Tuesday, July 13, 2010

PB Wiki

Here are some screen shots of the wiki I created for the crew at Owatonna Options...

Skeleton of Potential Workshops (to be developed further)

Project Hopper

Home Page

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Final Project

Though I had initially planned to explore the educational potential of micro-blogging, I eventually decided to create a website for our final project, instead. Reasons for this are that 1) I've never created a website before, 2) I think having a website could be a beneficial tool to have as I search for a teaching job, and 3) I'm interested in the idea of having a teaching website some day and thought creating one would be a good way for me to get my feet wet. As for now, I have in mind a few different ways of using this site: 1) To provide visitors with a variety of resources, including 2.0 tools and book reviews of educational literature, 2) To provide employers with a site they can visit to observe some of my technological capabilities.

I created this site via Weebly, which is a free webpage generator. Developing this website was a bit like creating a blog in that, through the basic, free plan with Weebly, it is an incredibly simple process. Including the individual pages I added and posts I made, the entire process took me all of a few hours. Granted, for the time being, the site I've created isn't the shiniest, but I think it serves its purpose and, with time, hope to develop it further.

For what I was looking for, the basic plan with Weebly worked just fine. Though I haven't explored many other website generators, I feel like Weebly is a midrange interface and am satisfied with its aesthetics/usability. That said, however, if you'd like to stick with Weebly, are looking for a few more bells and whistles, and are willing to shell out a few bucks, there are some options available to you. I'm pleased with how the site is taking shape and look forward to contributing to its evolution.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Film Adaptations

As someone licensed in the social studies, I was interested in the HBO series from a couple years back based on David McCullough's book, John Adams. Though I haven't read the book, I thought the HBO adaptation was exceptional in the way in created new possibilities for educators teaching history and fresh opportunities for students interacting with historical texts. Using the John Adams series as an example, several activities come to mind.

1) While reading from a chapter of McCullough's book (and prior to watching a portion of the HBO series), students could create a storyboard (anyone aware of an free online story-boarding resource?) that highlights critical moments in the text, allowing them to develop visual representations of their historical interpretations.

2) Using Fodey (fodey.com), a newspaper clipping image generator, students could respond to part of the HBO series by constructing a handful of newspaper articles. This would enable them to organize historical events and provide their own version of how the events unfolded.

3) Through the writing of a blog or the creation of a VoiceThread, students could review a chapter from the book, along with an episode of the HBO series. In their review, they could explore ways they were effected by each medium. Then, they could compare and contrast the chapter from McCullough's book with one they are reading in their spare time, as well as the HBO episode with a show they enjoy watching outside of school.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Summer Days, Summer Nights Are Gone

As the November Moon leaves us and we brace ourselves for Winter, there is a Bob Dylan track from his album Love and Theft that I enjoy listening to. The song races out of the gates with a bluesy riff and, eventually, Bob works his way in, crooning, "Summer days, summer nights are gone (repeat); I know a place where there's still something going on." As a fellow Minnesotan, I can relate to the yarn Dylan is spinning here. I hear Dylan's connection to place coming through and my mind wanders to a warm spot away from the cold. There is hope, too, in the musical landscape of this song, as if to imply, "Summer may be over, but life can still be good." Being a Minnesotan, we need the tonic of places like the one Dylan is describing in order to make it through the winter moons.

Throughout Dylan's career (and much to his chagrin/amusement), music critics have attempted to categorize the work of Dylan. Dylan has always resisted this and I think it shows in the albums he creates (he just released a Christmas album a little while back) and the songs he crafts. The stories he tells and the characters he develops are relatable, yet never simplified. None of his songs are boxed in and they are open to countless interpretations.

Bearing that in mind, I am attracted to musicians who are able to paint stories. I like being dropped into a scene and appreciate an artist who can articulate their depth of place. Though a bit more difficult to define, I also pay attention to the element of soul. Am I able to hear through enunciations, crescendoes, or key changes that this song means something to the artist? What is their reason for singing it (*thinking of the line from Sam Phillips to Johnny Cash in the movie Walk the Line)? If it is to play victim or be cute, I'm probably not interested. If, on the other hand, it seems real, intelligent, and rhythmic, it may catch my ear. That's all I have to say for now.

Here's a live version of Dylan's Summer Days...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Food, Inc.

Food, Inc. is a documentary that connects with people in a visceral way. This gut-reaction to the film is achieved through the use of disturbing images (i.e. pigs being slaughtered on the killing floor), valuable insights from critics of the food industry, and demonstrations of alternative ways of producing food. Watching the documentary, I was reminded of something Upton Sinclair said after his book, The Jungle, had been released. Mainly, "I aimed for the public's heart, and by accident hit it in the stomach instead." Though Sinclair was aiming for the heart, the makers of Food, Inc. seem to have been successful in hitting both the heart and the stomach. The way I see it, the primary point of the film is to get people to think carefully about the ways they are consuming food.

The makers of Food, Inc. tried to include various points of view in the film, but most of the large corporations this film critiques refused to be interviewed and, hence, their voice was not heard. That said, though it seems like the creators of Food, Inc. attempted to strike somewhat of a balance of perspective with the film (authors are interviewed, personal stories are shared, alternative farming methods are unveiled), they are not subtle about having an agenda and I think they arrive at those benchmarks successfully. Along those lines, the way they went about achieving this balance seemed a bit formulaic. Documentaries released on a large-scale seem to have a recipe for success that contains specific ingredients. For example, since hearing from experts gets old after a while, documentary film-makers always seem to include a few heartfelt testimonials from everyday, American people. This is not to say these personal stories aren't real or touching; they usually are, but they are often presented in a calculated manner designed to evoke some sort of emotion from the audience. In the way documentaries are created, I'm not sure the makers of Food, Inc. bring anything new to the table.

I think this documentary did a nice job of empowering ordinary citizens to pay more attention to what they are eating. Though some of the clips and stories from Food, Inc. are incredibly disturbing, a thread of hope runs through the film. For instance, I remember someone saying that each person gets three votes a day (one for every meal) to affect the way food is produced in the world today. That meant something to me and I appreciate how the element of hope was captured in this film.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Powers That Be

First and foremost, I should mention that I currently do not have a dish setup, cable plan, or regular television channels. Hence, I am somewhat in the dark and, in some ways, I was unable to fully participate in the study for this week. That said, though not often, I have watched the news before and feel I am able to provide some commentary on what I've observed. The newscasters themselves interest me and I wonder what makes them do what they do. What's their motivation for sharing the news? For the longest time growing up, I thought the newscasters were the ones in charge of finding and delivering the news. More recently, I'm seeing them as pawns in the game instead.

The inflection of a newscaster seems to be one of concerned stability. In their voices, there always seems to be a hint of sincerity and yet they, the newscasters, present the news in a deadpan sort of way ("professional" would probably be the descriptive term they, the news station, would use to describe this aspect of broadcast). There is no crescendo to the broadcast and nothing visceral in its delivery. Transitions between news stories have been catching my eye as of late. From time to time, a brief, tragic story will be followed by news about a political campaign or something along those lines. There seems to be no connection, no trajectory between the stories. What is the purpose for them being next to each other in the broadcast? Is it to take the edge off, to maintain a public numbness through the avoidance of suffering?

The final 15 minutes, half of the entire broadcast is devoted to weather and sports. Granted, many are interested in both of these subjects, but they seem fickle and trivial in relation to some of the other stories skimmed over. In fact, it seems like a good deal of people watch the news so they can "catch" the weather or "find out about what happened with the game." The actual news stories seem to be of little interest.

As I prefer listening to my iPod when I'm in my car, I don't listen to the radio very often. If I do turn on the radio, I listen to MPR's The Current. Since I don't have any television channels for the time being, I haven't been tuning into anything as of late. I receive internet via Minneapolis Public Wifi and I'm not exactly sure what the source of that is. Though I'm slightly embarrassed to admit it, Yahoo! tend to be my online news source. Finding information about the ownership of Yahoo! was also tricky.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Improve Education & Help Students

Communication Objective

The idea behind this ad is to improve education and help students through the passing of health care reform. Health care reform would help accomplish this by finally allowing old teachers who lost interest in their craft long ago to retire under a reasonably priced health care plan.

Target Audience

I'm not precisely sure who this advertisement is geared toward. Educators. Politicians. Students. The American Public. All of them seem to fit in their own little way.


I chose to present this ad in the form of a comic including a picture of Lowell teachers from the 19th century.


There is no shortage of young teachers trying to find a teaching gig these days. In some ways, as an unemployed educator who desires to work with students, it is frustrating to not be working, while also having a hunch that there are a number of "ancient teachers" out there hanging onto their position, not because they continue to love what they do, but in order to maintain their health care benefits (I am embellishing here a bit). Something about this doesn't seem quite right and my hope was to get at this concept in a somewhat humorous and thoughtful way.

The Visual

I decided to use an old photograph as my visual. With the photograph, I chose to edit it via Comic Life in order to bring the concept behind the ad to the table. My idea for the visual is fairly simple and by no means overwhelming for the audience. Of course, if the visual I've created is to have any kind of impact, it requires people to read the comic (which I realize doesn't always happen). That is part of the risk behind the ad I developed.