School’s out Friday

The Melbourne Metro system posted this video on YouTube on November the 14th, and it’s since had 19,182,295 views. It’s called ‘Dumb ways to die’, and it was made in response to peoples’ careless behaviour around trains leading to unnecessary and preventable deaths. It’s attracting a lot of press due to the viral nature of the video, one that has finally knocked Gangman Style of the top of the viral video chart! Cassie McCullogh has written a post on ABC site ‘The Drum’, that outlines some criticism that has been levelled at it, suggesting its message will be ineffective.

Personally, I think any video that goes viral like this can’t be considered anything but effective. I don’t know if you realise this, but 19,182,295 views is a number within coo-ee of the entire population of Australia. The fact that the message at the end of the video outlines what its intentions are is a moment that makes you sit up and take notice. It’s kind of a ‘what the’ moment, but it certainly got me thinking.

I take my hat off to Metro. It’s quirky, creative and obviously has the mass appeal factor. The Drum article has some insight to its creation from Creative Director John Mescall,

It’s designed to engage with a younger audience that doesn’t “want to hear any kind of safety message”, McCann Melbourne Creative Director, John Mescall told ABC NEWS 24. “If it looks, smells or feels like an ad, it won’t get shared … it has to be incredibly likeable.”

This is one to store away for a class activity. My students have exams next week, but if regular classes were on, I’d be starting my lesson with this and encouraging discussion as to the ad’s effectiveness and the reasoning behind its creation in this form.

Sunny weather for the weekend here in Melbourne. I’ll be enjoying the rays, and making sure I don’t engage in any of those dumb ways to die. Enjoy your time this weekend – I hope you get an opportunity to see some rays too. 🙂

School’s out Friday – coming to you from Laos this week!

I’m currently on a school trip to Thailand and Laos with students from my school. We spent the first couple of days in Chiangrai, but the majority of our time is in Laos. We are based in Luang Prabang, but will be heading out tomorrow to a village two hours away where we will be working on a community project, helping to lay the foundations of a Kindergarten for the villagers. This will mean five days without Internet access for all of us. I think this will be the longest stint I’ve had off the grid in a very long time – no tweeting for me. Let’s see how I cope with that!

We’ve been blogging about our trip to help keep our school community and the students’ family and friends informed about out travels. Follow this link if you’d like to take a read – Beyond Boundaries: Thailand. It’s a great way of reassuring our school community that the students are in good hands and enjoying themselves. Many parents have left comments and have indicated their appreciation for what we are doing.It’s time consuming at the end of some pretty long days, but more than worthwhile, especially as the students will be able to access it after the event and reflect on what they’ve done.

I was last in Asia in 2008, when I visited China with students. Back then, I was amazed at the industrialization of that country. Laos is very different. Tourists have only been allowed entry since 1992, and the country is one that seems to be heavily invested in its traditional village origins, but one grappling too with a 21st century world that is butting up against tradition at what will be an unrelenting pace. Already the growth of mobile technology is evident. People have what seem to be mostly Android phones (cheaper than iPhones) and mobile phone towers were dotted along the Mekong River providing access to signal and the Internet. It seems everywhere you go, eateries are offering free wifi to attract the tourist dollar. Even in what seem to be remote villages, wifi is available in tourist accommodation.

You have to seriously wonder what the impact of this access will be on many people who are still at this stage living a village lifestyle where a large majority of children don’t receive an education past Primary School. We visited a couple of village communities as we traveled down the Mekong River and I was struck by the apparent impact of Western or modernized neighboring Asian countries on the young people living there. I saw low hung jeans with the rim of boxer short underpants exposed, stylish hairstyles, T Shirts with English writing emblazoned upon them, high heels on some girls and a bit of a longing in their eyes to know more about us, and to use the devices we had with us. As they gain access to the Internet through mobile devices, will we see them take full opportunity of the ability to self direct their learning through them?

Our guide has an interesting story. He became a novice Monk at a young age as it was an opportunity to obtain a good education and live a principled life. He left at 19, and an entrepreneurial spirit saw him learn English by himself by listening to the radio for half an hour four times a week. He was very grateful to an Australian woman who volunteered her time to teach English and was under her tutelage for three months. He became a Mahout (elephant trainer) for three years and then began helping tourists out in Luang Prabang. The tour company he works for now saw his talent and offered him a job. His aspirations don’t end there – he wants to buy his own restaurant next year in Luang Prabang. Given his story so far, I have no doubt that he will achieve his aim. He loves the Internet and all that it offers him in terms of connection and learning opportunities. How many more like him are sitting in the villages of Laos? Determined young people with a desire to live the lives they see played out via their access to Tim Berners Lee’s creation. My guess is there are plenty, and I’m also betting the fire in their belly to live life differently from their forbears is stronger than the desire many of our students have. Our students, my own children among them, are living very different lives and are somewhat complacent within them.

I’ll leave you with this (if this app will allow me to add it to this post.) This is what greeted our eyes as we walked along a village road alongside the Mekong Delta. If this isn’t proof positive of a burgeoning new world invading an old one, I don’t know what is!


School’s out Friday

Don’t you wish you received parking tickets like these? I love the change in demeanor once these unsuspecting car owners realise what the contents of their ticket holds. Amazing really, how human beings can shift from anger to delight in the blink of an eye.  We are fickle beings indeed!

Over the last two days I’ve been so touched by the kind words that have come my way with the news that I will be Director of ICT and eLearning at Toorak College next year. I wondered if Teacher-Librarians out there would see this as a sign of abandonment, but I have received nothing but support from many in my network. Thank you to you all. It’s been wonderful receiving such positive encouragement. 🙂

My next two weeks are going to be interesting. I’ll be off the grid for some of the time as I travel through Thailand and  Laos with students from my school on our Beyond Boundaries trip. Part of our journey will be in a village in Laos where we will be working on a community project helping to lay the foundations of a kindergarten. I will definitely be off the grid for that part of the trip, but I may be able to post in the early and latter stages of the trip. Forgive me if this space turns into a travel blog for part of the near future, but I do like to share what I’m up to and it’s great to have a record of this that I can look back on. I’ll be writing a separate blog for our school families too. I’ve done this for past trips in Italy and China and the parents and friends have really appreciated being able to see what their children are doing in far flung parts of the world. These blogs have provided reassurance and a means of communication as they leave comments and our students respond.

Laos (Photo credit: YoTuT)

So, the weekend ahead will be busy as I organise things at home for while I’m away and pack my bag. There will be little rest until the overnight flight to Bangkok! I hope your weekend is a little more restful than mine. 🙂