Thoughts on teaching, technology, learning and life in an era of change.

Archive for February, 2009

Blogging, twitter and that audience
February 28th, 2009

Mark has written a post in which he evaluates Twitter and writes rather astutely about that audience that many bloggers and twitterers ponder upon, seek or desire. It is a good read, like all Mark’s blog posts. Mark is also great with video. Check this out. This one too. Anyway, I digress. Mark’s post about Twitter and his side note on the audience garnered a response from me and as I have done in the past I repeat those thoughts below.

Mark, a nice evaluation and thoroughly enjoyed reading the side note. Many of us have those thoughts, emotions, feelings regarding publishing on the net. It is only human.

The advice I have read and received is blog for yourself. Write for yourself. Simply blog about things you have done. The audience will come, whether you know it or not. It may be small or even large. That is not important.

Recently I have been focusing on that little group of bloggers and twitterers that comment on my blog and respond to my tweets. Do not worry about the ‘big knob’ bloggers out there. Who cares? Focus on that loyal group of followers or commentators. That is when it really kicks in.

I think you have the best Twitter avatar of them all. Is that you in the picture? Your avatar immediately grabs my attention and makes me take notice of what you have to say or share Mark. Blog on!

Cheers, John.

Grab that YouTube video via a single click
February 28th, 2009

Australian War Memorial YouTube Channel

I discovered that the Australian War Memorial has its own channel on YouTube the other day when doing some research on the Vietnam War for a series of lessons designed for my Year 10 class. I showed the students a variety of video clips focused upon the Vietnam War. The clips were authored by war enthusiasts, students, news media outlets and several by the Australian War Memorial. I asked the students to compare the clips in terms of credibility, bias, usefulness and accuracy. Honing their Internet research skills and capacity for critical thinking, methinks.

This week several colleagues dropped by my desk with questions about PowerPoint and embedding video. Each had a different problem. It is a little weird when staff possess identical laptops and operating systems yet PowerPoint and video behave differently. Well, not that weird really. Typical if anything. That is another story.

I wanted to find an easy way for my colleagues to download the high quality video from YouTube that they could insert into their PowerPoint presentations, etc. From time to time one hears of different methods to download YouTube videos. MacUsers may like to use Tooble

But then there is this nifty little button or “bookmarklet” that you can drag to your browser’s toolbar. It is located at this page on the GoogleSystem blog. This is “old news” but good news. Simply click and drag the rectangle that states “Get YouTube Video” to your browser’s toolbar and that’s it. Simple, elegant.

Get YouTube video bookmarklet in situ

Next time you visit YouTube and locate a video that meets your needs click on the “Get YouTube Video” bookmarklet on your browser’s toolbar. A download of the high quality version of the video will commence. The downloaded file will be in .mp4 format. The video will launch once the download had completed. You will need to rename that file. Each download has the same generic name which is “video.mp4″. The video will insert within a PowerPoint presentation.

Global v local, wired individualism v real communities
February 24th, 2009

Dean Groom has written a thoughtful post on infinite learning and the need for information literacy and schools that prepare students for the infinite world of information given the advent of the Internet. He writes of the Florida Virtual High School and its programme of personalised instruction. Dean mentions that perhaps a virtual HSC High School could be established here in New South Wales. Dean’s post prompted me to comment…

Dean, the Florida Virtual High School is an interesting concept. It has evolved from a distance education background and it certainly delivers a significant number of courses each year.

I cannot help but feel that “Personalised instruction” should be labelled “Tailored instruction”. Personalised instruction for me would be face to face tuition.

eLearning is an excellent vehicle for distributing knowledge and skills for those willing to learn. It allows opportunities for further education, particularly for those unable to travel or situated in remote areas. eLearning can also support existing face to face instruction.

A learning environment that is entirely online suits some, not all. Experience with eLearning programmes involving organisations such as the University of Wollongong, Nokia, Singapore Airlines, JPMorgan Bank and others illustrated for me the pros and cons of 100% online delivery of courses. I feel that face to face instruction is an important facet of the socialisation process of our youth. Schools provide opportunities to acquire skills in interacting and coping with your peers.

A virtual HSC High School that augments face to face instruction, supports students in remote areas and facilitates subjects with very low enrollments is a good idea yet I feel that students should still be engaged in a significant face to face component as well.

Infinite possibilities, true. Infinite learning? Infinite memory? Not so sure about that. I sometimes get the feeling that we are filling our lives with too much stuff. Endless streams consisting of immediate moments of gratification and tenuous connections. Too many choices in today’s world. information literacy should focus on instructing students how to filter out the unnecessary stuff and how to focus on media that can facilitate lifelong growth, community connections and local benefits.

Local is broken. It needs fixing. Global connections are fine yet let’s not lose sight of local, community, real neighbours. The infinite possibilities that are now available can be used to try and regenerate local connections and people stuff. Local is becoming the poor brother of global.

Wired individualism versus real communities.

Cheers, John.

Productive communities or wired individualism?
February 22nd, 2009

Chris Lehmann has composed a post in which he speaks of the need to be proactive as opposed to reactive in the lives of the young as they ‘navigate the world’. I responded to Chris’ post with the following comment and I thought why not reproduce my thoughts here…

Agreed, a proactive approach is required. Our students, the kids, require good exemplars and direction. They have taken to MySpace, Facebook, and other publishing platforms with a passion. Educators and responsible adults need to illustrate how these publishing tools and others such as blogs can be utilised to create communities that give to society, that are productive and helpful. Collaborative communities that benefit society and not wired individualism that seemingly takes from society.

A tweet from Pompeii 79AD
February 21st, 2009

Source: Historical Tweets

A post by Francesca Tonchin in Classical Archaeology News just alerted me to Historical Tweets. The specific tweet relates to the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79AD and the consequent disaster that befell Pompeii, Herculaneum and other regions of Campania. [This event and the societies of Pompeii and Herculaneum are a core unit of the Ancient History course in the New South Wales Higher School Certificate.]

The idea generated some thought and made me wonder about other possible applications such as “Famous Last Tweets”. Imagine asking students of literature, during a break or diversion in that programmed syllabus, to compose tweets that would have been written by writers such as Plato, Lawrence, Dickens, Twain, Pepys, Shakespeare, Orwell, Donne, and so on. I believe John Donne’s tweets could have been particularly telling…. “This bed has fleas…” or “Just picked up a nice compass“.

Care to suggest others?