Tag Archives: history

History For All

roman colliseum

How Earth Made Us is a documentary series produced by the BBC.  Like many BBC programs, the cinematography is spectacular.  But, perhaps more interesting, is the approach the program takes to history.  Instead of only examining human interactions, the program focuses on how natural forces such as geology, geography, and climate have shaped history.  And, the whole series is available on YouTube.

In the first episode, Water, host Iain Stewart explores the effects that extreme conditions have had on human development.  He visits the Sahara Desert, which receives less than a centimeter of rainfall each year, and Tonlé Sap, which swells to become the largest freshwater lake in southeast Asia during monsoon season.  The contrast is striking.  One interesting factoid is that the world’s reservoirs now hold 10,000 cubic kilometers of water (2400 cubic miles).  Because most of these reservoirs are in the northern hemisphere, they have actually affected the earth’s rotation very slightly.

The second episode, Deep Earth, begins in a stunning crystal cave in Mexico, in which crystals have grown to several meters long.  The cave, which is five kilometers below the earth’s surface, was discovered by accident when miners broke into it.  I can’t imagine what they thought when they first set foot inside.

The third episode, Wind, explores the tradewinds which spread trade and colonization, which lead to the beginning of globalization.  This brought fortune to some who exploited resources and tragedy to others who were enslaved.  The view from the doorway through which thousands of Africans passed on their way to the Americas is a chilling reminder of this period of history.

Fire, the fourth episode, moves from cultures that held the flame as sacred, to the role of carbon in everything from plants to diamonds to flames.  And carbon is also the basis of petroleum, which has powered the growth of humankind.  Several methods of extracting crude oil around the world are explored.

The final episode, Human Planet, turns the equation around tying the first four episodes together by looking at how humans have had an impact on the earth. One of the most compelling examples is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch which is the result of ocean currents bringing plastic and other debris from countries around the Pacific rim.  This garbage collects, is broken down by the sun, and eventually settles to the bottom to become part of the earth’s crust.  This is juxtaposed to rock strata in the Grand Canyon, pointing out that eventually, one layer of rock under the garbage patch in the Pacific will be made up of this debris.

In all, there is almost 5 hours of documentary video here.  It is a compelling production with spectacular imagery.  There are any number of ways to use these videos with an ESL class.  And because they are available on YouTube, there are even more options available to an ESL instructor.  Instead of everyone watching together in the classroom, the videos can be posted in an online content management system and students can watch them anywhere, anytime on their laptops and smartphones, if they have access to that kind of technology.  And if the videos are being watched outside of the classroom, there are more options for assigning different groups of students to watch different videos and then have conversations with students who watched different episodes.  The ubiquity of online video can bring learning to students outside of the classroom.

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Getting Started with Google Maps

map video wall

This is how we added video to maps before Google.

I recently received the following question as a result of my presentation on Locative Media and Other Mashups:

I am currently working with a first grade teacher on a family oral history project and we would like to embed the stories from the families in a map of some sort — meeting 2 or 3 social studies standards with one activity!! I would appreciate some technology pointers from you if you are willing to do that.

I thought I’d share my response here as a brief tutorial tutorial for Google Maps.  If you’ve been on the fence about whether or not to create your own map with Google, I hope this will be enough to convince you to give it a try.

Sounds like you’ve got a really interesting project that would be easy to pull together using Google Maps.

Here’s an example map I created in which student videos describing campus are located on the spot they are describing:

[Because the videos embedded in the map are embedded in this blog post, they are not visible in the balloons.  Click on “View Larger Map” to see the fully-functioning version.]

You could create a similar map with video or audio, pictures, text, or any combination.  To get started, go to http://maps.google.com a sign up for a free Google account, if you don’t already have one.  Then click on “My Maps” and “Create new map.”

When in “edit” mode, you can add pointers to the map and then add whatever you want to appear in the balloon that pops up when you click on the pointer.  To add a pointer, do a search for a location, click on that pointer, and click on “Save to” to choose the map you have created.  It will then appear in your list of pointers when you click back on your map.  Note that it’s easy to wind up with the pointer on your map obscured by the pointer that you found via your search.  Use the checkboxes in the bottom left corner to hide the sets of pointers that you don’t want to see.

If you click on the pointer on your map while in edit mode, you will get several options for the contents of the balloon.  Too add a YouTube video, click on the “Edit HTML” option while editing the balloon and paste in the contents of the “Embed” code on YouTube.  Of course, this assumes that you have uploaded your video to YouTube or have found a video that you want to (and have permission to) use, which is also relatively easy to do.

Once you have finished editing your map, click on “Done.”  You can then click on link to get a URL which you can use to direct people to your map (as I have done, above) or even a code to embed it into another website or blog.  You can even allow multiple Google accounts to contribute to the same map, if that makes sense for your project.

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Musical Inspiration

the sun

Sing, floss, stretch. But trust me on the sunscreen.

I wrote recently about the elective class that I am developing and teaching on popular music.  I’m covering a decade per week and a song per day.  Within each song, I highlight an interesting grammar, vocabulary, or pronunciation point.

Developing this class has meant combing through many online resources including lists of Billboard number one hit songs on Wikipedia and best-of-the-decade lists such as AOL’s radio blog, which is a good place to start because you can listen to most of the songs on the list.  I’ve also found that the website sing365.com tends to have the least errors of all of the lyrics websites that are returned in Google searches.

I intend to post the list of songs I’ve used at the end of the quarter (I might even link to the Google Docs spreadsheet that I used to record all of the songs I considered for each decade) but for now I thought I would post the following music video, which I plan to use tomorrow, the last day before Thanksgiving break.

The song is actually a spoken word piece which has an interesting story.  While not a traditional pop music video, I think the message is inspirational without being cheesy.  Plus, there are lots and lots of examples of advice using the imperative.  It might not get you through the last two weeks of the quarter, but it doesn’t hurt.

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