Archive for December, 2009

Dulcinea Media’s Vision for 2010

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

The end of a month, year and decade seems like an opportune time to take stock of where Dulcinea Media fits into the ever-changing landscape of Web content.

Since I founded Dulcinea Media three years ago, the marketplace has gradually warmed to my view that uncurated, general search engines are a less-than-perfect tool for finding information online.  One study, showed that user satisfaction with search results declined from 78% in 2005, according to Pew Internet, to 62% in 2006, and again to 51% in 2008, according to the University of Southern California’s Center for Digital Technology. And a study from the UK exposed as a myth the notion of a “Google Generation” of young people with native ability to find information online.

Next, Nicholas Carr, who famously asked “Is Google Making Us Stupid?”, and a number of other columnists bemoaned the reality that most users today read an Internet that is a mile-wide and an inch-deep. The center of their media world is a technology driven algorithm and “the wisdom of crowds” that simply uncover the same recycled headlines and updates from a slew of news sources. And Roger Schank, an artificial intelligence expert from Yale University, reversed his 30-year-old prediction that we would create machines as smart as humans in his lifetime. Schank came to recognize that “[h]umans are constantly learning … [e]very new experience changes what we know and how we see the world.”  Schank attributed this to “an unconscious indexing method that all people learn to do without quite realizing they are learning it.”

And now a growing chorus of observers is acknowledging that search engines often fail the user. The impetus is the rise of “content farms,” which all but assure that search engines are only going to get worse at delivering quality results on the first search results page. Demand Media, Associated Content, Mahalo, Bukisa, eHow, HubPages and a voracious pack of others are paying freelance writers a modest per-article fee to create tens of thousands of articles each day. And these companies excel at getting their content to rank high in search engines, regardless of quality.

What I see is that this avalanche of mediocre content will drive Internet users to the “new portals” - trusted sources that consistently deliver important, relevant, reliable and comprehensive information, from a wide variety of resources across the Internet, utilizing a human touch.

Naturally, Dulcinea Media is planning to be one of those trusted sources. findingDulcinea now offers Web Guides to only the best information about more than 700 broad topics, and we’ve created thousands of Beyond the Headlines and Features articles that provide a full context view of news stories. Our sister site, encontrandoDulcinea, replicates much of this content in Spanish. To make all this content easier to access, we’ve introduced SweetSearch, a custom search engine that harnesses Google’s technology and the 100,000+ hours of Web site evaluation that is the bedrock of findingDulcinea. SweetSearch returns results only from a “whitelist” of 35,000 sites that we’ve evaluated and approved. And we are constantly tweaking SweetSearch to ensure that it remains the best search engine for students, and indeed, the only one they can use effectively. Lastly, we introduced findingEducation, a free, easy-to-use blogging platform that enables educators to leverage our tools to find and share great links with their students and colleagues.

As our audience continues to grow, we’ve found that our “best customers” are college, high school and middle school students. And thus we’ve begun to focus our content on subjects that would be of interest to teachers, librarians, and students. Through our conversations at the AASL conference for school librarians, and the NCSS conference for social studies teachers we learned there is a critical need in the marketplace for free products that promote effective, efficient, safe and responsible use of the Internet, and that ours fit the bill magnificently.

We remain steadfast in one guiding principle:  we will not use technology to aggregate links for Web Guides or articles; everything will pass through the prism of human judgment.

To address scaling issues while holding form to this principle we plan to introduce a program early next year in which we invite librarians and educators to submit content. Practitioners of these professions are trained to find, evaluate and recommend outstanding information resources, and library Web sites have always been the closest comparable to our Web Guides. We envision findingDulcinea and SweetSearch becoming a repository of the knowledge and insight of tens of thousands of librarians and teachers.

And we’ll stick with that vision, for as long as it takes to make it a reality.

~Mark Moran, Founder & CEO Dulcinea Media

Related Link Resources
Pew Internet
Edge World Question Center: AI?
British Library: Information Behaviour of the Researcher of the Future
The Atlantic: Is Google Making Us Stupid?
University of Southern California: Center for Digital Technology: 2008 Digitial Future Report

The Answer Sheet: Week of Dec. 19

Monday, December 28th, 2009

Did you take the Quiztory last week? Now it’s time to check your answers:

1. Who was the researcher behind Robert Ripley’s “Ripley’s Believe It or Not!” series from 1923 to 1975? Norbert Pearlroth

2. Where was Panama’s Manuel Noriega sentenced after he surrendered to United States forces in 1990? A Florida jail

3. Who was the last surviving British soldier to take part in the 1914 Christmas Truce between German and British troops on the Western Front? Alfred Anderson

4. Support of which dissident priest led to widespread protest and the beginnings of the Romanian Revolution in 1989? Lazlo Tokes

5. Who led the 1992 Iran-Contra investigation, accusing President George H.W. Bush of illegally withholding documents related to the investigation? Lawrence Walsh

Related Link Resources
On This Day: Ripley's “Believe it or Not!” Debuts
On This Day: US Forces Invade Panama
On This Day: President Bush Grants Pardons for Iran-Contra Defendants
On This Day: Ceausescu Ousted in Romanian Revolution

Quiztory: Week of Dec. 19

Friday, December 25th, 2009

Test your students’ knowledge of the notable events covered in findingDulcinea’s “On This Day” column this week with the Quiztory—a quiz on important events in history. A new Quiztory will run every Friday.

1. Who was the researcher behind Robert Ripley’s “Ripley’s Believe It or Not!” series from 1923 to 1975?

2. Where was Panama’s Manuel Noriega sentenced after he surrendered to United States forces in 1990?

3. Who was the last surviving British soldier to take part in the 1914 Christmas Truce between German and British troops on the Western Front?

4. Support of which dissident priest led to widespread protest and the beginnings of the Romanian Revolution in 1989?

5. Who led the 1992 Iran-Contra investigation, accusing President George H.W. Bush of illegally withholding documents related to the investigation?

What’s Coming Up?

Next week, “On This Day” will take a look at Winston Churchill’s address to Congress, prohibitionist Carrie Nation, the Sicily earthquake of 1908 and the Wounded Knee Massacre. We’ll also examine the creation of the USSR, the death of baseball player Roberto Clemente and the beginning of the Cuban Revolution.

Related Link Resources
On This Day column

Educators That Rock!: Elizabeth Devine

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

Elizabeth Devine in a photo by Tom Devine.

FindingEducation met up with Elizabeth Devine at the annual National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) conference in Atlanta, Ga. in November. At the conference, Devine was named as one of the NCSS Outstanding Secondary Social Studies Teachers of the Year for 2009-2010. She also hosted a panel focused on helping teachers integrate the study of human rights into their curriculum.

Devine teaches human rights, government and AP history, and she team-teaches an American studies course with an English teacher at Hall High School in Hartford, Conn.

We recently spoke with Devine over the phone. She shared some of her own strategies for helping students take positive action in their communities and on a global scale. “When you talk about how to address the problems of the world it all comes down to one thing, and that’s education, because education is hope,” Devine said.

fE: Tell me about how you got started as a teacher, and how you began the human rights course at your school.

ED: I started teaching in 1978 in West Hartford and one of the first people who had an impact on me was a Holocaust survivor. She was a teacher at the school. We became friends, and together we started to write the Human Rights manual for the state of Connecticut.

(more…)

Related Link Resources
The Memory Project
Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers
Central Asia Institute
Red Hand Day

The Answer Sheet: Week of Dec. 12

Monday, December 21st, 2009

Did you take the Quiztory last week? Now it’s time to check your answers:

1. Where was Guglielmo Marconi’s North American radio station located? Signal Hill, St. John’s, Newfoundland

2. In the race between Roald Amundsen and Robert Falcon Scott to the South Pole, which man’s party relied on Siberian ponies to transport supplies?  Robert Falcon Scott

3. When Francis Drake sailed up the west coast of the North American continent, what did he call the Pacific Northwest region?  New Albion

4. Which U.S. Supreme Court justice defended the internment of Japanese Americans in the early 1940s on the basis of national security?  Justice Hugo Black

5. Which three British ships, loaded with a cargo of tea, were vandalized by American colonists in Boston Harbor in 1773?  The Dartmouth, the Eleanor and the Beaver

Related Link Resources
On This Day: Marconi Receives a Radio Signal From Across the Atlantic
On This Day: Roald Amundsen Becomes First Man to Reach South Pole
On This Day: Francis Drake Sets Out to Circumnavigate the World
On This Day: Supreme Court Upholds Internment of Japanese Americans
On This Day: American Patriots Carry Out Boston Tea Party

Quiztory: Week of Dec. 12

Friday, December 18th, 2009

Test your students’ knowledge of the notable events covered in findingDulcinea’s “On This Day” column this week with the Quiztory—a quiz on important events in history. A new Quiztory will run every Friday.

1. Where was Guglielmo Marconi’s North American radio station located?
2. In the race between Roald Amundsen and Robert Falcon Scott to the South Pole, which man’s party relied on Siberian ponies to transport supplies?
3. When Francis Drake sailed up the west coast of the North American continent, what did he call the Pacific Northwest region?
4. Which U.S. Supreme Court justice defended the internment of Japanese Americans in the early 1940s on the basis of national security?
5. Which three British ships, loaded with a cargo of tea, were vandalized by American colonists in Boston Harbor in 1773?

What’s Coming Up?

Next week, “On This Day” will take a look at the debut of Ripley’s “Believe it or Not,” the U.S. invasion of Panama, the discovery of radium and Ceausescu’s removal from office in Romania. We’ll also examine George H.W. Bush’s pardon for the Iran-Contra defendants and the ceasefire between British and German troops on Christmas day, 1914, during World War I.

Related Link Resources
On This Day column

10 Stories That Shook the School World in 2009

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

Every year has its share of stories that profoundly impact us. And stories about our schools and our children particularly touch our emotions.

With a new administration in Washington, a global economic recession and the increasing influence of technology in our society, 2009 was bound to have more than its fair share of stories that would impact our schools.

Here are 10 we believe most profoundly impacted the education world in 2009.

Related Link Resources
findingDulcinea:10 Stories That Shook the School World in 2009

The Answer Sheet: Week of Dec. 5

Monday, December 14th, 2009

Did you take the Quiztory last week? Now it’s time to check your answers:

1. When did Boris Yeltsin resign and cede power to Vladimir Putin? 1999

2. Who is credited with initially spreading the word that gold was found in the American River? Sam Brannan

3. How many American servicemen died on board the battleship USS Arizona as a result of the Japanese bombing of a U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor? 1,177

4. In 2001, which country was voted off the United Nations Human Rights Commission? United States

5. Which magazine published a story about Thomas Edison’s phonograph invention in its Dec. 22, 1877, edition? Scientific American

Related Link Resources
On This Day: Dissolution of Soviet Union Declared
On This Day: President Polk Sparks the California Gold Rush
On This Day: Japan Bombs US Base at Pearl Harbor
On This Day: UN Adopts Universal Declaration of Human Rights
On This Day: Thomas Edison Successfully Tests Phonograph

Quiztory: Week of Dec. 5

Friday, December 11th, 2009

Test your students’ knowledge of the notable events covered in findingDulcinea’s “On This Day” column this week with the Quiztory—a quiz on important events in history. A new Quiztory will run every Friday.

1. When did Boris Yeltsin resign and cede power to Vladimir Putin?

2. Who is credited with initially spreading the word that gold was found in the American River?

3. How many American servicemen died on board the battleship USS Arizona as a result of the Japanese bombing of a U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor?

4. In 2001, which country was voted off the United Nations Human Rights Commission?

5. Which magazine published a story about Thomas Edison’s phonograph invention in its Dec. 22, 1877, edition?

What’s Coming Up?

Next week, “On This Day” will take a look at Guglielmo Marconi and his radio signal experiments, Sir Francis Drake’s explorations and Roald Amundsen’s journey to the South Pole. We’ll also examine Adolf Eichmann’s trial, the Boston Tea Party, the Wright Brothers flight at Kitty Hawk and the internment of Japanese Americans in the 1940s.

Related Link Resources
On This Day column

Educators That Rock!: Sarah Brannen

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

Sarah S. Brannen

Sarah S. Brannen.

We first met Sarah Brannen, children’s book author, illustrator and blogger, at the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) conference in Charlotte, N.C., where she cohosted a panel on censorship.

FindingEducation recently reconnected with Brannen over the phone to learn more about her first book, “Uncle Bobby’s Wedding” (UBW), published in 2008. “Uncle Bobby’s Wedding” features a young guinea pig, Chloe, who is worried her favorite uncle won’t have time for her anymore because he’s getting married.

“The fact that it’s a same-sex wedding is absolutely irrelevant to the story,” Brannen says. But according to the American Library Association, “Uncle Bobby’s Wedding” was one of the top 10 most challenged books in 2008, due to ”homosexuality” and because it was deemed to be “unsuited to age group.” The book was also selected as an American Booksellers Association Book Sense pick for Spring 2008.

“Some of the stories that I write are about people, and I illustrate them with animals to keep the story universal,” Brannen told findingEducation.

(more…)

Related Link Resources
American Booksellers Association
American Library Association
Myliblog
Yellapalooza