Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Useful videos

Now that Delicious is going the way of the dodo (everybody tells me so, that's how I know) there are two things I should really start doing here, in my own little space on the interWebs.  First, I should start cataloging serious alternatives: lots of people have them.  I followed someone's directions and imported all of my Delicious links into Google Bookmarks.  It seems a poor alternative thus far, largely because I can now not find my Google Bookmarks page.  Nor can I add bookmarks without going to Google Bookmarks.  For Delicious, I just pressed Command + D.  Viola, permanent record of link forever.  (I'm still doing it, and will up until the day they officially pull the plug.)  (Which, evidently, they might not.) 

Second, I should start using the space to keep track of links I want to keep track of.  Well, I've kind of been doing that already.  But I should probably, I don't know, do it better or have a better tagging system or something.  (An analysis of tags as the most insanely useful, or not, way of organizing information is forthcoming.  Some year.) 

For example, Nova has a bunch of videos online, like this about Machu Picchu.  There are others, I'm sure.

Finland, Finland, Finland...

Linda Darling-Hammond has taken to various publications to talk about Finland's educational model.  She did so again in the fall in NEA Today.   While the article presents a great many ideas that US policy makers should take note of, and while many aspects bear further investigation (doctorate, here I come), one particular point jumped out at me, grabbed me by the ears, and started pounding me in the middle of the forehead.

     All students receive a free meal daily[...] (Darling-Hammond, 2010, par. 19.)

Imagine if we suggested something like that here.  No, really.  Think about it for a second.  Envision it.  Every student gets a meal.  You walk into school, you get lunch.  The ramifications are kind of staggering.

Start with the un-shaming of the free-and-reduced-lunch program.  You don't have to be ashamed of not paying for your food.  Nobody does.

Move on to lower-middle-class income families.  Parents who skimp on school lunch because they can't really afford it stop trying.  Their students eat a decent meal.

The upper-middle class families continue to send their students to school with lunches from home.  Sometimes, though, the students eat the school lunches, because for whatever reason they don't bring one.

Some parents talk about "charity," and how they won't accept it.  School officials and policy makers simply state that it is now the policy of X state to provide every student with a good, nutritious meal at no front-end cost.  Besides, the parents are still paying for it, just like they're paying for physical improvements to the school and teacher salaries.

Initially, a great deal of food is wasted as students who have never eaten school lunches before try them.  The issue of taste comes up at school board meetings.  At the same time, health-conscious parents take a closer look at the contents of school lunches.  This brings about a push for school lunch reform.  As a result, school lunch improves in nutritional value and tastiness.  This reform applies financial pressure to the companies that currently produce large amounts of, let's say, pre-packaged cinnamon rice.  This, of course, doesn't happen everywhere at the same time, and it happens last in urban districts with high levels of poverty, where most students are already receiving free and reduced lunch.

I once had a student from Finland in one of my Spanish classes. I told her there was a song about Finland.  She didn't think it was funny.

Also, no mention of school lunches.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Why I love my friends: A holiday post

Those who know me probably refer (hopefully lovingly) as a Nerd.  The capital N was intentional, and well deserved.  I'm getting too old to be one of the cool nerds; hopefully I'm old enough soon to be considered retro, and thus cool again.  That cycle gets shorter and shorter, so it shouldn't be long now.

As a result of my friends' knowledge of my nerdliness, I have received a few really, REALLY nerdy holiday gifts, with which I am inordinately pleased.

Exhibit 1:

This is, as you can see from the title, a fundamental bibliography of Don Quijote.  During my graduate class on Don Quijote, we read the Murillo edition, and would refer frequently to his footnotes for cultural clarification.  For our term papers, we were encouraged to consult this bibliography as a great starting point for finding source information.  The Bibliografía was no longer in print, though, and essentially impossible for a graduate student to acquire.  We all borrowed our professor's WELL-worn copy, and were grateful for the chance.

Since then, there have been an amazing number of times when I've wished I could pull up some quick articles about Quijote on some theme or another.  I've thought longingly of this bibliography, wishing I could refer to it just to see how much research had been done on the topic as of 1978.  And now I have a copy.

I know, nerdy, right?  But, admit it: kinda awesome.

Exhibit 2:

This, friends, is an ocarina, which is sweet enough.  But wait, there's more:

It's an Ocarina of Time!  This is a genuine replica of the instrument played by the intrepid hero Link in the video game classic The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time.  I played a few scales on the ocarina, and it has a good sound to it. 

I know, awesome, right?  But kind of nerdy.

The best part about this is that these came from different friends.  They're appealing to my nerdy nature from all sides!

Thank you, guys.  They're great.

NB:  I already had a Don Quijote tag, ready to use.  That's cool.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Free WL resources

These come courtesy of Carrie C. on the ACTFL listserv.  (Not that Carrie C. seems to have a variety of free video sources for different school subjects.  For Spanish, they have the video for the textbook series "Destinos."  They also have a college-themed version.  That, combined with some scaffolding, would go a long way to help a learner find comprehensible input.  (Ray, if you read this....) 

For the teacher, they also have a seminar on K-12 language teaching and some arts instruction methods courses that look really interesting.  

Also on the free video front, the BBC has a whole host of language tools.  The Spanish video was insufferably slow-going for my taste--it felt like "Dora the Explorer" for adults.  ("Can you say 'largo?' [pause] ¡Muy bien!)  But maybe it's just what some learners need.  And maybe later lessons focus on providing comprehensible input. 

Friday, December 17, 2010

Important lessons learned from literature

Any plan that involves faking your own death is a bad plan.

Also, any plan that involves losing your hat is a bad plan. (Can't find the exact reference right now.  It's from Girl Genius.  Yes, it's steampunk.  Yes, I know what I said about steampunk.  Yes, I've read the whole thing.  Sue me.)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Literature circles

A quick link to a blog post about literature circles.  Is this something that I can use in higher grade levels?  Does anybody out there use literature circles?  I have a group of fairly disengaged high school seniors.

h/t Edutopia

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Hmmm...maybe my students CAN use it.

I've long been excited by GoAnimate. I've posted all two of my animations in other blog posts. But I've encountered difficulties when students use it. These range from the standard technology issues ("Mr. Cosby! I broke the internet!" One time it was almost literally true.) to simple time-management issues. There were a lot of things about it that my students didn't understand the first time around, and would be able to do better after having some experience with it. there were also some issues sharing the resultant videos, strangely.

But now GoAnimate for Schools is live, and theoretically, it would solve the sharing problem. It also means that the limitations suffered by mere mortals--the character creation difficulties, for example--would also be overcome. 

As for my students breaking the Internet, well, I understand it's fragile anyway.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

One for when I get "spare" time

I'm wondering about the culture clash between standards-based education, which I wholly believe in, and "holistic" learning, where students learn things that are not necessarily part of the curriculum. It's something that bears closer examination.

I'm a proponent of standards-based education. From that perspective, my dogmatic twist on this thorny issue is that if you write the standards well, if you write them with big juju thinking skills at their heart, if you think "big" enough about them, then they can incorporate holistic learning practices. They don't have to be in conflict. The problem comes when your standards are a list of 200 things your students have to know before they can leave Algebra class.

But like I said, that's an article of faith with me. I'm pretty sure the research is there to back me up on this one. I'll just have to wait until I retire to look into it.