Friday Freebie

As part of my own development, I decided that I wanted a place to store resources in a central place that I could easily access from any location, irrespective of whether I was in my own classroom, someone else’s classroom or at home. I like the convenience of Google Drive, however, I did not want to have to go through the process of signing into my own account on someone else’s computer.

This line of thinking led me, in part, to set up my website and add a link on the homepage to my public resources folder within Google Drive that is set so that anyone can view and download the resources contained therein. The resource I want to draw attention to in this article is called Powerpoint Karaoke. I must acknowledge that this is not an original idea. I first came across Powerpoint Karaoke at FlipConAus in 2015 when Aaron Sams and Jon Bergmann ran it as part of the Social Dinner.

Essentially, it is about delivering an impromptu speech. The catch is that as the speaker, you do not know your topic until you walk into the room (speakers wait in a separate from the audience). The second catch is that not only do you need to present an impromptu speech on an unknown topic but that you need to weave into your speech six images, each of which appears on a separate slide and you do not know what the image is until you move to that slide. I put myself down to take part for some fun and thoroughly enjoyed it.

I have taken that premise and modified for my current Stage Three class. I have pasted below the overview/instructions within the Powerpoint Karaoke slide deck I have made available to anyone.

Powerpoint Karaoke is a short way of encouraging students to practice their public speaking skills and their ability to think on their feet in a fun situation. I explicitly tell my students that this is a fun task with no marks or pressure attached to it and that it is simply to give them more chances to practice speaking in front of a crowd. There are currently two Cycles of speeches, with students selected at random for both.

Cycle A
The topic of their speech is not revealed until they stand up and come to the front of the room. They have thirty seconds to think about the topic. Then they are shown the first of three random images that must be included contextually into their speech somehow. The format of the slide deck is a blank slide, the topic slide followed by three images, one on each slide. Students do not know what the image is until it appears on the screen.

Cycle B
Cycle B is a series of persuasive speeches, with the speaker required to speak for or against the topic, as designated by the teacher, that appears on their slide. There are no images for this cycle, only the topic. The format of Cycle B is blank slide, topic slide, blank slide, topic slide etc.

The vast majority of students love this task and are always asking if we can do some more of it. I have also asked students to prepare powerpoint karaoke slide decks for me, to show that I am willing to take part as well and have delivered an impromptu speech using all of the images in the first ten sets using a random topic provided by a student at the time. I set an expectation of speeches of one minute in length when introducing this activity to my class. You can adapt it to suit your context.

I use this every day with my students and it has fast become a favourite. I have also introduced it to the stage as a time filler when appropriate such as waiting for a presenter to set up, or when waiting for another class to arrive for a whole-Stage event. There are, at the time of writing, twenty-nine sets of Cycle A speeches and twenty-four persuasive topics, though I do plan to continue to grow and expand the slide deck.

Feel free to share the joy of impromptu speaking with anyone. The activity can be adapted easily for different age groups and can be a lot of fun.

View and download the slide deck from my Google Drive Public Resources folder or from this article by clicking here.

SpongeBob Squarepants – Uncut

Don’t fear failure so much that you refuse to try new things. The saddest summary of a life contains three descriptions: could have, might have, and should have.
– Attributed to Louis E. Boone

For Government schools in NSW, this week is the final week of Term Two, a time when many fun things occur. For my school, it is also the week of the Year Six Canberra excursion. As my regular readers would be aware, I am teaching a combined Year Five and Six class this year, however, I am unable to attend the Canberra excursion. During the July school holidays, I am in Canberra for a week to attend Kanga Cup, an international youth football tournament, where I live in at the Kanga Cup Youth Referee Academy as one of the Referee Coaches and Mentors to the thirty-eight referees chosen for intense development and training.

Unfortunately, If I was to attend the Year Six Canberra excursion I would be away from Monday to Thursday of this week, and then be leaving to go back to Canberra on Saturday morning, not returning til the following the Saturday, which is not really fair on my thirty-week pregnant wife. So I was one of two teachers staying behind to teach the seventy Year Five students for the week. Our Assistant Principal asked what we had planned and I pitched an idea that sounded great in my head, but that I was unsure about its practicality.

Regular readers will likely have noticed that I am something of a geek and a nerd, and some years ago I stumbled across an incredible project called Star Wars Uncut. The core idea is that the team behind the project cut Star Wars into fifteen-second clips and crowd-sourced the remake of each clip. Individuals could recreate the clip they had chosen in any way they wanted. won a 2010 Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Creative Achievement In Interactive Media – Fiction and has since gone on to recreate The Empire Strikes Back in the same format, though there is no word on when they will open work on The Return of the Jedi. If you enjoy Star Wars, it is fun to watch and demonstrates a variety of creative approaches to various scenes and special effects.

This was the basic premise of the idea. Clearly, we would never be able to achieve a full-length film, and so after chatting with the Year Five students last week, I sourced an episode of SpongeBob Squarepants to use, which was just over eleven minutes long and, after slicing off the opening introduction and closing credits (I wanted to keep those intact), on Monday morning we introduced the concept to Year Five. I explained the concept to them, using a selected portion from Star Wars Uncut (the opening sequence showing the chase between the Devastator and the Tantive IV and the subsequent boarding and routing of the rebel troops on the Tantive IV by the Stormtroopers) to demonstrate what it could look like. I showed them the same sequence from the Star Wars Uncut film. We discussed techniques that had been used, the fact that the uncut version was not exactly the same for a variety of reasons (different non-Star Wars figurines had been used to help recreate the various scenes, the imperfection of the various individual clips, costumes of varying detail and complexity etc).

Students were then put into groups, with the regular classroom groupings being deliberately split up in order to provide students an opportunity to work and learn with different members of their cohort.This worked fantastically well for us, with most groups working very well together, and many new friends being made. We introduced the concept of storyboarding and provided some flipped learning content for how to construct and use a storyboard as well as some different techniques for filming (such as stop-motion and re-dubbing dialogue) and things to consider when using iPads to film (such as the quality of audio recording, particularly dialogue).

The result was fantastic. The students were incredibly engaged, focused, and were able to express their thinking as to how they solved the various challenges they came across in recreating various scenes, particularly those which would require special effects if filmed as a live-action clip. I am in the process of writing a formal unit of work for it and making the links to the curriculum explicit, but I will make it freely available once I have done so. The students loved seeing the final product come together and showed a great sense of camaraderie and appreciation for how others had contributed to the final product.

List of FutureSchools 2016 Articles

Hello everyone, here is a bonus article for the weekend, a consolidated list of all of my review articles from FutureScchools 2016.

Day One: Masterclass with Jennie Magiera

  1. Day One Session One – Questioning and CBL
  2. Day One Session Two – Badges, Gamification and a Problem Based Activity
  3. Day One Session Three – Teacher IEPs
  4. Day One Session Three Part Two – App Speed Dating

Days Two and Three: The ClassTech Conference Stream.

  1. Day Two Session One Part One – Think U Know and Edventures
  2. Day Two Session One Part Two – Storytelling and Data
  3. Day Two Session Two – Drones and Augmented Reality
  4. Day Two Session Three Part One – PBL and STEM
  5. Day Two Session Three Part Two – Perception, Imagination and Creativity
  6. Day Two Session Four – Film Making and Makerspace.
  7. Day Three Session One Part One – Gamification.
  8. Day Three Session One Part Two – STEM and the Roundtable Sessions.
  9. Day Three Session Three – 3D Design and Printing, Robotics.
  10. Day Three Session Four – Virtual Reality, Creativity.

FutureSchools Review – Day 2 Session 4

We’ve been conditioned to expect character development.”
– Ian Thomson.

Welcome back for this article, in which we will close out the second day of FutureSchools 2016 with talks from Ian Thomson and Stephen Lethbridge, speaking two vastly different topics. If you missed the previous article, you can find it hereIan (@ianthommygun) is the Director of ICT and the Arts at Amaroo School  in the A.C.T, and he spoke under the title of Film in Five; Unpacking Videos in Education, which was a title which captured my curiosity given the move of my school towards BYOD, and the use of moviemaking as one of the new ways for our students to demonstrate their learning in new ways that were not available to them previously.

Ian opened by showing us the above short film made by students of his is a narrative about a group of students covering for the fact they overslept an exam. Ian made the point that we need to use film-making authentically rather than putting it into a unit like the proverbial square peg in a round hole, which happens all to often. He indicated that Cisco predicted that approximately eighty percent of all internet traffic will be video content by the year 2019, which when you look at the rate in which the video content statistics grow on The Internet in Real-Time web page, is very easy to believe. Ian also pointed out that YouTube is the second most popular search engine in its own right. I can certainly believe that given the propensity for people to respond with “YouTube it” when asked how to do something.

Ian introduced the five guerilla-like components of making a good quality movie or short film and then apologised to the literary buffs and English teachers in the room as he distilled “…a thousand years of literary gold into one diagram.”

Ian said that we have been conditioned over the centuries to expect character development in any quality narrative and that filmmakers at any level need to ensure that they leverage that fact, alongside framing the plot-twist in order to maximise the exposure and impact of the twist. Ian next spoke about how the use of shot-framing, or lack thereof, tells him a lot about the skill level of a film-maker. He indicated that we should be using the rule of thirds or that we should, at least, be aware of and understand the rule if we are going to disregard it. He also introduced a concept which was new to me, the idea of look room. This was described as creating a virtual space for the person who is off-camera that is being spoken to, as without look room, it can appear as if the person speaking is talking to themselves. Additionally, shooting over the shoulder of someone can be a useful tactic for shooting interviews to generate authenticity. Ian’s final note was that unless camera movement is a deliberate tool, which can be incredibly useful in some contexts for tension purposes.

Ian gave us a brief overview of how to light a scene properly, including keeping the prime light source behind you and over either the right or left shoulder if possible to reduce unnecessary shadows and that where possible, we should utilise three light sources for evenness and if need be, a fleckie or reflector, for fine control over specific areas of a scene. The image below gives an indication of what this might look like. in practice.

Retrieved from on 12 March 2016

Following on from light was sound, which Ian described as being just as important to the quality and success of a film as the image being seen, indicating that where possible, we should utilise microphones rather than rely on the microphones built into devices. The reason for this, he explained is that the built-in devices are designed to capture everything and you have very little control of what you end up with in your sound file. An external microphone can give you that control as their range is more focused, narrowing the size of the cone which is recorded. It was also mentioned that the use of headphones on set can allow you to hear background noise whilst filming, and thus take steps to reduce it if appropriate is important as our brain is very good at ignoring sounds like the hum of a fridge or a fluorescent light. Ian also talked about the love of school students, particularly in primary and lower secondary, to add background music to their films, which has a tendency to override the audio. He compared background music to a picture frame. It is nice to have and it can enhance the picture, but not one is there to see the frame, they want to see the picture.

The final component which Ian discussed was the order in which certain types of shots are used, and that there were essentially three types of shots; a wide or establishing shot which provided information such as time of day and location, a mid-shot which shows you who is in the scene and is often utilised for, or as, cutaways and finally the tight shot which is often referred to as the close-up, is typically the shot type used for dialogue and should adhere to both the rule of thirds and the look room rule mentioned previously. You can see an example of what these different shot types might look like in the image below.

Retrieved from on 12 March 2016

Following on from Ian, and closing out the day was Stephen Lethbridge (@stephen_tpk) who is Principal of Taupaki School in Auckland, New Zealand. Stephen spoke under the title Race to the Maker Space and opened with a quote from Gary Hamel and C.K. Prahalad that was included in an article entitled Competing for the Future.

“So the urgent drives out the important; the future is left largely unexplored; and the capacity to act, rather than to think and imagine, becomes the sole measure of leadership.”
– Hamel, G., Prahalad, C.K., (1994), Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from on 12 March 2016

Stephen continued by pointing out that Makerspaces used to be a fringe affair, but that they have recently become the hot item on the edu-bandwagon with maker spaces popping up everywhere. I have to admit that at this point I was a little unsure where Stephen was pro-maker space or not, a topic I had heard Gary Stager speak about at Future Schools 2015 and when Stephen asked if the audience had been Gary Stagered I was confused even further.

Stephen continued pressing the point, questioning maker spaces by asking if they needed to be physical, what is required for a maker space and that there seems to be so many variants of does and does not qualify as a maker space, but that ultimately there is no reason they cannot be virtual spaces, something that he pointed to Minecraft as an example of, and further, made the point that the maker space should never be the only space in a school, community or class where creativity or making can occur. Stephen referred to the New Zealand number eight wire mentality, as an indicator that the mentality behind maker space is part of the country’s cultural DNA. For Stephen, the only thing needed for a maker space is “…a thinking teacher that adapts to change”  with the only tool required being the one in the image below.

Stephen spoke about the fact that maker spaces in school contexts were often attached to a single teacher and survived or failed based upon that teacher, including whether or not they stayed or moved on to a new school. Stephen continued by exploring the definition of a maker space as being a technological extension of the do it yourself culture, with a sub-culture of hacking having emerged which focuses on the pulling apart and re-purposing of parts and componentry, with a link to open-source plans.

The recognised founder of the maker movement is Seymour Papert, with Sylvia Libow-Martinez and Gary Stager the recognised patrons and champions of the maker movement. They have described making as something which is a purposeful expression of intellect.

The video above is was shown by Stephen as a cute way of dealing with this dismay at the New Zealand Breakers defeat in the NBL grand final, but including a friendly dig about the All Black’s superiority over the Wallabies, with a side-reference to the DIY culture.

Making, Stephen declared, was a stance, allowing the opportunity for students to have authentic experiences making real things, with the chance to follow something through for, as long Gary Stager has put it, “…longer than a course of antibiotics.” Stephen continued, reminding us that when good ideas are found in wider society with potential applications within education, they are often changed to fit the structure of education which is currently in place, rather than the structure in place being adapted to fit the new idea, resulting in watered down variations (a theme which Peggy Sheehy picked up in her keynote address on day three).

Stephen proposed that we change making, that we think of it as a culture, a way of using tools to solve general problems, that it is about taking risks and making mistakes, and learning from them, that if it is good enough for our students, then it is good enough for the adults as well.

View this post on Instagram

#makerEd culture #futureschools

A post shared by Brendan Mitchell (@c21_teaching) on

In Stephen’s school, there is a Make Club, the Ministry of Make (@MakeClub_NZ) where students can come along to be involved in making, but that they must have a parent with them (a step made to prevent it turning into another after school care / babysitting service) and that the students involved have designed, built and coded new garbage bins that light up and speak to people when they put rubbish inside, in an effort to address the question of how to decrease the problems around litter in the community.

To provide the greatest opportunity for a maker space to succeed in a school, the Principal needs to become the lead mistake maker, modelling making mistakes productively, allowing Twitter connections and encouraging professional autonomy to allow teachers to provide opportunities for organic making as part of the teaching and learning within their classroom.

Above all, use the tools of today, today. Do not limit students to the tools of yesterday.

Jump straight to the next article in the FutureSchools review series.

Modelling writing skills

“Art is the overflow of emotion into action.”
– Attributed to Brian Raif

As my regular readers would be aware, I have been utilising a short burst of creative writing, called quick writing to provide my students a more engaging way of practicing their typing skills. The students have been overwhelmingly enjoying the time. I have been trying to find a way to make it a more rigorous learning opportunity and to encourage them to improve their creative writing as well as their typing.

I had begun to provide four images as options, to allow for those students who did not connect with the initial image that was provided, and this has helped a number of students engage with the process and enable them to write more than they had previously, and those students whom are more advanced writers have an opportunity to extend themselves, through the challenge of connecting two or more of the images. What I have been noticing with the writing that students have been doing is that although they are writing at length, their output is quite surface-level, with very little detail enabling the reader to visualise the scene they are writing about.

The engagement of the students has created a situation where I have been able to sit and join them in completing some creative writing, something which I have not done in a great while, and have missed. Yesterday I listened to a few of the students read their writing out, as I have been doing, and decided to model to them what I meant when I have been asking them to provide more detail in their writing, and read out a few paragraphs of what I had written.

Having done so, I asked the class if they could visualise the scene in their heads, and then we had a discussion about the use of language to paint a picture for the reader, and how the use of language can play a role in determining the interest level of the reader. The challenge was then put back onto the students to revise their writing, to use their language to paint a picture of the scene and the characters they were describing.

For a number of them, it was a light bulb moment, and they immediately dove back into their writing to improve it, and I hope that this segue will pay off in the long run with higher quality writing. The other challenge I laid down for them was to remove the boring words, such as said with more interesting vocabulary, and we had a brief discussion about how to find more interesting vocabulary.

Thank you for reading, as always, and I would like to hear from anyone about how you have encouraged students to make their writing more interesting and more visual, while removing the boring words.

Lip Sync Battle – School Version

“I believe arts education in music, theater, dance, and the visual arts is one of the most creative ways we have to find the gold that is buried just beneath the surface. They (children) have an enthusiasm for life a spark of creativity, and vivid imaginations that need training – training that prepares them to become confident young men and women.”
– Richard W. Riley, Former US Secretary of Education

Wikipedia describes the origins of Lip Sync Battle as a spin off from a segment on the Late Night with Jimmy Fallon Show, based off an idea hatched initially by Stephen Merchant , and which Jimmy Fallon then developed into a regular segment wherein himself and one or two celebrities, depending on the night, would lip sync two songs each, without knowing the sings that the other had chosen, with the crowd determining who ‘won’ the lip sync battle.

The segment was developed into a weekly TV show in its own right, and has been quite popular in many countries where it has aired. I have been watching it and wishing that I had a class of my own so that I could bring Lip Sync Battle into the  class, as there are a number of skills within Lip Sync Battle that make it a useful alternative vehicle for teaching particular skills and concepts as well as improving students’ self-efficacy.

The competitors, as they are lip syncing, express the emotion and energy of the song through their body language, facial expressions and their energy, which are all skills taught through the creative arts strand of drama. Competitors also need strong resilience and self-efficacy to put themselves up in front of peers and lip sync, which are both key characteristics for getting through life in modern society. There are music skills involved, as the competitor needs to know the lyrics and timing of the song in order to successfully and realistically lip sync it, as well as have an understanding of the timbre of the music as that will influence their body language and facial expressions.

A conversation with one of my colleagues last week has created a situation where we will be running a Lip Sync Battle for our Stage Three students in a range of categories; Battle of the Sexes (boys v girls), Individual Championship, Age Before Wisdom (Year Five v Year Six), and the option for a Team Event if there is sufficient interest. I would also like to see a Teacher Competition but I am not sure whether that will happen or not.

We showed the below trailer to Stage Three students on Friday (July 31) to generate some interest, with the promise that more information would be forthcoming. Rather than have every battle as a live version, the first round of battles will be pre-recorded videos that have been submitted.

All performances will be recorded, and if students give their permission and have publishing permissions, then their video will be uploaded to YouTube. I will utilise the hashtag #PCPSLipSyncBattle on any videos or tweets that I make for this competition. I would love to hear from you if you are doing something similar with your class, or even across the Stage group or the school, what the reaction has been from students and teachers and the wins and difficulties you have faced.