School’s out Friday

Here it is – the end of another working week. Time for another School’s out Friday post. This one is a bit of a blatant plug for my cousin’s son’s band White Summer.  They’re three young guys trying to cut a break in the Australian music industry. This is another of the things I love about YouTube – it gives aspiring young artists a platform to showcase what they can do. White Summer are the opening act at the Chillisland music festival this weekend where they will be supporting The John Butler Trio among others. Enjoy the weekend and chill out listening to ‘Ragdoll’

Think before you post part two.

I’ve been looking at my blog stats and have noticed a lot of interest in a previous post that featured a ‘Think before you post’ internet safety television ad. Here is another one. Of the two, I actually think this one about Sarah has the most impact. I used it in classrooms last year and the students really took notice of the message. It promoted vibrant class discussion, particularly surrounding the guy taking the theatre tickets. ‘Creepy’ was the overwhelming verdict. I think these are fantastic learning tools for our students – they are quick and easy to digest, but spark much comment and leave a mark. 

Ideablob – Inspirational video and interesting website

The above video is called Ideablob – What is an idea? and you can find it on YouTube. It’s an interesting question and one we could use in our classrooms to prompt thinking. I could see you using this video in Philosophy classes, Design and Technology, English, Business Studies and Science – I’m sure others could think of myriad other subject areas which would find this of use. The video’s getting mega hits – over 1.2 million views in six days! What’s really interesting is when you follow the link from YouTube to the website who posted the video. Ideablob, according to their ‘about’ page,

‘is where entrepreneurs and small business owners can share and grow their business ideas – and have a chance to win $10,000 towards fulfilling them.

Great ideas are generated every day by people all across the country, and now these ideas have a place to live and grow. Eligible individuals can submit their business idea to, and based on votes from the online community – which includes other innovators as well as friends, family, colleagues, associates, teachers and mentors – one idea every month will win $10,000.’

It’s run by Advanta. According to the about page,

 ‘Advanta has grown to be one of the nation’s largest credit card issuers (through Advanta Bank Corp.) in the small business market.’

 A credit card issuer wanting to be philanthropic and support small businesses? Excuse my sarcasm but I’m starting to get a little sceptical at this point. I may be wrong.

I do think, however, that this is another good lesson for us as teachers and for our students – follow the links and read everything – we have to empower our students to become critical thinkers when they are surfing the Web.   

Explanation please – and keep it simple!

Lee Lefever at Commoncraft writes really interesting posts about the work he and his wife are doing in trying to make new ideas easy to understand. A recent post entitled, Discovering the RSS Explanation Problem is a great read and something I think we can all relate to. Lee talks about going to a conference where a participant asked ‘What is RSS?”The CEO’s answer was, “RSS is an XML-based content syndication format.” He describes having an ‘Aha’ moment which no doubt was the seeding ground for the highly useful ‘plain english’ videos he and Sachi create.

How many of us have had the experience of people in command of knowledge being unable (or unwilling, and that’s another story altogether!) to provide an easy to understand explanation. I think this is a major problem when it comes to technology adoption. Often those in the know are so familiar with how something works they don’t realise that many people have ‘blocks’ when it comes to learning about a new way of doing things and need simple explanations that they can apply to their own situations.  This post has made me think about my teaching and they way I explain concepts to students. I’ve come a long way from my early chalk and talk teaching days, and I’ve noticed in recent years how effective graphic organisers are for students and how my teaching has changed. Our students are such visual learners – I see it in my own kids – and our teaching needs to address this. At the moment I seem to be surrounded by talk of ‘essential questions’. Maybe we also need to address the concept of ‘essential explanations’ to help our students navigate this educational landscape.

Here’s Lee and Sachi’s RSS in Plain English, and you’ll see how they make ‘RSS is an XML-based content syndication format’ easy to understand. If anyone from my school happens to read this, I’m happy to walk you through the setup of a Google Reader, and I promise I’ll make it relevant to your needs and simple to understand!


School’s out Friday

Today was my first day back for the school year. No kids there yet – just meetings. I always find the start of the school year really daunting – information overload and lots of expectations. I much prefer it when the students arrive back and classes begin – very quickly my enthusiasm returns. It is lovely to catch up my colleagues, many of whom are now good friends. Teaching is so much about relationship building and I find it incredibly rewarding.

I’m wondering how I’m going to maintain this blog now that I’m back at work. My aim for the year is to write a post a day with a bit of a break on weekends, so maybe six posts a week. Hopefully I’ll be able to keep up with it as I’m enjoying making connections and finding interesting and useful things to post.

This brings me to today’s post. Here in Melbourne we have two radio presenters on Fox FM, Hamish and Andy. Their Friday afternoon broadcast is called ‘Pants off Friday’ because it is the end of the working week. I’ve decided that my Friday posts are going to be a bit of fun because it’s the end of the school week and I’m going to call them ‘School’s out Friday’.

So here goes. I love this YouTube video. It’s called OK Go – Here it goes again    and it’s a lot of fun. It’s been around a while and watched over 28,000 times. The members of this band hired the treadmills and created this amazing video. Enjoy!

Innovation with the world in mind.

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!

YouTube: handy tools

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 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!