Kids' Informal Learning with Digital Media

"Kids' Informal Learning with Digital Media: An Ethnographic Investigation of Innovative Knowledge Cultures" is a three-year collaborative project funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Carried out by researchers at the University of Southern California and University of California, Berkeley, the digital youth project explores how kids use digital media in their everyday lives." (link)

The Final Report of this 3 year study is available at the Digital Youth website, in 3 formats: "The two page summary incorporates a short, accessible version of our findings. The White Paper is a 30-page document prepared for the MacArthur Foundation’s Digital Media and Learning Series. The book is an online version of our forthcoming book with MIT Press and incorporates the insights from 800 youth and young adults and over 5000 hours of online observations."

The study focused on four areas: genres of participation, networked publics, peer- based learning, and new media literacy. In examining these different areas, it drew from existing theories in literacy studies, new media studies, learning theory, and childhood studies that are in keeping with their ethnographic approach. The frameworks drawn from focus on social and cultural context rather than on individual psychology in understanding learning and media engagement. (Living and Learning with New Media | The MacArthur Foundation Section 1:9)

Among other finding, the summary describes how "youth engage in peer-based, self-directed learning online. In both friendship-driven and interest-driven online activity, youth create and navigate new forms of expression and rules for social behavior. By exploring new interests tinkering, and “messing around” with new forms of media, they acquire various forms of technical and media literacy..." (Living and Learning with New Media: Summary of Findings from the Digital Youth Project)

"To stay relevant in the 21st century, education institutions need to keep pace with the rapid changes introduced by digital media. Youth's participation in this networked world suggests new ways of thinking about the role of education. What, the authors ask, would it mean to really exploit the potential of the learning opportunities available through online resources and networks?"

photo by pdcawley


Words, text, typograpy, animation = meaning

[Television interview about typeface design, with Steven Heller, Jonathan Hoefler, Tobias Frere-Jones at YouTube]
We're going to begin working with typography, and visualitzation of words and letters...
William's Word Generator:http://alethe.net/words/
"Admittedly, these poems are gibberish. But they're visually interesting, and you're welcome to rearrange the words yourself for more proper poetry."

Another web site we will use is Wordle http://www.wordle.net/ "Wordle is a toy for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. You can tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes."
Here's an example of a Wordle:

Lastly, we'll watch some animations using letters and words...

[A short story made by a University student at YouTube]

Watch this Shakespeare Sonnet animation at YouTube;

...and try our own using iMovie.

Also visit:
(Type is Art is an interactive project showing the 21 distinct parts of letterforms.)


Mind-mapping the Human Body

Year 5's are creating mind maps of their understanding of some of the systems of the human body - respiratory, skeletal, digestive, muscular, and nervous, using the Kidspiration program. Here are some of the results:

Lego Digital Designer

Year 3 is exploring Lego Digital Designer, a program that lets you build with LEGO bricks on your computer, in 3D.

Lego Builder can be downloaded free for both PC and Mac.

Here's one of the Year 3 classes at work:

This video shows a few of the Year 3 students using the View mode in Lego Digital Designer, watching their creations "explode" and reassemble.

Observing the children marvel at this process, I remembered an archeology video I'd seen about how "careful mapping of a shipwreck can provide archaeologists with an understanding of where cargo was stored in a ship before it sank", and animation could "rebuild" the ship and place it's cargo in the hold. (link to the PBS/Nova Online story)

Read the whole story at Asia's Undersea Archeology: Brunei wreck
and click on this link to see the short video.

Using Microsoft Word

All the classes have been reviewing how to use a word processing program, Microsoft Word. We've talked about how to open a new document, and how you don't have to tell the computer to start a new line of text, unless you want to start a new paragraph. We've looked at change fonts, colors, sizes of text, and alignment and spacing.


"Where can I get music?"

Yes, there are free downloads on the internet, and yes, there is music that is "legal" for you to use - it is in the public domain, or the artist has licensed it with a Creative Commons license that allows other to use their work.

C/Net music.download.com You don't have to create an account. There are over 100,000 songs to download. There are many ways to sort the songs--song name, artist name, average rating, total listens, total listens last week, date added and date updated.

On Jamendo artists allow anyone to download and share their music. It's free, legal and unlimited. You will have to register for an account, and an email will be sent to you to confirm your registration. It's very easy to search using a tag cloud. Here's a widget from Jamendo playing the album Suerte by Pastèque (This album is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 Generic License)

The FreeSound Project might be a useful source of sound for you project: "The Freesound Project is a collaborative database of Creative Commons licensed sounds. Freesound focusses only on sound, not songs. This is what sets freesound apart from other splendid libraries like ccMixter. New to this site? Read the What is Freesound page to learn more!" Registration required.

I foud a really neat HeartBeat sound on this page:

Oddio Overplay offers music in a very easy to use layout.

Enter the kind of music you want to find in the search bar; you are taken to a page of results. To download music, right clicking the link and choosing the SAVE option works with both Apple and PC systems. In some systems, left clicking prompts a dialogue allowing the user to choose to either open (play) or save (download) the file.
"The primary purpose of this site is to connect artists and audiences. Artists who want the world to hear their music offer it online for free. This music is completely legal for a listener to download and enjoy. Oddio also refers visitors to music archives, such as the United States Library of Congress, Opsound, free netlabels and the Internet Archive, that are using the Internet to allow the public to access their sound resources."

Soundsnap Soundsnap is a free online sound library and community for sound designers and producers. People can upload sounds and share them with the world.All the sound effects at Soundsnap are uploaded by creators. There are many thousands of audio clips already available. You can search for sounds via the search bar at the top, browse by category or browse by tag. On the sound 'teaser' click on the upper right corner an choose between mp3, wav or aif to download.

The Red Ferret site lists "1 Million Free and Legal Music Tracks" through a very long link list to portals, review sites, specialist sites, general music sites, record labels, non-English music sites, and bands offering mp3s.



Years 3, 4, 5 and 6 are working with PowerPoint - learning the mechanics: how to create a new slide, choose a template, insert an image, change fonts, etc.

Year 3 will put their drawings from Splosh, Image Tricks and ArtRage on their slides, and later write descriptions or captions. Year 4 will use the images of place they found through FlickrStorm and write the "story" told by each picture. Year 5 will use the screen shots they took from Google Earth work, using Grab. Year 6 is working on hyperlinks, creating very simple "choose your own ending" stories.

Within these projects are discussions about copyright, legibility, principals of design, and suitability for purpose.


Using Google Earth redux

Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote this post:
Using the free software application Google Earth can be as simple or as complicated as you want to make it. There are many websites with ideas, help, downloads, lessons, etc. Start with this introduction page , and this page about how to use Google Earth.

Google Earth Links
This page of the Google Earth Blog is devoted to providing links to important web resources about Google Earth, KML/KMZ, sightseeing GE's satellite/aerial photos, software tools, games, and more. For an even longer list of links, check out OgleEarth's links page.

Google Sightseeing
On the Sights by Locality page, you can find posts about particular sights around the world. Check out the Switzerland page.

Swiss Alps "Fighter" Tour in Google Earth
Of special interest for us is the tour of the Swiss Alps in a Swiss fighter plane, filmed for real, and then reproduced on Google Earth. You can read about how it was made, and see both versions here (embedded from YouTube).
It's September again, and Year 5 is using Google Earth again as part of their Unit of Inquiry into "How in the world do we know where we are?" First we learned how to navigate with Google Earth: how to use the compass wheel, how to zoom in and out, and to level off. We've learned how to add features, and out favorite is 3D buildings. We've learned how to use the utility Grab to take screen shots, and have taken screen capures of the whole Earth, our homes, and then interesting places. Here are some samples:
screen shot of the Earth in Google EarthSt. Pierre Cathedral in Geneva, a 3D building in Geneva Earth

A screen shot of the Earth, in Google Earth

St. Pierre in Geneva, 3D Buildings, Google EarthLondon, in 3D buildings, in Google Earth

We've talked about why some places have lots of 3D buildings, and others have none, and why some places we know exist (like our school!) do not show on Google Earth. Today's challenge questions was:
If you dig a hole straight down under the school, through the Earth, where will you come out? How do you know?


Line Rider in Sratch

Bill Kerr, in Adelaide, Australia, has posted about a simple version of Line Rider he's developed in Scratch. Read his posts Part 1, and Part 2 to see samples and script.

In his posts, he says you may email him for step by step instructions at billkerr (at) gmail (dot) com


Using iMovie

In Years 3 and 5 we're using iMovie to make very short animations. The students have created many pictures with ImageTricks image editing and generating software (and saved them into one file).

We import those files into iMovie, add some transitions, titles and credits.

In GarageBand we create a sound track, add import it into iMovie. Voila! A 10 second-long movie!

Here's my sample:


How many ways can you see a picture?

Years 3 - 6 investigate the relationship between numbers and photo manipulation using Image Tricks software in our iBooks.

View this book full size at Mixbook The pictures are also online at Flickr.com



There is a great game designed for 11 year olds to review their knowledge at the BBC Bitesize web site. Questionaut, designed by Samorost creators Amanita, is very beautiful. It takes the player on a journey to 8 islands in the sky. To progress from island to island you have to figure out what to do to get the questions, and then you have to answer the questions correctly.
If you miss a question, another and another and another replace it. The goal is to help you progress, not to knock you out. (It's a good idea to have a calculator handy.)

Here are some screen shots I took as I worked my way through the game.


On lline keyboarding practice

In her blog Keying In, Kate Olson, who is a 4th and 6th grade keyboarding teacher at Longfellow Middle School in La Crosse, Wisconsin (USA), has pointed me towards some super online typing practice. Have a look at:

(Be sure to check that your keyboard is working in the layout the game requires: US, British, etc.)



After Scratch, (and Pawns and Alice) comes Phun.

"Phun is a playground for the creative mind where toys can be easily created.
Phun was created as a Masters in Science project by Emil Ernerfeldt for supervisor Kenneth Bodin, HPC2N/VRlab, Umeå University, Sweden."

For the moment, the program (download here) is only for Windows (including Vista) and Linux. A Mac version is promised soon. Be sure to read the FAQ page before you install the download in your computer.

This video is on YouTube (so not visible in school), but your can Download movie in higher quality as wmv (38.4 MB) or xvid (79.6 MB)

Although this video was added by the creator only 10 days ago, there are already more than a dozen other videos made with Phun on YouTube. Our Year 3 students should watch all these as part of their Unit of Inquiry into Simple Machines.



"Collaborative tagging (also know as folksonomy, social classification, social indexing and other names) is the practice and method of collaboratively creating and managing tags to annotate and categorize content." (Wikipedia)

Here's a quick explanation (on YouTube, so you won't see anything in this space if you're at school):

This video from the Jackson County Public Library (USA) shows a basic concept of tagging - it's on YouTube, and cannot be embedded in this blog.

This video explains tagging in a different way:

There are many ways of classifying things. I might look at this photo I took of a river and think of the words river, frozen, and cold. You might think ice, grey, winter.

Tagging is very subjective. The words you choose to use as tags depend entirely what you see in a picture, or (if it's a web page) what you think a web page is about. That is why "social bookmarking" or "social tagging" is so interesting - someone else may see other things in the photo or web page, and by adding their tags, the possibility of finding the item with keyword search increases.

At the same time, the tagged description may be diluted, because of inaccurate or far-fetched tags.

My tag cloud on del.icio.us - an online social bookmarking site. If I were to go to the site and click on one of these tags, the list of all the web pages I have bookmarked and tagged with that word would open. On del.icio.us, the tag cloud is only visible to the account holder, though the saved webpages are visible to anyone. This is my page at del.icio.us

This is a picture of my tag cloud at flickr.com - a photo sharing site. If you were to go to the website, and click on "autumn", for example, all the pictures I have labled "autumn" would open. By looking at the cloud you can infer what pictures I like to put on the site - and tag. I have hundreds of pictures onine without tags.

Tag clouds can be a way to look at your own wrting.

Tag cloud generated from the posts at the SpaceQuest blog using http://www.tagcrowd.com/
The cloud shows 25 of a possible 984 tags.

created at TagCrowd.com

See a related post at August 28.


Web Playgrounds of the Very Young

This article (by Brooks Barnes, Published: December 31, 2007 ) from the New York Times came to my attention through the Classroom 2.0 ning. It discusses how advertisers are targeting young kids in cyber hangouts like Club Penguin and Webkinz.

Photo from The NY Times

"Trying to duplicate the success of blockbuster Web sites like Club Penguin and Webkinz, children’s entertainment companies are greatly accelerating efforts to build virtual worlds for children. Media conglomerates in particular think these sites — part online role-playing game and part social scene — can deliver quick growth, help keep movie franchises alive and instill brand loyalty in a generation of new customers."

"“Get ready for total inundation,” said Debra Aho Williamson, an analyst at the research firm eMarketer, who estimates that 20 million children will be members of a virtual world by 2011, up from 8.2 million today."

The article describes the exploding growth in cyber-worlds created with children in mind.

"Behind the virtual world gravy train are fraying traditional business models. As growth engines like television syndication and movie DVD sales sputter or plateau — and the Internet disrupts entertainment distribution in general — Disney, Warner Brothers and Viacom see online games and social networking as a way to keep profits growing."

Here is an advertisement for Disney's online game "Pirates of the Caribbean" (on YouTube, so you won't see anything in this space if you're at school):

and this is a CBS News short from "The Early Show" on 6 April 2007 about Webkinz:

When you play these games, what are you learning? How is it like school (or not like school!)?