Thursday, 27 February 2014

Editing an audio or video file is easier than you might think...

Not a lot of people know this but if you need to trim a video or an audio file, like an MP4 (video) or an MP3 (audio), it's easier than you think. Just open the file in Quicktime Player, and use the editing features to trim the track.

Audio editing in QuickTime

Edited audio can be saved it to iTunes as AAC (Apple's version of an MP3) using the Export option, if you really need it to be an MP3, iTunes can convert audio files to MP3 if you need it to.

Editing Video is magnificent as well, you can trim the video just as you a would audio, (which incidentally is exactly the same on any iOS device, same conventions). But where it really rocketh is in it's accuracy with splitting and deleting bits of video, or moving them around.

Just choose View > Show Clips to reveal a simple editing timeline at the bottom, click to select it (it will have a yellow outline) then move to the section of the video you want to split, you can even nudge the split point frame by frame using the arrow keys.

Once you've found the split point just choose Edit > Split Clip (or command Y) and you will see the video split into two (or more, if you split more than once) lozenges. Those bits can be deleted, or even moved about, simple.

When you're finished Export and choose the video kind you want.

For a final phenomenal feature, got video that is to big? No problem in QT Player, just choose export, then iPod touch (or iPad) from the drop down menu to create a smaller, web friendly version of your video.

(Via Tony Canales) if you want to do a screen recording, but ONLY record internal audio, NOT the ambient sound in the room, there is a free App called Soundflower. Once you add it, you can take screen recording with the internal audio only.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Take a peek at our new Learning Platform....

Over the next couple of years, our school will be introducing a new online Learning Platform to support learning in the Middle and High School. It will provide an online space for communications and a platform for delivering learning resources, assessments and much more. This has been developed for us, by a Singapore based company Teamie. Click through the presentation below for a preview. For a detailed description of the process download the overview here.

A working group is currently developing a plan and timeline for implementation, but it will be available in some subjects and grades from August 2014, with a gradual progression to the rest of the school in the following two years.

Padlet - for collaboration and low stakes formative assessment

I strongly I encourage every teacher I work with, to develop a toolkit of digital tools that the use in the classroom. I see Padlet as one of these core tools, that can be repurposed in many different ways, to support both formative assessment and collaboration.

Padlet fits very nicely with ideas around both collaboration and formative assessment. Especially the idea of setting a quick task to elicit evidence of understanding. Because Padlet requires no-student log in it is an unobtrusive activity and a task that seldom breaks the rhythm of the class. Below is an example from my Economics class this week. I use the mini-whiteboards so much, but this was a chance to modify the task, so that I could look at the both an analysis paragraph and the whiteboard diagram later. The little snippet of understanding shown gives me a good clue to the student's progress and thinking.

Below is a presentation, and embedded example, I have shared with our Middle School teachers, please borrow and repurpose !

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Gaming Education - Narrated

Gaming Education - Narrated

This narrated version of my presentation of Gaming: the Good, the Bad and the Glorious, is in 8 parts, so you can view the whole thing, bit by bit, or, most likely, skip to the specific parts that are of most interest to you.

You can find the episodes on Vimeo here:

The presentation in a nutshell:

10 Critical Considerations:

  1. Avoid media bias - video games attract more criticism than they warrant, it’s understandable to be vigilant about content, but make sure that questions about what is deemed 'appropriate' or desirable are considered in relation to all forms of media, not just one.
  2. While video games have many similarities to other forms of media in terms of subject and content, they are unique in their focus on interactivity, as opposed to the passive modes that are typical of other forms of media. like video and literature.
  3. The dynamic/interactive nature of video games also makes them high engaging, this engagement can easily be misinterpreted as ‘addiction’ when it is actually more likely to be an indication of a ‘flow’ state.
  4. In very rare instances, gamers can become compulsive, this is true of other recreational (and indeed professional) pursuits as well, compulsive sports fans, compulsive focus on social media streams etc. Compulsion is a more appropriate term than ‘addiction’, as it relates to the nature of the problem, it is behavioural, not chemical, and there are strategies for managing this in the very rare instances where it becomes a problem. Most often the cause of gaming compulsion is not the game itself, but the social network associated with it, the attraction is not the pixels and polygons, it is people, as any compulsive consumer of social network content can attest.
  5. The highly interactive nature of video games means that they share many of the traits of sporting pursuits, in particular, frustration in the pursuit of challenging goals. Sometimes this can manifest as anger, but it is essential to remember that the cause of this is frustration, not the game itself.
  6. It is important to remember that this generation is not familiar with the idea of not being able to ‘pause’ and 'resume' entertainment, but for all generations that preceded them, the understanding that sometimes you can’t pause something (eg TV in the 70s and 80s), sometimes you have to abandon it, you will have to forego that experience in order to experience something else. This is not something this digital generation are used to, so before you insist they prematurely terminate their joint online quest with friends across the globe, all playing in real time, in a multitude of time zones, you may need to explain this.
  7. Many (arguably most) great games are ‘educational’, but instead of looking for content (though that is there), look for 'soft' skills and dispositions, such as problem solving, collaboration, analysis, perseverance and so on. The simulations provided by the greatest games provide a series of problem-solving experiences that are carefully designed, with clearly designed cues and feedback.  That's of particular value when initially learning a complex problem solving skill. Only, unlike real life, these experiences can represent systematically a wide range of problems that might take months or years to encounter in reality.  The simulated problems often take less time to solve than real ones, because they can accelerate the time lost to delays and waiting that are an inevitable part of reality.  And, they provide a safe environment for the learner to take risks and learn the consequences of particular actions – a powerful learning strategy.
  8. Like all other forms of media, films, books, TV shows, conflict is a common theme, video games are no different in this regard. When considering the appropriateness of conflict as an element of entertainment, remember to maintain consistency in your tolerance of themes of conflict in other forms of media as well.
  9. Games Ratings are there for a reason, don’t ignore them. That said there are reasons to have reasonable doubts about the ESRBs inconsistent and quite frankly often bewildering use of the M rating for many games that should have an Adult rating is a case in point. To be able to determine whether a game really is ‘mature’ or ‘adult’ you will need to either cross reference with the equivalent PEGI (European) rating which is more consistent (Adult games are clearly indicated as 18+) or consult informed opinions of gamer parents (like me) on sites like parents are often under a lot of pressure to cave in and let their kids games with very adult themes—yes Call of Duty, I'm looking at you. A piece of advice l give parents in this position is to go to YouTube and look at some of the gameplay walkthrough video that is posted there. That will give you a really good idea of the kind of experiences your child would encounter in game. Why? Because the bottom line is you are the parent, and you know your child, so you are the best judge of what you think is, or is not acceptable for them, not a website review, as useful as those may be. Often it's the in game cut scenes that are more of a problem than the actual gameplay. If you do have to say NO (not yet) then maybe try watching some of the footage with your child so that you can explain what it is about what you're seeing that makes you uncomfortable.
  10. Playing video games is no more a ‘waste of time’ that any other recreational pursuit, from fly-fishing to stamp collecting, cycling, reading and watching box-sets of DVDs. The key is balancing time spent in the pursuit of these worthwhile endeavours.

Friday, 7 February 2014

Free Audio Library on your Mac

When you find yourself in a situation where you need your kids to have easy access to a collection of useful audio samples, it's worth knowing that every Mac has a built in collection of audio files for use with GarageBand.

But you don't necessarily want to teach your kids a whole new application just so they can grab one guitar loop, fortunately for all of us you don't have to, they are accessible from the Finder.

Unfortunately these are a bit… buried...

Here's where to find them (click to enlarge):

Macintosh HD > Library > Audio > Apple Loops > Apple > Apple Loops GarageBand

Or choose Go in the finder, Go to folder, and type or paste this in:

/Library/Audio/Apple Loops/Apple

If you can't find Macintosh HD, just use the Go menu in the Finder, and choose Computer

It's best to leave these files in that folder, otherwise you won't be able to use them in Garageband, by all means copy them, but don't move them.

To isolate the loops from the sound effects, just view them with the largest files at the top, as these will be the longest tracks...

Not enough? There are more available free from this website, no sign in required ...


You may find on a teacher Mac, that not all of the files have been downloaded, if so just open garage Bank, open the loops, and you'll see lops that are 'ghost' files, if you click on one you will be prompted to download the rest for FREE!

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Safe Search

Grade 5 are currently in the middle of a unit focusing on conflict; its causes, perspectives and the responsibilities of those associated with it

But in addition, this is the perfect kind of unit to learn about the importance of safe search, we can't really expect our kids to not search online to research and support their learning in this unit, as its fair to say that is now quite a (good) habit ... however, just typing in the keyword 'conflict' into a Google and hoping for the best is likely to result in some VERY dubious/shocking/inappropriate material.

You have been warned.

Rather than attempting to 'ban' search on a topic like this, this is a great time for students to learn some essential safe search skills, and this is an authentic context in which to do exactly that; especially ensuring that safe search is on in Google settings.

Now in school this should be activated by default, and when using the school GApps account they should have these settings automatically on, but it is never wise to rely on these things, and of course our kids are also likely to be working at home on a computer outside of the reach of the college, not logged in as themselves.

How Safe is Safe Search?

Well the answer to that is that it's as safe as search can be, which means, particularly with images, not that safe, as blocking images is very difficult (no keywords to allow identification). That's why we encourage our students in the primary school to use safe search sites. There are several 'kid friendly' search engines to use instead of Google, just google it, and you'll find some great search engines, like:

Also, get ask children to search Youtube EDU instead of just Youtube, and there are some great and appropriate conflict videos, search for yourself and you'll see the difference, the latter are curated for educational use, the former, are ... well ... definitely not.

Wilful Misuse

Unfortunately all the safeguards in the world don't help if students are determined to search for inappropriate content, in the same way as we can't really stop kids from swearing on the playground. Some might call for us to ban it entirely, but this approach is not one that will actually educate them. In fact even if we were to lock down the internet at school, all we will do is create a false sense of security, so that when they use the internet at home, they are completely unprepared for the dangers of the 'wild wild web'. These are dangers that we need to use as an opportunity to learn in an authentic context, something I have already written about.

So we need to raise our students to understand that the internet is not a 'safe' place, but neither does it have to be a dangerous place. That's why my advice is to treat web browsers with much the same approach as we treat roads and playgrounds. Are they inherently dangerous? It depends on how you use them. When children are young, we would never dream of leaving them to cross the road alone, or play in playgrounds alone. But as they grow older, we teach them the dangers, and we teach them how to cross roads/play safely, until eventually, they are able to play unsupervised, and navigate the streets and highways of world, and the cyber highways alone.