Friday, September 19, 2008

table of contents

Google docs presents: Table of Contents!

If you assign reports or long essays, a table of contents is crucial:

Set up the table of contents in the format menu, which provides hierarchical entries for heading, subheading, and minor heading. Next, go to the insert menu to place it on the first page. Read more about it at Google docs help center.

Thursday, September 18, 2008


TestToob is a new Web 2.0 interactive application geared specifically towards middle and high school students. They are able to upload videos of their science experiments, and hold online discussions with other students and teachers about the results. TestToob explains:
TestToob is a place exclusively developed to showcase experiments done by school-age scientists. It offers the most up-to-date tools, fosters wonder, and gives youth an opportunity for creative self-expression. Simply, it’s a place to learn, to grow and to have safe fun.
The creators stress that the application filters users for safety purposes, requiring parental confirmation at registration. Teachers are encouraged to use it as a means to enhance their lessons.

Web 2.0 for the classroom is at its best with applications like this.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

where is the learning?

There is fascinating dialogue ongoing at The Chronicle Review, with professorial commentators Mark Baurlein, and Siva Vaidhyanathan. They are discussing and debating the efficacy of technology as a medium for learning in a series of blog posts. Siva points out that we can't simply fall for the stereotypical view that technology acceptance and use is a generational thing. Just because they're young doesn't mean they know how to access information through the computer. Baurlein argues that there isn't any proof that technology is improving the educational experience, since students claim to spend less time than ever on their studies, and much more time socializing through MySpace and Facebook.

I completely agree with Siva's point about the broad spectrum of web knowledge amongst our students. Many of them don't know much because they're not taught how to use the web beyond Google and Wikipedia for school. They learn fast, however, very fast. And they're rarely unwilling to explore online, whereas some adults simply won't go there.

And, I agree with Baurlein: students see the internet primarily as the great socializer. Again, the problem is that they haven't been taught how to use it properly as a learning tool.

It explains why we're so upside-down education-wise. The students know real education is "out there," rather than packaged in a redacted textbook. The educational system as a whole has yet to acknowledge this fact. The system is still trying to 'contain' education, protecting traditional modalities.

Be sure to read the comments on these posts, which add so much to the discussion. Open up a dialogue at your school.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

more Lord of the Flies

One of the most frequent questions I get from readers regards questions about web resources to enhance their teachings of the Lord of the Flies by William Golding.

In a previous post I recommended an online game from the Nobel prize website and a survival quiz, both of which are very popular in my classes. Presenting the quiz before reading even starts is very effective, because students learn that they know far less about the fundamentals of survival than they realized. It helps them to walk in the footsteps of the boys on the island, once they get into the story.

Two more online sources that may be of help:

What else can I help you with? What other web resources are you looking for?

Monday, September 15, 2008

young reviewers contest

Get your students fired up with a contest that will introduce them to the real world of publishing and scholastic recognition, not to mention real prize money.

The Virginia Quarterly Review is sponsoring a contest for young book reviewers. All writing contestants must be under the age of 30. It's a formidable project with the minimum word count at 2,000 words, up to a maximum of 3,500 words. Read about the requirements here.

Your students will probably be most interested in reading about the prize:
The prize for the winning entry is $1,000, publication in our Winter 2009 issue, and a publishing contract for three additional reviews worth up to $3,000. Finalists (up to five) will receive a complimentary one-year student or associate membership in the National Book Critics Circle, a one-year subscription to VQR, and may also be offered paid publication in VQR (in print or online).
Move fast on this one, as all reviews must be uploaded to the VQR website by September 30.

Here are two sites to assist with the fine points of writing book reviews:

Sunday, September 14, 2008

animated poetry

Billy Collins, former US poet laureate, presents his poems in animated videos. These are wonderfully imaginative devices to help us visualize words in verse. Here is my favorite, "Now and Then":


Friday, September 12, 2008

on the road with wanderlust

Summer's over, but that rarely dampens the wanderlust of the traveling spirit. We're left to read about others' accounts, and now we can follow some of the greatest journeys in history and literature with Wanderlust.

The site maps out many of the world's great historical expeditions, such as the Northwest Passage, the voyages of Marco Polo, and the Lewis and Clark expedition, as well as a few found in novels. Commentary and pictures accompany notable points in each journey, such as the origination point of Kerouac's iconic road trip:

The skies outside my window are foggy right now--a perfect time for armchair travel with a Wanderlust map to the opposite coast, where I'll set sail on the Pequod, dogging the route of that elusive white whale.