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Preview: IDEA


Fresh ideas to advance scientific and cultural literacy.

Last Build Date: Thu, 20 Jul 2017 19:55:55 +0000


Gender role literacy: Girls in science?

Wed, 05 Mar 2014 18:35:02 +0000

There are gender wars, and then there are casualties. It wasn’t until 2011 that the behemoth toymaker LEGO acknowledged girls’ desire to build with bricks, even though the company had long before made a seemingly effortless pivot to co-branding, video games, and major motion pictures. So it’s little wonder that girls face all-too-real obstacles when

Challenges of crowdsourcing: Analysis of Historypin

Mon, 09 Dec 2013 15:36:37 +0000

Crowdsourcing can build virtual community, engage the public, and build large knowledge databases about science and culture. But what does it take, and how fast can you grow? For some insight, we look at a crowdsourced history site: Historypin is an appealing database of historical photos, with dates, locations, captions, and other metadata. It’s called History

Dinovember: Creative literacy starts young

Mon, 18 Nov 2013 17:01:51 +0000

“Uh-oh,” Refe Tuma heard his girls whisper. “Mom and Dad are not going to like this.” It’s Dinovember, and his family’s plastic dinosaurs have been getting into mischief all month. Every year, Tuma and his wife devote the month of November to “convincing our children that, while they sleep, their plastic dinosaur figures come to life.  “Why

Drones put a face on nature and culture

Fri, 01 Nov 2013 16:38:13 +0000

A new generation of small video cameras and consumer robotic helicopters make amazing video shots possible. Stick your phone on a drone for enchanting views of the natural world, architecture, museums, and more. Here’s a cool new video flying a drone around the NY public library: // That was shot by Nate Bolt with a DJI

What are the most important articles in Wikipedia?

Tue, 29 Oct 2013 04:25:05 +0000

Wikipedia has 4,362,397 articles in English.  But how many of those are seriously encyclopedic, and what are the most important articles? We’ve been looking closely at Wikipedia for an upcoming app. We wanted to know the most important articles. We calculated an importance score for every article, based on how richly linked a Wikipedia article is

I have a PowerPoint

Thu, 29 Aug 2013 18:51:51 +0000

Words matter. And so does presentation. Fifty years ago, this week, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous “I have a dream” speech. But what if King eschewed wordiness, and instead delivered a slideshow? What could it look like? A few years ago, William Easterly Professor of Economics, New York University, drafted a powerpoint, mocking

Changes over time, in photos and maps

Wed, 21 Aug 2013 13:53:04 +0000

Images gain new meaning when given the context of location or change. Two sites, from NASA and HistoryPin do this to good effect — such as showing the the dramatic melting of the Muir glacier in Alaska, or how a city evolves. Launched in autumn 2011 by a British nonprofit, HistoryPin pins historical items on a map.

Online courses for developing the developing world

Mon, 29 Jul 2013 20:58:22 +0000

Online education can have a real impact in the developing world. Last week, we needed to hire a programmer for a small freelance job. To my surprise, several candidates advertised they had completed programming MOOCs. These were young programmers in their 20’s, in countries like Pakistan and Thailand, who lacked college-level coursework, but are trying to launch

NASA boldly redesigns web site for 2005

Mon, 01 Jul 2013 15:13:37 +0000

NASA redesigned their web site, with a magnificent failure of design by committee. It is a failure of content (eliminated the most interesting details about the science and engineering), a failure of organization (poorly consolidated types of content, such as multimedia and interactive features), and failure of implementation (site does not resize for small-screen smart phones,

What is fan fiction?

Wed, 05 Jun 2013 18:11:30 +0000

Who owns art and culture? Does it belong to the artist? The legal property owner? Or the society that loves and appreciates it? Traditionally, old art is considered public, and new art is copyrighted. Anyone can write a new twist on Romeo and Juliet, or mashup the Mona Lisa with a mustache. But what if Harry

Lessons to be learned from MOOCs, 2 years out

Mon, 22 Apr 2013 18:55:09 +0000

Online courses with very large enrollments have rapidly matured in the last two years, led largely by experiments outside mainstream academia by Coursera, Udacity and edX. Ambitious educators, technologists, and funders have created courses on diverse topics, and over five million students worldwide have registered for classes. And 3% have completed the courses. What can we learn? These Massive Open Online

What is Crowdsourcing? And how does it apply to outreach?

Tue, 19 Feb 2013 15:21:12 +0000

Crowdsourcing means involving a lot of people in small pieces of a project. In educational and nonprofit outreach, crowdsourcing is a form of engagement, such as participating in an online course, collecting photos of butterflies for a citizen-science project, uploading old photos for a community history project, deciphering sentences from old scanned manuscripts, playing protein folding

Cars, trikes, and more create Google Street View

Thu, 31 Jan 2013 18:39:37 +0000

The Grand Canyon is yet another place that Google brings to your digital screens, from their Street View family of content. Google has been collecting street-level views of our world at a vast scale possible only because of it’s deep pockets and technical expertise.  Trekker is a wearable backpack outfitted with a camera system on top.

Math and Science iOS apps for young children

Wed, 05 Dec 2012 00:42:59 +0000

In the era of tablets and smart phones, parents of small children may consider educational apps. Recently, the “Slashdot” online community discussed apps and kids. Nerdy parents chimed in with suggestions. This tech-savvy community is often reluctant to rely on apps, favoring “play time outside with soccer and baseballs, and inside with blocks, Hot Wheels, PlayDoh,

Three examples of multidisciplinary outreach to H.S. students

Thu, 15 Nov 2012 00:19:34 +0000

Sciences and history can nicely meet at historical sites. It engages the history-minded in science, and the science-minded in history. Two examples were recently discussed by Chris Shires, director of interpretation and programs at the Edsel & Eleanor Ford House. Located east of Detroit, on the shore of Lake St. Clair, near the Milk River (photo below), the Ford