Students Explore Poetry Through Hyperlinks

I was trying to find a new way to make poetry more engaging last month. As I searched for intersections between poetry and technology, I found the genre of poetry that, along with innovative web comics, inspired this experiment. I created a website with a couple poems peppered with hyperlinks. The links point to clues both informative and intriguing. My hope was make exploring a poem more of an adventure than a chore. It seemed to be successful. My students were able to articulate the concepts and themes of the poems. The discussion was more informed and, therefore, more interesting.

“My Maps” from Google (an actual example)

I figured after being so gushy about the My Maps option from Google I ought to make a good example. So here is a good start on a territorial acquisition map of the United States of America. I did it free hand based on a number of different maps I found on wikipedia and a few other places- so it’s not perfect and it still needs some work but I think it shows what you can do with little effort. Yes, I promise the writing will improve :). The map took about 45 minutes or so to make. Most of that time was spent looking at various maps. I also increased my speed after I figured out I could move points in polygons after I finished rather than having to start all over. I also made a quick screencast covering the basics of the My Maps tools.


Integration Video – It’s ok to be scared

Since the embed isn’t working here’s the link. Thanks for responding, not sure this video was worth this much effort but what’s the Internet for if not wasting time. 🙂 An attempt at a semi-amusing video that Jim and I made earlier this year. It focuses on the fact that integration is difficult and can be overwhelming but we’re lucky enough to have people here to help (although talking to me can be a hardship in and of itself). The embed from teachertube doesn’t seem to be showing up for me. I’m not sure why. If you’re wandering by please let me know if you can see the video in the post. Thanks, Tom

Onomatopoeia- A Hook

The following post is my attempt to clarify how I go about conceiving and constructing lessons. If you’d just like the source files and could care less how I think (which I imagine is the majority), they are linked at the bottom of the page. This is how I ended up with this fairly interesting introduction to onomatopoeia. Yesterday, I found a tutorial on how to make cartoon style lettering for comics using Photoshop at It looked like fun and I figured since Jim was going to be hitting poetry pretty soon, and I had some time during Spring Break to try things, I’d give it a shot. I think I found it using StumbleUpon which is a great site that lets you find some really odd things and that in turn tends to inspire me to make some interesting lesson. I try to keep the question “Can I use this to teach something?” in the back of my head at all times. The first thing I did was brainstorm all the onomatopoeia words I could think of. The main one that kept coming to mind was crash and that led to the association with crash course- finally! an excuse to use the crash sound in a presentation. With that title, “A Crash Course in Onomatopoeia” in mind […]

Bad Fortune, Good Writing Prompt

Bad Cookie, a fun site that gives fortune cookie fortunes. It makes a great opening line for a story or set the fortune as the character’s destiny and build the story around making the fortune accurate. It both makes writing the story more difficult and easier. More difficult in that the story now has constraints but it also gives you a starting point which helps defeat that “I don’t know what to write” feeling. You could also compose a haiku based on the fortune, make it a line in a limerick or translate it into the voice of various characters you’re reading or from the media.

Personal Google Maps

Google now lets you create online annotated maps with amazingly simple tools. You can add info windows (with html), plot lines and add polygons. It really is the easiest thing imagineable. Go there and try it. This example map has absolutely no point. I just made it on the fly to prove to myself how easy this is. Do you know how long this would have taken to do in the “old” days (earlier this year or yesterday really)? Things really are moving fast. I am so happy, it’s almost sad. via O’Reilly Radar


Density of Gas

Want a way to explain density to your students? This Google video is worth a thousand words and about four thousand powerpoints. Really wild plus you get to say sulphur hexafluoride which is kind of fun. link via Digg

Rollercoasters, Personal Pies and Data

U.S. Housing Prices The first example is an animated roller coaster ride of US home costs adjusted for inflation. It’s a pretty dramatic and entertaining way to look at the data (link from Digg). It makes a graph “real” in a way that I’ve never really seen before. Personal Pies Personal Pies (great title) is even better because it allows your students a lot of flexibility in the product they create and the data couldn’t be any more relevant to them. He’s created pie charts for his life- everything from portion of life with beard to number of states he’s visited (there is one non-school safe “pie” so be warned). This is a perfect project for students dealing with pie charts and percentages. (from Anil Dash) I think these examples are important because they prove that data (or anything else for that matter) doesn’t have to be boring or presented in boring ways. I try to think about two things when creating project/presentation or anything else- Is this going to fun and original? Is this personally relevant to my students? I guess both those really focus on engagement. It always amazes me how little attention the difference between engagement and silent acquiescence gets.

Second Life in the Classroom

Peggy Sheehy is a trailblazer. Sheehy is a media specialist at Suffern Middle School. Her daughter nagged her for months to check out a project she was working on, so one day Sheehy created an account in Second Life. It didn’t take long for her to see the potential of the 3D virtual world in a classroom. She took the time to acclimate herself to Second Life then developed a proposal to buy a series of private islands for her colleagues to use as a tool for learning. Now, before you begin to say BUT WHAT ABOUT…, Sheehy has already thought through it. She has a system in place to complete a comprehensive background check for any adult allowed on the schools private islands. There was training for teachers before the students ever saw the virtual world. The students went through comprehensive training that clearly explained what is appropriate behavior on the island. Sheehy said she only had to suspend the rights of one student temporarily. The kids realized right away how special an opportunity it was to be apart of the project and have been very careful with their behavior. Stepping beyond the fear of disaster, Suffern’s Second Life presence has yielded projects as varied as a mock trial based on Of Mice and Men and an Entrepreneur Project. […]

Photoblogs: Inexhaustible Sources of Inspiration

Many of us have a core set of blogs we check everyday for insight and inspiration. Most of those blogs are text-base, yet there is a subcategory of blogs that focus on images. Photoblogs are blogs that feature pictures either found or taken. The layout and interface of a photoblog differs from the traditional blog. Typical photoblogs feature one picture at at time with a couple toggle buttons to move from one photo to the next. Some bloggers narrate their pictures and others let the photos speak for themselves. I have to remind myself on a weekly basis that my students speak in a language of images–a language that sounds like broken English when I try to speak it. My mumbled and fumbled attempts are not in vain. My students understand that I am trying to show a level of respect for the world they are creating. I encourage you to consider this as you review your lessons and think about tweaking them for next year. If images are becoming the glue that holds our text-based lessons together, then imagine the power of telling a story or teaching a concept with images that are stitched together with words. Photoblogs, Flickr, and other image-sharing sites are an untapped resources for transforming (or maybe even translating) our lessons for our students. Photoblog […]