Thursday, October 30, 2008

Tombstone Rubbings

I did some tombstone rubbing with kids when I was a social studies teacher a long time ago. It was a great activity. The problem I had with them was what to do with the large rubbings of tombstones after the activity was over. Some kids took them home where I'm sure many a mother accidentally threw them away. I envision the middle schooler coming home and discovering his special tomb rubbing gone. He confronts his mother and she holds her pale hand in front of her mouth and says.
"I'm sorry honey. I thought it was trash. If it's that important , you and your father can go tombstone rubbing this summer."

Dad usually pipes in about then. "I ain't taking the kid to rub anything dead."


"Don't worry honey. I'll talk to your father and I'm sure you will both be spending a lot of time with the dead this summer. If not, your father will wish he were with the dead." At which point she turns to her husband and says, "Now, I know you think your son is strange, but if he wants to spend time in the graveyard, wouldn't you rather he do that with you than with a bunch of dead people you don't even know?"

"Gloria, I don't want to spend no-time, in no-graveyard. No way. And he doesn't need to either. What in Sam Hill are they teaching these kids in that crazy zombie school of walking dead anyway?"

Or so I imagine the conversation going. I'm much more inclined these days to use a digital camera. But if you are inclined to go "old school" with the whole tombstone thing, then here is a site that describes the process. I saw several places that suggested cleaning the tombstones first to get a better image. I'd be reluctant to do this as so many of these stones are fragile. If I were to be that intrusive, I'd be sure to check with who ever maintains the graveyard. This article also recommends black crayon which has the advantage of not smearing. I liked the image I got from using a charcoal stick (used in art). You can get a setting spray from the same place you buy the charcoal stick that will keep the rubbing from smearing. It's more mess and bother and I would stick to crayons with younger kids.

I think with today's digital tools it also might be interesting to map out a graveyard. Maybe create a spreadsheet of birth dates and deaths. There are several trends that kids can usually see when they collect this kind of data. Epidemics. Wars. The number of children that died at birth or before their first birthday. Surnames can sometimes give clues to family origins. Just a thought.....I'm sure some history teacher out there has done something like this already.

"Skull and crossbones tombstone, part:I": Flickr: Uploaded on February 17, 2007 by tstadler:]

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Extreme Pumpkins

I love carving pumpkins for Halloween but I hate those little wimpy carving tools you can buy this time of year. I've often thought of rebuilding them using heftier parts from the metal-things-that-can-cut aisle of the hardware store. I was searching the net for someone who might already have done the initial design for sturdier carving tools when I discovered Extreme Pumpkins. Tom Nardone doesn't mess around. He went straight to the garage and pulled out the power tools. Why didn't I think of that?

The site has lots of helpful hints and ideas. There are a few patterns you can download. He has some patterns you can buy and links to the two books he's written on the subject. There is also some video, including the video of a pumpkin lit with a toilet paper roll soaked in kerosene that was making the rounds last year.

Lots of great examples of pumpkin carving here but be aware that there are some links to adult oriented products from this site. Plus there is the use of power tools, fire and extreme patterns. I wouldn't recommend opening this one up in your classroom or sending your students here. My guess is you'd have one of those uncomfortable meetings with your principal and a slightly charred set of parents that starts with, "Just what in Sam Hill are you teaching in that den of evil you call a classroom?"

If you do these kinds of activities with kids though, you will find lots of useful ideas you could safely share. I think I might lock up the power tools if I caught my 9 year old watching this on his own. (I have no nine year I'm not too worried but my wife has hidden the kerosene for some reason!)

[Image was captured from It is a picture of a contestent for his annual pumpkin carving contest]

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Costumes for Dogs

Every year my wife wants to dress up our dogs in costumes. I'm not sure why as I don't think the dogs like it and she never takes them out trick-or-treating. If they could beg for little chocolate covered bones at the neighbors, it would make more sense to me. After my wife see's this tutorial on making Star Wars costumes for dogs, their little doggie lives will never be the same.

[Image: Captured from HOW TO - Make Star Wars Halloween Costumes for Dogs:]

Gryphern YouTube Index

No Halloween week would be complete without looking at the YouTube video's put together by Gryphern out of Washington State. Gryphern is a graduate student (or possibly a graduated masters-type person by now..) that has put out many how-to videos over the past couple of years. Her instructions on how to create a werewolf costume first caught my attention last year and since then, I've been a frequent visitor to her YouTube page.

Check it out.

[Image captured from Gryphern's YouTube Video Index:]

Monday, October 27, 2008

Fake Snot

I will never admit to my students that I would consider making fake snot. It is gross. It's disgusting. It's the kind of thing that some man, who in his youth, spent hours trying to perfect the formula for fake vomit might enjoy. I am not that man. I am above that kind of thing.

When I mentioned the possibility of making fake snot to my wife because I thought she might find it entertaining, she gave me a look of incredulity and said, "Why on earth would anyone want to make snot?"

Taking the Devil Advocate's position I said, "Because it's Halloween and maybe a person might have it oozing out of their pumpkin or use it to gross out your, errrrr their eighty year old mother." I thought for a minute longer and added, "And because it would be fun. Don't ya think?"

She said, "NO" and glared at me with that look that pretty much says "You are not the man I married. You are a doppelganger put in his place at some point to torment me and possibly cause the end of the world as we know it. I could not ever, not possibly ever, have married a man who behaves the way you do. Get thee back evil doppelganger!!"

I needed to get her mind off those doppelganger thoughts and said, "Honey I wouldn't ever make fake snot. I am just doing research for my blog. The people. The Blog-o-lites demand to know these kind of things."

"There is something wrong with those Blog-o-lites. The first being, who would call themselves Blog-o-lites. And, two, what kind of nut job wants to make fake snot?"

"Blog-o-lites is the official name of people who read blogs. It's better than Blogerines or Blogos which were the runners up in the official "What do we call ourselves" contest last year." I shrugged my shoulders. "They're my people and look to me for guidance."

"That doesn't excuse these snotty obsessions! Besides why would I make snot when I could just use raw egg white. Isn't that snot-like enough?"

"That's brilliant. Just brilliant. But wouldn't you run the chance of getting salmonella?"

"When you play with snot, fake or otherwise, you just have to take your chances."

The conversation ended with me going to the kitchen to crack a few eggs... For breakfast.

Anyway, if you are one of those "nut jobs" who might want to make fake snot here is a recipe. My favorite line in the directions is the last one that reads:

5. Wash your hands after playing with your snot.

Good advice for all of us. Happy Halloween!

[via Boing Boing]
[Image: Captured from "How to make fake snot":]

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Google Gamut

Just finished watching "The Google Gamut: Everything you need to get Started" by Darren Kuropatwa at the K12 Online Conference 2008. I'm doing a presentation next week on Google Docs for our faculty and I was looking for some ideas. Darren does a good job of helping a beginner get started and some of the options available to them. There wasn't anything here that I hadn't heard before but it wasn't designed for someone like me. His target audience are those users new to the possibilities beyond Google's search page.

Check out his presentation below or head over to the K12 Online Coference 2008 site and pick another presentation.

[Image: Captured from K12 Online Conference site:]

Friday, October 24, 2008

Funny: War Minutes

[ ‘Cartoon by Nick D Kim, Used by permission.]

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Images in the Public Domain

Stumbled on this site maintained by the Springfield Township Highschool while I was searching for some copyright free clip art.

It has links to a variety of different sources for images of all sorts. The links I checked all worked and I was able to find several that I'll be sending my students to check out.

It's worth bookmarking.

[Image:"Spinosaurus": WiseGorilla clip art:]

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Comix Revisited

I wrote about recently and thought I'd share my experience using it in the classroom with a mixed grade level high school class. The assignment was to find one current political quote and one environmental quote to use in the creation of a comic.

I had a few kids who grabbed the first thing they found from their search and plopped it into a comic bubble. Most of my students seemed to get into the assignment and spent some time trying to find just the right quote. I was pleased with the results and grabbed a few to post. (My apologies for the blurry text....can't quite get the result I want using blogger.)

Governor Palin seemed to be a popular person to quote probably because she was in the news so much at the time we did this activity.

I'll do this activity again next semester. Students were able to finish in one period (roughly 50 minutes) and the hardest part of the assignment for my kids was grabbing a screenshot. I always run across something that I think they will know and this semester, grabbing a screenshot is the one I thought they all would be able to do and very few could. None of my high schoolers had any problems using the tools in MakeBeliefsComix. They were up and running with no guidance from me.

There was some good discussion in class about what comic figures to use for their characters. We talked about how selecting different types of representations could reflect their opinion of that person. Also kids played with the size of the different characters in each frame to denote who was speaking or in some cases who was more important.

[Images all created in MakeBeliefsComix by Mr. Gunn's Multimedia class at Mountain Range High School]

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

We teach kids

Came across this video of Chris Lehmann and it gave me a little burst of inspiration. I feel like I've been in a rut for the past few weeks and his talk got my juices flowing. I needed to hear him say that "we teach kids not subjects". I'm thankful to have a principal who reminds me of that often. Maybe not with those exact words but her intent is clear. I guess I just needed to hear it again this morning from another principal a half continent away.

I was also struck by his comment,
"How is it that we have so many passionate dedicated educators and yet have so many failing schools. The problem is you put a good person in a bad system and the system wins too often."

I might be biased because I'm an educator but the comment sure struck a chord with me. Watch the video and see if you don't find at least one idea you'll share with your colleagues tomorrow.

[via The Thinking Stick]
[Image captured from IgnitePhilly:]

Monday, October 20, 2008

Plant Cyborg

Saw this picture of a robot that continually moves itself into the light and had a vivid memory of a fictional creature from a science fiction story I read years ago. I've been searching all morning but can't put my finger on what story or even what author. Any ideas anybody?

Regardless of my failing memory, this is still a cool idea. Not much information on the robot but a couple more interesting pictures. Take a peek at The Play Coalition.

[via the BotJunkie]
[Image captured from The Play Coalition:]

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Google Blog Search

I teach full time.

I try to write something every day.

I have two dogs that require daily attention.

My body complains if I don't eat, bathe and sleep once in a while.

I have two cats that spend hours every day ignoring me except when they are hungry.

I have a house with a yard that always have at least one or two nagging chores that need to be completed routinely.

I have friends who think that friendship requires more commitment than a yearly Christmas email even if it does include a cute animated Santa gif.

I have a wife who thinks conversation and companionship should be part of the marriage along with taking out the garbage. She swears that all three were clearly stated in our marriage vows.

I say these things just to drive the point home that I don't really have time to add much to my busy schedule. I should have ignored my curiosity about Google's Blog Search. I already have a RSS Reader that over flows daily with unread posts. Why would I want to add to my guilt over not knowing something about everything that is going on everywhere?

.....cause I can?

[Image: Flickr: "Juggling at night": Uploaded on June 23, 2006 by Mance:]

Monday, October 13, 2008

Avoiding the 5 Most Common Mistakes in Using Blogs

I'm recommending this thoughtful piece I read called Avoiding the 5 Most Common Mistakes in Using Blogs with Students, from Campus Technology. I liked the way the author differentiated between blogging, online discussion and journaling.

The essential difference between a blog and other online tools is that it is intended to be an individual publication: a one-way monologue or self-post to which others may comment but do not contribute. The original post remains as the person who posted it wanted it to be. This is important to realize in the instructional setting. If a discussion is desired, then blogging would not be the tool of choice. In the same way, if journaling is the intended goal, then an online discussion forum would not be the tool of choice.

[via iLibrarian]
[Image: Flickr: "Kid peeking up from the back of a bus"; Uploaded on November 28, 2007 by jim snapper:]

Friday, October 10, 2008

Funny: "Slooowly I Turned.."

I used to act out this comedy bit with my friends when we were kids. I vaguely remember it being done on various tv shows....and maybe a cartoon? It still makes me laugh.

Imagine if you will a bunch of ten year olds all saying in unison, "Slowly I turned and step by step......" and then wailing on each other. Those were good times!

[Note: I did a little research on this and turns out it was an old burlesque skit from the early 1900's and many comics did a version of this in their routines. I was able to find one by The Three Stooges and Lucile Ball but not the cartoon version I remember watching as a kid.]

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Make Beliefs Comix

I was looking for a simple way to make a comic online and I think I found one. It's called I had an idea for kids to take a famous quote and and use it as the dialogue for a cartoon. I think this might be a fun way for kids to gather quotes from current news, historical events or famous speeches and think about them in a visual way. How would the person look while they were speaking? What was the emotion conveyed?

It sounds like a simple concept but I am constantly amazed at how kids, even high school aged ones, miss the subtleties of a comment. I see this with my video students as they struggle to convey a feeling or mood via expression or setting.

I wish the program allowed me to add backgrounds and that there were a few more character choices, like a few more ethnic faces, but that's just being nit-picky. I'm going to run this one by my multimedia kids and see what they create.

One note before you get all your students shultzing their way to cartoondom is that they need to enter two email addresses. A link to the finished cartoon will then be sent. Or, you can print it out. Neither of these are great solutions for me, so I will be teaching my kids some basic screen capture skills when we do this activity. Directions for doing this are on the site.

[via Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day… Thanks again to Larry for pointing me to some great resources.]
[Image captured from]
[Cartoon created using tools at]

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Monday, October 6, 2008

Evil League of Evil

One of my students told me about this contest related to Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog which I followed faithfully this past summer. I loved every episode!

Bad Horse is looking for new members for the Evil League of Evil. You need to submit a video in order to be considered and it needs to be complete and loaded up on YouTube or Vimeo by October 11.

Pass this on to any of your kids or colleagues who might be passionate enough about being a super villain that they will work night and day to meet that October 11 deadline.

I'm going to give this some thought over the next few days and maybe come up with something. Although I fear I may be too lazy to be truly evil. My lack of dark motivation and my weak constitution may only qualify me to the ranks of the nervously naughty. But I can dream the bad dream. Can't I?

[Image captured from Evil League of Evil website:]

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Office Walkers

I recently did a post on an article about treadmills at work and how they can help improve productivity while helping you to better fit into those weekend designer jeans. One of the guys quoted in the article, Brad, saw my blog and sent me a comment along with the url for their online discussion/support group of office walkers. I browsed through their site this past weekend and found a some pictures of home-made office walking machines. The slideshow below is Brad's setup.

Thanks for the link Brad. If I create my own Office Walker, I'll sign up for your group.

Find more photos like this on Office Walkers

[Image: Captured from Office Walkers Forum: Photo added by member Kelly on September 19, 2008 at 8:32am:]

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Color Sphere

I have a color disability. I often will use color combinations that are less then pleasing to the normal eye when left by myself in a room with paper and crayons. I've learned to rely on color palettes or programs that create them when designing web pages. While not perfect, they've been a blessing for a guy like me. I've found they also help my students think about color. Usually, kids want to put up the brightest, loudest shades they can regardless of content or readability. Any of you who have taught word processing to children on the day they discover they can control the color of fonts know what I am talking about.

The online program I'll be introducing to my students this year is hosted by a site called ColorJack. I recently came across this one and the interface is fairly easy to understand and operate. The site also has some articles about color so you can quikcly read up on what are the differences between a complementary and a triadic palette.

Ultimately, I'm not the person to seek out for color advice and I'm told that these programs are also not perfect. So, use them as a guide and then trust your own eye. Or in my case, the eye of someone who can tell the difference between purple and blue, like my wife. She probably won't be available for a lot of color consultation, so you should seek out a wife closer to home. Possibly your neighbors? Your own?

If you are a color blind wife, I'm at a loss as to who to recommend you to ask for color advice. Good luck with that.

[Image: Captured from]