The American Nations Today

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Ever wonder why the U.S. is such a divided nation these days? According to Collin Woodard in his 2011 book American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North Americathe differences and rivalries go back to the founding of our nation.

The map above, taken from a article based upon the book, reflects the boundaries of these different cultures. Woodard qualifies these divisions:

“Before I describe the nations, I should underscore that my observations refer to the dominant culture, not the individual inhabitants, of each region. In every town, city, and state you’ll likely find a full range of political opinions and social preferences. Even in the reddest of red counties and bluest of blue ones, twenty to forty percent of voters cast ballots for the “wrong” team. It isn’t that residents of one or another nation all think the same, but rather that they are all embedded within a cultural framework of deep-seated preferences and attitudes—each of which a person may like or hate, but has to deal with nonetheless.”

Where is your county on this map?  Is it a county that borders another region or is it deeply within a cultural region?

My county (Franklin) in central Ohio borders Greater Appalachia to our south and west.  Woodard says this of our region:

“THE MIDLANDS. America’s great swing region was founded by English Quakers, who believed in humans’ inherent goodness and welcomed people of many nations and creeds to their utopian colonies like Pennsylvania on the shores of Delaware Bay. Pluralistic and organized around the middle class, the Midlands spawned the culture of Middle America and the Heartland, where ethnic and ideological purity have never been a priority, government has been seen as an unwelcome intrusion, and political opinion has been moderate. An ethnic mosaic from the start—it had a German, rather than British, majority at the time of the Revolution—it shares the Yankee belief that society should be organized to benefit ordinary people, though it rejects top-down government intervention.”

This makes a lot of sense to me as we are surely the premiere “swing region” for presidential elections.  I also find it interesting that “the three C’s” in Ohio are in different regions.  Cleveland is in a little corner of Yankeedom while Cincinnati is deeply in Greater Appalachia. Surely this is why state politics in Ohio is so interesting!

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Mindful Meditation is a 21st Century Skill

It’s another Snow Day here in Central Ohio.  The measly 3 to 5 inches we received overnight pales in comparison to the “historic” storm they are about to get in NYC, Boston & Philly.  One reason I like living where I do is that we get Snow Days without paralyzing snow.  And we’ve already had three of them in January!

It’s been a while since Tera, Rachel or I have been able to post.  It goes without saying that a teacher’s life is a full life! My to-do list, which always includes posting here, always seems to get longer and not shorter.  I’ve been collecting links and ideas though.  Hopefully I can post a few today when I’m not catching up on evaluating student work.

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21st Century Skills have been getting much attention the past view years.  Myriad well-funded websites exist and there are no shortage of posters and graphics such as the one above or this one:

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This poster is one of many resources found here.  I like the dozen and a half skills listed, but I think a critical one is omitted here and in most lists of 21st Century Skills – Attention or Mindfulness.

A fact of modern life is the temptation to becoming distracted from the task at hand – be it participating in class, doing homework, or even driving.  The dangers of “distracted driving” were driven home to our school recently when speakers from Impact Teen Driving shared their tragic story of a loved one’s death from an auto accident by a distracted driver.

Focusing attention is a skill that can be taught and developed. An M.D. from the esteemed Mayo Clinic featured in this Atlantic article writes: “We have multiple set exercises throughout the day where you basically bring intentionality to your attention…they involve no newfangled brain-training software, or really anything at all new to neuroscience or philosophy.”  His website, stressfree.org offers useful techniques illustrated by engaging videos to teach the five core principles of “gratitude, compassion, acceptance, meaning, and forgiveness.” He’s created this fact-filled, cute, whiteboard video entitled “A Very Happy Brain” that could be enjoyed even by younger students.

Cultivating gratitude, being in the present moment, and mindful meditation have been shown to have many psychological, academic, and inter-personal benefits.  There are no shortage of succinct articles which both describe the benefits of mindfulness and offer ways to practice meditation.

So how does this relate to educational technology?  There are a growing number of apps which can facilitate meditative practice.  Aside from using technology to teach meditation, I think we also need to educate our students in ways to be attentive to assigned learning tasks rather than succumbing to the massive temptation to distraction living within their iPads or Chromebooks.

This attentiveness is a vital 21st Century Skill on par with any of the other essential skills listed on the posters above.  So, how do we teach it?

In the next post, I’ll share how I am doing it in my classroom. How have you done it in yours?

C.E.-YES! – The Music Video of the Electronics Show

If you were paying attention earlier this month to the technology news, you know that the massive (3000+ exhibitors) annual Consumer Electronics Show took place in Las Vegas.

The prototype gadgets of today could become the ed tech of tomorrow, so it is valuable to keep an eye on what comes out at the CES.

So you can take a 3:30 “learning” break from your Friday and watch this funny and informative music video that Yahoo created at the CES.

MOOCs for CEU’s

It’s been a busy week with the “paperwork” which comes with the end of the first semester.  So, it’s been a while since any of us have been able to post here.  A teacher’s life is so busy!

And yet, we need to gain those essential Continuing Education Units for our professional development and renewal of our teaching licences.  Fortunately on-line learning options continue to expand as more and more learning institutions make excellent course content available through MOOCs – Massive Open Online Courses.

I recently found this listing of courses geared specifically for those who want to develop their knowledge and skills related to educational technology.  I’ve registered for this interesting sounding course on Digital Literacies which begins next week.  If you like to see a listing of all of the upcoming MOOCs published by Open Culture click HERE.  A well organized list of MOOCs offered through the Coursera portal is available as well.

Finally, if you’re interested in learning about the impact that MOOCs are having on Higher Education visit this article which asks: “Are Massive Open Online Courses Enabling a New Pedagogy?”  It offers a thoughtful, well researched look at this evolving vehicle for adult and increasingly adolescent focused learning.

 

Windchill Warning Day – A Good Day for Weather Apps

Another day off from school this week – this time for “dangerously” cold windchill readings this morning.  I didn’t have to scan and refresh the local news sites this morning as every local district sent out announcements last night canceling school today.

I did check my iPad weather apps when I awoke this morning just to have my eyes pop out at the frigid numbers:

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From WeatherBug, my go-to app.

 

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Yahoo Weather – a beautiful, free app, but one I had to delete today b/c it kept crashing

 

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From ClearWeather – a clean, colorful look which gives you the basics at a glance.

 

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Dark Sky – a very cool app that will send you notices when precipitation is on its way to your pinpointed location.

And it also gives you richly colored maps for both precipitation and temperature:

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Makes me shiver just looking at it!

 

As cold as it was today, it pales compared to our air temp and windchill last year on Monday, January 6th:

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-29 windchill.  Note the igloo for the “current” conditions.  Cute.

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And this one, also from Jan 6, 2014 with a “RealFeel” of -39!  Yow!

To Do List Recommendations – HabitRPG Video Overview

It’s a new calendar year and time to get more organized.

In case you’re not yet using an app to organize your tasks (or if you’re looking to make a change), here’s a very recent review of the best apps for this job.

I’ve previously used two listed at the link above.  Any.do is free, simple, clean and extremely easy to use.  It integrates with a calendar app offered by the same designer.  Rewards are given as a certain number of tasks are completed.  These “rewards,” while occasionally useful, are essentially coupons for products from the sponsors of the app.  It’s advertising, albeit in a limited, backdoor way.

Wunderlist seems to be the “gold standard” of the free To Do list apps.  It has many options, calendar integration, robust “unlockable” paid functionality and more.  Additionally, it appears to have numerous professional, collaborative features.

I like my To Do list to be a platform from which I feel rewarded as I make progress through my tasks.  It helps me to be more organized and productive if there’s a sense of fun and levity as well.

While I’ve used both Any.do and Wunderlist, my daily choice for the last few months has been HabitRPG.

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I’ve placed my comments on it as well as a guided tour of it within this video that I hope you’ll view.

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Enjoy and best wishes for your own productivity in 2015!

 

SNOW DAY — And Technology

SNOW DAY – the best 7 letter combination a teacher can hear (most of the time).

Since this is a mainly tech-oriented blog, I thought I’d reflect for a moment on technology has changed the time honored rituals of – will-we-or-won’t-we-have-school and the less exciting – when-will-my-street-be-plowed.

I didn’t grow up in a snow belt area, so I don’t have personal memories of how eager students and parents previously learned about the status of school on snowy mornings.  I’m told that it involved tuning into the TV or radio and listening for the list the announcer shared when convenient for the broadcast.  Later (and currently), the ubiquitous “crawl” at the bottom of the TV screen evolved to give constant (and repetitive) info about closings.

With websites and apps, today’s eager hunt for this radically day-changing info involves less watching and listening and more acts of hitting the “refresh screen” on the browser.

Today I was out of bed at my usual 5:15am and the first thing I saw on my iPad (which I use as my alarm clock) was a notice that Columbus City Schools were closed.  This was good news, but not completely relevant b/c my children are in a different district and my school is under a separate diocese notification.

I wanted to know quickly whether I needed to continue my carefully timed “get out the door” routine or if it was a snow day and I could go back to bed.  So I went to a local TV news website and saw this:

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It’s not a terribly pretty site, but it’s definitely a “just the facts, ma’am” portal.

Since the list was likely to grow at the now 5:30am time mark, my waiting and nearly constant screen refreshing began.  This made for an awkward time of prayer as I toggled between the reflection I read daily on my iPad and the, now two TV sites I was viewing.  With each screen refresh, I eagerly scanned the list (and I’ll admit – prayed) to see if the diocese and/or my children’s district was called off.

At about 5:40, 5 minutes before I needed to move to my next step in the morning routine, BINGO! The two notifications I was seeking came up! Allowing my children to blissfully continue to sleep, by 6 am I was back in dreamland myself.  Thank you technology and Mother Nature for bringing us this SNOW DAY!

Now, the question (besides how I will use this “bonus day”) is when will the streets in my neighborhood be plowed?  Columbus, after taking a lot of heat for poor snow removal and communication about it last winter, has created a cool new website called Columbus Warrior Watch:

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Apparently the plow Road Warriors are networked and real-time data about their progress and their plans feeds into a color-coded map.  I don’t know whether it will get my street plowed more quickly (as it’s designated at the lowest priority level), but it will be another interesting map to watch on-line.

—> This is the 50th post for our fledgling blog.  Thanks for following and please continue to keep up with us as we boldly move forward with our next 50 posts!

Epiphany Resources & Weekly Gospel Link

It’s back to school tomorrow, so I’ll be getting up way earlier than I have for more than two weeks.  Ugh – I am not a morning person.  So, I better keep this brief.

Today the Catholic Church in the U.S. celebrated Epiphany.  Other locations and denominations will celebrate it later this week – particularly on January 6th.

If you will be celebrating Epiphany this week, here’s a couple of links you might want to use (especially with older children):

A Magi Tells His Wife His Travel Plans

Can Astronomy Explain the Biblical Star of Bethlehem? 

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If you’d like to use an “illuminated” version of Epiphany Sunday’s gospel, you can use this Google Drive Link.

I create a similar file for each week’s gospel. For a week, we read and reflect upon it during the prayer with which I begin every class.  If you’d like to use this resource for future weeks, I usually post the file for the coming week by Saturday afternoon with the gospel of the next day.

Disclaimer – Since I don’t seek to profit from these files, I don’t cite the source for each of the images found through a Google Search.

Final 2014 Lists

As promised, here’s a few more 2014 lists to ponder before moving boldly ahead into the rest of 2015:

Five Favorite Resources in 2014 – The first three on her list (Google Apps, Social Media, and Google Voice) are familiar.  She lists Padlet and Graphite as #4 and #5.  I’ve never heard about these tools and her descriptions make me want to check them out.

Reviewing My 2014 “Bold” Predictions for EdTech: Everybody and his brother can make a list of predictions, but how often does the prognosticator go back and honestly assess how well he or she did?  Kudos to this blogger for having the guts to do so.

Best and Worst Education News from 2014: A solid list with many links which was reblogged by the Washington Post

10 Most Popular Educational Tools from 2014: Again, many familiar faces on this list.  Yet, EDpuzzle (to add voice and questions to videos) as well as Easel.ly (to create charts and infographics) are two interesting sounding newcomers.

Year in Ideas 2014: An eight minute summary of the biggest ideas showcased via the increasingly ubiquitous TED Talks.