Worried about plagiarism? You don’t know the half of it

November 24, 2007


Larry Lessig, speaking at TED, makes the case for kids who use stuff borrowed from others in their classroom presentations.

First, this speech should open your eyes to the danger of our only preaching against plagiarism to kids who borrow copyrighted stuff off the internet (see especially the last two minutes of his almost-19 minute presentation). What’s the alternative, you ask? See what Prof. Lessig says. What are the alternatives?

Second, Lessig shows how to use slides in a live presentation, to significantly increase the content delivered and the effectiveness of the delivery.


Tip of the old scrub brush to Presentation Zen. Go there now and read Garr Reynolds’ take on Lessig’s presentation.

Who is Larry Lessig? You don’t know TED? See below the fold.

Read the rest of this entry »


Practice, even with failure, more important than talent

November 20, 2007

Every teacher needs to get familiar with the work of Carol Dweck. She’s a Stanford psychologist who is advising the Blackburn Rovers from England’s Premier League, on how to win, and how to develop winning ways.

Your students need you to have this stuff.

A 60-year-old academic psychologist might seem an unlikely sports motivation guru. But Dweck’s expertise—and her recent book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success—bear directly on the sort of problem facing the Rovers. Through more than three decades of systematic research, she has been figuring out answers to why some people achieve their potential while equally talented others don’t—why some become Muhammad Ali and others Mike Tyson. The key, she found, isn’t ability; it’s whether you look at ability as something inherent that needs to be demonstrated or as something that can be developed.

What’s more, Dweck has shown that people can learn to adopt the latter belief and make dramatic strides in performance. These days, she’s sought out wherever motivation and achievement matter, from education and parenting to business management and personal development. [emphasis added]

I can’t do justice to Dweck’s work. See this story in Stanford Magazine.

See a significant update on this article, in October 2012, here.


Texas History Day, and National History Day 2008

November 12, 2007

Your classes are gearing up for the competition, no?

Alfie Kohn might not like the idea of competition in history. In a state famous for competition in almost everything, but most famous for athletic competitions to the detriment of academics, I find great appeal in a contest that requires kids to find, analyze and write history.

Then the students get together to present and discuss history — and usually about 60 Texas kids go on to the National History Day festival. (Details here from the Texas State Historical Association)

Q. What is Texas History Day?

A. Texas History Day, a part of the National History Day program, is a yearlong education program that culminates in an annual state-level history fair for students in grades six through twelve. It provides an opportunity for students to demonstrate their interest in, and knowledge of, history through creative and original papers, performances, documentaries, individual interpretive web sites, or three-dimensional exhibits.

Over the course of the school year, students research and produce a History Day entry, the results of which are presented at a regional competition in early spring. From there, some students advance to the state fair in May, or even to the national contest held each June at the University of Maryland at College Park. At each level of competition, outstanding achievement may be recognized through certificates, medals, trophies, or monetary awards. The most important rewards are the skills and insight that students acquire as they move through the History Day program.

As many as 33,000 young Texans are involved in the program at the regional and state level each year. More than 900 students participate in Texas History Day, and approximately 60 students represent Texas at National History Day each year.

The 2008 National History Day Theme is “Conflict and Compromise in History.”

Texas has 23 regions for preliminary rounds. Details here. A list of sample topics for Texas students should give lots of good ideas.

The topics and the papers promise a lot. These projects could make good lesson plans. (Who publishes the winning entries? I have not found that yet.)

Don’t forget the Texas History Day T-shirt Design Contest — entries are due by December 14, 2007.

Neuroscience, culture, and practical application

September 23, 2007

The oak tree at Jena's high school -- now cut down

My hypothesis is that a normal person may not peruse this site, The Situationist, without finding something of use for the person’s work or homelife — or at a minimum, something extremely intrigueing about a problem the person has in an organization to which the person belongs.

For example, check out these discussions:

  1. On the Jena 6
  2. On l’affaire Chemerinsky at UC-Irvine
  3. On college debt
  4. On confronting mistakes — especially one’s own

It’s a project at Harvard, interdisciplinary so far as I can tell.  Here’s the explanation:

There is a dominant conception of the human animal as a rational, or at least reasonable, preference-driven chooser, whose behavior reflects preferences, moderated by information processing and will, but little else. Laws, policies, and the most influential legal theories are premised on that same conception. Social psychology and related fields have discovered countless ways in which that conception is wrong. “The situation” refers to causally significant features around us and within us that we do not notice or believe are irrelevant in explaining human behavior. Situationism” is an approach that is deliberately attentive to the situation. It is informed by social science—particularly social psychology, social cognition, and related fields—and the discoveries of market actors devoted to influencing consumer behavior—marketers, public relations experts, and the like. The Situationist is a forum for scholars, students, lawyers, policymakers, and interested citizens to examine, discuss, and debate the effect of situational forces – that is, non-salient factors around and within us – on law, policy, politics, policy theory, and our social, political, and economic institutions. The Situationist is associated with The Project on Law and Mind Sciences at Harvard Law School. To visit the Project’s website, click here.

Go see, and report back, if you don’t mind.

Typewriter of the moment: The Living Classroom

August 10, 2007

Typewriter donated by Anya to the Living Classroom, at the Community School of West Seattle, WashingtonSlight deviation from my usual practice of featuring the technological marvel of the writing machine of a well-known writer — these writers are not yet well known.

Someone brought in a vintage Smith-Corona typewriter to one of my favorite classrooms, at the Community School in West Seattle. Photographic evidence shows the machine is still in good working order (better than my Royal), and the students have already figured out how to make it work (see photo below).

My typing career began with my mother’s and father’s Royal, similar to the one I now own. It got me to ninth grade with no problems. I took typing classes on the classic, newsroom Underwoods, about the time that the IBM Selectric was making in-roads. In my senior year of high school I got an Underwood portable — brother Dwight was selling for Underwood-Olivetti. Later I got an old, junked Olivetti electric that was gray, would do line-and-a-half as well as double spacing, and which had a pitch somewhere between 10 and 12 pica. It was heavy and industrial, but the typeface was so readable that it was popular with my debater colleagues — we used to carry the machine with us to tournaments after I joined the college debate squad.

In my junior year at the University of Utah, on a Thomas J. Watson, Jr., Memorial scholarship from IBM, I purchased a Correcting Selectric II (no, IBM offered no discount). About 20 years later, tired of the massive repair bills and hoping word processors would forever banish it from our house, my wife donated that typewriter to the Salvation Army. I found another at a garage sale, and got it for $10.00. The mechanism on that one sprang out of the case about a year later, and we eventually donated it, too.

Perry W. Buffington found the Royal that graces my home office now, largely unused but full of sentiment. (I think Buff wanted me to write more.)

These kids in Washington — they don’t know the value of the tool they have. They can’t know.  Lucky kids.

Paper typed in the Living Classroom

Photo from the Living Classroom; work product from a student.

History is the Dickens — or could be

June 26, 2007

Faithful readers here may note some long, substantive comments from another “Ed,” who is connected with the Open History Project, it turns out. I’ve linked to the OHP before, but not often enough. It really is a treasure trove.

For example, there is a page of links to computer/internet media works. Included there is a fascinating animation from the British site accompanying what was a PBS Masterpiece Theatre program in the U.S. from Charles Dickens’ novel, Bleak House. The animation, by a creative crew called Rufflebrothers (Mark and Tim Ruffle), covers the life of Charles Dickens. As a simple cartoon, it’s droll — notice Dickens’ siblings dropping dead in an early scene. As a piece of history pedagoguery, it’s brilliant. [It’s Flash animation, and I can’t copy it to paste a sample.]

(I can’t find this animation on the PBS website for Bleak House — but there is another, simpler timeline, covering Dickens and more authors.)

Watch the British animation of Dickens’ life, then go back and take it scene by scene. A pocket watch allows you to see what else was happening in history at that moment. Careful linking allows you to get much more detail — in the scene where his siblings are shown dying (as they did, in fact), the feature gives the details of each of Charles’ brothers and sisters, opening a door of new understanding for the inspiration of the characters in Dickens’ work (It was originally Tiny Fred? Really? After Dickens’ younger brother Frederick?).

Imagine such an animation for the life of George Washington, or for the life of Abraham Lincoln, or Henry Ford, Queen Victoria, Sam Houston, Mark Twain, Theodore Roosevelt, or Albert Einstein.

What in the world can we do to encourage BBC to do more like this? Who else can get in on the act?

What other treasures await you at the Open History Project?

Whither history?

June 25, 2007

Very few high school students say they want to grow up to be historians. As a profession, we ignore history.

Still, a few do. More seriously, what happens in the high school class depends a lot on what is being done by professional historians. What is that?

Historian Keith Thomas wrote a long piece about where history is headed for The Times of London, in October 2006. It even has hints about it of how to make history more intrigueing in high school. Go see. Read the rest of this entry »

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