(We are probably not the center of the universe.)

The Scale of the Universe.

This is a little piece of wonderfulness that the science teachers out there should appreciate – and even if you’re not a science teacher, it’s still some crazy cool nonsense.  The scale starts with quantum foam (the fabric of Einstein’s space-time theory) and works its way up to the estimated size of the entire universe (and everything in-between).  Plus, it’s got some lovely mood music.  Go check it out!

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Love and Literature in School

Tech Task #7: a podcast from yours truly!

The examples I use in there relate specifically to teaching English literature, but I feel the principle is the same for any subject.

The Ralph Waldo Emerson poem at the end can be found here, along with the rest of his work.  The group of writings entitled ‘Conduct of Life,’ from which ‘Beauty’ originates, can be found here (‘Beauty’ is in part 8).

Enjoy!

Resource Site for New Teachers

Betsy’s Classroom Teaching Resources

I ran across this website the other day, and I just thought I’d share.  It’s mostly for elementary school teachers, but there are still some really great ideas, aids, and a ton of resources there if you’re looking.

The site creator, Betsy Weigle, posts resources for student teachers, new teachers, classroom management and discipline, and all that sort of thing.  Her site is geared towards helping teachers not get stressed out about their work, so that they can be happy with their jobs and help their students be successful and happy at the same time.  Giving it a look-see will be well worth your time, especially if you’re as new to this as I am and are looking at teaching the younger grades.

That’s all.  So long!

Edmodo vs. Schoology

Battle royale!

…Teachers have the most boring battles, it would seem.  This saddens me.

 

 

 

 

 

But! On to the topic at hand.  Edmodo and Schoology are both social media-based sites where teachers can connect and communicate with their students.  The sites are designed to let teachers give out assignments and feedback, deliver grades, keep track of attendance – all that good stuff.  In class, Ashley Parker and I got together to compare/contrast the two sites.  Now – everyone seems to prefer Schoology, but I found that I actually liked Edmodo better.

Both sites were free, and allowed teachers to give/students to view their grades.  On both sites, teachers and students could add resources to a library (from their own computers or from the internet), and both sites had simple, Facebook-like designs that just about anyone could navigate with a minimum of difficulty.  Teachers could send out assignments from both sites, and could send messages to specific students or a group of students on both sites.  However, I found that Edmodo had a few features that Schoology did not.

  1. Edmodo allows teachers to create tests and quizzes right on the site.
  2. The Edmodo help section was organized much better – it included categories and common questions, whereas the Schoology help section required us to use a search box to find a specific topic.
  3. Edmodo also provided a code for parents, so that parents could go online and look at how their child(ren) were doing, and so that teachers could contact them directly if necessary.
  4. On Schoology, grades had to be accessed from the home page, but on Edmodo, the link to a student’s grades could be accessed from any page on the site.
  5. Schoology allowed students to create a profile of interests and activities they enjoyed, like a Facebook profile, but Edmodo took it a step further. They allowed students to create a profile on how they personally prefered to be taught, which I think is much more relevant and useful on a school site. (This was my favourite feature.)

There were really only two things that I felt Schoology did better than Edmodo.

  1. Schoology allowed students to view their attendance records along with their grades.
  2. It was easier to delete my account on Schoology than on Edmodo.  For Schoology, I had to click a link; for Edmodo, I had to send an e-mail to tech support asking them to delete my account.

All in all, I found Edmodo provided a more complete service, and was quicker and easier to sign up for and use.  However, again, they were both designed in such a way that I think students would find them easy and appealing to use, insofar as education is ever appealing to most students.  Neither of them should be particularly difficult for parents, either, because even a lot of parents have Facebook pages, and these sites are likely quite a bit simpler than Facebook.

I could see myself using one of these sites in my own classroom.  The tools available on both sites would make at least a few of my jobs much simpler, and I do so hate to have my time wasted.  And that’s about all I have to say about these two sites, so…

…I was right.  That wasn’t really an exciting battle at all.

*sigh*

RiP: A Remix Manifesto

Based on this documentary, I am going to answer this question from the study guide:

Do you think you can argue your creativity when it’s based on another artist’s work?

 

I would like to start off by saying that…people have overcomplicated this issue so much more than is necessary.  Well – I say people, but I mean corporations.  As far as I’m concerned, creative copyright should not extend to anyone who did not actually create something.  If it’s not yours, dear lord – just let it go.  It doesn’t belong to you.

But I digress.

I believe that you can argue your creativity even if it is based on another artist’s work – to a certain extent.  Yes, many forms of art and creative media are based on works from the past.  Artists learn their trade by watching other artists, picking up bits and pieces of what they like from everywhere.  That is only natural. Before I could draw, I traced pictures from other artists.  Then I stopped tracing and started simply looking at the way they drew forms and objects.  Even now, when I create only my own artwork, it would be a lie to say that the style I have now is completely my own and not cobbled together from a hundred different sources.  Somewhere along the line, everyone who creates something has looked at something or someone else and thought, “Hey…I like that.  That gives me an idea.”

But then, of course, I am reminded of something Mark Twain said:

“Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living.  The world doesn’t owe you anything.  It was here first.”

The world does not owe you anything – including the tools you seem to think are necessary to your creative art.  There is no law that says your creative license is without bound.  Nowhere is it written that you or anyone else has the RIGHT to create whatever you want from any source at any time, no matter the situation.  I believe that there are certain copyright laws that should be upheld, especially if the artist is still alive and/or has asked that their material not be used.  I know for certain that if I found out someone had taken a piece of my writing or my artwork and used it without asking my permission or giving me credit, I would be upset.  There is such a thing as showing respect to other artists.

Of course, I think most people – including the makers of the Remix Manifesto – understand that some things should not be part of public domain – at least while the artist is alive.  This issue only really seems to get complicated when corporations claim the copyrights to things they had no hand in creating, and then expect everyone to treat them with the same respect due to the original creator.  In that case, I would say the corporations are being as disrespectful, if not more so, than someone who would take an artist’s work without giving them credit.  They have taken something that was created as a work of art and turned it into a tool for obtaining money for themselves, and as far as I am concerned, that is theft and a betrayal of the public trust.

In the end, I think what it comes down to is this: be respectful.  If the artist is still alive and they don’t want their material used, don’t use it.  If they ask that you give them credit, give them credit.  Even if they aren’t alive, or they don’t ask for credit, give it to them anyways, because that’s the polite thing to do.

And as far as corporations are concerned, well…as much as the past might try to control the future, it can’t hang on forever.  Right now our future looks like it will be less free, but just think – someday the people of our generation are going to be the ones running the corporations.

Nothing lasts forever.  Not even copyright.

Romeo Was an Idiot

Tech Task #6 said that we had to use one of the tools on the list to create a story.  My intention was to use Sketchcast, but the site wouldn’t work for me.  I tried out a few of the others, but they weren’t really doing it for me.  In the end I had simply decided to upload my own artwork onto ToonDoo to make a comic, but then I realized…that’s ridiculous.  I can just put the pictures right on my blog.

I sketched this out on paper, scanned it into my computer, and used my tablet for inking/colouring/text, so it is digital artwork.  I don’t know if that counts, but here we are in any case.

Romeo Was an Idiot…

…And Juliet Could Do So Much Better.

A.k.a. It’s Not Always the Prince Who Sweeps You Off Your Feet.

A.k.a. Don’t Trust Men in Obnoxious Yellow Capes.  (Except Robin.  Robin is Okay.)

A.k.a. I Have at least Ten Other Titles, But I Will Spare You (This Time).

(For the record, though, I don’t advocate kidnapping as the way to anyone’s heart.  Flowers probably would not actually go over very well in that situation.)

(Also, I coloured it that way on purpose; I was not just being lazy.  I like the way it looks.  So.)

….Anyways!

I think that storytelling in any capacity is invaluable in the classroom, whether it uses digital resources or not.  I have heard it said, and experienced for myself that it is true, that the best way to learn something is to teach it to someone else.  Storytelling is a way of teaching – certainly it’s one of the methods I most prefer.  Often when I set up a lesson or a presentation, I design it like an act in a play.  There’s room for audience input, obviously, but overall I know my lines and I know the direction I want to go in.

That’s storytelling: knowing who your audience is, what you want to say to them, how you want to say it, and what medium you want to use.  I believe that everyone should be taught the ability to tell a coherent story.  After all, from sports to politics to schools to churches to our groups of friends, we are surrounded by tales and accounts and anecdotes on all sides.

As teachers, our job is to prepare children for the world outside the classroom.  Considering the world’s trend towards digital media, then, it is quite obvious how important it is to teach them digital storytelling.

….And that’s all I have to say about that.  Have an awesome day/evening/week/etc.!

Piracy is Our Only Option

TECH TASK #2: An Anthropological Introduction to YouTube

I had to do several drafts of this post, which is part of why it took so long.  One of them was a big rant about how the world is coming to an end, which…well, I didn’t want to sound crazy, so I decided against posting that one.  Maybe some other time, when my judgement is not as sound.

To be honest, this has been a bit of a daunting task.  I could write an essay on any of ten or fifteen ideas introduced in this hour-long video, but I have to contain myself to a single blog post.  Maybe I’ll go crazy with them later, but for now I wanted to just make note of a few of the ideas expressed there.

1) The first one comes from Lev Grossman’s quote, “Some of the comments on YouTube make you weep for the future of humanity just for the spelling alone, never mind the obscenity and the naked hatred.”  In the outline on this tech task, Dr. Couros wrote ‘Anonymity can allow you to comment in a negative way without fear of repercussions,’ which I think is an interesting phenomenon that extends far beyond YouTube.   It’s true that anonymity can have a negative effect on the way people behave, but I think that that doesn’t quite cover everything.  For a long time, I think that a lot of people have viewed the internet as being some kind of far-off universe, separate from the one in which they live their day-to-day lives.  Anonymous or not, on the internet people say and do and display things that they would never consider saying or showing in, say, a newspaper.  The internet is so huge that anyone can see anything on it, and because anyone can see it, we often think that no one will – or at least no one who will recognize us or get us in trouble for what they see.

I’m quite interested to see where the future of humanity takes us, YouTube comments and all.  That virtual universe we created for ourselves is starting to spill over into the real world more and more.

People are losing their jobs and reputations over the pictures on their Facebook pages.  People are arranging social protests through Twitter and stopping governmental anti-piracy bills in their tracks through website blackouts.  We can see wars and crimes and injustices happening thousands of miles away; we can have an effect on anything and anyone we want, if we so choose.  And the virtual world is growing, growing every day.  All I can really say is that wherever this path leads us, it’s going to be an adventure.

In the spirit of quotes, I would like to direct you to one of my favourite authors.  In one of his many books, Mr. Terry Pratchett wrote, “Adventure!  People talked about the idea as if it was something worthwhile, rather than a mess of bad food, no sleep, and strange people inexplicably trying to stick pointed objects in bits of you.”

….And that’s about all I have to say about that.

2) Another idea that intrigued me was that of ‘aesthetic arrest,’ which Mr. Wesch talked about when he mentioned video blogs, and how we are able to look at people and stare at them without worrying about how they will react and without making them uncomfortable.  We are able to catch ourselves up in their human beauty; we are allowed to admire and study without reproach.  This idea struck me largely because it feels like an invasion into my life.  Both my younger sister and I are artists, and we have both come to the realization that the way we watch people is not considered socially acceptable.  We like to look and examine their features and their hair and the textures of their skin.  That makes those being observed uncomfortable.  We live with it.  We learn to watch surreptitiously, and we learn to live with the idea that anyone who knew they were being observed, even (if not especially) from an artistic standpoint, would find our behaviour rather…unsettling.

To anyone reading this who has met me: yes, I have examined you.  I have noticed the shape of your eyes, eyebrows, nose, mouth, and jaw.  I have noted the exact tones of your hair and skin and, at close range, the mingled colours of your eyes.  There is no sexual undertone to this or even, in fact, an overly personal interest in you or in anyone else I look at.  I simply find all human beings eminently beautiful.  That includes you, and every other person I have ever met – young and old, male and female, of every race and creed.  Aesthetic arrest is my base state of being.

I had never really considered the idea that others might feel the same way and be ashamed to admit it.

(I will understand if that makes anyone uncomfortable.  If it makes you feel any better, there are thousands of people on campus.  I may note those things about you, but there are too many people around for me to actually think about your individual features for too long.  You are not being stalked.)

3) Another idea I would like to address is that of cultural inversion and tension.  Namely, we express individualism, independence, and commercialization, but value and desire community, relationships, and authenticity.  In face-to-face interactions, connection with others means constraint, so online we seek connection without having to be constrained.  We want so much more than we are able to express, and so we seek to express that desire and craving in a place where no one will be able to recognize us, call us out and hurt us; mock us for our loneliness and for everything we feel we are lacking in our lives.

When Dr. Couros speaks, or when he shows videos and material to the class, I always catch myself thinking, “Wow…I want to live in YOUR world.” Because I don’t.  I really, really don’t.  He lives in the same world as Mr. Wesch – a world of networks and communities and virtual connection that I have seen from the outside but never been a part of.

I grew up in a small town.  Many of the people I knew there spent their teenaged years waiting – angry and tired and lonely and impatient and frustrated – waiting to get out.  It’s an old story.  I know what I’m gonna do tomorrow, and the next day, and the next year, and the year after that. I’m shakin’ the dust of this crummy little town off my feet and I’m gonna see the world!  Except the world is a big, lonely place, and if you don’t know where to look, it can be difficult to find a niche in it.

In my small town, I knew a boy who was very much an individual: a strange and unique presence in our tiny world.  Once he went around for a day with his friends and a ‘free hugs’ sign.  After a few hours the police drove around, told him there had been complaints, and asked him to stop.  I’ve never known anyone who needed a community and close relationships and authenticity more than him.  We want so much more than we have, and most of us never get anything close to what we need.  I think perhaps we’re all trying to escape our small towns, even if they’re only in our heads.  That’s the world I live in.

I’d much rather be a part of YOUR world.

4) This is it; the last one.

I want to talk about piracy.  In my mind, it’s all very simple.

In the video, Mr. Wesch said (or possibly quoted someone as saying) that our children are growing up constantly living life against the law, because almost everything we do online is illegal.  What that tells me is that the world is changing, and the government is not changing with it.  SOPA and PIPA were stopped this time around, but what about next time?

Governments (or at least democratic governments) are meant to serve the people.  When that stops happening, you get revolution.  Taking away our internet might not be the thing that does it, but they’re playing with fire if they try.  I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but I know some very determined young people out there who would be more than willing to take up arms for the Internet Cause.

(For the record, I’m not advocating violence.  But if the government – any government, really – wants to go head-to-head with the entire combined forces of the internet, they are going to have one heck of a fight on their hands.)

In the words of Edward Farrars: “Perhaps Margaret is right.  Piracy is our only option.”

…Yes, I was the kind of child who collected quotes.  I probably had a few thousand of them at one point.  I have quotes for every occasion!  Even piracy.

Try to contain your envy.