Happy Fifth Blogging Birthday

Food for Thought, LwICT, Reflection No Comments »

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

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

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

Five cupcakes in a row 400x266

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take care & keep smiling :-)

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

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Professional Development with Puentedura

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The Manitoba Association of Educational Technology Leaders (MAETL) is bringing Ruben Puentedura to Winnipeg for a morning session on February 4th.  Ruben’s work with the SAMR Model is highly regarded for the impact it can have on the meaningful infusion of technology across the curriculum.

A limited number of seats are available for teachers and administrators throughout Manitoba to participate. Even if you’re not able to make it to Winnipeg for this February 4th event, you can assemble a team to participate virtually from within your own school or division. Please visit http://rubenp.eventbrite.ca for details and registration.

Ruben Puentedura Keynote
Those who wish to learn more about Ruben Puentedura and the SAMR model are invited to explore the following resources:

Take care & keep smiling :-)

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Teacher Feature #34 – Holiday Thoughts

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Today, K-12 students are on their winter break in Manitoba. Tomorrow, many of our students’ families will celebrate Christmas. As a result, a good number of our youngsters will return to school, in the new year, having received gifts which employ the latest technology.

What impact does such technologically-enhanced gifts have on our students and, more importantly, what impact will it have on our teaching?

Teacher Feature #34 - Marc Prensky - 400x300
Teacher Feature #34 – Marc Prensky – December, 2013

I suggest that there are two actions that all teachers can take.

First, we reduce asking factual questions that can easily be found through a simple Google search. Rather we must challenge our students to use higher order thinking skills (HOTS) and, where possible, encourage them to complete activities and projects in a collaborative manner.

Secondly, we must focus on teaching students digital citizenship and how to protect their digital footprint.

For example, one of my favourite research activities demonstrates how creative teachers can challenge students in new ways. Gretchen Offutt, a grade 5 teacher in Bellingham, Washington, designed this innovative research project for her students. I contacted Gretchen and asked for her permission to share her creative activity in the December 2001 issue of my “Bits and Bytes” online newsletter.  The article was entitled “HOW TO … engage your students in meaningful research”.  Twelve years later, this innovative project still has extreme relevance for today’s teacher.

Rather than ask her students purely factual questions such as:

  • “In what year did Ferdinand Magellan sail though the “Straits of Magellan?”
  • “Off what continent is this passageway located?”; and
  • “What were the names of Christopher Columbus’ three ships?”

Gretchen challenged each student to use higher order thinking skills and teamwork to research and defend:

  • “Under which captain, be it Christopher Columbus, Ferdinand Magellan, or Sir Francis Drake, would you have preferred to serve and why?”

Thankfully Gretchen shared this amazing resource with her students and other educators by creating an Internet web page called “Explorers Homeport”. Although these links might be rather slow, I can assure you that they are well-worth any delay for readers to experience this well-crafted and thought-out research activity.

The fact that my “Bits and Bytes” online newsletter and Gretchen Offutt’s “Explorers Homeport” are no longer available for perusal from our respective school district’s servers, leads us into the second action of teaching students “digital citizenship”.

Many Manitoba educators, who are infusing “Literacy with ICT” into their classrooms, find it easier to focus on the five “Big Ideas” within the Cognitive Domain. For example, “Plan and Question”, “Gather and Make Sense”, Produce to Show Understanding”, “Communicate”, and “Reflect” are all steps that teachers employ when teaching using the Inquiry process.

However, it is my feeling, that teachers find it more difficult to deal with the four “Big Ideas” within the Affective Domain. True, “Collaboration”, and “Motivation and Confidence” can be introduced and practiced in most classrooms. However, “Social Implication” and, in particular, “Ethics and Responsibility” are two areas that may not be dealt with sufficiently.

Yet, with the increased access to technology that students have outside school, they need to be taught how to use it in a responsible way. Although Flickr, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube are blocked in many of our schools, students need to be taught or modeled on how to use such social media in responsible ways. I feel that students need to know how to maintain their privacy and how to protect and preserve a positive digital footprint.  After all, once a photo or login name, which is associated with one of our students, is shared or created on the Internet, it is there forever!

As I wrote this month’s “Teacher Feature”, I certainly learned first-hand how this “publishing forever” concept could damage one’s reputation.  Although I’m sure both Gretchen and I are proud to share what we have uploaded or created on the Internet, this may not be true of all our students. For example, it has been 12 years since Gretchen created her “Explorers Homeport” and my last issue of “Bits and Bytes” was uploaded to the world-wide-web in June, 2007. However, if today one was to attempt to link to either of the original Internet addresses (URL), one would get an error message stating “The page you requested no longer exists” or “Server not found”. For a student who may have uploaded an inappropriate photo or had perhaps made some caustic remarks online, s/he might be extremely happy if the original indiscretion could no longer be located where it was shared online. However, more than likely that picture or comment has been transferred or shared on other servers and it cannot be totally removed. Even if it has been deleted from the original site, and has not been replicated elsewhere, the Internet archiving “Wayback Machine” may bring it “back to life”.

For me, the “Wayback Machine” is a useful tool to retrieve information that I may have published several years ago. For example, in my last post, I couldn’t remember when Rod Brown and I first came up with the idea to create a “Let’s Get Connected” contest. However, each June, I created an index of the topics and information shared in my newsletter during the previous school year. So I simply entered the following URL, for a specific June issue, into the “WayBack Machine”:

http://www.wsd1.org/bitsbytes/0203/bbjun03/default.htm

The “Wayback Machine”, without my knowledge, archived “snapshots” of my newsletter “12 times between January 1, 2003 and October 4, 2006.” I simply had to click on a black bar on the timeline (e.g. the last bar in 2003) and click on any blue circled date (e.g. August 3, 2003) to view much of my newsletter contents together with links to additional resources.

Students need to be taught that there exists applications like the “Wayback Machine” that can use to highlight indiscretions that one may have thought were deleted.

In summary, teachers need to create authentic learning activities which engage students using technology to which they have access. In addition, such learning must better prepare students to be responsible online digital citizens.

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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ManACE Seed Grants Deadline – March 15th

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Eight $900.00 educational grants are available to help fund innovative students and teachers in Manitoba’s K-12 schools. The Manitoba Association for Computing Educators (ManACE) has allocated $7200.00 to be awarded to Manitoba K-12 teachers and school-based projects during 2013. However, the March 15, 2013 deadline is fast approaching.

ManACE2I encourage educators to visit the ManACE web site at www.manace.ca to view the 2013 SEED Grant Brochure and complete the three step application process. So why not give some serious thought on how you and your students can demonstrate the creative use of technology? Perhaps your passionate digital story will be the innovative spark that illustrates how technology can be creatively used in your school. Imagine how your teaching might change if you were awarded one of these $900.00 grants!

Take care & keep smiling :-)

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“Tools For The 21st Century Educator” – P.D.

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Sisler High School, the Winnipeg School Division, Eyeconic Media and Microsoft Canada will be hosting a five day Professional Development session on cutting edge ICT skills for digital learners during the week of July 9 – 13, 2012. Our goal is to engage and empower educators through hands-on workshops.

Although the cost for each workshop is $50.00, anyone may sign up for individual morning or afternoon workshop sessions which are of interest:

  • Workshop 1: The Cloud Classroom – Monday July 9th, 9:00 am -11:45 am
  • Workshop 2: Web & Gaming Graphics – Monday, July 9th, 12:45 pm – 3:30 pm
  • Workshop 3: Video Conferencing in the Classroom – Tuesday, July 10th, 9:00 am – 11:45 am
  • Workshop 4: Video Editing for the Web – Tuesday, July 10th, 12:45 pm – 3:30 pm
  • Workshop 5: Photo-imaging for the Web – Wednesday, July 11th, 9:00 am – 11:45 am
  • Workshop 6: Introduction to Web Design – Wednesday, July 11th, 12:45 pm – 3:30 pm
  • Workshop 7: Web Graphics & Animation – Thursday, July 12th, 9:00 am – 11:45 am
  • Workshop 8: Audio Composition – Thursday, July 12th, 12:45 pm – 3:30 pm
  • Workshop 9: Game Design for the Web – Friday, July 13th, 9:00 am – 11:45 am
  • Workshop 10: Online Teacher Presence – Friday, July 13th, 12:45 pm – 3:30 pm

Additional P.D. details and specific workshop content can be found in the E3 Workshop Booklet which may be downloaded in PDF format.

There are still some workshops seats available, so register as soon as possible at: Eyeconic Media (www.eyeconic.ca)

Take care & keep smiling :-)

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ManACE Annual General Meeting – May 29th

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The Executive of the Manitoba Association for Computing Educators (ManACE) are to be congratulated. They have arranged for Dean Shareski and Alec Couros to present “Learning in Public” at their AGM. As outstanding educators, this “dynamic duo” from Saskatchewan plan to “look at creating & sharing digital content & online collaboration”.

Don’t miss this opportunity to learn and connect in Winnipeg with other technology-using educators on May 29th at 7:00 pm at the King’s Head Pub at 120 King Street. Additional information can be found on the ManACE Memos blog.

All our welcome to this free educational experience. All that is requested is that you please REGISTER ONLINE to help the planning committee better organize this event.

Please view and/or print this ManACE AGM Poster and share it with your staff and other educators so that all that may be interested can attend.

Take care & keep smiling :-)

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Teacher Feature #18 – Pay It Forward Day

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My previous two blog posts alerted teachers to the unique educational opportunity afforded students on Thursday, April 26th. For the past few years, the last Thursday of April has been designated as “Pay It Forward Day”.


Teacher Feature #18 – Charles de Lint – April, 2012

Teachers should investigate the wealth of educational resources that are available on the Pay It Forward Day web site. Furthermore, the inspiring YouTube video entitled “Watch this…. You will definitely share this……mp4 is one that can be used to stimulate classroom discussion about the “pay it forward” process.

When I reflect on my youth as a Wolf Cub and Boy Scout, there are two important phrases that I still remember. They are both simple ideas that, if practiced by many, can have profound impact on both the environment and people in general.

The fist scouting phrase that I do my best to practice is “Always leave your campsite in better condition than you found it.” The second phrase is the final line in the Cub promise and states ” … do a good deed to somebody every day.”

It is this idea of “doing a good deed” or “paying it forward”, without expecting thanks, that has such potential and power. I hope that you as an educator share this important “pay it forward” message with your students and that they take action to become better citizens through doing a good deed.

Take care & keep smiling :-)

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

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Pay It Forward & The Power of a PLN

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All educators need to belong to a Personal Learning Network (or PLN). I am so much richer because I am able to connect, either in person or online, with like-minded colleagues who so willingly share and/or provide constructive feedback.

The power of the PLN was reinforced again last week. Although I am retired, I still enjoy attending regular meetings of the Manitoba Association of Educational Technology Leaders (MAETL). I was attending a meeting last Thursday when I took advantage of the collective knowledge of this professional group.

Knowing that I was in the process of writing a blog post about the upcoming “Pay It Forward Day” on April 26th, I needed to find a video that demonstrated the power of the pay it forward process. Six months ago, someone had sent me a link to a YouTube video suggesting that I might enjoy its message. I recall that it started with a young boy who falls off a skateboard onto the sidewalk. A construction worker takes the time to see if the young lad is injured before continuing on his way. The boy appreciates the caring gesture and pays it forward by helping carry groceries across the street for an elderly woman. This woman passes alongside someone who is looking for change to put into a parking meter and she provides the coins, and this “good deed” process continues throughout the video. Each recipient of these small acts of kindness pays it forward in turn. Unfortunately at the time, I did not bookmark the video or save this YouTube URL for later use.

As I started writing the former blog post, I remembered that I had seen a YouTube video that would be a great resource to stimulate class discussion on the pay it forward process. However, no matter what search terms I used to try to retrieve this video, I was unsuccessful.

However, at the end of our formal MAETL meeting, we have a “Short Snappers” agenda item, where anyone can share quick tips or web site resources that might benefit others in the group.

During “Short Snappers”, I used a process call “crowd sourcing” when I described the video that I was hoping to find to members in my professional learning network.

Some of my colleagues had seen the video and thought that it might have been part of a commercial.

However, within three minutes Joan Badger, a Curriculum Coordinator with St. James-Assiniboia School Division, had searched YouTube and had located the following powerful “pay it forward” video. I urge readers to follow this link to see how they might incorporate this powerful YouTube video into their “Pay It Forward” activities:

 

Watch this….
You will definitely share this……mp4

 

 

 

Take care & keep smiling :-)

Credits: Thanks to Justin Tarte for granting me permission to use the above Professional Learning Network image from his June 27, 2011 blog post entitled “The value of a PLN …

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April 26, 2012 is “Pay It Forward Day”

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Over the years, the last Thursday of April has been designated as a special day. This year, Thursday, April 26th is designated as the international “Pay it Forward Day” … an excellent opportunity for students to demonstrate their digital citizenship.

As an educator, I enjoyed the inspirational 2000 movie called “Pay It Forward”, staring Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt and Haley Joel Osment. The story is about a 12 year old student who is challenged by his Social Studies teacher to “Think of an idea for world change, and put it into action.” The youngster devises a process in which he does a good deed to three people in need with the hope that each of them will “pay it forward” to three new people and that this process will continue exponentially.

Pay it Forward Day
Teachers are encouraged to introduce and celebrate the “Pay It Forward Day” with their students. Educators are encouraged to investigate the wealth of educational resources that are available on the Pay It Forward Day web site including:

Teachers in Manitoba are implementing the nine “big ideas” that form the framework of the Literacy with Information and Communication Technology (LwICT) continuum.

Together we can change the world, one good deed at a time.

Often it is the first five “big ideas”, belonging to the cognitive domain, that tend to be emphasized, while the remaining four elements making up the affective domain may get less exposure because teachers may find these concepts difficult to integrate. I encourage readers to watch Chris Harbeck’s Vimeo video entitled “Why Digital Citizenship Matters” and to explore Chris’ blog entitled “Embracing Citizenship” to see how Chris has introduced these important affective domain components into his teaching of middle school students at Sargent Park School in Winnipeg.

True, teaching citizenship can be a challenge but the opportunity and the resources provided through the “Pay It Forward Day” make it much easier and meaningful. In closing, I have to ask you … how many acts of kindness will students in your classes initiate on the way to this year’s target goal of 3 million?

Take care & keep smiling :-)

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