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.