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31 December 2010

Strong, curious polar bears

Q: How do documentary film makers get their video footage?
A: As safely as possible, i.e., from far, far away.

Polar Bear: Spy on The Ice is broadcast on BBC One at 2000 GMT on Wednesday 29 December - or afterwards on BBC iPlayer.  (link)

"Shot mainly using spy cameras, this film gets closer than ever before to the world's greatest land predator.
Icebergcam, Blizzardcam and Snowballcam are a new generation of covert devices on a mission to explore the Arctic islands of Svalbard in Norway. Backed up by Snowcam and Driftcam, these state-of-the-art camouflaged cameras reveal the extraordinary curiosity and intelligence of the polar bear." Read more about the program here.

Here's a clip from the program, (without the bears destroying the camera):

28 December 2010

Snow or rain?

"For the Middle Primary class and their Water studies-

You think we've had snow here in Switzerland?  Watch this video from New Jersey (it's on east coast of the USA)

December 2010 Blizzard Timelapse from Michael Black on Vimeo.

"One photo was taken every five minutes and combined to make a movie compressing 20 hours of snow into 30 seconds.  Note clock on table showing the passage of time as the snow gets higher, about 2 inches an hour.  Movie begins around 11am Sunday morning and ends early Monday morning." (Text from CNN, which also embedded the video on it's news page.)

The photographer (Michael Black) reports 32 inches of snow. Quick - using your Google search bar to use use Google's built-in calculator function, type in "32 inches in centimeters" and you'll find that that's 81.28 centimeters - almost a meter of snow!

What's a blizzard?  "A blizzard is a severe storm condition characterized by low temperatures, strong winds, and can include heavy snow. By definition, the difference between blizzard and a snowstorm is the strength of the wind." (link) Has there ever been a blizzard in Zug?

Remember that over on our Water Wiki's Questions and Experiments page, there's a link to find the answer to "How many inches of rain equals an inch of snow?" It's a 10:1 ratio (more or less). 80 cm of snow = 8 cm of rain.  If that much rain were to fall in Zug in 20 hours, what would it look like?  Has it ever happened? Which would you rather live with - lots and lots of rain, or blizzards?

"Zug has an average of 136.1 days of rain per year and on average receives 1,224 mm (48.2 in) of precipitation. The wettest month is August during which time Zug receives an average of 158 mm (6.2 in) of precipitation. During this month there is precipitation for an average of 12.7 days. The month with the most days of precipitation is June, with an average of 13.7, but with only 156 mm (6.1 in) of precipitation. The driest month of the year is January with an average of 67 mm (2.6 in) of precipitation over 12.7 days.[3]" (link)

"Cham has an average of 136.1 days of rain per year and on average receives 1,147 mm (45.2 in) of precipitation. The wettest month is June during which time Cham receives an average of 144 mm (5.7 in) of precipitation. During this month there is precipitation for an average of 13.5 days. The driest month of the year is February with an average of 69 mm (2.7 in) of precipitation over 13.5 days.[5] (link)

"Blizzards can occur in any region of the world which is subject to snow. They are most frequent in continental interiors at high latitudes where very cold weather is frequent and wind is easily generated. Some examples include Siberia, the Great Plains of Canada and the United States, and eastern Europe." (link)

Read the weather pages about this blizzard on the Accuweather web page. PhillyWeather.net, and Wikipedia. On the  MSNBC page, scroll down until you come to this heading
and watch the animated explanation of what causes a blizzard.

27 December 2010

Google search styles

Everyone has used Google to search for information on the Internet, and you probably have seen a page of results that looks like this:

But did you know it could also look like this?

This is a page view called "Wonder Wheel", and you can find it by clicking on the Wonder Wheel link which appears on the left of every Google Search results page, when you click "more search tools".

As you click on the links on the arms of the Wheel, the new links becomes the center of the wheel, and the search results list on the right changes.  When I clicked on "Partridge Pear Tree Pictures", the page looks like this, showing me a selection of images, and text links to more images.
and when I clicked on "Partridge Pear Tree Meaning" it looked like this, showing me more detailed results about the meaning of the phrase.

The Wonder Wheel is a useful tool for searching when you're not quite sure of your keywords. It's a way of helping you visualize your choices.

A second tool available on a Google Search page is "Reading level", one of the choices available when you've clicked "Advanced Search" link.

Don't want to sort through results full of complex language? New to the language the page is written in?  (The reading level tool works for any language) Only want an introduction to the subject?  Use "basic" or "intermediate".  Google describes how the search engine classifies web pages:
"The feature is based primarily on statistical models we built with the help of teachers. We paid teachers to classify pages for different reading levels, and then took their classifications to build a statistical model. With this model, we can compare the words on any webpage with the words in the model to classify reading levels. We also use data from Google Scholar, since most of the articles in Scholar are advanced." (link)

Here's our "partridge in a pear tree" results for the three reading levels (click on the image to see it full size):
Basic Reading Level search results
Intermediate Reading level search results
Advanced Reading Level search results

26 December 2010

Feline Fluid Dynamics

For the Middle Primary class, which is interested in water:

In the online edition of Science Magazine for 11 November 2010, you can read a paper titled "How Cats Lap: Water Uptake by Felis catus", written by scientists at MIT, Virginia Tech and Princeton University. Here's the abstract (summary):

"Animals have developed a range of drinking strategies depending on physiological and environmental constraints. Vertebrates with incomplete cheeks use their tongue to drink; the most common example is the lapping of cats and dogs. We show that the domestic cat (Felis catus) laps by a subtle mechanism based on water adhesion to the dorsal side of the tongue. A combined experimental and theoretical analysis reveals that Felis catus exploits fluid inertia to defeat gravity and pull liquid into the mouth. This competition between inertia and gravity sets the lapping frequency and yields a prediction for the dependence of frequency on animal mass. Measurements of lapping frequency across the family Felidae support this prediction, which suggests that the lapping mechanism is conserved among felines." (link)

Many journals and newspapers have picked up this story (Science Daily, MIT's news release, The Los Angeles Times) - click on any of these links to read a more popular description of the findings.

You can also see the videos on YouTube that show what the scientists are talking about.

It is said that cats drink this way so that they don't get their chins wet, whereas dogs do use their tongues like ladles, with some splashing.

Having watched the videos, and read the research, can you analyze how you drink water from a fountain, or a faucet? Do you use the cat method, or the dog method?  Is there a way to improve? Can you make a video of how you drink?

Original source: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. "Cats show perfect balance even in their lapping." ScienceDaily 12 November 2010. 26 December 2010 .

24 December 2010

Twist Our Words

This morning on Nik's Quick Shout I read about Channel 4's Twist Our Words web page, where you can create video sentences that are 'mashed up' from a collection of clips of UK TV celebrities saying each word.

When you open the page, you'll see a lot of words. Start clicking on the ones you need to compose your sentence (or phrase), then click on the white arrow to create the video. When you're happy with the result, click on submit. You'll be asked to verify that you're over 16 years of age, and that you understand the terms and conditions of the site. Your video will be sent to the gallery, and you'll be able to copy a link to it, and the embed code for it.

Here's the one I made to see how it works:

The fun part and the hard part is that your choice of words is limited. You may not be able to write a particular sentence you had in mind, but it's interesting to be forced into choosing other words, and changing the meaning. It's sort of linguistic batik - your video won't be what you imagined before you started, but it will be an interesting result no matter what.

Nik Peachy lists several good ideas for teachers about how to use this site in teaching language.

21 December 2010

Time lines

This morning I saw this video on Open Culture. Brilliant! Using a keyboard is a very compelling way to demonstrate time!

How else could you use this simple, audio and visual scale to demonstrate development, or the passing of time. When you share your biography?  When you tell a story? a book report?

17 December 2010

Water Droplet Game

For the Middle Primary Class, who probably are going to play with water over the holidays.

Here's a game you can play online, or download to your PC or Mac.  It's the NASA - "Adventure of Droplet" Game: "Join Droplet, the water molecule, as he enters the water cycle and starts his journey home. Help him safely out to sea, so that the sun can warm him once again and help him return to the clouds."  It's an "old" game (2006) - if you're good with your arrow keys you'll be able to play!

Screenshot from Droplet

Here's the scenario for the game:
"Once upon a time, high above the earth, fluffy white clouds drifted through the atmosphere. In the clouds lived a little Droplet of water, round and content with life. For as long as he could remember, he spent his days lying on his back, relaxing and soaking up the sun's warm rays. One day, he took his usual place in the sun but the light didn't seem to be as bright. In fact, as the day went on, it grew darker and darker, loud claps of thunder shook the cloud, and the Droplet felt as if he were getting so heavy he could hardly move.

Suddenly, the Droplet felt himself falling from the cloud. Down, down, down he fell, farther and father from home. At last he landed on the earth, in the dark green foliage of the rainforest. Around him as far as he could see were tall trees, dense green leaves, red mushrooms and multicolored insects of every shape and size. Strange creatures surrounded him, and the sounds and sights were like nothing he had ever seen or heard before. All he was sure of was that he wanted to go back home. But how?

And so begins the adventure of Droplet, the water molecule, as he enters the great water cycle- condensation, precipitation, infiltration, runoff, and evapotranspiration-and starts his journey home. Your task, as you play this game, is to get him safely through the forest, into the river, and out to sea so that the sun can warm him once again and help him get back to the clouds. You can make Droplet run, jump, climb, slide, take rides on passing leaves, and stun his enemies. But the trip will not be easy. All creatures on earth need water to stay alive. In the forest, he can get slurped up by butterflies and praying mantises. In the river and the ocean, sharks, turtles and other sea creatures pose other challenges! And beware of hidden traps in the ocean floor! Good luck and have a safe trip!"

16 December 2010

Bouncing Water

These videos are for the Middle Primary Class, which is taking a close look at water.

Now that you know what is happening - the "coalescence cascade",  can you spot it in other videos of  falling water drops?

Is it easier to see if there is red coloring in the water drop?

What happens if the drops come quickly one after the other?

What happens if the water drop doesn't fall into water, but onto a hard surface?

Inquiry and Project Based Learning

Is this your school?

"The Buck Institute for Education commissioned the cutting-edge advertising agency, Common Craft, to create a short animated video that explains in clear language the essential elements of Project Based Learning (PBL).

This simple video makes the essential elements of PBL come alive and brings to light the 21st Century skills and competencies (collaboration, communication, critical thinking) that will enable K-12 students to be college and work-ready as well as effective members of their communities." (link)

The Institute's YouTube Channel is here, and its web page in here. The Buck Institute for Education is a non-profit organization based in Marin County, California, dedicated to improving 21st Century teaching and learning throughout the world by creating and disseminating products, practices and knowledge for effective Project Based Learning.

On this page of the BIE website you'll find an interactive Table of 21st Century Skills. The Table summarizes learning outcomes through skill domains and their sub-components, their focus, and standards or descriptions from eight organizations.

For example, under the skill domain of "ICT Literacy", the sub-component of "Information Media Literacy", with a focus on "Ed Tech", this is the standard from ISTE (The International Society for Technology in Education):

"Information Literacy" is represented in the following component of the National Educational Technology Standards:

Research and Information Fluency
Students apply digital tools to gather, evaluate, and use information. That is, students plan strategies to guide inquiry; locate, organize, analyze, evaluate, synthesize, and ethically use information from a variety of sources and media; evaluate and select information sources and digital tools based on the appropriateness to specific tasks, process data and report results.

and these are the three from the EFF (Equipped for the Future)

"Information Literacy" is represented in the following THREE components of the EFF Content Standards for Adult Literacy:

Learn Through Research
Pose a question to be answered or make a prediction about objects or events; use multiple lines of inquiry to collect information; organize, evaluate, analyze, and interpret findings.

Observe Critically
Attend to visual sources of information, including television and other media; determine the purpose for observation and use strategies appropriate to the purpose; monitor comprehension and adjust strategies; analyze the accuracy, bias, and usefulness of the information; integrate it with prior knowledge to address viewing purpose.

Read With Understanding
Determine the reading purpose; select reading strategies appropriate to the purpose; monitor comprehension and adjust reading strategies; analyze the information and reflect on its underlying meaning; integrate it with prior knowledge to address reading purpose.

12 December 2010

Online holiday fluff

Time for some winter holiday fluff! These websites offer a moment of creative fun -
  • At The Gingerbread Man with Everything http://sprintsweets.com/ you can decorate a gingerbread man cookie, and email it to a friend.
Screen shot from http://sprintsweets.com/ 

Screen shot from http://sprintsweets.com/ 
  • At the Snowflake Workshop, you can create a flake. http://snowflakeworkshop.com/  You'll read through a stack of cards with a bit of an advert for the site, the history of snowflake study, etc., but then you'll come to directions about how to make your snowflakes. (You can read more about the history of snowflake study at http://snowflakebentley.com/)
Screen shot from http://snowflakeworkshop.com/

Screen shot from http://snowflakeworkshop.com/

Screen shot from http://snowflakeworkshop.com/

  • At the Snowflake Factory  http://www.dinosaurdesign.com/SnowflakeFactory.htm you can make a snowflakes from hole-punch shapes, and then animate your results. (Watch out for the advertisement when you first load the page - it looks like a game - but DON'T click on it!  it will go away in a few seconds!!)
Screen shot from http://www.dinosaurdesign.com/SnowflakeFactory.htm
Screen shot from http://www.akidsheart.com/holidays/christms/snowman.htm

26 November 2010

Xtranormal Heroes

The Senior Primary Class has been using Xtranormal to make animations telling about their investigations into Heroes and Role-Models. The class used, among other resources, our Heroes and Role-Models page to find about about different people, and consider why they led notable lives.

In the process of creating these animations, students explored the joys and the difficulties of working with an online application, how to get a computer generated voice to read the sound you had in mind in your script, (punctuation and spelling -or phonetic spelling- are important!), and that one must save one's work before leaving it.

Here are the published animations so far. There are several more in the editing stage. As they're completed, I'll add them to this page.

By DM http://www.xtranormal.com/watch/7817747

By DM http://www.xtranormal.com/watch/7817537

By ? http://www.xtranormal.com/watch/7817593

By CW http://www.xtranormal.com/watch/7817531

By DM http://www.xtranormal.com/watch/7803323

By AS http://www.xtranormal.com/watch/7829357

By ? http://www.xtranormal.com/watch/7829783

By ? http://www.xtranormal.com/watch/7829823

By ? http://www.xtranormal.com/watch/7829891

23 November 2010

Numbers and 0

For the Middle Primary Class, which is doing a lot with numbers:

"The story of numbers is the story of civilization. Terry Jones ("Monty Python's Flying Circus") goes on a humor-filled journey to recount the amazing tale behind Indian numerals."

22 November 2010

20 things I learned about browsers and the Web

Go to http://20thingsilearned.com/ and read the book "20 things I learned about browsers and the Web". Here's a screen shot - I'm sorry I can't embed the book here!

19 November 2010

Teaching Kids Real Math With Computers

Watch this video, and see what you think - how are you learning math in school?

"http://www.ted.com From rockets to stock markets, math powers many of humanity's most thrilling creations. So why do kids lose interest? Conrad Wolfram says the part of math we teach -- calculation by hand -- isn't just tedious, it's mostly irrelevant to real mathematics and the real world. He presents his radical idea: teaching kids math through computer programming."

The transcript of the video is here,

"Conrad Wolfram is the strategic director of Wolfram Research, where his job, in a nutshell, is understanding and finding new uses for the Mathematica technology. Wolfram is especially passionate about finding uses for Mathematica outside of pure computation, using it as a development platform for products that help communicate big ideas." Read more about him at this link. His web page is here, and his Wolfram Demonstrations Project page is here. You might be especially interested in the "Kids and Fun" page.  Try this counting game on the web page.  You can download it to a Windows PC, too.

15 November 2010

How shall we display digital art?

The Middle Primary Class had a brief encounter with digital art on Thursday, as they created their own works, and saved them with screen shots to their own computers. I'm interested in what Hockney* says in this interview, about how to share digital art, and how to have an exhibition of it:

You can read more about the exhibition at this article on CNET News, and see another video about the show on this page from BBC's TV program Click.

You can also listen to a chapter of the Digital Planet podcast for 2 November 2010 about this show.
at this page, and read more about it at these pages:  David Hockney: Fleurs fraîches, David Hockney: Fleurs fraîches: Fondation Pierre Bergé - Yves Saint Laurent , BBC News: David Hockney's instant iPad art.

What do you think would be the best way to exhibit our digital art?

*"David Hockney (born 9 July 1937) is an English painter, draughtsman, printmaker, stage designer and photographer, who is based in Bridlington, Yorkshire, although he also maintains a base in London. An important contributor to the Pop art movement of the 1960s, he is considered one of the most influential British artists of the twentieth century." (link)

14 November 2010

Out my Window

You may have encountered the idea of "Out my window" as an icebreaker, or a photo contest, or story starter, but you've probably never seen it in this format.

"Out My Window is one of the world’s first interactive 360º documentaries. Delivered entirely on the web, it explores the state of our urban planet told by people who look out on the world from highrise windows.

It’s a journey around the globe through the most commonly built form of the last century: the concrete-slab residential tower. Meet remarkable highrise residents who harness the human spirit — and the power of community — to resurrect meaning amid the ruins of modernism.
With more than 90 minutes of material to explore, Out My Window features 49 stories from 13 cities, told in 13 languages, accompanied by a leading-edge music playlist." (link)

Watch the trailer below, and then go to the website and explore.  (Be patient, it might take time to load the page.) As you move your mouse over the different parts of the screen, new pictures and sounds will load to tell the story of the people living in the apartment you're "visiting".

"Out My Window" at http://interactive.nfb.ca/#/outmywindow

Thanks to Dan Colman for the tip.

09 November 2010

Vocabulary with Prezi

Wait for the Prezi to load, then use the arrow to play it.

07 November 2010

Forwards, backwards and opposite

I found these two videos this morning while I was working on digital storytelling material.  First comes this award winning political ad from Argentina, written by Ricardo Lopez for the Argentinian Political Party Recrear. It won the Silver Lion Award at the Cannes Film Festival in 2006. Don't click away in mid stream - watch it to the end:

There are many spin-offs of this video, one of which is from Penguin Books. The same conditions apply here - watch it all the way through, no matter how difficult it may be:

"This video was prepared by the UK branch of Dorling Kindersley Books and produced by Khaki Films (http://www.thekhakigroup.com/). Originally meant solely for a DK sales conference, the video was such a hit internally that it is now being shared externally."

The creators of the Penguin film (Khaki Films) had, in their turn, been influenced by this one,which they had seen on YouTube:

"This video was created for the AARP's  U@50 video contest by a film student attending Columbia College in Chicago. It placed Second."

Do you think you could write lines like these, to be read backwards and forwards, each direction producing  completely opposite effects? What are the pieces you need to note down before you begin to assemble the "puzzle"?

We Tell Stories

More for our Storytellers:

"Penguin UK digital publisher Jeremy Ettinghausen discusses the "We Tell Stories" project, which aimed to tell stories using innovative online formats. The project broadcast stories live online as authors wrote them and utilized tools like Twitter and Google Maps."

Visit the "We Tell Stories" web site and explore the stories. These are not specifically "children's Stories". I couldn't find any "adult content", but the stories are for the general reading public. Authors are Charles Cumming, Toby Litt, Kevin Brooks, Nicci French, Matt Mason, Mohsin Hamid, and Naomi Alderman.

The story referred to in the video that uses Google Maps is The 21 Steps, by Charles Cumming, and  Slice, by Toby Litt, is written as 2 blogs.

Perhaps you will start with the 6 Classics. On the Fairy Tales page, for example, click on the link to the right of the page, "Read the story" and begin to enter information. In the screen shot below, you see that I've named the King "Olaf", and the peasant's daughter "Yolanda".
Partial screen shot from the Fairy Tale

Now I have to choose "What animal will be most helpful to you against the King?" and what they will be like.

Partial screen shot from the Fairy Tale

Penguin has some other interesting ideas for digital books.  If you have an iPad, you'll be interested in this demonstration of iPad "books":

Further reading: First Look: How Penguin Will Reinvent Books With iPad

03 November 2010


For the Middle Primary Class, which is doing a lot of counting:

31 October 2010

Time (and Time again!)

The Middle Primary class spent a lot of time on Time during their Unit of Inquiry into Systems.  And now it's time to change our clocks.  Last night we re-set them one hour backwards.

Why? Are we really saving time?  No, we're "saving" light!

"Daylight saving time (DST)—also "summer time" in British English—is the practice of temporarily advancing clocks so that afternoons have more daylight and mornings have less. Typically clocks are adjusted forward one hour near the start of spring and are adjusted backward in autumn. Modern DST was first proposed in 1895 by George Vernon Hudson.Many countries have used it since then; details vary by location and change occasionally.

"Adding daylight to afternoons benefits retailing, sports, and other activities that exploit sunlight after working hours, but causes problems for farming, evening entertainment and other occupations tied to the sun... 

"Its effect on health and crime is less clear. Although an early goal of DST was to reduce evening usage of incandescent lighting, formerly a primary use of electricity, modern heating and cooling usage patterns differ greatly, and research about how DST currently affects energy use is limited or contradictory.

"DST's occasional clock shifts present other challenges. They complicate timekeeping, and can disrupt meetings, travel, billing, recordkeeping, medical devices, heavy equipment, and sleep patterns." (link)

You can read a brief history of Daylight Savings Time at this web page - Benjamin Franklin first wrote about the idea in 1784 in an essay titled "An Economical Project", when he was living in Paris
If you want to learn about Daylight Savings Time in every country of the world, look at this Wikipedia article.

   DST used
   DST no longer used
   DST never used

graphic from Wikimedia

Now that we've changed our clocks, check this site to see what time it is in aother part of the world, before you make that phone call!

29 October 2010

The Children's Shakespeare

All our classes are in the midst of Story Units - telling and writing stories with great imagination and intensity! I thought some might be interested in downloading this book for the mp3 players, iPods, iPads, computers, etc., so they can listen to a master storyteller.

Shakespear's Words by Calamity Meg 
The Children's Shakespeare, by Edith Nesbit (1858-1924) is available as audio files at Librivox.org. Listen to them on the web page, or download them, or subscribe through iTunes. You can also download a zip file of the entire text of the book, too.

"This children's book retells twelve of Shakespeare's most popular plays as stories for children. Each of the plays are rewritten as short stories or fairy tales suitable to keep the attention of child readers or listeners. The introduction of the book cites a child's ability and desire to become familiar with the works of Shakespeare as a stepping-stone toward a greater appreciation of the actual plays later in life."

17 October 2010

Mandelbrot’s Fractals

Mandelbrot set rainbow colors

What is the Mandelbrot Set? "The Mandelbrot set is a mathematical set of points in the complex plane, the boundary of which forms a fractal." Read the complete definition on Wikipedia.  Or watch this 54 minute video:
(This is a television documentary from 1995.)

A very recent (Feb 2010) video from TED presents Mandelbrot talks about the extreme complexity of roughness, and the way that fractal math can find order within patterns that seem unknowably complicated :

"Benoit Mandelbrot: Fractals and the art of roughness"

There are two important words you need to know to understand what these people are talking about: fractal and pattern.

photo by Fábio Pinheiro 
fractal is "a geometric pattern that is repeated at every scale and so cannot be represented by classical geometry" (link) like circles, triangles, etc.
pattern  is "a type of theme of recurring events or objects, sometimes referred to as elements of a set. These elements repeat in a predictable manner." (link)

We've certainly had experience with pattern in our learning at ISOCS, particularly in math and language. You've had experience with  fractals, obviously in screen savers,  the visualizer on iTunes or another media player, or with software ( link and link, or the Mandelbrot Explorer), and not so obviously in nature:  because most patterns in nature are fractals!

Fractal Tree by Solkoll 
Some of the phrases I heard in this video which caught my attention were:

"You don't need to know big math to understand this."

"Nature doesn't deal in smooth objects, but in fractals
the relationship between what we see as "nature" and the math rules behind it - what we are seeing is fractals, everywhere."

Cloud patterns are fractals

"The discovery of fractal geometry changes the kinds of patterns we can look for in nature."

photo by Dan4th 
"There will be extraordinary new devices based on the principals of fractal geometry that will emerge over the next centuries."

"Cauliflower is very complicated and very simple at the same time" (You can read the transcript of the TED video here.)

Read a little about Mandelbrot's life and work at Heroes and RoleModels.

Read more about the origins of the 1995 video at Open Culture, which  is, yet again, responsible for inspiring a post on this blog!