Don’t Gross Out the World is Back!

When I had the good fortune to win a grant to visit Japan about 20 years ago, I received a packet of etiquette rules to study before the trip. One that was firmly lodged in my mind was to never leave chopsticks standing up in your food, as this is a ceremonial act seen at Buddhist funerals. I’m still conscientious about this decades later, and it was one of the many things I learned that serve as a reminder how easily we can offend people if we don’t take time to get to know what is important to them. I wish that every person could go on a trip to a foreign country to give us this perspective, but in the absence of that kind of experience it is fun and important for students to learn about diversity in cultures around the world. Way back in 2016, I wrote about an online quiz called, “Don’t Gross Out the World.” Players could learn about food traditions that might seem strange in their native country but are the norm elsewhere. At one point, the game disappeared and I updated my post with a link to a video of someone playing the game instead. However, FunBrain just commented on that post yesterday that they have brought the quiz back. I updated that post, but here is the new link in case you don’t have a habit of reading my blog articles from 5 years ago. Your students will enjoy guessing the answers, and you might learn a few new things – as I have whenever I play!

plate of sashimi
Photo by Christel Jensen on Pexels.com

My Heritage

We may fear artificial intelligence with all of its potential harmful uses, but as with all technology it brings benefits as well. One of those is being employed by a website called My Heritage. A site for tracing and keeping records of your ancestry, it has recently added a new tool called, “Deep Nostalgia.” You can apply it to your photographs in order to animate them, and it can be quite enchanting. Of course the intent is to help you to imagine relatives from the past as they might have been when alive. But I played around with it to see how historical figures could be brought to life.

Since it is Women’s History Month, I looked for a website that listed past women who have made an impact on the world. I came across Bessie Coleman, the first Native American (she was part Cherokee) to get a pilot’s license. I was drawn to Bessie’s smiling image because it reminded me of some of the teenagers I taught in the past, and I immediately wanted to know her. I downloaded the following photo from Wikipedia.

I then went to My Heritage, where I had already created a free account, and uploaded the photo to my album. When you open a photo in your collection, you see an option to animate it in the top right corner. It takes a few moments to “apply its magic,” and then your video appears. There are several different ways to animate the image, so you can play around with trying different movements that seem to fit the personality of the portrait. When finished, it is saved to your album, and you can share it multiple ways, including downloading it.

Don’t you wish you could meet this young lady?

Of course, my curiosity is never quenched, so my next attempt was to find an image of someone from history before photography existed. I found a drawing of Boudica, legendary warrior queen, uploaded it to the site, and waited with skepticism. However, this also produced amazing results. I haven’t tried rudimentary drawings, like stick figures, but I have a feeling there are probably limits to this artificial intelligence tool.

My Heritage also has an app, so you can use pretty much any device to animate the images. The videos are short, but just long enough to make you feel like you are glimpsing through a window into the past. If I was a history teacher, I would definitely use My Heritage to help my students connect to people who may seem irrelevant and unreal (if they are even mentioned) in the pages of a textbook.

Virtual Vacation

In honor of the many Texas teachers I know who are on their well-deserved Spring Break this week, and in honor of the many teachers I know who still have some time to go before they get a vacation, here is a frustrating but fun activity to do that will test your geographical and observational skills. City Guesser debuted in 2020, and was inspired by Geo Guessr. To be honest, I haven’t compared the two to see the exact differences as I got a bit distracted when I started trying to identify places in the United States. When you choose a category, you will be shown a random video from a place, and you guess the location by clicking on a map. I am woefully terrible at this game, but I still enjoy trying to beat my own horrible scores. If you want to try, here are some things the game-designer, Paul McBurney Jr., suggests looking out for:

There are different modes and challenges, and you can also do multi-player games. So, the next time you need to visit somewhere outside your pandemic bubble, give City Guesser a try!

Historic Tale Construction Kit

I was in an admittedly unwarranted foul mood this morning while I wracked my brains for a blog post. I have plenty of ideas, but none of them felt “right” for today. Then I ran across this Twitter thread I had saved, originated by Professor Annie Oakley Rides Again (@ProfAnnieOakley) and couldn’t stop laughing at all of the replies. The professor let her art history students use the “Historic Tale Construction Kit,” and once she shared the link with her Twitter followers to this tool hilarity ensued. Click on the image below to see some of the responses in the thread. (Warning: some images are not suitable for children.)

I know you’ll want to try it, too. To add text, click on the background. (May not work on mobile phones.) A few of the images are a bit gruesome, but I know my high school students would have had a blast with this. Some teachers have their students use memes to make rules for the classroom, and this would be a fun alternative. Retelling a modern tale or current event in this setting could also result in some creative products. As you can see in the example below, Margaret McLarty (@MagsMcLarty) designed a Queen-inspired tapestry.

designed by @MagsMcLarty using Historic Tale Construction Kit

Tag me if you or your students design something clever with this tool!

Merge Mercy with Might

UPDATE 1/25/2021: Here is a collection of resources to use if your class is studying Amanda Gorman or Inauguration poetry.

If you couldn’t tell from Monday’s post, I had already fallen in love with the poetry of Amanda Gorman. When our nation’s first Youth Poet Laureate read “The Hill We Climb” at the Inauguration today, I was moved to tears. Her words acknowledge the weight we carry while simultaneously lifting us almost effortlessly to a peak where we can look all around and see new hope. The poem declares that we can be strong as we admit our faults, and move on to correct them in a way that will both heal and empower us.

I added the link to the PBS New Hour lesson that was posted almost immediately following Gorman’s recitation to my list of Inauguration resources, but I wanted to give it a separate place here. For teaching ideas and a transcript of the poem, follow this link. Introduce this incredibly gifted young woman to your students because they are sure to hear more from her in the future.

Inauguration Day Lessons

UPDATE 1/20/2021: My friend, Suzanne H. gave me another resource to add to this list, 8 Videos to Teach the Inauguration Process. Also, PBS immediately released a lesson plan for the poem written and read by Amanda Gorman at the Inauguration, “The Hill We Climb.”

With only two more days until the United Stated Presidential Inauguration on January 20, 2021, most of you probably have decided on your lesson plans for the week. However, for those of you who like to fly by the seat of your pants or don’t mind doing a little tweaking when you see something that suits your needs better, here are some lessons you should definitely consider.

Discovery Education is doing an Inauguration Day Virtual Field Trip on 1/19/2021 at 12 PM ET. Dr. Jill Biden will be one of the special guests presenting. If you and your class are unable to attend, don’t despair. There are plenty of other lesson resources on this page from Discovery that you can use for grades K-12.

iCivics has a lesson plan for The First 100 Days that includes a customizable Google Slide Deck.

For grades 9-12, you may want to try this PBS lesson to “Write Your Own Inauguration Speech.”

Although the EdSitement lesson, “I Do Solemnly Swear” is listed for K-12, the activities look more appropriate for upper elementary through middle school.

You might want to focus on the history of poetry that is read at presidential inaugurations, and discuss the work of this year’s inaugural poet, 22 year old Amanda Gorman. What does it mean, if anything, that there was no poet invited to speak at Donald Trump’s inauguration?

If nothing else, I encourage you to watch and listen to Amanda Gorman reading from one of her poems below, “The Miracle of Morning.” Though this is not the one she has written for the inauguration, it very well could be the magnificent anthem of hope that all of us need.