All hail the clip show

As a huge fan of The Simpsons, I’ve been slowly buying the DVD sets for each season. I have always thought about going through each DVD and pulling out clips that I could use in class. Perhaps I could create a log book to record the timestamp for each clip. I’ve even considered using some DVD ripping software to make a master DVD to hold all my physics-related Simpsons clips. Of course, both of these methods would take a lot of time.

However, I think I’ve found a better solution. More and more content is being put online for viewers to watch on demand. I think the service that does this best is Read More

Don’t turn off the Earth Day shows

With Earth Day just around the corner, several television stations are serving up informative and conservation-friendly programs. Unfortunately, next week is also Turnoff TV Week. (I’ve ranted about this before; I’m not a fan of the cause.)

Find Earth Day Related TV

It appears that the folks at the TV-Turnoff Network have broadened their focus since last year. They’re now calling themselves the Center for Screen-Time Awareness (CSTA). This seems like a step in the right direction but did they have to run Turnoff TV Week at the same time as Earth Day? I suppose that turning off the TV will save energy but you might miss some great learning opportunities too.

So, in the spirit of “screen-time awareness” I like to suggest TV Guide’s website as a way to start “taking control of the electronic media.” TV Guide’s website has an excellent TV Listings page that allows you to customize the view and show only the channels that you want to watch with your children.

Find an Earth Day program that is just right for you. Perhaps PBS or The Science Channel might be a good place to start.

Download old presidental TV ads for class

The Living Room Candidate on ColbertA few weeks back, on Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report, I saw David Schwartz discuss The Living Room Candidate— a website that archives presidential campaign television commercials. The site has ads going back to 1952. They even have lesson plans in their ‘For Teachers’ section.

The site can provide a great history lesson. Many of the commercials showcase the issues that were on voters’ minds at the time. I think there are a lot of possibilities for this site’s use in the classroom.

Perhaps an assignment where students are asked to act as the candidate and make their own commercials could be created. That’s just one idea; I’m sure you have many more.  If so, share them in the comments section below.

PBS premieres WIRED Science

WIRED ScienceWhat do you get when you combine a great technology magazine with PBS’s ability to create science-rich television? WIRED Science.

On Wednesday, October 3rd, PBS will premiere its new weekly series- WIRED Science. The first episode will feature:

…an Internet botnet attack of Estonia’s banks and newspapers; WIRED Science reports on cardiac surgery performed by a “RoboDoc”; Adam Rogers explores the disappearance of home chemistry sets; and Ziya Tong delves into technology that is helping children with Asperger’s Syndrome by translating facial expressions into emotions.

The fun doesn’t end in your TV, their website also promises:

  • full episode segments online
  • access to exclusive content
  • activities for the classroom

Can’t wait until tomorrow? Visit the WIRED Science website to watch their pilot episode.

Abstinence Only? Not for my TV (or computer)

April 23rd marks the start of Turn off TV Week. Children across the nation will be pledging to abstain from viewing television for one week.The project is lead by TV-Turnoff Network, a non-profit organization with the goal of reducing the amount of TV children and adults watch.

Here is how they described themselves at their website:

TV-Turnoff Network is dedicated to the belief that we all have the power to determine the role that television plays in our own lives. Rather than waiting for others to make “better” TV, we can turn it off and reclaim time for our families, our friends, and for ourselves.

The site also provides many pages that vilify TV. Some pages claim TV causes violence, obesity, and ADD in today’s society.

TV-Turnoff Network doesn’t seem to have anything good to say about TV. How can a technology that inspired young scientists during the moon landings, made us laugh with Johnny Carson and helped us grieve during the September 11th attacks be so evil?

Like anything, TV has its problems when it is overused or misused but let’s not forget that it is a remarkable invention. TV is also a great educational tool. Growing up I watched many NOVA specials on PBS with my Dad. (As a matter of fact, there will be a brand new episode during Turn of TV Week.)

TV-Turnoff Network’s approach is all wrong. Simply pressing the off switch is not enough. TV is an important and powerful force in our society. You cannot turn your back on it. You must take it in warts and all. Set limits for children. Know what they’re watching. Know what lessons they’re learning.

TV is no longer the only important screen in our life. The status of computers has been elevated by the Internet. It won’t stop with computers. My new cell phone can display pictures, the Internet, TV shows, movies and more. Media will become ubiquitous. We will need to teach our children how to live in this world. I don’t believe slogans that basically tell you to close your eyes will help.