Pop Culture Omnibus

An aggregation of strange things that interested me in one way or another.

tl;dr and government communication in the age of the hipster

SPD seized a bunch of my marijuana before I-502 passed. Can I have it back?

Seattle PD’s information on marijuana legalization is an interesting piece with a tl;dr reference and an embedded Lord of the Rings “finest weed” video clip.

Compare the voice and audience of this government communication to other state communications.

We will kill you so fast

We need doctors because people grow up and you fall down and go boom. Everyone’s going to need a doctor. Let’s have 3 doctors per floor of every apartment building in this town. How about that as a good idea? Like that is a good idea. OK.

So let’s make college tuition either free or really low. And if you have a country full of whip-crack-smart-people, you have a country the rest of the world will fear. They will not invade a country of educated people because we are so smart. We’ll build a laser that will burn you, the enemy, in your sleep before you can even mobilize your air force to kill us. We will kill you so fast because we are so smart.

–Henry Rollins

Henry Rollins gives a whole new side of STEM education that I missed from all of the other experts. Let’s thank Big Think for helping to clarify the issue with helpful videos from experts in the field.1

The Maginot Line For Cursive

I’m not really interested in arguing about cursive either way. I just don’t care but this article claiming to argue for keeping cursive does about the worst job I can imagine. Seriously, it makes me sad. Basically the article breaks down to –

  • One PTSD flashback to a nun who threw the author’s work away because apparently nuns can’t read print and really like being mean to kids for no reason.
  • The next argument seems to indicate we should spend time teaching cursive because it’s now being used in CAPTCHAs. I think this is a case of putting the monkey2before the cart.
  • That’s followed by a double-summarized reference to printing (rather than cursive) resulting in “adult” like brain activity. This was also compared to saying the words rather than typing them- which might have actually been a useful comparison for this article.
  • Finally, there’s a half-joking (I guess) reference to students not being able to read the Constitution because it’s written in cursive. So writing vs reading, the many, many versions of the Constitution in typeface3aside, let’s look at the ability of our cursive educated students and adults ability to read and understand the Constitution right now. Then I’d like a conversation about where we are failing our students and where we need to place attention.

The essentials

This was an old screenshot I took of a middle school student’s computer. Apparently these were the phrases she needed for daily success.

Please do not come again

Some people are more serious about shutting down their blogs than others.


Strange message in a spam Google Form URL. Oddly the URL worked and I can’t figure out anyway the message could have been customized, nor any reason to customize it given this was a phishing attempt.

Nothing is safe

1 Alternate titles for this section included sharks with laser beam references, lines from Marky Mark’s Fear movie and other even more obscure things.

2 The horse left in disgust earlier.

3 It’d be totally impossible to alter the original because it’s in cursive,right? RIGHT?

My Take on #DS106

I recently tried to present something on #ds106 and MOOCs in general at VSTE. It’s probably best it wasn’t filmed. I’m going to try to present something more coherent in writing.1 This will be a description of what made this course work for me although I believe it could be generalized at least some to the world as a whole.

My description of #DS106 was essentially an online course2 meets Woodstock. You take a guided online experience and mix it with both chaos and, more importantly, community.

At the core, this is all about community. I’ll play out a few of the things that seem to indicate that to me.

Mechanical Aggregation

DS106 seems to have the semi-mythical eduglu working. People are writing in all sorts of places with a variety of clients and it’s being captured in a way that encourages both commenting, community, and creativity. The synchronous aspect of this course is important and one that is encouraged and leveraged by being able to display both content and comments in one space with very little effort on the user. It’s a really interesting world when we can both have a “room of our own” and aggregate to communal place.

It doesn’t take a room of Java developers or a million dollar a year site license for the shiniest LMS ever. Martha’s work and her description of it makes it accessible to educators without the bottomless budgets or in-house development teams. That’s important, partly because that’ll probably be everyone after the next few rounds of budget cuts, but mainly because the idea that we don’t have to wait for someone else to build what we need is an important concept. Too often, I hear people waiting for things to be given to them- be it training, PD, or some tool or another. Don’t be passive participants. You are not helpless pawns.

The Ego Boost

Audience matters. Comments matter. Jim does an impressive job of encouraging and promoting the kind of work he wants to see. In another life, I’ll go and track pre and post publishing rates for the people he mentions on his blog.3 Guliaforsythe was kind enough to find some classic Jim Groom comments and pass them my way. Bottom line, people want to know people are engaging with their work. People want an audience. That’s, in part, why the synchronicity of DS106 is important. These comments and conversations have to play out in real time for them to impact what people do. Encouraging and modeling that kind of culture is good and important to building community online.

Shared Power/Responsibility

One of the main things that made DS106 attractive to me was that I could play something other than a subservient role. I’m a bad student for normal educational models. I don’t respect people for their degrees. If the assignment seems boring or stupid, I tend not to do it and I’m not really interested in being “assessed”. I’m an adult. I want a strong role in determining what I do and how I do it. DS106 offered me that ability. The fact that any student could submit an assignment was a big deal to me. The ability then to choose from those assignments which were presented as equals with the ones that were designed by the course creators was important.

A slight throw back to the mechanics piece, but a major part of what seemed to make the projects work was the aggregation of submissions under the project itself. Much like comments on posts, seeing that people really voluntarily did your assignments and watching them stacking up was a real motivator. Those kind of feedback cycles keep people engaged and participating.


Once again, the community would take an initial assignment and then start iteratively redesigning it, building on the work of other students and making something new. It be interesting to see if you could guide that without forcing it. One particular example of how it played out is below.

The initial prompt was to read and respond to Gardner Campbell’s “No Digital Facelifts”.

I remixed the talk with Nas and expected that to be the end of it. Another of a series of stones thrown into the vast abyss of the Internet. the song

Yet, Grant Potter took it and remixed it again.

There’s even a Neil Young version out there someplace.

Tim Owens built a whole kinetic text movie out of the speech. I recognize Tim’s work is not a direct outgrowth of the previous work but it is indicative of people gaining momentum in terms of how they might respond to the prompt with a variety of media in ways that probably weren’t intended initially.

Stop Talking

I think a number of these concepts could be integrated into how we do online PD for teachers, how we structure courses for students in K12 and HE, and just how we conceptualize what ingredients we need to build online community.

Anyway, probably enough for now.

1 I’ll skip my pitch about how there might be some lesser revenue streams in the model that would encourage HE institutions to start doing this more. Maybe I’ll do that later just to see Jim’s reaction.

2 I know the slide says OER. I’m still thinking about why I did that other than online course was too long.

3 Martha has some DS106 stats that are interesting but they’re broader of scope.

BattleDecks- Presentation Ninjitsu

I found these beautiful notes from SXSW via Boing Boing where I saw Battledecks which led to this summary.

SXSW Notes via Flickr
credit Mike Rohde

Powerpoint meets Karaoke in this battle of wits. Watch your favorite speakers craft an off-the-cuff presentation using slides they’ve never seen before. Eight competitors will have five minutes to complete their presentation. Three judges will score the participants based on their use of jargon, gesturing and credibility. Who will take home the trophy and who will totally choke? Come see for yourself!

Two things came to mind for me.

1. Battledecks with your class. You set up a serious of slides that deal with your topic. Divide the class into groups and give out the deck. They’ve got X minutes to come up with the content to match the slides. Points are awarded for relevancy, creativity/entertainment, jargon etc.

For English, this could get really creative. It’d be an awesome way to do work with vocabulary words or story structure. They could pitch a story Hollywood style using as many vocabulary words as possible while working the story through the basic steps (rising action, etc). You could add difficulty by forcing genres on the students (nice way to review those elements as well).

Now, this won’t work at all if you’re giving them traditional bullet point slide decks to deal with. That will result in a massive amount of suck. You’ll get bored students giving you boring presentations and everyone will be unhappy. To do this right you’ll need creative images and it’ll probably help if you’ve been presenting to them in this style otherwise the jump may be too much.

Keep in mind you’ve got lots of ways to mix this up. You could –

  • mix the order of the slides
  • add X number of wild card slides of their own choosing
  • add wild card slides with a points penalty per addition
  • change the time for preparing up or down
  • require certain sentences/references/etc

2. Art Notes- if I’ve got students who are artistic (even just one or two) I might have them create visual versions of the class content. That might be a daily, weekly thing. It’d be interesting to see what that might do for visual learners not to mention the internalization that’d go on with the student creating the art notes.

You’ve also got something interesting to put on the wall or on the web. If you’re really impressed with them, work their drawings into your tests, reviews etc.

Design a Space Pennant for NASA


NASA has announced a contest to design a pennant to be flown into space on the STS-818 shuttle mission. From the official site:

The STS-118 flight of the Space Shuttle Endeavour will be the first spaceflight of an Educator Astronaut, mission specialist Barbara Morgan. STS-118 is also an important step in the ongoing assembly of the International Space Station.

It’s not enough to just come up with a creative design. Students must research their topic, and use what they learn to design their pennant. Then, they must write essays explaining their designs. The essays must tell how the pennants reflect the research about STS-118 or the Vision for Space Exploration.

Entries are being accepted now through April 10th by students ages 6-12. See NASA’s official announcement for details.

Via BoingBoing