Archive for November, 2007

Friday Fun: A. A. Milne Poetry on “Old”

Thanks again to Christy for bringing up an old childhood favorite, the poem “Halfway Down the Stairs.”

If you remember the Muppet Show, I believe there was a song, sung by the Kermit the Frog’s nephew Robin that features the words from this poem. I was able to go through several of the other poems by Milne at the link below. There’s something more than soothing and comforting about his poetry. It’s not just because they are so evocative of the simplicity of childhood.

Thanks to Christy’s reference. I actually added the Youtube video of the Muppet Song below ūüôā–Milne-Halfway-Down

“Halfway Down the Stairs”

By A. A. Milne

Halfway down the stairs
is a stair
where i sit.
there isn’t any
other stair
quite like
i’m not at the bottom,
i’m not at the top;
so this is the stair
I always

Halfway up the stairs
Isn’t up
And it isn’t down.
It isn’t in the nursery,
It isn’t in town.
And all sorts of funny thoughts
Run round my head.
It isn’t really
It’s somewhere else


P.C. Dunderheads and Sesame Street

nationalcookieday.jpgOkay, I’ll admit it: I did go to the link on the Muppet Wiki and read the transcript on how the show explained Mr. Hooper’s Death, and I did get a little teary.¬† Thank you, Christy, for sharing this with me. I think I was a little older than the average viewing audience of Sesame Street when Mr. Hooper died, but I still remember it affecting me. I forgot that they aired this episode during the Thanksgiving Holiday to make sure that there were adults around to help children understand and cope with the message on the show.

This reminder of Sesame Street’s history of dealing with difficult topics for children as well as the joy and love of learning the show promoted caused me to wonder about some of the overly politically correct whitewashing that can happen these days. It’s quite ironic really the original intent of P.C. was to handle terminology around diverse people in a respectful and friendly way, and bring to the forefront of language and discourse some of the unpleasant things we hid under the carpet during the oppressive and dismissive era of the 50’s and before. However, in a way P.C. can become just as oppressive as the antediluvian mores that dominated previous times. I’m not saying that P.C. isn’t well intended, or that it’s okay to blurt out racial epithets in public a la Archie Bunker or support racist legislation, I’m just saying we should use our heads more about how we talk about or to others with respect, people. Maybe our children will learn from our example.

Mark Your Calendars for National Cookie Day – December 4th

However, on a brighter side, I did find out that National Cookie Day is coming up: December 4.

I’m actually thinking of doing a batch of Christmas Cookies a little early for a winter tea party, so I’ll be able to celebrate National Cookie Day in style.

Why Susie Doesn’t Want to Go into IT

Well, the first thing I thought was… Susie doesn’t want to go into IT, because most IT jobs are being outsourced, but seriously, many girls are not considering careers in technology or are tuning out from subjects dealing with technology simply because they perceive the world of tech and computers as being the Realm of the Nerds (Not all girls feel this way; obviously I don’t). At least some of the literature on tech ed for females asserts that the nerd factor is a deterrent for female interest in tech, mathematics and science fields.

I recently ran across this paper from California State University that addresses girls lack of interest in tech. According to the author’s research boys are more likely to be found working with computers than girls and parents of boys purchase computers for their children more than parents of girls? More, girls still tend to think of technology fields and subjects as more of a masculine domain. It seems to be a backward assumption, but statistics are telling us otherwise.

So what do we do to reverse this trend of girls’ lack of interest in science and tech?

I liked what this paper has to say about getting girls more engaged in technology projects, or simply that teachers and educators should appeal to what many girls are interested in their early adolescent and teen years like building relationships and social networks: “Technology production and broadcasing via blogs or podcasting, offers effective ways for girls to express themselves creatively.”

I can see or imagine the following activities:

  • A project that involves teaching girls how to code xml to set up their own podcasting site. They choose their own topics and decide to share about the things they are interested in.
  • Or how about learning simple javascript to build features on a topical webpage on crafts or the arts
  • Maybe developing a simple discussion forum for girls issues in a class
  • Girls can be engaged to start an anti-cyber-bullying campaign within their school
  • Girls become involved in building computers and servers for charity centers or even their own schools

More, I can see where the parents or educators who lead these activities need to structure them so that they are team dependent activities. Honestly, I think kids today have a leg up on understanding how to work more effectively in teams than we did. Perhaps all those reality T.V. shows that focus on team competition and activities are actually worth something. I’m not sure the Baby Boomer and Silent Generation teachers really understood how to teach team or group activities effectively. I remember having teachers that would avoid group learning because they really preferred sitting up in front of the classroom and lecturing.
Additional Resources for Getting Girls Engaged in Tech/Resources for Science Ed for Women:

My mind map for “Engaging Girls in Technology”


Lifelong learning is important for 21st century living

I found this great piece on Nethack: 15 steps to Cultivate Lifelong Learning

I thought that this list had some nice suggestions for keeping the passion for learning alive.

UNESCO characterizes 21st Century education as being education geared to developing¬† lifelong learners.¬† It’s no secret that these types of learners are usually the best innovators, problem solvers, etc. I suspect an indirect consequence of being a lifelong learner is that you are able to solve not only professional issues but personal ones as well. Well, at least we can only hope.

I started putting together a list of characteristics of lifelong learners. It’s not complete, but it’s a start.

Lifelong Learner Characteristics

  • Are insatiable knowledge seekers – they continually seek learning experiences or opportunities to improve their knowledge and skills
  • Are social learners – Lifelong learners learn both from and with others. The will take classes or look for social groups. They usually seek out acquaintances who are better or more knowledgeable in fields than they are
  • Don’t simply just take in information – they analyze, synthesize and or apply what they’ve learned
  • Are teachers themselves – lifelong learners usually openly share what they know because they understand that having open networks actually gives them more access to the information from others.
  • Never think of themselves as the ultimate expert in anything
Characteristics of Lifelong Learners - Click on the image to view a larger version

Characteristics of Lifelong Learners – Click on the image to view a larger version


Two little things

… that bother me.

#1 – Sesame Street (old version) rated unfit for children

There’s something about this that really just doesn’t sit right with me. Apparently, someone thinks that the early characters of Sesame Street are bad role models for their children. A bright blue googly-eyed impulsive monster who demolishes cookies and a cantankerous and scruffy old man with green fur who lives in a garbage can with his garbage. Come on people! These are probably the most beloved characters from Sesame Street’s Golden Age!

Can these studio executives, adults and parents be this obtuse and pudding-headed? We, and I’m speaking literally because I was one of the early generation who grew up with Sesame Street when Mr. Hooper manned the store – we loved those characters because of their faults.

What’s next will they deem Grover unfit for young viewers because he’s a classic ADHD case? Or will Big Bird be out because he’s addle-headed and slow?

#2 Ad spies in the blogosphere

I cannot really approve any comments unless I see that the commenter has a ‘real blog.’ Yes, I mean a real blog that doesn’t have a bunch of random gobblygook mashed together or a blog that doesn’t ‘smell’ like it’s being powered by a search generator or programmed spider. I’m thinking about those old Hammer movies from the sixties and seventies and the old beliefs about vampires. You should never invite them into your house… otherwise.

So if you’ve left a comment and were a real person and not an internet vampire and I didn’t approve it, I apologize but I cannot do so without prove that you’re not from the underworld of advertisement.

Vampire Circus


I’ve got X-mas in the wash… it’s soap, baby!

I hate the fuss over Christmas.¬† I like giving gifts, but I don’t like the drama or hassle that comes tied in guilt and knots when it comes to holiday giving.¬† My solution= find a place on the internet that I’ve visited this year either on the internet or in ‘real life.’ More, I have to have absolutely loved the products I found there. Funny, everywhere I go now, if I like a store or business I always ask stores if they have a website, and if I can purchase their products online. It’s a really good way for businesses to keep tourist dollars coming even after the tourists have gone home.

marinelife.jpgWhen we were in Madison, WI this summer we went to visit the Soap Opera. I fell in love with their homemade glycerin soaps (Primal Elements Handcut Soaps). I even brought home a Pirate Soap (decorated with “Skull and Bones”) for my husband… he refuses to use it because it’s so cool looking.¬† I don’t mind because it actually has the most lovely scent of vanilla and marshmallows. The soaps come in such beautiful and curious designs that it’s hard to resist. I was given a sample of the “Dragonfly” soap… and after I tried it I regretted not purchasing a slice. I actually love this glycerin soap in general because it’s super mild and the essential oil blends they use on the soaps aren’t super intrusive or garish.

Also, I enjoyed reading the story of one of the owners of the shop: “How I Got from Art Major to Business Owner.”¬† I think it’s a wonderful story of one person’s journey through life trying to balance work and business with what one loves to do… especially if that means making ‘things.’ I believe that the booming business of crafts and handmade products is no coincidence considering the fact that we live in a growing world of virtual concepts through technology.

dragonfly.jpg skull.jpgflowrshp.jpgchocmose.jpg

Oh, oh, oh….I also found the retailer of these soaps made to imitate natural gemstones.¬† At the Soap Opera, I purchased the Red Jasper soapstone for my mother as a gift. But it looks like you can get the soaps here at a discounted price. Well, my Christmas Shopping is done! And I didn’t even have to push through crowds at a mall.
blackopal.jpg jasper.jpg

Hate Index – based on internet searches

What ever happened to that old addage… if you’re going to say something bad – then don’t say anything at all. Obviously the first person who uttered this wasn’t around when the internet was in existence. This is one of the sad but unfortunate things about the internet, it gives people an ample amount of space for airing out their dislikes. Okay, I know I’m just as guilty of this as the next person on the web. Who hasn’t been at work on a bad day and typed in a phrase like “I hate work” into Google. I remember doing this when I was in a job I was having a difficult time with. There was a moment when I actually felt a little paranoid about typing this, as if someone would watch the meanderings of someone as insignificant as myself and then punish me for it, but I quickly shrugged that notion aside. Perhaps even discovering the voices of other people on the internet who felt the same way I did actually help reinforce my resolve to hammer on at work like a good corporate citizen… until I found a better job.

Today I ran across this curiousity, The Hate Index. I’m not sure how the actually qualify occurrences of what counts or how often the counts are tabulated. I question their methods of gathering data, but the whole concept is interesting if not somewhat disturbing. Do they do specific or exclusive searches by searching for the text “I+hate+hamburgers”? Also are they searching in different languages or just English?

According to this index:

  • 335,000 people hate to think
  • 111,000 hate reading (but obviously they still like posting their opinion about reading on the Internet)
  • More people (112,000) hate music than reading or math
  • More people hate America than reading, math, and spiders

Also, it’s terribly disturbing to see the intolerance of people portrayed in this list. Now, honestly, I don’t know that we should give this particular list a lot of credence (especially considering the number of ads all over it), but it is a bit of a frightening thought that through the technology of powerful searches you can basically take a litmus test of what everyone who is verbal on the net is thinking or feeling. It’s almost as if the net houses our collective opinions and thoughts. This body of feelings can become a ‘living’ entity as it grows and changes like a coral colony with the different people who add to it.
Hate Index:

Playstation Eye – Seeing Educational Possibilities?

View the details here:

So the technology is here to be able to scan drawing and input them in to a visual application… if this was improved and adapted could it be used to teach a geometry class to visualize what teachers or students were drawing? Could you theoretically teach such a class via long distances?

Just a thought.

Never mind that… the game they’re demonstrating seem pretty darn cool. Now you can draw your own spaceships or video game landscapes..or at least rough outlines of them.


Link Obsession: Overcoming Teachers’ Fears of Tech

Tech Learning Blog Rant: He makes a good point… Digital Native/Immigrant distinction may just give some teachers an excuse not the cross the bridge. If you read to the comments on this post a responder notes that some teachers fear pushing newer technologies because they fear loosing their jobs. Is this the case? Why so? Isn’t fear a kicker?

Training Teachers Who are Terrorized by Technology: This is a really helpful article about dealing with common questions or protests about using technology in the classroom. One of the questions was “how can I manage computers in the classroom?” The tech teacher notes that they actually train teachers to use applications along with the students. This way the teacher can feel comfortable about using the technology as their students use it.

Fear of Technology in Schools: Dave Chakrabarti chocks up parents (and teachers) fears of technology to the fact that parents fear the lack of control as children are more facile at using technology than they are. I don’t know about other families, but in our family, my father put our lack of fear of technology to his advantage and allowed us to set up any of the new tech gadgets we got like the VCR, the Remote Controls, etc. That way he didn’t have to read the manual and he could just have us explain how the gadgets worked. Maybe this is what parents should do with their children and new technologies… but then again that requires a great deal of trust. In Dave’s posting, dave notes that a teacher who set up a blog was blocked by the school because they though the blog’s presence on the web compromised the students’ safety. The teacher’s response was to shift her focus on to teaching safety on the internet. Smart Teacher; talk about making lemons into lemonade. That’s cool!

Technology: To Use or Infuse: This article discussed some to the common trends in tech integration into the schools and how these may have led us down wrong paths to true integration of technology for educational purposes. It’s true that computers provide us with greater opportunities to learn how to solve “open-ended” problems. Students can be presented a problem, brainstorm solutions then use the internet to gain knowledge and perhaps even contact experts to help them solve the problem.

As I read these articles I became acutely aware of my own tendencies to over-explain things when it comes to technology. Also, I think I’ve developed this automatic response to any audience – I assume that they’re going to resist the technology I propose. I feel like I’ve allowed this assumption to cloud my decision making and choices. I always opt for first teaching those who are fearful and afraid rather than also address the needs and desires of those who are already willing to learn.

Girls are just as good at math as boys

Even though I worked in a tech-field company, I can’t tell you how many times I encountered women in meetings who would shy away from any tasks that dealt with spreadsheet calculations. Granted I worked heavily in training and human resources which seemed to be female-dominated. I often heard comments like: I’m not any good at math or I was always really bad at math, let’s have so and so do that. It made my skin itch. I wasn’t particularly skilled at it either, but I was willing to try to learn how. I actually learned that I had a love for using spreadsheets to calculate and and report out data visually. Used ratio and proportion calculations on a near daily basis to recreate objects to scale. When I was working as an elementary school teacher in the Ninties, I heard similar self-disparaging comments from women. It made me cringe because these were the same people who were teaching math to the girls (and boys) in their classroom. Some of those self-doubts, fears and inhibitions were probably rubbing of on those girls.

How many of those women had math skills that they applied in some of the other everyday tasks and efforts that they did in tasks and crafts that were/are traditionally thought of as belonging to female roles: Sewing, knitting, cooking? These arts used geometry, calculations, proportions, etc. What builds my ire up even more is that America is probably the only developed nation where the stereotype that women are less capable or adept at mastering math is so prevalent. Many researchers and math education experts are now saying that WE MUST STOP MAKING THESE SELF-DISPARAGING COMMENTS about our inability to master math. Saying these things in front of young individuals both male and female perpetuates the stereotype that women are naturally not as talented and capable of being skilled in Math than men.

I did have the opportunity to work with a few female middle school math teachers and they were absolutely inspiring. I had the good fortune to work side-by-side with a teacher who put a huge investment in the curriculum she chose to teach to her students. She chose one that not only helped her students see and interpret math in both their own lives and the real world, she worked in conjunction with the Science, English and Social Studies teachers to develop an integrated curriculum which had themed foci that the kids could relate to. Also, just plain and simple – she conveyed a passion for math and she served as a role model for the girls in her course.

Math Resources for Teachers and Parent of Girls:

I found some terrific resources for parents and teachers on ERIC. I also found an excellent podcast on NPR Science Friday on the importance of getting more girls interested and building their confidence in Math. The podcast features an interview with Danica McKellar actress and math spokesperson who authored a book designed to encourage middle-school girls to be more confident and resolved to learning math and succeeding in math. Danica sounds so passionate about the subject but what I really respect and admire about her is that she openly says… it’s okay to be a girl and show that you’re smart! (Funny, how in this day and age that this is still and issue).
Gender-Fair Math: A short overview of the crisis and issues surrounding the lack of female interest in mathematics. There are some really good suggestions for helping build girl’s self-confidence.

Add-Ventures for Girls: Building Math Confidence: a huge (348 page) guide for Junior High Teachers. I’ve only skimmed through the first chapters.
Encouraging American Girls to Embrace Math – NPR Podcast with interviews with Danica McKellar and Members of the Womens’ Math Olympiad Team

Danica McKellar’s Website – Check out the Section for the book Math Doesn’t Suck.

Biographies of Women Mathematicians


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