Category Archives: Education

Pixlr-O-Matic: Free tool for photo-editing

It’s been great fun this semester, stretching the minds of my students with Digital Storytelling –a topic that seems to lend itself to many aspects.

I am curating a group of these tools on Padlet –itself a space that is itself a great space for pulling together different elements of a story.

But here is one of those neat photo-editing tools that I may introduce next week – a free, online clone of Photoshop. It’s called Pixkr. I used one of the three features of tool called Pixkr-O-Matic.

NewBot_tnI took this photo, and –as you’ll see the screen shot of the editing frame– turned it into the one below, with just 4 clicks.











Indeed, the filters have an Instagram-like look to them.

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Posted by on February 27, 2014 in Education


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Conversations with an Olympian

Trying out another ambitious ‘chat’ –this time it is with a former Olympian,

Sean Smith - Olympics

Sean Smith was a member of the U.S. Olympic team at the winter games in 2002

The idea is to have my students talk to an Olympian, this week. A few of my fellow teachers have been adding Olympic-related content to our lessons, and this would be a great way for the students to feel connected to the events going on in Sochi, Russia.

To join this Live chat, click on the link below.

  • Date:        Tuesday, 11 February, 2014
  • Time:        8:45 am—sochi-2014

Sean was on U.S. Freestyle Skating team for 10 years, and has been on CSPN, and ABC. He is now an ‘outfitter’ with Promontory Club, involved in several outdoor sports. He is also helping the Salt Lake City NBC-affiliate, cover the Olympics in Sochi.

Live streaming video by Ustream

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Posted by on February 6, 2014 in Education, Social Media


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Digital Learning Day, tomorrow: An opportunity to teach and learn

Tomorrow is Digital Learning Day across America. For me it’s an interesting way to focus on the ever-changing landscape of education and knowledge tools; With schools upping the ante on the sciences, and adopting what’s known here in the U.S. as the Common Core Standards, it’s time we experimented with digital learning.

And if you’ve read this blog you’ll know that by Digital Learning I don’t mean thrusting a small screen in front of students and expecting knowledge to automatically be transferred from hyperlinks to neurons.

There’s a lot more about how I’m approaching #DLDay on my school blog. Here’s are three things I will be trying out this week. I bet they could be easily applied to areas outside education.


This is an interesting way of allowing a group to collaborate on a topic, using voice or video. The spoken word could be a powerful way to get a team or a class to focus on the content, not the presentation. When I interviewed the CEO of Voicethread last week, Steve Muth used the phrase “No Bling” to describe why Voicethread is powerful.


For some reason the embed code is not working here. Padlet is essentially a way to create a multimedia story on a blank wall, and share that story in a variety of ways. So you could have a small group curate ideas from multiple sources and quickly assemble them in one place. A bit like a wiki, but with a visual look and feel.I like the fact that it also gives you a QR code for each project.


When I first heard that Voki was about creating avatars, I didn’t want to take it seriously. It reminded me of the avatar fetish we once had when Second Life was all the rage. But on second look, Voki is a neat way to get students to engage in digital storytelling, by getting them interested in creating content. The ‘voice’ of the avatar could be created in many ways: by uploading text, uploading a pre-recorded voice recording, or by recording it live. Once again, your avatar generates an embed code.

How will students take to these new ways of engaging? No predictions. But I could tell you that just this week I tested out voice recordings with first graders, and they were beginning to record mini stories in less than 30 minutes of showing them how to use Audacity.


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How “Research” helped Jobs and Woz

Steve Jobs wouldn’t have been the serial entrepreneur we knew him to be, if not for his partner in crime, Steve Wozniac

I make this point to my students, when teaching them the power of collaboration, something lost in our education system that, until now favored the individual over the group; the bubble test over the team project. Common Core standards, adopted by my school (Arizona is one of some 45 states adopting them) urge us to break out of that mindset, and get kids to discuss more, debate, confront, and work as a hive mind.

So I use this example of Woz, where he describes how he stumbled over a piece of fiction about the ‘Blue Box’, and showed it to Jobs. They wondered if this device were possible, but didn’t stop at that. They snuck into a library one Sunday, and looked it up in a stack of journals.

In other words, Steve and Steve were doing their ‘research.’  Something that sounds anathema to today’s kids who like to imagine search = research. That supporting ideas will always be within a few keystrokes or clicks.

I particularly like how the Apple co-founders got started not in a garage, but a library.

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Posted by on October 5, 2013 in Education, Search


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Media Literacy, Sorely Needed (Don’t blame the Digital Natives!)

Is Tool Literacy overshadowing the need for Media literacy?

I’ve registered for one of those so-called MOOCs, and the topic of Media Literacy* is the subtext of a lot that is being discussed when it comes to technology in education.

In one of the forums, the question on ‘digital natives’ (a.k.a. students) comes up, and many educators are wondering how to best engage these tool-literate natives.

Because I teach a computer and technology class I see a large cross-section of tool literacy alongside media illiteracy. This is in no way meant to blame the digital natives as much as put the ball back into the court of educators. There are no Media classes in a typical elementary school because we always thought that Media was something people opted in to learn later.

Today the very concept of what Media constitutes has been muddied. We create lower-case ‘media’ (content) that happens to hitch a ride on upper-case Media (channels), but this gets complicated when we begin to also own some of these media channels.

No wonder the kids are confused.

Educators, too. When did someone update teachers with the new ‘rules’ of creation, curation, fair use etc? This cannot be done in a one-off professional Development seminar, but has to be something done on an ongoing basis.

If our students have mixed (or rigid, or even outdated) ideas of what they could do online, if our students think that all the information in an article on The Economist could be gleaned by a 140-character summary…we have ourselves to blame.

Before we address technology in Education, we need to take a deep breath, back up, and address media literacy. (Like we have time for all this – considering our super-busy lives that involve non-stop status updates.)

* The ‘Massive Open Online Course’ for Educators is held by the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation at NC State University’s College of Education in collaboration with Project 24 –the Alliance for Excellent Education.
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Posted by on October 1, 2013 in Disruptive, Education, Technology


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Technology with a sense of humor (and humanity)

So much of tech in our lives is about inanimate objects that deliver some convenience.

Maybe they animate our lives a bit: Typewriters helped us write better reports. Levers helped us move large rocks. Microphones and memory devices) helped us record and preserve important  moments.

I’m becoming more steeped in the four S-T-E-M areas, because (a) that’s where all education is headed, and (b) I run a computer and tech lab for a school where students from Kindergarten to 6th grade come to experience computers in education.

So it’s always refreshing to be able to focus on technology that is not a computer, or at least one that NOT rectangle-with-screen. I have robots, of course (a big ‘Aha’ for third graders): rectangle with wheels and sensors, and a few other objects.

But where could you take (or hide) a computer, to make our lives more interesting?

I found a great example of a ‘technologist’ who comes from an a non-tech space, and adds a layer of humanity to objects. She’s not from Silicon Valley, and I don’t believe she’s been featured in Fast Company. Bangalore-born Aparna Rao infuses technology with a sense of humor and humanity, letting us find our own meaning in inanimate objects such as a phone, a typewriter etc. The one on the left, for instance, was designed so that her uncle could send email, making him feel he was typing a normal letter on a piece of paper. But it gets funnier, and, deeper, such as when she uses a camera to make people disappear — the reverse of what we do now in our desire to put ourselves into every conceivable screen-captured image of life.

This is probably one of the best reasons why the arts –and the capital ‘A’– cannot ever reside outside the S-T-E-M areas everyone is so focused on.

This is the best example I’ve come across for encouraging schools to add some S-T-E-A-M!


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Back To Work and… Chat Republic

It’s been quite summer. Just returned from a one-week break, headlong into school.

While this blog’s been quiet, so much has transpired – controversies, new questions arising about what happens when citizens ‘speak out’ or question governments, and the (expected) paranoia about Chat Apps.

Just came across this post by Groundviews, about my book. It serves as a good backgrounder to some of the topics discussed in Chat Republic.

For those of you who have sent me Q&As about the book, my sincere apologies. Meanwhile there’s a lot happening in eduction that’s equally fascinating, as my school, and my class, specifically gets into a S-T-E-M eduation program this year. You can find out more about my work in this realm at

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Posted by on August 5, 2013 in Chat Republic, Education, Mobile


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“Malala Day” by UN ups the ante for education access

Today has been declared “Malala Day” as the UNICEF celebrates the birthday of the 16-year old who took a bullet for education.

The message: “Every child needs to know more than to read, write and count, but to learn to be a global citizen.”

Note how she stresses that she is not against anyone, but that she is for something.

Powerful event video here:

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Posted by on July 12, 2013 in Disruptive, Education


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Meet the panel –for Chat Republic launch

It’s going to be an interesting round of conversations for the launch of Chat Republic in Colombo in a few weeks. The event, on June 18th, will focus on the power of social media across many disciplines.

The ‘knights,’ as Bates Chairman puts it, will include:

Shehara De Silva – GM, Marketing, Janashakthi Insurance

Virginia Sharma - VP of Marketing, Communications and Corporate Citizenship, IBM India/South Asia.

Dinesh Perera -Head of Digital Business / Creative Director, Bates

Nalaka Gunawardena – Citizen Journalist / LIRNEasia

Lakshaman Bandaranayake — Multi-Platform Publisher / Chairman, Vanguard Management

Shamindra Kulamanage – Magazine Editor

Ajitha Kadirgamar — Journalist, Social Media Specialist

Nimal Gunewardena
– Moderator / Chairman & CEO at Bates Strategic Alliance

Here’s how the media has reported it, calling this an ‘interrogation’:

The interviewers will each straddle a different facet of the topic raging from social media’s use in marketing, adoption by ad agencies, vital value in PR, impact on mainstream editorial media, its mobilisation by citizen journalists and monitoring and analytics.

Not sure about a round table being interrogation technique. I’m there to learn as much as I could from these eminent folk. More details of the event, here.


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What will we lose when books die?

I’ve been struggling with what might be the long-term implications of focusing too much on digital books, and less and less on the those made from dead trees. We know, how for practical reasons, libraries have been looking away from book stacks and into what e-books could offer.

I also noted recently my disappointment at one aspect of the ‘death of print’ –  the news that Britannica is ceasing to go into print. Some of my friends thought it was a good thing. One said it was cumbersome to have to dig into journals for knowledge he needed fast.  I was interested not in what it meant for us in the now, as to what it meant for present younger (and future) generations, who automatically think that search engines index and reveal everything there is to know on a particular subject.

So I was glad to stumble on Matthew G. Kirschenbaum’s point of view. He is the associate professor of English at the University of Maryland, and author of “Mechanisms: New Media and the Forensic Imagination.”

Walking the stacks, following a footnote or checking out what’s on the shelf above P96.T42K567 2007 is a bit like getting a glimpse at the ducts and plumbing behind the drywall. Or the Web site’s source code.

He goes on to say that books teach us to ask the key questions “Who wrote that? Where are the competing voices? How is it organized? By what (and whose) terms is it indexed? Does it have pictures? Can I write in it myself?”

Libraries are wonderful content gardens that rejuvenate the mind. I have a few that I love, and one that really irks me, but I still go back! I always wondered why they draw me and my children.After all, aren’t they gravitating to all things digital?

Kirschenbaum’s explanation is so apt: “Even the grossest physical failings of books and libraries, the maddening frustration of the book that is lost or checked out just when you need it most can instill an important lesson: knowledge is proximate.

Indeed!  It’s hard to accept that not everything is a click away!

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Posted by on February 14, 2013 in Education, Social Media


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