

Looking for digital images for your students to use in projects? The Metropolitan Museum of Art has made thousands of public domain images available.

On February 7, 2017, The Metropolitan Museum of Art implemented a new policy known as Open Access, which makes images of artworks it believes to be in the public domain widely and freely available for unrestricted use, and at no cost…We encourage you to explore the images of artworks the Museum believes to be in the public domain by visiting Collection and selecting the “Public Domain Artworks” filter in the left-hand column.

The featured image is a silk dress from the 1750s from the collection that is not currently on display.  For more information on the availability of images (and data from images that are still restricted), read the rest of their post here.

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.


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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: Open Educational Resources @AVU

Need sources in multiple languages or from other countries? You can find open educational resources in English, French, and Portuguese at OER@AVU, an initiative of the African Virtual University.

These resources are mostly in the physical sciences, but they don’t have to be used for just that — in a global studies unit, you could use them as an example of what students in Senegal (for instance) are studying.

African Virtual University (AVU) is “a Pan African Intergovernmental Organization whose aim is to significantly increase access to quality higher education and training through the innovative use of Information and Communication Technologies.”  The governments involved are from Kenya, Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Cote d’Ivoire, Tanzania, Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Benin, Ghana, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Niger, and South Sudan.

What’s at Stake: Government-Supported Humanities

Government support for scientific research is going to be the subject of another march on Washington, D.C. very soon. And support for both basic and applied scientific research is clearly important: it’s led to important discoveries that impact our health and well-being on a daily basis.  Basic research provides the building blocks for applied research:

Major innovation is rarely possible without prior generation of new knowledge founded on basic research. Strong scientific disciplines and strong collaboration between them are necessary both for the generation of new knowledge and its application. Retard basic research and inevitably innovation and application will be stifled.

For example, studying systems biology has led to a new understanding about how medications can interact in the body, and how they’ll interact with the food we eat. Practical outcome: if you’re taking iron supplements, taking a stomach medication like Pepcid will reduce the amount of iron that your body will actually absorb, and eating foods high in vitamin C will increase the amount.

But the federal government doesn’t only fund science!  It also funds the humanities: history, art, philosophy, literature, and languages — all the aspects of human cultural constructs.  The National Endowment for the Humanities funds a tremendous amount of work by local governments, universities, public libraries, and independent scholars engaged in the production, dissemination, and preservation of culture.

A small sample from the list of NEH grant recipients in New York’s 1st congressional district (the east end of Long Island) in the past ten years can illustrate this more clearly:

  • a public library needing to purchase storage furniture to rehouse and preserve collections of books, maps, photographs, diaries, and whaling logs used in research and exhibitions on the history and culture of Sag Harbor, New York, from the eighteenth century to the present.
  • a musicologist requesting assistance in preparation for publication of volumes 4, 8, 13, 19, and 21 of the complete online digital edition of the secular music of Luca Marenzio.
  • a town needing training in disaster preparedness to preserve the town’s historical records from 1640 on, comprising over 6,500 cubic feet of manuscripts, maps, bound volumes, photographs, newspapers, and other published and unpublished materials.
  • support for four Iraqi professional archaeologists to attend an intensive training program in Remote Sensing and GIS and to survey archaeological sites in the key Nippur, Uruk and Eridu survey areas for evidence of site damage from looting and development, recording new sites, ancient landscape features and intra-site details.
  • a professor writing a book on how people with cognitive disabilities have been and should be dealt with in philosophy both with respect to what is due them and with respect to what is conducive to their good.

NEH funding made a re-creation of John Donne’s “Gunpowder Speech” possible, a project that made a virtual reality St. Paul’s Cathedral: the featured image is St. Paul’s Churchyard, looking east, from the west; from the Visual Model constructed by Joshua Stephens and rendered by Jordan Gray.  Important because the five hundred-year old cathedral burned down in London’s Great Fire of 1666.  The project allows us to experience what it was like for someone in 1622 (minus the smells, of course) — very different from the present-day cathedral!  And if you’re thinking “that’s nice, but I don’t see the connection to real life” think about how useful this technique would be for solving crimes, or diagnosing illness long distance, and so on!

Does an organization in your community have a project that needs funding? Involving your students in the grant application process could be a real learning experience, demonstrating the importance of federal government funding for the humanities.


BulbgraphOnOffUse social media such as Instagram to document student’s finished projects.


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

Resource Highlight: the Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History

Time travel using art with the Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History at the Metropolitan Museum of Art: essays, art images and objects, and chronologies that use the Met’s fabulous collection to delve into the contexts that made the art possible.  For example, the featured image is “Bowl with Human Feet” and it is thousands of years old.

Period: Predynastic, Late Naqada l–Naqada II
Date: ca. 3900–3650 B.C.
Geography: From Egypt
Medium: Polished red pottery
Dimensions: diam. 13.2 x W. 13.7 x D. 9.8 cm (5 3/16 x 5 3/8 x 3 7/8 in.)
Credit Line: Rogers Fund, 1910
Accession Number: 10.176.113

Timeline situating the art in context.
Timeline situating the bowl in context.

The timelines have annotated entries that give more information about the society that produced the art.  (There are also links to publications and slideshows from the Met that feature the image or object.)  More generally, the essays cover topics as diverse as African Lost-Wax Casting through Great Plains Indians Musical Instruments to the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368).

How would your students explain today’s artworks?