Archives for January 2006
NARST Early Registration Extended
The president-elect of NARST sent out a note extending the early registration deadline for NARST to Feb. 5.
Unfortunately, the Simon Fraser University which hosts the NARST website had its webservers hacked into this week. They are rebuilding the servers but it has meant that sections of the NARST website are not available and it is impossible to download the registration form, the draft program or access reviewers comments on your proposals. As the deadline for registering at the cheaper rate was today, I am attaching the registration form in case you have been unable to obtain a copy and extending the deadline for registration at this rate till Sunday Feb 5. Hopefully the website will be fully functional by next Monday.
The registration form was enclosed via email; I’m not bothering to put it up here, but if you’re desperate for the form before Sunday, drop me an email.
Social Explorer is a very cool interactive map implemented in Flash with a GIS server backend. The maps are all social science-oriented, primarily census data. It’s incredibly quick and has some pretty sophisticated rendering: zoom in to see counties, then census tracts and roads.
We’re [Update: “we” as in my family] thinking of moving so it’s also an interesting way to scope out potential affordable communities (use the Housing maps from the Census), even though the census data is from 2000.
Updated VPedal for Windows Instructions
[Update 1/31/06 -- Oops, forgot to include the link to the instructions.]
We've just updated the instructions for using VPedal with the Windows version of InqScribe.
Our previous script started InqScribe automatically for you, but it was causing problems for some people.
Also, we've had requests to find better unused keys on the keyboard, as the previous script relied on the numeric keypad. We're now using ALT with Home/End/PgUp/PgDn to control the video, which ought not interfere with most standard keystrokes. If you've installed the previous script, you'll need to re-assign the keys in InqScribe to use the ALT key combinations.
Let us know if you have any problems.
ArsTechnica has a short piece pointing to a range of sources for educational podcasts. In addition to the ones listed there, I’d like to add a plug for Research Channel, which hosts tons of video content from educational organizations. The University of Washington in particular has a surprising amount of content online.
Video Games and Learning
The second annual Games, Learning & Society conference is taking place June 15-16 in Madison, Wisconsin. The conference aims to foster substantive discussion about how video games can enhance learning, culture and education.
I’ve often thought about the lessons that video game designers might teach us designers of educational software, with some degree of envy (“if only our software could be that motivating!”) and some degree of skepticism (“could there ever be a school-relevant equivalent of Madden Football”?). The simple fact that folks love to play video games is enough reason to borrow some lessons in the design of educational software.
But, aside from my own first-hand experiences with video games and occasional glimpses inside the gaming industry (like Randy Pausch’s Academic’s Field Guide to Electronic Arts), what those game designers do has remained a mystery to me. Maybe the folks at GLS will figure it out.
InqScribe Runs on Intel iMacs
Today we had a chance to fire up InqScribe on one of the new Intel-based iMacs. It runs just fine. We can’t take credit for this; Apple’s done a very nice job with their Rosetta technology that translates PowerPC-native code on the fly.
At some point down the road, we’ll release an Intel-native version of InqScribe for Mac (of course, Windows users can get an Intel-native version for Windows right now), but in the meantime, rest assured that InqScribe will run on Apple’s new toys.
Tip: Create a SkipForward Shortcut
InqScribe has a useful SkipBack keyboard shortcut. Assigned to a key of your choice, Skipback jumps back in time by an amount that you specify. When you are transcribing in InqScribe, the SkipBack key is great for those “what did they just say” moments. You can hit it once to go back a little ways, or hit it several times to go back farther.
Recently, someone asked us if there was a Skip Forward shortcut that complemented SkipBack. There isn’t — we hadn’t thought to include one — but you can create a virtual Skip Forward shortcut by creating a New SkipBack shortcut and setting the duration of the skip to a negative number. So if you want a shortcut that skips ahead 10 seconds, just enter “-10” in a new SkipBack shortcut.
Learning to Think Spatially
The National Research Council has just released its report on GIS use in classrooms, Learning to Think Spatially: GIS as a Support System in the K-12 Curriculum. The report examines how spatial thinking could be incorporated into existing standards-based instruction, using support systems such as GIS. You can purchase the report from the NAP website or read it online for free.
One of the report’s key findings is this:
GIS should be redesigned to accommodate the full range of learners and school contexts, to be more developmentally and educationally appropriate, to be easier to teach and to learn, and to accommodate the current levels of computing equipment.
Sounds to me a lot like the My World GIS software, developed at Northwestern University. Inquirium is currently contracted to the My World GIS Project to assist in the design, evaluation, and implementation of the software in and for classrooms.
How to play .wmv and .wma files on Mac OS X
Great news for Mac users! Microsoft has discontinued support for Windows Media Player on OS X, and is now recommending that Mac users download Flip4Mac’s WMV plugin to play Windows Media format files (.wmv, .wma, and .asf) within QuickTime.
Flip4Mac has been around for a while, but what’s new is that, via a deal with Microsoft, the WMV plugin is now free and Microsoft is actively distributing it.
This means that Mac InqScribe users can now transcribe .wma, .wmv, and .asf format files. The only trick, once you install Flip4Mac, is that InqScribe hasn’t been updated to regard those file formats as playable files. So what you need to do is hold down the Option key when you click the “Select File…” button (or use the Media > Define Media File… menu item). This step lets you select any file, rather than limiting you to only those files InqScribe thinks it can play.
Ironically, this means that InqScribe supports Windows Media files on Mac OS before it supports them on Windows. But Windows users, be patient. This is a temporary condition.
Assessing Web Sites: Don't Blink
As if web site developers need more stress, a new study in Nature finds that visitors’ first (and most important) impression of a site can occur in as little as 50 milliseconds. That gives new meaning to “Internet time.”
New Journal: Cultural Studies of Science Education
Ken Tobin passes on a pointer to a new science education journal. He and W-M Roth are editors.
Cultural Studies of Science Education aims to provide an interactive platform for researchers working in the multidisciplinary fields of cultural studies and science education. By taking a cultural approach and paying attention to theories from cultural studies, this new journal will reflect the current diversity in the study of science education in a variety of contexts, including schools, museums, zoos, laboratories, parks and gardens, aquariums and community development, maintenance and restoration.
Google Earth now available for the Mac
Just as Google Earth for PC is leaving beta, here comes Google Earth for the Mac. Now mac users can join the PC community in mapping just about anything on the planet. My favorite trick is zooming from outer space to my house in 12.4 seconds. The download is free, and very cool.
Tips on writing learning blogs
Kathy Sierra’s Creating Passionate Users site has a really nice overview of principles to keep in mind when writing a “learning blog:” A Crash Course in Learning Theory.
One of the things I really like about this is that unlike in Academia where we get so used to evaluating everything in terms of who has the RIGHT or BEST theory, all she’s concerned about here is integrating ideas that work from many arenas, including cognitive, game theory, etc.
Quality Counts 2006
EdWeek has published its 10th annual report on educational progress.
Quality Counts celebrates its 10th year with a special online version, available free of charge for a limited time, beginning January 4 at 10 a.m. Eastern time. A paid subscription will be required to view the entire report online after February 4. The online version of Quality Counts 2006 provides features to help users navigate the reportís rich content and find the data they need quickly and easily. Each feature story includes links to key sources and organizations. In addition, users can quickly access each stateís policy report card using an interactive state map. A special data-analysis feature enables users to review all indicators for a single state or compare results across two or more states. Fifty-state data tables are downloadable in PDF and Excel formats.
You can easily access reports by state from this page. Note that EdWeek is moving these reports behind their paywall February 4, so have a look while they are available.
Learning Sciences Handbook to be Released
Looks like the field of the Learning Sciences is about to get its first handbook, to be released in April 2006 by Cambridge University Press. The book provides an overview of LS-inspired learning environments, organized by key areas of the field, and includes entries from many of the today’s most eminent learning scientists.
Learning Sciences is an 15 year-old interdisciplinary field that studies teaching and learning and engages in the design and implementation of innovative learning environments. The field gave rise to Inquirium (all of us here at Inquirium got our PhDs from Northwestern’s LS program) and has spawned a host of academic programs, departments, and research institutes. The field has its own society, the International Society of the Learning Sciences, and a journal, The Journal of the Learning Sciences.