Geography resource links, from a geography pro

December 6, 2007

A professional geographer?

Yeah, they exist — and it’s a booming area. Teachers miss these boats big time, I think, by not getting these professionals into the classroom to show what they do.

Think about it: Geography is a major concern for cellular telephone towers, which are still being constructed by the thousands across the nation. One of the best parts about work at PrimeCo PCS (which became part of Verizon Wireless) was the great sets of maps to work from. Visual data are much more powerful than print on a page; a great secret of PrimeCo’s success was massive use of maps, for the engineers to plan coverage, but also for site acquisition, sales, marketing, and everything else in between.

Consider the use of chips to track shipping palettes; consider the rise in GPS use. Geography is a key player in all transportation and development industries.

So, do your kids know that? Do they know they will be required to be geographically literate — and it can increase their income — when they get a job delivering pizza?

I digress. Here’s a guy, Scott McEachron, with a blog almost-offensively titled 3D – Paving the Way, which he aims to be a resource for users of Autocad 3D. (Oh, so we’re paving the way to using technology, and not laying down concrete and asphalt? Like I said, almost offensive).

His blog has a side bar that shows tremendous, free resources for professional geographers. Can teachers get some use out of these things? Go see: Check the widget titled “Freely Distributed GIS Data.” (Most of the data are free, mostly.)

These are pro resources. They don’t come neatly packaged with suggested lesson plans. You’re going to have to noodle around to see what’s usable in your class, and what is not.

(Dallas teachers? He’s a Dallas guy. Do I sense a guest speaker?)

The difference between science and intelligent design/creationism

December 6, 2007

Or is it just the difference between the rational English and the U.S.?

James K. Wilmot in the Louisville (Kentucky!) Courier-Journal:

Last month in England, I toured the Natural History Museum in London. (It’s free by the way.) They too [with Ken Ham’s Creation Museum] have animatronic dinosaurs. However, that’s where the similarity between this “real” museum and the AIG’s creation museum ends. The NHM of London has 55 million preserved animal specimens, nine million fossils, six million plant specimens and more than 500,000 rocks and minerals.

They have a staff of over 300 scientists working on various projects to gain a better understanding of the Earth and the creatures that inhabit (or did inhabit) our planet. Is there not something wrong when thousands of people are flocking to Northern Kentucky and paying $20 a pop to see a Flintstones-like interpretation of pre-history, and yet anyone who lives in or visits London can see one of the world’s greatest real science centers for free?

According to the Courier-Journal, “James K. Willmot is a former science teacher at St. Francis School in Goshen, Ky., and an environmental laboratory director. He is the author of many articles on science, science education and science understanding. Formerly from Louisville, he now lives in Virginia Water, England.” (Be sure to check out the comments, where advocates of the Creation Museum make the case that it is damaging to education and knowledge.)

Snuffing out math talent

December 6, 2007

Could I cover one block of math? Family emergency, the teacher had to go, math practice assignment was all duplicated, I didn’t have a class at that time . . .


It was a class for kids generally not on the college-bound track, certainly not on the mathematics-intensive path. In a couple of minutes three kids told me they were there because they failed the state math test, the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS). We got into the exercise and found it featured a whole bunch of algebraic equations that would tax my memory of the rules quite well.

As I was struggling to remember how to divide and multiply exponents in fractional forms, 15 minutes into the class a woman handed in the assignment. More than 30 equations done, each one I spot checked done correctly, all the work shown — even beautifully legible handwriting.

“You have a real facility for math,” I said. “Why are you here and not in the calculus-bound class?”

She said she had failed the TAKS math portion. I told her I found that highly unlikely.

“I can’t do story problems,” she said. “I can’t figure out how they should go.”

So here was a mathematics savant, relegated to remedial math because of a difficulty translating prose into equation.

In the old days, we’d take a kid like that, let her run as far and as fast as possible in what she was good at (higher abstract mathematics concepts), and work with her on the story problem thingy. If she’s stuck where she doesn’t learn new concepts, she probably won’t make “adequate yearly progress,” either. We have taken a kid with great math talent, and turned her into a statistic of failure.

It was a flawed sample, of course. 30 kids, one savant, three others not quite as fast but with roughly the same problem: Math is easy for them, prose is not easy, especially when it has to be translated into equations. 4/30 is 13%. Do we have that many mathematically capable kids who we flunk and put into remedial math — 13% of the total?

One way to make sure no child is left behind is to stop the train completely. If the train does not move, no one gets left behind.

No mail gets delivered, no milk gets delivered, people can’t go to far off places to study, or to sell. But nobody gets “left behind.”

Did I mention that the Texas Education Agency fired their science curriculum person in direct violation of Article VI of the U.S. Constitution? Is there a correlation there?

Texas creationism scandal only one of many

December 6, 2007

McBlogger has an interesting, Texas-based take on the scandals at the Texas Education Agency: It’s a hallmark of Republicans in Texas government.

In other words, other agencies are similarly screwed up, and the common thread is Republican appointees out of their depth and unaware of it.

(Do short posts make this place start to look like Instapundit? Looks only — check the substance.)

Tip of the old scrub brush to Bluedaze.

Michigan officially remembers Pearl Harbor attack

December 6, 2007


Press release from Michigan Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm:

Flags to Fly Half-Staff Throughout Michigan on Friday in Honor of Pearl Harbor Day

LANSING – Governor Jennifer M. Granholm today encouraged Michigan citizens to observe Pearl Harbor Day on Friday, December 7, by lowering flags across the state to half-staff and remembering those who lost their lives in the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

“On Pearl Harbor Day, we honor the lives lost in the attack 66 years ago and remember that we enjoy freedom thanks to their supreme sacrifices,” Granholm said. “This year, we also salute the men and women stationed around the world, including those fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, who are defending and protecting our freedom today.”

In December 2005, Granholm signed Executive Order 2005-27 ordering the flag of the United States of America be flown half-staff on all state buildings and facilities throughout the state of Michigan on Pearl Harbor Day each December 7. Procedures for flag lowering, including on Pearl Harbor Day, were detailed by Governor Granholm in Executive Order 2006-10. The Legislature officially recognized the sacrifice of the servicemen and servicewomen who gave their lives at Pearl Harbor by enacting Public Act 157 of 2000, which declares that December 7 of each year be known as Pearl Harbor Day in the state.

On the morning of December 7, 1941, the Armed Forces of the United State of America stationed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, were attacked by the air and naval forces of Imperial Japan. The attack claimed the lives of 2,334 servicemen and servicewomen and wounded another 1,143.

When flown at half-staff or half-mast, the United States flag should be hoisted first to the peak for an instant and then lowered to the half-staff or half-mast position. The flag should again be raised to the peak before it is lowered for the day.

# # #

Michiganders, or anyone else, may subscribe to Flag Honors, the service notifying when flags in Michigan are to be flown half-staff. If you know of similar services for any other state, kindly make a note in comments.

Student project: Photography + cartography + internet

December 6, 2007

Ignoble Gases nicely describes the mashup between on-line mapping services and digital photography, with a bit of blogging thrown in.

Mapping services now have the capacity to link photographs of a site with its exact latitude and longitude, or exact address.  Maps of cities can feature links to photos of the site (other than satellite or aerial photos) submitted by readers, and other descriptive material.

So, geography teachers:  Have your kids mapped out your town and put it on the web to encourage tourism?  Great discussion topics:  What are the advantages of such technologies, and what are the parent-scaring disadvantages, or dangers of them?

I really cannot do justice to the concepts here — read the article at Ignoble Gases.

%d bloggers like this: