Toonlet looks like a great little tool that will enable your students to create comic strip characters and then create a comic strip starring their creative efforts. Here’s an example from their archives;
If you’re looking for an online tool to make your class activities a little more interesting and engaging, this could be something to consider. Best part of all, it’s free! Download Squad have done a review of Toonlet which is worth a read.
On a completely different note, I was saddened today to hear of Heath Ledger’s passing. After seeing a quick news grab regarding this my first reaction was to go to Google News and search ‘Heath Ledger dead’ to find out what was being reported. Sure enough in seconds I was looking at a New York Post article which was providing me with a lot more detail than what my television news service was offering. When I spoke about this to a friend during the day she was surprised that I had thought to do this and even more surprised to find out that you can select news from the Google toolbar and complete a search in this field. It made me realise once again that many people are not always familiar with new technology. We need to remember this and not assume that just because we are comfortable with the Web that others are similarly empowered. Teaching opportunities are everywhere – today mine was at a swimming pool complex – and my friend was going to go home and try it out.
In my last post I made reference to the Fischbowl, a blog site written by Karl Fisch. I first heard reference to this site last year when I attended a conference at which Chris Poole was a keynote speaker. He began his speech by showing us ‘Did you know?’, a thought provoking video that had us all hooked. I remember seeing the end credits and seeing the word Fischbowl. I thought this must represent some ‘think tank’ operating out of the U.S. As I started reading more in later months I discovered that Karl Fisch is not some ‘suit’ heading up a ‘think tank’, he’s a teacher at Arapahoe High School in Colorado. Here’s a bit of what he says on the ‘About this blog’ page;
The Fischbowl was then conceived as a blog to support our staff development effort. I am the principal “author” of the blog. I’m the Director of Technology at Arapahoe High School(fancy title, but basically means I’m the technology coordinator for the building). In the beginning, the blog was simply a place to “continue the conversations” we had in staff development every two to three weeks, to extend the discussions beyond the time we had face to face. As the year progressed, I started to post more to the blog about relevant educational issues, new technologies, and whatever else I thought might be related and thought-provoking for our teachers, even if it didn’t directly relate to what we had just talked about in staff development.
I’m in awe of what Karl Fisch has managed to achieve and would recommend that you check out The Fischbowl. Karl’s ‘Did you know’ video has been widely circulated and has become what is referred to as a ‘viral video’ because of it’s spread. Below is an updated version of the video that was inspired by Karl’s initial powerpoint video he created for a staff professional development session at the start of the school year.
Another great video to watch that Karl has developed is ‘2020 Vision’. In this video his slides reflect on the graduating class of the year 2020 and how they have been affected by changes in technology. Obviously it’s a lot of prediction, but I couldn’t stop but think, ‘Yeah, that just might be possible.’ It’s reasonably long (16 mins or so) but definitely worth watching.
I saw this YouTube video on Karl Fisch’s Fischbowl site. It’s a brilliant design – a bike that stores water and filters it while the rider pedals to their destination. As is explained in the video, many people in underdeveloped communities have to walk long distances to water sources.The Aquaduct: Mobile Filtration Vehicle would save many people from back breaking work and enable them to store their water in a secure device avoiding the possibility of contamination. This bike was the winner in the ‘Innovate or Die Pedal Powered Machine Contest’ sponsored by Specialised and Google. 102 entries were received in this contest, all with the aim of ‘cooling the planet and bettering lives’. Humanities/Sose teachers could use the video as a prompt for discussion at the start of the school year. It would also be a good teaching tool for design classes. I’d use it in an English class as a writing prompt for a journal entry.The best use of all would be if some philanthropist out there (or some mega-rich company like Google who sponsored the competition!) got behind this idea and manufactured these vehicles for deserving communities. Now wouldn’t that be something!
Steve Campion has a site called Library Stream (so-called because of the flow of ideas coming from the site – clever, huh!) This is what he says on his ‘about me’ page;
‘I’m the system trainer at a large public library system in the Pacific Northwest, a teacher of social web literacy since 2006, an advocate for integrating social software into the dialog with our public, and a voracious reader. I hope I can marshal all those hats into an interesting blog so that LibraryStream can contribute to the discussion about social software, training matters, and library issues in general. I’ll probably post book reviews and attempt humor from time to time, too.’
This site does just what he says and is worth looking at. If you’re new to social tools like flickr, delicious, wikis etc then it’s worth reading Steve’s explanatory posts. They’re very straight forward and allow readers to work through ‘a series of self-paced discovery exercises for library staff venturing into the social web’. You don’t have to be a Library staff member to learn about these things – all educators will find these tools useful.
Will Richardson has posted this video called ‘How it all ends’ on his site. He found it at Chris Lehmann’s site. It’s a Science teacher’s attempt to explain the debate surrounding global warming and what we should be doing about it. Another example of the power of YouTube to enable us ordinary joes to gain a voice and be heard. The message here is clear – pass it on. Your science teachers could find this a valuable teaching tool when addressing Global Warming issues.
I just love YouTube. Sure, it’s got some iffy content, but there is also a wealth of fantastic content that we can use in our classrooms as impetus material. I love the fact that the videos are often less than five minutes and can be used to springboard class discussion. I use keepvid to convert the videos to flv files that can be saved to my hard drive. (I’ve downloaded a free flv player from the keepvid site) This ensures that I can play the videos without having to worry about loading problems or blocks.
Jim Gates at Tipline has written a post with a link to Digital Inspiration. There you can find a set of YouTube tools that are incredibly useful and yet very simple. I’ll be trying out Scenemaker.net where you can select specific scenes of a YouTube video by defining the in and out points.
Just for a bit of fun have a look at the hahaha video from YouTube. This would lighten any classroom – we all need a good laugh sometimes!
Jeff Utecht has a blog called The Thinking Stick which is where he posted this picture of what makes a well rounded teacher in the 21st Century. On this blog you can also find a link to a PDF called Planning for 21st Century Technologies which outlines what he thinks schools need to do to respond to our changing digital world. I found this an enlightening read, and was pleased to see that he identified the need for schools to have what he called a Literacy/Media Specialist;
Hopefully I’m well placed to fulfill this need in my school. And, I might note, he’s absolutely right – our students are today engaging with information in digital form as their first port of call before they resort to a print option. This is just a fact of life and we need to be able to guide our students and help them learn the skills they need to be effective learners in this world.
Jeff also talks of the need to have a Web based portal where everything you need was just a click away. He says he hasn’t seen anything yet that can do this. I’m wondering if he’s seen Scholaris Learning Gateway, a system our school is working with.
Scholaris International’s flagship product “Scholaris Learning Gateway” provides an enriched and stimulating student centric learning environment, transforming education for the 21st century.Scholaris allows;
Students have their own rich and engaging digital learning environment which is accessible anywhere anytime, where they can share, communicate, collaborate and complete assignments and activities.
Teachers are provided with a unified interface of applications, tools and student centric data allowing them to tailor an actionable curriculum for the student’s individual needs. Teachers are also able to communicate, collaborate and share content, curriculum, lessons and learning objects thereby fostering the use of best practise.
Parents have simple and seamless access to information, such as their child’s academic performance, attendance, workload, events and news enabling a richer engagement with their child’s learning and their school community.
I think it can do all of the things Jeff talks about in his PDF. We’re hoping it will be the portal through which many of us can become the 21st Century teachers we need to be.
Steve Jobs, the CEO of Apple, gave a keynote address at Macworld where he outlined new initiatives. Mahalo daily have condensed his 90 minute presentation into 60 seconds. Check out the MacBook Air coming out of a manilla envelope!
‘Ellsberg paradox forms the basis of ambiguity aversion – where we are inclined to ignore or shy away from uncertainty by favoring what is known. We essentially prefer what is known and exhibit this behaviour in making choices. I wonder to what degree the aversion of ambiguity and the unknown plays in educators resisting the adoption of technology.’
I can certainly relate to this. It’s taken me quite a while to pluck up the courage to begin writing this blog. I’ve danced around the technology and have realised that jumping in the deep end and taking a few risks is probably the only way to go. I’ve no doubt that many of my colleagues feel ambiguous about new technology and need some guidance to navigate their way through what’s out there. Hopefully introducing new ideas and being willing to help in a hands on capacity will mean that we can move forward with new technologies this school year.
I’ve just read Alec Couras’ new post where he talks about the Australian kid who threw a huge party while his parents were out. The boy involved posted information about the party on his Myspace page and havoc ensued when 500 young people turned up. He’s now being offered up to $10,000 by an entertainment company to organise parties while the police are threatening to charge him $20,000 in damages and related costs. What is amazing to me is that I’ve just returned home from our local beach where I met up with friends, one of whom had taught this particular boy when he was younger. Our flat world is getting flatter by the minute!
This is a teachable moment for our students regarding use of the internet. I try and talk to the students at my school about keeping their Myspace pages private and not public. Some of the most powerful lessons I was involved with last year happened when I used the ‘Think before you post’ commercials that can be accessed from Youtube. They certainly helped get the message across that you need to carefully consider the photos you upload to spaces on the Web.