The Hubris of Hip Hop

In this lesson, students will gain an understanding of hubris by examining its prevalence in hip hop culture. Students will pick a hip hop star and analyze her/his work, style, and public displays of grandiose behavior as a means to understand the term. In a 3-4 page essay, they will then compare their artist’s acts of hubris to a those of a literary character.

Note to teachers: Hubris is originally seen in Greek mythology when a mortal thinks he is better than the gods. This lesson would be particularly applicable when your class is doing a unit on mythology or reading The Odyssey, Mythology, or any books from the Oedipus Trilogy. This does not mean, however, that hubris is limited to mythology. This lesson plan would also be useful in understanding Shakespearean works as he regularly includes hubristic characters in his plays. This theme can also be used to analyze any text in which a character’s extreme pride and arrogance ultimately leads to her/his downfall.


Teen Usage: Instagram vs. Facebook

Is Instagram the most popular social media app among 12-17 year-old teens? Or is Facebook still on top? Statistics vary on how many teens use each platform. CBS News stated 76% of teens use the app compared to 45% on Facebook. A Pew Research report said only 52% of teens use Instagram versus the 71% who use Facebook.

The Pew Research shows wealthier teens, or those whose parents make over $75,000, use Instagram 23% more than those teens under $30,000 at 7%. Facebook is the preferred social media among the lower income teens at 49% versus 37% for upper income teens. Girls are on Instagram more than boys, 61% versus 44%.

Instagram is more popular than Facebook among wealthy teens

Instagram began as strictly a photo sharing app, but its popularity with teens has made the app more of a social network. Teens use hashtags along with their photos and videos to gain more followers. Because of Instagram, data usage has tripled among teens. As the app has become more popular, Instagram has begun to spread to younger children. One of Instagram’s rules is that a person must be thirteen to have a profile. However, children younger than thirteen are still creating profiles, showing that younger children are becoming drawn into the social media platform.

Hashtags help with SEO, or search engine optimization. Because many teens think it’s best to have more followers than those they are following, they seek to find new followers by showing off their photos to more people. The use of hashtags makes photos and videos available for everyone to see. The more hashtags posted alongside the photos and videos, the more likely it is that new people will see those photos. Having more followers seems to appeal to teens because it makes them look more popular among their peers.
So is Instagram or Facebook more popular among the 12-17-year old teens? Do teens really use hashtags to gain followers?  How do teens know which is the most popular social media among their age group? They can conduct their own survey and draw their own conclusions.

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The Future is Here Part 3 of 3: Artificial Intelligence – When Will Siri Rise Up Against Us?

In 1950, Alan Turing, came up with a theory about Artificial Intelligence (A.I.). He was one of the most important early computer scientists and a legendary codebreaker during World War II (as shown in the film The Imitation Game). The Turing Test essentially states that if a person has two conversations, one with a computer and one with a human and can not distinguish which conversation is with the computer, then it qualifies as Artificial Intelligence.

Since the release of Turing’s paper introducing the Turing Test, philosophers have been debating if imitating human behavior counts as “intelligence,” or if it is possible to create a computer that can “think” on its own. It’s a simple topic that has raised moral issues, questions about the “human soul” and the dangers of the digital age since Turing’s paper was published in 1950.

Stephen Hawking has stated, “The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.” Elon Musk, the developer of Space X, has stated that A.I. is “our biggest existential threat,” and in January of 2015 he donated $10 million to DeepMind, an Artificial Intelligence developing agency “to keep an eye on what’s going on.” Bill Gates the co-founder of Microsoft has also stated he is “in the camp that is concerned about super intelligence.”

With all of these fears about Artificial Intelligence from leading scientists, technologists, and philosophers, should there be a larger concern for the rapid development of computer intelligence? How much can you really trust the latest version of Siri or Google Now? Find out more about Artificial Intelligence in this lesson and reevaluate where you stand on this issue.

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Sneaker-nomics: Supply-and-Demand Economics in the Basketball Footwear Industry


Steph Curry: Great Season, Corny Shoes

Two-time NBA MVP Stephen Curry had a terrific season, but some would argue that his signature sneaker did not. In a recent article on the site Slate entitled “Why Does the World’s Best Basketball Player Wear Such Corny Sneakers?”, John Swansburg argues that Curry’s Under Armour sneaker, the Curry Two, has “almost no cultural cachet.” Swansburg says that Curry’s sneaker appeals to basketball players but has “not gained traction on the street, in the mall, or on the feet of cultural influencers.” The author specifically mentions that Drake partners with Nike and Kanye West designs for Adidas, but no similar celebrity would be seen wearing the Curry Two.



I Wanna Be, I Wanna Be Like Mike!

Ever since the start of Nike’s Air Jordan brand — and the famous “Jumpman” logo that has become synonymous with it — the world’s biggest sneaker companies and best basketball players have marketed their footwear to both athletes and sneaker-heads. According to Forbes, even though Michael Jordan has been retired since 2003, his sneaker brand still earns him over $100 million every year.


What IS Steph Up To?

More recent players have taken Jordan’s lead. On a recent edition of the Slate sports podcast Hang Up and Listen (sneaker conversation from 18:00-35:20 mark), host Josh Levin said, “Throughout the modern history of the NBA, having a signature shoe has been the pathway to broader cultural relevance, starting with Jordan up through LeBron and now with Steph. And the question is, ‘Is Steph Curry carving out a different pathway here…or does he want to have a similar path…in creating this shoe that people want to wear off the court?’”



Will Curry 2.5 Save The Day?

Curry and Under Armour have not yet tapped into the full potential of the sneaker market. The good news is that the Curry 2.5 will reportedly debut in May. Will it be less corny than the Curry Two? Sneaker-heads can’t wait to find out.

The Physics of Freefall: Felix Baumgartner’s Record Breaking Space-Jump

In this lesson, Felix Baumgartner’s space-jump is used to teach students about acceleration due to gravity, air resistance, and the way that those two forces combine to produce terminal velocity.
In October 2012, Felix Baumgartner dove to earth from 28,000 feet in the air and lived to tell about it. He also set five world records including highest altitude skydive and fast freefall velocity.

Prometheus, Batman Begins and X-Men Origins: A Writing Exercise in Prequel Character Development

This lesson will use recently released prequel films to inspire students in their own creative writing and character development. Over the past several years “origin” films have been wildly popular. Prometheus, Batman Begins, and X-Men First Class are all examples of such films. These films take well known characters and provide a back story that depicts the life events that shaped their personalities. They explain and justify the characters’ actions, for better or for worse. It is an non-traditional, non-chronological method of story telling. In this lesson your students will use these films as inspiration to do the same with their own writing.

Art Imitating Life? Reality TV and Stereotypes

The objective of this lesson is for students to critically analyze reality TV shows that perpetuate stereotypes and develop their own new reality TV show concept.

Shows like Jersey Shore, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, Mob Wives, and MTV’s newest show, Buckwild, showcase the lives of different groups of people. Some argue that these shows negatively depict the people featured in the programs and reinforce injurious stereotypes. Most recently, the show Buckwild, which focuses on a group of teens in Appalachia, has faced backlash from the Appalachian community. Even the US Senator from West Virginia labeled the show a sham and called for MTV to cancel it.