TED Talks: Neurologist describes her stroke

April 20, 2008

From Think or Thwim, a TEDS Talk video of neurologist Jill Bolte Taylor, describing in that brief, TEDS way, the morning when she had a stroke on the left side of her brain. It’s a stirring talk, as she describes the loss of functions, the loss of the ability to hear, the loss of the ability to talk, and the great insights she got from the experience in her 30s — more than a decade later, after what must be described as a full recovery.

Caution to the skeptics — she veers into a bit of wooishness. It’s still worth the look. Caution to the squeamish: Yes, that’s a brain.

Psychology teachers: Can you use this in class? What a great piece in discussion of brain physiology.

Also, her book: Jill Bolte Taylor | My Stroke of Insight

Vodpod videos no longer available. from www.ted.com posted with vodpod


Okay, if the TEDS version doesn’t show above (I’ve had good experiences posting them before . . .) here’s the YouTube version

Geography bell ringer: What’s wrong with this map?

December 4, 2007

Penguin Transit Map of the World

Fun map. Readers at Strange Maps noted lots of geographical challenges in these train routes. Wouldn’t this make a great warm-up/bell-ringer, to have students find the geographical difficulties, errors and impossibilities?

And then there’s the book itself. The perfect gift for Dr. Jack Rhodes*, perhaps, or for Jim Lehrer, or someone else to whom transportation has been a great and grand pastime, as it has been for author Mark Ovenden.

Cover, Transit Maps of the World

Cool. Funny. Maybe instructive.

This would be a heckuva two-week study in geography, no? There are those great films on the construction of the New York subway system; there must be wonderful photos of the art in the Moscow system.

Or am I being too pedantic?

(Click thumbnail below for a larger view of the map.)


Tip of the old scrub brush, and go visit, Strange Maps.

* Jack Rhodes was director of forensics at the University of Utah when I was an undergraduate there — my old debate coach. He was so familiar with bus and train schedules, as a hobbyist, that we frequently tried to stump him with questions about a passing train or bus we’d see driving around the nation. To my knowledge, he always got the name of the train right, and the bus’s scheduled next stop right. You sorta had to be there, but it was an amazing series of feats of memory.


Diogenes, call your office: Honest man returns $2 million

November 25, 2007

Over 100 million boys in the U.S. have repeated the Scout Law, “Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, Reverent.”

Jerry Mika of Draper, Utah, lives it.

Jerry Mika, of Draper Utah, with $2 million check sent to him in error - Jeremy Harmon photo, SL Tribune

Mika returned a check for $2,245,342 that the State of Utah had sent him in error (see the Associated Press story in the Provo Daily Herald — photo, above, by Jeremy Harmon, Salt Lake Tribune).

Mika returned the check — a mistake that occurred when an employee entered a serial number, not an amount — to state finance offices Wednesday.

“Clearly we have an honest, honest citizen. I wish I could do something more than say thanks,” commerce department director Francine Giani said.

Can’t Utah grant him a kingdom — half of Millard County or something? A little duchy in Fillmore, Utah?

Mika, who runs the nonprofit Providence Foundation to help Nepalese sherpas, said he’s had great fun showing off the state’s mistake.

“Everybody looked at it, started giggling and asked why I wasn’t already in Switzerland,” he said.

He admits to being tempted to deposit the money and draw a bit interest before the state asked for its return.

“That money would have gone a long way,” he said.

When a company comptroller complained to me once that the $4 million in refunds to our company would mess up his quarterly bookkeeping because he expected the money in the next quarter, I volunteered to park the money in an account for him. He quickly came to his senses. At low, passbook interest rates, the $4 million would have paid $141/hour, 24 hours a day — more than $3,300 a day. A few weeks of that and you’re talkin’ big money.

Because the check was state-issued, cashing it would probably have been easy, despite the large amount, Giani said.

“It was a valid check,” said Rick Beckstead, the state accounting operation manager whose signature is stamped on the check.

How honest are you, Dear Reader? How much of a temptation would it have been to cash that check? (I’ll wager this man is a former Boy Scout; how much does that account for his actions?)

Perhaps you could reward Mr. Mika’s honesty with a contribution to the foundation he operates, The Providence Foundation.

Teachers: Can you see how to make this into a bell-ringer, warm-up exercise?

Read the rest of this entry »

From Homer, to Homer Simpson

September 26, 2007

Daumier's drawing, Thetis dipping Achilles in the River Styx

Homer Simpson and fried beignet

Images: Daumier’s drawing of Thetis dipping Achilles in the River Styx; Homer Simpson and the official fried beignet of Louisiana, credit for the latter lost, though no doubt copyrighted.

Homer to Homer Simpson: This is at least a good class warm up, if not a whole lesson plan of itself. Shades of Harry Wong, who knew there were such links?

What? Ken Jennings knew?

Tip of the old scrub brush to Alun Salt at Clioaudio, and at Revise and Dissent, for pointing to Debra Hamel at Blogographos.

Teachers’ planning: On-line sources for everything

August 24, 2007

Digital History.

Maybe not absolutely everything. But you can mine this source, the veins are rich and deep.

This is a list of sources from Digital History, a site maintained by the University of Houston. I’ve mentioned it in the past, I think — I’ve used it a lot. For example, it has a list of history museums throughout the U.S., with websites and links. It lists the sites of history journals. It lists the sites of electronic history journals.

You’ve got your lesson plans mapped out, most of them done. You’ve got the data sheets for the students to fill out, you’ve got the first week’s bell ringers all prepared. The syllabi are all resting snug in their boxes, just waiting for students, those sly little foxes.

You’re ready.

Take a minute, take a deep breath; now, go browse the Digital History resources. See what other possibilities there are.

Listen to a voice of experience

August 14, 2007

Quoting from Second Drafts, verbatim:

My mother, Charlotte, just retired in May after 30+ years teaching high school English. As this will be her first August without having to prep for school, I thought I’d better ask for her top ten teaching suggestions before she forgot them all. Here’s what she emailed me:

  1. Establish a seating chart at the beginning, but allow time for schedule changes. Some of my colleagues would allow students to sit where they wanted, and they all would end up at the back of the room. I always wanted them under my nose!
  2. Greet students cheerfully. You may be the only one to do this in their day.
  3. Have high expectations, but be realistic.
  4. Dress professionally, even though others don’t.
  5. Be alert to students whose eyes are focused on their laps – they’re probably texting!
  6. You gotta have a gimmick – a daily trivia question written on the board works well here. I always used the question cards from the Trivial Pursuit game. The first person to answer as the students come into the room gets a piece of peppermint candy, which enhances higher level thinking skills.
  7. Surprise the kids once in a while by diverting from the syllabus (Thoreau would love you for this).
  8. Be consistent in routine and discipline.
  9. Take care of discipline problems yourself, as much as you can.
  10. Be real and enjoy your students.

School starts tomorrow. Anybody else got any counsel you’d like to share?

They come in threes: Stooges, branches of government

July 25, 2007

Is it true that a survey shows more teenagers know the names of the Three Stooges than know the three branches of government?

Justice Sandra O'Connor, by Matt York, AP

Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra O’Connor warned the National Governors Association that lack of education — ignorance — threatens justice in the U.S. According to the Detroit News:

O’Connor said growing disrespect for judges and erosion of independence of the judicial branch are partly due to students not learning much about American government in school.

“The key to maintaining our system lies in the education of our citizens,” O’Connor told the 19 governors who stuck around for the final day of the summer meeting.

She added in her 12-minute speech that surveys have shown fewer teenagers can identify the three branches of government than can name the Three Stooges.

“Now I enjoy Larry, Moe and Curly, but” it’s distressing that students don’t know the most basic concepts of government, said O’Connor, a Reagan appointee who retired last year after 24 years on the high court.

But, the Three Stooges? That’s almost too perfect a quote. It seems even more fantastic when one considers that the Three Stooges are not broadcast nearly so much as they were in the 1960s, 1970s and even 1980s. Where did O’Connor get that factoid?

  • Photo: Justice Sandra Day O’Connor by Matt York, Associated Press

Read the rest of this entry »

Notes from the Sub Terrain: Basketball class

March 27, 2007

Notes from the Sub Terrain is an occasional — okay, spasmodic — set of observations from a certified teacher working as a substitute.

Basketball class

The assignment said “upper level, basic biology.” But upon arriving at the school the Sub learned the teacher to be replaced was one of the basketball coaches. The school’s team had won in the state playoffs the previous night, and the coach was assigned to scout the next week’s opposition in a game on the other end of the state. Cool.

Oh — except for this: The first hour was basketball, in the gym. The Sub wasn’t dressed for it, the Sub doesn’t play much basketball, let alone coach it. Worse, the assignment had said nothing about a first hour – the bell had just rung, and The Sub was late. What room? “Green Gym.”

Where is the Green Gym? the Sub asked. “I have no clue,” the substitute coordinator said. There are several gyms, but they are not in exactly the same place. “I think it’s near the arena.”

Trudging to the attendance office, the Sub got crude directions. Only 10 minutes late so far.

Found the Green Gym. 22 students were dutifully engaged in four different games of basketball. Notes from the coach said the students should play “pick-up” games for the period.

As the Sub walked into the gym, two students from the full-court games broke off and ran over, volunteering to help with attendance, so no roll would need to be called. There were no absences. Attendance took a couple of minutes, and the students went back to their games.

Every few minutes one of the teams in one of the games would hit 21, or some other magic number, and the game would end. When two or more games ended, the students designated different teams and went at it again. After about 20 minutes someone yelled something about getting enough water, and the students took breaks individually to get a drink.

The Sub recognized many of the kids. They were, many of them, troublemakers in other classes. Here they made no trouble. Disputes about fouls were settled quickly and amicably, and the games went go on. Good shots, or good defensive plays got vocal approval from all quarters. Hot dogging got jeers: “Just play!”

For 70 minutes the games rolled quickly. Then, without prompting, one of the students rolled out a ball cart, put a couple of balls away and headed to the locker room. Within three minutes all the balls were on the cart, the cart went into a closet, the lights were turned out and the gymnasium was empty.

The Sub wants to know why all classes can’t be that way, with the students doing the work, willingly and happily, without complaint, without prompting or prodding, and finishing and cleaning up on time.

The Sub noted that most of the students did not shower, but instead masked themselves in clouds of Axe body spray, which the Sub thought unhygienic.

The Sub said he later learned that the class was the junior varsity basketball team, mostly. He said the discipline they showed was impressive.

The varsity team won their next playoff game, and headed to the state tournament. The Sub said that if they are as disciplined in the big things as the junior varsity players are in little things on the basketball floor, they will win the state championship.

How can we restructure other classes to get the benefits of student self-discipline? the Sub wonders. Why don’t the students make the connection that discipline makes them champions in one area, and strive for similar discipline in other areas?

Why don’t the teachers, coaches and administrators make the same connection?

Literally: Can’t shut up to learn history

September 27, 2006

There should be a Congressional Medal of Honor, or something similar, for junior high school and middle school teachers. Particularly the boys can be among the most irritating creatures on Earth, above mosquitoes in a tent on a hot night, above a cat who wants you awake at 4:30 a.m. Such teachers, afflicted by kids who appear absolutely unable to be quiet long enough to allow two sentences together into their heads, face audiences more daunting than any faced by non-funny comedians, or by school boards proposing an increase in taxes.

Maturing teenage brains

Now we have the MRI images to demonstrate that it’s true, and why. Jake Young at Pure Pedantry has a post on the research (just published in Nature), with good links to the videos of the maturing teenage brain.

One theory is that teenagers are actually from a separate barbarian race. However, I suspect that there is also an underlying neurological reason for this barbaric behavior that has to do with the different rates of brain maturation in the human cortex.

The neurological changes that happen in the human brain over adolescence are described in a great article by Kendall Powell in Nature.

Alas, no sure-fire lesson plans, nor even hints of teacher survival strategies accompany the research findings.

Santayana was right: Some of these kids will be condemned to repeat history, either Texas history, or U.S. history to 1877.

Newspaper prays for drought in Nevada education funding

August 8, 2006

No sooner did I note the Nevada State School Board’s request for more money, mostly to increase teacher pay, than today’s editorial in the Las Vegas Review-Journal started shooting at the proposal, saying it has no chance to pass.

The editorial board wrote:

That the board would make such an outlandish demand is not surprising. Leading into each legislative session over the past decade, the board has prepared budgets that far exceed the state’s ability to pay. Of the board’s 10 members, six have ties to education, either through teaching positions or retirements from schools and colleges. From their perspective, schools can never have enough money, no matter how much they pull from your pockets.

The earlier story noted that the slide to the current average classroom size took several years. From the appearances of the earlier story, the state has not kept pace with funding needs in education. If the state board’s recommendations are not met one year, and they recommend full funding the next year, the recommendations will begin to look “outlandish.” As the needs continue to be unmet with funding, the need for funding grows — and usually such growth is not linear, but is instead exponential. Ten years of budget failure does not indicate that the current budget proposal is too large by any means. It would be the logical result of a state sliding in education capability. Read the rest of this entry »

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