Friday, October 31, 2008

Fun on Friday #7: Maths, Grammar and YouTube

I feel a bit of a cheat posting this as my Fun on Friday. I talk to my students about the importance of respecting copyright but here I am posting some YouTube videos that (I suspect) don't belong to the people who posted them. My excuse? They are funny and it is nearly midnight and I'm too tired to come up with anything else. {In the passing, can I say, I'm open to suggestions for future Fun on Friday postings!}

This post came about because a student in one of my classes invited his fellow students to post YouTube clips from their favourite movies. I decided to play too, so I had a think and came up with two black and white comedies and a cult sci-fi classic. (I suspect this says something about me. Feel free to offer psychological analysis.) For the record, the clips were from a Marx Brothers film, a Laurel and Hardy film and a very early John Carpenter film.

To salve my concious, the clip I'm featuring here is at least vaguely educational:

In general, I don't really like Abbott and Costello, but this clip could be used in a number of ways. You could use this clip in Maths, to teach place values, multiplication and division. In English, you can teach about the importance of commas:
Abbott: Didn't you go to school, stupid?
Costello: Yeah. And I came out the same way.
And of course, the exchange above should be the topic of an EdD thesis. :-)

What educational film clips can you suggest?

P.S. I found the Abbott and Costello clip via one that a student posted on his blog. He starts his first teaching placement on Monday and created this blog to use with pupils: Mr Schafer's Maths Lessons. I'm looking forward to seeing how it develops

P.P.S. There's good Computing and Philosophy stuff in the Carpenter clip.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Ask Twitter 2: Information Overload

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a question I was asked and included some of the replies I got to the question when I shared it with my Twitter contacts (Ask Twitter: Mobile phones in education).

Information Overload
Originally uploaded by Monster.
Another question sent by text was: "Do you think the 'c' generation are at risk from communication overload?".

My response was:
I think we're all at risk... but as I said in the lecture, it is a risk we can't avoid. The children in school today have never known a time without the World Wide Web. The amount of information created every year is growing exponentially. That's the world they live in. The questions is therefore not "Are they at risk from information overload?" but rather, "How do we help them thrive in an information rich environment?" There are at least three responses: 1) Head in the sand 2) Headless chicken 3) Education I know which one I favour. :-)

A student added the following to my answer:

Perhaps the most important thing we can teach is how to apply sensible mental filters to the abundance of information out there. For instance, which sources are more likely to be reliable than others.

I thought I'd try Twitter again to get a wider range of views. Again, my comments and additions are shown in curly brakets.

derekrobertson @daviddmuir if the pseudo science brain people are correct they are only using 25% of their brains at the minute so plenty of capacity left!
{I suspect Derek was not being entirely serious. :-)}

islayian @davidDmuir According to Gardner in 5 minds for the future. Synthisizing is one of the most imortant skills we must develop 2:00 PM Oct 23rd

lynnehorn @DavidDMuir I'd like them to learn how to use all the communication things they have to learn as well as socialise 2:10 PM Oct 23rd

lynnehorn @DavidDMuir I think they need to know how to share that information appropriately in good ways,just started wikis to try and get them to 2:14 PM Oct 23rd
{Ah! The perils of the text limit in Twitter!}
lynnehorn @DavidDMuir to collaborate on homework tasks. 2:14 PM Oct 23rd

parslad @DavidDMuir To function efficiently in free market, one needs to expose oneself to the risk of overload, or pay someone to sift for them! 2:35 PM Oct 23rd

joecar @DavidDMuir easy to say yes but actually all this new info comes with filters bloglines google reader and you can still switch off

blethers @DavidDMuir ..Only if they succumb. Moderation in all things... And maybe it's part of education to make sure they handle it? 3:09 PM Oct 23rd

JConnell @DavidDMuir sorry David - got too many RSS feeds to read to be able to answer you ;-) 4:54 PM Oct 23rd
{It took me a while to get this... then I laughed out loud. Own up... how long did it take you?}
JConnell @ DavidDMuir ... seriously tho - teaching kids to filter intelligently is a massive issue 4:58 PM Oct 23rd

So, that's my reply and thoughts from Twitter. What do you think?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Fun on Friday #6: I want to tell you a story

Two fun story telling links this week.

The first is a great invention from CogDogBlog - a Five Card Story site. A great idea for getting the creative juices going. The idea is simple, first, choose an image from five randomly presented photographs. After the first image is chosen, another five images are presented and you choose the next image. This is repeated until you have chosen five picture. Then, you write a story inspired by the five images. Simple and fun!

Here's one we wrote during a lecture where the students chose the images and suggested the story as we went along:

Click on the photo to go to the story page. I also had a couple of goes myself: If you want to get ahead... and Generation C.

One final neat feature is, if you tag a Flickr photo with 5cardflickr, it will be added to the pool of photos the five card story site draws from. Excellent!

The second story site was brought to my attention by Mr W. It is the National Novel Writing Month website. Again, a simple idea - write a novel in a month - but a difficult task. I'm not sure I'd cope with writing a novel in a year, never mind a month, but there are some fun ideas to inspire young writers. Like Neil, I especially like the Dare Machine.

So, have some fun writing something... And don't forget to share the results here. :-)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

School Rules

Last week I posted a discussion based around a question I'd been asked by a student: Ask Twitter: Mobile phones in education. I found the discussion both helpful and interesting. I was even vaguely hopeful about the possibilities for educational uses of mobile phones in school.

However a discussion this week with students brought me back to earth with a bump! We were talking about classroom management and the importance of establishing rules, so we talked about how well different rules had been enforced in their placement schools. It was not uncommon (in fact more or less universal) to have a no phone rule. However, one girl said that if a child was caught with a mobile phone, they were to be sent straight to the head teacher... will I say that again? To the head teacher... straight away... no messing about with warnings etc. (And I think I heard her right - it was just "caught with" not necessarily "using".)

Oh dear!

I understand that mobiles can be disruptive. I understand that they can be used for particularly nasty forms of bullying. I understand that there can be child protection issues. But is this really an appropriate or proportionate response? As a pupil I used to have a tin pencil box (from Helix) in my bag with various maths tools in it, including a set of compasses... With a very sharp point... A very dangerous sharp point... Significantly more dangerous (I would argue) than a mobile phone. I guess now, children are not allowed such dangerous objects but if a pupil was found to be carrying one, would he or she be sent to the head teacher? I suspect not.

I wonder what other offences result in you being sent straight to the head teacher? If you are caught with a knife, a gun, a weapon of mass destruction... or a mobile phone?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Edublogs bookclub: First questions... at last

I announced the Edublogs book club about two months ago and then had a worry about which book to read about a month later. No definitive book was picked but it is well past time to try and start a discussion. In the end, I've gone for Homo Zappiens - mainly because I've been too busy to start We Think: The Power of Mass Creativity. :-) I hope someone else has at least started this book, otherwise it's going to be a bit lonely here in the Edublogs book club.

193/366 Some light reading
Originally uploaded by
So, a couple of general observations first and then a some questions to (hopefully) get us started.

I have to say I was a bit disappointed with this book as it wasn't as good as I hoped. Some good quotes and some interesting ideas but at times it wasn't convincing... or at least, I wasn't convinced.

With that out the way, lets try a few questions to get us started. Feel free to tackle one, all or none of these questions. If you want to answer your own questions either here on on your own blog, feel free to do that too.
  1. Is there something deeply ironic in producing a book about homo zapiens? Google have a large(ish) preview of the book available in Google Books - would an electronic format make more sense than paper?
  2. There is supposed to be a website associated with the book but at time of writing it is off line. The message on the site says: "This site has been taken offline due to the busy time-schedule of the authors and their consequent inability to properly maintain this site". How disappointed were you about the missing site? Should the book be able to standalone without a website?
  3. How convinced were you by the statements in the author's acknowledgements that: "Silently, this generation has adopted technology and has developed new strategies for living and for learning. And those strategies differ so much from former generations that a complete new actor is marching into the arena of educational change." (p. 5)?
There you are, three questions to kick us off. More questions could follow if there is enough (any!) interest.

It's over to you.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Fun on Friday #6: Post-its

I have come across creative uses of post-it notes before but this one takes the biscuit. It comes from the EepyBird people who did the Coke and Mentos thing a while back. (I wrote about it in Serious science experiment and Back Garden Experiment.) Watch the video below to see what they have done with post-it notes. (Or sticky notes as they seem to be obliged to all them - no sponsorship from 3M obviously!)

Brilliant! I love the way that once again, they have taken a sideways look at something that other people may have already noticed ("Hmm, these post-it notes behave a bit like a slinky!") and then taken it to the extreme!

Anything here you could do with a class? The sidewriting looks do-able and they are inviting people to post the results of their experiments. Have fun and let me know if you have a go.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Ask Twitter: Mobile phones in education

I'm still getting my head round Twitter. On Twitter, the insignificant and the indispensable collide - sometimes in the same tweet. That's part of the reason I remain unsure about Twitter. I said recently that I was unconvinced about Twitter's value as a CPD tool but other Twitter users challenged me on this. So rather than just use Twitter for the insignificant I thought I would try something that was at least educationally interesting. :-)

Noo Possession
Originally uploaded by Saad.Akhtar
A student sent me a text with a question. I answered it but wondered if my Twitter contacts could hep me expand or develop my answer. The context was a session I delivered to PGDE(S) students on using mobile phones/technology in the classroom. (Started sort of the same as my SLF spot but went to broader issues than just gaming.) I invited the students to text questions and comments during the session and responded to some as I went along. However, I thought some questions deserved a more considered response.

One such question was:
Do u think it is right to use individual students mobile computing equipment in a comprehensive education system?
My response:
This is a good question and it is certainly something that should be considered carefully and checked with your Principle Teacher (at least) before you do anything that will cost pupils/parents money.

I would defend it on a couple of grounds:

1) We already use equipment provided by parents/pupils on a daily basis. At a trivial level - pens and pencils for example. However,a as a parent I know I also contribute directly in other ways. For example, a charge is made for ingredients in Home Economics, I pay for music lessons and supply PE kit. I don't in principle therefore have a problem with the concept.

2) The pupils have this kit already - I'm not suggesting they buy something new.

3) I suspect that a good few are on contracts with free minutes and free texts so it may not even cost them to send a text. (I'd be interested in an unscientific poll of your classes when you get back to school to see if this is correct.) Besides, there are ways of using their mobiles that don't cost anything. For example, I didn't have time to talk about Bluetooth.

However, it is something we need to think carefully about and I'd be interested in other opinions.
So, I asked for some other opinions from Twitter and my comments in {curly brackets} are copied below:

blethers @DavidDMuir ..did the questioner mean because they'd have to pay for some education? Perish the thought! 01:29 PM October 13, 2008

blethers @DavidDMuir ..I went to a school where you had to buy all your books. I don't have a problem - do the students?? 02:52 PM October 13, 2008

{I think Mrs Blethers is saying the same kind of thing I did - education is valuable and some costs have always been associated with learning and teaching even in the comprehensive system. As long as we make sure nobody misses out due to lack of funds, I too have no problem.}

jayerichards @DavidDMuir I think it would be very wrong not to use them - lets be creatively subversive in our classrooms ! 01:48 PM October 13, 2008

jayerichards @DavidDMuir that s of course, providing you don't use up all their credit! but for bluetooth, photo/video/ podcasting etc that's good.. 01:50 PM October 13, 2008

{Worth noting that I didn't share my response on Twitter, but Jaye has picked up another of my points - there are ways of using mobiles in class that don't cost anything (assuming you already have the equipment). Also, I liked her call to be "creatively subversive"!}

goodonskis @DavidDMuir It's okay, in my view, as long as we are not increasing inequalities amongst pupils 02:04 PM October 13, 2008

{An important point. In the same way that I made pencils available in my class for those that didn't have one, do we need to make mobiles available?}

parslad @DavidDMuir At Education Unbound in London last week, I said that comprehensive education may work against this kind of personalisation 02:53 PM October 13, 2008

parslad @DavidDMuir I mentioned: comprehensive ed, unchanging pedagogy, OECD-obsession, 'blocking', and 35-hour CPD as limits on personalisation 10:08 PM October 13, 2008

{Still not sure I understand this point. Is it that there are all sorts of structural problems that have to be overcome before mobile phones can be used effectively in schools and within the current system, those problems may never be overcome. And talking of structural issues...}

tarannau20 @DavidDMuir Yes, if the student wants 2 and is willing 2 take onboard skools security policies etc. I wonder whether teachers would like it? 09:57 PM October 13, 2008

{Two good points: 1) should it be compulsory or do we have to offer alternative way of doing it for some? 2) Policies will have to be developed and communicated to pupils as to what is and what isn't acceptable use.}

nwinton @DavidDMuir : I don't see why not. Not every pupil has access to a PC at home, but that doesn't stop us suggesting them for research. 10:03 PM October 13, 2008

{Perhaps the key word there is "suggesting". If we make it compulsory though... (see above).}

spookingdorf @DavidDMuir Yes, but student needs to abide by the AUP and be responsible for the equipment. Teachers need enlightening too, to allow use. 10:05 PM October 13, 2008

{It may be their own equipment but school use implies school rules - yes?}

digitalmaverick @DavidDMuir - I'd say whilst not DESIRABLE it is APPROPRIATE if its the ONLY way such a device is to be used in school 10:27 PM October 13, 2008

{Reading between the lines here... in an ideal world, schools would have all the equipment they need but in the real world it may be better to use equipment provided by the pupils live with current restrictions.}

If I've misrepresented your tweet, set me right with a comment.

So was Twitter an effective way to get feedback? Certainly, the number of responses in a short space of time was impressive. The brevity of Twitter messages is frustrating at times but each message added something to my reply and by pulling them together here, we have the opportunity to refine our answers and continue the conversation.

I'll invite the students to have a look. Hopefully the student who asked the question will chip in too.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Fun on Friday #6: Paper Critters

Only eight votes so far in the current poll, but all positive so... a bit late this week but with 30 minutes to go, it is still officially Friday.

I thought I'd recommend something practical this week, so get out your scissors, your glue and your virtual pencils and make me a Paper Critter. I think my favourite is this Star Wars critter:

But the Sponge Bob is fun too.

If you create an original critter, leave a comment here to let us see your handiwork, or post a photo of any of the "colony" that you make up.

P.S. I created another Comicbrush comic. Has nobody else had a go (apart from Andy)?

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Guitar Throwdown

I should start by saying that a Guitar Throwdown is not as bad,or potentially expensive, as it first sounds. (This is a quick post about another interesting educational use for YouTube I came across.)

Throwdown is used here in the sense of throwing down a challenge. The roots may be from the world of rap but I can't find a definition on the web, so I can't confirm this. I came across it in this guitar throwdown from Newton Faulkner:

Hows that for a challenge? Your music pupils could take on Newton in a guitar throwdown! OK, perhaps Netwon might be a bit too high a target for some... but what about inter-school throwdowns?

It doesn't have to be limited to guitars either. Other instruments could be used. (A recorder throwdown?) It doesn't even have to be music based. Why not have a poetry throwdown, or an art throwdown, or a mime throwdown... OK mime might not be a good idea but you get the drift. One school/pupil posts a video and issues the throwdown and others can respond in comments or in kind by posting their own video.

Even as I typed the above, I realised it doesn't even have to be limited to YouTube. It might be more sensible to use Flickr for an art throwdown or an ArtTrack throwdown. And I'd love to see Computing classes have a go at a Scratch throwdown.

What do you think? Anyone up for a throwdown?

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

British Sign Language

I was looking for some video of people using British Sign Language for Sunday School and YouTube came up trumps.

The first one I looked at was a chap signing to Eleanor Rigby, I think the children's favourite was the sign language singers (however, not sure if this is BSL - can anyone confirm?) but my wife found this one today and it is now officially my favourite:

I am really impressed by the way he signs differently while portraying the different characters. I don't think I would have believed you could impersonate people's voices in sign language before seeing this!

I know YouTube is full of stuff and nonsense and contains some material that is clearly not appropriate in schools but every so often, you come across videos like these and see again its educational potential.

What do you think? Are you inspired to learn a new language or share what you already know?

Friday, October 03, 2008

Can you guess what it is yet?

My first go at an ArtTrack was less than successful! "What's an ArtTrack?" I hear you ask. Well, Andrew Brown and Tom Barrett got all in a Twitter after TeachMeet thanks to a throwaway comment in response to John Davitt talking about the Track Stick. This lead to an exchange of messages on Twitter:
@tombarrett - great meeting you too - when are we starting the trackstick/word challenge?
08:17 PM September 29, 2008 from twitterrific in reply to tombarrett

@tombarrett - could we start a site or flickr tag for them? They find out the new word and then tag their image of it?
08:30 PM September 29, 2008 from twitterrific in reply to tombarrett

@whereisab Flickr tagged images would be a good way to do it - I like that idea - I have just thought we could do Google Earth artwork !!!!
08:34 PM September 29, 2008 from web in reply to whereisab

@tombarrett - how cool would that be? Walkable art, or a spelling contest! :-)
08:36 PM September 29, 2008 from twitterrific in reply to tombarrett

@whereisab The playground is our canvas!! - I have a had a whole bunch of ideas for using them - can't wait to get one.
08:36 PM September 29, 2008 from web in reply to whereisab

@tombarrett - we need to make them social though - I love the idea of serendipituously finding others doing the same thing
08:38 PM September 29, 2008 from twitterrific in reply to tombarrett

@whereisab A spelling relay - lots of kids each spelling a word, TrackStick as baton !! :-D
08:40 PM September 29, 2008 from web in reply to whereisab
Somewhere along the way, Tom coined the name ArtTracks, Andrew wrote a blog post (Spelling that makes you move?) and Tom created a Flickr group (LearningTracks). It was fascinating watching it develop and it will be interesting to see what happens next.

However, while waiting, I decided to have a go myself. A special GPS no-prize is available to the first person to guess what it is I was trying to draw:

My first ArtTrack

It was a bit of a failure. However, I learned three things:
  1. My GPS unit is not stunningly accurate. (I especially like the point that shows I apparently jumped onto the Sir Henry Wood Building roof and then off again!)
  2. I think I'll get on better by choosing when to record the points myself rather than letting the software do it automaticaly.
  3. I'm going to have to go bigger, much bigger, or it's not going to work. :-)

Fun on Friday #5: Comicbrush

Comicbrush is a site I found thanks to a screen dump on David Gilmour's Flickr pages.

Essentially it's a site that lets you create your own comics - three/four panel comic strips or full comic book pages - and share them online. Here's one I created earlier:

Computer Interface from Comicbrush
I'm a PeaSee and I'm a Mack, discuss computer interfaces.

That was my second comic strip. My first attempt was a comic version of last week's Fun on Friday joke.

I know there are other comic creation tools out there, for example Comic Life for desktops and ToonDoo, Gnomz or the Doctor Who Comic Maker for online comic creation) but Comicbrush looks interesting for a couple of reasons. For a start, there's the range of different comic styles you can create and the facility to import your own background pictures. What I find most interesting though is the link with 2000AD. Apparently the people behind Comicbrush own 2000AD so there is some art work from Judge Dredd available and some Rogue Trooper stuff too. A Dave Gibbons font set is also available for use on the website.

The site is in beta testing at the moment and there are a few rough edges. Hopefully it will be developed further before being officially launched. For example, I would hope to see more artwork available before too long. Also, currently it lacks any read/write web goodness. There is a half-hearted share option but no real way to embed your creations in other pages (for example a blog). It also lacks any YouTube style comment/favourite options, so there is no sense of a Comicbrush community working and sharing together.

However, it looks good, it is (relatively) easy to use... and it is fun on a Friday. Go... create a comic and then leave a comment here to share your creation!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

TeachMeet08: Look who's holding the baby

While looking through the transcript of the TeachMeet FlashMeeting, I was amused by the following exchange.

David holding the baby!
Originally uploaded by cx1uk
Digital Louis's dad, Sean, was carrying Louis and the FlashMeeting laptop about between the simultaneous presentations. People on the FlashMeeting had already expressed concern about Sean's juggling skills when I offered to take Louis for a bit. I guess the FlashMeeters didn't notice this because shortly after I took Louis, they said:

01:37:10 lisibo: aaah a baby!!
01:37:14 Ian U: I think that's cruelty to children, taking them to TeachMeet
01:37:27 Paul: Baby and laptop!!!!
01:37:39 dai: multi-tasking man? surely not
01:37:42 Ian: your doing well Sean Baby and laptop Which one would he grab if he tripped ?
01:37:49 orunner: I think we should call the RSPCC
01:37:57 dai: that baby is truly a digital native
01:37:58 Ian U: baby must be trained to grab laptop, he grabs baby...

Well, it amused me!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The best is yet to come...

The title of the post is actually the name of a blog by a former student. He is now a "real" teacher and although updates of his blog have been sporadic, he has made two recent posts that chimed with issues I'd been thinking about because of TeachMeet08 and SLF08.

Guitar Hero
Originally uploaded by DavidDMuir
Firstly, his post from 11 September, The new term!, talks about an inter-disciplinary project he's working on based around managing a band. It's about providing context and it looks like he's going to use (is already using?) something like GuitarHero to pull it all together. It is not clear from his post but I'd guess he will move onto designing games as well as playing them.

It's good to see a new S1 course being developed that doesn't assume the pupils know nothing and that doesn't start with, "This is a mouse"! And from a future of Computing as a subject point of view, it's good to see a course being developed that does something current, interesting and engaging.

Secondly, there is his post from 18 September, Desks of the future, where he considers where technology might be going and wonders how schools can keep up. Having just heard Tom Barrett talk about some of the things his school did with the Entertaible, and knowing a bit about what Ian Stuart has been doing in Islay, I know there are other people thinking along similar lines. What will technology look like in the near future and how can schools sustain and develop their use of computers and ICT?

If you've got something to say on these topics, by all means leave a comment here... but even better, why not head over to The best is yet to come and and leave some comments there?