Tag Archive for NPR

Blogs as Text: Sports & Pop Culture

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As a continuation of yesterday’s post, today we’ll focus on using pop culture, sports and current events blogs in the classroom.  It’s easy for me to sell any teacher on the idea of implementing blog reading that delves into current events; students need to be global citizens.  But pop culture and sports blogs can tricky.  Students need to gain more than the latest gossip and team scores.

While TMZ and Perez Hilton have their place, the blogs I’ve chosen to highlight today cover all of the same issues but with the type of style and “smarts” that makes them attractive to classroom teachers and still engaging to students.  As with anything you aren’t simply looking to entertain your students.  While offering these blogs can be part of a reading “choice” program, expectations should still remain high in terms of the social, political and cultural commentary students construct in response.

Ultimately, all of these blogs offer up “news” in varied formats but more important, they provide commentary.  Often the arguments they formulate are both relevant and engaging.  It is this type of writing that enriches student reading and knowledge.  The fact that it’s a blog simply makes it a tech forward and readily accessible choice.  Don’t forget to see our lessons for writing and annotation extensions.  They are ready to implement along with any blog driven reading assignments.  And remember, all of these are simply suggestions and starting points.  Always check The New York Times blogs for more choices.

The blogs overviewed are the best choice for offering content and commentary.  Also included but not overviewed are blogs that provide substantive information on the areas of focus and less commentary.

Current Events

Analysis & Opinion-Reuters

Anything dealing with current events demands that students read and choose based on their interests.  Reuters’ blog about current topics spans the globe and offers lenses through which to interpret the news they provide.   While posts can be challenging, they will engage students in online opinion pieces that debate global politics and the role of the U.S.

Don’t forget to examine The New York Times Room for Debate site.  While not a blog it is still an incredible useful supplement for students.

Information driven blogs include: The Two-Way, The Lede, Global Spin

 

Sports

Sporting Scene-The New Yorker

I can’t think of a better scenario.  The New Yorker, with all its style and grace, creates a sports blog.  Every post is so well crafted you will think you stumbled upon a non-fiction treasure and your students will never stop thanking you when you tell them that they can supplement their reading with a sport blog.

Information driven blogs include: The Early Lead, ESPN Sports Blogs

 

Pop Culture

Monkey See-NPR

This is by far, one of the best pop culture blogs to use with students.  Post include thoughtful commentary on TV, film, literature, and everything else popular culture.  These blog posts don’t just identify current trending topics.  Instead, they evaluate the usefulness of these trends.  Nothing is better for teaching students argument evaluation and the larger implications of pop culture.

 

Information driven blogs include: Celebritology 2.0, Media DecoderThe TV Column

Blogs as Text: Technology & Science

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It’s easy to think that all blogs are gossip driven.  Perez Hilton rules supreme.  But most major news publications today run a significant amount of blog based content. And this content is well written.  Whether these are blogs from The Chronicle of Higher Education or The New Yorker, the goal is always the same: find good writing on interesting topics that can reach a high school audience. Consider your goal with using blogs as supplemental texts as twofold.  First, you want to provide students choice and engage otherwise unwilling readers.  Second, you want students to practice assessing and evaluating textual arguments in a variety of mediums.  Don’t forget to examine yesterday’s post in order to peruse lesson plans for writing and annotating ideas in regards to reading blogs as “texts” in the classroom.

In an effort to help “jump” start this process I’ll highlight science and technology blogs today, current events/popular cultures blogs tomorrow.  My “picks” are simply a starting point for you as you make the decision to implement more blog as supplemental reading.

The New York Times is an amazing resource for blogs.  Be sure to checkout their index before beginning any blog reading assignment.

Science & Technology Blogs

The New York Times

Bits

From apps to cyber security to the online presence of celebrities, this blog has a little bit of everything for the student interested in technology, business and policy.  Often posts even discuss big picture implications and the role of technology in society. 

 

The Washington Post

Faster Forward

This blog focuses on stories about technology, specifically “gadgets.”  The writing is easy to read and posts include video and image which allows students the challenge and satisfaction of working in different textual mediums. 

 

Wired Magazine

Geek Dad

These posts are written by parents about everything from poetry to film to tech. Since the posts are written by a variety of authors, studying voice throughout is a great focus. 

Wired Science

Videos and image populate this blog.  Posts range from nature to outer space offering a variety of lenses through which students can read and experience any element of science blog writing that might engage them. 

Danger Room

A personal favorite, this blog deals with national security, technology and current events.  Interested in safety at the London Olympics?  Concerned about how military technology adapts? The posts are incredibly engaging even for an English teacher. 

NPR

Krulwich Wonders

We’ve highlighted Krulwich Wonders before.  It’s a great blog of just about everything you could ever want including, but not limited to, the science of language, architecture, nature, etc.  It will easily become a student favorite. 

All Tech Considered

Posts about tech on this blog range from information about start-up companies to the ethics of tech in modern culture.  Very readable and engaging for any student. 

13.7

All of the contributors for this blog are comprised of professors with science specialties, as well as one philosopher.  The posts are engrossing and deal with a variety of big picture arguments that are rooted in science and philosophy. 

Super Bowl 2012: Intro Advertising

Today we begin to tackle Super Bowl commercials from 2012.   Our goal: to give you some articles and videos to begin a unit on teaching advertising. Hopefully by now your heartburn and disdain for Mr. Quiggly has worn off.

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To begin, consider having students read The New York Times article, “Before the Toss, Super Bowl Ads.” This year, most Super Bowl advertisers have released ads early or offered up 30-second teasers.  As a result, Super Bowl ads have been viewed, liked, tweeted and reblogged millions of times.  This shift in marketing should be one of the primary focuses of their annotation as they read the article.  You’ll also want them to examine the accompanying infographic.

Consider using the following questions for classroom discussion or written response:

  1. Discuss the pros and cons of releasing a full length commercial before the Super Bowl.
  2. What type of argument do companies make about their products by creating a “teaser” or “trailer?”
  3. Examine the infographic.  Consider the number of ads presented by individual companies as well as the quarters in which the commercials air.  Construct two implicit arguments based on the information.  (THINK: what impact does timing have on an advertisement and/or brand?)

NPR also has an excellent story about the “Three Hidden Themes of This Year’s Super Bowl’s Ads” that you might consider having your students examine too.  Be forewarned.  The third theme is “sex” and specific reference is made to a drinking game based on the types of commercials that appear during the game.  If you choose to give your students only a section, stick to number one and two on the list.

Consider using the following questions for student response. 

  1. Why might “nostalgia” be one of the best ways to market towards any audience?  Identify what types of objects, characters, music, etc. would trigger your own nostalgia and make you more likely to buy a product.  See if you can do the same for types of “nostalgia” might “trigger” your parents.
  2. The story argues that human attention is “arrested” when animals appear on screen.   Why do animal ads sell?  Remember not all advertising includes “cute” kittens/puppies.
  3. What is it about ads with sex appeal that sells an item?  Do commercials that appeal to sex draw audience focus away from the actual product?

Finally, consider using the video below from sharethrough.  Their tagline is “every day should be the Super Bowl.”  Have students watch the video looking specifically to identify implicit arguments.

  1. What is implied by the use of the phrase “a battle of advertisement?”
  2. Define “content” according to the video.  Explain the difference between “contents” impact on the viewer versus “ads.”
  3. What is implied about consumers’ power in regards to advertising?  What role does technology play?
  4. The video ends by saying that this type of shift will make good advertising a “lasting part of our culture.”  Explain what the cultural role of advertising should be.

Weekend Culture: Sandwich Mondays

Ah, sandwiches.  In case you’ve forgotten, the goal of this weekend’s posts is to give you a little of bit of sanity during this difficult stretch until winter break.  Today’s sandwiches move from the art of Scanwiches to sandwiches as both dare and humor.

Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me, NPR’s news quiz also hosts a blog.  “What,” you say, “might this blog be named?”  Wait, Wait Don’t Blog Me of course.   Sandwich Mondays are part of an ongoing series from the program’s staff.  A hysterical mix of humor and bizarre sandwiches, these posts are perfect for teaching voice, style, humor, and argument.  Below are some good places to start.  It’s just the beginning, however, of what you can use.

Defining Sandwich

A good blog post to give students an idea of the “definition” of sandwich according to Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me.  Have students read and annotate.  Consider using as an intro to teaching a definition essay assignment or as an intro to a larger assignment with these blog posts.

The Marmite Sandwich” & “In Defense of Marmite”

It seems like the more disgusting the sandwiches, the more delightful the posts.  What’s perfect about this sandwich is that they give you two posts with which to work.  Have students read both posts and annotate for voice/style.  Consider using the follow up post “In Defense of Marmite” as a way to talk about writing that uses this type of title (i.e. Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food).

Also consider using these posts together as a supplement when teaching Mark Twain’s “How to Tell a Story.”  If Twain’s argument is that good, humorous storytelling is an American’s way of wandering around until they have their audience right where they want them, these two posts speak specifically to that understanding.

‘The Breakfast Club’ edition

There’s just no way to pass up teaching a disgusting sandwich from a classic 80’s flick.  Have students watch The Breakfast Club clip.

Then have them read/annotate the post for style and humor.  Consider having them discuss the following areas:

  1. Why might this be a sandwich for Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me to highlight?
  2. List the sandwich components.
  3. Why would a film writer/director believe these sandwich “components” were appropriate for a teen?  Identify the argument.
  4. Where is the humor in recreating The Breakfast Club Sandwich?

Radiolab: “Words” the Videos

Every now and again I feel compelled by some kind of video or piece of music.  Compelled and perhaps doomed to listen or watch on repeat.  I then make other people put them on repeat, too.  This is probably some kind of sickness [thanks, Dad] but I’d like to see it as critical thinking, a way to process the information until I feel comfortable.

When you work with video in the classroom, especially short video, sometimes you need to put it on “repeat” for students to understand.  It takes 2 times through sometimes, once for viewing and once for responding, to make meaning out of something that moves so quickly.

Yesterday’s post focused on how to use Radiolab’s episode “Words” for Socratic Seminar discussion.  But we don’t stop with the episode itself.  Oh, no.  It also includes the video entitled “Words” (go figure) by Everynone that was made to compliment it.

Original “Words”

Have students watch the film once just to “blow their minds.” Read more

Radiolab: Media Literacy and Listening Skills

One of the best ways to employ Radiolab in the classroom is to treat it as a text.  The difficulty?  This text requires students to listen and respond without visuals.  This means a bit of explanation and modeling upfront.

A good opener is a Ted talk by Julian Treasure: 5 Ways to Listen Better.  In under eight minutes Treasure highlights the value of listening and skills to become better listeners.

During the video, have students watch, listen, and take notes on the following questions:

  • Identify two of Treasure’s arguments about modern society and listening.
  • List two things Treasure identifies as making listening difficult.
  • List the ways in which Treasure claims we can become better listeners.

After the video, have students examine Treasure’s arguments again.  Now, have them evaluate via writing and then discussion the validity of these arguments. Read more

Weekend Tech: Tweets are #funny

Twitter is funny.  Actually, The Onion’s tweets are funny.  And idislikestephen, and monkeysee, and David Pell, and…you get the point.  I troll Twitter looking for my humorous “tweet” fix on a semi-regular basis.  I’m not sure it’s as bad as my coffee problem, but it’s a habit.

The New York Times ran a story this past Sunday entitled Writer’s New Form: Tweet-Up Comedy.  It’s a great read about how writers for late night talk shows use Twitter as their testing ground for zingers.  It is entirely possible, after reading it, that I spent several hours on Twitter scouring these types of tweets while snorting in an incredibly unattractive way. Read more

Weekend Pop Culture: Starbucks and Create Jobs for USA

To recap, yesterday we discussed Starbucks’ initiative Create Jobs for USA.  Yesterday’s post was all about how to use the language of the website,

infographics and video to analyze images, argument and language.   Today will be a conversation about how to use the media’s coverage to teach media literacy and practice critical thinking and writing skills through synthesis.

Pose the following synthesis question to your students:

What moral or ethical considerations should be part of a movement like Create Jobs for America when partnered with a larger corporation like Starbucks?

 

Before having them construct an persusaive paragraph or thesis statement have them review the different perspectives below.  You might even consider using QR stations with the information below if you feel so inclined!

 

WYNC Q&A with Schultz

Insightful Q&A that examines point of view and argument from Starbucks’ CEO Howard Schultz. .  For a more detailed discussion of how to introduce Q&A’s in class see our post about the NBA lockout.  See the excerpt below.

 

Questions to pose for discussion and/or written response:

  1. Identify Schultz’s primary argument.
  2. What is evident about Howard Schultz based on his responses?  What do you know about him as an individual, a CEO and an American?

NPR-Starbucks Hopes to Kick-Start Job Creation

NPR provides a useful overview along with several interviews from microfinanciers and economists.  It offers a perspective that is not only driven by the voice of Starbucks.

Questions to pose for discussion and/or written response:

  1. Discuss the importance of including Mark Pinksy’s point of view.  What impact does it have on the story?
  2. What is the argument identified about private corporations and responsibility to the American public?

Huffington Post-Small Businesses to Lawmakers: Give Us Some Credit!

A Pro-Create Jobs for USA piece with a distinctive voice/tone.  It’s a great piece for students in terms of identifying point of view, argument and how language contributes to tone.

Questions to pose for discussion and/or written response:

  1. Identify the tone of the author.  Identify three words that contribute to this tone and explain their role in constructing his point of view.
  2. Discuss the author’s argument?  How does informal language and “anecdotal” evidence help to strengthen his claim?

QR Codes: Popular Culture

So you’re not quite sold yet on QR codes.  They seem complicated and time consuming.  Let’s make this easier.  Let’s start with their role in society.  Today’s post will provide you some resources for analyzing the role of technology, specifically QR codes, within society.  Each “piece” offers a different opportunity to have students read or view, annotate and critically think.

QR Codes as Art

Cnet, the tech website, offers a brief article about using the QR code as art.  They provide several photo and a cost range for QR codes framed and on canvass.  The article is great for:

  • Discussing the intersection of technology and art
  • Debating the idea of art
  • Discussing QR codes influence on popular culture

See Mashable’s list of QR codes that offer functionality as well as beauty for an extension. Read more

Weekend Tech: Steve Jobs

Everybody was talking about it and by everybody I mean all of my students.  I expect them to discuss reality television, the NBA lockout, even homecoming requests on Facebook.   But I don’t expect detailed conversations about Steve Jobs.  Not from high schoolers. And certainly not in a meaningful way.  But the way they talked about Jobs got me thinking.  They were right.  The reaction in the last several days has been remarkable.

Teaching is about opportunity presenting itself and this a chance to for meaningful discussion, writing, analysis, anotation. Having students study/discuss these online “memorials” teaches a variety of skills: media literacy, memorializing in modern culture, the impact of social media, our “relationship” to public figures, the importance of technology, technology innovation and so on.   All of it’s critical thinking.  Who are we as a society in relationship to this loss?  This weekend I’ll post some of the best “remembrances” for classroom use.

Pitch Me Another: Apple’s Ads
The New Yorker’s Back Issues blog put together a retrospective of Apple advertising spanning the last several decades. It’s great especially the advertisement from 1984.  An easy way to do evaluate advertising, assess a change over time in audience expectations, even print advertising’s use of word choice.

Twitter’s Top Trending Topics: #iSad and #thankyousteve

The the word choice in the hashtags alone is meaningful.  iSad sounds so much like loneliness.  Like loss.  Like grief.  Even I can barely stand it and thankyousteve sounds almost like the closing of a letter or email or text.  Now perhaps I’ve been manipulated by all the media coverage too but it is fascinating.  The language is meaningful and economical.  Consider class discussion, writing prompt, or big picture analysis.

Here are some useful tweets:

David Pell 

Mark Zuckerberg

Joeykirk

NPR’s Monkey See