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Tuesday, 28 February 2012

A Lesson on Copyright

For two years I have taught year 12 the importance of copyright law when creating graphical images for their coursework. I decided that this can be quite a boring subject and the criteria asks for students to think about how copyright laws will affect their own work. How would they feel if someone used their work.

I find copyright and plagiarism a difficult topic to tackle with this generation of young people. For them the internet has always existed. Using images from google images, or copying and pasting from wikipedia are the norm. Many of my KS4 and 5 students regularly record themselves singing a version of a pop song and upload it to you tube. This is a grey area at best, but a great topic for discussion.

Anyway back to my lesson...

I put the students into small groups of two or three, and explained that each group was their own toy company, designing the next big thing for children. They were to draw their design and write brief description of what it is and what it does. I've never seen 16 and 17 year olds so excited over kids toys. After approximately 5 minutes students were asked to finish their ideas and turn their papers over so no one else could see it. I then told the students that during the night their designs had been stolen, and each group had to pass their drawings to the group next to them. They then had 1 minute to steal as many ideas as they could. After a minute they passed them onto the next group and so on until they got their papers back. They then had a few minutes to add the stolen ideas to their own toy to improve it. We then all feed back by explaining what their original idea was and how they had improved it by stealing ideas from others.

This activity, as bizarre as it sounds, actually led to some fantastic discussions about what would happen if one group went to market before another, and really brought out their feelings towards having their work stolen. We were also able to cover the idea of intellectual property, and how its covered by copyright in the UK.

The end result was a written report on copyright and graphical images. All students passed this criteria first time with minimal corrections at the end of the double period. Creative, engaging tasks can lead to the right outcome, however barmy they seem at first.

Todays toys included:

  • A doll based on Dappy from NDubz called "Dappy in a nappy" (it had its own theme tune)
  • A dog toy that at first looked like a normal dog which transformed into a bodybuilder dog with a six pack that flies
  • A helicopter that had a camera on it so you could film whilst flying, and...
  • A pet rock (Yes I did tell them this has been done before, but they wouldnt have it!) They gave it a Pirate and a Ninja costume pack.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Google Teacher Academy UK April 2012

Friday evening I was sat at home, watching Jackie Chan fight evil, hitting refresh on my school webmail at least 50 times a minute, waiting for an email from Google to tell me I was in or I was out of this years Google Teacher Academy.

I had started to apply mid January when I happened upon a tweet that mentioned it. There was a lengthy online application form to fill out and every applicant had to make a one minute video about 'Classroom Innovation' or 'Motivation and Learning'. Pretty vague titles I thought. so I decided to approach the video based on the application blurb that said

The task is designed to demonstrate your technical ability, your resourcefulness, your commitment, and your unique personality and interests
"Unique personality" thats me alright. Whilst I lay in bed trying to get to sleep, I started to have ideas about a stop frame animation video that would include all my interests, and hopefully highlight my kooky personality. I started to work on my video in secret, using post it notes, and cut out pictures. After a while other teachers would spot me taking hundreds and photos and ask me what I was doing. "I'm making an animation about myself, I'm vain like that."

Unfortunately the computer I was using to put all the images together wasn't great, and the more images I added the clunkier it would become. Like all artists I did not complete my video, I simply abandoned it when I ran out of time.

After I uploaded my video to youtube, I started to watch as many of the other applicants videos as I could. 600 people are said to have applied this year for one of 50 places. (25 for UK educators and 25 for overseas). BIG MISTAKE. I started to realise that my video was a little too kooky, and perhaps not educational enough. Oh well. It was worth a shot.

At about 11pm on Friday 24th Feb, I decided to stop waiting for the email and go to bed. Twitter was a hive of activity under the hashtag GTAUK, with applicants speculating as to when the emails would be sent out.

At about 5.30am on Saturday I rolled over and checked the time. At this point I should have gone back to sleep but instead I decided to check my emails on my phone. BIG MISTAKE No. 2. There it was...

Congratulations! You have been selected to participate in the Google Teacher Academy - London. After reviewing your application, we believe that you have the experience and passion necessary to positively impact education in your region, and we are excited to have you join us.
I was so shocked I was in, I fully screamed into my pillow for 3 seconds. I then tweeted my success, thinking that many of the people tweeting the night before would also have good news. Sadly, this wasn't the case, many were tweeting that they had not got in. I instantly felt guilty for celebrating. I had no idea what an achievement it was to get into GTA.

Within hours of announcing my triumph on twitter, I went from 61 followers to 108. My G+ account has exploded with action also. I'm not used to popularity in any sector. I feel extremely overwhelmed. I hope Google have not made a mistake picking me!

Friends and colleagues keep asking me "What does it mean?" "What does it involve?" I've been trying to explain about collaboration with other like minded individuals, and the opportunity to be introduced to new ways of using web technologies, but many look at me blankly.

I hope the conference on April 4th will be everything I hope it to be, and I can bring back some great ideas for INSET.

I'll keep you all posted.