Playing for change

It has been Social Justice Week at our school this week. It finishes today with a lunchtime debate between students and staff. Many students and staff are part of a variety of small, and not so small, activities/actions. Be it collecting mobile phones to help protect the habitat of gorillas or collecting money for East Timor, from being part of Amnesty International or helping tutor (English/maths) young immigrants from non-English speaking countries, there are many ways to be invlovled in changing things for the better..

In keeping with the sentiments of social justice week I thought that I would share these videos from Playing for Change.

In 2006 I spent a number of days, while the Melbourne Commonwealth Games were on, in the parklands near the sports stadium. From early until well into the night, groups from all around the world played their music. All sorts of people sat on the grass and listened, the young or the older and those from all different ethnic backgrounds enjoyed the music. The atmosphere was amazing. Everyone was in a good mood and behaved well towards each other. The music was a powerful force for bringing out the best in everyone.

The Playing for Change movement is trying inspire people from around the world to come together through music.

The first is from the award-winning documentary, “Playing For Change: Peace Through Music”. It  is the first of many “songs around the world” being released independently.

Featured is a cover of the Ben E. King classic by musicians around the world adding their part to the song as it travelled the globe.

 I love the way they pull the  music  and groups from around the world together. Such a powerful message.

The second is another of their offerings. “Don’t Worry” is the follow up to the classic “Stand By Me”


Mr Winkle and the 21st century education debate

From the Bright Ideas Blog,a video of an old story retold. Rip Van Winkle wakes up and goes wandering around the world as it exists today. He finds many changes but some things not so diferrent.

Created as a conversation starter for professional development on the use of educational technology.

This is a great and short video that could make a good discussion starter. It could be used with staff at the start of a PD day to get them thinking about how technology works in their schools but I would love to have students watch it as well. They could then come up with ideas relating to how they think schools today should work and develop some ideas about how it might change. I imagine that they might come up with some very interesting and novel ideas that we teachers could learn from.

If you  are looking for videos, you could try the Alec Couros post:  80+ Videos for Tech and Media literacy. The list of great Youtube videos offer great instruction for teaching technology and media literacy.

Searching with Google – new options

After the launch of Wolfram Alpha, or perhaps because of it, Google has enhanced its search facilities.

I like always to use the Advance Search and try to explain to students about the benefits. I don’t get into all classes and they can forget so the new searching options are a further guide to making a search more useful from the basic search page. There are also some visual options that can be useful as well.

Once you have done a simple search, click on the show options at the top of the results page. The options will enable the user to filter the results by a time period or a media type. You can choose to look through reviews of the item you are looking for or forums that might be discussing the merits of the item. Search_options

If you choose to look at the videos available, click on that option and you get up all videos with further filter options. You can choose by length or by date of the video.


 You can go back the the initial screen at any time by resetting options..

The timeline option creates a different view. The timeline search scans the results page for dates mentioned in the text, and shows a graph of the volume of pages that correspond with those dates in set intervals, such as 20 years or 50 years. If you move your mouse over the timeline, you can pull up all the stories that appear between the set date. Another option is to enter your own search dates to narrow the results even further. This is an interesting way for followiing particular topics or keywords.


The other visual search option is the Wonder Wheel. This option creates a visual representation of search results in a spider-like (mind mapping type) diagram format.

When you click on this option you bring up a tag cloud of hyperlinked search terms/phrases. The search term is in the centre.  Coming off that central term are “spokes”, that offer other related search keywords that offer to help the user to further refine their search.  search_options-wonderwheel

When you click on any of the related terms, the Wonder Wheel is redrawn on the screen. The new search term now sits as the centre of a new wheel, with other spokes of related search terms coming off it.search_options-wonderwheel2 

Underneath this “new” wheel, still clickable, but in smaller and fainter text to show it is now the secondary feature, is the first Wonder Wheel, with the original search term at the centre. Along the right-hand side of the screen are the usual list of web site pages that relate to that search term, and users can click on any of these to visit that page. I think that the Wonder wheel offers the most useful option to students. I have used other search engines that cluster or categorise searches: Mooter (used to offer a visual(tag cloud) format but is now a list) and iBoogie (which is a name that sticks in the minds of students although it is not the visual representation) , Clusty (by vivisimo), lyGo (offers a visual results page), Quintura (offers the tag cloud option as well as the traditional listing) and Kartoo (another visual search engine with results displayed in non-linear form).

I want all my students to understand how to breakdown a topic and focus on the important or relevant issues. This is a learning process and some catch on more quickly than others. If students have difficulty getting a “handle” on a research topic and can only think in broad terms, this is is one way to help them narrow it down into a more manageable and focused topic.

 – And of course Google has a video that explains how to use the new option

Useful Links (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Authors given voice (and video)


Writers Talk 2009 is being put up onto the web. WritersTalk 2008 and WritersTalk 2007 are also still online and well worth investigating. These sites offer a greate resource to everyone interested in writing, YA Writing and just how different authors go about their task. So far,  Tohby Riddle, Randa Abdel-Fattah, James Roy and Mark McLeod have been added. The others due to be interviewed include Garth Nix, Isobel Carmody, David HillMal Peet, Tristan Bancks, Morris Gleitzman, Danny Katz and Mitch Vane

There is an author video of each, a text version of the interview, and all of which is supported by additional material including a list of resources of books and (linked) sites and teaching notes that could from the basis for class activities, even if you are not in the NSW education system.

This fantastic resource is an initiative of the Centre for Learning and Innovation(NSW DET) and is a spinoff from the 2009 Sydney Writers Festival.

LuckyOnesCoverThis great site was the result of a search on Tohby Riddle. Tohby has had a new YA book published, The lucky ones, and I have it to read this weekend. Tohby is better known to me as a creator of marvellous picture books. I wrote quite a long piece about some picture books, attaching a clip for the movie of  “Where the wild things are” and included, as a great example of a modern day illustrator, information on Tohby and his works. This was a few months ago but then the was promptly lost when the computer was playing up. I was so annoyed (at midnight) that I could not rewrite any of it. I thought it was time I revisited that idea I had and just look what the new search found. Serendipity? I suppose losing the earlier post might have been good fortune because it led me to this resource – maybe I would have found it – maybe not.

Some interesting new trailers

Still looking at trailers, especially book trailers, so that I can build up a bank to use as examples for students. They are also a great way to promote books to our students. They grab attention and arouse curiosity and can start some good conversation as well. One trailer that my colleague Tania Sheko liked was one for book 1 (Found) in the Missing series by author Margaret Peterson Haddix. She wrote about it in the school’s fiction blog.  Foundis an intiguing action mystery about missing children with plent of twists and puzzles and a cliffhanger ending. The trailer encourages you to read the book.  


The new Sherlock Holmes movie trailer looks great. I always start the Year 8 crime genre term with examples of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, after all he was the father of the detective stories. The movies and television programs always come up in the conversations about these stories. I am hoping the movie will live up to the trailer but it should provide another great lead into the crime genre (and the detective novel)

…And now for something a little different, hHere is a trailer for a different type of film. The information came from the Culture Now site. We have all heard of the spaghetti western. Now there is Sukiyakiwestern. It is from the Prolific Japanese director Takashi Miike, and is a highly stylized and firm tongue in cheek  remake of Serbio Corbucci’s Django. Quentin Tarantino even makes a cameo as a mysterious master gunman. Quite an amazing clip!

Better presentations.

I helped to assess year 8 presentations just over a week ago. One class used PowerPoint others created videos to assist them in their class presentations. Some were excellent, some less so. I know that many teachers still ask students to create a PowerPoint document and I wondered how much instruction is given to the students about the best ways to use this tool. The post on the Edubeacon site reminded me of the “Death by powerpoint: and how to fight it” slideshare presentation by Alexei Kapterev. It is still one of the best presentations about making effective/good presentations. Another sub-title could have been “How to not to bore your audience to death”

So I was also interested to read about the TEDCommandments mentioned in the same post. I love the TEDTalks. They are great. The speakers are passionate and knowledgeable about their topics. The talks go for about 2o minutes and I have always been totally engrossed in the talk. (There is a good wiki – Teaching with TED for anyone interested in ideas about how some of these videos might be used in a classroom setting.)

TEDCommandmentsI now find out about one of the reasons that the talks are so good – it might, in some part, be due to the TEDCommandments that are given to the prospective speakers by the TED organisers. I went in search of these and found a post, from this time last year, on Tim Longhurst’s blog that discussed just these commandments. He had written them out and put in a few links to find further information.

I Have a look at all ten here but below are the ones, on first glance, that I think I will translate in a guide for the students. These are: 

  1. Thou Shalt Not Simply Trot Out thy Usual Shtick. (Do not cut&paste from wikipedia(etc) or copy an earlier presentation on a similar topic and just change the heading.
  2. Thou Shalt Reveal thy Curiosity and Thy Passion. Include information that you find interesting and unusual. This will make it more interesting for others too.
  3. Thou Shalt Not Read thy Speech. Self-explanatory really.
  4. Thou Shalt Not Steal the Time of Them that Follow Thee.  Don’t go on too long, or over time. Also – If you are working as part of a group, don’t cross over into their topic.

Thanks for pointing me in the right direction Camilla, now how do I get some of the teachers to follow suit?