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December 16 2010

10 Free Online Resources for Science Teachers

One of the greatest ways technology can empower teachers is by helping them demonstrate concepts and by making it easier for students to learn through their own exploration and experimentation.

Because science teachers are often called upon to teach topics that are too large, too small, happen too fast, happen too slowly, require equipment that is too expensive, or has the potential to blow up a laboratory, the Internet can be particularly helpful in assisting them convey a concept.

Universities, non-profit organizations and scientists with free time have put an overwhelming number of resources for teaching science on the web. These are nine of our favorites.

1. The Periodic Table of Videos

A group of scientists based at the University of Nottingham added some character to the static periodic table of elements by creating a short video for each one.

Hydrogen, for instance, seems much more exciting after you’ve seen what happens when you hold a match to a balloon that is filled with it, and it’s easier to remember the name Darmstadtium after you have seen Darmstadt.

The group also puts out a non-YouTube version of the site for schools that have blocked the site.

2. Teach the Earth


The Science Education Resource Center at Carleton College has compiled just about every fathomable resource for geoscience educators. By serving as the portal to helpful web pages from dozens of independent project websites, the site provides visuals, classroom activities and course descriptions for everything from oceanography to “red tide and harmful algal blooms.”

3. Stellarium


Stellarium is a planetarium for your computer. Just input your location and explore the sky outside or the view from any other location. The program offers up information on stars, nebulae, planets and constellations according to 12 different cultures.

In addition to being ideal for classroom astronomy lessons, Stellarium’s open source software is also used to light up the screens of a number of real planetariums.

Even though Google Sky won’t give you a view from a specific location, it will direct you to specific galaxies, planets and stars or to a map of the moon that notes where each of the six Apollo missions landed.

4. YouTube

“What happens when you put Cesium in water?” is a question that in some cases is best answered by YouTube. YouTube’s archive of demonstrations have the advantage of being safe, clean and unlikely to catch on fire.

You’ll find experiments for most concepts just by using the search bar. But if you’re in a browsing mood, check out this list of the 100 coolest science experiments on YouTube.

Most schools that block YouTube allow access to educational alternatives like TeacherTube and School Tube.

5. NASA Education


NASA has lesson plans, videos and classroom activities for science subjects ranging from Kindergarten to university levels. The best part of this resource gold mine is that it’s easy to search by keyword or to browse by grade level, type of material or subject.

Check out the Be a Martian Game, the interactive timeline and the NASA Space Place for some smart fun.

6. Learn.Genetics


These resources for learning about genetics by the University of Utah’s Genetic Science Learning Center include interactive visualizations, 3D animations and activities. Student activities include taking a “tour” of DNA, a chromosome or a protein, building a DNA molecule, or exploring the inside of a cell.

The university is also building a sister site, Teach.Genetics, with print-and-go lesson plans and supplemental materials for some channels on the Learn.Genetics site.

7. The Concord Consortium


The Concord Consortium is a non-profit organization that helps develop technologies for math, science and engineering education. Their free, open source software is available for teachers to download to use in their classes. They include visualizations and models for a broad range of topics.

Some examples include: The Molecular Workbench, a free tool that creates interactive simulations for everything from cellular respiration to chemical bonding. Geniquest introduces students to cutting-edge genetics using dragons as their model organisms; Evolution Readiness is a project designed to teach fourth graders about evolution concepts using simulations; and The ITSI-SU Project provides lab-based activities involving probes, models and simulations.

To search for classroom activities across all projects, teachers can use the site’s Activity Finder to browse by subject, grade level or keyword.

8. The ChemCollective


The ChemCollective, a project that is funded by the National Science Foundation, allows students to design and carry out their own experiments in a virtual laboratory and provides virtual lab problems, real-world scenarios, concept tests, simulations, tutorials and course modules for learning basic chemistry.

The project recently won a Science Prize for Online Resources in Education from Science Magazine.

9. Scitable


Scitable is both the Nature Publishing Group’s free science library and a social network. Teachers can create a “classroom” with a customized reading list, threaded discussions, news feeds and research tools. There’s also an option to use the material on the site to create a customized e-book for free that can include any of the more than 500 videos, podcasts or articles on the site.

Topic rooms combine articles, discussions and groups related to one key concept in science and make it easy to find material that is relevant to your class and connect with people who are also passionate about the subject.

What resources did you find most helpful, or what great science tools did we miss? Let us know in the comments below.

10. Impact: Earth!


Want to see how a particular projectile from space would affect the Earth? With this tool that was developed for Purdue University, your students can enter the projectile parameters, angle and velocity to calculate what would happen if the object were to actually hit Earth. You can also get the details on the projectiles that caused famous craters.

More Education Resources from Mashable:

- 8 Ways Technology Is Improving Education
- The Case For Social Media in Schools
- 7 Fantastic Free Social Media Tools for Teachers
- How Online Classrooms Are Helping Haiti Rebuild Its Education System
- 5 Innovative Classroom Management Tools for Teachers

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, rrocio

More About: education, education resources, Kids, List, Lists, resources, school, Science, social media, teachers, tech, visualizations, youtube

For more Tech coverage:

October 29 2010

4 Ways to Visualize Voter Sentiment for the Midterm Elections

Map Image

Elections ignite emotions. From inspirational campaign speeches to divisive community issues, political action compels citizens to share their feelings about candidates and issues from coast to coast.

The web has made information about these emotions and trends more available — but the challenge has been making it more accessible.

That’s why many sites are using data visualizations to present voter sentiment. The simple interfaces and fun interactive components make number-heavy data easier to understand and more compelling than a spreadsheet.

Here are four data visualizations worth checking out during the 2010 U.S. midterm elections.

1. The New York Times Race Ratings

Like most interactive graphics from The New York Times, these election maps and charts are beautifully designed. The user experience is the best of all the data visualizations listed here. States are color-coded by party with shading showing the likelihood that the leading party will win. Individual state profiles include smaller graphics breaking down previous election results by county. The Times makes it their own by including the FiveThirtyEight Forecast, showcasing politics reporter Nate Silver’s projections for each race.

2. PBS Mediashift Social Media Snapshot

The only visualization not in map form on this list is the Social Media Snapshot of 2010 Senate Races. This graphic takes some of the most interesting voter sentiment information out there and makes it easy for users to compare data sets they’re interested in viewing.

After a report from HeadCount.org showed that Republicans were more engaged than Democrats in this election cycle, Mediashift contributor Anthony Calabrese created it using Tableau Public, a free data visualization program.

The graphic includes a drop-down menu from which users can choose a state. Each candidate’s Facebook and Twitter followers are then compared in a bar graph. Beneath this is a chart showing more granular data for the top 10 races, including the percentage of followers each candidate gained from September to October.

3. The Huffington Post Election Dashboard

The Huffington Post has taken full advantage of its Pollster.com acquisition by creating extensive poll analysis graphics. Unlike other elections visualizations, these maps provide all information up front. Hovering over a state on the main map brings up linear charts showing data from the latest polls and those from the past year, as well as social media trends measuring candidate mentions from Facebook, Twitter and Google Buzz. Clicking on an individual state directs you to a page with a larger version of the latest polls graph, some with polling data from past years.

4. Washington Post 2010 Race Maps

With an already politically minded audience, The Washington Post developed a map chock-full of elections data. It provides historical results not only for the current races, but also for presidential races. Maps can be customized to show districts, primaries and races to watch. It’s most original in allowing users to sort data by race, age, poverty rate and percent uninsured.


If you’re interested in even more visualizations to track the upcoming elections, the following tools are definitely worth a look.

Though Google’s map focuses more on experts’ predictions than voter sentiment data, it’s worth checking out. You can compare expectations of top political opinions and find or contribute information about where to vote and what’s on the ballot in your area.

Foursquare plans to launch an interactive map on election night with data from checkins at polling places.

If this article wasn’t about the U.S. elections specifically, Guardian’s Data Blog would have made the list for its beautiful visualizations of poll numbers from overseas.

More Political Resources From Mashable:

- 17 Web Resources to Help You Decide on Election Day
- Social Media: The New Battleground for Politics
- How Political Campaigns Are Using Social Media for Real Results
- How Social Media is Changing the Way Government Does Business

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, ermek

More About: data visualization, elections, foursquare, Google, List, Lists, maps, mediashift, politics, tableau, the new york times, the washington post, visualization, visualizations, web apps

For more Social Media coverage:

September 14 2010

Visualize Your Gmail Activity With Graph Your Inbox

This post is part of Mashable’s Spark of Genius series, which highlights a unique feature of startups. The series is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark.. If you would like to have your startup considered for inclusion, please see the details here.

Name: Graph Your Inbox

Quick Pitch: Graph Your Inbox is a Google Chrome extension that allows you to graph Gmail activity over time.

Genius Idea: Created by Bill Zeller, a Ph.D at Princeton University, Graph Your Inbox is a Google Chrome extension that can search your Gmail account by phrases, keywords, sender, receiver or label. It then presents the data related to those queries as a bar graph that charts the number of messages month-by-month and day-by-day.

Zeller calls this Google Trends for Gmail, and that’s not a bad way to look at it. Why would you want to evaluate this kind of information?

Well, we have tools that analyze our web searches, our social media activity and our website analytics, why not take a deeper look at what is in our inboxes? Furthermore, looking at periods of extreme activity or inactivity around a certain address, phrase or label can be indicative of an overreaching trend in your inbox. Knowing about your inbox trends can help you more efficiently manage and process your e-mail and your time.

For instance, I did two searches on my primary e-mail address, one for “from:facebook” and one for “from:twitter.” Graph Your Inbox queried my Gmail account and came back with some pretty interesting data. For instance, I had no idea I’d received over 30,000 e-mail messages from Twitter in the last three years.

Looking at the breakdown by month and then by day, I could go back to events that resulted in an increase in followers or direct messages (the types of e-mail communication I get from Twitter.) For me, a peak was in January 2009, when my fiance proposed to me via Twitter. Likewise, I can see a surge in my Facebook starting at the end of August 2009. That coincides with when I joined Mashable.

Clicking on a month of a particular term will take you to a listing of all the messages from that month and an additional daily breakdown so that you can look at how many conversations took place each day of the month.

Graph Your Inbox is a free extension, and it doesn’t access any of your private data or “phone home” to Google. You must be logged into your Gmail account for the plugin to work; after you clear a search query, the results are gone.

It works with Gmail and with Google Apps accounts that have already migrated to the new opt-in infrastructure available to early adopters. For example, my primary e-mail account is a Google Apps account that has migrated to this new type of account, so it worked without issue. Another Google Apps account hasn’t become eligible for the transition process yet; as a result, Graph Your Inbox doesn’t work with it.

The data is pretty interesting, and we love the way it’s displayed. A nice feature is that when you click on a conversation, you are taken directly to that conversation in your inbox. Additional query syntaxes with some wildcards would be cool, as would a way to export some of the data as XML. With a little bit of work, we could see this being a useful tool for businesses that are trying to track e-mail campaigns, product inquiries or support requests.

Give Graph Your Inbox a try, and let us know if you see anything unique or surprising in the comments.

Sponsored by Microsoft BizSpark

BizSpark is a startup program that gives you three-year access to the latest Microsoft development tools, as well as connecting you to a nationwide network of investors and incubators. There are no upfront costs, so if your business is privately owned, less than three years old, and generates less than U.S.$1 million in annual revenue, you can sign up today.
Reviews: Facebook, Gmail, Google, Google Chrome, Mashable, Twitter

More About: e-mail, email, gmail, inbox, visualizations

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September 02 2010

10 of the Web’s Most Insightful News Infographics

New Infographic

A picture is worth a thousand words. But if you include an entire database, make it interactive, and add filtering options, the word-to-picture exchange rate is even better.

Infographics at their best are more than just pictures — they can provide new understandings, succinct summaries, or just plain old fun.

In that respect, reading newspaper archives isn’t the only way to get a deeper understanding of current events. Infographics can help us get a better grasp on what’s going on.

Check out these 10 visualizations to learn more about the news with a quick look.

1. Google’s Appetite for Acquisition

Last month alone, Google acquired social-search service Angstro, visual shopping search engine like.com, and social currency company Jambool. Google has been on an acquisition binge for some time, and it’s getting tricky to keep track of its appetite.

This graphic shows a timeline of Google’s activity in three categories: “Building Revenue Streams,” “Cutting Competition,” or “A Little of Both.”

2. Gay Marriage Chronology

The campaign for gay marriage has passed a multitude of milestones over the last decade. Unfortunately for those trying to keep track of them, the victories and setbacks vary drastically by state. Decisions are reversed and in some cases overturned by higher courts, which makes progress hard to track.

This map from the LA Times shows the status of gay marriage in each state by month. Click on a state for its most recent ruling or watch the country change from being legally similar in its treatment of same-sex couples in 2000 to sharply divided in 2010.

3. IED Attacks from Wikileaks’ Afghanistan War Logs

The frequency and fatality of IEDs (homemade bombs) in Afghanistan was highlighted when WikiLeaks published more than 90,000 secret documents about the Afghan war. Anti-war activists published this illustrative video that includes all of the incidents reported in these leaked documents.

4. Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill

On April 20, an explosion on a BP drilling rig started what has become the largest accidental oil spill in history. Despite numerous strategies that were deployed to plug the leak, it wasn’t capped until July 15.

This video graphic by New Orleans online newspaper NOLA wraps timeline, graphic, and cumulative damage data into one easy-to-digest piece of media.

5. CIA World Factbook Dashboard

The CIA World Factbook has always been a great resource for putting news stories into the context of their geographic location. But now it’s also easy to get the information at a glance.

The World Factbook Dashboard allows you to color code the countries of the world by population, population growth, infant mortality, agricultural GDP, industry GDP, services GDP, total GDP, GDP/inhabitant, or inflation. Clicking on a country zooms in for more information.

6. Geography of a Recession

This map from The New York Times illustrates not only which areas suffered the highest unemployment rate after the recession, but also offers the option to filter data by metropolitan areas, areas with housing bubbles, rural areas, and manufacturing centers.

7. Afghanistan and Pakistan Regional Violence Map

The Wall Street Journal updates this map constantly with violent conflicts in Afghanistan and Pakistan. If you want to learn about the day-to-day details of the war or understand its scope, there’s no better visual resource.

8. What Does the Health Care Bill Mean to Me?

Even if you read through every health care bill article, it could be hard to exactly pick out what the law would change about your insurance coverage and taxes. The Washington Post made it easy by providing this nifty tool. Input whether you have insurance coverage, your family size, your income, and your marital status, and it will tell you how health care reform will impact your life.

For the broader picture on healthcare reform, see this subway-style map from GOOD Magazine.

9. Obama’s $787 Billion Economic Stimulus Plan

The government is still busy spending much of the $787 billion it allotted for the economic stimulus in February of last year. This infographic effectively illustrates how that huge chunk of change is being distributed.

10. American Casualties in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Beyond

This chilling interactive graphic from USA Today simply illustrates the deaths in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. Information seekers can search deaths by personal factors like name, age, gender, race, or home town as well as by military service details, date, cause, or place.

CNN has a more elaborate version here.

More Graphics Resources from Mashable:

- 5 Fab Twitter Follower Visualization Tools
- 10 Beautiful Social Media Infographics
- 5 Amazing Infographics for the Health Conscious
- 10 Essential Free E-Books for Web Designers
- 12 Beginner Tutorials for Getting Started With Photoshop

More About: afghanistan, bp, current events, gay rights, graphics, healthcare reform, infographics, iraq, News, oil-spill, stimulus, visualizations, wikileaks

For more Tech coverage:

June 18 2010

7 Stunning World Cup Visualizations

World Cup Visualization ImageFor continuous World Cup coverage, check out Mashable’s 2010 World Cup Hub, which will be updated throughout the games.

As World Cup pool play continues, games are becoming more electrifying as each and every goal scored counts for the nations trying to earn the highly coveted football title and trophy.

Football aficionados and novices alike can enhance their experience of each game with World Cup visualizations that help to bring the action on the field to life in mesmerizing digital formats.

Scroll through each of the seven visualizations below for a unique perspective on the World Cup. You won’t be disappointed, especially if you use these applications in tandem while watching the live action unfold on the field. What better way to prove your geek cred to your crew?

World Cup 2010 Replay

The Guardian has put together an application -- World Cup 2010 Twitter replay -- that creates high-speed replays for each World Cup match. Prepare to be amazed as you relive the entire game through Twitter animation. Action is portrayed via topic bubbles that enlarge as conversation swells on Twitter.

The Guardian set out to let people "see the roar of the crowd passing through Twitter." They certainly succeeded on their mission.

2010 FIFA World Cup Live Tracker

The Live Tracker application is like an ongoing World Cup analytical dashboard with visual stimuli. The tracker bears a striking resemblance to Sprint's Now Network site and includes blocks of World Cup trivia -- think total whistle blows, number of saves, cumulative worldwide audience, goals scored and even vuvuzela noise levels -- that football fans the world round will love.

This visualization may be a little heavy on Castrol promotion, but it's hard not to get excited when presented with these interesting factoids.

South Africa 2010 Twitter Buzz

CNN's Twitter Buzz application is unbelievably simple and yet absolutely stunning. The application tracks World Cup tweets by teams, players and topics. You can check out the current flow of tweets or scroll through the past 24 hours.

Given Twitter's recurring issues, one can except the Fail Whale to hinder the sheer awesomeness of the visualization from time to time, but CNN has created their very own amusing "Fail Ball" for you to look at during Twitter hiccups.

LivePitch for iPad

About a month ago, Mint Digital released a concept for an iPad app that would visualize match play by mapping ball possession on a digital football field. Just yesterday their vision became a reality when LivePitch was released as a free iPad application.

The application is designed to compliment your World Cup viewing experience as a second screen. You can watch in real-time as possession changes from player to player via the interactive football field. Stats-aholics can also dive into the Stats tab or select individual players for detailed and real-time player data on passes, goals, tackles and shots.

Calendar World Cup 2010

The Calendar World Cup 2010 turns the massive event's schedule into a wheel of visually stimulating information. Simply move your cursor to hover over a date, city or team and you'll get a glimpse at the associated matches.

Calendar World Cup 2010 by MARCA.com is simply a colorful way to keep track of the overwhelming schedule, but it's also proven quite popular with over 176,000 likes on Facebook thus far.

World Cup Match Tracker

As part of their World Cup coverage, the New York Times has created a match tracker application to supplement their Goal blog. The application boasts impressive minute-by-minute data overlaid on a soccer field so you can visualize passes, goals and shots for the duration of the game.

If you're feeling lazy, the Overview tab will breakout game data in a nifty line graph. You can also check out player rankings for touches, passes, goals, fouls and balls won. It's fantastic to behold and super fun for stats addicts to toy with.

Total Football 2010 for iPhone

If you're total nerd for World Cup game data then Total Football 2010 for iPhone will more than satisfy your match analysis cravings. The $2.99 app is worth every penny as it presents advanced statistical analysis for head-to-head comparisons between teams or players, all with visual finesse. Stats include shots, passes and tackles with users able to look at a game in its entirety or use the slider to pinpoint a particular moment for a more focused perspective.

Given that updates are in near real-time, you can also use this app as your play-by-play cheat sheet for games that you're not able watch on television. There's even a 'Player Influence" feature for identifying the players making the biggest impact in a particular match.

For more technology coverage, follow Mashable Tech on Twitter or become a fan on Facebook

More World Cup resources from Mashable:

- 3 Ways to Watch the 2010 World Cup
- 4 Free World Cup Apps for BlackBerry
- 5 Free Must-Have World Cup Android Apps
- Top 6 Free World Cup iPhone Apps
- HOW TO: Follow the 2010 World Cup on Twitter

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, daboost

Tags: List, Lists, sports, visualizations, world cup, world cup 2010

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