Internet

Milestone – 100

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The above congratulatory image came across my blog notifications with my last post and I have to say I was a little surprised to see it. I hadn’t been following my stats that closely since I hit the last milestone so I am happy to see I have lasted this long, though admittedly I probably would have gotten here faster had I not taken nearly a year-long break.

I started this blog on a whim and have found that I really enjoy it. I enjoy writing. I get to say what I want or highlight something I think is worthy of people knowing; if people are paying attention and are interested in my words, well that is just a bonus! My wife thinks me spending time on this thing is silly but, oh well, you can’t win them all over…

These days I do most of my writing while I am at work (not while working!), during my lunch hour. It doesn’t give me a lot of time to write and it takes longer than I would like to get some things finished and published, but it is usually quiet and I have a little time to focus on something I like to do. I guess in some ways, it relaxes me.

Anyway, to mark the occasion I thought I would review some of the stats I have accumulated over the last 100 posts and see where I have come from, which might just give me some direction in where I am going…or not. I read lots of blogs and there are so many out there with a singular focus, but that is not something I have ever wanted to do. Maybe that is why my “readership” is low, but who knows for sure. Maybe I just don’t choose topics that people are interested in. Either way, I write about things I care about and if others care too, great. If not, that’s ok too.

TOP 10 (Views)

These are based on views, but I am sure not all of these are based on “reads” so much as some may have something to do with hits because of “image searches.” But I guess I’ll never really know for sure.

  1. Redbox Chat – Customer Service Lost in Translation
  2. Milestone – 50
  3. Parental Detention (or, I’m Making a Point for My Child)
  4. Let’s Review…
  5. Dollar Shave Club: Review
  6. About    (apparently people wonder who I am?)
  7. Don’t Be So Bossy!
  8. Easter is Better Than Christmas – Why?
  9. Goodbye, Gramps
  10. “Can you please call the police”

TOP 10 (My Preference)

These are the posts I enjoyed writing the most and believe they are worth reading if you give them a gander or two, but that’s just me…have a click and let me know what you think!

  1. Goodbye, Gramps
  2. Gaffigan and Giggles
  3. I Kissed a Girl, and I Liked It!
  4. Eject “God Bless America” from Baseball.
  5. Bullying – Do Children Need to be Taught to Cope Better?
  6. Pet Perturbed
  7. The American Oligarchy
  8. Duck, Duck, Genocide
  9. Thankful for a Gift
  10. The Debate: What is “Life”?

Scope (or reach)

One thing that continues to amaze me is the scope (or reach) of this little blog. It amazes me that something I post could be read or viewed by so many people around the globe. I am always interested to look at the little map of views and see where people are “checking in” from. I know the internet makes things more accessible and I shouldn’t be that amazed but it just fascinates me. Looking at the stats for this particular category I can see that I my blog has been viewed from 96 different countries!

That is a pretty amazing stat to me. Of course, a majority of the views have been from North America and Europe, but there are some little countries in remote places too. Pretty cool and I hope the views from different countries continues to grow so I can add even more countries to the list. Is it possible to get at least one view from every country?

Readers/Subscribers

Here is one place I hope to grow, and quickly! More than half of the people who are listed as “followers” are from my Facebook friends. That’s great and probably most of my views come from things I post that are also posted on Facebook. But, I would like to get the number of “followers,” real followers, up. If I am reading the stats correctly, I have about 155. Not bad for someone who doesn’t post on a regular schedule, nor has a specific topic to focus on, but I would love to grow that number. If anyone has a suggestion or three about how to do that, I would love to hear from you!

Closing thoughts…

Thanks for indulging and reading my review of the first 100 posts. I appreciate everyone who has stopped by, and especially those who keep stopping by. You all give me a little jolt of confidence each time you do.

If you have been around for a while or have read more than a few words on here, I would like some feedback. What do you like? What do you not like? What do you think I should focus on, if anything? Where should I go with this from here? I am sure you all have ideas about what you might like to see more of, or less of…so shoot me some feedback. I’ll listen, I promise!

Thanks.

Ryan

Transitioning from the classroom

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Over a year ago I stepped out of the classroom as a high school teacher (after 15 years) and began a new career in software support. I am still in education, technically, since I work for an educational service district and I am supporting the school information systems used by a large number of school districts in my state. It has been a good move and I don’t regret it at all – except that I miss “my kids” and the conversations about history and current events.

Anyway, my last post on this format was about a “branching out” of sorts. Not really in the sense of something completely new, but in the sense that it gave me an outlet to share some of the fun memories I gathered over the years, and it also helped me keep a “promise” (to publish) to “my kids” by getting their words out there for them to enjoy again.

There are, however, still two areas from my teaching career that I am trying to figure out what to do with. And by figure out, I mean how or what do I do with some of the resources I created over those years? Lots of work and time went into them so it would be nice to get something from them. So, now I have links to them here on the blog (over there in the margin on the right) with the hopes that at some point they may get some traffic and generate…something.

The first thing is what to do with all those teaching materials I created over the years. A few years back I found a website called Teachers Pay Teachers (TPT), where teachers can post their work and make a little extra money while saving fellow teaScreen Shot 2017-10-12 at 1.34.47 PMchers time and money. I started posting my teaching materials on the website and lo-and-behold, people started buying it! I have continued to post materials up there over the last year and I am starting to see a nice return (it could always be more!) on my work. I don’t think it will ever make me rich, but it is something and at some point may produce a little extra spending money. As of now, I think I have solved this dilemma.

The other thing that I created a couple of years ago was a “classroom website.” I got to the point in my class that I was tired of trying to keep track of all the places on the internet I would like my students to go and all the materials I needed them to have (even when they were absent). So, over the summer a few years ago I spent my hours designing and creating a website so that it could be used as a supplement to my classroom instruction. It worked out far better than I could have imagined and the students appreciated having access to the materials (really, I promise) even when they were not at school. Since leaving teaching, I have kept the website (though I have done little updating to this point) but I am not sure what to do with it at this point. I think it may still be useful to some degree so I don’t want to give it up quite yet until I explore some possibilities, but I am just now sure on what to do. Suggestions? I am looking for some hints or helpful tips that might make the work I did in the past and how I can use that to my advantage going into the future. Leave a suggestion in the comments if you have any advice at all. Note: Some pages are password protected because there is material there that is copyrighted.

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If you are interested, you can visit the two sites by clicking on the links (TPT or Grenz History) or over there on the right side of the page. I would appreciate any feedback you can give me. If you know someone who is a history teacher (specifically US/American history, Civics, American Government, Contemporary Issues, Current World Issues), I would appreciate a recommendation for at least a look. Again, some feedback would be nice.

9/11: Inside and Outside Perspectives

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So we may never forget…

Every year as a history teacher I used to be faced with the reality that the anniversary of 9/11 also came very close to the beginning of the year. I was always challenged with the question, What do I do to commemorate the anniversary in my classroom this year?

It actually is an easy question, aside from the myriad of choices I had at my disposal. I mean there are a plethora of sites, organizations, and materials that are available to these days so there is no shortage. But, the harder part was always what can I use to help students who were barely alive, at the time of the attack, understand the scope of the attack while also helping them to understand the feelings of the day. That is a much harder task because helping students connect to historical events is really tough. So, I had two videos that were really the mainstay to my instruction and let to larger, more in-depth units later in the year or even to following year.

In most cases, I would start their exposure to the subject during their junior year since I had them for US History. It is, of course, an American historical event. The following year, as seniors, I would pick up where I left off in their exposure and delve more deeply into the background and aftermath of 9/11 via units in my Contemporary Issues class. This would allow them to develop a deeper understanding with a more complete history of the event instead of just a simple moment of commemoration.

Two invaluable resources are shown above and each are briefly described below.

Inside Perspective: 9/11

There is of course really only one video that can be used for this purpose. What was it like inside the Twin Towers that day? While this can’t be fully known, there is only one surviving video from inside the towers that day and it is the one shot by the Naudet brothers, Jules and Gedeon, as they were recording a documentary about become a New York firefighter. The video, 9/11, is or should be essential watching, really for all Americans.

Perspective. Always an important thing to consider. There is no better video to show students what it was like inside the towers. I really believe this is a MUST SEE for students.

If you would like to see this video (if you haven’t, or want to remember) you can see it on YouTube, in its entirety (here / here / here), though it is hard to tell for how long as it is copyrighted. I have included several links just in case one or more becomes unavailable. It is also available for sale from many of the popular shopping sites.

Outside Perspective: 9/11 Day that Changed the World

Again, I believe there are questions that have to be answered and students often wonder after watching the first video, What was going on outside the buildings and what were our leaders doing while the attack was happening? This video answers both those questions with incredible insight so this was also an important video for them to see.

This video takes actual news footage, firefighter and police radio broadcasts, phone calls, hijacker cockpit radio transmissions, air traffic control conversations, and weaves it together with interviews of the most important people (except President Bush) who had a role that day. This video was put together by the Smithsonian Channel for the 10 year anniversary of the attack, therefore giving the people who were responsible for running the country and cities a chance to put a little time and perspective into their insights. The video is extremely powerful as it bounces between cities as the timeline of the attack unfolds and then incorporates the interviews of the officials

This video is currently available on YouTube as well (here / here). It is also available to order at the usual places online.

Final Thought

It is important to remember 9/11. We can never forget what led to it, and the profound affects it had on our nation moving forward from it. There were implications in and to all facets of life. We must never forget – ever.

 

**Please be aware that both of the videos deal with sensitive topics and show some alarming scenes. Do not let that discourage you from showing them to students, however be sensitive that each student may handle to emotions differently and react differently. It is always good to follow up each viewing with a discussion to process what they saw, what they felt, and how it impacts them.**

Truman and Free Speech

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“There is no more fundamental axiom of American freedom than the familiar statement: In a free country, we punish men for the crimes they commit, but never for the opinions they have. And the reason this is so fundamental to freedom is not, as many suppose, that it protects the few unorthodox from suppression by the majority. To permit freedom of expression is primarily for the benefit of the majority because it protects criticism, and criticism leads to progress…But we would betray our finest traditions if we attempted…to curb the simple expression of opinion. This we should never do, no matter how distasteful the opinion may be to the vast majority of our people…We need not fear the expression of ideas—we do need to fear their suppression.”

– President Harry S. Truman

Context: fighting communism in the United States and around the world.

The emphasis above is mine. One of the most important freedoms we have is under attack and I’m afraid it will only get worse. The attacks are coming fast and furious and from every side. I doubt there will be a turn from this trend, only a charging straight into an unknown and dark future.

“We punish men for the crimes they commit, but never for the opinions they have”

We have sunk so low these days that we are punishing people for their opinions. I don’t mean we are legally punishing them, though I suspect we aren’t far off from this. (On second thought, maybe we are – see the baker, the florist, the photographer, the wedding venue, etc. being prosecuted because of their beliefs and opinions.)

We are now punishing people in the public arena via social media, sometimes even to the point of violence off-line. There is no crime in holding an opinion and expressing it, yet many people apparently believe it is these days. The trend to punish people for their opinions has gone to name calling, bullying, harassing, taunting, threatening, unfriending, embarrassing, humiliating, and in some cases even following through with physical violence simply because someone disagrees with another person’s opinion or disagrees with their extreme viewpoint.

Take this student photo article as an example. No harm done, to anyone, by her posting a photo she is proud of. It is easy to imagine that anyone would post a picture they have when they got it while interacting with someone famous. So, when did it become acceptable to treat someone so poorly because you disagree with them?

We teach our kids in school not to bully, harass, threaten, or otherwise make someone uncomfortable (Really? Because that’s reality…). Yet, there is no reasonable expectation among the adult world that this will carry forth into daily life. We aren’t practicing what we preach. It brings to mind that whole “Do what I say, not what I do” adage.

Now, it appears at least as adults, we celebrate people who go out of their way to bully, harass, or even attack others who have opinions that don’t line up with mainstream opinion. We are teaching our kids that it is ok to fight detestable and offensive opinions with violence and intimidation and bullying and harassment, etc. as long as we believe it to be repugnant.

The whole point of the United States and it’s foundation was to protect free speech, even the kind we find repugnant. Our Founders, who were persecuted for their beliefs and opinions, are celebrated because they fought against a society that believed their ideas were repugnant. (Back to the whole historical argument – were our Founders patriots or terrorists? It depends on your point of view.) Our Constitution is meant to protect all ideas and opinions, even the ones we don’t like, because we are supposed to have a “marketplace of ideas”. Take the ones you like and leave the ones you don’t. There is nothing in the Constitution about convincing others they are wrong by bullying and harassing them into changing their idea.

Truman understood that “To permit freedom of expression is primarily for the benefit of the majority because it protects criticism, and criticism leads to progress…”  He understood that if there is a problem in society it needed to be discussed and worked on until it was fixed. If there is a belief that our country is going in the wrong direction, then there needs to be open dialogue about it not suppression and violence.

If we become a society that suppresses ideas we don’t like or find repugnant, how do we move forward? Censorship at every corner and in every facet of life? I know everyone hates the cliche “slippery slope,” but we are seeing some prime examples these days. Where does the suppression of ideas or thoughts, or opinions end? What one person finds objectionable, another finds acceptable. Who gets to decide in a open and free society?

 

 

 

America’s Failed Spelling Test

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America, you have some work to do in the spelling department. Some of you, more so than others!

Wisconsin…I don’t think there is a single excuse for you…too much cheese maybe?

Most of these words are middle school level and should have been learned a long time ago, while others are at worst twelfth grade level.

If you know these words without looking them up in Google, A+ for you!

 

Is Personalization Good in All Cases?

Computers have been making it easier and easier to connect with the world for quite some time now. They have been getting better and better at doing it as the years have passed and they are getting faster while doing it at the same time. That is fantastic, until you stop to think about what that could mean if we aren’t careful. Those at Facebook, Google, Amazon, or whatever tech company you name at this point have been working towards a web that allows them to personalize the web to your own tastes and preferences (but really mostly so they can make money marketing stuff to you). This is good to some degree because I don’t want, unnecessarily, to see ads for feminine products. Those things might be useful to those I love, but not to me personally. So, yes, this personalization is good. However, take a look at the video below. Discover what a “filter bubble” is and why total personalization of the web is a bad thing.

What do you think? Does he have a point? Is this progress, progress?