The Humanity of a S.S. Officer

When I taught The Cage by Ruth Minsky Sender over the past few years, my students found it difficult to understand the compassion of one of the guards in the story. They couldn’t see these beastly men and women in a kind light. We had wonderful conversations about how someone could be both joyful and monstrous which helped my students to see the complexity of the war from an individual’s perspective. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is currently featuring an online gallery of photos of S.S. solders in casual settings. The pictures, from a 60-year old photo album, are a powerful illustration of the human side of these men and women. Seeing them laughing, posing, and celebrating will surely spark some interesting discussion. via Boing Boing


Rap for English

I’ve been playing around with the idea of doing a blog for my middle school focusing on using rap lyrics to get at daily oral language and to build vocabulary. I think the potential is definitely there. I’m worried about two things. Can I come up with material consistently enough to make it worthwhile for the students? Secondly, can/should I use an appropriate portion from an inappropriate song? These are middle school students so it gets a little iffy and the county I’m in is pretty conservative. That being said they are having a Souljah Boy dance party at our school and played a clip from the song today on the intercom. So maybe I could pull this off. I’d love to use lyrics like the ones below from TI’s “You Don’t Know Me” You gone make me bring da chevy to a real slow creep My Partner hangin out the window, mouth fulla gold teeth When the guns start poppin, wonder when its gonna cease choppa hitchu on the side and create a slow leak We can end the speculation cuz today we gone see What’s the future of a sucka who be hatin on me i don’t care about the feds investigation on me I don’t care they at my shows and they waitin on me Ima keep […]


A 6 Word Story and A 4 Slide Sales Pitch

I heard an amazing graphic designer say something about loving restrictions because they force creativity (a great podcast from SXSW). That’s something we ought to use, as well as do, in teaching. So let’s start by restricting the students . . . 6 Word Stories This is a great way to get students focused on story elements and on clear, concise language. They’d also be great writing prompts. This link is to Say It Better where I found the post and this one is to a much larger list of 6 word stories at Wired. Some of the examples have non-school safe language so you probably won’t want to send students right there. My favorites- With bloody hands, I say good-bye. – Frank Miller Machine. Unexpectedly, I’d invented a time – Alan Moore This assignment forces a lot of deep processing and creativity. You could also use it as an option for your vocabulary work with bonuses for good “stories” with more than one vocab word in them (used correctly of course). You might want to expand the word limit but make things hard for your students. Difficult and creative is the opposite of boring. 4 Slide Sales Pitch It’s similar in idea to dy/dan’s four slide sales pitch. how well you can sell yourself in four (4) picture-only slides. […]


Bob Dylan weighs in on fussy Dells

A little creative communication I put together for my teachers and students. I wanted to remind them of the cardinal rule of a PC: If it’s not working right, try restarting your computer. Click the picture below for my video. The link to the site I created this on is under the pic. Make your own here.

Wikipedia Mindmap – more data visualization!

Wiki Mind This is a really cool free site that’d be great to use in the classroom. You pick a topic from wikipedia and it creates an interactive mind map of the content. Click on the pluses and topics expand. You can even change the “center” topic of the map on the fly. Lots of cool stuff you could do with this and it’d be a great way to get to those visual learners that don’t respond well to outlines or even static mind maps. Too bad you can’t point it at any mediawiki site. That’d really open up some interesting options in the classroom.

Exhibit and Data Visualization

The kind and brilliant folks at MIT have come out with a new Exhibit API that allows for more flexibility and power. The bonus is that it looks good doing it. I’ve now revised my Google spreadsheet fed history example to use some of the new power. It’s here if you’re interested. In the end I opted to mimic their new presidents layout (much like I mimicked their old presidents layout). This time I had a better reason than pure ignorance of the API (I now have impure ignorance after all). Their new layout is really right in line with what I’d like to focus on this year- data visualization/interaction. The new layout has the map right their with the time line. I like that. Time and location on one easy interactive page. Add in their option to sort and hide/expand sets based on the data you define and you’ve got something really powerful that will help students make connections. A simple example is if I restrict my set to show only “explorers” then suddenly in the map and the time line things change. I notice explorers were mainly earlier and than none were born in the Americas (obvious to you and I but maybe the spark some kids need). Then I switch map views and I see that explorers […]

Magic Bullets Don’t Exist

Techlearning has an article that was passed around our school email celebrating Eight More Reasons for Technology in Education. After reading it, I’m feeling a little like the crab in the photo above. Now you may have noticed that I?m a fan of technology in education but I feel this list is, for the most part, the kind of thinking that leads people down very wrong roads. We’ve been looking for a savior for education for a while. It’s time we started realizing the savior of education must be the teacher- use all the tools available but it’s really up to them/us/you. You can read the point by point below or my summary here. Technology does nothing by itself. Technology doesn’t change teachers or how teachers teach. It simply makes certain changes easier. The sooner we stop celebrating magical techno things that don’t happen the sooner we’ll have real conversations about what needs to happen in school. Teaching with technology takes just as much work and planning as teaching without it (if not more in many situations). This is no Utopian ideal. Teachers need staff development, planning time and lots of hard work to start integrating technology into the classroom in the ways described below. Technology doesn’t make it happen- teachers do. Using technology involves the student in the learning […]

Mock Powerpoints

I don’t know who did it but there’s a great bad powerpoint version of the Gettysburg Address. It summarizes the points in an effective, and humorous way. The students would create the notes the speech makers would need, set the agenda etc. Everything a really bad business powerpoint user would need. This is a great way to really explore a famous speech or historical document. You’d have to really examine the document/speech, the speaker etc. The key would be NOT to have them present for real but demo the presentation to the class explaining why they chose certain aspects of the presentation etc. It’d be a lot of fun and require lots of deep processing to make it funny. I’d love to see a bad powerpoint version of Macbeth’s soliloquy or The Constitution etc.

Google Earth – The Next Level

I found this KMZ file the other night. It’s really the greatest Google Earth file I’ve ever seen. It’s tracking bird flu but it’s doing it through, time, space and evolution. It creates a three dimensional representation of the changing aspects of the virus as it moves from carrier to carrier and place to place. There’s a video showing what it can do and explaining things here. The source file is over here. Why am I so impressed? Mainly because it’s a perfect representation of data visualization. It shows a completely different way to use Google Earth. Who would have thought to use a geography program to track the evolution of a virus? This kind of convergence is amazing and examples like this can lead to some amazing connections. It can also lead the way for other creators to start using this application in different ways.