Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Web 2.0 Wednesday: George? George, are you there?

This week's Web 2.0 site is Where' 

What is it?
Where's George (WG) is a site for tracking currency. The site offers maps and tables showing data for the travel of U.S. currency, and the cool thing is it tracks your currency! That's right: You can finally find out exactly where all your money goes!

How do I use the site?
There are two ways to interact with the site: entering a bill that is already registered, or registering a new bill. To enter a bill that is already registered, well, you have to have one! You'll know you have a registered Where's George bill in your hands because it will be marked or stamped with the website's URL (see the picture on the left). If you haven't found such a bill, that's okay! You can take any U.S. bill in any denomination and register it by entering the serial number and the series year, including any letters or stars (see below).
The order is Enter - Mark - Spend, or EMS. Enter the bill's information on the website, Mark it so others who receive it will know to return to the site, and Spend it as you normally would. Then you can come back later to see if anyone has found and entered your bills. 

But wait, isn't it illegal to mark on currency?
Yes and no. It's illegal to deface currency, but the law defines defacement as making the bill unfit to be reissued. Small stamps or written messages that don't interfere with using the bill are not considered defacement. There is a law forbidding advertising on U.S. currency, but ever since the Where's George website stopped selling stamps, the Secret Service have no longer considered it an issue worth following. You can read more about legal issues at the Where's George FAQ and on the Wikipedia page for Where's George. Check out the citations at the bottom of the Wikipedia article if you want to read more. You don't have to purchase a stamp to be able to mark bills. A fine point Sharpie works just fine, too.

That's all great, but how can I use Where's George in the classroom?
As I mentioned above, the website has some great non-linguistic representations such as interactive maps and charts. You can use these as real-world examples for working with data and maps. As with any website, make sure you preview any page before having students visit. This website is not intended specifically for children, so adult participants could choose to include objectionable ideas or information. Most pages are fine, but check first! Try one of these activities:
  • Print out the chart showing a popular bill's "hits" (entries on the site). Have students create maps showing the bill's travels and calculate the total miles. They can then compare their maps to the one on the website.
  • The website report for a bill shows the average miles traveled per day. Have students compute this figure and then compare to the site.
  • WG is a rich source of real-world data. Have students use the data for your graphing and other data objectives.
  • Invite students to enter the bills from their own allowance or ice cream money on the Where's George website and track their bills throughout the year. Whose bills traveled the farthest? Who entered the most bills? Whose Where's George "score" ended up being highest?
  • Have students use critical thinking to answer the question: How do you think this particular bill could've gone from Location A to Location B?  For instance, this bill was first entered in Vermont in November of 2008, and was not entered again until March of the following year, in Germany! 
  • Use the journeys of a popular bill as a story starter. Have students write about the adventures of "George" based on the actual travels of a real bill. You might challenge older students to write in the first person.
  • Where's George users can be very dedicated. A whole group of loyal followers have created advertisements and custom stamps for Where's George. Have your art or computer lab students design their own ads or stamps for Where's George.
  • You can view a color-coded map showing total hits by state and county. Have students practice their map reading and critical thinking skills using these maps. What patterns do you discern as you look at the map? Which areas have the most and the least hits? Why do you think that might be so? Could our class change the trend? Why or why not?
  • You can look at a list of the top users on the website. Have students create math questions for one another using the statistics found on users' profiles. For instance, top user Gary Wattsburg has entered over a million bills! If it takes 30 seconds to enter a bill, how much time has Gary spent entering bills? Gary joined WG on January 15, 2002. What has been his average time on WG per day, just entering bills?
Now it's your turn: What are your great ideas for using Where's George with students?

Images courtesy of Wikimedia.

Note: There are no "aff" links on this post. I have received no remuneration or special consideration from any of the websites linked here.

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