Online learning resources

Got kids staying home because school’s closed? Here are some online learning resources, compiled by my friend Jen Albert at The Citadel:

COLLECTIONS OF RESOURCES IN GOOGLE DOCS: – List of providers that have made resources and services free – Upper Elementary specific resources – K-6 lesson topics with links from Fairfax County Schools – Kentucky Gifted and Talented lessons for K-12 by grade level and subject area*O6Ixiq6JxBe5M2uEO7Rgiw – 30 Virtual Field Trips with links

SCIENCE/ENGINEERING RESOURCES: – Watch, listen, and play games to learn all about amazing animals – Learn all about geography and fascinating animals!
Compiled Free Science Resources – Google sheet of resources from Georgia Science Teachers Association
Hands-on activities collated by WeAreTeachers:
Skype a Scientist – daily times and topics
Engineering lesson ideas
American Associate of Chemistry Teachers has unlocked a number of resources for teachers


MATH RESOURCES: – Practice math and reading sills all while playing fun games

Actors reading stories –
Cozy chair YouTube channel – Go “into the book” to play games that practice reading strategies. – Read, play games, and hang out with Dr. Seuss and his friends. – Practice math and reading sills all while playing fun games – Practice your phonics skills with these read-along stories

Metropolitan Opera LiveStream
FREE Color Book Downloads from 113 museums
Museums Virtual Tours
A Guide to Virtual Museum Resources

OTHERS: – Read, play games, and conduct cool science experiments – Hang out with your favorite characters all while learning. – Yoga exercises for kids
List of 450 Ivy League courses you can take online for free

Posted in Connected life, Education | 2 Comments

Book Challenge: Day 7

On my last book challenge day, I continue my cheating ways by again sharing two books. These are by the same author, American University history professor Ibram X. Kendi. They are Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America and Kendi’s most recent book, How to Be an Antiracist.

I read How to Be an Antiracist first. This book is brilliant, tightly reasoned, and introspective. As I read, I found myself diving into my own self-reflection, then coming up for air to learn more about Kendi’s ideas. Kendi’s willingness to share his own intellectual and emotional journey impels the reader to their own, sometimes painful, self-examination.

Stamped from the Beginning is a history of racist ideas, and addresses questions like, Where did the anti-black racist ideas that bedevil American society come from? How did they develop and why? What makes them so powerful and persistent? Tracing the origins of these ideas from the beginnings of the European trade in enslaved African people, Kendi draws on the lives of five significant figures from American history to help us understand these questions, beginning with Puritan minister Cotton Mather (1663 – 1728) and concluding with activist Angela Davis (1944 – ).

On a personal, visceral level, I can’t imagine the amount of stamina and determination that Kendi must have summoned as he spent years immersed in these repugnant, raw, and ugly justifications for the inhumanity of slavery, Jim Crow, and modern-day discrimination in his study of racist ideas. But he concludes that “racial inequality is a problem of bad policy, not bad people.” He says that racist ideas are rooted in the attempt to justify self-interested choices that have racist effects. So, for example, the expedient of kidnapping and enslaving people to provide cheap, expendable labor resulted in the need to reconcile these immoral actions with the Christian faith professed by most of the enslavers. From this, the huge, teetering edifice of anti-black racist thought in America evolved.

We are often taught the Enlightenment notion that beliefs shape thoughts which result in actions–the ideal of reason as the basis of action. But Kendi’s history of racist ideas reveals that this gets it exactly backwards. As you look at the sweep of history, human beings make choices and then develop thoughts and beliefs to justify them. Along those lines, I think of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s dictum that ideology is what allows people to do things they know are wrong. To the contrary, for good or ill, it seems that acts ultimately create ideology, or at least reinforce it.

Kendi says that “a racist idea is any idea that suggests one racial group is inferior or superior to another racial group in any way” and an antiracist idea is essentially the opposite. He proposes that, in a racist society, it is not possible to be “non-racist” in the sense of being “colorblind” or neutral as regards to race. Instead, the alternative to racism is antiracism. Further, all of us hold some measure of racist and antiracist ideas and attitudes, so to become more fully antiracist requires constant self-reflection and struggle.

Posted in Been readin'... | Leave a comment

Book Challenge: Day 6

So many books, so few days! I’m not going to even get to a whole raft of significant ones! Arrrrgh! What’s a person to do?

Cheat, of course.

So today, I’m sharing two books on a theme: The Madhouse Effect: How Climate Change Denial is Threatening Our Planet, Destroying Our Politics, and Driving Us Crazy, by Michael Mann and Tom Toles, and Resisting Structural Evil: Love as Ecological-Economic Vocation, by Cynthia Moe-Lobeda.

Eminent climate scientist Michael Mann (Professor of Atmospheric Science at Penn State) and Washington Post political cartoonist Tom Toles collaborated to produce The Madhouse Effect, a primer on climate change that debunks many climate change denial arguments and explains why we humans really do need to act—and quickly—to keep the worst from happening. By the way, if you want to really learn about the science of climate change, Mann is presenting a free on-line college course on climate science for non-scientists on the MOOC website EdX. (I’m currently taking the course myself.)

In Resisting Structural Evil, author Cynthia Moe-Lobeda presents a vision of environmental and social justice rooted in her deep study of Christian ethics. (It happens that I went to middle school with Cynthia, although she was one grade ahead of me and I didn’t know her well, but we inhabited overlapping social circles.) The book argues that Christian teachings and tradition impel believers to recognize their responsibility for all interconnected life on this planet, and describes how some Christian churches have responded to the ecological crisis based on this awareness.

There are so many more books I would like to recommend on this topic, but will stop at two for now. I think these are a good place to start reading. Your future self will thank you.

Posted in Been readin'..., Environment & climate | Leave a comment

Book Challenge: Day 5

Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst, by Robert Sapolsky

Robert Sapolsky is a primatologist and neurobiologist who has spent his career studying how biology, the brain, the environment, and genes interact to produce animal (and human) behavior. In this engrossing book, he explains some of what he’s learned, in terms a non-expert can understand. (I noticed that Sapolsky was featured in the recent Netflix/Vox documentary series on the mind, and I also heard him on Ezra Klein’s podcast a while back. I recommend both of these also!) Behave is an absolutely fascinating book that will challenge your ideas about human behavior, and everything that flows from that.

In contrast to McGilchrist, whose book The Master and His Emissary I highlighted a couple days ago, Sapolsky says that the divided brain has little effect on behavior. When I first read this, I wondered how this contradiction might be reconciled, since both scientists seem to know what they’re talking about. I think it would be fascinating to get the two of them in a room together for a conversation. At the moment, the best I can do is to consider that their books address different (although related) questions: Sapolsky is most interested in the biochemistry of brains and behavior, while McGilchrist is interested in how brains process information and how that influences culture. Both books by themselves are intriguing and challenging; taken together, they have pushed me to think deeply about all kinds of questions and issues in what I think are creative ways.

Here’s one small nugget from Behave: Sapolsky spends a chapter or two discussing the relationship between genes and environment and their relative contribution to behavior (the nature vs. nurture debate). The traditional way to talk about this is to assign some percentage to each which adds to 100%, like saying that human potential or behavior or whatever is 60% determined by genes and 40% by environment. Or whatever. Sapolsky makes the crucial point that genes express themselves differently in different environments, meaning that it’s the interaction between the two that produces behavior, not one acting independently of the other. So it might be more accurate to say that behavior is 80% nature *and* 80% nurture. Wow!

Posted in Been readin'... | Leave a comment

Book Challenge: Day 4

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

I had to include something by Margaret Atwood on my list since she’s such a wonderful novelist. Of course, her best-known novel is The Handmaid’s Tale, and that would have been a great addition to this series too. But Alias Grace has grown on me over the years since I read it, bringing me back time and again to the question of what about our personal stories is true and false. This is a fascinating story, based on a real-life murder that took place in Canada in the mid-1800’s. (Btw, this novel has been made into a Netflix series, in case you’d rather take it in that way.)

Posted in Been readin'... | Leave a comment

Book Challenge: Day 3.

The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World, by Iain McGilchrist

The author is a brain researcher who has spent his career understanding how the structure of the human brain influences how we process information and, in turn, how we perceive the world around us. In this book, he first takes a deep dive into how our brains work, and especially how the two hemispheres of the brain work together, in different ways, to process information from the environment. The right hemisphere is focused on the world around us, taking in information and making decisions about how to respond. The left hemisphere focuses on logic and analysis, but has only limited interest in the external environment. When the hemispheres work together, the right hemisphere filters incoming information, sends the filtered input to the left hemisphere for analysis, and then uses the results of this analysis to help it make decisions about action.

A tiny aside: I was fascinated by the fact that the center in the left hemisphere that is most closely associated with speech is mirrored in the right hemisphere by the center from which music comes. The anthropological evidence is that our ancestors communicated through musical sound long before they developed language. I was stunned when I read this.

The second half of the book is a reflection on how our brains have shaped civilization. McGilchrist makes the case that, in most of human history, civilization was built on a partnership between the left and right hemispheres in which the left-brain analytic functions provided advice to the right hemisphere, but the right hemisphere was the locus of decision and action. He argues that Western civilization has elevated the status of the left hemisphere in ways that, while making European civilization globally dominant, now endangers our continued success as a species.

Posted in Been readin'..., Culture | Leave a comment

Book Challenge, Day 2

Foucault’s Pendulum, by Umberto Eco.

These days I don’t read as much fiction as I once did. Here’s an exception, Foucault’s Pendulum by the Italian writer and semiotician Umberto Eco. He’s probably best known for his novel The Name of the Rose, that was made into a movie with Sean Connery.

Anyway, years ago, I took all summer to read this book, digesting it in small amounts each day. The climax takes place in the Pantheon in Paris, and I won’t say more about that, except that, a few years later on a visit to France, I happened into the Pantheon, not realizing it was the same place until, there it was, Foucault’s actual pendulum.

The story is about three editors who work for a vanity press that specializes in books promoting occult religious conspiracy theories. One night, in a fit of drunken hilarity, they create a theory that explains all the conspiracy theories from the books they’ve edited. Then, crazy things start happening. Have they stumbled onto a deeper truth?

Posted in Been readin'... | Leave a comment

Book Challenge, Day 1

I’m accepting a challenge from my high school English teacher Barbara Bass to post a book a day.

Day number 1: The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration, by Isabel Wilkerson.

This book is a powerful history of the Great Migration of African Americans from the American South to places in the North and West as told through the stories of three participants in the migration. I read it several years ago, and still think about it often. This book should really be made into a movie.

Posted in Been readin'... | Leave a comment

Another education thought

If you’re required to learn something because “it will be on the test,” you’re not being educated. You’re being trained to follow orders.

Posted in Education, Reflections | Leave a comment

Thought for the day

I saw something like this many years ago and today thought I’d reproduce it…
Posted in Environment & climate, The natural world | Leave a comment