Monthly Archives: August 2009

iRead- Using iPods for Literacy

Here’s a 10 minute video describing how one of our great elementary school teachers is using iPods to help with elementary literacy and reading fluency. The video needs some work1 but the idea is sound and interesting2.

It’s a bit of a HEF ad but they’re a good group that helps fund projects like this so I’m happy to help them out.

iRead Project


1 I’m still learning and clearly I need to keep working.

2 By the way, iRead is not my title of choice. I don’t put i or e in front of anything by choice.

Picture 4

Two Ways To Fail

Here are two options our new filtering system currently gives when you try to access a blocked site1.

Option One
Picture 4

Misspelling aside, this warning is not pleasant. It assumes what I’m doing is bad and that I am acting with bad intent. Apparently I need a scary warning. I am being treated like a deviant. This does not please me.

Option Two
Picture 7
Well, am I blocked? Is the site down? I don’t know. This message does nothing for me and leads to frustration and irritation. I suspect the filter but have no obvious way to confirm it2. Super.

The message I want is simple. Let’s choose something with a blue or green background. It can be unique looking so teachers can spot it easily but it can also be calm and polite. Maybe something like . . .
Picture 8

There’s nothing wrong with treating people with respect and politeness. The scary page isn’t going to deter people who are interested in bypassing the filter and it only insults those who are going about their business with legitimate intent.


1 I’m not going to get into the whole filtering things again. My views on that are probably known if you know me.

2 At least not by myself while at school. I did confirm it via my network of Internet malcontents.

Phone Call to the 14th Century

Via This American Life I bring you “Phone Call to the 14th Century” (at the 26:34 mark).1

Basic idea for those of you who have yet to listen- it’s a game show based on calling a hut in the 14th century and imparting as much key wisdom as you can in one minute.

Such a simple idea and such potential for a history classroom.

Simply remove 14th century and make your call as specific as you’d like (for instance the Aztecs pre-Conquistadors). Make your time longer or shorter, but keep the time pressure on or it’ll lose focus quickly.

Students have to analyze the civilization at the time and think of all the things that might help that civilization, then it’s a matter of prioritizing them. I’d have them make the calls as actual recordings and then make it into a real game show.

I’d probably have them categorize their main points and justify them in writing. Judges (teachers, parents, previous winners?) would judge who got the most major points across to achieve the most change.

I’d consider other twists as well-

  • Try to give the worst advice.
  • Have other civilizations call. Then you’d have double the analysis going on but I’d probably do this after as a second or third round. It’d be a fun review activity.

1 There’s a link to a version on the Kasper Hauser website but it isn’t nearly as good in my opinion. An opinion that may be shaped by the fact that I can still recite the intro to Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales in Old English and still remember the teacher that made me memorize it with disgust and loathing.

Utter Nonsense

It’s all in the processing.

Ask students to make sense out of what appears to be nonsense.

Take the Ask A Ninja “What is podcasting?” episode. Does it seem like gibberish? For sure. Is there a very definite underlying logic? Without question and that logic can be explained.That’s the type of thing I’d start them off with. It’s not that hard. It really does have a purpose and structure.

I might move on to something like this. First this scene from The Royal Tenenbaums. They’ve got to make some sense of it.

Then expose them to this rather odd ode to The Royal Tenenbaums Jim Groom and I made a while back.

Shorn – Jim Groom Bares It All from Tom Woodward on Vimeo.

What is the connection to Twitter? A simple question that involves a lot of processing and understanding.

Make your own, have students make their own.

I’ll also recommend Motionographer as a great way to be exposed to interesting video to use for this type of exploration.

wolverine_love

Wolverine Love Poems

I’ve been interested in using this Garfield Minus Garfield site for a while. Here are a few ways I might use it.

wolverine_love
Instant creative writing prompt-

  • Write a love poem to a wolverine.
  • Or write a love poem from the perspective of a wolverine.
  • Or simply write a love poem using the word “wolverine” at least once1

The image matters. Having images like this always changed the quality and engagement I got from my students.

eat my socks
And we have a vocabulary exercise, in this case, for the word consume. Depending on where the student is at, they could match words to provided comics, find their own comics matches etc. I’d probably have them find their own matching comic and create a sentence along the lines of “Though Jon consumed the socks, the meal did not quench the fiery passion in his heart.”

If you feel like really making your students work, you might white out all the words and have them use the comic of your choice to explain something complicated or leave the words in and ask them to provide the context that will make it make sense.

For instance- this comic re-worded could become . . .
pity smile_filled
a look at King George III’s thoughts on the American colonies2. Part of the assignment would be explaining why your comic makes sense and that could be in writing or verbally to the class. A collection of these would provide for some interesting review material. I might even use them as test questions. I’d present the comic and then ask them to explain it.

It’s all simple stuff, I know but it might be interesting to someone out there. The Internet is a big place after all.


1 Bonus points for including a Red Dawn reference.

2 If students don’t have image editing software, just put it in Word and put text boxes over the speech bubbles. If you don’t have it, just use picnik or something similar