@newsfromtengrrl for 2010-09-04

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@newsfromtengrrl for 2010-09-03

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@newsfromtengrrl for 2010-09-02

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@newsfromtengrrl for 2010-09-01

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6 News Stories to Connect to Orwell’s 1984

Big brother poster by anarchosyn Big brother really is watching you. Today we accept a certain amount of oversight by government and business as a part of daily life.

Students know about all the surveillance cameras that follow them as they move about in the world. They realize the U.S. government tracks details on their income and health. They know that online vendors know what they buy and everything they looked at before they decide. They have all heard stories of someone who gets a ticket because of an act caught by a traffic light and toll booth camera.

Still, they can bring a skepticism to class when they read George Orwell’s 1984. Seriously, we could never be watched that closely, right?

Several recent news stories may make the answer to that question less certain. Have students read and discuss any one of the stories as an introduction or supplement to 1984, or arrange students in small groups, having each read a different article and then present the information and their comment to the class.

  1. Someone’s watching Granny cook her eggs. A new video surveillance system watches over senior citizens, monitoring everything from when they get out of bed to whether their eggs are fully cooked.
     
  2. Aunt Martha’s been in the bathroom for 30 minutes. Motion sensors track senior citizens around their homes, sending text messages to family when a possible problem arises. RFID chips track medicine and the inventory in kitchen cabinets.
     
  3. The scanner says you missed class today. Students must flash an ID card near the university lecture hall entrance to register their class attendance. The resulting information feeds into class participation grades.
     
  4. Alert! Preschooler has left the building! Thanks to a radio frequency tag in special basketball jersey-type shirts preschoolers wear, teachers and administrators can quickly tell when a student wanders off campus. The system tracks students at recess, in the cafeteria, and even in the bathroom.
     
  5. Why is Will still on the school bus? RFID chips and barcodes on student and faculty IDs and various pieces of equipment will allow a high school to track where people and things are at all times if funding is awarded. If someone’s missing or out of place, they can take action immediately.
     
  6. Your recycling bin may tattle on you if you throw away too many plastic bottles or cardboard boxes. In Cleveland, Ohio, RFID chips and barcodes will tell garbage collectors how often you put out the recycling. If it’s not often enough, your trash will be searched and you can be fined $100 if recyclables are found.

 

Student discussion of the articles can be guided with these questions:

  • What freedoms or privacy rights does the system affect?
  • What is the benefit of the system?
  • How would you feel if you were monitored by the system?
  • Would you feel comfortable using the system to monitor someone else?
  • How do the benefits balance with the loss of privacy? Is the loss worth the cost?

If students read and discuss several of the articles, additional questions can ask them to compare and synthesize the pieces:

  • Notice that the targets of these programs are either students or senior citizens. What do you make of the focus of these systems?
  • What other ways are monitoring systems used in America? How do the systems in these articles compare to them?
  • Create a scale that outlines how you feel about tracking and monitoring. What should always be monitored? What should never be monitored? What falls in-between? Explain how you decide where to place things on the scale.

Note that these articles would also make a great supplement to M. T. Anderson’s Feed.

 

[Creative Commons licensed Flickr photo by anarchosyn]

@newsfromtengrrl for 2010-08-30

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Community Building Classroom Activities: A Round-Up

Community managers by luc legayHow do you take a group of individual, unrelated people and connect them in a supportive community quickly?

It’s a question teacher face at the beginning of every term. Here are some answers.

Begin by establishing reasons for students to connect. You can’t wave a magic wand and build community. It takes work. What’s the Trick to Building Community in the Classroom? outlines four lessons that lay the ground work for connections, no matter what class you teach or what other community building activities you use.

In the writing classroom, personal stories can be the best way to build quick connections. The writing task can make the connection, as explained in Building Community in 15 Minutes a Day. As students embark on a writing experience, they can build fast connections by talking about their challenges and successes together.

In a similar way, ask students to talk about their work as writers—their best work, their pet peeves, and their biggest challenges. Five Ways to Learn about Students This Fall outlines specific activities that ask students to share their history as writers in this way. Lesson plans for Weekly Writer’s Blogs, Technology Autobiographies, and Extended Metaphors about Writing encourage students to build a community of writers as they reflect on their own experiences.

Tend the fledgling connections writers make with activities that talk explicitly about community. Whether they look at communities outside the classroom or those at school, such discussions can ensure you students continue to Build Community After the First Day.

 

[Creative Commons licensed Flickr photo by luc legay]

@newsfromtengrrl for 2010-08-29

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List of Ten: Fun with Crayons

Crayon Lineup by laffy4kI’m a sucker for office supplies. Snoop around my desk, and you’ll find colored pencils, a rainbow of Sharpies, and a full range of notebooks and pads of paper.

It’s no surprise then that I was excited when I found a link to a Vintage Crayons, Paints, & Art Supplies Flickr set on a friend’s Twitter feed (John D. Lemke aka @lumpy).

Sadly that collection is limited by copyright restrictions, but you can find plenty of other images, like the illustration on this post. Just search for Creative Commons-licensed content for the keyword crayons.

Once you have found a collection of images you like, students can use one of the topics below to inspire a project such as an essay, a Powerpoint presentation, or a YouTube video.

  1. [Persuasion] Look at the vintage boxes in the image included on the Crayola entry on Wikipedia. You can also use more recent images of crayon boxes. Ask students to analyze the boxes for persuasive information. Point out the box that proclaims, “Not injurious to the hands and will not soil the clothes” as an example. There’s also an early advertisement you can analyze. Discuss how the boxes appeal to customers. How do they attempt to persuade customers to purchase a box of crayons?
     
  2. [Gender & Race] Ask students to look at how gender and race are represented in the images includes in the Vintage Crayons, Paints, & Art Supplies Flickr set. Crayon companies literally have all the colors of the rainbow to choose among. Are the images diverse? Do they accurately represent the people who will use the product? [You might begin this assignment by asking students to consider the Flesh crayon and the current Multicultural Crayons collection.]
     
  3. [Naming] Where do crayon names come from? Typically, the name seems to describe the color, but if you read the list of Crayola color names, you’ll quickly see that some are a bit unusual. Consider the Inchworm crayon. That’s hardly a name you’d expect. Review the list of Crayola color names, and choose one color to explore. Consider the connotations and denotations of the name, think about the alternatives that Crayola could have used, and draw some conclusions about their final choice. Your project will be an analysis of the name for that crayon—exploring the name, what it means to people, and why it was probably chosen.
     
  4. [Perception] Take a look at XKCD’s Color Survey Results and the related resources the results have inspired. Colors are deeply personal and quite objective. Discuss the role that gender plays in the analysis, and suggest what other personal characteristics might influence the names people choose for colors. If your resources allow, the raw data from the survey are linked from the XKCD site. Try your own analysis of the data and report what you discover.
     
  5. [Culture] Consider how cultural connotations of colors (alternative discussion) compare to the names Crayola has used to label various crayons. You can use Poynter’s Color, Contrast & Dimension in News Design to talk in more detail about how color works. Are there names on the list of Crayola color names that could be culturally insensitive? What alternate names would you suggest if the crayons were used by children in a different culture?
     
  6. [Color Bio] What if your life were a crayon box? Identify 8 to 12 significant events in your life. The times might be especially happy memories, things that changed your life, or milestones you achieved. Choose a crayon color to represent each event, and explain why the color is appropriate for the event. The project might be published as a kind of graphic life map.
     
  7. [Special Collections] Crayola has created special collections of crayons over the years. Some are named for the kinds of colors included, like Silver Swirls. Others are specific to an event or situation, however, like the State Crayon Collection (image 2 , image 3 ) or America’s Top 50 Crayons. Create your own special collection of crayons—choose a theme (e.g., the Mardi Gras collection, the Halloween collection, or Thomas Dale High School collection), and 8 to 12 crayon colors that you would include. Provide names and explanations for the colors that would be in your special collection. The Educational Chemistry Crayons are a great example of such a project.
     
  8. [Tell Your Story] Almost everyone has memories tied to crayons—whether coloring worksheets in preschool or filling in the images on a place mat at a restaurant. Write a personal memory about crayons. Brainstorm the things you remember when you think about crayons. Choose one or two, and tell us your crayon memory.
     
  9. [Coloring Pages] Take a look at a collection of Coloring Pages or Craft Projects on the Crayola Website. Choose 5 to 7 pages from a collection, and analyze the images and text that are included. How is Crayola presenting the issue or idea? What is included and what is not? The pages are obviously intended for children, but are there other aspects of the audience that your analysis reveals? [Expand this activity by including coloring pages from one of Crayola’s international sites, which include Canada, Australia, United Kingdom, Mexico, and Italy.]
     
  10. [Coloring a Place] Dump a collection of crayons in a bag (or names of colors on slips of paper). Each student pulls out a crayon (or a color) randomly. Have the student look up the color on the list of Crayola color names if you use slips of paper. Imagine that the color is the name of a place. Using the color of the crayon and the crayon’s name as inspiration, describe the place. What does it look like? What happens there? Who goes there? What sounds and smells are associated with the place? NOTE: If a student has trouble working with a color, just have him pull another one. The idea is for the color to be relatively random, but there’s no reason a student should be forced to stick with a color that he’s having trouble using as inspiration.

Most of these activities will work with any collection that is based on colors. You might use paint chips, for instance, or if students do scrapbooking, the names and colors of paper and ink used by Stampin’ Up would be work.
 

Check out the other Lists of Ten for writing activities, professional development ideas, and other classroom teaching tools.

[Creative Commons licensed Flickr photo by laffy4k]