I've been finding a lot of interesting civic education/political transparency projects recently, so I thought I'd share a few:
The first, Legistalker, is an easy way to track the online presence of your political representatives. Simply input a name and you'll be delivered a digest of the official's most recent tweets, YouTube videos, press mentions, and more. If you're a perennial political stalker, you can create a "watch list" and grow your portfolio.
White House 2, on the other hand, is more of a political experiment. The site imagines "how the White House might work if it was run completely democratically by thousands of people over the internet." Users suggest proposals, vote on those they find the most compelling, and generally debate. Good for the closet policy wonk.
Finally, Sunlight Foundation's Party Time allows the ordinary citizen to follow the political party circuit. The site provides up-to-date information on all fundraisers, luncheons, receptions, and benefits. Plus, it collects data on who's involved, who attends, who donates, so those who aren't just political gossip hounds can analyze the relationships and social behavior of policymakers.
Hmmm...these could get addictive.
So these links aren't really that ed-relevant, but they are two examples of the internet made tangible, something I generally find interesting.
The first, the Internet Mapping Project, is a collection of drawings that depict internet users' perceptions of the web in physical space. Basically, "folk" drawings of their homes online. Here's one:
I don't really know what kind of grand "wisdom" comes out of these types of experiments, but there's something enjoyable about them.
The second project, which has gotten some press recently, is a more direct virtual-to-physical connection. Lance Armstrong's Livestrong Foundation has created the Chalkbot, a spray-painting robot which chalks inspiring tweets and text messages (submitted online and by phone) on the road along the Tour de France. Intro video after the jump:
Is Facebook a "modern incarnation of white flight"? According to new research on social networking and social division, sites like Facebook are actually doing more to maintain class and racial divisions than they are to bring users together. While Facebook users tend to be white, upper or upper-middle-class college-bound students, MySpace users are more likely to be nonwhite and less educated, thus representing a clear divide.
Much of this division presumably stems from Facebook's orig...
I never thought I'd be posting here based off of a source from ESPN, but I just came across this article about how Facebook and other social networking sites are changing the way high school athletes are recruited by major colleges.
According to the story, high school sports stars are now using their Facebook pages to self-promote, hoping to make themselves all the more attractive to coaches and recruiters. In addition, college-age fans of these adolescent athletes are using social media to attempt to lure their favorite stars to their respective schools.
The phenomenon reminded me a little of sites like Zinch.com, which advertises itself as a way for students to "showcase" themselves to admissions officers and for admissions officers to promote their schools to students.
How do these kinds of techniques change the balance of the college admissions process? There's been a lot of talk about how social networking profiles can negatively affect a student's shot at the school of his or her choice. Will managing a student's internet presence in a positive sense soon become a new step in the increasingly complex college applications process?
Recently, while browsing around the web, I came across Gever Tulley's Tinkering School, a summer program that acts as an alternative to what Tulley sees as an obsession with child safety and overly structured programming for kids.
Instead of a prescribed schedule, Tulley offers the kids the opportunity to take real risks, use power tools, build their own projects, take apart machines, and do some very serious play. The Tinkering School participants (most of whom are under 10) build roller coasters, small bridges, and boats, take apart household appliances, use knives, drills, and saws, and much more.
While we mostly talk about play in the context of digital media, I thought that Tulley's conclusions were still a nice description of some of the benefits of unrestricted creativity and risk-taking. In his various Ted Talks and on his website, Tulley makes the claim that giving kids freedom in "dangerous" territory and allowing them to play with complex tools and machines will make them more confident, creative, and insightful adults with intuitive understandings of the world around them.
From a digital perspective, are their ways in which we curtail students' use of technology when we might be better served to give them free rein?
If you've ever found guilty narcissistic pleasure in the Googling of your own name, AllofMe is the tool for you! Though it's still very much in beta, the new site searches a variety of sources for hits on your name and plots these results on a timeline, providing you with an ego-boosting macro view of your accomplishments and claims to fame online over time.
In all seriousness, however, I think this tool could have some neat ed appl...
Surprises About Teen Media Use
Lately, I've been checking out the recent Nielsen report (embedded after the jump) on teens and media use, and have found their conclusions pretty interesting. A few tidbits:
1. Apparently, teenage TV watching has actually increased over the last five years, despite the rise in popularity of new media and availability of content online.
2. 1 out of 4 teens reads a print newspaper daily.
3. Teenagers spend less than half the time browsing the internet that adults do.
4. Teens' favorite websites and media content are essentially the same as their parents'.
Hm. So...despite all the hubbub over tech-literate teens who absorb information in a whole new way, the "teen tech pioneer" image may in fact only be surface level. Despite the Facebook/MySpace craze, teens don't really exhibit radically new media consumption habits.
Maybe this shouldn't be all that surprising. After all, the newest information-sharing fads like Twitter or social bookmarking aren't really teen-centric. When I think of the college and high school students I know, most of their online habits are restricted to Facebook, school assignments, and maybe the occasional YouTube video (though according to Nielsen, 25 to 34 year olds watch many more online videos than teens).
Calli and I are getting ready to enter another phase of our ongoing project on online research tools, and we have a draft of a survey (a revised version of one we posted earlier) that will soon be going out to various college students.
It would be really helpful if some of you could take our survey and give us any feedback you can think of about the design of the questions, topics covered etc.
The broad major research questions behind the survey are, "How do college students go about performing academic research?" "What are their frustrations or needs when it comes to the re...
Search Engines That Won't Get You Where You Want to Go But Are More Fun to Use Than Google
Sometimes, searching can get a little banal, right? Sure, you find what you're looking for (at least in theory) but the experience isn't all that exciting. Well, here are a few sites that inject a little inspired serendipity and style into the search process (though you may not end up where you intended...).
[Sorry if any of these are old news!]
So I was checking out this digital fiction project today called We Tell Stories, which was launched about a year ago through Penguin Books in the UK.
Basically, the project revolves around six writers who each created a digitally-infused short story based off of a classic novel. The storytelling methods are pretty conceptually interesting--one uses Google Maps as a backdrop, another tells the story through interconnected blogs and allows users to twitter and email the characters. After sampling each of them, though, I couldn't help feeling like the technology was just...there. Maybe it's just my familiarity with traditional storytelling techniques, but I felt like the stories as they were produced didn't really compel me as much as the idea of them did.
I feel like I'm consistently let down by these kinds of projects that try to infuse technology into fiction but still rely somewhat on text. Does anyone have any examples of some really good projects?