Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Another Interesting Contest from WVDE

Here's something interesting: a logo contest for WESTEST. Read about it here: "Creativity and Innovation Can Pay Students".

Thursday, August 28, 2008

A Wiki. A What? A Wiki!

We have a wiki. It's a collaborative webpage (like Wikipedia). We can all post and respond, so posts won't be limited to teachers only there. It's going to take some learning, but I think we can really use it creatively.

Go check it out. It's at <http://21stcenturysymposium.wetpaint.com/>. You have to "join" to participate, so go do that, too.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

UnSpun reading guidelines

21st Century Symposium

UnSpun reading guidelines

Fall, 2008

As a class, we will be reading and discussing UnSpun: Finding Facts in a World of Disinformation by Brooks Jackson and Kathleen Jamieson during the first few weeks of school. In doing so, we are hoping you can build a critical thinking foundation related to media use and advertising, particularly as we begin to discuss issues such as truth, credibility, and accountability in public information.

We would like for you to do the following:

Read carefully! Take notes, annotate, outline major ideas and concepts, note unfamiliar words, and document your reactions to the text. Keep in mind anything you find interesting, significant, revealing, or strange.

Make sure you are ready to discuss your thinking by completing the following tasks and making notes of the insights you’ve found for each chapter on the dates listed below.

Reading schedule:

By Tuesday, September 2:

Read Introduction and Chapter 1: Note 3 important points for discussion.

By Tuesday, September 9:

Read Chapters 2, 3, and 4: With these chapters, please find an example of an advertisement, promotional, or other piece of public information that employs one of the techniques illustrated in that chapter. For example, you should find a “warning sign” for Chapter 2, a “trick” for Chapter 3, and a “trap” for Chapter 4. You may want to make note of the technique used, the source of your example, and a justification as to why the example is representative of the technique.

By Tuesday, September 16:

Chapters 5, 6, and 7: For Chapter 5, note 3 important points for discussion. For Chapter 6, from some form of media communication find an example of an appeal or logical fallacy outlined in this chapter. For Chapter 7, find a faulty web source or hoax email, then find the facts; be prepared to explain the difference and your process. Again, you may want to make note of the techniques used, the sources of your examples, and justifications as to why the examples are representative.

By Tuesday, September 23:

Reach Chapter 8 and outline 3 important points. Read the conclusion and be prepared to write a final reflection on your reading (further guidelines for this will follow).

Friday, August 22, 2008

Summer Post - Zoning and Residential Cluster Developments

This may sound like an extremely boring topic, but it is a topic that our community is currently facing and may affect you in the future. Therefore, I am curious about your reactions to it. First, a couple of definitions:

Zoning - Zoning is the way the governments control the physical development of land and the kinds of uses to which each individual property may be put.

Zoning laws typically specify the areas in which residential, industrial, recreational or commercial activities may take place. For example, an R-1 residential zone might allow only single-family detached homes as opposed to duplexes or apartment complexes. On the other hand, a C-1 commercial zone might be zoned to permit only certain commercial or industrial uses in one jurisdiction, but permit a mix of housing and businesses in another jurisdiction.

Residential Cluster Development is a means of permanently protecting open space, rural character, and important environmental resources in new housing developments, while providing homeowners with good housing and landowners with the opportunity to develop their property.

Here in Morgan County, a large cluster development is being proposed to build 1200 new homes in the area that was once known as Coolfont. The company planning to build is the Carl M. Freeman Company. The company plans to build a lake and golf course as well. The company has many built many cluster developments along the east coast and periodically holds public informational meetings to inform citizens of their plans. They have also invested in the community by providing funding opportunities for community projects.

Most residential cluster developments are built in areas where there is a zoning ordinance in place, but here in Morgan County we do not have a zoning ordinance. Any building plans must be reviewed by the Morgan County Planning Commission prior to approval. Other than those restrictions, and some rules established by individual developments, residents may do what they wish with their property. Morgan County residents have expressed concerns about this development for various reasons ranging from traffic concerns to water quantity concerns.

I am interested in what you think. Read the following article about residential cluster developments and let me know what your thoughts are. Do you have any questions or concerns this type of development.


Then read some of the articles in the Morgan Messenger (morganmessenger.com) about what Freeman & Company plan to build. Write a reflective paragraph about what some of your concerns might be should this development be approved by the local planning commission.

Friday, August 8, 2008

SUMMER PROJECT: The Art of Thinking Clearly

Logic is about clear, effective, and efficient thinking. It is a science and an art. It is not something that we either have or lack when we are born -- it is something that we must study and practice.

We all know intelligent people who do not always express themselves logically. The likelihood is that their ability to think logically has not been properly developed.

Logic (which in no way excludes emotional feelings, by the way) is certainly helpful in overcoming deception, both from without and within. Please read a well-written (and short!) introduction to the basics of logic, published by the "OWL at Purdue":

Logic in Argumentative Writing

Be sure to read carefully all 5 sections (access found at bottom of page).

Based on your reading, address the following:

According to this article, what is logic?

List seven important logical vocabulary words and their definitions.

List 12 types of logical fallacies, along with quick descriptions of each.

Write two premises that lead to a true conclusion, and two premises that lead to a false conclusion (for ideas see "Reaching Logical Conclusions" examples C , D, and F, and "Does Logic Always Work?").

Any other comments on the piece?

Have a wonderful and clear-thinking rest of the summer!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Global Water Supplies: Are They Sustainable?

Summer Reading Post: Global Water Supplies: Are They Sustainable?

We are having one of the most glorious summers I can remember in a long time. Our days have been mild and our rainfall has been above average. It is July and we are only now seeing about 90 degree days. I hope you all are enjoying your break as much as I am. I have had the opportunity to work on some interesting projects this summer, one of which is to help collate some information on our county’s water quality and quantity. Get this:

The natural origin of the fresh water we use on a daily basis is limited to only one percent of the world’s water. Nearly 97% of the world’s water is salty or otherwise undrinkable, and the other two percent is locked in ice caps and glaciers:

• If five gallons represented all the water in the world – 34 tablespoons would represent water that was not ocean;
• Of the 34 tablespoons, 26 tablespoons would represent ice caps and glaciers;
• The remaining 8 tablespoons would represent water we can use for agricultural, residential, manufacturing, community, and personal needs.3

Water makes up almost two-thirds of the human body and 70 percent of the brain. The average daily requirement for water in the United States is about 341 billion gallons. We use one percent (3.4 billion gallons) in our homes and yards each day. On average, each of us uses almost 100 gallons of water a day including bathing, toiletry, cooking, cleaning, laundry and other non-drinking purposes. Americans drink more than one billion glasses of tap water per day. If we think of water as a precious resource, necessary for our survival as organisms, our focus on conserving water is emphasized.

This information above is from a brochure published by the Environmental Protection Agency called Source Water Protection: It’s In Our Hands. It made me start thinking about global water supplies. Will we always have adequate water supplies?

Consider these questions while reading the following article:

• How much water do people need?
• How abundant are world supplies of clean water?
• How much water is used in agriculture?
• Who provides the world’s water?
• What effects will population growth and development have on water supplies?
• How could disagreements over water lead to conflicts among nations?
• What effects will climate change have on water supplies?

One in six of the planet’s 6.4 billion people presently lack access to safe water, and a least 2.4 billion do no have access to adequate sanitation. Water demand is projected to grown by 40% over the next twenty years.


Answer one or all of the following questions:

1. How has climate change impacted global water supplies?
2. Why is it so important for individuals to have access to clean water supplies?
3. In your own words, put together a brief plan of how you might assist impoverished countries develop a program that ensures access to clean safe water?

Be thankful you are living in Berkeley Springs this summer. You could live in California, the state is literally on fire or you could be living in the Sudan.

Friday, July 25, 2008

SUMMER PROJECT: Getting Involved

Now that we've learned something about the developing world and how microfinance projects are attempting to make a sustainable difference in the economic well-being of people in some of these countries, you might wonder what you can do with your newfound knowledge. That's what my final summer project post will attempt to answer.

The daughter of a friend of mine from college is currently serving as an intern in Argentina for the Foundation for Sustainable Development (FSD). Her name is Christine Solitario, and she just finished her freshman year at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. A few weeks ago, via Facebook, she sent me the following overview of what she's doing there:

"Right now I am in Villa Elisa, a neighborhood of La Plata in the Province of Buenos Aires, Argentina. I'm interning through Foundation for Sustainable Development, an international NGO that coordinates short and long term volunteering in Latin America, Africa, Asia, and the United States. Their Argentina program is based in La Plata. My internship is with a self-sustaining microfinanced sewing cooperative called Mi Perrito Cooperative. They started at the end of 2006 and began focusing on the production of dog clothing. Currently, they're trying to expand and have a contract to make babies' clothing through an organization called Otro Mercado that supports sustainable cooperative. Their workshop is based in a "comedor" called Arco Iris, a community center that provides nutritional meals and educational and social development activities to over 70 children in the area, including the children of the women that work in the cooperative. I'm involved in lots of different things with the group, it changes everyday. The "microfinance" aspect of the cooperative is that they have received micro-loans from a lender here in Argentina called La Base that focuses its efforts on cooperatives. They have also received several grants written by previous FSD interns (I'm currently writing one too). Like I said, it's not like the "traditional microfinance" of SE Asia or Grameen Bank where individual women receive loans and then organize in groups to ensure timely payment, provide support to other group members, etc. Still, the cooperative does work with small loans and grants."

It struck me when I read her words that she's not that much older than any of you! And what an adventure she's having! What an incredible learning experience. (Not to mention, what a great way to differentiate your college application from the thousands that admissions offices receive every year.)

Did I get your attention yet? Since this class is all about student-driven, hands-on learning, encouraging you all to consider an internship or short-term volunteer trip with a group like FSD seemed like the PERFECT last project in my summer series. It could even develop into your project for this class for this year. So here's what you need to do if you choose this project for the blog this summer:

1) Read the above note that Christine sent to me. (By the way, I'll bet Christine would answer your friend request on Facebook if you wanted to speak with her directly about her trip.)

2) Go to the website for the Foundation for Sustainable Development:


Read through the home page, the Why FSD - 10 Reasons page, the Internship page, Short-Term Volunteering page, and one of the blog posts from people who are already serving in various developing nations. Then answer the following questions:

If you became an intern or volunteer, where would you like to go? Why?

What would you do to prepare for your trip? What might you need to learn?

Why might you or someone else choose to become part of a program like this?

Once your internship or volunteer trip was over, what would you like to have accomplished a) for the people in the community you served and b) for yourself?

I would LOVE to see one or more of you actually become part of a program like this that would take you to a developing nation. If you did, it would be a life-changing experience.

Monday, July 21, 2008

SUMMER PROJECT: A Closer Look at Lending to Entrepreneurs in Developing Nations through Kiva

So far in my Summer Project posts, we've gotten a quick overview of Kiva, a micro-lending website that allows individuals to connect with entrepreneurs in need of financing in the developing world, and we've learned a bit about how microfinancing works. Now I'd like us to find out more about 4 of these real entrepreneurs (My husband Glen and I have made Kiva loans to each of them, which is how I know about them.) from 4 different developing nations, find out how they are using their loans, and learn more about why their countries are considered developing nations. If you choose to respond to this post, you may choose one of the 4 entrepreneurs and read about him or her in the appropriate link below. Next, go to the CIA's World Fact Book website (links are below) for the country of the entrepreneur you chose and read about that country. Then respond to both of the following prompts in your post:

What characteristics of the nation you read about qualifies it as a developing nation? What obstacles does this nation face? What promising features does it have that could help to propel it into a more economically prosperous future?

Comment on one or more of the following for the entrepreneur's profile you chose: the loan amount, the delinquency rate of the field partner (the microfinance institution that distributes the money loaned and receives repayment from the entrepreneurs to which it distributes money), the people who have loaned money online through Kiva to the entrepreneur you chose, background of the entrepreneur, or anything else you see that interests you on the profile page.

Kiva Entrepreneur Mulkadar Abbasov:
Nation of Azerbaijan:

Kiva Entrepreneur Fatuma Furaha:
Nation of Tanzania:

Kiva Entrepreneur Luisa Ivania Espinoza:
Nation of Nicaragua:

Kiva Entrepreneur Abu Samura:
Nation of Sierra Leone:

If you need a quick refresher course on what Kiva does, click here.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

SUMMER PROJECT POST: Political Honesty (oxymoron?)

My first SUMMER POST (concerning deception in politics) generated some thoughtful responses, and I'd like to pursue this further based on your comments.

Several of you concluded that telling the truth can hurt a candidate's chances for election, and that knowing the whole truth might in some cases be traumatic for the public. Why, in "the world's greatest democracy", should this be ? You will enjoy two short opinion-editorials on the subject:

The Perils of Honesty in Politics by Ezra Klein, who cites journalist Michael Kinsley's principle that "a gaffe is when a politician tells the truth."

The Truth About Honesty by Joan Vennochi, who is hopeful that American voters are finally ready for the truth, and claims that "truth telling does seem more likely to occur in the Oval Office if it begins on the campaign trail."

Political satire often gets to the heart of the matter, and (if you haven't already) you should check out JibJab's latest video Time for Some Campaignin'.

Consider these questions:

How much truth can the American public handle? How much do they deserve?

What issues are the presidential candidates tiptoeing around? (Are you following the campaign? Whether or not you will be eligible to vote in November, you have a stake in the election.)

Each candidate has been accused of changing position on certain issues. What issues are they?
What makes a "good" politician?

Finally, is there a better way of choosing an American President? It takes well over 100 million dollars to run a viable Presidential campaign, in which it seems advantageous to avoid the truth (which is often distorted and reduced to sound bites and photo ops). I think that this course has to do with inventing the future, and here's your challenge to invent a new way of selecting our national leader.

Wow, give it a try. I'm looking forward to hearing from you.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


This is my 4th and last summer project post. Again, my theme has been media and culture, and I am specifically interested in how what we see and hear affects what we know… SO… I found this blog that addresses this very thing: the idea of the purpose of education in the 21st century, and how that purpose should change as understanding and resources change. Interestingly (and synchronistically, serendipitously enough) this site really embodies much of what I think education should be—and maybe some of what we’re going for in this course.

The blog is Education for Well-Being. Go look at it, explore, and think about what you think.
Related to my theme is this, a video created by Ed4WB:

After viewing the video think about this (in relationship to the video's ideas, of course):

How do you know what you know? (Epistemology?)
What should you know? Who should “teach” it to you?
How does our culture affect your knowledge? What kind of knowledge is important?
How do you find, synthesize, and express information and ideas? For school? For yourself?
How do you know that what you know is true?
What do you think of this video?

As always, I am looking forward to your responses. I can’t wait to talk about this stuff in class.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

SUMMER PROJECT POST: Media Analysis and Source Credibility

This is my third summer project post for our class, and I have been thinking about propaganda, advertising, and the effects of popular culture on kids and schools. I am working on a professional presentation that has to do with teaching critical thinking, and I am using pop culture as my starting point.

Anyway, I came across the website for The Culture and Media Institute. The site has some really interesting articles that deal with the impact of language. This one*** details the way popular music lyrics affect teen behavior (***before you read: PROFANITY alert in this article). The website’s also got a sidebar column that tracks news articles evidencing our culture’s decline, (a Biblical one, evidently, as the sidebar’s entitled “Slouching Toward Gomorrah”). One of the recent articles discusses thievery of manhole covers, while another reports on a British student who was given credit for a profane answer on a test.

The Culture and Media Institute is a product of The Media Research Center, an openly conservative organization, and “the mission of the Culture and Media Institute is to preserve and help restore America’s culture, character, traditional values, and morals against the assault of the liberal media elite, and to promote fair portrayal of social conservatives and religious believers in the media. CMI, the cultural division of the Media Research Center, is dedicated to correcting misconceptions in the media about social conservatism and religious faith.”

So… After looking over the site, some articles, and other contents, think about this:

What did you discover that you find interesting, significant, revealing, or strange?

What does the information or ideas contained here tell you about bias? About information?

According to the website and its contents, what issues are most important in America today?

What changes should be made in America today? What is “truth”? How do you know?

And… Is this a credible source? Does it meet the standards of accuracy, objectivity, currency, and coverage that determine credibility?

Friday, June 27, 2008

SUMMER PROJECT POST: Addressing Global Dependence on OIl

While reading the following article, keep in mind the following questions:

What are proven reserves of oil and gas?
How fast are we consuming these resources?
Where are global reserves of oil and gas located?
What are the environmental effects of oil and gas use?
What are the issues of drilling for oil in the ANWR?
What is peak oil and has it been reached yet?

Running on Empty? How Economic Freedom Affects Oil Supplies
by Stephen P. A. Brown and Richard Alm


Respond to one or more of the following questions:

1. What is today’s world price for oil? Check the web, a daily newspaper, or business network.

At present rates of consumption, we can determine how long world proven reserves (1,190 billion barrels at the end of 2004) will last by simply dividing the total oil by the annual production – approximately 31 billion barrels per year. Note that when we do this the resultant number is years since “barrels” cancel out.

The number represents the total number of years from 2005 that oil could be produced at current rates before it is all gone, assuming constant production and demand. In reality, the depletion of a resource like oil does not follow such a simple pattern. Rather, oil production will gradually decline over a long period of time (oil, like coal, becomes harder to extract). It is useful for this analysis, however, to assume for the moment that it does follow this simple depletion pattern, that is, at the present rate of extraction and use.

2. In what year, starting from 2005, would the world run out of oil in the previous scenario?

3. With oil reserves still available, should the United States look for better ways to extract oil or should we look for alternatives to oil as our major energy source?

Although the following New York Times Op-ed piece is dated, it offers some insight into how the United States is viewed globally. Check it out.


4. What benefits will both the United States and other countries reap when we become less dependent on oil as our major energy source?

Think about adding Freedom From Oil by David B. Sandalow, 2007, to your summer reading list.

5. I would be interested in your opinion concerning the United State’s dependency on oil as a source of energy. What solutions are there? What choices do we have? Are these choices economically and socially feasible?

6. How have higher energy (including gasoline) prices affected you and your family? What are you doing to deal with higher energy costs?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

SUMMER PROJECT POST: The Art of Deception

Hello everyone. I’ve been thinking recently about what I’ll call The Art of Deception. Human beings deceive, distort and distract to accomplish their goals, whether selling a product, electing a candidate, or winning popular support for a policy. We even deceive ourselves. Naturally, we accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative in a job interview or when selling a house. At what point does a convenient distortion become a poisonous lie?

I’d like you to read and think about political deception and post your comments accordingly. My hope is that you will be less susceptible to deceit and distortion. We wish to avoid partisan politics – every political party has engaged in deceit. Even so Abraham Lincoln, who spoke the immortal words on the subject, “…you can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”

Perhaps it is best to begin with a synopsis of the research of Dr. Glen Newey, who concluded that “…some political deception is not only inevitable in a democracy but can be legitimate where it is conducted by elected politicians in the public interest where they have the tacit support of the electorate.”

Politicians being Economical with the truth is the price of a Healthy Democracy

Two other readings from opposing standpoints:

"Selective Intelligence" by Seymour Hersh, from The New Yorker magazine

“How Democrats Bamboozle Black Voters” from the Wall Street Journal

For more, search “Politics of Deception”.

Possible questions to ponder:

Where is the line that shouldn’t ethically be crossed in political deception?

Is the public entitled to the whole truth, all the details, all the time?

Can there be a successful, honest politician?

At what point is a mudslinging candidate hurt by her/his own negativity?

Does freedom of speech guarantee freedom to deceive?

What will it take to restore politics to an honorable stature?

I’m excited to hear your thoughts. I feel strongly that this is a critical issue that our society should address.

SUMMER PROJECT POST: Global Food Production

While reading the following articles (they’re short), keep these questions in mind:

What are global trends in grain production?
What are the principal uses of grain in the United States and the world?
Can global food supplies feed a growing population?


Why Ethanol Production Will Drive World Food Prices Even Higher in 2008
By Lester R. Brown


By Lester R. Brown


Critically answer one or several of the following questions and post your answers to our blog:

1. How do you think substituting ethanol for oil as a transport fuel will affect grain supplies (how has it already affected global grain supplies)? What evidence supports your view?
2. What percent of global grain harvest was fed to animals in 2006? Do a little research to find out. Should we discourage meat consumption or encourage grass feed instead of grain for livestock to free grain to feed the world’s hungry? How would your decision affect you personally?
3. What is the current global population? Check out this website to find out:
Do you think it is possible to feed a global human population of 9 billion? Support your answer.
4. Lester Brown doesn’t offer any alternatives to the use of ethanol as a source of fuel. Can you offer a solution to our growing energy needs that will not adversely affect global food supplies?
5. Have you or your family members noticed an increase in food prices? Find out. Discuss the issue with your parents or whoever buys the bread in you household. Share with us what you find out.

Friday, June 20, 2008

SUMMER PROJECT POST: ABC's of Developing Nations and Microfinance

This is the second of my 4 summer project posts around the theme of "Global Challenges: Narrowing the Gap between Developing and Developed Nations". If the Kiva article got your attention, you might want to find out more about what defines a developing nation, what microfinance is, and other basic concepts around this topic. The link below will take you to a google doc I published online that contains excerpts from articles with information on this issue.


Once you've read it, consider answering some or all of the questions below:

1. Based on your knowledge of world history, current events, etc., why do you think some countries have become "more developed" than others?

2. Is being "more developed" necessarily a good thing for a nation? Why or why not? What are some advantages/disadvantages to being a developed or developing nation?

3. Why do you think women in developing countries are the most likely to apply for microfinance loans?

4. In your opinion, what would be the most desirable and important outcome of microfinance efforts in developing countries? Why is this outcome the most desirable/important?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Apply for a chance to participate in Forecast Earth Summit!

This looks like an interesting opportunity to participate in an environmental forum to be held in Washington D.C. this December. Think seriously about applying.

Dear U.S. High School Students,

If you are passionate about the environment and are ready to help lead the world to a cleaner, greener future, please consider applying for this opportunity to share your ideas with leading environmental experts.

In an effort to bring environmental experts and students together to share ideas and thoughts on major environmental issues, the Weather Channel is hosting a Forecast Earth Summit in Washington, DC December 5 – 7, 2008

20 outstanding high school students, who are passionate about their environment and taking action to make a difference, will be selected to attend this summit.

If you are a high school student who wants to develop leadership skills by being an Eco-Ambassador for this summit, please go the following web site and fill out an application.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Interested in Solar Energy?

If so, you might want to put the Open House for the Mountain View Solar House on your calendar for Saturday, July 12 from 11:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. Check out the website at


The address is 3026 Pious Ridge Road, and there's an e-mail address and a phone number on the website to find out directions. This would be a great way to begin a project about solar power or alternate energy sources for our class.

Internet President? SUMMER PROJECT POST

Those of you who know me know how interested I am in popular media’s influence on society, and you’ll be seeing me post articles related to communication and media over the next few months. This is my second summer project post and deals with media and communication in a slightly different way than the first.

In the June issue of The Atlantic Monthly, Marc Ambinder discusses Barack Obama’s use of the Internet as a campaign tool, and speculates about how he will use it if elected president. Another interesting aspect of this article deals with the way communication media have changed and how successful presidential candidates have used new (and sometimes controversial) media to their advantage.

Read the article at http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200806/ambinder-obama and consider the following:

This is the first election in which candidates have had a consistent web campaign (via MySpace, Facebook, speeches on YouTube, etc.); you may even want to view the candidates’ pages in order to really think about this issue. How do you think this change in media has affected voter demographics, perception of the candidates, and campaign tactics?

Does the medium in which a candidate communicates affect your perception of that candidate? Is, as Neil Postman asserts, the medium the message? Is the method of communication just as or more important as what is being said?

What are your thoughts about what a President might do with the Internet once in office? What changes might we see based on these changes in communication media?

Disclaimer: I do not mean for this post to provoke partisan political discussion. Let’s focus on the way candidates are using media to communicate.

Friday, June 6, 2008

What are YOU reading this summer?

My favorite things about summer are big red sliced tomatoes, campfires, going to Cape Cod, and READING WHATEVER I WANT! I'd love to hear everyone else's book suggestions, and I'll share a few of my own. Post 'em on this thread!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Student Opportunity: America's Promise

Since one emphasis of this class is active student involvement in the community, nation and world, here's an opportunity for you to become engaged in one of the premier youth-focused organizations in this country: America's Promise. It was established by General Colin Powell about 10 years ago and is dedicated to increasing the well-being of youth across the country. They are looking for young people (16 - 22 years old) around the country to join their Youth Partnership Team. The link below will take you to the site that explains this program:


This could be an incredible opportunity for someone in our class; it could even be the basis of your project for the class. Check it out and consider applying!

Monday, June 2, 2008


Hello everyone! This is the first of my four posts over the summer around the theme of "Global Challenges: Narrowing the Gap between Developing and Developed Nations". I thought I'd start with an article from the Stanford University Alumni Magazine about Kiva, an online organization that allows people around the world to loan small amounts of money (as little as $25!) to other people in developing nations trying to start businesses to improve their lives. Here's the link to the article:


If you choose this post as one of your four for your summer project, please read the article and comment on one or more of the following questions, keeping in mind the posting requirements on the summer project handout and criteria we established at our meeting:

Possible questions to consider:

Should we as people of the richest nation in the world lead the way in helping developing nations, simply because it's the right thing to do (moral idealism)? Or should we do it because we might get something in return (political realism)? What benefits might result from assisting developing nations?

Does Kiva refute the argument that technology isolates people? Why or why not?

Are you surprised that virtually everybody who receives a loan from Kiva pays it back? If so, why are you surprised? If not, why not? Are your personal biases about developing nations reflected in your response? What is your image of the typical loan recipient?

Why do you think Kiva has taken off the way it has?


Thursday, May 29, 2008

What is a 21st Century Learner? SUMMER PROJECT POST

The West Virginia Department of Education is asking students to fill out a survey about the state of education in the 21st Century. They might even give you an iPod if you do.

Are you guys prime candidates to give them some answers? I think so.

Go here to fill it out: http://wvde.state.wv.us/tt/2008/student-survey-intro.html.

I hadn't originally intended for this to be my first thematic post of the summer, but then, I was thinking about this survey, and I realized it's perfect to get you thinking about the theme of new media, technology, and our perceptions. So here are a few questions to ruminate:

Did you notice how multiple media are combined on the start page (the video clip, text, graphics)? What do you think was the author's/designer's purpose in setting things up that way? What does this say about his or her perceptions of purpose and intended audience? Do you think this will effectively convey that purpose and reach the intended audience?

What do you think this survey is intended to measure? What results do you think it will produce? What do you think about their potential validity? How do you think the results will be used? What comments do you have about the depth and number of questions?

And last... What appeals to logic, emotion, or ethics are used to achieve the intended purpose? Are these effective? What effect do you think they'll have on survey participation and results?

You don't have to answer ALL these questions--but I'd like you to think about all of them. I am so looking forward to hearing your thoughts on this!

Summer Guidelines

Over the summer, each of your teachers will choose a broad theme and post 4 blog entries and related questions for you to read and respond on our class blog (2 in June, 2 in July).

Each of you will view and post a response to any 4 teacher postings over the summer. You must post something (comments, ideas, questions, responses, your own links, articles, or other sources related to the topic) twice before July 2nd, and twice before August 20th. Your postings must show that you have read, understood, and have answered "So What?" in relationship to the postings and related postings (your teachers’ ideas, the ideas in the postings, and other students’ ideas).

The goal for our class blog is to create conversation among our class members—it’s our classroom in virtual space and time. Remembering this, ideally you should respond to one another and to your teachers, adding new ideas to our continuing conversation, and, even though you are only required to post 4 times, the more you read and participate, the richer all our experiences will be. Check the blog often, post often, and engage yourself, us, and each other!

Visit this blog often to read, view, and think about the comments and postings! It might be a good idea to subscribe to the posts, just so you can see when new postings appear.

Your participation will be made much easier if you have a Google account. This will allow you to post with a username (not anonymously), to access other Google resources we’ll be using later on in the year, and even to create your own blog. We’d recommend you sign up for a gmail account, too. To create a Google Account, visit the account-creation page.

We will also be asking you to read a group text: UnSpun: Finding Facts in a World of Disinformation by Brooks Jackson and Kathleen Hall Jamieson. You can access the book's website at http://www.factcheck.org/unspun/. There you can read sample pages and reviews. More information will be coming once your copies of the books are delivered.

Your comment postings will be evaluated on the following criteria:

Conciseness: Post is brief, meaningful, and to the point.

Claims should be supported with relevant evidence. Substantiate your position! Defend your argument!

Post is logical and makes sense.

Purpose and audience are considered (language is appropriate); use your best judgment.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

What if …

…Learning was exploratory in nature, and facts weren’t just deposited in students’ brains?

…a class was student-driven and teacher facilitated, and teachers learned right along side of their students?

…students were encouraged to explore topics through the perspective of mathematics, science, literature, history, politics, economics, and logic?

…cutting-edge technologies were seamlessly incorporated into student learning and presentation to others?

…thinking logically, creatively, and critically were the priorities, rather than frantic, disposable memorization?

…meaningful project-based learning was pursued by self­-initiating students and guided and monitored by teachers?

…students were committed and accountable for their own intellectual and academic progress?

Then you might be in the 21st Century Symposium at Berkeley Springs High School during school year 2008-2009!

Are you up to the challenge?