Archive for December 2007

Three Cups of Tea and a Happy New Year

December 29, 2007

On our way to and from Kansas for Christmas, my husband and I listened to the audio book of Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace… One School at a Time. The book recounts the story of Greg Mortenson and his struggles to build, ultimately, 60+ schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Although I found the writing to be excessively descriptive in places, I enjoyed listening to Greg’s inspirational labor of educating the children of Pakistan and Afghanistan in an environment that is not always hospitable to outsiders (especially Americans). After some failed attempts at fund-raising, Greg paired up with the Central Asia Institute and finally beganto see his dreams come to fruition. It is a truly amazing story, and it demonstrates alternate ways to fight “the war on terror” through education and humanitarian aid.

Along with the inspirational message, I also learned a little about the people and culture of these regions. You should give the book at read!

After hearing the story, it renewed my faith in the idea that ONE person can make a difference in the world. So, as you begin the new year, I encourage you to take a little time to reflect on the impact you have made on the world thus far and maybe make an effort to contribute something positive to the world this year.

Some places to start –

  • Kiva – “Kiva lets you connect with and loan money to unique small businesses in the developing world. By choosing a business on Kiva.org, you can “sponsor a business” and help the world’s working poor make great strides towards economic independence.”
  • Pennies for Peace – “Pennies for Peace educates American children about the world beyond their experience and shows them that they can make a positive impact on a global scale, one penny at a time.”
  • Donate your time or money to an organization of your choosing (local church, hospital, school, humane society or retirement center; Salvation Army; Red Cross, etc.)
  • Habitat for Humanity – “Habitat for Humanity International is a nonprofit, ecumenical Christian housing ministry. HFHI seeks to eliminate poverty housing and homelessness from the world, and to make decent shelter a matter of conscience and action.”
  • Lessen your environmental footprint and/or support organizations with the environment in mind
  • Pangea Day – Make a video – “Pangea Day taps the power of film to strengthen tolerance and compassion while uniting millions of people to build a better future. In a world where people are often divided by borders, difference, and conflict, it’s easy to lose sight of what we all have in common. Pangea Day seeks to overcome that – to help people see themselves in others – through the power of film.”
  • Be nice to people, smile and offer a helping hand when you can… 🙂

I would love to hear your thoughts on Three Cups of Tea and/or how we can work to make a positive impact on the world this year. Thanks for reading.

I Was Lost, But Now I’m Found

December 28, 2007

Anyone who knows me, knows I am AWFUL with directions. In the past, Google Maps has served as my guide. I always looked up directions, printed off maps and referred to them as I drove to my locations… although helpful, it became a little tedious.

But, no more! Luckily, my thoughtful husband purchased me the Garmin nuvi 260 GPS unit for Christmas. It is pretty fancy! I have already input some of my “favorite” locations and added my house address so I can always find my way home. I am enjoying the heck out of it so far.

And, by the way, it is super small and has a touch screen which is really easy to navigate. I am really impressed with the functionality of it for the price. It even allows me to change from auto to bike to walking so it can be used for geocaching, and I can purchase an optional bike mount so I can use it when cycling. Woo hoo!

And since Garmin has been so generous to me in the past, I am glad my husband purchased one of their GPS units.

The Little Green OLPC Laptop

December 28, 2007

The other day I walked in my principal’s office and saw him playing with an OLPC laptop, and I said, “I must have it!” So he directed me to the actual owner (another principal) who allowed me to take it down to my office and play with it for a bit.

OLPC

My initial reaction is that it is the cutest laptop I have ever seen, and it is rather toy-like in its appearance. In less than a minute I had connected to the district’s wireless network and was searching Google. I also opened the word processor, recorded via the webcam and played around with some of the programs. I didn’t have a chance to do any in-depth evaluations, but in the time I had it, I was pretty impressed with its capabilities.

OLPC 2

The school district has purchased twenty or so OLPC laptops for us to tinker with and evaluate for possible uses, so I hope to get my hands on another one soon.

Oh, and just in case you are wondering, my favorite part of the little laptop is the keyboard. Typing on it reminded me of squishing the puffy stickers from the 80’s… weird, I know, but oddly enough, it made me smile. 🙂

3.jpg

We Need You!!

December 17, 2007

In my last post I referenced Irving ISD’s media fair and the upcoming on-line judging.  Well, the time has come, and now, we need some judges.  We would love to have people from all over the world judge the entries, so spread the word!  The entry categories open for on-line judging are

  • digital audio
  • digital video (short clips)
  • digital photography
  • original illustrated art
  • product design
  • website design

If you have some expertise in one of these areas we would love for you to help us out and leave the students some constructive comments to help them improve… or forward the information on to a friend. The entrants range from pre-K – Adults, so there are a variety of ability levels.

The purpose of us extending the judging to those outside of the district is to hopefully get some feedback for our students from those of you practicing these technology skills (either as a profession or a hobby).  So, judge as many entries as you like. 🙂

Judging will be open until January 7, 2008.  And, here is the link to the entries.

Thank you in advance!

I Have Been Very, Very Bad…

December 13, 2007

It has been quite some time since I have written on my blog on a consistent basis… I just always seem to be so busy. And honestly, being busy is not an excuse. I know many people who update their blogs much more frequently and who are busier than I am, so really I just haven’t had a lot to say or haven’t made writing my priority.  And, I am not going to promise now that I will write more frequently, because I may not.  We will just have to see what comes.

So, now that I have established why I have not written, let me get to why I am writing… and basically, it is because I have some things to share.

The first thing I would like to share are a couple of my students’ This I Believe podcasts. The relatively simple assignment of having my students record their essays turned into a complete BEATING because of hardware issues.  Apparently their laptops (Dell 505s) don’t want to recognize external microphones. We got them working by installing the audio drivers again but then the laptops wouldn’t “hold” the fix, so after they restarted them they could no longer record… lots of frustration on my end and we still haven’t got the problem fixed. But my students and I persevered, and you can listen to the podcasts of the students who agreed to have theirs published… not very many, but it is a start.

Next, I want to make sure you know about Free Rice.  It is simple concept – you review vocabulary and for each answer you get correct, you earn a grain of rice which is donated to a country in need. You can read more about the site here, here and here.  And a warning – it is a little addicting (especially for nerds like me).

And, if you haven’t checked out my school’s on-line art gallery, you really need to because it is OUTSTANDING! There is some seriously good artwork there folks…seriously.

That is really about all for now. I will be writing an upcoming article about our district’s media fair. My school had some really good entries. Oh, and the coolest part… a portion of the entries from the district’s media fair will be placed on-line for “experts” in the field to vote on the best in each category.  Pretty fancy!  I will share the info soon.

And a good day to you!

Pangea Day

December 6, 2007

I came across the Pangea Day website the other day, and think it sounds like an outstanding project.

“Pangea Day taps the power of film to strengthen tolerance and compassion while uniting millions of people to build a better future.

In a world where people are often divided by borders, difference, and conflict, it’s easy to lose sight of what we all have in common. Pangea Day seeks to overcome that – to help people see themselves in others – through the power of film.”

You should watch the video trailer… it is really good.

I am hoping to work with the history teacher on my team to have some students participate.  I am in the beginning stages of thinking through a lesson/assignment which culminates in the creation of a video for the Pangea Day project.  I would love to hear any ideas you have!