Monday, June 25, 2007

Technology of the Future Comes to Today

While I was in Logan for my graduate classes this week, I had the opportunity to visit the Adele & Dale Young Education Technology Center (YETC) on the campus of the Utah State University. The YETC is a resource center for the College of Education and Human Services, houses open-access computer facilities, a K-12 curriculum materials library, a NASA Educator Resource Center, as well as collections of educational technology products.

Our first stop, was a PC computer room where we explored the Teacher Link website. ( This site takes users to resources that teachers can immediately use in their classrooms, but teacher or not, you’ve got to visit the Clip Art section which contains over 1 million free pieces and backgrounds to use in presentations, newsletters, etc. Be sure to visit the NASA link as well where you can see what’s happening at the Space Centers in real time. If you run into any pages that require a password, just contact the YETC center or email and they can help you.

Next we visited the Mac computer center. I used to use a Mac, but so many educational programs were not compatible all those years ago when I bought my first computer, so I abandoned the system I loved. Now I may go back! These computers read both Mac and PC programs, and the programs are easy to use. In less than 5 minutes, I learned how to use iMovie and made a little film of myself, using the built in camera and music tracks.

Our third computer room took us back to PCs where we learned about Vegas Movie Maker, a professional quality editing system that lets budding film makers produce independent movies on DVD. One of the latest things in computer use that they demonstrated is to have two monitors connected to your computer so that you can work in several programs at once without needing to switch from tab to tab.

All of this technology surrounding me made me feel like I was on the set of Star Trek, but it was also exciting to learn about the capabilities that home computer systems can have today. Now I want to go spend a few hours learning how to use some of these new programs so that I can introduce them to my students not too long into the future.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Making Movies

Summer vacation means making movies around my house. My fourteen-year-old son Chan has wanted to be a film director since—well—forever! From his early forays into acting out Spider-Man to making every stick in the backyard into a light saber, Chan has been working on the choreography of his dream. His movies and ideas are much more sophisticated now than they were back then, and he is making progress that could someday make him a star.

Chan watches movies over and over, not just for a story, but to see how lighting, camera angles, and action sequences blend together with soundtracks, visual nuance, and subplots to build a mood. He is a connoisseur of film who loves not only contemporary film, but classics as well.

His favorite genres are Westerns, Action/Adventure, and movies that feature Super-Heroes, like Superman, Spider-Man, Batman, Fantastic Four, and X-Men. John Wayne, Harrison Ford, Clint Eastwood, Viggo Mortensen, Ewan McGregor, Orlando Bloom, and Johnny Depp are regularly heard coming from our big screen TV. Late-night film festival feature the entire series of Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Pirates of the Carribean, Back to the Future, and The Lord of the Rings.

For his own filming, Chan is currently directing and starring in three major film projects—two action/adventure and one a sci-fi..Kids I’ve never seen before flock into our home to work on sets that have grown in our garage, backyard, or the neighbor’s unfinished basement. Every day Chan comes to me to talk over a new script idea.

In today’s world of technology, all it takes is a digital camera, a computer, and a hosting server, and within no time, a movie is born. This simple set-up is a start for kids like Chan, who could someday take over the theaters of the world.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Rated “R”

One of my students came to me at the end of the school year, absolutely horrified. “Mrs. Staheli, I tried to log onto your podcast at school, and I couldn’t. The message said your podcast was rated R.”

After explaining to him that the R-rating meant simply ‘Restricted’ by our district’s filter, I assured the student that the content of the podcast was completely safe, although I did get a big chuckle out of informing LDS author Jeff Savage that his interview was R-rated.

I’ve had the R rating show up on my school filter before. They system didn’t used to let students even see the blog where the podcast is located. All it took to open that up to my class was an e-mail to the district system administrator, giving them the blog location and purpose. A couple of days later, the blog was accessible every time. I’m sure the same will be true of the podcasts once I send off a message from school.

When you are working with the internet, don’t assume that the computer you are on is filter free, and don’t assume that a filter means the material is forever unreachable. Read the error messages and see if your system administrator can open up your access to the site that is rated R, especially if it’s just the resource your students need.