China beckons

Last year I visited China with another teacher and 16 fantastic students from my school. I’ve just found out recently that I will be returning to do the same trip in late October/ November. The trip was run by World Expeditions and was pretty arduous – I never knew there were that many stone steps in China. They were everywhere; from the rice terrace fields, to Mt. Huoshan to the Great Wall. The experience was life changing – China is a truly wonderful place with lovely people. Negotiating deals in the markets was one of my favourite pursuits – if you did it with a smile and a bit of a laugh you seemed to be able to strike some pretty good bargains (at least I thought so anyway!!)

I managed to lose not one but two cameras while I was over there; one on a sleeper train and one at the Summer Palace – no such thing as lost property when you visit places like the Summer Palace. Imagine this scenario: you happen to leave a camera that belongs to your fellow teacher hanging on a hook in a toilet (because you thought it would be a better place than the floor!) You leave the toilet block and walk away. Ten minutes have passed and you see a tranquil scene that you think is a great photo opportunity. You reach for camera and realise it is not there. Remember hook in toilet. Run, yes, run, back to toilet but camera is gone. Return to fellow teacher and report bad news. On return to Australia visit camera store and purchase new camera for fellow teacher rather than risk prospect of never being spoken to again!!

Thanks goodness fellow teacher took photos and sent them to me – a very good camera woman too I might add! This is one of my favourite pictures from the Yangshou region; the Karst mountains are hauntingly beautiful  – I look forward very much to retuning there later in the year. And of course, you couldn’t be there for 18 days without visiting the Great Wall. Truly a wondrous sight.


YouTube and copyright – the dilemma for educators

I love YouTube. I love the way it enables the everyman to generate content and connect with an audience. Just look at the remarkable things that can happen when a YouTube video goes viral. ‘Did you know?’ is a classic example. There’s unassuming Karl Fisch creating a PowerPoint presentation for a staff meeting and what happens – his slides are uploaded to YouTube in a video with music and are watched approx. 4 million times or so. Amazing.  

My students know the power of YouTube. Last year we set our Yr 8 students the task of creating a trailer (like something you’d see at the movies) for a novel they’d read as a literature circle study. One group read ‘The Hitchhikers Guide to the Universe’ and created a great video that they uploaded to YouTube. They’ve had 347 views and love checking their stats. YouTube gives our students an authentic audience – they’re looking to attract an audience rather than just present work for the one person -the teacher. That’s pretty empowering stuff.

The students I teach love it when we begin a class with a video from YouTube. I love the ‘hook’ effect they have; because a large number of them are less than five minutes they are the great way to begin a lesson. Students are focused and they often prompt wonderful class discussion. Yesterday I visited Coburg Senior Secondary College to look at their learning spaces and curriculum offerings. A Year 10 class I observed watched this video to evoke some reaction to the issue of climate change;

They were hooked watching this – no doubt – and it prompted interesting discussion. There weren’t any bandwith problems at Coburg so the streaming from YouTube was pretty much instantaneous. Not so where I teach. It’s a 1:1 wireless environment but streaming from YouTube is a drawn out process. If you want to watch a YouTube video you need to load it prior to the class and have it ready to replay. One option is to use a a video conversion site like Keepvid to cache the video from YouTube for use in class. This way you have guaranteed success with one catch- it goes against the copyright laws of this country. 

I’m wondering about the future of copyright and what may happen now that user generated content is really taking off. Will we see a backlash against copyright regulations? Will we see users post their content and stipulate that it can be used and reformatted so that educators can employ it in classrooms to convey important messages? Will more people use creative commons licences to allow their work to be used easily in educational settings? Will the copyright council be able to stem the flow of infringements to the law as more and more educators realise the potential benefits of YouTube to provide useful content for classroom instruction?    


Maximise your use of Skype.

We’ve been trying out a new way to move our staff forward with adoption of new technologies that they can apply to learning. We’ve called it ‘Maximise your Mondays’ and run a session for 45mins at the end of a school day. It’s been running for only a few weeks and we haven’t had big turn ups but it’s not going to stop us making a go of shifting our school. Last week Skype was the topic for discussion. Four staff came along and all were surprised at how easy it was to use. Over the weekend I was contacted by two of them who were trying things out; one of them was using a webcam and had already been in contact with people in the U.S.A and South Africa.

I’ve just been reading about how Skype is launching an unlimited international calling plan  (PC to landlines)- this is going to excite some of these people. One of them has family in New Zealand and friends in other countries – some of whom don’t have internet access. The fact that she will be able to ring them from her PC to their landline for $12.95 a month will still save her a considerable amount of money. If you want to make calls in from your PC to landlines in Australia only it’s $5.95. Looking at my phone bill, it could be a smart way to go for me too!! 


How to deliver a great presentation – Garr Reynolds can and maybe me too!

I’m presenting at the SLAV conference about Web 2.0 on Monday May 12th at the Telstra Dome. Will Richardson is delivering the keynote address so it’s a bit of a big deal. My head is quite literally spinning with what it is I need to say to try and turn a few people on to the potential of Web 2.0 tools for learning. Tony Richards, from IT made simple, is going to help me out by ustreaming my presentation. Tune in and see whether or not I can deliver the goods. I’ll post the link closer to the date. Tony’s helped me out again by posting this YouTube video on his blog, Learning – Thinking -Playing. This is Garr Reynolds, who writes a blog called Presentation Zen, talking to Google staff about how to deliver an effective presentation. It’s long -72 minutes- but totally worth watching!

I’m watching. I’m learning. Just need to deliver!   


Debut – here’s my debut using Debut!

Just discovered this great free tool via Download Squad. Have been neglecting my google reader lately – hard to balance time between Twitter, writing posts, doing work for school, oh, and that other very important part of my life, my family!

Debut is a video capture tool – here’s what I’ve just captured very easily. If I can do it, anyone can!

Here’s what Download squad have to say about Debut;

Debut could be one of the easiest to use video capture tools we’ve come across. You can use it to record videos or take screenshots from your webcam. You can use it to record screencasts. And you can save your files in a variety of formats including AVI, WMV, MP4, MPG, 3GP, and MOV. And best of all, Debut is free.

Here are just a few of Debut’s features:

  • Record audio and video
  • Adjust resolution, framerate, and colors of the output video
  • Setup timed recordings by hour, minute, and second
  • Mirror recordings to a network or local hard drive 
  • Automatically send videos via email once a recording is finished, or upload to an FTP site.

I’m pretty impressed and I’ve only used it in the most basic sense. I’m thinking of recording a message for my Yr 7 class and upload it to our class blog to give them instuctions for Monday’s lesson when I’m doing a school visit. I’ll think they’ll get a kick out of that. Give it a try.

Update: Looks like the video will take a while to upload – looks a bit pixalated here but on my computer it worked fine. Have a laugh at me in pixalted form stuttering away!!

School’s out Friday

I normally post a funny video for the School’s out Friday post but it just didn’t seem right to do that today. Here in Australia the 25th of April is Anzac Day, a day that is a public holiday as tribute to the fallen soldiers who have given their lives in the defence of our country. I attended a local service this morning where students from our school read the names of the fallen from our municipality in all wars affecting this country. They were exceptional – their readings reflected the solemn occasion – their parents and the school should be proud of their efforts. ANZAC is an acronym for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps and New Zealand honours this day as well.  April 25th is the day honoured in tribute because this was the day Australian and New Zealand troops landed on the shores of Gallipoli. It was here that a long and fruitless battle against the Turkish forces took place in World War One. Countless lives were lost and it was the start of Australians realising the sense of nationhood that now prevails. Australia came together as a nation in 1901 with Federation but it wasn’t until young men lost their lives in defence of this country that people began to recognise themselves as Australian rather than Victorians or New South Welshmen.  

This video from Youtube reflects the reverence with which this day is held and also combines another Australian passion – Australian Rules Football. Nothing is open on the morning of Anzac Day but the afternoon sees a football match being held between Melbourne clubs Collingwood and Essendon. It’s become a tradition and today 95,000 people attended the match. Footy is a national pastime here in Australia – it’s almost a rite of passage to attend a footy match and watch the game while eating a meat pie with sauce!

Enjoy your weekend!

Mahalo delivers – would you get this kind of service from Google?


Woke up this morning, looked at the blog, saw lots of traffic overnight and an amazing comment from Mike at Mahalo;

Hello Jenny

Michael from the Mahalo news team here.

Thanks for your encouraging words about Mahalo’s reference pages. I’m thrilled you find them useful. We think they’re a great resource for students too.

We’ve expanded the pages you mention:

We also have a page on the Hutu and Tutsi:

Also, we’ll make Romeo Dallaire, Juvenal Habyarimana and Paul Kagame tomorrow.

I’d love to correspond in more detail about Mahalo’s catalog of search terms and how they can help teachers.

In fact, if you want Mahalo to start building resources on famous Australians, (or groups etc) just contact me with a list.


Michael Lodge

PS. We’re building ANZAC Day…right now

How impressive is that!

Never one to shy away from an invitation, I got to work and talked with my staff about Australian topics that would be likely search terms for Mahalo to create pages for. Sent a thank you email off with the extensive list of topics and received a reply not long after. Mahalo are onto it and will be putting pages together soon. I’ll be checking to see the progress. Just looked up Anzac Day and a page exists – it’s called a stub as it needs further fleshing out, but I’m suitably impressed. Keep this up and I’ll be forming my own Mahalo cult!

Never knew service like this could be available in today’s world. Brilliant effort.

Mahalo -now here’s a search engine worth talkin’ about!

Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about! (Those of you who live in Australia will remember this catchcry from Marcia Hines on replay constantly from Hey, Hey it’s Saturday – really showing my age now – it’s 42 for those of you interested!)

Mahalo is a search engine worth looking at. I mentioned it recently when I wrote a post entitled ‘Big Think – Web 3.0 in action’. That post talked about the notion of Web 3.0, the semantic web, characterised by human intervention and thought processes. Part of that post read;

 a new phase of the internet – internet 3.0, where the wisdom of crowds (web 2.0) is being supplemented by another layer “of truly talented, compensated people to make the product more trusted and refined.” (Mahalo founder Jason Calacanis)  

The quote derived from Newsweek writer Tony Dokoupil and his article, ‘Revenge of the experts’.  This was where I first discovered Mahalo and was impressed with what I saw. I was even more impressed today when I was working with a group of students completing research for their International Studies project. The task was to find information on a major political figure. I remembered Mahalo and directed them to this new search engine. We now have an interactive whiteboard in our library which is just fantastic and so incredibly helpful to demonstrate new apps. They were impressed with the results we were getting and so was I. You know someting is hitting the mark when students are asking ‘what’s that’ and tuning in when you are showing it to someone else.

I really like the way results are arranged but you have to make sure your students scroll through all of the results to see the vast array of differing media returned in a search. We did a search for Aung San Suu Kyi – the Burmese political activist. It began with the Mahalo top 7, and then we had to put up with some ads by Google – I suppose this is a small price to pay for search results that have been cast over by human eyes and are appropriate.  What followed was news, background and profiles, blogs and support sites, photos, videos, a timeline, related searches and user recommended links (there were none of these yet, but as it gains popularity no doubt this will grow). It was an excellent array of results – far more useful than a page of links from Google. Another teacher joined us and wanted to do a search for the Rwandan genocide. When we got the results she was amazed to see links to many sites she had found after trawling the web for hours – quite the revelation was Mahalo for her.    

The sidebar offers many more delights. A guide note providing you with fast facts, the ability to email the page and provide a personalised message with your email, you can share the page with your social networking sites and an explanation of icons they use. Some interesting information is shared in their ‘about this page’ text box;

  • Mahalo’s goal is to hand-write and maintain the top 50,000 search terms
  • Each Mahalo page is quality controlled through a strict editorial process
  • You can contribute and earn money by writing great search result pages in the Mahalo Greenhouse

You can also subscribe to the rss feed from the page so any updates will be delivered to your reader. 

I think it looks like a fantastic resource for students in secondary schools and I’m going to start plugging it with my colleagues. If they don’t have a search results page for a topic you are searching for you can enter a request to have them get one made – they’ll email you when the page has been completed. Alternatively, you could make the page yourself and submit it to their Mahalo Greenhouse and earn yourself some cash! Today we requested a page for Anzac Day. A couple of weeks ago I requested a page for the Bayeux Tapestry but haven’t yet received an email.  

Founder Jason Calacanis is onto a good thing here -you’ve got my vote! Keep on creating those pages! 

Podcasting in Plain English – the Lefevers are at it again!

This is going to be handy. Lee and Sachi Lefever have released a new plain english video – this time Podcasting in Plain english. The video focuses on how you download audio and video to portable devices.  I would have liked to see them show how you create a podcast – maybe they’ll address this in another video.

Creating a podcast seems to incite fear among many. I felt this way too until I went to a workshop at a conference and realised how easy Audacity was to use. I must use this again with my Yr 7 students – last year’s group had a lot of fun recording their voices and playing around with the effects.  

Thanks Lee and Sachi – once again you prove yourselves to be the teacher’s friend!

We did it! Project Global Cooling concert a reality.

(Finally back online- problems last night with provider and couldn’t post)


It’s probably been the busiest 8 weeks I’ve ever had. For that matter, I think the last three and a bit months have been the busiest of my life. Trying to juggle a family, a job, writing a blog and then joining up with Project Global Cooling has meant that I have been wired (literally) to my computer making connections with an incredible group of educators who share my passion for making our classrooms connected to enhance learning opportunities for our students.


Tonight, I want to be posting about our concert yesterday. I want to be able to tell you how incredible my students were, how they rose to the challenge and pulled off something that I thought was unimaginable only 8 weeks ago. This was a concert that had no budget and came together through generous donations of people’s time and sponsorship the girls had managed to acquire through a barrage of emails and phone calls. I want to tell you all this but I have no internet access! My provider has had an outage which I discovered after waiting for 82 minutes on the phone. This is the first time this has happened since I started writing this blog and it feels like someone has cut my arm off. I’m writing this in Word and will have to cut and paste it into the blog in the morning. This is so frustrating because their efforts deserve attention and I feel like not getting this online is preventing me from acknowledging their effort in the right way.


Anyway, back to their magnificent effort. There were a few technical problems along the way and two of the bands and the MC turned up late, but it eventually turned out OK. People turned up and the girls were happy with the response. They got their message across and this was the most important part of the day. All of them contributed in some way and worked tirelessly to ensure the day ran as well as it possibly could. The ustream worked but we weren’t able to contribute to the chat because of limited network access in the school hall and firewall problems!!  (I’ll try and work out how to embed the ustream tomorrow!) I know that there were up to 20 viewers at one stage and I have a couple of twitter folks to thank for that. Grace Kat saw my tweet alerting people to the concert, tuned in and sent out tweets encouraging people to watch. I checked previous Twitter pages and noted tweets saying ‘just saw Jenny Luca and her Yr 9 students at their project Global Cooling concert’. The inspirational Carolyn Foote wrote a post about the concert!! Imagine the effect this will have on my students when they realise that their message has been relayed all the way to Texas!


One of the concert highlights was the performance by Tessa,  a student from our school who wrote a song for the event. It was called ‘An Inconvenient Spoof’ and was absolutely brilliant. Tessa is a girl going places.


Thanks Clay for setting the challenge. It’s been hard work but ultimately rewarding for all involved. It doesn’t end here. We asked for a gold coin donation for entry and manage to raise over $600.00. (Quite a few people gave much more than a gold coin)

Now we have to see how this money can be used to further the cause and make changes within our school. 



Update: today I sent an email to all the students involved with a link to Carolyn Foote’s blog post – I saw some of them at recess and they were thrilled that they’d had an impact in Texas. Thanks Carolyn- you’ve made an impact here! 


Watch this incredibly funny video from Melbourne comedian Sammy J. One of the students contacted him and he recorded this message as an  endorsement for the concert. Brilliant work Sammy J – enjoyed by all on the day.