Green Screening in the ES-Part 1

Preparation and Filming


For the last two weeks I have been working on a digital story telling project with my 3rd grade classes, 6 or them to be exact. While this project wasn’t difficult to pull off or plan, I did think that writing about it in the context of the elementary classroom and the es student might be beneficial to some. This post and the next few subsequest posts will be my reflection on the process of digital story telling using green screening, the successes, the parts that failed, the preparation, the details I got right, and the ones I overlooked. I hope your next project goes a little smoother after reading these posts.

Ok, so this project is the direct brain child of Jason Ohler who visited SAS earlier this year and presented to our ES staff about the power of storytelling and showed examples of story telling and greens creening that he has used in the past. One of our ES teachers, 3LH, is doing her Masters thesis around digital storytelling and this oroject was part of her final research if you will. Being that I had not done a large, grade level-wide green screen project like this before I happily jumped at the opportunity.

Its all about the Preparation…
The movie is the story. The story drives the whole project. In  our first team planning meetings we discussed what the story was going to be about and what the writing was going to focus on. It was decided that this would be the culmination of the grade 3 realistic fiction unit and so the stories would  be based one of the students’ pieces of writing in this area. With that in mind we set forth to try and best guess a suitable timeline for kids to finish writing pieces, illustrate their sets (background images), digitize these, film students in front of the green screen, pull all the pieces into iMovie, edit the film and do the actual green screening, and export and post the movie to their student blogs. Scheduling can often be the first hurdle you will come upon when trying to pull off a project like this. Don’t let it side track you.

Green screening with a class is logistically heavy including organizing lab space, scheduling your technology resource facilitator (TRF) if you have them, computer labs, laptop carts (if you have them), more time with your TRF, iMovie editing, student filming make-ups…The list can seem daunting. Take it piece by piece and forget about focusing on the whole project right now.

First, start by figuring out how long your filming will take and what pieces your students need to have completed when filming starts. For us, we guessed at part of this having not done it before and we erred on the side of caution and overbooked time for filming not sure how long it would take. For 18 students we booked two double time slot of class (basically two 40 minute time slots).

Second, We also made sure that by the time students were set out record that their stories had been written and rehearsed. A few of the teachers had kids memorize their pieces, others were content to have kids hold papers or notes and use them as references while being filmed. This ultimately is up to you the teacher to decide, but decide and stick with your decision from the start. Personally, I felt like the classes that had kids memorize their stories, even though their stories were shorter than other classes (but in no means of lesser quality) had better, more polished looking, movies in the end.

Third, We also had student do the drawings that would serve as their backgrounds before filming started. This served three purposes, one, it got this part of the project out of the way, and two, it gave kids some visual guide on which to read their story and act out their story if they chose to do so, and finally, it got the kids to visualize and get what is in their head as imagination down on paper and allowed them to see if what their perception of setting was, worked with their story. And remember…IT IS ALL ABOUT THE STORY. NEVER LET THIS BE ABOUT MOVIE MAKING, GREEN SCREENS, COMPUTERS,  OR SOFTWARE. In fact, if your do your planning the technology should play in the background of the project like the kids illustrations of their stories.

In Part II of the Green Screening in the ES, I will discuss the way we filmed students, what equipment we used, how our physical green screen spaces are set up, and the way we structured and managed student groups during the filming, and clothing to avoid during filming.
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TGIF Tech-May 20th

Here is the May 20th installment sent to my ES staff at the Shanghai American School.

TGIF all,

SAS ES Puxi Tech Showcase:

Grades pk/k,2,4 are employing and leveraging the power of technology through MacBooks and equitrax printers in the classrooms. No but seriously, grade 4 is still working on the Silk Road Google Maps (These are gonna be sweet, I’m looking forward to seeing the finished products).

Grade 3 is wrapping up a major foray into green screening and you can see some examples here:

Grade 1 is working on making Insect lifecycle photostories in Kidpix.

Whats Hot this week
Your Internet Bubble:
From the Librarian by Day blog ( )
“Eli Pariser talks about filter bubbles in this terrific TED Talk. As human beings were prone to bubbles, we gravitate to people like us, people with the same views, the same socio-economic class, the same habits etc. All sorts of studies show that if you’re likely to have similar habits and life-styles as the people you associate with. The web has been applauded as a way to escape that echo-chamber you live in. Except, as Pariser points out, there are companies like Google and Facebook and Yahoo looking to personalize your web experience, and that personalization makes your bubble even smaller. Making it even easier to forget that your world view is not the world view.”

ELI SAYS: So I do think this is a problem. And I think, if you take all of these filters together, you take all these algorithms, you get what I call a filter bubble. And your filter bubble is your own personal unique universe of information that you live in online. And what’s in your filter bubble depends on who you are, and it depends on what you do. But the thing is that you don’t decide what gets in. And more importantly, you don’t actually see what gets edited out.

This is huge. Not just to library professionals, but to everyone. Watch the video. There are some excellent other links at the bottom of the post linked above. Think about this in your Face 2 Face life. Are you limiting your bubble? What does this mean for new ideas and creativity? Do you do this at school? What impact does this have on your teaching practice?

Useful Links


We talk about collaborating a lot but when it comes to walking the talk…well let’s just say there is room for improvement. Here is a short list of 10 ways you as a teacher can foster collaboration among your peers. Remember sharing is caring. It will improve your practice, give you new ideas, and overall result in better learning experiences for your students. It is best practice.

Need some inspiration, or just a good laugh. Watch this (geared towards educational woes in the US but still applicable here):

A beauty from Bill Maher. “Don’t fire the teachers-Fire the Parents”. ( )


Flight searching (from Netted by the Webbys):

Many of you will be traveling over the summer holiday in your home country and naturally will be searching for the best deal. Good news, here is a flight finder that does not suck. Simplifying the process is Hipmunk, a new service that makes it easy to find the right flight, thanks to its drop dead simple visual interface. To start just enter your locale, your destination and your departure/return date.  Then prepare to be dazzled. The results show up in a colorful grid-like chart (with prices on the vertical axis and times on the horizontal axis).  You see all of your options right there in one place, free of clutter, text chunks and ads.

You can sort by price, flight duration, and the number of layover (hint: use “agony” button for a one-click version of all three). When you find a flight you like you can click on it for more information. The site doesn’t sell tickets directly, but they do direct you to services that do sell the flights they list.


First off, if you still don’t have an iPhone, quit convincing yourself you don’t need one or want one, and just go buy the damned thing. The Shanghai Taxi Guide ( ( ) ) for the iPhone is worth having a phone if you don’t use it for anything else. Sunny, the guy who has the apple store down Jeng Feng Lu, across from Starbucks has great prices on iPhone 4’s right now. No, I am not getting a cut, but I wish I was.

With summer break looming, hopefully you have some plans to reconnect with nature and get outside into air that smells good. If so check out the colloction of apps under the “Great Outdoors” apps ( )

CLOUD STORAGE (from Tek Tok blog):

Cloud storage is hotter than Lady Gaga right now: critics and detractors alike won’t stop writing about it, it’s young and fresh, and it’s about to release a Beyoncé collaboration.   Amazon Cloud Drive provides the Internet’s most reputable and reliable cloud storage. It provides 5GB of free backup storage, no physical hard drive necessary. If you have the Internet, you have your files.  The first 5 gigabytes come free, but if you find yourself running out of space yearly plans are also available. Options include $20 for 20GB, $50 for 50GB and so on up to a Terabyte (1000GB).   Awesome Deal Alert: purchase of an MP3 album on Amazon comes with 20GB of free storage on the Cloud Drive for a year. And Amazon’s Cloud Player for your desktop or Android phone lets you take your music with you wherever you go.  Be warned though, Cloud Drive is by no means the best way to get songs unstuck from your head.

MAC Hints/Tips: (from Tek Tok blog):

Move Your iTunes Library Location in 6 Easy Steps

Some folks have such large music or photo libraries that they are running out of space on their Mac’s internal hard drive. Luckily, with just a few quick steps, you can move your iTunes or iPhoto library to an external drive, with all the necessary files it needs to retain its neat and organized structure.

You will need three things to complete this task:

*an external hard drive with a good amount of free space,

*your Mac,

*some time to let the files copy over.

For this example, we will move an iTunes library from a Mac to the external drive; the same basic procedure can be used to move an iPhoto Library as well.

1. Connect your external hard drive to your computer.

2. Use Finder to locate your Music folder on your Mac, and open it to find your iTunes folder.

3. Drag your entire iTunes folder onto your external hard drive, which should be visible on the left-hand sidebar in your finder window. This process can take anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours depending how much data you have to move. Moving the iTunes folder copies over ALL of your iTunes content, including music, apps, playlists, and videos.

4. Once you’ve moved your iTunes folder, you need to tell your computer to look for the iTunes library in its new location on the external drive. To do this, make sure iTunes is not running, and then open iTunes while holding down the Option key on your keyboard.

5. A window will appear prompting you to either create a new library or choose an existing one. Because we’ve moved the library file, we are going to choose an existing one. The iTunes library file is located inside of the iTunes folder that you just moved onto the external drive. The file path should look like External HD > iTunes > iTunes Library.

Once you choose the library file on your external drive, iTunes will continue to look for its library here, until you tell it otherwise. This means that whenever you add new content to your iTunes library, it automatically will be stored on the external drive as opposed to your Mac’s internal hard drive.

6. You can now move the iTunes folder on your Mac to the trash to free up lots of extra room (Please be careful and make sure you actually have moved your music before deleting it!).

Have a great weekend….

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links for 2011-05-18

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links for 2011-05-14

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TGIF Tech-May 13th

TGIF all,
And, another one’s down, another one’s down, another one bites the dust….Here we are closing in on only 5 Mondays left in the school year.

Tech Showcase:
Right now we have some pretty incredible projects underway that we will put out next week when these projects are finished. These include:
-A 5th grade class will be making iMovie recordings of their SMART goals. What will be different is that they will be getting instruction from video recordings I posted to the teacher since I was booked for another class. Call it “near distance” learning. You can see the first two parts of the lesson here:
-4th Graders using Google Maps to trace and mark the stops along the famed Silk Road, adding annotations to the points on the map. We will publish links to these next week.
-3rd graders are knee deep in a greenscreening project that has them doing some very advanced iMovie editing. This whole project has been done by the kids. Classes will start to finish these next week so stay tuned.
-1st Grade is using the great resources at Foss Web to study insects. Here is the graphic organizer we used.
-Kinder is making a three part digital story in Kidpix and Keynote.

FALL Tech PD Opportunities:
Don’t forget registration for Learning 2.0 at SCIS Pudong is well underway. Spots are limited so please sign up. I think it is $300 for Friday-Sunday.
An another in Japan-YIS-Chis Betcher and Kim Cofino.. You’ll come back glowing with excitement. This is  agreat one for those wanting to explore Personal Learning Networks and harnessing the power of Web 2.0 fo your own self-directed professional growth.

Educational Sites:
This week YouTube released 10 Educational full length videos for free. There are some great ones in here and some good discussion starters for those “hidden curriculum” lessons that you guys are teaching students all the time.
Graphic Organizers
Here is one for everyone. Who doesn’t use Graphic Organizers? This site is a wealth of them. This one is an ESOL dream…
Literacy (From Tek Tok blog)
If you are looking to make a summer reading list for your class, you will like this one. Provide them with some of the books recommended and reviewed on the ReadKiddoRead Web site. The books arranged according to age: picture books for 0-8, transitional books for age 6 and older, great page turners for ages 8 and above, and great advanced books for ages 10 and above. There are over 170 reviews on only the books that kids are sure to gobble up! Click the Community link or the Educators link at the top of the page to find lesson plans for a host of books that are used in the classroom — such as James and the Giant Peach, Harry Potter, Charlotte’s Web, Clementine,and more.
Math (From Tek Tok blog)
Time is of the essence as students rush to fill customer orders in this online ice cream shop. They need to convert fractions to mixed numbers, piling on the correct scoops of ice cream and adding up orders correctly to fill the orders, all before the clock runs out.
Enter the parameters for the lowest and highest numbers you want your students to review in this online practice with prime numbers, then have them correctly identify each number as prime or composite.

Tech Buzz
This week there has been a lot on twitter and in the news about using the power of chat in the classroom? Sound crazy, allowing kids to chat online in class? Not at all. In fact it is a great way to get those quiet kids whose voices don’t get heard enough, to contribute to class discussions, brainstorms, etc. Here is a good article from the NY Times on backchanneleing in class. They use HS/MS classes as an example, but believe me, we can easily do this in an ES class.
Want to try Back channeling out for yourself? Here is a great site to use.
How about quick learning checks (formative assessments) while kids are using the machines. Try this one to get instant feedback on student learning:

Last but not Least…
Ok, if you are at all like me, with summer closing in, my mind turns to thinking about summer and all the great stuff I cannot wait to buy over the summer. After all what fun is making money if you can’t spend it right? I use Craigs List a lot in the summer to shop for stuff. If you do too, then you will love Craiggers. Let’s face it, the Craig’s List site kinda sucks and takes a million clicks to get to the search for the item you want. Craiggers, fixes that and automatically does the clicking for you. Check it out:
Want to make sure you are getting a good price on something. Try The Find. I use this site all the time to compare prices at a glance. Search for the item you want and The Find will bring back all the places you can find it online with prices. You can even search locally.

Enjoy the sunshine,
Jeff Dungan
 Distinguished Educator
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TGIF Tech-May 6th, 2011

TGIF all,

This week is a bit more utilitarian and hopefully some of these tools and ideas will help your productivity and discover new media to infuse into your teaching.

Video Conversion
I have had a lot of teachers ask for a tutorial or for help on how to make videos smaller or to convert a video file from one format to an MP4 video format. Here is a 2 minute (no really it is only 2 minutes) video on how to use iSquint (free download) to convert or resize videos.

Video Tutorials
You may not be aware of this but the SAS video portal is more than just a place to host your students’ vids that you produce in class. In fact, there are a ton of great “how-To” tutorials there created by SAS teachers and tech. facilitators that can be a great resource when you need to find out how to do something but all your go-to people are busy. Here is how to access them. 1) Go to the SAS video Portal. 2) Click on the “Media” tab at the top. 3) On the left hand under the “Browse Media” section, click on “SAS Tutorials”. 4) Search by keyword or just browse the collection.

Download Videos from You Tube
This great internet browser extension comes from Pat McMahon in the HS. YouTube Down Loader-Installs on any browser. Click on the browser(s) you want to install the downloader for and voila, you’re done. When you go to YouTube you will see a button under the video you want to download and you can select the file format you want for your downloaded vid (mp4, .mov,.avi, etc.)

iPhone/iPad/iTouch apps for education
Pure awesomeness in a spreadsheet just for mobile Apps for education. Apps are categorized by content area. If you have an apple mobile device (iPhone, iPad, iTouch) and are interested in playing with them in hopes of trying them out in class or with an after-school activity, you will love this link.

Video gaming in education
Ok, this one is a little obscure and I know what you are saying. What kind of geek is into gaming? You are not wrong to be skeptical as I still find myself that way after doing a lot of research on the subject and experimenting with it as a pedagogical tool, but there is a lot of research going on out there about video gaming in education. I do believe we will start seeing more and more of this as we move deeper into the 21st century as we strive to leverage the full power of the web and multi-user virtual environments (MUVEs). I have been playing around with one of these for about the last 5-6 years. I have used it as an after school activity and the kids ate it up. They didn’t even realize they were learning (playing) in a unit that is used for internet safety and digital citizenship. It is called Quest Atlantis and it is out of Indiana University in the U.S.

Here are two TED talks worth watching (each one is 15-20 minutes long). The first one looks at getting boys back into education through gaming. The second features Jane McGonigal from Berkely and her ideas on saving the world through gaming. They are both excellent and will change whatever preconceived notion you have on the subject.

A Collection of informational vids on gaming in education from PBS

Apple Hints/Tips (From the Tek Tok blog)
We’ve all been there. You’re in the middle of watching the latest video on YouTube, when the boss comes around. In a situation such as this, you may only have a second to react before you find yourself explaining how the video was actually “important research.” More importantly, it is useful to know these so you know what your students already probably know.

Luckily, OS X has a series of built-in shortcuts to help you out. Many Mac users are familiar with the Command-W (close active window) shortcut, but choosing it in this case would close the incriminating window entirely—causing you to miss out on precious seconds of cuteness.The vast majority of Apple software included with OS X also supports Command-H (hide). This command instantly hides the active window while leaving the application running in the background. Alternatively, users can press Option-Command-H to hide all applications besides the one currently active. This can prove useful if you’ve managed to switch to something important looking like a spreadsheet and need to hide the windows behind it with one command.Finally, applications can also be hidden using the mouse—though it can be a bit slower. Simply move the pointer over the application in the dock that you’d like to hide and click it with Option held down. This command has an identical effect to Command-H and is typically only useful if your hand is already on the mouse.Have a great weekend all.


Posted in Educational Technology, games and simulations, ipods in education, jeff dungan, professional development, teacher training, Technology integration | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

On Humiliation, Terrorism, Free Markets, and Democracy

This was a post we were assigned to write in response to a quote from one of our texts. The quote and the text are mentioned below. This was for my Trends and Issues course at NSU. I felt this a timely post in the wake of Osama Bin Laden’s recent death.

I am taking a different tact this week. Consider my post this week as an Op-Ed response to Canton’s quote on page 201 of his book, The Extreme Future (2006).

One of the central ideas of this book is determining whose Future Vision will prevail. Will it be the vision of secular, terrorist, or religious extremists who would hijack the future to insulate their societies from others, keeping them in poverty, tyranny, and manipulation? Or will the future belong to those of modernity, people who uphold the values of democracy, tolerance, free trade, and individual rights—including, religious rights?

Mr. Canton, I find your division of the free market, democratic world vs. the secular, terrorist world overly simplistic. Black and white, with us or against us, divisions worked well when the world was a simpler place like during WW I and II. Back then, there were bad guys, psychopaths that were able to convince millions that it was their side that was the righteous path. That killing millions of Jews actually made sense. More recently, this worked well for propaganda and fear mongering in the latest Bush administration’s assessment of world powers where he accumulated the “bad (terrorist) guys” into the Axis of Evil. It still sounds like something out of a James Bond film. At best it rouses slightly more than a chuckle for the overt ignorance of the attempt to label the good guys against the bad guys. Even more puzzling then is why President Bush in 2003 would have wanted to set up Free Trade Agreements in the Middle East on the doorstep of the Axis of Evil (Gouse, 2005). Apparently the Bush administration also favored your ideals that free markets and democracy will save everyone from the oppressive, subversive, and extremist Middle Eastern governments. But G.W. missed something subtle in the whole mix like you too. You both tried to separate the world into two halves. These divisions serve the fear machine the media feeds off of.

On that note, I would offer that you, Mr. Canton, examine the division that the media’s polarity of the world (that you served to your readers to grapple with) has created in the United States of America. Political stances seem more polarized in the U.S. more than ever. You see what happens when you polarize things into two sides? You make one dependent on the other without trying. So, do we need the terrorists in America? Do the terrorists need democracy and free markets? I would argue yes on both accounts because without one another to hate, what is there to do? Where does the humiliation come from that Taliban recruiters prey upon for new recruits to their “cause?” How does America defend the billions it spends in taxpayers hard earned salaries on the bombs and wars it wages on the Muslim, terrorist world? The world no longer exists in these simplified terms.  I do agree that globalization demands we acknowledge that the dichotomy exists but I would argue, in response to you Mr. Canton that neither side will win. Instead, we will continue to face a stalemate of sorts because the free-market that you see as the democratic save all, demands that there are pawns, or have-nots, that can support the machine of the developed, democratic world.  Here is the rub though. As long as those countries that are the economic have-nots, either by choice or by the will of powerful, more developed countries, exist, so to does a feeling of humiliation.

Humiliation is the most potent seed for hatred to sprout into its perfect blossom of terrorism and extremist politics. I wish you had Mr. Canton, mentioned this as one of your characteristics of those opposed to the free-world, democracy lovin’ people that you pitted them against. A simple Google search of terrorism and humiliation offers over 1.4 million hits. You see, a silent, more insidious product of your free economy is the production of humiliation by the barrel full. The machine dictates that in order to run and produce there has to be someone working the machines, manning the factories and killing our planet to sustain it. Currently, China does a fine job of all three of these, but they lack the humiliation piece of the puzzle since their strong communistic government sees to it that someone gets at least a little nibble from the cheese. Other counties lack the ability to produce for the free market machine. Humiliation for them comes in the form of zero opportunities for self-realization or fulfillment or personal freedoms that we so easily take for granted.  What the free-market, democratic governments have created is a humiliated international population that isn’t restricted just to the Middle East. Humiliation leads to retaliation and retaliation when your poor and faceless is best served up as terrorism because it is the only way to get noticed. It is the only way to say, “look at us, validate us.” For many, it is the only opportunity to get a hot meal. You simply cannot have one without the other. So, to answer your question Mr. Canton, neither of your over simplistic world view will ever play out because one side feeds the other exactly what it needs to keep feeding itself. Some studies have empirical data to suggest that the promotion of democracy might further increase the incidence of terrorist attacks in some countries. This would suggest that your attempt to divide the world between democracy and terrorists is flawed at best (Piazza, 2008).


Canton, J. (2006). The extreme future: The top trends that will reshape the world in the next 20 years. New York, New York: Plume.

Gouse, G. (2005, September). Can Democracy Stop Terrorism. Retrieved March 23, 2011, from CThe Council on Foreign Relations website: can-democracy-stop-terrorism

Lindsey, B. (2003, August 5). The Trade Front: Combating Terrorism with Open
Markets. Retrieved March 25, 2011, from CATO Institute website:

Piazza, J. (2008). Do Democracy and Free Markets Protect Us From Terrorism? International Politics, 45, 72–91. Retrieved from

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Critical Response-Nuclear Energy

For my Trends and Issues class at NSU we were asked to write a critical response to a current event or issue. In the wake of the Japan tsunami and subsequent nuclear disaster, I thought reopening debate about nuclear energy was fitting. My assignment is below.

Nuclear Energy

The debate over widespread use of Nuclear energy is nothing new. Ever since the world witnessed the awesome power of nuclear energy in the form of the two atomic bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima at the end of World War II, the world has been skeptical of its power. The release of radioactive gases at Three Mile Island in the United States and then Chernobyl in Ukraine did not help public misconceptions about nuclear energy (Nuclear Disasters and Accidents, n.d.). In the wake of the March11th tsunami in Japan that has left the northeastern coastline in complete tatters and four nuclear power stations on the brink of meltdown; the nuclear debate is alive more than ever.

Nuclear power plants produce energy much the way a coal-fired power plant does. Only the source of the energy differentiates the two. Coal fired power plants use coal as the primary fuel source to turn water into steam, which in turns powers a turbine that is connected to a generator, thus providing power that can then be stored and distributed accordingly. Nuclear reactors use a special kind of Uranium called U-235. The U-235 is produced in pellets, which are then inserted into rods. These rods get lowered into a reactor. By colliding a neutron into a U-235 atom, the neutron splits the U-235 atom into two lighter elements and releases two more neutrons. This process is nuclear fission. The two released neutrons to go on to bombard other U-235 atoms and the process repeats itself over and over. The byproduct from fission, besides the two freed neutrons, is heat and radiation. The method of energy creation is the same for that of the coal power plant beginning with the transformation of water to steam.

The argument for traditional coal fired power plants and nuclear power rages on today nearly 51 years after the first light bulbs were lit by nuclear power in Arco, Idaho. Much of the argument today focuses on the environment impacts between these two forms of power generation. To better understand the polarization of the energy generation issue, positives and negatives of both coal fired power plants and nuclear power plants need to be examined.

Coal powered power plant cons:

  • Burning coal or any other fossil fuel emits large amounts of gases into the atmosphere. These gases can cause acid rain and contribute to global warming and the greenhouse effect (Lenzen, 2008).
  • Coal powered power plants can affect the health of citizens living close to them. Pulmonary illnesses are the most common illnesses associated with coal power plants (Gabbard, 2008).
  • Coal is a non-renewable resource.

Nuclear power cons:

  • Nuclear energy produces radioactive waste as a byproduct. To date there is no solution to this problem. This material can remain radioactive and harmful to humans for thousands of years (Kazimi, 2003).
  • Nuclear power has high risks. A disaster at a nuclear facility can have wide reaching human consequences that can be seen for decades.  (Gabbard, 2008).
  • Uranium is a non-renewable resource.
  • Nuclear proliferation is a threat as rogue nations seek to get control of uranium and plutonium for destructive purposes. The same know how to build nuclear power plants can be used to build nuclear weapons, which could be used in terrorist attacks (“Pro’s and Con’s,” 2002).
  • Building nuclear power plants are expensive and take 20-30 years in developed countries to complete. Due to the perceived dangers, finding locations suitable and citizens agreeable to the construction can be nearly impossible (Associated Press, 2011).

Coal powered power plant pros:

  • Coal is abundant and inexpensive to mine.
  • Coal, compared with other energy sources like oil and natural gas is inexpensive meaning lower costs for consumers.
  • Coal can be transformed into liquid and gaseous states making it a versatile fossil fuel.
  • Coal fired power plants present little risk to their immediate surrounds in terms of explosions or other malfunctions that might occur during the power generation process (Energy Resources: Coal, 2009).

Nuclear power pros:

  • Nuclear power generation does not produce CO2 or other environmentally damaging greenhouse gases.
  • “A single uranium fuel pellet the size of a fingertip contains as much energy as 17,000 cubic feet of natural gas, 1,780 pounds of coal or 149 gallons of oil (Costs: Fuel, Operation, 2011).”
  • Uranium, while nonrenewable, is plentiful supplies and could generate power well past what the reserves of coal might provide (Costs: Fuel, Operation, 2011).
  • Nuclear power is inexpensive compared to coal, oil, and natural gas (Costs: Fuel, Operation, 2011).
  • Nuclear power could help countries like the United States to become energy independent and end their reliance on Middle Eastern oil (The Future of Nuclear, 2009).

Personally, I believe that nuclear energy’s advantages outweigh its significant negatives. James Lovelock, the author of the Gaia Hypothesis and noted environmentalist writes, the warming of earth and the increase in greenhouse gases presents the largest problem modern societies may ever face (2004). The balance of the planet has reached a tipping point. If humans do not curb the emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere the gradual but certain effects of raising temperatures will have far more profound effects on the human race many times that of the nuclear accident in Chernobyl (Lovelock, 2004).

“Fossil fuel-based electricity is projected to account for more than 40% of global greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. In the U.S. 90% of the carbon emissions from electricity generation come from coal-fired generation, even though this accounts for only 52% of the electricity produced.” (The Future of Nuclear, 2009)

Nuclear energy is hurt by commonly held misconceptions. If one was to look at the deaths of major nuclear accidents the combined loss of life and risk to future generations has been relatively small. Earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes and coal-fired power plants kill far more people each year than the worst nuclear disaster. To put this into perspective, “the average for all [nuclear] meltdowns would be 400 deaths. Since air pollution from coal burning is estimated to be causing 10,000 deaths per year, there would have to be 25 melt-downs each year for nuclear power to be as dangerous as coal burning.” Nuclear power generation, if judged by human deaths, represents the safest form of energy production on the planet (Cohen, n.d.).

Further nuclear energy development pursued globally could end our reliance on oil and coal greatly reducing CO2 emissions and easing geo-political tensions in the Middle East. This would help end worldwide dependence on fossil fuels and would do much to alleviate geo-political pressures that are a direct result of the western world’s insatiable thirst for oil. The United States currently uses only about 20% of nuclear energy. France leads the way producing almost 70% of its power by nuclear energy (A Lifetime of Service, n.d.). China will soon outpace other nuclear capable developed countries with the projected construction of 25 new nuclear reactors in the next 20 years. China’s rapid economic growth is spurring the country to add nuclear power to help meet its energy needs as it moves into the 21st century (Nuclear Power in China, 2011). President Obama has recently announced more than 8 billion dollars in federal loans for the construction of the first nuclear reactor in nearly 30 years (Associated Press, 2011).

Nuclear power is also seeing progress in using thorium as fuel for nuclear reactions. Thorium has several advantages over uranium. First, it is far more abundant in the earth’s crust that uranium. Second, thorium produces far less plutonium as a byproduct of fission and therefore producing up to half the amount of traditional uranium powered nuclear power plants. (Kazimi, 2003) Thorium reduces the amount of time for radioactive materials to decay to safe human levels and also decreases the amount of space needed to store spent nuclear fuel sources. Perhaps the largest advantage to thorium is its ability to significantly reduce the threat of nuclear proliferation. McCarthy has noted that every country that has wanted to build a nuclear bomb has done so, yet none have done so with spent nuclear fuel from power generation (McCarthy, 2008). Because the spent uranium and plutonium are a fraction of that produced in a traditional nuclear power plant, there is less of this material to fall into the hands of terrorist groups wishing to use it for the manufacture of a nuclear terrorist device. Extracting the uranium needed from spent thorium requires more shielding from the gamma radiation it gives off and remotely operated equipment making it even more difficult to pull out useable uranium. This makes it nearly impossible for terrorists to use to manufacture a nuclear bomb.

Nuclear energy has a value added component to power generation. Hydrogen is a byproduct of the fission process. Many environmentalists feel a hydrogen economy might be the saving grace of earth’s greenhouse dilemma. Hydrogen production is hampered by the large amount of energy necessary to separate hydrogen atoms from oxygen atoms in water molecules  (Schultz, Brown, Besenbruch, & Hamilton, 2003). Currently, the energy needed to produce hydrogen is created using energy largely derived from coal powered plants in the United States. The net gain in an environmentally fuel source becomes negative during this process due to the large amount of CO2 and sulfur dioxide emitted into the atmosphere as a result of burning coal for energy production. In creating a sustainable fuel source, we have to use a polluting non-renewable fuel source to manufacture it. Nuclear energy represents a clean energy source that is capable of producing hydrogen efficiently (Miller & Duffey, 2004).

Currently, nuclear energy is the only viable energy source capable of producing the amount of energy needed to sustain current levels of productivity and innovation around the world (Van der Zwaan, 2002). Faith that technology and innovation can save us from environmental collapse is apropos given the major advances in technology within the last century. But, technology and innovation will be borne from increased global energy output (Canton, 2006). Nuclear fusion might be one of these technological advances that show vast potential. However, until we can adequately produce fusion events safely and economically we have to make use of the energy producing techniques that offer the greatest amount of energy while doing the minimum amount of harm or our environment. At this point the only clear alternative is the further research and development of nuclear energy which will power humans into the 22nd century and beyond and may just be the catalyst for the solution to the human energy crisis.


Associated Press. (2011, February 16). Obama renews commitment to nuclear energy. Retrieved March 17, 2011, from MSNBC website:

Canton, J. (2006). The extreme future. [Kindle for Mac Version]. Retrieved from

The future of nuclear power. (2009). Retrieved March 14, 2011, from Massachusetts Institute of Technology website:

Gabbard, A. (2008, February). Coal Combustion: Nuclear Resource or Danger. Retrieved March 16, 2011, from

How it works. (2011). Costs: Fuel, Operation and Waste Disposal [Resources & Stats]. Retrieved March 17, 2011, from Nuclear Energy Institute website:

Kazimi, M. (2003, September). Thorium Fuel for Nuclear Energy. American Scientist, 91(5), 408. doi:10.1511/‌2003.5.408

Lenzen, M. (2008, August). Life cycle energy and greenhouse gas emissions of nuclear energy: A review. Energy Conversion and Management, 49(8), 2178-2199 . doi:10.1016/‌j.enconman.2008.01.033

A lifetime of Service [Fact Sheet]. (n.d.). Retrieved from U.S. Department of Energy website:

Lovelock, J. (2004, May). Nuclear power is the only green solution [Online article]. Retrieved from The Independent website:‌media/‌articles/‌‌love-indep-24-05-04.htm

McCarthy, J. (2008). Frequently asked question about nuclear power [FAQ]. Retrieved March 15, 2011, from Stanford University website:‌jmc/‌progress/‌nuclear-faq.html

Miller, A. I., & Duffey, R. (2004, August). Sustainable and economic hydrogen cogeneration from nuclear energy in competitive power markets. Energy, 30(14), 2690-2702. doi:10.1016/‌

Nuclear disasters and accidents. (n.d.). Retrieved March 15, 2011, from Oracle website:

Power Reactors. (2008, August). Retrieved March 17, 2011, from United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission website:‌reactors/‌power.html

Pro’s and con’s of nuclear power. (2002). Time for Change. Retrieved March 14, 2011, from‌articles/‌20.htm

van der Zwaan, B. (2002, April). Nuclear energy: Tenfold expansion or phase-out? Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 69(3), 287-307 . doi:10.1016/‌S0040-1625(01)00127-5

Yildiz, B., & Kazimi, M. (2005, May). Efficiency of hydrogen production systems using alternative nuclear energy technologies. International Journal of Hydrogen Energy, 31(1), 77-92 . doi:10.1016/‌j.ijhydene.2005.02.009

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Tsunami-A Simulation

This was a simulation I was part of designing for my Doctoral program at NSU. We were charged with designing a simulation for educational purposes. Coincidentally, a few days before this assignment was due the Japanese tsunami hit the northwestern coast of Japan and the idea for our simulation was born.

TSUNAMI!-A Disaster Response Simulation
Born out of the Japan Tsunami on March 11th, 2011, Tsunami places a player in the role of manager of emergency crisis coordinator for a small island population close to frequent tectonic activity. Tsunami allows players to simulate different emergency response scenarios of disaster response to varying magnitudes of a Tsunami. This type of simulation is invaluable for urban planners and emergency response teams to play out a number of different scenarios and to find ways to best respond to a tsunami disaster with the least amount of casualties to the population.
How to Play Tsunami:

In the role of emergency crisis manager, players are led through the manipulation of many variables in order to minimize casualties given a major tsunami event just off the coast of fictitious, Higher Ground (HG) Island. Players, being able to manipulate variables such as magnitude, proximity, and depth of an under sea earthquake, can see what effects these different variables would have on the size of the tsunami waves that come ashore. However, the real focus of the simulation is to examine different response scenarios to a tsunami event that has happened in close proximity to HG Island and has an arrival time of less than 30 minutes before reaching the shores of HG Island. Players have to plan out and execute different disaster response scenarios. Scenarios would include designing evacuation routes, evacuating a population of up to one million people, organizing and mobilizing search and rescue team, rescuing stranded victims, setting up temporary housing, aid, and medical facilities stations for displaced citizens, and reestablishing transportation routes and lines of communication. As players advance through different scenarios they will be earning credit, which they can use to “purchase” additional resources to implement into their tsunami responses. Tsunami also allows players to work in a multi-user environment where they can meet up with other players to plan response scenarios. Response plans can be archived so that players on a multi-user team can come back to them and adjust them asynchronously.

Registering for Tsunami:

To register for Tsunami all players need to be at least 13 years of age. This adheres to COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act) regulations and being that Tsunami is a complex, multi variable environmental disaster response game, it may not be suitable cognitively for kids that are younger.
To be able to begin planning for your tsunami disaster response all players must complete mini tutorials in the following areas.
·            Designing evacuation routes
·            Evacuating a population of up to one million people
·            Organizing and mobilizing search and rescue team
·            Rescuing stranded victims
·            Setting up temporary housing, aid, and medical facilities stations for displaced citizens
·            Reestablishing transportation routes and lines of communication
This is designed so that players have to chance to manipulate variables in just one response criteria at a time to see how that affects other areas of a tsunami response. Once all of these lessons have been completed, players can then customize their avatar and begin playing the tsunami simulation.

Once the Tsunami player orientation has been completed players can then invite other players to join their tsunami response team. Players could in their player profiles list areas of expertise in a crisis response system (i.e. I am a search and rescue specialist…). This would allow players to form teams that are made up of several people who all have special skills in those areas. Otherwise players would be free to play in the simulation as a single user.

Player Roles:

Site Emergency Coordinator:

The SEC leads and coordinates all who have a role in an emergency situation.  The Sec coordinates and develops emergency plans with the Evacuation Coordinator, Search and Rescue Coordinator, Crisis Communications Director, and the Medical Crisis Response Manager.  The SEC is responsible for the overall direction of all crisis management operations.

Evacuation Coordinator:

In an emergency, ECs guide and direct people out of the building to assembly areas and  check to make sure all assigned charges have left. They account for the people under  their responsibility once they reach the assembly area. ECs report injured or missing  people and other important information to the SEC (Site Emergency Coordinator).  If an  escape route or assembly area is unsafe, the ECs will direct their charges to alternate  gather points or safety areas. ECs are responsible for communication between their  group of people and the SEC. If the SEC or their designated alternate is not on the  scene, ECs will assume the SEC tasks until the SEC arrives.
Search and Rescue Coordinator:

Responsible for the planning, co-ordination, conduct and control of search and rescue operations.  The SRC (Search and Rescue Coordinator) organizes the rescue. All available information about the person(s) missing or in danger is gathered; search and rescue scenarios analyzed, and search/rescue teams assigned.  Reports directly to the SEC and coordinates medical efforts with the MCRM.
Crisis Communications Director:

Responsible for all Communication  between the SEC and other disaster teams/coordinators.  Additionally responsible for the routing of all information to and from the site to the outside to include both official and private entities.  Reports directly to the SEC and assists in the coordination of communication between emergency coordinators and teams.
Medial Crisis Response Manager:

Responsible for the organization and allocation of individuals and teams in order to effectively provide emergency medical treatment, triage, and fatality management.  Reports directly to the SEC and coordinates medical efforts with the SRC.
Tsunami variables:
Tsunami! allows users to modify the variables before starting the disaster response scenario. However, once the following variables have been set, they cannot be altered once the simulation begins. This is to force players to “live with” their decisions much like real urban/community planner would.

Earthquake settings: Players can choose the magnitude, the proximity to HG Island, and the depth that the quake occurs for their simulation. They would be able, through a google earth plugin, choose past quakes from around the globe using the USGS (United States Geological Survey) layer that shows earthquake locations and information.

Population: Players can modify their coastal populations on HG Island from 200,000-2 million people

HG Island: Players are can change the topography of HG Island to see different outcomes as the tsunami waves comes to shore.

Transportation infrastructure: Players can layout a full road, rail, and underground transportation system

Communications infrastructure: Players can decide ahead of time what communications they would use to notify the population for a coming tsunmai and then in the wake of a tsunami, what tools they would use to communicate with affected citizens, various disaster response teams and the world.

Tsunami Simulation inter-player communications.
As players design their infrastructures and develop their response teams of other players they would have the following communication options.

  • Live Chat (IM)
  • Multi-user videoconference
  • Asysncronous forums and discussion boards
  • Tsunmai! proprietary email system

Desired Outcomes

  1. Design a response system that minimizes casualty.
  2. Experience a race against the clock scenario to bring as many citizens to safety within a defined period of time.
  3. Reveal the importance of coordination and communication in an emergency response situation and develop a solid decision-making system.


Huang, Y., Wang, J., Jiang, R., Liu, M., & Dong, L. (2010, August 8). Simulation
and evaluation for the emergency management under the situation of fatal
disaster. Mediacom 2010 International Conference on Multimedia
Communications, 258-262.

Stop disasters. (2011). Retrieved from

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Simulations-An Overview

This is an article written for my Trends and Issues course this past semester for my Doctoral program at NSU. We were meant to look at simulations and provide an overview and a definition for them. Here is my piece.


Simulations have been around since early humans existed on earth (Barnett, 2010). They hunted and gathered and in between these events they played games and practiced the skills that were tests of the skills necessary to survive in the harsh environments where they found themselves. Children, not being old enough to participate in hunts would have played games to hone their skills as hunters, simulating the skills and organization to participate in group hunts. As these hominids evolved into humans they carried out rituals and dances that were representations of battles that had been fought or ones that they anticipated in the future. In the most simplistic forms, these are the origins of simulations.  Much work has been done in the field of simulations and the breadth of work spans just about every imaginable discipline including vocational education (Jossberger, 2010), surgical and patient care simulations in health care, educational simulations for pre-service teachers, and medical students (Bradley, March 2006), pilot training simulations, environmental modeling (Ganopolski, Rahmstorf, Petoukhov, & Claussen, 1998), military exercise simulations, and “end of the world scenarios”. Simulations at their heart are a confluence of many different fields. Searches on the subject lead to other fields such as learning theory, cognition and psychology, instructional design and training, computer software, artificial intelligence, and virtual worlds to name a few.


Defining simulation is an important component in understanding their purpose and relevance. The literature suggests that there are some commonalities between definitions but some subtle differences exist. Murphy and Saal define them as “complex performance tasks carried out in realistic or lifelike settings (1990).” Others define simulations artificial representations of processes, systems or events that use another process, system, or event to model the one it is intending to represent (Hahn, 2010). As technologies have evolved so to have simulations that afford users experiences that are highly realistic and engaging. More importantly simulations allow users to experience events they way they are perceived by someone else (Lindgren, 2009).

Games, and virtual worlds are often seen in the current literature of simulations and it seems that there is an attempt to further define and categorize these. The literature seems to have some agreement that games all contain rules and are generally for the purpose of entertainment. Simulations in contrast are symbol representations that employ other symbols (Squire & Patterson, 2010). Clark sees all three as points on a continuum, all sharing characteristics of Highly Interactive Virtual Environments (Clark, 2009). Squire and Patterson also differentiate between the two most common forms of simulations-predictive and idea. Predictive simulations aim to answer “what if…” questions and scenarios in the hopes of making preemptive adjustments and solutions. Such is the case with much of the environmental and climatology modeling of today. Idea simulations offer insights into specific ideas but differ in their success criteria (2010).

Simulations have endless possibilities in that they allow users to experience, first hand, situations, environments, theoretical problems and ideas in a safe setting. Furthermore, simulations allow for the variables to be modified examining their effects on different systems. This makes simulations obvious pedagogical tools for fields such as military exercises, surgical training, climate change, and in fields where large numbers of civilian injuries or deaths could result in user errors or misjudgments (i.e. commercial flight simulations).

Simulations do have their limitations. Namely, that they are just that simulations and for many scenarios there is little substitute for the real thing. Simulations cannot totally predict how human cognition and decision-making will be affected under similar circumstances in a real scenario. However, research in the field of cognitive behaviors within the context of 3D virtual simulations is now being done to “…[interpret] what a player’s actions and decisions mean in the broader context of cognitive readiness for a particular job function or task.” (Koenig, Lee, Iseli, & Wainess, 2010, p. 3). Davis and Eisenhardt also see external validity as a major weakness to simulation. Since simulation aims to focus on the core aspects of a scenario or circumstance, they often eliminate complexity and can make false assumptions that become overly simplistic and fail to “capture critical aspects of reality.” (2007, p. 496). Finally, Axelrod believes that the major flaw of simulations is that they have little identity in their own right and deserve to be a field of their own (Axelrod, 2005).


Aldrich, C. (2009, June). Virtual Worlds, Simulations, and Games for Education: A Unifying View. Innovate: Journal of Online Education, 5(5).

Axelrod, R. (2005). Handbook of Research on Nature Inspired Computing for Economy and Management. Hersey, PA: Idea Group.

Barnett, J., & Archambault, L. (2010, November). How Massive Multiplayer Online Games Incorporate Principles of Economics . Tech Trends: Linking Research and Practice to Improve Learning, 54, 29-35.

Bradley, P. (2006, March). The history of simulation in medical education and possible future directions. Medical Education, 40(3), 254–262.

Dalgarno, B., & Lee, M. (2010, January). What Are the Learning Affordances of 3-D Virtual Environments? British Journal of Educational Technology, 41(1), 10-32.

Davis, J., & Eisenhardt, K. (2007). Developing theory through simulation methods. Academy of Management Review, 32(2), 480–499.

Ganopolski, A., Rahmstorf, S., Petoukhov, V., & Claussen, M. (1998, January 22). Simulation of modern and glacial climates with a coupled global model of intermediate complexity. Nature, 391, 351-356. doi:0.1038/‌34839

Hahn, S. (2010). Transfer of training from simulations in civilian and military workforces: Perspectives from the current body of literature. Unpublished manuscript.

Jossberger, H., Brand-Gruwe, S., Boshuizen, H., & Van de Wie, M. (2010, December). The Challenge of Self-Directed and Self-Regulated Learning in Vocational Education: A Theoretical Analysis and Synthesis of Requirements. Journal of Vocational Education and Training, 62(4), 415-440.

Koenig, A., Lee, J., Iseli, M., & Wainess, R. (2010). A conceptual framework for assessing performance in games and simulation (Monograph No. 771). Los Angeles, CA.: University of California .

Lindgren, R. (2009). Perspective-Based Learning in Virtual Environments [Abstract] (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Stanford University, California.

Squire, K., & Patterson, N. (2010). Games and simulations in informal science education (Center for Education Research, Ed.) (Monograph). Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin.

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