History, Poetry, Music, Math, and Science…a Perfect Storm of Learning

Edmund_Fitzgerald_NOAA

On this day, November 10th, in 1975, the freighter SS Edmund Fitzgerald (a taconite carrier) sank during a storm on Lake Superior. All of the crew, 29 nine men, perished. The event was memorialized in the lyrics of singer Gordon Lightfoot‘s popular ballad, the Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

Though sad, this historical event presents an engrossing opportunity for students and teachers to collaborate and engage in interdisciplinary research. It’s a perfect storm of learning.  Delving into what lead up to the tragedy allows pupils to explore elements of:

Diving into this and other historical events, using them as case-study investigations into why and how things happen, makes learning more rewarding and allows students to integrate technology resources in a more meaningful manner.

Related resources:

I’ve Got Your Number

If you teach elementary mathematics, stop what you’re doing and drop by the flash-powered Ptolemy Primitives page. You’ll be glad you did. Designed by Alec McEachran, a math teacher/software developer, this impressive web-based resource gives students an engaging means of visualizing the structure of numbers, in the context of their prime factors. For even more mathematical musings, read Alec’s blog.

ptolemy-primitives

Let the Countdown Begin! World Maths Day is Coming

world maths dayWhat is World Maths Day? It’s a day when students all over the globe compete against one another in mental arithmetic games. Thanks to a little technology in the form of electronic communication, learners interact with peers across the planet in real time. Although each session lasts for only 60 seconds, participants can compete in as many games as they wish. All of the math-related questions are appropriately leveled for different ages and abilities. It all adds up to learning!

Game to Learn?

I’ve been playing Planarity (devised by the ever clever John Tantolo) for years now. Planarity is a supremely addictive game/pastime that’s based on planars and graph theory. Give it a try. Hours will disappear! In fact, I find it hard not to want to play Planarity because the game is so darned engaging. After playing the game I find myself thinking about what I should have done but didn’t do. What is it about certain games (like Snood, Sudoku and Tetris for instance) that generate a continual desire within us to play them over and over again? If only we could capture the thrill and satisfaction that games and enjoyable diversions provide and infuse the same qualities within other, more educational pursuits, our students would create a stampede to learn. Heck, we could use games with a purpose to make the world a much better place.

Marc Prensky, author of Digital Game-Based Learning and twitch speed expert, notes that most popular games:

  • focus on engaging the user,
  • encourage frequent, important decision-making in relation to the game,
  • making provisions for leveling up (providing immediate feedback that tells players when they’re getting better at the game–not,for example, unlike good assessment), and
  • allow users to embrace technology.

Why aren’t schools doing more to incorporate Prensky’s ideas within classroom settings? I wonder what might happen if we designed instruction so that is learning emotionally engaging, relevant, and possibly fun. Fulfillment and education are not mutually exclusive pursuits. Technology gives educators the means of making travel along the path to enlightenment a pleasurable, meaningful journey.

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