As a classroom teacher, are you looking for an activity which will engage your students? If so, I recommend that you and your students investigate the “Pay It Forward Day” resource. Although the official day is tomorrow, the last Thursday in April, I still feel that this idea has merit and can be implemented on any day or during any week, and still have amazing, positive results.
I was inspired by the “Pay It Forward Day” founder, Charley Johnson’s TED Talk “Simplicity in a Complex World” in which he states that a world-wide universal truth is that “we all want this world to be better”. As a teacher, I encourage you to start by reviewing the “Pay It Forward Day” video trailer or Charley Johnson’s, “Pay It Forward 2013″ message.
To help your students understand the important ripple effect in paying a good deed forward, I recommend the YouTube “Kindness Boomerang” video. I’d recommend exploring the on-line school resources and downloading and printing the applicable grade level “Pay It Forward Day” card as shown below:
If you are unable to act on this opportunity in a timely manner, I encourage you to begin sharing the “Pay It Forward” concept and ideas with your students throughout the remainder of this year. However, make certain that you mark, the last Thursday in April next year (April 24, 2014), as a reminder of the important teaching opportunity that awaits you and your students.
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.
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.
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
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.
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:
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 “email@example.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!”
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:
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:
The purpose of this post is to discuss problem solving, the “Oh” moment, and to request help from readers to identify additional examples of K-12 problem solving activities/projects that engage students.
The Back Story
“What prompted this focus on problem solving?”, you ask. This past Christmas, my wife received an iPad as a gift. One of the first free apps that we installed was “Draw Something“. This problem-solving activity asks participants to draw representations of one of three different words. In our case, the drawing was then shared online with a particular family member. The recipient watches a short video of the drawing being created, together with clues as to the number of letters in the word as well as a variety of letters that may, or may not, be part of the word.
For example, our older son sent us the following picture which represented a seven character word which might be considered as a “university activity”.
Now both my wife and I attended university but struggled to figure out what the person was holding. We utilized a popular problem solving strategy in which we dialogued and thought “out loud”. Our conversation went something like this …
Wife: Do you think it’s a coil ring binder?
Me: No there is not a “B” as one of the 7 letters.
Wife: Maybe it’s a sheet of music held by a choir member?
Me: Well if I had drawn the picture of a person singing, I’d have included musical notes.
Me: I know. It’s a beer tankard.
Wife: Well there are two “E”s, but no “B”.
Me: I note that there are two “E”s and two “O”s. Perhaps they are double letters as in “beer” or “food”. What do you think?
Wife: With only seven letters in the word, both double “E”s and “O”s cannot be included together.
Me: Well … we’ve successfully solved the previous 19 games so I hate to give up.
Wife: Why don’t we press the “crossed-arrows” button (on the right) to rearrange the 12 letters in a different format? Perhaps we will see a new letter pattern.
We repeatedly clicked on the “crossed arrows” and no matter how those twelve letters were re-arranged, we did not get any inspiration or clues as to the nature of the drawing.
The critical “Oh” or “Aha moment” occurred for me when I turned off the iPad (by holding down Wake/Sleep button) and restarted it. When I selected the “Draw Something” game, the same “university activity” challenge picture was still displayed and the following 12 letters were offered up as clues.
However, the important clue was that they were not just the original 12 characters, in a new, scrambled layout format as generated by the “crossed arrows” button. Rather, this new set of 12 characters were different from the ones presented in the original drawing shown above.
This revelation was a problem solving break-through! I wrote down the above 12 characters and repeated the process. Each time the game was re-booted, I wrote down the new 12 character display and repeated this five more times.
My wife and I wrote down the six sets of 12 character clusters as shown below:
Our next step was to identify which characters were common to all six sets. To illustrate this process, I have coloured in red the seven common letters that appear in all of these 12 character clusters. We finally were making headway as we identified the following seven letters that needed to be unscrambled to solve the picture:
U L O O S P C
My wife and I looked back at our son’s drawing and started to rearrange these seven characters. I finally thought that perhaps the last three letters might be “C U P” and suggested that perhaps there was a Norwegian trophy known as the “O S L O C U P. Unfortunately, when we dragged the seven letters into the available spaces, the application prompted us with “guess again!” My wife took over and after several minutes, she dragged and arranged the letters to spell the word “S O L O C U P”. The “Draw Something” app congratulated us and my wife and I looked at each other with a dumfounded amazement. While we share a total of 11 years of university, we were never exposed to this activity. In fact, I had to search Google to find out what the term “SOLOCUP” meant.
However, the challenge of this “Draw Something” activity got me thinking about the different ways that people, and in particular students, solve problems and how we, as teachers, might foster thinking “outside the box”.
How does this relate to the classroom?
As a former Mathematics and Computer Science teacher, I have always been passionate about puzzles and problem solving. In fact, I still maintain that my high school Computer Science students focused not so much on proper syntax of the Fortran programming language but more importantly on the task of problem solving. In the early 70′s, my students had only one “run” a day (as I took their punched card programs to the university each night), so they focused on attention to detail and the art of problem solving.
Is there a way that K-12 teachers today can introduce engaging, problem solving activities/projects into their teaching. I admit that we all require some rote, lower-level thinking and learning. However, if today’s Kindergarten students are going to be successful when they graduate from high school in 12 years, they must acquire critical, higher order thinking and problem solving skills. Certainly we cannot imagine what new technologies and jobs will be created and evolve over the next decade. However, I think that we can be quite confident that graduates that have practiced and honed their problem solving skills will be much more successful.
Here is where I ask my readers to help me. I will list below a series of problem solving activities that I think educators should adopt/adapt for their classrooms. To enhance each entry, I’ll provide a hyperlink to more adequately describe the problem solving endeavour. I encourage readers to add their favourite problem solving activity/project, together with a descriptive link, in the comment area so that this post can benefit others through our collaborative actions:
Before I became engaged in the digital storytelling DS106 activities, I had never stopped to consider that there are stories that are told through bumper stickers. Furthermore, unlike my writing style, the bumper sticker text is usually fairly succinct based on the limited space available. This “bumper sticker” activity combines economy of words and images to create a powerful message.
One only needs to use Google to search for “bumper sticker” images to gain an insight into the powerful messages that are shared through this creative storytelling media.
However, I wondered if teachers might challenge their students to create bumper stickers that reflect aspects of their subject of study. To illustrate this idea, I have designed three bumper stickers that might be designed by students in a History/Social Studies classroom.
For example, what bumper sticker might be displayed on the canoe of successful Coureurs des Bois?
Do you think early settlers would have been proud to display bumper stickers depicting where they lived?
Would poorer farmers display the following bumper sticker on the back of their slow moving horse-drawn carts?
These are a few examples that might encourage students to become engaged in creating bumper stickers to showcase some aspect of a course of studies.
Two posts will be published today. They represent two different “storytelling” activities that can be used to engage your K-12 students. This first activity is known by DS106 students, as the “Four Icon Challenge” or the “One Story – Four Icons” assignment. My following post will describe how “Bumper Sticker” creation can engage your students in an unique way. Recently I shared a presentation entitled “‘DS106′ – The ABC’s of Digital Storytelling” at a ManACE Technology Information Night (TIN). During my preparation for this TIN presentation, I confirmed that these two engaging activities have a definite role to play within our K-12 classes.
The Four Icon Challenge
This activity can be used successfully within any subject in most K – 12 grade levels. DS106 students were required to synthesize a movie or book down to four basic ideas that can be represented by icons. In order that you better understand the process, I will challenge you to name the following books or movies:
Readers may check their answers by scrolling to the bottom of this post.
The compilation of four images are represented in different layouts or designs. Although most entries used a horizontal arrangement of four icons, the second entry (B) used a square design and the colour as a hint. In the last entry (E), I inserted appropriate images into a four cell table in Word. Next, I took a “screen shot” and saved the four icon challenge compilation as an image. The first entry (A) used the web application “Chogger” which allows students to create a “comic strip” of four icons without the need to login. One can simply visit http://chogger.com and select either of the green “Build” or “Make a Comic” buttons. For this activity, one selects a layout panel with four components and begins by either drawing or using Google to search for appropriate images to insert into each of the panel frames.
Teachers, who may wish to display student’s “Four Icon Challenge” creations on the web, should advise students to save the images without giving away the answer through the image filename. For example, if one hovers the cursor over the first example (A), the answer is immediately obvious. Challenge (B) used a filename which is easy to “crack” and the last entry (E) used scrambled words to create the filename. However, examples (D) and (E) display only a generic filename which does not provide any clues to the movie or book.
This technique of distilling a book or movie down to four main ideas could also be used to to depict a historical event. Imagine what four key ideas, with appropriate icons, could be used to represent Canada’s Confederation, the development of the atomic bomb, or the African-American Civil Rights Movement. Encourage your students to create a “Four Icon Challenge” to showcase important aspects of the subject area that you teach.
For those readers who are skeptical that this activity can be used effectively with younger children, I recommend that you investigate Tyler Hart’s Grade 3 classroom. In an earlier highlighted “Teachable Moment” blog post entitled “Puzzle: What book, movie or historical event“, I demonstrated how this creative teacher and his students in Richmond Virginia became engaged in this “One Story – Four Icon Challenge”.
As the end of the school year fast approaches, I suggest that this challenge might provide an interesting way for teachers to gain feedback about their course. Why not ask students to create four panel stories that depict the activities or activities that they enjoyed most?
I find that in many puzzle books or in the trivia questions in the local “Coffee News“, readers often look at the question and, rather than take time to adequately think about the problem, they quickly flip the page to find the answers that are written upside down or are printed on the reverse side of the paper. To help encourage you and your students to take adequate time to puzzle over the above “Four Icon Challenges”, I am “scrambling” my solutions somewhat. After you have tried to solve all the above five books or movies, you may unscramble my solutions section (shown below) by:
holding this computer display up to a mirror; or
printing this post and reading the black-framed solutions in a mirror.
Over the years, the last Thursday of April has been designated as a special day. This year, Thursday, April 26th is designated as the international “Pay it Forward Day” … an excellent opportunity for students to demonstrate their digital citizenship.
As an educator, I enjoyed the inspirational 2000 movie called “Pay It Forward”, staring Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt and Haley Joel Osment. The story is about a 12 year old student who is challenged by his Social Studies teacher to “Think of an idea for world change, and put it into action.” The youngster devises a process in which he does a good deed to three people in need with the hope that each of them will “pay it forward” to three new people and that this process will continue exponentially.
Pay it Forward Day
Teachers are encouraged to introduce and celebrate the “Pay It Forward Day” with their students. Educators are encouraged to investigate the wealth of educational resources that are available on the Pay It Forward Day web site including:
Together we can change the world, one good deed at a time.
Often it is the first five “big ideas”, belonging to the cognitive domain, that tend to be emphasized, while the remaining four elements making up the affective domain may get less exposure because teachers may find these concepts difficult to integrate. I encourage readers to watch Chris Harbeck’s Vimeo video entitled “Why Digital Citizenship Matters” and to explore Chris’ blog entitled “Embracing Citizenship” to see how Chris has introduced these important affective domain components into his teaching of middle school students at Sargent Park School in Winnipeg.
True, teaching citizenship can be a challenge but the opportunity and the resources provided through the “Pay It Forward Day” make it much easier and meaningful. In closing, I have to ask you … how many acts of kindness will students in your classes initiate on the way to this year’s target goal of 3 million?
I have just completed the “Audio Assignments” section of my free online Digital Storytelling DS106 course and I have learned two very important facts. Having struggled through the creation of a 14 minute radio interview, I now have the utmost respect for the technical wizards who work “behind the scenes” to craft a radio show. Secondly, I have a new-found appreciation for the power and possibilities that Audacity, the free Macintosh, Linux and Windows audio editor and recording application, has to engage students in K-12 classrooms. With its wealth of online resources and support, Audacity should be a standard classroom and student application.
My “Interview/Music Mashup” audio assignment followed the Dickie Goodman interview style. Feeling that it was important to share the powerful ideas and learning that is associated with the DS106 phenomenon, I decided to create an investigative radio interview. I directed 20 probing questions at two “anonymous” DS106 students and they, in turn, answered with relevant snippets from popular songs.
The K-12 Perspective
What have I learned during this exercise that might apply to K-12 students?
First, and foremost, students today are engaged when they use technology to support their learning. The fact that Audacity is a free, open source application (that runs on a variety of operating systems) means that students can install this application on their home computers and work on an audio assignment outside regular school hours.
For example, I’d recommend that students be required to collaborate with partners as they produce audio assignments such as the following:
Social Studies students might create a campfire talk between Radisson and Groseilliers as they discuss exploration and fur trading with the Hudson’s Bay Company. Can you hear the cracking fire, the loon and the wolves howling in the distance?
What would two privates, who are in the front line trenches preparing to go “over the top” during World War I, talk about? Imagine the sound effects of battle that could be added to enhance the realism.
Two students could compare and contrast a poem or novel in a Language Arts class.
Music students might make a recoding of a duet together with an added “Extra Features” section which outlines the learning journey that they went through in creating the musical recording.
Science students might create an audio interview where they ask questions of scientists such as: Archimedes, Marie Curie, Einstein, Euclid, Galileo, Frederick Sanger or Jonas Salk.
Students who are interested in sports, might create an interview where they dissect a recent game and compare and contrast different coaching styles and player performance.
Regardless of the audio assignment chosen, I think that all students should include an “Extra Feature” that outlines what they learned during the activity, what they might do differently (if they were to select this same project again), and suggestions and tips for future students.
As an educator you would not want your students to upload their .mp3 formatted audio assignment to a web server. However, students could still transfer their home-created audio files to a USB memory device and bring them to school where they could be shared on a CD or showcased from the teacher’s computer behind the school’s firewall.
Regardless of the subject-specific learning opportunity presented to students, I can assure readers that using Audacity together with technology to tell a particular story is a powerful and engaging educational process.
The DS106 Perspective For me, this audio assignment opened up an entirely new way of telling a story. True, I have used Audacity in past but I have limited my use to a very simplistic process. For example, in past, I simply recorded my voice and added any additional audio into the single, primary audio track in the Audacity application. However, this assignment challenged me to use multiple tracks for the announcer’s questions, the vocal snippet replies, and the the musical interlude. I even played with a robotic modification of the two student’s responses to preserve their anonymity.
I began by roughing out an interview script where I identified “20 questions” (based on the old radio show of the same name) that I thought might highlight some aspect of the DS106 phenomenon. I then searched YouTube for songs that I though might contain lyrics that would apply to some aspect of the DS106 experience. I must admit that I spent a great deal of time searching for the right music tracks. Furthermore, it is often necessary to listen to the entire song to find the most appropriate lyrics or the section where the audio is clearest. Unfortunately, during this time consuming process, there were many songs that were considered but rejected.
One thing that I would like to see is an efficient way to search for all songs that contain a specific word or phrase. For example, when I was searching for music that would help share with listeners the time commitment that students may invest in DS106, the only song that came to my mind was Jim Croce’s “Time in a bottle”. Although the word “time” was in the title, Jim’s lyrics did not help me portray how busy students can be with this innovative DS106 course. Unfortunately, I don’t know how to efficiently search a comprehensive data base containing all the lyrics to popular songs. If you the reader can suggest a search technique to find possible lyrics and music, I would be very much appreciate if you could share your strategy through a comment at the end of this post.
In past, I would have began this assignment by recoding the first interview question into Audacity and then adding the appropriate musical segment as an answer. I would then continue repeating these two steps, which might span several days, until all 20 questions and answers were mixed to my satisfaction. However, knowing that on subsequent days, I would have difficulty making certain that the audio levels and that my microphone position were in the exact same location, I was concerned that there would be a noticeable difference between questions.
In order to maintain the same audio “balance” between all 20 questions, I decided to record the interview question track all at the same time. I had my script written out and I simply read out each question and left a three second placeholder interval between questions. Once I saved the respective Audacity project file (e.g. “interview-V1.aup”), I then could add in an additional track containing the vocal lyric answer which could be slid along the timeline and tweaked to fit into the respective “placeholder interval”. Knowing how much effort I was putting into this assignment, I made certain to save my “creations” on a regular basis. I used my traditional “version” naming convention and simply increased the “version value” each time I added a new lyric reply to a new question. This process allows me to save filenames as: “interview-V1.aup”, ”interview-V2.aup”, “interview-V3.aup”, etc. Should a “hiccup” occur, I can always go back and retrieve an earlier version to continue my work.
My tip to others who wish to create a Dickie Goodman-style interview using Audacity with musical lyric replies is to pay very close attention to the “sampling rate” of all components. Where possible, it is best if all audio portions can have the same sample sampling rate.
For example, when I started recording my main 20 question track into Audacity, I simply proceeded using Audacity’s default sampling rate which was set at the 44100 Hz level. In Audacity, one can set this sampling rate from a low of 8000 to a high of 96000 Hz. Obviously the quality of the recoding, together with the audio file size, increases as the corresponding Hz value increases. However, when I started acquiring my musical lyric replies, I failed to notice that most of these audio snippets had a slightly higher sampling rate of 48000 Hz. It was only when I was part way though blending these musical replies, that I noticed a particularly familiar snippet seemed to slow down and change in pitch when it was mixed with my primary 20 question track. It was then that I noticed the difference in the sampling rate between my question recording at 44100 Hz and the musical snippet at 48000 Hz. I explored all avenues and could not find a way to reduce the sampling rate on the individual musical replies without distorting the melody. So I continued blending my lowered sampled interview questions with the higher and more precise audio snippets. Once the final mixed interview track was completed at 44100 Hz, I simply re-saved the entire file at the higher 48000 Hz level which preserved the original melody speed and pitch. Unfortunately, this “tweak” sped up and slightly changed the pitch of my interview and any other components that were originally introduced to the mix at the lower 44100 Hz level. Once the remix interview was completed to my satisfaction, I used Audacity to export the project file as an .mp3 file which I uploaded to SoundCloud for sharing.
My recommendation is that you first open the song snippets or any other audio tracks in Audacity and determine the sampling rate that applies to most of the audio components. Once this value is established, start Audacity and change the default sampling rate so that this application will work without “hiccups” because now all your audio components will be utilizing a common sampling rate.
Lastly, but most important. In this musical mashup interview, I have used snippets from the following tunes listed below. In order that I might demonstrate the educational fair use of such music, I have purchased individual tracks for each of these songs on my iTunes card.
In the Mood – Glenn Miller
Magic – Olivia Newton John
You Really Got A Hold On Me – Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
I Heard It Through The Grapevine – Marvin Gaye
The Reverend Mr. Black – The Kingston Trio
Who Let The Dogs Out? – Baha Men
I’m So Excited – The Pointer Sisters
Just My Imagination – The Temptations
Makin’ It Work – Doug and the Slugs
Eight Days a Week – The Beatles
Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is? – Chicago
Help – The Beatles
With A Little Help From My Friends – The Beatles
ABC – Glee
Let’s All Sing Like The Birdies Sing – Jay Wilbur & His Metropole Players
I’m Gonna Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter – Nat King Cole
That’ll Be The Day – Buddy Holly
I’m Sorry – Brenda Lee
I’m A Believer – The Monkees
Taking Care Of Business – Bachman-Turner Overdrive
We Are The Champions – Queen
My Way – Frank Sinatra
Unfortunately, many of the songs containing the musical snippets may be more familiar to the “more experienced’ listener as opposed to our younger students. However, this fact should in no way diminish the power of using an audio interview to engage students in a powerful, new and exciting way.
I was amazed at the wealth of powerful, newsworthy, “large format” images that were displayed on “The Big Picture” web site. Undoubtedly teachers and students studying current events need to explore this superior resource.
As I viewed the various photos on this web site, I tried to look at each picture, in turn, through a “different lens” in order that I might change the intent. For this assignment, I selected this rather serious photo, taken on February 1st, showing marching Afghan police during the authority transfer between NATO and Afghan security forces. Please be assured that it is not my intention to poke fun at the Afghan situation in any way. However, during this assignment I was challenged to alter the image’s message by attempting to create a humourous situation from ones that were definitely serious or tragic.
When I saw each left foot raised in unison, I immediately thought of the “Hokey-Pokey” song and dance. Next I spent considerable time exploring the standard default fonts that were displayed in Photoshop Elements. Although I tried several different styles, I did not find a font that looked “musical” to me. Rather, than be stymied at this point, I wondered if there were any free True Type fonts that I could find on the Internet that I could download and install on my computer.
Imagine my delight to find “Fontspace.com“, which claims to have a collection of 16,678 fonts for Windows and Macintosh computers. I browsed through 10 pages of fonts in the “Music” category and downloaded the following two:
I downloaded and unzipped these two compressed files to my Windows XP desktop. I then clicked on “Start > Settings > Control Panel > Fonts”. Once my current installed fonts window was open, I clicked on the “File > Install New Font” menu items. Next, I navigated to my desktop where the two downloaded unzipped files were located, selected each in turn, and clicked the “OK’ button to add the new True Type fonts to my computer.
When I returned to my “Photoshop Elements 6′” (PSE) application (which was still open) and highlighted the current text string, the newly-installed fonts did not appear in the drop-down list box. However, when I exited and re-started PSE, the necessary links were re-established and the two new fonts were now available for use.
I then used these two different fonts to enhance my captions which definitely changed the impact and message of the existing serious picture to one of humour, albeit “warped” in the eyes of some.