Thursday, January 19, 2006

Words for ideas

The word of the day, teaching-wise, was discombobulated.


I was thinking of the definition of meme from anthropology, a "unit of culture," like a gene is a unit of heritary information. The best example I can think of is when I was in a friend's car, driving through Harlem. Looking around at the kids hanging out on the stoops, she asked, "One day, they all switched to wearing plain white oversized t-shirts... how does it happen?"

More from Wikipedia:
The term first came into popular use with the publication of the book The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins in 1976, and the conceptual framework of memes borrows from the study of genes -- the units of biological transmission. Historically, the notion of a unit of social evolution, and a similar term (from Greek mneme, 'memory'), first appeared in 1904 in a work by the German evolutionary biologist Richard Semon: Die Mnemische Empfindungen in ihren Beziehungen zu den Originalenempfindungen, translated into English in 1921 as The Mneme.
By analogy with genetics, a meme passes from generation to generation via family and cultural traditions or training rather than via sexual reproduction, with occasional "mutations." Another common usage of the term "meme" relates closely to academic study of folklore and the informal communication of cultural information, in which memes fit into an analogy of "language as a virus".

During my bookstore days, I was fascinated by a journal - or book? - titled Mimesis. I figured another year or two of college and I'd know what it meant - and how to pronounce it.


Other fascinating words that I learned in college that haven't really come up in conversation since...




Yes, I am a big nerd.


Talked about seafloor spreading today with the seventh graders. My "mini-lesson" took too long - see discombobulated - so there wasn't time for the activity. We ended up just talking, as they'd had a ton of random and not-so-random questions during the lesson. One boy wanted to know how the Earth's magnetic field causes the Northern Lights. Other kids had never heard of the Northern Lights. I briefly explained it, which required a tangential explanation that "radiation" doesn't have to be bad, which required examples of harmless radiation (light!), and then we got around to the Aurora Borealis - and the Aurora Australis. I explained that "austral" is a root meaning southern... like Australia.

At least a couple of kids seemed to think this was a cool piece of information.


Blogger Alexis Walker said...

I like "reify" too.

I taught two lessons today in which all the sixth grade kids were standing up shouting at one another pretending to be Trojans deciding whether or not to fight the Greeks. Both times, someone (not me, and not at my instigation) shouted "Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori." Sometimes I like to pretend this kind of thing happens because I meant it to happen, but that would not be accurate.

10:49 PM  
Anonymous andy said...

My middle school science teacher used to set aside about a third of a period once a week to answer random questions; he called it (creatively) "Topic or Question." Most students loved it, and it gave him an easy way to deflect tangential questions that came up during lessons ("Save it for Topic or Question."). Plus, he enjoyed answering our questions, because he was a big science geek. In a cool way. Heh.

Since I'm a news/politics junkie, my teaching dream was always to do something like that with current events. Too bad I taught math.

12:08 AM  
Blogger Jenny D. said...

Hi Miss Frizz. I heard a great lecture yesterday about teaching history, and the prof sounded like he'd been talking with you, in terms of how he framed ideas and thought about the work.

1:05 PM  
Blogger graycie said...

I think that making connections is one of the biggest parts of intelligence. Sometimes following a collection of connections is the best thing you can do with kids. So much of the bits and pieces of what they know float about, and this sort of knits up the raveled ends.

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Blogger Pigs said...

Excellent nerd sharing. I think we should all unite and form a club. You know, for the cool kids like us.

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