Friday, November 26, 2010

Wordnet is really cool

Here's something that happens to me all the time: I'm writing a story, and my hero is in, perhaps, a forest. And he's looking around the forest, and he sees some trees. And this where I get stuck, because I can't for the life of me figure out what kind of trees he's looking at.

We know this: specificity is good in writing. "Bob looked at the tree," is not nearly as potent an image as "Bob looked at the oak." With the substitution of a single word the image goes from vague (and thus unlikely to excite the interest of the reader) to much more concrete.

The next time I find myself stuck for specificity, I'm heading to Wordnet. But what is Wordnet? Wordnet is really cool.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

How should we view education in the 21st century?

RSA stands for the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce; they are a British organization who, according to their website, "has been a cradle for enlightenment thinking and a force for social progress." Whomever they are, they have taken the audio from several lectures by leading British thinkers and used cartooning to diagram the ideas presented in the lectures. The resulting videos are very cool. Here's a lecture on education in the 21st century by philosopher Ken Robinson. I am interested in the following two questions:

What idea did you find particularly interesting, or particularly controversial, from the lecture?

If you were to design a school for the 21st century, what features or values would you want it to include?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


This video comes to us from thismustbetheplace, a web video series about how different people define what a home is. Clearly Chong Gon Byun here, a Korean living in Brooklyn, at least partially defines home as a work of art. But what I like about this video, the reason I think it is interesting, is the way in which it focuses only on details. Byun doesn't ever say, "My opinion of home is . . ." Rather, the camera overwhems the viewer with details and allows them to draw their own conclusions. I think this method really invites the viewer in.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Clarifying What an Introvert Is

Biographical Note:
My name is Joshua and I’m a senior. I have 2 English classes this year (American Lit and Senior Seminar) so I’m getting a lot of writing experience. I’ve already written my college essay (which may be interesting to read. I’ll ask Mr P.) Hopefully the topics I write about will be interesting. It always feels good to just write in a quiet place and get all of your thoughts on a sheet of paper (or a document!) My hobbies include a love of all things video games, watching anime when I have time, and eating lots of pizza!  I also spend a whole lot of time on the internet so I know many MANY things that others may or may not know about. I may decide to write about it one day.

Clarifying What an Introvert Is

By Josh

On all the personality tests that I’ve taken in my lifetime I’ve always been declared as an introvert instead of an extrovert. If you don’t know what either of these words mean an introvert is someone who prefers to spend time alone and do activities in a quiet place while an extrovert is someone who wants to be with others and do loud activities. However I don’t feel that that definition of an introvert is really correct. It’s way too general and broad. I want to clarify what I believe an introvert is and how I reflect that definition.

Just because someone is an introvert doesn’t mean that they don’t want to go out and spend time with others. An example would be lunch time. Most of the time I’ll spend my lunch time working on school work in a quiet part of the school, but if given an opportunity (say advisory lunch for example) I’ll join in and laugh and joke with others. Some of you have firsthand experience of this while bonding on the senior essay writing trip. While I enjoyed thinking in a quiet place about what my thoughts are on a certain subject, my favorite moments include that 1 dinner when the girls were talking about certain “subjects” that can’t be repeated in public while the guys were sticking eating utensils in my afro that desperately needed a haircut while taking pictures. I still need those pictures by the way.

The best definition of being an introvert that I’ve heard of comes from the book Into the Wild of all places. Believe me I was not expecting this either. I hated that book. Anyway it was describing the main character’s personality and said that “Introverts aren’t shy, they just need to be away from people from time to time.” Another way of saying this is that Introverts have their energy drained by being around people while extroverts gain energy. This statement just resonated with me. This is what an introvert is. I have no problem with being around people and speaking my mind. I’m not really that shy either. I just needed a break from people. To recharge my energy so to say. If I’m constantly around people for a long period of time I get exhausted rather quickly. I need some me time to just chill and relax while doing whatever I want.

It may be that I’m too thoughtful and considerate of others. No I’m not bragging or anything. Listen to my reasoning before jumping to conclusions. I’m always thinking before speaking my thoughts. Rarely do I randomly spout whatever comes to mind (although whenever I do it tends to be extremely funny and inappropriate, but that’s for another time) unless I’m overtired or am extremely comfortable with the situation I’m in. Anyway I always think about others before speaking. I think about what a person says, what I feel about what they say, and if I say what I’m thinking how the person will respond. Doing all these steps over and over in social situations can really tucker a fellow out. This may also be a reason leading to my introverted personality.

All in all I like being an introvert. I feel that some people don’t understand the pleasure of being alone with your thoughts for awhile or having their “me time”. So just because I (or other introverts) don’t hang out with you or join in on discussions don’t think that I don’t like you. I was probably just tired from being around people for an extended period of time. And I believe that that’s perfectly fine.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Writing as Cooking

In class today, I was instructing the 9th grade to create short autobiographies that they can post with their writing in order to help GW students get to know the writer behind the writing. I was working to communicate that the most important aspect of their bios was that they be unique, that the reflect the writer behind the writing. Anyway, Gio chirped in, "so you want us to make this writing flavorful."

I hollered, "I WANT ALL OF YOUR WRITING TO BE FLAVORFUL!" Pablo and Ha Nuel yelped. I'd clearly alarmed them with my grizzly bear bellow.
"Reading writing that isn't flavorful is like eating stewed celery. It's horrible!"

Thinking about it later, I realize that this comparison is an important one (thanks Gio!). Writing and cooking aren't all that different. Both are concocted and then fed to an audience. There is no such thing as perfect recipe for either. Rather, the creator must mix their ingredients together to create something that is balanced, appetizing, and substantive. The greatest praise that either can hope to expect is twofold:
  1. that their audience wants more
  2. that their product is so good that others try to imitate them
So, next time you are cooking up a paper, I want you to think about the best meal that you ate the previous week. Why did you like it? What do you think other people like? What ingredients are you working with as you construct your paper? Interesting ideas? Cool words? A solid, fancy, or unorthodox formula? What do you want your writing to taste like?

BTW, I really like cheeseburgers.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Learning from Video Games

While writing his definition essay on the word “game,” Inkwang asked me for my opinion of the word. I said that the thing I like about games is that games are simply groups of rules, so basically anything can be a game when properly defined. Of course, it is possible to center an educational course (in this post, I’ll be directing these thoughts towards my ESL course) around the model that many video games provide. Mr. Pereira first presented this idea, and it’s been germinating in my head ever since. Mr. P suggested that many teenagers are very motivated to play video games, and perhaps if a teacher could distill some of the aspects of video games that drive that motivation, they could apply them to anything. Because a video game is a system, and systems can arguably be used to learn algebra just as easily as they can be used to kill fictional zombies.

So how might I create a video game-like system to help teach my ESL course? Well, first, I must look at what I want. Many video games think about this; the creators of “Call of Duty” want to recreate military experiences realistically. They want other things too, but that’s surely one of their goals. I want to teach English, but more specifically, I want each student to demonstrate mastery over eight areas important for success in an English language classroom: Reading/Main Idea, Short Answer, Research, Outline, Essay Writing, Oral Presentation, and Listening. What seems really cool to me, is that this system seems to have a lot in common with a video game. Each area, or level, has its own set of obstacles that must be dealt overcome. And until those obstacles are mastered, the player can not move on to the next level. Thinking about my ESL course like a video game makes me realize that I can allow each student to move at their own pace, and I can be sure that students will really understand the levels they have passed. Of course, at this time, I don’t have a team of 3D game designers make my class look like “Bioshock,” but for now I am going to try to work with what I can.

Here’s where you come in. Many of you play lots more video games than I do. What am I not thinking about? What are your favorite aspects of video game systems? What can I do to make this project as cool as possible?

Live Blogging from the National Conference for Teachers of English

8:00 am

Today I am at the Barcelo Hotel in Guatemala City, attending an the National Conference for Teachers of English, hosted by Instituto Guatemalteco Americano, and I had a notion. Why not live-blog the event? This is something I’ve never done before. Live-blogging is a form which demands brevity, and for me that is sometimes difficult. But I think it is a cool way for me to reflect on my day here, and I’m trying to expand my brain a little bit, and think about all the different ways we can use this blog. So, I’ll be checking in periodically with my thoughts about the different sessions I attend.