Food, glorious food

I'm a big fan of project-based learning (PBL) and students in my 6th grade technology class just finished what I believe to be a great activity.  Fun, creative and loaded with all sorts of learning opportunities.

I began the unit by telling the kids that I had just spoken with the CEO of the once powerful MegaFood corporation.  She explained to me that, given the recent economic downturn, the MegaFood company was in a difficult time.  In short, the company needed our help.  Sales have been down and moral was at an all time low.  What they needed was a new product to re-invigorate the entire brand.  They needed us to create a new "on-the-run, quick meal" product.

I explained to the kids that it was going to be their job to create several different product ideas and the advertising campaigns for those ideas.  Once they were finished, they would pitch these ideas to the CEO and board of the company.


My goals for this unit were:

  • to work on descriptive and persuasive writing and speaking skills;

  • to understand the advertising techniques used to sell (i.e. to become savvy consumers);

  • to understand some of the basics of quality design (and how it can aid in getting "the point across")

  • to practice effective presentation skills

  • to promote risk taking and creativity

Of course, the students also learned a load of technology skills related to PowerPoint, Excel, CoreFX (drawing on the computer), Audio recording, Internet applications, and more.  What is important here is that they improved their technology skills by participating in an activity where the focus was not to learn the technology.  The purpose was to improve the skills required to create, design & pitch a new product... which, I am proud to say, they did with flying colors.

Take a look at one of the finished projects by clicking on the image below.  For best results, download the PowerPoint for viewing (that way the animations and radio ad will work - click the radio on the radio ad slide to play).

I uploaded all of the finished (and mostly finished) presentations up to our space for sharing and "showing off".   I think that some of these products could actually be taken to market (hmm, maybe my retirement scheme). I love projects like this where all of the kids have the same general assignment but they all go about it in different ways.

Online "concept mapping"

Teachers are very familar with the popular program Inspiration.  I think this program is really great, easy to use and surprisingly versatile.  However, it is (relatively) expensive and sometimes too much.  Here are three web-based versions of something similar (including a fantastic version by Inspiration *bias alert*).  My pros and cons are based on very limited use (read: first impressions).  If I'm wrong about any of them, please let me know.  Also, I imagine the developers will constantly be adding functionality to these (at least I hope so) and so some of the cons may disappear!


  • PRO: everything you love about inspiration... only online

  • CON: no offline mode, user account required, makes me wonder how they will sustain their pay version, so good I wonder what the catch is :-)

Webspiration - [Family Photo Collage]

Uploaded with plasq's Skitch!

  • PRO: Looks good, easy to use, no sign-up required to create (but you will need one to save), free, prints nicely, collaborative functionality

  • CON: No outline feature, no "clip art", no font control | Home

Uploaded with plasq's Skitch!


  • PRO: easy to use, offline mode, some font control, simple graphics

  • CON: for-pay version has more functions, less "organized" (i.e. more linear) for younger users

Mind Map: Creating a video - MindMeister

Uploaded with plasq's Skitch!

What is

In a nutshell, delicious is a simple way to organize your bookmarks (I literally have over a thousand of them). By organizing, you make it easy to find them later on. I couldn't live without it. I recently came across this video tutorial that explains, in plain English, what delicious is and can do.

I love this video presentation style. It showcases that an effective presentation is informative, accurate and interesting and does not have to be hi-tech. The presenters at common craft are really masters of this and really creative. You should check out their site - I wish they had more videos. Some of my favorites from them are...

  • Blogs in plain English

  • Zombies in plain English

  • RSS in plain English

  • Future of digital pictures?

    Well, I'm home on a snow day today so I thought I would be productive and catch up on a few things I had written down in my ideas notebook. I came across a note in there that referred to a conversation the Deputy Head and I had a week or so ago. We were talking about this new piece of photo technology. I just watched the video of this technology on TED and am totally floored. You want to be wowed, watch it (watch just about anything on TED, actually).

    What a powerful application, I mean, taking data from everyone and linking it together into something new and special. Wow! In fact, the more users an application like this has, the more powerful it becomes. This is pretty heady stuff, but trust me, it is potent and important. You think this guy is GT?

    If you want to play with it live, go to Microsoft's photosynth website download and install the software and then go back to the website and click on "Try It". (I know, Microsoft? What? In fact, the Blaise makes a comment about his own shock that he now works for Microsoft @ about 4:55). Have I mentioned how impressed I am!

    Creativity is as important as literacy

    Wow! Quite a statement, right? Watch this presentation and let me know what you think. I have to say I think I agree with Sir Ken. As a side note, you might know I'm fascinated with presentations... video, audio, powerpoint, etc. This man is really good at presenting, getting his ideas and agenda across.

    Incidently, The Deputy Head scooped me on this post. I was thinking about posting it last week but I kept procrastinating... in my defense, I wanted to write something :-) So, he and I either think a lot alike or he is somehow eavesdropping on my computer.

    Identity 2.0 Keynote

    I'm a big fan of the presentation. I think it is a gift to be adept at being able to convey information to people. I mean, what a powerful ability. As teachers, we are required to conduct presentations every day. I think that there are some great technology applications out there that can help you be a better presenter but without a healthy dose of creativity, the presentation will still fall short. This YouTube clip shows a fascinating presentation about Identity. Two things occurred to me when I watch it. 1) What a great use of PowerPoint (Keynote, really - what, you have not bought a Mac!?); and, 2) Students could easily do something like this during the school year a a way to work on their presentation skills, master some technology skills and maybe teach us something that we don't know. Really inspiring stuff.