As we move into a research project in which my sixth graders will write a short piece about a topic that they consider important to the country, I had them become political pollsters. All of my students spent the last week, asking 10 people questions about the issues that they consider to be most important for the next president to deal with. (Note: the polling sheet was from Time for Kids, and had the categories you see above). Yesterday, we collated our data (from about 700 total responses) and I won’t even venture a guess on the margin of error, here, but it was a fruitful endeavor for teaching them how to ask questions, how to gather data in a chart and a graph, and how to notice trends in information.
I had struggled a bit with how best to collect all the data, and in the end, I had them work in groups to collate numbers, and then, as a class, we used a Excel spreadsheet on the Interactive Board to bring together each class’s numbers, which then tallied up all four classes into a nice compilation.
It won’t be a surprise to see that the economy was clearly the top at the end of the day. This led to discussions about why that is, and they were surprisingly insightful about the struggles that are going on and how people (including their parents) are looking to the next president to boost the economy. As one of my students thoughtfully said, “If the economy is fixed, then they (the president) can turn their attention to those other things (education, health care, etc.). But if the economy is not good, then that’s all people talk about. ”
If you spend enough time reading articles or watching interviews with the folks behind the major sites in the Web’s history (most of which lines data ghost towns), you realize that one phrase keeps popping up in the mouths of the site leaders, and often, it spells the beginning of the end of the site. (Are you there, Friendster? AOL? Yahoo? MySpace? And will you survive, Facebook?) The boys in my comic — Walking the Web — notice it, too.
I won’t claim to know all that much about programming but clearly, the Ruby on Rails suite of web developer tools has opened a lot of doors for interactive web-based ideas. So, it made sense to introduce a personified Ruby to the boys in my comic, Walking the Web, as they explore the history of the Web.
Peace (on the rails),
I often try to bring my own writing into the classroom as a way to not only share my process, but also, to give examples. This week, my students begin a short research project in which they examine an issue in the presidential campaign, and write an opinionated piece that uses research, along with citations of sources. (We’re using Instagrok for research and Easybib for citations). I struggled to find a good topic that my students can’t also write about (I don’t want them to emulate me), and decided on a short piece advocating the end of talk around a manned mission to Mars.
I try to use the comment feature in Word to help articulate the strategies that I am using, and this document becomes a talking point in class with my students. “Did you notice …” is a common phrase, and we can refer back to this as they begin working on their own. Let’s Leave Mars Alone with teacher notes
For a year or so, I have had friends in the National Writing Project run Hackathons or Hackjams, using various tools to show how hacking skills are another form of literacy, and how those skills are becoming ever more important to young people in a digital world because it provides them with agency via remixing and a lens to critique online sources.
One of those tools is the Hackasaurus Xray Goggles, a handy bookmarklet from Mozilla that lets you change the text and design of a website. I finally got around to checking it out, and boy, it is pretty fun to use.
Check out what I did to my own blog site here — compare it to the real thing:
I wonder how this might be used for the political season? And it does bring up questions of ownership, right? Who owns a webspace and what does it mean when you hack it? I see that Mozilla is working to create an unique URL for sites that get hacked via Goggles. (Right now, you can only save the HTML code of the hack). Interesting …
The boys in my comic — Walking the Web — think they see a dangerous creature. It’s the open-source Mozilla, springing from the ashes of Netscape, and gearing up to launch Firefox. Google Chrome can’t be too far down the road, right? When you think of it, the browser wars have been an interesting, and unexpected, development, right?
During an upcoming keynote address for the Western Massachusetts Writing Project, I am going to be sharing out our Dream Scene digital storytelling project as an example of bringing media and technology into the classroom in a meaningful and powerful way, with writing still at the heart of what students are doing. I’ve been working on a visual depiction of the process that students go through as they develop their Dream Scene project.
See what you think:
And here is our collection of published dreams (so far):
I admire Bill Gates for his push into philanthropy (but not so much his push into education). The boys in my comic meet Gates right at the moment when Microsoft realized, a bit too late, that the Web was the place to be, not the desktop. Oh well.
A book review that I did for the MiddleWeb site (aimed primarily at middle school teachers but has a lot to offer to teachers of all levels) is part of the site’s Fall Book Review Festival. There are some interesting books on the list and all the reviews were done by educators, so you can mostly trust the lens. The book I reviewed — How to Teach Critical Thinking Skills Within the Common Core — was just OK. I wouldn’t rush out to buy it, but if it were on our teacher resource shelf, I’d pull it down to peruse.
Before folks launch into me here, I know that Marc Andreessen has done other things since he and his partner, Eric Bina, created the Mosaic browser (which became the basis for Netscape). Ning is just one of Andreessen’s many ventures. But the boys in my comic, Walking the Web, only see his role in history as helping to develop and release Mosaic because, in historical terms, that is his one great achievement, and all done while still very young and living on pizza and cookies and milk (according to various bios).