WordCampEd 2008

I got the opportunity to go to WordCampEd at George Mason this Saturday. Special thanks to Dave Lester- our host and the organizer of the conference (blog and twitter) It was pretty interesting to me in a couple different ways. One, I got to meet (in some cases just sit in the room with) a lot of interesting people and add their various feeds into my aggregator. There’s something interesting about these type of conferences. There really small and intimate. They are full of people who really want to be there, and that are passionate about the topic. Two, I’m really convinced that HCPS needs to go to the WPMU model. We’ve got all sorts of schools doing their own thing with tons (relatively) of individual blogs. This means individual updates, individual theme uploads, individual plugin uploads and most importantly no community outside the school and little interconnection within the schools between blogs. I think that’s what most people don’t get. In my opinion, Jim Groom has done such interesting things at UMW because he has worked hard at connecting the individual blogs, at creating community. He makes comments, he brings key posts to the forefront for attention. He’s made a unified whole. That’s where the power is and it’s interesting power because it’s exponential. We saw evidence of that […]

DIY Doctorate?

1 I’m looking at doctoral programs and not really finding what I want. I see lots of things that will lock me into what others think I need to know, lots of chances to end up stuck in a program I hate. I’ve had a number of people say to me “It’s not the program, it’s what you put into it.” Yeah, I know but, you see, this program is going to take time away from what I’m already trying to learn, so it needs to be worth it. I’m going to have to do whatever work they require no matter how useless, mundane or repetitive it may be. I already did that to get a master’s degree2. I got some good out of it but there was lot of wasted time and energy3. That’s time and energy I could have used to do things on my own, to learn things. What I want to learn about is that area where design, cognitive science, advertising, data visualization, gaming (mainly ARGs) and education overlap. Where’s that program? Who would let me build that program? I don’t care about EDD or PHD or whatever. I just want a few people around to help guide me and talk about things. I want the stupid letters checked off so they don’t stop me from […]

Life Photos on Google

I’m sure this one will get blogged to death but . . . it does fit in with my earlier post so I’ll add to the noise. Google is hosting 10 million or so photos from Life magazine in a very nice searchable way. They are really nice photos that’d work well in any number of subject areas. Oddly, I don’t see any stated copyright information (although the largest images are watermarked with LIFE in the lower left hand corner). via Lifehacker

Transparent History PNGs

I’ve taken a fair number of public domain photos and dropped the backgrounds so I could use them in various projects. I figured they might be of use to some other people out there. If you click through to the largest image size you’ll find they are decently done (not perfect by any means) but the smaller versions auto generated by Flickr look like COMPLETE garbage. I’m not sure why. But they are PNG files so you can clean them up some more pretty easily if you’d like. The flickr set is here. Most of the ones up there right now are history related and it’ll likely stay that way for the immediate future.

Submissions Wanted

1 I’m in a weird place right now. I’m in Central Office- cue ominous music. Central Office is not a place people normally speak of fondly. It’s often referred to as one of those places where people go to get out of touch and become bossy. I don’t like being out of a school. To be honest, I don’t like being out of the classroom2. I’ve essentially moved into a role where I’m one more step removed from where I feel I have some skills- that is, figuring out interesting and useful ways to use technology to help students learn. So one of the things I’d like to do is work on at least one lesson each month3. If anyone out there wants to submit something to discuss and make more engaging then I’m game. I’m hoping there’ll be some of that going on because the collaboration and discussion will definitely make the end product better. Failing any submissions, something I that’s pretty likely, I’ll just wander around and find one on the Internet or pick an SOL to work on. It’s essentially a “Pimp My Ride” for lesson plans. We’ll see if I have the skills to keep up. I should go buy www.pimpmylessonplan.com. 1 Photo credit Joel Bedford 2 Lots of things make this happen but it all […]

Playing with Vocabulary

I did this a while back but don’t think I ever posted about it 1. So vocabulary work often is one the most boring things an English teacher (or anyone else) ever does. The beauty of an English class is that you have a fair degree more flexibility when dealing with vocabulary than a lot of subjects. Here are two ways I wanted to attack words in a way that’d make them stick. the album Students pick a word/root/suffix/prefix and then build an album around it complete with cover art and song choices that reflect that theme. You see my Puffy Ego album above with songs like “Your You’re2 So Vain” and “I Love Me.” It’s simple and pretty engaging for students. The association with music (and likely with music they like) should really help internalize the information. the t-shirt Once again, a pretty simple idea. Students take a word/root/prefix/suffix and make a t-shirt3 with it. This could be fun and you could also make posters, hats etc and get the best ones made 4 The point is just to have students think more about the words, to do something real with them and to have a little fun. Were it me, I’d have a variety of options like these and allow students to pick various options each week. 1 […]

Not Very Punny . . .

. . . but I couldn’t resist. Not timeless certainly, nor broadly applicable but I’d have some fun with this in an English classroom. It’s along the same lines as the remixed “Read” posters Dan started and I did a few of a while back. Lil Wayne and one of his lines from A Milli1. Not sure if I need to be this obvious but it’d depend on the class. If, for some reason, you want the big version of either just click on the image. 1 A good song but probably not playable in most classrooms and if you can get away with it I’d play the version with Jay Z instead.

Zombies, Flamethrowers and Catfish

Image credit – CogDogBlog It’s really a strange world. The shot above was taken in Second Life by CogDog following my presentation with Jim Groom the other night. It was, without a doubt, the most fun I’ve ever had with a presentation. The video’s down there somewhere. There were zombies, flame throwers and a lot of madness1. Jim was in rare form and really justifying his Reverend moniker. It was a pleasure to listen to him roll. CogDog has a very solid synopsis on his blog. The gist of the presentation is that forcing people into boxes tends to mess up education rather than improve it- that things like BlackBoard create a lot of false impressions. They make it look like lots of your teachers are using tech but the way that they’re using it tend to be very low level and actually hurts your real tech integrators. The future is open. The future is mobile, agile and friendly. BB (and others) are slow, ugly and unfriendly. It seems simple to me. Forced tech integration doesn’t work. It just gets you really poor teaching with tech sprinkled on top. Focus on forcing good teaching, get rid of people who don’t do it. You can do things to require that and your time and energy will be spent in a much […]

A Little More Wordle and Poetry

Well, you know how I love Exhibit and I’m also a poetry fan. So after messing around with it some the other day and seeing some interest from a few people who put in their own poems- I decided to see what other poems might be on there and see if I couldn’t display them in an interesting way. Go mess with it. Add your own wordle poem if you’d like (the css in the embed code will likely mess things up temporarily but I’ll fix it). Now, if I had a class1 I’d get a bunch of these done for a number of poems from the same author and probably the same genre. Then you could sort them by author or genre and do a surface analysis. Do the big words matter? Are the “big words” shared between poems, across authors? Does it matter? Where things could get interesting is creating fake Wordles that do represent the words you think matter most2. Students would falsely elevate the number of words to make them larger regardless of occurrence. Then the explanation of why becomes an interesting conversation- especially when comparing the two. 1 or more free time 2 Oddly, most of my favorite lessons involve faking data, rap, animal attacks or, hopefully, all three

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Citizen Data Visualization

How cool is this? Today, we’re taking the next step in reader involvement with the launch of The New York Times Visualization Lab, which allows readers to create compelling interactive charts, graphs, maps and other types of graphical presentations from data made available by Times editors. NYTimes.com readers can comment on the visualizations, share them with others in the form of widgets and images, and create topic hubs where people can collect visualizations and discuss specific subjects. –source Sure you could do this the hard way for a lot of the data but to have it supported and built into the system is pretty nice and an interesting shift towards a different kind of user interaction. It, as well as the growth of sites like wordle, swivel and manyeyes, really shows how prevalent and important information visualization is becoming. Now we have to start teaching our students how to analyze and how to make these visualizations in ways that matter. The thought behind the construction (or deconstruction) is what’s important. It’d be easy for a lot of this to be the powerpoint animation of data- just a quick way to pretend something crappy is much cooler and more important than it is (but that fools no one). I’m not sure how flexible things will be. Seems like students might be […]