tdt@wab: How technologically rich is the learning environment in the HS?

We are now in Week 3 of the Digital Teacher course (tdt@WAB). This week’s face-to-face focus has been to look at how technology is used in the teaching and learning process in each school section.  My piece was to give an overview of the use of technology in the High School. Here’s an overview:

Setting the Scene

Firstly I want to set the scene by presenting some of the of some factors, challenges and parameters under which we operate:


The end goal for the vast majority of our students is to pass the IB Diploma. This means that students typically take 6 subject-based courses (3 at HL and 3 at SL), Theory of Knowledge, the CAS component (Community, Action, Service) and the Extended Essay, an independent 4,000 word research paper. Subject selection is limited to one from each of the first 5 groups: Language A, Language B, Humanities, Science, Maths and either a second one from Groups 1-5 or one from Group 6, the Arts.

For each IB Diploma course, typically each student is required to study a large body of content to which they apply through the entire gambit of lower-order to higher-order thinking skills: from knowledge & understanding, application, analysis, evaluation & synthesis and the ability to present substantiated opinions. So learning content that leads to critical thinking, perhaps.


With the exception of the Group 6 subjects, the Arts, where the assessment is mostly portfolio-based, the assessment for the majority of the subjects in Groups 1 – 5 comprises a possible mix of 70-80% high-stakes exit examinations and perhaps a 20-30% internal assessment component. Is this 20th Century assessment in the 21st Century?

Building Effective Relationships:

Over the course of the even the first year of the IB Diploma, students could have a minimum of eight teachers at any one time, if we include the supervisor for the EE, and may possibly have a completely different set of peers in each class. Likewise, a teacher in the High School on a full teaching load and a homeroom, could teach 120+ students. So what are the challenges here? How can a teacher make an individual connection with each student? How do students build relationships with each teacher? What communication tools are available? For example,  if you miss a class or need help with a concept or an assignment, what communication channels are open for the students?

Access to the Internet:

Our access is somewhat limited in terms of bandwidth as access is very expensive here in China compared with costs in other schools in the region. In addition, we are constantly looking for China-friendly tools and resources as many Web 2.0 tools are unavailable such as google apps, Youtube, Facebook and Twitter.

21C Classrooms and the IB Diploma

If we look at concepts that characterise 21st Century learning as promoted by the Partnership for 21 C Skills: collaboration, creation, communication and critical thinking, we can see that there could be a number of challenges when faced with the IB Diploma assessment model. One simplistic observation is: how do we get students to collaborate to construct knowledge in their learning process but NOT able to collaborate in their internal summative assessments and certainly NOT able to do so in their final examinations?

With all that said, what is the blend of 21c skills that we can apply as teachers and students to enhance & maximise students’ performance in order to gain their IB Diploma? What are some of the features of a technological-rich learning environment today in our High School where the assessment model is essential rooted firmly in yesterday’s classroom? How can technology enhance student learning outcomes? In other words, what technology tools can we use to teach the content, thinking skills and prepare for examination which, by the way, are still hand written?

Technology in the WAB High School

1:1 Environment:

All students have their own Macbook laptop computer which should be installed with full suite of software that includes: Microsoft Office, iLife (Garageband, iMovie, iPhoto), Evernote (for note-taking and organising notes), iWorks (for those who prefer Apple’s version of Excel, Word and Powerpoint), data logging tools, the Adobe suite that includes Photoshop and Acrobat professional.

Web-based Resources

As the largest consumers of bandwidth, the High School students have their own Internet pipe, so that their consumption does not impact the access for the rest of the school community.

The web-based technology tools that students tend to use in their daily academic life are:

  • Powerschool to look up their schedule & grades
  • Moodle to access content and class materials, and a space to upload assignments, discussion.
  • Zimbra for access to email and to assessment calendar
  • WAB portal for bulletins
  • Etherpad for collaboration
  • extensive Library databases for research
  • Skype or some other messaging service such as iChat
Moodle: Flipping the Classroom?

Moodle is probably our number one ‘learning’ tool. Each course has a class which teachers, at the very least, build a repository of resources in a variety of mediums. Yes, there are a very large number of word documents and PDF files but there are also links to websites and videos, images, sound files and podcasts. These repositories alone allow students are review work at their own pace and select from a variety of differentiated material. As they can access from home, 24/7, the concept of the flipped classroom – where students study the content before the class – promotes productivity and individualised learning in the classroom. Not only that, Moodle is allows students to post assignments and receive feedback plus have access to a whole range of other collaboration and interactive tools such as the ability to contribute to discussions using forums.

Standardised Classroom

The High School classroom has been ‘standardised’ in terms of access to technology and includes: a common connection box for access to the projector, sound and Ethernet connection for a hard-wired, faster-network connection, great sound field so that speakers are place strategically around the classroom and an Interactive Whiteboard (IWB). In Maths, for example, the Interactive Whiteboard (IWB) is a well-used tool: in class, the solutions of mathematical problems are worked out on the board and then saved as PDF files and made available through Moodle so that students can access and review offline and in their own time.

Consumers or Producers?

One essential observation is this: what is the the mix of tools: consumer, producer or utility? Do we use more consumption & organisational tools than production tools?

In terms of multi-media, do our students ‘consume’ more than ‘produce’? Certainly, students can use production tools as part of the learning process, for example, collaboratively constructing knowledge through tools such as etherpad, which is similar to google docs. Students to do reflect using multimedia, for example in a language class a student might use Garageband or PhotoBooth to record a passage in order to analyse their pronunciation. The media server serves more as a repository for storing video downloaded from external sources than a place where student-created content is uploaded. Due to the assessment model, I would suggest that student create multimedia content as part of the learning process and therefore the product itself, could be ‘disposable’ or a digital ‘record’ and hence, more of a means to an end other than the end itself.

Compared with the Elementary school, and as our High School students are largely more literate [although I am sure we have some very proficient readers in the lower grades], our production tools tend to be more text-based due to the requirements of the formal, summative assessment. In the High School, the word processor is still ‘King’ although students are moving towards Evernote for notetaking in classes and then transfer to Word, or sometimes Pages, to publish and print or publish and upload their assignments to Moodle.

BYOD – Mobile Devices

Mobile devices are a common feature in the High School although these are generally the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) model. Most, probably all, High School students carry a mobile phone with the ability to take photos and sometimes video therefore the demand for low-end, school-owned cameras is diminishing. Likewise for headphones, as most students have their own (often multiple) MP3 players, so providing headphones is a challenge we do not have to face. As for back-up devices, the onus is on the student although, thanks to the uploading of assignment feature in Moodle and the seamless syncing (automatic backing up) of Evernote to the student’s online account, many disasters have been avoided!

iPads in the High School?

As I write, the latest iPad has just been announced. Apple CEO Tim Cook noted that the company sold more iPads last year than the number of PCs sold by any single competing computer maker. Apple, he said, is at the forefront of the post-PC revolution. Yes, we are piloting in pockets around the High School but the jury is out and will be for some time. The question that we face is this: as our students already have a Macbook and a swag of their own devices, what value can the iPad add that would justify it’s inclusion in the High School Technical Toolbox?

The bottom line:

Teachers are busy, teachers have to deliver content, students need to pass exams. Teachers will invest time in tools and technology only if they can see the value. The extent to which and how technology is used in the classroom is essentially up to each individual teacher. We can measure exam results but it’s hard to measure the impact of technology. That is not to say that technology is a hard sell – it’s certainly not – ask any teacher or student how they would feel if we took their laptops away. Never!

The Digital Teacher TDT@WAB

We are running a 10 week course for a cohort of 20 teachers from across the school with the aim to strengthen and develop our  technology-rich professional learning network at WAB through:

  1. an examination of best-practice technology integration globally & how this relates to current WAB systems & practices
  2. an examination of how mobile technology could impact the classroom (we provide an iPad 2 for each participant to use until the end of the academic year)
  3. developing our understanding of WAB’s proposed transdisciplinary standards and how these can be implemented in a technology-rich environment.

Every two weeks we will have a f2f session for hands-on training, talks from various stakeholders, guest speakers and the inevitable rich discussions. In addition we will be using Moodle for our asynchronous discussions & resources.

I have been looking for resources and readings to help support our course and welcome any suggestions.  For our introductory sessions, I am thinking of using these two videos to set the scene:

Above and Beyond: The Story of the 4Cs communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity) which is a short animated film produced by P21 and FableVision.


A Vision of 21st Century Teacher where eighteen classroom teachers “speak out” on the topic of tech integration and 21st Century skills for students.

Questions to ponder:
  • What professional readings would you recommend for our course?
  • Which blogs would be good for our teacher to follow?
  • Would you like to join the conversation and contribute to our course?

MYP ITGS Social Media Class: Blog Post Example about Flickr

My Grade 10 ITGS Social Media are looking Flickr as a way to report the news. They have compare and constrast two images posted to Flickr of the same news story: one from a professional agency/photographer and one from a ‘citizen’. Below is the assignment in full and my attempt (if I can’t do it, how can I expect my students to do it?).

Flickr Assignment

Go to flickr and find at two images from a recent news story. Try to find images that are similar: for example both images are of Nadal at the Mens Final Australian Open last night, or two images showing the Costa Concordia ship on it’s side.  Please try to find:

  • 1 posted by a ‘professional photographer’ with all rights reserved (copyright)
  • 1 posted by a ‘citizen’ and few rights reserved.

Compare and contrast the following information:

  1. The title and caption of image (and accuracy)
  2. Are there any links or extended information about the image?
  3. Tags (for searching)
  4. Copyright/creative commons licence,
  5. Quality of image (can you access in all sizes, is it a professionally taken image or just a snapshot – clue, look at the camera that it was taken on as this information is often given),
  6. Date published
  7. What can you find out about each of the photographers (look at their photostream)?
  8. Is each image part of a series of images?

For each image, explain WHY you think the image has been uploaded?

My Attempt: Djokovic loses the Australian Open

Image 1

And it goes to #Djokovic. Over 5 hours. #tennis #australianopen #australia #espn
Image 2: Not-so professional image

Image 2:

Title and Caption: Tennis 2012 – Australian Open – Men’s Final Novak Djokovic (SRB) celebrates after winning the men’s finals match on day 14 of the 2012 Australian Open at Melbourne Park, Australia.Rafael Nadal (ESP) and Novak Djokovic (SRB) pose for pictures with their trophies at the men’s finals match on day 14 of the 2012 Australian Open at Melbourne Park, Australia.

Title  only: And it goes to #Djokovic. Over 5 hours. #tennis #australianopen #australia #espn

The first image has a full title and caption which give clear information about the image whereas the second image just uses keywords/tags with the # to denote a tag. The first image has a comprehensive set of tags posted on the right of the image including Australia Open 2012, Day 14, Djokovic whereas the second images uses tags such as normal, square which do not give any information about the tennis.

The first image has all rights reserved and there is contact information about the image should you want to use it. In addition there is a watermark on the image (South Creek Global Media). The second image has only some rights reserved: you can share, remix, attribute but not use for commerical purposes. That’s why I can add the second image.

Tennis 2012 - Australian Open - Men's Final
Image 1: Professional Image

Both images were taken at the same time (at this was as Djokovic won). The quality of the first image is excellent compared with the second image. The first image was taken on a Nikon D3S com whereas the second image was taken off a television screen – the person wasn’t even at the event!

Andy King is the photographer of the second image. Looking at his photostream, it appears that he just posts images of things/events that he is interested in. His profie says that he is a student from the USA. The first photographer is Sydney Low and looking at his photos and profile, we see that he is a professional photographer from Australia. Sydney has a whole set of images from the event whereas Andy just posted two images both taken from the TV.

I think that Andy posted his image because he is a tennis fan and wanted to capture the moment even though it was off the TV whereas Sydney is using Flickr to advertise his images and his photography business.

Students: Your turn now!


Looking for a way to electronically mark students’ work?

…Or are you looking for a way to collaborate with colleagues?
Crocodoc - web-based annotation tool

Over the last week, I’ve been using with my IB examining colleagues in order to discuss samples of students work. I can certainly see many benefits for us in the High School.

Crocodoc is a very easy way to annotate and mark student’s work that is in PDF, word document for or even images. You create an account and upload files which you can then share with students and colleagues. Anyone you share with can add comments, highlight areas and make annotations.

And a note about the upcoming mock exams…

Now that we are coming to the examination season, our Grade 12 IB Diploma students are required to ‘hand-write’ their papers which means that there is one hard copy of the student’s work. That’s fine as you can physically mark and comment on the paper and give feedback to the individual student. However, why not consider scanning, uploading and annotating electronically one or two high-scoring papers to Crocodoc to share with your students to provide and discuss the marking and allow all students the benefit of the feedback as well as providing good model answers? An added benefit is that you have an online record of the annotated work that you may want to share with other students or colleagues for moderation purposes in the future.

To get started and try out Crocodocs, go here.

Example of editing student work

Crocodocs is FREE and currently available here in China….so get started and see how you go!

Konsulting with Katz in Korea

@stevekatz – please excuse the terrible alliteration – I just couldn’t resist it!

Late last month, I was invited to work with the Apple Distinguished Educator (ADE) community in Seoul. I had two extremely productive days; the first was working exclusively with the ADEs and the second was a day of running workshops for the international school community.

Looking for the Challenge!

Friday’s Brief:

Friday’s focus was for the ADE community to come together to choose a collaborative project to address across schools using a CBL model. I was very fortunate to be asked to join as the facilitator for the group for the planning day. It’s a really good idea to have someone ‘neutral’ and not a primary stakeholder.

The goals for the day were to:

  • decide on the topic for the collaborative project
  • determine strategic plan for implementing collaborative project (timeline, structure, participants, promotion plan for projects and so on)
  • determine specific outcomes of the project

Our Passions:

We kicked off with each person responding to three simple questions:

  1. What is your role in your school/what do you teach
  2. What is the curriculum of school
  3. What is your current passion

From this, we broke into groups to compare and constrast responses to determine the common themes and then fed-back to create a complete list.

What’s your Passion?

The Problems:

We then compiled a list of problems that emerged from these themes and discussions which we threw up on a googledoc so that everyone could indicate which problems that they were interested in tackling. Some problems were:

  • How do we provide students the foundational technology skills they need to effectively use technology for learning?
  • Students are not aware of the value/effects of their short/long-term effects of their digital footprint

However, one clear problem emerged….perhaps with lunch drawing close, it was a quick decision!

Schools needs 21st Century administrators for the 21st Century

The Challenge:

Using the Challenge Based Learning (CBL) model, the next step was to turn the problem into a feasible challenge.

Build a common understanding of 21st Century administration among leaders in international schools in Korea.

For the scope of this project, we defined administrators to be principals, vice or assistant principals, the business managers or CFOs and curriculum leaders.

For background on 21 Century learning, our primary sources were:

NETS for Administrators (2009). International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE).

Partnership for 21st Century Skills (August 2, 2007). Framework for 21st Century Learning.

The Solution:

“The ADE Community in Korea will work together to develop a variety of collective and school-based professional development opportunities for administrators in international schools in Korea in order to build a common understanding of 21st Century school administration. Two surveys, at the beginning of the challenge and the end of the challenge will be digitally distributed to pre-identified administrators in the international schools in order to measure changes in perceptions/understandings of 21st Century administration.”

Examples of some of the collective opportunities include:

  • Korea Council of Overseas Schools (KORCOS) workshops for 21st Century Administrator which will be informed by the results of the first survey
  • A specific Event for all headmasters / principals
  • A one stop site for administrators such as an wiki for student showcase, professional readings, links posted to Facebook group

In addition schools will put together individual professional development plans, again informed by the first survey and continually reviewed and updated based on feedback. Ideas included:

  • Encouraging administrators to use collaboration tools in meeting
  • Videos made by students to show how administrators can use the tools in their admin environment
  • Developing an app to take into the classroom to evaluate how technology is used

As the facilitator for that day, my ‘job’ is done – but is it? The proof in is in the eating! For me, it was more than just a one-off task. I’m curious to see how the project is going. I want to look at the results of the survey and see how it was received by the administrators. I want to find how the plans are translating into actions…what’s working, what’s not.  I’m looking forward to my administrators networking with the administrators from Korea and being “wow’ed” by their 21 Century-ness. Bring it on!

Whatever the outcome(s), it was a fantastic opportunity to get to know the Korea ADE community on both a more personal and professional level:

Aysem Bray (KIS) @Aysem_Bray
Darren Price (TCIS)
Jessica Hale (YISS) @mrshaleinseoul
Joe Fambro (GSIS) @krea_frobro747
Kevin Duncan (KIS) @duncanka
Marcel Ideler (Chadwick)
Mark Heil (leave early) (YISS) @mouseflip
Rolly Maiquez (Chadwick) @rollymaiquez
Steve Katz (KIS) @stevekatz
Tim Bray (KIS) @tsbray

and, of course, TG Song (Korea) and Melissa Li (Beijing) from Apple.

Thank you all for inviting me!

I Need to Attend Learning 2.011 Another 20 Times

I’ve just got back from Learning 2.011 in Shanghai. It was an exhausting, exhilarating, challenging and truly collaborative experience: both in the planning and the execution.

I’ve just read a wonderful quote from a teacher sharing experiences in the K-2 Cohort:

The most important thing that I have gained from this conference is confidence to take more risks with technology.

Learning 2.011 has been part of my life for almost a year – not one day has gone past without a thought (or 50) about the conference; however, I want to do it all over again & again at least 20 times so that I could:

  • be part of each of the cohorts and learn, learn, learn
  • attend all 75+ number of diverse workshops and presentations
  • drop into the many ‘unconference’ sessions for just-in-time learning
  • listen to those inspiring keynotes again and again – especially from the students
  • hang out more with the Learning 2.011 committee in HQ
  • and lastly, connect with each and every participant face-to-face (there were so many friends and colleagues there but I just did not have the time).

OK – so that’s not going to happen although I am going to enjoy reading the rich resources, reflections and blog posts – check out this one from Thomas Galvez)



And these Magical Connections – Jess McCulloch


And now, I am going to start all over again. I’m in transition mode: moving from co-chair of Learning 2.011 to chair of Learning 2.012. Do you want to get to know a bunch of educators and connect with them on a daily basis? Do you want to help plan this amazing event? Do you want a voice? Come and join us for Learning 2.012….meeting dates will be posted soon!

Starting the New School Year 2011-12

The new year has begun!

Annual Laptop Rollout

This year we were able to roll out the new Macbook Pro laptops the Saturday before school officially started. Each year the annual laptop rollout becomes easier and easier; a well-oiled wheel. We divide up the roll-out into lots of 20 and place in classrooms with one member of the team responsible for taking the student through the process of logging in, checking the spec (some order more RAM) and accessories. After they have collected their laptions, we invite students and their parents to our rolling sessions of Mac@WAB 101 in the central amphitheatre:

  • how they might log into the Internet at home (after all they will have the rest of the weekend exploring);
  • a rock-around-the dock & some quick Mac OS tips
  • applications that we tend to use mostly at WAB in the learning process: iPhoto, iMovie, Photobooth, MS Word/Excel, Keynote and Evernote
  • backing up and restoring with time machine
  • WAB essential online services for students such as, Powerschool, email and Moodle.

After 45 minutes and a few Q&A, we send the families on their way home – and remind our parents that if they want their child to sleep that night to take the power cable away at least 5 hours* before sleep time!!

*about the time that the Macbook Pro battery lasts depending on usage!

New Student Login Names

This year we changed all our student usernames and passwords in the Middle and High school (except for our Grade 12) to a more logical system that had the least number of duplicates. So now all students have login names that start with the year they graduate, their preferred (nick) name, and the initial of their last name. So my son, now a High Schooler is 15harryb. I do hope that does graduate in 2015!

Mature Moodle

Shared Resources Course in Moodle 1.9

We are now in 3rd official year of Moodle – we have been running Moodle for a lot longer on a less formal basis, but for the last 2 years and now for the 3rd year, all MS and HS classes have an associated Moodle course. We are still on 1.9 version as there is no easy way to easily convert to Moodle 2.0 at this point – maybe next year.  We work with each teacher to build the course that they want: new or copied from previous years, topic or week-by-week format, use groups if the teacher has more than one class with same course and so on. We are also having more and more Shared Resources courses – meaning that any courses that are taught by number of teachers are linked to a shared course where all resources common to the course are stored. This prevents duplication of resources in many courses and prevents documents/resources getting outdated by maintaining common resources in one place. This Shared Resources course also becomes a single point for resources and links to be uploaded by our librarian. Each Shared Resources course is assigned one of the teacher that teach the course to manage that course although any teacher with an associated course has automatic editing rights. Students enrol in their class course and again, get automatic enrolment to the shared resource. This is the meta-course option in Moodle.

The Training Begins…

Now that we have two integrators in the High School, we are able to ramp up the training for teachers and students. This Wednesday we have Grade 9 Orientation day where much of the day will involve technology training and upskilling – although at this stage I am not sure if it’ll be the teachers upskilling the students or vice versa. On Thursday and Friday, we will have drop-in sessions for teachers to help get started or tweek their Moodle courses and next week our more structured Moodle 101 & Mac 101 courses will start for the newbies and the teachers who would like refresher courses. And then there are the Interactive White Boards…hmmmm

Building Learning 2.011 – one participant at a time

Apple recently had request from a customer who wanted to visit a school that had been using iPads for more than a year. Of course it was not possible – as the iPad only came out 12 months ago!

Remember Learning 2.010 last September? Schools were beginning to purchasing the odd one or two to explore. We envied our colleagues who bought along their new toy! Fast forward to this September…I wonder how many schools coming to Learning 2.011 have now purchased class sets and can’t live without them? I wonder how many cohorts will look at iPads and mobile devices? I wonder how many workshops will explore iPads and apps? And most important of all, how many participants will turn up with their brand-spanking new iPad2?

Unconference sessions - for spontaneous and just-in-time learning

So here is our challenge with Learning 2.011. How can we put on a conference that is relevant, flexible, adaptable and responsive to the needs of the participants?

What we think we know is this – that over 400 educators will attend the conference.

What we don’t know as yet is who these 400 participants are and what they want to learn more about.

So here is our game plan for building Learning 2.011:
  • On sign up we ask participants to select a cohort (in fact we ask participants to choose up to 3) and the grade levels that they are interested in.

    Cohort Leaders' Planning Session 2010 - Darren Kuropatwa & Alec Couros
  • On June 1, we hope that most participants will have taken advantage of our early-bird registration fee so that we can work out which cohorts are viable, which are not and which can be divided up into upper, lower and even grade level groupings. Then we look at our pool of cohort leaders and match up the leaders to the cohorts.

So what about the cohort leaders? We have a small group of cohort leaders mostly from outside the region booked and confirmed – inspirational educators who are in high demand in their home countries. Then, mostly from within our region, we have a wonderful group of  highly-respected, extremely-experienced, talented and exceptional leaders, all of whom have been nominated by their peers, who have accepted our invitation on the understanding that we can match them to a cohort.

Learning 2.010 - Jabiz Raisdana AKA @intrepidteacher (CL 2011) with Chris Betcher (CL 2010) AKA @betchaboy
Workshops and Presentations

But that is not all – the cohort model is only one feature of the conference. In addition we will be running presentations, workshops and mini-keynotes. Again, we have to be flexible and responsive to the needs of the participants. We have surveyed individuals in schools to find out what they want to learn and we have asked participants to share the learning that is happening in their schools by offering workshops and presentations.


And then we have the ‘unconference’ session – an empowering, just-in-time ‘tool’. It allows for us to be curious and spontaneous in our thirst for knowledge. It enables us to seek out others to share and discuss learning.

Creativity and Curiosity Cohort
So what do I ask of you?

Please join us for Learning 2.011 and help us build the best conference by registering by June 1 so that we can create the best experience for you and your colleagues. And why not submit a presentation or workshop idea and engage more deeply in the conference by sharing your experiences?

Once again, please note that Learning 2.011 is organised by educators for educators. The organising committee is a volunteer group of dedicated educators from international schools in Shanghai and Beijing.

If you have any questions, feedback or suggestions that will contribute to the success of the conference, please email me or one of the committee members such as: Chris McAnally – SCIS (chair), myself (vice-chair), Melinda Alford & Mike Boll (Concordia).

Learning 2.011 runs from Thursday evening September 8th until Saturday evening September 10th and will be held at Shanghai Community International School’s Pudong Upper School Campus (SCIS).

…and because of that….reflections from #ade2011

I have just been at the ADE Asia Insitute in HCMC and I feel that I have arrived back at home with the bends; I am giddy with exhaustion and need days in a decompression chamber to unravel and process the incredibly rich and intense experiences of the last seven days. I am going to take Pav’s advice and post this reflection because as the day goes on I see that I need some closure so that I can tackle the mountain of work that awaits me.

WAB’s Mission Statement is Connect, Inspire, Challenge and Make a Difference and for me, that really sums up the ADE Institute.

Western Academy of Beijing - mission statement

Connect – So many rich conversations with a diverse range of 68 awesome educators (60 new ADEs plus the other 8 Advisory Board members).  The connections, in the words of Karen Carpenter have ‘only just begun….’

Inspire – Words cannot describe how many times I was inspired – from each and every double-click video to the amazing thought processes and actions. I think that the Saigon 360 nailed it for me.

Challenge – My personal challenge was to appear ‘worthy’ of my place on the advisory board in addition to the those 3 letters: ADE. It was a humbling experience. My game plan is, as ever, to mask inadequacies with humour – if you don’t have anything profound to share, at least make a stab at humour.

….and because of that…I hope I made a difference


Some initial take-aways
  • Never turn away from criticism – look at it straight in the eye, learn and grow
  • I’m not the only one that processes by talking it through – but I also need quiet time to reflect and a good 30 minutes in the pool each morning helped
  • Listen, listen and listen
  • Diversity is a wonderful thing
And on a more practical level:
  • prepare cover lessons for the first 3 days back in school (so brain-drained that you can act like a cover teacher and read out the instructions)
  • have a trusted advisor to prep you for any meetings 10 minutes before the meeting and also prompt you in meetings by ichatting you your notes, links and other resources
  • remember that not everyone in the building wants to share your experiences – a quick ‘it was awesome’ is better than a blow-by-blow, minute-by-minute account.

Dreaming of Fallen Angels

A Fallen Angel
The Busy Concourse at London's Victoria Station

Yesterday I was chatting with Andrew Churches (Edorgami) on Skype and he sent me this link to the Lynx marketing gimmick which uses augmented reality (AR). AR is the ability place computer-generated graphics in the field of vision of the viewer. The gimmick is a marketing strategy for Lynx set in London’s Victoria Station and targeted at the male commuters who pass through the busy station concourse. On the ground is a large black Lynx Excite box directing the commuters to look up. So, what do they see? A ‘sexy’ Lynx angel descending down to greet them and captured live on the huge screen on the station concourse.

Our (inevitable) question was ‘Wow! How did they do that?’ Here is a slightly edited version of our Skype conversation:

Andrew: ‘A vactor (Virtual Actor) is my guess plus the green screen to get the composite picture’

Very lifelike - so how did they do it?

This turns to a discussion on who the actor is:

Me: She is a famous UK WAG – Kelly Brook
Being British, I know that one of the fallen angels is in fact Kelly Brook – who I recall is quite a famous model and possibly a WAG. Good old Wikipedia describes WAGs as ‘as an acronym, used particularly by the British tabloid press, to describe the wives and girlfriends of high-profile football players’

Andrew: OK… is she a vactor of a wag or a real wag…for that matter does she bark and wag

Interacting with the Fallen Angel

Me: So, if she is a vactor, she has been ‘animated’ and made into an avatar (like in Second Life) and is controlled by the dude on the computer that we see in the video


it’s a merge of two live feeds on the screen. My guess is the second one!

A: Could well be – would take more than a laptop to run the vactor and I don’t know how good they are in realtime…

I have since researched Kelly Brook and found that she was due to give birth (March 16) about 10 days after the event (March 5). Thanks to Wikipedia (again), I found that the father is her  Rugby Union boyfriend (so, Andrew, I was right there about the WAG thing).

Bizarre hand-eye coordination required

As you can see from the images, she certainly did not look heavily pregnant when dropping out of the sky so I concede that Andrew was right and I was wrong! Kelly was not, in fact, acting in real-time and holed up in some studio being a little more interactive than a weather lady on TV which where is it all gushing winds and rain and a bizarre hand-eye coordination thing happening.

MacBook Pro - but what software?

So back to how did they do it?

My revised idea: A series of set moves are pre-recorded of Kelly being a fallen angel set in front of a green screen. A laptop is loaded with these ‘set’ moves and the guy on the computer selects the move according to the behaviour of the general public (yes, there are rather ‘racy’ moves…)

Alternatively, like Andrew suggests, Kelly is turned into a vactor, akin to a Second Life avatar but much more life-like, allowing real-time interactions. The avatar is controlled by the guy on the computer.

For me, the final clue, and game breaker for me, was the Macbook Pro sighted in the video. No cables so must have been wireless (hmmmmm)….possibly OK to mix feeds in realtime and transmit wirelessly to screen but I am not sure it is powerful enough to render the lifelike graphics required for a vactor.

Ouch...did that hurt?

So what now? Could this idea be turned into a really coooool ITGS project? That led us to a  conversation about ITGS projects being about products and not processes that may not lead to a final ‘product’ – more thought and discussion required here.

However, just thinking about the possibilities for within our school – we have a tricaster system and a big screen on our sports field….what about our WAB Tiger mascot interacting with our players – or multiple mascots?

We have a great dance program – perhaps our dancers could interact with their audience? Even our WAB Elementary tri-weekly TV broadcast could find a great use for AR.

And what about in my own classroom? Perhaps a classroom management tool – I could set up a webcam in my classroom, project the feed onto the whiteboard and appear behind each of my students (simultaneously)….now that would scary!

For more about the Lynx Angels click here.