20 February 2010
Text of a letter I sent earlier, while looking for information on Mesopotamian data-sets.
Dear Dr. Halloran,
I found your Sumerian page while looking for a set of data from ancient Mesopotamia to do a history/math project. Can you help me?
I’m a teacher at a middle school, where I use the curriculum in ancient history in ninth grade to teach computer and Internet-related skills. I’ve been asked to include a unit on Excel or spreadsheet programs into my curriculum, but I have to keep my students focused within the ancient Near East and Mediterranean littoral.
Do you know of any online (or offline but relatively cheaply-purchased) data-set from Mesopotamia or Egypt that I students could use to develop an understanding of how spreadsheets and data analysis works? I’m looking for thinks like financial records, contracts, inventories, wills, property lists — cuneiform tablets with arithmetical data that they could use to help them understand how ancient economies functioned or how temples and kinds administered their lands and property.
Does such a thing even exist? It’s so far outside my usual knowledge fields that I’m not even sure how to look other than asking people in the field…
Let’s hope this helps.
I checked out several of the archives here, and they seem to be mostly photographs, rather than translations of the texts. This isn’t surprising, since there aren’t that many recent PhD’s in ancient Near East history or language… administrative texts would be among the last translated, too. First found, most boring in many ways, and so less likely to rise through the internet.
Update: I’ve also found this tablet here, which contains the kind of information I’m looking for. It took me an hour to find, and I probably need 20-30 of them.
Is there another way of doing this project?
20 February 2010
Shelly‘s comment on yesterday’s entry about writing reminded me that essay-writing is one of those things that you have to teach and reteach and revise your reteaching on a regular basis. (Maybe I needn’t worry, though, as Stephen Downes points out — comparing writing across generations is difficult.) So I made the slide-show below this morning to show in class tomorrow, in order to explain the process again to my students. All the same, I think I need to help students write better essays…
I think it’s terrible. Which means I need to ask you, my readers, how you’d revise it. Please make comments either here, or at the host site over at http://www.slideshare.net/abwatt/ Any help you give will be much appreciated.
On the other hand, I’m discovering that having daily access to a projector and a wiki is changing how I teach. I’m giving short talks in class using slide-show presentations, posting those presentations to my slideshare.net account, and embedding them in the wiki. My students tell me (and the number of views of the slides from the embedded sites) that they’re viewing and re-viewing the useful ones.
It’s data. I need to revise the slideshows that aren’t watched, so they state more clearly what I’m trying to teach them. I need to leave the most useful ones alone. I need to encourage students to comment on the slides about what works for them and what doesn’t, so that I know HOW to revise them. Astonishing.
What does it mean to live in a world in which your teaching materials are “live” all the time, but you’re only actively ‘teaching’ in a classroom nine months out of the year. Right now? Not much. In a few years, when more and more of my class and homework is online? A lot. When eventually all prior work by my students is open to
20 February 2010
games, Gaming, learning, learning as game, Teaching
I found a new blog today, called Lost Garden. There’s not a lot of recent postings, but I found it by chance through this link to an entry to a slideshow about designing “Princess-rescuing applications.“
Otherwise called games.
One of the points that he makes is that computer games usually start players with a small number of basic skills. You have to master those basic skills in order to go on to the next part of the game. There’s a reward for success — moving to the next level — and there’s a negative consequence for failure… character death or being stuck on the current level. Games are designed to provide gradual bump-ups in ability. The starting screen of World of Warcraft is relatively simple; as the player develops skills, the screen becomes more complex until it resembles the cockpit of a jet fighter.
In a recent post, Shelly Blake-Plock reminded me that I need to consciously teach essay style, if I want students to be successful at that task. I do want them to be successful at that task, and I have taught it; but really I have to present it differently, as a skill to be mastered in order to play the game of school.
What skills need to be cultivated to be a successful academic essay writer? Well, one needs to be a good speller, and a good sentence writer. One needs to know how to put core data like dates and names and specialized vocabulary into those sentences. One needs to have a sense of what lens one is writing through. One needs to have a sense of what one’s aim is or what story one is telling…
How to teach these things through a game-like structure? It’s worth considering.