Saturday, December 20, 2008

Sites to Evaluate

Lookong for some websites to use for the evaluation project. Check to see if any of these work for you. Whether they do or don't, post your response to any of the sites you explored. Also, check the links listed on the blog under "Resources for Teachers."

Interactive Websites

The Branding Game (upper elementary-middle, social studies, language arts)

Interactive Manipulatives (math)

Dole SuperKids (home economics, middle school):

Fast Food Explorer (home economics)

Food Safety (home economic)

The Meaning of Food (home economics)

General Index to find site from Bernie Poole:

Four Nets for Better Searching (any area in which students do research online)

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Here is a review by famed movie critics Siskel and Ebert, who rarely agree, but do agree that Shawshank is topnotch. Take a look at what they have to say, and post your comments.

By the way, if you find other YouTube clips on Shawshank that you like, let us know. There is plenty on YouTube about the film, and many of the clips have been viewed over and over again.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Community Service

As many of you know, the economic times of the present are hitting food banks hard, and there is a shortage of food to give out at food banks. As a result, many people are lining up for food and finding there is none or little available when they get to the front of the line. Although we might think we have been hit hard by the economic downturn, we are in college, attending classes, and relatively healthy.

As you also might know, Barack Ohama signaled in his campaign speeches and election night victory speech, he is interested in helping college students afford tuition. One of his ideas was for college students to do community service and be remunerated in some way through college tuition reimbursements. Although this plan might be off in the distance, with Thanksgiving around the corner, this might be a good time for students in FYS to help out.

I spoke with Sr. Beth Fischer today to see if Saint Joseph College will be running a food drive this year for Thanksgiving donations and if the FYS class on "Homeless in America" might be spearheading an effort. If so, I suggested our class might want to get involved, given one of the themes in our course is social justice.

In her last paper, Beth Pollette addressed the silent, average citizen, who recognizes social injustice but remains passive. Well, do we remain passive, or can we help out? How do you feel about setting up a food drive on campus or contributing to one spearheaded through Sr. Beth's work on campus? Post your comments.

Photo: courtesy of The Hartford Courant, Nov. 8, 2008 frontpage:,0,6817193.story
To read The Hartford Courant story, "Unemployment Up, Donations Down; Food Pantries Struggle ," follow the URL above.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Retribution and Vigilantism

Kelly and Hannah distributed in class an excellent article about the themes of retribution, vigilantism, and racism in A Time to Kill. Skim through the article, and post your responses to the points made in the article. Which points do you agree with? Which do you disagree with? Why? If you don't have time to read the article, just feel free to post your thoughts about how the film addresses retribution and vigilantism. Does what Carl Lee does (shoot the two men who beat, raped and left for dead his daughter) represent vigilantism, or is it retribution? If it is retribution, how so?

History in the Making: Fast Forward

What does the election of Barak Ohama as the next president of the United States mean to you? How does his election relate to themes we have studied in our course, Hollywood's Rebels and Justice Seekers? Post any comments you like.

Image from: New York Times, Oct. 28, 2008

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Is the Insanity Plea Sane?

The M’Naughten Rules, alluded to in A Time to Kill, state the insanity plea can be used if the defendant at the time of the crime did not understand the wrongful nature of the act.The“irresistible impulse" rule adds if the defendant understood the action was illegal but was mentally incompetent at the time, the defendant may be found innocent. The Durham rule requires a psychiatrist to testify as to the defendant's competency, whereas the Brawner rule allows jurors to make that decision while reaching a verdict.

The Insanity Defense Reform Act of 1984, following the attempted assassination of President Reagen, ruled a person may be found not guilty by reason of insanity if severe mental disturbance existed and the person could not understand the wrongfulness of the act committed. “Temporary insanity” is deemed as "a lack of substantial capacity to control one's behavior.” A defendant found to be temporarily insane can be released without psychiatric treatment mandated. (To study the insanity plea, consult:
Frontline online and a Cornell University Law School document.)

How is the insanity plea used in A Time to Kill? What are your views on the insanity plea? Post your comments.

Image from A Time to Kill movie website.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Civil Rights Bill Changes History

The Mississippi Burning case of the three civil rights workers listed as missing culminated in the tragic discovery six weeks later of their murders. Their disappearance garnered national attention in June of 1964, simultaneous to the contentious national debate on the proposed Civil Rights Act, which was finally passed July 2, 1964.

The landmark act prohibited discrimination based on race, gender, religion, and country of origin in the workplace, and also outlawed segregation in public places, including schools, restaurants, theaters, and hotels, thereby challenging the long-term Jim Crow segregation practices of the South.

Initiated by John F. Kennedy in 1963, upon his assassination, the banner of the Civil Rights Act became the legacy of President Lyndon, and not without struggle, during a tumultuous year until the bill’s final passage in the summer of 1964. This historic act not only made segregation illegal but also paved the way for many of the rights Americans enjoy today. The Equal Employment clause in hiring practices stems from the act, and the act established the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to oversee the administration of the policies set forth. Under Title VI of the act, discrimination in federal funded programs was prohibited, resulting in considerable reforms in educational institution policy and practice.

The Civil Rights Act also set the stage for passage of the Title IX of the Education Act of 1972, which forbade gender discrimination in education programs receiving federal funding. The result of this newer act led to a multitude of athletic and other programs giving females parity with males. For instance, although not the stable, athletic teams for girls were now introduced in high schools and the map of college sports changed forever.

How do you believe the Civil Rights Act has affected your own life, be it academically, in the workplace, or otherwise? What differences do you see it making in the lives of others? How does the period of upheaval witnessed in the film Mississippi Burning help us appreciate the rights granted by the act? How has this film helped you to understand history in terms of where we are today?

Image from: www.corporateservices.noaa.g

Monday, October 6, 2008

John Grisham: Prolific Writer

John Grisham, author of the novel, A Time to Kill, started his career as a lawyer. On the side, he wrote A Time to Kill, which became his first succesfully published work and the impetus behind his career as a literary figure. As a writer with background in law, he enjoys unusual expertise as a novelist. He writes novels based on firsthand knowledge of the criminal justice system. Although A Time to Kill was his first novel, it was not his first work to be adapted to the cinema. The following titles as adaptations predate A Time to Kill:

The Firm. Dir. Sydney Pollack. Paramount Pictures, 1993.
The Pelican Brief. Dir. Alan J. Pakula. Warner Bros., 1993.
The Client. Dir. Joel Schumacher. Warner Bros., 1994.
The Chamber. Dir. James Foley. Universal Pictures, 1996.

A Time to Kill published as a novel in 1989 was not released as a film until 1996.

Since 1996, Grisham has had the following works adapted to film.

The Rainmaker. Dir. Francis Coppola. Constellation Films, 1997.
The Gingerbread Man. Dir. Robert Altman. Enchanter Entertainment, 1998.
A Painted House. Dir. Alfonso Arau. Hallmark Hall of Fame Productions and CBS-TV, 2003.
Runaway Jury. Dir. Gary Fleder. New Regency Pictures, 2003.
The Street Lawyer. Dir. Paris Barclay. Touchstone Television and ABC-TV, 2003.
Mickey. Dir. Hugh Wilson. Original screenplay by John Grisham. Mickey Productions, 2004. Christmas with the Kranks. Dir. Joe Roth. Skipping Christmas Productions, 1492 Pictures, and Revolution Studios, 2004.

By no means is Grisham not successful as both a novelist and collaborator; he often collaborates on adaptations of his work, including writing the screenplays. Of note, his recent work, Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town, is his first work of non-fiction, and it traces the innocence of several men sentenced to capital punishment for murders they did not commit. Some escaped execution within a matter of minutes. Grisham, a popular writer, enjoys a cult following as well as broad appeal. His works consistently expose readers to theme of social injustice mitigated by the possibilities of redemption.

To learn more about Grisham’s commitment to social justice, complemented by his background in the field of law, visit this website maintained by the University of Mississippi, his alma mater: The Mississippi Writers Page: John Grisham. Post your responses about Grisham as a writer, film collaborator, and expert in the law field upon previewing the site, and let us know if you have seen any of the movies based on upon his works or read his books, and if so, what your response was.
Photo of Grisham is from the Mississippi Writers' site, specifically: //

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Justice For All

Review from YouTube the video on Mississippi Burning called by clickin on this link: "Justice for All." After reviewing the video, post your responses to it on our course blog.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Voter Power

The movie Mississippi Burning is a reminder of the extent to which African-Americans not long ago in the South went to access their constitutional right to vote. People died for the cause. Yet, to what extent today are college students who don't have to face that struggle exercising their right?

In Connecticut, according to Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz, young people have registered to vote in record numbers. Last month alone, 70,000 people between the ages of 18 to 29 registered to vote. Overall 1.97 million people in the state are registered. Among them, 728,000 are registered Democrats, and 413,000 are registered Republicans.

For those in the state who have not registered to vote, the deadline by mail is Oct. 21 and Oct. 28 for in-person registration at municipal offices.

Given what is witnessed in Mississippi Burning, why is it that some are willing to die to uphold the constitutional right to vote, whereas others with easy access, don’t exercise the right? Post your comments.

Factual information supplied from:,0,4369325.story

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Crusader Erin Brockovich Lives On!

Erin Brockovich has just recently signed on as a consultant for a New York City law firm fighting for those exposed to asbestos, a known cancer-causing agent. Brockovich is with the firm Weitz & Luxenberg and her role is to seek and investigate claimants. In an interview with a New York Post reporter, she stated of the relationship with the firm: “I’m hands-on, and they’re hands-on so it will be a team effort.” She has made two commercials for the firm seeking claimants exposed to asbestos who have developed lung cancer. In the meantime, Brockovich lives a dual coast life, continuing her consulting work with West Coast firm Girardi & Keese.

Of further interest, Brockovich has been fighting Merck, the makers of Gardasil. Brockovich writes on her website:

“Gardasil, as you should know by now, is an HPV vaccine sold by MERCK, a vaccine with a flawed marketing campaign targeting young girls. The premise is that the vaccine will protect young girls from cervical cancer, as well as a couple of varieties of HPV. But the vaccine is NOT a cancer preventative, and it has not been thoroughly tested. Not only does Gardasil not protect everyone, it does not prevent all types of cervical cancer. According to current science, there are fifteen types of HPV associated with cervical cancer but Gardasil only counters HPV types 16 and 18. The vaccine requires three doses to start and scientists don't even know how frequently boosters will be needed. They don't know because they did not adequately research this before putting the vaccine out on the market using our young girls as guinea pigs.”

Brockovich further warns:

“The Centers for Disease Control report over 9,000 adverse reactions for Gardasil. There is a rising total of deaths connected with the administration of this vaccine; as well as have been reports of seizure activity, tingling, numbness and loss of sensation in the fingers and limbs. There is serious question about girls initially having short-term health problems associated with getting this vaccine that could turn into long-term neurological or immune system disorders; and there is serious question about administering this vaccine at the same time as others.”

So, the crusader Brockovich lives on, and acknowledges that the film Erin Brockovich launched her reputation as a champion against corporate greed and a figther for those exposed to toxic chemicals by corporation. In her blog, Brockovich calls herself a "humanist," fighting for the good of human society.

Post your comments. What are your responses to knowing that Brockovich continues her campaigning, and that the film launched her career as a public figure?

For further information visit these two sites: (source for photo)
Brockovich is now 47 year olds and has been fighting legal cases since joining on with Masry in the late 1980s. She has devoted two decades of her life to fighting for justice.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

What Does Mississippi Burning Mean?

Mississippi Burning was a term the FBI used to refer to the series of church burnings in Mississippi. During the summer of 1964, at least 20 churches were fire bombed. When the FBI was called to investigate the burnings, as well as physical attacks, they used the term Mississippi Burning (MIBURN for short) to refer to the collective series of incidents. The fires were set by the members of the KKK. Churches had been set up as Freedom Schools, where African-Americans could go to get schooling to improve their job opportunities and obtain the literacy skills needed to pass state voter registration exams. Without passing these tests, they could not vote, a Constitutional right. Thus, the KKK had motive and reason to burn the churches, to strike down the African-Americans' fight for equality. What is your response to knowing the meaning behind the term Mississippi Burning?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Civil Rights Rebel With a Twist

In the fall of 1962, James Meredith enrolled as a student at the University of Mississippi, affectionately known as Ole Miss. This was not an ordinary college enrollment. He was the first African-American student to attempt admission. Prior to his enrollment, he was rejected twice. Believing his denial was based on race, he fought the case in court, was turned down, and appealed to a higher court, which charged the university with discrimination.

Finally admitted, when he tried to attend classes, in September, riots erupted, and more than 30,000 federal troops and Mississippi National Guards were brought in. More mayhem resulted, with 68 marshals shot and 2 bystanders killed. Amid the turmoil, Meredith started classes in October. Four years later, in 1996, he graduated. Impassioned by his experiences as a student, he went on to lead “The March Against Fear,” from Memphis, Tennessee to Jackson,
Mississippi, protesting racism, violence, and voter registration discrimination against African-Americans. Early in the march, he was shot and hospitalized, and Martin Luther King, Jr. continued on in his behalf. Meredith after his hospital discharge joined the march on its final day as it neared Jackson.

Later on, his life took a turn in another direction, and he criticized liberals, registered as a Republican, and ran for Congress. He held a job as a stockbroker, and nearing retirement, returned to a quiet life in Mississippi running an auto shopt. In contrast to his early participation in the civil rights movement, today Meredith rebuffs the movement.

Helpful resources for information:

Images from: John F. Kennedy Library 1-866-JFK-1960 last updated August 2002

Post your comments. What is your response to learning of Meredith's student days? How do you feel about him integrating one of the South's most venerable institutions? Do you think he was a rebel? Was he a justice seeker?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Are the SATs Fair?

Perhaps you have heard by now that a new national report has been released urging colleges to reduce or even eliminate SATs scores as part of the application process. The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) is taking a leadership position in asking colleges to reconsider the weight given to the SATs. One concern that NACAC has raised is the enormous media attention the tests receive despite the fact that it has been documented that the tests are not necessarily the best predictor of a student’s success in college. Yet, all the media hype puts undue pressure on high school students, their parents, and guidance counselors, while also helping to increase the profits of companies that market themselves as coaching experts for the tests.

The NACAC, based on an analysis of students’ success in college, advocates for the use of high school achievement as well as enrollment in college preparatory and honors courses as a far better predictor of student outcomes in college. Concern has also been raised about testing bias as well as the advantage that wealthier students who can afford coaching have. If the test does not equalize across all economic strata, some question its validity and whether using it for admission is a discriminatory practice. In studies looking at student performance on the SAT and college success, institutions have found a weak correlation. Hamilton College which makes submission of scores optional has found that students who elect not to submit scores outperform those who do. Some schools report an increase in applicants from top scholars after electing to make SATs scores optional. Worcester Polytechnic Institute is one such school.

Weigh in on the issue. What is your opinion? Should the SAT be dropped from the admissions process?

Information from “Dramatic Challenge to SAT and ACT,” Inside Higher Education, 9/22/08.<> Additional Information available from “College Panel Calls for Less Focus on SAT, The New York Times, 9/22/08. <

Friday, September 19, 2008

Movie Makes History

Interestingly, the film Norma Rae not only recorded history but changed it. At the time the film was released, in 1979, the workers at the textile mill, represented in the film, were in the midst of a union protest against low wages and working conditions. Thus, although the union was voted in, their demands were yet to be met.

The film informed the public of the horrendous working conditions at the J.P. Stevens textile operation, disguised as the O.P. Henley mill in movie, and other textile mills, and helped propel management in due time to acknowledge union demands. It's possible that if the film were not made, the workers at Stevens would have slaved under hazardous, unhealthy working conditions for phenomenally low wages if they wanted to remain employed. The film catapulted a nationwide boycott of J.P. Stevens. Once the film was out, union organizers found Sally Field and Crystal Lee Jordan, the real woman behind the vote to start the union, and brought the two together in a gala event in Los Angeles. This moment along with a tour that both did on behalf of the workers galvanized national support, eventually leading management to consent to union demands. The efforts of these two women also helped to buoy other labor union movements.

Today, we wonder if the public can be arose by movies about social injustice, and if people would flock to a movie about working-class oppression. In an era when moviegoers idolize glitz, do films like Norma Rae have staying power?

To learn more about the efforts of Crystal Lee Jordan (today, Crystal Lee Sutton), check this article "
The Real 'Norma Rae' Donates Papers." What is your response to knowing that the film changed history for factory workers? Do films about social injustice and the working class appeal to moviegoers today? What motivates people today to stand behind the oppressed and help them fight for their rights? When you think of movies today, which ones come to mind as stories of heroes fighting for social justice in the name of underclassed?

Photo of Crystal Lee Sutton accepting recognition for donating her labor papers to a college library. Photo credit: Sam Roberts / Times-News

Information for this post obtained from the article “Remembering Norma Rae” that appeared online in The Nation January 27, 2007.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Hospital Dumping A Health Concern

An Associated Press story reports that hospitals and health care facilities of all places are endangering the lives of people by dumping discarded, spoiled, and expired meds down the drain. Although there is a call to stop this practice through legislature, the situation worsens with no regulations in place. It is believed that as many as 250 million pounds of unused meds as well as their packaging are dumped down heath-care facility drains annually.

Concern about this massive problem has led public officials to call for testing of drinking water for contaminants that may be linked to the dumping, given many drugs used in hospitalas are highly toxic.
A survey of 45 long-term care facilities intimated that two-thirds dumped unused drugs into sewerage systems. The Environmental Protection Agency listed pharmaceutical dumping as a major public-health concern and called for government regulation to challenge the waste disposal methods used by health facilities.

How ironic, that the facilities that we consider health promoting are responsible for just the opposite. Weigh in on this issue. To learn more about this breaking story and a possible link between the contamination and gene mutations and cancer, check this Associated Press story. Be sure to post your comments.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Love Canal

Love Canal is not at all about love. The canal in upstate New York near Niagara Falls was named after the man, William T, Love, who originally owned the property that included the canal. In the 1920s, after he sold his land, the canal turned into an industrial waste site. Later, in the 1950s, the owners of the property, the Hooker Chemical Company, covered the contaminated canal with dirt and sold the land to the city. Homes and a school were built on the site. In 1978, a sad story broke, announcing almost 100 compounds had been dumped at the site and at least 10 were likely carcinogens. The chemicals leached into the fields of neighborhood homes and the school, and record rainfall worsened the contamination.

Children started returning home with burns all over their bodies, miscarriages were reported, and children were born with defects. Residents were found to have high white-blood-cell counts, a precursor of leukemia. Evacuations began. Finally, to stem the flood of complaints from residents, the governor of New York, Hugh Carey, agreed to have the state purchase the land, and the US Senate approved financial aid for victims.

Check online to find out more about the Love Canal disaster, and relate what you find to the story told in Erin Brockovich. (The Univeristy of Buffalo archives offers Love Canal Related Links.) Post your comments.

Photo: "Sister Margeen Hoffman, former Executive Director of the ETF leads a protest against the chemical corportation, CECOS, circa 1982" from University of Buffalo archives

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Steven Soderbergh, The Movie Director

Soderbergh has directed a variety of films, from action-packed thrillers like the Ocean Eleven series to socially conscious ones like Good Night, Good Luck. He won the Academy Award for directing Traffic, another socially conscious film, but also an action-packed adventure. Both Erin Brockovich and Traffic were released in 2000, and for the 2001 Academy Awards, both were nominated as Best Picture and Best Directing, a most unusual feat for any director. Both are considered among his most successful films.

In 1989, Soderbergh garnered incredible fame with Sex, Lies, and Videotape, which he directed and scripted. The film earned him a coveted Cannes Film Festival's Palme d'Or, the youngest director to win this recognition. In effect, his success was launched not just in Hollywood but internationally.

Soderbergh often works with the same cast of actors, such as George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Don Cheadle, and Matt Damon, all featured in the Ocean Eleven series. Of late, Soderbergh produced Michael Clayton, starring George Clooney. Clooney was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Actor in three films Soderbergh directed, and although Clooney did not win for Michael Clayton or Good Night, Good Luck, he won for Soderberg's Syrania.

Possibly, you have seen Soderbergh films in addition to Erin Brockovich. If so, let us know how these films compare. If not, what do you think of Soderbergh as a director based on viewing just one of his films? Post your comments.

Pictures of Soderbergh are from the photo gallery in International Movie Database.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Afghanistan Timeline

Hosseini Khaled often helps his readers understand the historical timeline for key events that are the backdrop of wars in Afghanistan. To help you further see the broader picture, check this website that presents an overview of key events in the 20th and 21st centuries in the country's history: BBC Afghanistan Timeline. After reviewing the timeline, comment on what you have learned about the country's struggles.
Image from the bbc timeline site as provided at is of one of the Budda statues that the Taliban destroyed at when it blew up Bamiyan.

Khaled Hosseini: Writing from a Woman's Perspective

Writing from a woman’s perspective for a male author is often a topic of discussion for literary critics and book reviewers. Listen to Khaled Hosseini talk about writing his novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns. Check his website, and click on the link, “Writing from a Female Perspective,” to hear what he has to say about the challenge of writing not just from one woman's perspective but two.
Overall, after reading the novel, do you think he succeeds in capturing an authentic female perspective? Does his explanation convince you?
At Hosseini's website, you also find a link, “Becoming a Writer.” Check out the link to find out how he became a writer in spite of being a science major in college and going on to medical school to become a doctor. What do you like about Hosseini’s approach to writing? What do you learn from him about ways to become a successful writer? In general, how does exploring his website help you to understand him not just as a writer but also as a person? And, how does a visit to the site increase your appreciation for our common reading, A Thousand Splendid Suns?

Saturday, August 23, 2008

A Thousand Splendid Suns

Listen to the author of A Thousand Splendid Suns, Khaled Hosseini, talk about his book on this You Tube video. After listening to the video, post your comments. How does listening to the author talk about his book help you to understand his book, his purpose, and the book's background? What have you learned by listening to the video? Remember to return to this blog posting after viewing the video to post your comments.

URL for the You Tube video:

Image of the author from

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Retired Supreme Court Justices Courts a Web Site

Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, stymied by young people’s lack of knowledge about basic civic lessons, is the brainchild behind a new Web site aimed at the 7th through 9th grade population. The site will pose dilemmas based on constitutional rights, such as the First Amendment. For instance, should schools censor school publications and dictate the kinds of clothing students wear to school?

O’Connor’s hope is that the gaming Web site will draw students in by its interactivity, and fill the void in civics education today. She in part blames the No Child Left Behind Act with its focus on math and science education for the demise of civics and government education.

Commenting for a New York Times article (June 9, 2008), she compared computer gaming to the best educational practices: “…we learn something, a principle or concept, by doing, by having it happen to us, which you can do by that medium of the computer, and you exercise it and you make an argument and you learn.”

The site, which O’Connor is developing in conjunction Georgetown University Law Center and Arizona State University, is expected to go live this fall and will offer curricular integration suggestions. Look for the site, called Our Courts, at: A preview of the site is working. Try the link. Consider the site's potential appeal to its intended audience.

Are you surprised that a 78-year-old retired Supreme Court Justice sees computer gaming as one of the most viable ways to teach her discipline: government, constitutional law, and civics? Can an interactive Web site, as O’Connor hopes, reclaim democracy and foster civic engagement? Post your comments. If a former Supreme Court Justice endorses the educational potential of the Internet, what does that say about the power of the medium?

Images : for photo of O'Connor and for Supreme Court picture
Source: Schiesel, S. (2008, June 9). Former justice promotes web-based civics lessons. The New York Times, p. E7.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Field Trips without the Fuss

With the high price of fuel and distances separating schools from ideal locations, online field trips offer solutions. Virtual field trips have gained in popularity as more places of historic, scientific, geographic, and artistic significance now offer the alternative online field trip.

The recent issue of Christian Science Monitor (June 6, 2008) posted a story about places visited virtually. One seventh Stockton, CA class watched elephant seals 100 miles away on the coastline and listened as a field guide explained their behavior. Virtual field trips also prepare students for the real experience in advance of taking the trip.

The Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration (CILC), which organizes online field trips, boasts delivering more than a million trips. Visits have span the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to the Bronx Zoo.

For teachers who prefer the real trip, virtual field trips offer one-of-a-kind collaboration with experts. After Pluto was demoted as a planet, one third-grade teacher arranged for her students to interview a NASA expert.

Read the Christian Science Monitor story for additional details. Post your comments about possibilities you envision. Imagine students in Connecticut going on a guided tour of Glacier National Park without leaving their classroom. What about getting up close and personal with zoo animals? How do virtual field trips extend the curriculum? What would be your ideal virtual school field trip?

Photo of Glacier National Park from
Source: Arnoldy, B. (2008, June 8). Now students take field trips online. The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved on June 9, 2008 from

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Moviemaking Energizes Students

Digital Moviemaking Reinvents Learning in infinite ways. Not only are children as young as third grade easily make movies, but they are also collaborating with peers across the world. Using digital editing tools such as i-Movie, which Jamie Sacharko, demonstrated in our class this week, young children are enamored with making movies.

David S. Gran, a technology specialist, reported in Digital Directions, using i-Movie and Web 2.0 technologies, now as many as 2,600 students and teachers from 40 countries around the world produce collaborative movies. Patricia M. Fuglestad, one of the teachers, commented of her fifth graders: “Complex software is not intimidating to my digital natives….They just need to know where to click.” Citing an example, she referred to three trail-blazing girls who worked on their animated film by drawing "75 frames for their 15-second animation...making one or two frames each day.” She added that digital media creates “a surprising motivation level when it is connected to an authentic audience, even if it requires tedious work.”

Fuglestad reports she that she observes "a consistent spike in student enthusiasm when her students know their work will be shared online….When a group of her 5th graders made a movie called Young Sloppy Brush about a paintbrush that is destroyed in the hands of a careless artist, she tracked the progress of the project on her blog. Fugelstad recalls that on the day the the movie was uploaded, "we had over 800 views.” To help her students understand the extent of their audience, she “printed out a world map and put push pins in places where they received an e-mail or some feedback.” The movie went on to win a top prize at a local film festival and to be entered in three international film festivals. Fugelstad finds moviemaking: “teaches countless interdisciplinary skills....When students make a movie, they learn so much more than the content of the film…They learn to frame a shot, express and capture the appropriate mood from their subject, articulate their words to better communicate, politely critique, work together, take turns, be fair, and share.”

Another teacher, Kristine M. Fontes, who participated in the global moviemaking project, commented that although the moviemaking proces is "complicated, students are eager to learn and often master the software easily....They enjoy the responsibility of creating a project with so many layers and can’t wait to show me their work each day....The entire process is so engaging that it is difficult to get the students to log off their computers and go to lunch.”

Fontes has posted her students work on her website my Web site and burns their movies to a CD for them to keep. She reminds us, “The world is no longer as big as it seems, and their moments of shared creative expression are no longer limited to the four walls” of the classroom.

Use these immediate hyperlinks to view Fuglestad's students'
Young Sloppy Brush, Fugelstad’s blog, and Fontes my Web site, explore. Direct links below connect to the web pages of some of Fontes' students for quick access to their movies. Enjoy.

Island Adventure
Global Warming
Werewolves of London

Let us know how you see the technology and the moviemaking empowering young and older learners alike by engaging them in the learning process and expanding their horizons. What is your response to these new moviemaking forays? Do you believe these kinds of filmmaking experiences belong in the school curriculum?

Source: Ash, K. (2008, June 5). Digital tools cast student moviemakers on a global stage. Digital Dimensions. Retrieved June 5, 2008, from

Image from:

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Nude Student Photos

I read that headline on the front page of the Connecticut section of the New York Times this past weekend in utter dismay. Middle and high school students in the Greenwich, CT school system were found circulating nude photos of themselves, in provocative poses, over the Internet and cellphones. Once transmitted, the photos were re-transmitted, building a web of access far beyond the boundaries of the Greenwich community.

Who stepped in to bring the matter to the attention of the general public? Bravely, school superintendent Elliot Landon wrote a letter home to parents. In the letter, he reminded parents that despite stepped up efforts in the schools to run Internet safety programs, students were still engaging in risky behavior. With the school year coming to an end and little time to implement even more rigorous programs, Landon urged parents to take precautions now and with the summer months looming.

In his letter, Landon offered practical advice, assumping parents were available and willing to follow through. He told them to keep computers in common areas, ensure screens were visible, and maintain access to their children’s email passwords. He urged parents to “randomly check” their children’s e-mail accounts and “text messages and cellphone photos,” and be “upfront” about why they were checking.

In an interview for the New York Times, Landon expressed concern that the retransmitted photos exposed students to sex predators and total strangers. Connecticut State Police, when conducting in-school programs on Internet safety, remind students that those transmitting nude photos of children 16 and under are subject to pornography charges. State Trooper William Tate cautioned that people must understand that what is transmitted over the Internet does not disappear. For instance, college admissions counselors and employers pay forensic experts to rummage through candidates’ online histories.

What are your responses to the Greenwich story, the advice offered by the superintendent, comments by state police, and the whole issue of Internet safety? Was it right for the superintendent to step in once students brought the matter to his attention? What is the school's role, and how responsible are schools for the actions that students take off of school ground? In your opinion, will school Internet safety programs work?


Steele, M. F. (June 1, 2008). Nude student photos spur internet warnings. The New York Times [online]. Retrieved June 4, 2008, from

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Win a Technology Grant: It's Simple

Short on technology in your school: enter the Hope for Education contest and win a grant for your school. You or your students need only write a 100-word essay on technology’s impact on learning. Check the Hope for Education site to learn of contest rules, deadlines, and prizes. You and your students have nothing to lose and much to gain. The contest is sponsored by technology giants Samsung, Microsoft, and others. In 2008, a top winner received $200,000 worth of technology. The site reports that in the four years since the contest's inception, there have been 250 winners, and $700,000 in grants have been awarded.

This year’s essay prompt links technology and the environment. Rules read:

"How has technology educated you on helping the environment and how or why has it changed your behavior to be more environmentally friendly?"

"Essays should focus on:

  • How current or emerging technologies increase your awareness and understanding of environmental issues, and cause you to make environmentally friendly changes in your life.
  • How technology products can be made, used and disposed of in an environmentally friendly manner.
  • Why technology will play an increasingly important role in educating people and helping them to change their lives in an environmentally responsible way."

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Gaming Technology Makes Science Learning Infectious

Gaming technology complements the inquiry approach central to science education. Ken Eklund’s as the title implies uses mysteries to engage students in science learning. Eklund boasts that teachers who have used the site found students captivated. Titles of his mysteries include “Strange Dead Bird,” “Poison Dart Frog,” “River of Venom,” “Angry Red Planet,” and “Croak”: clearly, Eklund is tareting the middle school student with these titles. Given the games are mystery stories, blending the science and language arts curricula holds promise.

For middle school students,
Medical Mysteries teaches them about infectious diseases. The site is set up as a series of missions that students explore sci fi fashion. Again, pairing with the language arts is a natural. Check the site for details.

Another game,
The River City Project, funded through the National Science Foundation, is also aimed at middle schoolers. The fictitious town, River City, is based on “authentic historical, sociological, and geographical conditions,” and is "besieged with health problems. Students work in “research teams understand why residents are becoming ill” and “keep track of clues that hint at causes of illnesses, form and test hypotheses, develop controlled experiments to test their hypotheses, and make recommendations based on the data they collect,” according to the site's designers.

Teachers using gaming technology underscore the need for curricular materials to support the projects. Leslie Miller, of the Center for Technology in Teaching and Learning, has worked with a team of teachers to design packets with learning objectives, glossaries of terms, curricular standard matches, and worksheets for Medical Mysteries.

After checking one or more of the sites, let us know what you see as the potential of online gaming technology to attract students to understand scientific concepts. Do these sites also support inquiry-based learning, considered central to science learning? Do you think gaming technology with catch on not just in the science curriculum but also in other curricular areas? Let us know your thoughts on the potential of gaming technology to complement instructional goals.

First two Images from Ken Eklund’s Second two images from and respectively.

So What's To Read, Write, and Think?

Those of you in the field of language arts/English instruction are probably familiar with the Read/Write/Think website portal for lesson plans, links to online resources, and materials for student use. The site is endorsed by the International Reading Association (IRA) and the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). In addition to activities in the language areas, the site promotes bridging the disciplines, and, thus, will be of interest to all educators. A special “Summer Activities” link is available for those of you looking for literacy activities for children over the school recess. Check the site, and let us know what you find most useful. Do you agree with the site’s claim: “Providing educators and students access to highest quality practices and resources in reading and language arts instruction”? Post your comments.

Image from the Read/Write/Think site at

Friday, May 30, 2008

PowerPoint Points

Check this article "Of PowerPoint and Pointlessness" , and this YouTube Video, "Death by PowerPoint" at, and post your comments.

image from:

Lesson Plan Ideas

Let's take a look at the Thinkfinity site, a portal for accessing free online lesson plans. Indicate your grade level and search by educator for a lesson plan in a specific subject area. After you have had some time to explore the portal, let us know what you think. Did you find any valuable lesson plans? Did you find the portal easy to use? Would you recommend it to others. Post your responses.

Podcasts Empower Learners

The Education Podcast Network

National Public Radio

Grammar Girl

Wondering what podcasts are and how they can enhance learning.
The Education Podcast Network is a portal for podcasts created by students K-12. It is worth exploring to see what students in all grades and across the content areas are doing with podcasts in their schools. The National Public Radio site enables you to access quality podcasts to integrate into your teaching. As for Grammar Girl, it is the latest rage and a sure
catalyst for boosting grammar and word usage skills, in an entertaining, engaging way. This site is a favorite among teachers, as well as students. Can't remember when to use "affect" versus "effect," what a "comma splice" is, or just want to brush up on skills, Grammar Girl offers "quick and dirty" tips for remembering usage rules. Explore! Explore! Explore! All three sites are top-rated, visited by millions. Add the URLs to your Favorites/Bookmarks, and tell your colleagues to visit, too. After trying any one of the sites, consider how you might use podcasts in your teaching: How can you tape into their power, how can students use them to broaden their learning? Take a few moments to navigate one of the site, and share your responses.

Images from: and

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A Penny for Your Thoughts

What do you think of paying students to receive good grades? As you might have heard, some schools have started reward programs for students to excel, including doing well on state-mandated exams. In some cases, school systems in which students have fared poorly have received grants to improve scores. These grants pay students lump sums of money if they meet state standards. I posted a blog on this topic a few months ago, with details about school systems that have tried this subversive tactic, or is it subversive at all?

A recently released research report found a positive correlation between students’ reading scores and rewards programs. To read a synopsis of this study, click on the link:

Also, check my blog post, “Pay for Grades,” published on March 5, 2008.

What are your thoughts on offering students rewards programs such as cash, field trips, tickets to amusement parks, and so forth for doing well on high-stakes tests?

Monday, May 26, 2008

Facebook’s New Facelift: Internet Safety

Connecticut’s crusading Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal, is back in the news, this time campaigning for Internet safety. Along with other states’ leaders, Blumenthal pioneered steps to make Facebook and MySpace, the two most popular social networking sites among teens and children, safer.

Safety nets ban sexual predators from the sites and curb cyberbullying through vigilance and deleting inappropriate postings. Steps to improve verification of user’s identity and age will limit young children’s use of specifc features on the sites.

Education Week in its May 8, 2008 issue reports that Facebook has agreed to:

“— Ensure companies offering services on its site comply with its safety and privacy guidelines.
— Keep tobacco and alcohol ads from users too young to purchase those products.
— Remove groups whose comments or images suggest they involve incest, pedophilia, cyberbullying or other inappropriate content.
— Send warning messages when a child is in danger of giving personal information to an unknown adult.
— Review users' profiles when they ask to change their age, ensuring the update is legitimate and not intended to let adults masquerade as children.”

Facebook and States Agree on New Ban (2008, May). Education Week. Retrieved May 26, 2008, from ttp://

Image from:

What are your views on imposing legal sanctions and controls over popular social networking sites among the young? Post your comments.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Blogs for Teaching
Looking for some ideas for using a blog in your teaching. Check out the link above, and see if it helps. Let us know how helpful you find what Education Week offers on its blogboard for accessing samples of teacher blogs. Post your comments. Also, if you know of teacher blogs we should check out, post their URLs.
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Frustrated By Online Searches!

The "Four Nets for Better Searching Web Lesson" offers a way for you and your students to overcome hassles with doing online searches. Here is a lesson to help students hone their online research searching skills by using Google Advanced Search and other tricks. A 4-step process for students to learn how to search online effectively is offered in the lesson plan. Check it out, and let us know what you think. If students are taught successful skills for online searching, they will save lots of time and reduce frustration. Do you think this lesson with its accompanying resources will achieve that aim? Did you learn anything new by reviewing the tips offered in the Four Nets lesson? Post your comments and responses.
Image is from the fourents page, using the above URL.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Do Interactive Textbooks Enhance Learning?

We all know that textbooks become dated fast, and they have the disadvantage of not being particularly interactive. With new technology, however, the situation is bound to change. To learn more about the future of interactive textbooks and the potential demise of the conventional textbook of yore, click on the hyperlink to read the article, “WikiTexts: Learning Better by Writing the Book.” After you read the article, be sure to post your comments. We want to hear from you? Do you think wikitexts will catch on? What advantages might they have? What might be the drawbacks, if any? How does the concept of wikitexts help you re-envision education, perhaps seeing it differently from the way you were taught?

Image credit and link to article in Linux News:

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Classroom Management Put to the Virtual Test

Here is an innovative way to help teachers hone their classroom management skills. The University of Central Florida has set up a virtual classroom for teachers to practice classroom management skills. To learn more about how virtual learning is occurring in this context, refer to this article in the Orlando Sentinel, and then post your comments. For beginning teachers, do you think this kind of virtual learning will work? What other possibilities can you envision for using virtual reality to prepare pre-service teachers as well teachers already in the classroom?,0,7273706.story
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Digital Writing's Effect on Teens

The quoted excerpt below turned up today in the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) online newsletter and is of concern to all of us as we wonder about how digital writing is affecting teens and whether they view writing as essential skills to their future. As teachers, we all need to be concerned about digital technology as well as how receptive teens are to learning the skills of formal writing skills. Take some time to read further. The hyperlinks above will take you directly to the sites to learn more; the first link is to the Pew study report, in pdf format, and the second link is to The Christian Monitor article cited in the NCTE blurb. The hyperlinked texts in the blurb will also take you directly to the two sources. Please remember to post your comments after you review the materials. We want to hear your views as educators.

From In-box: NCTE, May 20, 2008, distributed via the

"Turn Teen Texting toward Better WritingThe Pew Internet & American Life Project and the College Board report Writing Technology and Teens notes that 85% of teens communicate through digital writing and 86% percent of teens consider formal writing skills essential to future success. In addition, it notes that over half of teenagers from all races and income levels have social networking profiles in places like Facebook and MySpace. The Christian Science Monitor, May 14, 2008."

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Internet Safety

Today, I had the chance to visit the blog of a school librarian, Peggy Milam Creighton, and found one of her posts about Internet safety particularly useful. She offered these resources for safe exploration of online resources. Check this link for some useful tips, and let us know what you think. Post a comment:

Image from:

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Teacher Refuses to Give State Tests

I know many of you have concerns about the impact of state testing on students. Here is how one Washington state teacher, Charles Chew, responded to the call for state mandated testing. Read his comments found in a Seattle newspaper paper, and post your responses. What do you think of his method of protest? What about his going public on the issue? Other news stories are now proliferating about his action, and perhaps you have read them or seen some videos online or caught a news story on television about the case. You will also notice that 40 reviewers as of today posted comments to his stories, so you might want to peruse the comments quickly before posting your own responses. The topic of state mandated testing affect us all, so please take the time to respond.

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Save Our Libraries

Now, you don’t have to leave home to check out books from public libraries. Better yet, you can forget those pest late fees. Libraries are now starting to offer books for download with expiration for loans built in, so access is denied after a pre-determined date, and no late fee is incurred.

For those with vision problems, libraries accommodate not only by offering audio books but also loan MP-3 players to listen to those books. Library videos also can now be checked out online, similar to movie online subscription services, but without the out-of-pocket fee.

To learn more about how public libraries are implementing technologies to accommodate patrons, check out this April 20, 2008
New York Times article. How do you think changes in the public library will affect school-aged children? What do you think your local public libraries should be doing technologically to make their services more attractive to this population? In general, what do you think of libraries offering more online services, which might affect their in-person patron services? Here is the link to The New York Times article:

Hope you can access it without having to log on. Even if you can’t access it, you can still post comments to the topics summarized in this blog posting. I have also heard that libraries might be opening cafes to duplicate the experience of bookstores with this amenity What do you think of that idea? What about ice cream parlors in libraries? Will that attract young patrons for the right or wrong reasons?

Picture on left from:

Picture on right from:

Instant Messaging 's Effects on Our Brains!

Numerous linguistics experts have confirmed that instant messaging is not leading to the demise of the English language among our youth. Although some believe that shorthand used in instant messaging might be causing teens to transfer that form of communication to their academic work, studies conducted by reputable organizations such as the Pew Institute do not confirm that hypothesis. Rather, researchers have found that teens are smart enough to know to adjust their writing approach for the audience, and most teens will write differently for their teachers and adults than for peers.

To learn more about what researchers are finding out about the effects of instant messaging on teen’s communications styles, please refer to a thoughtful post found on Dennis Barone’s “Web of Language” blog. Note his posting on the topic also contains several hyperlinks to access the specific studies that he refers to in his post. You might want to read all are part of the studies. If you are taking an educational research course, you might find the topic of instant messaging and school writing worth exploring for a major assignment. The graphic above is offered by Dennis Barone on his blog and shows the screen of The Librarian General's warning as it is written. Please remember to post your comments after checking into Barone’s blog. Does his posting or the findings of research studies allay or intensify your concerns about the effects of instant message?

On another note, Barone also addresses concerns about text messaging while driving. As some of you might know, high school seniors in upstate New York were killed last year in a car accident when the teen driver was text messaging and hit a truck. However, that tragic accident speaks more so to cell phone use while driving than the effects of instant messaging on written communication for academic purposes.

Other concerns that Barone notes are students diverting their attention during classes to text message, but how is that different than in the old days when distracted students handwrote and passed notes to friends, or students at any time just sitting in class and doodling or daydreaming? Can we be “mind police” over the diversions students find during class time, or is the answer to create more stimulating lessons that engage students so deeply that the thought of diversions don’t even cross their minds? Moreover, do we blame the medium or the messenger?

Without further ado, here is the link you need to read more, and let’s hear from you!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Teens Stymied by Writing Research Papers

Teen Space, the Internet Public Library, offers a website to help high school and introductory college students write research papers. A step-by-step guide in an easy-to-follow format is provided. Students can navigate the site on their own, but it would be a good idea for a teacher to introduce it and give an overview of what is available. Check the site. It might even have some applicability for students in the middle school. Let us know what you think and if you would recommend the site to other teachers.

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