Adaptation: Carl Sagan

I can’t believe I didn’t think of this one until now, because I’ve loved this next video for a couple of years. This was an advertisement for NASA, but it wasn’t produced by NASA; it was produced by Reid Gower, a Canadian who just happens to feel passionate about science education and NASA’s mission. There’s a great story about him here. I’ve linked one of his videos below.


Advertising as Adaptation

In the middle of our presentations fifth hour today, I suddenly remembered this ad I saw last weekend. It takes a speech from Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society and turns it int0–well, if you weren’t in class today, watch:

Then during sixth hour, I remembered that the same thing happened during last year’s Super Bowl. That time the voiceover was from Paul Harvey, a famous radio host.

UPDATE: Here’s more info on the Paul Harvey speech, which was from 1978, as explained in this article from the Atlantic.

A Couple More Commencement Addresses

Here’s one by Bill Cosby. And another. And one by Joss Whedon. And Anna Quindlen. And Presidents Obama, Bush, Clinton, and Kennedy. And Stephen King. And Billie Jean King. And Michael Jackson, who recorded “Billie Jean.”*  And George Saunders. And Jon Stewart.

Continue reading

MLA Citation for Speeches

Here’s what the OWL at Purdue has to say about citing speeches with MLA formatting:

Provide the speaker’s name. Then, give the title of the speech (if any) in quotation marks. Follow with the name of the meeting and organization, the location of the occasion, and the date. Use the descriptor that appropriately expresses the type of presentation (e.g., Address, Lecture, Reading, Keynote Speech, Guest Lecture, Conference Presentation). Remember to use the abbreviation n.p. if the publisher is not known; use n.d. if the date is not known.

So, for example, the David Foster Wallace speech would look like this:


Commencement Speeches

This term, for your source logs, you’ll be finding commencement speeches by well-known people. Choose one or two of the speeches below to start with, and then begin looking for some on your own. When you write your posts, focus on the following questions:

  • Begin with an MLA citation of the address, and a hyperlink.
  • What is the main point of the address?
  • What key stories or examples are most essential to making that point? What makes those stories/examples especially important?
  • At the time the speech was given, what would the speaker have been known for? How might that have shaped expectations of the speech? Did the speaker fulfill those expectations, or defy them?
  • Give us a couple of important quotes from the speech, and tell us why they’re important.
  • Do you have any criticisms of the speech?

Here are a few of the speeches. When the name is linked, the link sends you to a transcript.

Steve Jobs

Oprah Winfrey

Conan O’Brien

J. K. Rowling

And a few more, transcripts only:

Jeff Bezos


Stephen Colbert

Barbara Kingsolver

Michael Lewis

Sal Khan

Sheryl Sandberg


David Foster Wallace, “This Is Water”

An Important Grading Change

Perspectives students who’ve been with me all year long are aware that I have not included individual, short writing assignments in the grade book. My purpose in doing so has been to require each student to practice academic writing without penalizing him or her for the quality of an individual forum post; I felt it allowed me to look at a student’s work as a whole. Because I also did not penalize students for turning this work in late, it also allowed students who were slower readers or writers to work at their own pace.

Unfortunately (some would say predictably), in practice this has led to a long, slow decline in the number of students actually completing writing assignments in any sort of timely manner. Last term, we had some students trying to make up many forum posts in a short time, just before finals. We had some students initially put them off, then forget about them altogether. As of this morning, the assignment that we worked on March 14-15  had been turned in by less than half the students in our class, and half of those were over a week late. Whatever my intentions with this policy, there is no standard by which we can say it’s working.

So here’s the new policy: we will have one Moodle forum assignment of 500 words or so every week. We will work on it on Thursday; it will be due Monday. Each will receive a letter grade; collectively, they will account for 25% of your grade for the class.