Tuesday, February 24, 2009

To Moodle or Not to Moodle?

Since I am learning about Moodle and building a Moodle site for our school district I thought I would explore Moodle sites this week. Moodle was developed as free open-source e-learning software that helps people create online courses for students and adults. So how are other people using Moodle outside of public school or college education?

Here is a short list of some of the interesting sites I found in the United States at: http://moodle.org/sites

And last but not least I couldn't resist including this site:

  • After School Hackers: https://www.ashprogram.com/ – OK, I know what you’re thinking and so did I at first, but this is actually a site for school-aged children to learn computer programming. This site is for a specific school district so I wasn’t able to log in as a guest but what a great idea – fun learning for students after school.

There are over 10,000 registered Moodle sites just in the United States so this is just a small sampling of the various ways that people are using Moodle. Realize that most of these sites require a person to log in which means creating a Moodle account. Just because you may already have a Moodle account for a course or school district doesn’t mean you can automatically log into another site. But you can continue to use the same username, email address and password for each Moodle account you create.

We should all be lifelong learners and the Internet along with Moodle is creating many online learning opportunities for people.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Low Tech Meets High Tech

Stop motion animation is a process where someone creates an armatured, poseable puppet that is brought to life in a movie by slowly moving the puppet in small increments and filming one frame of film per increment. Sound’s hard doesn’t it and a little boring.

But there are several excellent films that have been created by using armatured, poseable puppets. Two films were produced by Tim Burton, Nightmare Before Christmas in 1993 and Corpse Bride in 2005. Recently Coraline was released as a new 3-D stop motion animation movie based on a Neil Gaiman novella.

So why use stop motion animation? It takes years to produce a movie, lots of building miniature sets, and lots of puppet parts. For Jack Skellington’s face there were at least 25 different heads each with a different facial expression. The small scene sets have to be created in detail and filmed from every angle. Some of you may wonder why people would work for several years just to produce one movie. People like Tim Burton do this type of work because they have a passion for animation and ways to bring animation to life. Every child has had a doll, animal or toy that they brought to life in their mind everyday when they played. Disney has brought many animated characters to life in movies for children and adults to enjoy.

Today the low tech aspect of creating poseable puppets or spending hours drawing animated characters has blended with high tech computer graphics and digital medias to produce visually entertaining 3-D movies like Coraline and Shrek.

So what does all this mean for students today? In North Carolina there are two good film schools for students. The University of North Carolina at Wilmington has a film studies program that prepares students for careers in film production. This program is the third largest film production center in the United States, which is also a part of EUE/Screen Gems Studios, the largest film studio outside of Hollywood. The University of North Carolina School of the Arts also has a School of Filmmaking which prepares students for careers in traditional film production and digital medias.

For students in Forsyth County, Reynolds High School will be offering a new “Arts for Academics” program this fall that will teach animation. The three courses are:
  1. Animation – to introduce students to the many types and techniques of animation
  2. Introduction to Art / Foundations (Art One) – to provide an overview and emphasis on the elements and principles of art and design.
  3. Electronic Media – to show students how the computer may be used as an art making tool through programs such as Photoshop, Illustrator and Flash.

Any student can learn about stop motion animation through websites like

Clay Animator that teaches about clay animation and stop motion animation. Students can learn about the art and science of creating, animating, and editing clay and stop motion animation projects. The website also demonstrates the stop motion animation techniques by using interactive tutorials, lessons, pictures and videos and the site offers a list of suggested animation software. Check it out the dancing figure at http://www.clayanimator.com/english/character_motion.html.

Images found at Clay Animator: http://www.clayanimator.com

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Black History Month

February is Black History Month and many teachers incorporate lessons and activities about Black History Month into their curriculums. So I thought this week I would provide a list of sites for teachers, students and parents. Some sites may be familiar and some sites may be new to you so enjoy browsing through this list of twenty sites.


  1. Design a Postage Stamp
  2. Underground Railroad – National Geographic – interactive
  3. LearnNC
  4. NC WiseOwl
  5. SAS in Schools – Curriculum Pathways
  6. A to Z Teacher Stuff
  7. The Teacher’s Corner

Images for this blog were found at the following sites:

Monday, February 2, 2009

Retooling Schools to Meet 21st Century Education

In September a report was published about Retooling Instruction or US schools will fail. The report basically stated that for the US to be globally competitive, attract industries and create jobs, schools in the US needed to recognize that 21st century skills were critical to the workplace. Unfortunately while the global economy has been changing schools have been focusing on closing the achievement gap and not on the demand for advanced skills from students.

The 21st century skills needed is critical thinking and judgment, complex problem solving, creative thinking, collaboration and communication skills. With these skills students will be able to see a problem and find ways to solve problems, handle responsibility and contribute to productivity and innovation. Students K-12 need 21st century skills. To do this schools need to move beyond assessing science, reading, and math to including 21st century skills to better prepare citizens to work and compete in a 21st century economy.

How do schools ensure that students graduate with all of these skills? I looked to the Partnership for 21stCentury Skills for information. They have created a framework for 21st Century learning that outline the skills, knowledge and expertise that students should master to succeed at work and in life.

What some educators may not know is that in 2005 the governor of North Carolina launched the nation’s first Center for 21st Century Skills to improve North Carolina’s education system. Through North Carolina Virtual Public Schools students across the state can take online courses for high school credit. But what can teachers do in their classrooms today to better prepare students with 21st Century Skills to meet the needs and demands of a competitive global economy?

First teachers can learn more what their district and state are doing to increase the use of technology in the schools and teachers can read through the Framework for 21st Century Learning developed by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills.

Simply stated the 21st century skills are:

  • Accountability and Adaptability – set and expect students to meet high standards in the classroom and teach students to set standards and goals for themselves.
  • Communication Skills – students need to be able to read, write and understand multimedia communication in a variety of forms.
  • Creativity and Intellectual Curiosity – help students develop, implement and communicate new ideas to others, being open and responsive to other perspectives.
  • Critical Thinking and Systems Thinking – exercise sound reasoning and understanding with your students to make complex choices, and help students understand the interconnections among systems.
  • Information and Media Literacy Skills – help students to analyze, access, manage, integrate, evaluate and create information in a variety of forms and media.
  • Interpersonal and Collaborative Skills – help students develop teamwork and leadership skills, helping them adapt to various roles and responsibilities. Students need to learn how to work productively with others, respecting diverse perspectives.
  • Problem Identification, Formulation and Solution – teach students how to frame, analyze and solve problems.
  • Self-Direction – help students learn how to monitor their understanding and learning needs, locating resources, and transferring learning from one domain to another.
  • Social Responsibility – help students to act responsibly keeping in mind the community at large, to demonstrate ethical behavior in personal and school contexts.

    How many of these skills could be targeted in your classroom? Students learn more and retain better what they have learned when they are actively engaged in the learning process. We all need to work together to find ways to incorporate these 21st century skills in our classrooms everyday.