Learn Google Flu Trends and CDC – Winter 2013

Flu is here and for the next couple of months so many of us will need to take precautions to prevent, if possible, getting sick. Your family will probably have a few conversations about the flu, so here are some data-rich public health websites to use as a part of the conversation with 21st Century learners.

Some influenza seasons are worse than others, and this year appears to be more severe than the last few flu seasons. But no matter what year it is, it’s doubly important to help children and everyone else in your family avoid influenza exposure as much as possible — and no one should get very far into the fall months without receiving a vaccination at a physician’s office, pharmacy, or local clinic.

google-trends

Google Flu Trends Data Map

Today I went to Google Flu Trends to learn where in the United States influenza is hitting the hardest, and right now this dynamic mapping site indicates that the flu is just about everywhere. Google collects its data by keeping track of internet searches for symptoms such as fever, headache, or sore muscles. The collected search statistics turn out to be good predictors of what parts of the country are experiencing influenza-like illnesses.

Right now, January 18, 2013, the Google flu map shows that the flu is widespread — almost every state in the U.S. is the same bright read color, indicating that lots of people are sick with the flu and searching to learn more. A user can click in each state to look at the influenza-related searches from there. Click on the map to visit Google Flu Trends to see what it looks like.

CDC influenza

CDC Data Map

The data depicted by Google Flu Trends often corresponds to, but is not a substitute for, the hard data that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) receives when epidemiologists from around the country collect and submit  data about actual diagnosed influenza cases in their states. In tracing the course of an epidemic, epidemiologists and health officials need to collect the specifics about place and time of an illness as well as general characteristics of the people who are sick (age, gender, ethnicity, seriousness of illness, pre-existing health conditions, etc.).

At this time, Google Flu Trends, while predictive of case counts, does not provide public health officials enough detailed information. Look at the CDC Influenza Summary Update.

Resources on Influenza Continue reading

Our Library of Congress: Knowledge Moves into the Digital World

The LOC Reading Room - Picture taken from the entrance.

If you ever visit Washington, DC, save an afternoon or even a day to visit the Library of Congress (LOC). Filled with resources — primary and secondary, hands-on and digital — the Library is a delight for anyone who loves to learn. In my post , The Library of Congress: Go Exploring for Digital Resources, I wrote about a few LOC digital learning opportunities, and library website features many more. The digital learning resources are available no matter where a person lives, however there is much to see at the library itself, and a LOC library visit is fun for adults and children.

Last Monday, on the February holiday that honors Abraham Lincoln and George Washington, the Library of Congress, which was started with the book collection of another president, Thomas Jefferson, opened its main reading room to the public.

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Google Art Project – Bookmark It!

Check out the Google Art Project and explore art museums from around the world — some that you may have already visited and others that you hope to tour sometime in the future. I know that some museums here I may never get to visit, so it’s great to poke around. A parent and child or a grandparent and child can have lots of virtual fun exploring, viewing, and learning about actual pieces of art in each museum. Read the February 2, 2011 Washington Post article, Google Art Project: ‘Street View’ Technology Added to Museums, to learn more about some of the museums participating in Google Art Project.

The Chapel Where the Waverly Consort Performed

Just over a month ago I spent an amazing afternoon at The Cloisters Museum and Garden, a real medieval castle, imported from Spain, that is now a part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. We spent time walking around, especially taking time to look at the Unicorn Tapestries. Then we went into one of the chapels to listen and watch the Waverly Consort perform a Medieval Christmas story. I love The Cloisters Museum, though, I can count my visits on one hand, since I’ve never lived close enough go more often.

So I was delighted a few days ago (February 1, 2011) when Google Art Project appeared, essentially opening a virtual door to a group of museums from around the world, including The Cloisters. This nifty new web site uses some of the same technology that helps people surf around to street views with maps and Google Earth. I chose the Metropolitan Museum from the list of museums, went right over to a visitor’s guide link on the top right of the page, and arrived within moments at The Cloisters. A few more clicks and there I was in the same austere, but beautiful chapel where I listened to the concert last month. Very cool.

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Grammar is Fun? Grammar Girl Sure Is – Bookmark It!

Does someone in your house need an occasional grammar review? Do occasional questions about word use or punctuation come up as a family member writes important essays and reports? If so, check out Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing. It’s amusing for kids and adults, too, but there’s a lot to learn along the way. We listen to these podcasts just for fun, and I know a family that downloads the “casts” to listen to on family car trips (okay, it’s my family).

Visit Grammar Girl’s Website

Grammar Girl posts regular podcasts — free and never more than a couple of minutes long — and they are chock-full of interesting information about usage, punctuation rules, and accepted practices. She uses humorous examples, not unlike the understated but clever examples found in Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style, a revered but unpretentious reference first published in 1918 and still widely used today.

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Internet Public Library — Bookmark It!

Parents and teachers are always on the hunt for a reliable Internet site that children can visit time after time and be certain of the quality and reliability of the content. The Internet Public Library (ipl2) fits the bill, a resource that is just as good for adults as it is for children. With a motto of “Information You Can Trust” the IPL2 is a searchable, subject-categorized directory of authoritative websites with links to online texts, newspapers, and other resources. Librarians review everything in the collection.

What to Check Out at the Internet Public Library Continue reading

Museums: For Schoolwork, Fun, and Even Travel – Bookmark It!

Summer is over, but your family can still travel virtually to out-of-town museums by visiting one of the web-based museum portals described below. Each leads to a wide range of museums close by and around the world. Some of the sites feature travel information as well as museums.

While it is easy to search for the larger, most well-known museums, these search sites can help people find hidden museum gems. Becoming familiar with these museum portals gives parents and students an additional bonus — museums are great resources for students to use when they work on school reports and projects. Below are four sites that provide hours of fun, not to mention unlimited information. Continue reading

Quick and Easy Graphing Site – Bookmark It!

Have you ever wished you would make a quick graph as you help a child with homework or explain a complex concept by depicting it with a graph?

The National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) offers a “Create-a-Graph” site, and more than 20,000,000 users have made graphs  since 2005.  The site provides a quick getting-started tutorial to help get started, but the graph making is simple enough that a user can get started almost immediately. Graphs can be saved, printed, and e-mailed.

Be sure to check out the other math and statistics facts on the NCES kids’ site.