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Category Archives: Communications

Inside the Classical Education model. Latin, robotics, and…podcasting

In our middle-school years at St. Peter’s College, Latin was a subject. We didn’t know why we had to study a ‘dead language’ or how it fit alongside biology and geometry. But it later transpired when the seeds of a classical language began to sprout. Our love for theater (whether it was Oliver Twist, or Hamlet), our appetite for reading, debating, linguistics, and history could be traced back to learning what seemed like tedious (read: boring) declensions and the likes.

This school year I joined a classical High School, and now see the internal architecture of a classical education. The three-part structure of ‘grammar, rhetoric, and dialectics’ is just the start. Music and the fine arts, science and athletics are key elements. And of course technology.

A few months ago in teaching communication to my college level students, we looked at how rhetoric mattered; the underpinning of public speaking, ‘Ethos, Pathos, and Logos.’ So I was delighted to see how my High School’s monthly themes are structured on classical Roman virtues such as Gravitas, Humanitas, and Comitas.

You’re probably wondering what does this do for learning, and students’ character? I can only say this. After a month of teaching with this model in place (teaching computers and tech, mind you!), students come to class eager and prepped to learn; respectful, inquisitive, thoughtful.  This week, looking at inventors and inventions we did thought experiments (a.k.a. Bell work) on social norms and expectations when Thomas Edison messed around with filaments and early audio. Next week they will see parallels with someone like Douglas Engelbart, the prolific Edison-like chap who gave us the mouse, among other things. They were philosophers in their own time, who embodied, and fit, the classical model.

At the end of the week two students approached me to sponsor clubs. One was a Robotics club, and the other was for Podcasting. I had to catch my breath – podcasting! What would 12-year olds want to do with podcasts? It comes down to the classical model which feeds the need for young people to engage in much, much more than Fortnite, or memes. If we only let them.

 

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Goodbye to a dear friend – Chanaka Goonewardene

The network went down on Saturday the 16th June. It was more like a system malfunction when our dear friend Chanaka Goonewardene left us. Each of us – and our spouses, and our children, and our parents – have stories to tell of Chanaka. Not just Peterite stories but tales of banking, of spontaneous trips on trains and buses, of backstage events at the Lionel Wendt, of birthday parties, rugger matches, and job placements for school leavers…. the chapters about Chanaka and his involvement in people’s lives would fill a small library.

To say Chanaka was a doer is an understatement. He juggled so many projects the word multi-tasking was coined with him in mind. He never failed to call us on birthdays, or remind us of important days, to shuttle people around to events. If we wanted to know something or plan something we didn’t need Siri or Alexa – we would first ask Chanaka. When I met him a week before, he managed to say, “Machang, you have my mobile. Call me!” I said I would; Like most of us, I needed to figure out so much, but could not make that call.


And on top of all his accomplishments, he was a truly faithful Catholic, supporting every church and priest he came into contact with. I like to think he formed his own ministry. God loaned him to us as an evangelist, an example of what but means to love our neighbour, and as an unassuming friend. The lending terms were short and seemingly unfair. But in his short span of time, the dividends snowballed. Chanaka accomplished what would otherwise take several lifetimes.


Today as I write this, soon after we laid him to rest, I am sure St. Peter must have been thrilled to have Chanaka back home – to set up and manage that eternal network we could all plug into.

 
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Posted by on June 17, 2018 in Communications

 

Dan Wool’s ‘Cubicle Podcast’

Podcasting just keeps evolving!  Whenever I bring up the topic, either in class or is a media discussion, I find the old definitions are inadequate. The production quality, and the platforms have changed. The content creators have certainly got more comfortable with the format.

So this week I like to showcase a podcast from an old friend, Dan Wool. A solid communications and PR pro (he co-taught a webinar with me in 2010), Dan is now on his way to becoming a doctor!  His podcast focuses on –what else?- health issues. His website, cubicleclinic.com is filled with his take on health and lifestyle issues cubicle dwellers face.

If this topic interests you, please click on this link, or the icon on the right and give it a listen.

 

 

 

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Immersive classes, where students learn by doing

The phrase ‘hands-on learning’ often becomes a placeholder for many things. If it does not involve experiencing the subject matter, then it’s still theoretical.

There’s a school in San Diego that doing something really amazing with teaching through experience – or ‘learning by doing’ as some call it. (It is featured in ‘Creative Schools by Ken Robinson.) At High Tech High, subjects are intensely focused on real world challenges. One project, for instance on Urban Ecology is described this way.

Students will discover how humans interact with nature in urban ecosystems. They will understand the terms sustainable and efficient in order to apply them to designing improved modern cities. 

Students end up publishing an  ‘magazine’ on the Urban Ecology, talking on publishing roles.They hold staff meeting with their Editors-in-chief, who are none other than their teachers!

Is this EdTech? Is it a computer class? Can this be used to demonstrate ‘rigor’? Yes to all three! But looking at their class structure, and philosophy, it seems that this kind of pedagogy is very different. In the end it’s not about exams, but about preparing for the real world.

 

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Behind the Mic: Communications class explores podcasting

The podium and the microphone –two devices invented 200 years apart –could both be intimidating. My communication class students had prior to this, worked off their stage fright with several impromptu, scripted , and extemporaneous speeches. But juggling the technology here could be demanding on the first try.

For this assignment two groups each worked on a short script – basically Talking Points – for their podcast. I asked them to create a show with a ‘story’ element. They then used Audacity to record it. The results shocked them, too! This group’s work turned out like a PSA with glimpses of Orson Wells’ War of the Worlds. They even downloaded and used a background music track from FreeMusicArchive!

 

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Colophon for Our 4th quarter newsletter

Our final newsletter for the school year. (Click image for PDF.) Contributors and partners in crime: Nancy Yurek, Buffy O’ONeill, Mary Doka, and Coach Bryan McCleney, 

An overflowing shared drive. My irreplaceable Snipping Tool. Agency font. Bit.ly. A color cartridge on life-support. An amazing front-office staff.

 

 
 

10 STEM Vacation Ideas

It may be time to box up the microphone and the rocket, the robots and the VR headsets. But truth is, we could do a lot of interesting things related to science and technology during the long summer break.

So here’s what I am asking my students to do in July and August.

  1.  Become a ‘Maker’ – Build something. A tree house? Make a parachute out of a plastic bag, or a scarf, and a large eraser. Drop it from a balcony (or that tree house!) and change the way it lands.
  2. Create a Rube Goldberg device. Use scrap material, some dominoes, a tennis ball, a discarded cardboard tube, and a flower-pot… Watch this amazing example for inspiration
  3. Practice Coding. Work on a project at Code.org, or Scratch.Mit.edu
  4. Create a paper airplane or rocket contest. As we learned at the recent STEAM Night, some of the rockets that flew the furthest cost nothing, and were made of paper!
  5. Conduct a potato battery experiment! Two potatoes, a few nails, copper wire, and a light bulb from a flashlight. Ask an adult to download the steps here.
  6. Build a robot. Wrap a shoe box in tin foil. Add wheels and axles using bottle caps and skewers. For accessories like an antenna, and a probe, cut a coat hanger, and bend it into shape.
  7. Take up photography! Last year I taught a class using point-and-shoot cameras, and (the horror) phones! Figure out how depth-of-field, and back-lighting could enhance your pictures. No (Instagram) filters required.
  8. Write a short story! Try your hand at science fiction. Write your friends into the plot, and see where the story takes you! Check out these YA sci-fi authors
  9. Produce a skit. Before there was this thing called the Internet, we kids down the street created our own ‘drama.’ Find a friend who could help you co-write a short play about pollution, or landing on Mars.
  10. Build a solar oven. Start with a pizza box. Watch this video for inspiration! 
 
 

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