Thursday, April 30, 2009

World Clock

One of my students showed this to me the other day. It's a world clock maintained by a website called Poodwaddle. I did a Google search to see if I could find any more information on the site. No luck on that yet. They do list the references used to create the clock at the bottom of their page.

Regardless. My students brought this to me because they thought it was interesting. This could be a good discussion starter in most any classroom. Also a jumping off point to check the facts given.

[Image captured from]

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

David Wilson Animation

Amazing animation done by David Wilson for the music video, We Got Time. As a teacher, I was thrilled to see he also created an informational movie on how it was created. I am already planning on using this in the classroom.

It's all done using a device called a praxinoscope. He gives a nice overview of the history of this process and some great information on what happens when he changed the frame rate.

"Making of" video is fascinating.
Music video is brilliant!

[Images all captured from the two videos]

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


ToneMatrix is a browser based sinewave synthesizer. I've seen some of these as DIY projects that you can build. This is the first I've seen I can play from my computer. Essentially you click on one of the little squares and it will play a tone. Click on a column and it will play a chord. It sequences from right to left.

From the descriptions of these syntesizers, I thought a device like this would have limited appeal. Once again I was wrong. It quickly ate up a hour of my time as I made up different sequences. It was extremely easy to build a pleasant melody in just a few minutes and then change it on the fly.

Fun. Entertaining. I've bookmarked this one for future moments of "messing around".
[via DavidWilson.Com]
[Image captured from]

Monday, April 27, 2009

Swine Flu Twitter

The CDC has started a Twitter stream to keep the public informed regarding the swine flu outbreak: @CDCemergency

Swine Flu Map

Here is a helpful Google map [Update: 5/3/09: This map has been moved here]you can use if your class is following the spread of the swine flu. It differentiates between suspected and confirmed cases. It also shows casualties.

I've been checking the map periodically over the past few days and it's interesting to see how it is spreading. Scary when you realize each of the markers is a real person who is sick and that some of them denote deaths.

Right now it looks like the majority of cases outside of Mexico have been spread via air travel. I am sure you could locate major airports near each outbreak. Have your students predict how it can spread from there and then follow that up with a discussion on what precautions we all should be taking. Visit the CDC site to gather accurate information.

Larry Ferlazzo has a list of resources you can use in the classroom at his excellent site, Larry Ferlazzo's Websites of the Day. I suspect the kids (and us) are going to hear a lot rumours over the next few days as the seriousness of the situation is determined. Help yourself and your kids stay informed with good information.

[Image captured from,-110.390625&spn=15.738151,25.488281&z=5]

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Still wishing...

Still wishing I was in Maryland with a banjo on my knee at the Crisfield Folk Musicians Retreat. So, I've been watching banjo videos on YouTube. Here is an amazing piece of playing by Ken Aoki tenor banjo player. He has several videos available on the web.

Wonder what this would sound like clawhammer style?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Film Credits Explained

Short description of 15 various job credits that you see at the end of a film. Students tend to forget that a film is a collaborative effort that utilizes a lot of people all with specific duties. For example, whats the person called who arranges the plants and flowers for a shoot.

[Answer: Greensman]

The above graphic is also from this Mental Floss post. Nice visual of the controlled chaos on a set.

[Image captured from Mental Floss:]

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Beautiful Imperfections

Moving little piece on love and family.

[Image captured from the film:]

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Soft Skills: Networking

The folks in my department where I teach talk a lot about soft skills. We keep asking, how do we give kids some of those abilities needed to be successful beyond their academics? Things like how to interview for a job, workplace behavior and interacting successfully with your employer. This article by Chris Lehmann called Networking and Teaching brought up some of the same points we throw around in our department meetings.

He talks about his lack of skills in working a room and I am reminded of how I used to be involved with some Geography curriculum development in our state. I had to attend gatherings made up of teachers, business people and government representatives. I was awful at working a room. Usually ended up talking with another teacher. If getting legislation passed was based on how well I could work room, we'd still be teaching that the world is flat.

Our department started throwing around the idea of a class to help students create better presentations using Powerpoint and maybe expanding the scope to include professional networking. Our DECA and FBLA students seem to gather a lot of these abilities from their classes and the competitions they attend. We often have them chair meetings with the public and they help run school assemblies. I know I wouldn't have been able to do that when I was 16. Public speaking was torture for me back then. So much so, that friends and family were somewhat shocked to hear I was going into teaching. Goes to show that we can change. We can learn.

[Image: Flickr: "Trademark 101 for Small Business at Network Solutions": Uploaded on September 18, 2008 by shashiBellamkonda:]

Monday, April 20, 2009

Tribute to Jim Henson

Moving, haunting tribute to Jim Henson.

Wonder if my students will be as touched by this as I am?

Couldn't find much out about this video. Anybody have any background info?

[Image taken from the video]

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Aneesh Chopra: New Fedreal Chief Technology Officer

President Obama announced the name of the New Chief Technology Officer: Aneesh Chopra.
"Aneesh Chopra, who is currently the Secretary of Technology for Governor Kaine of Virginia, has agreed to serve as America’s Chief Technology Officer. In this role, Aneesh will promote technological innovation to help achieve our most urgent priorities – from creating jobs and reducing health care costs to keeping our nation secure."
Good overview of who Chopra is and why he is a good choice at this article by Tim O'Reilly.

Aneesh Chopra Facebook page.

[via O'Reilly Radar:]

Friday, April 17, 2009

Funny: If Frank Miller Drew Peanuts

See whole page at deviantart.

[via Neatorama] [Image captured from deviantart:]

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Seed

The Seed is a nifty animation using a combination of of 2D and papercut stop motion by Johnny Kelly of Nexus Productions.

I'll be showing this to my students as an example of what can be done with these two techniques. Lots of stuff happening in this video. Lots of idea generators for kids trying to think up project ideas.

Also I've embedded the Making of the Seed. Show these two together and your kids should be able to come up with lots of concepts on what to do and blueprints on how to do it. Let me mention that my students love the idea of animation but many quickly lose their affection for the technique once they realize the work and time that goes into creating one. Help them keep their dreams realistic. Start them off with small projects so they can see some results.

The Seed from Johnny Kelly on Vimeo.

Making of 'The Seed' from Johnny Kelly on Vimeo.

[Image: Captured from MotionGrapher:]

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Mountain Range High School Peeps

Here are all the entries for our Mountain Range Peeps contest.

JibJab animation

I was trying to come up with a way to teach some simple animation techniques to my multimedia kids recently and I remembered the JibJab films. Specifically how they take a picture of a still face and animate the jaw to create the illusion of talking. It has the look of a ventriloquist dummy.

I wanted to show the kids who couldn't draw that they could still create some interesting effects. So, using Fireworks, we created faces with moving jaws and twirling eyes. I refer to these as JibJab animations because a lot of my students are familiar with the their films.

We exported them as animated gifs. The kids can now use them on web pages, movie projects and even Powerpoint presentations. Although I haven't figured out a way to show them in this blog or Google Sites. When you upload a picture to those two online services they are automatically turned into jpegs which breaks the animation. (At least I think this is what is happening......anyone else run into this?)

I can teach this skill to a group of kids (who already know Fireworks) in a class period. The majority of them seem to like it and I have caught them creating other JibJab animations on their own time. Because of student interest, I am working on a unit to use with my video class next year. I think we will attempt a short feature.

[Image captured from "This Land": JibJab:]

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Tale of Rock - 3d Animation

Here is another student animation project from the University of Hertfordshire. This one is called A Tale of Rock and was done by John Godwin in 2007. I'm building up a list of short films I can show to my video students next year. This one will be on my list.

Check out his home page to see some of his art work also.

A Tale Of Rock - 3D Animation @ University Of Hertfordshire 2007 from Digital Animation Herts Uni UK on Vimeo.

[Image captured from John Godwin's web site:]

Monday, April 13, 2009

Google 411

I was watching David Pogue's TED talk recently and was reminded of a service I use frequently but have never mentioned here. Google-411. A free service that works like a regular information.

  • Call 1-800-GOOG-411 (1-800-466-44110).
  • State what you are looking for: donuts
  • State the city and state

You're given several choices and then the option to connect. It hasn't let me down yet.

It's great unless you are like me and often forget within seconds the address given on one of these calls. Pouge came to my rescue and also shared another trick. Google SMS.
  • Text Google (46645)
  • In the body of your text state something like Donuts 80241.
  • Send your text
In a few seconds you will get a text back with several locations in that zip code. I love this as I don't have to fumble to find a piece of paper or write an address on the back of my hand.

Oh so handy!!

[Image captured from Google SMS website:]

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Washington Post Peeps Contest

Friend sent the link to this Peeps contest put on by the Washington Post. Part of the winning entry is shown here. Go to the website to see the top forty winners. Someone also grabbed my idea for our school contest next year, Peeps of Wrath.

Oh well. My wife and I have months to come up with a new idea.

[Image: Part of the winning entry-NightPeeps: Captured from Washington Post:]

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Hunting the Internet for Quality Content

Read this article in Education Week this morning discussing ways that teachers can find educational materials on the web. My success in this activity is relational to how much time I have to look. If I suddenly need to find a lesson for a class because my dog ate my briefcase and I have an hour or less to find what I need, I am doomed to failure. Give me a little more time and I usually find something that I can adapt. Rarely do I find something that can be taken straight from the web into my classroom. To be fair, I had very few resources like that before the web (yes I'm that old). We teachers are always tweaking lessons to meet a classroom's specific need and match our own presentation style.

I haven't had a chance to explore the three sites brought up in the article although Curriki recently came across my radar and I've got it on my Twitter feed. I went ahead and linked to them below. I still recommend the article. It has some useful information.

[via Curriki (Tweet)]
[Image: "Working on Long Range Lesson Plans": Flickr: Uploaded on September 24, 2005 by CaptPiper: Creative Commons: Attribution-Noncommercial]

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

iMovie: Fluffy Fang and the Spring Storm

Colorado got hit by a spring snow storm on March 26th and during that time I was desperate to get out of the house. I pulled on my boots and grabbed my camera and walked up to the store. On the way there I felt like I was in a Jack London short story and by the time I got home, I had a London style story rolling around in my head. I jotted it down and figured that would be the end of it.

The storm kept storming and I was getting a little anxious. House bound. I remembered I had the new updated version of iMovie on my computer and decided to create a slide show using my snow pictures. It would give me a chance to play around with the software. So, I pulled out my story and the pictures I took and "Fluffy Fang" was born.

I do like this iteration of iMovie better than the last one but after working in higher end editors, I find it very frustrating to go back to the low end. I was able to layout my slides the way I wanted. I couldn't quite get the sound I wanted so I did the narration with a little music and sound effects in Garageband. I then imported it back into iMovie. It turned out OK. I uploaded the end result so you could see the end result.

My thoughts:
  • It's easy to get content into the program. You can import it or just bring it in from iphoto and iTunes.
  • Easy to add titles although I found it a little hard to edit them just the way I wanted
  • Easy to build in transitions
  • Don't quite understand the Precision Editor yet. Need to mess with this a bit more.
  • If there is a timeline view, I couldn't find it.
  • Could never edit the sound quite how I wanted it.

Here is my video, Fluffy Fang and the Spring Storm. My sincere apologies to Jack London and his decedents. I'm going to re-write the script and do this all again in Premiere. (If I actually follow through with this plan, I'll post the results.)

[Image: Personal collection of Al Gunn: Creative Commons-Attribution]

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Glide Cylce

I love all the ideas concepts I've seen popping up designed to help people stay active and mobile. The GlideCycle is an invention along these lines. By supporting your body weight, it allows you use your legs to push yourself along either like a scooter or with a running motion depending on your abilities.

I couldn't get any of the videos to embed properly so head over to the GlideCycle web site to see these bikes in action.

[via DVICE]

[Image captured from GlideCycle video:

Monday, April 6, 2009

Banjo Craziness

John Calkin used to build guitars and in recent years started playing around with banjo construction. He is experimenting with wood varieties and different designs to create a clawhammer banjo with the tonal qualities he wants. His website has lots of pictures and explanation. Successes. Failures. I was hooked as soon as I clicked it open, but I admit, I have a fondness for banjos, construction, and design.

He has other pages on tools he uses, guitar building, and instruments he has built over the years. I killed an hour I should have used to clean the garage. Fun site.

The rim pieces in the picture are from his banjo project. The last post on this project was in 2008 but he promises more information as he goes along. I'll be watching for updates.

[Via Tangier Sound]
[Image: Captured from Banjo Craziness:]

Saturday, April 4, 2009

John Wooden defines sucess

John Wooden defines success in his TED talk:
Peace of mind attained only through the self satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do the best of which you are capable.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Toothbrush re-design

A toothbrush that is designed to create a stream of water that arcs upward, like a water fountain. Brush your teeth and then grab a mouthful of water to rinse your mouth. Clever.

Watch the video to get a better idea of how it works.


[Image captured from]

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Washboard Instrument

While watching the YouTube video of "Stand by Me" from Playing for Change, I noticed the instrument that Washboard Chaz was playing. The picture is a screen capture from the video so the clarity isn't great. Looks like he has two cans wired into the sides and a wooden sound block at the bottom. You can also see a desk clerk's bell over on the far right of the setup. If you head over to his website, you can hear some more examples. Listen close and you can hear that bell ring out occasionally.

I messed around with using a washboard as an rhythm instrument a few years back but felt like it was too loud. It overpowered everyone else.

I may dig it out of the basement and add a few extra bangles to the thing to see what sounds I can come up with.

Update: I did a little more digging on washboard playing and found a DVD by David Holt called Folk Rhythms. I had two ah-ha moments while watching the DVD. You are tapping on the washboard more than you are sliding across the ripples which was what I was doing all the time. By tapping and using short drags occasionally, it softens the sound. My second realization is that by adding the extra goodies at the bottom you essentially have a hand drum with three distinct sounds. Which means, I think, you could apply some of the same principals of playing a frame drum to playing a washboard.

[Image: Captured from video "Stand by Me":]
[Image: Captured from]

Washboard Jo

YouTube Video

While looking for information about Washboard Chaz, I found this video of Washboard Jo. All the players I've seen played with thimbles on their fingers. Jo plays with two spoons. Watch this interview of her and see lots of different shots of her playing style.

[Image captured from Youtube video: epk:]