The Importance of Play

06 February 2010

My assessment group will be meeting again soon. There is a very ambitious plan developed for our time together and I know that this group of educators will be focused and work hard on the tasks at hand. Those who work hard also deserve to play hard---not just at the end of the day when Happy Hour cranks up, but during the work sessions themselves. The brain likes a little novelty...some opportunity to think about different ideas and be creative.

At the first meeting, I kept things fairly simple. I used Paul Rogers' Name That Movie posts to construct a series of slides. I inserted the slides at different break points during the work. Below is one example---the only movie no one in the room was able to guess. (Can you recognize it? If you need a hint, it represents a Hitchcock film.)


Not everyone is a movie buff, however, and there are a variety of ways to engage an audience without having to resort to the cutesy icebreakers that send educators screaming from a session. Pull a few questions from an old Trivial Pursuit deck you have lying around the house. Find a few good riddles. Print a list of brain teaser questions. Pick up or draw your own Droodles. Or, use my favourite: The Name the Baby Contest.
Jim and Jane Roe are the proud parents of a newborn son. What should they name the baby?
If you want to play, leave your best suggestion in the comments. This question is a lot of fun to leave in the staffroom (or to play over email) with teachers. You'll get some very creative answers.

The first key here is to know your audience. Select adult-friendly items (read: items that won't be perceived as insulting to intelligence or dignity) that reflect your group. You also want to look for items that will allow people to choose their level of engagement. Even those who lurk will still have something different to think about, if only for a few minutes. It only takes one to two minutes of change for the brain to be ready to focus again and you will stimulate some creative and critical thinking for the next task. This is very helpful when you have 90 minutes of writing rubric descriptors lying ahead of you.

My next challenge is to find a way to work in the graphics and post-it wall modeled in this TED talk by Tom Wujec:



I really like the idea of including visual elements that people create. Not only does it require them to represent information in different ways, but it allows them to manipulate the various pieces we are trying to put together. We can share ideas in a different way---take them out and play with them. It seems important to be able to provide this opportunity for learners of all ages, including what happens during professional development for educators.

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Metric Day 2009

10 October 2009

Next year will be "A Very Special Metric Day" (10/10/10), so why not get in some practice today? Three doesn't have to be the only magic number out there; and, isn't base 10 much easier to deal with?

Celebrate all things metric today. The National Council of Math Teachers (NCTM) has a nice page on ways to get your 10 on (even if they forgot to update it for 2009) as does the US Metric Association. Check out the Metric Olympics Events. Go wild on this Saturday night!

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Kinda Sorta Snow Day

17 December 2008

I'm going to be working from home today, due to snowy conditions elsewhere. When one has a 70-mile commute, even if one's home has no new snow and area roads are fine, knowing that wintry conditions exist for the majority of the drive is enough to sit out this particular dance.

I'll be working, mind you, which means that I can't distract myself with the links and sites below. As for you, however, rock on:

  • The New Examined Life in the Wall Street Journal tells the tale of those who track enormous amounts of personal data. Organized? Narcissistic? Anal-retentive? Introspective? You decide. The WSJ has even provided links to some sites that help support such habits, or you might try visiting The Quantified Self, which has "Tools for Knowing Your Own Mind and Body."
  • I've heard a lot of buzz about Malcolm Gladwell's recent article in The New Yorker: Most Likely to Succeed: How Do We Hire When We Can't Tell Who's Right for the Job? The article describes both teachers and football quarterbacks. Are there lessons here for schools? I'll have to find out later. I'm working today, remember?
  • Or maybe you want to check out Alfie Kohn's latest rant in Phi Delta Kappan? It's his view on Why Self-Discipline is Overrated: The (Troubling) Theory and Practice of Control from Within. I don't always like what Alfie has to say (and am not sure if I do this time), but I do enjoy what he brings to the table for conversation about education. Perhaps you will, too.
  • And finally, there is Tattoo Santa. Head on over to play around and ink the big red guy. You have your choice of location on the body (be careful with the rollover for the lower back, cause you'll see Santa's crack), wording, and so forth. Make something new to post on your own site, create a unique image for your Christmas cards, or just use it to frighten neighbourhood children from your lawn. Fun for the whole family, indeed.

For those of you with a day to play, enjoy prowling the internet. Feel free to pass along any links I should also be distracted by...after 5 p.m., of course. :)

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Happy Metric Day

10 October 2008

Did you know that it's National Metric Week here in the states? Better yet, today is Metric Day (10/10). The National Council for Teachers of Mathematics has lots of ideas for celebrating, as does the U.S. Metric Association. Get out and party with your liters, meters, and degrees Kelvin.

It's all a great warm up for Mole Day, now less than two weeks away. :)

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Wednesday Distractions

30 July 2008

While I'm away giving my workshop and tending to other interesting business today, have a look at this week's Carnival of Education. It's hosted by The Chancellor's New Clothes and, as usual, contains a round-up of great posts from around the edusphere.

Too heavy for you on a summery Wednesday? Why not try some of these instead? After all, one cannot live by education feeds alone.
  • It's Lovely! I'll Take It! has quite the collection of real estate listings, bringing a whole new level of understanding to the term "fixer upper."
  • On a diet? No? Well, either way, you won't be hungry for dessert after looking at these Cake Wrecks. This is what happens when good baking goes bad.
  • If bad grammar and punctuation make you twitchy, then don't visit Apostrophe Abuse, Apostrophism, the English Fail Blog, or the Grammar Blog. However, if you are stout of heart, then I highly recommend you have a look at all of them. I tell my students that if they can't be good examples, then they'll just have to be terrible warnings. These blogs are full of warnings...often hilarious ones.
Here's hoping your Wednesday is full of laughter and learning!

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Fess Up

25 February 2008

One of you needs to 'fess up. I've read plenty of posts in the edusphere recently written by bedridden bloggers. And now I've got the whopper of the flu bug everyone else has been warning me about (and someone was so kind to pass along...whoever you are). And not only is it that lovely respiratory stuff, I have a bit of norovirus, too, just to make things interesting. I'm at the stage where it even hurts to take a shower, my nerve endings are so sensitized. So, be careful, dear readers, what you touch around here. I've tried to disinfect the place...but you never know.

While I crawl back into bed and curse my immune system, here are some germ free places to go and amuse yourselves...

  • Have you seen the Visual Thesaurus? It's not free (at least for the time being), but what a great tool for the classroom. A screenshot is below. The dots are color coded by part of speech. You can highlight different parts of the lines in order for it to give further detail to the relationship.
  • In the same vein, but with unlimited access, is Visuwords: The On-line Graphical Dictionary. Another screen grab is below, but I highly recommend going and playing with it yourself. It's very dynamic. The key at the bottom also provides information on the symbols and relationships, but better yet, all of the little bubbles can be manipulated, changing the orientation of the graphic. Way kewl!



  • I'm probably the last person in the blogosphere to link to this, but if you're looking for a giggle, head on over to Stuff White People Like. This site reminds of me of an incident from the summer, when I was chatting with someone who was a bit into her cups. There was a discussion going on about diversity training and issues...and how people make assumptions about one's ethnic background solely based on skin colour. Looking white and being white were different things in her mind. And out of nowhere came "And what's with white people and the f***ing pot roast?" A brief diatribe followed on pot roasts and her experience with them---and I have laughed long and hard many times since then. She was right. I haven't looked through the archives on this site to see if the pot roast has been represented. If not, it needs to be.
  • Finally, no educator should be living by edublogs alone. Take a look at Archaeoporn's take on a Carnival for the "Cabinet of Curiosities." It's done in the style of those "Choose Your Adventure" books of yore...well, my junior high days, at least. I may have to copy this idea the next time I host the Carnival.
If you've got an idea for a good distraction for me, leave it in the comments. I hope to be well enough to attend school tomorrow. These bugs are too good not to share. :)

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Way Kewl

30 November 2007


Is this not awesome? It's your brain represented as a map.

"The above map's original data was created from a reference photo of a real human brain which was used to build the 3-D terrain. This digital elevation model was then used to create contour line data, relief shading, and to plan where the roads and features should be placed for map compilation. Real New Zealand public domain data was then added for the surrounding islands."


You can get free downloads for wallpaper---or buy paper versions. I think this would be a way kewl poster to have in the classroom. Don't you?

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Shopping for Your Fav' Edublogger

23 November 2007

Hey, all you Black Friday survivors---are you still looking for the perfect gift for your favourite edublogger? Check out these suggestions:

  • Here's a freebie that's sure to make him/her/it smile: a nomination for the 2007 Edublog Awards. Just click on over and nominate 'til your heart's content.
  • Another great freebie (though they'll think you spent a mint) is the Teacher's Magazine Sourcebook from Education Week. A print version is available and doesn't cost a thing.
  • Have some time and cash to burn? Well, you must not be an educator yourself, but your local edublogger is always glad to call you "friend." Why not show your fandom by having their blog printed as a book?
  • Why not provide a gift certificate to an office supply big box store? You'd be hard pressed to find any teacher who doesn't have a fetish for stationery products. Better yet, how 'bout some money to spend at Levenger or See Jane Work (who also has "Office Ideas for Dick")?
  • Speaking of addictions, what educator doesn't like books? Since some of the big names in education (Corwin, Heinemann, ASCD) don't do gift cards (What's up with that?), why not send along something for amazon.com or Barnes and Noble.
Have some additional ideas to share? Let your fingers do the walking to the comments.

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Kicking Off the Weekend

24 May 2007

I can't muster up something serious this evening, although I have lots to think about at the moment. So, how about some other sort of zen to ponder? Here are a couple of t-shirt logos I've seen in the last couple of days that I thought would be fun to have. It's the unofficial start to summer this weekend---what better way to kick things off than some new wardrobe additions?

Spoiler Tee


















And one for the science geeks (like me):

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Dangerous Play

23 April 2007

Last week, I blogged about my curiosity concerning how we ever survived to become adults, given all of the safety precautions there are now. I now see that there's a book designed to recapture a more old-fashioned childhood: The Dangerous Book for Boys. It is billed as "a childhood how-to guide that covers everything from paper airplanes to go-carts, skipping stones to skinning a rabbit...as well as help boys learn how to play marbles, make invisible ink, send Morse code and build a tree fort." (There's a nice review here.)

It reminds me a bit of the Handy Boys and Handy Girls books. I have these on my shelf and enjoy looking through them on occasion. While they no doubt represent a romanticized view of childhood, they also allude to simpler pleasures where entertainment is concerned. Perhaps someone in your own life would enjoy a copy?

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The Sphincter Factor

13 April 2007

Some of us in Curriculum have been joking about using a new rating scale based upon The Sphincter Factor. As far as I know the first reference to such a system was in The Abyss, when a character stated that "I got to tell you, I give this whole thing a sphincter-factor of about 9.5." Even without further explanation on the character's part, you understand that it's a good way to rate the stress of a situation.

We're assuming that this is a 10-point scale, with 0 - 2 meaning that a situation is just in a "heads up" or "FYI" status. I'm okay, you're okay...but when we start getting into 3 territory, more curiosity is raised. In the middle range, we've got issues that likely need some attention or perhaps intervention before something bigger happens. It implies a sense of unease about things. Above 7? You're headed into full-blown crisis mode. Something is having a major impact on your ability to function. There's a situation that needs immediate and concentrated attention.

Just think of the possibilities here. You can use it in the subject line of your e-mails to alert the boss. For example "5: Not enough subs available for the conference." Or, as a check-in with participants at meetings. It's a great conversation opener: "What's the sphincter factor on this?" Perhaps you start off with a really tense situation (someone is a 9) and as things go along, hopefully people can unclench a bit and move away from the full blockage end of the spectrum. At the end of the meeting, you want them to be a 2. It's a way to see if you've met your goal. Have the group hold up the fingers representing their personal spot on the scale at a given moment...or even better, write it and hold it up on a card...or use something like those paddles the judges have on Dancing with the Stars. Could be fun, don't you think?

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In Other Words

07 April 2007

One of the items I bumped into during the last week was this:

They are billed as being able to "get you multisyllabizing like a results-driven tycoon in mere days. Study alone or with a team player, then embrace your golden handcuffs as you blamestorm your way up the ladder!"

I think we need a version for educators, don't you? What a great place to store all the eduspeak: transparency, capacity, paradigm, authentic, scaffolding, best practices.

What other terms would you suggest? What are the ones that make you bite your tongue in order to keep from laughing out loud during meetings? The overused ones that cause you to roll your eyes after hearing them one...more...time? The words you wish would be banned from education?

Think of the comments area as a suggestion box. Leave some ideas and I'll put some cards together. If you have a particular definition or usage you wish to suggest, all the better.

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Ant-ics

27 March 2007

It was a pretty afternoon on Monday and after I got home, I played in the yard for awhile. I am still a little shy of an area where I ticked off a group of yellowjackets last summer. It's still too early for them to be out in full force again, but I haven't forgotten their venomous ways. I didn't realize until a few days ago, however, that there is actually a scale for those wacky hymenopterans and their toxic vengeance. The Schmidt Sting Pain Index was written by an entomologist who has a passion for all things ant and wasp-like. It is rich in imagery.

  • 1.0 Sweat bee: Light ephemeral, almost fruity. A tiny spark has singed a single hair on your arm.
  • 1.2 Fire ant: Sharp, sudden, mildly alarming. Like walking across a shag carpet and reaching for the light switch.
  • 1.8 Bullhorn acacia ant: A rare, piercing, elevated sort of pain. Someone has fired a staple into your cheek.
  • 2.0 Baldfaced hornet: Rich, hearty, slightly crunchy. Similar to getting your hand mashed in a revolving door.
  • 2.0 Yellowjacket: Hot and smoky, almost irreverent. Imagine WC Fields extinguishing a cigar on your tongue.
  • 2.x Honey bee and European hornet.
  • 3.0 Red harvester ant: Bold and unrelenting. Somebody is using a drill to excavate your ingrown toenail.
  • 3.0 Paper Wasp: Caustic and burning. Distinctly bitter aftertaste. Like spilling a beaker of Hydrochloric acid on a paper cut.
  • 4.0 Pepsis Wasp: Blinding, fierce, shockingly electric. A running hair drying has been dropped into your bubble bath (if you get stung by one you might as well lie down and scream).
  • 4.0+ Bullet ant: Pure, intense, brilliant pain. Like walking over flaming charcoal with a 3" nail in your heel.
The "2.0" version was quite enough for me (many times over). I'm not sure I want to find myself in situations where I'm going to want to just lie down and scream. I think I'd prefer either some "Ant-ique" wallpaper:

























Or maybe some ant sugar?

Revenge is supposed to be sweet, isn't it?

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Badges? We don't need no stinking badges!

23 February 2007

Maybe we do. I'm a bit jealous that there are some science scout badges, such as

The "my degree inadvertantly makes me competent in fixing household appliances" badge.



and the "I work with way too much radioactivity, and yet no discernible superpowers yet" badge,


or my personal favourite: the "inordinate fondness for invertebrates" badge.



I think educators need some options, too. Is there a procrastination badge for papers you've put off marking until the end of the grading period? Perhaps the keen ability to teach class after only a couple of hours of sleep. For secondary social studies teachers, perhaps a "Just push play." badge to recognize showing videos each week. Should there be a badge for working with inhuman admins/secretaries/colleagues? Maybe one for parents or a classroom of ADHD kids? How about a mimeograph machine to commemorate those of us who used to sniff those lovely purple inked sheets?

Here's a blank...knock yourself out. :)



Update: Laura over at "Teaching, Or at Least Trying To" has created some badges for us. Go have a look!

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A Little Friday Fun

11 November 2005

I'll be off in a little while to go explore some area artists' studios. If you're looking for a little fun of your own today, here are some few sites on the net that might pique your interest:

  • Argus is maintained by someone who buys old cameras that still have film in them. Then, the film is developed and s/he posts the pictures. There are some amazing time capsules here.
  • Speaking of time capsules, did you know that you can compose an e-mail to be sent to yourself at some point in the future? Just head on over to Forbes, fill in your message, and choose the time frame for it to be returned to you: 1, 3, 5, 10, or 20 years.
  • Do you think you could trade a paper clip for a house? Kyle over at One Red Paperclip has this goal in mind. He's making small trades, one step at a time, in order to achieve the goal. Think it can't be done? He's found stories of similar things happening. Maybe you can help him out.

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Yet Another Good Reason to Learn to Knit

28 October 2005


As if the knitted DNA model wasn't intriguing enough, I was pointed toward this item: a model of the human digestive system.

A girl should have a hobby, right?

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I Might Have to Learn to Knit

26 October 2005


Isn't this too cool?! Directions can be found here, if you're interested.

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I forgot!

11 October 2005

Yesterday was "Metric Day." (10/10...get it?) Anyway, a little levity in order to give the day some recognition:

Why the metric system failed to take America...
  • A miss is as good as 1.1 kilometers.
  • Put your best 0.3 of a meter forward.
  • Spare the 5.03 meters and spoil the child.
  • Twenty-eight grams of prevention is worth 453 grams of cure.
  • Give a man 2.5 centimeters and he'll take 1.06 kilometers.
  • Peter Piper picked 8.8 liters of pickled peppers.

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Student Mindset

25 August 2005

Beloit College has been developing a list each year to remind their faculty about the world its students have grown up in.

Here is a sampling of its list for the Class of 2009:

They are too young to remember the space shuttle blowing up.
Tianamen Square means nothing to them.
Bottle caps have always been screw off and plastic.
Atari predates them, as do vinyl albums.
Jay Leno has always been on the Tonight Show.

Snowboarding has always been a popular winter pastime.
Money put in their savings account the year they were born earned almost 7% interest.
For daily caffeine emergencies, Starbucks has always been around the corner.
They have no idea who J.R. was, and don't care who shot him.
The Titanic was FOUND? They thought we always knew where it was.


There are plenty of other items on the list to make one feel a bit...well, old. After all, the Class of 2009 was mostly born in 1987 (the year I graduated from high school). If this isn't enough for you to shake your head over, you can also see previous lists by following this link.

I did go back and read the list for the class of 2008, as it represents the sophs who will be walking our halls in another week and a half. Mind you, there is a bit of a difference as the list was developed for the graduating class of university students in 2008, not high school students. I guess I really need a list for the class of 2012 if I want to truly think about the mindset of our sophs...but I suspect that list would be even more frightening.

These lists are a good reminder to me of why I need to spend time explaining some things---and not assume that they are part of the students' consciousness. It's hard for me to accept this age gap. It's not because I picture myself as young and hip or because I can't face growing older. I think (in part) it's because it's hard to fathom that some things have been part of my life for so long. Could Rogaine really have been on the market all this time? Alan Greenspan doing his thing? Bill and Ted on their excellent adventure? The other part of my disbelief comes from just being in this business. It is the nature of the profession to have your life stand still while students pass through your world. It is hard to believe that things have changed when we are still doing the same things.

Perhaps all of this is just a good reminder to "be here now"...to look around and consider what is happening. I have a feeling that the next 18 years may also pass in the blink of an eye. I'll be looking forward to reading Beloit's list then.

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Summery Idea

16 July 2005

I like this idea...looks like a comfy spot to read a book:



Maybe it comes as a set? Matching tables and chairs?

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