School’s out Friday

This is ‘Facebook Song’  by Rhett and Link. Our school psychologist had me help her download it from Youtube this week for use with a Yr 11 class. (We used kickyoutube – it continues to impress everyone) They were looking at the idea of personal empires for their Art class.  As well as being pretty amusing it’s quite good for developing class discussion about identity and behaviour online.

A cooler weekend here in Australia. Very welcome after last weekend and its devastating consequences. Hope yours is a good one.

*Just got this message on Twitter from Bill Ferriter.


Such kindness being expressed for our country from the international community of educators is overwhelming. Jen Wagner has let me know that donations are coming in for the bushfire appeal we are running through Working together 2 make a difference. Thank you all.

Math in the Movies -where was this when I needed it!

Maths has never been one of my strong points. I coped just fine until I hit year 9 and they started introducing letters into Maths problems. My brain couldn’t cope with this and my burgeoning career as a Astrophysicist went out the window. I had to settle for a career based on where I felt letters belonged – between the pages of books!

Now, had I had a Maths teacher who introduced new concepts with a snippet from a movie and who could have shown me how I could apply that concept to a real life situation, then my story could have been completely different. I often read Dan Meyer’s blog and contemplate how I think I would be engaged in his lessons. He thinks of novel ways to use new technology to relate concepts to students. I remember those discussions with teachers which always started with me asking, ‘When am I ever going to use this in life?

The other day, Carey Pohanka posted a link on Twitter about Mathematics in Movies, a page on a site run by Oliver Knill, who is from the Dept. of Mathematics at Harvard University. He’s teaching Linear algebra  and applications this semester, but he’s also providing assistance to Maths teachers everywhere by doing this;

This is a collection of movie clips in which Mathematics appears. I’m collecting DVDs and VHS tapes of such movies. This is a working document to be extended over time. I started this page during spring break 2006. See also the page “Begin of lectures in college teaching” and “End of lectures in college teaching”. To see the movies larger, watch the quicktime ipod version, which are files with .m4v extension. 


I just love ‘hooks’. The little bit of the unusual or different that get me thinking about things in a different light. If a speaker begins with something engaging I’m usually there with them for the long haul. It must be the same for the kids we teach. I like to use quotes to engage students and set the tone for a lesson. I taught for a semester at a school and thought those quotes were going over student’s heads, until one day I discovered a student diary left in a classroom. I flicked through it to find out who it belonged to, and discovered every one of those quotes carefully written out  in the pages of what was one of my student’s diaries.  Sometimes you just don’t even know the effect you are having. 

I like the thought of these Math in the Movies ‘hooks’ for students. I think they’d be able to relate to the visual medium to make a concept more relevant. Perhaps if you used them there would be less of those, ‘When am I ever going to use this in my life?’ questions that I’m guessing must rear their ugly head in many people’s Math’s lessons.

For another look at making maths relevant, take a look at Tania Sheko’s post, ‘I’m not good at maths but I could be’.  Excellent explanation of the site Real World Math and how to use Google Earth’s satellite imagery to add placemarks, annotations, photos and models, as well as measure distances and draw paths.

Collective action help from our network

Our bushfire appeal on Working together 2 make a difference  has received some help from unexpected quarters. Clarence Fisher and Jen Wagner, who coordinated an online effort in response to the Californian bushfires, have provided some sound advice about how to go about coordinating such an effort. Thanks go to Sheryl Nussbaum- Beach for directing them to me.

In fact,  Jen has gone one step further.  She  has helped me set up a paypal button on the Working together 2 make a difference site and has offered to tally donations and keep track of contributors. Such generosity of spirit overwhelms me. It’s yet another example of the sharing nature of this network that makes it so special.

If  you are so inclined, visit the site and make a donation through the paypal account set up by Jen. The money you donate will be redirected to the Red Cross appeal to aid those affected by this disaster. ALL the money will go there, be sure of that.  


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Join us to work together 2 make a difference for fire ravaged Victoria.

A street...
Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Yesterday I posted about the natural disaster that has ravaged the Victorian countryside. Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach read my post and offered to help in any way she could. My good friend Angela Stockman, who I collaborate with on Working together 2 make a difference,  also wanted to know what she could do to help. Here we have two Americans reaching out to assist those in a country very distant from their own. Why do they want to help? Firstly no doubt, because they are sensitive people with a desire to assist their fellow citizens of the world. Perhaps they are motivated also because they have formed connections through these networks we are working in and feel a link to a country far from their own.

Sheryl spoke with me tonight and has commited to help me, Angela and other educators who may wish to join us, to do whatever it is we can to raise funds to support those in need. The Red Cross has coordinated a fundraising effort here in Australia. What we are encouraging you to do is to join Working together 2 make a difference  and post your efforts there. We will set up a paypal account that will direct the monies you raise to the Red Cross appeal.  Here’s what I’ve posted on the Working together 2 make a difference site to enocurage participation;       

Victoria, the State I live in in Australia, has been hit by a tragic natural disaster that is affecting the lives of many of our country communities. On Saturday the 7th of Feb., bushfires, fanned by fierce northerly winds in 46 degree celcius temperatures, ravaged our countryside, leading to the deaths of 173 people. This figure is”>expected to rise to over 200 in the coming days as they gain access to affected areas and search homes. Native animals, livestock and family pets were other victims of this disaster.

So how can we all make a difference? We would love to see our education community from near and far band together to support the communities in need. What is needed is money to help schools rebuild, families rebuild their lost homes and for communities to build the infrastructure needed that has been lost in these fires.

What can you do?  Anything that will help your students to understand the need to help others when the situation is dire. Be it a sausage sizzle, free dress day, bake sale, whatever it takes to raise a few dollars that can be used to support others. In the next few days, with the help of Sheryl Nussbaum Beach and some wisdom fron Clarence Fisher, we’ll be setting up a paypal account to direct funds you raise to the Red Cross appeal that has been set up to support those affected. Create a page here and let us know your plans. We can support one another and link our schools to a common cause. Let’s show the world how the education community can use the tools at our disposal to connect and support one another for a common purpose.     

So, wherever you are in the world, think about helping out those in need here in Australia. And let’s see just how small our world really is when we connect using these tools for the common good.


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Firestorm hits Victoria

Bushfires rage out of control from the Bunyip State Park.

Bushfires rage out of control from the Bunyip State Park. (Photo: Jason South)

Unfortunately, my worst fears from my Friday post were realised yesterday when horrendous weather conditions led to firestorms throughout parts of Victoria. To date there have been 86 recorded deaths but it is expected that more loss of life will be uncovered as authorities gain access to hard to reach places. 

Yesterday was truly awful. Temperatures around 46 degrees celcius with a fierce North wind that blew in in the afternoon. According to news reports, the fire hit places like Kinglake so quickly that  people were unable to escape to safety. News tonight informed us that Brian Naylor, a former Melbourne newsreader who was the face of Channel 9, perished in the blaze along with his wife. This will bring this tragedy home to many; Brian Naylor was the comforting elder who was in your home, delivering the news every night at 6.00pm.

Our students tomorrow will need time to talk this weekend through. They will need to try and make some sense of a tragedy that no-one could control. I hope classroom teachers forget curriculum for awhile and allow their students to share and discuss. Sometimes that is just what is needed and now is one of those times.

School’s out Friday

Now this is funny. So I’m ordering you to watch it and brighten up your day by enjoying the pleasure of laughing out loud. I’ve watched it a couple of times now and even though I know what’s coming I still find those tears rolling down my cheeks.  Happy ones, not sad!

I hope we’ll all still be laughing tonight. Today represents the most extreme weather conditions we’ve seen all summer being faced in Victoria. Melbourne is predicted to reach a temperature of 44 degrees celcius.  We’ve been in the grip of a water crisis and our State is tinder dry. Bushfires are a constant summer threat with extremely dry undergrowth. We live with water restrictions and I am saddened by the sight of the glorious Liquid Amber in my frontyard struggling to exist. 

So, I hope tonight I’m sharing a glass of wine and good conversation with friends and  not glued to the TV (or internet) tracking the progress of bushfires.

Enjoy your weekend, Go on, watch lost luggage again. I promise you’ll laugh second time round too!

Australian Screen – great resource

I looked at Australian Screen a year or so ago but didn’t explore it fully. This week we’ve been searching for material to support our text study of Bye Beautiful. We’ve been uploading videos to our Yr 9  Ning chronicling life in 1960’s Australia to help our students contextualise what it is they are reading.

Megan, who I work closely with, visited Australian Screen and located some fantastic  short clips about the shame of teenage pregnancy in the 1960’s. They’ve been cropped from documentaries and are perfect for what we need. We’re not interested in a 30 min documentary, we want a short grab that can pique interest and spark discussion. The clips we’ve been using are downloadable as MP4 files and can be uploaded into our Ning site from our computers.  Here’s one of them depicting societal attitudes of the time.  

They have an Education section. Below is a screenshot to give you some idea of the resources you can locate.


Here is what they say on their home page about their site;

Australia’s audiovisual heritage online

australianscreen is a look at the Australian film and television industry, from its earliest days to the present.

You can view clips from Australian feature films, documentaries, TV programs, shorts, home movies, newsreels, advertisements, other historical footage, and sponsored films produced over the last 100 years, with curators’ notes and other information about each title. The site currently contains clips from over 1,000 titles and is constantly being added to.

You can also visit our education page for educational content provided by The Le@rning Federation. All clips with teachers’ notes are marked by the e symbol.

*And just a update on progress with the Ning. All is going very well. Students are participating in forum discussions and have even added some themselves. It’s very early days but we are finding that it is becoming an excellent means of locating and storing resources to support curriculum. A mini LMS – very useful. I have had to have a discussion about appropriate use of the site for our purpose. They were engaging in the send a ‘Hi there ha  ha ha’ type messages back and forth while in class. A quick discussion about the fact that this in not their facebook or myspace site was employed at that stage. We do need to form community, but a learning community, not       I’ll keep you updated.