For almost anyone that knows me, you also know that I LOVE STAR WARS! I have always really enjoyed the fact that the one DARK SPOT in the Star Wars Universe happened to occur on my eighth birthday. You see, it was on November 17, 1978 that the world was subjected to the one and only showing of the Star Wars Holiday Special.
The special centers around Han and Chewbacca trying to return to the Wookiee planet of Kashyyyk for the celebration of Life Day. It is during this special that we learn that Chewie has a wife and a child. Which is still a little strange to think about.
I recall or at least I think I recall being pretty excited about the special airing. You have to remember that in 1978 one could not even watch Star Wars on their VCR. When I think back on that fateful day in 1978, I am not sure that I stayed awake for more than the first 30 minutes or so. In retrospect, that was probably for the best because over time, the Star Wars Holiday Special has become one of the most panned things ever created in the name of Star Wars.
For example, take a look at the SPECIAL GUEST STARS in the photo above. One really has to question what the pitch to executives must have looked like. Sure, let's have Be a Arthur play a gruff bartender at the Mos Eisley Cantina who bursts into song and argues with Greedo. There are so many things wrong with this idea that it makes the inclusion of Jar Jar Binks in Episode I seem like a really brilliant idea.
For many years, I wondered what actually happened in this special. Primarily because it was during this special that the world saw the introduction of Boba Fett. For those of you wanting to see this important introduction, this is a great place to start.
There are so many things that are wrong with the Star Wars Holiday Special that it is no wonder that it has never been officially released on video. However, we live in a time where you can find almost anything on the Internet. It was a few years ago, that I finally watched the entire special. It was at times fascinating, and a many others down right painful. I am thankful that I have seen it, but I am not sure that there are parts that I can ever erase from my memory. I invite you to view it below, but in the words of Obi-Wan, "We must be cautious." Proceed at your own risk. You cannot UNSEE this. Also, note that the video quality is pretty poor.
Whether you choose to view it or not, I hope you all have a HAPPY WOOKIEE LIFE DAY!
At this point in 2014, pretty much every digital device is also a calculator. Growing up, I always longed for a calculator watch. The idea of one now seems very quaint and very EIGHTIES.
Since the dawn of the digital calculator there has been a slight mistrust of them. As a classroom teacher, I can remember the big debate as to whether or not we would let elementary students use calculators in the classroom. In examining some of the current calculator apps available, I think that it is quite humorous to come across items like the DIGICUS (Digital Calculator + Abacus). http://retrocalculators.com/digicus.htm has a rather fascinating history of this device.
For quite a while now, Wolfram Alpha (http://www.wolframalpha.com) have been solving equations for us. The same is also true for the Google Search Bar. It is rather interesting to think of growing up in a time when the computer could have solved my Algebra homework. The problem that this brings up is that it is now more important than ever to go beyond just asking students to solve math problems. It is far more than just the procedure. We really need to be asking them to DO SOMETHING with the math.
More recently, apps like MyScript Calculator have taken this even further. Rather than entering in numbers using buttons, one can simply write the problem to be solved.
In honor of Sesame Street's 45 Birthday today, here are a few things that I learned by growing up on THE STREET.
1. SESAME STREET IS A MAGICAL LAND THAT CAN NOT BE FOUND WITHOUT ASKING FOR DIRECTIONS.
Generations of people know the song lyrics by heart, but with the start of every episode, we are always asking the same thing, "Can you tell me how to get / How to get to Sesame Street?" You would think that we would know the way by now. Obviously Sesame Street was not created in the age of GPS.
2. LANGUAGE IS FUNNY!
Grover and a Fly in My Soup is one of my favorite clips from Sesame Street. Here we learn the importance of exact language and the use of prepositions. Also, the replacement soup of Cream of Mosquito is a classic ending.
3. COUNTING IS ACTION PACKED!
To this day, I sing this song in my head anytime I count 12 of something. The early 1970s animation and groovy music takes us on a journey across America inside of a pinball machine.
4. MR. SNUFFLEUPAGUS IS REAL!
I was always fascinated with Mr. Snuffleupagus and the fact that only Big Bird could see him. From 1971 until 1985 he was thought to be Big Bird's imaginary friend, but finally he was revealed to the adults on Sesame Street to be real. The producers had become concerned that they were scaring children into thinking that adults would not believe them if they had something important to share. Click the image below or visit http://www.sesamestreet.org/muppets/mr-snuffleupagus for a collection of Snuffy videos and activities.
Well, it has been an entire week of blogging for me in the month of BLOG-VEMBER, and I wanted to end the first week with a BANG! After exploring the TEDEd Periodic Table of Videos earlier this week, I began wondering, "What other types of periodic tables exist?" As we all know, the answer to most questions is only a Google search away. So, I very innocently and unexpectedly typed into the search box PERIODIC TABLE OF and then conducted and Image search. Let's just say that it was a bit of a rabbit hole. On and off for the past couple of days, I have collected now periodic tables that may be worth exploring and sharing with your students. I present five of my current favorites below and then a link to a Google Spreadsheet where I have listed 60 at this point. I will continue to add to the list as I learn of new ones. If you know of ones that you think should be on the list, please comment below. Also, I have tried to keep the list "kid friendly" as there were many tables that may not necessarily be suitable for educational purposes.
While it could be quite interesting to simply consume the tables, I think it would be far more interesting to have students produce their own. Consider some of the following ideas to get you started.
1. How are Periodic Tables organized? What is the structure that the tables have in common? What makes them different?
2. What makes a "GOOD" Periodic Table? Are tables in the list that could be significantly improved?
3. What Periodic Table is MISSING? Are there things that could be classified that no one has yet created a table?
If you use this activity with your students, please share the results with me. I would love to hear how it went!
THROWBACK THURSDAY #TBT
The Internet Archive (https://archive.org) has long been one of my favorite sites. Think of it as the attic of the Internet. There are so many random and interesting things to browse through that one could easily get lost there for days and days. Perhaps best known resource there is the Wayback Machine which hosts a history of 435 billion pages saved over time. One can easily view the history of the Internet and how sites, formats, and layouts have changed over time. Go ahead, try it! I will wait....
Thanks for coming back! While that is pretty amazing, Internet Archive released a brand new section this week called the INTERNET ARCADE. I was pretty much raised with a joystick in my hand, and many of my fondest memories was spending time in the arcade playing a random assortment of video games. While many of the most popular games live on in various forms and are playable on your iPhone or iPad, there exists a large number of "lost classics" that I have longed to revisit.
The Internet Arcade offers a library of over 350 video games from the "bronze age" of video games. Each of these games are the actual versions that many of you may have played in the 1980s. The best part about this, is that there is nothing to download, and the games are playable in your Internet browser. I encourage you to take some time reliving the GLORY DAYS or sharing this site with the kids of today. However, do not be insulted when they talk about how lame these games are by today's standards. This resource is really ripe for some critical investigations by students. Here are some thoughts for you to explore.
1. Create a classification system for a selection of the games.
2. What are the most popular genres of games in this collection?
3. Which games were the most successful? Which were the least successful?
4. What are the characteristics that make a "good" game?
5. What game elements are present in a selected game that is present in a modern version? Trace the history.
Best of all, you will not have to beg anyone for more quarters.
WEB RESOURCE WEDNESDAY
There has always been something uniquely compelling to me about the simple beauty and organization of the periodic table. As a gifted student growing up, there was something about the poster that was on many classroom walls that was an immediate distraction. In today's blog entry, I write about the TedED version of the Periodic Videos Collection (http://ed.ted.com/periodic-videos).
First things first, Periodic Videos (http://www.periodicvideos.com) is a site created by folks at the University of Nottingham and has been around for a while. For those of you who have not seen it, basically they have created a short video for each and every element on the periodic table. That is pretty cool in my book.
What is even cooler and would surely get a LOT of kids excited to use the QR Code Scanner on their digital information devices is the Periodic Table of Videos QR Code Posters! They have the poster available in an assortment of sizes for you to download and print.
But what is really SUPER COOL is what TED Ed has done with the Periodic Table of Videos. For those of you familiar with TEDEd, then you already know that for every one of their educational videos they have an accompanying lesson to go along with it. In each lesson, there are a set of questions and extension resources that ask the view to THINK (by answering multiple choice and open ended questions) DIG DEEPER (and learn more about the topic), and DISCUSS (with a guided and open discussion forum). Even better is that TED Ed allows teachers to CUSTOMIZE THE LESSON. This allows you to create a version to share with your students who sign visit the URL that it creates for you. The students then need to sign in to view the video and answer the questions. In the customized lesson, you can alter the questions and even create your own. Better still is that TED Ed puts YOUR NAME on the lesson. So, it makes this look like you did something really impressive. I will be posting much more about TED Ed and its resources in future blog entries, but this is certainly enough to get you and your students investigating the Periodic Table in a brand new way.
Mobile app monday
I have often found the idea of using CLICKERS in the classroom very intriguing. The problem that I have always had is that in the beginning, each student had to have a separate device. These devices were usually expensive and did not do anything else. Next in the process came a multitude of cell phone apps that would allow you to have students or participants text in their responses. Tools like Poll Everywhere should a lot of promise. Then came tools like Socrative which really took things to a new level. The problem with tools like this is that every student had to have a device, and while more and more classrooms are moving to a one device per student or even a bring your own device setup, there still seems to be barriers. I often want to poll an audience during a conference session or during a professional development workshop, but I seldom have the time to introduce an app and then have all of the participants install the app and use the app in a meaningful way. That is probably why I was so excited to learn about the PLICKERS.
Plickers is a FREE app for either your iOS device or Android. Using the website, you are able to set up separate classes and assign each student in you class a different number. There is a collection of cards that you can print out and give to each of your students. Each card has a different number associated with it and it in a slightly different shape that resembles a QR Code. Along the edge of each card are the letters A, B, C, and D. Depending on which direction the card is held, it is meant to represent that corresponding answer. Cards are available in a few different sizes and in sets of either 40 or 63 cards.
When you present a question to your students you have the choice of making it a poll type question or one that has a correct answer. To gather the responses from your students, simply open the app on your mobile device and click the camera button. You are basically scanning the classroom as the students hold up their cards. I really encourage you to try this out, because it works ridiculously fast! You can see the responses immediately. Once are done scanning, then you click the checkmark, and Plickers graphs the responses for you. Individual responses are also indicated within the app as well as on your account on the website.
While Plickers does not allow for open ended responses, it does provide a free, fast, and very easy to set up and use solution to gather information from your students. If you use Plickers in your teaching, please share with me your experiences. I would love to hear how you are using this tool.