Documentary Examines the “Race to Nowhere”

“Race to Nowhere,” a documentary that examines our test-crazy society, opens Sept. 10 in New York and Los Angeles, and no matter where you stand on the issue of No Child Left Behind, this film will get you thinking about how much we test students. And whether it’s wise.

I’ve got a trailer from the film below. And the producers of Race to Nowhere are permitting educators to attend screenings. There’s also a Facebook page, a discussion board, and other resources for school leaders. You can also pre-order the film here.


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Messing Around with Montages

If you’re in public relations and you dig making slideshows and simple little movies, you might want to check out One True Media, a very cool free website that help you build a slideshow by uploading a series of photos, or provides you with the ability to upload mp4 video files. What’s cool about One True Media is that the tool also gives you the option of choosing titles, captions, background music (with a pretty big library) and styles. The best way to explain how One True Media works is to simply show you the sample I created for the White Plains City School District, one of my clients. It took me, maybe, 20 minutes to upload the files and pull the little show together.

What’s also neat about this is that One True Media then provides you with a URL for the show and an embed code, so you can place it on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or a blog — fast and easy. Of course, like many “free” Web 2.0 sites, One True Media will offer you the chance to purchase their premium service, which is your call. But for me, the free service seems to work just fine.

Lip Dubs the Rage on YouTube

Gosh, to be in high school or college again.

Technology has changed the way kids learn, they way they have fun, the way they communicate and the way they sing and dance. Just take a look at what’s become all the rage lately –“lip dubbing,” a relatively new phenomenon that takes an age-old idea, adds a Flipcam, some creative planning and YouTube, to create and distribute some of the most clever videos out on the web lately.

Take Shorewood High School and Shorecrest High School, both located near Seattle, Wash., rival schools currently competing on YouTube to make the best lipdub video, with the help of a couple of clever video teachers and about 300 of their closest friends. Videotaped in one take with a handheld videocam, they show hundreds of students individually mouthing the words to Hall & Oates’ “Make My Dreams Come True” (Shorewood) and the Black Eye Peas’ “Heya” (Shorecrest), as the camera moves down hallways, into offices, around corners, outdoors and into lobbies and gymnasiums, every student performer knowing his or her cue (generally).

Shorewood has gone one step further. There, the school videotaped in reverse, with the main lip-syncers learning the lyrics to the song in reverse before shooting began. It’s a hilarious, fun-loving video that features a variety of tricks that look cool in reverse — balloons in the air, paper airplanes, that kind of thing.

Perhaps influenced by the popularity of “Glee,” Fox’s hit show about a bunch of high school theater and musical “nerds” that belong to a glee club, the lip dub videos are reproducing like white mice. Other high schools with lip dub videos include Florida’s Bloomingdale High (performing to Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing”), Hempfield High School in Pennsylvania (“Party in the USA” by Miley Cyrus), and Sandwich, Mass., High School’s version of Bowling for Soup’s “High School Never Ends.” Colleges and universities are beginning to join in the fray, with Boston University, Suffolk University and the University of Quebec at Montreal creating more lip dubs.

On Suffolk’s video channel, the school explains that the video was created by students and the Office of University Communications, and provides “a tour through some of Suffolk’s buildings and streets of Boston.”

The Suffolk video was shot with a cast of 50 students, took six weeks to produce and was filmed in one continuous shot. The video was rehearsed for two hours, with individual “scene managers” responsible for the action in each separate location in and around the Suffolk city campus. The lipdub was filmed live and took three “takes”. Not only that, but the video ends with the Suffolk University seal.

Seems to me that these lip dubs could be awesome promotion, public relations and recruiting tools, particularly at the college and university level.

Here’s the Suffolk video:

Remix America Lets Us Mash Up History

I’m thoroughly impressed by so much out there on the web, but the newest addition to my “must-visit” list is Remix America, a video mashup website with an educational twist. Here’s what Remix America says about itself:

This country is a remix, it’s what we do. What did Jefferson and Paine and Adams do but mashup history, take a little from the Magna Carta, a little from John Locke, and a whole lot of rebellion. Now, thanks to the web and digital technology, everyone can join in. This is a unique moment in our history — We can rediscover the promise of the Declaration of Independence next to the music of Louis Armstrong next to the beats of the Beastie Boys and clips of our candidates talking about “Changes.” Every one of us can own our best expressions of liberty, democracy and freedom, remix them as they see fit, and share them with the world.

RemixAmerica.org is a multi-partisan, non-profit website that uses digital technology to give everyone the chance to own the words, the music, the images and sounds of America in digital form; to remix those expressions and ideas with their own; and to send the products of our community’s creativity out to the world… where others will come back to us and start it all over again…

Basically, Remix America, the brainchild of producer/philanthropist Norman Lear, wants to “change the National conversation” by offering a long list of historical videos, “America Then,” with a long list of more current videos, “America Now,” and offers anyone with the skills to use bits and pieces of those videos to create their own mashups that say something about this good country of ours. This is a must for classrooms, professors, teachers and technology directors. There’s a lesson around every corner on this website. Here’s just a sample, a remix from member WreckandSalvage. It’s a mashup of two months’ worth of Good Morning America snippets that somehow is an interesting take in the state or our country, the media and more:
video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsfree video player

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Immaculate Reception — Vatican Goes Video

VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - JANUARY 08:  Pope Bene...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

OK, so maybe I shouldn’t be sacriligious about this.

But you have to admit, it’s pretty Web 2.0-cool when the Vatican launches its own YouTube channel, and that’s exactly what happened on Friday. Pope Benedict XVI joined President Barack Obama and Queen Elizabeth II in launching his own channel, the latest effort by the folks in Rome to reach out to the digital generation. (It probably won’t work on my college-age kids, however.)

At a Vatican news conference, an executive of Google Inc., parent company of YouTube, joined with the Catholic clergy to announce that the Vatican had posted its first 12 videos on the pope’s new YouTube channel. The Church hopes to publish three new videos each day.

“This is in particular directed towards the young, but not exclusively,” said Father Federico Lombardi, director of the press office of the Holy See. “This is a step toward better communication. The pope encouraged us to adopt new ways of communication in order to reach out to the people who are interested in the pope’s message.”

Initially, the new YouTube channel will post videos in four languages — Italian, English, German and Spanish — and more languages will be added later.

Way to go, Ben!

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Thinking of Not Voting? Google Says Think Again.

OK, so while I sift through the dozens of Obama emails I’ve received today asking for my help calling voters in one last push, Google has done another great video meant to encourage anyone out there who still might be apathetic about voting (could there be people like this?) to get out there and pull the lever in the most exciting landmark election I can remember.
Again, they’ve called on well-known faces (and some apparent help from Steven Spielberg) to make a fun, well-paced video that’s the sequel to the “Don’t Vote” video released earlier. Check out the latest installment here, and tell me that Sacha Baron Cohen doesn’t crack you up:

Happy voting. I hope to see you there on Tuesday.

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