Course 3 Video: How I Got Stronger

Some rights reserved by Dodge & Burn

Here’s my Course 3 video. I didn’t finish it in time for the Course 3 Reflection, but better later than never, right? It was a fairly straightforward process to create it, but for me it looked like:

  1. Brainstorm in my head, come up with initial concept
  2. Outline on notebook paper
  3. Match images to outline
  4. Match music to outline
  5. Write script & record voiceover (2 hours to this point)
  6. Find images and music (4 hours to this point)
  7. Add voiceover to iMovie; then add images and music
  8. Shoot footage; add to iMovie (another 2-3 hours)
  9. Tweak, tweak, tweak (probably 7 hours total from inception to completion)

I didn’t use a storyboard template to sketch out my scenes because I shot little original footage and relied mostly on images from the web. For the footage I did shoot, the purpose was instructional so it wasn’t as important to have creative cinematography.

I made my video using iMovie, still images, and the original footage that I shot on a handheld Panasonic camcorder recording to an SD card. Of the hours and hours that I spent, some of it was in figuring out how to work with clips in iMovie, but more of it was in tweaking the pace of the audio and figuring out when to cue music, video, and images. In other words, my problem was creative and artistic, not technical.

Here’s the video:

And here’s everything that could have been done better:

Continue reading Course 3 Video: How I Got Stronger

Helter Skelter

Alright, I suppose Sisyphus had it harder. Public domain by Bibi Saint-Pol.
My girlfriend and I are recruiting this year, and are finding the process fun but inefficient. For all the labor-saving that technology is supposed to bring us, the world of international recruiting still seems like a Byzantine process.

Sisyphus and the Hill

First of all, recruiting is labor-intensive. We’ve registered for ISS, so our weekly routine consists of running separate searches on the ISS website:

  1. I search for Tech and Social Studies positions
  2. Chelsea searches for English positions
  3. One of us reads off the available positions while the other finds matches at schools by eyeballing the list of search results (or doing a cmd-F text search on the page)
  4. When we encounter a school that has positions for both of us, we add it to a spreadsheet indicating the school and type of position; we share that spreadsheet using a Dropbox shared folder.
  5. We contact that school.

Why isn’t there a way to search only for schools that have open positions for both of us? It seems a trivial matter to add the necessary database query and return the appropriate results. It would be even better if you could save your search as an RSS feed so that new posts showed up in your reader instead of waiting for weekly email updates or manually running searches again.

Complete This in Triplicate

This begets the next step in the process: that of actually contacting the schools, which involves a considerable duplication of effort. One would think that ISS would have some way of sending our applications to the school, but ISS warns us:

 “Expressing interest attaches your dossier to the job posting, however, schools receive a high volume of candidate dossiers in the “Express Interest” category; a follow up email will further indicate your interest in a position.”

 So the next step in the application process is to directly contact the schools. We’ve been applying directly to schools through their website. This process may range from sending an email with attached resumes to filling out a multi-page online application that asks for (no joke!) the activities you did in high school. Do school really care about details like that, or are they looking to see that you’re willing to put in the extra effort?

The Bottom Line

So how do our ISS memberships really benefit us? It’s really only two ways:

  1. ISS functions as a – a way to quickly search jobs across dozens of schools. But the search functionality is depressingly basic in this day and age.
  2. More importantly, ISS gives us access to job fairs, which is really where business gets done. Some teachers, especially those who have been abroad long enough to amass a substantial rolodex of contacts, are able to go outside the normal channels. But most of us rely on ISS, Search, or UNI for the chance to sell ourselves in person.

A Brave New World

I’m surprised that ISS doesn’t try to sell itself as more of a one-stop-shop for recruiting. I’m guessing that its other enterprises are more important to its core competencies. I’d be fascinated to hear about the process from the perspective of recruiters: what do administrators rely on when looking for people – not in terms of professional backgrounds, but in terms of the actual process. Right now the process seems very… well, Web 1.0 – ISS is a repository of information, but not a medium for communication. Why not roll in some of Int’l School Reviews’ features – provide some sort of social network for recruiting members to contact each other, whether to set up roommates at job fairs or get in touch with employees at prospective schools. Streamline the search functionality so that teachers (and, presumably, administrators) aren’t spending time searching when a computer could much more efficiently match criteria. Make the application process more robust, especially if we’re spending the time to upload our resumes, references, and personal statements. Give us more control over our profiles (and let us delete files ourselves rather than making us ask you to do it)! ISS has recently added features that let teachers upload video responses to interview questions, but this seems to be making the job search process less personal – a school sends you questions, and you send video responses. It’s asynchronous communication in a real-time world.

The biggest advance in international recruiting in the last ten years has been Skype. Is it time for another paradigm shift?

Dropbox Conflict with Trend Micro Office Scan

Trend Micro makes antivirus products that apparently don’t work very well with Dropbox.
Two or three weeks ago my Dropbox started acting VERY slow – it would make the Windows taskbar and system tray unresponsive when uploading or downloading files, although running applications were unaffected. After taking the usual troubleshooting steps, I found that the issue didn’t occur in Safe Mode, indicating that it was caused by some conflict with a non-Windows piece of software. I suspected the school-installed virus scanner (Trend Micro Officescan), but couldn’t confirm it because the security policy prevents users from disabling it. Luckily, someone found a workaround to replace the passwords that prevent users from uninstalling or unloading OfficeScan: overwrite the hash values in Officescan’s configuration file. It’s an easy fix, and once I reset the password using that method, I was unable to unload OfficeScan and get my Dropbox working smoothly again! I’m not sure whether the issue is caused by real-time file scanning or the firewall, but either way, I’d rather have no virus protection than go without Dropbox. Dropbox is at the center of my common planning workflow: it lets me stay in sync with my common planning team and keeps the files on my home and office computers up to date.

Transmedia Storytelling in History

Transmedia storytelling makes the audience piece together a narrative spread across many mediums. Image: some rights reserved by INTVGene.
The first I heard of transmedia storytelling – using diverse media including TV, Web, games, and print – to tell a story was The Matrix. The creators started off with a movie, but also released animated short films, a comic, and video games. Each of these contained unique clues and backstory to the Matrix universe, so to get the whole story you needed to process several mediums and use several skills (for example, to read the comic or beat the video game).

The discipline of history and social studies emphasizes using a variety of sources to get students to understand a theme. Transmedia storytelling is a perfect match for this. From a teacher’s perspective, we might use the textbook as our text resources, add video interviews or newspapers as primary sources, and use photographs of artifacts or paintings as visual resources. For example, a unit on World War II examining the causes, processes and effects of war might include:

  • newspaper editorials from British newspapers (causes and processes)
  • Roosevelt’s Declaration of War speech (available on YouTube) (causes)
  • playing a level from a World War II video game, like Call of Duty (processes)
  • radio broadcasts from the end of the war (effects)
  • images from The Atlantic’s World War II archive (effects)

Or, you could have students organize a transmedia campaign about a specific event. For example, my students just studied the French Revolution. I could have had them tell the story of the French revolution by:

  • Finding paintings of pre-revolutionary life to illustrated the causes of the revolution
  • Mashing up documentaries from Youtube and popular movies to tell the story of one stage, such as the terror.
  • Finding primary sources to talk about the ideas of the revolution – the writing of Enligtenment philosophes, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, etc.
  • Creating a comic book to tell the story of another stage
  • Telling the story of yet another stage from the perspective of the participants, but through a series of Twitter posts

Come to think of it, maybe this is something I should consider for History Circles 2.0!

Transmedia Storytelling and the Multi-Dimensional Brand
Transmedia Storytelling 101

Showcase: History Circles

Some rights reserved by jouste
My History Circles burst with understanding!
At our last faculty meeting we read an article on how to give meaningful homework. It recommended that homework should check for understanding, provide opportunities for practice, and let students take ownership while avoiding “busywork” tasks.

This year I’ve incorporated these principles and leveraged technology to make collaborative homework a regular feature of my classes. For each new topic or chapter of the textbook my students complete an assignment that I’ve creatively named “History Circles.” They’re based off of Lit Circles done in many English classes, and are a way of giving students the opportunity to practice different skills through the content. The nice thing about History Circles is that they distribute responsibility, enable simultaneous workflows, and maintain accountability while reinforcing content and a diverse skillset.
Continue reading Showcase: History Circles

The Spirit vs. The Letter in Real Life

Screenshot via ArsTechnica
In my last post, I discussed whether international residents should bother following US copyright law. Besides the fact that many of the principles behind US law are also sound ethical principles, the main reason is that even if you live abroad, most of the online services we use are based in the US and therefore subject to US laws such as the DMCA. Hot on the heels of my post comes the news that notorious file sharing library The Pirate Bay is preempting legal challenges by getting rid of physical servers altogether, so as to free themselves from following any national laws at all:


The Pirate Bay is getting rid of its physical servers and exchanging them for virtual machines spread across multiple cloud services. By hosting its infrastructure in multiple data centers and even multiple countries, the widely used torrent site says it will avoid being shut down by authorities targeting BitTorrent sites.

This is an example of a site that expressly tries to follow only the letter of the law; or, more accurately, tries to be outside of legal juridisctions altogether! It seems like the cloud is the new Sealand.

Read more at ArsTechnica, my favorite tech site: The Pirate Bay ditches its servers, sets sail for the cloud

Is it legal? Is it fair? The letter vs. the spirit of United States copyright law

Some rights reserved by harrystaab

At the last meetup of Kuwait COETAILers, we conversed at length about creating our Course 3 videos and particularly about selecting the media used therein. There was a lot of confusion about what we were allowed to use, and today when I sat down to plan out my own video I ran into the issue headlong. After researching fair use, I came to the conclusion that while grabbing photos from the internet and songs from your hard drive will greatly reduce the amount of time you spend making your video and result in a higher quality product, it is probably not permissible under US copyright law – but it should be. Continue reading Is it legal? Is it fair? The letter vs. the spirit of United States copyright law

The Original Infographic

via the Economist

In COETAIL Course 3, we’ve been talking about visual literacy and using mixed media to present a compelling message. I’ve always been more comfortable with text, but I’m coming around to the advantages of other mediums. It’s far from natural for me, though. The written word is thousands of years old, but infographics are much younger, so it’s no surprise they haven’t become a fixture in our lexicon. Florence Nightingale was one of the first:

Although remembered as the mother of modern nursing, Nightingale was an accomplished statistician too. She was particularly innovative in presenting data visually. The example above, of a type now known as “Nightingale’s Rose” or “Nightingale’s Coxcomb”, comes from her monograph, “Notes on matters affecting the health, efficiency and hospital administration of the British army” published in 1858. In the same year she became the first female fellow of the Statistical Society of London (now Royal Statistical Society).

Read more about one of the first infographics.

Infographics & Gapminder

It’s easy to speak of success in broad strokes: “America has a strong economy,” “America is powerful.” But how can we define success more clearly? This is an essential question of my World History courses, and to help students both define success and visualize what that looks like over time I use at the beginning of the year to introduce the question to them. Gapminder takes statistical data from the past 200 years and charts it two-dimensionally. It follows visual hierarchy rules by distinguishing countries by size and color, and can animate its charts to show how statistics change over time. Here’s a great demo:

In this exercise, students analyze visual sources and construct their own definitions about success. First, I demonstrate how to use the Gapminder website, then give students a worksheet so they can engage in independent but guided investigation. Once students have had a chance to look at various indicators, I ask them to define success – do we want a country with high literacy rates? Long life expectancy? A high GDP per capita, or a high overall GDP? A low corruption index? This is where having an IWB works well – students can pull up Gapminder at the front of the room and single out countries for the class to illustrate their point.

Here’s another example of an infographic useful in studies of modern American immigration:

Reason magazine

I’d give students the profiles of four or five people, and ask them to calculate based on the infographic how long it would take them to become American citizens. Then, I’d ask them to reflect on whether they think American immigration policy is effective, and what they would change, if anything.

Digital Historytelling

Some rights reserved by evalottchen

History is, of course, the story of human civilization. The core skill of explaining change over time – which brings in elements of context, causality, and chronology, whether you’re in AP World, DP History, or regular ole history – requires that you paint a story in broad strokes. The problem that I run into is that we cover so much history in a short time that we can rarely stop and smell the flowers. There are so many powerful stories in history that we don’t need to learn in order to understand the big picture. Digital storytelling could bring these to students’ attention, increase their engagement while harnessing their creative talent, appealing to their individual learning styles, and developing valuable technology and communication skills (The Educational Uses of Digital Storytelling).


Topic Selection

How would this work? First would be the selection of compelling stories that fit with the content. I’d leave it to the teacher to provide a short menu to the students, with a short (140 character?) teaser for each. For example:

  • Emperor Romanos IV’s crushing defeat at Manzikert
  • Genghis Khan’s terrifying response to the insults of the Khwarizmid empire
  • Emperor Constantine’s stunning revelation at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge
  • The Fall of Constantinople
  • The Storming of the Bastille
Collaboration and Sharing

Students could work alone or in pairs (our readings emphasize how digital storytelling can be a very personal affair) to create a digital story about their chosen event, and then present it to the class. We could take this a step further and have students post their projects online, then have other students give feedback and reactions. At my school we use Moodle for our courseware, so I would have students upload their videos to Youtube, embed them in a Moodle forum thread, and have the feedback be given in replies inside that thread. The advantage over using Youtube’s comments is that only registered students in the course would be able to give feedback, and students wouldn’t have to sign up for a Gmail/Youtube account to give feedback.


One approach to assessing this would be to use a rubric based on the Seven Elements of Storytelling. UH gives an even more complex rubric. Seven dimensions seems unnecessarily complex: good for planning, but poor for assessment purposes. I’d assess on fewer components:

  • Content: the relevance, significance, and accuracy of the information
  • Professionalism: the quality of the editing and presentation
  • Creativity: the appropriateness of the music and visuals

This would be more appropriate for my 9th and 10th grade students, who need instructions and expectations broken down into smaller steps when tackling big projects.