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. 

 

 

 

 

     

School’s out Friday – but not this week

Yes, today is Friday and time for the customary school’s out post. This week it’s different, because school is definitely on for me and my students tomorrow as we stage our Project Global Cooling concert. Tune in to ustream (streaming live 3.00pm to 5.00pm Melbourne, Aust. timezone) to see the result of my student’s efforts. The concert has been organised with a budget of zero; our students have convinced artists to appear for free and many people in our school and wider community have given their time and donated goods to ensure that the concert can take place. The students are pumped – one has even just posted a comment on this blog to let me know how excited she is. Today we received an email from Peter Garrett, environment minister for our Australian Labor Party (current party holding government) and former lead singer of Australian iconic band Midnight Oil. Here’s what he had to say to us;

Congratulations to Year 9 students at Toorak College for your work with Project Global Cooling.

I am delighted that you are combining two of my great passions – the environment and music. Your positive aim to spread the word about the challenges of climate change that we all face, from Mt.Eliza to the world, is very important. Music is a great way to communicate, inspire and unite people towards this common goal.

Have a great day. Enjoy the music. And once again, congratulations on your good work.

Peter Garrett AM MP

Federal Member for Kingsford Smith

Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts. 

 Brooke. one of the students involved in the project, had sent him an email a few weeks ago and thought nothing was going to come of it. She was over the moon today when she walked through the school reception area and was told that Peter Garrett’s ministerial office had just phoned the school to let her know that an email had been sent. One of the artists appearing tomorrow is Mark Seymour. He used to front Hunters and Collectors, a very well known band here in Australia. His brother is Nick Seymour from Crowded House, a band that international readers would be familiar with. This is Mark singing ‘Throw your arms around me’ – enjoy.

On a different note, I was reading the comments thread in Clay Burell’s post about the efforts of schools around the world to stage concerts to raise awareness about global warming and the future of this planet when I saw this comment from Stephen Downes.  

This has bothered me about this sort initiative for a while…

If this is such an “international” collaboration, why do all the participants have names that sound like they were raised in Iowa?

This was my response that I posted in the comment thread;

@Stephen Downes. I’m sorry that it bothers you so much that the participants in Project Global Cooling sound like they come from Iowa. I. in fact, hail from Melbourne, Australia, and it bothers me that your focus seems to be on our common language rather than the incredible efforts of the students involved and their desire to make a difference in their world. My students have worked tirelessly for the last six weeks and are thrilled to be contributing to a global project. Much has been made of their efforts within our school community and I think it fair to say that the entire school is embracing the need for a determined approach to the reduction of our carbon footprint as a result of our involvement in the project. Please recognise the genuine desire of the students involved to make change a reality, rather than focus on your criticisms of what you consider to be a skewed international involvement.

Jenny Luca. Toorak College, Melbourne, Australia.

Enjoy your weekend. I know that tomorrow I will be basking in the energy and enthusiasm emanating from a wonderful group of girls who have worked very hard to make Project Global cooling a reality in our school, our community and the world.    

Hitting the wall.

Tonight, I’ve had it. I’ve been working myself into the ground helping guide our students to get a fully fledged concert organised for Project Global Cooling and I can tell you that it’s taking its toll. I’m physically exhausted. After taking my son to his drum lesson I curled up on the couch and slept heavily for an hour. Gotta get to bed early tonight -need more than the usual 6 hours!

I sent an email to the international teachers (and Lindsea in Hawaii) this afternoon to let them know the link for our ustream channel so that they could tune in on Saturday (if possible). I hope some do – two of our students are going to be commenting in the backchannel and I know all the girls will be thrilled to know that an international audience tuned in. Beijing are ustreaming their concert from 1.00-4.00pm and I hope that we’ll be able to get a look at what they’re doing as well. In writing the email, I realised that it was exactly six weeks ago that we launched this project with our Yr 9 students with a Skype conversation with Lindsea, Chris Watson and Clay Burell. They’ve managed to pull off what I thought was near impossible, and did so with a two week holiday in the middle of this. They really are amazing kids and I’ve loved every moment of getting to know them so much better over the last six weeks. All of them have exemplified incredible leadership qualities and I think they themselves have been surprised at what they are capable of achieving when they set their mind to it.

Gotta go – sleep beckons.

To shift your school you need support.

I feel very fortunate to work at the school where I teach. The environment is beautiful, the students are wonderful and I have forged friendships that will last. Enjoying your work is vital I think; I’d hate to rock up every day and feel unsatisfied with what I was doing. I wondered when I started writing this blog how my school community would view this. I knew that my close friends would offer support, but was unsure of the reaction of  the wider school community and the leadership team. I thought they may want me to write anonomously and not reveal my school location.

How wrong did that assumption prove to be. Today our enews (electronic newsletter) was released. My husband also receives it because our daughter attends the school. He rang to say that Project Global Cooling was mentioned by our Principal in his reflection. Here’s what he had to say;

One of the key directions we are taking in developing future plans is in the area of Internationalism and a fine example of this is the Year 9 Global Cooling Project.  Under the leadership of Mrs Luca, and with the involvement of students and teachers in other parts of the world, a group of girls are organising a concert to bring attention to the international threat of global warming.  This is a perfect example of the “new internationalism” which focuses more on what we share with other nations rather than how we differ.  It is further evidence of how young people can and do make a difference.  It’s worth noting also that this particular project has been made possible through Internet based collaboration and it reminds us that the tools which often receive bad press when misused are a powerful positive force when well managed.  Please encourage your teenagers to attend the Global Cooling Project concert, which is happening this Saturday 19th April from 3.00 to 5.00pm in the Mary Herring Hall.  Artists appearing include Mark Seymour, White Summer, Tessa and Modern Radio. The event is going to be hosted by Fox Klein who appeared at the Hands Together comedy night. The Year 9 girls involved have been working very hard to get this event organised to try to raise awareness about global warming and sustainability of our planet.

You might also like to take a look at the project web site where you will see a link to Mrs Luca’s blog site – well worth a visit in itself for those interested in exploring Web 2 technologies.

http://projectglobalcooling.org/

     What an affirmation for the students involved in Project Global Cooling and for me and my blog writing. I am so pleased that my Principal has identified the productive value of working collaboratively on internet based projects. I’m especially pleased that he included this statement; “it reminds us that the tools which often receive bad press when misused are a powerful positive force when well managed.”

I feel very supported in my school and am thankful for the forward thinking that I see being applied to curriculum initiatives like Project Global Cooling. I hope other educators with an interest in developing web based learning activities are finding support from their leadership team. I suspect (know!) this is not always the case.   

Help when you need it – try Fixya.

It’s almost a case of what will they think of next. How many times have you used some sort of electronic device, something goes wrong and you have no clue how to fix it. I don’t know about you, but I fit into the category of luddite and need some hand holding to work me through fixing the problem.  Fixya could be the answer I – and many others I’d suggest – need.

Here’s what they have to say on the site about what they’re offering;

What is FixYa?

Fixya provides Free tech support and technical help for gadgets, electronic equipment and consumer products. Fixya’s technical experts advise on fixing problems and provide instructions on proper usage of products either by chat or message posting. Fixya stores manuals and troubleshooting guides for over half a million products. Fixya’s tech support community will provide a quick solution for your “how to” problem. 


 

There are constant updates on their home page with questions and suggested solutions to problems people are having with devices. You can ask a question of their experts (when I clicked into this there were 167 experts online who could potentially solve a problem) and receive an email alert notifying you when a response has been posted. Handy. Fixya could be the solution for schools with little technical support in-house and for everyday people struggling with devices and instruction manuals that are indecipherable.