School’s out Friday

Yes, I’m sure this wasn’t a spontaneous act, especially given that it’s promoting the Grammys that are being held this Sunday, but I like it anyway. It’s a nice follow up to my previous post about Macklemore. I’d encourage you to read it if you haven’t already; he really is a fascinating person whose journey to fame can teach our young people much about the importance of persistence and self belief.

It’s been a big week. A new phone system has been installed and we’re launching Google Apps and Hapara Teacher Dashboard with our staff and students next week. The IT Staff who work with me have been absolutely unbelievable in their commitment to seeing these projects through. I’m very lucky to work with such dedicated staff who are willing to work above and beyond, especially when holiday periods are supposed to be the ‘quiet’ time.

Enjoy your weekend. I’m thankful for the Australia Day public holiday on Monday. Sleeping in will be a priority!



Macklemore’s 10,000 hours

A couple of years ago, I gave a presentation to a group of Commerce/Business Studies teachers about the impact of Social Media on Business today. In the opening slides, I referred to Malcolm Gladwell’s book ‘Outliers‘ and the 10,000 hour rule discussed in that book (inspired by a scientific study in American Scientist by Herbert Simon and William Chase). It’s a contentious idea, one that suggests that you need at least 10,000 hours to become proficient in your field. (Read this article from Malcolm Gladwell that discusses his thinking in some detail) I was trying to make the point that I was capable of delivering my presentation because I had invested near on 10,000 hours in social networks and had read plenty about business and their changing approaches. I’m not sure I convinced all of those present, but I firmly believed (and continue to believe) that the 10,000 hour rule rings true.

It seems Macklemore does too. I’ve been listening to ‘The Heist‘ for over 12 months now and find it an inspiring album. I’ve used ‘Same Love‘ and ‘Wings‘ as examples of what I consider contemporary poetry of today in my ‘Language of our Times’ class. When my students were working on a Spoken Word poetry task, dissecting the lyrics of Wings and the imagery utilised within those lyrics was one of the most powerful lessons of our year.

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I’ve never really paid attention to the lyrics of the opening track, 10,000 hours, until just recently. It was when I heard reference to Gladwell in the lyrics that my ears pricked up and I began to listen more intently. What I discovered was his story, his commitment to his craft and his ability to rise above a school system where he didn’t find himself ‘top of the class’. Take a read of these lyrics to see what I mean;

Now, now, now
This is my world, this is my arena
The TV told me something different I didn’t believe it
I stand here in front of you today all because of an idea
I could be who I wanted if I could see my potential
And I know that one day I’mma be him
Put the gloves on, sparring with my ego
Everyone’s greatest obstacle, I beat ’em
Celebrate that achievement
Got some attachments, some baggage I’m actually working on leaving
See, I observed Escher
I love Basquiat
I watched Keith Haring
You see I study art
The greats weren’t great because at birth they could paint
The greats were great cause they paint a lot
I will not be a statistic
Just let me be
No child left behind, that’s the American scheme
I make my living off of words
And do what I love for work
And got around 980 on my SATs
Take that system, what did you expect?
Generation of kids choosing love over a desk
Put those hours in and look at what you get
Nothing that you can hold, but everything that it is
Ten thousand

Not being American, I had to look up what a 980 SAT score meant. It means that you’ve ranked in the 6th percentile of all students who sat the exam. Ninety four percent of students scored better. When I look at the success of Macklemore , then it’s obvious that this is a person who does not let an exam result define him. Instead, he saw his potential.

Take that, system.

I’m starting my ‘Language of our Times’ class this year with 10,000 hours. This is a class that explores how we communicate in today’s world. Macklemore and Lewis independently produced ‘The Heist’ and it rose to number one on the iTunes charts within days of release. No record company made that happen. Their sheer hard work in the preceding years and a core army of supporters who shared and promoted this album through the social networks we inhabit made that happen. The world is different. Some people, those with talent, but perhaps even more importantly, with persistence and determination, know it.

Is our education system helping our students understand that there might be different pathways to success? How many young people passionate about something never get an opportunity to pursue this through the curriculum offerings in traditional school? What are we doing to help these students understand what they may need to do to fulfil their dreams? How many teachers even have any concept of what can be done using the networks of today? Sure, not everyone will succeed, but our students do deserve to hear the stories of people who have taken the non-traditional route.

Read Macklemore’s story. Share it around. Open eyes.

* and if you happen to read this Macklemore, I’ve got a group of students in Australia who’d love a virtual visitor to their class. I’m dreaming big. You taught me that. 😉



School’s out Friday

Yep, this video just about sums up what it was like living in Melbourne this week.

I saw a tweet last night where someone said this hot and humid weather reminded them of Borneo. I can only agree. When I visited there with students last year to do community work in a village, we were working for six hours a day in conditions similar to those experienced here over the course of the week. Not exactly my cup of tea. I was very thankful for the air conditioning in my office at work this week – made the return to work just that little more bearable.

To end the working week (for me, anyway. I’m incredibly envious of those of you still enjoying a break!) here’s a very funny video from College Humour doing the rounds over the last day or so. Warning: suggestive scenes and expletive at the end. But yes, funny.

Have a great weekend. If you’re in Victoria or South Australia, enjoy the cooler weather. 🙂

Six years ago today…

Six years ago today this little piece of web real estate set up shop.

Its owner had no idea of the changes it would bring to her life. Thanks to this blog, she now works in a job that was an unthinkable prospect on January 12th, 2008, and she speaks in front of large groups of people who are open to hearing her ideas about technology and its impact on the way we communicate and interact with the students we teach.

Quite amazing really.

It’s not too late to give this a go yourself. You might just find investing a little bit of yourself online transformational too. Who knows what doors may open as a result.

School’s out Friday

Now here’s something to put in the lesson toolbox for 2014. Chicago’s Magical Piano, currently sitting at 3,352,971 views on YouTube and looking for all intents and purposes like a wonderfully Christmassy feel good viral video from Amtrak.

But, it’s hard to get anything past the Reddit community these days. Here’s what transpired (from Mashable);

About two hours after it was shared on Reddit, a user named schwagro claimed in the comments that the video was fake. Schwagro posted a link to a notice about an Amtrak casting call for a video in Chicago’s Union Station with a “magical piano around Christmastime that seems to be truly alive.”

One of the examples given in the notice is that an actor might “play ‘Chopsticks’ … and we turn it into a duet,” which is exactly what happens to a young girl at the beginning of the video.

Kevin Nalts, at has provided a scene by scene breakdown outlining the indicators to tip us off. Here’s what he had to share (I’d encourage you to visit the link to the site too);

  1. Girl playing chopsticks has almost no reaction at :28 seconds when the magical duet that occurs. Her “mother” at :37 seconds realizes her reaction is just as disingenuous so she covers her face.

  2. At 1:00 a business man gets frustrated in convenience proximity of the piano. As the music becomes tense, his hand stays up in a token gesture of frustration. People don’t hold their hand up like that when they’re frustrated, and if they do it’s for a brief moment. He somewhat convincingly barks at the piano at 1:07, but that’s a much more severe reaction that would have occurred naturally. In real life, the guy would have almost subconsciously walked away from the noise to keep focused on his call.

  3. At 1:25 a fat man approaches and almost convinces us he’s amused. But when he kicks into a manic blues dance at 1:44 we’re painfully aware that the moment is staged.

  4. By the time two other musicians stumble upon the piano (a trumpet player and a harmonica player) I could no longer continue watching.

  5. I scanned toward the end, and shouldn’t have been surprised to see Santa shooshing the piano at 3:33. I think that was actually the real Santa, though… not an actor.

I had my students investigate the nature of viral videos in my class last year and I intend to do a similar thing this year. I’ll definitely be including this as a discussion point, perhaps with the title, ‘When is a viral video not a true viral video?’ As our eyes tune in more and more to spaces like YouTube and less and less to mainstream media, we’re going to see more companies try and get their message out with entertaining videos that tug at our heartstrings and make us aware of their company or product. Westjet did it well with their Christmas Miracle video, but they were upfront about what they were doing. Therein lies the difference. Be upfront at the start, and you won’t incur the wrath of the Reddit community and the less than complimentary debate that follows.

Have a great weekend. Lovely weather here in Melbourne at the moment, and next week promises to deliver the opposite of the Polar Vortex experienced by North America this last week. I will be returning to work and leaving the holiday behind. Can’t say I’m excited about that just right now, but them’s the breaks!