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Thursday, October 30, 2008

ACDC Video Finished

Okay, lots of personal posts lately, thought in the great scheme of things, it's all "education." Isn't it?

Colin and I worked all month on a vid for a contest and here it is. Me? I'm nursing a bad back and hoping for healing. Send good vibes.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Guitar Recital :)

Have to share this. I shared it out on my high school reunion ning this morning and I'm just so proud of the boy I want to embed it here for those of you who might like to witness budding talent. Colin has performed this original song in public several times with his sister Miranda, the co-author, and I think it holds up quite well as a solo. I can't wait for the band version :)

Find more videos like this on Hillwood40th

Monday, October 27, 2008

Engaging Podcasting Workshop

Just finished a very nice session with some Vanderbilt community folks all about podcasting and to make the .ppt accessible as pie I'm going to embed its version right here. Audio from that class will be up at the next episode of Snacks4theBrain! by next week!

For a larger version and to download the .ppt, click on the embedded version to visit!

Thanks to all the attendees, and comment here if you have anything to ask or add!

Windows Podcasting1008
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: podcasting windows)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

"Real Life Experiences in Virtual Worlds" Video Archive!

I mentioned that I was tapped (at the last minute, hence my extempore performance!) to sit up front and say a few words at the Internet2 New Orleans panel on Thursday and I am pleased that there's a very nicely mounted video archive now available. I'm 'way down about 52:20 into the thing, but you can learn from my distinguished co-panelists (and watch me madly live-blogging and trying to follow along in Second Life all at the same time), if you have a few moments. It was an honor to be asked to formally participate and I'll likely grab audio from the archive for my next podcast! I only wish the first panel, on Tuesday, had been so archived!

Watch the whole "Real Life Experiences in Virtual Worlds" presentation video archive at the Internet2 Fall Meeting website.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

artclectic2007 from Start to Finish

I put this up at TeacherTube and if it performs okay I'll leave it there at least during the week before artclectic2008! There's another, very much longer, video available at the USN website, but delivery mileage will vary greatly with the speed of your internet connection.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Americana Folk Festival, See You There!

et in the bucolic hills of Middle Tennessee, AFF is all about interaction...anyone who loves acoustic music will be certain to come away happy." (Performing Songwriter Magazine)
Over 30 bands on 3 stages and tickets priced at under a buck a band? The premier of a new Yazoo Brewery organic beer? Weeeheeee! I'll be there and so will my boy! I've watched the press releases for this the past few years thinking, hmmmmmm, I really should get out there. Well, now that my boy is such an accomplished player (at 12, sheesh) and we just took that fabulous tour of the Gibson factory (see yesterday's post), we'll pack up my A-5 and my Guild RNT-50 and his Epiphone Dove and drive the 30 minutes out to Montgomery Bell State Park (my childhood swimming hole of choice, btw) and do the day. I swear it!

See you there!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Gibson Guitar Tour!

Flying back from the Internet2 meeting in New Orleans (see earlier posts) I drove straight to the Gibson Guitar Factory out off Elm Hill Pike in Nashville. Friend Brenda Stein, a fabulously talented woodworker artist, had organized a special tour of the facility, led by her friend Herb Jenkins, Director of Purchasing at Gibson. There were 10 or 12 of us gathered around a table in a small conference room, which we reached only after signing waivers at the guard desk and passing through a very intimidating and obviously secure metal turnstile arrangement. Colin was wearing the required safety glasses, but I got a pass on that due to my four-eyes status.

After introducing ourselves to one another, we spent probably half hour, forty-five minutes getting the overview of the Gibson guitar-building straight from Herb, who was joined by his colleague Ron Moe. The addition of Ron was just great since the upcoming long tour through the huge facility was often loud, and Ron's presence allowed us to break into two groups as we marched.

The company uses all genuine mahogany for its guitar bodies, and some maple and rosewood for some tops and fretboards. They pretty much manufacture everything but the tuning keys right there in the huge building, and over the hour that followed, we would see it all. Examples of every step of the process are in that room, and it was fascinating to see, for example, the routing work that goes on to make the originally very heavy solid body Les Paul a bit lighter, essentially a series of holes an inch or so in diameter routed out on the backside of the front body, with an 8 or so inch one inch wide curvy line also cut out of the wood. When front and back body sections are joined, those are just weight reducing air pockets inside the "solid body."

We were also fascinated by the traditional method of wrapping a yards and yards long linen rope-like piece of fabric around the front and back pieces to let them bond together in the gluing process. Here's a pic of the station where that happens.

Colin was in utter thrall, perhaps most drawn to the Flying V, the guitar he's settled on for his birthday wish (augmented by all his allowance for months now, saved to help with the purchase). Toward the end of the small picture slideshow below you'll see the 50th anniversary model that he discovered at the very last workstation, where talented final fine-tuners made them ready for packaging. We also saw some of the new Gibson Robot SG Special LTD. models, the ones with the Swiss electronics that actually automatically tune the guitar. Even watching the wrapping of electronic coils with hair-fine copper wire to create humbucker pickups was fascinating.

I didn't get many pictures, because I was afraid that if I took my cam out early I'd be so in photojournalist mode I'd miss something. And I'm glad about that: Herb took us out to the massive storage shed where the raw mahogany, straight from Central America, is stored, and then walked us all the way through the complex process, some machine-facilitated but very much of it carefully done by hand, of making thousands of guitars a day. And I heard the first positive economic news I've heard in ages: Gibson will be hiring 200 new employees soon to keep up with the high demand for their products! It seems that when the nation has the blues, they want Gibson guitars to play and sing about it.

I told Herb at one point that I own quite a few of his company's guitars, only they're in Second Life. Gibson has a robust presence in SL and gives away its guitars, a novel and effective way to battle with forgers.

I want to thank Brenda, and Herb and Ron, and especially Gibson Guitars, for the experience today. It was one I'll always remember, and so, I'm sure, will me lad! Here are all the pics!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Live Blog! Internet2 in New Orleans!

I can't seem to get the title of this right at coveritlive, but the gist is there. I'll correct it all from home later this week. Meanwhile, check out the liveblog from its record below, and keep in mind that I was juggling a Second Life client, chat in SL and in Skype, and trying to liveblog and figure out what I would say (Randy asked me to sit up at the panel table and join in, minutes before we went live). I had planned to ustream the thing, which in retrospect I probably should've done, since inworld folks said the I2 stream wasn't working for them, but there ya go, I didn't. Hopefully the stream will be made available for archive later, then you can see each person's informative contributions and how interested the attendees were, which was considerably.

Thanks to the I2 folks for the invite to participate. I'd never have dreamed of attending this mostly highly technical conference and I'd never have met so many wonderfully engaged and engaging technology leaders without that. Thanks to the Vanderbilt Center for Science Outreach, its own set of thought leaders, for funding; and thanks to University School of Nashville for allowing me ProfDev leave to attend. I didn't consult the school calendar before asking them, but I'd likely not have asked if I'd done so and realized that I have today and tomorrow and the weekend off for Fall Break!

Now it's off to home with a tour of the Gibson Guitar Factory with me boy Colin on the way home from the airport. I hope they let me take pictures and blog the tour :)

That Silly Alec Couros

has posted a teaser video for his upcoming presentation at next week's K12 Online Conference (the url at seems to be having some issues today, so you can go read pal Kevin Jarret's take on't at his blog), and the little video is hilarious. I have to share it here. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

From Internet2 in New Orleans

It went great. I was particularly impressed with every single one of my co-presenters. You have to look and see the esteemed company I was with. I'm flattered, challenged, and humbled.

I went first, doing my best to honor the 5 minute (what happened to the 6-7 minutes we'd planned for?) but hearing that Oscar play off music in the final of my 6 minutes in the form of Ben Fineman sneaking up behind me at the podium. My slideshow is here for you (see below) and as you see I'd prepped mostly images to talk over; and though I sounded to myself somewhat deranged racing through what I'd prepped to say (I'm normally yr average drawling Southerner) the audience response was good and my panel colleagues were smiling and nodding their heads as I raged on about Second Life and its value for teaching and learning, MUVErs' nearly-ready-for-prime-time work with learning objects in Second Life, and my own upcoming work with 4th graders in Quest Atlantis.

Merrilea Mayo, Director of Future Learning Initiatives, packed her brief presentation with dramatic stats and graphs, beginning with the graph speaking to the difference between the impact potential of traditional learning institutions and practices to the impact potential of games and gaming. This is one that I hope she will share for broad distribution and I take the liberty of reproducing it from her presentation here:

Rob Rothfarb, from the Center for Learning and Teaching at the Exploratorium in San Francisco, took the podium next, and his talk centered around the work done by that group on Second Life's SciIsland, detailing in particular his group's work with the recent total eclipse of the sun, when around 150 avatars stayed for the full 5 hour experience, replicated verrrrry slowly, as in real life, in virtual space.

Margaret Corbitt, on staff at Cornell University, is another pioneer on several fronts, including the SciCentr Online Museum of Virtual Worlds. For her presentation she quickly downloaded her group's private Active-Worlds based browser on my laptop, and I'm glad to say I still have it! She mentioned the high security standards of the project during her talk and mentioned that if I wanted to continue using it I must send in a letter of request on my school's letterhead. I'm on that like a cheap suit. She showed some GREAT video of at-risk 6th graders gleefully immersed in here virtual environment, and supported Merrilea's research citations of children who were D students improving into the B range by means of their engagement in virtual environments.

Finally, friend Kathy Schrock led us, through the laptop talents of self-described "autodidactic techno artsy craftsy eclecticist" George Brett working the local Second Life interface, through an inworld powerpoint presentation detailing the history of her Nauset Public Schools teacher ProfDev work at Lighthouse Learning Island.

At the end of it all there were only a few moments for Q and A, and there were some good ones, centering around the differences in using VEs as stages for learning objects or using them as sociala networking platforms. Also there was a very nice little conversation about balance, coming from Tom (I didn't get your last name or your card) from the University of Michigan, who wonders, as many of us do, just how we can keep our lives in balance and still benefit from and participate in these brave new worlds. My response was that it's a work in progress, but we need to learn how to model the importance of balance for our students, "because there's not going to be any less information coming down the pike at them in the future."

Here's the slideshow from the few pics I've taken. I'm going to upload to Picasaweb as I go so be sure to check back.

All the presentations will be available at the Internet2 site soon. I'll post the link here when I get it. My own presentation is at Slideshare, or it should be. I left it rendering. Let me check...Ah, yesssss there it is:

New Orleans Bound!

Stay tuned for liveblogs, pics, and everything else I can manage from New Orleans over the next couple days.

From the Vanderbilt Center for Science Outreach's website:

Scott Merrick, Vanderbilt Center for Science Outreach's Teacher-in-residence, has accepted an invitation from conference organizers to speak at this year's Internet2 membership meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana. The conference website explains that the "Fall Member Meeting will feature track sessions and demonstrations that highlight innovative uses of advanced networking for research and teaching, as well as the development and evolution of high-performance network infrastructures in support of local to global cyberinfrastructure." Merrick will share the spotlight October 14 on a panel about Virtual Worlds with Margaret Corbit, Cornell University; Ben Fineman, Internet2, Moderator; Merrilea Mayo, Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation; Chris Melissinos, Sun Microsystems; Rob Rothfarb, Exploratorium; and Kathy Schrock, Nauset Public Schools. He will also attend sessions from the event-packed program and network with leaders in information management from all corners of the nation.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Foreigner Concert Rocks the Wildhorse!

Got a slideshow, contains some video too, just snippets! I was reluctant to go but did because me boy won tickets (THANK YOU 105.9 THE ROCK!) on the radio. Kip Winger opened with a stellar high octane solo acoustic performance that was blastin' despite just being him and his guitar. We were parked one set of tables from the stage at the front of the table and two wonderfully friendly British Columbians, playing in NashVegas while their families are up on a guided hunting trip in Kaintuck, sat just behind us at the table and sweetened the experience with great conversation.

Once lukewarm about Foreigner, I'm now a dyed-in-the-wool Foreigner fan. Mick Jones just BLAZES on lead guitar, Jeff Pilson does that hair slinging and playing-the-bass-like-a-fiddle thing like a madman, and Kelly Hanson out front gives great stage: Every other band member is energetic, accomplished and wildly entertaining. Wynona Judd came out at the end of the show to join in a couple songs, turning "Hot Blooded" into a wailing rocker far surpassing any earlier version.

We bought the new CD, a two-disk set called "The Very Best of Foreigner," and it is, and includes a medley with "Juke Box Hero/Whole Lotta Love" that I could swear channels Led Zeppelin into the room! It also includes a live performance of a historically overlooked album cut by Jones called "Starrider" that had me aching for simpler (more spacey) times in the past, and if that one channels anyone, it's probably David Bowey.

Someone bought us a big Wildhorse beerglass (who did that???) which our waitress, Shelley, delivered wordlessly, and on the way into the room we had purchased the CD, 5 dollars of the purchase going to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Colin scarfed 3 guitar pics and the admiration of complete strangers who approached me as we exited with heartfelt words like "Your son is AWESOME." An accomplished guitarist already, I have to admit that he is one to watch! Look out, Foreigner!

Here's the pics! There may be more added, assuming new BC pal Margie sends along a link! Before you load it, open another tab and fire up the Foreigner website for an auto-playing soundtrack. I do believe you'll have to click on the embedded vid here to visit picasaweb slideshow for the video snippets to play. I just had to whip out the cam when Jones started wailin' on his Les Paul and I'm hoping that this post is so "newsy," the video is so grainy and the sound so "snapshotty" from my little digital still cam that nobody comes after me with a takedown notice. I'll be glad to do that upon request!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

5th Grader Dalton Sherman Tells It

At this year's Dallas Independent School District Convocation, a 5th grader spoke to the 20,000 assembled and said some things we need to be reminded of. Thank you SchoolTube for the amazing video.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Gearing Up for Internet2, New Orleans!

Hey, all,

The program is complete for the upcoming meeting of the Internet2 Special Interest Group in New Orleans, Louisiana in two weeks. I'll be there, participating in a panel called Virtual Worlds: The Future is Now. I'd like to thank the Vanderbilt Center for Science Outreach for sending me, University School of Nashville for supporting me with professional leave, and my family for allowing me to take 3 days away from home the week before artclectic2008!

It's a very full set of days, as a reading of the program will certainly verify. If you have anything you'd like me to consider sharing out to this prestigious conference, please comment here or contact me directly at Here's the text from the program describing my panel:

Virtual Worlds: The Future is Now
October 14, 2008, 3:00 PM - 4:00 PM
UTC/GMT -5 hours (CDT)
Location: Nottoway

Margaret Corbit, Cornell University
Ben Fineman, Internet2, Moderator
Chris Melissinos, Sun Microsystems
Scott Merrick, Vanderbilt Center for Science Outreach
Rob Rothfarb, Exploratorium
Kathy Schrock, Nauset Public Schools

This first of two virtual worlds panel discussions sponsored by the Teaching & Learning SIG and the K20 Initiative will bring together a diverse set of speakers across several sectors including Higher Education, K12, Informal Education, and Industry to discuss the current landscape of virtual reality environments for research and education. An examination of several worlds including Second Life, Active Worlds, and Lively will reveal the unique challenges and opportunities for using these and other emerging virtual worlds within the constraints of real world goals and outcomes. The panelists will also have an opportunity to present their vision for where these virtual worlds can take us, especially combined with the power of advanced networks and technologies and the development communities in support of advanced networking.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

STEM Report Calls for Refocus in Education

Please take a minute to read a new report in T.H.E. Journal that cites some alarming statistics and calls for change. Pleased, I am, to be working on the formation of a new "Vanderbilt Institute for STEM Education," hosted out of my "other work" at the Vanderbilt Center for Science Outreach. More information on that Institute will be available here as it unveils itself. From Dave Nagel at T.H.E. Journal:

A new report issued this week by the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) is calling for sweeping changes to bolster STEM education in the United States. Citing an impending shortfall in scientists, engineers, and mathematicians in this country, the report highlights the need to expose children to STEM early and to integrate these subjects throughout the curriculum, beginning as early as kindergarten.

The report, STEM Education: Achievement and Innovation, noted that while the fastest-growing segments of the U.S. job market require science and math skills, only 8 percent of the total number of degrees awarded in 2001 were in engineering, mathematics, or the physical sciences and that there's been a drop of 50 percent in undergraduate enrollments in computer sciences in the last five years. By 2010, should current trends continue, 90 percent of the world's scientists will be in Asia.

Nagel, Dave. "STEM Report Calls for Refocus in Education." T.H.E. Journal. Sept. 2008. 1105 Media, Inc. 1 Oct. 2008


Gus by Scott Gardner Merrick  I wear these navy slacks I found behind O'Shaugnessy's, in the dumpster there. And they'r...