Butter Chicken

Butter Chicken, served with coconut rice, baked butternut squash and chana masala

Butter Chicken, served with coconut rice, baked butternut squash and chana masala

Here’s a wonderful butter chicken recipe I have adapted–part South Asian, part Caribbean, part Canadian, and all yummy! I substituted whole clementines for the more usual pineapple chunks, and I can taste the difference. However, the clementines may actually be an improvement: tart and sweet enough to bring out the taste of the chicken, coconut and ginger, without being brassy.
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Onion and Cabbage Soup

Onion and Cabbage soup, pictured here in a container for packing away

Onion and Cabbage soup, pictured here in a container for packing away

I love onion soup, and so I often make an excuse to make some in the fall weather.  Although it is possible to make decent onion soup by simply caramelizing the onions in butter or oil in the soup pot, onion soup gets taken to a whole new level when made with oven-roasted onions.

I roasted mine a few days ahead – just slipped them into the oven around some squash I was baking, and packed the roasted onions into the fridge afterwards.
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Amaryllis Flower in Full Bloom

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Here is the flower in full bloom, five days later.  I am really impressed by this flower, and I am glad I decided to grow one.  It really livens up the living room, and makes it a Christmas decoration all on its own.

Here is the flower in full bloom, five days after it showed the first signs of opening.  Two of the four flowers are horizontal and fully open, the second one is almost there, but the last one is still upright. It doesn’t smell.  I am really impressed by the size and brilliance of this flower.  I am glad I decided to grow one; it really livens up the living room, and has become a Christmas decoration all on its own.

I have been growing an amaryllis bulb in a bright corner for weeks now, and this morning the bud is starting to show signs of opening.  How exciting!  This bulb was grown from a kit, with a compressed pellet of soil and the little pot, which I have weighted with pebbles to keep it from falling over.  I have watered it once a week since planting it, back in mid-October.  It’s going to be red, I think.

Amaryllis bud shows signs of opening

Amaryllis bud shows signs of opening

Week 12: Web 2.0 Tool Checklist

I’ve just seen an interesting checklist for choosing between competing, similar Web 2.0 tools for teaching with, and I’ve written my own version.

Having a checklist is useful for winnowing down a shortlist, so before I can apply the checklist, I must
a) know what I need the tool to do
and
b) know that the tool can do it.   If it can’t, it won’t be on the shortlist.

So here’s what I need to consider:

1) Is it safe for the students and for me to use? If a tool does not provide  good privacy (identity protection for any personal information) or complete anonymity, the tool is not in the students’ best interests.  If the tool produces a permanent product, the viewing permissions should be controllable.  The tool should not contain or link to inappropriate content.  The tool should not include any components that have to be downloaded and installed, because this might mean that the program has a different privacy policy from the web site, and might contain spam or viruses.

2) Is it easy to use?  A tool should be a means to student learning, not something the students have to learn.  Any tool that is too complicated will become a distraction.  For tools for homework use, is there an easy way to track and grade student work?

3) Is it robust or stable enough to use?  I can’t use a tool in the classroom, if it has the chance of breaking (or hanging, or just taking forever to load).  I also need to know if it will behave differently when more than one person tries to access it at once.    If the tool breaks, then it is a distraction, not a teaching aid.

4) Will the tool work under a variety of circumstances?  To be functional for a homework assignment, a tool has to be usable on different operating systems, browsers, connection speeds, screen widths, font settings, and other variations.  It has to be usable for students whose home systems have a reasonable level of internet security, as well:  the tool should be usable with ad-blockers up, pop-ups and cross-site scripting disabled, etc.

5) Is the tool free?  Even if a tool is freeware, it’s not free if it comes with spam, or if it uses too much bandwidth to run, or if it creates huge files. If it’s not free, it’s unreasonable for me to assign to my students.

EDIT 202: Week 11 Using IWBs

I was challenged to think up one way to use an Interactive White Board to enhance a class on mythology.  In the second lesson, students read myths and analyze them for the kind of conflict and how that conflict interacts and contributes to the mythic structure.

I can imagine an Interactive White Board (IWB) being a very useful tool for lesson 2.  The lesson would go like this:  for each myth, the teacher would assign a student to read, and one to draw on the IWB.  The student would have the standard arc-plot diagram (the familiar rising action, falling action semicircle) on the board as a starter, but if possible using an application that supports layering.  As the myth is read, the reader puts the turning points and points of conflict onto the diagram, and labels them.  The teacher would then remove the standard arc-plot layer.  The class would then discuss the diagram, and alter it if necessary–even altering the shape or proportions of the arc plot, and drawing in a new shape to match the needs of the myth.  The students would label and save this diagram for comparison, and repeat the exercise for other myths, until all the myths are covered and all the students have had a turn.

The students would gain the ability to compare and analyze stories from this lesson, even if only in the most basic terms: the arc-plot, the turning points, the type of conflict.  Using many diagrams and comparing them shows students how stories break down visually.  Using the IWB allows the students to see and save the process of doing this kind of analysis.  As well, and more importantly, the IWB method would not only make the analysis flexible, as the diagram can easily be edited, but show that analysis needs to be flexible.  Different students will have different ideas of which choices made by characters are the critical turning points, and even different ideas of the role conflict plays in each particular story.  These sorts of differences are valid interpretative choices, but they are also hard to teach when a teacher is limited to a single static image per myth, for practicality’s sake.   Lastly, using an IWB will allow direct comparison between two seemingly similar myths with different structures, or two seemingly different myths with identical structures, by overlaying the two myths’ diagrams on the IWB.  Similarities and differences will be easy to see in such circumstances.

Week 9: Reflection on Using a LMS

I was experimenting with Blackboard’s free Learning Management System site, CourseSites, with the idea of building a grammar course, which has prompted me to reflect on the usefulness of a few LMS tools.

I think a discussion board would be the best way to handle communication for the course—announcements and email would also be necessary, but discussion boards would allow public student participation as well as the teacher. If one student has a question or a concern, probably everyone shares it.  So a discussion board will allow me to save time by answering questions once–and will also allow students to get explanations from other students, possibly better ones.

I would lean heavily on tests and quizzes for assessment tools for a grammar course.  That way instead of filling out a worksheet, or doing textbook exercises, all the homework for the course could be within the LMS.  The students would be constantly doing small quizzes, graded but not worth much, which would give them good practice for the unit tests, in the same format and worth more.  Everybody, students and teacher, would have constant feedback on how the students were doing.

I could organize the course content using the course calendar. Using quizzes, tests, and practice activities, there would be more activities than reference materials, so these could easily be linked to their due dates in the course calendar.  The advantage for the students is that they always know where they are and what to do next. The disadvantage for the instructor is that the system will always have to be tweaked at the beginning of the year, and for changes in schedule.

File upload would allow me to put up reference materials, which would prevent students from losing handouts.  But I could also use web links for course content.  This will allow me to put fun assignments up, like finding 10 grammar errors on some popular web page.  Web-linked content will be good for me, because those kinds of assignments are faster to code than quizzes, and good for the students because those assignments would work with real language, real writing, not just silly sentences out of context.