Rethinking Miss Teen USA Contestant’s Meltdown

Maybe, I’m just becoming soft. Since late last evening, I’ve seen dozens of mentions of Ms. South Carolina’s Youtube debut, a painful 48 seconds where this young contestant badly blunders her response to a question regarding the American education system and geography.

I agree with Dean when he says, “Every high school English teacher should show this to their class and
they’ll never have to justify why students need to learn to write, read
and give speeches.” Yet, when I watch this video, I think of the one big “mistake” made by our friend Ghyslian Raza (aka The Star Wars Kid) that will follow him for the rest of his life. Ms. South Carolina is 18 years old, and was obviously not selected to the pageant for her English, history and geography scores. Certainly we expected some level of coherence in her response, yet should we be so surprised that she didn’t give that to us? She’s an 18 year-old girl, speaking in front of a life audience and on national TV … she may have not even heard the question. And, does she get a second chance, or is this the pivotal incident that we will base her character on for the rest of her life? Just a thought … does this make us all cyberbullies?

Well the young girl did get a second chance today, but I’m sure that this interview will not stick as well as her pageant appearance. At least she got the last word in. She says, “I’m a good person. My parents raised me very well.” I believe her, and I also hope they raised her with a thick skin as, unfortunately,  I know this incident will follow her for a long time to come.

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Prison Thriller And The Need For Media Literacy

A while back I noticed the “Prison Thriller” video and didn’t think much of it as I just skimmed over it as one of the several unconventional dance videos (e.g., Wedding Thriller) that have appeared on Youtube as of late. I guess with so much media available to us, it’s often difficult to stop and think about the relevance of or story behind each particular piece.

Thanks to “Dangerously Irrelevant”, an alternate story appears regarding the conditions behind scene. Take a look at this alternate view.

I agree with Scott as he writes, “The truth is somewhere in all of this, although as an outsider I can hardly presume to know what it is. But this much is certain: these two videos certainly highlight yet again the importance of media and information literacy.”

And as a commenter replies, “Hmmm, ~ 5 million views for the original vs. ~40 thousand for the rebuttal. We really need to equalize this, least it become a commentary on our own entertainment tastes.”

Sad as this appears, this is an important story and I’ll certainly use this where appropriate in any upcoming media literacy workshops.

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Raine Singing On Youtube

I’m still technically on vacation, so this self-indulgent post is acceptable. I had a blast with my little girl tonight. Here she is singing one of her favorite songs.

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Tech. Tools in Context #1: Miro Video Player

I’m thinking ahead about the University courses I will teach this next academic year. The courses include an undergraduate “Computers in Education” course (the title is so dated, but the content is fresh) which I’ve taught dozens of times, as well as a Graduate course I am currently developing. Both courses focus on digital pedagogy, teaching and learning in the technology-rich classroom.

Sidenote: We’re very lucky to have Dean Shareski teach one of our sections this summer. He’s doing an excellent job and I can’t wait to borrow heavily from his approach (and content).

Well, now to my point. There are many tools I have listed over the years. However, in simply listing them, sometimes the application is lost. Thus, for the benefit of my upcoming students (and for any other readers), this is the first in a series of posts that will focus on a single favorite tool as used in teaching and learning.

What is it?
Miro is a free and open source video player which does the following:
– plays any video file (it’s built on the VLC project);
– allows you to search and download videos from Youtube, Google Video, bliptv and at least four other video services right from its interface;
– acts as a bit torrent client (which gives you access to many more video sources); and,
– gives you access to many high-quality Internet Tv channels.
Miro is also cross-platform (Mac, Linux, Windows)

How can it be used in teaching and learning?
I have shown hundreds of Youtube (and other web) videos in my classroom. There are thousands of educational and educationally relevant videos that can be accessed through the web. Yet, when I point these videos out to my (preservice teacher) students, they come back with these two important complaints.
1) Youtube, etc. is blocked by filters in the school in which I work
2) Streaming video is not fast enough on my school network.
In other words, students are finding that they can not practically use some of the richest resources available to them.

So, this is what I tell them. This works best, of course, if students have their own laptop (many do).
1) Use Miro’s search capabilities to search for videos you want to show. Miro will actually download these videos to your computer so you that you have a copy. Be careful though. If you want to keep videos for a long period of time, you need to change the preference settings in Miro to keep videos for longer than 7 days.
2) For videos you can’t find easily via Miro’s search, download them manually or use the VideoDownloader plugin for Firefox. Note: Miro’s search is not particularly sophisticated, and so I sometimes download Youtube videos this way instead.
3) Once you open the videos in Miro, they will show up in your library.
4) You can now show selected videos in the classroom without a network connection, and without the hindrance of web filters.

As a supplement, if I want to share these videos with my students, I’ve created either a Splashcast channel with all of the featured videos, or just added them to a wiki (such as this “Media Representation” wiki).

Miro is one of my favorite tools for the classroom. It’s simple to use, plays a variety of media formats and gets around some of the most common problems of viewing videos in the classroom.

Bonus:Miro also works well with the application TVShows. This Mac-only program allows you to automatically download your favorite TV shows once they appear in torrent form. It’s the only way I watch popular media … on my terms.

8 Random Facts Meme

I was tagged by Dean, here my 8 random facts (right after I explain the meme itself).

1. Post these rules before you give your facts
2. List 8 random facts about yourself
3. At the end of your post, choose (tag) 8 people and list their names, linking to them
4. Leave a comment on their blog, letting them know they’ve been tagged

So here they are:

1) I used to be a talented percussionist and pianist … then one day I just stopped playing. Big regret.
2) My B.Ed focused on English and Social Studies instruction, however as the young guy on staff at my first school, I was expected to teach “computer class”. I’ve now never left this subject-area/field.
3) My first car was a 1977 Propane-powered Ford Granada, and I drove it like it was an off-road vehicle. Looking back, I’m lucky I never blew myself up.
4) I’ve been in in two vehicle rollovers and one major accident (just last year) involving a fatality and serious injuries. In all three cases, I wasn’t driving and I walked away unharmed. Seatbelts work.
5) I invested months of work on one PhD topic related to preservice teacher professional development and technology integration. However, after watching one presentation re: open source culture I radically shifted gears … no regrets.
6) I’ve been a very successful blackjack card counter since about 2000. Luckily, it’s acceptable where I play. I just love applied mathematics/statistics.
7) My parents ran a successful Greek restaurant called Mario’s in Humboldt, Saskatchewan for several decades. It’s no longer there, but it’s amazing how many people still share their fond memories of the place.
8) I plan to retire young from an academic career and run a small restaurant on a Greek island somewhere. Maybe I’ll see you there.

I agree with Dean, I won’t go commenting on people’s blogs to let them know about this. If they use technorati, they’ll likely find it.

I tag the following:
Rob Wall
Richard Schwier
Cyril Kesten
Heather Ross
Miguel Guhlin
Brian Crosby
Bud Hunt
Doug Belshaw

I look forward to reading those that respond.