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.

PuzzGrid

In an article by Belle Beth Cooper that falls under the “Life Hacking” tag, she explains how making connections is a large part of how our brains come up with new ideas. She quotes Steve Jobs as once saying, “Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.” This is one of the reasons I think using hexagonal thinking with my students is so powerful, and also why I have recommended products like Dinkee, Codenames, and Anaxi.

Russel Tarr has a game on ClassTools.net called, “Connect Fours,” which is based on a BBC game show called, “Only Connect.” In the game, 16 clues are presented on a 4×4 grid. Players must find relationships between the words, and separate the 16 into 4 groups by their connections. Then they have to identify what the words in each of the 4 groups have in common. This could be used to review vocabulary, name associations between people or events in history, draw lines between stories or themes in literature, etc… Click here to play Tarr’s sample game.

If you don’t have a premium subscription to Class Tools, you will not be able to save any “Connect Fours” games you create. Another option is to use the PuzzGrid website, which is full of user-submitted games. You can challenge yourself or your students to play the ones that are already posted, or submit your own. (I think it’s amusing that, beneath the question asking if your puzzle is “of interest to a general audience,” the following advice appears: “Teachers: please note that your grids are almost never of interest to a general knowledge audience. Please do not choose Yes above. Your grid will still be accessible at the URL.“)

Although playing PuzzGrid can be quite fun for word nerds like me, I think the true value of this would be to have student groups create their own versions for submission. If you are looking for more ideas for games to engage children, don’t forget this article I wrote for NEO on how to mine talk shows for entertaining ways to review or introduce subjects in class.

https://puzzgrid.com/grid/599

More About Wakelet

I’ve been using Wakelet since late last year (2020) primarily as a curation tool, and wrote about all of the features that I like in this September post. As I know that I need to read about things a few times before I try them, I thought I would revisit this tool in today’s blog post so I could remind you of its amazing-ness, let you know about some features you may not have tried yet, and inform you about what’s new.

Wakelet is far more than a bookmarking tool, though it certainly does that well. As you can see in my description from September, this free app and website is extremely versatile, allowing users to curate images, social media posts, websites, text, PDF’s, and more from pretty much any internet-connected device. What I didn’t really emphasize in my previous post, though, was the education-friendliness of Wakelet. Take, for instance, its Immersive Reader tool, which is embedded so that any text can be read aloud. Another example is its integration with Flipgrid so that users can add video on the fly to a Wakelet. Collaboration between peers, between students and teachers, and crowd-sourcing for research or sharing resources are all possible with Wakelet. Portfolios like this one can be made by students.

If you want more ideas for ways to use Wakelet, the Tweet embedded below, by @TxTechChick has a nice visual:

The above list, as well as simple instructions for using Wakelet, can be found in the recently released e-book. In other Wakelet news, you can now “react” to collections and items in Wakelet. For up-to-the-moment information, follow the company @Wakelet, and visit their blog.

Here is a link to my Wakelet of items about Wakelet. You can visit this page to see all of my public Wakelet collections. I hope that you will see the value in this tool and give it a try!

Blackout Poetry Maker

For those of you inspired by Amanda Gorman to make some poetry of your own, here is an online Blackout Poetry Maker that makes it easy. Though that surely is not Gorman’s method for writing her verses, blackout poetry is one of many “gateways” into this medium that students enjoy. For some other methods, here is a link to one of my old posts with more ideas. Be ready for National Poetry Month in April by writing your first drafts now!

(Can you guess what famous speech I used to create the poem below?)

For more poetry ideas, check out my https://embed.wakelet.com/wakes/OJWNbJ2WOP3Ax_bPHTT5H/list" style="border: none" allow="autoplay">https://embed-assets.wakelet.com/wakelet-embed.js once per page -->