Questions for an Australian Sea Captain

On Thursday, April 10, 2008, we are going to participate in a live videoconference with one of the sea captains Sue Waters works with at a maritime academy in Perth, Australia. Perth is on the other side of the world from where we live in Edmond, Oklahoma. They are 11 hours ahead of us. This means that when we start the videoconference at 8:30 pm US Central Time on Thursday, it will be 9:30 am the next day (Friday) in Perth. It will be 1:30 AM on Friday April 11th GMT time. This webpage from the WorldTimeServer website shows the relative times in our locations. We will be participating in this videoconference just before going to bed on Thursday night, Sue and the others in Western Australia will be just starting their morning of work on Friday! You can use this WorldTimeServer converter page to determine what time it will be where you live when this live videoconference takes place.

Sue is going to try and broadcast this conference over Ustream.tv using her Ustream channel. If she runs into trouble she is going to use Skype and call us directly, and we will record the call to share later. Hopefully Ustream will work, however, so more people can join in. We successfully tested a Skype connection between Oklahoma and Western Australia last night.

Recently Sue created a short (<2 min) video showing some of the fish farming and aquaculture that she works with and around in her job. My connection to Sue is thanks to some helpful comments she made on a blog post I wrote a couple of weeks ago about compasses and magnets. Out of that post and my own learning experience (correcting some misconceptions I’d had about compasses) has emerged this live, synchronous learning opportunity between people literally on other sides of the planet. Amazing.

Sue asked us to brainstorm some questions we’d like to ask to an experienced sea captain prior to our videoconference. The following is the list we came up with tonight after dinner! If you have more questions to add, feel free to add them as comments to this post or just send them directly to Sue via her Twitter account. (@dswaters)

As the crow flies (or perhaps an SR-71) Perth is 10,545 miles away from Edmond. (We used Google Earth to calculate this distance.) The following map shows our relative locations on our planet:


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ABOUT SAILING AND SHIPS

Alexander: What types of ships have you been on?

Sarah: How big is the engine on your ship?

Alexander: How big is your crew?

Alexander: Is your ship coal-fired like the Titanic was?

Sarah: Do you have any kids that are interested in sailing?

EXPERIENCES

Alexander: How many years have you been a sailor?

Alexander: What do you think of when you leave for an ocean trip? (What are you thinking just when you leave the harbor)

Shelly: What kinds of sounds do you hear at night on the ship?

Alexander: What do you check on your ship when you first set out?

Sarah: How long are your trips?

Shelly: What kind of food do you eat when you are on the ship?

Alexander: What supplies do you carry?

Sarah: What do you know about compasses? Have you ever used a compass?

Shelly: What is the longest voyage you have ever been on, without touching (setting foot) on land?

DANGERS

Wesley: My kids don’t believe that pirates are still real and a danger in some parts of the world. Have you ever encountered any real pirates, or known other sailors who have?

Sarah: How deep is the water in the ocean where you have sailed?

Alexander: Have you met any sharks or other sea creatures?

Sarah: Have you hit an iceberg before?

Wesley: Have you ever been lost on a voyage or had to get on a life boat for real because your boat was damaged in some way?

OPINIONS

Sarah: What is your favorite thing to do on the ship?

Wesley: What are the most challenging and most rewarding things about being a sailor and a ship captain?

Alexander: How much training do you have to have to be a sailor and a sea captain?

The best fried pies in Oklahoma

Whenever our family drives from Oklahoma City to Dallas on interstate 35, we love to stop at Davis, Oklahoma, and enjoy some fried pies. I recorded a short video podcast from Davis interviewing Nancy, who inherited the recipe for her fried pies from her mother and grandmother. Nancy’s fried pies are located off exit 51 on I-35 between Dallas and Oklahoma City, just east of the highway.

I found this post from June 2006 by Jon Berry that includes some photos of the fried pies and where they make them. Yum!

The legend of Mulan

Sister finished a written book report about “China’s Bravest Girl” tonight, which is a book describing the legend of Mulan on which the Disney movie was based. Since mom and I went to China last month, our kids have been very interested to learn more about China and Chinese culture. This was an excellent book, and sister recorded her book report as an enhanced podcast this evening using Garageband. I also tried posting a QuickTime movie version of this to TeacherTube, but the synchronization timing got off in the uploaded version, so I deleted it. I’ve added this as the 12th example in the “Great Book Stories” project.

Nice work sister! If you have feedback for sister on her project you can either leave it here, or on the .Mac podcast page for her report.

A Google Earth alternative to a salt map

Brother has an assignment for social studies in school that is due November 6th. The assignment is to create a salt map of the United States, showing the topographical relief. I’m guessing this is mainly the Rocky and Appalachian mountains, but we haven’t actually seen the assignment sheet yet so I’m not sure.  I remember fourth graders at my 2nd elementary school in Lubbock created salt maps for the regions of Texas, so I guess this must be sort of a fourth grade rite of passage. I searched for salt map pictures on Flickr tonight but couldn’t find any, but I did find these salt maps students in Wisconsin made of explorer routes. I can see there is some value in actually creating a physical representation of the U.S. geography in a salt map, but I’m guessing this project is one of those that ends up with the parent doing more of the work and perhaps more of the learning than the child. Perhaps I’m just being cynical and should have a better attitude. I am generally predisposed to NOT like classroom assignments where all the students are creating a product that looks essentially the same. Those types of assignments are very common in school, I think they are often easier to grade, but I think they can be less engaging and more boring since the involve little choice on the part of the student and therefore little buy-in.  I would rather see an assignment which is differentiated and gives students some choices.I’m wondering if the goal of the assignment is to better understand U.S. topography, if brother could learn how to give a virtual tour of major U.S. landforms using Google Earth? Then we could use a screencasting program (I recently purchased iShowU) so he could record a movie of his virtual tour. I’m thinking that if he can give a narrated tour of U.S. topography, flying around within Google Earth and narrating what we’re seeing on this “virtual tour,” that would be a more authentic assessment of brother’s knowledge in this area. I think he’d learn more exploring U.S. geography via Google Earth than just making a salt map. I am going to ask his teacher about this and see if she’d support this alternative assessment idea. I’m not sure if his teachers know about and use Google Earth currently, so this could be a good way for brother to both demonstrate his knowledge, learn with a powerful digital tool, and also teach others in his class (including his teachers) about Google Earth and how it can be used for learning. 

Welcome to our family learning blog!

We have created this family learning blog to provide a space to share many of the things about which we are learning and thinking. Since our local public school does not currently permit student blogging of any kind, and we want to demonstrate the positive potential of blogging to improve student reading and writing skills, creating a family learning blog makes sense. If we are practicing our reading and writing on a daily basis, research as well as common sense says that we are going to improve our skills! Plus, this is a great way to share our ideas and interact with our family and friends. Our kids need the traditional as well as digital literacy skills which can be developed through frequent blog reading and writing TODAY. We’re not waiting for our neighborhood school to change its policy on student blogging: We’re starting NOW.Please come back and visit our blog often. Feel free leave us positive and helpful comments! The images from our homepage header image are from my Signs 2007 Flickr set.Apple Youth Music Workshop in Progress

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