Monday, January 12, 2009

Support the Arts

I don't know if it's our Puritan roots or pioneer "I'm too busy trying to live to read a book" ethos or what, but America has never been great about supporting the arts. I can't tell you parents and I had when I decided to switch my major from Marine Biology to English!

Just yesterday, Thomas Friedman recommended doubling the salary of teachers...but only those in math and science. What, elementary teachers, English teachers, history teachers, music teachers don't teach useful skills? He will receive, and deserves, gigabytes worth of protesting emails on that one.

Other countries have had Ministers of Arts or Culture for centuries, and it's high time the U.S. supported a similar position. Quincy Jones plans to ask President Obama to create a Secretary of the Arts, and here's an online petition you can sign in support of that.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Book Reports 2.0--And Royalty Free Music

Remember those boring book reports we all had to give (and listen to!) back in the day??

Well, give them a spiffy new look with Animoto. I'm helping the 7th graders do their annual book reports today, so I spent last night doing this demo explaining the assignment (and giving them a sense of what Animoto can do.)

I used Garage Band to record the narration and sound track (Audacity would work for Windows people), saved it as an MP3, then uploaded it into Audacity. I made the slides with Power Point (saved as jpegs), uploaded some creative commons photos (that I should have cited, but didn't. Bad modeling!) and voila!

It did take about 8 "re-mixes" to finally get the soundtrack and images to sync-up reasonably well. Take a look at the result.

For some reason, the Works Cited slide at the end isn't showing up...

Here's the pathfinder I put together for the project. I should also add that Royalty Free Music is now offering educator grants that allow free access to their archives for school use.

Monday, January 5, 2009

I Read, I Saw, I Conquered...

OK, so Caesar I'm not. But students could experience Caesar's world virtually --and you could pass on great ideas to share with others (or find other trips to use)-- with Jerome Burg's Google Lit Trips site. Nothing makes a novel come alive like a field trip to the actual setting, and a virtual trip via Google Earth is the next best thing.

Whether you're reading The Secret Life of Bees or The Red Badge of Courage, using Google Earth to create a journey, embed images and links and add essential questions allows students to personalize their reading experience.

If you're not sure how to do this, Burg is teaching a webinar through ISTE on January 14th.

And back to the Caesar reference above, Google now, of course, offers the Ancient Rome overlays, which allows users to virtually walk the streets of Rome. It's a bit tricky to upload the overlays, but you can find my blog on that here.

I'm going to strongly encourage our English Dept. to dip their toes into the Google pool and give these a try.