Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Week 8 Blog #2: Tools for studying the Brain and Neurons

In the past, I have shied away from the physiology that goes along with psychology because in many cases I did not know what I was talking about or I did not know an interesting and helpful way to teach it.  When I started teaching AP Psychology I could no longer side step it, I had to at least "cover it" in class.  My methods were not always the most sound, but I have come a long way.  Here are some tools that I use when teaching about these very important concepts.

Here is a link to a The Psych Files Podcast with a Podcast Video Titled "How to memorize the parts of the brain."  In addition to being a resource to the brain, it appears to have A LOT of other great podcasts dealing with Psychology.

The following is a Youtube clip that uses cartoon mice to illustrate how heroin effects the neurons in the brain.

To play the game and explore the effects of other illegal drugs on the brain, go to Mouse Party.

This final video is an Animaniacs clip of the Brain Song.

Several of my students told me that songs like these really help them remember.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Week 8 Blog #1: Videos for Psychology

I really enjoyed putting together the list of video clips for my Geography class, so I have decided to do something similar for my Psychology class.

In AP Psychology we discuss languages and some of the complications that learners encounter.  This clip from Brian Regan really helps illustrate the complexity of some languages.

There are a lot of misconceptions out there about disorders.  I found this clip from Stephen Fry to be very informative.

Another topic we discuss is creativity in education.  Sir Ken Robinson has revolutionized the world of creativity in education.

Once we are done with this class, I intend to move all these videos into my Psychology Resource Page.

Are these videos on the right level for 10 grade through 12 grade students?

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Poll Post: One for the first day of a World Geography Class

I intend to use our mobile computer labs during class a lot more this year.  I can also have them go to the blog at home and take a poll at the end of the unit or the beginning of a new unit.  I went with the site Blog Polls.com.  Very easy to use, but I wish it let you ask more than one question at a time.

Please let me know if the Poll is working.  I tested it and now on my screen all I can see is the results of my vote, I am hoping that when others first go to my page it will show the poll, not my results.  I also checked the box to allow comments, but I didn't see a comment box.  Let me know if that works on your end.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Video Post: Three best videos for a World Geography

I love, love, love these three videos.  The first one is really sad, the second is hilarious, and the third is amazing and very thought provoking.

I have used the first video, "Ms. South Carolina" on the first day of class to introduce the importance of studying Geography (and public speech, for that matter).

I have not used the second video "What kind of Asian are you" yet, I just discovered it this summer, but when we learn about Asia, I teach a lesson about cultural awareness and stereotypes.

The final video, "The Single Story", I use in both my geography class and my psychology class to address stereotypes.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Audio Post: Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me

My wife has been a big fan of this program for a long time, but it was not until recently that I realized what a fun way it is to catch up on or test yourself on the news of the week.  Here is the most recent episode.  You can find archived podcasts on the NPR Website.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Image Post: Heaven on Earth

I was asked recently, "Describe a situation where you were at peace."  I spent three days with my wife and kids in the Uintahs a few weeks ago and it was a very peaceful outing.  Have you ever been to the Uintahs?  If you are a camper, what is your favorite camping spot?

http://www.bestourism.com/img/items/big/7322/Uinta-Mountains_The-High-Uintas Wilderness_10898.jpg

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Examining Generational Differences

After reading the prompt I was very glad that I wrote an initial post on this very question back when we read the articles.  Feel free to go back and read the complete post.  I will be a little more direct in this post and stick with the two things I came across that answered the question: 

"As educational technologists, what did you take away from these generational differences readings? How would you handle a colleague who bought into the notion of digital natives?"

I would tell him/her that I agree with the following ideas from Do generational differences matter in instructional design?:

"current generation of students entering higher education has information technology skills that
exceed those of the faculty members who will be teaching them, a trend that demands significantchanges in the way that programs, course, and learning environments are designed and implemented."

“points to keep in mind” when training the Net Generation, (p. 244):
• They read more than any generation ahead of them. 
• They are used to learning in a highly interactive way.
• The popularity and productivity of role-playing and other interactive activities work in
inverse proportion to their age. 
• The experts say that the Millennial Generation will make the Xers look like technological

But aside from that, sure they are a little more technologically savvy, but they are still humans and still need guidance and instruction.  Accept the positives that come with their "native" knowledge and use technology in smart and productive ways, but don't shy away from some from some of the old-school tried and true methods as well.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Guest Blog: 5 Tips for teaching Social Studies to At-Risk Students

I asked my wife, Carrie to be my guest blogger.  She has a degree in teaching Secondary Ed History.

I did my student teaching at an alternative high school in a small town in Utah.  My students were teenagers who were not thriving in a traditional school setting.  Each student I taught had experienced failure of some kind in learning and achieving success in school.  This added a different level of challenge to teaching these youth and required creativity and resourcefulness in presenting lesson plans. I felt strongly that my role as a teacher was to help them have confidence in their learning abilities.  The most important things I learned from my experience teaching these students are:

1. Confidence and Firmness.  Like all teenagers, at-risk youth can sense if their authority figure is easily manipulated.  

2. Preparation and organization. Preparation is crucial at all levels of teaching, but I found that at risk youth were better behaved and motivated when they felt you knew what you were talking about.

3. Flexibility/adaptability. Following the flow of discussion and being able to alter lesson plans when the occasion called for it helped the students stay engaged and interested.

4. Personalization. Personal stories were very effective when teaching about historical content.  It helped the students relate in a better way.

5. Compassion. At-risk youth can often have difficult home lives. I found myself acting as a mentor and friend to many of them who didn’t have stable role models.  They present unique challenges and compassion is an essential component in combating frustration with teaching them.  

Friday, July 12, 2013

Commentary Blog: World War Z, It's about a lot more than Zombies

Over two years ago someone gave me a copy of "World War Z" on audio book, but being somewhat of a zombie hater, I did not take the time to listen to it.  When the trailer for "World War Z" the movie came out, I must admit that I was intrigued, but still not excited about seeing a zombie movie.  Last week I talked with a friend who had seen the film and he told me that it was not a gory film, but more of a smart, "make you think", film.  Three days ago I was fishing in the Uintah mountains listening to a book about the great depression (The Forgotten Man), it was more boring than it was depressing so I scrolled through my ipod looking for something more engaging and World War Z jumped out at me.  So I listened to it, all of it, in less than a day.  It was fascinating!  One of the most interesting geo-political books I have listened to or read in a long time.  Hands down the best fictional book on geo-politics that I have read or listened to.  Now you may say, "World War Z, I thought it is a book about zombies, not geo-politics!"  The zombies are simply the backdrop for a story about human interaction and national level reactions to an unexpected threat that could destroy the entire world.

If you have seen the movie, but have not yet read the book, I suggest you go back and read the book.  It is a clever compilation of interviews with eye witnesses from around the world.  I am not an expert on geo-politics, but I do teach social studies, with an emphasis on world affairs (particularly military related events) and I was very impressed with the author's (Max Brooks) knowledge of the world.  His understanding of complex world events is best illustrated by the interviews with an Israeli Intelligence Expert and a Palestinian youth.  If I could get past some of the audio-visual policies at our school I would have my students listen to those two interviews during our unit on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

I would strongly recommend this book (not necessarily the movie) to anyone who is interested in world history, geo-politics, and or military studies.  The other book that comes to mind that affected me on the same level was "Starship Troopers".

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Discussion Question: Student vs. Teacher Centered Classroom?

So, I am a little old-school and I had some amazing professors in college who could hold hundreds of students spell-bound for 60-90 minutes on a regular basis.  They used a lot of great visual aids, but the class was all about listening to them and taking notes.  I can still remember the amazing lessons that I learned from them over 15 years ago.  I have found that I have tried to model this style with some success.

My dilemma is that today's educational buzz word (or concept) or the new panaceia  for learning is student centered learning where teachers give a little context, provide a lot of resources, and then turn students loose to work on projects, group assignments, self paced research, etc.  The teacher then wanders the room answering questions and keeping students on task.

I must also add that taking EDTECH has not helped my insecurities regarding my preferred teaching style.  While EDTECH allows for and encourages great one on one interaction between teachers and students, it does not promote the traditional teacher centered lesson plan.

I believe that both approaches can be good and it is definitely not an all or nothing question.  But what is the right balance between the two?  What do you think the main strengths and weaknesses of both approaches are?

List Post #2: Mr. Stevenson's Top 5 Foreign Films

I require my World Geography students to watch 4 foreign films while they are in my class.  Every term I get several students asking me what films I recommend.  So this list post will go well with my World Geography blog.

1.  To Live:  I am a huge fan of Chinese films and this one is amazing (amazingly depressing).  It follows the life of a lady throughout the Communist take over of China.
2.  Not One Less: This is another Chinese film that is less depressing.  A young teen is made the substitute teacher for her rural classroom and told by the teacher to ensure that all the students are there when he gets back.
3.  The Way Home: This a Korean film about a spoiled little boy who is sent to live with his crippled Grandmother.
4.  Turtles Can Fly:  This is another really sad movie about Iraqi refugees near the Turkish border in 2003.
5.  Happy People: A year in the Taiga This is actually a documentary about the lives of Hunters and Trappers in the middle of Siberia.

For more mature audiences I would also recommend:
1.  Raise the Red Lantern
2.  Cinema Paradiso
3.  Stalingrad
4.  City of God
5.  J.S.A

Foreign Films for Extra Credit (these were released in major theaters throughout the US)

1.  Life is Beautiful
2.  Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon
3.  Hero
4.  Slumdog Millionaire
5.  The Kite Runner

Friday, July 5, 2013

List Post: Top 5 Reoccurring Geopolitical Hot Spots for the US!

I was asked to speak at a 4th of July Flag Raising Ceremony yesterday and as I was preparing my remarks I reflected on our past wars.  This may sound a bit ignorant coming for a World Geography teacher and a Military Officer, but the reality hit me in the face that from the end of WWII through the the 1970s all of our large scale wars were fought in East and SouthEast Asia.  Since then, all of our large scale military conflicts have been in Central and Southwest Asia (AKA the Middle East).  We have had some small scale military activities in Eastern Europe, Latin America, and Africa since WWII, but the big stuff has happened in Asia.  This brings me to my "List Post".  It appears that not much has changed in our world today, the top 4 areas on my list are in Asia.

1.  Middle East (Syria, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel): Political Instability, Nuclear Aspirations, Terrorism
2.  Afghanistan/Pakistan: Political Instability, Nuclear Proliferation, Terrorism
3.  China: Spying, Cyber Attacks, Political Oppression
4.  North Korea: Nuclear Proliferation, Human Right Violations, Political Oppression
5.  Mexico, Columbia: Drug&Human Trafficking, Political Instability

(Site has been updated to include links to sites that provide information on each area and their current and past circumstances.)

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Links Post

This assignment is rather timely, the main focus of this blog is to collect resources that will be useful to me, my students, or other teachers in days to come.  I have come across a few resources recently that I would like to record.  In the future it is my intent to parce these links by topic and put them on their respective page (Geog, Psych, AP Psych, etc).  But for now I will through them in right here.

I'll start with a link that I found on the 7 Days example.  My students really struggle with making quality slides for powerpoint presentations and I have yet to find a solid example of how it should be done, so I may end up using Top 10 Sites for Creating Slide Shows by David Kapuler.

I spent some time looking for blogs to add to my blog roll and I found a fabulous blog for my Psych and AP Psych classes.  It is title http://teachinghighschoolpsychology.blogspot.com/.  It is a forum for Psychology teachers to post resources for other Psychology teachers to use.  For example I found a link to a site titled, http://notawfulandboring.blogspot.com/ about statistics.  Social Psychology is my absolute favorite and they have a link to 65 different posts dealing with lesson ideas or resources to teach the topics.  This one blog has so many amazing resources, I wish I would have found it years ago.

One of the things that many of my Geography students struggle with is learning where all the countries of the world are located.  I usually have them label a map, (pretty old school, right) but I have since found a few different sites that have games that help students study.  One is Sheppards Software, another one is Geosense, and a final one is hosted by National Geographic.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Blogging: Professional vs. Personal (Should you mix the two?)

After reading through Week 3's articles I was comforted to know that I am not alone in my relative apprehension to blogging.  My wife will be the first one to tell you that I am an opinionated person and I don't hesitate to share my opinions with others, but there is something about writing them down.  Those words can really come back to haunt you.  So from a personal perspective, I like to keep my opinions in the oral realm and write down my deepest feelings and impressions in a journal that no one else can see.  Part of me feels like, "Who would want to read or know my thoughts and feelings anyway."  Blogging, tweeting, or facebooking about your every move and looking back to see if anyone has commented, "liked", or validated your decision to wear a blue shirt and black pants seems a little abnormal if not full on narcissistic.

Now from a professional perspective, I have found blogging to be helpful, constructive, and as several of the authors stated, anything that will encourage kids to write and share their work has to be good.  I still feel like a bit of a bulletin board guy as opposed to a blogger.  I think another that sets me apart from others but still keeps me in the realm of potential blogger is that while I don't just think of things that I would like to blog to the world, when someone throws a question my way and asks for my thoughts, I am much more inclined to reply.  As so while some criticize classroom discussion boards as ineffective and forced writing, I have found myself benefitting from the opportunity to write down my thoughts and receive feedback from classmates or instructors.  One idea that I think I have almost bought into is having my students create a writing/project blog where they will post their papers and projects for others to see.  I like the idea of them getting feedback and for their work to end up somewhere other than my recycling bin.

I will end where the articles began, make sure the blog you pass onto a future employer contains more professional blogging than personal.  It is almost never a good idea to show too many of your cards before you have even been hired.