Teacher Feature #46 – Sharing the Light

DS106, Food for Thought, Reflection, Social Networking, Teacher Feature 2 Comments »

As the current year draws to a close, I have been pondering what message I might include in this month’s “Teacher Feature” remix. I must thank Kevin Hodgson, a talented Grade 6 teacher, for inspiring me. Yesterday, Kevin entered the following comment in my previous blog post:

This is the kind of reflective practice that I cherish in DS106 and all of its assorted connected cousins. Thanks.

Teacher Feature #46 - Edith Wharton - 400x300
Teacher Feature #46 – Edith Wharton – December, 2014

Wanting to learn more about this individual, who graciously took the time to read and comment on my blog post, I did some research. I was delighted when I clicked on his hyper-linked name at the top of his comment.  Not only did it take me to his “Kevin’s Meandering Mind” blog, I also found his Dec. 23rd blog entry entitled “Annotating a Connected Song”.

His animated music video “Writing on the Wall” resonated with me because Kevin created this song as a tribute to all those who have influenced him over the past year. Furthermore, I was delighted that he took the time to share the important “behind the scenes” steps that he takes when creating a song. So often in education, we are overwhelmed by a student’s finished product, be it a well-researched blog post or essay, a musical composition, a thought-provoking poem, a complex computer program, a sculpture, or a collaborative video. What we often fail to recognize are the steps and revisions taken to create the final product. Kevin, through this reflective process, demonstrates the “messiness” that is part of the creation of his animated music video tribute.

Kevin caused me to reflect on my sharing, as well. I must admit when I was an Educational Computer Consultant, working with students and staff in K-12 schools, I generated a number of educational resources which I willingly shared with others. It was the day-to-day interaction with educators that provided me with the motivation to produce and share ideas and resources. Now that I am in my seventh year of retirement, I find that I no longer have the daily requests for help and, as such, do not create as many relevant resources to share.

To reflect on the “Teacher Feature” message above, I find that my educational role is becoming less of a candle and more of a mirror. True, I may no longer produce up-to-date, step-by-step resources like I once did, but I still can share the light. I would hope that through my connections with a very dedicated PLN of educators, my serendipitous discovery of new ideas and resources, together with my innovative colleagues in DS106, I can reflect and share their creative ideas with my readers.

With such connections … the educational future looks bright indeed!

Take care & keep smiling :-)

Larger Image: Brian Metcalfe’s Teacher Feature “photostream”
https://www.flickr.com/photos/life-long-learners/sets/72157625102810878/

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The amazing power of 140 characters

Application or Web App, DS106, Professional Development, Social Networking 8 Comments »

With the initial release of Twitter, I couldn’t see how this application could act as an effective way to communicate when each tweet was limited to only 140 characters. Those who have followed my writing over the past three decades know that I am severely challenged whenever I try to share educational information in a concise manner. Furthermore, when I initially signed up for a Twitter account and started following educational colleagues, I couldn’t see any value in receiving miniscule messages such as “I had Corn Flakes for breakfast this morning” or “Have just picked apples off our backyard tree & am helping my wife bake apple pies.” True, I learned about other interests that my “friends” might have, but I wanted to quickly separate the educational “wheat” from the “chaff”. To illustrate this point, I ask you to examine the tweets of Dean Shareski, an innovative educator from the province next door.  As of today, Dean has in excess of 22,200 followers, who if they had started following Dean when he first started using Twitter, would have subscribed to more than 93,500 of his tweets. One might suggest that Dean generates a great deal of chaff but I can assure you when you do encounter Dean’s  educationally relevant tweet “nuggets”, they are well worth engaging in the winnowing process. In fact Dean has a YouTube video warning potential followers entitled “So You’ve Decided to Follow Me on Twitter” in which he shares his reasons for tweeting about all interests in his life.

We are in the midst of the holiday season, be it Chanukah, Christmas, or Kwanza, and most of us are in a gift-giving mode. In today’s post, I want to share how, through the serendipitous use of Twitter, a gift was created for Alan Levine by a number of individuals who have only virtually connected in cyber-space.

Many of my regular readers know that in 2012 I participated in a free, online, digital storytelling DS106 class that was offered though the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Jim Groom and Alan Levine were my instructional leaders for this innovative course which engaged me right from the start. Alan Levine (aka “Cogdog”) continued to teach and refine DS106 over the past couple of years as he introduced new learners to this amazingly, creative DS106 educational environment.

One of the motivational activities that challenged DS106 participants was “The Daily Create” (TDC) which is described as:

The Daily Create provides a space for regular practice of spontaneous creativity through challenges published every day. Each assignment should take no more than 15-20 minutes. There are no registrations, no prizes, just a community of people producing art daily. Developed as part of the ds106 open course on digital storytelling, TDC is open to anyone who wants a regular dose of creative exercises (and it more fun than jumping jacks, pushups, and P90X).

To appreciate the wealth of creative prompts and ideas shared here, I encourage readers to visit The Daily Create Archive.

Even though I actively engaged in a host of DS106 assignments for four months in 2012, I still subscribe to The Daily Create feed which arrives daily by email. In fact it was The Daily Create #1069 that arrived in my in-box on December 12, 2014 that jump-started me again.

Alan Levine challenged us to “Generate a Meme Image That Emphasizes the Spirit of DS106″. However, it was Alan’s request for assistance that resonated with me when he stated “You can help me (@cogdog) out for a presentation I am doing January 8 by using something like the Meme Generator to create an image that highlights the experience of DS106 in one loud, proud utterance.”

Not fully understanding what constitutes a meme, I used Flickr’s “Advanced Search” to find Creative Commons licensed images that I could modify by adding text that I felt might help outsiders to better understand the DS106 learning experience. My fist two meme attempts included the remix images “Learning the DS106 way” and “DS106 is Engagement!”. In keeping with my DS106 training, I documented what I had learned in the process and shared my reflections in my blog post entitled “Engaged Leaning is Authentic Learning”.

Tweet AOnce I had uploaded my two memes to my Flickr photostream, I tagged them with “dailycreate” and “tdc1069″ so that images would be automatically transferred to the DS106 “The Daily Create” web site. In addition, I sent this first tweet to Alan Levine (@cogdog) and anyone who was filtering or searching for tweets based on the #DS106 hashtag.

Imagine my delight when Alan responded to me with the adjacent tweet which I immediately made a “favourite”. Not only was he extremely pTweet Bpositive but his tweet was shared with not only the #DS106 community but also with more than 8300 of his Twitter followers. In fact, it was through these Twitter connections that I was once again complimented. To my knowledge, Mariana Funes, was not enrolled in my 2012 online course, but she practices one of the DS106 “ABC” mantras. Although “Always Be Creating” was the focus for DS106 participants, the power of “Always Be Commenting” should not be overlooked.

Tweet CWhether it was a instructional comment on another DS106 student’s blog post or a positive tweet highlighting the work of a colleague, such feedback is indeed an intoxicating elixir. Tweets like Alan’s and Mariana’s are powerful motivators which encourage you to continue to share online. Furthermore, I was delighted with Mariana’s next tweet which indicated that she was “inspired” by my efforts and decided to create her “Doge does DS106″ meme to help out Alan.

Tweet DI must admit that I didn’t know that the dog in Mariana’s DS106 meme was called “Doge”. In fact our son, who is a software engineer and returned home from San Francisco for Christmas, patiently explained to me that the true memes were pictures that had gone viral. Perhaps, if I had researched Mariana’s reference to “Doge”, I would have found “Know Your Meme” and become somewhat more aware. As our son said … “Just because you uploaded an engagement ring image into Meme Generator, and added some text, doesn’t make it a meme”. I suggested that perhaps my remixes of Creative Common licensed images with DS106 text attributes were actually ideas in their infancy waiting to go viral :-)

Tweet ERegardless of my lack of understanding of memes, another “favourite” tweet from Alan Levine, which complimented my life-long learning passion, motivated me to create more memes for my mentor. Although they are really “remixes” and not “memes”, my efforts were to try and capture the essence of what DS106 meant to me and to share my creativity with Alan and other members of the DS106 community.

Having been an educator for 40 years, I was quite familiar with the delivery system where “one assignment fits all”. Imagine my delight in the DS106 process which encouraged me to choose a variety of innovative activities, which captured my imagination, from the DS106 Assignment Bank. As of today, this repository contains 809 assignments with 7292 examples created by engaged learners. Each of these assignments was given a difficulty rating from 1 to 5 stars and the instructor might challenge students to complete 10 stars worth of work in one of the 10 categories including Visual, Design, Audio, Video, Web, Mashup, Writing, Fanfic, Animated GIFs, or 3D Printed Assignments.

Tweet FWhen I was enrolled in the DS106 online course, I was intrigued by assignments like “Fat Cats Make Art Better”. I thought that I might create a meme using the “fat cat” theme together with the DS106 “ABC” mantra “Always Be Creating”. In addition, I was so intrigued with the flexible nature of the assignments in DS106 that I thought it was important to try and capture this powerful idea in a “Metcalfe meme” (not to be confused with the real memes). The resulting remixes of “ABC” and “Flexible” were uploaded and Alan was advised with the tweet at right.

Tweet GOnce again Alan sent me a tweet indicating that he loved my “Flexible” meme. He reinforced that thought by adding a comment associated with this remix image in my Flickr photostream. Not only did I appreciate his feedback regarding my artistic remix of  “Flexible”, but also this activity allowed me to learn how to add text to a curved line. I know that in Photoshop and Photoshop Elements v.10 there is a built-in feature where one can simply add text to a curved path. Unfortunately, I own Photoshop Elements v.9, so I had to search Google for ideas. I imported the Creative Commons licensed image into PowerPoint, added the spaced-out letters “F L E and X”, and then individually positioned each of the remaining characters I, B, L, E and ! to create the effect.

HoweTweet Hver, it was Mariana’s next tweet that I believe was the critical tipping point in all this Twitter communication. By suggesting that perhaps Rochelle Lockridge (@Rockylou22) might consider creating an “HTML book” for Alan Levine, members of the DS106 community went back to this “5 day old” Daily Create and designed more memes to help out with his January 8th presentation. In fact, when I uploaded my last “Flexible” remix on December 17th, there were 14 memes in the list. Now there are 21 with the last entry, to date, being uploaded on December 22nd.

Tweet IUsing a variety of remixes and memes created by the DS106 community, and a tweet prompt from Mariana Funes, Rochelle Lockridge created an amazing, online flip-book called “What is #DS106?” using Flip PDF Professional. She presented the link to Alan Levine, through the tweet on the left, and advised some of the DS106 Daily Create #1069 contributors of her creation. This innovative present to Alan was a fitting tribute to a mentor who so willingly shared his expertise and motivated so many within the DS106 community.

Tweet JOnce Rochelle sent out her tweet regarding this innovative flip-book gift, the accolades starting flooding the Twitterverse from the #DS106 community. Like Sandy Brown Jensen, many individuals that Rochelle credited on page 2 of her online flip-book, sent out a congratulatory tweet or connected with Rochelle to acknowledge her efforts and creativity.

Tweet KAlan was “totally blown away” with Rochelle’s innovative flip-book and considered perhaps forgoing the use of slides at his upcoming January 8 presentation. Obviously the contents of this “What is #DS106?” flip-book highlighted, in a very unique way, the experiences that participants had when they were engaged in the DS106 learning environment.

Stephanie Jeske also sent out a congratulatory tweet to the flip-book creator as well as several of the DS106 meme generating participantTweet Ls. I, too, felt that it was important to provide Rochelle with feedback as to my thoughts on her creative present for Alan Levine. I think it is very important to acknowledge the good that people demonstrate. I believe that as educators we can identify with the small pebble that is tossed into a quiet pond. The ripples spread out forever in concentric circles and we never fully comprehend to what degree we have influenced others.

Tweet MThus, it is very important to acknowledge the work of our colleagues, be they creative DS106 members or K-12 educators. It takes very little effort to send out a Twitter message of 140 characters. However, in many cases that motivational comment or educational link may motivate them or help them be a better educator. Not only do they, as teachers, profit from the message in the tweet but ultimately, and perhaps indirectly, their students benefit from this same action.

Tweet NIn summary, I want to thank the members of the DS106 community who took time to construct their Daily Create #1069 memes. Undoubtedly, Mariana Funes was a key player because she saw the potential in showcasing these remixes and memes for Alan in an on-line flip-book.

Tweet OUltimately, it was the creative work of Rochelle Lockridge who blended these memes and ideas into a digital story that represents so well the creative talents and caring of the DS106 participants. Indeed, I am so proud to be a part of this DS106 community and know that through the judicious use 140 characters I, too, can share my learning with others.

Take care & keep smiling :-)

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Engaged Learning Is Authentic Learning

Application or Web App, DS106, Food for Thought, Problem Solving 1 Comment »

For me DS106 was an amazing learning experience. I enrolled in this free, online Digital Storytelling class, hosted at the University of Mary Washington, in the Spring of 2012. Jim Groom and Alan Levine (aka “cogdog”) were the instructors who introduced me to a completely new style of authentic learning.

Having conducted numerous workshops for educators over the past 35 years, I always prepared appropriate handouts to distribute to participants. If, for example, I was reviewing the elements of Microsoft Excel, I made certain that all attendees had step-by-step resource material which corresponded to the version of Excel that they would use on their computer.

In DS106, we spent time manipulating images and creating animated GIFs. I expected that the instructors would also provide step-by-step resource material that would help class members learn the basics of Photoshop or GIMP. Not so … rather the class was encouraged to search the Internet for tutorials which matched the application and version to which the student had access. Also we were encouraged to share what we learned, comment on other student’s blog posts, and network with our classmates so that we formed a true learning community.

Additionally, the flexibility of the course “hooked” me. I was impressed by what Jim Groom stated in his welcoming post entitled “ds106: We’re open and you’re invited“.

… what made it amazing was that anyone can do as much or as little as they wanted as part of the open, online section and leave the rest. We don’t accept apologies and we don’t believe in guilt, there is no sorry in ds106. Simply come prepared to make some art, have some fun, give some feedback, and leave when you want.

Although I was retired at the time and had much more time to devote to this endeavour than the average teacher, I liked the idea that I could opt in or out whenever I wished. In fact, I continue to subscribe to the “The Daily Create” activity which continues to stimulate my imagination.

Tonight, after supper, was the first time I turned on my computer today. Today’s “Daily Create” asked us to “Generate a Meme Image That Emphasizes the Spirit of DS106″ I must admit that I was not that familiar with the “meme culture” so I skimmed over the explanatory text and viewed the visuals submitted earlier today. My first thought was that I might be able to add some text to a Creative Commons photo and create the following remix to pay tribute to the amazing learning opportunity afforded me through DS106:

DS106 Learning - 400x300

Thankfully, I went back and read the directions more closely. Alan Levine suggested that the visual should attempt to explain DS106 “to the outsiders, the people who just do not know or understand what you have been doing?” I then realized that baby’s message above did not explain how learning in the DS106 way was any different from other learning techniques.

I then noted, in The Daily Create’s fine print that we could use Imgflip’s Meme Generator to produce a visual that highlights our experience with the DS106 learning community. Ever ready to try out a new application, I searched Flickr for an engagement ring with Creative Commons attributes which allowed me to modify the image. I uploaded this image into Meme Generator, added the top and bottom lines of text, and produced the following meme with a message:

DS106 Engagement 400x286

When I enrolled in the DS106 course and was challenged to manipulate images, create audio and video segments, without my familiar step-by-step handouts, I was forced outside my comfort zone. However, it made me realize that teachers today may be doing a dis-service to their students by supplying too many instructional step-by-step resources. When our students graduate and enter the work force, they are going to have to learn on their own. Undoubtedly they are going to have to become problem solvers and find answers online or learn new tips and strategies from their colleagues. Regardless, if they are to be successful, they are going to be engaged in authentic learning. We, as teachers, need to foster such authentic learning by having students successfully search for answers on their own and engage in more challenging collaborative learning opportunities.

Take care & keep smiling :-)

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Teacher Feature #45 – Vision and Venture

Activity, Food for Thought, Project, Social Networking, Teacher Feature 4 Comments »

I first “met” Laura Stockman on the Internet four years ago, when I serendipitously chanced upon her powerful 2007 blog post entitled “25 Days to Make a Difference”. With the help of her mother, who was a teacher, 10 year old  Laura posted a challenge. To honour her grandfather who had recently passed away from cancer, Laura decided she would save her December allowance, of one dollar a day, and donate it to a charity on Christmas.

Teacher Feature-45 Laura Stockman
Teacher Feature #45 – November, 2014 – Vance Havner

Laura used the power of social networking to challenge readers “to TRY to do something every single day during the holiday season to make a SMALL difference in his or her world.” Whoever made the most difference in December, could select the charity to which Laura would donate her $25.00 on Christmas night. Laura was surprised with the response and the number of readers who matched her donations during the Christmas season.

Laura’s initial challenge really resonated with me and so I wrote a blog post entitled “How to Make a Difference in December”. My colleague, Chris Harbeck,immediately adapted Laura’s idea and engaged his middle school students to donate 25 cents per day and issued a challenge to other teachers and students in his blog post entitled “Would your students donate $0.25 cents per day?” A few days later, Karl Fisch, a high school teacher in Colorado, read Chris’ post and challenged his students and staff with the post “A Quarter is More Than Just a Fraction”. In addition, Karl introduced us to Kiva.org, which in a non-profit organization that helps facilitate the lending of $25 micro-loans to alleviate poverty throughout the world.

I strongly believe in the metaphor that our actions are like a pebble tossed into a quiet pool of water. We have no idea how the ripples that we create will benefit others. Laura’s initial challenge, together with the power of connectivity through the Internet, demonstrate how one person can influence many.

In fact, it was through social networking that I learned of Laura’s new vision. After my most recent post, Laura sent me a thank you “tweet” in which she introduced me to her most recent endeavour shared through her blog entitled “25 x 25 Days to Make a Difference”. Laura wants to recreate her ripple effect by helping “twenty five local kids as they venture out to do good deeds this holiday season”. However, all students who participate in doing a good deed each day in December can qualify to recommend the charity to which Laura should donate her $100.00 on Christmas day.

Those students wishing to participate in Laura’s new “good deed a day in December” challenge are requested to share their good deed via either a picture on Instagram or Twitter or a blog post. Obviously the more good deeds that are documented and shared with Laura, the more chance you have of being able to recommend the Christmas charity recipient.

In closing, it is obvious that Laura Stockman has followed up her vision with a worthy venture. I encourage teachers and students to join in her Christmas activity and we’ll all step up the stairs together.

Take care & keep smiling :-)

Larger Image: Brian Metcalfe’s Teacher Feature “photostream”
http://www.flickr.com/photos/life-long-learners/

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December Difference-Maker Project

Activity, Application or Web App, How To, Project 1 Comment »

I would be remiss it I did not remind teachers of an innovative and engaging classroom activity for December. Not only will your students remember this special endeavour, but also I can assure you that needy individuals in your town or city together with others world-wide will benefit and remember this special project long after your students have graduated. Of course, I am referring to a student-inspired activity that I first shared in my November, 2010 post entitled “How to Make a Difference in December”.

donating a coin

The main steps in this activity, which was initiated by 10 year old Laura Stockman in her powerful blog post entitled “Twenty-Five Days to Make a Difference”, include the following:

  1. Ask students to contribute a coin a day in December. For younger students, it might be a nickel whereas middle school students may contribute a quarter. As Chris Harbeck states, it is important that each student contributes from his/her allowance rather than ask Mom or Dad to fund this project on their child’s behalf.
  2. Following up on the “We Day” philosophy, students are encouraged to make a difference in their school, community or world. As funds start to accumulate, ask students if there are local charities to which they would like to contribute half their donations.
  3. To extend the power of giving, I encourage teachers to explore Kiva.org to see how a $25 loan can be contributed to needy individuals in third-world countries. The Vimeo video entitled “How Kiva Works” is an excellent resource to explain how the Kiva micro-loans process can help.
  4. Engage students in exploring the various third-world countries and individuals that Kiva supports. Make a donation and monitor how the recipient repays the $25 micro-loan so that your students can reinvest this same $25 with another person in need. Make certain that parents are also made aware of the individual(s) that your class is supporting so they, too, can go on line and monitor the difference that their son or daughter has made to those less fortunate.

If, after perusing the related resources, you feel that there is not sufficient time to get this challenge operational in December, I recommend talking about it with your students and targeting 25 days in January to make this important difference. With many, making “New Year’s resolutions” as of January 1st, it might be more appropriate for your class to consider this activity as a “Resolution Revolution”.

If you do accept accept Laura Stockman’s challenge, I’d appreciate if you would share feedback and tips through the comments at the end of this post so that other reasders can benefit from your practical, classroom ideas.

Thanks, in advance, for caring and sharing.

Take care & keep smiling :-)

Resources:

– Flickr – Creative Commons image “Gimme a penny” by Marwa Morgan
https://www.flickr.com/photos/marwamorgan/3064562992/

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Teacher Feature #44 – Teaching Superheroes

Food for Thought, Teacher Feature No Comments »

It’s the last day of the month and I am scrambling to write this month’s “Teacher Feature” blog post. I was motivated to write this message by the antics of some of our neighbourhood children who, dressed as superheroes, visited our home tonight shouting “Hallowee’en Apples!” or “Trick or Treat!”. Many of these children were elementary school age and it got me thinking about my teaching colleagues, who are indeed real superheroes.

Teacher as Superhero - 400 x 300

Teacher Feature #44 – Author Unknown – October, 2014

When I began teaching in 1967, I was able to spend almost all of my school day focusing on the curriculum and helping the students in my classrooms. Today, however, there seems to be an ever-expanding plethora of demands on teachers’ time. Often more than half of the weekly hours that the average teacher devotes to school-related activities are non-classroom duties. Often it is spent preparing for classes, marking, working with individual students, supervising extra-curricular activities, attending meetings, committee work, completing paperwork, and contacting parents. In addition, today’s teacher is expected to stay up-to-date on the latest trends, partake in professional development, and learn to use technology and social media to improve the educational experience for all members of their class.

Furthermore, when I began teaching I believe that I had the support of all my parents. Should a student misbehave in the classroom, I knew that his/her parents would back me up and that the individual student would be reprimanded by his parents as well. Toady, I’m not sure that all parents respect and support teachers to the same degree as they have in past.

Donald D. Quinn expresses the challenges of teaching today with the following comparison:

“If a doctor, lawyer, or dentist had 40 people in his office at one time, all of whom had different needs, and some of whom didn’t want to be there and were causing trouble, and the doctor, lawyer, or dentist, without assistance, had to treat them all with professional excellence for nine months, then he might have some conception of the classroom teacher’s job.”

I am proud to state that I have met so many dedicated teachers over my 40 year teaching career who were indeed superheroes because they strongly believed in the words of Barbara Colorose:

“If kids come to us from strong, healthy functioning families, it makes our job easier. If they do not come to us from strong, healthy, functioning families, it makes our job more important.” 

In closing, I leave my colleagues and educational readers with these wonderful, wise words: “To the world you may be just a teacher, but to your students you are a hero.”

Take care & keep smiling :-)

Larger Image: Brian Metcalfe’s Teacher Feature “photostream”
http://www.flickr.com/photos/life-long-learners/

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Problem Solving – A Matter of Perspective

Activity, Application or Web App, Problem Solving, Tip No Comments »

Motivating students to solve problems has definitely changed over the past 40 years. When I first began teaching Mathematics, and in particular Geometry, to junior high students, I had a number of posters decorating my classroom. Of particular interest were the ones that showcased the creativity of the Dutch graphic artist M. C. Escher. His mathematical art, with its unique tessellation symmetry and creative transformations was truly amazing. However, it was the impossible constructions shown in creations such as “Belvedere”, “Relativity”, and “Waterfall”, that captured the imagination of most students.

Forty years later, imagine my delight when our younger son, who is a software engineer in San Francisco, shared with me the artistic puzzle game Monument Valley.

Monument-Valley-2

This Android, iOS, and Kindle puzzle, which only costs $3.99, is described as “an illusory adventure of impossible architecture and forgiveness”. One attempts to guide the silent Princess Ida through a series of remarkably artistic formations. Each screen, which can be printed, is a work of art that utilizes perspective altering images based on the Penrose Triangle and Escher’s “impossible cube”.

Knowing that some educators do not have access, while at school, to YouTube videos, I screen-captured 39 images and created the following animated GIF to provide a better perspective of this unique adventure. This looping animation starts with a black slide, together with the Monument Valley title and information slides. Follow Princess Ida as she travels from within her black circle at the bottom ever upward in her quest to navigate this creative environment:

 

[Editor: Please be patient waiting for this large animated GIF to load & display.]

I would encourage readers, who wish a more complete overview of this magical puzzle environment, to view the “Monument Valley Release Trailer” on YouTube.

In addition, older students, particularly those who have an interest in artistic design, mathematics and/or computer programming may enjoy exploring the following two resources which give insight into how Monument Valley was created:

Spoiler Alert
Should you decide to purchase this puzzle for your students, for your family members, or friends, I recommend that you advise them to not explore YouTube videos to help with solving any of the 10 different levels of Monument Valley. As all educators know, true problem solving comes from involvement, struggling, manipulating a puzzle and exploring different paths. Searching for a solution on the Internet or in a YouTube video is akin to looking at the Answer Key at the back of the book.

Regardless of whether we are experiencing a challenging puzzle or aspects of life, in general, we should remember Gail Lynne Goodwin’s quotation … “Perspective can make our problems look bigger than they really are.”

Take care & keep smiling :-)

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Teacher Feature #43 – Life & Photography

Food for Thought, How To, Teacher Feature, Tutorial No Comments »

In education, like most professions, there are good days and bad days. Having worked closely with educators for more than forty years, I have observed the following … Although we may have a series of good days or inspiring situations, with all the associated positive feedback, we tend to focus on the single, bad, or negative incident.

In five years time, will this issue really matter or make a difference?

On the occasion when we had experienced a unsettling day or action, a former colleague would often ask me … “In five years time, will this issue really matter or make a difference?” This simple question helped me put such concerns into perspective. To help us avoid perseverating on the few negative incidents that we may encounter in our educational careers, we need to focus on, and celebrate, the positive opportunities. More importantly, we need to share such positive energy with our colleagues to motivate them as well.

Animated Life & Photography

Perhaps Ritu Ghatourey expressed it best, when she said, “A negative thinker sees a difficulty in every opportunity. A positive thinker sees an opportunity in every difficulty.”

A Teachable Moment
Often, I am intrigued by the ingenuity of other bloggers and wonder how certain elements on their web displays were created. Some readers may wonder how the above animated GIF was created. In that I plan to use this same animated process in my next blog post, I thought that it might be wise to share how such an effect was created. Those who are interested in the above animation style, can create a similar one by following these steps.

1. Locate a suitable image which one imports into PowerPoint. In the above case, I chose an old PowerPoint template, which I remembered displayed a filmstrip or series of negatives.
2. I entered the “Life is like photography … ” quotation into the “Title” text box and positioned this frame appropriately.
3. Next, I copied this original slide and repeatedly pasted it into the PowerPoint slide tray to create a total of eight slides.
4. I right-clicked on the first slide and chose the “Format Background” option. I did not change the “Picture or Text Fill” option but explored the changes made to the slide by moving the “Transparency” slider. When I moved it from 0% to 100%, the filmstrip graphics disappeared leaving only the important quotation. Since I wanted my animated GIF message and image to “slowly develop”, I thought that if I altered the “Transparency” level on this, as well as each subsequent slide, the message would slowly appear or “develop”. I closed this first slide, with the “Transparency” level set to 100%.
5. Using the above process, I next selected each of the subsequent 2nd through 7th slides and set each “Transparency level” to the respective values of 90%, 80%, 60%, 40%, 20% and 0%. The seventh slide, with it’s 0% “Transparency” level, appears with all the “developed” colours and quotation as intended.
6. I right-clicked on the eighth slide and chose the “Format Background” option. Next, I selected a “Solid Fill” with a black background which I applied to only this last slide. I thought that by removing all film elements and the quotation, the plain black background slide would be an important “fade to black” process to end the animated cycle.
7. To complete this task, I saved this PowerPoint slide set.
8. To create an animated GIF, one must collect a series of similar slides, with slight changes, which can be cycled through rather quickly. To save these individual PowerPoint slides, I chose the “File>Save As” option and selected “JPG File Interchange Format (*JPG)”. When prompted “Do you want to export every slide in the presentation or only the current slide?”, I selected the “Every Slide” button.
9. On my computer, each of these eight PowerPoint slides had dimensions of 960 x 720 pixels. Unfortunately, my blog can only accommodate images that are less than 450 pixels wide. To reduce each of the eight slides to their corresponding 400 x 300 pixel format, I chose to use the “Batch Conversion” process of “Irfanview“, a very powerful, but free, Windows application.
10. Using an old Windows freeware application called Ulead’s GIF Animator Lite, I was able to import these eight 400 x 300 pixel images into this application and vary the display speeds of each image.
11. Once I felt that the individual images and timing were appropriately set, I was able to save the results as an animated GIF.
12. The last step was to import this GIF image into my WordPress blog, so that when viewed in a browser, the eight images would rapidly display providing, the above, animated look.

Take care & keep smiling :-)

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Teacher Feature #42 – Inspiring Teachers

Food for Thought, Reflection, Teacher Feature No Comments »

With students and teachers starting back to school in two days, I searched for a powerful quotation that I felt might motivate teachers. I was very pleased when I found the following William Arthur Ward’s description of the different qualities of teachers. Next I used Flickr’s Advanced Search to find Creative Commons licensed pictures of students and a teacher that I could  “modify, adapt, or build upon”.

Imagine my delight when I found a picture of Kathy Cassidy, a dedicated Grade 1 teacher from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. Not only does Kathy inspire her primary students, she “invites the world into her classroom” through the use of a classroom blog and other social media.

Kathy Cassidy - Inspiring Teacher - 400x300

Teacher Feature #42 – William Arthur Ward – August 2014

As I began creating the above “Teacher Feature” poster, I started to revise my initial thoughts. I must admit that when I first positioned the above quotation beside the picture of Kathy and her student, I was thinking about how we, as teachers, can tell, explain, demonstrate, and inspire … students. However, when I started searching for links to Kathy’s personal and classroom blogs, her Flickr photostream, her personal and classroom Twitter streams and her “Technology in the Classroom” and K12 Online Conference contributions, I realized that not only does Kathy inspire students, she also inspires other teachers.

As the new school year gets underway, perhaps each one of us should think about how we might, not only inspire our students, but how we might also inspire other educators. I believe that by sharing, and connecting with others, the potential to inspire exists.

Have an exciting and fulfilling school year!

Take care & keep smiling :-)

Larger Image: Brian Metcalfe’s Teacher Feature “photostream”
http://www.flickr.com/photos/life-long-learners/

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Teacher Feature #41 – Never Stop Learning

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I first began teaching Mathematics to Grade 7 & 8 students more than 45 years ago. I must admit that I was convinced that all the learning on which my students focused, would be found in the Mathematics textbook that each student was issued  at the start of the school year. Somewhat naively, I thought that the vast majority of the students’ learning would come to a grinding halt over the summer months as the books were forgotten and holidays started.

Today, upon reflection, I realize just how much students learn outside the conventional classroom and just how many opportunities there are to learn over the summer months.

 Learning Over Summer-400x300
Teacher Feature #41 – Unknown – July, 2014

I am convinced that as adults, we should take more time to explore those magical “teachable moments” with the children in our charge. Whether it be … how to catch and fillet a fish, how to throw a football, or how to ride a two-wheeler, these are rare opportunities to teach interesting skills that may be retained long after the student has forgotten, for example, how to solve a quadratic equation.

Learning to downhill ski was important within our family. Although our two boys enjoyed competitive downhill racing in Manitoba, they eagerly looked forward to their school Spring Break holiday in March. This was when our family drove out West to ski in the mountains in Fernie, British Columbia. Our boys often wondered why other Manitoba ski families seemed to always arrive in Fernie before us, although we often left Manitoba on the same day. In that my wife was also a teacher, we often spent time “learning along the way”. Other families might travel in the most direct route between point A and B but we always took side trips to explore other interests. Whether it was exploring the life of the North-West Mounted Police at Fort McLeod, discovering the Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, or investigating Canada’s deadliest rock slide at the Frank Slide, our family took advantage of these holiday opportunities to learn more about the history and related stories that may not necessarily have been found in the textbooks that our sons were studying in their respective classrooms.

I think back on these amazing opportunities that our family shared and I know our sons are richer for these additional learning experiences.

Perhaps Jiddu Krishnamurti captured the essence of this “Teacher Feature” when he said:

There is no end to education. It is not that you read a book, pass an examination, and finish with education. The whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning.

Take care & keep smiling :-)

Larger Image: Brian Metcalfe’s Teacher Feature “photostream”
http://www.flickr.com/photos/life-long-learners/

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