Pecha Kucha

I’ve seen a lot of bad Power Point. I’ve been through the agony of bulleted lists in which the presenter read exactly what they wrote, or droned on and on and stretched 5 slides to 60 minutes pointless examples and enough tangents to give a calculus teacher a headache.

What I read in David Warlick’s blog today intrigued me. Pecha Kucha is a structured presentation format developed in Japan back in 2003.

Each presenter is allowed 20 images, each shown for 20 seconds each – giving 6 minutes 40 seconds of fame before the next presenter is up. This keeps presentations concise, the interest level up, and gives more people the chance to show. http://www.pecha-kucha.org/

It was originally designed for use by those in the creative fields – art, photography, design, architecture – (see Wikipedia Article) but I believe this type of format could have some useful education applications as well.

What struck me first was the structure. It’s like visual poetry. Remember back in high school when you had to write poems? Some types, like haiku, had a very specific structure that you were forced to follow. I remember struggling to be creative while at the same time, sticking to the rules. I hated it, but it really made me focus. How can I say what I want to say effectively within the parameters I’ve been given?

Pecha Kucha takes that kind of structure and applies it to visual presentations. It forces you to edit what you say so that you are concise and to the point. You also need to make sure you select meaningful visuals – visuals that give impact and emphasis to your words.

Imagine using this format for in-class presentations. Tell your students that their history reports need to be presented in Pecha Kucha format – 20 slides, shown for 20 seconds each. Make a Pecha Kucha describing he fall of the Roman Empire. Make one that shows why we need to recycle, or explains the importance of preserving a local wetland. If 20 slides is too much for the assignment you can, as David Warlick suggests, assign Half Kuchas (10 slides) or Quarter Kuchas (5 slides).

I’d love to hear any Pecha Kucha assignment or project ideas you have.

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Free to YouTube

Maybe this has happened to you. You’re online at home and you run across a great video on YouTube. “This would be a great video to show my students!” You exclaim, ignoring for a moment that fact that you are talking to yourself again.

Problem is, you get to school the next morning and discover that your Internet filter blocks YouTube. You sink into depression. That great lesson you were planning is now ruined. “It’s not fair!” You cry.

Stop right there! Before you give up and decide to drown your sorrows in a pint of Ben & Jerry’s, consider this possible solution…

Zamzar to the rescue!

Zamzar is a handy little Web 2.0 tool that converts files and e-mails them to you. You can upload files to Zamzar, select the file format you want it to be, and Zamzar will e-mail you the converted file. But Zamzar also converts online videos!

Every YouTube video has a URL. Copy this URL and go to Zamzar.

Then…

You’ll see a progress bar as the video is uploaded to Zamzar. Then you’ll get a message telling you that once the video is converted it will be sent to your e-mail. A few minutes later, check your e-mail. The message will link you back to Zamzar where you can download a copy of the video to your computer.

Once you have the video downloaded, you can show that file to your class or put it in your Power Point presentations. (Be sure to give proper credit.) Since it is now a file on your computer, you don’t even need to have an Internet connection to view it.

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A Digital Story

Digital Storytelling is a powerful way for your students to express their creativity. It’s more than just a product, it’s also about the process. Let me explain…

My grandfather, Roy Grice (I call him “Grampa”), is 96 years old. Last week I had a unique opportunity to travel with him down to San Diego to see the USS Midway, a retired aircraft carrier, now turned into a floating museum at the Navy Pier in San Diego, CA.

While we explored the ship, it brought back memories of his days in the Navy. Thankfully I was able to record some of his recollections and put them together into the podcast embedded below. While the recording probably has more value to me and my family, it also offers a glimpse into one man’s view of history – as he experienced it.

It’s important to me, that his stories live on after he is gone. With the digital tools available today, recording and sharing those stories is now easier than ever.

While editing this podcast together I must have listened to it more than a dozen times. By going through this process I know I’ll retain much more of what Grampa told me – more than I ever would have just listening to him tell it to me once. Plus, I’ll be able to go back to it as often as I want.

What digital stories could your students share?

Listen to Grandpa’s Story…

Grandpa’s Story


The USS Midway Museum


“Grampa” next to a milling machine in the USS Midway machine shop.
Technical Info:

  • Audio edited using iMovie and exported as a .aif file. (I didn’t have a voice recorder, so I used a camcorder to capture the audio.)
  • Converted to .mp3 using Audacity.
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Tech Tips from the Bahamas

As I mentioned in the previous post, I was honored to be a part the Discovery National Institute last week. Fifty talented educators from 17 states spent a week together on the Carnival Sensation cruising to Nassau and Freeport in the Bahamas. But don’t let the words “cruise” and “Bahamas” mislead you – we worked! There were training sessions, group projects, and lots of networking and idea sharing.

What follows is my attempt to list of some of the ideas and resources shared by these amazing teachers, tech trainers, and media specialists.

Note: If anyone from the cruise is reading this, please add a comment to include any great ideas or resources I may have missed.


Science

Stellarium (www.stellarium.org)
From Amy L., Bend, OR
Think of it as Google Earth for the sky. Put in any location and see the night sky and constellations visible from that spot at that day and time. You can also project forward or look backward in time. Requires you to download and install their free application. Versions available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

The Rock Dating Game (see previous post)
From Howard M – TX, Marty G – MI, Chris P – FL, Dave K – CA, and ME!
Good for 6th Grade Earth Science. Compare and contrast Metamorphic, Igneous, and Sedimentary rocks. Includes an Inspiration graphic organizer and a Unitedstreaming writing prompt.

Language Arts & Writing

Knight Cite (www.calvin.edu/library/knightcite)
From Rachel H., WI
An online tool for creating proper MLA, APA, and Chicago style citations.

Math/Social Studies

Dollar Around The World
From Rachel H – WI, Diana L - AZ, Kim R – CA, Jennifer D – PA, Tanya G – KS
Learn about other countries and currency conversion as your students investigate the value of a dollar around the world.
Assignment directions and web resources (Word File)
International Currency Factsheet (PDF)
Student Notebook (PDF)
Unitedstreaming Assignment


Social Studies/Geography

Where in the World? (web.mac.com/jennifergingerich)
From Jennifer G - OR, Carole G – FL, Beverly P – NJ, Dedra S – OK, Donna T – SC
Remember Carmen Sandiego? This project has students taking video clips from Unitedstreaming and breaking them into little “clues” that their classmates have to solve in order to guess where they are hiding. The project includes a writing prompt and quiz on Unitedstreaming and an Inspiration template with project guidelines.

CommunityWalk (www.communitywalk.com)
From Amy L., Bend, OR
This site lets you or your students create a “tour” by adding placemarks to a map. Each placemark can contain information, links, and/or pictures about that location. Possible uses include mapping out specific landmarks along the Oregon Trail, or creating a virtual tour of local historical sites in your hometown.

Library, Media, and Teacher Tools

Good Reads (www.goodreads.com)
From Bridget B., PA
Read any good books lately? Write a review and post it here. This site is great for connecting you with others who have read the same book and have similar tastes. Use it to create literature circles among your staff or with your students.
Bridget was also involved in the creation of this great video promoting their school library – a must see! (http://multimedia.mtlsd.org/Play.asp?FILEID=12429) Requires Windows Media Player.

Teacher Tube (www.teachertube.com)
From Jennifer G., OR
This is basically YouTube for teachers. It contains online video tutorials, student and teacher created projects, professional development, and more. Teachers can create a free account and use it to host their own videos. Make sure your school doesn’t block this one! (You might even win a laptop computer.)

Inspired Learning Community (www.inspiredlearningcommunity.com)
From Jennifer G., OR
Have you created a great Inspiration or Kidspiration lesson? Post it here. Looking for a good one? Search for it here. This is a huge library of teacher created Inspiration and Kidspiration templates searchable by grade level and topic.

Flickr Toys (www.bighugelabs.com/flickr)
From Jeanine B., WI
So you’ve posted your pictures to Flickr – now what? This site of full of toys to enhance your Flickr experience and have fun with your photos. Make motivational posters, trading cards, movie posters, mosaics, calendars, and much more.


Flip Video (www.theflip.com)
From Katie K., VA
This $85 video camera holds 30 minutes of 640×480 video on its 512MB of internal memory. Video is saved in AVI format and can be transferred to your computer using the flip-out USB connector. You can also watch video on your TV using the supplied video cable.

FMO: For MAC Only

3-2-1 Countdown Widget (www.apple.com/downloads/dashboard/calculate_convert/321.html)
From Amy L., OR
A great little classroom management tool. Add this to your OSX widgets and use it in your classroom to countdown to recess, free time, or to time a test.

Bluetooth File Sharing
From Howard M., Austin, TX
Howard showed me this impressive little trick to wirelessly transfer files to and from Mac via bluetooth. No WiFi connection necessary.
1) Make sure Bluetooth is turned on and both machines are discoverable.
2) Go to the Utilities and open Bluetooth File Exchange.
3) Select the file you want to send to your friends Mac. Click SEND.
4) Select the name of your friend’s computer from the list of available devices. Click SEND.
A windows will pop-up on your friend’s computer telling them that you are sending them a file. All they need to do is click ACCEPT. The file will be saved on their machine. Is that cool or what?!

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Don’t Take Him for Granite

Sometimes the best way to discourage plagiarism among your students is to come up with an assignment that forces them to take information and present it in a whole new way.

In this project, developed by a team of top educators at the Discovery National Institute, students compare and contrast three similar, but different people, places or things. The three things appear as bachelors on a dating show. The bachelorette asks questions of the bachelors and they must answer in character using the information they compiled while researching their person, place or thing.

It will work with just about anything. Imagine a lovely young lady asking questions of Columbus, Magellan, and Cortez. Or what about Caesar, Alexander the Great, and Napoleon? With a little creativity you could even give personality to inanimate objects – like rocks.

Here’s a fun example of what such a project might look like for a science class. In it we compare the properties of metamorphic, igneous, and sedimentary rocks.

At the end of the project students need to fill in a graphic organizer. This one is just a basic Inspiration template that has been modified slightly.

Graphic Organizer Link (Requires Inspiration Software)

Finally, students are asked to synthesize what they have learned using the writing prompt. Their task is to write a letter to the lovely bachelorette encouraging her to choose one of three rocks, using their research to support their choice.

Writing Prompt Link

Who are these ‘top educators’ you speak of?
What did you do on your summer vacation? Well, if anyone asks I’ll say I got to go on a cruise with 50 of the most amazing and talented educators this country has to offer. This National Institute was sponsored by the Discovery Channel. I can honestly say I’ve never worked so hard and had so much fun at the same time. For more info about the DNI Bahamas Cruise, check out Joe Brennan’s blog.

This Dating Game project was a collaborative effort that combined the creative talents of five teachers from four different states. (We’re all listed in the end credits of the video.)

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Let’s Go Back to Kindergarten

There are days when I want to go back to Kindergarten. I want to paint. I want to build things with blocks and Legos. I want to make inventions. I want to learn about about butterflies and then make one out of construction paper and see if I can make it fly just like a real butterfly. I want to use my imagination. I want to learn just because its fun to learn. I miss those days.

If you get a chance to observe a Kindergarten class sometime, it won’t take long for you to sense the energy in the air. There’s an excitement in the room because learning is not about working to get a good grade, learning is fun. Somewhere between kindergarten and high school our students seem to lose this enthusiasm. The model of learning changes from one of creativity and exploration to one of listen, memorize, and regurgitate.

Dr. Mitchel Resnick, the inventor of Lego Mindstorms, would like to bring back the Kindergarten model of education. He emphasizes the need for creativity in a world where our students seem to lack the skills needed to solve problems. In a society where creative ideas and solutions are sought after and rewarded, our school systems seemed focused on teaching to the test.

Last month, Alan November interviewed Dr. Resnick and posted it on his blog. (Go to Alan November’s blog to hear the interview.) Dr. Resnick discussed the work being done with his Lifelong Kindergarten Group at MIT where students learn by being creative. They solve problems by inventing robots using Mindstorms and Crickets. They also create and share their own video games online using an ingenious programming “language” called Scratch.

If you have a little extra time, I strongly encourage you to watch Dr. Resnick’s lecture given on May 22, 2006 at the MIT Museum.

“Sowing the Seeds for a More Creative Society”
There are two ways to view the video…
1) Download the lecture from iTunes. (FREE 146MB)
2) Stream it from the MIT Museum site. (Requires Real Player)

The video is a little over one hour. The first half is the lecture, followed by a question and answer session.

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FREE Inspiration

Writers use them for brainstorming. Scientists use them for solving problems and organizing information. Whether you call it a word web, a concept map, or just a bunch of little boxes connected with arrows, the process writing down concepts, figuring out how they are related, and connecting them together can be a valuable teaching tool.

Two of the most well-known software tools for doing this are Inspiration and its primary grade companion, Kidspiration. These programs are great, but they are not cheap. In fact school licensing for these can be almost as expensive as licensing Microsoft Office.

Now, finally, there is a FREE alternative to Inspiration. It’s called Cmap Tools. You can download it from their web site. (http://cmap.ihmc.us/download) Mac, Windows, and Linux versions are available.

When you install it and run it for the first time, you will be asked to create a username and password. This is required so later on you can share your concept maps with others or even set up a collaborative concept map that can be edited by multiple users. Even if you don’t want to do this, you still need to create a username and password in order to use the product.

If you’re used to using Inspiration, you may find the Cmap Tools does things a little differently, but those differences are not major. You can’t do “rapid fire” concept maps and there is no clip art included in the software. You can add images, links, and annotations. You can also link to Word documents, videos, and other Cmap files.

To get a good idea of what the process of creating a concept map is like, take a look at this tutorial video they have created. Creating Concepts and Propositions (requires Quicktime)

They also have other tutorial videos that explain how to use the software:
Adding Resources
Introduction to the Views Window
How to Create a Folder

The one thing that Cmap Tools seems to be lacking is the ability to export your concept map as an outline that can be opened in Microsoft Word. There is an “outline view” that can be exported as text (.txt) but the text does not have the traditional outline formatting (I, II, III, A, B, C, etc.)

On the plus side, your concept maps can be exported as jpegs and as web pages (html). You can also upload your map to one of their public Cmap servers (I have yet to try this) and make it viewable to anyone with a web browser. Once it is online, your map is given a unique web address (URL). Anyone with a web browser can access it, and anyone with Cmap Tools can be invited to contribute and edit it.

I’m already brainstorming on ways this software could be used with students. Here are a couple of ideas:

“What’s the Connection?”
Use Cmap Tools to create a collection of terms. Save the file. Have students open the file, look at the terms, and figure out how they are related. It’s up to them to move the terms around and link them together with arrows using the correct propositions.

“Family Tree”
Have students start by typing their name as the first concept. Then they add their relatives around them as different concepts. Finally they need to add links stating each person’s relationship to the student (brother, sister, cousin, uncle) as well as their relationships to each other.

I still think Kidspiration is a valuable tool for primary grades and would not want to replace it, but I could definitely use Cmap Tools with older students – grades 5 and up.

Check it out and let me know what you think.

Image Credit: http://cmap.ihmc.us/Support/Help/

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Let Them Be Heard – ONLINE!

Any primary teacher can tell you that students’ reading improves if they can hear themselves read. Remember using that old Califone cassette recorder in the back of your classroom? Here’s a new twist to that activity – Student Audiobooks.

Many of you have students write their own stories. First Grade teachers at Grandview Elementary School have taken things a step further. Their first grade student write stories. Then they read those stories into a digital recorder. Their teacher then adds a little music to the beginning and posts them on their class blog.

“The stories were recorded using an iRiver mp3 recorder, the music was added and the stories were edited using Audacity, the music clips come from FreePlay Music, the stories are being stored at the archive.org website and this blog is hosted by Edublogs in Australia.”

Visitors to their class blog can click on the links to hear the students’ “Audiobooks”. What’s pretty cool is the audio files are in MP3 format so they can be imported to iTunes and copied on to an iPod.

Even if you don’t have a fancy digital voice recorder, you can still hook up a microphone to your classroom computer and record with Audacity or Garageband.

NOTE FOR GARAGEBAND USERS: If students illustrated their own stories, you can scan or take digital pictures of their pages. Then using Garageband, you can insert those pictures above the audio track to create an “enhanced” podcast. Listeners would not only hear the students read, they could also see their artwork.

Now students can go online and listen to their stories and those from other kids in their class. Parents can go online and listen to their children read, or download it to their iPods to share with family and friends.

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Change is…

Complete the following sentence:

Change is _______.

a) good
b) bad
c) inevitable
d) all of the above

Our world is changing and the web is changing along with it. Below are a couple of video clips from You Tube. The first one from Colorado educator Karl Fisch helps us get a handle on how the world is changing. The second offers a glimpse into how the web is changing to keep up.

NOTE: If your school blocks YouTube, watch these when you get home.

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A Simple Solution

This Internet tip is an oldie, but a goodie. I’ve known about it for a long time but never really made use of it until this week. It really saved me a lot of trouble.

There are some great web sites out there for primary kids. One of the best ones out there Starfall, but there are other good ones as well. I know I can trust first graders to double click on Internet Explorer, but I don’t want to deal with having them type in a web address. Even asking them go to Favorites and select the correct one, can be a chore. To solve this, I’ve taken some of the web sites most often used by our primary grades and put them in the Links toolbar. This way the kids just have to open Internet Explorer, click on the correct link in the toolbar, and Viola! they are at the correct web site in no time.

Here’s how…

1. Open Internet Explorer.
2. Go to the VIEW menu, select TOOLBARS, and make sure the LINKS toolbar is checked.

If it is, and you still don’t see the links toolbar, it may be hiding down at the end of your Address Bar.

If so, just go to drag it down below the Address Bar. If it won’t move, you may need to unlock the toolbar – Go to VIEW, TOOLBARS, and uncheck LOCK THE TOOLBARS.

3. Go to a website you want to add to your toolbar.
4. Drag the address from the Address Bar down to the Links Bar…

…and a new link is added.
5. To make room in the Links Bar for more links, you may want to shorten the name of the link. To do this, right-click on the link and select properties. Click on the General tab and change the name to something shorter.

6. To delete a link from your toolbar, just right-click on the link and select DELETE.

Here are some primary grade web sites I have on my Links Bar: Starfall, Mr. PicassoHead, Ben’s Guide to US Government, White House Kids Page, US States Games, I’m sure you can think of some other great ones too.

FIREFOX and SAFARI users, this works for you too. It’s called the Bookmarks toolbar.

FIREFOX: Go to VIEW and select BOOKMARKS TOOLBAR. Drag web sites to the toolbar.
SAFARI: Go to VIEW and select SHOW BOOKMARKS BAR. Drag web sites to the toolbar.

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