Listen To This

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Do you ever pay close attention to the sounds that are around you? Telling the “stories behind the world’s most recognizable and interesting sounds” is the theme of a new-to-me podcast Twenty Thousand Hertz. I’ve only listened to a few episodes so far, but if this topic sounds interesting (pun intended), I recommend starting with these two segments.

First is Muzak, which anyone of a particular age (re: older) will recognize as the company that became synonymous with the concept “elevator music”. Today, music and other sounds are carefully and scientifically designed to help stores, restaurants, and other businesses improve productivity and profits.

The other is Disney Parks in which sound designers (Imagineers) for the entertainment company explain how they program music and other sounds to enhance the amusement park experience. Even in It’s a Small World, which all sounds the same to me.

Both segments, which run about 20 minutes each, might be good programs to play for middle or high school students studying science, social studies (this work involves a lot of psychology), or music.


The image is from Pixabay and is used under a Creative Commons license.

3-2-1 For 2017

For the final 3-2-1 of 2016, here are three books, two audio books, and one movie you may want to consider enjoying during the coming year.

Three books worth a space on your reading list.

The Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros.  George is very much an advocate for empowering students and this book is a wonderfully positive collection of ideas for making that happen. It include many great suggestions that could and should be used immediately. This is one book that should be read with a group of other educators. (about 4 hours, 16 minutes)

Weapons of Math Destruction by Cathy O’Neil. Many decisions made by corporations and governments, such as who gets a loan or who is paroled from prison, are based on mathematical models that are poorly understood, even by the people who create them. This book is especially for those who are not “math people” and I’ll have more posts about it later. (about 5 hours, 26 minutes)

Education Outrage by Roger Schank. Few people do outrage better than Schank but, as you’ll find in this book, there is much to be upset about in the American system of education. This is a collection of Schank’s essays that will challenge some (maybe many) of your beliefs about what school is and could be. Share the book with your local school leaders. (about 5 hours, 57 minutes)

Two audiobooks for your commute.

Medium Raw written and read by Anthony Bourdain. Although he’s a chef by training, Bourdain’s television is all about travel and exploring other cultures as wide ranging as Vietnam and New Jersey. This is the story of those travels, mixed with a strong critique of restaurant trends and food television. Be warned, he occasionally uses bad language. (9 hours)

Me of Little Faith written and read by Lewis Black. If you have seen or heard Black’s stand-up work, you might think this is just his very caustic humor applied to religion. You would be wrong. This is a very thoughtful, and very funny, philosophical treatise in which he asks many good questions, and arrives at at least some good answers. Be warned, Black also uses some bad language. (5 hours, 50 minutes)

One movie to watch when you have time

The Big Short. This film was released at the end of 2015 and probably didn’t get a big audience. However, it’s a very thoughtful, surprisingly entertaining story about the housing crash of 2008, and bitingly very funny as well. Based on the book by Michael Lewis and featuring great performances by Steve Carell and Christian Bale. (2 hours, 10 minutes; on Netflix)

Educators Are Snobs

At least according to Dean we are.

Schools are text snobs. Most people reading this are text snobs. Our institutions are built around the written word. That in itself is not bad and we owe much of our culture, knowledge and understanding to the written word. It’s not our fault, we’ve been living in a world that up until a few years ago, only offered us to easily produce content via the written word. But like the revolution of the printing press, we are in the midst of a revolution of a digital nature that’s allowing us to easily create and consume context in many different forms, specifically audio, video and imagery.

And to exercise a little practice-what-you-preach, he includes some video and audio as part of the post.

I agree with Dean’s premise that we are not doing as much as we should in most schools to help students become better consumers of media, much less to enable them to become producers.

After all, we see kids wearing ear phones or sitting in front of some kind of screen (sometimes both) all the time. They don’t need any help in that area, do they?

Which, of course, is the same as saying that kids with their face always in comic books (or the Mad Magazine from my childhood) don’t need reading instruction.

Anyway, even when it comes to text, I’m not sure we do an especially good a job.

The way people in the real world create and use text has been changing drastically (along with everything else) yet much of our “language arts” curriculum is still focused on reading from the printed page and largely from works of fiction.

Writing in most schools continues to be centered around the classic essay and research paper, often on topics that are little changed from forty years ago, produced for an audience of one.

And, as Dean notes, traditional reading and writing is what gets tested, so that’s what get taught.

However, there are other reasons why audio and video are not used more in K12 classrooms.

For one thing, in the memory of most teachers, the process of recording and editing is still a cumbersome, expensive, technically difficult process. Sometimes even playing the files, especially video, used to be a cranky process.

It’s certainly not that way anymore, all of which ties into what I was ranting about a few days ago.

Too many teachers also reject having students create media because they believe the process must be time consuming and that the end project needs to be close to perfect.

With the inexpensive cameras (even still cameras do a decent job of video) and audio recording devices available, it becomes easy for kids to do first drafts on the spur of the moment and then refine by rerecording rather than spending hours in the editing software.

It’s also a simple process to capture and use the everyday classroom, not just special events.

One of my goals this year is to help more of our teachers to give cameras to their kids and to encourage them to create.

I also want to follow Dean’s lead to do more with video in my own professional life and become less of a text snob.

Just don’t expect to see me in front of the camera very often. (You’re welcome. :-)