Web 4.0 thanks to GE

One thing leads to another. That happened to me today as it happens so often. The pathways within social networks are as mysterious as they are surprising. I was checking my Twitter updates, and I did what I often do – check out who else is interesting through my own network. So I was checking out @art4change who was conversing with @hrheingold, and I followed a link she had tweeted. I was hoping it would be good, because she had promised: ‘Watch this NOW. Dead serious. It will blow your mind. Thanks @JohnStauffer http://tinyurl.com/cydomk’.

This comes from GE. As John Stauffer says in his post ‘Hangin with Mr Cooper’,

Sit back and prepare to be amazed. No video editing was done to create this, just a flipcam and some Friday afternoon brainstorming with our Creative Director, Robert Cooper….


Kissing, the pavement and squashing heads on Flickr

I think I’m in Flickr phase. I’ve had my Blue Period, and now I’m in the middle of my Flickr Period.

Today’s obsession will focus on Groups. There are so many interesting, sometimes strange, and varied groups on Flickr. I’ll give you some examples:

Beautiful Kiss

The pavement

Photo by splintered

Prints of darkness  A place where darkness comes to light, a place for smart photos that aren’t too bright…

Photo by Prudencebrown121
Vanishing beauty  As my father would say, “old things, falling down”

Photo by suspiciousminds
In numerical order  In Numerical Order, photographs are posted to the Group in numerical order.

Photo by vin60
Film noir mood  ;

Photo by Sanchi Saez Agurto

I crush your head “Inspired by Kids in the Hall, these will be pix where you take your fingers and squish the head of someone else.”

Photo by Jeff the Trojan

Social documentary photography A place for professional documentary photographers to discuss emerging technology, marketing and the impossible act of making a living through photography.

Photo by Andrew.David
Visit the world travel guide

Photo by Quejaytee

Gossamer glimpse  “this group is intended to showcase photos of (and through) transparent stuff. delicate fabrics, screens, dirty windows and other such veils will ideally fill our photos’ frames.”

Photo by ratsbeyfus
The secret life of plants 

Photo by Sammie Lynne

Graves, tombs and cemeteries

Photo by njpara31

Flickr fan art   “or any kind of artwork featuring the letters ‘F-L-I-C-K-R'”

Photo by alleluja

Macro photography

Photo by jamesdunbar42

Rural decay  Rural Decay, Pictures of Barns, Silos, Farms and other Rural buildings decaying.

Photo by Mattreynolds

Green is beautiful   

Photo by Peter Hajas

Tell a story in 5 frames

Photo by Robx

Colour and colours 

Photo by edi.peck

Whatever the weather  picures of cloud formations, weather patterns, rough seas, etc.

Photo by johnstravel

Altered signs 

Photo by _kriebel_

Apart from wasting (no! it’s not wasting; but it does eat up time) on these quirky little groups, I do believe that a little ingenuity in conjunction with these groups will lead to some interesting classroom projects.

Some of them leap out –  Tell a story in 5 frames

There’s no need for me to spell out the possibilities for an enjoyable project involving choice, creativity, visual literacy, storytelling skills, etc.

What about Rural decay  or Flickr fan art for art students?

Lots of photography ideas for sure. And don’t disregard the quirky ones, eg.

In numerical order and I crush your head.

There are many more groups and definitely many more ideas to be gleaned from these groups. What are your ideas?

Siftables – the toy blocks that think


David Merrill is the creative inventor of Siftables, small computer blocks that interact with each other, offering a myriad of learning possibilities using physical manipulation and play.

I’m so inspired by people like David, and by the way he talks just as much as what he does. His passionate explanation of his new discovery reveals  creative and innovative thinking. He says “I started to wonder… what if…?” And that’s the point where you  know something great is going to happen. ‘What if…?’ is something I think we should do more often.

So he thinks ‘What if, when we use computers, instead of having a single mouse cursor, we could reach with both hands and grasp information physically, arranging it the way we wanted it?’

David’s idea came from watching kids play with blocks, and understanding that through this physical play they were learning how to think and solve problems by understanding and manipulating spatial relationships.  He argues that spatial reasoning is deeply linked with how we understand the world around us.

From this idea, David, the computer scientist, came up with a concept and developed a new tool – Siftables; you could grab information physically and arrange it the way you wanted to. Siftables, according to David, are an example of a new ecosystem of tools for manipulating information, for exploring new and fun interaction styles. The blocks are somehow aware of each other, aware of the nuances of how we move them, and respond accordingly. The examples he showed were language and maths games, as well as musical composition, but he hinted that there were many more applications.

The game aspect is appealing. As David says, you don’t have to give kids many instructions – they work it out for themselves by playing around with the blocks. Discovery.

The music was my favourite example, and I immediately wanted to have a go.  The Siftables enabled you to inject sounds into a sequence that you could assemble into the pattern you wanted.

David says, ‘My passion is to make new human computer interfaces that are a better match to ways our brains and bodies work… we are on the cusp of a new generation of tools for interacting with digital media that is going to bring information into our world on our terms.’

A powerful statement.

I like the way he’s thinking about matching digital tools with our brains AND bodies. I often think about how traditional education, with its expectation that students sit still and listen for prolonged periods of time, or work on teacher-prescribed work which focuses on text, doesn’t match the way adolescents function, and definitely doesn’t take into account their need for physical activity.

Siftables may have been created for young children but I think there is much potential for adolescents too. This is an excellent example to underline something I’ve been saying for a while: technology is not an end in itself. Technological tools are just tools, but they can enhance learning, and with the learner in mind, and particularly with the learning aims in mind, they can enable creative and innovative activity.

 Thanks to @marciamarcia for this link.

ABC Articulate now on Twitter

ABC’s Articulate is now on Twitter. Follow it here.



People have been asking questions about Twitter lately – wondering what the point of it was, and whether it was unnecessary when you could just use your Facebook status.

In this case the news update aspect of Twitter is something to consider. I’m following Articulate on Twitter so that I can quickly view  the ABC’s daily take on arts news and events in Australia and throughout the world. It’s quicker and cleaner than going through Google Reader. Interested? Just click on the link.

What did I discover today?

A New York Times article aroused my curiosity about the release of a previously unpublished Tolkien book

There will be much celebrating around the Party Tree in Hobbiton: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt said in an e-mail message that it planned to release a previously unpublished book by J. R. R. Tolkien that predates his novel “The Hobbit” and his fantasy epic “The Lord of the Rings.” The book, “The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun,” was written during the 1920s and ’30s, while Tolkien held the Rawlinson and Bosworth professorship of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford University. It is his English-language narrative of the Norse hero Sigurd the Volsung, whose medieval adventures were — of course — populated by magic horses, dwarfs, dragons and gods with mischievous motives. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt said that it would publish the book, with commentary from Tolkien’s son Christopher Tolkien, on May 5.

I clicked the link for this tweet

“Stephen Fry Twitters for NZ Internet Freedom” http://tinyurl.com/d7o9g7 #blackout

and read the opening paragraph to an article which explained the tweet:

British actor Stephen Fry has given a global highlight to a protest against a contentious New Zealand internet law due to come into effect next week.

This tweet interested me also

Cinema adaptation of Life of Pi may have found a director in Ang Lee. Good choice? http://twurl.nl/2lc8nu

Having skimmed The Life of Pi, I’m curious as to how it would translate into a film.

This one caught my eye, since I’ve posted about the YouTube Symphony Orchestra earlier

Youtube wants you to vote for its symphony orchestra; 3 Aussies are in contention. http://twurl.nl/oteltl

Reading these and other tweets didn’t take long at all. Quite satisfactory.

Stick figures in peril – Flickr groups

Originally uploaded by superlocal


I enjoy Flickr for its access to a diversity of images, and have joined several groups to zoom in on a specialised focus of interest. Flickr groups also allow the geek to have a home, and I’m quite comfortable in some of these groups – in fact, I entertain myself exploring some of these esoteric groups.

One such group is ‘Stick figures in peril’ which is intrinsically funny AND also entertains with the ensuing discussion.

This image has tickled the imagination of some of its group members who have ventured to guess what the picture could mean.


Here’s a funny sign


indyfoto says:

www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/this-britain/no -kissing-all…
No kissing allowed at Warrington station – it blocks the platform

By Mark Hughes
Tuesday, 17 February 2009
The ‘no-kissing’ sign at Warrington Bank Quay station in Cheshire
Lovers hoping to bid each other an intimate farewell will no longer be able to do so in certain areas of Warrington Bank Quay train station after “no kissing” signs appeared following concerns that embracing couples were causing congestion.

The signs were installed on Friday as part of a £1m refurbishment of the station and have divided the car park and taxi ranks into “kissing” and “no-kissing” zones.

Interesting what you can learn from a Flickr group with a strange name.

I can think of ways to trigger discussion and imaginative speculation in the classroom using flickr groups images.  Any other ideas?

Shakespeare on Facebook

[scribd id=4907297 key=key-10nxnctst7rgc6yw9e62]

This made me laugh. Some of my favourite Hamlet statuses:

Hamlet wonders if he should continue to exist. Or not.
Hamlet added England to the Places I’ve been application.
Ophelia loves flowers. Flowers, flowers, flowers. Oh look, a river.

I wonder if other versions exist. This could be a creative writing idea. You actually do need to know about the play to be able to write the statuses.

Photo courtesy of Sakypaky on Flickr


Our Head English teacher is using Facebook in the hope that it will allow boys who don’t usually contribute in class to have a voice in front of their peers. How do you explain to cynics your choice of Facebook as a platform for learning?

Adolescents have moved to Facebook for networking and communication. I’ve become a Facebook addict myself. One of its offerings is a non-threatening form of communication with a potentially large group. Another is the satisfaction of belonging to a group. It’s more accepting and democratic than face-to-face interaction – it doesn’t judge you by your appearance, age or abilities. You can choose your own hours. You can stand back and observe, or you can jump in and lend your voice.

Transfer all this to a learning environment, and you have a potentially brilliant scenario. Those who are slower to respond to discussion will not be pushed out. There’s time to think, respond, edit. The teacher can set the stage and then creep back to give control to the students. Hopefully, students will feel more comfortable to ask questions, give suggestions.

Those of you who’ve been reading my blog will know that I believe we should use technology and social media in creative ways to facilitate learning and engage students. Not for its own sake, and never without good reason. Recently my webpage on the school library intranet has evolved into a blog ‘What’s new in fiction?’ I’m so over people saying things like ‘Oooh, a blog! You’re really into all that technology stuff!. Well, no… I’m not. I’m not into it. I’m just looking at what possibilities it has for engaged and creative learning and teaching. Here is a list of things I appreciate about the fiction blog when talking to classes about books and reading:

It evolves nicely; each post introduces a new book, author, series, etc.
I can use casual, relaxed language, with even some humour
I can include pictures (book covers, author photos, etc.) and videos (book or film trailers, interviews, etc.)
Colour, font size, layout make a difference
I can include links to author and series websites, transcripts, extracts, maps, etc.
There is choice in what the students read, how much, when, etc. Compare that to a teacher’s talk;
Authors become real people as students link to interviews, blogs that reveal everyday chat or writing processes, weaknesses, personality, background, musical tastes, etc.

(OK, the above points are not unique to blogs)
Here come the blog-specific points:

The students read and write comments, ranging from the non-threatening two-word comment, to the more elaborate or passionate response;

Reading peer comments is more satisfying than listening to teachers’ views (hence Facebook idea);

Other people in the school community can write a post or book review, eg. non-librarians (leading the students to the realisation that it’s not just librarians who read, and that reading is ipso facto not solely a librarian’s past-time;

These other people could be students of all ages, teachers, teachers who wouldn’t normally be associated with reading by students (don’t take offense, but I’m thinking sport teachers, science and maths teachers, male teachers…)

The combination of different readers, each with their own reading preferences, their own way of writing, provides students with a kaleidoscopic view of what’s interesting to read;

Students take ownership of the blog by writing or commenting, by suggesting content, and the school community becomes involved in what was previously a librarian’s domain.

Reading is actually discussing, arguing, agreeing and disagreeing, thinking, wondering, escaping; and you know all this because of the discussion;

Reading becomes collective, cool, broader (you realise that tastes vary greatly and it’s okay to have your preferences; reading can be student-directed and even fun.

What I regret is that my fiction blog is a closed blog on the school intranet. It serves its purpose, but misses out on further possibilities and connections.

What are your views about using Web 2.0 tools like blogs and Facebook in teaching and learning?

Flickr – take a closer look

I use Flickr to upload my photos, when I need images, and to share photos and the stories behind these photos in groups.

Today I went for a walk around other parts of Flickr. Here’s what I saw.

I scrolled down to the bottom of the Flickr homepage and clicked on ‘Explore’. Here’s what I found.

This photo is from M_Jose’s photostream, and comes with a caption:

Sometimes (always), we “need” (no must) to stop and look inside (it is an option not an obligation)

Flickr explains the ‘explore’ option:

Flickr labs have been hard at work creating a way to show you some of the most awesome content on Flickr.

We like to call it interestingness.

What’s ‘interestingness’?

There are lots of elements that make something ‘interesting’ (or not) on Flickr. Where the clickthroughs are coming from; who comments on it and when; who marks it as a favorite; its tags and many more things which are constantly changing. Interestingness changes over time, as more and more fantastic content and stories are added to Flickr.

To explore, you can choose a month of selected flickr photos; here’s an example:


When you click on one of these photos, you get to see more interesting photos for this day



You can also explore many geo-tagged photos, for example, I chose Manchu Pichu, Peru


I picked Machu Picchu terraces from Stut’s photostream

An amazing photo of extraordinary detail. The rest of the photostream turned out to be just as impressive. Some people are very talented, not to mention lucky to be able to travel.

There are tutorials on how to explore, how to geotag your own photostream, or you can do a location search on geotagged photos.

Why not explore the map of the world? I entered ‘mosaic’ in the search box of the map of the world and got this


Great find for art classes! There were so many interesting results. Here’s one of them:

It’s from Nir Toba’s photostream. Fascinating to read about the photo.

All the photos in one layout.
It took about 15 hours, in 2 sessions, and every letter had about
30-50 takes until i got i right (and lot’s of gasoline!).

This is a part of my portfolio for graphic design school,
& if you we’re wondering: yes, these are real photos, not photoshop… 🙂

I also looked at the church of St George, Oplenac, Serbia by Katarina 2353

Interesting to note that the photo belongs to several photo sets that are also worth exploring (it never stops!): Serbia(Belgrade), religion and mythology, Balkans, and architecture. I love the information that’s included with the photo:

The church of St. George and the mausoleum of the Karađorđević dynasty was built at the top of Mali Oplenac (Little Oplenac). King Petar I decided to build a church and a mausoleum for both his ancestors and descendants to fulfil a wish of his parents buried in Vienna.
The church is covered with white marble from nearby Venčac mine. Interior is covered in mosaics, with more than 6 million pieces.

What’s also interesting is the interpretation of ‘mosaic’. This lends itself easily to various possibilities in art or English lessons. Compare the previous images for ‘mosaic’ to this one by Lucy Nieto

This belongs to a set ‘mosaicos de fotos’ which is an amazing page of colour and design


Here’s yet another interpretation of ‘mosaic’ by Katarina 2353

I could go on forever, but the trouble with that would be that forever is a very long time. And the Flickr site is always changing. Every time I reload a page, a different photo is showing. I think the post is getting too long, so I’ll hurry up my last observations. Other ways of exploring include popular tags, flickr blog, most recent uploads, and more. The camera finder  page checks out the most popular brands of cameras used.


Why not look at the sitemap to get a comprehensive view of what’s out there. I know that I haven’t explored every aspect of Flickr, but I’m tired now, so I’ll leave the rest of the exploration to you.

Don’t forget to let me know what you find.

Ever wanted to leave teaching?

Well, if you have, you’re not alone. Daniel Willingham on Britannica blog has a list of 10 famous people who left teaching to do great things. Not that they left teaching with the aim of becoming famous – you know what I mean; they left teaching and ended up doing great things. Still, I wonder if it’s worth leaving in case greatness follows? What I actually think is that amongst teachers there are some outstanding and extremely talented people.

D H Lawrence

Anyway, here’s the list of people (think about which one sounds a little like you):

The US president, John Adams; Alexander Graham Bell, who taught at a school for the deaf; Gail Borden who invented evaporated milk; the anti-slavery activist Levi Coffin; the American poet, Robert Frost; Andy Griffith of the Andy Griffith Show; the American president Lyndon B Johnson; the poet D H Lawrence; Gene Simmons of the rock band Kiss (who was reportedly fired for, amongst other things, replacing Shakespeare with Spiderman comics); and Carter G Woodson, who was was an essential figure in bringing Black history academic credibility as well as popularity.

Gene Symmons

Why are there no women in this list? Are there no women who have left teaching and achieved greatness? Have we all stayed to instil greatness into our students?


I’ve joined the Images4Education group on flickr.



Like all photo groups, the collaboration and community is fantastic, but there’s the added focus on education. There’s something satisfying about using images that have a story or explanation, images that come from real people that we can communicate with. It’s easy to check permission and always possible to contact people for permission of use when you’ve added them as a flickr contact.

What’s even better is the NING supporting Images4Education.

One of the administators of this group, Carla Arena, offers 3 supportive offshoots:

a NING group

a wiki

a flickr-related discussion for the group

Shame that I’ve been too busy to participate in the 6-week online workshop focussing on using images in education.

In this six-week online workshop offered through the Electronic Village Online, participants will be introduced to various online image manipulation tools and will learn how to effectively incorporate these resources into their teaching practices. They will explore how images can be used in educational settings for photo sharing, storytelling, slideshows and comics creation, as well as understand how Creative Commons licensing can be beneficial for classroom use.  By the end of the workshop, participants will have the chance to develop a plan to begin incorporating digital production into their lesson plans.

All is not lost, as browsing through the NING will attest to. Blog posts, discussions, photos and videos are some of the treats in store for you here.

Currently the focus is on digital storytelling.  Members share their stories and links to their presentations. Sometimes a favourite book is recommended, for example, 99 ways to tell a story, and sometimes favourite tools will be reviewed or showcased, such as Capzles or other tools.

What may seem like a trivial theme always turns out to be a fascinating learning experience. A good example is ‘What’s on your table. A gastronomic view of our group’.  Scroll through this page and you’ll learn about cultures and customs through colourful photos of food and get-togethers.


 Some of the images are clickable and take you to a page with information about the picture.

Here’s a photo with everything on my plate (yes, I know! I’ll have to exercise the whole month after this gastronomic orgy!). We put the Feijoada over the white rice, eat the oranges and the collard greens. Some put the fried plantains with the rice and beans.On this photo, you cannot see the fried yuca and the cassava flour which are also very traditional side dishes to the Feijoada. You have to try it! It’s irresistible. Even better with cold beer or Caipirinhas, our national drink made of lime. 

The NING has excellent groups such as one dealing with everything you need to know about using flickr, or everything you need to know about Creative Commons.

There’s a slideshows group, a Moodle tools group (which I’m yet to investigate), and a lesson plans group.

I usually zoom in on the discussion forum for ideas and links.


The best way to discover what else is available is to have a look for yourself. Images really are a wonderful way to engage learners and use creative teaching methods. There’s more to it than meets the eye!

Social media is not all fun and games

The Age online has published an article entitled Social media rush as Victorian bushfires rage. It describes what has been evident during the recent and ongoing bushfires in Victoria to those using social media.

As the worst bushfires in Australia’s history raged across Victoria, Twitter, Flickr and Facebook lit up with condolences and horrific first-hand accounts, while many used innovative online mapping tools to assess the risk of the fires reaching their own homes.

Unaffected by the bushfires but geographically close to areas such as King Lake, and knowing people who live there, I found that social media sites were more current and informative than most other news sources, apart from the ABC radio broadcasts. Social media became the new journalism, providing current and detailed information, but also communication to the people.

Mainstream news outlets, battling to provide comprehensive coverage of the tragedy, have incorporated accounts published on the social networking sites extensively in their reports.

Using online social media to spread vital information and personal stories is becoming increasingly commonplace in times of crisis, but this may be the first time the social networking sites have been used extensively during an Australian disaster.

Google provided a map updated in real-time with information about the number, type and size of fires in a particular location.


NASA provided satellite images of the fires:


Personally, I found Twitter’s ‘bushfires’ – tagged tweets a mix of informative and disturbing, bringing up real-time information in the most personal way, mixing facts with personal appeals for lost family. The steady Twitter stream of contributions from people all over provided communication in a way that no other media could match.

Interesting to observe that Prime Minister Kevin Rudd also communicate via Twitter.


For me, the most striking aspect of this form of social media is the human element. The article mentions the twitter account of a CFA volunteer, cfafirefighter . Follow this and you follow the man, his movements, his thoughts and his feelings.


Flickr also demonstrates a platform for communication, a place for people to share images of the fires, for example, the group Victorian bushfires 2009


There is a very large number of photos here, and this is only one of the groups. Compare this to the few images chosen for the front page of the newspaper articles.

uploaded to Flickr by Monkeybizness February 9 2009

uploaded to Flickr by Hickey/Scott February 8 2009

Facebook groups have sprung up too. Although it may seem to be a futile exercise joining such a group since it doesn’t necessarily lead to action, the opportunity for solidarity online may just be the impetus for worthwhile deeds.



The Facebook group provides links to important numbers and websites.


Wildlife Rescue – http://www.wildlifevictoria.org.au/cms/index.php

Gippsland Emergency Relief
Fund – http://relieffund.org.au/

CFA bushfire hotline – 1800 240 667, http://www.cfa.vic.gov.au

State Emergency Service – 132 500

State Inquiries Centre – 1800 727 077

Other information includes different ways to donate money, for example:

Myer will match dollar-for-dollar total customer contributions to the Appeal up to $500,000. The goal – to raise $1 million for the recovery effort.

The discussion board is testimony to many a community’s empathy, willingness to help and grief:

Tarita Conza wrote
at 8:35pm
R.I.P Raye Wynette (Lane) Carter 13/05/1940 – 07/02/2009
CFA Volunter, Great grandmother of Kyla Lawrence, loving Nan of Aaron Lawrence & special friend of Tarita Conza. Tragically taken too soon! trying to save your cherished goats. You will be sadly missed but greatly remembered, Love always and forever.
So, you thought that social media was just fun and games?
Thanks to Sue Tapp for the link on Twitter to the online article.
Sue has just informed me of the ABC bushfires emergency blog.