Monthly Archives: January 2007


IMSafer: Helping Responsible Parents


My wife and I were talking about personal responsibility last night. It was the age-old debate about who to blame for the state of the world. More specifically, the state of children (we are both teachers). We both recognized that there are companies actively marketing products, services, and entertainment to teenagers that is clearly inappropriate for their age. As most of these conversations go, we both agreed that in a free-market based economy, the people still have the power (whether they use it or not). We can always vote with our money and time. Parents have the added burden of keeping tabs on their children and the choice they make.

I encountered IMSafer a couple weeks ago and, to be honest with you, I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. The site/software monitors chats and notifies you via email if something fishy seems to be going on. I worry about parents who keep such a tight grip on their children that the kids end up more deviant. IMSafer has the potential of being used in an abusive way. I suppose it would depend on how you went about using it.

Looking at the product information, the site claims to have talked with law enforcement officials about how inappropriate relationships are initiated and maintained. The monitor can even pick up leet. My wife and I do not have children, so we really have no arena to test this product. I would love to hear from others who try it. It does have the potential of being a powerful tool for parents to keep tabs on their children without standing over the child’s shoulder all day and night.

via Lifehacker

Disaster Events Map

disaster map

Want that certain student motivated and interested in exploring the globe while learning about some interesting current events? This looks like just the right thing to spark some interest in some students I know. A map covering all sorts of unpleasant real time events (natural disasters, disease outbreaks, etc) from the National Association of Radio-Distress Signaling and Info-communications.

It’s got a RSS feed and daily downloads for Google Earth.

You’ve got lots of options regarding researching certain areas and disasters as well as graphing the data itself. How many disasters occurred in Asia compared to Canada over the last week? That type of thing.


Geni Fixes Familial Woes

family tree of Richard III is neat.

A great option for dealing with complicated family relationships in history or novels (Richard III for instance). Have your students plot out the family tree and upload pictures all for free in a very easy ajaxy environment. You can move around and zoom in and out to get the big picture.

It allows multiple authors so it’s great for group projects and it also has a list view which might be better for some learners. It’s also searchable and you can easily add pictures.

The negatives seem to be that you need to have an email address to use it and to invite others in as well. I can’t figure out a way to share a link with non-invited users as of yet either.

All in all really cool and I heard about it on Net@Night.

The Communist Manifesto on YouTube as a Cartoon Remix

A great idea and great project type for kids. You could do this with any number of fairly dry historical documents and while it would take quite a while the level of comprehension, analysis and retention the creators would get from this project would be incredible.

The movie itself makes for a nice resource if you’re covering Communism.

via BoingBoing some time ago

How big is Azeroth?- Who says word problems can’t be interesting?

From Tobold’s MMORPG Blog: How big is Azeroth?

To measure a square mile, you first need to define what a mile is. As “a mile” doesn’t even have the same length on different places on our earth, that isn’t trivial. The basic definition of a mile is coming from Roman times, defining a mile a 1000 double steps of a marching legion. The soldiers had to walk through all of Europe anyway, so you just needed to count their steps and had the place all measured up with few extra effort. Clever guys, these Romans. But on Azeroth “steps” aren’t that easy to count, and the length of legs between the different races varies widely. But interestingly all races move at the same running speed, so it makes sense to define the mile by the time it takes to run it. On earth, a marathon runner has a running speed of about 12 miles per hour. As everybody on Azeroth is a hero, lets just define the Azerothian running speed as 12 mph as well. This effectively defines an Azerothian mile as “the distance you can run in 5 minutes”, without using any speed enhancing items of course.

So this guy took the time and expended the effort to do this. Why? Because it interested him. It’s a fairly difficult word problem that the majority of the world (probably this guy as well) would balk at solving IF it didn’t have the hook of being about something he cared about. People do all sorts of difficult and unpleasant tasks if they are interested in what they are doing.

It’s worth searching this kind of thing out or more reasonably structuring your class so your kids can use their passions to learn your content. It’d be fun to take the usual begining of school information and have them add what they really are interested in be it video games or whatever and then use that throughout the year.

You could do odd, but interesting, things to personalize the skills you want them to learn like-

  • Grammar- Give me a sentence with a linking verb, one of our vocabulary words and a gerund that describes your avatar in second life (I’m just making up the grammar stuff as I know nothing of real grammar).
  • Math- How many seconds have you played WoW in the last week? At that rate how many days would you have to play in order to spend a week playing WoW?
  • History- If Michael, from the show The Office, had been in charge of the Communist party instead of Stalin what would have been different? Would Michael have created the same sort of oppressive regime? Be sure to compare and contrast in detail.
  • Physics- Sonic the Hedgehog (I’m showing my age) weighs 77lbs (it’s true look it up). He has to make it over a chasm 200ft wide. How fast would he need to be traveling if he is rolling as a ball up an incline of 23 degrees?

I just threw these together but it could be a lot of fun and what would be more fun, and a lot easier for the teacher, is if the kids started writing their own to challenge one another. It could always be set as an extra credit assignment and then worked into the class when good things happened.