Month: December 2015

Why this Ultra Geek-Girl is not so excited about Star Wars..

tfa_poster_wide_header-1536x864-959818851016It’s here, after all the hype and Disney corporate take over, the movie of the millennium,  Star Wars: The Force Awakens  is finally here. So why is this child of the 70’s original ultimate fantasy thriller, self-proclaimed Disnoid, comic-con cosplaying attendee, bullied for an affinity towards Star Trek geek-girl not so thrilled?

Maybe it’s the idea of a letdown once again, by a George Lucas-inspired fantasy gone horribly wrong . Or it might be the combination of both the new in vogue everything on The Big Bang Theory must be awesome minions and the painful prequels of Star Wars that scared me from believing this one will be different.

Somehow a formula of life circumstances has made it so that this latest installation of the possible largest blockbuster of all time full of a sci-fi fantasy geek’s wet dream, has barely interested me. Other than the fact I have invested so much time in the past to the genre, that I have to see it out of pure allegiance to my geekhood.

The Let Down…..

Do we even need an explanation of the prequel let down? Like all true fans, I went to see Episode 4 in the theaters when it was re-released in 1997, to get jazzed about the new movies in production. It was perfect, I got that warm fuzzy feeling  all over again seeing  Luke Skywalker staring out dewy-eyed at the rising moons, questioning his fate, with new affinity and understanding after 20 years, appreciating the Hero’s Journey, and remembering my first crush. It was Christmas for a 6-year-old me all over again.

Little did I know, 2 years later, The Phantom Menace with all anticipation of Christmas for that inner child, would turn out to be that moment when you realize Santa is not just fake, but his beard isn’t real, he’s full of stuffing, gets annoyingly drunk, and hits on your Mom at the Christmas party. It was so bad, that I fell asleep, only to be woken up by the painful ear piercing banter of Jar Jar Binks. Dreams crushed, the ultimate let down.

Still a glimmer of hope, maybe Episode 2 would redeem the series. Lucas got geek-girl eye-candy  Hayden Christensen to play Anakin Skywalker. My Bae from Higher Ground and an episode of Forever Knight, (my fellow geek-girls understand), so maybe it would  work. Other than seeing Hayden shirtless, I am pretty sure watching that movie sucked some life out of my soul. And yes, Hayden was in Episode 3, he got “dark” and interesting, but it was too little too late, dreams of redemption crushed.

The New Age of Geekdom….

Don’t get me wrong, Star Wars was super cool in the 70’s, especially as kids on the cusp of the electronic age it gave us a platform to imagine the impossible. Everyone loved the movies, even though the cheese was spread on a little thick in Episode 6, we could get past the Ewoks knowing that the end justified the means, and good prevailed over evil. For those of us that got that titillating jolt towards science fiction/fantasy, we found new stories, movies, comic books, and tv shows to dive into.

The dive was not a pleasant one for a teenage girl in the 80’s. By the time I was in high school if a peer found out about my secret passion, it was a reminder of ridicule or a confused look of disgust, this often made me deny my love for hobbits, lightsabers, colorful cape adorning cartoon characters, and anything only nerdy pimply faced boys would care about.

But now, now you aren’t cool if you don’t geek out. Now you can pay hundreds of dollars to meet the celebrities that played characters that you were once embarrassed to admit you adored. The bigger the fan the cooler you are, you might even be featured for that basement full of action figures on you local TV station.

Aw geez, let’s face it, I’ve been burned, girls of my generation weren’t supposed to carry the torch for Luke Skywalker, and all things sci-fi fantasy, we liked  Duran Duran and Tom Cruise, so how am I supposed to get excited? I guess I have to dig deep back to my inner child and forget about all the years between being tormented for my lust for Luke, and now embrace my middle-aged geek-girl, that missed out on being cool through her formative years because she secretly loved Spock. After all, Stars Wars for me was the one that started it all.

May The Force not wreck you,

Robin L. Stockmar  M. Ed.

Technology Integration Specialist

 

Selling Parents on Social Media, Consider Twitter.

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Whatever you think you are doing with social media, or lack thereof, to get parents on board with you as a teacher could be wrong.

A classic mistake teachers make is assuming parents will be impressed by what is going on in the classroom with a snazzy website of your own. Your school already has a website to inform parents, you send out progress reports, and invite your parents to all the fun activities that go on in the school, probably using email to do so….why would you set up another site for this purpose?

Social media can be the spot where you are missing out on promoting yourself to parents. As a teacher, you might think Edmodo, Google Classroom, Moodle, or some other form of classroom management site for students to do their assignments and collaborate, might be the place to get parents involved and excited. These tools might help replace some classic paper reports and help with classroom management,  but this is not going to “sell” yourself to parents.

One platform that you can use to make that sell is  Twitter. Twitter is where you can turn from informing your audience about what is going on in the classroom, to actually promoting yourself as a teacher, and keep parents in a happy state and less complaining when it comes to progress report time.

Three Simple Steps to Start:

  1. Set up a Twitter just for your parents, send a note or an email out about it and invite them to join.
  2. Ask permission to tweet about their child and their accomplishments.
  3. Keep your phone handy, and start snapping pictures, and start tweeting about the good stuff.

Three Things to Remember:

  1. Remember to tweet all positive, and tweet often, more than once a day. A couple in the am, and a few in the pm is good, 4 or 5 times a day.
  2. Tweet equally among the students, even if you have a few superstars, make sure you include all you have permission to tweet about.
  3. Keep it general, don’t post scores, just smiles, and what the kids are doing and working on.

Selling yourself as a teacher to your parents doesn’t seem like a thing you are comfortable with? Unfortunately, it is a task as a teacher you must do to a point, so why not keep it simple, and just tweet out the fun, and let the school take care of the rest.

Cheers,

Robin L. Stockmar M.Ed.

 

Suicide of the Male Urban Teacher, why are the minorities leaving?

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Low pay seems to be the obvious reason why men leave the field of education but is it? Lindsey Layton of  The Washington Post looked to Richard Ingersoll, an expert who teaches at the University of Pennsylvania for reasons why men are leaving especially minorities.

“Minority (men) teachers quit because of working conditions in their schools, Ingersoll said. In surveys, those teachers cite lack of autonomy and input into school decisions, common complaints in struggling schools that have been placed under prescriptive “turnaround” models, he said.”

Tho pay is something to consider as a reason, one glaring thing is, men are not entering or staying in the field, and minority men are jumping out in droves.

The truth is teachers are feeling taxed, especially males, that come into the profession as a calling to empower young boys to become valued citizens, and nurture true learning rather than their students judged on their ability to do math or read. Not that the academics are not important, but the idea that their students or only valued based on academic growth rather than their ability to contribute to society along with the low pay make it difficult for minority male teachers to stay in the profession.

Take Adrian, a Hispanic teacher at an inner city charter school in Phoenix, Az. He states, “it is hard to keep the balance of a combination of authentic learning to real life applications and making sure your students are also meeting the academic standards.” He goes on to say, “trying to live on the low pay knowing your kids are only judged by academic growth makes it tough to stay.”

Adrain says he found a way to make it work by going into administration, with higher pay, he can still stay close to his students and try to foster life-long learning.

Another young male teacher from the Phoenix area, Kris, points to the piling on of testing and keeping tabs on growth with finding new practices without being compensated for the extra work is a determining factor. “It’s not that you have to teach standards that will be tested on in order to show student growth, it’s that we constantly add new layers to this, and do not get compensated.”

Kris added that he believes young inner city boys need a lot of mentoring, and when the testing becomes more valued than the boys well being, they see it in their teacher. “I don’t feel as connected when I started eight years ago, I feel I will need to go the suburbs if I want to do this job just for the academics. The students there don’t need as much mentoring, I hope I can just focus on the testing.”

Teachers are exhausted taking on the dual roles, feeling micromanaged by state requirements, testing and having to be mentors and coaches, especially when it comes to the minority males in major cities. They point to that instilling ethics and mentoring their students is not valued, and without the pay to compensate for all the extra statistical data they must now keep proves to be the reason why minority males are leaving, and for most, there is no other choice than to quit.

Cheers,

Robin L. Stockmar M. Ed.

Technology Integration Specialist

Continue reading “Suicide of the Male Urban Teacher, why are the minorities leaving?”

Whatever your latest VICE, think digital

 

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Troye Sivan

 

What does Troye Sivan, Di Vinci and Jack Johnson have in common? Nothing except they all have a headline story on separate websites under the umbrella of one media company known as  VICE Media. Troye Sivan, the soul swooning Aussie, is the featured artist under Bullet, a site for fashion, music, culture, etc… Jack Johnson is FIGHTLAND‘s feature story about the heavy weight’s final pardon and Di Vinci once again makes news on the creators project, a partnership between VICE and Intel to promote support for the arts in technology.

Why should you care? Unless you live under a rock, you might want to take note that VICE Media is a company worth over $4 Billion, that started as an online zine, that appeals mainly to a younger, hipper audience than any other media source online. How do they do it? It’s all about the content and the amount of content, all things digital and online keeps the overhead way, way down.

As Wall Street had an abysmal end to cyber-week in consumer sales, what did one of the most visual losers, Disney, do? They turned to digital media and now own 10% of VICE Media, doubling their stake in the social media market for youth. Perhaps the idea is if consumers are not buying products in stores, online or otherwise, maybe the best backup plan is to invest in information, content based for that matter instead.

Again, why do you care? Because web-based digital media is a field that is not only growing but could be the ultimate game changer in how we economically survive in this country. Take VICE media, they have been able to grow a company and produce a product to consumers that practically cost them nothing. The product is information, and presenting it with more content that is up to date and relevant to their audience over others. They have also been able to promote products that consumers can purchase by supporting links to companies that reflect the information they are spewing. Who cares where the company is based, VICE still profits through advertising, even if the company is in China practically bankrupt.

Today’s grade school students already recall more about how they made their Christmas list for products promoted through social media sites rather than TV, movies or word of mouth. And there is no guarantee that even the popular toys, games, gadgets and devices that consumers want are from a company that exists in the same country that the social media site is based in that promoted it. The one more likely to make a profit will be the media site it through it’s content connected to advertising and partnering with the product’s parent company.

Next time you hear someone talking about indulging in their latest music, digital, or electronic vice ask them how they found out about it. Dollars to donuts, chances are through social media. The digital world of social media may just be the vice itself we soon have will have to partake in just to understand what it is we will want as consumers if not already, but very soon in the future.

 

 

Depth-Sensing Technology, could be a game changer for school psychologists

Video games belonging in the field of education has had its share of criticism. Many studies have been done to prove how they can take a phycological toll on small children citing too much exposure to violent content. Games need to be age appropriate, this we know, and that is why they are given a rating. With these ratings, most can agree there are some educational games online or ones requiring specific gaming systems, that can be beneficial to children. One popular example is Minecraft.

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If you are not familiar with this game, it is basically a game of building virtual worlds where you can create lands and characters that interact within that world. The graphics are “old school”, which keeps things simple but cool for the players. The building takes logic, as does the character, along with exploration, resource gathering and combat as there is a multi-player mode. Although this game may not be a regular in the classroom, the popularity of it has prompted books and other literature to be written, and the problem-solving skills have been a favorite of parents and educators alike.

What a student might choose to build and do in the world of Minecraft surely can tell you something about them. Although most psychological studies about video games have been about the effects they have on children, what if we used the game as a platform to tells us something about the child instead?  What if a school psychologist could look at a child’s Minecraft game and diagnose a disorder, or learning disability? It is now not about what if, but when.

Depth-sensing technology is here and with products such as Intel’s RealSense camera, you don’t just play games with using the motion of your body to manipulate objects, the camera can actually sense your body as a whole into the 3-D virtual world, that makes it possible to read even the small gestures you make with the correct depth perception. Your body actually becomes the controller.

Think even further than your body being the controller. RealSeanse has features that allow for biometric feedback. Now a game you play can actually anticipate what your mood is by your vital signs, making it possible for it to adjust and change its platform to please or agitate your mood. Essentially a virtual picture of the player’s mind.

In the world of education, a school psychologist uses a certain battery of tests and testing platforms to diagnose suspected disorders and learning disabilities in students. Often these tests require students to use manipulatives. With depth-sensing technology and biometric feedback embedded in, the manipulatives not only can be virtual, but the diagnoses can be more precise with a much more controlled environment. Imagine the data that can be instantly generated through a computer program that considers all these factors.

Soon, we could be seeing quicker and more accurate diagnoses of disorders that range from specific learning disabilities to levels of autistic behavior, ADD, ADHD or even more severe psychological disorders in students by using this new type of technology. Games can be programmed with certain characteristics known to help diagnose students, and with quicker accurate feedback, a breakthrough in less misdiagnosed and more precise medical care could change our educational system as we know it, with a much higher student success rate.

To all the nay-sayers that once thought video games would only cause severe psychological damage to young children, we could be on the verge of how they might become our most valuable tool educationally when diagnosing disorders early and accurately. They may eventually save more children than any other technology tool out there.

Cheers,

Robin L. Stockmar M.Ed.

Technology Integration Specialist

To learn more:

http://iq.intel.com/depth-sensing-technology-pulls-players-into-the-game/