Ending on an Up Note: Walking the (Dead) Dog

When did zombies become so trendy? This cartoon from Doug Savage’s regular web feature Savage Chickens seems apropos.


Enjoy your (spooky) weekend.


Classhack: Show ’em the Curve

bendaroosToday’s classhack is a gift from Bonny Prudhomme, professor of mathematics at our college. We recently featured Bonny’s “Math Aerobics” strategy for helping students understand aspects of graphing equations. We had some Bendaroos® (“Amazing Flexible Bending Sticks!®”) stashed in our office, and we wondered if they might be used for the same purpose.

Bonny uses laminated 4-quadrant graphs and the Bendaroos® to illustrate transformations and reflections for graphed curves. First, she writes an equation on the board and asks students to generate a parent graph with a flexible stick:parentgraph

Next, students move their generated curves to a different location on the graph, depicting a transformation.transformation

Finally, students create a reflection of the original curve using the second Bendaroo® reflection

  • Sensory pleasure: This ingenious little trick features several of our pleasures in learning. The colorful flexible sticks are, well, cute, and it’s fun to stick them onto the laminated graph.
  • Solving the equation and developing the curve is an achievable challenge.
  • Because the sticks adhere to the laminated graph, students are able to show their work to one another and to the instructor (belonging to a group/owning something of value).
  • Students are surprised by how much fun this exercise can be, and there is some gentle humor as they correct any errors.
  • Finally, students experience autonomy in their learning when they actively create the curves rather than merely watching an instructor do the work.

Can you think of some ways to integrate Bendaroos® into your classes?

This Boom Box Makes Good Music

anneWe all remember the ’80s, right? At the movie theater, the 1980s was the decade of the blockbuster. The popular culture of the 1980s reflected the era’s political conservatism. For many people, the symbol of the decade was the “yuppie” (belonging to a group): a baby boomer with a college education, a well-paying job and expensive tastes. Reaganomics. The “Cold War”. John Lennon was assassinated (surprise…of the worst kind). The Rubik’s Cube was introduced (achievable challenge). Pac Man was the video gamers’ challenge. Mt. St. Helen erupted. “New” Coke hit the market (sensual pleasure). The Berlin Wall fell. The space shuttle Challenger exploded. Halley’s Comet passed by. Michael Jackson released Thriller. ET was the most popular movie. All children (and adults) wanted the Cabbage Patch Kids (owning something of value)!boombox

Now, what hasn’t been mentioned? Of course, the BOOM Box! Many relics of the ’80s are gone forever, but the boom box lives on in the office that I occupy. As inhabitants of the BOOM(er) BOX, my colleagues and I share a very special relationship. In fact, you don’t find one like this very often. First, we are all products of the “baby boomer” generation (UGH!). Second, we all grew up in the roughly the same geographical location, with the same education and similar values. Third, we all have a deep conviction  that a good education is vital for our young people. And yes, fourthly, we like to have fun, with a capital “F”!

Baby_Boomers_Social_MediaWe refer to ourselves as the “boomer box” for many of these reasons, although some days we could be “Three Blind Mice” or “The Three Stooges”! – Who knows which group will appear each morning? On a more serious note, the one thing that makes our situation advantageous for the students is that we draw from of one another’s educational backgrounds. Call it team teaching, collaboration, support group, or stealing one another’s ideas – whatever fits the situation. By the way, we all have gray hair to prove our status!

Most every workshop, seminar, or professional development session will strive to include sessions on how to integrate different disciplines into the educational arena. Some of these, as you know, can be boring. Yet without  consciously trying – we did it! We are quite unique. Our group consists of an English teacher, an Anatomy and Physiology teacher and a Psychology teacher.8d370fd3bc12c107582a1f5d67181f59 How different could these subjects be? This is where the magic happens. We have fun, we use each other’s ideas to incorporate different concepts into our classes, and we use these subjects to help students see the relationship between different disciplines. We support each other, applaud each other and provide a non-judgmental atmosphere to work in. (Not to mention playing vintage music and having sing-a-longs periodically.)

Isn’t this what education is all about? Speaking for myself, it is amazing how much I have learned from my two office mates. I have used so many of their ideas and methods in my classes. (Don’t let them know!). This experience has made all the difference in the way I approach some topics.

Maybe you need to create a group of colleagues who use different approaches. See if you don’t have the same experience that we have found. You, t0o,will find that education will take on a completely different meaning.

To borrow a phrase from Martha Stewart – Differences are a good thing! See you between the lines!


Tech Tuesday: Pleasure in Technology

Each Tuesday, pleasureinlearning brings you Tech Tuesday.  Come back each week for more ways to become efficient and effective in your use of technology. 


Over the last few months I’ve done a number of series on Tech Tuesday, but today I’m feeling rather tired of what I’ve been writing. To break up the monotony, I’ll tell you why I find pleasure in learning about technology. Why do you find pleasure in your discipline?

Even babies have cool tech apparel.

Technology is an achievable challenge to me.  It’s rare I meet a problem I can’t solve with some heavy duty Googling.

Can you really hate technology when the humor inherent in the discipline is so excellent? Who else gets to consider textbooks with the title of RTFM: Red Team Field Manual (a hat tip to an old tech saying, “Read the F***ing Manual”)? I’ll be the first to admit that the practitioners in my field tend to be pretty crass, but you can’t beat the t-shirts.

You don’t have to look far in my field to find friends and a sense of belonging. Technologists tend to be a breed all their own…a breed that has always had trouble fitting in and is thus anxious to find like-minded souls. One email exchange is often enough to get you a LinkedIn request!

If you know how to work on cars, how to buy/fix/use computers, and how to cook your own food, you can save thousands and thousands of dollars over your lifetime.  A knowledge of technology has definable value.

Closely related to the value of my technology knowledge is the resultant autonomy that I have. I’ve never taken a computer to Best Buy for service. I’ve never replaced a computer because it had a virus. I often own my computers until the hardware is no longer supported by the latest operating systems and software. I rely on myself for my technology needs.

What about you?


Indirect Learning

B picI never gave the violin much thought until my wife, Tandy, took it up half a year ago. Her teacher, Rachel Crick (formerly Rachel Brown) has assigned her to play in a recital this December. Rachel is a former English 101 student from 2008 and plays in the local group “The Elliot Howard Band,” easily found on Facebook.

It’s customary for a student to listen to various renditions of a song, made possible by YouTube. Learning has definitely changed because of the computer and social media. Anyone can go out to the world. I often sit and listen as well, and Tandy will comment on this or that YouTube.violin1

She often comments also on how playing is affected by audience. It’s one thing to practice alone, another if someone is present – like me. Recently she’s played for family groups or friends. The hardest person to play for is Rachel when at a lesson.

perlmanSaturday afternoon, I thought, “I haven’t listened closely to Itzhak Perlman, and he’s one of the world’s great violinists.” Getting situated on the sofa with the iPad, I chose his YouTube of Tchaikovsky’s “Violin Concerto in D.” The camera remained close on Perlman, only occasionally panning the orchestra. The view of his fingers in itself was mesmerizing, along with the brilliant playing and majesty of the selection.

Turning to Tandy as she worked the weekend crossword puzzle, I said, “I wouldn’t be listening to this if you didn’t play the violin.” She’s the one who takes violin, but indirectly, interesting violin-related pleasures come my way.listening

Listening to Perlman also tied into a vivid first grade memory from the 1950s when my dad came in with a stack of LP records just purchased, including “Porgy and Bess,” Marty Robbins’ “Gunfighter Ballads,” and – Tchaikovsky’s “Violin Concerto in D.” I played those albums countless times.

Saturday made a new memory with the IPad and Perlman’s rapturous playing, while from the mind of a child, an old memory waved from the past.


Ending on an Up Note: Battling Ignorance

malala-yusafzai-940x566“Let us pick up our books and our pens,” I said. “They are our most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world.”

Malala Yousafzai, I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban

Malala Yousafzai is the co-winner of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize and is the youngest recipient ever.
We can honor her courage by learning something new and improving our classes.
Have a nice weekend.

Classhack: Quiz Show

DaveJeopardy1Today’s class hack is a gift from Jason Lee, who teaches information technology classes at our college. Jason has found that friendly competition can contribute to pleasure in learning, so he uses a technique borrowed from one of television’s longest-running game shows, Jeopardy. Using a format similar to the popular quiz show, Jason helps his students acquire and retain information relevant to his subject. He’s found that attention spans are longer and energy levels higher when students participate in the game.

Interested in trying this strategy in your classes? You can download customizable templates by clicking these links: