Friday, October 24, 2008

MPG video and sound problem in iMovie

Last night I hit a problem. A colleague is in the last stages of cancer and the staff at her school have made her a tribute in the form of video clips of children and colleagues saying goodbye. I was given all the footage to build into a movie. I was honoured to be asked to help.

I sat down with these clips and started building the movie, however when I imported the MPG clips into iMovie there was no sound. I hadn't come across this problem before so I thought I would post the solution I found for anyone else who comes across the same problem.

Apparently MPG intertwines the audio and video tracks so iMovie can't separate them (there will be a technical way of explaining this I'm sure). I consulted trusty Google and one solution I came across was to use some software to split the MPG into an audio and video track then resync them in iMovie. Oh no! this was going to take forever.

Luckily I came across another solution. I downloaded Mpeg streamclip and the problem was solved. I converted each clip using this software into quicktime movies and had the movie built and burnt to disk in no time at all!

This got me thinking (as it always does) about the joys of problem solving. I was on a high because I had solved this problem, it was a similar feeling to finishing a half marathon! It was made even more special because it was such an important problem to solve for the people involved. Do we rob our students of experiencing the joys of problem solving when we solve their problems for them? Our role as teachers is to guide them in their journey to finding the answers and let them enjoy the feeling of success. It takes a skillful teacher to help someone find their own answers.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Close up digital photography with kids

I had the privilege yesterday to work with a group of year 4/5/6 students at Ravensbourne School. We were looking at how to take close up photos. The photo above is one of the results of our session taken by Alisha, a year 4 student and I think it is amazing! We talked about how to take a close up using the macro function, we talked about angle and lighting.

I took a group of 10 students and taught them these elements of photography and they then went out and took some photos and shared back with each other. Five students then paired up with a new five students and taught them everything they knew. We did this until everyone in the class had learnt how to use the camera to take quality close up shots. I stood back in wonder as the students did such a good job at teaching each other and the excitement built over every creative shot taken. There was no silliness, no silly photos, just students whose world view had been narrowed! I say narrowed because they began peering around the school yard looking for small things of interest. A great cry went up when it was noted that small green clusters of leaves had small droplets of water inside which glistened in the sun!

It is a privilege to be a part of a child's learning. To share the excitement of new knowledge. To discover a world that went unseen before we, as teachers, opened the door to help students see.

I love my job.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Can kids teach themselves?

I have just watched a thought provoking TED talk, so thought provoking that I had to write this blog post as I sit on my plane flying from Wellington to Dunedin. Sugata Mitra asks the question “Can kids teach themselves?” and went about finding out with a very interesting research project. Concerned about the poor level of education for students in remote areas such as rural India Sugata decided to find out how technology could help. He built ‘hole in the wall’ computers connected to the Internet and placed them in remote, non English speaking areas and then videoed what happened. He found that children very quickly taught themselves how to use these machines to browse for information. Amazingly these children taught themselves how to speak English using the machines to enable them to actually use the machines!

He found that all children could teach themselves with the computer, and this is the vital bit – as long as they were in twos or more. Over 300 children would become computer literate in a 6 month time frame with only one computer. And this was because of the group nature of the learning.

There are many more profound instances in this talk, I urge you to watch and be challenged.

Now I am not seeing this talk as saying we don’t need to teach our kids. One of Sugata's premises was that technology is being rolled out for schools with good kids and good teachers and not making too much of a difference, where it should be rolled out in areas where students are not experiencing a good education, have a lack of teachers, lack of quality education and there the technology makes a marked difference.

However there are important elements in this talk for those of us lucky enough to be in well-developed education systems. There were two major things that stood out for me in my thinking from the results of this research project. The first one was that it affirmed my solid belief in the importance of using computers collaboratively. With all the push for 1 to 1 computing I think we are losing the great benefit of students talking to each other and problem solving together.

The second thought was to do with teachers who are afraid to introduce technology unless they are proficient in it themselves. I have always believed that teachers need to be confident with the technology and be able to know the possibilities but do not need to be the expert. This talk highlights that we can’t hold kids back because of our limitations. My favourite way of introducing new technology to my class is to grab a couple of kids, give them time to explore and play, have them report back to me on what the technology can do and then I introduce it to the rest of the class. I then have ready made experts who can support the students. My job as the expert in learning and teaching is to know how this technology can enhance and extend my students’ learning. If we hit a problem with the technology, then fantastic, problem solving time!

The quality of the sound is a bit low but stick it out, it is worth it.

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Thursday, October 09, 2008

ULearn08 Keynote - Steven Carden

The second keynote was presented, ably, by Steven Carden. This was a highly entertaining talk with a profound message. I asked the twit network to reflect on the keynote as it was happening and you can see their comments in the image to the left (click to enlarge).

The take away message from this keynote:

We are facing or experiencing rapid, extreme change - discussions are needed about our future. What sort of society do we need to be to survive in a changing society?

Steven argued that we are not ready for this change. We forget how small we are (NZ) on the world's stage. We do not have any profound answers... yet. Dialogue is needed.

Societies who are moving in a forward direction have three things in common:
Ideas are needed to cope with a world that is changing

Small countries like NZ can't generate all the ideas we need. We need to absorb them from elsewhere.

Willing to change

Steven asks what does all this mean for NZ's education sector?
  1. The workforce needs highly adaptive people. The nature of jobs is changing dramatically
  2. We need radically new ways of educating young people
  3. It's all about YOU - the quality of the teachers in our schools is the key.

"The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn." (Alvin Toffler)

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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

ULearn 08 Keynote - Sheryl Naussbaum-Beach and Will Richardson

Will Richardson and Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach opened the ULearn conference with an inspirational presentation with examples of students using blogs to make a difference.

Laura is a young girl who lost her grandfather, she decided in his memory to make a difference to the world. She tells her story at her blog

At a conference Laura was asked a question.

"Laura can you tell us how do you come up with your ideas of who to help."
She replied "I ask my readers."

Laura has a voice. She knows her opinions are valued. She feels empowered to make a difference and contribute. Do we allow this in our classrooms? I use the word 'allow' pointedly. Do our students get to use their voices?

It makes me think of the joke of the young girl spending her first week at school:
"Dad, I don't think I'll go to school anymore there really isn't any point"
"Why is that?"
"Well I can't read and I can't write ... And they won't let me talk."

21st century technologies allow us to have voices, to voice our opinion, to make a difference. These technologies are available for our students, our children. We must let students have their voices and we must make sure they know how to use these voices in an ethical manner and in a safe way.

That is our job as educators.

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