Thinglink: a brilliant free multimedia resource

This morning I was doing  a trail of Tweets when I came across one that linked to “Thinglink”, which I have to admit I hadn’t come across before. I decided to do a search of YouTube and found some a number of really useful introductions on how to use this resource.

The one that I liked the best was the following by Susan Oxnevad:

Susan is a real find as an educator who has an informative blog called  “Cool Tools For 21st Century Learners” which I can thoroughly recommend.

She also writes for a site called “Getting Smart” as a guest blogger. To get a good feel for the value of “Thinglink” in education see her post “5+ Ways To Use Thinglink for Teaching and Learning”

To  get a feel for the power of the program see her first  Thinglink picture in the post  showing the many uses that it can be put to. Just hover over the dots and see the links to articles, photos, videos. Think of how you might use this in your teaching or how your students might use this to create powerful interactive educational resources.

I signed up, it is quick and easy and I look forward to creating my own Thinglink pictures which you will hopefully see on this site in the near future.

War in perspective

As I turn on my television and am bombarded (if I may use that militaristic term) by images of war I feel that we sometimes need to step back and take a different view of the whole thing.

On October 13, 1994, the famous astronomer Carl Sagan was delivering a public lecture at his own university of Cornell. During that lecture, he presented a picture taken of our part of the Universe by the Voyager 1 spacecraft. Here is the picture and the brilliant words of one of the greatest scientific communicators we have ever had among us:


He concluded his description of the “Pale Blue Dot” with the following words:

The earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and in triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of the dot on scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner of the dot. How frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity — in all this vastness — there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us. It’s been said that astronomy is a humbling, and I might add, a character-building experience. To my mind, there is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly and compassionately with one another and to preserve and cherish that pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”

In the end the shooting war of today becomes tomorrow’s history, written by the victors. Hurricane Sandy though proves just how small and insignificant we really are and perhaps gives us the perspective that we need to realise that we are a fragile species on a speck of dust in space and if we destroy our planet no other species will notice or care.


The passion for learning

I received the following posting on my Facebook newsfeed:

Alec Couros and Andrew Marcinek shared a link.
Self-taught African Teen Wows M.I.T.

15-Year-Old Kelvin Doe is an engineering wizard living in Sierra Leon who scours the trash bins for spare parts, which he uses to build batteries, generators…

  • Alec Couros shared a link.
  • this is innovation. this is learning.

    I have changed the type and emphasis on Andrew’s  comment. The thing that struck me in watching this video was the passion to learn and to use learning in order to improve the lives of people living in Sierra Leon, one of the poorest countries in the world.

    The fact that Kelvin used waste materials to construct electronic objects was a minor miracle in itself. He reminds me so much of William Kamkwamba, whose story I wrote about in one of my earlier posts.

    There is so much potential in this world that we have not tapped because there are children who have no access to formal education. Many of these children get lucky by finding some place where they can get access to information that allows them to develop their skills, often without any real formal education. I am reminded of the working class heroes of the early industrial revolution in my country (the U.K.). Many of these “engineers” had little or no formal education but were able to use their passion to learn and to experiment to make things that could be useful to their community.

    Kelvin is just one of many who can help their own countries to find a way out of poverty. They can also add to the developments that we human beings have made and maybe help us find solutions to some of the more pressing problems that threaten the existence of our species.


My Top 3 Ted Talks on creativity

The wonderful Ted Talks have covered many topics over the years. One subject that is close to my heart and head is “creativity“.

I have recently come across a list from the Ted Blog called “10 talks about the beauty — and difficulty — of being creative” This was an excellent list and I spent a useful period of time  exploring each of them. Of the 10 talks the following three are my favourites which I would recommend anyone to watch who is interested in the subject.


(1)     Tim Brown: Tales of creativity and play

Tim is the CEO of a wonderful innovative design company called “IDEO”  This talk is full of audience participation which includes drawing on thirty circles and pinging small handheld rockets at the stage. It explains how there is a need to create an environment that allows creativity to flourish and that play is an important part of life even when we are no longer children (see the slides at Google’s Swiss headquarters as an example).

Although full of fun it is a deeply serious talk about the need for everyone to explore their own creativity.

(2)  Tim is a colleague of David Kelley and his talk “How To Build You Creative Confidence” is my next choice:

This is a brilliant talk which is based on Kelley’s conviction that everyone is creative but many lose their creativity as they are growing up (particularly at school I hate to say). He refers to the great psychologist Albert Bandura and states that we must all regain our “efficacy” or in terms that Sir Ken Robinson states, discover our “element”.

(3) My last recommendation is Kirby Ferguson: Embrace the remix

This is a really interesting talk that gets us to challenge the idea of what creativity really is. The statement “there is nothing new under the sun” seems to be relevant here. Ferguson gives some excellent examples from the world of music (particularly focusing on the work of Bob Dylan) to show how we steal or borrow other people’s work (which no doubt they have stolen or borrowed before us) and then we “re-mix” these ideas and make them  our own.

What he is really saying is that the re-mix is the creative act and should be celebrated and not decried. I couldn’t agree more.



Embracing the discomfort of the digital age

I have just read an excellent blog post by Alec Couros called “It’s Not Going Away”. In the post Alec talks about the fact that we have entered a completely changed world, what I like to call “The Digital Age”.

As an educator he has met many teachers who have their fears of this “brave new world” and talk about the cyberbullying, the obsession with online games and the fear that they have of somehow losing control if the machines were allowed to hold sway.

Alec uses the phrase that I have made the title of my post, that the world we live in now has changed to a point where the world that many of us grew up in has disappeared. He states that educators need to “embrace the discomfort” that they feel and realise that there is also great potential in the new world we have arrived in.

I loved his list of examples of how our world has changed and I am taking advantage of his embracing of “open source” information to shamelessly use a part of his post here. Thus, to quote him, this is the world we have now moved into in our “digital age”:

This world is an exciting place to me and one which has released so much that I can use, explore and interact with. For the youth of our world there is no turning back. We cannot create the world that we grew up in with closed systems of knowledge and accessibility to the few and privileged.

Educators must embrace the new realities and those who have have actually found that it has liberated them and made their teaching (and most importantly their learning) much deeper and in many cases changed their lives.

We are better for embracing the discomfort and working through it. We cannot hide behind our classroom desks  forever!

The key importance of women’s rights

Today (November 6th) is Presidential Election Day in the U.S.A. By the time that this post has become one day old the result of that election will be known and either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney will be the President of the United States for the next four years.

One issue that may not take centre stage in the election will still be a major factor in the life of the U.S.A. when all the excitement fades and life returns to some sort of normalcy (whatever that is). That issue is the rights of women. Indeed the rights of just over half of the population of this planet is a major factor in the life of any country anywhere.

I was looking at a post by a relative on Facebook yesterday and it featured the following video:

The notes on YouTube are as follows:

“Women constitute more than half of the population. In 2008, 60% of voters were women. It is estimated that 10 million more women than men will vote in this election. Despite this, women make up only 16% of Congress. Women earn only 70 cents to each dollar men make. Women of color and undocumented women make less than white citizens.Mitt Romney and the Republican Party are determined to overturn Roe V. Wade. Romney has not supported equal pay for women (The Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act). Romney has vowed to defund Planned Parenthood. Romney has vowed to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Romney doesn’t want health care to cover birth control.”

Throughout the world, women are treated unequally in respect of men. There are horrible examples of where they are forced into early marriage, have children too young and eventually have to sell their bodies in order to survive. Many of them get Aids and untold numbers suffer from physical problems relating to childbirth or rape.

In an earlier post I pointed out the need to support girls’ education as a key to helping to solve some of the world’s great and pressing problems. It has been proven that girls who are educated are less  likely to have too many children, that they do not contact sexual diseases, that they contribute to the economic development of their communities.

But even in the United States, as we can see above, women are still fighting to be treated as equal to men.If Romney does win the election then this struggle will continue as he tries to put his ideas into practice.

It has been a long hard road for women to get the vote, for them to get the right to birth control, to get them the right to have an abortion if they feel they need it, to get some sort of catching up on the pitiful amount of money that many of them earned  for a long hard days work.

Whatever happens today (the 6th) the fight will go on. Men don’t own women and many do not realise just how much they contribute to our society (and always have done). Women’s Rights are of key importance not just in this particular election but in all elections anywhere throughout the world.