Archive for March, 2010

All Quiet on the Western Front

March 22, 2010 Leave a comment

As part of our unit on WWI, students are watching All Quiet on the Western Front, based on the antiwar novel by Eric Maria Remarque.

The original 1930 movie version was a multiple Academy Award winning film.  This year, a war picture set in 2004 Iraq with a more ambiguous message, The Hurt Locker, scooped up a number of Oscar nominations and awards.


“Teaching 2.0 – Doing More with Less” John Seely Brown

March 22, 2010 Leave a comment

Annenberg Senior Fellow, Former Chief Scientist of Xerox and learning and organizational theorist John Seely Brown on “Teaching 2.0”

Unit Vocabulary -The First World War

March 11, 2010 Leave a comment

History-based Social Studies units tend to be more rich in information and detail than are units based on political science, which primarily explores concepts rather than the causation of events.  The vocabulary below was given to the students in two parts and should have been entered into their Social Studies notebooks. Some of the terms are new, others have been previously used in earlier units:


Nationalism     Militarism    Imperialism   Protectionism    Armed Neutrality    Isolationist     Terrorism   Alliance System     Balance of Power    Triple Alliance   Central Powers    Triple Entente    The Allies    Mobilization    Conscription   Propaganda    Trench Warfare   Western Front   Offensive    Kaiser    Tsar  Unrestricted Submarine  Warfare   The Rape of Belgium  14 Points   Zimmerman Telegram  Peace Without Victory   Armistice   Abdication Committee of Public Information   National Self-Determination  Ratification  Collective Security     League of Nations  Treaty of Brest-Litovsk   Reparations Treaty of Versailles   Weimar Republic   Bolshevik   Russian Revolution  Pandemic   Spanish influenza    The Big Four   The Red Scare    Reds   Whites


Sclieffen Plan    Plan XVII    Generations of War Theory

Miracle on the Marne   The Somme   Verdun   Argonne   St. Mihiel                    Belleau Wood   Chateau-Thierry   Cantigny


Kaiser Wilhelm II    Archduke Franz-Ferdinand    Gavrillo Princip                            Tsar Nicholas II    Prime Minister Lloyd George   General von Hindenburg    Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau   President Woodrow Wilson                  Colonel House   Vladimir Lenin   Marshal Ferdinand Foch                                       General John J. Pershing   Alexander Kerensky   Leon Trotsky                         Senator Henry Cabot Lodge   Prime Minister Vito Orlando                               Attorney-General A. Mitchell Palmer    Erich Maria Remarque   Ernst junger     John McCrae


All Quiet on the Western Front      Storm of Steel     “In Flanders Field”

Cultivating “High Conceptual Thinkers”

March 4, 2010 Leave a comment

The Eide Neurolearning Blog run by Drs. Brock and Fernette Eide, has long been one of my favorite blogs – here’s an example of why:

Gifted Big Picture / High Conceptual Thinkers

High Conceptual Thinkers are often…

– Omnivorous Learners: The world may be their oyster. Because of their quest for the “interesting”, they may love the Internet, read entire encyclopedias, or incessantly question adults about the real world, and so learn a little bit about everything. They may not hit ceiling scores on the conceptual knowledge IQ subtests because their omnivorous approach to figuring out the world around them.

– New is the Thing: HCTs prefer novelty (this is how they develop new conceptual categories) and are tickled by unconventional viewpoints or discoveries.

– Big Picture, Not Little Details: HCTs don’t always transition well to the “precision years” of late elementary, middle school, or beyond.

– Boredom is Death: Although using the ‘b’ word is notoriously a “no-no” word when talking to teachers, these kids rebel against what they see as boredom. Boredom may really seem like death to young HCTs.

If young HCTs seem “driven by a motor”, it’s intellectual restlessness and it can be a blessing as well as a burden.Not surprisingly, these kids often find classroom learning unsatisfying. After all, much of early education is focused on mastering basic skills or established facts, this is not what these kids are about. They’d rather be finding new worlds to conquer.

Although these kids are challenging to teach and parent, they are also a delight, and Dan Pink and others have suggested that the Conceptual Age is upon us and this pattern of thinking should be what we should be encouraging.

“High conceptual thinkers” – those with an insatiable intellectual curiosity, who see meta-level patterns and excel at constructing paradigms, extrapolation, synthesis and consilience are probably not a large percentage of the population and, most likely, they include eccentrics and cranks as well as highly accomplished individuals like E.O. Wilson, Buckminster Fuller, Freeman Dyson, Nikola Tesla, Richard Feynman and probably figures like Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, Sir Richard Francis Burton, Winston Churchill, Robert Hooke, Da Vinci and numerous others.There seems to be some congruency between HCTs and the category of people known as polymaths, which raises the question of whether HCT are born or can be encouraged to develop such a cognitive profile from education and life experience.

The Eides offered a list of techniques for teaching children recognized as HCTs, but to my mind, these would also benefit a fairly broad section of students:

Teaching Big Picture / High Conceptual Thinkers

– Sky’s the Limit: If an idea or a lesson would be interesting to a wonky tech-y post-college 20-something, then it’s fine for the HCT. If a story or thing could be written about in Wired, Fast Company, or Mental Floss, then you’re probably on the right track. Sky should be the limit. Even some generally excellent gifted programs we’ve seen may grossly underestimate an HCT’s ability to think about advanced concepts. Also because HCTs develop their ideas through pattern recognition, they may want to see many examples and permutations, and complex presentations in order to help organize their ideas into simpler concepts.

– Play with Ideas: Conceptual thinkers like and need to play with ideas. Play expands ideas, creating a new opening for associations. Play means not micromanaging learning experiences – allowing some dabbling, and taking away some of the “high stakes every time” routine (e.g. not everything should be graded).

– Argue with Ideas We think many educational curricula wait way to long before they allow young HCTs to consider different viewpoints, learn how to frame arguments or actually debate, but this is often what HCTs love. If they don’t get it at school, make sure they get it home…maybe at the dinner table? Half of the 400 eminent men and women profiled in the Goertzels’ Cradles of Eminence came from “opinionated” families: “It is these homes that produce most of the scientists, humanitarians, and reformers.”

Compare these recommendations with the advice offered by nanotechnologist Dr. Eric Drexler of Metamodern:

Studying to learn about everything

To intellectually ambitious students I recommend investing a lot of time in a mode of study that may feel wrong. An implicit lesson of classroom education is that successful study leads to good test scores, but this pattern of study is radically different. It cultivates understanding of a kind that won’t help pass tests – the classroom kind, that is.

  1. Read and skim journals and textbooks that (at the moment) you only half understand. Include Science and Nature.
  2. Don’t halt, dig a hole, and study a particular subject as if you had to pass a test on it.
  3. Don’t avoid a subject because it seems beyond you – instead, read other half-understandable journals and textbooks to absorb more vocabulary, perspective, and context, then circle back.
  4. Notice that concepts make more sense when you revisit a topic.
  5. Notice which topics link in all directions, and provide keys to many others. Consider taking a class.
  6. Continue until almost everything you encounter in Science and Nature makes sense as a contribution to a field you know something about.

Intellectual curiosity would seem to be the axis that would make these approaches work effectively, and possibly, that’s what these techniques stimulate.