Expanding Learning Horizons (Day 3)

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Day 3 opened bright and early with look at the new Toshiba technology by James Nicholas (welcome ssd drives) followed by a great session from Glen Gore a ‘futurist’ who has worked with NASA, met Bill Gates, visited every country in the world (except for four) and worked on some important technology innovations; not bad for a kid who was kicked out of school at Year 10! [Sunrise today photo courtesy of Felicity Carroll]

James talked about the pace of change and how emerging technologies (GPS devices in cars) can come and go within 15 years whereas older technologies for this purpose (maps, compasses) took hundreds of years to emerge and be replaced.  But it was his advice aboout implementing technology change that I found most interesting.  He said that NASA had learned that sending out 100 little robots to Mars was more likely to have success than sending one giant robot, that failure is inevitable and okay.

He had some interesting things to say about the web 2.0 limitations around social circles and talked about the emerging web 3.0, what he referred to as the location-aware web. It was a wide ranging and fascinating dialogue that ranged from fridge-sized batteries in houses, the semantic web, 3D printing to working with the CFA on scaling their web site during the Victorian bushfires.  He argued that schools should be teaching the modes of communication and their purpose and context (sms’ing, instant messaging, twitter, email, essays) and what was appropriate when. He also had some interesting things to say about the future of libraries and saw them as more about collaborative social spaces than places to store books.

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He also mentioned the FLIP video camera that I’ve blogged about before here and which we mentioned in our presentation yesterday (yay: we’re on it!)

I then listened to Kim Ayling talking about the the journey Calvary Christian College had made in moving from word documents to progressive reporting online.  They were using Scholaris coupled with Webbook and TASS data systems.  In two and a half years they’d made the change and I was interested in the way he described his job as really being about ‘change management’, something I think we sometimes underestimate.

He described the stages he went through as:

Stage 1 – all curriculum document on the portal

Stage 2 – moving to digital markbooks and digital assesssment

Stage 3 – moving reports online, first emailed to parents, then published on a portal.

Stage 4 – eportfolios

It was  great practical down-to-earth session, totally in contrast to the open-ended dialogue with the future I’d just been to, which is what you want to say in a conference.

TeacherTube My Site

I use TeacherTube now and then, mainly because it’s not blocked at my school, so I was interested to see this week a new possibility,  TeacherTube My Site. The idea here is that you can use the TeacherTube site to create you own branded school site, no ads, your own content securely in your environment.

It’s been something I’ve been interested in for  a while: an easy way for users within the school to share content they’ve created (video, audio, text) with the school in an interface that made sense, was searchable, attractive and just worked, and worked within the school network.

It seems pretty expensive at $5000US for 1000 users, and I’m not sure it would handle audio and text at all. Apple Itunes offers a similar thing for audio and maybe video? with ItunesU The first company to bring this together in a unified way for schools will do well.

Flip Video


Got my hands on very interesting little gadget this week; the FLIP video camera. Not available in Australia yet (thanks Teresa for organising a USA pick-up) except on e-bay (which I’m never going to use again after their recent paypal fervour) this little gadget is about the size of pack of cigarettes (remember them?), runs on A4 batteries, takes an hour of pretty good quality video, costs about $150US and is ridiculously easy to use. No more brackets I promise!

When I say ‘pretty good’ I wouldn’t want to put it on a wide-screen HD TV but it’s more than acceptable for web use or viewing on your computer. And no cords or cables!; the USB thing just ‘flips’ out and it plugs into your USB port, with software built into the camera.

I can see heaps of opportunities for classroom use of this tool. Group work, oral presentations and no big and bulky video camera sitting in the corner dominating the room. You could shoot short plays or ‘news’ for students and of course students could use it themselves to make video presentations for each other or the class, all of which are editable in programs like Movie Maker of Studio.

There’s plenty of examples of the video that comes out of this camera on the web. There’s a CNET review HERE and below is a 10 minute YouTube review of the FLIP from GeekGirlTV:

Animation via Sims (warning hip-hop content)

A while ago now I remember talking with an educator who was keen on the possibilities of students creating animations and videos using engines from games such as the SIMS.

Apparently these games have powerful tools that can be modified to create your own content, rather than just playing the game. I seem to remember seeing a simple student example too, I can’t quite remember where now, that showed something of the possibilities.

Anyway, the video above is something in the genre; a video-clip created for a hip-hop song using the SIMS engine. I’m not that keen on hip-hop, but I couldn’t find anyone who’d created a blues version yet. Would this kind of thing engage students in creating and presenting narratives of their own, with all the thinking involved  in that? I think so.

More HIP-HOP in SIMS style HERE (content alert)

Google’s Australian Election Site

Google are saying that the new Google Australian Federal Election site is a first for them; actually creating a page that centralises links to lots of information about a forthcoming event, rather than just aggregating other news data as they do with pages such as their News Australia site. The site integrates neatly with the various YouTube sites created by all the parties and includes gadgets such as ‘News from your seat’ that you can add to your Google home page.

I’ve blogged about some of this stuff before but, with all the political parties now using YouTube as a vehicle for policy information and announcements, I’m continually surprised that the politics teachers at school aren’t banging my door down saying that we’ve got to stop blocking YouTube! But so far, so quiet.

Google say about their new site:

Staying informed about Australian politics is easy thanks to a new webpage and tools launched by Google today. For the first time Australian voters can have an intimate look at parties, candidates and election issues at one location, 24 hours a day.The site is a world-first for Google and was developed here in Australia. Google Australia’s Federal election site is at http://www.google.com.au/election2007.

Launched in Google’s Sydney offices with the help of Federal Minister Joe Hockey and Federal Labor’s environment spokesperson Peter Garrett, the site contains a number of innovative online tools, developed by Google’s Australian engineers.

Google Australia’s Head of Engineering, Alan Noble, said the site showed how the internet could play a substantive role in providing information and encouraging debate.

“New technologies allow a conversation with voters which has never been possible before.” Noble said. “The internet is deepening political debate and engagement. This site is the convergence of democracy and the Internet. It enables Australian voters to research detailed political information and share their views whenever they want.”

The page contains the following features:

Google Maps and Google Earth
Google’s site features special Federal Election information viewable in Google Maps that will give users information about electorate boundaries, sitting members, candidates and margins.
Using Google Maps’ easy-to-use interface, users will be able to zoom and pan, and see satellite imagery and road maps of all 150 Federal seats.

Electorate boundaries and seat names will also be visible in a layer in Google Earth.

“We continue to believe that Google Maps and Google Earth can serve as the ultimate tools for organising and sharing geo-based information,” Google’s Head of Engineering Alan Noble said.

YouTube channels

All six political parties that are represented in Federal Parliament (Australian Democrats, Family First, Greens, Labor, Liberal and Nationals) have established their own dedicated YouTube channels.

Google’s site contains links to these channels and a “gadget” that enables users to watch the parties’ latest videos on their iGoogle homepage.

Google Australia has also established its own election channel on YouTube, entitled “Australia Votes”, which will feature election content and be a forum for discussing Australian politics and the election. It is located at http://www.youtube.com/australiavotes.

Innovative election gadgets

Google has developed four exciting gadgets that will make a wealth of Australian political information just a click away:

  • The Australian MPs ‘On the Record’ gadget allows users to research all 226 Federal MPs’ past statements on any given political issue, by searching Hansard and their personal web pages.
  • The Google News gadget enables users to search Google News for the latest Australian political news, by Federal seat.
  • The Google Trends gadget allows users to use Google’s experimental Trends feature to compare the Australian search and news volume of political issues, parties or candidates.
  • The YouTube gadget enables users to view the parties’ latest YouTube videos from their iGoogle homepage.

The full Google press release is here

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Stop CyberBullying: Video

I’ve been leading a committee at school called Online Safety and Ethics which consists of a group of students and teachers working together to establish some clear outcomes, and some age-relevant activities for students to undertake during home group time. This YouTube video, against Cyberbullying, might be a resource we could use with Middle School students:

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/seOQyMvG99w" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Have you been paying attention?

Slightly annoying piano backdrop (not as annoying as the guy next door doing his leaf-blowing thing) but you’ve gotta agree with the sentiments. Graham Wegner put me on to this video about why we should be using technology in teaching and learning which has a slightly more insistent edge to it than other similar things I’ve seen. You sometimes feel you should sit a bunch of reluctant teacher in front of it with their eyes taped open ‘Clockwork Orange’ style until the penny drops.

I was surprised to find the thing called TeacherTube but wasn’t able to figure out how to embed it here, hence the youtube version. The original version is HERE