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I of course love many things about my job as a K-12 Gifted Education Specialist, but definitely high on the list would have to be the fascinating tidbits I learn from my students, coupled with the thought-provoking ideas they kick around in their heads and let me in on sometimes.

Gathered just from the last week or so, here are a few examples:

* I noticed an unusual symbol on the computer screen when looking over the shoulder of one of my students. "What is that?" I asked. "An interrobang," she replied. "A what‽" I responded with curiosity and surprise…

The interrobang is a combination of the question mark and the exclamation point as a single symbol (‽). When someone poses a question said in surprise, they often will use both traditional forms of punctuation, as in, "You did what?!?!" Turns out the interrobang was invented so that only one symbol would be necessary in those instances. You can learn more about its history and usage here. Apparently it originated in the 1960's and was a bit more in vogue then, so this tidbit may not come as a surprise to some of you. But as someone who came into being later on and often has used both (?!?!), I was intrigued that such a symbol actually existed.

You can create your own interrobang in any Word document by using the following keys: alt, 8, 2, 5, 3. Or, if you're on a laptop, you can create one using the number pad: alt, function, 8, 2, 5, 3. It will take a couple seconds to appear. An interrobang can also be accessed for use by going to the "insert symbol" feature of Word.

Two days later, this same student excitedly proclaimed as she walked into class: "Ms. Fisher! There's an interrobang in legitimate usage right here in our school! It's on a poster in Mr. McConnell's room." "Really‽" I replied ;o)

* Elliott is a musician who is composing his own works as part of his independent project for my Advanced Studies class. He's learning a program called FL Studio that is essentially a digital mixer. (FL Studio is also sometimes called "Fruity Loops.") The FL Studio website describes it in a nutshell as "a fully featured, open-architecture music creation and production environment for PC with a complete set of instrument and studio tools." Elliott was the first one into class the other day and couldn't get to a computer fast enough. "Ms. Fisher, that oscillator on Fruity Loops is soooooo cool! And the arpeggiator‽ It rocks my world!" Those are features of the program that create oscillating pitches or volumes and can swing the sound between various speakers. As he demonstrated, I marveled once again at the thousands of details he has had to learn in this program in order to record and mix his compositions.

* Perhaps I just didn’t pay attention in science class when I was young, but the lesson is learned now, thanks to one of my 3rd graders. We were working on analogies and I had marked one of her problems wrong. The question was

nest : bird :: burrow : ____
a. owl
b. kitten
c. banana
d. woodchuck

The "most correct" answer is woodchuck. She had marked owl. "But Ms. Fish, what about a burrowing owl?" "A what‽" "Yes, it's diurnal, not nocturnal like other owls, and it lives in burrows that small animals have dug." And of course, she was right.

* In a conversation with Jaeremn last week, he mentioned how he had used limits from calculus in an analogy. He was trying to explain to Elliott why he thought Speech events were more competitive than Debate. (They are both on our Speech & Debate team.) In Speech, he contended, where one must be better than the seven other competitors in the room in order to win that round of competition, one must continuously strive for perfection, or that unreachable limit. Whereas in Debate, he argued, one need not strive to approach perfection in delivery or content, one merely needs to be better than the other person in the room in order to win the round of competition. While I know plenty of debaters who would disagree with Jaeremn (as Elliott did), as a former Speech coach I can certainly appreciate the point he was trying to make with this complex analogy.

* And finally, a mind-blowing new development in the world of technology that Thespis, a high school senior, taught me about this week. Most of you probably know about LAN and WAN (local area networks and wide area networks) that we all utilize to communicate with one another via WiFi and the internet. Well, enter HAN, as in Human Area Networks. And yes, by human, the term is actually referring to the human body. What is this all about? It means that it may soon be possible to transmit digital information using the human body as a conduit. Yup. You could touch a transmission point on your laptop, download the information into yourself, then touch a receiving point on your colleague's PDA and thereby transfer the data to that device. It all works via the human body's own electric fields. A Japanese company (NTT) is developing this HAN technology, calling it RedTacton. If two individuals, each equipped with a RedTacton device, shook hands, they could exchange contact information via the handshake rather than through those ancient tags we call business cards. All week I have been trying to decide if I am more fascinated or more unnerved by the possibilities of this new technology. Want to learn more? This article provides a thorough explanation. And other articles here, here, here, here, and here help to expound the topic as well.

What fascinates you‽


I specifically checked back to see what other people were interested in, but no responses have been posted yet. How sad. I thought your student interests were very fascinating! Thank you for sharing them.

My interests, you say? Hmmmm...
*The history and development of the prison
*The 14th century
(and I'm neither a history buff nor a war buff; they were just interesting looking books)
*education and gifted kids (as evidenced by my obsessive reading of this blog and forcing my husband to read many of your articles)
*playing the new video game Rock Band. I'm going to be a drummer!

I'm fascinated by the fact that the German people allowed Hitler to take them over and do such terrible things in what was a nominal democracy.

I'm fascinated by the fact that the only reason America did not share the same fate was not that our political climate was so different but because FDR was not an evil megalomaniac.

I'm also puzzled why the Russians and Time Magazine would rather have oppressive "stability" from Putin than freedom.

Also, I just wanted to mention that I think burrow : owl is the most correct answer, since the original analogy is nest : bird. The relationship is not animal's home to the animal but general to specific--much more sophisticated thinking!

If the opening analogy had been Dam : beaver, house : child or even nest : squirrel, I'll bet your student would have come up with woodchuck. ;-)

Hard to call these items "fascinating", but for whatever reason this blog brought these up for me.

1) Why are schools specifically exempt from age non-discrimination laws? (I just posted this question on the new school law blog.) If students were regularly placed based on readiness rather than age, gifted students would receive the challenge they need without having to jumps through hoops that often don't even exist. Students who need more time and support would receive it, not because they qualify for special ed, but because the system cares about them enough to meet their needs. Preaching to the choir on this particular site, but equal experience is a poor substitute for equal opportunity. I guess you could say I'm fascinated that schools are legally allowed to discriminate on the basis of age, and that society is ok with that.

2) Euclid's Elements (EE) was THE most published textbook in history, yet so few Americans have ever heard of it. Rather than present hundreds of disconnected facts for students to commit to memory, EE starts with a few very BASIC principles (like A + B = B + A) and uses those to derive everything - the result being that MATH MAKES SENSE (and as an added bonus, algebra and geometry are related)! So why has it been abandoned for textbooks full of magic? I'm curious whether this changing of the pedagogical guard coincided with the advent of compulsory schooling.

3) Princess Mom, I'm also fascinated by the Milgram Experiment (are you familiar with this?). It seems to me that if there is any 'lesson' we can take from the Holocaust and this experiment, it should be that we NEED to teach our children to be independent thinkers.

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  • Cheryl - Radar Engineer/Math Teacher/Parent: Hard to call these items "fascinating", but for whatever reason read more
  • Princess Mom: I'm fascinated by the fact that the German people allowed read more
  • WebMommy: I specifically checked back to see what other people were read more