A few of my Year 9s had been away, missing the first lesson of a two-part assignment in which students had to film a creative shot of some kind. Trying to think of how to get these students engaged and up to speed, I came up with the idea of trying to set up a flying camera, which, launched from the first floor, would fly down a cable, filming the action on the playground below.
The students quickly got into the idea, and I called in another teacher (thanks Ben!) to help keep the kids safe whilst I worked with the other groups. There was some creative thinking, problem solving, a few test runs and some iteration in the design. In the end, we launched from the 3rd floor, and got the following shot. The kids stayed into break (thanks Harry, George, Alex & Damien), and we ended up with a crowd of curious students trying to work out what we were doing. Best of all, the final shot was produced using only materials we found around school. So, here it is, our Ultra-Cheap Flying Camera shot:
My Year 9 ICT & Media students are currently learning some of the foundational skills that will help them make movies towards the end of term. Having looked at narrative structure, we have now moved on to creative shooting techniques. Originally, each class (I teach all three groups in a row on a Thursday) was going to create a simple low rolling shot using a delivery trolley instead of a professional dolly. The aim was for students to use ingenuity to overcome a lack of expensive, professional equipment. The first class decided to do a hallway scene showing typical break time behaviour. At some point a student suggested we do it zombie style, and all of a sudden we had a trailer on our hands. I then asked the following two classes to come up with their own version of the trailer for the same film (now called ICHK Zombiefest in honour of our school). Students took on different roles in the shooting, and the aim was for every student to contribute. Decisions were collaborative, and guided by the director (sometimes me, sometimes a student). The video below is the end result of the three lessons’ work.
This was one of those magical days in teaching, where it was a lot fun, but totally draining. Well done to all of the students, especially to those who really jumped on board, got excited and had a lot of fun. Thanks also to Ms. Long for leaving her paperwork to play the role of “Zombie Teacher”.
Last year I completed my Unified ICT Rubric for KS3, and even before it was finished I hated it. It was too big, too complex and too restrictive. I have spent the last year slowly thinking of a better way, looking around at what others are doing, and trying to roll disparate ideas into something simple, cohesive and, gasp, even fun. The result is the document and process you see below. It is a system of student self assessment, where the teacher is there to verifying and adjudicate student’s own assessments of themselves. But, it is more than simply an assessment guide, it is also a way for students to understand a whole course, and to map their progress.
This document can be used in numerous ways to support teaching and learning. The description below is the way I am currently planning to use it:
The first step has been to reduce the number of units in each year, to free up 5 lessons for students to work on self assessment. You can see my draft KS3 ICT & Media Plan, to look at what exactly is covered.
Students will be introduced to the guide during the first lesson of the year, and we will work through the instructions (top right of the guide) together.
For each unit of study, students will reflect on roughly 5 strand+keyword pairs (e.g. Intellectual Property+Creative Commons). At first, I will select these for them, after some practice they should be able to select them themselves.
Students will study as per usual, creating an artifact which they will submit for assessment.
Students will then write their reflection, showing clearly how they have achieved each level, going as high as they can. They will assign themselves a grade using the average of their layers. This reflection, plus grade, will be submitted as well.
Using both the submitted work, as well as the reflection, I will vet their self assessment, and determine whether it is accurate. Any adjustments (up or down), will be made before the final grade is recorded.
Finally, students will highlight the keywords they have reflected on, using the header colour from the highest level they have achieved. As students progress through the course, they should end up with an ongoing map of their achievement:
I would love to get some input on this idea. How does it compare with your own assessments? Do you think it will work? Is it suitable to subjects other than ICT & Media?
Acknowledgements: this work has not been created in isolation, but rather has been influenced by many other teachers and their approaches to assessment and education in general. I would like to acknowledge Jennifer Goldthorpe’s work on self assessment, Mark Roper & Kevin Lester’s IEA work on a clear lexis for assessment and Chris Leach for tipping me over the edge.
It is amazing how one thing leads to another, and all of a sudden you have a crazy idea for a unit of work on your hands. I have recently been watching some video of old Hong Kong, and chatting about the footage with friends and family. My dad and I were wondering where one particular spot was, and threw a couple ideas around. This planted a seed in my mind, and I set out to see if I could use technology to find the answer. It seems that I have actually located the spot, and although it will be at least a few days before I can get out and see for myself, I am 99% certain that it is correct. I am looking forward to shooting some new footage to compare with the original.
Below I will share the steps I took to come to my conclusion, which can be replicated by secondary students relatively easily. The idea for the unit, then, is to give students some old footage and stills from an area they are familiar with (say a city, county, district, etc), and ask them to find as many of the spots as possible. All the confirmed spots can be placed into a Google Map, with the original image, and a link back to where it is found. Students thus build up their own map, putting historical footage in its place, and tying time and space together neatly. They can visit the spots for themselves, and see how they have changed. One of the tricky parts of the process (especially true in Hong Kong) is not only the rapid change of human geography (e.g. new buildings, roads, etc), but also the fact that areas of sea have been reclaimed, and so even large geographical features can change in a relatively short space of time.
I started my investigation by taking 2 screen captures from one particular video, and crudely stitching these together using some graphic editing software (Acorn in my case, as they give it free to schools, but Gimp or Photoshop or a dozen other titles would do). My interest in this spot was first sparked because of the unusual amount of flat land on the right hand side. Click on any of the images to see a full screen version:
I then searched on Google Maps, looking around Hong Kong to find locations which might be a match. Hong Kong’s numerous small islands and rugged coastline make this quite easy, as there are plenty of features to match. Turns out that my initial guess of near Plover Cove was wrong, and my dad’s of Sai Kung was correct. After making my initial location, I saved a screenshot of the relevant Google Map:
The next step was to search for landmarks along two intersecting lines, in the original image. The trick here was to cross-reference the map and the original image numerous times so as to pick spots which are distinct in both sources. This gave the following annotated version of the original:
These 4 locations could then be marked on the map, and joined by two lines. The point of intersection of the two lines must be where the original image was shot from (I believe this is not triangulation but is similar, although not being a surveyor don’t take my word for it):
Over this I then laid a semi-transparent version of the same map, with labels, so that we can easily identify the surrounding areas.
Turns out that the photo was taken not that far from my house. Closer inspection of the map shows it to be Wong Chuk Yeung, what appears to be an unchanged, traditional Hong Kong village, with some flat grassy land just to the north west. Surely, this must be “the spot”:
Even though I do not teach humanities, I am incredibly excited by this process: it very quickly makes old media viscereal, alive, important. I could literally jump in a car, drive right to this spot and look at the same view that these people enjoyed 50 years ago. What else could we find out using modern technology? Could we discover who these people were, where they lived and why they visited Wong Chuk Yeung on that day. Could we find them? Meet them? Hear their stories? Now, that would be a real history lesson. I wonder if this could be pushed back further in time, with studies performed on paintings left behind by Hong Kong’s first colonial settlers?
My plan is to run this unit with some humanities teachers in my school next year. I would love to see other schools run it, and hear how it went. If only this kind of thing happened more often. It really is the best way to plan a new unit of work.
Update 1 – The Visit
It turns out that my feeling of 99% confidence was 100% wrong: had I consulted an ordinance survey map, or studied the Google Map more closely, I would have seen that Wong Chuk Yeung is in fact on the wrong side of the hill for a view of Sai Kung. That said, the drive up their was more than worth it, as the village is not only huge, but seemingly entirely abandoned. As if stepping back in time, or into a movie set, the area is full of collapsing rice paddies, houses with no roofs, mailboxes stuffed full of mail, and tress growing out of houses:
Wong Chuk Yeung Overflowing Mail
Wong Chuk Yeung Silence
Wong Chuk Yeung Tree in House
Wong Chuk Yeung Ruins
Wong Chuk Yeung Ruins
Wong Chuk Yeung Interior
Wong Chuk Yeung Panorama
The potential for student learning is huge, as are the potential number of questions one could ask of such a place. One of the most amazing aspects of the whole place is finding a large village nestled in a hollow, half way up a mountain: what a defensible, peaceful place, but also, how remote?
Credits: images captured from the original video are copyright Michael Rogge, and used under fair use for educational purposes. Google Maps images are used under fair use for educational purposes.
Earlier this year I asked my Year 8 students to record a 2 minute warning to their parents, aiming to highlight risks which they might face online. This piece of work followed several smaller tasks (such as Me vs Me), and lots of discussions, regarding digital citizenship, what being online means and how we can stay safe. Of all the excellent pieces submitted, I was most taken by work of Chloe, who I believed manage to convey a lot of meaning in an easy to understand message:
Chloe runs a nice blog where she posts some of her other work, if you are interested in taking a look.
Do you remember those Choose Your Own Adventure books from the 80s and 90s? I used to love reading them at school, and recently I have been wondering if students could write their own using a Google Drive Form. This is a proof-of-concept for this idea…sorry if my creative writing is not amazingly griping.
Last night I was lucky enough to play host to the very knowledgeable and laid back Alan Levine (aka @cogdog on Twitter) as he presented to a group of 50 educators. With teachers from 12 schools from around Hong Kong, and a few intrepid students, we had a small, intimate group, an excellent speaker and a fantastic location (the Assembly Hall at LPCUWC). Over the course of 2 hours Alan presented a wide range of ideas, which were eagerly noted down for later application in the classroom. The list below is a summary of some of the ideas I picked out, and my take on them, but it is by no means exhaustive or authoritative.
True Stories of Internet Openness
For the first half of the show Alan focused on the theme of Internet openness, but from a social/content point of view, rather than the more traditional hardware/protocols angle. Through the use of a range of resources, anecdotes and ideas, he weaved a compelling prompt to share what we do online.
The Internet Is So Big- even bigger than the Grand Canyon (which has been Google Maps Streetviewed, as one example of just how big the Internet is). It is so big we simply cannot comprehend it, or in some ways, even understand how just big it is.
You Can Get Lost – there is so much data and so much detail (often in one place, such as in this 320 giga pixel panorama of London), that it is incredibly easy to lose yourself. But we often also find the unexpected, because we simply don’t know what is out there.
All Because People Share – and because there is such a variety of people on the web, you get a huge variety of sharing. Take for example Into The Continuum, a website which shares crazy Mathematica formulas for creating art.
Massively Collaborative – mix this sharing with some imagination and you get some crazy, massive online collaborations, from which emerge ways of interacting never before possible or conceivable. Take for example The Johnny Cash Project or In B Flat.
And The Tools Are Evolving – with new standards, such as HTML 5, we can create ever more interesting things on the web. A great example is Snow Fall, an interactive story from the NY Times. Another great (self-referencing) example of this is Evolution of the Web, which uses a very innovative interface to help explore the progression of web technology, using some of the latest HTML 5 and CSS 3 techniques.
But Think Of The Children! – and yet, with all this positive potential, we too often focus on the negatives of our new found connectivity. How about spending more time looking at the amazing new ways we have to inspire each, such as 25 Days To Make A Difference.
It Has Become Our Lives – and whether you like this connectedness or not, it is inescapable. Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the Web (not to be confused with the Internet) hoped that it would become not only an information share, but also “a realistic mirror of the ways in which we work and play and socialize”. And he was right.
The way we worked before the Web doesn’t exist any more, especially in creative fields. Do we fight it, or accept and adapt? #cogdoghk13
CogDog Responds – one of Alan’s reactions to all of this, is to share what he calls True Stories of Internet Openness: these are video-based personal anecdotes of amazing things that have happened to people who have opened up and shared online. And the message, if it needs to be stated again is this: share, share and share some more, you never know what amazing things might happen. True to this message, Alan even found some time to record some true stories from the audience during his talk.
Launching into the second half, Alan stepped up a gear as he moved into what I guess is his main passion: digital storytelling.
Getting Started – for those new to digital storytelling, Alan recommended reading The New Digital Storytelling by Bryan Alexander, and in doing so made some links back to the age-old oral tradition of storytelling.
Improv -moving deeper into storytelling Alan made a connection to the art of improv as a way to get creativity started, and to help people lower their inhibitions. He showed us one of his own tools, PechaFlickr, which facilitates improv based on random images based on a keyword. We played a couple of rounds of this (well done to Charlotte, Katrina and Alex), and it really energised the room. Alan did mention that the “Pecha” part of the name comes from Pecha Kucha, which is another really interesting line of investigation (for another day). Another one of Alan’s interesting Flickr API creations is 5 Card Flickr, which is another way to build a narrative, but a little more structured than PechaFlickr.
Narrative – really firing on all cylinders by now, we moved onto narrative structure, and how we can tell compelling stories. How do we hook people, so they are interested. The following videos were all viewed and discussed in this light:
Just Like The Pros – in approaching our own digital storytelling, it is useful to consider some of the models and approaches used by the professionals. One such model is the BBC’s 5 Shot Method, another is the Three Act Structure. These can help us to engage the audience, using formulas which work, and which are familiar. A member of the audience (a Media teacher from RCHK, whose name I do not know) mentioned the following fantastic video, which plays on such models, showing just how familiar we are with them:
Teaching & Learning – having convinced us of the importance of narrative, and shown us what it looks like, Alan introduced Dan Meyer’s Three-Act Maths (each of the items in this spreadsheet links to a page with more detail), which is a way of using movie narrative to get students engaged in solving math problems. Another example, MinutePhysics, gave another example using narrative in teaching and learning.
Simplicity – wrapping up a 2-hour mind explosion, Alan closed with a disarmingly simple thought on narrative, storytelling and hooking your audience: “Arouse and fulfill“. Whether you are teaching school kids, selling a product or just telling a story: first arouse the interest of your audience, and then fulfill it. Easy!
After saying various goodbyes, I was fortunate enough to snag Alan for dinner and drinks, which we had in a small restaurant in the village in which I live. It has taken almost a full 24 hours for most of the buzz to wear away, during which I have tried to record as much as I can. My own personal and professional thanks go to Alan for a fantastic time, sentiments which I am sure will be echoed by other participants.
Credits: cogdog image by Alan Levine, shared under CC BY SA (just a guess on the license, but sure it is right ; ). Thanks to Nick Cotton, Kalpana and LPCUWC for their help in hosting the event.
QR codes are square barcodes, which are quick to read and can contain more information than older linear barcodes. More importantly, QR codes can contains links which take scanners directly to a location on the Internet, and can be scanned by almost any phone or laptop. These codes can, with a little imagination, be used in some really innovative ways within schools. For example, students can record audio book reviews, which are then QR coded, and stuck onto books in the library, allowing potential borrowers to get a quick overview. Or, they could be used to tell stories around school, such as how each school trophy was won.
Today I unleashed Happyism, a little QR project I have been organising with my pastoral group. The aim of the project was to be the opposite of terrorism, namely an act of trying to make people happy, inspired and positive in a public place. When students came out of class for lunch, they discovered 150 unique QR codes stuck around the canteen and stairway area. Each of these codes, when scanned with a phone or computer, took the student to a website which aimed to make them laugh, think or act. Some staff also wore codes, linking to sites relating to their subject area, personality or nationality.
At first students were a little unsure, but with a lot of prompting, a few started investigating. Within 20 minutes there were groups of students gathering around phones, animatedly enjoying a variety of videos, pictures, quotes and stories. A particular highlight was Ms. Goldthorpe, whose QR code, resting on her bump, led students to an ultrasound of her unborn child (thanks to my wife for this genius idea).
The process of gathering the sites (shared amongst students and myself) was time consuming, as was vetting them, creating codes, printing, cutting and sticking. However, the effort was more than worth it, with a real buzz around campus during the day. Even better, a number of staff asked how they could build this into their curriculum areas, showing a great willingness to try new things. If you are interested in trying this out at your school, some of the following may be useful:
QR Code Madess – the full listing of almost 150 unique QR codes, appropriate for use in secondary school.
Web QR – scan straight from the web (seems to work best with Chrome, at least on Mac).