The Outsiders Vocabulary Blog

I know how tedious vocabulary can be–I’m an English teacher. I have a list of 60ish vocabulary words for the novel The Outsiders (Do it for Johnny!). In previous years I have handed out the list, sorted by chapter, and asked the students to define them. I would put a selection of words on the test to ensure the kids did the work, and hoped that the words would stick. I’ll be honest with you, we would be lucky if they remembered a third of those words. I wasn’t happy about this. This year, I decided the vocabulary needed to have more value. I asked Tom to talk through it with me, and we came up with The Outsiders Vocabulary Blog. The students had access to create posts–as opposed to simply commenting on my posts. They drew one word out of a hat and completed a word study on it. The posts were sorted by chapter and part of speech. The result is a comprehensive vocabulary database for the students, and another vocabulary tool for teachers. Two classes worked together to create this glossary. They began to see the benefit of collaborating. By breaking the list down, they were able to get more out of the work. Along the way the students received mini lessons in citing sources, scanning a […]

Audio Book Reviews

Way, way back in May of 2005 I had the following idea- Audio book reviews- This is something Steve Dembo of Teach42 and I discussed. I’d like to see short podcast book reviews attached to the school library database and in RSS feeds. How cool would it be to look up a book and be able to listen to the reviews of other students. Having a RSS feed for various types of literature would also be good. This would seem to encourage both more reading by listeners and more reading by those wanting to make podcast reviews. That idea is (at least partially) coming to fruition now. Mainly because our librarians and another teacher I work with frequently came up with it on their own and got me motivated. It’s odd how circular somethings are. We’ve started a Byrd Books blog with audio, video or text reviews of book submitted by students. The posts and thus the books are also rateable by other readers through a neat ajaxy star system. I’m going to work on creating dynamic pages and feeds based on book type and reviewer so you can subscribe to just the book type you like or to the reviewer of your choice. I also need to install a tagging plugin. I’ve been really happy with the flash player […]


Tagged- How Do I Write?

Pete Reilly (tagged by Miguel Guhlin, who was tagged by Brian from Bump on the Log) tagged me with the “How do you write?” meme. It’s been a long time since I’ve been involved in one of these (May 24, 2005 to be exact). I’d say I write based on glimpses I see of possibilities- mainly ways to make aspects of learning fun and interesting that I’ve seen taught (or have taught) in ways that bored both the students and teacher. I get them from boingboing, podcasts, rap songs just about anything. While I don’t have Pete’s eloquence, why I do this might be a little more interesting. That’s what these memes are really about after all, a deeper look at all these people who are your friends, collaborators and colleagues but who you often know surprisingly little about. I have a decent IQ. I test pretty well. There were lots of reasons I should have excelled at school. I didn’t. I did middle of the road work and took middle of the road classes. In high school I mostly slept. My mother was constantly asking me why I didn’t take more advanced courses if everything was so boring and easy. My reply was that I was not in the market for a greater quantity of boring work and that […]

Organization in a MetaData World (Part 1)

Jim’s finally found a home for his kind of organization I am a swine. I can say this because my mother regularly told me I was “living in a pig sty.” I have struggled to reform myself. Dayrunner (in the bottom of a dusty box). Elaborate Note-Taking Systems (codes never seemed intuitive enough to stick). A Handspring (I think I left it in a library–we never met again). My biggest victory in my (I kid you not) 15-year quest to feel some sense of organization in my life is a Moleskin. A year ago I forced myself to start carrying one everwhere. It has been a blessing. When I came across a post about hacking a moleskin, I was intrigued. This was my ingress into Getting Things Done (GTD), an organization system created by David Allen. I followed the rabbit and discovered KinklessGTD and The HipsterPDA. Kinkless is intriguing, but that fact that I don’t carry a PDA around would mean trying to compensate with my phone or other awkward hacks. Having already established my moleskin routine, the hipster seemed the more logical choice. I considered DIY Planner’s 3.0 Edition as a mod, but there were so many cards that didn’t fit my life as teacher, technophile, and truthseeker. I became frustrated and did what we all do in our […]


Attractors A fun way to get kids thinking about orbits, gravitational pull on comets, electrons around the nucleus etc. It is also strangely addicting so remember you’ll have to get them off by force. Even if you have no use for it educationally it’s worth playing with.

IMSafer: Helping Responsible Parents

My wife and I were talking about personal responsibility last night. It was the age-old debate about who to blame for the state of the world. More specifically, the state of children (we are both teachers). We both recognized that there are companies actively marketing products, services, and entertainment to teenagers that is clearly inappropriate for their age. As most of these conversations go, we both agreed that in a free-market based economy, the people still have the power (whether they use it or not). We can always vote with our money and time. Parents have the added burden of keeping tabs on their children and the choice they make. I encountered IMSafer a couple weeks ago and, to be honest with you, I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. The site/software monitors chats and notifies you via email if something fishy seems to be going on. I worry about parents who keep such a tight grip on their children that the kids end up more deviant. IMSafer has the potential of being used in an abusive way. I suppose it would depend on how you went about using it. Looking at the product information, the site claims to have talked with law enforcement officials about how inappropriate relationships are initiated and maintained. The monitor can even pick up […]

Disaster Events Map

RSOE HAVARIA Want that certain student motivated and interested in exploring the globe while learning about some interesting current events? This looks like just the right thing to spark some interest in some students I know. A map covering all sorts of unpleasant real time events (natural disasters, disease outbreaks, etc) from the National Association of Radio-Distress Signaling and Info-communications. It’s got a RSS feed and daily downloads for Google Earth. You’ve got lots of options regarding researching certain areas and disasters as well as graphing the data itself. How many disasters occurred in Asia compared to Canada over the last week? That type of thing. Via

Geni Fixes Familial Woes is neat. A great option for dealing with complicated family relationships in history or novels (Richard III for instance). Have your students plot out the family tree and upload pictures all for free in a very easy ajaxy environment. You can move around and zoom in and out to get the big picture. It allows multiple authors so it’s great for group projects and it also has a list view which might be better for some learners. It’s also searchable and you can easily add pictures. The negatives seem to be that you need to have an email address to use it and to invite others in as well. I can’t figure out a way to share a link with non-invited users as of yet either. All in all really cool and I heard about it on Net@Night.


The Communist Manifesto on YouTube as a Cartoon Remix

A great idea and great project type for kids. You could do this with any number of fairly dry historical documents and while it would take quite a while the level of comprehension, analysis and retention the creators would get from this project would be incredible. The movie itself makes for a nice resource if you’re covering Communism. via BoingBoing some time ago

How big is Azeroth?- Who says word problems can’t be interesting?

From Tobold’s MMORPG Blog: How big is Azeroth? To measure a square mile, you first need to define what a mile is. As “a mile” doesn’t even have the same length on different places on our earth, that isn’t trivial. The basic definition of a mile is coming from Roman times, defining a mile a 1000 double steps of a marching legion. The soldiers had to walk through all of Europe anyway, so you just needed to count their steps and had the place all measured up with few extra effort. Clever guys, these Romans. But on Azeroth “steps” aren’t that easy to count, and the length of legs between the different races varies widely. But interestingly all races move at the same running speed, so it makes sense to define the mile by the time it takes to run it. On earth, a marathon runner has a running speed of about 12 miles per hour. As everybody on Azeroth is a hero, lets just define the Azerothian running speed as 12 mph as well. This effectively defines an Azerothian mile as “the distance you can run in 5 minutes”, without using any speed enhancing items of course. So this guy took the time and expended the effort to do this. Why? Because it interested him. It’s a fairly difficult […]