Google makes famous artwork more accessible

In a move that will benefit students, art historians, and casual viewers alike, Spain’s Prado Museum has teamed up with Google Earth for a project that allows people to view the gallery’s main works of art from their computers–and even zoom in on details not immediately discernible to the human eye.

The initiative, announced Jan. 13, is said to be the first of its kind involving an art museum. It involves 14 of the Prado’s choicest paintings, including Diego Velazquez’s "Las Meninas," Francisco de Goya’s "Third of May," Peter Paul Rubens’ "The Three Graces," and Hieronymus Bosch’s "The Garden of Earthly Delights."

"There is no better way to pay tribute to the great masters of the history of art than to universalize knowledge of their works using optimum conditions," said Prado director Miguel Zugaza.

Google Spain director Javier Rodriguez Zapatero said the images now available on the internet were 1,400 times clearer than what would be rendered with a 10-megapixel camera.

"With Google Earth technology, it is possible to enjoy these magnificent works in a way never previously possible–obtaining details impossible to appreciate through [even] firsthand observation," he said during a news conference at the museum.

Google Earth is a free service provided by the internet search engine company that uses satellite technology to reproduce maps and finely detailed images of places throughout the world, from people’s houses in American cities to beaches or forests in Africa.

The Prado idea was the brainchild of Google worker Clara Rivera.

"There is nothing comparable to standing before any of these paintings, but this offers a complementary view," Rivera said.

"Normally you have to stand a good distance away from these works, but this offers you the chance to see details that you could only see from a big ladder placed right beside them."

With the click of a mouse, she showed examples including that of a minuscule wasp on the petal of a flower just above the head of the women in the Rubens work. Another gave a microscopic glance of a teardrop in Roger van der Weyden’s "Descent from the Cross."

The project involved 8,200 photographs taken between May and July last year, which were then combined with Google Earth’s zoom-in technology.

"With the digital image we’re seeing the body of the paintings with almost scientific detail," Zugaza said. "What we don’t see is the soul. The soul will always only be seen by contemplating the original."

Rodriguez Zapatero said there were no immediate plans to extend the initiative to more of the Prado’s paintings or to other museums. He said Google had footed the entire bill, but he declined to give any details of costs.

The images can be seen by going to Google, downloading the Google Earth software, then typing in "Prado Museum" in the search engine. Once the museum zooms into focus, click on the square with the name of the museum.

Links:

Prado Museum

Google Earth

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$5,000 for teachers to help improve academic achievement in students

The NEA Foundation provides grants to improve the academic achievement of students in U.S. public schools and public higher education institutions in any subject area. The proposed work should engage students in critical thinking and problem solving that deepen their knowledge of standards-based subject matter. The work should also improve students’ habits of inquiry, self-directed learning, and critical reflection. Grant funds may be used for resource materials, supplies, equipment, transportation, software, or scholars-in-residence. Although some funds may be used to support the professional development necessary to implement the project, the majority of grant funds must be spent on materials or educational experiences for students.

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All expenses paid for overseas Fulbright Award trip

Sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, U.S. Department of State, the Distinguished Fulbright Awards in Teaching program recognizes and encourages excellence in teaching in the U.S. and abroadThe program sends highly accomplished primary and secondary teachers from the U.S. abroad and brings international teachers to the U.S for a three to six month long program. In 2009-10, the participating countries are: Argentina, Finland, India, Israel, Singapore, and South Africa.

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All expenses paid for study tour of Korea

The Korea Society’s 2009 Summer Fellowship in Korean Studies programs is designed to help educators integrate Korean subjects into their curricula by taking fellows on a two-week study tour of Korea from June 24 to July 10, 2009. The program includes lectures and discussions on Korean language, history, culture, art, politics and economics. During the final week, participants will be given time for independent research and exploration.

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Win up to $15,000 for innovative STEM programs

Motorola is calling for applications for the 2009 Innovation Generation Grants, the technology company’s signature giving program. Innovation Generation Grants support programs that inspire and cultivate the next generation of inventors and innovators by making science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) accessible and relatable to students at any age. In 2008, the Motorola Foundation’s Innovation Generation Grants supported more than 90 programs that use innovative approaches to develop students’ interest and skills in STEM. Of the recipient programs – ranging from after-school and summer science enrichment programs to activities that promote innovative technology use and teacher-training initiatives – 43 percent serve African American students, 23 percent reach Hispanic youth, and 35 percent reach girls.

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K-12 educators could win a wireless lab for their school

Educators are asked to enter their schools to win a Mobile Wireless Lab, which is valued between $41,658 and $41,957. Five grand prize-winning schools will receive 20 notebook computers or Tablet PCs, a projector, a printer, a Promethean ACTIVboard and stand, A Promethean ACTIVote pack and wireless access points. All Mobile Wireless Labs will include one Bretford mobile cart, one AverMedia document camera, and one Sony video camcorder and each Grand Prize will also include a $5,000 Digital Media Grant for online and/or offline Discovery Education products to be selected/customized by the winning school.

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$600 digital camera and accessories for student photographers

Tool Factory has partnered with Olympus Cameras in a search for student photographers of tomorrow. Students are asked to submit their favorite photographs online to become eligible to win the grand prize 8.0 megapixel digital camera with accessories, a Tool Factory software program worth up to $200, and a digital camera basics book. One winner will be chosen in the photography category and one in artistic photo manipulation. At least 10 honorable mention winners will receive Tool Factory software and a digital camera basics book.

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DVD teaches autistic kids what a smile means

It wasn’t until Jude met Jenny that the 3-year-old autistic boy understood what happy people look like.

Jenny, a green trolley car with a human face, had a furrowed brow when her wheel buckled and she got stuck on a track. But after being rescued by friends, she smiled broadly–and that’s when something clicked for little Jude Baines.

“It was revelatory,” his mother, Caron Freeborn, told AP Television News in Cambridge, England. Before watching the video, Jude didn’t understand what emotions were and never noticed the expressions on people’s faces, even those of his parents or younger brother.

Jenny’s adventures are part of a DVD for autistic children released this week in the United States called The Transporters.

The DVD teaches autistic children how to recognize emotions like happiness, anger, and sadness through the exploits of vehicles that include a train, a ferry, and a cable car.

It is the brainchild of Simon Baron-Cohen, director of the Autism Research Centre at Cambridge University. He also happens to be a cousin of Sacha Baron-Cohen, the comedian behind the characters Ali G, the aspiring rapper, and Borat, the crass Kazakh reporter.

Baron-Cohen first became interested in autism in the 1980s while teaching autistic children. “Why should social interaction be so difficult for a child who has very good skills in other areas, like memory or an attention to detail?” he wondered.

About a decade ago, Baron-Cohen suggested that autism–which is much less likely to afflict girls–might be an extreme version of the typical male brain. Men tend to understand the world via patterns and structure, whereas women are more inclined to understand emotions and sympathize with others.

Autism, Baron-Cohen believes, is a condition where people perceive systems and patterns while remaining almost oblivious to other people and their feelings.

To help autistic children understand emotions, Baron-Cohen and his team use eight track-based vehicles in their DVD. The vehicles have human faces grafted onto them, making focusing on human features unavoidable. The video was financed by the British government.

“To teach autistic children something they find difficult, we needed an autism-friendly format,” Baron-Cohen said. Autistic children are particularly drawn to predictable vehicles that move on tracks, like trains and trams. For years, parents of autistic children have noted their children’s attachment to Thomas the Tank Engine.

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Miami-Dade School Board fires software consulting company

The Miami-Dade School Board voted unanimously on Jan. 14 to fire Deloitte Consulting, the firm it hired to oversee the installation of new technology to deal with payroll, employees, and finance systems, reports the Miami Herald. The district will now adopt its own plan to keep the $85.4 million project going. Superintendent Alberto Carvalho stressed that the change would not cost the district any additional money. ‘This allows us to contain the cost, assure control of the timeline, and guarantee the pace,’ Carvalho told the Herald. ‘Now, we can be reasonably confident that we can see the project through to completion.’ The project, called Business Operating Solutions for Schools, or BOSS, will streamline the district’s payroll, human resources, and finance systems. So far, the district has invested about $52 million into the project. But a recent audit showed that BOSS was about three months behind schedule and over budget. In addition, auditors said it was riddled with staffing and management problems. Schools Chief Financial Officer Richard Hinds said that the two-year timeline Deloitte set was unrealistic. Both Deloitte and the software itself have had problems in other districts. Last year, the software left thousands of Los Angeles teachers without paychecks; resolving the glitch cost about $40 million…

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Web 2.0-savvy teachers testing old assumptions

Teachers are often portrayed as being clueless about technology, but ever more of them are putting that stereotype to the test, CNN reports. Web 2.0 technologies in particular have found a receptive audience among educators. Many use blogs to share ideas on teaching and technology, some of which might surprise students. One idea in the teacher blogosphere: In the age of podcasts, kill off the classroom lecture, or at least rely on it less. Why fill classroom time with passive listening in a chemistry class if it could be better used for practice and interaction? Lectures can be listened to at home as a podcast. In response to another blogger’s post on the topic, Pennsylvania teacher Louise Maine suggests: "Students can listen to it as many times as needed, make notes of questions to ask in class, and maintain for a reference. We can require notes to be shown for evidence of work having been done." Shifting attitudes among teachers in recent years have been observed by others. "There is a growing perception that student communication and online collaboration are important 21st-century skills," says Jeff Patterson, president of Gaggle.net, a company offering safe eMail for students. His company got off to a slow start after launching in late 1999. "Schools and teachers were just not ready for email and online communication tools," says Patterson. But now Gaggle.net manages nearly 2 million eMail accounts, offers student blogs, and plans to release more online collaboration tools. A seventh-grade science teacher in Indiana, Jeff Peterson, says students at his school use Gaggle to collaborate and manage files, "skills they will need to use in the workplace or in college."

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