Friday, August 28, 2009

The Old Guy Goes Multimedia

For want of the correct adaptor, I was prevented from showing my Keynote presentation on "Apple Solutions for the 21st Century" at Madonna U. last week. Instead, I improvised, going directly to the Web for a "show & tell" of some online concoctions I've whipped up for my high school courses. I took a more or less chronological approach. It made me realize how I had evolved over the past 18 months. My progression is outlined here:

It all started with podcasts by phone. I made mp3 lectures with Gabcast for my Government class, and I began to require my students to report by podcast as well.

About 14 months ago, I began to integrate hyperlinks into my film study guides, illustrating concepts with photos and YouTube examples.

Exactly a year ago, I began using the Flip Mino I received for my birthday. I turned the camera on myself and started to record video directions for absent students. More significantly, I loaned the camera out to my AP Government students, so that they could vlog opinion pieces. Then their classmates blogged about these vlogs. The blogging feature of iWeb was perfect for this little enterprise.

In November, '08, I began to edit video movies with iMovie. I was very intimidated by this great software, but once again Atomic Learning helped me out.

In February, 2009, I taught my sophomores how to use wikis so that they could host their own multimedia resources. Many groups conducted interesting interviews and created short video pieces. Using iWeb I began creating exhibition pages for my students' multimedia work. I then shared the link with the editor of the school bulletin, The Mercy Memo.

I began podcasting with GarageBand. What an upgrade over Gabcast! ( Thanks for the tip, Andy Mann). And thank you, Rick Strobl for suggesting at Schuste's retirement party that I animate jpegs with PhotoToMovie. This was the best $50 I ever spent on software. Combining GarageBand mp3s with jpegs and turning them into movies has been a fun summer pastime.

Discovering that I could search for Library of Congress public domain photos on Flickr, further enhanced my ability to animate jpegs for instructional purposes.

I finally learned how to use Keynote. I had no idea that what I took to be slide show software could present so many multimedia options. This is my July and August preoccupation-- making moves using GarageBand (for soundtrack) and Keynote.

While I can't prove that my students are learning more after being fed with this stew of media, I know that I have, and I believe that I am modeling communication skills that they will need in their careers.

"Multimedia Message" (The cover of the May/June Communication Arts Magazine). Flickr Creative Commons photo by mwilke.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Death by PowerPoint and Resurrection by Keynote

I began a presentation last January by declaring that I didn't text or use PowerPoint. The idea was to put people at ease-- They were not about to be overwhelmed by a geeky, loves-all-things-techno obsessive.

Between you and me, I don't have anything against text messages. Neither my job nor lifestyle call for me to use mobile devices much. PowerPoint is another matter. It would be logical to use it in my job, but I've seen so many dreadful presentations that I haven't seen merit in learning how to do it. My greatest pet peeve is the presenter who reads his slides to us. And often the slides are terrifically uninteresting-- too many bullet points, etc. The fellow in the photo below pretty much personifies all that I loathe about slide shows.

BUT, I have had an epiphany. I am working through the Atomic Learning tutorials on iWork '09 with the idea of getting certified by Apple. Learning how to use their presentation software-- Keynote -- has brought unexpected pleasures. While slides serve as the spine for the presentations, the animation options and media integration allow for incredibly dynamic options. Recently, I completed a project that completely delighted me. I have been working on a Keynote presentation about my digital anthology for MAME 36.

I decided that I wanted to create a dynamic overview of the anthology, so I laid down a simple soundtrack with GarageBand and synchronized a set of slides with it. Here comes the cool part-- I exported the slide show as QuickTime movie. Check it out:

The Digital Anthology

So what to do with the movie? It has been embedded as a slide in the over all presentation. I suppose that I may still bore my audience to death, but it won't be because I chosen to use my slide show as a teleprompter.

"GiardinaKARLSRUHE - Death by Powerpoint" Flickr Creative Commons Photo by alice_c

Friday, August 21, 2009

Whistling a New Tune on ebooks

When my school first took the plunge into a 1:1 laptop program, the thought of going to ebooks scared the bejabbers out of me. Of course at that time, most publishers (and still many) simply offered pdf versions of the books-- lacking agility and even readability. Often the cost of these electronic versions matched their paper siblings.

I am whistling a different tune these days, offering my AP American Government students the option of purchasing an ebook version of our new text, American Politics Today by Bianco & Canon. The publisher, W.W. Norton charges half price for a year's license to this online text. Its reader merely requires an up to date browser and Adobe Flash Player plug in. It has an atractive and highly readable screen presentation. I enjoy magnifying the text on my computer screen and incurring far less eye strain than the paper counterpart. There are printing restrictions and the inconvenience of needing an online connection. But advantages include "highlighting" and note taking on the pages. I love it, and look forward to getting my students' reactions, which you can be sure I will share in a later post.

I recently read with interest that McGraw-Hill and Cengage are now experimenting with offering rental text books for the coming semester. Perhaps this has been spurred by the Recession, but it seems like a stop-gap measure. It's clear to me that most students will soon be downloading textbooks on Kindles, Sony Readers, iPod Touches and the like. If someone like me, initially so biased toward ebooks, can be converted so easily, I'm predicting that the textbook switch to ebooks-- at least at the college level-- could occur as quickly as consumers went from VHS to DVD.

P.S. Click to sample an ebook chapter of my new text.
Screen Capture of American Politics Today (W.W. Norton ebook reader).

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Blurring the Lines between Formal and Informal Learning

As I work on implementing Apple's Challenge Based Learning Model for my social studies classes this fall, I continually review some of the goals I hope to achieve through the process:

*Authentic connection with multiple disciplines.

*Leveraging of 24/7 access to up-to-date technology tools and resources.

*Use of Web 2.0 tools for organizing, collaborating, and sharing.

*Focus on universal challenges with local solutions.

*Requirement that students do something rather than just learn about something.

*Documentation of the learning experience from challenge to solution.

I am struck by the way these aspirations transcend the physical boundaries and mind sets of traditional learning:

  • Learning takes place during the school "year" (parts of ten months).

  • Teachers facilitate learning in the classroom during an allotted time on a "school day." This is supplemented with "home work," which is then returned to school during a school day, etc.

  • Only an exceptionally driven or socially dysfunctional individual would seek to learn as much on a snow day or school holiday. But "free time" could be enjoyably spent online with Facebook, YouTube, Skyping, etc.

I love the way that the Challenge Based Model blurs the distinction between instructional "lessons" and social media. I think many people all over the globe understand that information can be gathered, knowledge can be attained, and mastery achieved without resorting to traditional institutions. If only schools would more urgently grapple with this idea. If so, they might avoid the fate of going the way of the postal service and the daily newspaper-- features of American life that seemed so permanent and slid so quickly toward irrelevancy.

"Seattle Cloud Cover" Flick Creative Commons Photo by Jim Carson

Friday, August 14, 2009

Web Sites from Summer Camp

In my conversations with others at the ADE Summer Institute I learned about some interesting web sites.

*For those of you uncomfortable with YouTube for educational purposes, check out TeacherTube , One of my project teammates, David, is very active in developing video curriculum in Arizona. He heartily endorsed it. The goal of TeacherTube is to to provide an online community for sharing instructional videos in an educationally focused, safe venue for teachers, schools, and home learners.

*Kutiman produces the most amazing YouTube music videos that I have ever seen. They are intricate mashups of other videos...usually very amateur artists. The results are utterly fascinating. You can also check out his project at

*Animoto turns still photos into movies quickly and creates beautiful results. Lots of options, even at the free, basic level. Robert, an innovative elementary teacher showed me this one. It's amazing and could be of interest to anyone k-12 for classroom or personal purposes.

*My roommate, Joe is involved with the American Film Institute's Screen Nation, which features the best films and videos from young filmmakers on the web as well video tips and contests. 11-19 years olds can to Screen Nation. The site is of great interest to film teachers and students, and Best Buy has been sponsoring a cool 64 page download on basic film techniques.

*Brain Honey was another tip from elementary teachers. It creates curriculum mapping customized to state standards. Most interesting to me was the way that it could allow for individualized learning and intervention. A simple, free site for those consumed with making progress toward state objectives.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Just Ask!

In past blog posts I have argued strongly for steering students to Creative Commons and public domain sites. And as you have may have noticed, the educational materials that I create are similarly licensed.

Nevertheless, their are often times that we really need to, or at least want to, use copyrighted material. Some of this may well be covered by “Fair Use” for educators. But if I really want to lean on a copyright protected source, I’m guided by the principle of “Just ask!”

Back in January, I reflected on the the pleasure I had communicating with Flickr photographers about my memory book project for my dad. The Creative Commons could not satisfy the scope of my efforts, so I requested permissions. I would guess that 90% of the photographers (including professionals) responded, and all responses were affirmative. Often the permissions were accompanied by notes wishing me well with my book.

I have had 100% success getting permissions for jpeg use in classroom. For that matter, no one has ever refused a request for a photo to use with this blog. Usually, they are flattered, and often they read the blog after I’ve included the jpeg upload.

Teaching Materials
Teachers are rather notorious for poaching from each other. I am willing to share, but I would like attribution. After all, my ability to make such materials is part of my professional “brand.” Feeling strongly about this as I do, I avoid from lifting other teachers’ material. Not long ago, however, I came across some study questions that were just too good to pass up. I was researching Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho when I came across some discussion questions authored by Michael Dembert of Portland Community College. When I asked permission to use them, he graciously agreed. Similarly, Professor Troy Ellis Smith of BYU, Hawaii, helped me out with some excellent writing topics on Federalist 51 for my AP Government class. In both cases, I gave well deserved attribution.

Essays & Reviews
This summer I have been making movie resources for my Literature into Film class. Naturally, when I make an eight minute film on a film director, I need to do considerable research. In the case of Akira Kurosawa, I was fortunate to find a couple of terrific essays licensed to Creative Commons. But when I was researching Werner Herzog, I came across the perfect copyrighted essay in an Australian online magazine called Senses of Cinema. After a bit of digging I successfully contacted the author, David Church (currently a PhD student and instructor at Indiana University), and he graciously gave me permission to use his piece as the backbone of my movie narration. Similarly, Professor Patrick Crogan (University of the West of England, Bristol ) and James Berardinelli ( are allowing me to use their essays for current productions. Patrick expressed the wish to see my finished Seven Samurai movie when I put it on YouTube. James said I was free to use any or all of his review of Citizen Kane on the overview I am preparing on that film.

As I have implied these experiences have left me with a clear conscience and a real sense of collaboration. So, when you run into copyright, don’t steal or don’t run. Just ask!

"Just Ask! Hat and shirt" Flickr Creative Commons Photo by STANDANDLOU

Friday, August 7, 2009

Negativity, Rigor and Revolution

This and that. . . .

*I've written in this space before about the passive-aggressive ways that negative educators derail change, so what Sean Nash had to say on the subject, really resonated:

negativity used as a strategy to push back from the table (whether conscious or unconscious) in order to avoid change or conflict is a very toxic thing. Life is too short and too difficult as it is. Stirring up extra negativity in such a challenging career field is more than a waste of time.


*Based on conversations Tony Wagner had with "several hundred business, nonprofit, philanthropic, and education leaders," he new criteria for defining rigor in our schools:

1. Critical Thinking and Problem Solving

2. Collaboration and Leadership

3. Agility and Adaptability

4. Initiative and Entrepreneurialism

5. Effective Oral and Written Communication

6. Accessing and Analyzing Information

7. Curiosity and Imagination


* Fred Wilson argues for "hacking education", calling for a "revolution of the ants." Powerful interests are dedicated to maintain the status quo, but Wilson convincingly argues that the old is successfully being subverted by the new:

The existing large institutions in the world of education are the public and private schools, the colleges and universities, the testing institutions that inform them, and the unions and political system that support them. I want to help take all of them down and build something better in its place. . . .

The tools to do this are right in front of us; peer production, collaboration, social networking, web video, voip, open source, even game play. I think we can look at what has happened to the big media institutions over the past ten years as a guide to how to do this. We will use a "revolution of the ants" to take down our education institutions and replace them with something better. We all have to start participating and engaging in educating each other. . . .

As always, comments are welcome!


"Negative energy" Flickr Creative Commons Photo by darkwood67

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Child is Father to the Man (ADE Institute Reflection #3)

From what I can see, the best scientists and engineers nurture a child-like mind. They are playful, open minded and unrestrained by the inner voice of reason, collective cynicism, or fear of failure. -- Steve Jurvetson

During the ADE Summer Institute I sometimes took very brief notes. Looking over these, I spotted "finding the inner child", certainly not a phrase original the session or the speaker. What is more, I can't remember the context. Was it about connecting learners with the "inner child"? I don't think so. If I had to bet, I think it had something to do with the "personal branding" activities we experienced. I believe we were being urged to connect with something deep and authentic within ourselves.

Regardless, I did have a realization about a desire deeply rooted in my younger self. I was trying to express why-- after 0ver thirty years of teaching high school-- I suddenly felt a strong urge to make ed tech presentations to adults. Examining this urge more closely I remembered that when I was young, I loved organizing activities for the kids in the neighborhood-- my peers. I set up little carnivals. I organized whiffle ball tournaments. I kept detailed statistics on our dice baseball card games. Once I got hold of a stop watch and recorded times of everyone's dash around the block. I enjoyed figuring out these systems, organizing the plan, and being in charge.
I still do! As I write, I have three presentations coming up in the Fall. I'm already up to my elbows in the plans. I'm not doing this because I am anxious and neurotic-- I truly enjoy the projects. I'm as happy as I was back when I had that stop watch in my hands.

The personal branding exercises culminated in a one minute video that was shot in a studio at Full Sail University. We authored our own one minute scripts. Mine ended with the statement, "I'm lucky to be teaching at a time when technology provides so many dynamic possibilities." For someone like me who loves to design plans and orchestrate, it seems like I get to stay out in the yard, playing with my friends.


"Child's Eyes" Flickr Creative Commons Photo by Joe Lencioni

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