Monday, November 24, 2008

Thanksgiving Day Teaching Resources

Yep, the big turkey day approaches! If you will be sharing information about the holiday with your learners, you might enjoy browsing these resources for teachers and students.

Larry Ferlazzo has already put together a comprehensive list of ESL resources on his "Best Sites to Learn and Teach About Thanksgiving". Thanks to Larry, who always does a great job sifting the wheat from the chaff on the web, I have very little to add.

Although not particularly fancy, here is a straightforward Power Point slideshow telling the story of the first Thanksgiving that you might like (click the image of the Mayflower to load it).

Also, I don't remember seeing Plimoth Plantation's "You are the Historian" site listed on Larry's page, so I'll recommend that one as well, then wish you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving. See you in December!

Wild Turkeys by teddy llovet used under Creative Commons license.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

News For You Online--Now with Audio!

If you work with adult learners (native or non-native English speakers) with limited literacy or language skills, you should know about News For You. News For You is a weekly newspaper written specifically for adult learners. It features real news stories written with easier vocabulary and sentence structure than you find in typical newspapers. You can subscribe to the paper to have it delivered to your classroom.

Now, the online version of News For You also has audio options. You can listen to entire stories, or click on any sentence in the story to hear just that sentence. This is a great fluency reading exercise, and helpful to learners who want practice with English pronunciation.

For teachers, there are classroom ideas and teachers' guides to accompany every issue. Enjoy!

Friday, November 14, 2008

YouTube more mainstream than ever, when (and how?) will schools get on board?

The newest sign that YouTube has gone mainstream: President-Elect Obama will now be using YouTube videos to communicate with the American public. The first in this series is already available--Valerie Jarrett of his transition team "provides a web-exclusive update on recent personnel decisions and the latest steps taken on ethics reform". Click here to read more from the Associated Press about Obama's YouTube initiative. The video is embedded below.

Still, many school districts block YouTube, fearful both of its uncensored content and the bandwidth consumed by watching videos online.

But if YouTube is the serious media of the future, at some point, educational institutions are going to need to come to grips with it. Students, especially the adult students we serve, should have access to view messages from the Presidents' office. If that's not an "appropriate use of technology", I'm not sure what is. How then can we provide access to educationally-appropriate content on YouTube while preventing the waste of tax-payer resources on the sea of garbage which is also available on YouTube? I don't have any answers, but I'd sure like to hear your comments.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Hey! Where can I get one of these?

Seriously, friends, I love Flickr Creative Commons! It's all about share and share alike, just like you learned in Kindergarden. Get out there, take pictures, and upload them to Flickr with a Creative Commons license. Together we can build the greatest collection of free-to-use photos in history.
Photo "Computer Geek Award" by Flickr user eecue.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Remembering Veteran's Day

On Veteran's Day, November 11th, the anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended World War I (then called "the Great War") I would like to take a moment to remember a couple of veterans in my life: my father, who served in Korea, and my cousin, who is now in Iraq and has already served two tours of duty in Afganistan. For them and for all who serve and have served this country, thank you.

And thank you to Flickr user Cliff1066 for this lovely photo of the Korean War Memorial in Washington D.C., which I somehow missed on my speed-walk tour of the capital last month. I'm sorry I accidentally bypassed the Memorial but I'm glad I can at least get a pedestrian's eye view through the magic of Web 2.0 and photo sharing.

For those of you who are new to Flickr and want to find great images to illustrate your work, sign up for a free account and then search the Flickr Creative Commons. For more about Creative Commons licenses, check out:

Also, check out the History Channel's website on Veteran's Day. They've put together some resources that could be really useful for social studies and history teachers.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Thoughts on Voting... and Voting Technology

I went to vote this morning before coming to work. I arrived at 8:30 a.m. to find a line out the door, around the corner, and a quarter of the way down the block. Wow! I thought that the morning rush would have been over by that time. But everyone seemed to be taking the wait pretty well and be excited to exercise their right to vote. In the end the wait wasn't that bad; although the line was long it kept moving along at a good clip and I was able to vote about 50 minutes after arriving at my polling place.

Inside I was surprised to see a number of people gathered around the same-day voter registration table. I was surprised since my precinct always has high turnout (in 2004 I believe it was 90% or better) so I didn't expect to see so many people in my precinct who weren't already registered! I'm so proud to live in Minnesota where we have such a clean, efficient, and inclusive voting system. I'm particularly pleased with the technology that we use here--the optical scan paper ballots. They're great for a number of reasons:

1) As a voter, you get a real paper ballot to hold in your hand and mark with a pen (rather than relying on a punch-card system or some such to mark it for you). There should be no question that you really voted for the people you wanted to vote for.
2) The optical scanner reads and records votes quickly and accurately.
3) If there is a question about the accuracy of the voting results, a hand-count can be done because voters have completed real paper ballots.

Combining this accurate, reliable and efficient technology with progressive policies (e.g. same-day voter registration) is the reason that Minnesota consistently has among the country's highest voter turnout rates (check out results from the Secretary of State's office here!) and yet lowest incidence of irregularities and complaints. Hoorah for Minnesota! How fabulous is it to live in the United States and the great state of Minnesota, where voting rights and responsibilities are taken seriously and exercised with care!