Google Zeitgeist as a Writing Prompt

So the folks over at Google Blogoscoped had a great idea. Use Google trends as a writing prompt. For instance, if the top queries are … 1. subaru impreza 2. priyanka chopra 3. build a bear … and so on … … then your narrative may go like this, to quote from Simon’s try: I went out and bought a brand new Subaru Impreza last week, which was very scary as I have only just passed my test. I took Priyanka Chopra, the Indian film star, with me to keep an eye on me and exert a calming influence as I was pretty nervous because the Impreza is wild beast of car. “Let’s go build a bear”, I shrieked as we weaved through traffic, “an actual live bear that will do our bidding”. “Good idea,” agreed Priyanka, “This bear could drive us around too, anything would (and so on) … Morphs pretty well into a fun writing prompt that uses subjects that are, by definition, things people are interested in. Ways to take it to the next level- write the zeitgeist as a character or historical figure use the words to take the pass the sentence game to the next level see who can make the longest sensible sentence with the fewest additional words (not listed in the trends list) […]

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Digital Storytelling Carnival

I’m a little late with this but . . . If you’re looking for lots of great tips on all aspects of digital storytelling (from camera angles to classroom applications) check out Matthew Needleman’s new carnival. I also found out Matt is a fellow ADE so hopefully I’ll get a chance to meet him in the near future.

The Cat In The Hat Experiment- A Literary Remix

The Litlab: J. Robert Lennon: The Cat Text I have to say one thing here: it is not fun to be with me. I like books and things. Tame: that is I. I get no kicks, fly no kites, play no games. Hops and pot are not my things. If you are here, I want you to go away. So what should this dish, this fox want out of me? I sat and picked at the fish and looked at those hands, so white. J. Robert Lennon has created a whole alternate story using just words from The Cat In The Hat. This would be a great English lesson. You could remix other things as well- AP news articles, poems, song lyrics etc. It’d be fun to have students use each other’s work. Jill would remix Dre’s paper and they’d talk about the different choices they made. That type of thing. The creativity comes out as a result of the restrictions. from Kottke.org photo credit chinkychongka

Assessment: The Remix

A couple posts caught my eye recently, and I suddenly found a surprising connection. Both deal with remixes. The Last Supper–The Leftovers Remix We all know the iconic Last Supper. We probably know more about it because of Dan Brown, and it is very recognizable–especially in Western Culture. There was a rush of interesting recasting of da Vinci’s painting a couple weeks ago around the web-culture blogs I read. (via Neatorama) (via BoingBoing) (via Neatorama) I thought this might make an interesting art project. The students take an iconic picture or symbol and recast it somewhere else. You would want to have a rubric for the project that asked the students to consider the icon and it’s features and note or create subtle connection to the original in their own remix. The students are not simply spiting up terminology. They are emulating or playing with the original. Sugar Bear–The Fuzzy Remix (via BoingBoing) How does Sugar Bear go from sweet sugar fiend to environmentalist? That is the question you would pose to your students. For the more analytical students, this assessment piece is a dream come true. Students would exam a series of remixes of a single icon. Their task is to research the culture each new version is introduced to. Students would dig for clues from culture that shape […]

A Future Intro

I made this so we could talk to our staff about the TIP Chart (our technology integration progress rubric- which is pretty good). It’d work well for parents as well. It’s pretty interactive and fun in the beginning with a number of pretty funny questions mocking our ability to predict the future. The intro slide sets the tone. I basically say “Where is my jet pack?” Then I try to get people talking about what they expected to have in the “future” that hasn’t materialized. I then pose this question and then invite guesses from the audience as to why this eminent scientist believed high speed train travel would be impossible. After a while I show them the answer. The key is that it gets people engaged at the beginning and it’s pretty funny- yet it is amazing how quickly things change. The presentation then segues into what’s going on now. Since we can’t predict the future very well, we might as well show the “futuristic” things going on now. I showed brief selections from a few TED videos that I thought were cool and relevant to the topic. We hit parts of – Do schools kill creativity? Hans Rosling on poverty – both to touch on globalization and to show how the data is presented Will Wright’s Spore It’d […]

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Rap for English

I’ve been playing around with the idea of doing a blog for my middle school focusing on using rap lyrics to get at daily oral language and to build vocabulary. I think the potential is definitely there. I’m worried about two things. Can I come up with material consistently enough to make it worthwhile for the students? Secondly, can/should I use an appropriate portion from an inappropriate song? These are middle school students so it gets a little iffy and the county I’m in is pretty conservative. That being said they are having a Souljah Boy dance party at our school and played a clip from the song today on the intercom. So maybe I could pull this off. I’d love to use lyrics like the ones below from TI’s “You Don’t Know Me” You gone make me bring da chevy to a real slow creep My Partner hangin out the window, mouth fulla gold teeth When the guns start poppin, wonder when its gonna cease choppa hitchu on the side and create a slow leak We can end the speculation cuz today we gone see What’s the future of a sucka who be hatin on me i don’t care about the feds investigation on me I don’t care they at my shows and they waitin on me Ima keep […]

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A 6 Word Story and A 4 Slide Sales Pitch

I heard an amazing graphic designer say something about loving restrictions because they force creativity (a great podcast from SXSW). That’s something we ought to use, as well as do, in teaching. So let’s start by restricting the students . . . 6 Word Stories This is a great way to get students focused on story elements and on clear, concise language. They’d also be great writing prompts. This link is to Say It Better where I found the post and this one is to a much larger list of 6 word stories at Wired. Some of the examples have non-school safe language so you probably won’t want to send students right there. My favorites- With bloody hands, I say good-bye. – Frank Miller Machine. Unexpectedly, I’d invented a time – Alan Moore This assignment forces a lot of deep processing and creativity. You could also use it as an option for your vocabulary work with bonuses for good “stories” with more than one vocab word in them (used correctly of course). You might want to expand the word limit but make things hard for your students. Difficult and creative is the opposite of boring. 4 Slide Sales Pitch It’s similar in idea to dy/dan’s four slide sales pitch. how well you can sell yourself in four (4) picture-only slides. […]

Wikipedia Mindmap – more data visualization!

Wiki Mind Map.org This is a really cool free site that’d be great to use in the classroom. You pick a topic from wikipedia and it creates an interactive mind map of the content. Click on the pluses and topics expand. You can even change the “center” topic of the map on the fly. Lots of cool stuff you could do with this and it’d be a great way to get to those visual learners that don’t respond well to outlines or even static mind maps. Too bad you can’t point it at any mediawiki site. That’d really open up some interesting options in the classroom.

Exhibit and Data Visualization

The kind and brilliant folks at MIT have come out with a new Exhibit API that allows for more flexibility and power. The bonus is that it looks good doing it. I’ve now revised my Google spreadsheet fed history example to use some of the new power. It’s here if you’re interested. In the end I opted to mimic their new presidents layout (much like I mimicked their old presidents layout). This time I had a better reason than pure ignorance of the API (I now have impure ignorance after all). Their new layout is really right in line with what I’d like to focus on this year- data visualization/interaction. The new layout has the map right their with the time line. I like that. Time and location on one easy interactive page. Add in their option to sort and hide/expand sets based on the data you define and you’ve got something really powerful that will help students make connections. A simple example is if I restrict my set to show only “explorers” then suddenly in the map and the time line things change. I notice explorers were mainly earlier and than none were born in the Americas (obvious to you and I but maybe the spark some kids need). Then I switch map views and I see that explorers […]

Magic Bullets Don’t Exist

Techlearning has an article that was passed around our school email celebrating Eight More Reasons for Technology in Education. After reading it, I’m feeling a little like the crab in the photo above. Now you may have noticed that I?m a fan of technology in education but I feel this list is, for the most part, the kind of thinking that leads people down very wrong roads. We’ve been looking for a savior for education for a while. It’s time we started realizing the savior of education must be the teacher- use all the tools available but it’s really up to them/us/you. You can read the point by point below or my summary here. Technology does nothing by itself. Technology doesn’t change teachers or how teachers teach. It simply makes certain changes easier. The sooner we stop celebrating magical techno things that don’t happen the sooner we’ll have real conversations about what needs to happen in school. Teaching with technology takes just as much work and planning as teaching without it (if not more in many situations). This is no Utopian ideal. Teachers need staff development, planning time and lots of hard work to start integrating technology into the classroom in the ways described below. Technology doesn’t make it happen- teachers do. Using technology involves the student in the learning […]