Links: 2009-09-19

Links: 2009 09 19  — Interesting finds of the week

1. Official Google Blog: Teaching computers to read: Google acquires reCAPTCHA

2. Myna: Garage Band in Your Web Browser

3. Facebook membership now matches U.S. population

4. 7000 textbooks in your pocket

5. Google Fastflip

6. The Six stages of Twitter

7. Royalty Free Sound Effects (FX) Library for Download

Enjoy the reading and learning.

~ Mark


Mazes and Team Building

As part of a leadership course I am taking, we had an opportunity to use an electronic maze to illustrate some interesting points about team building.

The electric maze, or learning field, was a set of 48 squares arranged 6 x 8 embedded in a large floor mat. Each square was programmed to be ‘safe’ (off) or ‘alarmed’ (on).  Each of the two groups was allowed 10 minutes of strategy planning to set their tactics. The goals were to determine a safe path across the mat and then have each of the team members (6 in our case) cross the mat along the safe path. Team members were not allowed to talk after the 10 minute strategy session was complete. Each team was given an amount of ‘money’ which was used to pay for infractions such as stepping on an alarmed square, skipping a square or talking.

Playing the game itself was very enjoyable. Afterwards, it was interesting to reflect on the various assumptions and strategies of the different groups.

Success factors

  • team effort
  • observing
  • cooperation
  • remembering successes (correct moves)
  • remembering failures (additional learning)
  • assessing risk

Assumptions by some groups

  • the event was a competition
  • winning was the end goal (team members across and most money)

Reality Check

In fact, winning was not defined. The task was just assigned. In reflection, all groups realized that by working together the challenge could have been solved more easily if the groups worked together, collaborated and shared information and collective learning.

How often does the real life version of this event happen? How often do we miss opportunities to truly get something accomplished in an timely, efficient,  and perhaps more cost effective manner? Take the opportunity to analyze, plan work flow and  capitalize on the TOTAL resources available to deliver  a solid end result with a stronger team.

~ Mark

A Student Voice in K12 Technology Planning

During the 08/09 school year we moved to a new technology planning model. In our old structure we had separate groups to look at administrative and instructional needs. The plans and considerations produced by the two groups did not align and reflected needs and priorities that were often competing. This certainly did not make it easy get projects defined and moving.

The new structure introduces reflects a more integrated team approach, with members representing administrative business areas, elementary and secondary school principals, ICT consultants, learning services members HR and key ITS staff – 13 members in all. We have also adopted a new governance model to prepare and determine priorities at the system levels.

We wanted to add a component to this new structure to include a student voice. Last April we held our first student technology day. The format of the day included teachers and students from a sampling of our secondary schools. The computer contact teacher at each school brought 3 to 5 students with them so that the students outnumbered the adults. We also asked the teachers to select students to reflect male/female balance and a mix of grades.

We set the afternoon up to have discussion on two topics with feedback time from each group. The first discussion topic centred around digital citizenship. The second topic was positioned as a task. We asked students this question: If you could change 2 or 3 things about technology use in our system, what would you change? and why?

I was impressed with the quality of ideas and mature approach in which the students expressed their ideas. The students sent a very clear message about how they felt things should move forward. They recommended:

  • have wireless access in all schools
  • have the ability to use their own equipment in our computing environment
  • make use of cell phones/smart phones as part of the learning environment
  • have access to their files from home

This exercise was a good validation of the discussions of the Technology Steering Committee and you will see project reflecting these needs in our 09/10 project list priorities.

Now I am considering how best to keep a student voice in this process this year and communicate the outcome of last year’s efforts. I would be interested to hear from other people about the approach used in your Boards/jurisdictions so feel free to leave a comment, send a tweet, email or URL.

~ Mark

A New Angle on the History of Numbers


Have you ever wondered why 1 is ‘one’, 2 is ‘two’ …?

Look at these algorithms written in their primitive forms.

Picture 5

Picture 6

Picture 7

Picture 8

Very interesting!

Note: The original source of this is unknown to me.

~ Mark

Podcasting: a versatile curriculum tool

There are many good fits for podcasting in the curriculum. Podcasts and vodcasts may be used for presenting poetry, non fictional writing/reports, interviews, story telling, cumulative work, audio note taking (idea generating, debating etc.), book reports, lesson recaps, homework assignments and reading aloud (second language learners).

Podcasting is a great learning tool because it is easily adaptable to many curriculum settings and learner age levels. Podcasts can be easily created with standard computer equipment so success is not based on extra funding.

The Podcast Collection by Judy Scharf, hosted on the Curriki website, provides a good set of resources that covers:

  • what is a podcast
  • benefits of podcasting
  • practical tips for creating successful podcasts (‘road’ tested with a real class!)
  • podcast hosting options
  • uploading to iTunes
  • rubrics
  • assessment ideas
  • sample projects

This Podcast Collection received an exemplary rating from Curriki.

Additional Resources

Gary Stager:  Educational Podcasting
Kenton County Schools:  Podcast Resources
Wes Fryer:  Teach Digital
Podcasting Resources:  Podcast Info

Get your podcasting ideas flowing and try a podcast project to meet your curriculum needs.

~ Mark

A New Twist on the Mobius Strip ~ Music

A few years ago, I formed a music duo with a friend. We called ourselves Rosin and Reeds after our instrumentation – violin and clarinet,  and had a lot of fun playing together. Much of the music we played, we arranged since there is not a wealth of original music for this combination of instruments. We had the good fortune of performing live at some interesting venues.

Tonight I had a real flashback to the ‘duo days’. One of the pieces we enjoyed performing, composed by Mozart, was written in a particular way. There was actually only one page of music for a single melody line. We had two copies of the original part. The duet part was created by taking the page of music and turning it upsidedown (top to bottom). In essence, one player played the original melody while the second player was playing the original melody retrograde (backwards)  and inverted (upsidedown).

I came across a YouTube video tonight that demonstrated these same composing techniques (original solo, duet, retrograde, inversion) in a very effective visual format – pitch and rhythm punctuated with moving trackers, followed by all the variations and an interesting twist. A literal twist – a musical mobius strip.

JSB Mobius Strip

I will be sharing this video resource with the music teachers I know. Have a look and listen –  Crab Canon on a Möbius Strip by J. S. Bach on YouTube. Enjoy the music, enjoy the visuals.

~ Mark

Social Media Map

As educators we are always on the look out for a new and clean way to explain concepts to other people. I came across this diagram a little while ago and thought it was an interesting way to explain the relationships of Social Media Tools.

The diagram, as you can see from the thumbnail thumbnail below, is laid out somewhat like a railway track system with colour coding used to represent categories of social media tools by function.


The key in the lower left explains the function categories as:

  • syndication
  • collaboration
  • communication
  • interaction

Each function area shows a number of application types, which correspond to entries on the map. The original map, by Jay Ball,  is posted in an online slide show.  Click here to view the original B2B Social Media Map. I thought this was a fresh approach to explaining social media and the relationships between some of the applications. This is well worth a look in my view – another teaching trick in the back pocket.

~ Mark