Thursday, April 29, 2010

Anzac Day

2009 ANZAC day Dawn Service, State war <span class=memoria..." style="border: medium none ; display: block;" height="199" width="300">Image via Wikipedia

Anzac Day was held on Sunday, with services and memorials across Australia and the world to commemorate Australian and New Zealand soldiers who gave their lives in the various conflicts around the world.

Australia's first military conflict was during the first world war on the shores of Gallipoli in Turkey. The ABC has developed an excellent resource for teachers and those with a passion for history on their website. The best way to describe this resource is an interactive 3D documentary.

Please check it out -

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Fun with Google

I came across two awesome websites recently, one through a blog (sorry I forgot which one) and one through echalk - a mailing list for computer teachers in Australia.

Google stories - this has be blogged about recently, but if you haven't seen it it is great fun. Here's one I prepared for Keepad Interactive that we are going to use on our stand at conferences.

LMGTFY - Let me google that for you. Perfect to send to people who constantly ask you questions that you are just going to google for anyway.
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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Mobile Interactive Classroom

I've just finished making up a client's special order. Usually the equipment that I sell goes into a school or college and stays put - usually in a classroom. This client is different.

The client has a group of lecturers that go to a range of community centres to do ESL classes for the community. Because these classes are part of a government program they must use some aspect of the Internet and make it accessible to the students. These are language teachers not technicians, so setting up a mobile lab of 15 computers and then lugging it to the next community centre would be problematic.

The solution was a mobile interactive classroom. The client has bought 15 kits that we put together for them - Each kit contains

a laptop
an eBeam IWB solution
an Epson 1725 projector (with 3000 ansi lumens - but small and light)
A USB 3G modem
and a Targus Urban Overnight roller bag for it all to go into -

This kit lets the teacher walk into any centre, grab a whiteboard and set up in about 5-10mins. All the resources will be on the laptop and they will also have access to all the resources on the Internet as well. Then when they have finished it all packs down into the overnight bag that they just wheel out to their car.

This is an such a great idea not only for community based language teachers, but any teacher that has to move from school to school.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Free and open source video editing

Video editing has to one of the most requested open source tools - without a decent response for the home or professional user. There are some like Jahshaka/cineFX but the interface is hard to get your head around and blender is really a 3D program not a video editor.

The big news it that one of the big ones Lightworks is going to be released as open source (free).

Lightworks is used by the heavy hitters in the industry and was used in movies and TV shows such as Kalifornia, Braveheart, Batman Forever, Con Air, Good Will Hunting, The Horse Whisperer, Brookside, Cracker, Bringing Out the Dead, Home & Away, Kavanagh QC, Mission Impossible, Jerry Maguire...

The feature I really like is Multicam management that helps you sync up 2 or more cameras covering the same action. With the price of video cameras coming down to such low levels it's very easy to have 2 or more cameras covering the action from different angles.

So an industry standard program is going to be free - great for all aspiring videographers and movie makers in your school.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Myschool website

Parliament House, Canberra: the seat of the Pa...Image via Wikipedia

At the beginning of this year the Australian Government via ACARA Launched the Myschools website. a league table of all the schools in Australia, both public and private - based on one metric - the National Assessment Program Literacy and Numeracy, a series of tests given to year 3, 5 7 and 9 students in May.

To say it is a little unfair would be understating problem. One metric on one week determines the score for an entire school. The test is based on the New South Wales Curriculum (each state has it own curriculum - National Curriculum is coming this year).

The tests are mostly (except for the writing) multiple choice, and the mathematics test has almost the same amount of reading as the comprehension tests, severely limiting ESL students who my be capable of mathematics but can't comprehend the way the question is worded.

The website does integrate information like demographics but the format is difficult to read if you just want to get an overall feel for the school.

Max Cruise wrote an excellent article in Rotarian Life and has given permission for me to copy it into this blog. He has an excellent idea.

Finally, thanks to, we can see how badly our local school is performing. We got a NAPLAN average of 301! How bad is that? Actually, it's hard to tell because nobody knows what it means.

Then, even when the score was adjusted for ICEA RAW (although we don't know what this means either), it was only 108, which can't be good, can it?

Humans are funny. If we can rank something or categorise it, we will.

However, it is difficult to see the advantage this latest bureaucratic offering offers us in dealing with disadvantage - ostensibly the reason for myschool - since we know where the disadvantage lies anyway.

Nevertheless, we can now see our rank, thus enabling us to blame someone other than ourselves for our children's failings.

Fantastic! But why stop at schools? Why not a myschool thingy for all public services?
Lets start with politicians; they would surely welcome to weed out under performers. We could use the Commonwealth Research Assessing Politician's Laziness and Niceness scores. Adjusted for disadvantaged electorates, such as those with National Party members.

Better yet, how about a Schools could see who the under performing parents are so that they can be sacked or retrained or given more resources.

Hang on as with schools, we already know where the under performing parents are, so lets give them some dosh and cut out the middle-plan.

As with the current obsession with metrics and KPI's in the corporate world - National testing is not going away... and even if teachers strike on test days (which is what a lot of teachers are planning) there will be some sort of public ranking.

I just wish is was more broad based than one series of tests on one week. We don't assess students on one test for their reports, we take into account a range of assessment tasks as well as behaviour and improvement. It reduces 'gaming" the system and assessments can be made in a range of contexts.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

3D video from 2D video

Augmented Reality and Google <span class=SketchUp" style="border: medium none ; display: block;">Image by WangXiang via Flickr

This is one of those blog posts that seem to have nothing really to do with teaching with Technology... but if you think about it --- it just might have some implications after all.

With the release of Avatar and other 3D Movies there has been a bit of a revival in the 3D in all it's guises. This is nothing new to our students who have been playing 3D games from Castle Wolfenstein to Virtual worlds, in fact they are probably wondering why it hasn't hit cinemas sooner.

I often demonstrate Google sketchup using an eBeam interactive whiteboard system to show teachers that it doesn't have to be just 2D. Edu-Sim is another great white boarding program that works in a 3D environment.

Augmented reality is also coming into it's own with cereal packs containing card that your computer (with web cam) reads and then displays as a 3D image on your screen. Even my iPhone has a bevvy of apps that augment the real world it sees through its' camera.

All of this is getting the digital content into the real world... how do we get real world 3D objects into the computer as 3D objects? The hard way is through modeling, using complex software to draw the object in 3D vectors and planes. It is tedious and can be difficult to get right.

A group of students and teachers from Adelaide University have developed a way to get 3D information out of 2D video. The proof of concept video is amazing, and they are looking for beta testers. So if you have some students who are champing at the bit to try some bleeding edge technology, this just might get them excited.