Tag Archives: technology

A Different Point of View…

Every year Rotary International holds a public speaking contest for young people in our school district. The structure and format of the speeches follow a detailed rubric, and students must follow these guidelines closely. This year the theme of the contest is “The Future of Your Community”, and it can be explored literally or with a more creative viewpoint. Imagine my pride when I discovered that my 12 year old daughter chose to write and speak about technology. I have included the text of her speech as she “guest blogs” the rest of this post for me. I know she would love to read your comments.

The Future of Technology in My Community

by Willa Holmwood

Imagine it’s a beautiful, sunny day outside. The wind is gently blowing and birds are  joyfully chirping.  As you sit on your computer you think to yourself, “what’s wrong with this picture?” It’s astonishing to realize that the average teenager spends over thirty hours in front of a screen every week. This caused me to think about what our future would be like in our community if we continued spending this much time online.

For this speech, I decided to list some pros and cons of using technology such as televisions and computers. Here are some reasons why they might have a negative impact in the future.

When you are on the computer, the only people you interact with are the people who are online. This can create poor social skills when you actually go to talk to somebody outside of the screen world. Because the fact that many Internet sites or games can be addictive, it becomes harder and harder to let go and eventually you start missing out on fun opportunities. Once when I came home from school I noticed that I was on facebook, my mom was on her computer, and my dad was on his. We all realized that technology shouldn’t rule our life and that we had the control and the power to turn it off. Instead of staring at a picture of a tree on a computer screen, why don’t we venture outside and go and climb one? Besides these reasons, over-using computers can hurt your  health. Common problems are back pains, sore necks, achy wrists, and dry eyes. What might happen to our community if we do not address these concerns?    I’m definitely not against technology; in fact I love it and use it every day! But when we spend too much time using it, and not enough time enjoying the real world, it can become an issue.

Fortunately, technology has some really fun and captivating things in it. Here are some reasons why it might make a positive impact in the future.

I think that the main reason people use computers or watch T.V is because it’s human nature to be curious. It’s an intriguing place to be. Online we explore and discover things we couldn’t even imagine. Another huge plus of technology is the amazing connections you can make. Meeting people all around the world and learning their customs and beliefs is an adventure. For instance, my mom is a teacher and blogs about education. She put a picture on her blog and the photographer, who is Greek but lives in Poland, posted a comment to say thanks. In Twitter she connects with other educators from all over the world – Australia, China, England, Finland, Japan, South Africa, and that’s just the start! It doesn’t get much cooler than that. Also, on the Internet you can share your own stories. Whether it’s with music, video, poetry, or even just writing, you can feel free to express your thoughts with the world.

As I look back, I realize that technology is really new and people are just learning how to use it properly. Myspace was only created in 2003, Facebook in 2006, and Twitter in 2007. These brand new technologies are exciting but it’s important to the future of our community that we take the time to learn about them.

So now imagine it’s a beautiful sunny day outside. The wind is gently blowing and birds are joyfully chirping. As you climb trees and play about you think to yourself, “what’s wrong with this picture?” The answer is absolutely nothing.

This is the future of our community.


The Evolution of a Library

cc licensed flickr photo shared by ConanTheLibrarian

My grandmother was a school librarian who nurtured my love for books. Not so long ago I can remember going to the local public library and looking things up in the card catalogue. It felt good to shuffle through those Dewey Decimal cards, and even better to go to the stacks and rummage through the books searching for treasure. Sometimes I had something in mind, but, more often than not, I loved the unexpected discoveries – those books that for whatever reason I just had to read. I loved both the sound and feel of the book jackets as I placed the finds in my backpack to carry home.

While I still fondly remember my childhood Saturday morning walks past the Chinook bowling alley and into the library, I have learned enough from reading those wonderous books to remain open to new possibilities, to appreciate discoveries, and to remember the value of sharing information.

I still enjoy visiting the library, but find the experience has changed. It has expanded far beyond the scope of books or research materials, and has gone digital. I am lucky enough to teach at a large high school with two exceptional librarians who help guide me and our students through this ever-changing 21st century journey. One of them, Al Smith, was kind enough to take a moment and allow me to interview him about the changing role of the library. Below are the questions I asked Al – if you have a moment pour a cup of tea and listen…

TechTalksPodcast – The Evolution of a Library (run time: about 8 minutes)

In keeping with the ‘media test kitchen’ theme of this blog I edited the audio for this podcast in GarageBand. The opening and closing music stings were created using Magic GarageBand.

1. How long have you been a librarian? What would you say are the most significant changes to happen in the library over that time?

2. What are your favourite “tech tools” to use in the library?

3. How do you use custom search engines?

4. What challenges do you face implementing technology within a public school?

5. Do you use social media, and if so why?

6. Do you have any tech advice you can pass on to the listener – perhaps a favourite tech tip (or tips)?

The Rules of the Game

cc licensed flickr photo shared by unloveablesteve

A traditional favourite game of mine was always “Mousetrap”. I’m fairly certain I never actually played it according to the instructions, but thoroughly enjoyed building it again and again – even improvising with homemade pieces when original pieces went missing. This week I’ve been challenged to think about games – specifically, electronic games (computer and video). I rarely play these types of games, but after experiencing an excellent presentation from Sylvia Martinez I realized I needed to give some serious thought to the importance of gaming.

So what makes a good game and do these attributes extend to electronic games – whether officially deemed educational or not?

Some attributes of good games:
– they are fresh and feel original, but can be played again and again.
– they involve learning and mastering a range of skills.
– they are able to adapt and include new levels or challenges.
– they are complex enough to be challenging.
– they are built considering uniformity and consistency.
– at the same time they allow for some interpretation of the rules (anyone that’s ever played Monopoly and argued about the “money in the middle” and “Free Parking” knows what I mean). Sometimes the ability to change the rules is part of the fun and an important part of the experiential learning.
– they might contain an element of surprise.
– they allow for tension to build.

When I considered my list, I realized it was universal (no matter what the age of the player, the type of game – board game or electronic, or the use – for education or strictly for fun) the attributes still seemed to apply. One question that emerged for me is “do computer games allow for flexibility and spontaneity”? I’m hoping the answer is, yes – assuming it’s a high quality game, but appreciate any feedback on this question (since I’m not really a gamer).

Another thing I thought about was when I created video production for my school district back in the early 1990s, my main motivation was to put the tools in the hands of my students. (Yes, I am a constructivist!)  I figured that one of the best way for students to become media literate was to construct media themselves. They would discover the power of shot choices, post-production manipulation and so on.  And that’s exactly what happened. As such, my interest was piqued when Sylvia Martinez brought up sites such as Scratch where students can build their own games. So much so that I intend to explore this option with the students in my media arts courses. My film students have been able to become quality creators and critical consumers of media, and this seems like a natural extension using today’s tools.

The last thing I thought about came from an article written by University of Wisconsin professor Kurt Squire entitled

Changing the Game:
What Happens When Video Games Enter the Classroom?

I found the following quote from the article powerful stuff (and I couldn’t say it any better so have left it in Professor Squire’s own words.)

“Indeed, just as no one game appeals to all students, neither does any one curriculum, and games challenge us to ask to whom traditional curricula appeals and whom it leaves behind. Our traditional secondary curriculum is largely an
experience of mastering a pre-defined set of objectives, mostly through listening or participating in structured activities with well-defined, pre-determined outcomes. In post-secondary schools, the activities are more open-ended, but mostly mediated through secondary accounts of phenomena through the use of textbooks and lectures. College students mostly listen to lectures, read texts, and if they are lucky, discuss them with peers or an instructor. Those who prefer to develop understandings through building, tinkering, or more direct experience are left behind.Educators hoping that digital games will be a “silver bullet” because they are exciting and motivating will be disappointed. The real challenge is not so much in bringing games—or any technology—into our schools but rather changing the cultures of our schools to be organized around learning instead of the current form of social control.”

The evidence:

cc licensed flickr photo shared by adventuresinlibraryscho ol

cc licensed flickr photo shared by circulating

The Zen of Filmmaking

Today’s class reminded me of why I love teaching filmmaking so much. I was inspired to forego the usual written post and instead I made a short reflective film. I have to thank my daughter, Willa, for helping me shoot – she was the second unit and was busy shooting her treehouse and the door knobs while I had already started the bulk of the editing. She also composed the original music in Garageband. The entire film was shot using a Flip camera and was edited in iMovie.

I had adventures uploading this ( iMovie +the Flip camera + YouTube = frustration and low quality video). Final Cut Pro came to the rescue and I was able to do better (using H.264 for compression)… I’ve left up both (for now) as a comparison.


FinalCut Pro 

For those of you who were interested in the Spanish filmmaker I talked about in class today his name is Nacho Vigalondo. I particularly like his two films ‘7.35 de la mañana’ and Choque.

•A great place for alternative music or spoken word poetry is http://indiefeed.com/