The Bibliognost’s Handbook

3 12 2006

Just in time for holiday shopping to please booklovers on your list,  Ben Schott presents “a gallimaufry of bibliognostic miscellany” for the “festive Porcus Literarum.”

Odd enough to work on me, can’t wait to play with this . . .

The year’s 10 best and 100 best books are here and here, says the NYT.

More Real-World Fantasy Lessons

3 12 2006

I love, love National Public Radio — listen all day instead of going to School and you’ll get a REAL education!

Reading this may convince you by the time it closes with, “It was, after all, the culmination of all his dreams: acclaim, glamour, wealth, girls, muscles, publicity, good skin. If only he could escape the queasy feeling of being trapped on the edge of a dream state. And so the videogame industry moves forward.”

Or perhaps the fantastic story below, which like this report of how “alienation from traditional norms speaks of social upheavals ahead” and this view of how seriously a California graduate program treats other-wordly games all suggest ways that fantasy is changing our real cultures whether we can see or believe it yet, or not:

Aliens Teach University Economics Class
by Nell Boyce

All Things Considered, October 19, 2006 · On the first day of a new college class, the professor usually takes attendance, hands out a syllabus, and warns everybody not to plagiarize. But for students taking ECON 201 at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, the experience is totally different.These students don’t even come to class, they just log in to the Internet. The entire microeconomics course is a video game that students play online to earn three college credits.

The course starts with a movie about an alien ship headed to a post-apocalyptic Earth. Spooky music plays as graphics show a glowing spaceship. A narrator sets the scene:

On the edge of the universe, a tiny speck of light catches the attention of a Sarbonian colony ship. But then the unexpected happens, and now the economics of survival is all that matters.

The Sarbonian aliens are named after economics professor Jeff Sarbaum.

“This is a game in which the students are literally immersed in a story. And they take on the role of a character,” he explains. “So all of the reading material, all of the content, all of the examinations and homework, if you will, are built inside the engine of the game.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Fantasy Math Goes Real World

3 12 2006

How fantasy football turned into textbook math to help students improve their competitive ranking in the Game of School. . .

The textbook provides instruction on how to read box scores, weekly fantasy scoring sheets and math problems that vary in difficulty . . . (and) includes linear algebraic equations complex enough to conjure up painful flashbacks to high school math class.

Flockhart has since published textbooks on fantasy baseball and basketball. While he remains guarded about the total number of textbooks sold, he says tens of thousands of students are now using his system. . .

How would you rank this way of coaching school math? I’d not only support it but enthusiastically expand it in all directions. It seems to me there are all sorts of lessons worth learning, both real and fantasy, in the real world of fantasy football.

For example, take the BCS–PLEASE!

I see in this story the power of belief to alter reality, like everything from religious zealotry and NCLB-hyped test score worship to Pinocchio, the Velveteen Rabbit and the Emperor’s New Clothes.

I believe (because I heard it on NPR) that fantasy game economies are impacting real-world economies already to the tune of untold billions, and that so far we’ve barely felt a fraction of fantasy’s potential to reshape the real world.

Check in with me later today, when the BCS rankings — to four precision-posturing decimal points! — decree via corporate sponsorship on commercial TV, which particular top student athletes deserve a fantasy shot at real-world stardom.

The relative rankings of what these kids have accomplished are based on a semester of fantasy math that a cabal of old jocks and wannabes (few of them math stars themselves in school) now earn real-world celebrity and plenty of cold hard cash, to pretend is real.

And so it is.

Out of Touch

3 12 2006

Three items today — just today’s batch — all point to the inability of NCLB to deal with, or even acknowledge, reality.

Whether it is kindergartners who are being cheated or high schoolers without any real skills or a cruel disregard for the needs of special education students,  NCLB’s blind faith in standardization and testing is robbing all sorts of students of their opportunity to learn and flourish!