Archive for November, 2009

25th November
2009
written by Tom Banaszewski

How many Newbery Award winning books have you read? How about this one?


23rd November
2009
written by Tom Banaszewski

Once upon a time there was a young boy, trapped in a grown-up’s body, who longed to be a king. He worked hard each day to defeat his neighboring enemies, but each time the young boy and his civilization fell victim to a civilization with more advanced technology. The young boy consulted his advisors, near and far, on how to become a king. They told the young boy who longed to be king that he should concentrate his efforts early on to rush to produce an army of horsemen and to lead these horsemen to defeat nearby barbarian tribes, thus reaching veteran status. An army of experienced horsemen would stand a good chance of quickly eliminating a beginning civilization’s few cities. The young boy who longed to be king agreed with his advisors and set about to put this strategy to the test.

Day after day, the young boy who longed to be king trained his horsemen armies and sent them to sack the capital citiy of the Mongols, but he was not fast enough. They had already developed a stronger archer army. He would need to wait, develop a more advanced technology, such as catapults and then launch an attack. But soon the Greeks and Zulus sent their emissaries to see if the young boy who longed to be king was willing to pay them tribute. With his catapult attack repelled by the Mongols, the young boy had to agree to a peaceful co-existence with his neighbors. The young boy surrounded the Mongol capital city with an army of knights and catapults and then left alone while he prepared for the ensuing clash with the Zulus who had quickly surpassed his civilization’s technology. The young boy who longed to be king showed signs of his capability to expand his empire quickly with wise placement of his cities in areas that were protected by mountains and rivers. The Greeks were able to cross a narrow stretch of land to enter the young boy’s expanding empire, but he soon placed a choke-point city and fortified it with several horsemen armies. The Zulus were a short boat trip from the shores of the young boy’s prospering cities. He prepared for their impending invasion by stationing riflemen in his coastal cities. These he knew were effective in shooting down the fighter planes that the Zulus were first to develop and would soon send in waves to attempt to crumble his empire.

As the young boy who longed to king and his empire entered the modern era, it was a battle between two technologically advanced civilizations. The Zulus had the enormous and powerful bomber planes, but instead of building a squadron of these he attempted to spread his civilization to every available piece of land. Cities filled with the once great African warriors began to pop-up on nearby islands. The young boy who longed to be king continued his strategy of having most of his cities focus on science, thus maintaining a short technology advantage over the Zulus. With this, the young boy who longed to be king loaded a trio of spies aboard a fleet of battleships and sent them across the waters to the shores of the largest Zulu city. The spies were protected by an army of advanced infantry and easily stole the Zulu’s great scientist Albert Einstein and their great builder Henry Ford. With these great people now working for his empire, the young boy was able to up-grade all of his military units. Victory was in sight. The Mongols fell to an attack of tank armies. The Zulus and Greeks could not keep the young boy from attaining his glory. And when the young boy who longed to be king was finally crowned, he knew as all wise kings who ruled before him knew, that “all glory is fleeting.” But he would savor it while he could.

Long live the king.


18th November
2009
written by Tom Banaszewski

You that know part of the book where Meg hears her muffled father's voice speaking to her from behind the grip of IT? That's kind of like blogging in China. I haven't been able to post to this blog for months now. Not even sure this will get thru. It is almost 2010, right? And China did send a man to the moon recently. Why can't I get to my blog? The two issues are thinly connected, but still I complain.

I have been blogging on my local school-based blogs. Teach Me This focuses on my edu-gaming work, while my Middle School Tech Tips shares what I do as a technology integration specialist.

Until I relocate or find a way around IT, I'll have to post there.


17th November
2009
written by Tom Banaszewski

Thanks to Mr. Glascock for posting this article to his blog. With the success of Guitar Hero and Rock Band, plans are underway to perhaps develop a video game that extends the range of virtual instruments to include the French horn and the flute. This is all speculation, but if you read the comments on the article many people have strong feelings about this. I’ve yet to dive into Guitar Hero, mostly because I don’t find much appeal in repeating a sequence of colored dots on the screen. I love the music. Maybe it’s my red-green color blindness that’s make this less fun.

When Guitar Hero first hit the stores, I asked my students who where investing hours in it if it helped them learn to play the guitar. They said no and that cemented my decision to not pursue playing it. My logic was very weak. I love playing MLB The Show. It does nothing to improve my actual on-field hand-eye hitting coordination. At a stretch, it may remind me to always check the bases and know ahead of time where to throw the ball when it’s hit. I still play. Many hours. So, the question is do you play a game to learn anything? Or in the case of Guitar Hero or Rock Band, is the virtual experience of rocking out to a virtual version of Aerosmith anywhere near as rewarding as just listening to the original song.

I think the key part of the argument is that Guitar Hero involves me in the music in a way that is perhaps more engaging than just listening to it. Okay, it’s nothing like going to a live concert at the old Boston Garden, but if you’ve never heard Steven Tyler belt out a ballad, games like Rock Band open the door for you. If Orchestra Hero can open the door to hundreds of young minds to hundreds of years of amazing classical music then the video game has gained a feather in its cap.

Still I wonder if the simulated experience of a game like Orchestra Hero hinders a real appreciation of the music. For someone like myself who has only a few months of piano lessons as his entire performing musical education, I think I’d enjoy the opportunity to try out a few horn sections of a classical symphony. How do we cultivate a real appreciation for music so that gamers do not feel that Guitar Hero is a substitute for the real thing? I wonder what students think of the idea of Orchestra Hero.


5th November
2009
written by Tom Banaszewski

Looking for an easy and free way to record a short how-to video? While it’s still in its testing phase, Screencast-o-Matic is a great option for those not wanting to pay for a Pro account with Jing or spend $30 for Camtasia or ScreenFlow (if you are going to spend any money, get Camtasia).


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3rd November
2009
written by Tom Banaszewski

Picture 5

Leave a comment with your favorite educational apps on your iTouch/iPhone.