New UT-Dallas grad: Congratulations, Kenny!

December 22, 2009

Cue the show tune, “Sunrise, Sunset.”  Quickly go the years indeed.

For the second time in our lives, elder son Kenny and I experienced a university graduation ceremony together.  This time he wore the gown, and I was the one who didn’t cry and disturb the audience.

Kenny got his diploma in neuroscience from the University of Texas at Dallas Saturday.

Here’s an almost-decent photo I got as he flew across the stage:

Kenny Darrell, Graduation at UT-Dallas 12-19-2009

Kenny Darrell speeds to get his diploma, UT-Dallas, December 19, 2009; photo copyright Ed Darrell

At the bottom of the photo you can see a fellow in a UT-D green t-shirt — the official photographer of the day.  Kenny’s elation showed so well, the photo that guy got turned up on UT-D’s website (photo #11 in the series).

[Update] Here’s the “official” photo of Kenny with UT-D’s President David Daniel.

UT-Dallas photo of 12-2009 graduation - Kenny Darrell pictured

UT-D President David Daniel shakes the hand of 2009 graduate Kenny Darrell

Some time in his high school days Kenny got the idea that he’s responsible for his own education.  At UT-D he took control of his time and learning.  His graduation is his own doing.

Congratulations, Kenny.  I have it on good authority your parents are beaming.

Nice cap to the year.

Kenny Darrell at graduation from UT-D, 12-19-2009

Kenny Darrell, graduate from UT-Dallas, December 19, 2009

Using Twitter in the classroom, for coursework

June 27, 2009

Older son Kenny nears graduation there, but we still get the newsletters to parents bragging on the school, and there is much to brag about.  The Good Folks at the University of Texas at Dallas asked us to share this story.  It’s right up the alley of a blog that worries about education, so share it I will.

After all, when was the last time you heard a teacher raving about students using their cell phones and Twitter during class? (Yes, I’m about three weeks behind the curve on this.)

Here’s the story from the press office at UTD:

ATEC Student’s Twitter Video Makes Waves

Project Documents History Prof’s Use of Popular Service as a Teaching Tool

June 11, 2009

An Arts and Technology student’s video account of a professor’s classroom experiment with Twitter is making waves on the World Wide Web, capturing thousands of viewers on YouTube and prompting an article in U.S. News & World Report.

UT Dallas graduate student Kim Smith’s video, “The Twitter Experiment,” shows how Dr. Monica Rankin, assistant professor of history in the School of Arts and Humanities, uses Twitter to engage her 90-student history class in discussion.  The communication application helps overcome the logistical issues involved in having scores of students interact in a short time span and encourages shy students to participate in the course.

“The video is a living example of what my Content Creation and Collaboration course with Dan Langendorf was all about: using emerging media technologies as a tool for education, collaboration with other fields, and documenting the experience for everyone to have access to,” said Smith.

Twitter is a social networking and micro-blogging service that lets users send and read each others’ updates, known as tweets, in short posts of 140 characters or less.   The Twitter video was a course project for Smith’s digital video class.

The video, which took roughly 20 hours to record and edit, was shot during two class periods, one at the beginning of the semester and one at the end. Classmate Joe Chuang helped with the video and editing.

The collaboration of Smith and Rankin began when Smith documented a class trip to Guanajuato, Mexico, in 2008. They kept in touch via Facebook, and developed the idea of using Twitter in the classroom at the beginning of the Spring 2009 semester.

Smith worked out details on Twitter with Emerging Media and Communication (EMAC) faculty members Dr. Dave Parry and Dean Terry, who referred her to individuals who had done similar experiments.  To get students comfortable with using Twitter in a classroom setting, Smith created a simple how-to video and attended class to help Rankin introduce the idea to her students.

The video was first released on Facebook; Terry and Parry both tweeted about it on Twitter and it went global within 48 hours.  New-media icon Howard Rheingold tweeted about it, which helped it further circulate in the “Twitterverse.”

“I have gotten several direct messages from people saying that they were more ‘traditional’ and would not have considered using the social networking and micro-blogging tools in this way, but opened their minds after seeing the video,” said Smith.

A few weeks later Smith posted the video on YouTube, and an entirely different wave of viewers picked up on it.  On Monday, June 1, “The Twitter Experiment” registered 500 views in a few hours. Read Write Web and other popular blogs had picked up the video, causing views to skyrocket.

“I love my classes and experience at UT Dallas and want to master how to use what I learn in EMAC to help professors like Dr. Rankin, who are willing to consider new technologies intelligently and experiment with what they offer,” said Smith.

Media Contact: Karah Hosek, UT Dallas, 972-883-4329,
or the Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, 972-883-2155,

UTD, where the football team is still undefeated.  Seriously, have you thought about using twitter in class, for coursework?  Please tell us the story in comments.

Meanwhile, I’m wondering just how I could make this work, in a district where cell phone use by students is against the rules (ha!), and where students are discouraged from using laptops in class.  In Irving ISD, where every high school kid gets a laptop, this could offer some great possibilities (anybody from Irving reading this; anybody try it yet?).  I’ll have to check to see if our network can handle such traffic, and I’ll have to get an account on Twitter; we have 87 minute class blocks, and smaller classes, but it’s tougher to get kids to discuss in high school.

With the layoffs in Dallas ISD, support for new technology tricks in classrooms is essentially non-existent.  Can I do this as a guerrilla teaching project and make it work before I get caught?

I may have to get some of these people at UTD on the phone.  If you’ve already overcome these problems, put that in comments, too, please.

Trail of Tears film debut at UT-Dallas, Tuesday March 10

March 8, 2009

Extra credit or field experience for your history students: Viewing of a coming PBS program on the Trail of Tears, and a panel discussion featuring R. David Edmunds, one of the advisors to the PBS American Experience crew that made the film.

The story of Saturday, May 26, 1838, a day which began an event the Cherokees would call Nu-No-Du-Na-Tlo-Hi-Lu, “The Trail Where They Cried,” will be told from a new perspective at the premiere of “Trail of Tears” at 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, March 10, in the Davidson Auditorium at the School of Management.

We Shall Remain logo
Production background information is available on the PBS We Shall Remain site.

The third film in the five-part We Shall Remain series produced by PBS’ American Experience, “Trail of Tears” takes a new look at the United States government’s forced removal of thousands of Cherokees from their homes in the Southeastern United States, driving them toward Indian Territory in Eastern Oklahoma.

Admission is free; seating is first come, first served. The film premiere will be followed by a panel discussion with We Shall Remain executive producer Sharon Grimberg; Native American filmmaker Chris Eyre; and series adviser Dr. R. David Edmunds, the UT Dallas Anne and Chester Watson Professor in American History.

Especially for AP history students, this panel should provide a lot of grist for the thinking mills on questions about civil rights, genocidal actions, duties of citizens, and migration, immigration and settlement of the U.S.

North Texas high school teachers and students have great luck living in an area that includes the University of North Texas, Texas Christian University, Southern Methodist University, the University of Texas at Dallas, the University of Texas at Arlington, and the University of Dallas.   This film premiere is one more piece of that luck.

University of Texas at Dallas history professor, Dr. R. David Edmunds will take part in a panel discussion following the premiere of Trail of Tears.

University of Texas at Dallas history professor, Dr. R. David Edmunds will take part in a panel discussion following the premiere of Trail of Tears.

It’s a compelling story that is often mistold.  According to UTD’s press office:

For years, the Cherokee had resisted removal from their land in every way they knew. Convinced that white America rejected Native Americans because they were “savages,” Cherokee leaders established a republic with a Euro-American style legislature and legal system.

Many Cherokees became Christians and adopted Westernized education for their children. Their visionary principal chief, John Ross, would even take the Cherokees’ case to the Supreme Court, where he won a crucial recognition of tribal sovereignty that still resonates.

Though in the end the Cherokees’ embrace of “civilization” and their landmark legal victory proved no match for white land hunger and military power, the Cherokee people were able to build a new life in Oklahoma, far from the land that had sustained them for generations.

Edmunds, who is of Cherokee descent, is proud to be a part of the We Shall Remain crew because the series breaks with typical portrayals of Native Americans.

“The thing that sets the We Shall Remain series apart is its ability to get away from two of the biggest stereotypes of Native Americans: the Indian as a warrior and the Indian as a victim,” said Edmunds. “The portrayal of warfare between Native Americans and whites is abandoned for a view of the very civilized, very adaptive ways of the Cherokees, as they try to assimilate to imported culture in order to remain on their lands.

“Additionally, when you see ‘Trail of Tears,’ you’ll see Native Americans as actors in their own destiny. You’ll see them make decisions, which sometimes work and sometimes don’t, but it’s all part of the American experience.”

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