The Video Project – A learning leap

The video project – where do I begin? I have experimented with digital story telling before, but this was different – I was creating an iMovie to use as an exemplar with my students, so I was going through all the steps they would be going through. The task was to select a children’s right and select a country where children may not always have this right, then find data and information to explain who isn’t getting this right and why and what could be done about it. Finally students would be expected to create an iMovie communicating this information. Perhaps for once I’ll use bullet points.


Things I learned in creating my video:


  • It’s harder than you think to interview someone on video.
  • Think carefully about how your video extracts might fit into your movie and tailor your questions accordingly.

(As you can see I have no video extracts – I did interview someone but discovered too late that the questions asked just didn’t fit with my task)

  • Create your script first.
  • Compfight does have a good range of pictures – but it’s time consuming to select them. Put them in a folder and label them in some way.
  • It’s OK to dwell on a photograph for a while and use photos again
  • Keep a record of who took each photo – you need to credit each picture that’s not yours.
  • Record your voice-over in short sections – that way you’re less likely to make a mistake.
  • Talking slowly and clearly takes time – so don’t try to say too much
  • Try to vary your voice tone to avoid sounding boring – don’t think I always managed this!
  • It’s easy to record a video playing on your screen – this is the ‘how to’ video that told me how to do this:
  • The whole process is hugely time consuming and addictive.
  • It’s never going to be quite right – at some point you have to decide it’s ‘good enough’.

I’m still not sure what to do about music. I’d like my students to upload their final products on to sites that will reach a wider audience, so I’m not sure if they can use well known tracks. I used music composed and played by my son as a way of getting around this, but I’d be grateful for any advice.

I’m also wondering if ‘the juice is worth the squeeze’. Hopefully my experiences and the students own knowledge will help them create their videos in less time, but I will definitely be giving students other options.

YouTube Preview Image


Just Google It!

I’ve learned a lot creating these two media projects – I’m only hoping I remember it! But one of the main things I’ve learned, which hopefully I won’t forget, is that if I don’t know how to do something, – I can always Google it. I’ve discovered the power of the 3 minute You Tube ‘instructional video’, usually deliver by someone who sounds about twelve – but within my capabilities to follow!


With the slideshow project I decided to create a Google Doc presentation, as I hadn’t used this format before. It was quite intuitive and I’d certainly use it again. My students had been studying stereotypes in the media and in groups they’d created their own video compilations showing how advertising, TV and film can perpetuated certain stereotypes. Moving on from this I wanted students to realize that the media can actually be a way of challenging stereotypes, so I started to look for advertisements that did this. They were surprisingly hard to find. I created a short slideshow demonstrating this and asking the students which stereotypes were being challenged. I did wonder about the issue of copy right, but ended up assuming that an advertisement is put out there in the public domain, so I didn’t think advertisers would be protective of their images – I assume they want people to see them. It became more complex as some advertisements seemed to both reinforce and challenge stereotypes. I finished with the viral clip of Susan Boyle on Britain’s Got Talent. It’s not an advertisement, but the aha moment you see on people’s faces as they realize they are guilty of prejudging a middle aged, dowdy looking woman, is priceless.

Challenging Stereotypes in Advertising

In order to create the slideshow, the new skills I learned were how to use Google Docs presentations, but also how to capture video from You Tube, and once I’d edited the clip, how to create a You Tube account and embed my video in the slideshow. I was also trying to use the Zen principles, so I limited my words and tried to think more about the positioning of the images on the slide, the fonts and the colors used.


Now I’m off to google ‘how to embed a Google presentation in a blog’. I’ll talk about my video presentation in another blog – I wouldn’t want to overload my reader!


Infographics – Statistics made Simple

Some rights reserved by tripu

The world of infographics is new to me and offers up so many possibilities; in fact I didn’t know I could still get this excited about a new teaching tool.  A parent had introduced me to Hans Rosling’s great talk on population, using gapminder a couple of years ago. She worked for UNICEF and knew we were looking at causes of poverty in out 8th grade global studies class. Hans Rosling talks about Population using Gapminder.

It was only during this course however that I realized that Gapminder could be used to show many different trends. In terms of our 8th grade global issues course the possibilities seem almost endless. The unit I’m about to teach is not about poverty, but about children’s rights. Once students have been introduced to the concept of rights, the history on the UN convention and the rights themselves I think I’ll introduce the Gapminder site.  At times children’s rights and global issues in general can be a depressing subject, but I think Rosling’s talk on the last 200 years is a quick way to show that actually our lives have improved a lot over the past years.Hans Rosling’s 200 Countries, 200 Years, 4 Minutes – The Joy of Stats – BBC Four . I’d also like to show the students Rosling’s talk on population, because I think it makes so many interesting points and shows how data can be used to make points very effectively. After each short video I’d like to discuss:

What’s the overall message being conveyed?

How is the message being conveyed?

Why is the moving visual so effective?

I’ll then introduce the students to the Gapminder site and show them how it works. In pairs, students can decide on 3 different sets of variables they’d like to compare. Having created their graphs I’ll ask each pair to talk us through, or show us, their most interesting one. This sharing should include where the data came from and what trend it seems to show.

In small groups the students will them brainstorm data they could use from Gapminder, which could help them in their study of children’s rights. I’ll then show them how they can easily capture video showing this data and explain that this could be useful later when they complete their summative assessment – more on this in my next blog, when I’ll explain the assessment in detail.

I’d then like to show the students a different infographic. I think this one created by  Srijan Tamrakar for BuildOn – why investing in global education is important, works well. The task will then be for groups to create an infographic conveying data related to one of the children’s rights. Homework will be for each member of the group to find some valid statistics that relate to the right. Thy may use gapminder to do this, but they can also use other sites. They need to be aware of where the data comes from and how old it is. Once members of the group meet again, they’ll decide what visuals will best show their information. To be honest I don’t want them to get too bogged down in creating the visual itself, so we might leave this at the rough draft stage. The data will help them prepare for their summative assessment where they’ll need reliable information to support the points they’ll be making about upholding a specific children’s right in a country of their choice.

I’m still thinking how can I can introduce the students to this last infographic about the best and worse places to be a child, as I think it makes thought provoking reading. The Best Place to be a Child I’m wondering if there’s a similar graphic which includes G20 countries or Asian countries. Does anyone know?



How Can I use Digital Story Telling in the Classroom?


For me the message about digital storytelling is as much about the storytelling as about technology. It reminded me of my secondary school history teacher, Mr. Sowerby, who, over the course of five years told my class stories, starting with the Roman invasion of Britania, through Henry’s six wives

Some rights reserved by aldisley

and on to the Second World war. Years later, as a relatively new teacher, I wrote to him to tell him how important those stories were in making history come alive to me. So for me these readings were a great reminder of the power of the story. I’m always surprised at how attentively students listen to my short personal tales when we’re doing our Memoir unit in English, and how much they remember of these stories over the year. So firstly I’d like to use more stories in my classroom. In English the students create their own stories when they write a personal memoir, but as the emphasis is on improving their writing skills I’m not sure this is actually the best place to create digital stories.

I’d heard the term digital story telling bandied around but hadn’t really been aware of what was involved. Now I know, I realize that, in its broadest terms I’ve been doing it for years, whether it’s combining photos, video, text and music to tell the story of a great holiday or my son’s soccer season. My most recent foray into digital story telling was when I attended a local schools’ sports event. I thought our school should know more about it, so I created a short video, accompanied by text and music to try and capture the essence of the event, and sent the link to our administrative team.  In the classroom I’ve suggested students create iMovies about topics we’ve studied in Social Studies. As we look at contemporary global issues they lend themselves well to visual story telling, whether it’s an iMovie about a children’s right or an on-going conflict. The students can research, write a script and select images or video that illustrates their text. Thanks to course two I now know more about copy write and creative commons, so student work can now reach a wider audience as it can be legally posted on websites like Youtube. For my video project I aim to create my own iMovie in this way. I think by going through the process myself I’ll be able to offer clearer advice to my students. I’ll also suggest to our librarian that just as we have a list of good sites for research listed on our library web page, we should also list creative commons image sites.

On a side note, music is something that hasn’t been talked about much, yet I find it can be a very effective means of communicating because of the emotions, messages and moods created by popular songs. The students and I find it hard to give up these ‘touchstone tracks’ in favor of unknown music or music we can create ourselves.  I don’t know if anyone has an answer to this.

Back to the digital story telling – Teachers have known for years the power of a good video that tells an effective story, and now I see there are lots of Youtube, Teacher Tube etc. sites that can provide relevant information in an engaging way. Hans Rosling has a wonderful way of taking statistics and turning them into stories, which can be found on the gapminder site mentioned in session 5. It does however take time to sift through all these resources to find the ‘good stuff’.  I’d love someone to create a ‘Top 5’ site, where a collection of only the very best educational videos and sites could be stored. Like most teachers I don’t always have the time to sort through the multitude or resources currently available. Is anyone interested?





Using images to teach about stereotyping

I imagine the use of images could enhance just about every aspect of learning, but one has to start somewhere. At the moment in social studies my 8th grade students are learning about stereotyping.  The media reinforces many stereotypes, either in the form of films and TV or static images such as those in magazine advertising. My initial aim was to find images on Compfight that illustrated stereotypes. Surprisingly these were quite difficult to find. One image I did find and choose to use was this bathroom sign.


Some rights reserved by Mobelgrad

As a class we’d been discussing typical stereotypes. I then started by eliciting typical school stereotypes; so nerds, jocks and populars, were the basic types, although the students had a wider variety of labels for these categories. The students moved around the class to various sheets of butcher paper and wrote down adjectives to describe these groups. There was a fair amount of discussion along the lines of, “You can’t say that because not all ‘populars’ are rich.” The students quickly picked up on the fact that most descriptors were negative, often offensive, and didn’t ‘fit’ everyone in the group. We then moved on to ethnic stereotypes. In an international school this is both relatively easy to reference but also rather sensitive.  The students did a similar exercise with butcher paper and fortunately the descriptors were a little more positive, but again they could see that they didn’t fit everyone. A classic discussion was along the lines of “You can’t say Arabs are rich. I’ve lived in …… and there were lots of poor people.”


I then said there was a type of stereotyping they hadn’t considered yet and showed the class the bathroom image. Gender stereotyping seemed to have passed the students by. This may be because they’re in a socioeconomic group where some women do have positions of status. At the same time however, most of their highly educate mothers are not working. Neither however are they doing housework, as in Jakarta everyone employs maids for domestic work. We discussed the message put forward by the image and then moved on to a short compilation, found on Youtube, of advertisements showing women doing housework. As mentioned, this is probably not something the students’ parents do. I talked about how if this was all you ever saw on the TV then you might think that this was your only role as a woman. I was careful to mention that there was nothing wrong with housework, but that if this was the only role you saw for yourself it would be rather limiting. As most of the girls in the class aim to work in a profession, they may have felt this didn’t have much to do with them.

I moved on to talk about our stereotypical view of beauty and showed them the trailer for “Killing us softly”. This did seem to be very relevant to the students.  The boys were able to tell me that ‘photo shopping’ is now also common for men’s images. We continued to discuss stereotyping and student groups later researched a stereotype of their choice and created short compilations(mashups) demonstrating how this stereotype was reinforced in the media. More on this later.


The Real Point of PowerPoints

I don’t actually create many PowerPoint presentations, mainly because they tend to go hand-in-hand with public speaking, and like the majority of the world, that’s something I try to avoid.  Each year however I create a presentation for ‘Open House’, where each teacher presents themselves and their curriculum to the parents of their students, in scheduled time slots, that over the years have varied from 40 minutes to 4 minutes. I don’t think I’m alone in finding presenting to a class of parents a very different beast to teaching a class of students.

 I’ve been doing this so long that I remember the pitfalls of overhead projectors –

Some rights reserved by cdsessums

discovering that the writing on the acetate sheet was so small no one could read it anyway, or finding you couldn’t project all of the carefully color-coded timetable at one time. In my early days of teaching the benefit of the OHP however, was that the audience was looking at the screen rather than the speaker, and this was often the main purpose – forget the message being delivered – just stop the audience looking at me! I notice none of the video clips or articles we were asked to read  mentioned this basic purpose of visual presentations!

So PowerPoint presentations are definitely a step up from the old OHP and of course with maturity the thought of a presentation is no longer quite as stomach churning. When I look at my most recent Open House PP I can see some strengths and some weaknesses. I tend to include photographs – my family, where I’m from, the students in the class engaged in typical activities. I think this does create some sense of a story and makes what goes on in, for example, reading workshop clear to parents. However every photograph I use has the subject firmly in the middle of the shot and every photograph is placed firmly in the center of the screen – unless I’ve included 4 photographs – one in each corner! The rule of thirds is obviously a new one to me, and something I’ll have to try.

Somewhere in the past someone told me that slides should not have many words on them so in general I stick to that. I’ve seen too many presentations where presenters have stood sideways and just read out exactly what was written on the slide. However I notice that towards the end of my presentation I’ve one slide that encompasses grading policy, homework policy, how parents can help their children and my email address – all bullet pointed of course. I can see now that dividing up each topic, finding a suitable visual and limiting the wording would be more effective.  Giving a handout with some of this information might also be a better alternative.

I do tend to keep things simple, as I know how distracting I find the ‘bells and whistles PowerPoint’, but going back to an earlier week’s suggestions I could spend more time choosing an effective font and layout.


How to Pimp Your Post

Top 6 changes to my blog

1. Short Paragraphs – I tend to go for big chunky paragraphs

2. Pared down information – no meandering

3. Bold phrases for emphasis

4. Hyper links – for those readers who want to know more.

5. Small thumbnails to emphasize points

6. Lists

..and why I’m not going to follow my own advice

Actually the above list is what I’d do if the purpose of my blog was to present easily accessible information. These changes would help readers hunt the information they needed quickly. However I’m not sure that is the purpose of my blog. Am I the expert, who, having read and synthesized a number or articles, aims to condense their messages into easy to read paragraphs? I don’t think so. I see this is a very useful aspect of the Internet, but this particular blog, which contains my opinions regarding topics I’m just learning about, is hardly that.  It really is my, possibly whimsical, thinking about new and not so new ideas I’ve been reading about. So how could I change it?

As it is a personal blog I guess I should make it more personal – with a picture and some information about me. I should actually adopt some of Michael Agger’s suggestions, with some bold headings, more pictures, lists where appropriate and an easy-on-the-eye font. I should also change the name, which my sons tell me is very lame.

When I’m presenting information to students in handouts, then I can see that my top 6 list would certainly help them get to grips with the content presented more easily.

Course 2 Final Project AUP

Seth Blodgett and I decided to work together to create an AUP as we thought our middle schools at ASIJ and JIS,  were probably quite similar – big, established, international schools with big budgets, embarking on 1-1 programs with Mac computers. There were however differences – bandwidth is an issue in Jakarta, but not in Tokyo. In Jakarta the school owns the computers and the students are borrowing them, while in Tokyo the students are expected to provide their own computers. This means that at JIS we have more control over the machines and more to lose if they’re damaged or broken.  We decided to create an APU for a school where the students provided their own computers and bandwidth was not an issue, on the grounds that it would be relatively easy to add additional items for a school that owned their computers and in fact JIS does have a fairly detailed AUP to address these issues already. In fact both schools already had an APU tailored to their particular needs. So our first task was to look at the two policies and basically critique them, asking which statements worked for both schools, which we felt were effective and what needed to be added. We used a Google Doc to share our thoughts on both policies.  We had a Skype conversation to decided on a few round rules – we wanted something that was brief and to the point, clear, practical, realistic and positive -not a list of ‘thou shalt nots’. It needed to keep our students safe and within the law, but allow them to be creative. We aimed to make reference to the various issues focused on in this course, for example, cyber-bullying, copy-right infringement and digital footprints, trying to create easy to understand and follow policies. I imagine this being placed in a student, parent handbook or its on-line equivalent.  I’d like to say a big thank you to Seth for getting the ball rolling and taking the lead in completing the project.

Golden rules and cassocked monks


I’ve just spent 5 days disconnected from the Internet at the wonderful Telunas Beach Resort in the Riau Islands. I was with 40 great 8th grade kids, all computer-less and mobile phone-less, and it was heart-warming to see them enthusiastically making face to face connections and building friendships. Would these bonds have developed as readily if technology had been there as a distraction? I really don’t think so.  But now I’m back in the real, computer inspired world, and I can reflect on what I missed most without that Internet connection.
My number one use of the Internet would have to be to connect to distant friends and family. I remember the decision to organize an Internet connection in the first place was when good friends left Jakarta in 1998 and we wanted to stay in touch. Now the miracle of Skype allows me to feel closer to my son at university and my aging parents, who thankfully have willing embrace this new technology – I wonder how many grandmothers have taken that technological leap in order to stay in touch? My experience is that it’s the women in families who are embracing Internet technology – they may not know how to operate the increasingly complex TV remotes, but they’ll know how to connect with family around the world!  Skype – the ability to see and hear people in real time on the other side of the globe – for free – goes down in my book as possibly the best use of the internet and allows me to feel more connected to my family than at any time in the last 25 years.
It’s only recently I’ve turned to the computer for entertainment, finally figuring out how to access UK iTunes to purchase music and TV programs.  I’ve yet to purchase an i-pad and experiment with Apps – I will, but there’s something about rushing out to buy the latest technology just because I want it, that runs counter to my upbringing – I have to be able to justify it first – I’m on my way to doing that.

As a reference tool I think we sometimes forget how amazing the Internet is. I remember when the information you could access was dependent on how close you lived to a decent library and even then the choice of reference books was limited. As a student in the early 80s I’d go to the University library, one of the best in the country, to look up articles on micro-filch, and again the choice was limited. The problem now is too much choice and how to filter it. Now, whether it’s what to do with jellyfish stings or finding a phone number or a map – it’s all there.  I love using the Internet to plan holidays; booking flights, hotels, guides, car hire – it’s all at your fingertips – although I do still find it useful to have a guide book by my side as condensed an impartial expert reference.

Although I was aware of hyperlinks in my reading on the Internet and have occasionally jumped into that rabbit hole, I tend to read with a purpose in mind and with time constraints, so my digressions have been minor. Until a few weeks ago I’d never made a hyperlink or thought about doing so, but having been introduced to the idea I can certainly see their use. Not only can you give credit to a source, you can direct your reader straight to it, which seems like a real service to your reader.

I’d like to teach my students how to write using hyperlinks, but I need to figure out a few things first, for example, do hyperlinks make bibliographies obsolete? Easy-bib has made creating bibliographies much easier, but if you’ve referenced all the material you’ve used does a bibliography matter? I’m sure my students would love it if they were no longer required. To me hyper-linking seems preferable to the Curator’s Code – the name alone has me imagining cassocked monks sitting at computer screens checking whether you’ve tipped your hat rather than ‘via-ed’. Even the Unicode symbols themselves seem like some strange ancient code to be deciphered. I’d never heard of these terms, let alone the

Unicode characters, before and their use does seem rather cumbersome, both the symbols and deciding which one to use.

We’ve watched some interesting TED talks about creatively borrowing and reusing original works and we’ve read some interesting articles about making sure one credits others’ work. Are these opposing arguments or just two sides of the same coin? Personally I think this is another situation where the old golden rule applies. No one is suggesting, not in these articles anyway, that passing off someone else’s work as your own is appropriate. I think we can agree that we should credit other people’s work, but be able to creatively use it for means other than profit. Ideas are harder to deal with. What if I had an idea but had never shared it publicly, then I read someone’s work and saw they had the same idea – does the idea become theirs because they put it in print?  if I have a great idea for reducing the amount of plastic in the world – but I don’t have the finance or interest to make money out of it, surely I’d want to share this with others. Should drug companies be sharing research for the common good, or will research grind to a halt if companies realize they won’t be able to make a killing with an exclusive patented super-drug? ‘The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks’ by Rebecca Skoot  – brings some more of these medical related ethical issues into focus. The more you dig into these issues the harder it becomes to resolve them, and yet – treating others as you’d expect to be treated would go a long way – perhaps after all we do need one cassocked monk sitting at a computer dispensing justice!

Some rights reserved by Lawrence OP


Does Facebook encourage or discourage bullying?

Some rights reserved by Chesi - Fotos CC

So what social skills should we be teaching with regard to the Internet and who should be teaching them? To me, mean, disrespectful behavior on-line is similar to mean, disrespectful behavior off-line, and I’d agree with Dana Boyd in her article for the Washington Post, that labeling this behavior as bullying doesn’t necessarily help to deal with the issue.  People may not see themselves as bullies, even when they’re aware that their behavior might, intentionally or unintentionally, upset others. Whether we worry about labeling this behavior or not, I’d also agree wit Dana that, ‘Empathy, not technology, is the core of the problem and the solution’. So the question for me becomes, where do issues regarding disrespectful behavior generally ‘fit’ in the curriculum?

My students saw cyber-bullying slightly differently. They thought there were differences between the cyber world and face-to -face interactions. They believed that you were more likely to say unpleasant things on the Internet, partly because the person couldn’t retaliate by hitting you(!) and partly because  you couldn’t see the reaction of the person receiving the insult/joke, so you were less likely to empathize with the victim. These seemed like two good reasons why there might be bullying on-line and why it should be addressed.  Other students pointed out that if you bully on-line it can be quite public, and if students are educated to intervene in these situations, rather than being bystanders, then bullying on-line might be nipped in the bud. This seemed like another good reason for teaching students to recognize and intervene in cases of disrespectful behavior.

But do classes in how to treat people really work? Can empathy be taught in discreet lessons?  Is putting yourself in other people’s shoes best tackled in English, where literature can help us empathize with characters, or would Social Studies, where we address issues related to stereotyping and resolving conflict be a good starting place? This year we had cyber-bullying discussions written into our advisory program. Our advisory structure has 10 students meeting with a teacher they’ve chosen and who they’ve built up a relationship with over the year. However, discussions once a week for half an hour can sometimes feel rather contrived, so perhaps Health, an every-other-day semester-long class, where teachers discuss other mental health issues, as well as peer pressure and relationships, might be a more comfortable environment in which to discuss the issues. I decided to ask my students where they felt it fitted best. As far as my students were concerned bullying/disrespect should either be addressed in Advisory, where they felt that small groups enabled greater participation in discussions, or Health, because they felt that bullying could affect ones mental health. I also think that the atmosphere created in a Health class, where students have to feel comfortable talking about a range of issues, might be another reason why students felt that this was an appropriate place to discuss these issues.

Common Sense Media has some great ideas for addressing most aspects of citizenship and the Internet. As a teacher of 8th graders I think I’d have to go for the activities aimed at older students (9-12 grade) as the work aimed at grades 6-8 seemed rather young in its language and lay-out, particularly the rather twee drawings. I was a little surprised that such a technology-focused topic would be so dated in its layout and graphics.  These lesson plans could however be adapted and used as a basis to address the topic.

Finally, I think it’s all of our jobs to model appropriate behavior and use teachable moments when they occur. It’s easy to shy away from getting involved because we have a curriculum to cover or we’re worried that the students involved need to be protected, but usually students know about the issue anyway and, depending on the sensitivity of the issue, might welcome the opportunity to discuss it in a safe environment.

Some rights reserved by Chesi – Fotos CC