Friday, March 21, 2014

New Online Learning Resources: March 2014

Whether you're using online learning for your students or yourself, the number of options is increasing by the day. Here are just a few:

10 OpenCourseWare Sites for a Free Education [Mashable]

Glean — Find the best videos in education for you [via Leilani Cohen] - A long time reader sent this educational video site to me, saying it could "eventually take the place of Khan Academy" in her classroom.

9 Dependable Destinations for Online Tutoring [Mashable]

Mindsy Wants To Be The Netflix Of E-Learning [TechCrunch]

This Free Course in Music Engineering Teaches You with Music You Love [Lifehacker] - It could be the start of a path to serious study or just for fun. Either way, this one intrigues me.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Review & Giveaway: Trying Not to Try by Edward Slingerland

There are moments when I am on stage, performing original music where I feel I am in "the zone." You will never convince me that I am anything more than a mediocre guitarist, singer and songwriter, but there are moments where everything seems to flow so effortlessly, I might as well be Jimi Hendrix up there. The energy in the crowd also seems to rise, at least from my perspective, as I am in "the zone."  This is at the heart of Trying Not to Try: The Art and Science of Spontaneity.

So when Edward Slingerland discusses wu-wei and de, ancient Chinese ideas about spontaneous, effortless action and a sort of charismatic energy that spurs people to follow, I knew what he was talking about. We identify it commonly in sports in America, such as when Michael Jordan would take over in critical, game-changing situations, or when Peyton Manning carves up an opponent's defense seemingly at will. As Slingerland points out, we can't explain it, precisely because it is something that seems natural.

This is not a how-to book, and the suggestions about how to get closer to these states are largely buried under a heavy but interesting layer of Chinese thought, modern science and analogies. As I struggled to glean specific examples and ideas to apply to the classroom, I realized I was ironically trying too hard and losing sense of the central ideas of the book.

I would recommend this book as a lens with which to examine both ourselves and our culture, and as a not-so-subtle reminder that there's much to be gained in letting go, not trying so hard, and just going with the flow. For a hardworking teacher trying to get through the last stretch of the spring semester, that's an important lesson.

The good folks at Crown Publishers provided the review copy that I am once again giving away to one lucky reader. To enter this giveaway, email with the subject TRYING GIVEAWAY by 11:59pm CST this Wednesday, 3/19/14.

Grab your own copy of Trying Not to Try: The Art and Science of Spontaneity on Amazon.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Spring Break 2014 Reader on Coding in Education

With 11K Pre-Orders, Play-i Lands $8M To Teach Kids To Code With Interactive Toy Robots [TechCrunch] - Coming soon! This is an exciting development. I heard a recent TED talk adapted for NPR about how robots change the way we react to technology, including how we end up personifying and thus engaging at a more meaningful level with them than other tech. What Play-i is aiming for rings true with that in mind.

3-Year-Olds Can Learn to Code — One Robot Turtle at a Time [Mashable] - The Logo programming (with its ubiquitous turtle) that I used to do on my Apple IIc had to have been part of the inspiration for this real world board game.

Why We Need Coding Clubs for Girls [GOOD]

Getting Girls Into Programming, One Children’s Book At A Time [TechCrunch]

Proof the Next Great App Could Come From a Kid [Mashable]