Teacher Feature #43 – Life & Photography

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In education, like most professions, there are good days and bad days. Having worked closely with educators for more than forty years, I have observed the following … Although we may have a series of good days or inspiring situations, with all the associated positive feedback, we tend to focus on the single, bad, or negative incident.

In five years time, will this issue really matter or make a difference?

On the occasion when we had experienced a unsettling day or action, a former colleague would often ask me … “In five years time, will this issue really matter or make a difference?” This simple question helped me put such concerns into perspective. To help us avoid perseverating on the few negative incidents that we may encounter in our educational careers, we need to focus on, and celebrate, the positive opportunities. More importantly, we need to share such positive energy with our colleagues to motivate them as well.

Animated Life & Photography

Perhaps Ritu Ghatourey expressed it best, when she said, “A negative thinker sees a difficulty in every opportunity. A positive thinker sees an opportunity in every difficulty.”

A Teachable Moment
Often, I am intrigued by the ingenuity of other bloggers and wonder how certain elements on their web displays were created. Some readers may wonder how the above animated GIF was created. In that I plan to use this same animated process in my next blog post, I thought that it might be wise to share how such an effect was created. Those who are interested in the above animation style, can create a similar one by following these steps.

1. Locate a suitable image which one imports into PowerPoint. In the above case, I chose an old PowerPoint template, which I remembered displayed a filmstrip or series of negatives.
2. I entered the “Life is like photography … ” quotation into the “Title” text box and positioned this frame appropriately.
3. Next, I copied this original slide and repeatedly pasted it into the PowerPoint slide tray to create a total of eight slides.
4. I right-clicked on the first slide and chose the “Format Background” option. I did not change the “Picture or Text Fill” option but explored the changes made to the slide by moving the “Transparency” slider. When I moved it from 0% to 100%, the filmstrip graphics disappeared leaving only the important quotation. Since I wanted my animated GIF message and image to “slowly develop”, I thought that if I altered the “Transparency” level on this, as well as each subsequent slide, the message would slowly appear or “develop”. I closed this first slide, with the “Transparency” level set to 100%.
5. Using the above process, I next selected each of the subsequent 2nd through 7th slides and set each “Transparency level” to the respective values of 90%, 80%, 60%, 40%, 20% and 0%. The seventh slide, with it’s 0% “Transparency” level, appears with all the “developed” colours and quotation as intended.
6. I right-clicked on the eighth slide and chose the “Format Background” option. Next, I selected a “Solid Fill” with a black background which I applied to only this last slide. I thought that by removing all film elements and the quotation, the plain black background slide would be an important “fade to black” process to end the animated cycle.
7. To complete this task, I saved this PowerPoint slide set.
8. To create an animated GIF, one must collect a series of similar slides, with slight changes, which can be cycled through rather quickly. To save these individual PowerPoint slides, I chose the “File>Save As” option and selected “JPG File Interchange Format (*JPG)”. When prompted “Do you want to export every slide in the presentation or only the current slide?”, I selected the “Every Slide” button.
9. On my computer, each of these eight PowerPoint slides had dimensions of 960 x 720 pixels. Unfortunately, my blog can only accommodate images that are less than 450 pixels wide. To reduce each of the eight slides to their corresponding 400 x 300 pixel format, I chose to use the “Batch Conversion” process of “Irfanview“, a very powerful, but free, Windows application.
10. Using an old Windows freeware application called Ulead’s GIF Animator Lite, I was able to import these eight 400 x 300 pixel images into this application and vary the display speeds of each image.
11. Once I felt that the individual images and timing were appropriately set, I was able to save the results as an animated GIF.
12. The last step was to import this GIF image into my WordPress blog, so that when viewed in a browser, the eight images would rapidly display providing, the above, animated look.

Take care & keep smiling :-)

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PA “Interruptions” Inspire Innovation

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Nadia Nevieri and her students of Lakewood School have provided amazing connections with each other and their community through an innovative educational endeavour. The creation of 1-2 minute “Lakewood Live”  videos provide an engaging vehicle for transmitting daily events and happenings within the school and community.

  Pardon this interruption

I was so lucky to attend a Manitoba Association for Computing Educators (ManACE) Technology Information Night last February. True, I did get a free supper of pizza, salad, and a soft-drink, together with a chance to network with other educators from several Manitoba school divisions. However, I was delighted to learn about practical, classroom-based innovations from three remarkable educators. I was particularly excited by the learning potential of an endeavour that Nadia Nevieri (@nnevieri) shared in her presentation entitled “Video Killed the PA Star”.

As educators, many of us have experienced daily public address (PA) announcements which did not, at times, “connect” with the intended audience, be it students or staff. How many of your students continually want to be updated on PA items they may have missed? How many great lessons have been interrupted by an administrator announcing an added, or overlooked, bit of information that perhaps had more relevance with other specific classrooms other than yours? Does your Phys Ed teacher use the PA system to announce new activities, game changes, and last minute information?

Now, I’m not advocating that we should remove the public address system from all our schools. Rather, I’m suggesting that perhaps there might be other ways of conveying information in a flexible manner that engages the audience, be it students, staff, or parents.

“Lakewood Live” is the name of the daily video announcements which are shared throughout the K-5 grades in Lakewood School and the nearby community. Although Nadia teaches grades 2/3, she has many of the older grade 4 and 5 students engaged in making the daily videos. In fact, what I like about her instructional model, is that it could be used by older students with equal success. Furthermore, Nadia has provided her student video production team with the two important qualities of “student voice” and student responsibility.

To provide readers with the “big picture” and to help you better understand what Nadia and her amazing students have accomplished, I encourage you to view the January 13th “Lakewood Live” daily video announcement below:

[YouTube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e5_CicS2xI4]

So that readers can appreciate the different formats of “Lakewood Live”, Nadia shared the following three additional episodes with me:

Replicating the Remarkable

To help you better understand the important logistics behind how the “Lakewood Live” videos are created, I will try and share the following generic steps (in bold italics). Where possible, I will append (in regular text) strategies and techniques that Nadia and her student team employed. Often it is these “behind the scenes” tasks that are so critical to the success of a new, educational learning venture:

  • Make certain to gain parental permission allowing student names and/or faces to be displayed in a YouTube video. When this endeavour was first proposed to parents, of the 228 Lakewood students, less than a handful did not want their son or daughter to be displayed in any media format that was shared on the internet.
  • Decide on the elements that might be included in a daily announcement video for your school. Start with a manageable number of items. You can always add new categories as the video announcement project matures. Some items will be repetitive such as which Patrol teams will be on duty for the week or which Mediators will be out on the playground. In such cases, a picture or video clip can be used repeatedly in subsequent weeks. Likewise having a picture of all staff members (with, perhaps, a quick bio) can be used at the start of each new term or at the start of a new year to help students better identify staff members.
  • Install an upcoming events chart in the staff room and encourage colleagues to complete items before each video publication deadline. From this events chart, Nadia and her student video production team compile the items that are to be shared in the upcoming week’s five videos.
  • Empower students and/or staff to capture video snippets or images that can be as the backbone of your daily announcements. Obviously, student birthday announcement pictures can only be used once per year, but many others can be used on a regular basis. Those investigating the creation of video announcements for next year, might consider preparing now by collecting generic photos or video snippets around your school during May and June.
  • Create and continually add or refine news elements. Perhaps you might want to explore adding categories like “guess this book”, “joke of the day” or “Fun Fridays”. Would your students be interested in learning how to incorporate a green screen?  Empower your video production team to research and to explore how a green screen might be used in your classroom to enhance daily news videos.
  • Create a script template for announcers to utilize.
  • Meet with students to shoot the next week’s announcements. Nadia meets with her “Lakewood Live” video production team for one hour after school each Wednesday. During this hour they shoot the upcoming week’s five daily announcement videos.
  • Blend elements into a daily announcement video and save results. Nadia and her students use iPads to capture images and photos and she inserts these news items into an iMovie template that she has created and refined. She indicated that she spends no more than 30 minutes compiling segments for each video.
  • Upload the upcoming week’s daily news stories to YouTube in a manner that protects privacy. Nadia uploads the five videos for the upcoming week over the weekend. She ensures that each of her YouTube announcement videos are uploaded with an “Unlisted” privacy setting rather than the usual “Public” category. This process reduces the chance of individuals finding the wealth of school’s daily news videos by searching YouTube or Google for “Lakewood Live”.
  • Provide the daily link to students, staff and parents from another web site. Readers may be interested in seeing more episodes of the “Lakewood Live” videos by visiting the following link which is used to share the daily Internet address (URL) to the respective YouTube videos:

http://mylakewoodlive.blogspot.ca/

Once the daily announcement video is uploaded and the particular link is shared through the above Blogger web site, teachers have flexibility as to when, during the day, to share the video “news” with their students. Nadia suggests that if she forgets to show the daily video, she has several students in her class who are more than willing to remind her. Not only are the students and staff more informed, so are the parents and community.

Undoubted, Nadia was so very impressed with her student production team and their engagement in the learning process. However, it was something that Nadia said in passing that really resonated with me. She indicated that, in addition to the increased responsibility and student voice that her production team demonstrated, she was allowed to see students in “a different light” than in the typical classroom situation. This “Lakewood Live” endeavour allowed Nadia to better understand individual students and see their hidden talents.

Could we, as educators, wish for anything more?

Take care & keep smiling :-)

Credits:

– Flickr – Creative Commons image “Angelica Jordan’s classroom” by the Herald Post
https://www.flickr.com/photos/heraldpost/5169295832/

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Connecting to Make A Difference

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As the 2014 year begins, tradition suggests that one should consider making a “New Year’s Resolution”. True, I have made many over the years that have unfortunately fallen by the wayside as the year progressed. However, one resolution of which I am proud, is the one I made in January, 2010.  Four years ago, I decided I would adopt a new “lifestyle change” and create my Life-Long-Learners blog to “provide you with professional development ideas, educational tips, classroom resources, strategies, ‘freebies’, and humour to help infuse technology, to enhance lessons, and to help engage your students as 21st century learners.”

This year, I need a new focus. Thanks to serendipity, I chanced upon Victoria Olson’s “Blogging for Sunshine” post. Victoria described a process to foster connectivity and understanding between different PLN members by sharing information about themselves through 11 random questions.

Question #4 really resonated with me and I encourage you to consider it:

What needs to happen in 2014 for you to be reflecting on a successful year 52 weeks from now?

So often in education, we look back wondering if we could have changed a current outcome through the past introduction of a different process or action. This question, on the other hand, looks at the opportunity to make a change, so that when we reflect on outcomes, a year from now, they will be primarily positive and uplifting.

Thanks to this powerful question, I was prompted to make the following New Year’s resolution:

During 2014, I want to improve my connectivity to help make a difference in education.

Undoubtedly, this decision was influenced by the following free, educational poster from Krissy Venosdale:

Social Media

Without a doubt, Twitter has helped me connect with some amazing educators. In fact, it was through Twitter that Vicki Davis (@coolcatteacher) alerted me to Victoria Olson (@MsVictoriaOlson) and her innovative Twitter resources. For example, educators will find Victoria’s “Twitter for Teachers” video to be both extremely informative as well as professionally crafted using a variety of innovative tools. Not content to just share her amazing video resource, she took it a step further. To help other educators, Victoria shared her “behind the scenes” magic, by identifying the steps and software used in her post “How I made my Twitter Video”.

“Behind the Scenes”

Teachable Moments

Kudos to all educators who showcase how video projects are created or reveal tips and strategies “behind the scenes” of their educational activities. Admittedly, it does take extra time, but on behalf of all those individuals who have learned so much by analyzing their “magic”, I say “Thank You!”. To help other educators learn about the “behind the scenes” magic, and to encourage others to share in a similar fashion, I plan to maintain a list of these “difference makers”. Not only will I identify their original activity/project, but I will also link to their “behind the scenes” (BTS) revelations. To date, I’m aware of these creative educators and their related endeavours:

Difference Makers

– Video: “Re-Imagine Your P.D. Experience with Twitter”
- BTS Magic: “How I Made My Twitter Video …”

– Video: K-12 Online Pre-Conference Keynote
“Sharing: The Moral Imperative”
– BTS Magic: “The Making of Sharing: A Moral Imperative”
– Video: “Happy Birthday Alec Couros”
– BTS Magic: “So I started this Google doc ..”

I encourage readers to share with me the online activity/projects of other educators, together with their “behind the scenes” insights, so that I may add them to this list of “Difference Makers”.

As a complementary resource to her “Twitter for Teachers” video, Victoria also shared a “Weekly Twitter Chat Schedule”.  This Google spreadsheet lists educational chats by names, hashtags, days, and times of sharing. One of the first things I did was scan to see if the Manitoba Educational Chat (#mbedchat) was listed on the schedule for Wednesdays from 9:00 pm to 10:00 pm (CST). I was so delighted to see it listed along with other Twitter chat sharing and learning opportunities.

As one who has recently connected with other Manitoba educators through the #mbedchat Twitter chat mechanism, I realize how powerful this learning vehicle can be. Zoe Bettess, the creator and co-moderator, shares the importance of connecting in her post “The Power of Twitter Chat and My Journey to Starting #mbedchat”.

At the start of 2014, the talented trio of Zoe, her #mbedchat co-moderator Georgette Nairn, and archivist, Tanis Thiessen decided to foster educational connections in a new and exciting fashion. They created the 2014 Manitoba Ed Chat Blog Challenge. Manitoba educators, who maintain a professional or classroom blog, are challenged to write one post per month and share it with others by using the Twitter hashtag #mbedchatblog. In addition, they invited participating educators, as well as non-participating  ones, to list their respective blogs on the MB Ed Chat blogroll. If you are a Manitoba educator, who is responsible for a personal or classroom blog, I encourage you to submit your blog information. Better yet, if one of your New Year’s resolutions was to investigate creating an educational blog, I encourage you to share it using this process. Not only will others benefit but you, and ultimately your students, will gain from the connections fostered through this endeavour. As of today, there are links to 40 educational blogs and I’m sure this list will continue to grow as we share and use this powerful resource.

“Hats Off” to all these dedicated educators and students who are so willing to share their creativity, ideas, resources, and reflections on their educational journey.

I am so lucky to be connected with educators who are, indeed, making a difference.

Take care & keep smiling :-)

Endnote: Those interested in additional free posters created by Krissy Venosdale, are invited to explore my earlier post entitled “Free Motivational Educational Posters”.

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Hour of Code – For those who are 6 to 106!

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Computer Science Education Week is Dec 9-15, 2013. An “Hour of Code” is an amazing event in which educators are encouraged to spend one hour, during next week, introducing aspects of computer coding to their students.

This learning opportunity is a “one-hour introduction to computer science, designed to demystify ‘code’ and show that anyone can learn the basics to be a maker, a creator, an innovator.” Teachers are encouraged to explore the wealth of ideas, tutorials, and resources provided on the “Hour of Code 2013″ web site.

Hour of Code-400x300

There are an incredible variety of  step-by-step, self-guided, tutorials that are provided for both students and teachers. Not only are these innovative tutorials designed to run through computer browsers, on smartphones, or on tablets; some of the “coding” activities require no computer at all. Should you have any concerns, they are probably addressed in the “Hour of Code – Frequently Asked Questions”.

No experience in computer coding for either teachers or students is necessary. All that is required is for teachers to be risk-takers and learn along with their students. I recommend that all teachers practice saying three most important words … “I don’t know” but quickly follow-up with … “but when you figure it out, please teach me”. Other experienced educators suggest advising students to “Ask three … before me!” to reduce the pressure to try to answer all questions. This may appear to some educators to be a “cop-out”, but it reinforces that no one knows all the answers and that true learning is a collaborative effort. Furthermore, a student’s self-worth is dramatically increased, whenever s/he can teach an adult.

So I encourage you to take an hour next week and have fun, learning to “code” with your students.

Sorry, I have to run now and figure out how to navigate that darn “Angry Bird” through that puzzle.

Take care & keep smiling :-)

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Photos, Passion, and Pedagogy

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This past summer I attended a funeral. When one reaches their retirement years, it seems only natural to attend more funerals of friends and loved-ones.

However, as friends of his grandparents, my wife and I attended the funeral of a 19 year old youth. Scott Wachal left his family and friends much too early but he also left me with an important message.

Lense for an Eye

Scott’s unique talents and creativity were demonstrated by the wealth of memories shared through objects in the vestibule of the church together with the inspirational video tribute. Regardless of whether it was his violin that he played as a 9 year old busker, or his Irish dancing tap shoes, or his skate-boarding and free-style skiing tricks, it was his creative images, sketches, and photographs that caught my eye.

I believe that Scott’s view of life was influenced greatly by what he observed and what he captured in his photos. In fact, the following assignment, which was shared in his Order of Service, reinforced in me the importance of pictures:

8   Describe an event or idea that has become very influential on your life.

When I was in the sixth grade, my grandpa passed away due to liver cancer. My grandpa loved me deeply and I loved him back, however I didn’t see him all that often and I wasn’t super close with him.

I remember at his funeral, and throughout the following years, hearing endless stories and memories about my grandpa. Everyone has such positive things to say about him, and there was so much about him that i never knew. I remember feeling really sad that I hadn’t spent more time with him and really appreciated all his good qualities.

I think my feelings of regret and sadness after my grandpa’s death have sparked a need inside me to take in as much as I can from the people around me. I carry my camera around with me everywhere, trying to capture my friends and family living and breathing to the fullest extent. I pay greater attention to the character of a person and try to appreciate all aspects of their personality.

~ Scott Wachal

True … not everyone has the same passion for capturing life through a camera as Scott, but I do believe that all students today can learn much more about life when they view the world through a camera lens.

Today it seems that more and more students have access to a digital camera or smartphone. Although a past Panasonic ad campaign declared that “If it has a ring tone, it’s not a camera”, most students would disagree. Having immediate access to these pocket-sized, picture-taking devices allows one to capture many unique and serendipitous moments.

The question that remains is … “How can we, as educators, help students express their creativity through their photos?”

To help readers, I have a arranged below a variety of resources to help engage students in taking and sharing creative photos:

  • Darren Kuropatwa’s SlideShare entitled “Don’t Just Shoot” – Although today’s  students have the opportunity to take more pictures, they still need to understand what makes a photo look really good.

[slideshare id=18474541&doc=dontjustshoot-130409083404-phpapp02]

[http://www.slideshare.net/dkuropatwa/dont-just-shoot]

All educators are encouraged to review, download, and share this presentation which illustrates “five photographic composition techniques: the rule of thirds, framing, fill the frame, lines and forced perspective.”

  • Basics of Photography: The Complete Guide Want an extensive resource on how a digital camera works, its automatic and manual settings, together with composition and editing tips? If so, check out this online Lifehacker night school resource.
  • DS106 – Daily Create – Photography Archives – Educators may want to stimulate students to take a creative photo each day or once a week and share them with the class. The DS106 Digital Storytelling course includes a number of creative prompts to engage students in taking pictures from different perspectives.
  • Ideas For Using The Digital Camera In The Primary Classroom – This SlideShare resource, of 17 frames, includes such innovative ideas as “What am I?”, digital portrait flip-book, and images taken from an ant’s perspective. Each activity displays an important “WALT” (We Are Learning Today) prompt.
  • The Digital Camera in Education – This site focuses on how the digital cameras in today’s mobile phones can be integrated into the educational process.
  • Image with a Message – Rather than have students search online for a Creative Commons image, challenge students to use a camera to capture their own background photo to which their favourite quotation is added.
  • Small World Pictures – Innovative ideas in both the blog post and comments that demonstrate how interesting images can be created by introducing small (HO gauge) figures into the picture.
  • Using Pictures to Create Rubrics – Although this “Picture Rubric”  is shared as a primary assessment tool, this strategy can be applied to many subjects at different grade levels.
  • Digital Photography Rubric – This extensive Word (.doc) file provides a detailed photography project rubric to provide students with important feedback on original images.
  • Photography Rubric – This PDF document was used by the Markville Secondary School’s yearbook team to help students improve on their photography techniques and documentation.

In closing, I began this post with an “eye-catching” photo created by Rachel Chapman. Not only does this manipulated image capture my imagination, it also reminds me of the important proverb that Scott Wachal believed in … “Beauty is in the ‘eye’ of the beholder”.

Take care & keep smiling :-)

Credits: – Flickr – Creative Commons image “Look at us through the lens of a camera…” by Rachel Chapman
– http://www.flickr.com/photos/63697491@N00/2235381210/

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Lip dub: A Classroom and School Approach

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After reading the earlier #ETMOOC post “Lip dub: I’m havin’ a good time!” you are definitely considering exploring this innovative and engaging activity with your class. However, your enthusiasm becomes somewhat dampened when you learn more about the two lip dub innovators, Alec Couros and Dean Shareski. When you discover that Alec is a professor, currently on sabbatical, from the Faculty of Education in Regina and Dean was a learning consultant for the Prairie South School Division in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, you say to yourself … “Well if I didn’t have a full-time job with a classroom of 32 needy students, I, too, could play around with technology and have fun creating lip dubs.”

Don’t give up on this activity just yet. True, Alec and Dean did an amazing job of encouraging and facilitating the collection of lip dub video clips from individuals in different geographical locations. However, I plan to demonstrate how much easier it is for a regular classroom teacher to create a lib dub activity with her/his classroom than the effort required to produce the more complex #ETMOOC lip dub.

Singing with Microphone

On November 8, 2012, I attended a Manitoba Association for Computing Educators (ManACE) Technology Information Night (TIN). I invested $5.00 to offset my supper costs and was rewarded with three different 30-minute classroom-based, professional development sessions shared by Manitoba educators. The one learning opportunity that really resonated with me was presented by Christin Mackay, a Grade 4/5 teacher from Stevenson-Britannia School. In her presentation, “Creativity & Collaboration – Making Video Mashups”, Christin showed her engaging lip dub video that she and her 26 students created. Not only was her class’ lip dup video inspiring, Christin’s “behind the scenes” strategies in this classroom-based collaborative effort, were equally important. To help other classroom teachers, I’ll share Christin’s week-long lip dub activity tips below:

  • First, she selected a Sesame Street song which was popular with her students. The “What I Am” YouTube video, in which “Will.i.am” from “The Black Eyes Peas” sings with the various Sesame Street characters, was played for the class. This would become the audio track for the students’ collaborative lip dub video.
  • Lyrics for the song were prepared. For example, the YouTube video “What I am by Will.i.am – Lyrics (Sesame Street)” is a good resource.
  • Lyrics were displayed on a screen.
  • The song was played in class while the students viewed the lyrics and sang along together.
  • Students learned the song and were invited to sing along with a partner.
  • A student, who was reluctant to sing, was accommodated by allowing him to demonstrate his “air drum” technique.
  • Six computers were used on the day of the actual video recording.
  • Christin stressed that it is very important that the “frame per second” ratio is set to the same value on all computers being used.
  • The camera was positioned behind the lyric display screen.
  • Students, in pairs, came up to sing the whole song which was captured as a video clip.
  • After the 13 student-pair songs were recorded, Christin selected an “extended” video clip which best displayed the actions of each pair of students. Each “extended” video clip contained extra frames preceding and following the complete line of the song.
  • During the compilation process, it is important to ensure that every line of the complete song is represented by a student-pair “extended” video clip.
  • The individual audio tracks were removed from each student-pair “extended” video clip.
  • Although other movie-making applications would work, iMovie was used to edit and arrange the clips into the lip dub video.
  • Assemble all 13 “extended silent clips” into the new lip dub video timeline in the appropriate order.
  • Add the “What I Am” audio track to the video project.
  • Trim and “tweak” each of the 13 “extended silent clips” so that each video clip synchronized best with the particular “What I Am” audio track segment.
  • Add a title and credits to the video and save the resulting movie with a backup.
  • Share the final lip dub with students and celebrate. However, in order to protect the privacy of your students, do not transfer this lip dub video creation to an Internet video sharing service like YouTube or Vimeo unless you have appropriate parental approval.

Christin’s tips and strategies helped me better understand the lip dub process from a teacher’s point of view. Although there exist lip dub videos created by older students and adults, Christin shared important steps that demonstrate how younger elementary students can also be engaged in this fun, collaborative, learning adventure.

When comparing Christin’s classroom lip dub with Alec’s more ambitious #ETMOOC project, there are several factors which will appeal to those who might consider creating a class or school lip dub. Some of these important differences include:

  • Christin did not need to formally pool her students and engage a survey service to rate which songs were most popular with her students.
  • Her students sang the entire song so Christin had much more freedom in selecting a video segment that best showcased each student-pair. In addition, she had much more latitude in trimming video clips since each student-pair sang the entire song rather than the more restrictive single line.
  • Classroom or school lip dub activities have much more consistency with regard to video capture hardware and software. Alec had no control over the application or device used to capture the individual participants’ video clip. Nor did he have control over the video image size, resolution, or portrait or landscape formats. Christin, on the other hand, could ensure that all student-pair’ videos were captured in a consistent landscape format avoiding the dreaded “Vertical Video Syndrome” as demonstrated in this comical Public Service Announcement (PSA).
  • To accommodate collecting individual video clips (from Smart phones or web cameras on Macintosh and Windows-based computers), Alec had to set up a process for participants, from around the world, to send video files to him and the video editor. On the other hand, classroom teachers need only save consistently formatted student videos to a local computer or server.
  • With consistent video format, resolution, and layout, the classroom/school video editor need only extract an “extended” video clip showcasing each pair of students and save them in lyrical line order.
  • Based on the large number of video file contributions, Alec had to develop a file-naming convention so that each #ETMOOC video clip could be easily matched with the particular line of song lyrics. In Christin’s case, she did not need to establish a rigid file naming convention because she was working with a more manageable number of video files. Her main concern was to make certain that all student-pair video clips represented all the lyrics and music in the original song.
  • Undoubtedly the #ETMOOC video editor had to manipulate a large number of video clips in a wide variety of file formats, resolutions and layout sizes. Compiling and editing such diverse raw video clips required a highly talented video editor familiar with the advanced capabilities of a fairly powerful video editing tool like Adobe Premiere, Final Cut Pro or Pinnacle Studio. On the other hand, it would be possible for a classroom lip dub to be easily edited and arranged on an iMovie or Windows Movie Maker-like applications with its more limited number of audio and video tracks.

As I was revising this post, I was delighted to receive an email from Paul Stewart – a Computer Technolgy teacher from Garden City Collegiate. Paul had just read my previous post entitled “Lip dub: I’m havin’ a good time!” and wanted to share with me the invigorating experience that his high school students had as they organized a school-wide lip dub. The following two videos were shot in “one take” and showcase how such a lip dub activity can enhance school spirit:

After viewing both of these videos, I was so impressed with the steadiness from the camera’s point of view. I emailed Paul and asked if the students used a tripod, on a moveable dolly, to capture the video. Paul indicated that in the 2011 lip dub the camera was hand-held by a student for the total duration of the “one-take” lip dub. However in the 2012 lip dub video, students made a home-made steadicam to help stabilize the shots. Paul even checked with the students to find out that they built the steadicam after watching the instructional YouTube video entitled  “Awesome Directors Project : $15 DIY steadicamin 15 minutes!”. This “do it yourself” project is one that students, who are engaged in making videos, might like to attempt. Undoubtedly the resulting steadicam device can be used to make more professional looking videos.

In closing, I will list a variety of different innovative lip dub YouTube videos to motivate students and their teachers:

I trust that the information presented by both Christin and Paul will help motivate you to engage the students in your classroom or school to demonstrate their creativity through a lip dub activity. Should you become engaged in your own lip dub learning adventure, I encourage you “pay forward” your tips, resources, and experiences by leaving comments at the end of this post to help motivate and encourage other students and educators.

Take care & keep smiling :-)

Credits: – Flickr – Creative Commons image “singing” by Anthony Kelly
– http://www.flickr.com/photos/62337512@N00/4319350283/

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Lip dub: I’m havin’ a good time!

Activity, ETMOOC, How To, Project, Tutorial No Comments »

Educators looking to engage their students in a fun, educational activity should consider having their students create a collaborative lip dub video of a favourite song. For those unfamiliar with the process, Wikipedia states:

A lip dub is a type of video that combines lip synching and audio dubbing to make a music video. It is made by filming individuals or a group of people lip synching while listening to a song or any recorded audio then dubbing over it in post editing with the original audio of the song.

Having joined the Educational Technology & Media’s Massive Open Online Course (#ETMOOC), I was invited, with other participants from around the world, to participate in a collaborative lip dub.

[ETMOOC Lip Dub: http://www.youtube.co/watch?v=cxwbdLMt_Bo]

I admit that my knowledge of the lip dub process was limited. In early March 2011, Andy McKiel and Darren Kuropatwa hosted a professional development session entitled “Social Media: Challenges & Opportunities for Education”. Not only were they willing to motivate their own teaching staff, they also extended an invitation to educators outside their Division. As this previous link indicates, I left this P.D. session reflecting on the power of one’s Personal Learning Network (PLN). This focus was the result of Dean Shareski’s lip dub video in which he invited 75 friends from around the world to help create a 40th birthday video entitled “Happy Birthday Alec Couros”.  I envied the organizing strategies together with talented movie editing and the commitment of hours that went into creating this masterpiece. It was evident that Alec’s friends were having so much fun engaging in this collaborative lip dub that I knew that the process had potential for students. 

I was delighted when Dean Shareski took the time to share the important “behind the scenes” processes involved in his “Happy Birthday” lip dub. Although his blog post entitled “So I started this Google doc..” shared many of the critical steps, I still felt that the steps outlined were still somewhat theoretical for me because I had not invested my energies or passion into the process. The key part that was still missing in my learning journey, was to be more actively involved in either participating or making a lip dub.

Imagine my delight when I signed up for the Educational Technology & Media’s Massive Open Online Course (#ETMOOC) to find that Alec Couros was planning to create a lip dub, with collaboration from people around the world. I decided to sign up. as a participant, so that I could get a better understanding of the mechanics involved in organizing and creating a lip dub.

To help my readers gain a better appreciation for the steps involved in organizing and creating this #ETMOOC lip dub, I’ll outline the steps below:

  • Alec first invited #ETMOOC participants to consider taking part in this crowd source lip dub activity. Information was sent to participants by both email and through Twitter. Members were given ample time to consider how they might like to participate.
  • Using a Google Docs spreadsheet, Alec invited members of the #ETMOOC community to suggest the name of a song whose lyrics promoted or provided meaning to this special collaborative “singing” experience.
  • Once several songs were suggested, Alec used the “Poll Everywhere” survey process to gain feedback as to which of the 10 most popular suggested songs would become the actial audio track. All members of the #ETMOOC community (regardless of whether they wished to actively participate or not) were encouraged to vote for their favourite. Through continuous tweets, Alec kept the ETMOOC community aware of the the voting results.
  • Once Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” was chosen as the most popular, Alec then provided the #ETMOOC community with a specific YouTube video of a Queen performance so that participants could practice singing along with the performer or refining guitar solos.
  • I found Alec’s “Lip Dub Project” instruction document to be a key ingredient and insight in the organizational requirements of a lip dub with so many participants, from so many different locations, with so many different combinations of hardware and software. This is a “must read” for teachers who are considering creating a lip dub activity. True, you may not need all the extras that Alec has considered (in that his participants are from around the world), but Alec has identified key items that all teachers will find beneficial.
  • In his instruction manual, Alec printed line by line the lyrics to the  song “Don’t Stop Me Now”. After each line, a space was left where a participant could add his/her name indicating that they would sing this specific line. Alec even suggested lines where he encouraged more participation that just one individual. Furthermore, participants were encouraged to engage others  (as well as pets) in creating their video segment so that the fun and laughter could be shared.
  • Participants were encouraged to showcase images to represent the community where the individual was located. If you look closely, at my participation in this #ETMOOC lip dub, you will note that I am wearing a red jacket with the letters CANADA displayed across the front, with a Manitoba flag hanging in the background with an NHL “Jets” cap positioned proudly on my head.
  • Alec suggested that participants make a video of them singing their selected lines(s) of “Don’t Stop Me Now”. To facilitate merging the individual participant clips, Alec suggested participants capture themselves singing their selected line as well as the previous and next lines to allow for trimming during the challenging editing process.
  • The key to working with so many different video segments is to determine a file-naming code or convention. Alec insisted that each individual name his/her video as a combination of the participant name/twitter, geographic location, and the song line number. Following this important advice, my video file contribution was named:

Brian Metcalfe-@bkmetcalfe-WinnipegCanada-Line5.MOV

  • Alec set up a mechanism so that the respective video clips could be sent to him using the Dropbox and DropitTome services. An alternate email process for sending video files was also included so that all participants could send their song snippet to Alec by the stated deadline.
  • Alec then shared the collected video files in Dropbox with Josh Stumpenhorst (@stumpteacher).  Josh volunteered to use his “magic” with Pinnacle Studio to create the resulting #ETMOOC Lip Dub.
  • Once the video was created, it was shared on YouTube with the #ETMOOC community and the world.

I think that Alec summarized the intent of this lip dub project when he stated:

Let’s have fun with this! Show some of that joy and exuberance that many of you have shown thus far. I hope that this results in a great bonding experience, more familiarity with community members, and an artifact that helps to represent the experience of #etmooc.

Although many would consider the uploading of the lip dub to YouTube as the final process in this creative endeavour, I am so thankful that Alec took a most important additional step. Alec found the time to reflect on this lib dub project in his post “Making of the #etmooc Lipdub”. I find that I always learn so much from educators who are willing to share tips and strategies to improve projects with the benefit of hind-sight.

I encourage readers to check out Alec’s reflective post to learn how using a file-name convention starting with the line # (rather than at the end) allows one to automatically sort video clips in order of the songs lyrics. In addition, I particularly liked Alec’s reminder of how he added a “+” sign alias to his Google mail “couros+etmooc@gmail.com” so that he could more easily filter email related to this innovative project. However, without Alec’s reflective post, I would not have realized that my “Don’t Stop Me Now” video clip (which was my first video attempt on our iPad Christmas gift) was suffering from the dreaded “Vertical Video Syndrome”.

In conclusion, I was so delighted to be an active participant in this engaging and fun activity. Furthermore, having the flexibility and freedom to choose which of the Queen lyrics I would sing was very important to me. I felt that as a Life-Long-Learner and recent MOOC participant, I was proud to sing “Don’t stop me now … don’t stop me … ’cause I’m having a good time … having a good time!”

Take care & keep smiling :-)

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“Sharing Is Caring” – A story worth re-telling!

Activity, DS106, ETMOOC, Food for Thought, How To, Project, Social Networking 7 Comments »

Although this tale has already been documented in my earlier posts, this powerful, inspirational story needs to be regularly shared with educators and their students.

Alan Levine (aka @cogdog) has challenged DS106 and ETMOOC participants to share “True Stories of Open Sharing … examples of times when there was an unexpected positive outcome after sharing something openly online.”

My inspiring story starts with a serendipitous visit to 10-year old Laura Stockman’s blog entitled “25 Days to Make a Difference”. Through a blog post, I shared Laura’s passionate quest “to make the world a little better”. In turn, two amazing educators Chris Harbeck (of Winnipeg, Manitoba) and Karl Fisch (of Centennial, Colorado) challenged their students to contribute funds in December to be shared with different charities. I have tried to capture this story of concern, caring, and connection in the following “Sharing Is Caring” YouTube video:

 [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P16Nf7YaX6I]

I have included resource slides at the end of this video which list the 10 respective Internet addresses of important components of this inspirational story. However, I am also including them below, as active hyperlinks, to make it easier for readers to examine this story in depth:

I encourage educators to bookmark this video and review it each November so that you and your students can consider making your difference in December.

Take care & keep smiling :-)

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DS106 Tasks: You Snooze – You Lose!

Activity, DS106, How To, Reflection, Tip 2 Comments »

I’m having fun learning how to create animated GIFs with frames extracted from digital video. In fact, with practice, and the support and feedback of my DS106 learning community, I think I am getting better!

I created this animated GIF and then chose my title. The message combination resonates with me on two levels: the primary one which I’ll address now and the more subtle, subliminal suggestion (which I hope you can figure out), I’ll share at the end of this post.

Zorro as an animated GIF

DS106 Task Tips
This post’s title warning “You Snooze – You Lose!”, with its animated GIF, is a reminder to both DS106 participants (and me) to begin work early Monday morning on the current week’s “Daily Creates” and/or assignments. Those who wait until Sunday to complete the majority of projects assigned during that week will be not only frustrated but will miss out on many positive support and learning opportunities.

As the Digital Storytelling DS106 course moves into more participant-selected assignments and projects, I’d recommend the following:

  1. Plan out your upcoming week’s work early.
  2. Select your first weekly assignment carefully. Pick one that you feel you can accomplish in the least amount of time and, if necessary, with little time spent learning new applications or techniques. Once you have completed your first weekly assignment, you will be motivated and inspired to continue with others.
  3. In your blog posts, document your learning journey. Where possible, provide hyperlinks to tips and resources that showcase how you “tweaked” or made the assignment “your own”. Indicate, what you might do differently if you were to attempt this assignment again.
  4. Choose your “Daily Creates” with care. As an example, if you are instructed, as a minimum, to “do three ‘Daily Creates’ this week”, do not wait until Friday, Saturday and Sunday to tackle this task. Also, if you are weak using Photoshop (as I am), I might be tempted to bypass the Wednesday challenge asking me to “Design a poster of an action movie starring Julia Child” because I know it will require me to spend more than 20 minutes. However, don’t skip a “Daily Create” hoping that the next one will be easier. In reality, the “Daily Creates” are designed to stimulate your creativity and engage you in your learning adventure. No one appreciates this endeavour better than Norm Wright (from the Spring 2012 DS106 course) who shares more than a year’s worth of each days’ creativity in “All My Daily Creates”.
  5. Leave some “percolation time”. In order to be innovative in completing or designing your own assignments, you will need “think time” to explore all aspects of the endeavour before jumping into the task at hand.
  6. Investigate the DS106 Handbook for ideas and tips to help you progress, with fewer hassles. The associated links have been compiled from previous DS106 courses and represent the best resources.
  7. Invoke Google Reader’s RSS feeds in order to keep up-to-date with blog posts and resources shared by the DS106 learning community.
  8. Read other student’s blog posts and provide positive, constructive comments.
  9. Connect with other DS106 students (face-to-face or online) so that you have an idea of whom you might like to work with should a collaborative project be assigned.
  10. Sign up for Twitter so that you can monitor and reply to DS106-related tweets, which can be filtered, using the hashtags like #ds106, #dailycreate or specific iindividuals like #cogdog. I personally like to use TweetDeck, to organize Twitter feeds, as I can setup individual columns for “All Friends”; “Mentions”; “Search: #ds106″; “Search: #dailycreate”; “Favorites”; etc.
  11. Take time to send 140 character tweets (with the #ds106 and/or #dailycreate hashtags) to share your accomplishments. You will be surprised how many of your DS106 colleagues will check out your creativity and provide you with motivational comments.
  12. Faithfully read CogDog’s Blog posts and Twitter feeds (@cogdog) so that you are kept up-to-date on the many facets of the DS106 course.
  13. Always be generous when scheduling each project’s time estimate. Remember that when using technology, Murphy’s Law states that “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.” If you have completed a DS106 assignment in less time than you previously estimated, then you are “laughing” :-)
  14. If you leave projects to the weekend you will miss out on the valuable aspect of reading colleagues’ blog posts and commenting. This important step helps build a productive and caring learning community.

Creating My Animated GIF
Without repeating myself, I worked through the basic tasks that I have already documented in my post entitled “The eyes are the windows into the soul. In fact, as someone who does not easily internalize processes, I find that if I document the steps in my learning journey, I can go back to that post whenever I need to repeat the process. In summary, I used these steps:

  1. I began, by selecting the YouTube movie trailer “The Mask of Zorro – Trailer”
  2. Since I am using an older Windows computer running the XP operating system, I used the PWN YouTube bookmarklet process for downloading the trailer and saved it as a High Quality MP4 file. 
  3. Next I used MPEG Streamclip to extract only the clip showing Zorro’s “sword play” near the start of the trailer. I was careful determining the “In ” and “Out” points along the timeline by using my arrow keys to move one frame at a time. Ideally, I wanted the final sword slash to end at a position near where the initial slash began. Such positioning would promote a cleaner, cyclic animated GIF. Unfortunately, I was unable to find a video footage where Zorro uses his rapier in repeated, distinctive “Z” slashing moves, so I did the best that I could in selecting the start and end points of this trimmed video clip.
  4. I extracted 16 frames that I imported into GIMP as separate layers. I then followed the detailed steps in the DS106 Handbook link “Creating Animated GIFs with (free) Open Source Software”.

I admit that I do not understand the complexities of GIMP and follow the instructions blindly. However,  having a link to these important instructional documents, always helps me in the future. I know that if I enter “animated GIF” (without quotes) into my right-hand “Search L-L-L Blog” field on my blog, I will find posts explaining how to create animated GIFs. I know that if I scan each post for hyperlinks, I’ll find valuable resources to help me create another animated GIF.

I’ll always like to ask myself … “If you were to repeat this assignment/project, what would you do differently?”. For this activity, I’d like to follow up on Alan Levine’s suggestion to try and reduce the size of animated GIFs. To do so, I would like to see if I could delete some of the 16 frames that I extracted without diminishing the visual appeal of the sword play.

Did you find the subliminal message?
At the start of this post, I suggested that the title “You Snooze – You Lose!” and Zorro’s distinctive, three stroke rapier cut “Z mark”, shared a subtle, subliminal message. One might suggest that the animated GIF, that I created, produces a repetitive pattern of “Z Z Z Z …”. In the English language, the symbol of repeated Zs often means that an individual is snoozing or snoring. Thus Zorro, with his distinctive sword-play, is subtly reinforcing the title message that snoozing or snoring during the DS106 term not only causes the individual to lose out, but perhaps equally important, the DS106 learning and support community loses an important contributing component … You!

Take care & keep smiling :-)

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The eyes are the windows into the soul

Activity, DS106, Food for Thought, How To, Tutorial 6 Comments »

You might ask, like my wife, why am I enrolling in the DS106 course again. Didn’t I get my “fill” of on-line learning a year ago? The simple answer is that there are gaps in my learning that I want to try fill. I have found that through the on-going support, comments, and instructional blog posts of the DS106 community, I can take ownership for my own learning and professional development.

In the previous post, I alluded to the fact that GIF animation had become so much more sophisticated over the past dozen years. Certainly, I was actively engaged in the Spring 2012 DS106 course and I was extremely pleased at the skills and knowledge I had gained. However, as I continued to read other DS106-related blog posts, during the remainder of 2012, I realized that my GIF animation was quite limiTed.

So now that I have “dotted my “T”s … we’ll now cross our “I”s” :-)

Judge Judy Animated Eyes

[Animated GIF reflecting "The eyes are the windows into the soul"]

The Back Story
As an educator, I am so grateful to the DS106 individuals, who not only share their assignments, but also take the time to provide insights and instructions into their creative process. Sometimes when we attend Educational Technology conferences or professional development sessions, we are exposed to perfect, polished activities or projects. However, on returning to our classrooms, we may become discouraged when we attempt to replicate the process ourselves. Some of the reasons for this failure might include lacking the necessary hardware, software, or more importantly, the skills that the sharing educator took for granted. I welcome the DS106 model in which participants are encouraged to share their insights into their creative process.

To illustrate the importance of this “Back Story” process, I urge educational readers to view Dean Shareski’s K-12 Online Conference keynote video entitled “Sharing: The Moral Imperative”. Here, Dean suggests that “the ability to teach and share beyond our classrooms is moving from ‘nice to do’ to ‘necessary to do’”. Although this keynote was extremely powerful and the message is still just as important today as it was in the Fall of 2010, it was Dean’s “Back Story” that I appreciated. Later in the conference Dean shared a remarkable, instructional “behind the scenes” video to help educators better understand why and how his original “Sharing” video was created. Here, I learned a number of tips including how Dean set up his scrolling iPad (above the video camera) to function as his teleprompter.

In the past, the vast majority of individuals were content to be “consumers” of information from sources such as Internet web sites. Only a few were “producers” who created animated GIFs and learned to craft web pages using HyperText Markup Language (HTML). However, there has been a dramatic shift!. Today, the vast majority of students, particularly those in the DS106 community, learn best as “producers of knowledge”, be it their own blog or crafty, video-based, animated GIFs. In order to encourage such production, I recommend that one strive to include insight into how each assignment was crafted through a “back story” process. Through providing such “teachable moments” your learning will improve and perhaps, more importantly, you will provide a learning legacy for others.

My “Animated” Learning Journey
My motivation to begin was the realization that many of the creative “GIF masters” (that I referenced in the previous post) were starting with video rather than a static image to create their animated GIFs. As I was unfamiliar with the process for capturing video, I searched the DS106 website for  information on “animated GIFs”. I was delighted to find a DS106 wiki, which was a veritable gold mine of tutorials. The one that I explored was:

Based on this information, I jumped in “with both feet” and started searching YouTube for possible videos. I selected a video entitled “Judyism: Judge Judy At Her Best”. I thought that the expression in Judy’s eyes might not only help me learn more about animating from a video clip but might also qualify my work for the “GIF Me Again About My Eyes” assignment worth “two points”.

My next hurdle involved finding a reliable mechanism for downloading YouTube videos. I still use an older Windows computer running the XP operating system so my choices of free downloading options may be somewhat limited. I investigated the Fastest YouTube Downloader, Freemake Video Downloader (for Windows) and the Pwn YouTube process.  Gizmo’s Freeware  posted “Finally a Free, Flexible Youtube Download That Works” which recommended Freemake Video Downloader. I had previously installed this software during last year’s DS106 class. However, during a more thorough investigation this year, I became rather concerned when it was revealed that Freemake Video Downloader used the “Open Candy” system during installation. I admit that when I install software, I always read each page and opt-out of any additions of other products or new toolbars. I pay a yearly license fee to run commercial, up-to-date virus protection and regularly run Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware to remove any potential unwanted threats. So with this latest information, I utilized the Pwn YouTube process, which appeared to be the least invasive approach, to downloading video from YouTube.

Once I had captured the “Judge Judy” video, I downloaded MPEG Streamclip to trim the frames that displayed the eye movement. I found by using the arrow keys on my keyboard, I could advance along the timeline and select video frame-by-frame. These frames were then exported into the GIMP image manipulation program which I had downloaded and installed.

I admit that I do not know very much about making animated GIFs from video. However, I found that by viewing Michael Branson Smith’s excellent “Animated GIF” video and following the detailed steps in the DS106 wiki tutorial, I was able to produce my first animated GIF from video.

The Last Important Question
My wife, who was also a teacher, was very involved in her school divisions “Science Fair”. When judging student projects, one of her most important questions near the end of her interview with students was “If you were to do this over again, what would you do differently?” Such a question is one that I think we, as professionals, should continually ask ourselves.

In my case, I know that there are three things that I would like to attempt:

  1. Explore the process for adding an additional “reverse string” of selected video frames to the exported images  to make a smoother, cyclic animated GIF. Michael Branson Smith explained this process do well in his video “GIFFing Video Clips with Photoshop”  (starting at approximately the 5:00 minute mark). However, I’m not sure that my copy of “Photoshop Elements 6″ has all the necessary features.
  2. Explore different YouTube download processes and conversion to different formats. I would like to find the best combination to not capture quality video clips but also display the resulting animated GIF in the best format in my blog.
  3. Most importantly, I’d recommend that DS106-ers use as their primary resource “The DS106 Handbook”. I believe the renovations to the DS106 web site have been spectacular. The format is so much more inviting and is organized in an efficient manner with all the tools you need identified in the handbook. Therefore, don’t search for “Ds106 animated GIFs” like I did, which brought up the older wiki-based information; rather check out the ever-evolving and updated links in the handbook such as:

I admit that this post is rather lengthy but I hope that by modelling the “Back Story” process, I can encourage others to share their tips and tricks along their learning journey.

Take care & keep smiling :-)

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