Thursday, 13 June 2013

Digital Artwork, 21st C Skills, & Stop Motion

What happens if you take 180 Grade 3 students, 2 magnificent Art Teachers, 24 retort stands, clamps and bosses from the High School Science Department (thank you Elaine and Martin!) and 24 iPod touches?

Well, you achieve a level of creativity that is truly inspiring—and that is the only word to describe the fever pitch that has been Grade 3 Art classes this past month, the synergy between 'real life' art work (paper, scissors, paint) and the literal bringing to LIFE of these creations using the stop motion animation via the iPod touch app was exactly that, INSPIRING. You don't need to look and further than this is to see the true embodiment of the '4 Cs' of 21st Century Learning in action.

See below for just a handful of creations, there are many more of like these, all of them are unique ...

In the Partnership framework, the Four Cs make up the “Learning and Innovation Skills” and are as follows:

1. Creativity and Innovation
2. Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
3. Communication and Collaboration

For creativity and innovation, the framework emphasises Thinking Creatively (brainstorming techniques, creating new ideas, refining and evaluating ideas), Working Creatively with Others (communicating new ideas, being open to diverse perspectives, demonstrating orginality, viewing failure as part of the process) and Implementing Innovations (Acting on creative ideas and contributing to a field). These are terrific guideposts.

A little closer to home, our own UWCSEA Profile describes students who are:
  • Critical thinker and problem solvers
  • Creative and innovative, 
  • Collaborative and Communicators

A brief look at Siân and Caroline's learning intentions for this unit reveals how powerful this kind for activity is in providing experiences that facilitate this kind of learning:
  • How to use animation software to retell a story. 
  • How the creative preparation for an animation differs from other forms of art 
  • How to use mixed media to create scenes and characters. 
  • Look critically at their animation and consider how it can be changed. 

Likewise the assessment criteria emphasised most of the 4 Cs. Children were expected to:
  • Produce a 15 to 20 second piece of sop motion animation. 
  • Create a short, imaginative story that can be recreated through art work and animation. [Creativity and Innovation] 
  • Use a variety of materials to make scenes and characters. 
  • Talk about the animation process using art/animation vocabulary and describe how their project was successful. [Communication and Collaboration] 

But wait! I hear you say, what about problem solving?

Watching the students in action it also became quickly evident that there was a great deal of 'Critical Thinking and Problem Solving' happening—not something the teachers had expected or consciously planned for but, I can assure you, if you ask them now they will tell you that this became a very powerful aspect of the students' learning - from assembling and adjusting the clamps, to the realisation that they need to storyboard their animation to trouble shooting issues with the App, to making judicious choices about the kinds of materials that would help them to tell their stories—even logical mathematical reasoning as they wrestled with frame rates per second!

So the question is, how do we really teach creativity, critical thinking, communication and collaboration? These are right brain skills, those that are most difficult to teach in a codified, regimented way. With most school systems now fixated on measurable outcomes (usually test scores), how do we make these Four Cs a priority when they are so hard to measure? Well one way is through digital Art.

I’m looking forward to exploring this question with our Art teachers, who will hopefully inspire many other teachers to create more of these kinds of learning activities.

I think what excites me the most about this use of ICT is it resists polarisation, the old, paper vs pixels arguments become meaningless in this kind of context,  we don't need to argue or choose; reality and virtuality can work in synergistic harmony to create learning experience that are truly and uniquely '21st Century'.

Anyway enough about that, here's another video:

Want to see more?

All images and videos provided by Siân Johns.

Friday, 7 June 2013

Feeding Forward with Google Docs and Dictation

Providing feedback on students written work, is the bread and butter of any teachers week. Technology provides us with opportunities to make the process both more effective and also more meaningful for students.

The following video explains a potential approach to using Google Docs and the new Dictation features within the Mountain Lion OS on our Macs. I have followed up on these hints from our Head of English, Stuart McAlpine. With his dulcet English tones, he is perfected Dication as a quick way of providing feedback and for writing reports. Click here for more about using Dictation on your mac.

A further suggestion to encourage your students to resolve and reply to your comments. This rich feedback loop is a good way for teachers to see how students are taking ownership of their learning and working towards one of our key UWCSEA Profile attributes.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

To YouTube or not to YouTube that is the question...

Video, ViewTube, Viewoogle & Vimeo

At UWCSEA Picasa and Google Doc/Drive Videos are the preferred medium for video use and the sharing of video. However we all have access to YouTube for a few reasons, and what are those? Well there are some times when utilsing your YouTube account is handy, for teachers as well as students. When? I’ll tell you when ... Firstly though—

Why is YouTube a problem? Mainly because of its exposure - as the number one video sharing tool on the planet it is the best way to get your work seen by as many eyeballs as possible - which, in theory at least,  could be a good thing, if that is what you want (see later note on this) but for most educational purposes there is a distinct discomfort with that kind of exposure when kids are learning, and wrestling with learning - YouTube can be a cruel place, and you are in danger of being exposed to a LOT of undesirables if you just put it out there - especially if you allow viewers to leave comments, and likes and dislikes, this can be potentially destructive for anyone, never mind our students.

Unwanted/inappropriate advertising

One of the major drawbacks of using YouTube is working against Google’s determination to make money out of it - namely pushing advertising at the eyeballs that are so interested in your video. Usually the ‘mosaic’ viewers will see at the end is harmless, but the problem is that you have no control over this (You do with Vimeo though). Nor do you have control over the ‘recommended’ videos that appear in the panel at the end. So you have to ask yourself - are you prepared to take that risk? This will very much depend on the age of the kids you are directing to watch the video. These adverts are becoming increasingly more invasive. There are ways around this which I will outline below, but the fact is most of our kids are inclined to just upload and not to think even once, never mind twice about the settings that are necessary to mitigate these problems. If you want your kids to use YouTube, you need to make sure you consider how to use it properly.

Via a Google Site

Inserting a YouTube video into a Google Site effectively bypasses the advertising - at the end of the video there is no mosaic, there is a tiny YouTube logo, which will take them to YouTube with a click, but lets face it, they can do that by just typing ‘YouTube’ into the browser anyway.

ViewPure allows you to remove all the clutter around the sides, but you still get a ‘mosaic’ at the end...

So why would you use YouTube?


If you want maximum exposure, you WANT the publicity - YouTube is the way to achieve this. Maybe your students have put together a stunning short film designed to move as many people as possible to action - well YouTube is the place to put it if you hope to get as many eyeballs as possible, and the motivation of ‘views’ and ‘likes’ is undeniable - BUT and it’s a big but, kids need to be aware of the measures they have to take to protect their fragile egos. My advice? Maybe disable comments (although this means they won't get an positive feedback either). Certainly look very closely at the options before (or after - it’s never too late to change!) publishing, and make sure they have considered the implications of the various options - there aren’t that many.

Google Presentations

Uploading via YouTube is the only avenue currently available to students (and staff) who want to use their own videos in a Google Presentation.

Video for viewing on an iOS Device (iPad etc)

If you’re creating a ‘web log’ (blog) with blogger, using video other than YouTube is annoyingly fiddly - something that will no doubt improve - but for now ... Even if you do manage to get it to work without YouTube it won’t display on an iOS device. You can use Vimeo to get around this but it’s a little complicated (can anything BE a ‘little’ complicated? It involves ‘embedding’ using HTML code - se what I mean?). Using YouTube for Blogger is relatively easy - BUT, and this leads to my next point..

Easy Export

The way YouTube is integrated into the actual operating system of the Mac and all iOS devices really makes it an option for sharing that you have to consider - you know your students will. It’s there, it’s obvious - so why would you not use it? Well the reasons above for a start - but also, increasingly our students will need to store exported video in a format that is owned by them, that is not stuck in YouTube, or technically owned by YouTube. An actual video file sitting safe and sound in their own drive, where it can be uploaded, edited, repurposed however, and whenever they want is far more preferable. Downloading video from YouTube is a far from a straightforward exercise*,

But ... isn't sharing video direct to YouTube an easy option? - yes, as long as it is short. Is it easy? Yes. But I would advise you to use it for more adhoc use, ie less ‘essential’ more temporal video - maybe sharing a work in progress, a simple observation, an interesting but not pivotal moment. Or as a backup plan of other methods fail - you can download it from YouTube later, albeit at a less than stellar quality.

So, only use YouTube when you are convinced that you have exhausted all your other options, these are, specifically, in order of preference:

  1. Google Drive/Docs Video
  2. Picasa
  3. YouTube
  4. Vimeo**

* Use a site like or even better the FireFox Add-on ‘Easy YouTube Video Downloader’.

**See your friendly neighbourhood DLC for access to the college Vimeo account.