Wednesday, May 31, 2006

What is your global IQ?

Just over a year ago Thomas L. Friedman wrote "The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century". Friedman talks about how the Indians and Chinese are "racing us to the top" in innovation, and there is nothing that guarantees Americans or Western Europeans will continue leading the way in technology and business. He encourages us as a nation "to work harder, get smarter, attract more young women and men to science and engineering and build the broadband infrastructure, portable pensions and health care that will help every American become more employable in an age in which no one can guarantee you lifetime employment."

According to a recent geographic literacy study by the National Geographic Society and Roper Public Affairs, it would appear that we need to work on more than science and engineering skills. This survey of more than 500 18- to 24-year-olds across the U.S. showed that many young Americans have a limited understanding of our world.

  • While outsourcing of jobs to India has been a major U.S. business story, almost half those surveyed (47 percent) cannot find the Indian subcontinent on a map of Asia.
  • Only 37% of young Americans can find Iraq on a map—though U.S. troops have been there since 2003.
  • 6 in 10 young Americans don't speak a foreign language fluently.
  • 20% of young Americans think Sudan is in Asia. (It's the largest country in Africa.)
  • 48% of young Americans believe the majority population in India is Muslim. (It's Hindu—by a landslide.)
  • Half of young Americans can't find New York on a map.
  • More than half significantly over-estimate the population of the United States.
  • Two-thirds don’t know that the catastrophic earthquake of October 2005 that killed 70,000 people struck in Pakistan.

How much do you know about the world? Can you name the world's most spoken primary language? The largest consumer of oil? The most heavily fortified border on the planet? The current population of the U.S.? Could you locate the Cambrian Mountains on a map? Twelve-year-old Bonny Jain, from Moline, IL, could, and his knowledge made him the winner of the recent 2006 National Geographic Bee, that aired on Channel 11 (our local Public Television station) last week. Alex Trebek (of Jeopardy fame) was the moderator of this national competition of 55 fifth to eighth grade participants. While it was inspiring to witness the knowledge of these young folks, it would appear they are the "exception" rather than the rule.

Recently National Geographic and leaders from the business, nonprofit and education communities unveiled a public-engagement campaign designed to give U.S. students tools to become more informed global citizens. The goal of the five-year, multimedia campaign — My Wonderful World — is to improve the geographic literacy of young people ages 8-17 by motivating parents and educators to expand geographic offerings in school, at home and in their communities.

The Web site at the heart of the campaign,, provides resources for parents to help kids be more geo-savvy. It includes suggestions for simple, outdoor family activities and ways that parents can work to get more geography into the classroom, links to geography games and online adventures for kids and teens, classroom materials for educators, and ways for young and old to test their global IQs.

Try this 20-question quiz from the folks at National Geographic.

(Oh, and the Cambrian Mountains? Those are the ones that extend across much of Wales, from the Irish Sea to the Bristol Channel.) If you haven't yet discovered (the free) Google Earth, download a copy today and "fly" on over to Wales to have a look.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Gone Phishing? and SPAM

Planning your Summer Break recreation? From the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) comes this informative "e-card" on phishing -- although, if you haven't yet heard this term, here's a clue -- it doesn't involve water. (Available en espaƱol too!)

Also from the FTC are some very good tips on combatting SPAM (unsolicited and annoying email).

From the "FTC Consumer Feature," Putting a Lid on Deceptive Spam, published July 2002 and available at:

The FTC’s advice to consumers who want to reduce the amount of spam they get is:
  • Avoid displaying your email address in public spaces, including newsgroup postings or chat rooms, on websites, or in an online service’s membership directory.
  • Check a website’s privacy policy before submitting your email address. Make sure the website doesn’t plan to sell your address. If possible, “opt out” of any such plans.
  • Read and understand website forms before you transmit personal information. If possible, select the “opt-out” choice if the website plans to share your information.
  • Create two email addresses – one for personal messages and the other for public use, such as in newsgroups or chat rooms. Or, consider a disposable email address service; it creates a separate email address that forwards your email to your permanent address. If the disposable address begins to receive spam, you can shut if off without affecting the permanent address. **(see Spamino information below!)
  • Create a unique email address. Spammers often use “dictionary attacks” to sort through possible name combinations at large Internet Service Providers (ISPs) or email services to find valid addresses. So a common name, like “jdoe,” may get more spam than a unique name, like “jd51x02oe.”
  • Use an email filter. Some email accounts provide a tool to filter out potential spam or channel it to a bulk email folder. You may want to ask whether this option is available when choosing an ISP.
  • Report the spam to the ISP – yours and the sender’s. Often the email address is “abuse@[your ISP’s name].com” or postmaster@[your ISP’s name].com. The ISP may be able to stop further spam.
  • Report the problem to the FTC. Send the actual spam item to Be sure to include the full email header so that your complaint can be followed up. If your complaint has to do with “remove me” or “unsubscribe” offers not working, complete and submit the FTC’s complaint form at
  • For more on spam and how to avoid it, visit

** For a "disposable" email address, check out "Spamino"! From their website: "Spamino is like a firewall for email. Spamino receives email for you and forwards only qualified email to an email account you choose. Illegitimate email is held at Spamino for a few weeks and deleted if it remains unclaimed. When you sign up with Spamino, you get one fixed personal email address, such as "". Give this email address to anybody, and you will be protected from spam, because every new sender to this address has to first pass a simple security challenge. Spammers are highly automated and are not able to pass this challenge. Spamino is a free service!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

21st Century Censorship? Your Tax Dollar$ at Work...

Hopping on the bandwagon...

Last week, Representative Fitzpatrick (R-PA) introduced: "H.R. 5319: To amend the Communications Act of 1934 to require recipients of universal
service support for schools and libraries to protect minors from commer-
cial social networking websites and chat rooms." (See the Library of Congress website)

This legislation proposes that anyone under 18 be prohibited from using school or library computers to access Web sites that create public "Web pages or profiles" and also offer a discussion board, chat room, or e-mail service.

While it seems that the target is websites like MySpace or Facebook, if passed, this could also prevent students from accessing blogging websites such as Blogger, LiveJournal and Xanga. At Stevenson, I know of several teachers and students that actively discuss educational topics outside of the classroom in this forum.

For instance, recently our AP Government teachers broadcasted an AP exam review "event" on Stevenson's local radio station. Students also "tuned into" the teachers' blog site,, to post questions and discussions during the live radio show.

Can social networks be dangerous for students?
What are our responsibilities as educators?

There are several websites interested in your feedback, such as Technology & Learning magazine's "Question of the Week" at:

Also (Mobilizing America's Youth) has launched an "SOS" campaign: "Save Our Social Networks" -- see details at:

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Imagination ^3

In June of 2002 I was delighted to learn that Figment, Disney's playful purple dragon, would be returning to EPCOT to once again demonstrate the power of imagination. The revamped "Journey to the Imagination" attraction also saw the return of "One Little Spark," an uplifting song written by legendary Disney composers Richard M. and Robert B. Sherman for the attraction’s original opening in March 1983.

Ok, enough reminiscing ... fast-forward to present-day Web 2.0 collaborative tools, and check out General Electric's website! Not only can you write and draw on this free online electronic whiteboard, you can invite your friends to collaborate with you either by email or Chat (AIM), and then save it, print it or email the finished piece. Then when you return to the board, you can watch it redraw before your very eyes!

Come and stretch your imagination with me...

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Create Your Own Motivational Posters!

With "Motivator," one of "fd's Flickr toys" (from you "have the power to turn a simple photograph into an inspirational message that will burn forever in the hearts and minds of dozens." You can use any digital image, add a motivational word and some proverbial wisdom, and click to create your own printable poster. Of course, fd is willing to sell you the full poster size print for a mere $12.99 as well.

Fellow educator John Blake posted these ideas for using Motivator to help students with literary terms,

Just look beyond the adlinks....