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Can You Tube enhance the conditions of learning in a classroom? April 26, 2008

Posted by davidit in Uncategorized.
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The following are the three core focus questions from the Sustained Maungarei Kaitiakitanga cluster, of which the Supertanker is the lead school and I am one of the facilitators of.

Three Key Cluster Questions:

If we are “To give the leaders of tomorrow the knowledge they need to operate in a world rapidly running out of resources and facing the challenges of climate change.” MoE SOI 2007 what learning experiences should we include?

What are the conditions of value in teaching and learning that will support these learning experiences?

How might ICTs enhance or betray these conditions of value?

The second and third ones are the ones that have been rolling around in my head for the last couple of days with regard to using You Tube tutorials as a teaching and learning resource in the classroom.

Over the last few weeks I have been really surprised at the feedback that my own video tutorials posted to You Tube have been getting. This feedback has had the effect of making me re-consider the skill levels that exist out there in cyberspace. You Tube seems to come with such a ‘youf’ tag to it that I assumed that my little videos would not excite any comment from the wider You Tube community. Yet You Tube users, who by my own default perceptions I have assumed to be a savvy bunch of IT users have really liked my tutorials on Excel and Publisher. And this is what got me thinking, after all how many of my intended target audience for the videos I embed into our cluster wiki have heard of or even use You Tube?

These apps, MS Office suite et al, that have been around since Adam was a boy and I have considered it a given that all computer users have a basic proficiency in using them. After all word processing, Spread sheets and desktop publishing in varying guises have been around since before Windows 95 and the general public’s knowledge of and mass access to, the Internet. I therefore have assumed that everyone knows how to use these applicatons, including the You Tubers, because we have all used them for years, long before the advent of the mashable world of web 2.0… Clearly not.

I cut my teeth on these apps with Aston Tate’s MultiMate back in the mid 80’s. I was, I recall, trying to create a searchable database for my huge library of photographic images so that I could set up a photolibrary, the software was not up to it and my programmer friends could not see the possibility and now we have flickr… The roll of the dice eh? I could make an excellent database for recipies I recall, of no use to anyone considering the size of the machine the database was stored on and where the machine was located! I digress.

So it seems that the You Tube community have a use for my videos. I produced them with teachers in mind, but could a video tutorial or a resource video of ideas stored on You Tube or Teacher Tube enhance the conditions of learning in the classroom? After my personal use of the Blender tutorials, my initial reaction is yes. (Providing of course that schools permit access to this valuable resource and Keep Tube is a great way to manage access if they don’t but heavy on teacher time to download and store for easy access by students.)

Whilst I was on my Blender training rampage, I watched several videos over and over again to get the key strokes and the buttons being pressed just right, it was repeatable and that has always been my intention with the training resources that I have created for a number of years, a repeatable teaching moment indepedent of the teacher. A lesson is a once off. But if you record it in someway and providing the lesson is relevant and well paced then it can be re-visited many times over to re-enforce points or to support learning of a new concept, especially with regard to the acquisition of IT skills. So a recorded lesson with voice and action clearly visible to students, that can be paused, re-wound and re-played in class and without the need for teacher input, would enable the teacher to work with other students, whilst at the same time knowing that the students on the computers had the relevant support right there for them too.

Once a student has learnt the IT skills that support the true learning intention of the teacher, then the IT becomes transparent and a tool that facilitates learning and not act as a potential impediment. This for me is the Holy Grail of using IT in teaching, liberation for student and teacher alike and fostering independent learning. I believe that training videos in the 10 minute format of You Tube will be one of the ways that we can enable this to happen.

In term two I am taking a G+T class for robotics I will be applying the You Tube learning principle in these lessons. For those of you who are intereseted the students will have to build a robot, they can copy the examples from the Lego booklet if they wish (I would prefer that as it gets the building out of the way really quickly.) The real challenge, the real learning, the problem solving is for them to program their robot to draw an image using three colours… You Tube might just come in very handy for them. One thing is for sure I will video their results and post them to You Tube. Watch this space.


Blender render… April 25, 2008

Posted by davidit in Uncategorized.

My fully rendered Blender domino fall video is ready. I set my machine to run yesterday a 3:24 PM. I switched off all the services that I could, to ensure that my machine had access to as many resources as it needed to successfully render my video. Twenty hours later the final 52 second video is ready….! I have now sped up the frame rate and reduced the video to 26 seconds to make the animation more realistic. I have had my dose of ‘me time’ now and now I can settle do doing some work in preparation for term 2. Having said that, I am now planning my next Blender project, I love this program. The last two posts have not been Supertanker related at all, but as a bit of light relief I share my creation with you.

Just how good are video tutorials? April 24, 2008

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It is the term 1 holidays here and I for one am having a well earned rest from the trials and tribulations of the Supertanker. The crew are on shore leave, doing what and frequenting who knows where as only sailors can do after a long stretch at sea!

I have decided to have some me time and persue some interests rather than be dictated by the needs of others or the failings of equipment. My usual bolt holes are Inkscape, Blender or Photoshop. I have a raft of images from the South Island expedition that need the Photoshop touch in readiness for final publication. What I really fancied this week was a good Blender project. I wanted to enhance my knowledge of Blender and create something that would take some time to complete. Blender is such a complex animal that it often takes a while to get to grips with it again after a prolonged stretch of not using it.

In the last couple of weeks I have had some really good feed back from my video tutorials posted on You Tube. The Excel tutorial seems to be creating the most stir, not sure why and interestingly the comments and traffic for those tutorials are all coming from the US, not my intended audience at all!

So with Blender in mind and knowing that I needed some refresher tutorials, I hit You Tube and searched for some lessons using “Blender Tutorials” as my search term. I found some really good ones and some that simply show off the users prowess with the program and do not impart any knowledge at all. I learnt three new things, how to create a glass effect and reflective surfaces, how to use the physics engine and how to use the face select tool. I have now put all of these new learnt tools into a new video. I have created a sequence that is 1300 frames long and every surface is reflective, as a result each frame takes about a minute to render, my machine is going to be very busy for a very long time. The image below is a single rendered frame and the video is a test clip with all the complex reflective surfaces turned off!

And as for the initial question, do video tutorials work? As with all things, it depends on the quality of the preparation and the skill of the person doing the teaching. Those that had a good plan and stuck to it and could deliver the lesson succinctly produced the best video tutorial. So in short yes! I learnt heaps and I think that the end product will demonstrate that, when it is complete. In the mean time enjoys the rushes!

You Tube ‘Warp’ tool April 17, 2008

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I am not sure if any of you have used or aware of the new tool on You Tube called warp? The warp tool is a visual tool that allows you to follow a path of related videos. It looks cool too. In the standard view of You Tube you see a panel of related videos arranged in a linear fashion to the right of the video you are currently watching. The warp tool uses the same kewords search tool to link related videos, but is more inviting for users to browse through and is not at all linear, you can use this tool to wander off down some very unexpected avenues! As a result I would not recommend this as a tool for students to use…

To access the warp tool you need to make the video that you are using full screen by clicking on the icon on the bottom right of the video screen. Once there you need to click on the warp icon on the bottom left of the screen, it is the middle icon and looks like this:

Once the warp tool opens up, you are presented with a growing cluster of circles that relate to individual videos. As you move your mouse over a video, the contents and a play button are revealed to you and in the process more videos related to that new one appear, the field of options grows really quickly, a fun tool and one that you can get lost in really quickly. I rate it at about 11 out of 10 on the addictive scale!

Warp looks like this when you are using it.

Feedback from an unexpected source April 14, 2008

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I have just received an e-mail from my You Tube account saying that a new comment has been posted on my Excel tutorial video. As one of the facilitators in our cluster I am creating how to videos for the staff to use as either PD for themselves or for use in their classes to support student learning. As a consequence I find it quite hard to pitch these lessons; I am never sure just how basic to make the lessons. What I end up doing is making a couple of introductory videos then wait for feed back and from that I intend to make videos based on identified need. The latest comment is very gratifying indeed!

Although I know that the videos are public, I consider the content as targeted at my cluster audience and do not really expect the rest of the planet to pay any attention. Well my introductory lesson for Excel has just landed someone, who I have no idea who they are, a job! How cool is that? It just goes to show that the teachable moment can be anyone’s, if you make your resources public! You can see my complete list of tutorials, including an introduction to Open Office at my you tube channel. If any of you want me to make instructional videos, please let me know, I am happy to oblige.

Linux breathes new life into old machines April 14, 2008

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On Friday we finally embarked on our Linux project. The trials and tribulations thrown at us on the Supertanker this last term have contunually pushed back this initiative. We are increasingly of the opinion that XP is becoming more and more flakey, with patches seemingly undoing previous fixes and causing no end of strife, especially as we have older versions of Windows Server and ISA software, however this is not the reason for us exploring this Linux avenue, but the seeming instability of MS patching has certainly re-doubled our resolve to seek stability. The age of our computer stock means that the MS preferred option of Server 2008 and Vista workstations is not a solution for us. Therefore with the school all in the hall for assembly we sat down with a P4 laptop and started to make it a dual boot platform. Interestingly we were also re-building a Dell workstation at the same time, we had to completely re-install Windows XP SP2 and patch it. The XP CD and the Suse Linux desktop 10 DVD were insterted into their respective drives at 2:00pm.

The laptop had already had its hard drive partitioned into two drives and so it was a fairly easy install for us. The trickiest part was decyphering, for the first time, the different file format and pathing options that Linux requires in order to get Linux to land on the right part of the drive and not ruin the XP install. We solved our decision by looking at disk sectors. Once we had confrimed that we wanted to format the appropriate sector into the reiser format, the rest was a breeze. Not only does the OS load from the DVD but a whole range of open source software including Open Office, The Gimp, Inkscape, Firefox, Evolution E-mail, Helix Banshee music player and a huge list of other really interesting looking programmes that I have yet to fully explore.

The interesting thing is that by 3:05 we had successfully installed, re-booted into both XP and Linux on the laptop and were exploring the programme options of Linux and the Dell next door was still grinding through installing all the post XP SP2 patches, security updates and rollups that it will require in order for it to run in any kind of secure fashion, but there was not a hint of anything useful yet installed, like The Gimp et al; Or even Office.

So why the interest in Linux? Well the reasons are many and varied. Principally with Suse desktop 10 we have an entire suite of programmes that promises stability, fast boot up times, short logon times and crucially for us on our legacy machines, a small foot print on small drives. Linux is tight, the full install required 2Gb of hard disk space. This fact alone will enable us to breath life into our older machines. The software can run on old 486 machines, if so, we will have a modern OS with a raft of open source programmes suited to our needs, running on machines that XP has long since killed due to the huge resource presence that it needs in order to just run the OS let alone any programmes. Oh and the Ministry deal just struck with Novell means that we can use it at no cost. A win win for us!

Now that we have proved the concept, all new machines that come into school will be dual booted. We now need to solve the dual platform domain issues, the remote desktop compatibility issues, the mail issues etc etc, but the future is bright for our old machines. We will gradually wean the staff off of Office and move them to Open Office so that they get used to the open source look. Our students are already using Inkscape with aplomb, they will take to it like a duck to water.

On a final note. Are any of you out there Linux users who have already solved some of the dual platform/domain issues? If you have, please share!

Oh, and by the way, the Dell was still updating and installing the patches when I left work at 4:35, we left it to it…

End of term report – meet the teacher? I doubt it. April 10, 2008

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source: http://www.physics.utoronto.ca/~phy140/

As our school prepares itself for the first parent interviews of the year, I thought that I might take some time to reflect upon my performance so far this year. Term one this year has had a huge range of highs and lows.  The high points have to be invited to speak at Prague, speaking at Learning@Schools, starting my facilitator role and continuing the collaborative teaching and learning role with Helen in Plymouth. Long may these continue and grow.

This is all good, but how has my performance been overall?  I knew that 2008 would be a big year for me and if term one is anything to go by, then it will be painful too!  As my role has grown I now wear three hats, rather like the Papal triple crown…  I am continually pulled in three directions and managing the individual pulls is hard, if not impossible.   My teaching and learning and staff support roles have suffered this term.  My work with Helen is done in my own time and late at night, my requirements for the cluster are timetabled and non-negotiable.  My work and preparation for Prague are likewise done in my own time.  School has been somewhat challenging this term.  I am convinced that my colleagues at school wonder what Iam doing!  From their perspective it certainly is not teaching or supporting them.

We started the year with 10 new digitally enhanced classrooms, due to timetabling confusions, 6 of those classes have been timetabled on the day when I am working out of school in my role as a facilitator!  These staff have been very patient and understanding, however, they need support from me and Iam unable to give it.  In addition we have had a fairly poor run of network reliability.  We have had Internet connection issues, we have had software issues, suppliers supplying the wrong stuff, not turning up on time etc etc.  In short the technical hat of my role has consumed far too much of my time to the detriment of my teaching role. The start of the year has not been one that I would want to repeat.  Yet without undertaking this kind of infrastructure improvement, the school will not advance, so in all liklihood, next summer holidays will be spent in the same vortex of unreliable suppliers and broken promises.

In term two I want to have a period of network stability, to have aligned timetables and more time in the classes.  In short my end of term report has to say, could do better!