Archive for January, 2013

Weird Al: The Book by Nathan Rabin with Al Yankovic

January 31st, 2013

Weird Al’s Off the Deep End album was the first CD that I ever bought. I had heard some of his songs on the radio, but for the most part I knew them from kids singing them at school.

That was twenty years ago and now I feel old.

It’s great that Weird Al is still going strong and releasing platinum albums. His creativity and musical talent are unquestionable (okay, so maybe you can question it, but if you’re a student of music, you get some of the subtle things that he does while making it look easy). Weird Al: The Book captures that creativity and humor in a light read.

The closest thing that came to controversy in Al’s life was his one-sided feud with Coolio over “Amish Paradise”, but that settled itself pretty quickly. Lacking controversy, the biography instead delves into the journey that Al had to go through to get noticed – and to stay noticed – as a parody artist. The photos and commentary are great, especially for those of us who can remember him as the guy with the giant poof of hair and thick glasses. (Little known fact: part of why Al changed his look was so that he could slide into characters easier. The moustache and glasses were too distinguishable.)

Rabin is a writer for The Onion and he delivers on the expected sarcasm. What will be interesting is watching students use it for a biography project. There are die-hard fans in the next generation, which is so fun, and some have asked for this book. I’m just waiting for some student to quote the sarcasm in their paper. Hopefully they catch its intended purpose.

This is a great book for a great artist. When Lady Gaga finally allowed Al to parody “Born this Way” (it was her manager that actually had said no without running it by Gaga), Lady Gaga said that she was excited because it was her rite of passage as an artist. That says something, that Weird Al is still so much part of our pop culture experience.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Third Wheel by Jeff Kinney

January 29th, 2013

It’s Wimpy Kid; you don’t need me to tell you the format. What I will tell you is that it follows in the other six books’ footsteps in taking a joke, building it up throughout the novel, and then looping back around 200 pages later for the punchline. There’s some skill to that, to be sure. Add to it the realistic characters – and the fact that they’re getting older as the series goes on – and it’s an enjoyable read.

Students need structure.

January 28th, 2013

General Colin Powell shares about the benefit of structure in education:

SmartBooks from McGraw-Hill

January 24th, 2013

At CES, McGraw-Hill showed off a collection of etextbooks that periodically quiz the reader for comprehension. That’s pretty cool for reader engagement (although it will definitely get annoying if I’m trying to skim for a particular section), but what makes it even more intriguing is the fact that, based on the results of the quiz, the text adapts the complexity of its vocabulary.

It reminds me of Renaissance Place’s STAR Test to determine the zone of proximal development. It’s also similar to Brainrush, which School Library Journal pointed out. Brainrush’s CEO is Nolan Bushnell, the guy who founded Atari and Chuck E. Cheese’s – so you know he knows how to have fun. Brainrush will teach you a concept and adjust the game to fit your skill.

Code Snippets in Flash CS5

January 16th, 2013

Sometimes you use a piece of code so much that you just wish that you could hit a button and insert that code. In Flash CS5, Adobe has included code snippets that can be re-used to speed up your programming. To view the snippets, choose Window->Code Snippets.

Let’s make the world’s simplest game!
To test it out, create a movie clip symbol and put it on the stage. With the symbol selected on the stage, open up the code snippets and select Animation->Move with Keyboard Arrows. Flash will ask you if you want it to make the symbol an instance.

Yes. Yes, you do.

Test the movie and run it. Move the symbol instance with your keyboard arrows. Take it one step further and edit the action layer in the timeline to adjust variables like speed.

Check out the Event Handlers->Key Pressed Event for some extra fun.

ePals Global Community

January 15th, 2013

Writing assignments are more engaging when they have a real-world context (think quadrants B and D on the Rigor/Relevance framework). One way to incorporate that is through written correspondence to people of other cultures from around the globe.

Instead of just randomly emailing people, ePals has set up a community specifically for educators to connect classrooms from around the world. It’s like paper and pencil pen pals, but for the new “flat” world.

Switching up the colors for this year’s chess shirt

January 7th, 2013

HJHS chess logo 1-color