Teacher Feature #50 – Pay It Forward

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Pay It Forward Day is the last Thursday of April each year. This year it occurs on April 30th and it provides teachers with a powerful opportunity to teach more than traditional curricular concepts. My Dad used to say … “We are put on this earth to ensure that when we do leave, we have made the world a better place.” Likewise my thoughts return to my days as a Wolf Cub when we made the promise “to do a good turn to somebody every day.”

Teacher Feature #50 - Pay It Forward - 400x300
Teacher Feature #50 – April, 2015

I encourage teachers to explore the Pay It Forward Day free downloads and School Kits. In addition to the resources provided online, one can use the “Search L-L-L Blog” tool at the right and enter “Pay It Forward” (without quotes) to locate previous posts that I have written about this powerful teaching opportunity.

Recently a friend forwarded this YouTube video to me, which I will call “The Man in the Queue”, which I encourage you to share with your students. Likewise, a past video that I’ve entitled “Kindness Keeps the World Afloat” demonstrates how a simple act of kindness can cause an amazing ripple effect.

However, some of you may not yet be convinced and might say … “Ya …Great idea Brian. Too bad you couldn’t have shared this with me about 10 days ago so I could research, download, duplicate, and distribute this to my kids on April 30th.” To which, I reply, “True … I am posting this later than I intended. However, take time on April 30th to briefly expose your students to the Pay It Forward Day concept and ask each of them to think about what they might do as a random act of kindness. Afterall, now that you have the nessary preparation time, you and your students have all May to make the world a better place through doing a good deed.”

Take care & keep smiling :-)

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“Petals Around the Rose” – Problem Solving

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I believe that problem solving is one of the most important skills that our students can acquire in our classrooms today. In a recent post, entitled “Problem Solving with ‘Aunt Emma’”, I described an engaging activity which helps students look at problems from a variety of different perspectives. Today, I want to share with you a similar problem solving classroom activity that you can use to challenge your students to think laterally.

Petals Around the Rose – Instructions
All one needs to demonstrate this activity is five dice which you roll following these three basic rules:

  1. The name of this activity is “Petals Around the Rose” and the name is important.
  2. The answer will always be an even number including zero.
  3. The facilitator can always tell you the number after any roll of the five dice.

The facilitator cannot tell you anything else. You must continue rolling and attempting to guess the number of “Petals Around the Rose” associated with each roll.

To get you started thinking, I will show you an image of four rolls with their respective even numbers:

Petals Around the Rose - 450 x 334

If you are like me, the four sample rolls above did not provide sufficient information to solve the “Petals Around the Rose” puzzle. However, I was not the only one having difficulty solving this challenge. In fact, I understand that in 1977, Bill Gates was also quite frustrated with this activity. I recommend readers review the following article “Bill Gates and Petals Around the Rose” to gain a better perspective on the challenge and how different individuals need a different number of rolls to formulate the answer.

If you are still unsure of the solution, I encourage you to initially play the simpler, online version of “Petals Around the Rose”.  More repetition may help you to formulate a rule. Once you have an idea as to how the number of petals are determined, you may wish to visit this second web site to “Play Petals Around the Rose”. Here you can test your guess to determine if you, indeed, have solved the puzzle.

However, like your students, do not be tempted, when you connect online, to visit any other sites that might divulge the secret solution. Even though this second interactive web site has a  “Search” field at the top of the page, do not use it to find an “easy solution”. I can assure you that once you have received that “shot of adrenalin” when you have honestly approached and solved this problem, you’ll thank me for being patient and not cheating. Furthermore, you will be so much more enlightened, that you will present this activity to your students in a much more powerful lesson. So take time to fully engage yourself in the learning process in a manner that you would want your students to use.

Teacher Tips
Like the previous “Aunt Emma” activity, it is very important to set the proper tone in your classroom for his problem solving activity. If you have struggled and have finally predicted the correct number, for six successive rolls, then you know how it feels to experience that “Eureka moment”. You do not want to deprive any student of this same excitement.

For this reason it is very important that all your students switch-off all Internet-connected devices so that they are not tempted to take the “easy way out” and search online for a solution.

Furthermore, it is very important that when a student thinks s/he has figured out the solution, s/he does not blurt it out in class. Rather, have that student identify the number of petals for the rest of the class or ask her/him to roll the dice for the class.

I’d also avoid introducing this activity in the last 10 minutes of class. Unfortunately, it will be too tempting for students, who have not yet solved the problem, to exit your class, seek out a friend on the playground, or “Google” the solution before next class. Such important learning opportunities should not be destroyed because your students did not have sufficient time to exercise their problem solving skills.

Readers who are looking for additionl ideas as to how best to introduce this activity to a class, are encouraged to explore this “Petals Around the Rose” lesson plan.

In my day, in the classroom, I would have rolled clear dice on an overhead projector so that the entire class could be engaged in the thinking process. Today, I’m sure some readers will have interactive white boards that will have a dice application that can be modified to randomly roll five dice to illustrate the “Petals Around the Rose” activity. For example, this YouTube video showcases how a teacher might incorporate “Dice in Smart Notebook”.

Another thought that you may wish to investigate involves renaming this problem solving activity. For example, if you know that some of your students will be tempted to go online and search for the solution to “Petals Around the Rose”, perhaps you might intoduce this activity under a new name. I’m sure that students will have a much more difficult time finding solutions to a dice activity called “Fish Around the Food” or “Planets Around the Sun”. That is, unless they find this blog post and exercise their lateral thinkiing to realize that either of the previous two activities can be solved in a similar way as “Petals Around the Rose”. The challenge for you is to come up with a new name for this activity.

In that I am retired and am unaware of the creative ways that teachers night project the roll of five dice for the entire class, I encouage readers to provide suggestions and tips regarding this problem solving activity in the comments below so that others may benefit.

Additional Resource
Scam School – The Secrets of Petals Around the Rose
Note: This YouTube video may not be appropporiate for student viewing.

The Back Story
I believe in giving credit where credit is due. It was Alan Levine (a.k.a. @cogdog) who motivated me to write about this problem solving activity. Several years ago, when I first enrolled in DS106, an online digital storytelling course, I found out, to my delight, that Alan Levine was one of the facilitators. Although Alan’s fame had preceded him as an educator, who shared so much through his “CogDogBlog”, I was eager to find out more about this dedicated educator. As the course progressed, I was so impressed with his talents in providing a creative face-lift to the DS106 web site and his skill in “tweaking” software to make it do his bidding. Wanting to learn more about his background, I “Googled” Alan and found out that, as an instructional technologist at the Maricopa Community College, Alan had developed a powerful online tutorial entitled “Writing HTML – A Tutorial for Creating WWW Pages”. What was even more amazing was that approximately 20 years ago, I had used this same tutorial when I was learning and perfecting HTML to showcase my school division’s online newsletter.

Upon further research, I chanced upon “alan’s no java shop” where Alan shared a number innovative programming creations and an interesting dice activity called “Petals Around the Rose”. I was intrigued by the name and, although his program fails to run today (as it needs a plug-in), I explored his dice rolling simulation for many, many rolls until I discovered the rule. At that moment, I knew I had found an awesome activity to share with educators who wanted to challenge their students. I bought five dice and, over the past year or so, I entertained friends with the “Petals Around the Rose” to see how they tackled the problem. Unfortunately, I never got around to writing about this problem solving activity.

One might ask “What prompted you to write about it today?” Well, today is Alan Levine’s birthday, and I thought that I’d send Alan a virtual gift of recognition, but more important, I’d share Alan’s gift of “Petals Around the Rose” with my readers.

Take care & keep smiling :-)

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Teacher Feature #49 – Finesse Stress

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The task of being a teacher today is one that may be filled with a variety of frustration. In fact, I believe that the daily stress in our teaching profession has increased drastically over the past decades. This is due to the fact that a teacher’s range of responsibilities and related expectations have diverged dramatically.

Earlier this week, a friend sent me a “swinging” image with the following text “Every time you feel yourself being pulled into other people’s drama, repeat these words … “Not my circus, not my monkeys”. This stress-reducing mantra is a translation of an old Polish proverb “Nie mój cyrk, nie moje małpy!

Not my circus - Not my monkeys - 400x300

Teacher Feature #49 – Polish Proverb – March, 2015

I wondered why we, as teachers, can identify so well with this powerful, proverb. In my case, during an educational career spanning 40 years, I worked as a classroom teacher with junior and senior high students for 12 years. The vast majority of my educational career was spent as a provincial and divisional Computer/Education Consultant. Many might argue that spending only 30% of my career as a classroom teacher, reduced my exposure to stress significantly. However, I maintain that any dedicated individuals, working in the educational system today, be they Teacher Assistants, Teachers, Consultants, or Administrators are subjected to stress. With this in mind, I wondered why this might be the case.

When I attended university, I worked each summer at Coca Cola on the bottling line where bottles were cleaned, filled with product, capped and packaged for distribution. I’m sure there were the odd days when the job may have had its stressful moments. However, at the end of the day, when we “punched out” our time card, we went home and left those frustrations, and work-related problems, at the job site.

Educators, it seems, do not have such luxuries. Their job, together with the stress of the day often goes home with them. Furthermore, today’s educator seems to be tethered to the job and often to parents by email and other social media applications. The job, which we all know, continues well past the 9:00 am to 4:00 pm day when the school is open. Furthermore, the “teaching day” together with it’s related responsibilities, continues to get longer.

Another reason that I think teachers may gravitate towards drama and added stress in the workplace is that we all want to be helpful. We want to be the “ring leader” and bring happiness and put smiles on everyone’s face. Most students who enter the Faculty of Education do so because they want to improve education and help students succeed. So when students, or other educators, attempt to draw one into their problems, and the related drama surrounding the situation, we often feel the need to “jump in with both feet” and do our best to help. Unfortunately, the results can be both overwhelming and we may not be as helpful as we had first intended. If you are one that can’t avoid jumping in to help “every circus in town”, the following Bill Cosby quotation below will probably resonate with you:

“I don’t know the key to success,
but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.”

Am I suggesting that you withdraw your help from everyone? No … I think it is more important that you look at “each circus” and determine how best you can support the situation. Sometimes, even walking away and forcing those individuals to work through the issues themselves, provides them with a chance to learn and develop their own coping skills.

When a “new circus” arrives in town, you have to ask yourself … “What is my motivation for becoming involved and, more importantly, what will my involvement cost me in terms of time and stress?” Take time to ask yourself if you can really bring, or add, something unique to help resolve the problem for all involved. If you cannot, bow out gracefully, rather than simply adding another individual to the melee.

Lastly consider what will be the consequences, should you not choose to participate. After all, if you are not going to be part of the solution, don’t be part of the problem. Sometimes one has to be selfish, if you are already trying to manage several monkeys in your own circus. Furthermore, in today’s educational environment, you know there are always going to be new circuses coming to town.

These can be tough decisions but perhaps you will remember this Polish proverb and ask yourself whether you might reduce your stress by not getting involved but in just “monkeying around”.

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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Problem Solving with “Aunt Emma”

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Are you looking for a classroom activity, which will stimulate your students’ thinking? Would you like to witness a spark of excitement in your classroom as students start to problem solve in a creative manner? If so, you might want to introduce them to “Aunt Emma”. From her picture below, you will note that Aunt Emma looks different depending on your point of view. Some view her to be a young woman whereas others think she is rather old and ugly. Regardless, this Aunt Emma exercise should help students focus and look at problems from a variety of angles. Hopefully, such activities will help your students look at, and analyze, problems in a different light as they develop the “HOTS” (Higher Order Thinking Skills).

Aunt-EmmaThis exercise works best when you are working with at least 10 students. One begins by explaining to the class that you were going to introduce them to the likes and dislikes of your favorite aunt … Aunt Emma. You might begin by stating the following clues:

  • “My Aunt Emma likes tennis but hates curling.”
  • “She likes skiing but doesn’t like skating.”
  • “Auntie is ‘wild’ about coffee but dislikes tea.”

The class environment for this problem solving exercise is critical. Encourage students to hypothesize (to themselves) about the relationships between the things that Aunt Emma likes and dislikes. If, for example, a student states, “Your Aunt Emma likes movies but hates T.V.”, you can simply reply … “No … I don’t think you know my Aunt Emma.” Whereas a student who volunteers that “Aunt Emma likes baseball and dislikes golf” can be encouraged with “I believe you have met my Aunt Emma.”

It is very important that students are given initial instructions not to tell the class or classmates what they believe the rule to be. Rather they are encouraged to test their hypotheses by volunteering items, which Aunt Emma likes and dislikes. Explain to students that you want as many of your students to become excited when they discover for themselves what Aunt Emma likes and dislikes. Those students who blurt out a hint are robbing their classmates of the thrill of discovery that is so important in the problem solving process. Be definite that you will only accept statements from students who begin with “I think Aunt Emma likes … and dislikes … “. Be quick to interrupt any child who attempts to short-circuit this problem-solving activity by blurting out the reason for Aunt Emma’s likes and dislikes.

Some teachers may wish to bring both local and world Geography into this exercise by selecting nearby streets in the neighbourhood as follows:

  • Aunt Emma frequently drives down Jessie Avenue but avoids driving down Lilac Street
  • Aunt Emma enjoys traveling on McPhillips Street but doesn’t drive on Atlantic Avenue
  • Aunt Emma loves visiting Greece but does not like Ireland
  • During the long winter. Aunt Emma travels to Hawaii but never to Florida

Encourage students to test hypotheses regarding Aunt Emma’s likes and dislikes. It is exciting to watch a spark ignite in your classroom as one or two students see the pattern or discover Aunt Emma’s rule and assist you by giving clues to her likes and dislikes for their classmates. Provided students do not give hints to their friends (because you want as many students as possible “have the light go on” for themselves), you will see a spark of excitement smolder and burst into flames as the higher order thinking skills take over and students begin making inferences about Aunt Emma’s likes and dislikes.

I have usually conducted this activity with middle and senior years’ students (ages 10 – 17) by simply giving verbal descriptions of Emma’s likes and dislikes. For younger children, or those having difficulty solving the problem, one can assist them by putting Aunt Emma’s likes and dislikes on a blackboard, interactive white board, or overhead projector to assist those who need visual clues. Some of these might include:

  AUNT EMMA’S
LIKES & DISLIKES

Likes Dislikes
noodles soup
jogging walking
cookies cake
apples oranges
loonies quarters
Jeep Ford
hammer screwdriver
baseball hockey
the colour green the colour red

 

The visual clues, shown using a projection device or blackboard, (as opposed to strictly auditory ones) should help many more students become actively engaged in this problem-solving task. It is a good idea for the teacher to have a list of Aunt Emma’s likes and dislikes prepared in advance. However, rather than the teacher always providing the clues, it is important to go back to students who seem to have deciphered the likes and dislikes of Emma to continue contributing in order to help their classmates and reinforce that they, indeed, have the correct solution to the problem. If some students need a little more help, you can always share some of Aunt Emma’s favorites, such as:

  • Aunt Emma LOVES reading the “Winnipeg Free Press” but hates the “Globe and Mail”
  • Aunt Emma LOVES the Mississippi and Assiniboine but dislikes the Red and Seine rivers
  • She loves “beetles” (insects) but hates the “Fab Four” band known as the “Beatles”

Lastly, if some students still need additional help, you can always underline the double-letter “M”’s in Aunt Emma’s name as a final clue. I have found this classroom activity helps focus the students’ thinking about relationships and attributes and broadens their perspectives in problem-solving.

In summary, the importance of the teacher in a problem-solving environment must not be overlooked. Although problem-solving resources and the computer, with appropriate software, can help create the “teachable moment”, it is important that teachers question the thinking process that students go through as well as a model effective problem solving strategies. Often a three-step questioning approach is useful:

  1. “What do you think?” helps focus the student’s position. No comment should be made as to whether that position is right or wrong but it should be follow by;
  2. “Why do you think it?” This step provides students with an opportunity to state the rationale behind their thinking. Additional questions which explore exceptions, special cases and apparent contradictions, will cause students to expand their thinking to the limits; and
  3. “How did you figure it out?” asks the student to relate the steps or processes used in arriving at that position.

The teacher must be involved in the problem solving process and must pursue all three steps of the questioning model. Whether the initial answer to “What do you think?” Is right or wrong is irrelevant. The answers to the final two questions are much more revealing than the answer to the first one. The teacher, through proper questioning, can assist students to develop problem-solving strategies that can apply in a variety of circumstances or subject areas.

Take care & keep smiling :-)

Resources:
“Aunt Emma” Poster – A useful PDF image for promoting this activity.
Optical illusion: Old or young woman? Solution! This YouTube video will help you distinguish between the “young” and “old” woman in this famous optical illusion.
– Source: Slight modifications have been made to an earlier article, I wrote entitled “Problem Solving with Aunt Emma” by Brian Metcalfe – “Bits and Bytes” – Vol. 16 No. 6 – Apr. 2000.

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Teacher Feature #48 – Independent Thinking

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Mark Zuckerberg, the co-founder of Facebook, has stated:

“Back, you know, a few generations ago, people didn’t have a way to share information and express their opinions efficiently to a lot of people. But now they do. Right now, with social networks and other tools on the Internet, all of these 500 million people have a way to say what they’re thinking and have their voice be heard.”

What can we, as teachers, do to encourage such independent thinking in our students? First and foremost, we must provide a classroom environment that encourages students to risk-take and feel comfortable when they make mistakes.

Teacher Feature #48 - 400x300
Teacher Feature #48 – Author Unknown – February, 2015

In my mind, two important skills that all students should acquire in any K-12 grade or curricular area are: the ability to problem solve and the the ability to collaborate. In today’s ever-changing job market, these two skills will provide our youth with an opportunity to enter the work-force with assets that will always be in demand.

As a former Mathematics and Computer Science teacher, I was always encouraging my students to problem solve and my classrooms were decorated with puzzles to stimulate the minds of my students. I must admit that when I first began teaching Grade 7 & 8 Mathematics, I tended to think that the way students in my class should solve a particular problem should closely follow the algorithm that I used or was demonstrated in the textbook. Thankfully, when I started teaching Computer Science to Grade 11 & 12 students, I quickly learned that there were many different ways of programming a computer to solve a problem, True, some computer programs might be more efficient because they used fewer lines of code, but I embraced the diversity of my students’ solutions and was quick to demonstrate the variety of solutions. In addition, I found that students in Computer Science seemed to collaborate and help each other de-bug their print-outs looking for the errors in syntax or logic.  For me, teaching Computer Science was a powerful environment for problem solving and a culture to foster collaboration.

With this fresh idea of problem solving fixed in my mind, I want to share with you some unique activities or lessons that I have used with students. I’m sure, as educators, each of us can recall a handful of lessons that were truly inspiring or ones that had a profound impact on both your students and yourself. Like the above powerful quote, I want to share with you some classroom ideas and activities that will cause your students to think and wonder.

So stay tuned, as I share some of my “most unforgettable classroom problem-solving experiences” in my upcoming posts.

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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How heavy is a glass of water?

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On Valentine’s Day, I attended a function where Doreen Blackman, another retired teacher, handed me a piece of paper containing the following story and suggested I might enjoy the message. After reading it, I knew I wanted to share it through a blog post. When I got home, I searched the web and found a variety of similar posts to the following:

glass-H20-400x600-TA professor began his class by holding up a glass with some water in it. He held it up for all to see and asked the students, “How much do you think this glass weighs?”

“50 grams!” ….”100 grams!” ….. “125 grams!” … the students answered.

“I really don’t know unless I weigh it,” said the professor, “but, my question is: What would happen if I held it up like this for a few minutes?”

“Nothing” … the students said.

“Okay what would happen if I held it up like this for an hour?” the professor asked.

“Your arm would begin to ache,” said one of the students.

“You’re right, now what would happen if I held it for a day?”

“Your arm could go numb, you might have severe muscle stress and paralysis and have to go to hospital for sure!” ventured another student and all the students laughed …

“Very good, but during all this, did the weight of the glass change?” asked the professor.

“No” was the answer.

“Then what caused the arm ache and the muscle stress?”

The students were puzzled.

“What should I do now to reduce the pain?” asked professor again.

“Put the glass down!” said one of the students.

“Exactly!” said the professor.

Life’s problems are something like this. Hold it for a few minutes in your head and they seem OK.

Think of them for a long time and they begin to ache.

Hold it even longer and they begin to paralyze you.

You will not be able to do anything.

It’s important to think of the challenges or problems in your life, but EVEN MORE IMPORTANT is to …

“PUT THEM DOWN” at the end of every day before you go to sleep.

That way, you are not stressed, you wake up every day fresh and strong and can handle any issue, any challenge that comes your way!

So, when your day ends today, remember my friends to …

PUT THE GLASS DOWN!

I must admit that, as someone who can be somewhat perfectionistic at times, I often spend hours trying to complete a task to my high standards. My wife says in some cases, I may in fact perseverate when I cannot solve or complete a task to my self-imposed benchmark. I recall when I was an Educational Technology Consultant and was editing and writing my monthly “Bits and Bytes” educational newsletter, I often got home from work at 2:00 or 3:00 am. Such 18 hour days often occurred at the middle of each month when my newsletter submission deadline approached.

A colleague often asked me “When is the job good enough?” In other words, could I submit the newsletter after working a 10 hour day knowing that it was not still not up to my standards. I admit, that in those days, to use this water glass metaphor, I was reluctant to spill any water regardless if it would reduce the stress I was feeling.

When I look back at the efforts of our Educational Technology team, we were amazing, worked long hours both in the office and at home and were motivated from within to complete all tasks to the best of our abilities. We didn’t take short cuts, we didn’t spill any water, and and we rarely “put the glass down”. Now that I’m retired, I must take care to put the glass down each night, so I can focus on any time-consuming tasks with a fresh, new outlook each morning.

Take care & keep smiling :-)

Credits: The above anecdote is modified slightly from the post “Put the Glass Down”.

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Teacher Feature #47 – I Love to Read

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In last night’s post, I indicated that I have set a personal goal to create and share one “Teacher Feature” each month. Furthermore, I stated that it seemed like this  challenge was more frequently occurring in the latter half of the month as opposed to the first half. In that today is the last day in January, I guess you might say that I best get started. However, my delay (some might call it procrastination) this month has benefits in that I can be inspired by a theme that traditionally takes place starting tomorrow as “I Love to Read” month begins.

Teacher Feature #47 - 400x300
Teacher Feature #47 – Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis – January, 2015

One might ask … “What connection exists between ‘I Love to Read’ and my monthly ‘Teacher Feature’?” If you have followed my blog posts for some rime, you will know that I have difficulty writing in a succinct and direct manner. Back in the 1970’s, I wrote two different theses which shared my ideas regarding computer use and my practical resources to support classroom teachers. During each of these challenges, my advisers kept requesting that I “expand” certain ideas, thoughts, or classroom activities. Little did I know that these repeated suggestions would ultimately shape the way in which I write and share information today. I often laugh and tell people who comment on my wordiness, that “If I can stick a subjunctive clause anywhere in a sentence, I go for it!”

Knowing that I have this penchant for verbosity, I stand in awe of those individuals who can describe an event or share a teaching strategy with an economy of words. Furthermore, like the stories read by adults to young children during “I Love to Read” month, they are often succinct yet they engage young minds during the animated story-telling. Thankfully technology and the related apps are helping me become a much more concise writer. I find that our sons do not want lengthy replies when texting us. In addition, Twitter has forced me into sharing information in 140 characters or less. Furthermore, these limited character tweets are often significantly reduced because my friends and colleagues often embed important hashtags like #edtech, #ipadchat or #mbedchat into the message which further reduces the coveted text “real estate”.

With this background you can understand how I really appreciate a person who can express themselves in a clever, yet concise, manner. I often explore motivating, educational quotes to find relevant, short passages that I can embed into the “Quote of the Day” generator found in the top right corner of my blog’s home page.

When I began searching for motivational quotes, I was impressed with the power and succinct choice of words that I found to be the common element in the sayings that I enjoyed most. About the same time, I first began exploring how to find images on Flickr which were shared with a “Creative Commons” license.

These two ideas of searching for impressive quotes and enhancing the message with a powerful Creative Commons licensed image were the two ingredients that I used to create my popular “Image with a Message” classroom activity. Through this endeavour, students learned to critically search the Internet for quotations of interest, to use the advanced search on Flickr to acquire Creative Commons licensed images which they could modify, and lastly to give appropriate credit to both the author and photographer. Teachers have used this activity with students to create posters for their classroom.

After I created and shared this engaging activity, I thought that I should create some examples and this action expanded into my commitment to create a “Teacher Feature” and share it within a blog post each month.

Should you chose to explore this activity with your students, I can assure you that they will indeed become engaged in the process. Furthermore, other students and teachers will take notice of these “Image with a Message” creations because each individual probably embraces the “I love to read” initiative … particularly if it is concise.

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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Happy Fifth Blogging Birthday

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My “Life-Long-Learners” blog started as a New Year’s resolution on January 1st, 2010. My first blog post was entitled “Life-Long-Learners and the ‘3Rs’”. In it, I shared my thoughts about the “3R’s” … not the traditional “Readin, ‘Riting, and ‘Rithmetic” but rather “Resolution, Retired, and Re-wired”.

My New Year’s resolution, five years ago, was to begin sharing my educational ideas and resources through my brand-spankin’ new “Life-Long-Learners” blog. After three years of retirement, I missed the important interaction with educators and students that had motivated me during my forty years as a K-12 teacher and Educational Technology Consultant. In fact, Manitoba Education’s recent implementation of the K-8 “Literacy with Information and Communication Technology (LwICT) Across the Curriculum” helped re-wire my focus on how educators needed to change and how technology could enhance learning in all disciplines. Will Richardson stated that “… we as educators need to reconsider our roles in students’ lives, to think of ourselves as connectors first and content experts second”. This profound idea resonated with me five years ago and even more so today. In fact, throughout the past five years of blogging, I have tried to foster “connections”, share ideas and resources, and model Michelangelo’s famous statement “Ancora Imparo!” which he made at 87 years of age.

However, as I reflect on my 5th blogging birthday, I think the following “Creative Commons” licensed photo captures the way I feel.

Five cupcakes in a row 400x266

On January 1, 2010, when I wrote my first blog post, everything was in focus as I embarked on this new learning adventure. Not only was I learning WordPress and finding new ways to engage my mind, the “icing on the (cup)cake” was my ability to share ideas and resources with other educators. Furthermore, the individuals, who took the time to provide me with feedback through posting comments, made my life special and helped me to be a better life-long-learner.

However, as my years of blogging continued, the focus, like the picture, became less intense and began to blur in the background. Lately, I’m finding that I lack the necessary “connections” with the students and teachers that have inspired me to write. When working as an Educational Technology Consultant, I always found the questions that were asked by educators to be the stimulus I needed to write an article which shared ideas and resources.

This is not to say that there have not been opportunities to regain my focus. For example, my excursion into the world of “Digital Storytelling” through the innovative on-line DS106 course was an opportunity that engaged me and fostered an exciting, new way of learning.

However, now that I have been retired for 7.5 years, I am struggling to find innovative ideas and perhaps, more importantly, time to write blog posts.

True, I continue to regularly attend MAETL meetings and ManACE TIN nights, where I always get energized by the innovative ideas that educators and students share. The DS106 “Daily Create” is emailed to me and provides a daily source of inspiration. However lately, I seem to be too busy to tackle these activities that are supposed to take about 15 minutes to create.

In the past years, I seemed to regularly post between 3-4 articles per month. Lately, I’m finding that the end of the month creeps up rather quickly and I seem to be creating a “Teacher Feature” on the last few days of the month. One might say “Who cares?” but I have made a commitment to myself to post one “Teacher Feature” each month. However, when one looks back over the last dozen or so of my blog posts and finds only “Teacher Features”, and few ideas or resources that might immediately be useful in a classroom, one has to wonder if my blogging days are drawing to a close.

Perhaps I’m just tired. I recently joined a mens’ Barbershop Chorus called the Winnipeg Golden Chordsmen and I am certainly enjoying the camaraderie and the singing. I am finding that at my age, I am not learning the lyrics as fast as I might have when I was in university. Furthermore, I know that I am a sight learner and as such, I don’t internalize the melody as easy as my colleagues who are aural learners. When asked to join the Executive, after only eight months as a “newbie”, I decided to give it a try. This venture has provided me with a new learning opportunity and I have been busy helping out the organization in a variety of ways.

Although I have always thought of my blog as a vehicle for sharing and reflecting on K-12 education supported by technology, perhaps I may broaden my perspective somewhat. I suppose I could still share ideas but also consider how my new experiences with music and singing have inspired me. In fact, I have always tried to explore and foster “connections” through the lens of an educator. Perhaps, I am learning to focus in new ways and make new connections, as I engage in my new choral singing experience.

Rather than end this post with the singing of “Happy Birthday” in four-part harmony, I have decided to share the following quotation by Brian Eno:

When you sing with a group of people, you learn how to subsume yourself into a group consciousness because a capella singing is all about the immersion of the self into the community. That’s one of the great feelings – to stop being me for a little while and to become us. That way lies empathy, the great social virtue.

Take care & keep smiling :-)

– Flickr – Creative Commons image “Five (No Jive)” by Gerry Dulay
– https://www.flickr.com/photos/gerrysnaps/4131141430

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A Teacher’s Daily Survival Kit

Food for Thought, Tip No Comments »

Early this month, Gerald Brown, the former Chief Librarian of the Winnipeg School Division, sent me a “survival kit” by email. True, variations of this list have circulated over the past 20 years but the message contained within, is still very important.

survival kit 400x400

In fact, my wife, who taught at the elementary level, used to make up “kits” like the following, including all the objects, together with the important instructions, to give out to each student in her class. This unique “survival kit” was as one of the many ways she used to foster how important each and every student was.

DAILY SURVIVAL KIT

Today, I am giving you a DAILY SURVIVAL KIT to help you each day.

A Toothpick … to remind you to pick the good qualities in everyone, including yourself.

A Rubber Band … to remind you to be flexible. Things might not always go the way you want, but it can be worked out.

A Band-Aid … to remind you to heal hurt feelings, either yours or someone else’s.

An Eraser … to remind you everyone makes mistakes. That’s okay, we learn from our errors.

A Candy Kiss … to remind you everyone needs a hug or a compliment everyday.

A Mint … to remind you that you are worth a mint to your family and me.

Bubble Gum … to remind you to stick with it and you can accomplish anything.

A Pencil … to remind you to list your blessings every day.

A Tea Bag … to remind you to take time to relax daily and go over that list of blessings.

This is what makes life worth living every minute, every day.

Wishing you love, gratitude, friends to cherish, caring, sharing, laughter, music, and warm feelings in your heart in 2015.

Take care & keep smiling :-)

– Flickr – Creative Commons image “Altoids Tin Survival Kit” by Chris
– https://www.flickr.com/photos/64mm/5407944209/

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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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