It’s the End of the World as they know it

I still remember the first time I heard the Mayan theory of the end of time. I was in middle school. I don’t remember what we were studying, I actually think it was one of those things that a teacher taught in one class and it spread throughout the school, kind of like what a […]

I still remember the first time I heard the Mayan theory of the end of time. I was in middle school. I don’t remember what we were studying, I actually think it was one of those things that a teacher taught in one class and it spread throughout the school, kind of like what a wenis is. But I remember thinking, that’s within my lifetime, but still a long time off. That’s ok. Well it’s just a few months away now, and as the time grows closer, so does the hype. Today’s infographic shares just who believes the end of the world is near.

With all of these tv shows and movies about the end of the world over the past few years, it is surprising to me that more people don’t believe in the Mayan calendar “prediction.” One in seven believe it will in within their lifetime, but only one in ten believe it will end this year. And it is generally in other countries that this is believed. It is also generally believe by those under the age of 35 (low life experience), with a low income, and a low education.

Now how can you use this infographic in your classroom. Study the ways Americans believe the end of the world will come. Many say it will be a natural disaster, a human disaster, or some sort of combination (such as a pandemic). In science, discuss what sort of natural disaster would be necessary to bring down the entire United States. In history, look into historic events, such as the Spanish Flu after WWI, and see how something like this could affect the world as it is today. And finally, share with your students how to reasonably prepare for these events. Have an evacuation plan with your family, and tell them to wash their hands and take care of themselves!

Blog: http://goo.gl/xCAkl

It’s What I’ve Learned…

skitched-20111028-072827.pngBrenda and I went to a book signing last week at the celebrated independent bookstore, Quail Ridge Books & Music. It was Lions of the West, which has apparently already received much acclaim, Raleigh’s News & Observer saying the author “..should be declared a national treasure.” ((BARNHILL, A. C. (2011, Oct 16). Morgan looks westward through eyes of history. News & Observer. Retrieved from http://goo.gl/gFw4V))

North Carolina born Robert Morgan, spent about 40 minutes of that evening reading from a simultaneously published book of poetry, stemming from his research for Lions of the West, but most of that time talking about the history of America’s westward growth.

Known as a “poet, novelist and short-story writer” ((Department of english at cornell university. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.arts.cornell.edu/english/people/?id=97)) and recipient of an Academy Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Cornell University English professor has written one other history, a similarly acclaimed biography of the nearly mythical American icon, Daniel Boone (Boone: A Biography). Lions of the West starts with Thomas Jefferson, and the Louisiana Purchase, which included

…all of present-day Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska; parts of Minnesota that were west of the Mississippi River; most of North Dakota; nearly all of South Dakota; northeastern New Mexico; northern Texas; the portions of Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado east of the Continental Divide; and Louisiana west of the Mississippi River, including the city of New Orleans. ((Wikipedia contributors. (2011). Louisiana purchase. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Louisiana_Purchase&oldid=458992606))

The book ends with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which added all or part of,

..California (1850), Nevada (1864), Utah (1896), and Arizona (1912), as well as the whole of, depending upon interpretation, the entire State of Texas (1845) that then included part of Kansas (1861), Colorado (1876), Wyoming (1890), Oklahoma (1902), and New Mexico (1912). ((Wikipedia contributors. (2011). Treaty of guadalupe hidalgo. InWikipedia, The Free EncyclopediaWikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Treaty_of_Guadalupe_Hidalgo&oldid=459017384))

..and was negotiated by Nicholas Trist, Jefferson’s grandson, by mariage.

I found it interesting that a majority of people who came to hear the talk were at least as old as Brenda and I, most of them much older. This was a generation who grew up on westerns. But what became clear from this talk and much of the revisionist history that has emerged in recent years, is how little we know about this era that so defined a generation of youngsters.

And this brings me to the second thing I found interesting about Morgan’s talk. It was a compelling story that he delivered powerfully, eloquently, and certainly unhampered by the charms of his southern roots. But it wasn’t until a conversation with Brenda, during our drive home, that it occurred to me why his talk was so compelling. Brenda said that she liked the way Morgan wasn’t trying to sell the book, and I realized that it was his perspective. The story that he spun in his talk was about what he’d learned during his research.

One area he said that he dug into was Mexican history, written from that country’s viewpoint, by Mexican historians. Many of Morgan’s statements began with, “What surprised me was..” Among his surprises was that Mexico was supposed to have won that war. They were, according to European observers, far superior to the United States in almost every way. Another surprise was James K. Pope, the North Carolina born 11th president. The author now believes that Polk was one of America’s six greatest presidents. An especially unlikable man, Polk was the only president who accomplished everything he’d promised voters, including spending only one term in office. Another surprise was how many of the Indian wars actually involved Indian tribes as allies to the American “cavalry.”

But it was this angle that I think especially charmed me, that Morgan did not talk about what he knew. He spent a half hour talking about what he’d learned.

..and of course, this brings us around to one of my continuing themes, that learning, learning practices, the sharing of learning, and what you can building from your learning, are far more important today than even the very best practices of teaching.

“Here’s what I’ve learned,” I think, is a golden key for unlocking the learner-impulse in others.

Reflections on TEDxLondon: The Education Revolution

As I said in my previous post about TEDxLondon, I spent Saturday listening to and watching sixteen thinkers and doers talk about an education revolution. Their talks were divided into three parts:

  • What’s Wrong?
  • What’s Right?
  • What’s Next?
It was a metaphor for teaching and learning in today’s information landscape.

I’ll say here and first that one of the aspects of this education-oriented TEDx that impressed me was that the presenters were not all educators talking about the same thing’s they’d be talking about at an education conference. Their ideas were mostly sideways tilted, thought-provoking, and brain tickling, and typically lasted for less than ten minutes.

It started with an orienting talk from Sir Ken Robinson, videoconferenced in from his new home — Los Angeles. In that talk he said that the fundamental reasons for education were Economic (grow/sustain economy), Cultural (awareness of one’s own culture and that of others), and Personal (self-knowledge: who am I? What are my talents and aspirations? What is my future?). He said that going back to the basics means a renewed focus on these three fundamentals, not the 3Rs. Supporting this idea, a following speaker shared an African proverb that was new to me.

Unless we continue to initiate our (children) into the village, they will burn it down just to feel the heat.

Another statement that prompted my note taking was Dan Roberts, “Technology is not a new tool for learning. It’s a whole new way of learning.” it’s one of those ideas that’s a no-brainer for many of us, yet not understanding this one very simple concept is proving to be a huge barrier to transforming education. Roberts went on to say (my paraphrasing) that education will be irrelevant unless we pay attention to how kids live and learn outside the classroom and carry that into our more formal learning environment. It’s not a simple task and there is still much that we do not know about their ‘native’ learning experiences.

This was illustrated by Nick Stanhopes’ Historypin (vid).  It is probably my background as a history teacher, but this one sizzled my brain. Stanhopes said, “Every spot on the planet has an amazing column of history running out behind it,” and much of that history is recorded in photographs.

Historypin aligns collected and submitted photographs, with their stories, to a map and to current street views of specific locations. When a learner can see the image of a historic event, or even more subtle local occurrences, overlaying the spot as it is now, then history comes alive, because it gets connected.  It’s about context.

Within context, questions come, and isn’t that where you want learners to be — asking questions.  Ewan McIntosh gave a brilliantly talk about the power of questions and problems.  He said that questions are incredibly important, and that we need to do everything we can to make sure that children keep asking them.

What really wrinkled my brain was an entertaining demonstration of interactive electronic music by Tim Exile.  As he talked, he would capture the audio of various phrases, and then replay them as music with pitch, reverb, and rhythm — twisting, turning, and tapping at a wild array of electronic devices.

Then he introduced an online real time community where members uploaded sound files, and he mixed them in, creating an almost organic stew of “music.”  It was a metaphor for teaching and learning in today’s information landscape.

There was so much more that I could comment on, but the question arises, what is the education revolution?

The education revolution

  1. ..is not about new tools. It’s a new approach to learning and teaching
  2. ..does not separate knowledge, it layers knowledge
  3. The Education Revolution is understanding that learning happens best within a context that is real, has color and flavor, and provokes new questions.
  4. ..is alchemy.  It is resourcefully, inventively, and responsibly mixing information; boiling it into new knowledge, new action, new relationships, and into richer personal identities, cultural understandings, and greater opportunities.

What would you add?

Visit to the Museum

A picture of Mona Lisa rendered with spools of thread and scene through a crystal ball

It might sound more like the truth to say the Brenda got me out of my office yesterday for a visit to the museum, but it was actually my idea. The North Carolina Museum of Art has recently moved into a new building. I would love to say that it is a beautiful structure, but my most honest observation is that that it’s strange and interesting — which is often what I say about art that I like.

I’ve come to see art museums differently since some folks I met at a conference took me to a an art museum in Shanghai for a visiting collection from Europe. Three things struck me anew as I looked at those works, painted hundreds of years ago. First, I suspect that locals as they saw these works back then, must have been in awe. Pictures were probably not very common and the skill of rendering them may have seemed magical.

Secondly, I am fascinated much of the art that I see up close, because it’s like going back in time. You are looking at a scene through the eyes of someone who is there. You see that this is what they thought of themselves, not what historians think of them. I guess the history teacher in me would call it primary source documents.  But it’s a lot more organic and immediate than that.

Finally, I am astounded at the cleverness of their world, their houses, farms, towns, cities… They probably weren’t up to code, but I suspect that their houses were constant works in progress. They needed an extra room, and the found a way to add it, even if it meant digging it into a hillside.

The two biggest differences that I see between my world and the ones I saw through the eyes of those artists yesterday is that they lived without electricity and we’re living without large animals among us. 😉

– Posted using BlogsyApp from my iPad