28 February 2012

Class Act

While I was on the deep south side yesterday, I was treated to an odd and ridiculous occurrence.  I was standing in the principal's office, setting up a cart of new iPads when a parent comes into the office right outside the door.  Not only does he have a dip in (tough to hide it when it is the size of a golf ball) and our school campuses are tobacco-free zones, but he is carrying his spitter with him.  And using it.  No one says anything to him and he obviously is a regular because the office manager knows him and they strike up a friendly conversation.  The principal also stops to say hi on his way by.  The whole time the dude is spitting into an empty Sprite can.  Thumbs down.

26 February 2012

Exploring Iowa

I saw this article in the Register today about a 61 year-old retired stock broker who has pretty much seen every corner our great state has at this point.  He's visited every town...all 1,191 of them.  Pretty impressive although I would opt for seeing fewer towns and spending a bit more meaningful time in them, but whatever works I guess! 
So I thought I'd check on how I would do on seeing all 99 counties.  Turns out I still have quite a way to go.  I think I have 38 left to see.  Looking at the quick map I made, after you shade the paths from traveling I-80 and I-29 from border to border, I haven't gotten out much to the corner areas.  A couple trips to Burlington and Dubuque helped and I had an underwriting territory in north central Iowa when I first started at the insurance factory.  I guess that means there is lots of Iowa left to see for me.  Hopefully riding a RAGBRAI will cross a few more off. 
As I was looking at the Iowa map in detail I started making some trivia questions but I quickly scrapped the idea as it was making me work too slow, but here are the first few questions I came up with.  Score yourselves and the answers are in the comments.
  1. Where is the highest point in Iowa? (Bonus if you know the elevation)
  2. What organization does BNSF stand for?  (Bonus if you know its parent company)
  3. What town is home to the Grotto of the Redemption?
  4. Name the town for each of these IIAC colleges:
    • Buena Vista
    • Simpson
    • Central
    • Luther
    • Loras
    • Wartburg
    • Bonus: Only one of the colleges matches the name of its country. Which is it?
  5. Name the county for each of Iowa's state universities: Iowa, Iowa State, Northern Iowa.
  6. What major roadway is the Iowa Veterans Cemetery beside? (Bonus: what exit?

24 February 2012

Fewer Kick Returns

Looks like kickoffs will be teed up on the 35 yd line this coming season instead of the 30 (therefore more touchbacks, fewer returns) and a touchback will be spotted at the 25 yd line instead of the 20.  (shorter scoring drives, more points).  This, along with several other adjustments, is meant to reduce injury.  Side effects may include reducing the importance of kick & kick cover special teams, making kicking out of bounds even more costly (the receiving team would get to start on the 40)  and by reducing the number of kicks returned, depriving the crowd of one of the more electric aspects of the game.

22 February 2012

Chicken Stock Cubes

I made a couple recipes out of Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen last weekend.  Pepian verde de pollo and Arroz verde al poblano.  They tasted great, but it was the greenest plate of food I've ever had.  I always enjoy his recipes. Trying out some new ingredients and techniques.  I love pumpkin seeds so it was great to try out Mexican ones, toasting them and them blending them into a sort of green mole.
You cooked up a whole chicken with onions, carrots, bay leaves and such before putting it with the sauce, and you use a few cups of the resulting chicken stock in the sauce but there is quite a bit leftover.  I had seen a tip a while back about putting pesto into ice-cube trays and freezing to have serving sizes amounts to reheat and I thought that might work out well for this.  So I used some glasses that held a cup each, poured out the stock, froze it and put the 1 cup chunks in a freezer bag. Now I'm ready to use them for making rice, soup or whatever!

21 February 2012

Boom! Boom boom chic!

Came across a playlist yesterday on one of my regular music blog check-in that really got me laughing.  It's called "Boom! Boom boom chic!" and the original mix was published in February 2010, he made some additions and deletions in March and came out with version 3.0 in October.  Between the three of them, there are probably 30 or so songs.  I'll leave it to you to figure out what the title means, but it will probably only take hearing the first few seconds of a few songs. 
I thought it was a pretty fantastic effort to gather this list and on top of that, there are some great tracks in there!

17 February 2012

Megan Black


The Iowa HS State wrestling tournament started yesterday and like many of those following it, I have been reading about Megan Black's return to the tournament for the second year.  She is a junior who transferred to Eddysville-Blakesburg from Ottumwa and was one of two girls who qualified for the state meet.  The first two ever.  She is a tough farm girl from a wrestling family (her younger brother also qualified this year) who dropped a weight class this year, competing at 106 pounds.  In her opening match yesterday, she beat her opponent 10-0.  I can't imagine how many nay-sayers she has had to put up with over the years.  Congrats & good luck to her!
[photos courtesy of DM Register] 
[edit.  She lost her second round 6-3, video clips and interviews with her and the guy from Underwood who beat her. She was able to pick up a 4-0 win in her first wrestleback match before getting pinned in the next one, but she will be on the medal stand, which was her goal.  She has a match today to determine the place.]

16 February 2012

Jobs For USA

You may or may not recall that I posted back in November about getting a Jobs for USA bracelet from Starbucks.  Starbucks just announced that in the first three months, they distributed half a million wristbands and raised $7M+.  And unemployment is down. :)

15 February 2012

Jordis Unga Returns

While I was in Chicago my gf at the time and her friends were all friends of and groupies for the band the Lovehammers.  Even during my short stay in the Windy City, I caught over a dozen shows, partied with them at their house, some bars and even a wedding.  They were more rock than I usually listen to but I was and am a fan.  Shortly after I moved back from Chicago the reality show Rockstar:INXS debuted and the lead singer for the Lovehammers, Marty Casey, was one of the contestants.  I am not a fan of reality TV, even reality cooking shows, but this show became the only one that I would watch from start to finish.  Marty ended up coming in as runner-up and had some great performances along the way.  ("Wish You Were Here", "Mr. Brightside", "Take Me Out")After a few shows though, my favorite contestant became Jordis Unga, Twin Cities-based, dread-locked with a big voice and fun personality.  (Check out "Man Who Sold the World", "Knocking On Heaven's Door" or "The Reason")She still has several tracks on my iPod but after the show ended (she made the final five) I pretty much lost track of her....until this week.  I was browsing my Facebook feed and saw the Lovehammers had given a shout out to Jordis, so I followed the link and it turns out she is now a contestant on the Voice and got picked by Blake Shelton for her pretty fantastic cover of Paul McCartney's "Maybe I'm Amazed".  Well I was definitely amazed to see her on TV again and although I don't watch the Voice and don't plan to start, I will defintely be following her progress.  Good luck Jordis!

14 February 2012

Happy Valentines!

I saw these two valentines on the Freakonomics twitter feed this morning and loved them.  The girl who designed them has 14 economic v-day cards but these two were by far my faves.
This first one is out of sight.  Comparative advantage can be a difficult concept to teach and this is a wonderful example.  Two entities each have a comparative advantage in one product (fun or happy) and when the two specialize and engage in trade they are both able to achieve higher levels of fun AND happy than they would be able to on their own.
The second uses the production possibilities curve, which is an easy visualization showing all possible production combinations along the curve.  Anything inside the curve shows resources being underutilized or ineffecient production.  Anything outside the curve is, well, as it states, impossible.  :)
Enjoy a  happy Valentine's day!

13 February 2012

Rebranding Teaching

When two or more things that I like come together in a new collaboration, that is what really gets me excited.  You love them separately, how awesome will they be together!  (I was going to put together this long funny list of synergizing collaborations that get me excited but I ended up scrapping it).
So this is the newest one...the profession of teaching AND design & branding.  BOOM!!!
I know.  It's fantastic and long overdue.  We don't need any more pictures of chalkboards, apples, schoolhouses, denim jumpers, etc.  Education is a changing field that is vital to our country's future.  We need to be enticing bright young minds to consider the vocation, not make them recall what it might've been like to be a third-grader in the 50's!
This happened when a Massachusetts teacher submitted a request to NYC public radio's Studio 360, a  program that rethinks culturally significant items.  GOOD has a nice article on it. Hyperakt, a design studio, took up the challenge and put together some super cool things.  You can see more detail on their website or on the newly created InspireTeachers.org site.  (And I encourage you to do so.  I don't think GOOD chose the best pieces for their article).  The project has become the most popular thing Hyperakt has been a part of.  The pdf download of their full presentation is insightful to see what a design presentation looks like and it sheds light on how the ideas evolved.  The regional branding is cool and I love the yellow poster...Broaden Horizons, Teach Human Migration, Nurture Brilliance, Help Potential Blossom.  So cool.  All images are free and downloadable.  So add a little positive branding to your classroom or website!

09 February 2012

5 pieces of advice...

Fr. Jim Martin is the most social media-tapped in Jesuit that I know and he regularly puts out things that I find value in.  As mentioned before, I read one of his books ("My Life with the Saints") recently and there was so much in it that I was a little worn out by the end of it.  I saw this article from Fr. Jim today and thought it did a nice job of taking a selection of the points from his book and boils it down into five pieces of advice. 
  1. Allow Yourself to be Human
  2. You Don't Have to be Someone Else to be Holy
  3. You're Not Married to Everyone
  4. Don't Let Anyone Prevent You From Becoming the Person You Want to be
  5. You're Not Jesus
Simple yet significant points that are great for quiet reflection and just in time for Lent.  While #3 & #5 seem to have a lot of crossover and I like them a lot, #4 is my favorite.  I would make that into a poster and post it in my classroom if I still had one.

07 February 2012

var Coding = "fun!";

As a technology teacher, I've felt that we spend too much time "teaching" keyboarding, Powerpoint, Word, etc. We need to think more creatively and incorporate some of that into core classes and integration those tech lessons.  Doing so might allow for more time in tech classes to teach coding and programming languages.  This is an area that is critical now and will only become more-so.  There is lots of concern about building up the offerings and rigor of these areas in our schools. 
A friend recently sent me the link to Codecademy, an online tool that teaches JavaScript coding.  I am hooked.  My friend said the difficultly increases quickly but it is fun for now and I think it would be a great tool for adults or kids that wanted to learn the basics. 
There are a lot of online tools listed on this page and Google has their Code University for HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

05 February 2012

Snowy Saturday

I was starting to worry that I wouldn't be able to try out the new snow boots that I'd gotten back in November.  So I was pretty excited to see the snow coming day when I got out of bed on Saturday morning.  It came down pretty much all day long and I had several opportunities to bundle up, tie on my new boots (which are fantastic) and do some shoveling.  I also took a walk over to Witmer Park with Nicole to see what was going on there.  Kids sledding with their dads and dogs, a few snowmen had taken shape, we contributed a couple snow angels, threw snowballs and had a good time on the swingset.  So lots of fun out in the wintery wonderland and the other key activity on snow days is good cooking and we had that covered too.  Madras curry on Friday night and meatball subs on Saturday were both delicious.  Now off to make some Oriental Chickpea soup...

03 February 2012

A Peek inside the Office

Two pictures I snapped earlier this week in my office...
This first one shows the jade plant that I have had for about four years or so.  It lived in my classroom, even when it was stuck beside a super drafty window during the winter but all of a sudden it just started dropping all of its leaves and sort of leaned over.  I tried more water, closer to the window, no response.  I'm guessing it was just its time.  Not sure on the cause of death, but it will be missed.  
This other one is what my desk looked like at one point and I just thought it was ridiculous so I took a picture. 

01 February 2012

Everything is Amazing & Nobody's Happy

A co-worker sent me this video today.  And I got additional enjoyment out of it because it was so timely, especially the part about "just give it a second!"  We are (hopefully) winding up this migration of all the email in the district and I was working with an office manager at a high school today and, no exaggeration, I used some variant of "if you give it a second", "it'll take a minute to populate", "just be patient" at least SIX times with this one person in about a two minute span. 

Tech Article Round-up

I wrote this and sent it around at work today and thought I'd put it out here too.  

I wanted to share four articles I’ve came across recently that might be of interest.  Some are about iPads, some about 1:1 programs, some just about the relationship between tech & pedagogy. 

Written by Charlie Roy, principal of Peoria Notre Dame HS in IL.  They have been using MacBooks for two years in their HS and he shares a few key lessons learned as well as a couple of their struggles.  The most interesting part to me was in the comment section where he shared the PD sessions that their teachers went through in the year leading up to the rollout.

A very short article that gets at an important issue for schools that have some iPads but not a full 1:1 setting (that is most of us I think.)  It also alludes to the fact that, for the iPads to really come alive and transform the learning process, they need to used more deeply than just simply having “drill”-type apps.  They are just as powerful as a computer so we need to strive for higher levels of Bloom’s; using them to create, not just to remember or identify.

Continuing that same theme, this is from a 4th-5th grade teacher in Chicago Public Schools with a classroom set of 32 iPads.  She is talking about taking those steps, often scary, to transform your classroom and your teaching.  “The problem, I began to realize, was my own understanding of how the iPads should be utilized in the classroom. I had seen them as a supplement to my pre-existing curriculum, trying to fit them into the structure of what I’d always done. This was the wrong approach: To truly change how my classroom worked, I needed a technology-based redefinition of my practice.”

This article is a bit longer.  It shares the combined experiences and thoughts, in six critical areas, from two Florida HS’s that implemented iPad 1:1 programs.  The basic IT info (cost, network concerns, management, etc) is good but the key parts are under Philosophical Framework and Pedagogy (on Page 3), “It is our experience that schools must answer one important question: "Why are we doing this?" In our estimation, the answer to the question largely determines the success of your program.” 
I also think it is great that their first critical area is leadership, “Perhaps the most critical, yet overlooked, issue related to technology deployments is leadership….It is our experience that launching an iPad program requires a champion with sufficient positional power to command the attention of all constituents within the school community, including the head of school, faculty, IT staff, parents, students, and community leaders.”