Thursday, December 29, 2005

Carnival Of Education: Week 47

This week's edusphere blog: The Carnival of Education is here! A great read as usual!



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~JRY: The Educational Voyage Portal Search Engine

posted by An Educational Voyage @ 12/29/2005 06:11:00 PM  
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Friday, December 23, 2005

Kudos to Randi and the UFT and the Construction Workers Union!

I just spoke to someone from the TWU who said that the support, of Randi and the UFT and the Construction Workers Union, were crucial and very appreciated durung their strike ordeal. How wonderful to hear. I was under the impression that other than supporting their initial rally, that the UFT was not much support. I'm proud that we stepped up to the plate. I hope the strike was not in vain and that they end up with a decent contract after all the suffering.

Again kudos to the United Federation of Teachers and the Construction Workers Union! Solidarity makes things easier. After all, we all get by with a little help from our friends!


~JRY: The Educational Voyage Portal Search Engine

posted by An Educational Voyage @ 12/23/2005 07:50:00 PM  
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Thursday, December 22, 2005

A Teacher & Parent's Primer to Computer Slang and Monitoring Children on the Internet

Looking over my friend's child's shoulder while she chatted via Instant Messenger, I realized how out of touch I really am. I thought I was hep, cool, hip, with it, and had it together with the online stuff. After all I can whip up a web site in ten minutes flat with word pad, run a search engine, own my own business, ran a computer lab and have been coding since the Vic 20 landed. So you can imagine my surprise at finding out that I had practically no idea of what the shorthand (acronyms) she was typing in the chat box were! After a little surfing on my own, I understood that this 8 year olds chat was quite benign, but it did spark a wake up call.


How could I, the bit and byte diva, get lost in cyber translation? Well, to my defense, there were no chat clients in my school lab, and I actually chat (and rarely at that) mostly in standard English, with adults who also chat in kind. My cyber-chat acronym list consists mainly of:

BYB = Be right back
BTW = By the way
BBI5 = Be back in 5 minutes

So here's the question parents-

Do you have any idea of what your kids are talking about online?

I mentioned in a previous post about the problem of online predators and the importance of monitoring your children no matter how smart or advanced they are. Emotionally, even the most brilliant 13 year old is still emotionally just a 13 year old!

My children are grown up and I do not have grandchildren. However, there are places to go online that can help all of us un-cool folks catch up on the current chat lingo, cyber-speak for your newbies.

It is a real eye opener to read these web pages. Have you ever seen any of these? Some are obvious but some require some prior knowledge, as the educators say, to derive meanings:

AITR

=

adult in the room

- What don't they want you to know?

A/S/L

=

age, sex, location

- Sexual reference

PLOS

=

parents looking over shoulder

- What don't they want you to know?

PHAT

=

pretty hot and tempting

- Sexual reference

E or X

=

ecstasy

- Drug reference

420

=

to smoke pot

- Drug reference

HI-5

=

H.I.V

- Sexual reference

METH

=

crystal methamphetamine

- Drug reference

NINE

=

nine millimeter

- Weapons reference

8 ball

=

eight ball

- Drug reference: an eighth of an ounce


Surf over to these sites for a walk on the other site of the monitor!


* The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children's Campaign: HDOP: Help Stop Online Predators, and NetSmartz. Explore their Teen component. These are great resources!

* A parent's primer to computer slang

* eMail and Chat Acronyms

* Chat-O-Rama

* Welcome to the World of Acronyms

* Ben's Incredible Big List of Initialisms and Acronyms (BIBLIA)


We tend to think that just because our kids speak well and have a good vocabulary that they are grown up. Wrong. As a parent it is your obligation to make good use of parental monitoring software. Some come free as included components of an Internet Access package and some as stand alone programs. Make sure you do not overlook or underestimate the value of the old fashioned keep an eye opened, and talk to your child. The last is not high tech, but is the a time tested method of parental intervention.

For the record I am definitely NOT an AOL fan, but those of you who use it should take advantage of the built in AOL Parental Controls. Check out download.com's selection of Free Parental Controls Software. Remember to check whether it is free or offered only for a trial period before purchase. Scan all new software immediately after downloading (before installing) to make sure it is virus free, and then run a spyware program immediately after installation to make sure you haven't invited in any unwelcome ad-ware or
spy programs.

Some great free antivirus programs are:
The Trend Micro program is done while you are online connected to their web site. They will ask to install a small program on your computer that will enable them to access it for scanning. Other than that it will not take up much memory. Frankly, computers today usually ship with a minimum of 40 gigs, so it shouldn't be an issue.

You can also get quality anti-spyware from the following sources:
Personally I use both anti- spyware programs! One final piece of advice. Make sure you update each program daily to make sure your programs have the latest definitions.

Ok parents, so you still feel uncomfortable checking up on you kids while they are online? Then perhaps you'll find comfort in the knowledge that government and private companies feel it is necessary to keep tabs on their adult employees! Ask any network administrator and they will tell you that all their company's email and chats are sent through stringent filters and are very closely monitored for inappropriate contacts and content.

Schools utilize sophisticated monitoring tools to block possibly offending web sites. While some folks will argue against such censorship, it must be understood that these protections are for all students while they are on school property. Schools have an obligation to do their best to ensure student safety I personally found it frustrating at times because I wnted to use some java heacy sites with my students, but the Department of Education filtered them out. I managed and my students were able to access them at home or in the public library. That's life. Those who work for an employer must follow the rules of the job. Teachers understand that. They also know, that no matter how hard you try, some child, somewhere, will land on an inappropriate site. After all, even though computer filters are much better these days, than when they first came out, none of them are 100% error free. Note the image below:


Mom's Row Boat

Notice that the caption does not match the picture.
Also note the the image is named for_dad.jpg

If the above picture had an offensive image on it, filters might not block it.

The image name seems safe enough, and so does the caption.
Yet, it could be a very inappropriate image for your child to view.
Lesson: No filters are 100% effective!

Children must be supervised.


So now you've got the inside scoop on where to go to make children safer online. Surf's up!


~JRY: The Educational Voyage Portal Search Engine


posted by An Educational Voyage @ 12/22/2005 11:09:00 PM  
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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Carnival of Education - The Winter Hibernation Edition

This week's Carnival of Education - The Winter Hibernation Edition is up for all to enjoy! There is something for everyone! Check it out!


~JRY: The Educational Voyage Portal Search Engine


posted by An Educational Voyage @ 12/21/2005 12:40:00 AM  
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Saturday, December 17, 2005

UFT Supporting TWU Rally: Mon 12/19 4PM 3rd Av & 41st St

From the UFT Blog: Edwize » Supporting TWU

"We will be joining our brothers and sisters at a rally in support of the Transport Workers Union, Local 100 at 4:00 p.m. on Monday, December 19th at 633 3rd Avenue at 41st Street. We hope to see you all at the rally. If you have a blog consider posting this information for your NYC readers."


For an interactive Google Map click here.

It is indeed nice to see our leadership so vigilent towards the TWU. Too bad they didn't have the same concern when they were supposed to be working for us. No comments are allowed on the above UFT blog- Edwise. As usual, they are silencing any possible unflattering comments. Interesting...

Good luck to the TWU. May they fare better than us! If they don't, it won't be because their leadership sold them out. My entire time in the UFT, the message was always to just take care of the senior members since eventually the new teachers will become senior too. And the last contract certainly did not help the new or future teachers any. It is interesting to note that that Toussant repeatedly said, "This contract will not be settled on the backs of new hires and TWU 100 will not “sell the unborn." How do you respond to that Randi?

Here's hoping for a better life for transit workers!

posted by An Educational Voyage @ 12/17/2005 05:38:00 PM  
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ICEUFT: WHICH RANDI DO WE BELIEVE? A very good question!

A very interesting thread is ongoing at the ICEUFT blog. The topic is:

~JRY: The Educational Voyage Portal Search Engine


posted by An Educational Voyage @ 12/17/2005 04:11:00 AM  
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Thursday, December 15, 2005

The Socratic Method and Accountable Talk

Questioning technique has always been a key focus of mine (as well as most teachers.) While I have always been a firm believer in the value of rote review, I hold that understanding why things are what they are, provide learners with much wider ability to apply memorized data. How to get content across to students, in ways that provide them with the tools/skills to apply that learning to other areas, is the ultimate challenge.

I just read a wonderful online paper by Rick Garlikov on The Socratic Method Teaching by Asking Instead of by Telling. I came across is while using Stumbleupon. I'll discuss Stumbleupon in another post.

Mr Garilkov details an
experiment whose objective was to see whether he could teach these third grade students binary arithmetic (arithmetic using only two numbers, 0 and 1) only by asking them questions. None of them had been introduced to binary arithmetic before. He gives a line by line transcript of the lesson. It is very informative! He guided the students gently and with subtle encouragement, to understanding a concept that college students struggle with!

His web site (http://www.garlikov.com/writings.htm) has more of his work and is definitely worth checking out.

The Socratic Method is compared to the Scientific Method by James Dye here.

There is also a very interesting web site worth reading on using The Socratic Approach to Character Education. This article originally appeared in Educational Leadership (May 1997) David H. Elkind and Freddy Sweet Ph.D. On the site, there is a guide to Planning a Socratic Lesson and Facilitating a Socratic Lesson
.

I know Socratic Method is not in the forefront of teaching methods at this moment, but I definitely see the value of exploring it especially in the quest for accountable talk. Check out Facilitating Accountable Talk in Your Classroom by Arlyne LeSchack.

Evaluation is the final assessment on the success of any lesson. A simple student created self assessment rubric I found was done with a second grade class is here in HTML: Response to Literature- Grade 2, page 21, and here as PDF: Response to Literature- Grade 2.

I'd love to read some of your experiences with the Socratic Method. Please comment and share!


posted by An Educational Voyage @ 12/15/2005 05:29:00 PM  
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Your Privacy and The National Do Not Call Registry

As the New Year gets closer, it brings to mind the buzz from last year about the national program to get rid of annoying telemarketers. So if you make only 1 resolution make it to register at the link below. Then 31 days later sit back and enjoy your undistrubed dinner!

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT THE:

As of January 1, 2005, telemarketers covered by the National Do Not Call Registry have up to 31 days from the date you register to stop calling you.The National Do Not Call Registry gives you a choice about whether to receive telemarketing calls at home.

Most telemarketers should not call your number once it has been on the registry for 31 days. If they do, you can file a complaint at this Website. You can register your home or mobile phone for free. Your registration will be effective for five years.

Bon apetit!





The Educational Voyage Portal

posted by An Educational Voyage @ 12/15/2005 03:12:00 AM  
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The Carnival Of Education: Week 45

The Carnival of Education is full of great articles as usual! For a great read from this weeks contributors check out: The Carnival Of Education: Week 45.

I especially found the post from A Passion for Teaching and Opinions on The MySpace Experiment very interesting!

posted by An Educational Voyage @ 12/15/2005 02:01:00 AM  
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Sunday, December 11, 2005

A Teacher's Guide to the Holocaust

If you are looking for an in-depth resource to help you teach about the Holocaust, you should click this link to A Teacher's Guide to the Holocaust .

The content of the A Teacher's Guide to the Holocaust is presented from three perspectives: Timeline, People, and The Arts. The Teacher's Guide is meant to be used as a resource by teachers. Holocaust study is a very sensitive subject, and the appropriateness of material is dependent upon individuals. All materials should be reviewed before using in class. In order to help teachers with this review process, we offer the following guidelines for Holocaust study in cooperation with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC.

Explore: Timeline - People - Arts - Student Activities - Resources and more.

~JRY: The Educational Voyage Portal Search Engine

posted by An Educational Voyage @ 12/11/2005 05:10:00 AM  
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My Pain in the Neck Resulted in Activity in my Brain

Arthritis in my neck spurred me on to s web quest for information on exactly what spot hurt thr most. I could point to it, but had no idea of what thr offending spot was called.

This curiosity led me to an awesome web site called
Instant Anatomy. This is a website with illustrations of the Human Body to aid the learning of Human Anatomy. It is quite thorough, although I m not a medical profssional and can't tell what they left out. I wish I saw this when I was covering for an 8th grade class 30+ years ago :)

The illustrations are very clear and nicely labeled. Printing the screen would make nifty last minute handouts. Well, there I am, 3+ decades late and a printer short!

posted by An Educational Voyage @ 12/11/2005 04:51:00 AM  
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The Lego Mystery Solved- The Making of a Brick!

Making of a Brick is a delightful, interactive tutorial on how Lego bricks are made! Yes, I may well be regressing to my childhood, but in my defense, there were only Lincoln Logs then. I figure that gives me license to not leggo of this Lego site!

posted by An Educational Voyage @ 12/11/2005 04:40:00 AM  
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Friday, December 09, 2005

Machines, Weather and Virtual Knee Replacement Surgery?

I just had a wild trip through a free Virtual Knee Replacement Surgery, compliments of Edheads! Then I took played the The Odd Machine! where students explore a fantastic 'Odd Machine' while learning about forces and prediction! This web site reminds me a little of FunPop- a great similar web site the the NYC DOE felt was a threat and blocked- surprised?

Edheads helps students learn through educational games and activities designed to meet state and national standards. We partner with various school systems in the United States, which help us research, design and test our activities every step of the way!

"Not only do teachers and students appreciate our free activities, Edheads has been recognized by almost every major award on the Web for our excellent educational content!"

Edheads - Activities

When time permits, I intend to go back and test my recall on weather facts. Awesome!

posted by An Educational Voyage @ 12/09/2005 09:04:00 AM  
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Thursday, December 08, 2005

Procrastination Hurts - An Update

My post titled Procrastination Hurts recounted my guilt on not keeping up with work that is important to me. I am pleased to say that I am now mostly guilt free from having caught up. Well, not completely guilt free, because it took me way too long to get my act together. My next challenge will be getting our New Year's cards out in a timely manner. This in and of itself should not be a monumental task. However, reflecting on my previous pattern, I'm only mildly hopeful of a speedy completion. I use software for my mailing labels and the cards are professionally printed. They have been in my office ready to be prepped for mailing since September.

Time will tell...



A useful education search resource:
The Educational Voyage Portal Search Engine

posted by An Educational Voyage @ 12/08/2005 10:02:00 PM  
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Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Murphy's Teaching Laws

Murphy Laws Site - Teaching Laws

Time for a few chuckles at some obvious truisms...

Murphy's teaching laws

  • The clock in the instructor's room will be wrong.
  • Disaster will occur when visitors are in the room.
  • A subject interesting to the teacher will bore students.
  • The time a teacher takes in explaining is inversely proportional to the information retained by students.
  • A meeting's length will be directly proportional to the boredom the speaker produces.
  • Students who are doing better are credited with working harder. If children start to do poorly, the teacher will be blamed.
  • The problem child will be a school board member's son.
  • When the instructor is late, he will meet the principal in the hall.
  • If the instructor is late and does not meet the principal, the instructor is late to the faculty meeting.
  • New students come from schools that do not teach anything.
  • Good students move away.
  • When speaking to the school psychologist, the teacher will say: "weirdo" rather than "emotionally disturbed".
  • The school board will make a better pay offer before the teacher's union negotiates.
  • The instructor's study hall be the largest in several years.
  • The administration will view the study hall as the teacher's preparation time.
  • Clocks will run more quickly during free time.
  • On a test day, at least 15% of the class will be absent
  • If the instructor teaches art, the principal will be an ex-coach and will dislike art. If the instructor is a coach, the principal will be an ex-coach who took a winning team to the state.
  • Murphy's Law ill go into effect at the beginning of an evaluation.
  • Weiner's Law of Libraries
    There are no answers, only cross references.
  • Laws of Class Scheduling
    1. If the course you wanted most has room for "n" students, you will be the "n+1" to apply.
    2. Class schedules are designed so that every student will waste maximum time between classes.
      Corollary: When you are occasionally able to schedule two classes in a row, they will be held in classrooms at opposite ends of the campus.
    3. A prerequisite for a desired course will be offered only during the semester following the desired course.
  • Laws of Applied Terror
    1. When reviewing your notes before an exam, the most important ones will be illegible.
    2. The more studying you did for the exam, the less sure you are as to which answer they want
    3. Eighty percent of the final exam will be based on the one lecture you missed about the one book you didn't read.
    4. The night before the English history midterm, your Biology instructor will assign two hundred pages on planarian.
      Corollary: Every instructor assumes that you have nothing else to do except study for that instructor's course.
    5. If you are given an open-book exam, you will forget your book.
      Corollary: If you are given a take home exam, you will forget where you live.
      Corollary: If the test is online, you will forget your password
      The last corollary was sent by Feenyx
    6. At the end of the semester you will recall having enrolled in a course at the beginning of the semester--and never attending.
  • First Law of Final Exams
    Pocket calculator batteries that have lasted all semester will fail during the math final.
    Corollary: If you bring extra batteries, they will be defective.
  • Second Law of Final Exams
    In your toughest final, the most distractingly attractive student in class will sit next to you for the first time.

posted by An Educational Voyage @ 12/07/2005 02:25:00 AM  
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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Why Poney Up and Pay When You Can Surf?

Being one who is basically lazy, I am always on a quest for shortcuts. I also like to have money for my shopping madness days. I had to spend a lot of my own money in the classroom for many years. The NYC DOE in it's usual stupidity, decided that teachers no longer had to be given paper for students tests, compositions etc. The NYC DOE felt that the "Teacher's Choice" money, which was intended to help teachers provide extra materials for their students which previously had to be bought out of the teachers pocket, would be used instead for basic classroom supplies. So much for UFT intervention- there was none. This hard won contract item was not challenged or supported by UFT leadership, as usual.

Long gone are the days I remember so fondly as`a child...

There was nothing like the first day of school! When you were assigned to your new seat, you were given a clean shiny new ruler, 2 crisply sharpened #2 pencils, a brand new box of crayons, scissors, and 1 pack each of colored circles and squares. Oh, what rapture. Nothing ever compared to that thrilling first day of school.

Alas, nothing lasts forever. There are always dumbocrats trying to make a name for their political life, who find others, who are always paid less, to foot the bill for their responsibilities. This year, in my old school, each teacher was given 1- ONE!- pack of paper. Teachers Choice money goes for EVERYTHING else. So now with that big hefty cost of living increase, (loud laugh) NYC teachers can also personally provide their students with the paper to take their tests and write compositions on!

Not surprisingly, teachers are always seeking out resources of free information and materials, often having to shell out their own hard earned money (not said lightly!) I forgot about an old favorite of mine: The Federal Citizen Information Center-
FCIC - Home Page

I remember the cute little television commercials for it, "in Pueblo Colorado", where we were told how to write or call up for a free catalog. I loved that catalog! There is also currently a TV commercial with a funny fellow who wears a "Riddler" costume, urging us to buy his book on FREE information. Nothing against him but I say, Why Poney Up and Pay When You Can Surf For FREE?

Today, you can surf right up to
The Federal Citizen Information Center and browse their catalog online:

"For over 30 years, the Federal Citizen Information Center (FCIC) has been a trusted one-stop source for answers to questions about consumer problems and government services. Consumers can get the information they need in three ways: by calling toll-free 1 (800) FED-INFO, through printed publications, or through information posted on FCIC’s family of websites":

www.firstgov.gov
www.pueblo.gsa.gov
www.kids.gov
www.consumeraction.gov

Saddle up that mouse and start surfing! Again I say, Why poney up and pay when you can surf for FREE?

posted by An Educational Voyage @ 12/06/2005 02:31:00 AM  
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Monday, December 05, 2005

Intro to The Internet Archive Wayback Machine

Welcome to The Internet Archive Wayback Machine

The Internet Archive Wayback Machine puts the history of the World Wide Web at your fingertips. The Archive contains over 100 terabytes and 10 billion web pages archived from 1996 to the present.

To start using the Wayback Machine to surf the web as it was, just type a URL (a web site address) into the box in the link above, click the Take Me Back button, and start exploring the past.

You will get a list by year and month for the web site adrewss you enter. It is great to look at how web site design has evolved over the years!

Enjoy!


A very useful education resource:
The Educational Voyage Portal Search Engine

posted by An Educational Voyage @ 12/05/2005 07:25:00 PM  
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Sunday, December 04, 2005

Test Your Knowledge- I Did

Lyndsey's Mania has a terrific web site with original free online education games:

Crack the Code
Make a Match
Sliders
Find It
Dot to Dot
Buy it (Money Game)
Canadian Geography
Test Your Geography Knowledge USA
Test Your Geography Knowledge European
Test Your Geography Knowledge African
Test Your Geography Knowledge The World (Oceans and Continents)
How Far is It?
Math Practice

They are easy to use, provides instant feedback and is a must have item in your review arsenal. Plus- they're FREE!

posted by An Educational Voyage @ 12/04/2005 04:40:00 AM  
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Color Schemer - Online Color Scheme Generator

I surfed onto this web site and fell in love with their products. I am not a professional artist/interior designer and probably will not need their professional software, but their very light color picker is great:



It sits on my desktop and picks up colors as my mouse hovers over the screen. Sweet.
Color Schemer's ColorPix is a useful little color picker that grabs the pixel under your mouse and transforms it into a number of different color formats.

You can use the built-in magnifier to zoom in on your screen, click on a color value to copy it directly to the clipboard, and even keep ColorPix on top of all other apps and out of the way.
Best of all, there's nothing to install - just download the tiny app and off you go. So grab it now, it's FREE!

There is more:

Color Schemer Online is a free online version of the Color Schemer products. Enter an RGB or HEX value to get a set of matching colors. You can even lighten and darken your scheme or pick colors from a websafe palette!



Check it out here: Color Schemer - Online Color Scheme Generator

Now if you need a real full featured program check out their professional offerings!

Sometimes life can be so sweet!

posted by An Educational Voyage @ 12/04/2005 02:18:00 AM  
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Saturday, December 03, 2005

ageproject

Personally, I have never been skillful in guessing people's ages. A skill that can be very useful. I found out how really pitiful I am at this when I stumbled upon the Age Project.

What is the Age Project?

The Age Project is a website loosely built around the topics of aging, stages of life, and mortality.

Currently, the main attraction is a parlor game in which users try to guess the ages of other users based on a photograph.



posted by An Educational Voyage @ 12/03/2005 07:25:00 PM  
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United Nations Cyberschoolbus Needs Teacher Volunteers in Exchange for Classroom Materials

Politics aside folks, a great resource I've used since it came online is the United Nations Cyberschoolbus .

United Nations Cyberschoolbus is looking for teachers and curriculum supervisors who would like to review content we are developing for this site and to try activities and lessons that we are creating for teachers and students around the world.


"Your participation will help us make this site more useful for teachers around the world. Each time you review content or try out lessons on a particular topic with your students, we will send you FREE material about the UN for your school or classroom as a token of our appreciation.

Project Highlights

Our interactive database, InfoNation, is accessed by thousands of users monthly who pull up accurate official and up-to-date information and statistics regarding the countries of the world.

Our Schools Demining Schools project brought schools together around the issue of landmines. After learning about the topic, schools ran their own fundraising drives to raise money to clear school grounds of mines. Students could follow the results of their actions through email exchanges with the demining teams in Afghanistan and Mozambique.

The Model UN Discussion Area attracts thousands of students who gather to discuss international issues, request information and exchange ideas.

For the Health module, classes from around the world connected with each other on a discussion board to discuss, then define health, before getting together on-line to question experts from the Pan American Health Organization and the World Health Organization about their concerns.

Cities of Today, Cities of Tomorrow includes a comprehensive 6-unit teaching module on urban issues that covers everything from the history of urban development to profiles of today's important cities to issues facing the cities of tomorrow."


Their free email newsletter kept me informed about their offerings and promises not to share your addy to keep it private.

posted by An Educational Voyage @ 12/03/2005 04:54:00 PM  
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Friday, December 02, 2005

Video Games in the Classroom Curriculum

I am a firm believer that properly selected video games can definitely enhance the learning experience. Using them as "babysitters" is just unnecessary. I used many in my lab with grades K-8 with great success. Students are comfortable with computers these days, and take to educational video games like ducks to water. Video games are not the end all to the educational process, but are just one tool in an arsenal of many which can be utilized effectively by a motivated teacher.

Steven Totilo wrote a great article on his determination to use video games in his classroom curriculum through parental resistance, and the benefits of his efforts. The violence in many video games is a concern to most folks. However, this is a great program and Mr. Totilo uses the primary urge for conquest as motivation to engage the student to further more sophisticated thinking strategies. Any opinions?


mtv.com - News - Video Games Blasting Their Way Into Classroom Curriculum

One Chicago school uses 'Civilization III' to teach history lessons.

Jim McIntosh uses video games extensively in his classroom
Photo: MTV News


In the middle of the school day, in room 317 of Chicago's Roosevelt High School last month, freshman Pablo Salas took a break from playing the game "Civilization III" to explain what happened when he told his parents he was signing up for a history class that involved playing video games.

"They told me, 'Stop lying. You're grounded.' "

Pablo's punishment didn't last long, because he was telling the truth. In September, he and more than two dozen other students signed up to take an experimental World Civilizations history class, in which text books have been replaced with video games.

The class centers on the 2001 strategy game "Civilization III," which asks players to build a civilization from scratch, by laying roads, building cities, developing culture, exploring the world and fighting battles. It's certainly an easier game for a parent to swallow than a "Grand Theft Auto" title or "50 Cent: Bulletproof."

The World Civilizations class is part of Roosevelt High's monthly Student Development Day, in which students are freed from reading, writing and arithmetic and get to take lessons in subjects as disparate as ballroom dancing, nature, rapping, Shakespeare, Iraq and pet care.

The day provides a regular bit of horizon-broadening that inspired history teachers and "Civilization" players Tim Meegan and Jim McIntosh to introduce gaming to the school curriculum.

Why are some gamers leaving their girlfriends for Mario, encouraged to play in class and getting a crash course in race relations? Watch Overdrive to find out.

"I think one of the things video games provide students is a sense of an immediate reward," Meegan said. He. wanted to tap into that. "I want to use it as a tool for them to discover more about what really happened and who these people really are," he explained. Meegan said the game can help illuminate such concepts as guns vs. butter, supply and demand, and the pros and cons of military strength.

For the first half-hour of the October class at Roosevelt High, the teachers gave a lecture on how some of the activities in "Civilization" relate to the stuff of standard history textbooks. After that, the 29 students took their seats in front of PCs loaded with "Civilization III." They played for over an hour, conquering and being conquered and occasionally even exploring the game's peaceful options.

As he steered his Roman legions to attack his computer-controlled neighbors, sophomore David Cortez recalled his first impressions of the class. "Why on earth are they making us play games?" he remembered thinking. "I thought we were supposed to be learning something, not just playing video games."

Some students were focusing on building trade routes. "We have to protect our resources," said Salas. "We have to manage with what we got and what we don't got."

But most were jumping to conquest. Cortez proclaimed that he wanted to "massacre them all." His Romans had recently broken an alliance with the Americans.

"That's the easiest thing to grasp first in this game," said McIntosh. "I think as they get more experience with the complexities of the game they're still going to have the war, but they'll see that there's other ways to win the game."

Meegan said he prefers to focus on developing world cultures and improving his people's lot through scientific research.

What's McIntosh's world-building strategy?

"Conquest," he said.

"Yeah," Meegan said. "He likes to kill them all."

Games tend to be viewed more as intellectual junk food than something nutritious, but the movement for video games in schools has been on the rise. Much of it is springing from teachers like Meegan and McIntosh, who have been gamers themselves. Deborah Briggs, director of marketing for Firaxis, the makers of the "Civilization" games, said she receives about one letter a week from teachers interested in using her company's games in schools.

Some of the growth can be seen on the blog of Bill MacKenty (MacKenty.org), a teacher at the K-8 Edgartown School, who has pushed for games as teaching tools in his schools. Among other projects, he's experimented with using an MIT-developed mod of the role-playing-game "Neverwinter Nights" called "Revolution" that replaces its fantasy setting with a digital version of colonial Williamsburg.

The blog Silversprite (Silversprite.blogspot.com) also tracks the development of gaming in schools from North Dakota to England.

The students in the Chicago class said that playing games has already helped them in school. Freshman Jonathan Schuldt, for example, said he figured out the answer to a test question about irrigation because he remembered the term from a game. In fact, he now thinks that games should phase books out altogether — and he's not just saying that because his mother works for Chicago gamemaker Midway.

"Books get boring," he said. "Games you can play for hours on end."

Schuldt wasn't the only student to suggest that games might draw them into lessons better than books, but junior Ilsey Martinez raised her hand to object. "I think that books are better," she said. "You're looking at the game, you're so focused on what you're going to do next you don't capture whatever information is in there."

Meegan sides with books, not surprisingly, but he said it would be foolish to ignore games' allure. "If I tell my students to take your 30 pounds of books home and read these pages, 75 percent of them aren't going to take that home and read it," said Meegan. "But if I can tap into their fondness for video games they're going to learn a whole lot more."

Up next, he'd like his students to create timelines of their civilizations and even link up for multiplayer in order to learn a bit about how cultures can interact. Both teachers said they would like to get gaming integrated into their full-time curriculum as soon as next year.

— Stephen Totilo



A very useful education resource:
The Educational Voyage Portal Search Engine

posted by An Educational Voyage @ 12/02/2005 11:54:00 PM  
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The Education Wonks: The Carnival Of Education: Week 43 - Thoughts And Ideas Freely Exchanged

The Education Wonks: The Carnival Of Education: Week 43 - Thoughts And Ideas Freely Exchanged is here! Check it out!


A very useful education resource:
The Educational Voyage Portal Search Engine

posted by An Educational Voyage @ 12/02/2005 02:09:00 AM  
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Thursday, December 01, 2005

UFT Surprised? - RE: Unions and City Spar Over After-School Tutoring - New York Times

Unions and City Spar Over After-School Tutoring - New York Times

NYC Educator blogged on the above article, and this was my reaction:

I believe with all my heart that Randii Weingarten, our "Sell-Out Randii" is not a bit surprised. After all, she pulled out every possible stop to make this happen even though the UFT clearly payed very close attention to all of the opposition issues voiced BEFORE the Delegates voted and before the rank and file voted! This and so many other exploits were clearly discussed at length BEFORE hand in the blogosphere alone. Make no mistake, they monitored the blogs like hawks. We may never honestly ever know the real reason why our leadership sold us out. We can only guess. Hey, it doesn't have any impact on HER salary, HER benefits, HER teaching career, etc.

Sadly, this is just the beginning of a reign of terror not seen since before the union began. Shanker must be turning over in his grave. I hope those YES voters who were overwhelmed by the huge (sarcasm intended) cost of living increase feel it was worth it. I understand that most upcoming June retirees sold everyone out for themselves. However, the rest of those who are in for the long haul, who voted YES, deserve any misery, beef pies in the face, and potty duty they get. I feel terrible for the others.

The NYCDOE has no idea of what quality instruction is. If it did, it would give teachers time to actually plan for it, eliminate time wasting, ineffective, useless, staff development and implement serious class size limits.

Does anyone know why the Teamsters left the AFL-CIO? Maybe they see some writing on the wall that no one else sees.

posted by An Educational Voyage @ 12/01/2005 12:59:00 AM  
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