The Cat In The Hat Experiment- A Literary Remix

The Litlab: J. Robert Lennon: The Cat Text

I have to say one thing here: it is not fun to be with me. I like books and things. Tame: that is I. I get no kicks, fly no kites, play no games. Hops and pot are not my things. If you are here, I want you to go away. So what should this dish, this fox want out of me? I sat and picked at the fish and looked at those hands, so white.

J. Robert Lennon has created a whole alternate story using just words from The Cat In The Hat. This would be a great English lesson. You could remix other things as well- AP news articles, poems, song lyrics etc. It’d be fun to have students use each other’s work. Jill would remix Dre’s paper and they’d talk about the different choices they made. That type of thing.

The creativity comes out as a result of the restrictions.

photo credit chinkychongka

Assessment: The Remix

A couple posts caught my eye recently, and I suddenly found a surprising connection. Both deal with remixes.

The Last Supper–The Leftovers Remix

We all know the iconic Last Supper. We probably know more about it because of Dan Brown, and it is very recognizable–especially in Western Culture.

There was a rush of interesting recasting of da Vinci’s painting a couple weeks ago around the web-culture blogs I read.

(via Neatorama)

(via BoingBoing)

(via Neatorama)

I thought this might make an interesting art project. The students take an iconic picture or symbol and recast it somewhere else. You would want to have a rubric for the project that asked the students to consider the icon and it’s features and note or create subtle connection to the original in their own remix. The students are not simply spiting up terminology. They are emulating or playing with the original.

Sugar Bear–The Fuzzy Remix

(via BoingBoing)

How does Sugar Bear go from sweet sugar fiend to environmentalist? That is the question you would pose to your students. For the more analytical students, this assessment piece is a dream come true. Students would exam a series of remixes of a single icon. Their task is to research the culture each new version is introduced to. Students would dig for clues from culture that shape the icons evolution. The final piece of this assignment is to pick an icon and recast it today–asking students to use their research to inform their vision.

Why this works for assessment

In both projects, students are using critical thinking to analyze the relationships. They must draw conclusions based on their knowledge and research. There is a real life application as they emulate a culture they are familiar with, and they must create a product that takes all of this into account. Oh, and if you give them the responsibility to pick out their own icons, the students are in the drivers seat from the get go.

A Future Intro

I made this so we could talk to our staff about the TIP Chart (our technology integration progress rubric- which is pretty good). It’d work well for parents as well. It’s pretty interactive and fun in the beginning with a number of pretty funny questions mocking our ability to predict the future.

The intro slide sets the tone. I basically say “Where is my jet pack?” Then I try to get people talking about what they expected to have in the “future” that hasn’t materialized.

I then pose this question and then invite guesses from the audience as to why this eminent scientist believed high speed train travel would be impossible. After a while I show them the answer.

The key is that it gets people engaged at the beginning and it’s pretty funny- yet it is amazing how quickly things change.

The presentation then segues into what’s going on now. Since we can’t predict the future very well, we might as well show the “futuristic” things going on now. I showed brief selections from a few TED videos that I thought were cool and relevant to the topic. We hit parts of –

It’d also be a great place to discuss what you are doing, or want to do, that prepares kids for a future that you can’t even imagine. The emphasis I put was that change is not linear, it’s exponential and our focus needs to be on creating life long learners who can thrive in change.

If you want the Powerpoint or Keynote 4 file feel free to change and mutate to your heart’s content.

Maps of War


Maps of War is a fascinating site of animated maps showing the history of conflict in our world. They include a history of war and leadership (seen above) that walks through American conflicts and links the American President to various wars, a history of religious conquest throughout the world, and an interesting history of imperial occupation of the Middle East. Along with their own maps, the site links out to other animated maps the feature many of the major wars of our time.

I remember struggling as I tried to learn history from a textbook. It seemed like months or years would pass by in a matter of paragraphs. These animated maps would have helped foster a sense of continuity as we “marched” through chapters full of events.

via Boing Boing

Web2Summit: Make Life More Like Games

From the O’Reilly Web2Summit: Make Life More Like Games

  1. Games come with better instructions; you have a clear goal, and other people share information on how to succeed.
  2. Games give you better feedback on your performance in the form of scores and ratings, plus they provide an audience that’s tuned into your success.
  3. Games offer better community: everybody’s agreed to same rules and narrative, and you share a heroic sense of purpose.

I’m not sure how quickly that’ll happen in life but what about school? How can we make school more like this? How can you make individual projects more like this? Every little bit will help.


Just about every kid wants to please. Some of the major problems I’ve had in my classroom, and seen in other classrooms, occur when kids don’t understand what you want them to do. They get frustrated and/or start wandering off task. You get mad because they’re not doing what you “explicitly” told them to do. It’s often interesting to see what a third person thinks of my “crystal clear” directions. I usually run my directions and plans by at least one person.

The hard part for me is figuring out how to get a community of support built around your class. Our current school system is certainly not set up to enable or encourage students to help one another. That’s usually called cheating in the school system. Anyone out there succeeding with this? Let me know how.

Performance and Audience

I think the thing that differs about game scores and ratings is that they’re pretty much instantaneous and constant. That’s not often the way school works. How can we give feedback that is constant and relevant? Should it even be the teacher doing this? It seems like that’s be impossible. Feedback and rating has to be farmed out to more people- that real audience. Creating a class where this happens takes some work and it certainly isn’t something I’ve seen a lot of.

Then there’s the fact that the goal has to be something the student wants to get to. Education is often really, really bad at this. For the most part, I’ve haven’t been interested in teacher set goals – not in high school, not in college, and not in graduate school. The main problem I have is – I don’t matter. My interests, my knowledge and my background too often have no bearing on what I’ll be assigned to do. That cancels out a lot of my buy in.


This is one place I’ve seen a fair amount of success. I see teachers set community standards and get their classes motivated and excited. The teacher creates a sense of purpose and can even weave a narrative that suspends disbelief. I love watching amazing teachers do this. This is one of those things that has a lot to do with personality and style. I often wonder if it can be taught.

links for 2007-10-21

  • Zip Code Fun (1 of 2) This is a VERY easy way to get your students looking at how their hometown/suburb/part of the city compares to neighboring ones. Punch in you zip code and get some well-organized census data.
    (tags: civic)
  • Zip Code Fun (2 of 2): Use this google maps/zip code mash up to help students visualize the boundaries of zip codes
    (tags: civics)
  • Power Shift 2007, a climate change conference for youth, is offering fellowships to 16-25 year olds to take equipment home and film environmental issues in their community. Fellows will get training and guidance from established directors.

Using Wikipedia and EVIL to Further Education

So a really smart guy, Virgil Griffith, came up with a way to scan the anonymous edits to Wikipedia articles and tie the IP addresses of various companies and government entities etc. to those edits. He then built a searchable database using the information so you can search by companies, locations or page titles. Wired even has a digg style “best of” list of edits. That’s all relatively old news but it does open some interesting writing and history options for teachers.

  1. You could assign different novel or historical characters and then the student’s goal is to figure out which article they’d edit/create and why. You could go as far as having the students do the writing/editing as the character (on their own wiki or document of course).
  2. Give everyone the same entry and then see who can make the greatest change in message with the least number of changes.
  3. The history version would be to create an entry on a historical even that is entirely factual but slants things entirely towards one side of the conflict. That’d be a great way to show how much things can be slanted while still being “just the facts.”
  4. It opens up all sorts of civics options depending on the topics you’re focusing on. You’d discuss motivations and the edits made. The fact that these companies/organizations are even bothering to edit Wikipedia also makes and interesting statement about the power and influence Wikipedia may have.

Subscribe2: RSS through Email (Update)


I’m creating an information blog for my new school. One of my assistant principals asked me about RSS, and as we talked through what he needed, we realized the root of his request was a very manageable email subscription program. He was maintaining a list of over 1000 email addresses to send out biweekly newsletter. I thought we might be able to manage this through a blog.

I searched the WordPress plugin directory and came up with Subscribe2. The plugin lets users have entire or partial posts sent as plain text or HTML to their email. Scubscribe2 uses a conformation system to verify the address, so my assistant principal will have less housecleaning to do. It puts the burden of entering the emails on the community. It’s an efficient way to disperse information to parents and the community via blogging–even to those who are “RSS challenged”. I’m testing it on my instruction and technology blog. I’ll have the information blog up by the end of the week. Look for an update after we’ve tested it for a couple months .

Download Link

Update:  After playing with Subscribe2 for a week, I realized it was not fulfilling the needs we had.  I uninstalled it and, thanks to the advice of Chris Craft, switched to Feedblitz.   We have been very happy with Feedblitz for a number of reasons.  The service sends out a confirmation email to all subscribers–screening out improperly entered or fake emails from the start.  You are able to manage your list in your Feedblitz account, so I don’t have to download a data file each time you want to make changes to the list.  We do need to moderate when we post new material.  Since the free service sends the material once a day and we don’t want our parents and community bombarded with emails, we make it a point to hold our posts until they can be grouped together.  The only wish we have is for a name field so we can associate the email address with an actual person in the community.  Overall, we are more than pleased with Feedblitz, and several other high schools in our county have adopted it for their communication blogs.

WordPress Tutorial


This WordPress tutorial is aimed at teachers (or anyone else) who is just starting out with some server space and Fantastico support. It covers a lot of the basic installation questions and gets into how to add themes and plugins to the blog. Most everything is done in video format.

I made it for our ITRTs who are mainly using LunarPages for their server space. It also covers the basic blog usage questions regarding activating plugins, changing themes and doing all the other normal stuff. We also get into some of the settings we use to make sure comments are moderated etc. There are also some tutorial on what plugins etc. I used to create different projects (like the Byrd Books audio blog)

It’s a solid intro into the world of assisted WordPress installation and administration.