Conan the Barbarian Has the Answer

You probably don’t remember the scene. It’s below. Very short. It came to me this morning. “What is best in life?” Such a perfect question with which to plumb the depths of historical or literary figures1. English and History uses abound2 Don’t play it seriously. There’s a reason to use a cheesy Conan quote to introduce this. It ought to have some humor. As always, your example will be key. Make it good and then break down with the students why it is good. The simplest thing is to play the clip. Discuss it. Now the students assume whatever persona and write the three3 things that person would say are best life. The things that are best have to be concise and quick. I’d probably have them write explanations for their choices for proof of processing/show your work purposes. More – Students work together in groups to write the “best in lifes” for a number of figures with another figure as final judge of what is right. Even more – The class votes on the best answer and mash it into the original video. I’d probably do this with every major section. These videos then become a collection for later review. You’ve got two choices here. You could just dub your best Conan impersonation into the video as is or […]

What is Good?

I look at many things in edtech land and education in general and I am constantly puzzled by what people perceive as being good. That may sound pretentious and it may very well be. In my defense, I’m far more critical of my own work. I realize more and more that it’s because I compare what I create, and what others create, to the products of professionals. That goes for my photos, print design, video work, presentations etc. I also try to make sure my idea of fun doesn’t get warped either. It’s way to easy to say “This is fun . . . for school” or simply to think this activity is much better than a worksheet. Seth Godin does a good job explaining this concept in his post We don’t compare ourselves to other airport restaurants. So how do you get this mindset going? It’s fairly obvious but it’s more than just exposing yourself to great media/presentations/whatever produced by professionals, YOU have to consciously analyze it. What makes it good? What makes it different from what you’re making/doing? How do they do X? Why do they do Y? Just being exposed does nothing. If you’re not thinking and referencing your own sphere of context it’s useless. The Internet is full of amazing things and people. Find the best […]

Fun with Discipline

I had two future teachers in my class last night complaining about a syllabus that it wasn’t scary enough for 9th graders, that they needed to have more fear put into them. The whole “don’t smile until Christmas” thing came up as well. It’s a popular mindset among teachers. I tried the tough guy route for a while. I could do it. It was effective. It also made me miserable and very, very tired. I ended up going the opposite way in the end. It made me feel better and I really got much more out of the students in the end. I tried to have as much fun as possible at all times, even with discipline. Here are two fairly amusing (at least to me) examples from when I was an ITRT. 1. Problem: Students weren’t allowed to install software on their computers, especially not p2p stuff like Limewire. Naturally some people did it anyway. Solution: I had a copy of ARD and would occasionally send out automated searches for stuff like that. When it was found I’d follow this process from my secrete lair. Copy the offending program icon. Erase the program. Make a custom warning sheet (see below). Making it say the student’s name is key. Those little touches mean so much. Replace PDF icon with icon […]

Knowing is half the battle . . .

the other half being blue and red laser beams of course. As part of my continuing retrospective . . . . Being a big GI Joe fan growing up I made these file cards for my students. I moved to a more student-centered model later and built an Appleworks database1 so they could put in their own pictures and information. Either way it was a fairly entertaining way to work with some fairly dull SOL information. We also used these cards to play a version of 20 questions. A student drew a card from the hat and the class asked yes or no questions to determine the individual. It took a fair amount of modeling to get them to ask good questions to narrow things down but it helped in the end. Although now it’s pretty clear to me I should have moved to smaller groups doing this once they got the hang of it. I did only have 12-14 students but this would be a big waste of time in a class of 30. Lots of things I’d redo if I had the chance with these. The nicknames are semi-amusing but the stories are dry. They need more work. Additionally, the font now really bugs me and in general the layout is pretty crappy. Conceptually though I still like […]

George Washington on Steroids

Something simple and silly I did back in the day to emphasize the strength of the leadership of the Continental Army. Trying to make visual connections and keep people interested through humor. I’m reminiscing some about my days teaching 6th grade and as I find things that I still like1 I plan to post them. Not that they’re particularly useful to others but it helps me keep track and who knows what it might inspire. 1 There’s not a whole lot I still like. I look at a lot of it with disgust and sorrow. I wish I could do it again knowing what I now know, you know- and that’s half the battle.