He never just clicks ‘install.’

20 05 2013


What Happened?!

15 04 2013


If ‘Lord of the Rings’ took place today…

9 04 2013


Something’s gone terribly wrong.

19 02 2013


Sad but true.

27 01 2013


Wired: New Online Course Explores Gender Through Comic Books

25 01 2013

I’ve already signed up! This looks interesting, and it’s a free online course! Well, except for whatever textbooks you have to buy, but in this case I think that won’t be much of an issue for me!

– dEV

#     #     #

xmen 1By Kelly KnoxJanuary 24, 2013 | 9:00 am

An online course to study comic books? Sign me up! No, seriously, I already signed up. This spring the Canvas Network is offering a massive open online course called Gender Through Comic Books, taught by Ball State University’s Christina Blanch. Aimed at students college-age and up, the course will explore gender roles in comics from DC Comics, Marvel, and more. The goal of the course is to take a detailed look at “how comic books can be used to explore questions of gender identity, stereotypes, and roles,” with comics luminaries like Mark Waid, Scott Snyder, Gail Simone, and more providing their own input and insights.

I had the chance to ask the course instructor Christina Blanch about what students can expect in the course, and she revealed that the course will not only cover how men and women are portrayed in comics, but also discuss current comic book culture like the “fake geek girl” debate.

GeekMom: What inspired you to use comic books as a medium to explore gender roles?

Christina Blanch: I was taking a class on Women and Education for my doctorate. For the final project we had to write a paper and my professor, who is also my mentor and an amazing woman, encouraged me to step out of the lines and do something different. I had been researching Mort Weisinger and how he as editor changed the Superman Family books, focusing on Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane, and I thought using comic books could be a way to approach teaching gender without the trepidation some students feel. So, I wrote a paper on how a class could be developed using comic books to teach gender.

One of the students in the class taught for Women and Gender Studies and thought that it would be a good class and suggested it to the department chair. Next thing I knew, they asked me to teach the class. And it was such a great class – the students were all engaged and simply amazing.

strangers-in-paradiseGM: Can you give any hints about topics you’ll be exploring in the course?

CB: The first thing we will cover is what exactly gender is. People often times think it is synonymous with sex or is feminism in disguise. This class is about men and women and how we can learn about gender through its social construction, as politics, as a diffuse concept, and as a lived experience. Constructions of gender vary from culture to culture and change throughout time. In the class we will look at how gender is constructed and how the stereotypes of certain gender traits are perpetrated by the producers of cultural material. Masculinity and femininity have traits associated with them that are not equal with a person’s sex.

We will look at how women and men are represented in comic books and see how masculine or feminine they are.

With the recent “fake geek girl” debates, I also plan to talk about the comic book culture and who consumes the material.

And finally, we will look at the producers of the comics themselves through live interviews with some of the leading comic book writers and editors today. Using Google hangouts, we will interview writers such as Mark Waid, Scott Snyder, Gail Simone, Terry Moore, and Brian K. Vaughan. We will also get the editorial perspective from Marvel editors Steve Wacker and Sana Amanat. And through the miracle of technology, we will be able to randomly choose several students to be able to directly ask the interviewees questions. It should be an enlightening experience for the students.

GM: Will your course explore characters from both Marvel and DC Comics, as well as some of the smaller publishers?

CB: Yes! We are exploring a lot of different types of comic books. I wish we had more time, it’s only six weeks, so we could get more into autobiographical comic books, but time is so limited. We will read some Marvel and DC, like Captain Marvel and Batman, but will also be looking at books from smaller publishers that put out amazing books like Strangers in Paradise and Saga.

GM: Why did you choose to teach this course as a massive open online course (MOOC)?

CB: I really didn’t choose to do it as a MOOC. I was teaching the class last semester on campus and Ball State approached me and asked me if I would teach it as a MOOC. It’s been interesting working on ways to engage a large audience in the subject and still trying to keep the personal aspect. This will be my first time teaching a MOOC so it’s been a steep learning curve. I’m both excited and nervous, which I think is a good combination. I have a lot of great people at Ball State and the Canvas Network helping me with the technical aspects, so I think it will be amazing.

(Full Story with Video)


A parent’s 18 simple rules for having an iPhone

7 01 2013

Greg Hoffman is a 13-year-old who received an iPhone for Christmas. Attached to it was a list of 18 rules from is mother governing its use. I sincerely wish that more parents would do something like this. Some of the rules might seem a bit overly-strict, even by my standards, but I still think it’s an example of good parenting.

I teach kids Greg’s age, and often marvel at the fact that most of my students have nicer cell phones than I do. I don’t have a smartphone, and while I’d like to have one, it’s a luxury that I can’t really afford and can definitely live without. And I’m an adult. With a job. I have no idea why a 12-year-old needs a $300 device with unlimited talk, text, and web access in their pocket.

But that’s neither here nor there. The reality is, kids have smartphones and can’t live without them. One of my students got in trouble in my class, and her punishment was having her phone taken away for a whole week. It was as if her parents had sentenced her to solitary confinement in a windowless cell.

While she’s not an angel, she definitely learned her lesson and is much easier to deal with. Taking away her phone was devastating to her, and she will do anything to keep it from happening again, even if it’s paying attention in math class! Still, the over-dependency on phones that she and her peers show is very disconcerting.

By the way, I found this floating around Facebook, and I’ve traced it back to Janell Hoffman’s blog here. There’s also an interview with Good Morning America that’s worth checking out.

– dEV

#     #     #


Dear Gregory

Merry Christmas!  You are now the proud owner of an iPhone.  Hot Damn!  You are a good & responsible 13 year old boy and you deserve this gift.  But with the acceptance of this present comes rules and regulations.  Please read through the following contract.  I hope that you understand it is my job to raise you into a well rounded, healthy young man that can function in the world and coexist with technology, not be ruled by it.  Failure to comply with the following list will result in termination of your iPhone ownership.

I love you madly & look forward to sharing several million text messages with you in the days to come.

 1. It is my phone.  I bought it.  I pay for it.  I am loaning it to you.  Aren’t I the greatest?

 2.  I will always know the password.

 3.   If it rings, answer it.  It is a phone.  Say hello, use your manners.  Do not ever ignore a phone call if the screen reads “Mom” or “Dad”.  Not ever.

 4.  Hand the phone to one of your parents promptly at 7:30pm every school night & every weekend night at 9:00pm.  It will be shut off for the night and turned on again at 7:30am.  If you would not make a call to someone’s land line, wherein their parents may answer first, then do not call or text.  Listen to those instincts and respect other families like we would like to be respected. 

5.  It does not go to school with you.  Have a conversation with the people you text in person.  It’s a life skill.  *Half days, field trips and after school activities will require special consideration.

6.  If it falls into the toilet, smashes on the ground, or vanishes into thin air, you are responsible for the replacement costs or repairs.  Mow a lawn, babysit, stash some birthday money.  It will happen, you should be prepared.

7.  Do not use this technology to lie, fool, or deceive another human being.  Do not involve yourself in conversations that are hurtful to others.  Be a good friend first or stay the hell out of the crossfire. 

8.  Do not text, email, or say anything through this device you would not say in person.

9.  Do not text, email, or say anything to someone that you would not say out loud with their parents in the room.  Censor yourself.

10.  No porn.  Search the web for information you would openly share with me.  If you have a question about anything, ask a person – preferably me or your father. 

11.  Turn it off, silence it, put it away in public.  Especially in a restaurant, at the movies, or while speaking with another human being.  You are not a rude person; do not allow the iPhone to change that.

12.  Do not send or receive pictures of your private parts or anyone else’s private parts.  Don’t laugh.  Someday you will be tempted to do this despite your high intelligence.  It is risky and could ruin your teenage/college/adult life.  It is always a bad idea.  Cyberspace is vast and more powerful than you.  And it is hard to make anything of this magnitude disappear – including a bad reputation.

13.  Don’t take a zillion pictures and videos.  There is no need to document everything.  Live your experiences.  They will be stored in your memory for eternity.

14.  Leave your phone home sometimes and feel safe and secure in that decision.  It is not alive or an extension of you.  Learn to live without it.  Be bigger and more powerful than FOMO – fear of missing out. 

15.  Download music that is new or classic or different than the millions of your peers that listen to the same exact stuff.  Your generation has access to music like never before in history.  Take advantage of that gift.  Expand your horizons.

16.  Play a game with words or puzzles or brain teasers every now and then.

17.  Keep your eyes up.  See the world happening around you.  Stare out a window.  Listen to the birds.  Take a walk.  Talk to a stranger.  Wonder without googling. 

18.  You will mess up.  I will take away your phone.  We will sit down and talk about it.  We will start over again.  You & I, we are always learning.  I am on your team.  We are in this together.

It is my hope that you can agree to these terms.  Most of the lessons listed here do not just apply to the iPhone, but to life.  You are growing up in a fast and ever changing world.  It is exciting and enticing. Keep it simple every chance you get.  Trust your powerful mind and giant heart above any machine.  I love you.  I hope you enjoy your awesome new iPhone.  Merry Christmas!



NBC News: A better pencil sharpener? Inventor dreams of erasing life’s annoyances

3 01 2013

A silent pencil sharpener? Name your price. Seriously.

This guy’s got a lot of neat gadget ideas that sound pretty practical to me!

– dEV

#     #     #

Devin Coldewey , NBC News

Long lines at amusement parks. Traffic stalled at rush hour. Cycling uphill. To most of us, these are just minor problems we face in an otherwise comfortable existence. To Anwar Farooq, they are personal call-outs, challenges that he must answer with his own ingenuity. These days, the math teacher and habitual inventor is wrestling with the age-old problem of the pencil sharpener.

NBC News Logo“When I saw my students struggling with the regular pencil sharpener, I honestly knew that there must be an alternate approach, so I started thinking,” Farooq, who teaches at Maywood Academy, southeast of Los Angeles, told NBC News.

That’s not the first time Farooq “started thinking.”

His inventions, spanning 1986 to now, may seem whimsical at first, but on closer inspection are like early ancestors of devices in use today. There’s a bike where your pedaling is boosted by an air compressor, for instance. If you replace the air compressor with an electric motor, you get today’s battery-powered bikes.

There’s the Robocam, a remote-controlled camera platform that’s a precursor to telepresence robots and smartphone videoconferencing apps alike.

For those annoying amusement park or movie theater lines, Farooq proposes a chain of connected, moving chairs. You take a load off, enjoy the built-in entertainment system, and before long, it’s your turn to get up and enjoy the ride or show. He calls it Waiting Is Fun. It may seem far-fetched … until Disney goes and installs one in Tomorrowland.

The idea Farooq seems most proud of is the Rapid Commute. Cars traveling from the outskirts of a city drive right onto a high-speed train, as if they were boarding a ferry boat. The train then brings them to a central location downtown, where they disembark. Next month he will be presenting it to the Transportation Research Board, an off-shoot of the non-profit National Research Council, at its annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

And then there’s the Quick N Silent pencil sharpener.

Pencil sharpeners are, in fact, one of the few classroom technologies that have not experienced a radical redesign in the past century. The most common type of institutional sharpener, the hand-cranked type you can still see mounted to a wall or the teacher’s table in classrooms all over the world, was introduced in 1904.

Sure, electric versions have been introduced, but the cylindrical mills rotating in “planetary” fashion within are still dominant — despite the inconsistency of their results.

Nevertheless, when Farooq wrestled with how to modernize the pencil sharpener, he didn’t look to some laser that could hone the tip of a pencil with micron-level precision. Instead, he found inspiration in the distant past.

“I remembered that people carried pocket knives and they just used those to sharpen pencils quietly and efficiently.”

He set to work on the new machine based on the same principles.

(Full Story)


Grants for Teachers sidebar ads crack me up.

7 12 2012

I admit it. I’m a Facebook user. And with that comes a lot of invasive advertising where they scan your personal information and attempt to match your interests with appropriate advertising.

Often with hilarious results.

Recently, my sidebar was hit with a couple of advertisements for “grants for teachers,” both featuring images of people that I can say with 99% certainty are not actual teachers.

Take this one for example. I’m fairly certain this chick, who looks a bit on the youngish side (she looks kind of like my friend Laura at age 19), is about to assault the photographer. And who can blame her? I believe she’s in the middle of saying, “you’d better not sell this picture to someone who will use it in a Facebook sidebar ad!”

And then there’s this super villain. He looks like an older version of Bryan Cranston from ‘Breaking Bad.’ If he shaved off the goatee, he could probably utter, “To me, my X-Men!” and convince someone that he works in education teaching “gifted youngsters.” As of now, he might be up for the bad-guy role in the next ‘Die Hard‘ movie.

As ridiculous as these ads are, I’m hoping for more. They’re highly entertaining!

– dEV

Libraries of the future require little shelf space.

5 12 2012