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Category Archives: Communications

Star Wars, a gift when teaching image manipulation, animation

For the past few weeks I’ve been having a blast (and hopefully my students too), using Star Wars as material for classes on image manipulation, and color correction whether it is in Microsoft Word or Photoshop. The latter, for instance is a forthcoming 6th grade class that will be continued this year as well.

Chewey - DesireeStudents pick their favorite Star Wars image from Google, and the fun begins.

  • They learn to copy and paste (the keyboard shortcuts as well as the right-mouse commands).
  • The learn to layer an image, and color correct it – as in the example on the right
  • They learn to delete a background color using the much-ignored ‘Set transparency Color’ tool
  • They learn how to tweak the ‘saturation’ of the image, and what that means – and says. Or how to re-color an image for a specific effect.
  • It’s a good way to introduce ‘layers’ before we get to Photoshop.

Star Wars is also helps open the door to other topics and discussions about space.

Over the past few weeks, my 5th graders are working on The Moons of Mars – a PowerPoint, specifically aimed at understanding animation paths and orbits. I’m not a big fan of PowerPoint, but it’s a great canvas on which they could understand the purpose of animation, beyond the obvious wow factor.

I am now considering using Star Wars as a backdrop for a class on Digital Storytelling. Perhaps an animated cartoon strip with voice-overs matching the speech bubbles. I can see a lot of storm trooper effects, and tricks using the lovable BB8.

 

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Start taking notes! (It’s good for your brain.)

I’ve always known that note-taking is good for you. There are plenty of stories about this, and it’s always refreshing to see research and evidence for this. Here’s Why Writing Things Out By Hand Makes You Smarter: By slowing down the process, you accelerate learning.

One theory is that introducing ‘desirable difficulties’ that challenge the user help retention. The person who introduced this idea is Robert Bjork, at the Learning Lab – interestingly called Bjork Learning and Forgetting Lab.

 

Of course the best example of note-taking can be seen from the notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci. His notes went like this:

“Put this in the Book of useful inventions and in proving them bring forward the propositions already proved…”

Or, in what looks like a ‘note to self, Leonardo jots down this:

“And this is to be a collection without order, taken from many papers which I have copied here, hoping to arrange them later each in its place, according to the subjects of which they may treat.”

A notebook, after all is a piece of ‘technology’ designed with a simple interface. Use often. Use responsibly!

 
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Posted by on February 2, 2016 in Communications, Media, Technology

 

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Media Illiteracy prevails, and the adults aren’t off the hoook

As our modes of communication grow smarter, we seem to be doing a shoddy job of using them. This is not just about the misuse of Twitter, of which dumb tweets are legion. Such as a Time correspondent firing off a tweet wishing for a drone strike on Julian Assange in 2013. This is about young people who have too powerful publishing tools at their disposal. If you like to know more, you will love this compilation!

This week, six High School students in Arizona got themselves and their school into serious trouble, using SnapChat. They got a picture of themselves taken wearing shirts that spelled out a racial slur. They learned, too late, that an app’s ability to ‘communicate’ should not define the message. (If none of them had data-enabled mobile devices would anyone have even bothered setting up the shot?).

An editorial in the Arizona Republic asked how students who have gone through a curriculum that probably included close reading and discussion of the civil war era, could have been so crass.

It’s hard to imagine these girls got this far in school without reading the ugly chapters in American history about the enslavement and oppression of Black people. Did they fail to pay attention? Did they fail to connect the dots to real people?

Let’s not get parents off the hook. How much time are we spending with young people to inform them about media use? It’s easy to be tool literate and media stupid.

Here are some thoughts for parents who may be considering giving a teenager (actually pre-teens, now) a mobile device:

  1. You pay for the phone and the data plan. You own the device; you set the rules. A phone is not like a pair of shoes, it doesn’t have to belong to the end-user.
  2. You better decide on the apps that get on the phone. Don’t complain later when a kid is spending too much time on Insta-brag or Brat-chat. I mean Instagram and Snapchat.
  3. Like your car keys, devices not owned by a child should be stored outside of bedrooms at night.
  4. It’s possible for homework assignments to be completed without digital devices. Really!
  5. Make sure your child makes every effort to not be in a video taken by a fellow insta-bragger.
  6. Finally, make sure your child’s school has a policy that has been updated to match the ubiquity and speed of shared media. It’s no longer valid to call it a ‘social media policy’. It’s a device use policy.
 

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Too Much Information? Try Pottery!

I was listening to a teacher, Ron Carlos, demonstrating pottery a few weeks back, and he was telling students on how important it is for them to stay ‘in touch with the earth’ around them. This included being aware of the natural resources they have been blessed with. Creativity, he said, takes patience, and spending time ‘tuning in’ to the material. Sometimes, he said, it’s as if the clay in his hands decides what shape it wants to be.

IMG_0565It reminded me of the craft of writing. Many authors describe how the character they give birth to, often decides where to go and what path to take. Just like wad of clay, I suppose!

How does this apply to many of us? Many of us sleep with a cellphone by our bedside, and a wi-fi-connection within a few feet no matter where we wander. No wonder it is such a challenge to find ‘think time’ and creative time. We are victims of TMI  –which is an old acronym for ‘Too Much Information’, but also an acronym for ‘Too Many Inputs.’ And we can’t honestly blame anyone for it.

In a forthcoming workshop, I am planning on bringing up this topic of how important it is to be connected, but also to often (very often) be off the grid, so to speak.

Thank God, clay does not tweet!

 
 

Baiting the media, achieves nothing – except an ego boost

Donald Trump is more entertainment for the media, than a front-runner per se. They may not want to admit this, but especially in the US, where campaigns are fought and won with war-like strategy, it’s always been useful (to the media) when there’s a wild-card.

Think Sarah Palin. 

It seems as if Trump is trying desperately to fill the void left by Sarah Palin (remember her attack on lamestreammedia?) Which is why his attack on Jorge Ramos of Univision, is enlightening. He knows it will guarantee coverage.

Sadly this is also the strategy of terror organizations, as we have seen in recent months.

Think ISIS, and its despicable acts against journalists.

Or Wednesday’s cold-blooded murder of two reporters in Virginia. The killer seemed to anticipate that this would get him media coverage, making sure he distributed the story himself, via social media. A pretty pathetic use of social media,or any media for that matter. He was just looking for attention, not change.

 

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Pros and Cons for Technology in the Classroom

Your child probably goes to school with a device in her backpack with more processing power than the rocket that took men to the moon, and this child wants to be… an astronaut?

You’ve forgotten how to log into your son’s school website to download his missed homework, but… he’s found a way to ‘jailbreak’ your cell phone?

Yes, teaching and learning is changing!

My July technology column was about tech in the classroom, which somewhat coincided with my talking to teachers in Sri Lanka about technology and STEM. Indeed, there are still those who want limited screens – parents of hi-tech execs, of all people. And those who think otherwise. Which side are you on?

 

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Why the fuss about the @POTUS handle?

Hasn’t the White House cheering squad got the memo that the number of ‘Followers’ one has on Twitter is not a big deal anymore?

In the early days of micro-blogging, when so many so-called social media experts were bragging about hitting some magic number in Followers, this was excusable – although pathetic.

So it befuddles me why so many stories are showing up about president Obama’s Followers on his @POTUS handle.

It is a fun acronym, I know. But it’s just a stand-in for a real person. Caitlyn Dewey put it best, when she said (in a Washington Post column) that “On the modern Internet, impressions of anonymity and ephemerality are, well … usually fake.”

Translated: POTUS is just that – a handle. By handlers.

 

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