Time. I want to talk about time – and how to teach it. This term is coming to a close and I have had some good experiences with my 8th grade. In Social Studies we have worked on population distribution, migrational patterns and other aspects of globalization. The use of Gapminder when working on population and statistics was very rewarding. Next term I want to focus on history, timelines, cause-and-effect – and I aim to use interactive timeline utilities available online. I want students to use these resources to create their own timelines of historical events, add their own texts, but also resources from around the web.

The goal is to teach time sequencing, cause-and-effect as well as history. I haven’t still found exactly what I am looking for, but I have some ideas for sites I can use. Here’s a list of utilities I have come across. Other suggestions are welcome.

Dipity: Straightforward timeline utility for topics and events. Include photoes, videos, maps and links.

Timetoast: Simple interface, clarity and simplicity.

XTimeline: Seem to be popular, lots of other published timelines to be viewed.

Viewzi:I particularly like this one, it’s slick and fast – Timetoastand also several visual options to view other timelines.

Soundslides: This is a downloadable desktop application which does the same job. Slick and very intuitive.

Any other suggestions?

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It has been fascinating following the US Presidential campaign this year and in particular this fall. There are two days remaining before the big day, and I have, along with others, noted how the net has been used in a totally new way than four years ago. The Democratic candidate Sen. Barack Obama has been particularly good at utilizing the Internet’s vast opportunities to communicate the message. This have lead to what Michael Moore humorously has refered to as the great Slacker Uprising – in other words – the young generation – first-time voters – are getting involved and are active online to recruit others to vote. Some observers have noted that this might turn the election to Obama’s advantage. Obama has an informative and media-savvy homepage, is present on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter etc. McCain is trying to do the same, but does not get the same attention. If this is due to his voters lack of interest in these channels or his campaign ignorance to its opportunities is hard to know.

What would be interesting to see is if next year’s upcoming Norwegian election will utilize the net’s obvious democratic potential to wake up potenial voters and perhaps regenerate the political interest in an increasing tech literate generation who live a lot of their life online.

For the record: If I had a vote – I’d give it to Sen. Barack Obama.

I am currently taking a course in Nordic literature through online studies with the University in Bergen, Nordisk. This semester we are reading and studying Nordic literature from the Viking Age and up to 1900, from Snorre Sturlasson to Henrik Ibsen. There’s lots to read and books are heavy as well as expensive. Of course there is the library, but I have discovered a great resource online, Project Runeberg, a sister project to Project Gutenberg, were they aim to digitalize and make older Swedish, Norwegian and Danish literature available online. It’s a great initiative.

So far it’s mostly Swedish and Danish literature, but some Norwegian editions are available. The romantic writer and poet Henrik Wergeland‘s “Digte” has recently been publihsed on this site, and it’s a remarkable feeling to flip through the 1853 edition of Digte with famous poems like “Jødinden” (The Jewish Girl) and others. Some books are scanned by the Google Book Search while others are scanned on private initiative.

Imagine having these Scandinavian clenodiums at our fingertips on our laptops? And it makes my reading easier.

This blog of mine has been up and running, on and off, for nearly three years. I have written in both English and Norwegian – and I keep asking myself why I write English as Norwegian is my native tongue.

Since 2005 I have become quite an avid user of online content, social networks such as Flickr (my first one), last.fm (+ hypemachine this past week – fantastic combo), beloved Twitter, love-to-hate-but-a-necessity Facebook and in recent months iPhone compatible sites/apps such as Brightkite, Nearby, Evernote, Aroundme and others which I have soon forgot. Some a bare necessity for an active online life and others not so much.
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Language of preference in all of these places are naturally; English. I don’t mind that, and considering 1 follower and perhaps the occasional friend or stranger swinging by, it does not really matter if I write English, Norwegian or Italian.

I teach and work with English everyday, but yet Norwegian is greatly dear to my heart and tongue. This blog has developed into a digital tools/education blog, but I hope to increase the posting frequency by allowing myself to post Norwegian scribbles as well in the near future.

The main reason for this is an increasing intellectual, if you can call it that, urge to express and explore different aspects of my own life and what surrounds it. We’ll see how it will turn out. One thing is for sure, Norwegian won’t die just yet here.

This past week we started our topic on Population Contrasts as we are working on Globalization in Social Studies. I used Hans Rosling’s Gapminder as a topic starter. I set up projector and a big whiteboard – and had the bubblecharts speak for themselves before I complimented it with a lecture and follow-up questions.

Gapminder uses statistics to generate so-called bubblecharts to visualize developments and trends over time. This gives us a chance to see geo-political differences and sparks interest and debate. My class enjoyed this way of viewing statistics on population growth, birth rates, death rates and migration patterns. During and after the presentations of the various bubblegraphs and looking at particular countries and comparing them all students in the class had lots of questions and educated guesses.

Gapminder is a great tool to display human development patterns around the world and through history. It definitely created both curiosity and interest in my class.

Today we conducted our national tests in English. These tests are the government’s attempt to monitor the qualitative progress of schools and their students. State of affairs. There are testing in three subjects; Maths, Norwegian and English. The latter is an online test with reading comprehension with point-and-click multiple choices as well as interactive texts accompanied by visual pictures.

The test in itself is okay, it aims to test the students’ ability to read, reflect and define. Since we are an international school we did fairly well, and the students thought it easy enough.

There has been much debate on these national tests in the media and among politicians in the past few years. Some have argued that it produces “winning” and “loosing” schools, others have added that results can be fixed and that the system is not reliable.

Safety does not mean bureaucracy. There is an excessive amount of paperwork coming out of the Utdanningsdirektoratet, Diractorate of Education and the Ministry of Knowledge (Kunnskapsdepartementet) and, to me, an unnecessary amount of passwords and usernames in order to conduct the test itself. Why is this? And why does not the Ministry of Knowledge, of all (along with Fornyings- og arbeidsdepartementet, earlier Moderniseringsdepartementet – the Ministry of Modernization… puh) have a user-friendly and easy to use website..?

There is an excess of information on these webpages, and it could easily be revitalized and revamped, make it more presentable and readability could be better, not to forget navigation, which is illogical and often looped and irrelevant. It’s simply not good enough.

So how can they be better? Look at what the innovative small companies are doing in terms of design and content, readability and usability. The national test in itself could also include moving images, podcasts, web search (even university students are struggling with research methods and ciatation standards) and generally more interactive challenges for the students. They live in a visual age where intertextuality is omnipresent, but increasinly harder for us to decipher. The Ministry of Knowledge can simultanously make it more visually user-friendly as well as more challenging in the digital age.

Couple of weeks back Apple released their iTunes version 8.0 update, and I have had some time playing around with it. There are good news and bad news, well perhaps not bad, but definitely quite intrusive.

What’s good? Genius – automatically generated playlists. I have been a keen last.fm user for a couple of years and now finally iTunes has incorporated a similar feature akin to Amazon’s “You might also like…”. You choose a song you fancy and press the Genius symbol in the bottom right corner and boom you got yourself a playlist based upon that song. So far I’m guite pleased with the results. Possibility of saving the playlist adds to the joy of it. The same feature exist in the latest iPhone update as well which gives you the possibility to create Genius playlists on the fly. Sweet.

What’s bad (or at least intrusive)? Apple logs your listening habits in order to create more accurate playlists. I’m naively fine by that as I hardly can think of any reasons why Apple would blackmail me based upon my musical fancies on a late Saturday evening. But hold on! It’s not exactly blackmailing, but more similar to a friend pushing cd’s for sale on a party (which can be annoying). The Genius bar on the right in the iTunes app window forces “Buy” arrows in your face. Buy, buy, buy! This could easily been done less intrusive and annoying. I like the “Reccomendations” feature and get ideas of other similar artists, even though this often can be rather off as music is a matter of taste and not always necassarily genre and tag words.

So, Apple: Fancy the automatic last.fm-style iTunes’ Genius feature, but tone down the preassure of purchase please. P for peace.