“It’s a dangerous thing, Frodo, stepping outside your windows…”

Here’s the deal.  Aside from grading stacks and stacks of papers, planning a few lit units, organizing my house that has, for the last two years, slid further and further into “crazy psycho collector read-all-about-it-in-the-Lifestyle-section” land, and catching up on leisure reading, I’m supposed to be putting together a presentation for my colleagues about all the neato things I learned at the TIES conference at the beginning of the month. (Reference this blog and this one for context.)

That wouldn’t be a problem–I like putting together presentations–except for two things:

1)  I hate, loathe, detest, and am flattened by having to present to colleagues.  I can only teach teenagers.  That’s it.  My repertoire is quite…small.  I can do 8th grade, and I can do seniors, and I can do everything in between, but beyond that?  I either come across like a total imbecile or, in trying to avoid that, I assume far too much and end up speaking babble in Greek.

and…

2)  In deciding what to include, I’ve been spending hours reading edtech blogs, following links, adding to my bookmarks, and exclaiming, “Oh, hey, another way to use Twitter!” and “Wow, that’s so freaking cool!” a lot.

Neither of these points are very helpful, you might notice.

Perhaps as an act of exorcism, I’ll lay out some of the cool things I’ve been finding for #2.  (If any of you have ideas on fixing #1, please comment or e-mail!)

  • Wordia.  I’m having visions of some very fun and creative vocabulary lessons for kids.
  • Search Cube.  Cool for visual learners, I suspect.  You can view an example here.
  • Twitter Venn tools.  Very cool.  Visually interesting and fun.  (Not to mention an awesome woman whose blog I need to watch closely so it’s already added to my RSS feed!)
  • Speaking of new bloggers I’m following, here’s a great idea for Movie Trailers for Books with a very cool resource for keeping track of visual sources.  Woot!

Where did most of these come from?  Tweets on Twitter posted by other educators or edtechs.

So…back to that presentation.  Maybe after following links to just a couple of more sites…and checking my tweets another time…oh, and yeah, that new Wiki I joined for educators, that might have something new…and…and…and…

FCC: 1 gazillion Ms. O: 1

Addendum to Irony 2 of a few days ago:

So, the final straw came yesterday afternoon.  I had a group of kids in my classroom, on their own time, after school, to play with ArtRage on my SmartBoard.  I had just gotten the upgrade to the pay version okayed from the office, and I had the school’s credit card in hand to get the upgrade so I had use of all the tools.

Coolness.

Fill out the form.  Get the registration key in e-mail.  Open the link…and…

Blocked.

Yep, blocked.  The page where I could actually download the program.

So, yeah, I looked up the number of the liaison at the service co-op that provides the filtering and, as nicely as I could, begged for some sanity.

After he unblocked the website for me (only took a few minutes), we had a chat about my concerns.  I said that while I was told (see earlier blog’s comments) that to receive funding, the co-op had to block a minimum number of categories based on a rating system (one more asinine than the MPAA, I might add), I queried why blogs and wiki slide presentations and everything was blocked when it wasn’t on the neat little list my Principal handed me.

The nice man (thank you, Josh!) listened to me gripe, and then promised to check the list against the blocks and do it soon.

Then I asked him who provides the funding and filter mandates, and he said, as I suspected, the FCC.

Vision of Carlin danced in my head…

“So, I get to take on the FCC?  Freaking awesome!” I joked, half-serious.

He laughed, too.  “Yeah, good luck with that…” he said.

But I’d really, really like to.  I think I’ll follow this up and find out who makes these decisions, based on what data, and how designations like “R-rated” and “inappropriate” are awarded.

And why it is that when I googled “Greek people” the other day for an image to use in class (I’m teaching The Odyssey in my LA 10), I got, uh, much more than, uh, Greek people.  (My point here is not that I was offended–far from it, I can deal–but that even with all the freaking filtering of quality information, the ugly or objectionable or age-inappropriate still gets through.)

I’ve had students unable to write research papers on breast cancer research (the word “breast” is blocked) or write arguments against drug use citing NIDA (blocked because–get this–of the word “drugs”).  And we’re supposed to be educating?!?

Anyway, today?  Blogs are no longer blocked.  I can actually read all these blogs I have linked to over here on your right —>.

I won one battle; the war continues.  I hope I’m not alone in it.

Come right on in. That’s right…tea, coffee, over here.

I may rant a bit now and again, but I try not to allow angst in.

You in my classes (past or present) already know me.  Likely more than you ever wanted to, considering how many dumb stories I tell in class.

Feel free to comment on anything I’ve written (even to criticize or argue).  Opinions, especially supported opinions (AP Lang, you know what I’m talking about), are welcome.

And, sure, just for you, I have Mountain Dew, too.  Sheesh.