Putting a Pin on it – Pinterest and Professional Learning

One thing that always amazes me when I think about the internet and communication is the way news travels – how things ‘go viral’ and become so popular that it seems everyone is suddenly aware of a new song, image or joke. The way that information travels is particularly clear when we observe the statistics information created by WordPress concerning this blog. Using the statistics, it is possible to see where our readers come from, how they found the blog and what links they clicked on.

By far our most popular post has been on the implementation of a 1:1 iPad program in a primary school – on an average day, this post garners over at least ten times the number of hits the other posts receive – a huge difference.

Why is this?

From what I can see, the vast majority of hits are coming from Pinterest. One or two readers have ‘pinned’ an image of a classroom poster in Pinterest, and hundreds of others have repinned this image, and visited the blog as a result. Quite a few readers also come from Twitter, where I share a link each time a write a new post, and the remainder come from a variety of other sources.

A typical 'tweet' sent out to followers on Twitter, alerting them to a new blog post.

A typical ‘tweet’ sent out to followers on Twitter, alerting them to a new blog post.

It seems that Pinterest is no longer just the domain of crafters and those wishing to share recipes – but also a huge educational community, drawn by the ability to share great websites and classroom ideas easily, and what’s more, visually.

A typical Pinterest page

A typical Pinterest page

After a long day of teaching, it is hard to come home to face screens full of text. However Pinterest’s visually appealing and simple interface allows you to scroll through hundreds of contributions, clicking on those that appeal and digging deeper by visiting the website where the image came from if more investigation is warranted. The improvements Pinterest recently made, linking pins to the board where it came from, as well as a board where someone else has also pinned it makes searching even more fruitful, as one pin is likely to lead to a host of others on a related theme.

When you re-pin an image, this helpful board pops up, with somewhere else where you are likely to find related pins.

When you re-pin an image, this helpful board pops up, with somewhere else where you are likely to find related pins.

Pinterest seems an unlikely place to go for professional development. However, if you are brain drained and in need of inspiration, boards created by Stephen Heppell, Trish Wade or Vicki Davis are just a starting point for great ideas, curated from all over the world. I maintain a few boards also – focusing on apps for inquiry learning, creative commons images and book trailers, to name a few. You can see an example of some of my Pinterest boards below.
Pinterest boards
It seems that the path to discovering quality information and resources is no longer just a direct line to Google. We know many students do much of their research via YouTube, and so it seems, many teachers are using tools such as Pinterest to direct their searching via items that others have already collated. Why start at the beginning, when half the search has already been done for you?

Faith inspired by contemporary media

Catholic schools are not only places that foster the educational development of students they are increasingly provide the school community, in all its cultural and spiritual diversity, with opportunities to engage with the Catholic Christian Faith Tradition.  In a contemporary context with fewer people regularly attending mass it is often the school that not only teaches the wider school community about religion it also provides the community with religious experience.   It is in this dual nature of the teaching and ministry of Catholic schooling that the wider community needs to be invited into a rich and meaningful dialogue around faith.

Who will be the ‘digital missionaries’ of the church?

The Archbishop of Brisbane, Mark Coleridge spoke at Brisbane Catholic Education’s Powerhouse of Leaders 2012, a gathering of the diocese year 12 student leaders (read more about this event in an earlier post) calling those present to be not only leaders of their schools, but also leaders in the Church.  Leading the Church into and onto the ‘digital continent’ is the perfect opportunity for today’s youth in the church to lead.  His Grace asked the student leaders, who will be the ‘digital missionaries’ of the church?  Watch the Archbishop’s homily to hear more of what he shared.

The call to become ‘digital missionaries’ provides school and parish communities with some challenges but also with many exciting new opportunities to reflect and imagine how this might take place.  An aspect of this challenge is the belief that technology can be seen as a way to replace much of what makes life and living so rich and vibrant, especially a catholic Christian life.  So it is important to engage with technology and media in a way that sustainable, American psychologist Sherry Turkle, in her TED Talk Connected, but alone? examines the way technology is used by people to feel connected.  Ultimately Turkle concludes that contemporary technology must be embraced not as an alternative but as a vehicle to deepen traditional experiences.  This is a balance is not commonly achieved in the secular world, but, perhaps this is where these emerging digital missionaries are needed most.

How might this look in a school or parish community? 

Click on the image to access the Religion and Ethics course.

Click on the image to access the Religion and Ethics course.

It is timely to pause and ask the question, how might this look in a school or parish community?  It is also timely to look to those organisations and groups who are engaging with contemporary media and technology in some really exciting ways, locally, nationally and internationally.  You’ll see it’s already happening.

Locally, Brisbane Catholic Education’s newly developed Religion and Ethics course is a quality example of using media to engage and extend students learning with a blend of traditional and contemporary pedagogies and ultimately providing students with a learning experience that challenges students to be active, critical and powerful members of their communities.

The Faith and Life team of the Archdiocese of Brisbane are also engaging with contemporary technologies and media in exciting new ways.  Hosting a YouTube channel means that now the entire diocese and beyond can connect to the Cathedral and Archbishop Mark.  In addition to this, the recently published prayer resource atimeofgrace for the Year of Grace further engages with technology in an exciting way.  Using a variety of prayers and QR codes or links to online content, this resource merges traditional prayer types with contemporary resources and ways of praying.

Nationally the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference host a media blog and a YouTube channel, both of which provide schools and parishes with a wealth of resources, reflections and ideas.

Caritas Australia are successfully using social media to help communicate to the wider community news about their work and to promote their annual Project Compassion.  Students and parishioners can follow Caritas Australia on the official facebook page or twitter account and can watch the many great films made by Caritas Australia via YouTube.

Click on the image to learn more or to download this app.

Click on the image to learn more or to download this app.

Internationally His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI has compelled to the church to engage with social networks.  He himself has almost 1.5 Million English speaking followers on his official twitter account and many thousands more followers across His 8 additional non-english accounts.  Follow His Holiness on twitter here You can also down load The Pope App which provides access to news, photos, video and much more.

Also the team of WYD RIO 2013 are engaging with social media in a way that is quite exciting.  With a presence on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, this team are producing and sharing some fresh and youthful media.  Truly engaging and connecting pilgrims in the conversation of World Youth Day 2013 before the official gathering begins later this year.

How can a school or parish compete with large organisations?

Now that you are more aware of how the wider church community is engaging with contemporary media, the question still remains, How might this look for a school or parish?  Most of these sites produce and distribute media are from bigger institutions with budgets and paid staff.  Many can also draw on the services of in-house professional graphic designers.  So how can a school or parish develop media at the same level?  Again turning to contemporary technology and in particular to mobile devices and the wide selection of photographic apps available schools and parishes can produce media at the same level of quality as these groups.  The following brief list is a collection of some great apps that the team at ResourceLink have used to produce quality pieces of media in a faith context.  Such as the reflective image shown.

Basin and Towel prayer/reflection card

  1. Camera+, add vintage filters, frames and text to your photos with this easy to use app.
  2. WordFoto, turn photos into stunning word art!
  3. PicPlayPost, collage and frame together images and video.
  4. InstaQuote create quotes that are easily shared and beautiful.

What’s a way forward?

Harnessing the power contemporary technology combined with the energy and capacity of young and the young at heart, schools and parishes can be inspired to answer the call of both His Holiness Benedict XVI and His Grace Mark Coleridge to boldly lead the church into and onto the digital continent.  By do so schools and parishes will engage their communities in a conversation about their Catholic Christian faith and to do so in ways that have the potential to challenge and transform believers and those seeking faith.

6 Ways to Keep Track of Digital Information – A Resolution for 2013

Every day we face new influxes on information – in our email inbox, on our Facebook page, in our Tweetstream, in feeds for blogs that we subscribe to,  in discussion forums, and just the stuff we stumble upon while surfing the internet. As busy people, it is often at precisely the wrong time that we find that fascinating article, or when we are looking for something else that we discover a great resource for the future. Keeping track of all of this digital information is important – we all know how quickly our time is sapped away while searching online. Fortunately, there are a number of tools that are easy to use, and which we can use to manage our digital information, so that we can virtually ‘file’ and share with others the quality articles, resources and media to be easily drawn upon again, or to be read at a later, more suitable time.


cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo shared by Will Lion

This blog post therefore focuses upon what is becoming known as ‘content curation’.

Traditionally the term curator refers to someone who looked after objects in a museum exhibition. Nowadays, many of us are curators of the knowledge that we find online, using tools to shape and organise this information around themes or topics, gathering together in one place these randomly placed discoveries. However, Beth Kantor, in her excellent primer on content curation hastens to add that being a quality content curator is more than simply aggregating links – content curators, like museum curators, choose the quality pieces connected by a meaningful theme, create a context for presenting them and organise and possibly annotate or extend upon them to them in order to maximise value for others.

Why should teachers and teacher librarians develop their content curation skills?

Content curation has always occurred in schools – resources were always gathered around the topic of teaching, in order to support and extend  student understandings. The difference is that in the past, this consisted of gathering ‘hard’ content – books, posters, newspapers, kits etc (and these were usually gathered together by the teacher librarian, the leading content curator in the school). Nowadays, the teacher librarian and teachers not only have access to these resources, but also to a huge range of digital resources – many of which provide fantastic, engaging learning opportunities for today’s students. In addition, content curation is very central to education – as Beth Kantor states,

Curation is all about helping your audience dive in and make sense of a specific topic, issue, event or news story.  It is about collecting, but it is also about explaining, illustrating, bringing in different points of view and updating the view as it changes. (Kantor, 2012)

It’s a pretty pithy summary of what an educator does on a daily basis.

So what do you need to know about content curation? Here are some tools that you will find useful. You do not need to use all of them. What is evident in many articles is that content curation is often done ‘on the fly’, so use the tools that best fit in with the flow of your day. For example, if you already use Twitter quite a bit, you may prefer to use Storify. If you have multiple year levels to manage, you might find Diigo lists a useful feature. If reading blog posts and other social media in a magazine style layout suits you, you may choose Flipboard for your iPad, or Scoopit.

The best part about content curation is the ability to easily create beautiful looking and interactive resources around topics students and teachers need access to. This is particularly useful if students are researching topics where quality information is difficult to find, or to support students who spend too much time being overwhelmed by the quantity of information and not enough time actually creating their response. Curation tools help to cut through the noise, and promote direct access to quality information.

In addition, students should also work on developing their curation skills. Being able to quickly and critically evaluate a range of information sources is a vital research skill, which is of growing importance when considering the huge amount of information accessible.

So here are 6 of the best content curation tools currently available. Check them out, have a play with each of them and decide which ones best suit your information management needs.

1. Storify: Create a story around a topic being discussed on Social Media

Storify allows you to search a range of social media (with Twitter being used most commonly) to create a newspaper style document with tweets, photos or videos that can be saved to read later, or shared among others. Storify is particularly useful if you are following a particular hash tag (for example if you know of a conference going on) and you wish to record all of the tweets posted by participants, but can’t view them all as they are posted. You can nominate to save all tweets with that hash tag, then go back later to read what was said. Here is an example of a Storify which captures a professional conversation which took place on Twitter.  Take a tour of Storify.

2. Diigo – Social bookmarking and more

I have written previously on the power of Diigo for saving, organising and annotating websites, and for making them available to others. Without doubt Diigo is a powerful social bookmarking tool, and a must have in the toolkit for any contemporary teacher.

3. Flipboard – Create a personalised magazine on your iPad

Flipboard allows you to import your blog subscriptions, Twitter account, Facebook account and many other interesting web publications into a unique iPad interface which ‘flips’ like the pages of a magazine. Each page is tiled, and with a tap on the screen, enlarges so that you can read the entire article, still in the magazine style layout. Flipboard is fabulous for when you want to gather together and browse multiple web sources, and allows you to quickly flick through and find particular articles of interest.

4. Scoopit – Curating articles from social media and online sources

Scoopit is a growing curation tool that gives you a number of different ways to collect information. You can connect your social media accounts, scoop items directly from the web as you discover them or draw them from a list of suggested scoops based upon keywords which you nominate.  Without doubt this last feature is a fabulous time-saver, as many interesting articles are provided for you to scoop onto your page without having to go searching for them. You can also rescoop from other members pages. Once you have scooped articles, you can also add your own comments onto them, making this tool particularly powerful for directing students to specific parts of pages or sections of material. To get an idea of how Scoopit could work for you, have a look at Gwyneth Jones’ page, the Daring Library Ed Tech Scoopit.

5. Pearltrees – building visual mind-maps of resources

Pearltrees is a visually beautiful tool, which allows you to store your digital resources as pearls, which are connected together in a mind-map format. It’s simple click and drag interface means it is very simple to organise your pearls into trees. You can also work with others to co-curate on a topic, which is useful if a group of teachers are all working on a similar topic. Another interesting aspect of pearl trees is the ability to scroll through the pages you have ‘pearled'; this makes it easier for younger students to select the weblink that they want. You  can see this feature in the video below:

6. Pinterest – a digital pinboard

Pinterest has grown exponentially since it was launched, and very quick and easy to use.  The open nature of Pinterest means that it is possibly more suited for teachers or older students, as there is no way to limit access to just particular boards. Despite this, many teachers are finding it a very simple way to collect great classroom ideas for later inspiration. The best way to start is to find some pinners who have similar interests to you, and follow their boards. You can repin their pins, as well as add your own pins from pages you like on the internet. Add value by writing a short description so others know what the image links to. To get an idea of how Pinterest works, check out one of my boards on mobile learning.

The most important thing to remember is that these tools are meant to assist the management of the flow of information. Use them as part of your work, not as an additional task which must be done. If it isn’t quick and easy, try something different – the beauty of having so many tools is that there truly is something for everyone!

Make a resolution to choose one content curation tool to manage your information in 2013- and at the end of the year, you will be amazed by how much you have collected!


cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by ransomtech

Reference:

Kantor, B. (2012, July 13). NTEN Webinar Reflections and Resources:  The Unanticipated Benefits of Content Curation. Beth’s Blog. Retrieved January 31, 2013, from http://www.bethkanter.org/nten-curation/

Young People using Social Media positively: Authentic, real world learning opportunities

Many of you will have heard about Martha Payne, the 9 year old Scottish girl whose blog, Never Seconds, came to international attention earlier this year. If you didn’t, here’s a brief rundown:

Martha began writing her blog as a record of her school lunches.
She promised a photo, and a score:

Photo credit: Sakurako Kitsa / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Food-o-meter- Out of 10 a rank of how great my lunch was!
Mouthfuls- How else can we judge portion size!
Courses- Starter/main or main/dessert
Health Rating- Out of 10, can healthy foods top the food-o-meter?
Price- Currently £2 I think, its all done on a cashless catering card
Pieces of hair- It won’t happen, will it?

Within two weeks her blog posts had gathered more than a million viewers, and enthusiastic posts from other students sharing their own lunch photos, not just from Scotland, but from Finland, Germany, Japan, Spain and the United States. She was garnering so much attention that she even raised a sizeable amount of money for a charity; Mary’s Meals, an organisation that funds school lunches in Africa. Seven weeks later, the local council made the controversial decision to ban Martha from bringing her camera to school; thankfully this decision was quickly reversed after protests from some of her most well known supporters (including Jamie Oliver and Neil Gaiman) as well as a massive media protest at the short-sightedness of the move.

This is just one example of the extraordinary potential young people now have to influence what was previously beyond their reach; using social media and other 2.0 technologies, the thoughts and actions of young people can have powerful influences across the entire globe.

Another example is the recent news that Hasbro has revealed it will release a toy oven in shades of black, silver and blue, after McKenna Pope, 13, submitted a petition with over 40 000 signatures that she had created on Change.org.  The thirteen year old was planning to buy the toy oven as a gift for her little brother, but became aware that it only came in pink and purple, and featured all girls in the advertising. Using YouTube to raise awareness of her petition, McKenna showed how social media can be used to create positive change.

With examples such as these for inspiration, there is no end to the possibilities for teachers looking for ways to engage their students in real world action. In fact, as Marilyn M. Lombardi’ suggests in Authentic Learning for the 21st Century: An Overview, thanks to technology, authentic, real world learning has never been more achievable.

Why not consider the following:

* Use iPads and iMovie to create documentaries on student issues – post to a YouTube channel for a world-wide audience

* Publish student research as a Wikipedia page

* Tweet results of student surveys; ask other schools to comment and compare results

* Create a Google Map of the local area around the school, locating community services and resources relevant for the school community; publish on the school blog

* Participate in a global project such as the Flat Classroom or a local one such as Witness King Tides

* Use real data sets to create suggested strategies for real-world problems – try Saving Migratory Animals as an example

As you can see, the possibilities are limited only by your imagination, and the projects can be as simple or as complex as you wish.

Looking for further inspiration? Check out these amazing young people and what they’ve achieved using passion, energy and technology!

A small beginning has led to Random Kid – a website that helps kids solve real world problems:

Using YouTube to share a great message:

Have your students taken on a great real world project? Share in the comments below!

Marilyn Lombardi. (2007). Authentic Learning for the 21st Century: An Overview | EDUCAUSE.edu ( No. ELI Paper 1: 2007). Educause. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/library/resources/authentic-learning-21st-century-overview

Wikipedia – one encyclopedia to rule them all…or just a great place to start?

The debate about Wikipedia and its role in education continues to rage.Just last month, Brian Proffitt, a  Lecturer at the University of Notre Dame wrote a well reasoned piece on why he believes Wikipedia has no place in the tertiary classroom. This was followed up with another, equally convincing article a week later by another practising academic, Jonathan Obar, explaining why he believes strongly that Wikipedia plays an essential part of education in the 21st Century.

Both articles raise valid points. Proffitt focuses upon the fact that by crowdsourcing information, there is no guarantee that the information is quality, and that Wikipedia is a major source of plagiarism, as students find it easier to copy text directly from a site that almost always appears in the first ten hits of any Google Search. Obar counters by arguing that the fact that the knowledge is crowdsourced provides an excellent opportunity to teach students not only critical literacy, but also a study in how knowledge is (and always has been) created – through debate, opinion and argument.

Currently, it is the decision of individual educators as to whether or not they encourage the use of Wikipedia in their classroom. It remains an immense resource of information – with William Cronon, the President of the American Historical Association stating that ‘Wikipedia is the largest, most comprehensive, copiously detailed, stunningly useful encyclopedia in all of human history‘.

One way that teachers commonly suggest students use Wikipedia is as a place to begin their research. While it may not be the source of information that students actually cite, it is often a useful starting point, for students to get an overall introductory understanding of a topic, and to use some of the articles cited in the Wikipedia article as a jumping off point into more scholarly literature.

An excellent tool to assist at this stage of research is the WikiMindMap.

Wikimindmap takes a search term, and creates a mind map of related topics, which are either directly linked to Wikipedia pages, or which open up into further refinement.

An example, based on the search term ‘Sustainability’ is below:

The best search results currently appear to be derived from en.wikipedia.org. When sustainability is entered into the search box, the following results appear:

Hovering over the term Sustainability in the centre brings up a useful definition, and direct link to the Wikipedia page.

When you click on the topics with the green arrows, a further search using these key words occurs – the topics in rectangles with the plus symbol indicates a further tree, with a narrowing of the topics focused around that general area. A blue arrow out symbol points to an external website.

This tool is terrific for students who are facing research on a broad topic, and need to narrow down their focus, or for students who simply don’t know where to begin their research. Since the Google Wonderwheel was discontinued, WikiMindMap might prove to be a useful research tool for any student’s kit.

For those using mobile devices, the app Wikinodes provides a similar search tool, but with the added functionality of note-taking and the ability to share articles via email, Twitter or Dropbox. The note-taking feature is particularly interesting, with students able to add text, visual or audio notes. These notes are then able to be added to a ‘presentation’, so that they may be shared with others.

These tools are useful no matter what your opinion is on the quality of the content in Wikipedia – even if only to teach the concept of drilling down from a general topic to more specific keywords that will shape searches more effectively.

Don’t write off Wikipedia – using it creatively could be the key to more effective research by all students of every level.

Cronon, W. (2012, February). Scholarly Authority in a Wikified World. American Historical Association. Retrieved October 8, 2012, from http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2012/1202/Scholarly-Authority-in-a-Wikified-World.cfm
Obar, J. (2012, September 20). Why Wikipedia Does Belong in the Classroom. ReadWriteWeb. Retrieved October 9, 2012, from http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/why-wikipedia-does-belong-in-the-classroom.php
Proffitt, B. (2012, September 12). Why Wikipedia Doesn’t Belong In The Classroom. ReadWriteWeb. Retrieved October 9, 2012, from http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/why-wikipedia-doesnt-belong-in-the-classroom.php

Top Tips for Tweeps – A step by step introduction to Twitter

You’ve read the ResourceLink blog’s previous posts on developing a Professional Learning Network using Social Media. You’ve seen the term PLN bandied around at conferences and online, and you’ve heard TV shows and radio stations asking you to add your comments via Twitter. You keep meaning to set up a Twitter account and see what the fuss is about, but it just seems far too overwhelming…

Here is your answer! A step by step, no-fuss explanation of Twitter, how to set up an account and how to use it professionally to access the wealth of resources, information and connections that are literally just one click away once you build your network.

If you’d like to learn more about the bigger picture of Professional Learning Networks, please feel free to view this presentation,

and to download the accompanying booklet. This should motivate and excite you enough to want to dive into the Twitterverse – and here’s how to do it!

Step One: Sign Up

As with all social media, to use Twitter, you need an account. While you can use a pseudonym, if you are planning on using Twitter as a Professional Learning Network, it makes sense to use your own name. Often you will meet up with fellow ‘Tweeps’ at conferences and other professional learning events, and if you use your own name it is much easier to make these real life connections. You can read more about the importance of being yourself on Twitter here.

Sign up to Twitter

Signing up to Twitter is very quick and easy. https://twitter.com/

Step 2: Acquaint yourself with the Twitter interface:

Roll over the image and wherever you see a small black Twitter bird, you will find information about the Twitter interface.

Click on this image for the interactive explanatory diagram.

Step 3: Spend some time ‘lurking’

There is no reason for you to start ‘tweeting’ immediately. Of course, your experience using Twitter will be richer once you start interacting and making connections, but there is no hurry! Spend some time searching various hashtags, such as #edtech, #edchat or #tlchat. A great list of hash tags is available here (it is open to edit, so add any you discover and make the resource richer!).

Step 4 – Build your network

Search for a few well known Tweeps who share generously in your field of interest – for example, @gcouros if you are interested in contemporary learning, or @gwynethjones if you are a teacher librarian. Spend time building a small network of useful, quality tweeters who will become the backbone of your Professional Learning Network. Choose those who you find to be posting tweets that really interest you, and look who they follow – chances are, they will also have similar interests, and be worth following also. I have compiled a list of Tweeps you may like to begin with -Teacher Tweeps to Follow – but it is by no means exhaustive, and is reflective also of my own interests. Use it as a starting point!

Step 5 – Begin Tweeting

Once you feel comfortable with the interface, and you have a small network, it is good to start ‘giving back’. The community is only as rich as it is thanks to the generosity of everyone who shares. Don’t think ‘what I have to say isn’t worth sharing’ – there’s a great video that answers that doubt here;

The things you can share are many and varied. Try to keep it 90% professional – an occasional joke or private thought just shows you are human, and sheds light on your personality, but no one needs to know what you had for breakfast every day! Share useful links you’ve just discovered, your experiences with a new resource, quotes by experts, recent insights you’ve made while teaching…answer questions posed by others and ask your own – the more you interact, the more rewarding your experience will be. These guidelines are excellent if you are unsure.

Step 6 – Use a tool to help stay afloat

After you have been using Twitter for a while, you may find that using a tool such as Tweetdeck or Hootsuite helps you manage your Tweetstreams more effectively. These tools essentially ‘plug in’ to Twitter, and allow you to see multiple conversations or lists at the same time. You can even feed in other social media accounts such as Facebook, and view all posts from the same window. Tweetdeck and similar really come into their own when you are following a particular chat, for example if a conference is on that you want to attend ‘virtually’. You can follow the regular tweets in one column, and the conference hash tag in another – see below for an example.

This is an example of Hootsuite – you can see each of the streams including my personal PLN list and also the hashtag #edchat.

Step 7 – Enjoy building your network and learning new things each day!

More information about Twitter, including presentations and explanations can be found on this Google Doc created by George Couros. Also check out this excellent presentation by Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano.

Another great tool is this  useful poster for educational hashtags:
Popular Educational Twitter Hashtags
Compiled By: OnlineCollegeCourses.com

Metamorphosis: the 2012 ResourceLink Film Festival

The theme of Metamorphosis captured in the festival advertisement was adopted, as a symbol of the power of film to change us on a deep and somewhat primal level and also inspired ResourceLink to review and refresh the way the festival was structured and delivered, in particularly the way in which we engaged participants in their professional learning.  Adopting a project based approach to replace a traditional model of professional learning about film making and engaging with new media sources to share and reflect about film.  This post will review the 2012 ResourceLink Film Festival sharing the successes and learning’s from the journey.

This title is available through Curriculum Press. It is a fabulous resource for all educators. Click the image to purchase or find out more.

While the Film Festival has always been about promoting the use of film in education, an increasingly important part of the program is the student produced films section. This is in recognition of the fact that students now live in a multimodal world, where economic, social, cultural, global and technological changes have reconstructed concepts of literacy, reading, writing and text (Anstey and Bull, 2011, p.1).

If we adopt the definition of literacy put forward by Luke and Freebody in 2009, we see that

‘Literacy is the flexible and sustainable mastery of a repertoire of practices with the texts of traditional and new communications technologies via spoken, print and multimedia’ (p.9, cited in Anstey and Bull, 2011). Therefore, in order to be considered ‘literate’ in the 21st century, students must be able to access a range of resources, including knowledge of

  • text and context
  • multimedia and technology, and the semiotic systems they employ
  • aesthetics and design
  • social and cultural diversity
  • critical literacy

(Anstey and Bull, 2011, p.8).

Involving students in the planning, scripting, filming, editing and producing of their own films provides many opportunities for each of these resources to be developed.

Students proudly walked the red carpet to present their films.

Traditionally the film festival has hosted a two day course on short film making in conjunction with a screening of student produced short films.  This year the ResourceLink team asked the question how might the student produced films be enhanced through ‘on the job’ professional training and support?  What was found was a significant level of diversity and creativity was shown through the films and more so allowed students and teachers to achieve beyond their own expectations.

Working with teachers and students the team of ResourceLink supported the development of seven short films from three schools.  Our support was three fold: engaging and extending the pre-production phase of film making, supporting filming and providing support in post-production.

Pre-production:

This phase began by exposing teachers and students to as many diverse films, reflecting on the stories and messages and examining the technical aspects of the film such as, camera angles, music, costuming and editing techniques.  It was in this phase that students engaged in critical reflection and discussion.  After grounding students in some film theory, students could then begin unpacking the theme in great depth and begin to develop the concepts of their own films.  This for the most part was done without much support from ResourceLink.  Once students had landed their concept it was time for the students to develop a script and to begin storyboarding.  Constantly reviewing and adapting their work until they were ready to film.

 Production:

Supporting participants as they tackle this phase was perhaps the most fun and tiring phase of the project.  This saw participants to reflect and adapt on the fly as they encountered problems such as poor weather, absent actors, and malfunctioning equipment.  This saw many participants to consider quite creative and clever solutions.

Post Production:

Again supporting participants through this process the team from ResourceLink supported the production teams as they sourced creative commons materials to add the extra professional touches to their works.

The students were thrilled to receive an award acknowledging their movie-making, and also enjoyed a creative activity that saw them create their own origami butterfly, which they labelled with one word or a phrase to describe how the movie making process had changed them. These butterflies formed part of the decoration for the teacher film festival to be held later that afternoon.

As the teachers arrived to a delicious afternoon tea provided by Spoon Deli, they were delighted to see our theme of metamorphosis depicted in the hundreds of origami butterflies that decorated the room. During the evening screening session, we were very lucky to have secured Kathleen Noonan and Fr Anthony Mellor, who provided us with commentary and insight from a non-educational perspective.

During the evening, the teachers were invited to share their thoughts and opinions of the films, and how they might use these or similar short films in their classroom via a BackChannel established using TodaysMeet. The teachers also had the opportunity to post their thoughts to a broader audience via Twitter, using the hash tag #morph2012.

Using a tool such as TodaysMeet allowed the viewers to share their thoughts at the moment that they had them, rather than try to save them until a plenary session after the screenings. By posting to the TodaysMeet stream, teachers were also more willing to add their thoughts, as they did not have to stand up and publicly share them to the large group.  A selection of the TodaysMeet stream can be seen on the right.

The films selected this year were based not only on the theme ‘Metamorphosis’, but also were selected to showcase a variety of film formats and delivery methods. As an encouragement to teachers to consider the quality multimedia available on YouTube, the evening began with the showing of a selection of short films from the Tropfest Short Film Festival YouTube channel. These ranged from the humourous (Boo), to the reflective (My Constellation), from the challenging (RGB) to the inspiring (One Thing).

These short films were followed by another inspiring short film, The Butterfly Circus. Winner of several international awards, including the Clint Eastwood Filmmaker Award, The Butterfly Circus is a beautiful story of how a young man with what seems to be overwhelming disabilities (he has no limbs) is given the opportunity to dream of a future he thought would never be possible.

The possibilities for the way this film could be used in the classroom are endless. As teachers observed, it could be seen as a re-interpretation of the Easter Story, and the role of the Showman could be seen as a Jesus figure, taking those who had been cast off by society and showing them their beauty and their worth. The direct links to the theme Metamorphosis were unmistakeable, even to the point of the presence of a butterfly making its transformation just as the human characters did also.

After a delicious hot meal from AbFab Catering and great discussion over dinner, the teachers returned to the lolly buffet to stock up on readiness for the final movie.

The feature film of the night, We Bought a Zoo tells the true story of a family who bought and rebuilt a rundown zoo. Although the Hollywood treatment neglects some of the real life challenges of such a purchase (in the film, the decision to buy is made on the spot, whereas in real life, the process of purchasing took over 2 years), the film does focus on the metamorphosis of the family, as they move from a place of darkness and grief into a new life full of possibility.

 The film was then reviewed in a ‘Margaret and David’ style (from ABC’s At the Movies), as Kathleen Noonan and Fr Anthony Mellor discussed the themes of the movie. Of note was the use of the soundtrack, and the way that movie and music can sometimes be used to engage students in areas where more direct approaches might fail. Also discussed was how rich, quality media is available in many forms, some of which are listed below.

The evening was wrapped up by our Senior Education Officer, Kerry Rush. A great day, a fun evening and a lot of learning sums up the Film Festival once more for another year.

References:

Bull, Geoff, and Michele Anstey. Evolving pedagogies: reading and writing in a multimodal world. Carlton South, Vic.: Education Services Australia, 2010. Print.