“Petals Around the Rose” – Problem Solving

Activity, DS106, How To, Problem Solving, Tip 3 Comments »

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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Problem Solving with “Aunt Emma”

Activity, How To, Problem Solving, Tip 1 Comment »

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 #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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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

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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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Problem Solving – A Matter of Perspective

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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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PA “Interruptions” Inspire Innovation

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Nadia Nevieri and her students of Lakewood School have provided amazing connections with each other and their community through an innovative educational endeavour. The creation of 1-2 minute “Lakewood Live”  videos provide an engaging vehicle for transmitting daily events and happenings within the school and community.

  Pardon this interruption

I was so lucky to attend a Manitoba Association for Computing Educators (ManACE) Technology Information Night last February. True, I did get a free supper of pizza, salad, and a soft-drink, together with a chance to network with other educators from several Manitoba school divisions. However, I was delighted to learn about practical, classroom-based innovations from three remarkable educators. I was particularly excited by the learning potential of an endeavour that Nadia Nevieri (@nnevieri) shared in her presentation entitled “Video Killed the PA Star”.

As educators, many of us have experienced daily public address (PA) announcements which did not, at times, “connect” with the intended audience, be it students or staff. How many of your students continually want to be updated on PA items they may have missed? How many great lessons have been interrupted by an administrator announcing an added, or overlooked, bit of information that perhaps had more relevance with other specific classrooms other than yours? Does your Phys Ed teacher use the PA system to announce new activities, game changes, and last minute information?

Now, I’m not advocating that we should remove the public address system from all our schools. Rather, I’m suggesting that perhaps there might be other ways of conveying information in a flexible manner that engages the audience, be it students, staff, or parents.

“Lakewood Live” is the name of the daily video announcements which are shared throughout the K-5 grades in Lakewood School and the nearby community. Although Nadia teaches grades 2/3, she has many of the older grade 4 and 5 students engaged in making the daily videos. In fact, what I like about her instructional model, is that it could be used by older students with equal success. Furthermore, Nadia has provided her student video production team with the two important qualities of “student voice” and student responsibility.

To provide readers with the “big picture” and to help you better understand what Nadia and her amazing students have accomplished, I encourage you to view the January 13th “Lakewood Live” daily video announcement below:

[YouTube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e5_CicS2xI4]

So that readers can appreciate the different formats of “Lakewood Live”, Nadia shared the following three additional episodes with me:

Replicating the Remarkable

To help you better understand the important logistics behind how the “Lakewood Live” videos are created, I will try and share the following generic steps (in bold italics). Where possible, I will append (in regular text) strategies and techniques that Nadia and her student team employed. Often it is these “behind the scenes” tasks that are so critical to the success of a new, educational learning venture:

  • Make certain to gain parental permission allowing student names and/or faces to be displayed in a YouTube video. When this endeavour was first proposed to parents, of the 228 Lakewood students, less than a handful did not want their son or daughter to be displayed in any media format that was shared on the internet.
  • Decide on the elements that might be included in a daily announcement video for your school. Start with a manageable number of items. You can always add new categories as the video announcement project matures. Some items will be repetitive such as which Patrol teams will be on duty for the week or which Mediators will be out on the playground. In such cases, a picture or video clip can be used repeatedly in subsequent weeks. Likewise having a picture of all staff members (with, perhaps, a quick bio) can be used at the start of each new term or at the start of a new year to help students better identify staff members.
  • Install an upcoming events chart in the staff room and encourage colleagues to complete items before each video publication deadline. From this events chart, Nadia and her student video production team compile the items that are to be shared in the upcoming week’s five videos.
  • Empower students and/or staff to capture video snippets or images that can be as the backbone of your daily announcements. Obviously, student birthday announcement pictures can only be used once per year, but many others can be used on a regular basis. Those investigating the creation of video announcements for next year, might consider preparing now by collecting generic photos or video snippets around your school during May and June.
  • Create and continually add or refine news elements. Perhaps you might want to explore adding categories like “guess this book”, “joke of the day” or “Fun Fridays”. Would your students be interested in learning how to incorporate a green screen?  Empower your video production team to research and to explore how a green screen might be used in your classroom to enhance daily news videos.
  • Create a script template for announcers to utilize.
  • Meet with students to shoot the next week’s announcements. Nadia meets with her “Lakewood Live” video production team for one hour after school each Wednesday. During this hour they shoot the upcoming week’s five daily announcement videos.
  • Blend elements into a daily announcement video and save results. Nadia and her students use iPads to capture images and photos and she inserts these news items into an iMovie template that she has created and refined. She indicated that she spends no more than 30 minutes compiling segments for each video.
  • Upload the upcoming week’s daily news stories to YouTube in a manner that protects privacy. Nadia uploads the five videos for the upcoming week over the weekend. She ensures that each of her YouTube announcement videos are uploaded with an “Unlisted” privacy setting rather than the usual “Public” category. This process reduces the chance of individuals finding the wealth of school’s daily news videos by searching YouTube or Google for “Lakewood Live”.
  • Provide the daily link to students, staff and parents from another web site. Readers may be interested in seeing more episodes of the “Lakewood Live” videos by visiting the following link which is used to share the daily Internet address (URL) to the respective YouTube videos:

http://mylakewoodlive.blogspot.ca/

Once the daily announcement video is uploaded and the particular link is shared through the above Blogger web site, teachers have flexibility as to when, during the day, to share the video “news” with their students. Nadia suggests that if she forgets to show the daily video, she has several students in her class who are more than willing to remind her. Not only are the students and staff more informed, so are the parents and community.

Undoubted, Nadia was so very impressed with her student production team and their engagement in the learning process. However, it was something that Nadia said in passing that really resonated with me. She indicated that, in addition to the increased responsibility and student voice that her production team demonstrated, she was allowed to see students in “a different light” than in the typical classroom situation. This “Lakewood Live” endeavour allowed Nadia to better understand individual students and see their hidden talents.

Could we, as educators, wish for anything more?

Take care & keep smiling :-)

Credits:

– Flickr – Creative Commons image “Angelica Jordan’s classroom” by the Herald Post
https://www.flickr.com/photos/heraldpost/5169295832/

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Hour of Code – For those who are 6 to 106!

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Computer Science Education Week is Dec 9-15, 2013. An “Hour of Code” is an amazing event in which educators are encouraged to spend one hour, during next week, introducing aspects of computer coding to their students.

This learning opportunity is a “one-hour introduction to computer science, designed to demystify ‘code’ and show that anyone can learn the basics to be a maker, a creator, an innovator.” Teachers are encouraged to explore the wealth of ideas, tutorials, and resources provided on the “Hour of Code 2013″ web site.

Hour of Code-400x300

There are an incredible variety of  step-by-step, self-guided, tutorials that are provided for both students and teachers. Not only are these innovative tutorials designed to run through computer browsers, on smartphones, or on tablets; some of the “coding” activities require no computer at all. Should you have any concerns, they are probably addressed in the “Hour of Code – Frequently Asked Questions”.

No experience in computer coding for either teachers or students is necessary. All that is required is for teachers to be risk-takers and learn along with their students. I recommend that all teachers practice saying three most important words … “I don’t know” but quickly follow-up with … “but when you figure it out, please teach me”. Other experienced educators suggest advising students to “Ask three … before me!” to reduce the pressure to try to answer all questions. This may appear to some educators to be a “cop-out”, but it reinforces that no one knows all the answers and that true learning is a collaborative effort. Furthermore, a student’s self-worth is dramatically increased, whenever s/he can teach an adult.

So I encourage you to take an hour next week and have fun, learning to “code” with your students.

Sorry, I have to run now and figure out how to navigate that darn “Angry Bird” through that puzzle.

Take care & keep smiling :-)

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ManACE Seed Grant Program – 2014

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As a Manitoba K-12 educator, could you use an extra $900.00? Is there an initiative, supported by technology, that you would like to explore or enhance? If so, you would be wise to investigate the Manitoba Association for Computing Educators (ManACE) “Seed Grant”.

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The available grant categories for 2014 include:

  • Two $900 grants awarded to K-4 teachers
  • Two $900 grants awarded to grades 5-8 teachers
  • Two $900 grants awarded to grades 9-12 teachers
  • Two $900 grants awarded to school-based projects that administrators, resource, and/or teachers might apply.

If you could use funding to purchase hardware, software and/or professional development, I encourage you to explore the ManACE Seed Grant brochure and application form. The application deadline is February 21, 2014, so it gives you ample time to decide on a project and involve students in your “digital pitch” presentation which comprises 30% of your grant evaluation.

To better appreciate the creativity and innovative ideas that have been submitted by students and educators in past, investigate past Seed Grant winning proposals. These eight projects can be found by scrolling down to the 2013-dated Seed Grant video submissions.

So “plant a seed and watch it grow!”

Take care & keep smiling :-)

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

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Photos, Passion, and Pedagogy

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This past summer I attended a funeral. When one reaches their retirement years, it seems only natural to attend more funerals of friends and loved-ones.

However, as friends of his grandparents, my wife and I attended the funeral of a 19 year old youth. Scott Wachal left his family and friends much too early but he also left me with an important message.

Lense for an Eye

Scott’s unique talents and creativity were demonstrated by the wealth of memories shared through objects in the vestibule of the church together with the inspirational video tribute. Regardless of whether it was his violin that he played as a 9 year old busker, or his Irish dancing tap shoes, or his skate-boarding and free-style skiing tricks, it was his creative images, sketches, and photographs that caught my eye.

I believe that Scott’s view of life was influenced greatly by what he observed and what he captured in his photos. In fact, the following assignment, which was shared in his Order of Service, reinforced in me the importance of pictures:

8   Describe an event or idea that has become very influential on your life.

When I was in the sixth grade, my grandpa passed away due to liver cancer. My grandpa loved me deeply and I loved him back, however I didn’t see him all that often and I wasn’t super close with him.

I remember at his funeral, and throughout the following years, hearing endless stories and memories about my grandpa. Everyone has such positive things to say about him, and there was so much about him that i never knew. I remember feeling really sad that I hadn’t spent more time with him and really appreciated all his good qualities.

I think my feelings of regret and sadness after my grandpa’s death have sparked a need inside me to take in as much as I can from the people around me. I carry my camera around with me everywhere, trying to capture my friends and family living and breathing to the fullest extent. I pay greater attention to the character of a person and try to appreciate all aspects of their personality.

~ Scott Wachal

True … not everyone has the same passion for capturing life through a camera as Scott, but I do believe that all students today can learn much more about life when they view the world through a camera lens.

Today it seems that more and more students have access to a digital camera or smartphone. Although a past Panasonic ad campaign declared that “If it has a ring tone, it’s not a camera”, most students would disagree. Having immediate access to these pocket-sized, picture-taking devices allows one to capture many unique and serendipitous moments.

The question that remains is … “How can we, as educators, help students express their creativity through their photos?”

To help readers, I have a arranged below a variety of resources to help engage students in taking and sharing creative photos:

  • Darren Kuropatwa’s SlideShare entitled “Don’t Just Shoot” – Although today’s  students have the opportunity to take more pictures, they still need to understand what makes a photo look really good.

[slideshare id=18474541&doc=dontjustshoot-130409083404-phpapp02]

[http://www.slideshare.net/dkuropatwa/dont-just-shoot]

All educators are encouraged to review, download, and share this presentation which illustrates “five photographic composition techniques: the rule of thirds, framing, fill the frame, lines and forced perspective.”

  • Basics of Photography: The Complete Guide Want an extensive resource on how a digital camera works, its automatic and manual settings, together with composition and editing tips? If so, check out this online Lifehacker night school resource.
  • DS106 – Daily Create – Photography Archives – Educators may want to stimulate students to take a creative photo each day or once a week and share them with the class. The DS106 Digital Storytelling course includes a number of creative prompts to engage students in taking pictures from different perspectives.
  • Ideas For Using The Digital Camera In The Primary Classroom – This SlideShare resource, of 17 frames, includes such innovative ideas as “What am I?”, digital portrait flip-book, and images taken from an ant’s perspective. Each activity displays an important “WALT” (We Are Learning Today) prompt.
  • The Digital Camera in Education – This site focuses on how the digital cameras in today’s mobile phones can be integrated into the educational process.
  • Image with a Message – Rather than have students search online for a Creative Commons image, challenge students to use a camera to capture their own background photo to which their favourite quotation is added.
  • Small World Pictures – Innovative ideas in both the blog post and comments that demonstrate how interesting images can be created by introducing small (HO gauge) figures into the picture.
  • Using Pictures to Create Rubrics – Although this “Picture Rubric”  is shared as a primary assessment tool, this strategy can be applied to many subjects at different grade levels.
  • Digital Photography Rubric – This extensive Word (.doc) file provides a detailed photography project rubric to provide students with important feedback on original images.
  • Photography Rubric – This PDF document was used by the Markville Secondary School’s yearbook team to help students improve on their photography techniques and documentation.

In closing, I began this post with an “eye-catching” photo created by Rachel Chapman. Not only does this manipulated image capture my imagination, it also reminds me of the important proverb that Scott Wachal believed in … “Beauty is in the ‘eye’ of the beholder”.

Take care & keep smiling :-)

Credits: – Flickr – Creative Commons image “Look at us through the lens of a camera…” by Rachel Chapman
– http://www.flickr.com/photos/63697491@N00/2235381210/

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