A Synthesis of Art & Science

Tell me this isn’t good. I am inspired by the performance here as well as the coaching that led to a kid being empowered to this type of creation. Think this isn’t synthesis?

People get malaria when they’re bit by a mosquito
It’s taking lives like a torpedo
Every year one million die worldwide
But you can prevent it with insecticide

Maybe a breakthrough cure for malaria
To starve the parasite was their idea

Every thirty seconds a child dies
Without treatment, it’s no surprise
A family in Africa could be saved by a bug net
Too bad they can’t afford one yet

This treatment fights the drug-resistant kind
Hopefully we can put malaria out of mind

I wish this cure will help people everywhere
I want it to end their nightmare

Understandably, I often field comments like: “I just need to see what technology integration looks like.” Well, I would say this is a nice little example of a student taking a piece of content and exploding it into not only a scientific and artistic expression… but ultimately what may just move across the plane of classroom into social action. And to me, that is golden. This blog post and video are certainly not about the technology, but rather facilitated by it.  To think that you can sit in front of a camera, and then a computer and create rich content like this to demonstrate learning is very cool. Though to think your response could actually move folks to action is, well… nothing short of inspiring.

The video is just a part of a really nice blog post that provides some nice context for the song. You really need to visit this link to get the full experience. Shoot- perhaps Miss Jennifer needs her own YouTube channel to publish future scientific songstress expressions?

This post was made by a student of Stacy Baker’s biology class. Stacy is one a handful of my Twitter friends who helps to keep The Synapse running along with Erin & I. Her class blog was most-deservedly voted “Best Class Blog” in the 2008 Edublogs Awards.


I am pretty excited to see all of the chatter about this post in such a short time (as I hope Jennifer is). You never know where these things will go. So what do you get out of this? What does it make you think? Is this to be valued as highly as I value it? Am I wrong in thinking so? I would love your feedback.

Artwork thanks:
“Mosquito” by tanakawho on Flickr.
& of course, “On The Way To Cure Malaria” by Jennifer

Connectedness Has Colleague Seeing Pink

Below is the text of an e-mail I received from a favorite colleague, Terri Johnson, a day ago.  This is a fun little glimpse into one of the many connections being made worldwide by teachers in my district this year.  While I could go on about positive global connections made by colleagues in the quest to create personal learning networks- this time I got a really nice little play-by-play.

Pink Shirt Day

I had to tell someone–and I knew you’d appreciate it.

A series of serendipitous events:

  • 1. You taught me the value of Web 2.O.
  • 2. I finally started using Twitter.
  • 3. Following lots of great people.
  • 4. Barak Obama tells all Americans to try to help others-volunteer. (I read about it via Twitter and watching live streaming at CNN.com etc.)
  • 5. Thought, OK! What can I do? What can my students do?
  • 6. @teachmescience on Twitter Discusses National Pink Shirt Day to put an end to Bullying.
  • 7. I recall Pink Shirt Day being mentioned on Channel One last year.
  • 8. Start a discussion in my Teacher Advisory Class about the Pink Shirt Day and Bullying-they decide we should promote it at Truman.
  • 9. We’ve made posters, kids have created Commercials to run in the AM at Channel TMS (our student run news program.), and are creating pink “labels” for kids to pass out and wear on the date-February 25th.
  • 10. I mentioned this to @teachmescience via Twitter as a thank you for the heads up.
  • 11. She mentions this via e-mail to the Radio Station who started Pink Shirt Day.
  • 12. Evidently “National” meant Canada.
  • 13. Said radio station just e-mailed me asking to set up a telephone interview for Wednesday Afternoon.

How fun is that?!?


So, apparently, she and a couple of her students did a radio interview on the Christy Clark show during school today on CKNW AM980 in British Columbia, Canada.  Unfortunately, it was far too wild of a day for me to listen in, but I hear it was a great experience for all.  A little research on my end led me to the website for Pink Shirt Day, as well as Christy Clark’s page on the topic.  Apparently, this little movement aimed at ending bullying is gaining quite a head of steam, as Ms. Clark says on her site:

“I encourage all of you to wear something pink to symbolize that we as a society will not tolerate bullying anywhere. I wish I could take credit for this idea but it comes from two incredible Nova Scotia high school students.”

Terri-  of course I’m hoping you’ll pipe in here to give up a few more of the details.  Way to dive in an immerse yourself with like-minded professionals the world over.  And what’s more…  involving your students every step along the way in real social action.  You are modeling some pretty powerful connections.

*UPDATE: This just in, an audio link the piece (about halfway through).

Trolling My PLN For Edtech Vision

Calling all brains

I’m asking for your help.  If you could pick anyone, anything, or anyplace, What books would you read?  What conferences, workshops, or meetings would you attend?  Who would you travel to meet with?  Who would you fly in to sit at the table with you?  Who would you pick to help you in your strategic brainstorming or planning?  Who could help inject progressive, innovative ideas about the future of education and the technologies that will drive it?  Anyone.  Yes, I am serious.


This post is a straightforward attempt to leverage the power of my PLN.  It is my goal to get some fresh input about that very thing…  fresh input.  As a generalist instructional coach on what could realistically be called a “21st Century upgrade” mission in my building, I have spent countless hours in research this past year.  In fact, this blog originated from some of my earliest explorations into how a school can systematically raise the tech literacy of its staff ahead of a larger edtech implementation with students.

Here’s the deal

I am pleased to say that I work in a district with some success in incubating innovation.  We locally help to fund innovation with a fantastic “Apple Seed” grant program for creative projects.  We also celebrate ingenuity with an “Innovator of the Year” award- presented alongside the T.O.Y. award each year.  On a district wide level, our administrators in charge of curriculum & instruction are working hard to implement constructivist-leaning instruction and content-specific best practices.

In my opinion, we have long lacked such a mandated, district level approach to educational technology integration.  We invested early in a robust and speedy system-wide fiber optic network.  We have always succeeded in putting current, state of the art technological tools in the hands of our children.  What we now recognize the need for, is an innovative and comprehensive plan to elevate the technological savvy of all SJSD faculty members.  21st Century literacy skills (whatever you think those might be) cannot be developed in our children by skipping over our staff to do so.  We are ready to do the staff development required in readying our own workforce…  to ready those of the future.

macbook pro inside out

Our crew

A district task force was assembled to study the situation.  Our group consists of three instructional coaches, one social studies teacher, a library/media specialist, our district’s technology curriculum specialist, and our chief operating officer.  We have been told that we are “taking one year to study.”  One year to learn everything we can about what the future of learning will look like-  at least with regard to information and communication technologies.  Experimentation with free online technologies has been spawned and is growing in a grassroots way in a few places already.  My home high school actually has a building-wide implementation plan that was put into play this past summer.

The goal is to get just enough perspective about what we are currently doing… and what we still need to do…  before making any more large scale technology purchases.  The idea is to put the “buy it and they will come” -approach to edtech integration to bed for good.  This task force is headed by our C.O.O.  He is a direct sitting member of our superintendent’s council.  This level of buy-in is aligned what I had in mind when I wrote a post entitled “Increasing Our Level of Vitamin A” last November.  We are really to the point in our little corner of the world where we need to think long and hard about our mission and vision prior to buying even one more laptop.  Smart move, methinks.  And this mission had better be flexible.  Life moves pretty fast in these circles.


Why should you care?

I don’t know if I can say why you should care about a project in Missouri.  However, I do believe I know why you will.  Because you are a bunch of committed, forward-thinking educators.  Folks like us know the power of buy-in at all levels of implementation.  Here’s betting that the readers of this blog realize the power potential of solid know-how combined with administrative support.

Please help.  I could submit my own recommendations.  I essentially do that quite regularly behind the driver’s seat of this blog.  The articles I write examine interesting avenues and advocate passionate positions.  My blogroll is a list of folks I rely on for new learning.  I have a set of books on my shelf that were important to me, but really…   the elements of my learning network allow it to be a dynamic, hyper-responsive, thing.  There is even a pretty good chance you came here from the Twitterverse-  and that has become a frighteningly good resources as of late.

Speed Writing

We are locked and loaded for NECC 2009.  We are set for a sit-down at 1 Infinite Loop in Cupertino this March.  We recently sent a small contingent to METC 2009 for a last minute look at a few of the presenters.  We are ready to grab a few keystone texts for the group to dive into.  We are ready to visit the top workshops available where our learning/time ratio will be strongest.

We are going to take a slow, smart, focused look at this issue.  I can make informed suggestions as it is.  Yet- this post marks one of the ways I am increasingly gaining input.  Here’s betting that an emerging best practice in “informed decision making” includes surveying your PLN as an crucial step.  What do you say…  will you make a suggestion for our study?

Artwork thanks:
*Fisketur by ergates on Flickr
*MacBook Pro Inside Out by Christoph*B on Flickr
*Focus by ihtatho on Flickr
*Speed Writing by margot.trudell on Flickr

What does the “Information Superhighway” really look like?

What highway?

Just what does the “21st Century classroom” actually look like?  Do you even know?  What do you actually picture when you close your eyes and imagine?  Does your classroom reflect this ideal?  What is the divide between the ideal and the reality in your school or district?


Here’s betting that these two classroom images are far from your vision.  Allow me to set these up for you a bit…

Ever so slightly more green

My district has an interesting embedded program known as Crayons to Computers.  A significant chunk of space is devoted to warehousing and categorizing materials donated from businesses and individuals that might have otherwise ended up in a local landfill.  While seemingly little more than a room of junk to the uninitiated visitor, in the hands and mind of a creative teacher, this program can be a godsend.  From notebooks, pencils, and crayons to beakers, books, and computers, this nifty little depot often has just what the resourceful teacher needs to complete a classroom project.   And perhaps even more importantly, every single instructional use of these items helps to turn a portion of the community’s refuse into educational treasures.

This past August, in the midst of our “New Teacher Institute” in the days before school started, the district’s instructional coaches took our bright eyed new hires on a tour of some of the more crucial components of daily operation in our world.  Sandwiched between mini-seminars on best practices, practical tours and nuts & bolts introductions done to help acclimatize our new blood to their new surroundings.  One stop along the way was C2C.

School Supplies

That day, while new teachers perused the bins, boxes, and shelves of our depository of donated items, I decided to play along.  Longtime teachers have had years to collect resources and to craft an environment for learning to their liking.  However, to early service teachers -with far less time under their belt-  this storeroom is a place to stock up on consumables among other things.  In a town that battles significant socioeconomic stressors, this storeroom is celebrated by many.

I picked up one item to keep that morning.  While rifling through a poster bin with one of my former students -now a biology teacher- I found a…   what might be the opposite of gem?  Turd, you say?  Ok-  fine by me, let’s go with that.

This poster, entitled:  “Millennium 2000,” reads:

Gone are the days of the one-room schoolhouse.  During the second half of the 19th Century, kindergarten was established and school criteria were changed to educate children as individuals.  The superhighway now passes through most classrooms, allowing children of the 21st Century access to the entire world.

Now there’s a sentiment worth repeating…  reform.  Change in what we do.  Change in the tools, the access and thus the mission of our schools.  Access to a potential global perspective.  Who doesn’t believe in this as a good thing?  In fact, such a change in access, coupled with reform, should produce profound differences within the classroom.  Right?


Poster study

Now study the poster.  What exactly are the differences depicted here?  The inset image should show the shift in reality in our schools.  Does it?  What is really different here?  Where is evidence of a change in curriculum?  Where is the evidence of the “superhighway?”  Which classroom is more inspiring?  Which is warmer?  Which is more engaging?  Which is more teacher directed?  Which is………..

Funny stuff, huh?  I thank those who have come before me in our district.  We have been blessed with a robust pipeline of digital data since before we knew what to do with it.  Though we are still mere babes in the woods of the read/write web, we are beginning to establish a long-range study and planning group.  We recognize the realities of a world that is changing faster than we can even measure.

Pony Express Statue

Real plans

I am excited for the future of schools in our little Midwestern outpost where the Pony Express began.  I’d like to think that we could recreate our vision and purpose along the same lines as this historical entity.  I would love to think that we could envision our local schools as the starting point for an epic journey of learning through rigorous, and often unknown challenges.

We might smirk at the poster mentioned above today, but are we planning to become the “Pony Express” of learning for the future -both locally as well as nationally?  I certainly hope so.

Artwork thanks:

*Pony Express Statue by Americasroof as posted on Wikipedia.
*School Supplies by Sergey Galyonkin on Flickr.

The Educational Remix- At Odds With Copyright?

Allow me to be frank-  as busy as my world is right now, the requirement to read “Persepolis” by Marjane Satrapi was a very frustrating thing.  With a stack of ten or twelve books with immediate professional impact to juggle  -just waiting on my desk-  this read seemed frivolous.

Not only did I have to read the book (one of nine in six weeks) but I have to crank out a formal paper and an “author presentation.”  Before you pull out the tiny fiddle, rest assured that this is a positive post.  Like any of the other requirements of my little grad program that don’t seem to professionally apply right at the moment, I usually choose to steer the task toward a place where my learning can benefit someone else in our school’s learning network.  For this presentation I decided to try a different technique for integrating text into an Animoto video:

(*update 6-5-11: I changed the embedded version here. I swapped out the YouTube version for this one. You’ll have to wait a bit for it to load via Animoto, but watching it in full screen mode this way is much improved.)

The above clip is my version of a biographical “author introduction” for class.  However, since the book itself is tightly autobiographical, it made little sense to parade an endless list of factoids in front of 18 adults who all read the same book… and at least a few of whom had Google in the pockets.  The last tidbit to know here is that this is a graphic novel.  Within the pages, the author allows beautifully stark images to tell a good amount of the tale alongside the words.  It really is a masterful work about……  well, I’ll let you watch the clip and see.

Rarely do I dive into the minutiae of the nuts and bolts of a creation like this.  Sometimes I sort of ignorantly assume that others will analyze the creation of digital media by simply examining how it presents itself.

Technically speaking, this is what I did:

  • Sat down with the cover of the book after reading and matched basic graphical elements to the style of the book using Adobe Photoshop.  I wanted everything to “match” the book.  Why?  Don’t ask.  I’m a sucker for design details like that.  I’m weird.  I know.  I tried to match the colors, the fonts, and other subtle design elements present.
  • Copied these design elements over into Keynote where I assembled all of the presentation materials as a traditional slide show.
  • Trolled iTunes for a bit of Iranian contemporary folk music to use as a soundtrack.  I know absolutely nothing about Iranian music.  Therefore, I wanted to simply find a track that mirrored the stark simplicity of the novel itself.  I think I found a good one.  I like it quite a bit, really.
  • Exported all slides as .jpg images into a folder on my desktop.  This took less than a minute in total.  Also- this conveniently numbered all images consecutively.
  • Uploaded all images to Animoto.com.  Because they were already arranged in slideshow-order, no further shuffling needed to be done.  All that was left to do in Animoto was to select certain images to be “spotlighted,” followed by an upload of the .mp3 file for the soundtrack, and choose one of three overall presentation “speeds.”  Animoto then does the rest.
  • I ultimately remixed the video again to change speed and rearrange a couple of the highlights.  (one text-heavy slide displayed far too quickly)

Applications & Repercussions?

In the end, I felt like I created a pretty cool little video.  It certainly took a bit of time to do as a first run, but was largely automatic once the original slideshow was completed in Keynote.  Actually, this little clip made me so happy that, well… it almost makes me want to go back and re-read the novel.  To be perfectly honest, Persepolis is a pretty special work of art.

If you are new to this blog, you may think I have a exorbitant love for educational uses of video…  especially this one little free online tool.  In reality, while also juggling Lawrence Lessig’s Remix, a fascination with mashed-up content seems to be fresh on my mind.  That, and a recent discussion of the read/write/remix culture of 2009 in Doug Johnson’s session on copyright at METC 2009 last week.  In the Q&A afterwards I brought up an experience I had this past year regarding Animoto, UMG, YouTube and the YouTube content identification program.  In fact, Doug recently published one of his latest “Fair Use Scenarios” on this very issue.

Hossein Alizadeh and Madjid Khaladj


A New Hope

I think we are starting to see some really creative resolutions to fresh new uses of content…  that benefit all involved parties.  Even this video contains most of a copyrighted song entitled: Passion by Hossein Alizadeh and Madjid Khaladj.  Can readers of this blog download the song to an .mp3 later?  No.  Can they burn a copy of the song to play in a CD or DVD player?  No.  Is this educational use a mechanism to potentially generate more interest in the music as well as the book?  I hope so.  I wouldn’t highlight it if I didn’t think it held merit.

I decided to post the clip here after I realized that this might be a really cool way for an instructor to build interest in a book that an entire class might soon read.  (yes- like it or not, we still do this)  In fact, perhaps this is a really good way for a media center specialist, or librarian to pimp a set of newly-acquired novels to prospective students.  Perhaps it is even a way for students to reflect and then share a book with their classmates. (virtual booktalk?)  I think this could be a really great student-to-student viral marketing tool for discovering new reading material.

What do you think?  Is this song repurposed to a reasonable degree?  Does this use infringe upon the artist’s right to generate income from the song?  Does this use in any way cast a negative light on the work?  Is this kind of edu-marketing for students a reasonable educational use of the content?  Please share your thoughts on these and any other questions you see fit.

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