October 2021

red leaf trees near the road

I’m a bit behind in blog posts, but the good news is that a little prep work from last year will pay off for this year! You can find all kinds of links for October activities, including Powers of 10 Day (October 10th) and Halloween, in this Wakelet I started last October. I’ve added a few new links that I got from MakerEd, TCEA, and Ditch That Textbook, and will continue to add more throughout this month. I also recommend that you check out the “Holiday Ideas” page on Big Ideas 4 Little Scholars, as Donna Lasher has a nice monthly list of activities that she keeps. If you find any broken links or want to recommend a resource I’ve missed on my Wakelet, please comment below!

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The Almanac of Interesting Numbers

I am living proof of the myth that only some people are “math people.” For years, I suffered under that delusion — and that I was definitely not one of those people. But things changed in high school. I won’t go into the long, boring story, but I realized that I enjoy math. And while I am not a lightning fast mental problem solver, the logic and patterns fascinate me. That is why I started collecting fun math sites for my students, and made this public list of Math Sites That Won’t Make You Fall Asleep. I also started following fascinating people who tweet about math (#MTBOS is a wonderful way to start), which includes Sunil Singh (@MathGarden). Singh is a Content Writer for Mathigon.org, one of the Math Sites That Won’t Make You Fall Asleep. While I’ve included Mathigon on the list, I didn’t notice the “Almanac of Interesting Numbers” until Singh tweeted about it.

Although I don’t believe that only some people have a “math gene,” I do know that there are some of us who find math far more intriguing than others. I’ve had students like that, and if you have them in your class you should show them this interactive number line that will give them amazing facts about numbers. I found the easiest way to navigate the number line is to put a number in the search box and click on the zoom in/zoom out magnifying glasses at the bottom of the page. That’s how I discovered that 40,585 is the sum of the factorials of its digits (4! +0! + 5! +8! +5!) and that 25 is the smallest square that can be written as the sum of two squares.

If I don’t publish any more posts this week, I think you can guess what I’m doing instead…

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Center for Antiracist Education

Along with this week’s conviction of Derek Chauvin came other tragic reminders that there is still much work to be done in our country to battle racism. C.A.R.E., the Center for Anti Racist Education, is a project that aims to arm people with the resources needed to work toward a world where Chauvin’s conviction would not only have been a certainty instead of a surprise but the deaths of George Floyd and countless others due to cold-hearted bigotry would never happen.

You can find C.A.R.E.’s guiding principles here. To learn more about what those principles mean and how to enact them, C.A.R.E. has published a four-part video series this April. Each half hour film, features a panel with four experts on antiracist education, and educators are the intended audience. The first three have transcripts and discussion guides, and I imagine the 4th one will also have those tools by the end of the month.

So far, I have only had the chance to explore the introductory video. I especially appreciated the analogy that is made comparing the antiracist education that has been done in recent years to people who want to lose weight but don’t want to risk leaving their comfort zones. “We’ve been on the treadmill for two miles per hour for 10 minutes when it deals with antiracism, when it deals with equitable history curriculum. When it deals with anything about providing equitable, uh, change in our society, we just get on that treadmill for two miles per hour for 10 minutes and think we’ve done something, says Dr. LaGarrett King, an associate professor of social studies education.

With C.A.R.E. resources like the web series and other tools, you can see a path for coaxing teachers out of that comfort zone – past semester book studies, one-off faculty meetings, and 3-hour professional developments toward a potential to make real, sustainable changes in curriculum and practices.

Use your voice to ask your campus and/or district to make a genuine and dedicated effort to eradicating racism within its system. With websites like C.A.R.E. and other resources you can find on my Anti-Racism Wakelet, there is so much that can and should be done to ensure justice and accountability for all of our community. Let’s put our heart and soul into this effort so no more time is wasted.

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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!

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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