It’s the little things

I saw these two posters ready to be hung in an elementary library. I was amazed. I showed this picture to two teachers and said “Can you believe this?” They had no idea what I was talking about. I was sad. OK, let’s get passed the whole crappy idea and the fact that they’re wasting wall space that could be put to any kind of better use. Look at these posters. The food looks horrific. It’s low level cafeteria food. One of them has the food on the floor. I wouldn’t feed that crap to my dog, let alone my brain. Why is there mustard with the Mexican food? What the hell is that neon green stuff with the nachos covered with a few dessicated olives? Seriously. Someone may have spent money on these posters or at the very least took the time to laminate them and then put them on a wall. That might have worked in the 1920s but kids today have seen decent images. They’ve been marketed to. They know that even McDonald’s food looks good in posters. I know it seems I’m making a big deal about nothing. Maybe, but I see this as a good example that we aren’t paying attention to details and are still living in a world where those kind of crappy […]

Comic WordPress Theme (and kind of a theme hacking lesson)

So here’s the proof of concept page for those who just want the idea and know how to change things already. It’s a great way to let students quickly and easily build an interactive online comic book story or display their art work. I really like the potential. I’m documenting some process here in hopes of giving people who care how I end up where I end up an idea of the path I traveled. I saw a tweet and ended up at the site below. I liked the way it looked so I noted the reference to the theme at the bottom right. That URL led me to the designer’s homepage but I was either too impatient or too lazy to find the theme there. I backed out and did a search via google for ipseity theme and end up where I want (which is here). However it looked like this when I installed it- which is fine and good but not what I wanted. I liked the clean, white version that had started me on this journey. I’ve now have two options. Option One One, I download the css from the other page and replace it. To do that I go back to the original site. I click view page source (in firefox) I search for cssand find […]

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 […]

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.


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.

Two Ways To Fail

Here are two options our new filtering system currently gives when you try to access a blocked site1. Option One 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 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 . . . 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 […]


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.