The Origin of Words prezi

Today, my students will start exploring where words come from and I decided to pull together a Prezi overview of some of the areas that we will talk with and work on in the next week or two.

Peace (in the prezi),

Prezi now offers Educational Option

This is great news.  Prezi — the powerful and creative alternative to Powerpoint dullness — announced that it now has a free license for teachers and students along with an upgraded paid option.

I’d like to investigate this further, since I would LOVE to have my students use the platform for some sort of poetry or writing activity, using “connected paths” to lead the reader on a journey. I am not sure if it is doable because we don’t have any student email accounts.

It also looks like Prezi did some upgrades to its editor, so I will have to play around with that, too. (Remember: Playing is learning.) Here is a Prezi poem that I composed some time back and then forgot about. I was trying to work out how to move the eye of the viewer in and out of the text.

Peace (in the prez),

My bank files are on Microfiche?

This is a tale of two banks but also about technology shock.

For reasons that I won’t get into here, I had to request some monthly bank records from the two banks that I use. One bank is pretty large and has been swallowed up any number of times by the larger fish in the money pool. The other is a credit union and I use it mainly for funding my car insurance.

I went to the big bank and asked for my records. The woman jumped on her PC, punched a few keys and we chatted as the paperwork printed out. She stapled it together and I was on my way.


I figured I had time to go the credit union, too, so I went there. I explained to the woman what I wanted. She dug around for a small form and started to fill it out.

“You understand there is a $25 research fee?” she asked.

“Research fee? For what?”

“To find your statements.”

“Aren’t they right there, in the database?” I pointed at her computer.

“No. I only have access to the last six months. The rest are on microfiche.”

I stood there in silence, baffled. I was caught in the memory of using the library in high school and in college, squinting at the tiny rolls of data in the huge machines.

She noticed my look. “Do you know what microfiche is?” I must look younger than I am, I thought. (Reader, you can laugh)

“I know what it is but I didn’t think anyone in the world used it anymore and I certainly didn’t think banks used it. Why isn’t all this on a database?”

Now she was the one silent. I knew she was not the one to blame for this, so I just shook my head. (Later, I rationalized that maybe the bank does not trust the digital age and sees microfiche as a safer way to store information. Or, my cynical side added, to get a few extra bucks in research from its customers)

“By the way, this could take a good week or so to get your request. You should know that,” she added. I envisioned some poor bank employee whose job it is to sift through piles of microfiche. I shuddered.

I took the form she was helping me fill out and looked at it closely. Not only was there a research fee but it would cost $12 for every monthly statement on top of that fee. For what I was searching for, the cost would run almost $200.

That’s $200 for data that I technically already own. Or not, I guess. Maybe my data is really the bank’s data. I am confused on this now.

“That’s why we remind our customers to save all of their paper files,” she kindly informed me, as I took the slip, stuffed it into my pocket and told her I would have to rethink my request. I did thank her for helping me.

What I didn’t tell her was, your bank won’t survive long in this digital age if your data base is a storage box of microfiche in some vault somewhere. But I held my tongue and walked away.

Peace (in the information age),

Unexpected Collaborations

I use Google Docs quite a bit for notes and other things. I am tired of Microsoft Word (I will write about my excursions into Open Office another day). One thing that always amazes me when I open up my Google Docs are all of the collaborative projects going on outside of my account, and yet, I have been included in the share by others.

Tom Barrett is one of the most prolific and if you have not seen his work around getting others to collaborate on a variety of technology and education issues, then you are missing out. (See his blog for a start). But there are others, too, and I appreciate what they start, and often, I will be intrigued by a topic and add my own. This is what collaboration is about, right? We are invited and we accept the invitation.

This morning, I noticed that Tom has a resource around ideas for sparking writing in the classroom. This, of course, interests me greatly, so I read and then after reading, I felt like I should add something. So, I wrote about the use of Poems for Two Voices with students.

Earlier this week, I noticed that Martha had begun a resource around Digital Literacy. She wanted to compile a glossary of terms that we are using and explain them, so she was searching for collaborators. I added the word “glogging” to her file and wrote up a bit of what I know about it.

When you think of it, this kind of collaboration is perfect. I add what I know and I take away what my collaborators know, and we all move forward a few steps. My Google Docs is like a gift under the tree some days. You never know what someone is going to share.

Peace (in the sharing),

The alternative history of “Leviathan”

We still read aloud to all of our sons, even the sometimes-grumpy sixth grader will sit next to us for extended periods of time to listen to a book. He reads a lot on his own, too, but this tradition of read-aloud has been part of our family since he was little. It gets trickier to find the time and the right book, however, but we keep going.

Two weeks ago, we started to read Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, bestselling author of Uglies. The book is a retelling of history prior to World War I, with some significant changes in the world. For one, Europe is home to two main powers who have begun to harness technology for advancement. The Darwinists tinker with animals to create super-creatures, such as living sky creatures, while the Clankers create powerful machines to rule the world.

We’re not yet far into the story, but you can see things set in motion already — with the main character, Prince Aleksander, on the run after his father — Archduke Ferdinand — has been killed.

The world created by Westerfield is pretty amazing and the pace of the story is brisk. It’s a perfect read-aloud for a 12 year old and I like that the other main character in the story is a girl (pretending to be a boy so she can fly the skies).

I tried to explain to my son that this is a variation of steampunk fiction (he looked at me strange when I said that) in which writers envision a world where technology took root earlier than it did, and the world became a vastly different place as a result.

Peace (on the pages),

Books, on the cheap

While I would always advocate that you find ways to support your local independent book sellers, it’s hard to pass up an offer like this one from Barnes & Noble. This week, the book chain is offering pretty steep discounts on its books for teachers and it’s worth a visit. Plus, I have a few gift cards hanging around and a few books on my wish list, including:

What books are on your wish list?

Peace (in the pages),