Tech Salad

With Crunchy Bits and Bytes

Month: August 2013

How Did I Add the Video?

I created my last post with Vi Hart’s video as I was making a tutorial of how to embed a video in a blog post. Here’s the tutorial now.


Another Fun Vi Hart Video

I got the email notification that this video was available for watching a while ago, but just got to it today.

It is so much fun! Don’t miss it.


Seconds Matter

Do you text while driving?

Are you a teacher?

Have you addressed this issue with your students?

I believe it should be part of every digital citizenship curriculum.

If you haven’t already, you should watch this documentary.

Craig’s Creative Writing

Yesterday, my very creative friend Tina posted a status update on Facebook in which she commented that Craigslist posts would make interesting book titles. I have to admit I have never visited Craigslist despite all the time I spend online, but the idea sounded really funny. This morning she posted her proposed cover for a book with a title. I love it.


One of the best things about having friends from all over the world who work in so many different fields is that I can borrow their ideas for classroom use. I love ideas that are not in a teacher manual or popular educational website because the possibilities are wide open. Instead of a ready-made rubric or a student sample, you have infinite space to let your mind roam.

Here’s my idea:

Find the item listed on Craigslist, create the cover, and write the first chapter of the book. Or, instead of a book, create the first three minutes of the movie adaptation. Or both. What else can you think of?

Visuals, Maps, and Making Sense of the World

Of the workshops I led in Goochland this summer, the one on using visuals in the classroom was probably my favorite. Okay, maybe the one on creating movie trailers with iPads was firs, but this was a close second.

We spent a couple of hours looking at examples of powerful images that convey a message more clearly than any textbook example. Of course, we also talked about why clipart was great when computer graphics were so limited but now it is a relic best left off PowerPoint slides.

Unfortunately, we can’t hold our teachers in a room indefinitely and cover all the stuff John and I love to talk about. So, in the name of expediency and much to my regret, we left out maps.

Last Monday I read a piece in the Washington Post about the power of maps. The author selected 40 maps that convey interesting (at least to me) data. The very next day, a friend shared a link to a very similar post on the Twisted Sifter blog. I don’t know if this is a coincidence. I won’t worry about it. There is some overlap between the full set of 80 maps, and together they are a really fun collection to browse. Not only that, both pieces link to the source of the map to make the browsing even more fun.

The diversity of the content covered by the collection is incredible. Some maps are rather funny and some are shocking. Here is one I really liked showing the countries that do not use the metric system in red.

Why do we need to know Celsius, grams, and meters? I can’t think of a better argument than flashing this map on the projector.

What do you teach? Could you help your students make sense of something you cover by displaying it on a map? Maybe. Scroll over these 80 maps and come up with your own examples.


iChat Icons

Keeping names and faces straight when we have met lots of new people in a short period of time is hard. Luckily, we can let iChat help us with that.

Here is a very brief tutorial showing all our new teachers how to add their picture to iChat to help everyone know who they are. I also think veteran Goochland teachers should change their icon to show their face, at least for a few weeks, to help the new teachers out.


What Can We Do With iPads?

There has been a lot of buzz around Goochland about the new iPad pilot at Goochland Elementary School. This has called attention to the shared computer cart at the GHS/GMS campus, and teachers want to know what advantages iPads have over our trusty laptops.

Last week, during New Teacher Academy, we had the opportunity to explore project based learning at the Science Museum of Virginia. New teachers and mentors teamed up to learn about some of the exhibits and introduce them to the other participants. To introduce the activity, Zoe and I made a sample video as everyone was arriving for breakfast.

In the past, we would have needed a camera, cords or card readers, and a lot of time to edit video clips into anything worth calling a movie. We made this very silly video in about ten minutes. Take a look, and start thinking about ways in which you can make the most of the portability and ease of use of these devices.


Poisoning the Well

Sometimes, allowing our standards to slide for just a moment might make people deaf to our message for a very long time.

In the 1950’s, Bernard Kettlewell published the results of his study on the adaptability of peppered moths to their surroundings. His research showed that the environmental effects of pollution had affected the rates of survival of two different varieties of peppered moths so that the composition of the population shifted dramatically in just years. The data was real, but the pictures were staged. While the data clearly pointed to Darwin’s ideas of survival of the fittest leading to evolution, opponents of evolution have used the staged images to attack the theory of evolution for decades.

I read that story about the peppered moth on the same day I read several complaints about Discovery’s Shark Week. The popular television event has, for years, billed itself as a source of factual information about sharks. Enter the fake scientists, made up statistics, and other antics of the Megalodon mockumentary that opened Shark Week this summer. It might have been entertaining, except that the disclaimers warning viewers that it was all in good fun and not true were all at the end and flashed by so quickly they were easy to miss. As Gawker said,

…showing up for Shark Week (up till now a series of earnest documentaries) only to get two hours of a fake dinosaur hunt is kind of like showing up for history class and being taughtDownton Abbey as if it all actually happened.

For all the poorly-executed CGI, the piece was easy to swallow as truth for young viewers and gullible adults. My children and their friends have been talking about Megalodon teeth non-stop and are completely unaware of disclaimers of any kind. I’ve had to remind them several times that this was not a typical Shark Week offering, but the damage has been done. If it is on Discovery, there must be truth in it. Or that’s what they have always thought.

I understand that the Discovery Channel is primarily an entertainment concern. The problem is that they have marketed themselves as purveying factual content for so long. They have used this aura of education to extend their brand into schools. Will “edutainment” productions filled with fake professors and outlandish conjectures like those in the Megalodon piece find their way into the Discovery science curriculum?

I would hope the answer is no, but it is hard for me to look at anything made by them now and not wonder who might be a real expert and who might be a paid actor.

Just like Kettlewell’s defenders have spent decades fighting conspiracy theory claims from supporters of creationism, those of us who support the use of current digital content in classrooms might have a difficult time recommending the use of Discovery Education content without having to defend the soundness of their curriculum.

Moving to Google Calendar

Now that we are using Google Apps for Education much more than we have in the past, you might want to take advantage of all the features that make calendars easy to share. If you have been an iCal user in the past, you might want to move everything you’ve already created in iCal rather than starting from Scratch.

Exporting your iCal events is easy. Follow these steps:

  1. Under the On My Mac heading on the left, highlight the calendar you wish to move to Google Calendar.
  2. In iCal, go to File > Export… > Export…
  3. Choose a save location and hit Export.
  4. Repeat these steps for each calendar you want to export.
When this is done, follow the instructions on the Google Help page that will show you how to import your iCal file into a Google Calendar.

What I Did This Summer

It is the last day of New Teacher Academy and summer is officially over for me. I can’t believe I have not blogged in so long. It’s not that I’ve had nothing to blog about. I just haven’t made time for it.

In mid-June I attended the LOOK3 Festival of the Photograph in Charlottesville. I spent three days attending really great workshops by photography professionals during the education portion of the event. I also walked through galleries, listened to interviews and talks, and watched documentaries. I learned about publishing, editing, defining a vision for my own work, capturing audio for multimedia projects, and met some really cool people. I even got to talk to Alex Chadwick who, years and years ago, was part of the team of people who helped me acquire an American accent.

In July I went to Austin to participate in the Apple Distinguished Educator Summer Institute. I spent five days catching up with old friends and meeting educators from Mexico, Canada, and the United States. The Apple Education team did a fantastic job of planning and presenting workshops on effective storytelling, video editing, photography, mobile device management, team building through the use of improv, on and on… As usual, it was an intense learning experience. My geekiest experience was sitting at a table with Sal Soghoian, developer of AppleScript and Automator. I am a huge fan of his, and I had to sit on my hands so I would not to take out my iPhone and snap his picture. He is so enthusiastic about his work that it is hard not to want to learn more after hearing him discuss a few of his projects. When he found out I teach in Goochland, he offered to visit our school the next time he visits his vacation home near Charlottesville. I have not emailed him about this yet, but I will.

After that, I did go on vacation. My children and I flew to California to visit friends and had a great week in Sunnyvale, Cupertino, and San Francisco.

Now I’m ready for a new school year.

What did you do this summer? Stop by my office and tell me a bit, and let me know how I can help you this school year.


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