Category Archives: Course 3

Multimedia, NGO’s and Tears

Using multimedia can be a useful method of engaging with important causes and issues.

The grade 6 classes have just finished looking into various NGOs/NPOs in our Sharing the Planet unit.  As a final task, the students had to create a multimedia campaign to create awareness for their chosen organization.  As an added bonus, my teaching partner and I decided that we would award the winning group 5000 yen to donate to their cause.  As I thought about the final project for COETAIL Course 3 I decided to use this exercise as a starting point.

In the end, the UbD planner that I created (located after the image and video credits), reflects much of what the students were able to accomplish in a week, with suggestions for activities, exercises, and resources that I feel could strengthen the experience.  As I typed out this project I had to consider which format would suit this idea best: UbD or the IB PYP planner.  In the end I chose the UbD planner because I felt that this project could fit with multiple IB PYP transdisciplinary themes.  By putting it in the UbD format it will make transferring this work between different UOI’s easier for me and anyone else who would like to try a similar project.

As the project unfolded the students worked incredibly hard on their presentations.  My teaching partner and I were both impressed with the depth of the knowledge gained by the children in terms of presentation skills, technological skills, and the work of NGOs/NPOs.  As students created their presentation each chose methods which best suited their comfort levels.  Some made posters that immediately drew my eye, others made brochures, but two students stood out for me in terms of how they blurred technology with visual impact to create pieces that brought this teacher to tears.

One student in my class is extremely intuitive when it comes to visuals.  As he works, he will typically come up to me only to ask permission to use something or if he needs help manipulating the technology in a way that works for him.  For this particular assignment he took some pictures he found online and combined them in iMovie, added a musical track he made in Garage Band, and when he presented it, he gave a speech.  The end effect was incredibly moving and demonstrated a deep understanding of the power of using multimedia to convey his message.

A student from my teaching partner’s class went above and beyond anything I was expecting.  Like many students, she incorporated a movie that she made.  As I watched the movie, I was brought to tears.  It contained everything I had hoped for; facts, emotional impact, and a plea for an NGO/NPO.  I was so impressed that I asked if I could put it up on YouTube.  As I spoke to the parents, they were very grateful and appreciated the fact that I asked for permission.  The video is included below edited with permission to include the original composition mentioned above.

After the students had seen each the work of their classmates, we asked them to discuss what they learned about presentations, multimedia, projects, and technology:

  1. Test your technology to make sure it works.
  2. Don’t read from your notes.
  3. Look your audience in the eye.
  4. Pictures can have a strong impact on emotion.
  5. Music can evoke strong emotions within people.
  6. The text you put up on a slide should be minimal.
  7. Having a personal connection with the cause can make your presentation more powerful.

As the projects completed were completed, I think back on the experience and what I have learned or ideas that have been reinforced from my students during this short week:

  1. Even in a short amount of time students can produce amazing work.
  2. Given an environment where they feel safe taking risks with their work, students will surprise you.
  3. Simply by allowing the students to play with technology, they are able to create meaningful pieces of work.
  4. Students are much more creative and attune to the importance of visuals then I was at their age.
  5. Something extremely simple can sometimes be the best piece of work.

Photo Credits:

Global Player by alles-schlumpf found on Flickr, Creative Commons License

Video Credits:

Summative Assessment found on YouTube uploaded by Brendan Lea



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Filed under COETAIL, Course 3, IB PYP, Uncategorized

Remix: Haven’t I Been Here Before?

Remixing is a term that has been floating around in the public sphere for around 3 decades. Originally it applied to music and has since spread to other fields such as movies and visual art. This week I was reading Dr. Mashup; or Why Educators Should Stop Worrying and Learn to Love the Remix. The article is interesting, but as I read I felt that I had seen this idea before.

In high school and university I remember being given countless papers to write. Most involved me using information from a variety of different sources to create a new piece of writing. Throughout my five years of university and three years of high school, I went through this process countless times. The purpose of a remix “to mix and record the elements (of a musical recording) in a different way.” As technology is always changing this definition has evolved to include movies and other media. However, looking at my past research papers and how I took information from various sources, I believe they too could be considered remixes.

With the advancements in technology, remix culture has become increasingly mainstream. I know I increasingly find myself looking at memes made from my favorite television shows and movies. However, as educators how and why should we care about remixing?

If we think of the classic paper that students are asked to produce as a remix, then what is the problem with students creating a movie using remixes to help demonstrate their point. For example, in a high school English class, if I wanted my students to demonstrate their understanding of satire, or parody, I might provide the option of writing a paper or allow them to create a remix that shows their understanding of the concept.

As I reflect on the people with whom I went to school, I wonder if many of those who were not able to succeed were unable to do so because the option to express themselves a manner that suited them was not available to them. By allowing our students the opportunity to express themselves and their ideas using a variety of remix tools to create a product, whether it be a paper, sculpture, movie, or a piece of music, then I believe that we could see an improvement in our graduation rates. After all, education isn’t supposed to be a set page length or word count, but about the exploring, expression, and development of ideas both old and new.

Image Credits:

Remix Now by topgold found on Flickr, Creative Commons Licensed

Video Credit:

Star Wars Uncut: Directors Cut found on YouTube, uploaded by ragingpugh

Everything is a Remix Part One The Song Remains the Same  by Kirby Ferguson found on Everything is a Remix


Filed under COETAIL, Course 3

Start exploring infographics

During the last several years I have noticed a change in how I obtain statistical information.  As a child and a young adult when I read statistical information I would struggle to figure out what the data were telling me.  Paragraphs on analysis didn’t help.  But viewing the information in a graph format made it easier.  Then again I can only look at so many bar graphs and pie charts before I get bored and start confusing one set of statistics with another.

A few years ago I noticed that media outlets were starting to present information more in colorful pictures with a theme representative of the subject.  I later learned that they were called infographics.  I found these bright images to be engaging and helped to make data more memorable and interesting.  I also found that my ability to retain data improved because I was able to associate a picture or an image with the data.  The video below explains some of the science of why they work so well.

The Value of Data Visualization from Column Five on Vimeo.

I know my students will come across a lot of data in their lives.  Data and statistics are everywhere and it is always a struggle to help students understand the information that they come across. Kathy Schrock has a wonderful video that not only demonstrates how teachers use infographics but also provides suggestions for how to get students to create their own.

Infographics as a Creative Assessment from Kathy Schrock on Vimeo.

I love infographics personally, but I have struggled using them in the classroom.  The overall quality and difficulty level in the language used on the infographics ranges widely (link to two).  However, I am thinking of using this infographic.  As this graph uses a combination of powerful images that relate to the facts written below them. I also like this infographic as is it highlights two sides to the issue of hydropower.  While a lot of people think that hydropower is great and should be used more, they do not necessarily think about the changes that are necessary to the local habitat.


To introduce the graphic I will ask the students to look at it at home and write down any thoughts that they have about it.  This will allow them time the opportunity to thoroughly analyze the image.  Once the students arrive in class we will look at the information together and analyze the information.  This will lead to a discussion and debate on hydroelectric power and whether or not it is good for the environment.

Video and Image Credits

The Power of Data Visualization by Column Five, found on Vimeo

Infographics as a Creative Assessment by Kathy Schrock, found on Vimeo

The Belo Monte Dam in Brazil by GDS Inforgraphics, found on Flickr, Creative Commons Licensed


Filed under COETAIL, Course 3

Digital Storytelling

Growing up storytelling was always a big part of my life.  I remember sitting by my mother and having her tell me stories about her time in Africa and listening to my father recount stories about the antics of people in our community.  There were also countless evenings spent listening to a local raconteur and neighbour, Erskine Smith, tell stories with his distinctive vocal intonations and body language.

When I first heard of digital storytelling I was thoroughly confused.  Was this simply using digital media to tell a story or was there something more?

As I was reading about DS 106 I was confused by the phrase “using digital tools so that people can tell their own real-life stories.”  While simple, I found that this definition was limiting and actually quite boring.  For example, my digital story would be incredibly boring:  I get up, go to work, and come home, the end.  That story would hardly be entertaining for anyone.  However, upon reading the Wikipedia article the definition opened up:

The term “digital storytelling” can also cover a range of digital narratives (web-based stories, interactive stories, hypertexts, and narrative computer games); It is sometimes used to refer to film-making in general, and as of late, it has been used to describe advertising and promotion efforts by commercial and non-profit enterprises.

Essentially digital storytelling is storytelling using digital tools. The stories may or may not be true but the author has a desire for others to hear their story.  As I think back throughout the year, then my students and I have been experimenting with digital storytelling continually throughout the year.  Using digital mediums to help tell their stories has allowed my students to:

  1. Gain an aptitude with a variety of computer programs
  2. Gain a conceptual understanding of how films are made
  3. Learn that there are many people required to tell a story through film
  4. Learn where they fit into the collection of people who make film
  5. Develop essential social skills

The students in my class enjoy using iMovie and Movie Maker to create their films.  These programs have become an essential part of my teaching arsenal.  Most have gone out and purchased a copy of iMovie for their mobile device after I gave them a demonstration.  The stories they tell have ranged from summaries of stories they have read, dramatizations of the rights of children, analyses of media, to demonstrations of scientific principles.  It has been great to see them take to this format.

I was worried how people perceived this type of project.  Luckily, I was asked to speak to a group of parents about using technology within the classroom.  As I was crafting the presentation I met with my principal who recommended that I include practical example of technology within my classroom and not just talk about theory.  Taking his suggestion to heart, I decided to include a movie the summed up a story that the class had read.

At the meeting I asked the parents to see if they could identify different things that I as a teacher could evaluate through the process of making this movie and the completed projected.  After the movie was over I asked the audience what they thought, no one was willing to raise their hands.  On the next slide I listed off a list of things that I could evaluate through the process.  As I looked around the room the parents were all nodding and I as my eyes went over to the principal I saw a big grin cross his face.

A quick list of some of the things I saw while the students made their movies.

Storytelling has been around for centuries and is as important now as it was then.  In a sense we are all storytellers. What digital media has allowed users to do is to democratize the process of creating stories that use music, pictures, movies, transitions etc. to help us fully realize the visions we have for our stories, whatever story that may be.


Image and Video Credits

Story Tellings Shows at the Festival of Small Halls 2010 found on YouTube, uploaded by SmallHalls

Screen Shot Image taken by Brendan Lea

a brief history of storytelling found on YouTube, uploaded by timelessvideo

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Filed under COETAIL, Course 3

Tell Me a Story

I have attended and given many presentations over the years.  Some were good while others were downright awful.  As an audience member, I have my own ideas of what I like and don’t like about presentations.  For example, I have always hated presentations where every last word is given on the screen.  Whenever this happens I immediately read the screen and begin to alter the presentation to my own style in my head.  This shifts my focus from the content of the presentation to the form.  Over the years I’ve had the fortune to be invited to speak to students, staff, and parents on a variety of different issues.  I have tried to learn from some of the poorer presentations I have seen and with each presentation I give my style becomes more simplistic.

When I first started using PowerPoint in university I always did my best to ensure that each slide had a title and that I used bullet points to highlight important ideas.  Essentially using them to cue me and remember what I wanted to say.  This method stuck with me for years and I usually got compliments on my presentations; however, in 2010 I was introduced to Presentation Zen at the Create the Future conference.  At the time the idea of inserting an image with a text box seemed incredibly easy and I again modified my presentation style.

Inserting images into a presentation is the easy part, however, using those images to help craft the story you want to tell is more difficult.  During my course on the Exhibition I was asked to create a presentation outlining the important elements of the exhibition for an audience.  I immediately thought of creating a Presentation Zen presentation using pictures of making okonomiyaki.  Overall I feel like I did a decent job but I was disappointed with it because the pictures were from a variety of different sources and thus the story that I had in my head was never fully realized.

In my mind as I created the presentation I imagined a group of friends going through the process of making this wonderful meal.  I realize now with the help of Garr Reynolds that in my head I was not simply creating a presentation to disseminate information but was indeed crafting a story to tell my audience.  In my head the story was of friends enjoying the meal.  However, because the people in the images kept changing, I felt that part was lost and my vision for the presentation never fully realized.

After several months I am now preparing to give the presentation to parents.  To help me with this I asked two of my friends to join me for a meal.  While eating we took pictures that I used to help modify my original presentation.

I feel the second slideshow turned out better because it tells the story that I wanted from beginning to end.  This to me is perhaps the most important tip to remember while preparing a presentation.  After all who doesn’t enjoy a good story.

Video Credits:

Presentation Zen: The Video found on YouTube, uploaded by PeachpitTV


Filed under COETAIL, Course 3, IB PYP

Teaching animal emotions through pictures

What emotion do you see in this picture?

In our Sharing the Planet unit the class will be exploring sustainability and the impact our energy sources have on animal habitats.  As the unit progresses I am hoping to have the students write a story about how animals react to human interference with their environment.  As a child it took me a long time to understand that animals have feelings.  In order to help students with that concept, I am on asking them to deconstruct pictures of animals as a class.  As each image is presented students will be asked to explain the emotion that is conveyed by the animals in each picture and what in the images conveys that emotion.

For example, the fourth slide contains a monkey grooming another monkey.  While viewing this particular picture I remember all those times as a child when my mother would try to make me look my best by fixing my shirt or combing my hair and I felt incredibly bored, most likely giving a similar look to the one in the picture.  I imagine that most of my students have felt like that at one point or another and I feel that this picture and others in the slideshow will help them relate to animals.  As the class goes on students will be asked to provide a scenario for the animals that might have resulted in the image.

Once the activity is completed the class will be asked to choose an image of their own and to write a story to accompany the picture.  As the unit progresses students will be shown images of animals in distress because of human interaction in their environment.  Eventually this will lead to the students writing their own anthropomorphic tale about how a particular animal feels when humans interfere in their habitats.  I believe that by starting with a simple slideshow and by asking my students questions, it will help them develop a deeper appreciation for animals and hopefully will help them with their stories.

Image Credits:

I’m ready for some more by ucamuri found on Flickr, Creative Commons Licensed


Filed under COETAIL, Course 3, IB PYP


TumbleBooks is an interactive web site that aims to provide access to e-books and audio books to people.  All of the e-books and audio books provide audio recordings so that the students can listen to the books.  For younger readers the picture books feature animated images from the original books.  I have used the site in the past as a way to help students develop both their textual reading and oral comprehension skills.  Each year the book selection improves; however, I wish the visual layout of the site would do so as well.  For this particular post I will only address my issues with the main page and the login page.

Upon arriving at the main TumbleBook page the user is greeted with three boxes of text each with their own colour scheme.  One must remember that this web site is designed to be used by children and I know from experience that it takes some explaining to show both parents and students how to navigate this page.  To help make the site easier to navigate I would take away all but the essential text and replace it with photographic images that highlight the differences between each site:

          TumbleBook Library:

This product is aimed at young children and provides books suitable for younger readers. To highlight this I would showcase a child using a computer that has one of their books on the screen.  This image should be hyperlinked to take the children immediately to a simple login page.


                        This product is aimed at junior high school students and provides books that are more difficult.  To highlight the difference between this product and TumbleBook Library, the image for this product should contain a teen demonstrating the use of a more challenging book.


This product provides access to audio recordings of over 1000 books.  The books offered here are aimed at older readers.  For this I would show a university student with a pair of headphones listening to a book.

Each image should provide a link for subscribers to be taken directly to a login page.  The pictures providing the links to the subsequent pages could be artfully arranged in a creative manner or laid out side by side.  The font and colouring should be the same to provide uniformity and a visual cue that they are related products. At the bottom of the page there should be link for people who want to sign up for a free trial as well as a link to learn more.

A mockup for a redesigned Tumble Books main page.

If you click on the TumbleBooks at the top of the page link you are taken to a page that contains a lot of information (seen below).  This page may be okay for adults to navigate, however, in my experience students have often found this site difficult to navigate.  I would suggest that there should be a separate page for students containing only the essential information: a place for login details, featured books and a search function.  This would hopefully simplify it and make it more user friendly for young students.

This is too confusing for students and contains links to information they do not need.

Overall I enjoy using this site with my students.  They have a great time exploring the books and playing games.  However, I feel with the suggestions I mentioned the site would gain more users and help to improve the overall experience.

Image Credits:

Screen shot of TumbleBooks main page taken using Skitch

Children using the computer by San Jose Library found on Flickr, Creative Commons Licensed

IMG_4950 by bionicteaching found on Flickr, Creative Commons Licensed

Ich bin ein tourister by tstadler found on Flickr, Creative Commons Licensed

Screen shot of TumbleBooks login page taken using Skitch


Filed under COETAIL, Course 3