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So points me to “The coolest photo of Earth’s atmosphere you will see today“.

I’m a sucker for a new wallpaper and anything with a nice egg shell blue sky in always works for me as I find all that empty clean space calming on a monitor screen. Same with any decent photo pointing upwards or from really high up pointing downwards.

I clicked the link. And the Digg submitter was right – it was the the coolest photo of Earth’s atmosphere I saw today. The only one, but still, the thought was a good one. Right click > set as Desktop > minimize screen > aaahhh, what a great view.

I then saw that this was the EOS NASA online image bank and there was a link to more content. Aha, I thought, if the other images are as good as this one then I am in wallpaper heaven – cities, mountain ranges, coastlines – all in high res and screen filling goodness.

So I clicked the small link “view images index“. It took me to a page with a few thumbnails and the worst most pointless content selection browse I have ever seen.

I could only assume that they have made it deliberately hard to get any use from this part of the site. And I usually don’t mind random meanderings through content delivery sites but after a couple of clicks I was so annoyed I simply stopped.

EOS website navigation

Now NASA must have one of the worlds largest image banks containing some of the most incredible images ever seen. So why spend billions on the camera to take them and then what looks like 5 minutes thought to organise them for public viewing on a webpage?

Ironically it probably took ages for some poor web editor to manually hyperlink each of those numbers to a page. Or more likely there’s a CMS routine that sticks a new number on the end of the list everytime a new batch of images gets uploaded.

Their “mission statement” as they grandly state it is actually fulfilled: ” The purpose of NASA’s Earth Observatory is to provide a freely-accessible publication on the Internet where the public can obtain new satellite imagery and scientific information about our home planet.” …but to satisfaction? Not mine, certainly.

And underneath each of those links were some astonishing images. This is a classic example of when you have too much content – how do you present it in an understandable fashion?

To be honest I am happy to wait for all those thumbnails to load onto the same page or divided by a simple taxonomy or a perpetual page like Unspace.

I can only assume it won all those “Webby” awards for it’s content and not the site itself.

There’s an interesting article on the BBC site that debates with itself about the impact of having an abundance of technology in the classroom. One side argues for the need to change the way we educate to accommodate the modern digital native and the other claims that all this electronic wizardry is expensive, unreliable, truculent and, frankly, not as productive as we all think it should be.

“There’s always this awful thing when you have planned that lesson on the IWB (Interactive White Board) and something goes wrong because there is something wrong with the system. You either have to be extremely organised and plan two lessons – one on paper and one on the white board – or you have to depend on all your resourcefulness as a teacher to pull something out of your hat.”

I imagine this happens more often than we think. Now an IWB is not going to increase the quality of learning any more than a blackboard. Or even an empty book. It’s the vitality of the content that makes it come alive.

She says if the students were doing a project on spiders – they would have a picture of thousands of spiders running across the board. What they really should be doing is going outside and putting their hands in the dirt.

Yes they should. The dirt option should not be ignored, but the 1000’s of spiders running across the board has only recently been available as a teaching aid, as a piece of digital content, literally in the last few years.

What should be happening is a combination. Let’s be honest, unless you’re a fly, or have been bitten and now have a head swollen like a balloon, spiders are pretty static and dull most of the time.

But if you can augment the reality of hunting round the school playground for a real one with the BBC Archive clip of a Trapdoor spider pouncing on it’s prey or a time lapse video of a spider building it’s intricate web…well, you’ve enhanced the experience for the learner.

ode will place these elements well within reach of the teacher so they can build enhanced learning experiences around the bits where you get your hands dirty.

PS: Don’t watch this if you don’t like MASSIVE HAIRY SPIDERS.

What is ODE?

ODE will be a webstore where educators can buy little bits of digital educational content and put them back together any way they like. Simple.