Archive for the ‘Cool’ category

Students’ media carry the message

March 17, 2011

The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation has a great awards program for students at public high schools in Ontario. Every September the Student Achievement Awards in honour of Marion Drysdale puts out a thoughtful theme for students to ponder. This year’s theme was Become the Solution: Words into Action. Students are then asked to produce a creative piece based on this theme. There are categories in writing, visual art and digital media. Students worked is first judged at the  school level and then, if successful, move on to District, Regional and finally Provincial levels. The eight provincial finalist each win $1000.00 and are brought to Toronto (for the organization’s annual general meeting) to receive their award from the Minister of Education.

Students and their teachers are also filmed talking about their work and how it relates to the theme. The video can be viewed here.

A booklet highlighting the winners work is also produced and be downloaded here.

This is an awesome program for creative high school students and the awards are substantial. If you know a young person who loves to create, send them here to check out the rules and guidelines for next year’s program.


Canadian Education Press Association

June 17, 2010

I was away from the blog for the past week as I attended the 50th annual meeting of the Canadian Educational Press Association.

Although it is always great to get together in this relatively exclusive club of communication specialists from the professional education community, for me the highlight of the event was our keynote speaker Jesse Hirsh.  Many of you will probably have heard of Jesse as he is a regular contributor to CBC radio where he discusses issues of emerging technology and culture.  The man is very bright and brings a sharp and philosophical perspective to how technology affects us.  I think Jesse defines what he does best when he contrasts himself against other tech-commentators: “They tend to idolize new technology and gadgets rather than analyzing their political and cultural impact.” (I am paraphrasing here).

Aside from his intelligence and his ability to critically analyze technology, Jesse is an amazing speaker whose voice captures the attention of everyone within earshot.  So, in the spirit of Plato’s Republic, I nominate Jesse Hirsh for King of the Internet — a position I am sure he would refuse because he seems so content to analyze our digital world that I doubt that, even if given the chance, he would want to rule it.

I found a great clip of Jesse waxing philosophical on anarchy on the internet.  Enjoy!

How do you teach poetry?

June 13, 2010

Teaching poetry was probably the toughest gig I ever had.  How do you “teach” poetry?  You can’t.  You don’t.  You can talk about words and sounds and meaning . . . and you can read poems and discuss them, but after that you have to have faith that the way you have presented the material was interesting enough that the students begin to catch on.

When I was in grade ten, I decided that I should learn about poetry.  I walked into the school library, went over to the shelf labelled “Canadian Poetry” and randomly pulled out a book and flipped it open.  I looked down and read the first poem I saw, Leonard Cohen’s For Anne.

With Annie gone,
whose eyes to compare
with the morning sun?

Not that Idid compare,
But I do compare
Now that she’s gone.

I     was     hooked.  Then and there I became a reader (and soon a writer) of poetry.

As a teacher, I loved to have my students read John Ciardi‘s How a Poem Means – an essay which, although outdated and somewhat stuffy, clearly dispelled the myth of a poem as something to be deciphered and wrought of meaning.  I would also share with my students the poem, Ars Poetica by Archibald MacLeish and which contains the beautiful and educational lines, “A poem should not mean/But be”.

I guess I am always impressed with anyone who can comment on the nature of art within their own art.  This is probably why I was gobsmacked the first time I heard Tanya Davis’ song Art on the CBC Radio2 show Drive.  I can say that without a doubt these are the cleverest, most beautiful words I have heard uttered about art, the urge to produce it, and the hesitation to do so.

I was lucky enough to see Tanya perform last night at the tiny Silver Bean room by the shore of the Otonabee River in Peterborough.  I have never purchased a concert ticket before that has printed on it “14/30”.  That’s right, 30 seats.  Tanya Davis is a wonderful songwriter, storyteller and – yes – poet.  Listen.

Getting students out of their desks to learn

June 13, 2010

As a teacher you quickly learn that that developing lessons that get your students out of their desks and engaged in a relevant activities is a great way to not only teach, but it helps foster a love a learning.  A colleague and I used to take our grade 11 English students to a local forest to act out scenes from Macbeth.  Students came dressed in costumes (armour, swords and shields) and the day included a real feast during the scene in which Macbeth is visited by the ghost of Banquo.

The video below shows a teacher who brings science alive and has his students students create their own paper gliders to demonstrate some principles of the properties of air.  Listen to how encouraging the teacher is!  Look at the students’ faces.  What a great event.

I especially like this because it reminds me of a year when I was teaching a small group of unmotivated high school students to improve their reading skills and their ability to follow instructions.  I went to the school library and dug out an old book on making paper apirplanes.  For two weeks we practiced the steps of making different types of paper airplanes and we concluded each day’s lesson in the gymnasium giving test flights.

A cool throwback

June 10, 2010

I love Motown music and discovering the NOISEttes has been great.  It’s hard to believe that they are a three piece outfit with the lead singer, Shingai Shoniwa, on bass.  Listen to their hit “I’ll Never Forget You” and try to tell me that we don’t desperately need a Motown revival.

How that car thingee works . . .

May 19, 2010

Whenever I am stopped at a red light, sitthing behind some jacked-up car or truck, I can’t help but staring at the large round piece across the rear axle (I now know it’s called a differential gear cover).  I knew that the engine at the front of the vehicle turns the drive shaft down the center ofthe chassis, but I could never figure out how it made the axle, which is perpendicular to it, turn.

Well I stumbled across an excellent tutorial that must predate WWII.  All that I can remember from my high school Auto Shop class is how to clean a spark plug.  Suddenly I feel like I understand something about how my car works.


Yashimoto cube, I want you

May 10, 2010

Math + Toy = cool.

Okay, I want one.  My desk is messier than most, but I will clear a corner of it if I ever get a Yashimoto cube.  Then I will patiently wait for someone to enter my office, notice it, pick it up and ask, “What’s this?”

Casually, I will reach over and gently take the cube from their hand, settle back comfortably in my office chair and then begin to deftly manipulate it, revealling two cubes and then continuing the magic as in the video below.

Okay, maybe more geeky than cool.  I just might need to arrange a trip to NYC in order to visit the MOMA’s gift shop and pick up my very own Yashimoto cube.