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:

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. ChloƩ 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 ChloƩ 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 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...