Tag Archive for The New York Times

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: Car Commercials

I do believe that, taken all together, Chevy’s commercials in Super Bowl XLVI were hands down the best.  From indie music to humorous takes on the apocalypse they presented a good/fresh take on the tired car add.  But, it would be unfair to simply examine Chevy commercial after Chevy commercial.  Even though I was born near Detroit, it can’t just be about the Motor City.

This Super Bowl had some solid car commercials.  They might not rival Chrysler’s “Imported from Detroit” commercial, but they’ll work, offering examples of teamwork, high school “expectations,” and the animal affections discussed in yesterday’s post.  Use the ads and the accompanying questions below as starting points for implementing a smaller unit based solely on car commercials.

Hyundai “All for One

  1. Examine the limited dialogue between characters in the commercials.  Focus specifically on words like “impossible” and “try.”  What is the connotation of these phrases as they relate to the action of the ad?
  2. Why would Hyundai choose the Rocky theme song to sell their product?  Consider their origin, how their seen as a car manufacturer, even their car design/price as you respond.
  3. List as many categories of Hyundai employees as possible.  What is the argument being made by their inclusion?
  4. Humor?  Identify it.
  5. The tagline argues, “There’s always a way.  That’s just our way.”  Explain the purpose of this specific repetition (epistrophe).  What is implied?

Chevy “Happy Grad

  1. Explain how this commercial plays upon a “preconceived” notion about graduation and gifts.
  2. Identify two ways in which humor is created via the parents’ interactions with each other.
  3. Explain two ways in which this high school grad is characterized. For each explain what this characterization is supposed to imply to the audience.
  4. Many car commercials, read Lexus holiday ads here, focus on using elaborate bows on cars in an effort to suggest the “size” of the gift.  Examine the commercial again.  Look for the red bow.  Decide why its inclusion creates humor.
  5. This commercial was the winning entry in the Chevy Route 66 Super Bowl ad contest.  What significance results in having an individual create/construct this ad instead of a company?  When 2012 Super Bowl air space runs 3.5 million dollars per 30 seconds, what does Chevy have to gain from using this type of an ad?

 

Volkswagen “The Dog Strikes Back” and Making of Video

The great thing about the Volkswagen commercials is that the company also releases a “making of video.”  It’s a great way to get students to reconsider the way in which we culturally view advertising.  Have students watch the making of video after viewing the commercial as a way of deepening your discussion about the rhetoric of today’s advertising.

  1. What is the advantage of having limited narration?
  2. What role does music play in telling the story?  Explain the impact.
  3. Identify the elements of humor employed.  What impact do they have on the audience since the actor is a dog? Why build an entire narrative around a character who can’t speak?
  4. Is the Star Wars theme, a nod to last year’s “The Force” commercial necessary?  Explain whether or not this “nod” to last year’s Super Bowl commercial helps or hinders the narrative.

  1. What argument is made about Volkswagen’s ads and their impact on a global audience?
  2. Identify the elements of humor employed in the “making of” video.  Explain why they exist.  Isn’t this supposed to be just an explanation of how the commercial was shot?
  3. What does the attention to detail in the Stars Wars section convey to the audience?
  4. Consider the amount of time that went to into constructing the costumes and the set what argument is being made about consumers and Volkswagen’s relationship to them?

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.

Twitter: Research Tool

Teaching students how and where to research can be painful. They struggle to evaluate credibility and they chafe at the amount of time real research demands.  In reality, students should be engaged in some form of research all year. The thought of this makes most teachers shudder, myself included.  Constant research, large or small, is a classroom necessity and not just because the Common Core Standards demand it.

Research makes students better thinkers and better writers.  So the question arises: How can students be engaged in constant research without struggle or burden for all involved?

The answer? Twitter.

Now I know how this potentially sounds. Lindsay Lohan updates and trending hashtags about #basketballslang don’t really inspire teachable moments.   But what can easily get lost in celebrity updates is Twitter as a significant resource for current events.  Every major publication tweets—multiple times a day.  What results is a brief overview of a topic and a link to a story.  It is in essence a ready made “feed” for student research.

Exercise

1,  Determine how students will access tweets that allow for research/reading on current issues and topics.

  • You may decide to use your own Twitter account for the classroom and retweet a series of “stories” from which students can choose. This offers you more control over what they read.
  • Or you may ask that they follow a series of reputable publications.  From the tweets of those “teacher sanctioned” publications they may do their own current events research.

Some publications for classroom use:

  1. Have students explore tweets and articles.  You may choose to do this inside or outside of class.  Consider asking students to read and evaluate several articles if time allows.
  1. Have students favorite and retweet topics of interest.  For each favorite/retweet, ask students to post a follow up tweet.  The “follow up” should be an argument for the value of the professional article.

4.  Consider this as a constant exercise much like journaling.  You can use it          to produce a 60-second speech or a research driven project/paper.

Tomorrow: Twitter as Essential Questioning Tool 

Weekend Culture: Room for Debate

Yesterday’s post focused on The New York Times’ Room for Debate.  This past Wednesday, the topic of focus included 15 experts, a large number for any NYT debate.  The difference?  They were all high school seniors. Titled How the Future looks from High School, the Times asked these students how they saw their future.

Since this is a topic that directly relates to our students, consider using this “debate” in the same manner as yesterday but with some tweaks.  This is their opportunity to work on personal narratives and opening lines/hooks.

  • Have them read, annotate and create a list of observations from the Times post.
  • Discuss in small groups and/or discuss as a class.
  • Have students take the role of an expert and construct their own short response to the topic.
    • Ask them to come up with an engaging first line.  This is never as easy as it seems.  Try some of the following first:
      • List your top three favorite food memories.
      • Describe a reoccurring dream.
      • What is you most vivid memory from kindergarten?
      • Describe a guilty (and appropriate) pleasure.

The hardest thing will be for them to take this “snippets” and understand that everything/anything they see as important is largely reflective of their personalities and their future plans.

Once responses have been created, add one final step.  Have students “respond” to the “responses.”  You’ll notice that on the actual Room for Debate page it asks, “We hope readers, from high school seniors to senior citizens, will respond in comments: What are the pressures on students at your high school? What are 18-year-olds in your hometown expecting from their careers?”  If you choose to, have students respond to one of the teens who posted their future plan.

If this is too impractical, consider having them post their original response for your class in Schoology or Edmodo.  See our Favorites page for help with these applications.

  • Create a thread for this discussion and have students post their responses.
  • Require students to read and comment on two of the original posts.
  • Ask that they respond, not with simple “thumbs up” language.  Instead they should consider their response as a reflection that demonstrates understanding and thoughtful evaluation without critique.

Weekend Culture: Room for Debate


The New York Times
Room for Debate is a wonderful resource that advances critical thinking and writing.  Each week they cover several topics and invite “experts” to discuss their opinions in regards to a specific area of focus.  You can follow their RSS feed or their tweets.  Topics range from technology to education to government.

Instead of simply pitting experts against each other these pieces help show complexity of argument.  These topics are current and also of high interest to students and teachers.

Some favorites from the recent past include:

For each organizing question multiple voices in the form of doctors, lawyers, journalists, authors, students, parents, etc. weigh in forming a textual dialogue.  These “debaters” do not shout or wildly point fingers.  The thoughtfully engage in the topic based on their own experience and observations.

As a result they offer a strong foundation for helping students form their own perspectives.  It would be unreasonable and too time consuming to weigh an entire class of students down with only one topic.  Instead consider the following:

  • Create a list of past topics from which they can choose and then organize students into small groups based on topic/question.
  • Have them read, annotate, and create a list of observations.
  • Discuss in small groups and/or discuss as a class.
  • Have students take the role of an expert and construct their own short response to the topic.
    • Ask them to defend, challenge or qualify the topic.
    • Ask them to concede other points of view before beginning with their own.
    • Ask that they use their own reading, observation, experience etc. to inform their writing.

This type of exercise requires them to practice argumentation, concession, critical thinking, marshalling of evidence and organization.  It also requires them to read experts before “jumping” to conclusions that they cannot prove.

Tomorrow we’ll discuss how to use Room for Debate as a means by which students can respond to their peers.  Here’s a preview of the debate topic: How the Future Looks from High School

Weekend Tech: Steve Jobs

There were three apples that changed the world: Eve's, Newton's and Steve's.

Yesterday we talked about Steve Jobs and how to use public outpourings of grief as a way to teach everything from argument to media literacy.  Today we continue by looking at some other choices.  I know that the below link don’t do justice to what exists. They do however provide varied points of view.  Click around and let us know if you have other resources/ideas.

Mourning Steve Jobs: The Purpose of Public Grief

Leave it to The New Yorker.  While I profiled their Back Issues Blog yesterday, the quality of their articles is undeniable.  Today we look at an article from the News Desk.  It’s perfect for student use in class.  They can practice annotating for SOAPSTone and evaluating O’Rourke’s argument.  What’s useful about this article is that it also includes links to other memorials which means a “multi-layered” media literacy strand.  Read more