Using Google to Teach About the World

On Tuesday, March 11, 2014, teachers from across Southwestern Pennsylvania gathered at the Pittsburgh-based Google offices to learn more about new educational tools offered by Google. Given the popularity of the program and platforms discussed, we’ve provided information on each tool below with some of the in-the-classroom uses discussed during the workshop.

Google is a name heard and understood throughout the world. The well-known internet provider, created in 1998, has grown into a multibillion dollar empire with 70 offices in more than 40 countries around the world.

Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. They provide this information through a variety of products and services traditionally free of charge. In addition to the well-known search engine, email service, and web browser intended for the everyday user, Google also maintains a variety of platforms designed and updated with educators in mind.

Google Earth/Maps
Google Earth allows users to explore the world around them from the comforts of home. Starting from as far away as outer space, users can zoom in close enough to view international cities, notable mountain ranges, and even underwater ocean views. Google Maps provides a street view option to allow users the opportunity to walk the streets of Rome or Rio just as they would if they were really there.

Google Earth has put together collages of popular points on the map and photos of related artifacts and wonders to allow for more detailed learning on a particular region of the world. These can be found in the Google Earth Gallery, here. Users can also create their own journeys by pinning their favorite spots on the map.

In the classroom: Teachers can use this tool to teach their students about the world. Google earth is a great way to visualize the topography of a region, or put the distance and location of a place into perspective for the students. Additionally, the street view takes the students on a virtual tour of famous landmarks and day-to-day streets.

Picture3Exploring the Great Wall of China on Google Earth

The Constitute platform is home to digitized versions of many of the World’s constitutions to allow for easy reference and comparison. Users can search by country or key word. For example, by searching “gender”, Constitute will filter every constitution that addresses the issue of gender. The relevant excerpts will be listed to allow for easy reference when searching through the different documents. In addition to the online viewing option, PDF versions are also available to download and print.

In the classroom: Teachers can use this resource to send students on a “scavenger hunt” by having them search the constitutions for specific topics and/or issues. Additionally, teachers can “pin” favorite excerpts (selecting the icon that looks like a pin) for easy access to compare and contrast.

Picture2Searching for the legal meaning of “Gender Equality” around the world

Cultural Institute
Cultural Institute is a multi-service platform that allows users to explore notable works of art, historical events, and modern day wonders of the world, as well as expand their knowledge and understanding through the added content provided.

Art Project is home to online images of thousands of works of art housed in museums and archives from around the world. Users can search by collection, artist, and/or a specific type of art. There are more than 40,000 high resolution images that allow users to zoom in close enough to view the actual bush stroke. Users can explore the collections of photos previously compiled by Google, or create your own personal collection by pinning and saving your favorite works of art.

Historical Moments is an online exhibition detailing the stories behind significant moments in human history, using documents, photos, videos and in some cases personal accounts of events. Earthquake: The Chinatown Story and the Struggle for Freedom in Mozambique are just two of the many examples available.

World Wonders brings to life the wonders of the modern and ancient world. Google’s Street View technology allows users to view geographical and architectural wonders from the comforts of their computer screens. Users are exposed to a series of images and historical context for a particular location or landmark. Take a tour through the Versaille Palace in France to see how it works.

In the classroom: Within Art Project, teachers can take their students on a virtual tour of a particular museum just as though you were there in person. Additionally, teachers and students using Art Project, Historical Moments, and/or World Wonders can bookmark and share favorites with friends, colleagues, classmates. There is also the ability to compare works of images side by side.

Picture1An example of a search query for Leonardo da Vinci in Art Project

Connected Classrooms
Created by the Google+ team, Connected Classrooms uses Google+ hangouts to take students on a virtual field trip and connect them with their peers around the world. Teachers can register by signing up online, and will receive email notifications of upcoming events. Past hangouts included a tour of the White House, conversation with a NASA Astronaut in space, and a reciting of the Gettysburg Address with documentarian Ken Burns. Up to ten schools can participate on a virtual hangout at one time. All hangouts are archived and available on the Connected Classrooms site as well as on YouTube.

To register, teachers must have a Google+ profile.

In the classroom: Teachers can incorporate the hangouts into their teachings based on the content being covered. Hangouts allow students to hear a different perspective on an issue from their peers, to allow for a deeper and more meaningful discussion.

YouTube for Education
YouTube for Education is a subset of the traditional YouTube video sharing website. YouTube’s education platform is home to over 100 channels and 150,000 unique videos from which teachers can choose. All videos are safe for educational use, and security features allow teachers to have direct control over the videos available.

In the classroom: Teachers can incorporate videos into their teachings, assign them for student view as part of a flipped classroom, or create a video with their class to be uploaded to the site.


Year in Review: International Affairs in 2011

Happy New Year, everyone! 2012 is off to a snowy start here in Pittsburgh, and this seems like a perfect time to review what has happened over the past 360-some odd days.

As always, the global stage was full of tumult and change: 2011 saw the deaths of influential world figures (Warren Christopher, Muammar Gaddafi, Vaclav Havel, Steve Jobs, Kim Jong-Il, and Osama bin Laden, for example); uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa; the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq; devastating natural disasters (earthquakes in Japan and New Zealand, typhoon in the Philippines, floods in south-east Asia, and famine in the Horn of Africa); and economic crisis in Europe.

We’ve scoured the web to find some of the best of the “2011 in Review” resources, and compiled them below. Are there any we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments.

2011 Year in Review (Reuters): Photos and descriptions of the most important news stories of the year, including a dramatic 60-second multimedia video presentation of the key stories, and some of the top images from 2011.

Best Articles of 2011 (Foreign Policy Magazine): Although not necessarily highlighting the most important news stories of the year, here are the most-read articles from in 2011.

Best International Relations Books of 2011 (Foreign Affairs): In every issue of Foreign Affairs, scholars review recent academic and nonfiction books.  At the end of 2011, the reviewers were asked to select the best ones.  Here you will find the best books in a number of categories, including: Western Europe; the Middle East; the Western Hemisphere; Eastern Europe; Economic, Social, and Environmental Subjects; Asia; Africa; the United States; Military, Scientific, and Technological Subjects; and Political and Legal Subjects.

Personal Favorites from 2011 (A Realist in an Ideological Age): Stephen M. Walt is a professor of international affairs at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and writes a blog, A Realist in an Ideological Age, for Foreign Policy.  In this post, he shares his favorite blog posts from the past year, all of which are worth a read.

Shots Seen ‘Round the World (Foreign Policy Magazine): Fifty of the best/most important photographs from 2011, as selected by Foreign Policy.

Top 5 Foreign Policy Books in 2011 (Foreign Policy Association): The FPA asked its staff, editors, writers and bloggers to select the best books about foreign policy. Here is what they came up with.

Top 5 International Documentaries of 2011 (Foreign Policy Association): The FPA asked its staff, editors, writers and bloggers to select the best international documentaries on issues related to U.S. foreign policy. Here is what they came up with.

Twitter’s 2011 Year in Review (Twitter): It is no secret that social media is playing an increasing role in current events. Here is a look at some of the key stories, hot topics, and important moments of 2011 — as seen on Twitter.

Your Top 10 Stories of 2011 (The Guardian): Links to the top ten news stories of the year, as selected by readers.

The Year in Foreign Policy (Foreign Policy Association): The FPA looks at several key foreign policy events that promise to shape the coming year, including the 2012 election.

Year in Review (Foreign Policy Blogs Network): The FPA’s blog network has a number of great, topic-specific “Year in Review” posts, all of which can be found here. Read about 2011 in Russia or Israel, or the year in Global Food Security or War Crimes (to name just a few).


Facebook and the World

Social networking has become a central part of many people’s daily lives. However, not only has it evolved into an essential tool for our personal social lives, but it has also begun to change the world on a much larger scale. Sites like Facebook and Twitter have made headlines for their roles in generating and coordinating social movements, political protests and even revolutions—most recently in the Arab Spring uprisings.

Of the various social networks that exist, the king of the jungle is most certainly Facebook. According to Facebook’s official statistics, it has a more than 750 million active users. That means that if Facebook were a country, it would surpass the United States as the third most populous country in the world, behind only India and China.

Of those 750 million, about 70% (525 million) live outside of the U.S. What’s more, Facebook is quickly becoming the dominant social networking site in many of the world’s countries. This map shows (in blue) the countries in which Facebook is the most popular social network:

Of course, Facebook’s world domination is still far from complete, and there are some notable places – including Brazil, Russia and China– where other networks remain more popular. However, if you follow the above link, you can see similar maps going back two years to June 2009, and watch how Facebook’s reach and preponderance has expanded.

Read the rest of this entry »

A few other blogs of interest…

If you’re a fan of our blog (and let’s be honest — who isn’t?), then you might enjoy some of our friends’ blogs, as well!

A new feature that you’ll notice on the right-hand side of your screen is our Blogroll, where we’ll share links to interesting blogs that we recommend.

Right now, we’re highlighting three very special blogs:

  • John in Argentina John is an area high school student who was awarded one of our 18 Global Travel Scholarships to travel abroad this summer.  He’ll be spending four weeks in Argentina, beginning with an orientation in Buenos Aires, followed by a homestay with an Argentinian family. Then he will embark on an ecological adventure through Argentina by foot, boat, and horse.  He’ll be blogging about his experiences, so that we can all share in his adventure with him.
  • Grace in Thailand: Grace is another of our Global Travel Scholars, and she’s headed to Thailand! Her five-week program will begin with a week-long orientation in the northern city of Chiang Mai. From there, she will travel to a small rural village for a homestay and community service project.  Her adventure comes to an end with a few days in historic Sukothai and the country’s capital, Bangkok.  During her trip, Grace will also have the opportunity to explore northern Thailand by foot, raft, and elephant on a rugged trek through remote hill-tribe villages. Follow along as Grace explores Thailand!
  • Pete’s Study Tour to Europe Blog: Pete is one of 11 educators who were selected to participate in ourSummer Study Tour to Europe.  He’ll be visiting Brussels and Vienna with the group, attending meetings and talking with experts at the European Commission, European Council, NATO, the UN, and many other institutions.
  • Service Learning in Costa Rica: The students at City Charter High School took a service-learning trip to Costa Rica.  See what these Pittsburgh students are up to in Costa Rica!


If you have a blog that you think might be of interest to our readers, leave us a comment and let us know!

>The Dish on WikiLeaks


Don’t let the name fool you, WikiLeaks is not associated with everyone’s favorite online encyclopedia, Wikipedia.  But both websites do embody a similar ideal:  access to information.  The difference is that WikiLeaks wants to give access to classified information.  Without condemning or condoning WikiLeaks and the actions of its Editor in Chief, Julian Assange, let’s review what the site is, what it is doing, and some of the major ramifications that may ensue.
WikiLeaks was launched in 2006 as a website for leaking confidential information, with a mission to make governments more open.  In its early days, WikiLeaks focused on corruption in African governments, most notably in Kenya.  The site even won some media awards from Amnesty International and The Economist.  Now, however, WikiLeaks has turned its attention to the U.S. government and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Suddenly everyone cares about government secrecy/privacy (depending on your view) when it is their own government coming under fire.
The latest leak, in November, was that of over a quarter million U.S. State Department email communications (frequently referred to as cables).  These cables, courtesy of U.S. official  Bradley Manning, range from completely uninteresting to diplomatically damaging to possible war time espionage.  Whether or not the leak is actually harmful to U.S. military efforts in Afghanistan remains to be seen.  Read this article for a more in depth analysis of the situation and more detail on the contents of the cables.
Should we toss Assange in jail and throw away the key?  Accept WikiLeaks as a new facet of governing bodies?  What are the sides here?  To be sure, leaking documents that are classified, is against the law.  If Assange were a U.S. citizen there might be a case for treason.  However, he is Australian.  But is it really espionage?  Maybe.  This article by the Economist explains the need for government secrecy in diplomatic matters and the difficulty posed in prosecuting a web-based organization like WikiLeaks, because the internet transcends borders. 
Amid calls for Assange’s head on a platter, others are running wild with praise for WikiLeaks.  Arianna Huffington writes here about how this could be the tipping point for political backlash against the war in Afghanistan, which she says cannot be won.  In light of anticipated upcoming leaks about some mega banking corporations, this blog article likes the idea that sources like WikiLeaks might keep giant corporations on the up ‘n up if their inner-workings could be exposed at any time.  Still others, simply think that governments should be more open, and that WikiLeaks is a much needed venue for government accountability.  This article is somewhat on the extreme side but makes the case for transparency in governance.  I am a big fan of transparency and accountability in government, and yes, information is power, but do I deserve to know classified information about tactical troop movements in Afghanistan?  No, I don’t.  WikiLeaks is a slippery slope my friends.
Regardless of the right or wrong of WikiLeaks, the issue represents an historical moment in the evolution of governance.  The technology that created WikiLeaks is there and is evolving as you read this.  This article discusses how, even if WikiLeaks was shut down, another could easily take its place.  We are living in the information age.  If people want the information, and have a just little bit of web-savvy and a thumb drive, they can get it.  Well, as long as people like Bradley Manning are willing to share it, that is.  But consider this; the U.S. government has thousands of employees with security clearances, and gives out hundreds more each year.  Why would the U.S. government make it so easy to exchange classified information?  In the wake of 9/11, calls abounded for cooperation and better sharing of intelligence across organizations.  So now they have done that . . . and now this.  There are two sides to everything, and those sides are very rarely black and white.  Certainly though, as long as the technology exists to leak information it will force governments to be more discriminating about the information that is or is not labeled top-secret. Who knows?  Maybe the threat of a WikiLeaks expose will steer governments towards more honest diplomacy at home and abroad.  Honesty?  In politics?  We live in interesting times.  Interesting times indeed.


World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh Intern

>Cyber Security and Civil Liberties


War isn’t just fought on a battlefield anymore. The newest soldiers are just as likely to be sitting next to you in a café typing up that report for the boss, or watching their kids at a soccer game while checking their smartphones. Their choice of weapon? A computer. With computers, your ATM account can be frozen, satellite communications can be stopped, and missiles can be launched with a simple keystroke. Phone communications can be shut down and identities can be stolen. One person could effectively cripple a country in a matter of minutes and never be caught. On a large scale, these actions could constitute cyberwar, which occurs when a country (or individuals acting in their own interests) seeks to increase its power by controlling, and sometimes, obfuscating information. A country’s banking system could be shut down, only to be reopened if that nation released terrorists. A radar screen can show that the sky is clear, while in actuality, enemy aircraft are preparing to launch missiles pointed at large metropolises.
The world runs on computer systems. Because of scenarios like the ones described above, governments are increasingly facing new dilemmas: how to stop an attack, how to catch perpetrators, and how to work with other nations that may otherwise be adversaries, just to ensure that each country’s information transactions are secure. With these new warfare methods come new questions surrounding civil liberties. Who controls cyberspace, and who is responsible for policing crimes committed against a nation, or multiple nations? What’s the difference between a hacker causing mischief, and the intent to start a war? If you don’t install a firewall on your computer, are you liable if someone hacks into your computer to cause irreparable damage to another nation?
These issues will be explored in the International Student Summit on Cyber Security and Civil Liberties, sponsored by the Cornell School District, the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh, the National Flag Foundation, and Allegheny Intermediate Unit 3, on Friday, September 17th, 2010. Students attending this event will debate these issues with other students around the globe via videoconference and webcast.

Panelists will include Ms. Kim Zetter, Contributor, Wired Magazine; Mr. Ron Plesco, President and CEO, National Cyber-Forensics Training Alliance; and Mr. Jaanus Kirikmäe, Consul General, Estonia. Panelists will share their perspectives on key cyber security and civil liberties issues. The panel discussion and webcast will run from 9:00 AM to 10:30 AM. Afterwards, the students will break into small groups to tackle a foreign policy scenario.
The live webcast will be available on the Council’s homepage. Interested parties are also invited to join the conversation on Twitter by using the #CyberCiv hashtag (hashtags categorize posts relating to a specific topic). Don’t forget to follow the Council @WorldAffairsPgh! We hope you will join us on Friday for this very important conversation.

>A Blog About Blogging


Hello, loyal followers of the World Affairs Education Outreach Blog!  We just wanted to give you an update as to the types of things to expect from this blog as we move forward.
This summer, we’ll be hosting a number of guest bloggers (including interns, students, and teachers — many of whom are traveling abroad).  Keep an eye out to see what types of things they’re learning in their travels.  We’ll also continue to provide information and resources on current events, upcoming programs, and international opportunities.
If there’s a topic you’d like to see featured here, send an email to Christina (christina (at) worldaffairspittsburgh (dot) org), or leave a comment on one of the blog posts.  We’d love to hear from you!