George Lucas Educational Foundation
Professional Learning

Mixed Media: What’s On Our Radar – February/March 2010

The Edutopia Guide to the educational and the entertaining — everything from books to DVDs to software.

December 23, 2009

February/March 2010


Credit: Worldwide Telescope

Universal Appeal
WorldWide Telescope

Turn your computer into a telescope by installing this free Microsoft tool that aggregates visual data from many online sources. Pan and zoom, switch from visible-wavelength view to x-ray mode, and try other cool features. Choose from an increasing number of interstellar and intergalactic tours guided by professional astronomers, and be sure to check out one for educators that explains how to use this remarkable resource in the classroom.


Credit: Teachers College Press

Natural History
Teaching What Really Happened: How to Avoid the Tyranny of Textbooks and Get Students Excited About Doing History

Sociologist James W. Loewen, author of Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong, continues his crusade to encourage the honest teaching of U.S. history, warts and all, in this call for a social studies curriculum based on critical thinking and project learning. In no-nonsense prose, he argues that history, unfairly derided as the dullest of academic disciplines, can be fascinating and fun if educators allow it to be ($22).

Web Site

Super Search

We're still waiting for Google Teacher, but, in the meantime, try this education search engine, where results are aligned with state standards, are searchable by grade level, and can be saved on a site folder and shared with colleagues. Additional features include a read-aloud capability, a dictionary/translation function, and customized support for English-language learners (price varies).


Preschool Pioneers
Early Lessons

This American RadioWorks audio documentary chronicles the beginnings of prekindergarten schooling in America, which started half a century ago when David Weikart, a special education administrator in Ypsilanti, Michigan,advocated public education for children ages 3-4. Appalled by the numbers of poor black children in special education classes, he decided that early intervention was crucial. Hear the story.

Content Feed

Credit: McSweeney's and Apple

Take a Seat
Small Chair

Author Dave Eggers's McSweeney's publishing mini-empire has come out with Small Chair. It's an iPhone/iPod touch application that feeds you McSweeney's print content, otherwise unavailable online, as well as specially formatted material from its humor site, Internet Tendency. (The app -- available from the iTunes App Store -- plus six months of print content costs $6, but the online feed is free.)


Prescription for Trouble
Breaking Bad

New Mexico high school chemistry teacher Walt White is already a loser when he learns he has inoperable cancer. In debt and about to leave a pregnant wife and a disabled teenage son behind, he runs into a former student who deals prescription drugs, and decides to cook meth. While the comedy is dark and the drama is as bleak as the searing desert, what sets this AMC show apart is how it deals with the moral compromises a man makes for a good cause.


Credit: Fox

High School Musical

This Fox musical-comedy with a satirical edge nails the high drama of high school with a focus on McKinley High School's beleaguered Glee Club, a wallflower student group overshadowed by the school's cheerleading squad and its diabolical director. The ensemble cast can feel stereotyped, but the absurd ambience will seem spot on to anyone who's walked high school halls as a teen or a teacher.

Web Site

See for Yourself

This free online video catalog, led by a guy who started another Internet information resource -- you've heard of Wikipedia, perhaps? -- is a combination resource and community for categorizing and offering educational media. Browse videos by posting date, popularity, or ratings, or search the site or others such as YouTube and TeacherTube by age and academic subject.


Global Power
The World Is Open: How Web Technology Is Revolutionizing Education

Educational-technology expert Curtis J. Bonk enumerates and explains ten trends in 21st-century learning, including e-books, open source software, online collaboration and community, personalized learning, and more. His discussion isn't limited to K–12 education; he addresses the idea of lifelong learning, and interviews creators and consumers of new learning technologies who provide a truly global perspective ($30).


Credit: HBO

Character Education
Summer Heights High

Australian Chris Lilley's eight-episode television series about high school high jinks features the comic actor (and writer and coproducer) in three roles: a snotty, sullen slab of disruptive id; an insufferably snobbish girl who's transferred from a private school; and the vain, flamboyant drama teacher.

American viewers may stumble on occasional Down Under references, but this multipart mockumentary (think Sacha Baron Cohen Goes Back to School, but more family friendly) is a fresh take on familiar themes -- partly due to the seamless mix of actors and real-life students and educators. The show aired late last year, but it fortunately lives on in DVD form. ($21)

Mark Nichol is a freelance writer, editor, and Web producer, and a former senior producer at Edutopia.

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