Thursday, September 30, 2010

Presented Social Media Tools Yesterday for Suburban Librarians

Just to give you an idea of what I do when I am not with IGSS, here's the PREZI from my presentation yesterday and also a link to some valuable tools which students can and should be using in the classroom and outside of school to organize themselves.  I hope to be teaching some of these fabulous tools to the IGSS students this year.

Thursday with Juniors in IGSS:

First session was spent in the Science Lab with Student Science presentations. Back in the English room with Juniors who are writing Autodidactic Journals.

Future Assignment:

Kilgore Trout stories - Like the Trout stories, students will be writing about a society, not unlike our own, with a hideous situation.

Actively reading Kurt Vonnegut's God Bless You Mr. Rosewater.

Students work in pairs to find the most important propositions in Eliot Rosewater's letter:

1. "Government objections to the price or quality of his wares could be vaporized with bribes that were pitifully small" (p 7)
2. ..."getting paid enormously for committing crimes against which no law has been  (p 9)
3. "Honest, industrious, peaceful citizens were classed as bloodsuckers, if they asked to be paid a living wage" (9)
4.  Grab much too much or you'll get nothing at all" (p 10)
5.  "Anybody who thought the USA was supposed to be a Utopia was a piggy, lazy, Goddamned fool" (p 10)
[view of the rich = bad; view of the poor = good]

Is this a simplistic view of the world?  No shades of gray?

Find propositions  in "Golden Age of Rome Speech" (Lister)- most important parts
(Description of the Hell America's turned into)

1. "he wrote morals into law"
2. Pigs miraculously disappeared (30)
3. Let us force Americans to be as good as they should be (30)
4. Write morals into law and enforce them harshly (31)
5. "We must become a nation of swimmers, with the sinkers quietly disposing of themselves" . (31)

What is Eliot's view of this? Do you think this is horrible? 
[view of the rich = good; view of the poor = bad]

Follow up --Justice Discussion:  Is it just to force folks to "swim", taking welfare & support systems away?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Facebook's Role in Social Good

Earlier this week at the Mashable & 92Y Social Good Summit, Facebook’s Associate Manager of Public Policy Adam Connor spoke about the role that the social network plays in enabling charitable work around the world.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Junior Reading: Thucydides The History of the Peloponnesian War

Does the historian Thucydides has the view that "might makes right"? or that absolute power corrupts absolutely?

The Melian Dialogue opened up many arguments about the morality of the Athenians destroying Melos. Athenians thought that they were being fair by trying to convince the Melian leaders of the need to surrender and save themselves. The Melians were put into a predicament: to save themselves and surrender or have their nation completely destroyed for the sake of independence.

Does Thucydides regard the the Melians’ heroics as foolish and unrealistic? Does Thucydides feel sympathetic to the Melians with their no win situation?

Ultimately, Melos refused to surrender to Athens. The Athenians immediately attacked Melos as threatened. The Athenians killed the men and enslaved the women and children, and further, repopulated it as an Athenian state.  Melos was one of the few Peloponnesian Islands that stood up for itself despite the negative repercussions.

see also: The Melian Debate 

Are the Athenians completely wrong? Are they noble/just with their power because they are trying to be fair prior to attacking?
Is there justice in the actions of the powerful Athenians?

Class Activity:
To what degree does power influence our feeling of what is just? Students work together in pairs to figure out how those with power (God, social groups, police, parents, politicians, the wealthy, teachers) wield influence. Are their actions just OR not? Why?

Ultimately, we are examining "What is the relationship between Power and Justice?"

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Crito

We are studying a Plato dialog between Socrates and his wealthy friend Crito regarding justice, injustice, and the appropriate response to injustice. 
Brief background: Socrates has been sentenced to death for preaching against the government of Athens.  He is in prison.  Crito, representing those friendly to Socrates, bribes his way in and is offering to get him out, no questions asked.

Socrates responds with a fairly famous argument of why he needs to stay and die.

Socrates thinks that injustice may not be answered with injustice, and refuses Crito's offer to finance his escape from prison.
"Now can there be a worse disgrace than this -- that I should be thought to value money more than the life of a friend? "

Is it more important to agree with the majority or to do what you believe is right?

Issues of justice supersede issues of the body or any thought about one's death.

What would Socrates think of this premise?

Premise: The use of low gas mileages suvs is a luxury, not a necessity

Conclusion: having an suv or a similar luxury car makes us an agent of evil.

Final conclusion: if I want to be a good person, I need to buy a used Geo Metro without air conditioning or even a cd player

Students brainstorm their own premises in small groups, based on the argument of Socrates regarding the state & individual and law & justice.

Is there a social contract?  What covenants and agreements are operate in stable societies? Does the state supersede the individual?
Is justice bigger than law?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Social Good Summit

Mashable and 92nd Stree Y in NYC presented a summit of the most inspirational and promising leaders today, discussing effective ways in which new media can help address the world’s challenges.

The Summit focused on the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) — being addressed in high-level plenary sessions at UN Week during September 2010 and it celebrates the power and potential of new media to effect change.

Watch live streaming video from mashable at

See also: The Infographic on Charity & Technology. Be sure to browse the links below for ideas on fund raising.

Monday, September 20, 2010

What is Justice? How do we define it?

Where do your personal beliefs about justice come from?

Where do American beliefs on justice come from?

Hammurabi's Code - first codified laws from Sumeria
Socratic ideal - 
Confucian code of justice - justice as a tool to maintain authority/stability for society 
Junior Reading Assignments:
Juniors:read Plato's Crito excerpt for tomorrow (US History Reading Packet due over next couple of weeks)
upcoming novel: Vonnegut's God Bless You Mr. Rosewater

God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater is a comic masterpiece.  Eliot Rosewater, drunk, volunteer fireman, and president of the fabulously rich Rosewater foundation, is about to attempt a noble experiment with human nature... with a little help from writer Kilgore Trout.  The result is Vonnegut's funniest satire, an etched-in-acid portrayal of the greed, hypocrisy, and follies of the flesh we are all heir to.

Senior reading:  "The Case for Moral Relativism".   
definition from The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: "The term ‘moral relativism’ is understood in a variety of ways. Most often it is associated with an empirical thesis that there are deep and widespread moral disagreements and a meta-ethical thesis that the truth or justification of moral judgments is not absolute, but relative to some group of persons. Sometimes ‘moral relativism’ is connected with a normative position about how we ought to think about or act towards those with whom we morally disagree, most commonly that we should tolerate them."
Debate! Where do you stand on moral relativism? 

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Brainstorm with Edistorm: amazingly vibrant crowdsourcing

According to CrunchBase "Edistorm is a social brainstorming application empowering friends and coworkers to rapidly brainstorm and make better decisions."

From the Edistorm website:
"Edistorm allows you to organize your ideas in a real time interactive wall. Each sticky note can have its own color and the users decide what the arrangement means to them.This freeform method of collaboration will feel familiar to anyone that has thrown stickies on their walls."

Edistorm is always free for anyone adding ideas to a brainstorming. Invite anyone.
Creating public or solo brainstorms is, while creating private invite only storms requires a subscription. All accounts have a no credit card required 30 day free trial. You can even follow them on Twitter to keep updated on how the product develops.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Continuing Research Today: “What Should Be Next in Pakistan and Afghanistan?”

Today, our IGSS time was spent on research for a think thank hired to help President Obama answer the question “What Should Be Next in Pakistan and Afghanistan”. Students may take on any roles (Economic experts, scientists, linguists, engineers,etc) but all student groups are assumed to be presenting to an audience including the President, a representative of the United Nations Human Rights Council, the State Department, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Presidential Science Adviser.

Today, the library lesson was focused on advanced searching in databases, specifically Proquest. Students were also asked to search for "Scholarly Journals" starting with the database JSTOR.

Nina Lynn,theater teacher, gave a lesson on presentation techniques and tips. She spoke about appearance, posture, energy, language, media, and also practicing as a group. Use visual media for those things you can't necessarily explain. Let the presentation be about the group members' and not the media. Are there pacing ideas?
1) know your time frame and practice !!
2) concentrate on breath; during transitions between ideas - use signposting: use your body to show that you are changing ideas.
3) transition to visuals - point and slow down
4) slow down and make connection to your audience

How can we be less nervous? - Be super prepared! Find those "friendly" faces in the audience and turn to them and just worry about connecting to them. You have those people to go back to...and rely on to boost your confidence.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Perception of Beauty

. . . Something To Think About . . . I checked this story out at and it is indeed true. Read the back story by scrolling down.


In Washington , DC , at a Metro Station, on a cold January morning in 2007, this man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, approximately 2,000 people went through the station, most of them on their way to work. After about 3 minutes, a middle-aged man noticed that there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds, and then he hurried on to meet his schedule.

About 4 minutes later:

The violinist received his first dollar. A woman threw money in the hat and, without stopping, continued to walk.

At 6 minutes:

A young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.

At 10 minutes:

A 3-year old boy stopped, but his mother tugged him along hurriedly. The kid stopped to look at the violinist again, but the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head the whole time. This action was repeated by several other children, but every parent - without exception - forced their children to move on quickly.

At 45 minutes:

The musician played continuously. Only 6 people stopped and listened for a short while. About 20 gave money but continued to walk at their normal pace. The man collected a total of $32.

After 1 hour:
He finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed and no one applauded. There was no recognition at all.

No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars. Two days before, Joshua Bell sold-out a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100 each to sit and listen to him play the same music.

This is a true story. Joshua Bell, playing incognito in the D.C. Metro Station, was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people's priorities.

This experiment raised several questions:

*In a common-place environment, at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty?

*If so, do we stop to appreciate it?

*Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?

One possible conclusion reached from this experiment could be this:

If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world, playing some of the finest music ever written, with one of the most beautiful instruments ever made . . .
How many other things are we missing as we rush through life? My guess is plenty!

Friday, September 10, 2010

10.10.10 One Day on Earth Project

This project, One Day on Earth, has endless possibilities for students, educators and lifelong learners -- to create, to share, to analyze and discuss.
You can help "document the world's story" through this project whose developers describe its goals as "Students learn the applicable practices of observation, investigation, notation, and documentation of a subject through the One Day On Earth experience. They also gain understanding of participatory media as a vehicle for social justice, community building, civic literacy and global awareness."

For more information on how to participate, toolkits, lesson plans,and FAQ's, check out the main page or this investigate this pdf.

Social media can promote global awareness when we allow our students to participate! This was shared on the New Trier Library blog by librarian Linda Straube.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Beyond the 11th

 Beyond the 11th is a non-profit organization that provides support to widows in Afghanistan who have been afflicted by war, terrorism and oppression. 

This is an organization that was founded by two American women whose husbands were killed on September 11th. Their  mission is to reach beyond differences of culture and geography to embrace the most essential of connections: humanity.

Watch more free documentaries

Beyond Belief Synopsis:
Susan Retik and Patti Quigley are two ordinary soccer moms living in the affluent suburbs of Boston until tragedy strikes. Rather than turning inwards, grief compels these women to focus on the country where the terrorists who took their husbands̢۪ lives were trained: Afghanistan.

Over the course of two years, as they cope with loss and struggle to raise their families as single mothers, these extraordinary women dedicate themselves to empowering Afghan widows whose lives have been ravaged by decades of war, poverty and oppression – factors they consider to be the root causes of terrorism. As Susan and Patti make the courageous journey from their comfortable neighborhoods to the most desperate Afghan villages, they discover a powerful bond with each other, an unlikely kinship with widows halfway around the world, and a profound way to move beyond tragedy.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

How do we achieve justice in Afghanistan and Pakistan?

Upcoming assignment:  journal entry -- see BlackBoard:

Moral Propositions
for Americans
Sept. 8 Sept.14 Choose one of the moral propositions from those we "debated" in class on Tuesday, September 7 that you believe will be the most essential in American society in the near future (your young adulthood, after all).  Reflect on why it will be so central to our lives for about a page.  Required: include a graphic (something you found or drew) and put it on the facing page.

Wednesday 6:30 pm Room 123- September 15th - parent meeting; rsvp & send email addresses to C. Vargas

Reading:  What is Justice? (silent reading & heated discussion)

How do we define justice?  How do we know when we are acting justly?

1)Brainstorming activity in small groups.

2) Readings re: systems of Justice:

  • Justice based on merit -
  • Justice as equality - egalitarian
  • Justice based on need and ability - socialist viewpoint
  • Justice as social utility - inflict the lowest amount of social harm
  • Justice based on liberty - individual freedoms

How do we achieve justice in Afghanistan and Pakistan? discuss based on systems of justice

Justice based on need and ability - socialist viewpoint
6 million people have no access to clean water in Pakistan. Therefore the just thing to do would be to take water from midwest, great lakes region in the U.S.

Justice based on liberty - individual freedoms emphasized
U.S. should not meddle in the affairs of Pakistan because this would limit our personal liberties. Give money through charities only. We don't feel forced to help out.

Justice based on merit -meritocracy
Help whoever is "best" first.  Pakistan is not worth investing in.  

Justice as equality - egalitarian
Oil wealth needs to be redistributed in Pakistan.  Corruption is a problem. Flooding was re-directed from richer areas to poorer areas. This is problematic. 

Justice as social utility - inflict the lowest amount of social harm
Diverting water to poorer areas is OK because it's better to save the richer areas which will inflict the least amount of harm. 

What would just steps look like militarily in Afghanistan?
Use Islam to unify the people?
Do we ramp up our efforts, stabilize the country by "staying the course", or back out?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Three Cups of Tea and our Moral Compass

Judge and react to these propositions, using a numerical scale or a likert scale (strong agree...agree...etc.):
Place yourself on the spectrum
I couldn't disagree more ____________________________I believe this whole-heartedly.

United States citizens have a special obligation to those in need around the world, as our foreign policy, military actions and economic might have created many of the unfortunate situations around the world.

Other propositions to react to:

The United States is open to diversity, and tolerant of many types of people and ideas. 

What happened on September 11 justifies many actions - torture, bombing, making war, accidental civilian deaths --that might otherwise appear to be unjust or immoral.

One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter.  We can not judge others without understanding their history, their context.

It is acceptable to work with groups like the ISI (Pakistani Secret Service) even though they have cooperated with the Taliban in the past, as Pakistan plays a place of great strategic importance.

Once our nation interferes with a country like Afghanistan or Iraq, it is our responsibility to nation.

The sacrifice of some human life is acceptable if there is a reasonable belief in the creation of a safer future.

Nations may intervene in the affairs of other nations or people whenever their freedom or livelihood is endangered.

It is wrong to build a religious or cultural institution in a locality that will offend residents.

Today, students stood in the spectrum which most represented their view; they discussed and defended their ideas. The will write a reflective entry in the journals on one of these propositions, possibly one discussed today.

Friday, September 3, 2010

IGSS journals

-get a journal with lots of clean pages
-must be 6" by 8" or larger
-will include various styles of writing, some sketching, various media that you've pasted, taped, or glued
-will be collected periodically, but not after each journal entry

journal entry # and titledate assigneddate duebrief description
Mosque Visit
Journal Entry
Sept. 1 2010Sept. 3
  Thoughtfully answer the below questions in your journal (or on a piece of paper that you can later attach to your journal).
·         What did you know about Islam before our visit?
·         What specifically did you learn about Islam?  Practices?  Beliefs?
·         What aspects of our visit surprised you or left an impression on you?  Do explain your reaction.
·         What was your reaction to our need to dress modestly?  In particular, what was your reaction to wearing a headscarf (or seeing your classmates wearing them) and/or to covering our bodies?   

Seniors: Read "Is Islam Misogynistic" for Tuesday's class; Mosque visit journals due

Looking ahead next week:  What should the US be doing in Pakistan? Afghanistan? how do we achieve justice there? work for it? act justly?

 IGSS Science:  data analysis of household water use; -direct water use tracking

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

What's happening in IGSS

Field Trip to The Islamic Cultural Center of Greater Chicago in Northbrook.We will meet in the driver's ed parking lot at the beginning of 5th period on Thurs Sept 2nd. We will learn about Islam, the The Holy Qur'an , and the Prophet Muhammad.

Reading from Time Magazine: "Does America Have a Muslim Problem?"
Does the US have a problem with Islam?
Is the US a Christian nation?

Should there be a mosque built 2 blocks from ground zero in New York City?

Banning the sale of bottled water for students at New Trier: a 2010 IGSS initiative.  Jeremy and Jesse made this proposal last year and now our IGSS students will be promoting the sale of re-usable water containers though the school bookstore.  To promote this, students are making posters including some of the facts provided by IGSS students as they were researching this topic last year.

Bottled Water costs up to 1,900 times more than tap water and uses up to 2,000 times more energy to produce and deliver
·         Blind taste tests have consistently shown that people prefer the taste of tap water over bottled water.
·         Tap water is consistently found to be cleaner than bottled water due to its strict regulations by the government.
·         Bottled Water didn’t even exist until the 1980’s, they survived without it, and you can too.
·         Why spend money on something that is free? (There are water dispensing machines in the back of the cafeteria)
·         According to the Pacific Institute, approximately ½ lb of CO2 is released in the production of 1 plastic water bottle (This statistic doesn’t include transportation). This means that in one year, New Trier’s Bottled Water consumption is responsible for the release of 52,600 lbs of CO2 into the atmosphere.
·         We live right next to one of the biggest freshwater reservoirs in the world, because of this; the Chicagoland area has some of the cleanest tap water in the world. Why not take advantage of that?
·         In the North Pacific Ocean, there is an area known as “The Great Pacific Garbage Patch”. It is roughly 3 times the size of Texas and is made up of mostly plastic garbage. This patch is not just polluting the Ocean, but much of the waste ends up in the stomachs of birds and fish that we eventually eat because of this, we are literally poisoning ourselves.
·         Around 40% of bottled water is in reality just bottled tap water
·         Only around 1 in 5 bottles is ever recycled. The other 4 contribute to the 3 billion pounds of waste from plastic water bottles. While recycling is nice, not using it in the first place is even better
·         17 Million barrels of oil are used in the production of bottled water every year
·         In recent tests, 22% of bottled water brands contained chemical contaminants at levels above strict state health limits.

New Trier Organic Garden