“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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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 #33 – What was war?

DS106, Food for Thought, Reflection, Teacher Feature No Comments »

Today’s “Teacher Feature” focuses on remembering. I have been reflecting on which moments in my life have left me with an indelible memory. For me, there are important images that come to life such as when I first met my wife, being present at the births of our sons, certain classroom “teachable moments”, outstanding family get-togethers, and images linked to various vacations.

Teacher Feature-33-What was war - 400x300

Teacher Feature #33 – Eve Merriam – November, 2013

Today’s remix was inspired by an unforgettable memory that I had while cycling through Holland. Although this experience happened more than 43 years ago, it left me an important memory and message that seems fitting to share with readers prior to November 11th. I encourage readers to view my YouTube video entitled “Are two minutes, too much, to ask?” to learn about my most unforgettable experience.

 [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=77TKyIU02gM]

What will you be doing … this 11th month, 11th day, 11th hour?

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

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Photos, Passion, and Pedagogy

Activity, DS106, Food for Thought, How To, LwICT, Professional Development No Comments »

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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I’m “standing on the shoulders of giants”.

DS106, Food for Thought, Professional Development, Social Networking No Comments »

Over the past two years, I have been inspired by the creative activities, sharing, and reflective feedback of members of an important learning community. Digital Storytelling (or DS106) is a free, open online course hosted at the University of Mary Washington. It is an unique learning environment. One may join and leave whenever one wants while becoming engaged in learning to “tell digital stories” through more than 400 creative assignments and related components.

For example, today’s “Daily Create” #541 challenged participants to “Draw something abstract out of straight lines.”

My creation below, requires one to “read between the lines”:

PLN-TDC541

This design reflects, in many ways, the actions of my personal learning network or PLN. Like the straight-line components, my network and support team works in the background with little fanfare. In fact, “They make me look good!” Through a variety of social networking apps (including old-fashioned email), they recommend and reflect on new ideas while renewing my passion for learning and sharing in K-12 education.

As Isaac Newton said, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” To all my PLN “giants”, be they students, teachers, family, or friends, I thank you all for caring and sharing.

Take care & keep smiling :-)

Credits: – Flickr – Creative Commons image “Standing on the shoulders of giants”
by Brian Metcalfe
– http://www.flickr.com/photos/life-long-learners/9195860670/

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“Sharing Is Caring” – A story worth re-telling!

Activity, DS106, ETMOOC, Food for Thought, How To, Project, Social Networking 7 Comments »

Although this tale has already been documented in my earlier posts, this powerful, inspirational story needs to be regularly shared with educators and their students.

Alan Levine (aka @cogdog) has challenged DS106 and ETMOOC participants to share “True Stories of Open Sharing … examples of times when there was an unexpected positive outcome after sharing something openly online.”

My inspiring story starts with a serendipitous visit to 10-year old Laura Stockman’s blog entitled “25 Days to Make a Difference”. Through a blog post, I shared Laura’s passionate quest “to make the world a little better”. In turn, two amazing educators Chris Harbeck (of Winnipeg, Manitoba) and Karl Fisch (of Centennial, Colorado) challenged their students to contribute funds in December to be shared with different charities. I have tried to capture this story of concern, caring, and connection in the following “Sharing Is Caring” YouTube video:

 [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P16Nf7YaX6I]

I have included resource slides at the end of this video which list the 10 respective Internet addresses of important components of this inspirational story. However, I am also including them below, as active hyperlinks, to make it easier for readers to examine this story in depth:

I encourage educators to bookmark this video and review it each November so that you and your students can consider making your difference in December.

Take care & keep smiling :-)

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DS106 – The weeks in review – Jan 1-27/2013

Activity, DS106, Professional Development, Reflection No Comments »

As Sunday midnight fast approaches (perhaps on the West Coast), I find myself documenting and, more importantly, reflecting on the various learning opportunities that I have been engaged in during the first few weeks of the DS106 Spring term for 2013.

While the newbies struggled through DS106 “Boot Camp” and established their own domains and WordPress blogs, I verified that my blog category feeds were being received into “The DS106 flow” and continued on my amazing learning journey.

The Daily Creates (TDC)
Each Daily Create is listed below in two lines. The first line indicates the date, TDC number, and link to the item that I created. The second line, in italics, is the prompt that was used on TDC blog site to initiate the task.

Assignments
Ds106 participants are encouraged to complete activities from an extensive data bank of assignments. “As of Jan. 28, 2013 this collection includes 521 ds106 assignments and 4116 examples created from them.” With such a wide choice, individual students can meet course outcomes through varied and unique learning journeys. Each assignment has been given a difficulty rating (from 1 to 5 stars). As the course proceeds, students will be challenged to complete, for example, “15 stars worth of assignments in a particular week”.

Although the DS106 course has just started, I have written the following extensive blog posts and have documented my learning journey as I have improved on the process to create animated GIFs from video clips.

Here’s an outline of the assignments and posts that I have shared. Entries beginning with “DS106″ (in bold face) and ending with a star rating, have a link to the actual assignment on the DS106 web site. Entries immediately following (with the date in bold face) provide a link to my post containing my actual assignment submission. The remaining non-bolded dates and entries provide links to DS106 blog posts that I have written in addition to specific assignments.

Value Added
Ben Rimes (@techsavvyed), who has been actively engaged in DS106 since the summer of 2010, mentioned in one of his posts that he was hoping to join the Educational Technology & Media MOOC, known as #ETMOOC. Furthermore, Alan Levine (@cogdog) who is the Spring 2013 instructor for the DS106 course was instrumental in getting the #ETMOOC “Blog Hub” established so that participants could more easily share their posts.  Thanks to the willingness of these two dedicated individuals to share information about #ETMOOC, I signed up as well. For this reason some of my posts may be written in such a way to appeal to both #DS106 and #ETMOOC participants. However, the key issue is this “Value Added” paragraph is to encourage all participants in both learning environments to share ideas, tips and resources to help one’s readers improve and move along their own learning journey.

aTdHvAaNnKcSe to those who care and share.

Take care & keep smiling :-)

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DS106 Tasks: You Snooze – You Lose!

Activity, DS106, How To, Reflection, Tip 2 Comments »

I’m having fun learning how to create animated GIFs with frames extracted from digital video. In fact, with practice, and the support and feedback of my DS106 learning community, I think I am getting better!

I created this animated GIF and then chose my title. The message combination resonates with me on two levels: the primary one which I’ll address now and the more subtle, subliminal suggestion (which I hope you can figure out), I’ll share at the end of this post.

Zorro as an animated GIF

DS106 Task Tips
This post’s title warning “You Snooze – You Lose!”, with its animated GIF, is a reminder to both DS106 participants (and me) to begin work early Monday morning on the current week’s “Daily Creates” and/or assignments. Those who wait until Sunday to complete the majority of projects assigned during that week will be not only frustrated but will miss out on many positive support and learning opportunities.

As the Digital Storytelling DS106 course moves into more participant-selected assignments and projects, I’d recommend the following:

  1. Plan out your upcoming week’s work early.
  2. Select your first weekly assignment carefully. Pick one that you feel you can accomplish in the least amount of time and, if necessary, with little time spent learning new applications or techniques. Once you have completed your first weekly assignment, you will be motivated and inspired to continue with others.
  3. In your blog posts, document your learning journey. Where possible, provide hyperlinks to tips and resources that showcase how you “tweaked” or made the assignment “your own”. Indicate, what you might do differently if you were to attempt this assignment again.
  4. Choose your “Daily Creates” with care. As an example, if you are instructed, as a minimum, to “do three ‘Daily Creates’ this week”, do not wait until Friday, Saturday and Sunday to tackle this task. Also, if you are weak using Photoshop (as I am), I might be tempted to bypass the Wednesday challenge asking me to “Design a poster of an action movie starring Julia Child” because I know it will require me to spend more than 20 minutes. However, don’t skip a “Daily Create” hoping that the next one will be easier. In reality, the “Daily Creates” are designed to stimulate your creativity and engage you in your learning adventure. No one appreciates this endeavour better than Norm Wright (from the Spring 2012 DS106 course) who shares more than a year’s worth of each days’ creativity in “All My Daily Creates”.
  5. Leave some “percolation time”. In order to be innovative in completing or designing your own assignments, you will need “think time” to explore all aspects of the endeavour before jumping into the task at hand.
  6. Investigate the DS106 Handbook for ideas and tips to help you progress, with fewer hassles. The associated links have been compiled from previous DS106 courses and represent the best resources.
  7. Invoke Google Reader’s RSS feeds in order to keep up-to-date with blog posts and resources shared by the DS106 learning community.
  8. Read other student’s blog posts and provide positive, constructive comments.
  9. Connect with other DS106 students (face-to-face or online) so that you have an idea of whom you might like to work with should a collaborative project be assigned.
  10. Sign up for Twitter so that you can monitor and reply to DS106-related tweets, which can be filtered, using the hashtags like #ds106, #dailycreate or specific iindividuals like #cogdog. I personally like to use TweetDeck, to organize Twitter feeds, as I can setup individual columns for “All Friends”; “Mentions”; “Search: #ds106″; “Search: #dailycreate”; “Favorites”; etc.
  11. Take time to send 140 character tweets (with the #ds106 and/or #dailycreate hashtags) to share your accomplishments. You will be surprised how many of your DS106 colleagues will check out your creativity and provide you with motivational comments.
  12. Faithfully read CogDog’s Blog posts and Twitter feeds (@cogdog) so that you are kept up-to-date on the many facets of the DS106 course.
  13. Always be generous when scheduling each project’s time estimate. Remember that when using technology, Murphy’s Law states that “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.” If you have completed a DS106 assignment in less time than you previously estimated, then you are “laughing” :-)
  14. If you leave projects to the weekend you will miss out on the valuable aspect of reading colleagues’ blog posts and commenting. This important step helps build a productive and caring learning community.

Creating My Animated GIF
Without repeating myself, I worked through the basic tasks that I have already documented in my post entitled “The eyes are the windows into the soul. In fact, as someone who does not easily internalize processes, I find that if I document the steps in my learning journey, I can go back to that post whenever I need to repeat the process. In summary, I used these steps:

  1. I began, by selecting the YouTube movie trailer “The Mask of Zorro – Trailer”
  2. Since I am using an older Windows computer running the XP operating system, I used the PWN YouTube bookmarklet process for downloading the trailer and saved it as a High Quality MP4 file. 
  3. Next I used MPEG Streamclip to extract only the clip showing Zorro’s “sword play” near the start of the trailer. I was careful determining the “In ” and “Out” points along the timeline by using my arrow keys to move one frame at a time. Ideally, I wanted the final sword slash to end at a position near where the initial slash began. Such positioning would promote a cleaner, cyclic animated GIF. Unfortunately, I was unable to find a video footage where Zorro uses his rapier in repeated, distinctive “Z” slashing moves, so I did the best that I could in selecting the start and end points of this trimmed video clip.
  4. I extracted 16 frames that I imported into GIMP as separate layers. I then followed the detailed steps in the DS106 Handbook link “Creating Animated GIFs with (free) Open Source Software”.

I admit that I do not understand the complexities of GIMP and follow the instructions blindly. However,  having a link to these important instructional documents, always helps me in the future. I know that if I enter “animated GIF” (without quotes) into my right-hand “Search L-L-L Blog” field on my blog, I will find posts explaining how to create animated GIFs. I know that if I scan each post for hyperlinks, I’ll find valuable resources to help me create another animated GIF.

I’ll always like to ask myself … “If you were to repeat this assignment/project, what would you do differently?”. For this activity, I’d like to follow up on Alan Levine’s suggestion to try and reduce the size of animated GIFs. To do so, I would like to see if I could delete some of the 16 frames that I extracted without diminishing the visual appeal of the sword play.

Did you find the subliminal message?
At the start of this post, I suggested that the title “You Snooze – You Lose!” and Zorro’s distinctive, three stroke rapier cut “Z mark”, shared a subtle, subliminal message. One might suggest that the animated GIF, that I created, produces a repetitive pattern of “Z Z Z Z …”. In the English language, the symbol of repeated Zs often means that an individual is snoozing or snoring. Thus Zorro, with his distinctive sword-play, is subtly reinforcing the title message that snoozing or snoring during the DS106 term not only causes the individual to lose out, but perhaps equally important, the DS106 learning and support community loses an important contributing component … You!

Take care & keep smiling :-)

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