Monday, October 31, 2011

Reverse Halloween

Seeing as I don't see our family leaving Dubai in the near future, I decided that it would be unfair to let another Halloween pass unheralded. Since we knew that nobody in our building was going to be standing by their door with a basket o' treats for passing little ones, we decided to reverse the process, and bring the treats to them.

 So we loaded up our tray with little pumpkins packed with treats, and the girls embarked on their very first Halloween outing.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

There is More Than One Way Show a Cat Video

There's a well known eLearning advocate I follow, named Scott McLeod (no relation to the comic book far as I know!) who writes a blog called Dangerously Irrelevant. Scott has spoken at Tedx conferences, and regularly presents on eLearning related topics, and one of his main pet peeves, that I have noticed, is the tendency of administrators to try to restrict and block access to technologies and services they see as disruptive, like Facebook, or You Tube.

Today he put up a post expressing his sense of frustration with this sort of of behaviour.

Yesterday it was Facebook. Today it's YouTube. Here's an email exchange between two district technology coordinators...

TC1: I have recently completely blocked youtube in our network. Does everyone block youtube? As soon as I blocked it, teachers started complaining. What other websites can they go to that will serve the same purpose as youtube?

TC2: It is blocked here as well!!! I know there is some good to it BUT it is my responsibility to monitor, block, etc. I do not have time to monitor students all day long every day of every week. We have a product called LanSchool and it is awesome. You can view every student that is logged on at any given time and can take over their computer and shut it down as well BUT I cannot do that every day all day long. The teachers have the same capable to monitor as well BUT they are hired to teach. I will not take the responsibility for what they CAN GET IN TO THAT THEY DO NOT NEED TO!!!
It is very disheartening to read this stuff. The federal government is not asking us to do these sorts of things. So we could trust our teaching staff (and - gasp! - our students) but instead we resort to draconian measures that penalize everyone for the potential actions of a few. As I said three years ago, we need to view school organizations like these as ones that are desperately and inappropriately blocking the future

While normally I agree with a lot of what McLeod says, I found my demurring today, and posted this comment in response (I couldn't embed links in my response on his blog, but I have adde them below).
The school system I work for in Dubai also has this restriction, primarily for socio-cultural reasons. Personally, however, I don't mind this restriction, because it doesn't affect my ability to bring streaming video into the classroom. Administrators and IT departments are going to want to restrict access to technologies and services that they feel pose a possible liability risk. It's just their nature. My view is, instead of railing against that, it is better to find another way to accomplish your objectives.  
Where I work, we created a linked system of blogs using Google's Blogger platform. And while Blogger is sure to be seen as a bit boring and old fashioned by some, I see it as being like the Ford F-150 of blogging services - a dependable tool that is surprisingly flexible, and comes with an amazing support network.  
First, when we want to use video in the classroom, we will embed video in a post that contains all the elements of the lesson - instruction, practice activities, and an assessment. That one post is then used by all the teachers in the same grade and subject for that specific lesson. (Shares the load, promotes equality of instruction).  
Since the nature of blogs is dynamic, and not all students or staff have the patience or the knowhow to poke into the blog archive, we also create static pages where videos are collected and embedded, and create links to those pages at the top of a blog.  
This system has proven really versatile and useful for all our stakeholders. There's a place for student podcasts which includes student made tech help videos, a place for eLearning resources for staff, and the system is simple enough that even the most tech averse teachers can grasp the basics of how to use it, and in a short time feel comfortable enough to use it in their everyday teaching practice.

Get Video Into the Classroom Without YouTube

A challenge that many teachers face today is how to bring video resources on the web, found in sites like YouTube, into the classroom at a time when administrators are clamping down on access to such sites.

The method I prefer is embedding videos or media enhanced presentations and resources on a blog via services like,, and even Google Docs.

The method I use for video in particular is a three step process that involves encoding a video, uploading it, and then embedding it.

Rather than just write out the steps, I have created videos that will demonstrate the process

Putting Video on the Blog - Part 1 (Encoding)

Putting Video on the Blog - Part 2 (Uploading)

Putting Video on the Blog - Part 3 (Embedding)