Sunday, July 19, 2009

Happy Birthday, Dad!

I was only five years old that day, and I really don't remember the event first-hand. But I still think about it every year on the 20th of July. Our entire family does, actually. You see, the lunar landing will forever be connected for us with my father. Today is not only the 40th anniversary of man's arrival on the moon, it's also my dad's birthday!

Happy Birthday, Dad!

While I don't remember July 20, 1969 as well as I would like, I am able to relive it today in the 21st century as if I were there. And it still gives me chills!

Right now, as I'm writing this post, I am listening to the conversation between Mission Control in Houston and The Eagle in real time via the website We Choose The Moon. This past Thursday, July 16th, 2009, Apollo 11 "launched" via this website and has allowed us to follow the first trip to the moon by listening to the communication between Mission Control and the Apollo 11 crew as if it were happening today. Currently, I'm listening to the conversation as the lunar module begins its preparations for the landing. I am amazed!

Of course, what would a 21st experience be without Twitter!? I am seeing the most amazing tweets come through my Twitter stream right now. Here is just a sampling:

Before McBro calls me a "dork" (something I actually love to hear from him), I know I'm a geek and I am very much reveling in my geekness today! I mean, seriously...what an amazing time to be living on this planet! Or out in space. Because while I am watching these Apollo 11 tweets come through the stream, there are also REAL real-time tweets coming from space via space shuttle astronaut Mark Polansky, known to us on Twitter as @Astro_127.

I do think Commander Polansky needs to update his profile, however. His current location is most definitely NOT Houston.

If you'd like another way to celebrate the 40th anniversary today, head on over to YouTube. Actually, you'll want to start with this post from the kind folks at Mashable: "Apollo 11 Moon Landing: A YouTube Timeline." In this one post, author Ben Parr has managed to capture the race for the moon in a total of twelve videos, including one with those famous words:

As a history teacher, I feel I should also point out that 1969 can be remembered as a year that saw a number of amazing stories. Remember these:If you'd like to see a wonderful visual representation of the year that was 1969, check out this photographic presentation from the New York Times: 1969. If you'd like to learn more about the Apollo 11 mission, you should head on over to the blog I discovered just this morning: A Year of Reading. Today's post has several good books to recommend about the mission.

Not to be left out of the loop, Google is announcing today the release of the Moon in Google Earth. Now we will all be able to travel to the moon (and elsewhere in space) and investigate the lunar surface. Of course, today just wouldn't be complete without this:

As I've been working on this post, a few more important tweets have come through the Twitter stream:

It may seem strange, but as I sit here listening to the "live" broadcasts from the Apollo 11 mission, I feel like I'm experiencing the same - or similar - emotions to what my parents must have felt that day forty years ago. It's been exciting and even a bit nerve-wracking. And I can still feel that sense of history in the making. I'll say it again...what an amazing time to be alive!

Last week, the Boston Globe celebrated the anniversary in pictures. The Big Picture includes a number of remarkable images, many of which are now iconic, a few of which I'd never seen. I sent this link to my dad when I saw it because I knew he would enjoy seeing the pictures also. He sent the following email back to me:

So do you remember exactly where you were when Armstrong stepped on the Moon on July 20, 1969?


I couldn't help myself. I responded:
Dude! I was five! I'll have to ask mom and get back to you.

So, Dad, what do you think? Pretty cool for everyone to celebrate your birthday like this today!

Happy Birthday!
Karen (I'm the one on the right):

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Leadership Day 2009

Scott McLeod has challenged bloggers again this year to participate in Leadership Day 09. While I didn't get my own post written, I did very much enjoy reading the thoughtful - and thought-provoking - posts of others today. I started to think it might be useful to save these wonderful posts in one central location, if for no one other than myself.

But, that's not how things work in this EdTech web 2.0 world. We create things knowing that we will, at least at some point, share them. Perhaps that is the one thing I would want our educational leaders to remember: today's world, educational and otherwise, can be amazingly collaborative. We have all seen the wonderful work of teachers and students collaborating with their peers all over the globe. We've heard them talk about the amazing things they've learned, and it's not just about the technology. They learn from one another. They learn that a twelve-year-old in the United States can have the same joys and sorrows as a twelve-year-old living in a far different country. They learn what it means to be human in another spot on this earth.

I would invite any administrator to sit and learn from our students. They'll tell you who they are and who they want to be. How could anyone sit and listen to them and not want to give them the tools they need to get where they're going? That includes encouraging all teachers to catch up to their tech-savvy students. You can't teach them if you can't reach them.

As I said, I spent most of the day reading and compiling these wonderful posts. I've collected them in two places, a Google spreadsheet and a list in Diigo. Enjoy!

Leadership Day 2009 Blog Posts

My Leadership Day 2009 Diigo List

Saturday, July 11, 2009

World Population Day 2009

Today, July 11th, 2009, marks the 20th celebration of World Population Day, an event designed to raise awareness about the impact our increasing global population has on us and our world. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) believes the world's population will reach 9.1 billion people in the next forty years. That's an increase of nearly 36%. It makes one wonder what the impact might be on poverty rates, world health, and our climate. [It is my understanding that this estimate of 9.1 billion is based on a decrease in the current birth rate in developing countries from 4 children per mother to 2. If that decrease does not happen, the population will be even greater.]

This year's theme focuses on an idea to help prevent such a tremendous population increase in our world: educating girls. If you watched the video above, you probably noted the staggering statistic:
Of 900 million illiterate adults in the world, 2/3rds are women

Investing now in the health and education of women around the world leads to a ripple effect that starts with a girl's family leading eventually to their community, their country, and our world. I love this quote from Ms. Thoraya Obaid, Executive Director of UNFPA and Under-Secretary General of the United Nations:

"The world is paying a high price for not allowing women to live up to their full potential."

My question is what can we do about it, other than donate money to this, that, or the other fundraising organization? I would love to do something with my seventh graders this year to promote the education of girls around the world. But what? I'm thinking this would work well as a service learning project, but that is as far as I've gotten. Have you any ideas or suggestions?

Saturday, July 4, 2009

We Hold These Truths...

Happy Fourth of July! Like many people in our country today, I am spending time with my family. We'll be partaking of the obligatory Fourth of July BBQ later today...hamburgers, hot dogs, potato salad, and plenty of watermelon. [Quick side note: I asked my five-year-old nephew this morning how many hot dogs he could eat in one minute. Ten? Twenty? Fifty? His response: "One. Nobody should eat fast." Wise words from one so young.]

As a history teacher I feel it necessary to reflect today on the very beginnings of our country. What a remarkable thing our Founding Fathers did, creating a new country in a new fashion. They were willing to risk everything for freedom. Everything! Today I ask myself: "What would I be willing to risk for freedom? What would I give to live free?"

The Fourth of July is more than just a reason to get together with friends and family, eat, watch fireworks, and wave a flag about. It is a celebration of all that is unique about country. It is a means of reminding ourselves that we enjoy, and should be quite grateful for, freedoms that many others in this world do not have. Today I also ask myself: "What of them? What is my responsibility as one who enjoys such freedoms to those who cannot?" Surely the Founding Fathers would have wanted us to share the ideas they crafted into our Independence.

Let me be clear. I am not saying we should send our military out into the world to force independence upon every nation that does not have it. Our nation's Independence began with an idea that no one man (or woman) should hold control over a country without care or concern for the people who lived there. That idea spread by word of mouth and by the written word. It was a slower process back then. Thomas Jefferson did not have a Twitter ID (I wonder what he would have chosen for his screenname. @TJefferson? Too easy. How about @DecOfIndieWriter? Or just @DecWriter?) Thomas Paine was unable to use an iPhone to send Common Sense to the press.

But look for a moment at this amazing thing they created! And it all started with an idea. "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

All men. All people. Everywhere on this beautiful planet, all people are "created equal" and are entitled to "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." Why is it some in our world think they are entitled to more? That they can possess that which belongs to another by birthright? And what are our responsibilities as Americans to those in our world who do not have the freedoms we sometimes take for granted? Do we have any responsibilities to them?

I have no answers for you today. I have only questions. It's often how I teach my students...I ask more questions than I answer. I'm curious by nature; I hope to pass that along to my students.

One more question: What do you know about the holiday, Independence Day? How did it come about? I highly recommend reading this article, "The Invention of the Fourth of July" by David Waldstreicher. The first paragraph sums it up quite nicely:
The Fourth of July, or Independence Day, as it has come to be known, is perhaps the most and the least American of holidays. It is the most American because it marks the beginning of the nation, because it rapidly became an occasion for expressing what America is all about, and because it is locally and voluntarily observed. It is the least American because it was created mostly out of English material.

"Mostly out of English material" but now uniquely American. So, wherever you are today, or this weekend, stop for a moment and ask yourself: What is freedom worth to me?

One more note. If King George III had had a Twitter account back in the day, this is what his tweet for today might have looked like (courtesy of one of my favorite websites, Historical Tweets):

Bald eagle and flag image from: Wikimedia Commons