Muddling through the blogosphere

Merit 2011 – Week 1 Take-Aways


I’ve just finished an amazing week of learning at the Merit 2011 Institute. I arrived with high expectations, based on knowing that Rushton Hurley would be at the helm, with an awesome team of teacher leaders – all equally excited about sharing tools, ideas, strategies for re-visioning the upcoming school year.

I truly enjoyed every session.  Here are few of my favorite take-aways:

Day 1

  • A New Google Docs – I’ve also been a long-time fan of Google Docs, and really loved it when Google added Comments and Notes feature. Thanks to Diane Mein’s presentation, I’m now all over the option for teachers to use the Resolve option. Google Docs doesn’t force you to delete comments. Instead, you can resolve comments to remove them from the visible document and view them later by clicking the discussions button at the top of any document. You can even re-open comments. What a great way for students to looks at teacher feedback/comments over school year.
  • Jaycut – If you’re a PC user or district and (like me) are looking for better options than Movie Maker Live, I think you’ll share my excitement over Jaycut.  Tom Sayer lead a 15-minute session on Jaycut. And, yes, in 15 minutes, you can pretty well cover Jaycut – and the program includes a ‘green screen’ option. Don’t  have a green screen? YouTube has loads of videos to help you build your own – for less than $12.

Day 2

  • Copyright & Fair Use – Loved the discussions around the need for us to guide our students into the world of intellectual property and how to tow the line between copyright and fair use.  For music, Jamendo is still the best deal of copyright-free, royalty free music. For images, Rushton has created a great handout: Guide to Grabbing & Citing Copyright-Friendly Media.
  • Advanced Google Docs Session – Using the Magic Fill and LookUp formula in a Google spreadsheet might be the tool to add to your toolkit if you’re trying to convince your administration that there is more to “technology proficiency” than MS Office. There were lots of “oohs and aahs” amongst the Merit group as we watched spreadsheets magically autofilling with data.

Day 3

  • Storytelling Elements – Jeff Schmidt has a ton of resources to share. Although his sessions are more for secondary students – at schools with equipped media labs – his websitehas a wealth of tips and samples. Jeff’s tips for better storytelling:
    • Take every shot at least 3 times. You’ll have a variety and quality choice. The overall quality of your videos will go up.
    • It’s all about SAMs –

Day 4

  • Prezi – OK, thanks to a great presentation by Meg Omainsky. Having seen a lot of bad Prezis, I’ve been slow to jump on the band wagon. But thanks to Meg’s  excellent demonstration, tutorials and beautiful samples, such as the one below, I’m ready to start playing.


Day 5

  • Green Screen Tips – Back with Tom Sayer and Jeff Schmidt for this session.  Between Jaycut’s video-editing-in-the-cloud option and make-it-yourself green screens, I’m looking forward to sharing new tools for quality movie making. A few tips from the session included:
      1. Use a tripod!
      2. Don’t stand too close to green screen – you’ll get “green spill.”  Put subject at least 5-10 feet away from screen.
      3. If using lighting – check that it’s even.
      4. Walmart fabric, with green paper underneath. Make it as large as you can, so kids have move around room. In Jaycut, click on clip > settings > use eye dropper to get perfect shade of green.
      5. If you’re not excited yet about what is possible with green screen effects, maybe this BBC April Fool’s Day clip will change that:

Heading back to Foothill College tomorrow for the second (and last) week of Merit 2011. Can’t wait:-)


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