School’s out Friday

*Having trouble embedding the video for some unknown reason. Follow the links in the post.

Tony Hollingsworth sent me the link to this video and I just had to share it with you for School’s out Friday this week. I loved Avatar, but this is a whole new level of enjoyment.I’d say the Na’vi People of Hometree Wisconsin are having a bit of fun with all of us!!

Enjoy your weekend. Kid’s birthdays are headed my way. Movies, pizza, sleepovers – think of me!!

Avatar – how did they do it and how would you use it?

By now, plenty of you would have seen Avatar, James Cameron’s newest movie. I was completely blown away by the movie, and that was before I’d watched the video above. After watching this, I’m even more blown away. This really does represent a new era of movie making.

Someone left a comment on Twitter about how watching the film reminded them of how they felt when they first saw Star Wars in 1977. I had the same feeling when I was watching Avatar. I also remember being so excited to see the new installment of the Star Wars movies, the introduction of Anakin Skywalker. I vividly recall being so incredibly disappointed while watching it. It didn’t represent movie magic to me; I knew most of it was a digital creation. Avatar is different; yes, there is computer imagery, but it’s the blending of the human with the computer imagery that makes it so much more sophisticated and watchable. (in my opinion, anyway!)

I’d really like to spend time discussing Avatar with a class. I’d like to see what students make of it; are they conscious of the sub texts in the plot? Can they relate what happens on the screen to modern day conflicts or even conflicts from the past? Is some of the terminology used in the film eg: ‘shock and awe’ familiar to them? Do they sense a message to us all about the environmental impact of the way we live our lives?  What do they make of the roles of male and female characters? Why is ‘the human being’ the saviour? In fact, what would be best is to pose no questions to them at all, and instead, let them brainstorm discussion points.

Another interesting way to look at it would be to have students search the web (or Twitter!) for links to items that would pose interesting discussion topics. One such link that came to me from Tony Hollingsworth the other day was from a blog called ‘Dark Roasted Blend’ and the title of the post was, ‘10 possible sources of Avatar in Science Fiction‘.  In it, they make reference to an Ursula Le Guin novella from 1972 entitled ‘The Word for World is Forest‘. Here’s their opinion and precis of the plot;

Similarities? Well, how about a forested planet with the deeply “connected” natives, a human military raid on a huge tree-city and a subsequent retaliation of natives… some scenes seem incredibly familiar, even though Le Guin plot is markedly deeper and more sophisticated.

It makes for interesting reading. Very good fodder for a book club discussion.

There are some scathing criticisms of the film out there too, and they would prove very useful for a class to dissect. Love it, just like it, or hate it, there’s plenty in Avatar that would make for an interesting examination of film making and how it relates to and draws from the human condition.

Aha moment – ever had one of those?

Ever had an ‘aha’ moment? An experience where revelation comes to you suddenly. I had one of those when I started writing this blog. Writing my first post and waking up the next morning to see a comment posted was a real ‘aha’ moment for me. Everything I had been reading about in terms of connections and the ability of the web to bring us together seemed to coalesce in that moment.

I really like, a site dedicated to sharing the aha moments of the people who chose to share their stories. Thanks go to Tony Hollingsworth who alerted me to its presence on the Web via a tweet. I like how they describe an aha moment;

Aha moments come in all shapes and sizes. We know from the real people featured on this site and with those to whom we continue to speak, that aha moments are personal. They have been described as, “magic,” “enlightenment,” and, “that moment of clarity when all the pieces fall into place.” They’ve told us that having an aha moment is like, “getting hit by a bus,” and that it just “hits you.”

I’m intrigued by the research they say has been conducted into aha moments and what happens physiologically before they happen;

“In 2004, researchers at Northwestern University wanted to discover the physiological responses that lead to the breakthrough moments known as aha moments. What they discovered was that a split — second before having an aha moment, we experience a burst of electrical brain activity… kind of like a big light bulb going off in your brain.

Another study in 2006 by the same research team found that aha moments tend to occur more often in the “prepared mind.” In short, if we’re open to change and maybe even looking for some kind of change — an aha moment is more likely to happen.”

A part of me believes very strongly in the 2006 study. I do believe we create our own situations to some extent. I think you have to work it, but if you visualise where it is you want to be in life you can find yourself there.

I could see this site being useful in school settings. People sharing insights into what has sparked a new direction for them could help inspire our students and could be the basis for writing or digital media tasks. Perhaps our students could upload their own stories to the site. 

My only concern is that the site is run by the Mutual of Omaha Insurance Company. I’m wondering what their motivation is for running a site like this? It looks like a clever marketing ploy to me; run a site that’s interesting and plug a few products like life insurance, retirement solutions etc. This could be another interesting educational exercise- part of the digital literacy learning our kids should be aware of. Get your students to visit the site and find out who is running it by having them scroll down to the bottom of the page and check out the detail that you find in the links there.

Interesting from many angles. Exploring the site was a bit of an ‘aha’ moment in itself!


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