Resource Highlight: PennSound

Looking for audio of contemporary poetry — possibly spoken by the author herself? PennSound at the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing is “an ongoing project, committed to producing new audio recordings and preserving existing audio archives.” It is an online archive of poetry audio recordings that makes tens of thousands of digital files available to the public for free. PennSound also has an internet radio station, podcasts, and videos (and a small selection of classics).

PennSound is all about making audio files that can be played universally, with all metadata intact. Its manifesto in short:
1. It must be free and downloadable.
2. It must be MP3 or better.
3. It must be singles.
4. It must be named.
5. It must embed bibliographic information in the file.
6. It must be indexed.

You can use poetry to introduce or summarize a section or topic, or to illustrate a point.  For example, do you have juniors and seniors making plans for life after high school?  Why not play Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” and have them dissect its meaning?  Thanks to Penn Sound, they can also ponder the improbable path the recording took to get to them: from aluminum platter to reel tape to digitization!

Screen capture of Robert Frost page on PennSound

Labor Day Roundup

Just in time for the start of the school year is a holiday to impress on everyone that summer is REALLY over. But what is Labor Day truly about? Here is a list of resources that examine the history of the observation.

  • From Digital History, the day’s beginning in the violence that accompanied the establishment of workers’ rights (despite the fact that it is not celebrated on the anniversary of the Haymarket Affair)
  • From the U.S. Department of Labor, a history of the legislation creating the holiday in the U.S.
  • Several videos on the subject — especially the role of strikes from Homestead to G.M — curated by Indiana University Northwest

To review the larger background of labor in America, use the Theme: The Labor Movement in WorldView Software’s American History II and Basic American History II (for middle school students).  In the theme, you’ll find gathered in one place materials such as Case Study: Haymarket Affair, Internet Project: Impact of Mass Production, and Tutorial: Revolution of Industry.

And the history of labor isn’t over — it’s been undergoing a series of revolutions ever since the Industrial Revolution, and labor regulations and contracts still haven’t caught up to events like: the entrance of women into paid work and the two earner-family, the globalization of manufacturing, the increasing use of robotics, and the freelance/gig economy.  You can review the information in WorldView Software’s U.S. Government Theme: Economic and Financial Regulation, U.S. Government with Economics Theme: Globalization, Economics Chapter 7: Business and Labor, and Civics Theme: Globalization (for middle school students).  Take the opportunity to discuss recent developments with your students, and encourage them to develop policy ideas of their own based on clearly articulated principles such as fairness.

The featured image is of an unnamed miner in Silverton, Colorado, who won the Labor Day power drilling contest in September, 1940 (photo by Russell Lee, LC-USF33- 012908-M2).

BulbgraphOnOffAdvanced students can get a lot out of Internet Projects on their own; curated links progressively lead to a hands-on project.

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Virtual Reality Starter Kit

There are several different varieties of virtual reality (VR) now.   A recent Knight Foundation report called “Viewing the Future,” defined them this way: “‘virtual reality’…creates environments that allow people to be “present” in an alternative environment; ‘augmented reality,’ which starts with the real world and overlays virtual objects and information; and ‘spherical’ or ‘360-degree’ video, which captures an entire scene in which the viewer can look up, down and around.” (An older worldviewsoftware’s blog post about using augmented reality for education is available here.)

While the report focused on VR’s effect on journalism, VR has finally reached a price point where it is within reach of the classroom.  The immersive qualities of VR can make it a natural for empathetic storytelling, so why not help your students make a VR project instead of a video? There are just a few things to keep in mind.

First thing to recognize is that the VR itself is different from other visual media such as video and graphics.  This blog from graduate journalism students exploring VR contains lots of tips about perspective, angles, and other techniques that they have experimented with.  The second thing is a theme from the blog: it’s especially interesting to note that they keep finding a deeper message: the story’s the thing!  In fact, one of the most popular VR apps in the Google Play Store is Storytelling: Chair In A Room, by Ryan Bousfield, but horror stories are not my thing, so I didn’t download it to try it — I’d recommend trying the official Star Wars app’s Jakku Spy story instead.

Third is a reminder to keep it short — VR is still disorienting, and if a story is too long viewers may become nauseous.  According to this article, “Symptoms such as nausea are caused when the brain receives visual cues that clash with sensory information received from the ears’ vestibular system, which aids balance.”  This problem may have been fixed (.pdf) experimentally by researchers, but it will take time to roll out to users.

Finally, there’s already a wide range of tools available.  Google/Alphabet has put a lot of effort into creating the infrastructure around VR, and emphasizing democratic accessibility.  The featured image is a Google Cardboard VR viewer, by Wikimedia Commons user: othree, and is made primarily out of — yes — cardboard, which you fold up and drop your phone into.  (There’s some other stuff too, like a couple of lenses, two magnets, a rubber band, and some velcro.)  The first lesson plan can be to actually make the viewers you’ll be using, either from scratch or from the parts.  Other lesson plans can focus on students’ experimentation of techniques, storyboarding ideas, and the final product itself.


Examples: YouTube 360 Videos

What will your students create?

BulbgraphOnOffChronological questions test students’ ability to sequentially order information, placing it in historical context.

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How to Make Teaching Social Studies Easier

Make your life easier by finding out all the ways that software can be used to teach social studies: use it like a book, as a resource workbook, or let your students explore the tremendous amount of content in each title.  Because it’s more than just a pdf on the web, with truly interactive software the sky’s the limit!

Take a virtual tour through WorldView software here: WorldView Demonstration Video

Continue reading How to Make Teaching Social Studies Easier