Learning to avoid cameras – from TV reporters

I love cameras. I hate cameras. Are you like me?

I take a lot of pictures, and often avoid being in them (a photo-catcher’s prerogative!). But sometimes we can’t avoid being in them. (photo-radar, group shots…)

This week, I have to be part of a series of STEM videos that I am putting together. I was looking for ways to not be on camera 90 percent of the time. Ergo, the table-top presentation.

In the TV news business, it’s called Continuity and Cutaways.‘  A well-practiced art we are oblivious to. It works like this:

  1. Anchor introduces story, and station ‘cuts away’ to reporter.
  2. Reporter on camera takes over for a few seconds.
  3. Video cuts away to scene of story – the so-called B-roll footage. The reporters voice (arguably on ‘A-roll’) runs over the video and maintains continuity
  4. Studio cuts back to reporter, who wraps up story in a few seconds.

In total the reporter is on camera for a fraction of the time. Our brains fill in the gaps, and make us believe we were being addressed face-to-face. I hope to really shrink that fraction. Let’s see.

Note: For a good understanding of the cutaway and B-roll, read Steve Johnson’s explanation here.


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NASA ‘flowing’ water on Mars newsflash, messes the plot

I’m sure many wanna-be Martians (and there is a training program for this) are breathing a sigh of relief to know that one does not have to go the Matt Damon route to stay alive on Mars.

Today NASA announced that H2O from hydration salts means that it is flowing –as evidenced by image analysis from the Reconnaissance Orbiter. It also thickens the plot for may *young* scientists to whom we put this question: What would you take on a long trip to the Red Planet.

Mars Day is around the corner at my school. This will certainly be a topic that comes up. Maybe we ought to contact MarsOne. Bas Lansdorp, if you get a chance to see this, I’d love to chat with you about speaking to my students.


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Posted by on September 28, 2015 in Education, STEM


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Photography (and Ed-Tech) lessons from the Blood Moon


Sometimes the cheapest camera does the trick.

This evening’s Blood Moon, and the lunar eclipse, was a spectacular show in our southern skies.

Not as stunning as these, however, but it could be a great lesson in photography, about how to frame a slow-moving event, and compensate for lighting. The camera was a Nikon Coolpix, which was less expensive than the lens of an older SLR. (It’s become my ‘better’ camera, especially on my recent trip to Sri Lanka, where I shot close-ups of rural life, and in the wilds. Easier to pack to the beach and on mountains hikes.)

Which brings me to the point about technology. How often does the technology get in the way of what you are experiencing or working on in the moment? Just as how we often get trapped in the software just to make a great presentation, a microphone or camera can become a distraction.

In Ed-Tech, which is what I teach, I like the focus to be more on the ‘Ed’ and less on the ‘Tech.’


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Posted by on September 27, 2015 in Ed-Tech, Education, Sri Lanka, Technology


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When Distance Learning was a mule-drawn wagon!

I have always been interested in Distance Learning, but as I like to tell young people many of our modern business and education models existed before the Internet.

For instance, about 50 years before eBooks made it possible to have the library accessible from home, we had the ‘mobile’ bicycle-drawn lending library.

But this ‘school on wheels’ known as the Jesup Wagon beats that! It was developed by George Washington Carver, a former slave.

A scientist, better known for the innovation we call ‘crop rotation’ and also peanuts, he loaded a wagon with seeds in this His ‘horse-drawn classroom’ and laboratory. His students were former slaves who had become sharecroppers.

The Movable Classroom program began in 1906. The wagon cost $674.

We could all use this to get some perspective, especially when we think we need fancy technology to connect knowledge with students.


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Selfies, a gift for lazy journalism

Oh please, stop it will you! Newspapers and magazines appear to trot out the staple photograph, the selfie, whenever someone important is being covered.

It’s become old. Self promotion at its worst. Lazy photo-op at best.

What’s the real story of photographing a child running up to someone and taking a selfie? That he/she was brave enough to approach the subject with a phone? Of is it that we are so infatuated with children wielding phones, that it just looks cute – so ‘story’ ain’t important.

I’m all about taking human interest photos, but there’s more to humanizing the photo than a glob of a nose (in the photo itself) or two people staring at a piece of glass.

And it’s not just teenage territory. Grown-ups do it all the time.


It’s become a rite of passage that getting close to a pope or politician is really to grab a selfie, not to have a real conversation. And it’s getting seriously, seriously, boring to hear a story begin on TV or in print that “…It was a selfie seen around the world!” or “Today a selfie taken by (insert subject here) went viral!”

WHILE WE ARE AT IT: could we outlaw the term “went viral” once and for all, now that it’s in the same cliché bucket as “Information superhighway” and “World Wide Web”?

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Posted by on September 25, 2015 in Journalism, Media, Social Media


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The wisdom of Neil DeGrasse Tyson

Astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson has a knack of breaking down complex ideas into simple concepts. He is the kind of teacher who makes you enjoy learning, without feeling you’re being lectured to!

Some of his statements (and tweets ) are legendary, as are his wide-sweeping statements about science, technology and life. Such as:

“To be genius is to be misunderstood, but to be misunderstood is not necessarily to be genius”In a Popular Magazine feature, August 2015)

“An informed opinion is never based on somebody else’s opinion, lest you empower others to do your thinking for you.”  @neiltyson  Aug 28, 201

But as much as I respect DeGrasse Tyson, I don’t agree with his stance on God and creation. But that’s another topic.

If you want to probe the big questions about science, or even current events seen through the eyes of a scientist, (as this one about the digital revolution) it’s worth tuning into his podcast.



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Posted by on September 24, 2015 in Education, New Media, Radio, YouTube


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So we are OK with robots, but scared by clocks!

Paranoia is a marvelous thing. It alters our brain chemistry.

So a boy could get handcuffed for bringing an electronic ‘clock’ to school, when it is perfectly OK to bring in, say, a robot? This turned out to be an embarrassing story for the school, and a wonderful one for NASA and robotics.

Are we sending mixed messages here? We urge kids to think outside the proverbial box aka a classroom, but we like them keep their inventions at home.

I’m not sure how to handle this. I’m in half a mind to have a “Bring your clockwork mechanism to school” day. Many students tell me about the experiments they do –from a simple Rube Goldberg contraption, to a Lego robot. Or should I tell them that guess what, you just might be invited to the White House…

Which is what editorial cartoonist, Steve Benson lampooned in today’s Arizona Republic. It’s hilarious.


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Posted by on September 18, 2015 in Disruptive, Ed-Tech, Education


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