Hand Clapping: This ‘sounds’ like fun!

Activity, Project 2 Comments »

Why do we clap our hands? Clapping in many cultures is used to show support or gratitude. The following activity is one that will have your students clapping and competing.

Students will be challenged, in this innovative educational endeavour, to see how fast they can clap their hands. Have students work in pairs where one child claps as fast as possible and the other student counts and records the number of claps in a 10 second interval. Then the roles of clapping and counting are reversed. Who can clap the fastest in each pair and who can clap the fastest in your classroom?

Challenge students to think of a way in which technology might be used to more accurately measure the number of claps in a 10 second interval. Linux, Macintosh and Windows users might be encouraged to use the free, cross-platform sound editor called “Audacity” found at: http://audacity.sourceforge.net/. Each student can use the Audacity software, together with a microphone, to record a 15 second sample of his/her fastest hand clapping. From within this 15 second recording, one can then pick a 10 second interval that has the most “spikes” corresponding to the individual claps. Ask students to save their Audacity fast clapping image (similar to my sample shown at the right) and indicate how many claps they captured in a 10 second interval. Based on the number of claps in this 10 second sample, ask each student to calculate how many claps s/he could accomplish in 1 minute.

Collect the data from your class and plot the number of claps in 10 seconds, as well as the corresponding extrapolated value for a full minute. Enter the data in an Excel spreadsheet, sort students from fastest to slowest clapping rates, and determine what the average number of claps for your class might be.

Following this activity, ask your students to discuss if they feel that there are people who can clap faster than the fastest student in class. If so, what do they think might be the highest number of claps in 1 second, 10 seconds or 1 minute?

Next, share with them the following YouTube video which demonstrates the world’s fastest clapper, Kent “Toast” French at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PNXElmEUIJo

Undoubtedly, Kent demonstrates a rather unique talent. Ask your students how they could verify Kent’s claim to be able to clap at a rate of 12 claps per second.

I like this educational activity because it not only engages students but it also demonstrates how technology can be used to more accurately measure Kent’s very fast clapping rate. If, indeed, one claps to show gratitude, then I firmly believe that the Australian teacher, Simon Job, deserves a standing ovation for sharing this innovative activity in his “MathClass” blog post entitled “World’s Fastest Clapper“. I encourage you to review his post to explore his ideas and resources. Next, adapt his strategies and techniques and formulate a lesson to engage and challenge your own students. I can guarantee that teachers who introduce this activity to their students will be making a “sound” investment!

Take care & keep smiling :-)

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‘Image with a Message’ Activity/Project

Activity, DS106, How To, LwICT, Project 20 Comments »

Are you looking for an engaging computer-related activity or project for your students? Regardless of the grade or subject area in which you teach, I think I have an idea that you will find both stimulating as well as educationally relevant.

Over the past few years, much emphasis as been placed on technology integration throughout all subjects in the K-12 spectrum. However, many educators may become frustrated because they feel that their students need to be scheduled into the school’s computer lab to use technology in a meaningful manner. Others may feel that image acquisition is restricted based on their school or divisional filtering policy. To help reduce such frustration, I propose that students complete this “Image with a Message” activity, on their own time, to demonstrate that they can use basic technology skills to enhance other assignments or projects in any discipline.

I asked myself, what are the main tasks or concepts that all students should be able to perform when using technology. Regardless, of the particular curriculum, I believe that each student should be able to use the technology to accomplish the following three basic tasks:

  • search the Internet critically;
  • enhance projects with images from Creative Commons; and
  • give appropriate credit.

Students who can accomplish the above three fundamentals will be better prepared to use technology in a meaningful manner to enhance many school-related assignments and projects.

I want to remove the hassle for all teachers who feel that it is necessary to gain access to the school computer lab before recommending that students engage in any computer-related endeavour. Why must students always use computers at school? In many cases, students have access to computers at home, in public libraries, or in community centers that are more sophisticated than the equipment in their respective school computer labs. Furthermore, asking students to work, perhaps in pairs, outside of school fosters important collaborative skills that have life-long benefits. Perhaps individuals who don’t have access to a computer at home can be teamed up with another student who has ready access.

“Image with a Message” Activity Overview

Each student must create a JPEG image that combines the following three components:

  1. a famous quotation or statement that has relevance to the subject being studied;
  2. a “Creative Commons” image that combines to illustrate the above quotation; and
  3. the computer address link which identifies the “Creative Commons” image.

“Image with a Message” Lesson Steps for the Teacher

Although the following steps are directed to teachers, I have also included a somewhat similar student handout (in both Word and PDF formats) at the end of this blog entry.

1.    For students who learn best by seeing the “big picture”, educators should showcase some of the samples that I have created for this blog entry or select other “Image with a Message” creations from some of the following sources:

2.    Since each student’s final JPEG image will be emailed to the teacher, on or before the assignment due date, it is best to determine a standard image size. For example, one may recommend, based on the screen resolution of the computer in one’s classroom or school lab, that each project’s final image dimensions must be 800 x 600 or 1024 x 768 pixels.

3.    Team up students in pairs. Ensure that students who do not have access to a computer outside school are matched with a partner that has access to a computer with internet access. Even though students are working in pairs, each student must create his/her individual “image with a message”.

4.    Select a famous quotation that is relevant to the subject area. Team partners must select a different quotation and a different image. Possible sources of quotations, from famous individuals, may be located at such web sites as:

5.    Review the Creative Commons License Types at:

6.    Demonstrate how one can use the Flickr Advanced Search at: http://www.flickr.com/search/advanced/

For example, to find the previously shown “light bulb” image, I entered the words “light bulb idea” (without quotes) in the top search field. I then checked off the “Photos/Videos” media type. Lastly, and most importantly, I checked off the bottom “Creative Commons” filter by selecting the two qualifiers to “Only search within Creative Commons-licensed content” and to “Find content to modify, adapt, or build upon” since I hoped to combine or re-mix an image with a quotation.

7.    Browse through the various “Creative Commons” photos until one finds a suitable image and click on its thumbnail to see the larger version.

8.    To help return to the selected “Creative Commons” image, bookmark it or identify it as a favourite.

9.    Click the “Actions” button to “View all sizes” and, most importantly, click the top “License” link to verify that one has permission to use the image selected.

10.  Select the image size which is closest to the previously determined standard image size in Step #2.

11.  Demonstrate how to download and save a relevant, appropriate-sized “Creative Commons” image.

12.  If students have access to Microsoft Office, they can use the “Insert > Picture > From File” menu items to place the downloaded image into a blank PowerPoint slide. If not, one can use the “File > Open” menu items to load the “Creative Commons” image into a “paint-type” program. Remember to resize the image to fit the final standard agreed-upon image dimensions.

13.  Position a text frame appropriately on the “Creative Commons” image and enter the chosen quotation and author. Choose an appropriate font, size, and colour and then position this quotation to maximize impact.

14.  Return to the bookmarked “Creative Commons” image (in Step #8) and copy the image address source. Repeat the above step by inserting this web address near the bottom of the image and size it appropriately to give the necessary “Creative Commons” attribution.

15.  During the save process, PowerPoint users should click the down arrow at the end of the “Save as type:” field, scroll down and choose the “JPEG File Interchange Format” to save the current slide as a JPEG image.

16.  Once the final image and quotation layout has been finalized, make certain to save the JPEG image using the student’s first and last name as the image filename. (e.g. Robert-Finigan.jpg or Adya-Singh.jpg)

17. To complete the activity, email the final image as an attachment to your teacher and support your partner with their “Image with a Message” creation.

Next Steps

Teachers, or a student-team, should insert all the JPEG images into a PowerPoint presentation that can be shared with a class. Students might be encouraged to vote on their favourite “Image with a Message” and discuss why such slides have impact. Make certain to save such a PowerPoint presentation for subsequent years as one will find it beneficial to use local, student-created images to challenge new students to the subject or grade. Some teachers may choose to print some of the “Images with a Message” and display them on bulletin boards within the classroom.

Teachers often wonder how to challenge students who complete projects early or want to extend their learning. I would recommend if such individuals are using PowerPoint, that they investigate the steps outlined in my earlier blog post entitled “PowerPoint Pizzazz“. The technique, which readers are encouraged to view at this video link, demonstrates how colourful PowerPoint slide images can be made to “come alive” during a presentation. Perhaps such students might be challenged to create very colourful “images with a message” that can take advantage of this “fade to colour” technique.

“Image with a Message” Samples

Although the original Creative Commons licensed image above specified “No Derivative Works”, I contacted Rémi Janner who graciously allowed me to add Albert Einstein’s quotation to his amazing picture and share this remix. Thanks Rémi for your understanding and willingness to share.


Take care & keep smiling :-)

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Xtranormal – A Movie With A Message

Activity, Application or Web App, LwICT 2 Comments »

Wow … have I been having fun! I was actively engaged in learning as I explored Xtranormal, a web 2.0 video-creation tool, which students and staff will find fascinating! Unleash your creativity by picking a setting, characters, and begin typing narration which is automatically transferred to speech with appropriate lip-sync. To better learn how to use this innovative application, I created the following movie with a message.

In the following short video, entitled “21st Century Learners – A Movie With A Message“, Jessica and Don, two high school students, discuss why teachers need to change to meet the needs of 21st century learners. They summarize their discussion by suggesting that perhaps the key ideas might be best reflected by the acronym “CREATE” which might stand for:

C ollaborative
R esourceful
E ducators
A pply
T echnology
E ngagingly


“21st Century Learners – A Movie With A Message”

I have always been excited by the opportunity to engage students and teachers in the digital storytelling process. With Xtranormal, teams can put together movies by simply typing in the narration or dialogue between the two actors. Regardless of the technology application used, the emphasis should be on the story not the software. Xtranormal provides another process and opportunity that students can use to tell a story.

Although I created my “movie with a message” by myself, I believe that this web 2.0 application would foster both creativity and collaboration if used as a movie-making tool by teams of students. In fact, if a student chose to work “solo” to create a movie, I believe that s/he would be missing a powerful learning opportunity. The vast majority of today’s 21st century learners, when they become part of the workforce, will need to learn to work collaboratively. Workers will join teams where members bring different skills, backgrounds, and personality traits as assets. Furthermore, it is doubtful that such teams will be comprised of members who all live and work in the same geographic location. So the sooner that we, as teachers, can encourage students to cooperate in school projects, the sooner students can develop the necessary collaborative skills to survive in the competitive world-wide workplace.

Take care & keep smiling :-)

Supporting Resources:

NJ Tech Teacher Musings – “Xtranormal’s Extra Fun Introductions”


Digital Nation – Persuasive Commercial (6-8) Teacher Page


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Playoff Mashups May Motivate Many

Activity, Application or Web App, LwICT No Comments »

The NHL playoffs have begun! Do you have students in your class, who have favourite hockey teams and players, and are passionate about seeing every playoff game on TV? Do you often wish that your lessons could be as engaging as hockey finals? Perhaps you might explore mashups as a technique to engage students in learning. In fact, the “CBC Hockey Night Mashup” web site at: http://mashup.projects.fm/enter should be the resource you immediately investigate.

For those unfamiliar with the term “digital mashup”, wikipedia defines it as: “Digital media content containing any or all of text, graphics, audio, video and animation drawn from pre-existing sources, to create a new derivative work.”

In late February, I was fortunate enough to attend the BYTE 2010 Conference where Kent Schiltroth from Reston Collegiate shared how he used mashups in his classroom as a Literacy with Information and Communication Technology vehicle for students to “Produce to Show Understanding” of subject area content. In a later blog entry, I’ll share his detailed resource that educators can use to encourage students to use Windows Movie Maker to create a mashup as a review. However, in the meantime, I think that students can easily explore how to create mashups by selecting from hockey-related video clips and music options which they can then position on a storyboard timeline. Furthermore, once you share or demonstrate the above web site with your students, they can easily create mashups on their own time, at home, rather than having to arrange for computer lab time, at school.

Having been actively engaged in helping students and teachers use digital storytelling, I know how engaging technology can be. Challenge your students to work collaboratively in teams to produce a hockey night mashup which tells a story within the one minute timeline constraint. Have your student teams critique one another’s mashups and comment on how they were engaged during this learning process. Let students teach their peers and you about using technology in different exciting ways. It might be an interesting endeavour. After all, for some students who are not engaged in the classroom, it’s either hockey … or hooky.

Take care & keep smiling :-)

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Palindrome Proclamation

Activity No Comments »

Are you looking for a writing activity that engages grade 7-12 students? Would you like to introduce a mechanism which helps students demonstrate their ability to convey an idea through a very unique and creative way? True, you can always assign an essay as a traditional assessment method but if you really want to challenge your students to both think critically and creatively, this palindrome proclamation certainly deserves investigation.

I'm a lasagna, hang a salami.

For those unfamiliar with the term “palindrome”, Wikipedia offers this definition: “A palindrome is a word, phrase, number or other sequence of units that can be read the same way in either direction (the adjustment of punctuation and spaces between words is generally permitted).”

To clarify this definition, sample palindromic numbers are “77”, “353” and “8,903,098”, while palindromic words include “mom”, “kayak”, and “rotator”, whereas palindromic phrases include the following:

– Able was I ere I saw Elba
– A man, a plan, a canal – Panama!
– A Toyota! Race fast… safe car: a Toyota

Once your students are familiar with the properties of palindromes, ask them to collaborate, in teams of two, to develop a proclamation that can be read forwards and backwards as illustrated by the following YouTube video entitled the “Lost Generation“:

After viewing the above video, have students examine this same “Lost Generation” poem, by Jonathan Reed, in a variety of different formats. I suggest that you play one of these selections with the audio turned off so that the students can concentrate on the words.

Lost Generation by Jonathan Reed ( background music only)
– http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eKkfYH2l_hc

I am part of a lost generation (background music & voice-over)
– http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3OoXeVCdkkM

Lost Generation (background music, voice-over & reverse scroll)
– http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aRG4ySdi_aE

Lost Generation Poem (with people) (background music, voice-over & reverse scroll)
– http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MWSYPDh7O5Q

Discuss with your class how different presentation techniques enhance the message. Does having someone read the words add to the importance of the message? In what ways? Do you prefer to have the poem presented completely from top to bottom or do you like the way in which some presentations scroll down to the message midpoint and then reverse and scroll up to the end? Suggest that students play one of their favourite presentations with the audio turned off so that the message is only visual. How does the background music and/or voice-over contribute or detract from the message? How do the images of students, reading portions of the poem, influence your viewing?

I encourage educators to provide alternate ways for students to demonstrate what they have learned.

The Manitoba Literacy with Information and Communication Technology (LwICT) Across the Curriculum recommends that students be provided an opportunity to “Produce to Show Understanding” through “Collaboration”. Imagine how this palindromic proclamation technique might be used by students to reflect on an issue which they are passionate about. For example, the following two videos demonstrate the creativity of students who are perfecting their “palindromic proclamations”:

The Love of Hate – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jhjOG2Jn8IM
Beauty Defined – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V7z3hhMOurk

Hopefully, as a teacher, you will try out this activity with your students and share your feedback and creations with me.

Take care & keep smiling :-)

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