Saturday, December 29, 2012

TARDIS Detail

TARDIS detail front left by Ben Biddle
TARDIS detail front left, a photo by Ben Biddle on Flickr.
After receiving the eleven Doctors figurine set for Christmas, I had to build a TARDIS console to display them.
It's built with leftover pieces and is only intended to give the impression of the TARDIS rather than reproduce any of the actual consoles. I especially like the coffee cup.
To see more images visit my Flickr Lego set.

Perfect North Slopes

Perfect North Slopes by Ben Biddle
Perfect North Slopes, a photo by Ben Biddle on Flickr.
For our fist ever ski/snowboarding experience, it was a lot of fun. There certainly seemed to be a lot available for all levels of experience.

I especially appreciated the free beginners lesson included with lift ticket. It helped the kids and I become more confident in venturing onto the runs. And capping off the day with a couple hours of tubing was a great way to keep the fun going without all the physical exertion.

The kids are already talking about going back!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

An Unexpected Short Journey

Saw The Hobbit with my oldest this afternoon. It was probably mean of me not to tell him the book was divided into three movies. He was a bit disappointed that Smaug remained unvanquished.

Overall I enjoyed the movie, especially the dwarves singing around the fire. Martin Freeman was compelling, though at times I did see Dr Watson peek through the pointy ears. Cate Blanchett was radiant and mysterious, hinting at a particular fondness for Gandalf and reminding us that no one in this movie was really "just human".

There were only a couple of items that I wished could have been better expressed or portrayed. It's not Peter Jackson's fault, they just don't translate well to the screen.

One is the dreadfully boring times of any epic adventure: days of endless walking and never changing scenery. Instead of getting the sense that they were walking across the Great Plains (a boring drive at 65mph, let alone walking). Instead Gandalf started to sound like me during cross country season: "Run!"

The second item was when Bilbo was wandering through the caves and discovers the ring. Yes, it is difficult to portray onscreen what actually happens in complete darkness. Having been in caves with all the lights out, there is no way to convey that feeling onscreen. Even if the room was pitch dark and all we had were voices and sounds, the audience would be lost. It had to be filmed with light.


Friday, December 21, 2012

Do YouTube?

In the ever changing discussion about YouTube access, it seems (to me) that more educators are demanding access to the online video giant. YouTube is currently blocked at our school. However, I feel like it's very easy to find video clips that serve the same purpose which are not blocked. The real issue is laziness.

Why would I create a video or spend a few extra minutes researching exactly what I need when it is so much easier to click the brain off and the video on? Even solutions such as downloading the video and replaying just the video file seem to be too difficult.

As a parent, I limit my kids time in front of the TV at home. We don't have cable, just an old antennae. I certainly don't want them coming to school to stare at silly nonsense without any engagement. And for me, that seems to be the real issue. What can my kid get from YouTube at school that I couldn't provide at home. Where is the value in the education?

Let's get kids creating and engaging the world around them. OK. Even post it on YouTube. But let's not turn a video on without engaging their minds.

Follow Up: After mulling this post over for a couple days, I realize the issue is about creating or consuming content. I'd prefer people (in my case students and educators) create valuable content, as much if not more than they consume.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Quick, Update The Curriculum!

In a recent press release, the W3C has released the final HTML5 definitions. Looks like I'll need to update the vocabulary on next semester's final ;-) Read the complete press release here and the HTML5 definitions here.

HTML5 is described as "the cornerstone of the Open Web Platform, a full programming environment for cross-platform applications with access to device capabilities; video and animations; graphics; style, typography, and other tools for digital publishing; extensive network capabilities; and more."

I'd love to figure out a way to get my students excited about the developments in web standardization. Haven't found it yet.

Read the Dead Sea Scrolls

Dead Sea Scroll FragmentDust off your Hebrew skills! The Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library has released copies of several scroll fragments. In addition to Genesis and The Ten Commandments, you can read the Psalms, the Minor Prophets and several apocryphal texts. If you're having trouble reading Hebrew fragments, they also include an in-depth section about the scrolls.

Note: I was alerted to this site through the Official Google Blog.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Good Find

Just picked up this book at Goodwill for 99 cents. It even has the CD still with it! Glance through the preview below or find it in Google Books.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Where Can I Find...?

Where could we find good research sites for countries and historical figures? That was the question posed by the upper elementary teachers recently. Here's what I gave them:
I also reminded them to use Easybib or bibme DURING the research process. Too often kids can't go back and find the exact web page where the information came from, so it's better to capture the source while viewing it. Another suggestion is to have students start at Wikipedia. While not a valid primary source, most entries do contain links at the bottom of the entry that direct back to primary sources on the topic.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

What's It Take To Survive

The Living Wage Calculator is a fascinating tool to discover how much money it takes to survive in a particular location. Simply plug in a place and you will see the local minimum wage and comparisons with how much it costs to survive.

The results include varying household sizes and a basic budget. The part I found the most compelling was the listing of industry salaries and whether they are over or under the amount required. Of course the figures are based on a single income family and the results clearly show why there are so many dual earning families.

I can think of several engaging applications in the classroom:

  • Math - comparisons or various scenario extrapolations
  • Geography - determine if geographic features impact financial status
  • Guidance - will the occupation you want to pursue be able to provide for your family, or will you need to move to another location?
  • Sociology - are there connections between location and poverty rates? dual income versus single income, roles in the family
  • Government - compare voting results with economic regions
  • Economics - Another fun project could be to have students pick a career and family size, then cut their budget down to a workable amount under the earning levels they chose.

My only complaint is that the information is derived in one direction. It would be easier to create relationships between information if the data could be searched at all levels. For example, if I wanted to find the areas where health care provides the best wages.

A Larger Audience

I love it when school activities spill outside the classroom. Students often work for an audience of one: the teacher. As if my opinion was the only one that mattered, NOT.

Sometimes I can get parents involved but that usually develops through their focus on grades or GPA, which ties into scholarship money. But when a student can share their opinion with the world in a clear and meaningful way; when they can contribute to a global discussion, that is exciting!

So with that in mind I've asked most of my classes to write a media review this quarter. The caveat is that the review must be publicly posted and they share the link back with me. They aren't due for another couple weeks but some of the more enterprising ones have already completed the assignment.

"Jane Eyre" Movie Review
"A Christmas Carol" Theatrical Performance Review
"On The Road With The Archangel" Book Review