Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Year-End Function 2011

The SCC (Sunridge Computer Club) had it's annual year-end function at The Wild Flower Reserve at Van Standens on Tuesday, 6 December 2011.This is always a nice way to round off the year's club meetings. For me, the idea has always been to get the computer club members away from school and do something completely unrelated to computers.
The Amazing Race
Mr. Vorster was kind enough to sponsor the main activity for the day which was an "Amazing Race" event organized by an outsourced company. They divided our club members into teams and had them race around a large area with varying terrain in order to find clues and solve puzzles. The teams had great fun and it was fantastic to see them be so competitive. We all got some good exercise, and I think it is safe to say that we all went home feeling tired and needing a good rest.

Lunch Time
Fortunately there were more than enough food, cooldrink, water, chips, sorbet, and muffins to restore the energy levels. We decided on hotdogs for lunch as we can't make fire for a braai at the reserve, and the lack of amenities were also a problem. One of the moms gave us a nifty gas stove to use which we needed to warm up the sausages for the hotdogs. Mrs. Van Niekerk was also kind enough to donate more than enough Island Style Sorbets which whent down very well in the hot weather. Thank you also to Mrs. van der Mescht for - amongst other things -  supplying, cut, and buttered 60 hotdog rolls for us. :-)

Thank You
Thank you to all the parents who helped out with donations of food, condiments, money, and transport.

As it is every year, the hardest part is saying goodbye to our grade 7s. But of course their departure also allows for our grade 5s to join and experience the computer club as from 2012.

This was the last get-together of the SCC for 2011. I will communicate the date of the SCCs next club meeting during February 2012.

I wish for you all to have a very merry Christmas and a prosperous 2012. Enjoy the time with your families.

Until next time...

Monday, November 14, 2011

Worldwide Discoveries...

Google Earth can take us places and show us things we never thought we'd see. It can transport us from the Sydney Opera House to Stonehenge in a matter of seconds.

We wrapped up our exploration of Google Earth tonight by visiting some well known (and some not so well known) places. I gave the club members a list of 10 locations worldwide. Two were names of places but the rest were all GPS co-ordinates. They had to use Google Earth to go identify these places. You can go check them out for yourself if you like:
  1. Buckingham Palace, London
  2. Eiffel Tower, Paris
  3. 35°1′38″N 111°1′21″W (the site of a meteor impact at Flagshaft, Arizona)
  4. 29°58′34″N 31°07′58″E (Great Pyramid of Giza)
  5. 25°11′49.7″N 55°16′26.8″E (the Burj Khalifa in Dubai)
  6. 33°51′25″S 151°12′53″E (Sydney Opera House)
  7. 51°10′43.84″N 1°49′34.28″W (Stonehenge)
  8. 33.775150°N 112.451016°E (The Spring Temple of Buddha)
  9. 22°57′6″S 43°12’39″W (Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro)
  10. 40°41′38″N 74°2′37″W(Statue of Liberty in New York)
We also did a quick test of what we had previously learnt in Google Earth. We picked two home addresses of computer club members and had all the members measure the shortest 'road' from the one to the other. They had to search for the first address before saving the location, repeat this for the second location, then use the ruler tool to plot a path in kilometers from the one location to the other. We got many different answers but they were all in the vicinity to 1.57kms.

Finally, we learnt about using different layers to indicate various things like roads, borders, labels, phonographs, places, and 3D building to mention but a few.

Year-end Function
Thing have been a bit crazy but I will be in contact with you soon with regards to the details for the Sunridge Computer Club's year-end function. Thank you to all the parents who so generously offered their help.

Thank you
Thank you to all the Moms and Dads who make sure our club members are at the club meetings on time and of course for collecting your children on time.

I'll have to check our school schedule to make sure whether we still have time for another computer club meeting. I will communicate this to you at a later stage.

Until next time...

Monday, October 17, 2011

Amazing Race - Google Earth Style

Tonight was a good opportunity for the club members to practice what was learnt in Google Earth with a fun competition.

But first the Agenda:
  • Take register
  • Photographic competition
  • Year-end function
  • Google Earth competition

Spur Photographic Competition
Spur is hosting a cool photographic competition. Some of the prizes are binoculars, digital cameras and Spur meal vouchers. The poster is up on the wall in my lab for learners to read and they can get entry forms from me.

SCC Year-End Function
We'd like to end our Sunridge Computer Club year off with a nice little get together. So if any of our parents have any thoughts on this then I'd really like to hear from you.

Google Earth Competition
So we spent two computer club lessons on Google Earth. Tonight was the night that we use what we learnt to truly go out and explore (virtually that is). And what would a competition be without a nice reward. Daniel won the large tub of Woolies sweets for finding all 5 locations and answering the questions correctly.

The questions were:

  1. What is the name of the Street which crosses Pyramid St, Johannesburg (Edenvale). There is only one Road which crosses it, the other are all T-Junctions.
  2. What is the name of the Road which passes under Cresta Shopping Centre, Johannesburg?
  3. How many cars are parked on the sidewalk outside 19 Cassia Drive, Port Elizabeth (Sunridge Park)?
  4. What colour are the drive way gates at 111 Church Road, Port Elizabeth (Walmer)?
  5. What word/words are painted on the road near the corner of Myrna and Pyramid St,  Johannesburg (Edenvale)?
Club members had to use some common sense, Google Earth, and Google Street View to answer the location and give me their answers. This was a fun exercise.

Please Note that our next computer club meeting will only be on Monday evening, 14 November 2011 as I will be busy with Computer Literacy and Cami Maths assessments from 31 Oct to 11 November.

Untill next time...

Monday, September 19, 2011

Going Street Level

We all know of the White House in Washing DC. We've seen in on TV and in the movies. We might even know where it is located on the map. Google gets us as close to the real thing as we'll ever be without the First Lady inviting us for tea.

But first, the agenda:
  • Take register
  • SCC badges
  • Lesson: Google Earth part 2


Please note that the winking emoticon on the computer screen with keyboard and mouse is the official Sunridge Computer Club emblem. The computer club badge is part of the Sunridge uniform and should be worn along with the learners' other badges.

Google Earth
We recapped on what we learnt with our previous club meeting about using the navigational tools in Google Earth while we waited for the imagery to load. Specific addresses were explored using Google's "Fly to" feature. We looked at a local address in Newton Park, Port Elizabeth. Then we were off to Three-Anchor Bay in Cape Town where we took it down to street level by using Street View. We learned how to look and move around whilst in Street View.

The highlight of our virtual tour was viewing the White House in Washington DC. Not only were we able to view the White House and White House gardens from above but we were also able to turn on the 3D imagery created in Google Sketchup and view the White House, surrounding building, and even the trees in the garden in 3D.

Back home here in Sunridge Park, the difference between Altitude and Elevation was also explained. As too were the age of the imagery and the process involved in obtaining these images.

This was our last club meeting for the 3rd term. Our next club meeting will be on Monday evening, 17 October. Have a wonderful September holiday.

Until next time.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Navigating the Earth

Technology and the availability of information has made major strides in the past couple of years as the internet becomes accessible to more people. For instance... Isn't it incredible how the internet has allowed us to explore our planet without even leaving our house with applications like Google Earth & Google Street View?

But before we get into that, here's our Agenda:
  • Take Register
  • Tourist Attractions
  • Lesson: Google Earth part 1

SA Tourist Attractions
The members came up with some nice ideas of tourist attractions which we might want to take our Hawaiian friends on tour of. The idea is to set up a tour in Google Earth of the selected places with accompanying photographs and some interesting facts for each place. These are some of the ideas we have in mind: Table Mountain; Kimberly's Big Hole; The Drakensburg; uShaka Marine World; the Cango Caves; the Donkin Reserve; and Robin Island; and of course Sunridge Primary School.

Google Earth
I can remember the first time I heard about Google Earth. "You can see your house as seen from a satellite. And you can see any place on Earth", I was told. It sounded to good to be true. That was 6 years ago. Now Google Earth has pretty much become a household name. And many of us use it all the time to find the location of where we need to go; to get directions from point A to point B; to see what our school, house, factory looks like from above; where places are in relation to each other; and even to take measurements.

We started learning about Google Earth by getting to know the navigation controls and familiarising ourselves with terminology like: panning; tilting; rotating; and zooming. We looked at Sunridge Primary and navigated to Table Mountain to see how the tilting control can emphasise terrain.

We also spoke briefly about data transfer speeds and how much bandwidth is used by Google Earth in order to understand why we have to wait for our blurry images to become clearer. We will be spending quite some time on Google Earth, getting to know it well. We will also use Google Earth in our current project and possibly for future lessons.

Thank you
Thank you very much to our dedicate parents for making sure that the club members get to class on time and are collected on time.

Next week is outdoor education week. In the past, I found that it is not a good idea to schedule anything for the first couple of days after our return. Thus, I'm skipping an extra week. Our next computer club meeting will be on Monday, 19 September 2011.

Until next time...

Monday, August 15, 2011

Location, location, location...

Boy of boy, time really flew tonight. At least the mystery location was revealed . I was impressed. We had quite a few accurate calculated guesses.

But first, the agenda:
  • Mystery location
  • Brainstorm
  • Places of interest
  • Useless but cool

Mystery Location

I asked the question: Where would we end up if we were to dig straight down into the ground right here where we're standing in Port Elizabeth and keep tunneling through the Earth? And the answer is... Hawaii!!!. Map tunneling tools freely available on the internet - like this one - show us that we actually end up in the middle of the North Pacific Ocean. That point is pretty much surrounded by the USA. We have California to the right, Alaska at the top, and Hawaii at the bottom. Since Hawaii is the closest landmass to our exit point we will attempt to contact a school in Hawaii and Collaborate with them.

We spent some time on the carpet and brainstormed a couple of things to do with the Hawaiians. Some of the ideas we came up with are: to try and have a Skype session with them at some point (even though they are 12 hours behind us); Write a letter (old school) and mail it off to them and and see how soon we receive our reply (This could be a nice way of demonstrating the usefulness of email over snail mail); compete in a real time online educational game; dress up one of our club members as we traditionally think of Hawaiians (that will be funny); do "a day in the life of an Hawaiian" as a small play; create a tour of SA using Google Earth and Google Maps. The idea is for us and the Hawaiians to do the same activity for each other.

Places of Interest
The SCC club members were given some homework. Each person have to nominate a place of interest here in South Africa which we will use in our virtual tour. It could be a natural place like our wonderful Table Mountain or a man made place like uShaka. Club members don't need to provide information about the place but they must at least be able to say where in SA it is.

Useless but Cool
I checked out some rather useless websites courtesy of Larry Ferlazzo. Although these websites don't serve much of an educational purpose I thought we can let our hair down a bit after our wonderful Strange & Unusual Jobs project.

One such site is Burger King's Subservient Chicken. Basically it is a man dressed in a chicken suite who carries out basic instructions you type into a space provided. Things like sit, walk, run, jump, sleep, and even split are accepted and the chicken pretty much allows you to make a fool of him by obediently doing what you say. Like I said - no educational value but its just a bit of fun. You can play corporal to your own chicken by clicking here.

Another website is Free Rider. They say this site is supposed to teach you about physics. I guess the fact that you need to understand how gravity and momentum works could have some value but I definitely would not classify this website as being educational. That said, I was hooked for about 2 hours. You start off with a man on a mountain bike which you can change to a unicycle, hot air balloon, helicopter, 4 X 4, etc. You then draw a line on which the man will ride his bike. You have to be aware of how he reacts to uphills, downhills, bumps, etc. You can try it out by clicking here.

Lastly I showed the members an online version of the popular game Pictionary. It's great fun because you can play with people from all across the world in real time however I think that adult supervision might be necessary which is why I'm not even going to provide a link to it here.

Well, that said, it's time to sign off.

I next club meeting should be on Monday, 29 August but I will confirm with you closer to the time.

Until next time.

Monday, August 1, 2011

And the winner is...

The winners of the best Strange/Unusual job and best avatar lookalike was announced tonight. I also announced our next exciting project.

But first, the agenda
  • Avatar lookalike
  • Project website
  • Project winner
  • Commitment
  • New project
  • Lesson

Avatar Lookalike

Keeping our learners safe is a definite priority for any teacher. This extends to the internet too. We used avatars to represent ourselves on our website, rather than use photographs of our club members together with their names on the same page. Sunridge SuperSpar was kind enough to sponsor us with a chocolate hamper for the avatar which best represents that learner. We put all the avatars up on the big screen and had the club members vote for the winner. This prize went to Sebastian. Well done Sebo.

Please note that sometimes it is unavoidable placing a learner's name and photograph together on the same page - as is the case in this blog post.

Project Website
We built an 18-page website to showcase our club members' hard work. You may view the website by visiting this link: www.sunridge.co.za/scc

Project Winner
I tried, but I simply could not choose one winner amongst so many wonderful project reports. I narrowed the possible winners down to 3 reports based on the theme of the project (Strange or Unusual jobs). Then I called in the help of my club members to help me choose. Chloé whas chosen by her fellow club members as reporting on the most unusual job. Her Bug Photography page report was very interesting indeed. And what did she win? More chocolates, as in lots more! Again, we have Sunridge SuperSpar to thank for this hamper too. This photograph is of me trying to take the chocolates away from Chloé and her hanging onto it for dear life. :-)

Commitment to the Club
On a sad note - we had to say goodbye to a club member tonight. Club members were reminded that they earned their place in the computer club and that they need to continue working hard and meeting deadlines in order to stay in the club.

New Project
I announced the Computer Club's new project tonight. This project promises to be a lot more fun and a team effort involving all of the club members working together. I asked the following question: If we were to dig a hole under our feet where we're standing here in Port Elizabeth, and keep digging until we reach the other side of the Earth, where will we end up? The members need to go find out where this place is and come tell me at our next club meeting. China, America, and a few other places were suggested. They need to be specific though. I found out that we end up in the Pacific ocean. However, there is a land mass close by. We will then choose a school in that "mystery" location and start collaborating with them. I also asked the club members to come up with ideas of what we can do with that school. The focus will be on exchanging information and learning about each other's countries. One idea is to Skype with them, and another is to email a photo of one of our club members dressed in what we think is their traditional clothes is and for them to do the same for us. But more about this project later.

Lesson: Wordle
No matter how busy we are, I always make sure we learn something new. Here's a nice little tool called Wordle. You can go to www.wordle.net and enter a couple of words, copy and paste from another list, or enter a URL into the space provided. Wordle will then make you a cool word cloud like the one the right (this is what I got when I used our computer club blog's URL). Words that appear more often in your text will be larger in your word cloud. You can change the font, shape, colour, layout and various other aspects of your word cloud or you can hit the Randomize button and get a whole new word cloud from the same words.

Our next club meeting will be on mOnDaY, 15 August 2011.

Till next time...

Monday, June 13, 2011

Cross your Words with Crosswords!

Although most of the lesson was devoted to our Strange/Unusual Job project, we spent some time looking at a nifty little online tool for creating crosswords. This tool, unlike most others, allows you to create professional-looking crosswords right from the word go - without having to register with an email address first.

But first, here's our Agenda:
  • Take register
  • Discuss project
  • Show project website
  • Check project reports
  • Lesson: Crosswords

Extra lines in blog
The fact that extra lines were created and things are moved around every time I publish this blog, has been giving me grey hair (if I had hair). :-) No seriously, it has been driving me CRAZY. But, I think I found a solution. I love Microsoft Internet Explorer but it appears that, that was the problem. I've now switched over to Mozilla Firefox (only when blogging) and VOILA, it seems to be doing the trick. One day when I have lots of time on my hands I'll go back and fix the previous blog posts which is a source of great embarrassment for me.

Project Website
I spent most of the weekend designing a website specifically for the purpose of showcasing the computer club members' hard work. Now if you have been spared being subjected to my drawing and colour matching skills so far then you have indeed been fortunate. However, I do believe that I actually managed to get it right this time. Even my computer club members were impressed - and they are a tough crowd. :-) I will only upload the website to the internet once I have added all of the strange/unusual jobs reports created by the SCC (Sunridge Computer Club) members.

The website features a home page with links to the Sunridge Primary website, the SCC blog, and to my email address. It also has a brief description of the SCC and a short introduction to the project, followed by a more detailed explanation of the project and instructions on using the website. Links are provided to each strange/unusual job report which all have a whole paged dedicated to that report featuring the SCC member's Avatar, the report itself and accompanying photographs. I will of course let everybody know when the website is up and running.

Progress on Project
I had a quick look at all of the reports completed so far. Thank you guys - they look great! I can see that instructions were carried out carefully. I always like to force as many 21st Century Skills and ICT technology into my projects. In this project many ICT devices were used by various members like: cellphones, email & internet, digital cameras, and digital voice recorders. As for 21st Century Skills: collaboration, time management, planning & preparation, and self assessment are four of the skills which really stand out. It is clear that the SCC members learnt new things through this project which they most likely would never have been exposed too. I will use the upcoming loooooog weekend to copy and paste as many of the reports as I can onto the project website. Well done everyone. Don't forget, there are two prizes up for grabs. I'll tell you more about that in the next blog post.

Just Crosswords
As you know, I like for us to learn something new and do some practical work with every SCC lesson. Tonight, I told the members about Just Crosswords. I got this idea from Larry Ferlazzo, so I really must give credit to him. The Just Crosswords website is fantastic because it allows you to create really nifty crosswords without having to register first like most other sites do. It gives you a neat interface to easily create professional-looking crosswords in no time at all. Plus, once saved, it gives you a multitude of options for sharing your crosswords with others. Go check it out at www.justcrosswords.com. It might be a nice idea to theme your crossword puzzle like I did in this example where I gave clues to famous cities across the world and some local cities.

Thank you to Members
A huge, big, giganticonormous THANK YOU to everyone for your dedication and hard work. When I saw sheets of hand written notes, lengthy reports, copious amounts of photographs, and incredibly realistic avatars tonight - that's when I realized that a lot of hard work and effort went into this project of ours.

Thank you to Parents
What can I say - without you, the parents, the computer club would not be possible. I appreciate the fact that you drop your child off on time, tired after a day's work, and collect them again as the club finishes.

It seems like Monday, 25 July will be the date of our next club meeting. It is still more than a month away so that date might change as I have not checked if it clashes with any other events on the school calendar. But, as always, I will keep you informed.

Until next time...

Monday, May 30, 2011

Did you Know???

We started off this lesson by watching a video on some eye opening facts and predictions about technology, the direction we're heading in, and of course where we come from. This reaffirms the approach to computer tutoring we take at Sunridge Primary and certainly gives us something to work towards.

But first the Agenda:
  • Take register
  • Did you Know video
  • Project instructions
  • Project format
  • Project ideas
  • Interview questions
  • Project prizes
  • Avatars

Did You Know Video
A video was released a while ago and although this video spells out how quickly technology and information advances and becomes outdated, it itself is already somewhat outdated. None the less, it still gives us a valuable insight into the world we're living in and the world we heading for. Amongst other things, it says the following: We as teachers are preparing our learners for jobs which don't exist yet. Half of what a technology degree student learns in his 1st year of studies will become outdated by the time he finishes his 3rd year. 31 Billion searches are performed on Google every month. Where on Earth did we get all our answers from BG (Before Google). The number of text messages sent and received every day are greater than the total population of the planet. It took radio a total of 38 years to reach a target audience of 50 billion people, TV did it in 13 years, Facebook in just 2 years. The top 10 jobs in 2010 did not even exists in 2004.

The Strange or Unusual Jobs Project
I am pleased to see that some of the members have already finished their interviews and gathered their photographs for the project. Well done guys! It also became clear from our brainstorming session tonight that almost everyone else gave the project some serious thought and have a good idea of what they want to do.

I laid the instructions for the project out carefully tonight. And for the benefit of the parents, here it is again. Every club member must find a person who does a strange or unusual job - not something we would probably encounter through one's day to day life. Mom and Dad can help out here. I'm sure you must be able to think of someone perhaps in your circle of friends. Someone who maintains a golf course, someone who make dentures, someone who makes artificial limbs, and a dog food taster are just 4 of the fantastic ideas which have already been taken.

The club member then needs to prepare a list of questions and interview that person, asking them about their job, what exactly they do, a typical day at the office, what is the best part of their work, how did they get started in this field, etc. Once you get going you will see that there are many other questions you can ask. You also need to take/get 2 or 3 photographs of that person's work. You need to get permission from that person to publish your report on the internet. You also need to create an avatar which looks as much like you as possible. This avatar will be used to represent the club member. Type your report up in MS Word so that we can just copy and paste it onto a webpage.

As far as the format of the published project goes. My initial intention was to create a blog with each report being a blog entry. I decided against this as a blog really is an ongoing thing which needs to be updated all the time. Therefore, I decided to rather do it as a website with each report being put on a separate webpage. This will also allow us a lot more freedom with regards to formatting.

Project Prizes

I would like to offer two prizes. One for the avatar which most accurately portrays the club member, and the bigger prize will go to the best strange/unusual job report. I will supply these prizes with the greatest of pleasure but if anyone can help us out with sponsorthip it would be greatly appreciate. Even if you have any suggestions as to what would make for good prizes, I'd like to hear from you.


Finally, we spent some time playing around with the avatar creator and I showed everyone how to export the avatar once done. Go to http://www.myavatareditor.com/ to create your own avatar.


Our next club meeting will be on Monday evening, the 13th of June at 17:15.

Until next time...

Monday, April 18, 2011

Making Me!!!

With regards to children creating an online presence, minors should avoid using their photograph and name in the same place. Enter the avatar. Avatars are used to represent oneself. Today we learned how to create our own personalized avatar which mirror our own features. We will use these avatars in place of our actual photographs when doing the project I have lined up.

But first, here's our agenda:

  • Take Register

  • Computer problems

  • How long will you live

  • Project (Strange Jobs)

  • Lesson (Avatar)

Computer Problems

Unfortunately, our computer labs have been plagued by frequent technical problems this year. As a result, the computer club was not able to do any practical work tonight and our project did not enjoy the launch I hoped for. :-( Rather than waste the time of everyone involved (parents, members, and myself) I am going to suspend Computer Club activities until we have some reassurance that our labs will be restored to their former operational glory.

How Long Will You Live?

I recently read that one of the questions most asked by youngsters is "How long will I live". I stumbled upon this cool online app which gives you a rough estimate of your life expectancy. I don't think that this "calculated age" should really be taken to heart but what I do like about the application is that it allows one to see how things like: not wearing a seat belt, smoking, excessive alcohol use, regular medical check-ups, etc can affect your life. You can check out the Longevity Game for yourself by clicking here. Unfortunately we were not able to try it out due to the computer problems.

Project (Strange Jobs)

I like using projects as a method for educating and enforcing 21st century skills. And it occurred to me that the SCC has not really done a project since its inception. My recent holiday in the Western Cape sparked the idea after I had the following experience. I visited a close friend of mine who manages chicken farms. He took me on a tour of the chicken cages and taught me some really interesting facts. I was amazed at how clean and organized they were. The chickens were in very good health and well taken care of. What I saw completely laughed in the face of my misconception. This caused me to think that there must be many more such "misunderstood", unfamiliar, or maybe even frowned upon" jobs.

Now, about the project. At our next SCC meeting will learn about blogging. Each member will be assigned to a job which they must research and interview somebody who does that job, then write a blog post which will aim to educate others about the job and iron out any misconception. Hopefully we can get the newspapers to do an article about our project when we're finished.

Lesson (Avatar)

As mentioned earlier, an avatar is an image which represents oneself. http://www.myavatarecitor.com/ allows you to create your own avatar and allows you to change many features. Height, weight, skin colour, nose, eyes (48 to choose from), mouth, hair, freckles, mole, eyebrows, glasses can all be customized to make your avatar resemble your own facial features. Unfortunately we were not able to try this out either due to the computer problems.


I do not have a date for our next computer club meeting at this point in time. I want to make sure that our computers work properly first. I will be in touch.

Until next time.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Mail Merge Me!

Personalised emails are as easy as 1, 2, merge! So how does Vodacom, Outsurance, the NMMM, and countless other companies manage to send personalised letters and emails out to their clients without having some poor office worker sit and type each letter individually? Well, it really is very simple. But first the Agenda

  • Take Register

  • Welcome Sarah

  • Lesson

  • Competition

New Member

Sarah (in line with internet safety and privacy guidelines, I do not publish learners' last names online) joined our computer club as from tonight. She is yet another smiling paw paw amongst all the other smiling faces. Welcome Sarah! We are sure you will enjoy hanging and learning with us.


This lesson was quite involved, yet easy. We used three applications (MS Word, MS Excel, and MS Outlook) to achieve our goal. A list of "customers" was created using Excel which acted as our database. We recorded the following details for each of our 20 customers: name; surname; email address; favourite colour, and best friend. Then we used Word to create a standard email with a common message to all of these people, being careful to leave out the variables. We then set about inserting fields into our email message where the data from our database were used later. Lastly we completed the mail merge by instructing Outlook to send the common message to all the recipients addressing them by name and mentioning their favourite colour and best friend's name. I know, it sounds complicated but ask the computer club members its actually really easy.


So after the hard work we had to have some fun too (whilst still learning of course). I must give credit to a man named Larry Ferlazzo who listed the websites we used tonight on his blog as being two of his top ten educational online games. The first one we looked at was Mia Cadaver's Tombstone Timeout. Relax moms. The name sounds quite horrible but the game is really very innocent and totally easy on the stomach. It works like this. We create an online space (kind of like a chat room) where only us - the computer club members - can gain access and compete against each other in either a Mathematics, English, or Science category. Mia Cadaver allows a certain amount of time for one to answer the question. Everyone sees the same question on their own computer screen at the same time. Time's up! Then a ranking is displayed with of who answered the question correctly and in the shortest time before Mia Cadaver asks the next question. It was great fun. Since the website is in English I made it fair by choosing the highest ranking English speaking club member (Amy E) and the highest ranking Afrikaans speaking club member (Willem-Adriaan). I hid something in one of my hands and had the two choose. As you can see from the first photograph on this blog post, Willem-Adriaan chose the correct hand. He won himself a large Easter Bunny courtesy of our friendly Sunridge SuperSpar. The photograph of Willem-Adriaan and myself with the prize is not me handing it over to him ...it's me trying to hang on to the prize (my mouth was watering for that chocolate). ;-) The other game we looked at was Viral Vinnie's Gut Instinct. (Yes, I really don't know where they get these names from). Viral Vinnie works exactly the same as Mia Cadaver. They just look different but is just as much fun as you can see from the photograph on the right over here. You can check out the games for yourself by clicking on these links:
A word of warning though. Don't play these at work as they are rather addictive as I found out when I prepared tonight's lesson. But, if you do, be sure to turn your sound all the way down if you don't want to be blamed for some embarrassing sounds (Viral Vinnie). :-)


It looks like our next club meeting will be on Monday, 18 April 2011. I am not entirely sure with all the public holidays in April but I'll keep you informed in the new term.

Thank you

Thank you to Sunridge SuperSpar for sponsoring the Easter bunny. And of course, thank you to all our dedicated parents who do a fantastic job of dropping our learners off on time and collecting them again afterwards. It really is appreciated. Enjoy the April holiday!

Until next time.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Animate this...

Pivot Stickman Animator

This evening's SCC (Computer Club Lesson) was a great hit. Loads of fun and very interesting. It gave us an idea of just a fraction of the work involved in the great animation movies we see on the big screen nowadays.
But first the agenda:
  • Take register
  • SCC badges
  • Welcome new members
  • Easter Eggs
  • Japan Disaster
  • Lesson

SCC Badges
Almost all the members are now proudly wearing their new Sunridge Computer Club badges on their school uniforms and it has been the source of much envy from non-members.

Welcome new Members
The SCC is boasting 10 new members, they are: Michelle, Frans, Daniel, Jessica, Francois, Cameron, Minette, Chloé, Sebastian, and Alex. (In line with adopted internet safety policy, I have left our learners' last names out.) The Sunridge Computer Club welcomes you. I'm sure you will have a wonderful time, learning interesting things in a fun and relaxed environment.

Easter Eggs
With Easter around the corner, I thought it was a good idea to hand out some Easter eggs. Sorry mom, for spoiling your child's appetite.

We had lots of fun with Pivot 2.2 (created by Peter Bone) tonight. This little application is - as far as I can tell - free to use and share. I made it available for the computer club members to download from the computer club's folder on one of our school's shared drives. You're given a stick man with pivot points on its joints, at the head, neck, elbows, hand, knees, and feet which you can use to move it's limbs and the entire man around. You then capture the frame before making small adjustments and capturing the next frame. If you do it right, you'll end up with a short animation of evenly flowing movements. This takes some skill. You need to plan ahead and anticipate how a person would move in order to imitate the movements in a realistic way.

Japan Disaster
I found this neat website which truly shows the devastation in Japan. We had a quick look at this and although it is not part of our lesson I thought that its worth a mention on here too. It shows numerous NASA photographs for specific areas in Japan with a slider which reveals the before and after pictures of that specific area. As you slide the slider from "before" to "after" you can actually imagine the wave reach in over the land. You may click here to view these revealing photographs.

Thank you
Thank you to all the computer club parents for dropping your children off on time and collecting them again afterwards. The computer club would not be as successful without your help and the dedication of your children.

Our next club meeting will be on Monday, 28 March 2011 at 17:15

Until next time...

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Safety and Privacy online as indoors!

Keep it Private...

Do you chat on online or on MXit? Do you use Facebook, MSN, or Twitter? Do you trust the person you are chatting to? Are you sharing personal information about yourself, your family, or even your best friends? There is a good chance that you are being careless. This was the focus of our lesson tonight.

But first the agenda:

  • Take register
  • SCC badges
  • New club members
  • Lesson

The SCC (Sunridge Computer Club) is boasting its own spunky badge to be worn on the club members' school uniform (see the previous blog post). These badges are being sold to the SCC members for R25.00 and are compulsory. Old club members who were in grade 7 last year are also welcome to purchase a SCC badge as a keepsake.

There was a little surprise waiting for the club members in the form of freshly baked cake.

New Members
I am in the process of accepting new club members into the SCC. These new club members are all from grade 6, as well as the new grade 7 learners who joined Sunridge Primary this year. Prospective new club members were invited to email me with their application, motivating their reason for wishing to join. I checked their marks from last year's June and December computer literacy assessment and am currently interviewing the shortlisted candidates. Some learners have been notified of their successful application but a complete list will be published soon as soon as everybody has been notified of the status of their application.

This evening's lesson: Online Safety and Privacy
I specifically did this lesson now before the new grade 6 members join us as the club is currently made up of grade 7 learners only and this lesson pertains to the web design course our grade 7s are doing this year.

Statistics have shown that 79% of teenagers using the internet are not careful about sharing personal information. That is a scary thought.

Safety and privacy includes not publishing your telephone number, address, email address, or even your surname online. It is these same measures we'll be enforcing this year with our web design. By being careless with personal or contact information, you are not only putting yourself at unnecessary risk but also your family and friends. We watched a few educational cartoons which explained the problem very clearly. One eye-opening video in particular can found on YouTube by clicking here.

Online anonymity is not only an advantage but also a problem. Everyone can be anyone on the internet. Thus, learners need to apply sound judgment when engaging in chat rooms, FaceBook, MSN, Twitter, Skype, MXit, etc. The golden rule is to not accept friend requests/invites from somebody you don't know in real life.

Remember that a stranger is someone you don't know. Just because you've been chatting to someone online for months, and seen many photographs of them and their family doesn't mean that you know them. It could all be lies meant to deceive you. Be smart - don't be fooled.

This lesson is not meant to scare you. It is intended to inform you. The internet is a wonderful resource. You must just apply some good common sense.

Other things we looked at were:
  • Staying away from inappropriate material
  • Gauging whether information is factual, or opinionated
  • Making threats / law breaking
Our next club meeting will be in 3 weeks, not 2 weeks, due to the upcoming public holiday. We'll meet on 14 March at 17:15.

Until next time...

Monday, January 24, 2011

You AND me OR that's NOT so

2011 Is here and the Sunridge Computer Club is wasting now time getting started. If you haven't figured it out from the tittle of this blog entry - this evening's lesson is thanks to a clever British mathematician named George Boole.

But first the agenda for tonight:

  • Welcome
  • New Secretary
  • Code names
  • New logo
  • Grade 6 members
  • Information sheets
  • Lesson

Our new logo
The Erasmus family was kind enough to help us out with the design of our new "hip" club logo which will also be used on our Sunridge school uniform. I think that this new logo represents the SCC (Sunridge Computer Club) well by clearly stating our involvement with computers yet also hinting towards the fun side of the club by means of the winking emoticon. The logo has proven to be very popular with everyone who has seen it so far.

A new year means a new club secretary. This position went to Dewald Pretorius who did not hesitate to step up to the job. Congratulations Dewald. Dewald will be working closely with me with regards to the running of the club and the reading of the agenda.

Code names
We decided to do away with the code names as we did not really use them as much as was initially intended. The purpose of the code names were to level the playing fields a bit between teacher and learner in order to create a relaxed environment. Well, whatever the cause may be, the computer club is a very relaxed environment where we can talk as equals.

Lesson - Boolean Search Terms
We have all experienced this problem... You type a word into Google, hit the Enter key, and it returns MILLIONS of search results - most of which do not even vaguely relate to what you are looking for. Internet users often complain that there's so much information on the internet that one can't find anything. Thanks to Boolean terms we are able to narrow down our searches and focus on just the information we want. Basically Boolean terms govern the way we search data in a database. And what is the internet? It is a huge database. So it only stands to reason that we should apply these same principals to searching the net by using operators like AND, OR, and NOT.

We started our lesson with a fun activity to prove how using the words AND, OR, and NOT can include and exclude certain results. And what would an activity be without a prize? A packet of chocolates was up for grabs but we ended up sharing it between the members since everybody was so sharp. :-)

We then moved to the computers and put this theory to practice. We first looked at how a Google search returning almost 3 billion results could be narrowed down to just a few relevant websites. The members then tested each other's Googling skills.

Next club meeting
Our next club meeting will take place on Monday, 7 February 2011 at 17:15.

Thank you
Thanks once again to the moms and dads for dropping your kids off on time.

Until next time...