Calling E.T.

This is another one of those little things I love that the Internet brings me on a silver RSS platter1. From New Scientist As part of our special feature marking the 50th anniversary of the search for extraterrestrial life, we round up humanity’s radio messages to the stars. This is an awesome list of messages we’ve sent into outer space2 and leads to some potentially interesting English uses. Here are a few very rough ideas. Your Message – The standard idea would be “What message would you send into outer space? Write one paragraph etc. etc.” That’s OK but it doesn’t really do it for me. You need to add a lot of restrictions and bring to the forefront the things you need to consider when sending messages into outer space. I’d start by looking at the messages we’ve sent. What do they have in common? What assumptions are made about the recipients3? Then it’d be really interesting to start restricting the size of the message. How do you pack the most information into your message? The debates over what stays/goes would be really interesting as well as what type (text, images, number, video etc.) of communication is likely to succeed with unknown aliens. Looking at the Arecibo message would also spark some interesting ideas and discussions. You could also […]


Storyboarding Video

This is the video I’d use to teach storyboarding. I might try showing them the finished version and ask them to reverse engineering the storyboards. PSYOP How-To Animate – T.Rowe Price “Ink” from PSYOP on Vimeo. NOTE: Apparently I can’t embed the video. Never had that happen before. Strange. You’d think Vimeo would remove the option instead of leaving it there so that people end up with stupid looking posts like the one you’re reading.

Pop Culture Omnibus II

A hodgepodge of links that inspired me and rough ideas on how I’d use them in class. Wondermark1 What is it? It’s a poster that lets you build your own story by picking component pieces- think MadLibs but for story construction. What I’d do with it- This would be a really interesting culminating activity after studying a genera, author, poet or historical era. The students have to figure out the basic elements that are present in the author’s works or major people/conflicts/geography of the era. They then build a similar poster. It’d be hard to figure out which elements would be the variables and which would be consistent. Lots of thinking involved. Thinking about it, it might be a fun thing to build in Google forms using the new branching options. The Shadow2 What is it? An artist who’s envisioning a boy with a monstrous shadow. What I’d do with it- It’d be fun to depict the inner-selves of historical and literary figures as their shadows. So you’d have students analyzing the characters or historical figures and then drawing representative shadows. The key would be in how they explain what the shadow represents and how they explain the difference between the public persona and the inner-self. It could represent their hidden dark side, kind of like what I did with […]


Want to get some students interested in Columbus? Give this a shot. It’s amazingly easy to find out some really dark things about people we have set up as pretty one-dimensional heroes. Remember this guy was arrested for excessive cruelty during the SPANISH INQUISITION. He did some really twisted things. Wild to think that people want him canonized. I learned quite a bit researching the information to make this. Students would too.

Wolverine poems and other gifts from the Internet

Picture CC from DuneChaser Four people got to this blog today searching for “wolverine poems.” I hate to leave people disappointed. I’m not sure which wolverine they’re looking for so I’m covering my bases. Wolverine: The Haiku Wolverine is the man with adamantium bones and sharp claws. Wolverine: The Animal Carcajou, skunk bear, you glutton! I call you out as a big weasel. This did inspire me but it also got me thinking about how many fun sources for poetry/writing prompts that are out there just begging to be used. I’d love to do things with Google Trends. Take today’s (at around 9-10 PM Eastern) trending topics- No. 1 with a bullet is “applebees menu1.” I would also be forced to use #44 “goonies 2” Then it’s on to #64 “agent cody banks” and finish it off with #47 “19 pound indonesian baby” and #48 “sycophants definition.” I consulted the Applebee’s menu yet again. It had answers, but not the ones I wanted. I was hungry . . . for knowledge. “Is Goonies 2 an actual possibility? Am I getting my hopes up for an inevitable disappointment?” I wondered again. My mind tends to drift when I am stressed. I tried to relax. I knew Agent Cody Banks was on the case. I had no way of knowing that a […]


Dog Earns M.B.A. Online: Fires Former Coworkers

Unmuzzling Diploma Mills: Dog Earns M.B.A. Online Original Article By Marc Parry (as always italics and footnotes by me) How’s this for “hounding” diploma mills?, an online-learning consumer group, managed to purchase an online M.B.A. for its mascot, a dog named Chester Ludlow. Things then took an unexpected turn when Chester was hired as the group’s leader based, in part, on his newly acquired credentials. The Vermont pug earned his tassles by pawing over $499 to Rochville University, which offers “distance learning degrees based on life and career experience,” according to a news release from GetEducated. He got back a package from a post-office box in Dubai that contained a diploma and transcripts, plus a certificate of distinction in finance and another purporting to show membership in the student council. “It was the diploma itself that drove our decision to hire Chester” explained Brian Groom, President of “Granted, we’d rather have promoted one of the GetEducated staff. They have so much more experience and demonstrated skill but they just didn’t have the right degrees. You know how it is.” Sadly, Chester was forced to fire the very people responsible for his new degree and subsequent new position. It seems the crew misused time and company resources during the very stunt that resulted in Chester’s degree. believes […]

The dark side of George Washington

So I was inspired by this post and came up with the following idea. 1 Basically, you research a historical hero, one of those unimpeachable people students have been forced to memorize facts about since kindergarten. Only this time you’re researching the figure as if you were a reporter for a semi-sleazy tabloid. Let’s keep it semi-sleazy so there’s a core of fact to anything reported. Like Washington marrying for money, in the example, may be true. No real facts either way but some innuendo and some sources I could cite. You could do something simple like creating the cover or make it much deeper and have the class construct a whole magazine analyzing an individual or period. The concept has some depth to it. One, students are analyzing and imitating the writing and design style used in tabloid magazines. Two, they’re researching the historical figure and seeing them as much more of a human. Historical figures tend to become caricatures which are then referred to with great longing and nostalgia. I think it’s really healthy to see these people as having flaws and compare how the media of the day treated them to how we see them now. This goes for whole eras, not just individuals. It opens up a lot of conversations about the media today as well. […]

Why I loathe Portaportal

The following is an attack on an idea and a structure. I am in no way trying to attack you if you use Portaportal but I would like to change your mind. I encourage you blasting back in the comments but if you call me names, I’ll likely cry. Sure, I get a lot of dirty looks from educators when I loathe Portaportal1. Portaportal is, after all, the educators friend. “Look how easy it is!” “I can share links with my students!” “It’s free!” Yes, yes and yes but just about everything is easy and shareable these days. I have two2 main problems with Portaportal. Round One – The Surface I’ll deal with the minor stuff (relatively) first. The thing is hideous. It is appallingly unattractive- everything from the color schemes to the jagged icons. Who in their right mind comes up with a flesh tone and pink color scheme? “But,” I can hear the rebukes, “Craigslist is ugly and look how popular it is.” or “I don’t care what it looks like as long as it does what I want.” First of all, Craigslist is ugly but it’s taking you to free things you actually want. Portaportal, especially in an educational context, is taking you to something you’ve been told you want. That’s a big difference. I’ll put up […]

The technology ninja has migrated

From the Tech Ninja bio page1 . . . The Early Years The Technology Ninja’s mother was a volcano and his father was an accountant from Belarus. His parents always had an explosive relationship and that drove him to leave home at the age of 1. He has wandered the world for centuries doing battle with all kinds of evil. The Technology Ninja has no friends, no family and no college loans. He lives in a shadowy world full of danger, suspense, dramatic music, excessive sound effects and, of course, many, many, many differently colored ninjas. How Technology became his Name-O (as opposed to Bingo) Having defeated all his enemies, the ninja was growing bored. All ninjas need enemies after all. Finding no worthy foe he decided to conquer cyberspace and all the computers of the world. He is winning, of course, but his quest continues to this day. Although many suspect he is simply taking his time so that he doesn’t have to retire and start playing bingo and shuffleboard. (It’s not that he’s against either diversion but I mean, come on, he’s a ninja.) Stupid. I know. But I miss the kind of fun the technology ninja site represents and while not an appropriate persona for everyone it worked for me and for most of the kids at […]

Celebrity Punnett Squares

Well, not quite. As you can see, the product ended up being more like New Math than a Punnet square but I liked the original title and have no idea what I’d call this post. Anyway, this idea would give students a totally different view of a character if you did it and it would show their understanding of the character (historical or literary) if they did it. Throw in some subtraction, squares or division and things could get a lot more complex. It certainly beats most character analysis/biographical sketches I’ve seen. You can see the progression of my thoughts below. So the original inspiration was this XKCD comic that had been bouncing around in my head for a few days and I woke up one morning with an idea. You could have a lot of fun crossbreeding famous people to get literary or historical characters (or the other way round). And, yes, I do often wake up thinking about crossbreeding famous people for educational purposes. As I looked up Punnet square information (it has been a while) I realized a few things. One, it isn’t spelled punnit square. Two, I’d forgotten that they were either really simple or fairly complex, at least for the limited use I wanted them for. So I scratched that idea but I still wanted […]