Friday, January 27, 2012

Black History Month Curriculum Resource: The Harlem Renaissance

Black History Month is coming up, and it happens to coincide with the time we are studying the history of the 1920's and 1930's.  So what better topic to combine the two than the Harlem Renaissance?

We have already been working on it some, but I recently found what I think is a fantastic resource.  John Carroll University has created the Harlem Renaissance Multimedia Resource, which pulls so much information about this fascinating period of modern American history into a central site.  

What I love about this website--beside the fact that it is FREE--is that it includes not only the aspects of the Harlem Renaissance that most of us tend to think about, such as the music and the literature, but also the politics, the philosophy, the education, and even the international connections.  There is a whole section on religion as well; in fact, throughout the entire site I saw the predecessors of Martin Luther King Jr's thoughts, philosophies, actions, and words.  It not only has multimedia resources--pictures, audio, and a little video (all that I found was Billie Holiday)--but also lots of links to other websites with even more comprehensive information on that particular topic.  

Particularly helpful to me were the timelines included and the map of Harlem itself.  It has a general timeline of the political and artistic events during that period, which helps me put things in order.  Even more interesting to us right now, however, was the timeline of the music.  My son has been getting more interested in jazz, about which I am not that knowledgable (confessional--even though two of my brothers were performers, students, and aficionados of that musical genre, and my father is at least a long-time fan).  The timeline helped me understand how ragtime gradually morphed into swing, with dates, different jazz styles, artist bios, and short audios of outstanding pieces along the way.

So if you are looking for resources about black musicians, writers, thinkers, educators, or politicians, this  website is a great place to look.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

What Happened to Wikipedia and Google?

I'm frequently writing about Google Doodles in this blog.  But today's Google "Doodle" is different than any before, at least as far as I know.  Today the famous logo does not appear at all, but rather is blacked out by a big black box.  However, at least that popular student resource is working.  If students go to the English site of Wikipedia, they will discover that it is down for 24 hours.  In its place is a short protest against two pieces of legislation and a request, complete with links to contact your representatives (according to the zip code you enter) and then tweet about it or post it on your Facebook page, to express your opposition to the bills.

The legislation in question is the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA).  The goals of both these acts is to protect US intellectual property, primarily from foreign sources that are selling it as their own.  The main supporters of the bills have been Hollywood and other entertainment producers who are trying to shut down foreign bootleggers of commercial media, such as illegal downloads or DVDs of US films and TV shows, music, etc.

So the goal is something that I think most of us would support.  People shouldn't be making money by providing us with illegal copies of performances they don't own and that the performers themselves don't make any money for, right?

The issue that many Internet-based companies, and many of their customers, have is that these bills address the problem not by going after the illegal producers themselves, but the sources that give these illegal producers access to American consumers online.  So, rather than suing or arresting the bootleggers, SOPA and PIPA allow the producers to take action against anyone who provides services or even has links to the illegal websites and demand that they block any US access to this site.

Many in the online community have major issues with this approach.  Some consider this approach to be censorship, which they vehemently oppose in any form, despite the reason.  Others argue that the legislation as written is overly broad and would impose onerous burdens on even the smallest Internet companies. Yet others say that this is just the wrong way to address the problem of intellectual privacy.  As Alexis Ohanian, the founder of Reddit (another online resource that has gone dark for the day), says about this legislation, "It's like taking action against Ford (Motor Company) because a Mustang (car) was used in a bank robbery."  Reddit has a lot of educational information about this issue (albeit more anti-legislation than pro) as does the SOPA Strike website.

So as much as we might hate losing our Wikipedia (along with lots of other informational sites) for the day, this is a great opportunity for discussing with your children or students some of these issues, such as the downside of everyone (including criminals) being able to access everyone in the world, and what is the best way to deal with problems like this.  (Besides, only the English site of Wikipedia is down, so you can search in a different language and work on your translation skills along with researching the subject.)

And if you think your students will use this as an excuse to play games rather than do their research on the Internet, don't worry--MineCraft is one of the sites that has joined the blockout.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Curriculum Resource: Dr. King's Original Documents Online

In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Day 2012, the King Center has opened a new online resource.  With the help of JP Morgan Chase, the organization that continues the work of Dr. King has digitized over one million materials related to King's life and mission and is making them available for free over the Internet.

The collection is organized into themes, such as public opinion, economics, the Vietnam War, and such.  It contains many different kinds of materials, including articles, hand-written drafts or notes, telegrams, photographs, etc.  It is a premier resource for the original source material for one of the most important American thinkers and activists of the 20th century.

To view these documents, go to the Archives of the King Center.

Monday, January 9, 2012

83 Stores That Give Discounts to Educators

I had to take a break from my Newbery book contender reviews to share this great resource I just stumbled upon with those of you who are teachers and/or educators.  A site named Brad's Deals has compiled a list of 83 businesses that give some kind of price break to teachers and educators.  A lot of them I knew about and already use--Barnes & Noble and Apple Computer and Jo Ann's Fabrics and such--but this list is MUCH more extensive than any I've seen before.  It includes not only education-related businesses, like bookstores and craft stores and computers and educational supplies, but stores that sell lots of other things as well--cell phone, clothing, travel, contacts, insurance, vacation sites, and even pizza!

I haven't checked them out, and the article doesn't say, but usually these discounts are also available for homeschoolers, at least in stores around here.  

Anyway, look over the list yourself here, and see if any of these resources can save you some money.