"This school year I've worked with a few school districts that are using Google Apps for Education for the first time. A lot of what I have done with those school districts is help to get the teachers acclimated to using Google Drive. When I sat down to plan an upcoming Google Drive training session I thought about some of the essential Google Drive skills that teachers need in addition to creating documents, presentations, and spreadsheets. Here are five essential Google Drive skills that I think teachers and students need."
When Justin Palmer stumbled across a dataset that included the year nearly every building in the Portland metro area was built, he was curious how old the buildings on his block are. Instead of just searching the data for his neighbors’ addresses, he made the beautiful map above.
He posted the map on his website, and it soon caught the eye of other mapmakers. Just a few days later, Thomas Rhiel published a similar map of Brooklyn, spurred by New York City’s release of a huge dataset known as PLUTO. Pretty soon, more maps began popping up. Soon there was a map of all of New York City, one of Reykjavik, Iceland, and one of Ljubljana, Slovenia, each with its own amazing colors, patterns and stories.
These maps make more than just pretty pictures. Palmer learned from his map that Portland’s oldest building identifiable by name was built in 1851. Only 942 structures are left from the 1890s while 75,434 built in the 1990s are still standing. Palmer graphed the steep and steady decline of new buildings since 2005.
Inspired by Palmer’s map, Marko Plahuta made a map of building ages in his home town of Ljubljana, Slovenia. When he plotted the number of buildings built each year, the graph had some huge spikes in it, and he set about discovering why. One spike occurred four years after a major earthquake hit the area in 1899 when people were able to rebuild. Similar periods of rebuilding show up after the two world wars. Plahuta made a really nice video of his map that shows the growth of the city from 1500-2013.
Yale law school professor Dan Kahan’s new research paper is called “Motivated Numeracy and Enlightened Self-Government,” but for me a better title is the headline on science writer Chris Mooney’s piece about it in Grist: “Science Confirms: Politics Wrecks Your Ability to Do Math."
Kahan conducted some ingenious experiments about the impact of political passion on people’s ability to think clearly. His conclusion, in Mooney’s words: partisanship “can even undermine our very basic reasoning skills…. [People] who are otherwise very good at math may totally flunk a problem that they would otherwise probably be able to solve, simply because giving the right answer goes against their political beliefs.”
In other words, say goodnight to the dream that education, journalism, scientific evidence, media literacy or reason can provide the tools and information that people need in order to make good decisions. It turns out that in the public realm, a lack of information isn’t the real problem. The hurdle is how our minds work, no matter how smart we think we are. We want to believe we’re rational, but reason turns out to be the ex post facto way we rationalize what our emotions already want to believe.