These days I hear many people talking about the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, but as they talk I often wonder how much they really understand about the document? Can they describe the five freedoms and how those freedoms affect people’s lives in the United States? Children and adults probably need to learn lots more.
An excellent NewseumEd activity, designed for students in grades three through eight, introduces the First Amendment using materials, discussion, and scenario examinations that explore how the First Amendment works in real-life situations. Similar resources are available at the website for high school and college learners.
The old saying — a picture is worth a thousand words — is beautifully demonstrated by a collection of non-verbal videos at SpeechisBeautiful.com. The miracle of the web allows an expert to collect a group of relevant materials — in this case delightful, but wordless professionally produced film shorts — and share them with teachers and parents.
Children can watch the videos, observe how problems are solved, and then figure out how to talk about what they’ve seen. While the film shorts have no speech, they do have delightful sound effects, providing excellent learning opportunities for children who need conversational encouragement. Teachers who work with children of all ages will recall students of theirs who would benefit from this strategy.
Sarah, the host of the website is a bilingual speech pathologist, and she has curated a collection that will please and encourage the most timid speaker or slightly nervous bilingual child.
The image on the right describes Ormie the Pig, one video in Sarah’s collection.
Just about every day I have a grammar question, despite that in junior high school I was an ace at diagramming sentences. Most commonly I need to figure out how to punctuate something I have written. I search for an answer, and I want to remember the information — if possible — so that I can use it the next time the same question arises. Yes, I could consult The Elements of Style, On Writing Well, The Chicago Manual of Style, or countless other good grammar books.
These days, however, when I am puzzling over a comma or a particular word, I almost always go online to find a podcast at Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips. I listen to the explanation, usually accompanied by music and amusing examples, and even days later I still remember the rule or the spelling or usage — even if the topic has not reappeared in my writing.
If you have not checked out the Grammar Girl podcasts, take some time to do so. They are great fun — two words that I never associated with sentence diagrams.
Flu is here and for the next couple of months so many of us will need to take precautions to prevent, if possible, getting sick. Your family will probably have a few conversations about the flu, so here are some data-rich public health websites to use as a part of the conversation with 21st Century learners.
Some influenza seasons are worse than others, and this year appears to be more severe than the last few flu seasons. But no matter what year it is, it’s doubly important to help children and everyone else in your family avoid influenza exposure as much as possible — and no one should get very far into the fall months without receiving a vaccination at a physician’s office, pharmacy, or local clinic.
Today I went to Google Flu Trends to learn where in the United States influenza is hitting the hardest, and right now this dynamic mapping site indicates that the flu is just about everywhere. Google collects its data by keeping track of internet searches for symptoms such as fever, headache, or sore muscles. The collected search statistics turn out to be good predictors of what parts of the country are experiencing influenza-like illnesses.
Right now, January 18, 2013, the Google flu map shows that the flu is widespread — almost every state in the U.S. is the same bright red color, indicating that lots of people are sick with the flu and searching to learn more. A user can click in each state to look at the influenza-related searches from there. Click on the map to visit Google Flu Trends to see what it looks like.
The data depicted by Google Flu Trends often corresponds to, but is not a substitute for, the hard data that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) receives when epidemiologists from around the country collect and submit data about actual diagnosed influenza cases in their states. In tracing the course of an epidemic, epidemiologists and health officials need to collect the specifics about place and time of an illness as well as general characteristics of the people who are sick (age, gender, ethnicity, seriousness of illness, pre-existing health conditions, etc.).
At this time, Google Flu Trends, while predictive of case counts, does not provide public health officials enough detailed information. Look at the CDC Influenza Summary Update.
Sometimes when I sit quietly in a computer lab at school and observe my students, I overhear the most wonderful conversations about learning. Today, as I sat in a corner working quietly, several fifth-grade students came in and sat down to work on essays. Focused on work, they took little note of me.
A delightful conversation ensued when one student asked the other student for help with the name of a country. As soon as I realized that an interesting 21st Century learning conversation was happening, I started typing their dialogue rather than my parent letter.
The two children went online together, searched, made all sorts of comments and decisions about what they saw, discovered a few things that they were not looking for, and finally located the information that they needed. But their searching led to additional questions.
The entire conversation lasted less than two minutes, but they learned a great deal.
Student #1: I am trying to write about the country that broke off from India when India became independent. Do you know its name?
Student #2: I’m not sure. I know it’s right next door.
Student #1: Hummm. Maybe it’s Pakistan? But I’m not sure.
Student #2: Maybe. Let’s go online and find a world map.
Student #1: OK. Are you going to Google it?
Student #2: Yes and look. If we go into Images there are lots of maps.
Teaching children to evaluate resources and determine credibility is the biggest challenge of our 21st Century world. Until now authoritative textbooks have dominated the world of education, but not anymore.
In the video below, Howard Rheingold, the digital thinker, professor (Stanford and UC Berkeley), and personal learning network advocate, describes how parents and educators should help students develop the ability to ask questions when they discover digital information, thereby evaluating the quality or lack of it. Rheingold calls this “crap detection,” a term originally coined by Ernest Hemmingway.
We need to teach kids, Rheingold points out, “how to search and how to find” and how to be sure that what is found is of good quality. The long-range goal is for each individual to develop what Rheingold calls a “personal trust network.”