Teacher Feature #48 – Independent Thinking

Food for Thought, Social Networking, Teacher Feature No Comments »

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take care & keep smiling :-)

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

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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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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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Teacher Feature #38 – Pupils, Photos & Privacy

Food for Thought, Social Networking, Teacher Feature, Tip 2 Comments »

My older son shared the following photograph with me recently. It was shared as a entry on “theCHIVE” entitled “Little known facts that you likely never knew” on April 18, 2014.

bizarre-facts-7

Admittedly, I was not sure how accurate this information might be. However, in researching this quotation, I was amazed at how the number of photos taken is estimated and more importantly delighted with the wealth of powerful photos that have been captured over the years and shared through the following sites:

  1. How Many Photos Have Been Taken Ever?
  2. 40 Of The Most Powerful Photographs Ever Taken
  3. How many photos have ever been taken

However, the following quotation, from the third site, got me thinking about our pupils and their privacy.

… but this year people will upload over 70 billion photos to Facebook, suggesting around 20% of all photos this year will end up there[7]. Already Facebook’s photo collection has a staggering 140 billion photos, that’s over 10,000 times larger than the Library of Congress.[8]

If today’s students are actively using social media and apps such as Facebook, Flickr, Instagram and YouTube, they are indeed socializing and sharing photos. We need to help our pupils understand that once the door to one’s private world is opened, it may be difficult to close.

This idea prompted this month’s Teacher Feature remix.

Teacher Feature 38 - Alan Dershowitz - 400x300

Teacher Feature #38 – Alan Dershowitzi – April, 2014

Once again my older son shared the following stats from yesterday’s “theCHIVE” post entitled, “Mind blowing stats popular websites pull each minute”:

  • YouTube users upload 72 hours of new video every minute
  • Facebook users share 2,460,000 pieces of content every minute
  • WhatsApp users share 347,222 photos every minute
  • Instagram users posts 216,000 new photos every minute
  • Vine users share 8,333 videos every minute

True, I realize that many photos can be shared or uploaded that do not reveal any private matters. In fact, our younger son use Instagram to showcase only his best digital photos. He tends to use this social networking application as a digital portfolio to display his creativity.

However, these questions need to be discussed with our students to help them protect their privacy:

  • What is privacy?
  • What is your digital footprint & what does it look like?
  • As an employer, would I hire/fire you after Googling your name?
  • Are your sharing information that you consider private?
  • Are you sharing information that others may consider private?
  • What steps would you go through to have a picture or comment removed from the web?

In closing, I will leave you with two quotations from MediaSmarts – Canada’s Centre for Digital & Media Literacy. In the article entitled “Online Privacy, Online Publicity: Youth do more to protect their reputation than their information”, Matthew Johnson states:

… young people may not care that much about what we think of as privacy, but they care very much about control – control over who can see what they post, over who can track them digitally and, most especially, over how other people see them.

and …

Canadian youth do care about privacy, and are willing to learn and use tools for managing it. Their poor understanding of data privacy, however, leaves them vulnerable to privacy invasions that they may not even be aware of.

As educators, we do, indeed have an important role to play.

Take care & keep smiling :-)

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

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Teacher Feature #37 – Video Viewpoints

Food for Thought, Social Networking, Teacher Feature No Comments »

How can we move students from being passive consumers to active producers? One way is to provide students with the opportunity to create videos. Students, that I have worked with, are eager to demonstrate their creativity through digital storytelling and the power of pictures.

This month’s Teacher Feature remix was inspired, by the following tweet, shared by Dean Shareski.

Teacher Feature # 37 - Dean Shareski

Teacher Feature #37 – Dean Shareski – March, 2014

As a teacher and technology consultant for the Prairie South School Division in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Dean was always about sharing and connecting. Currently Dean is the Community Manager for Discovery Education Canada.

Dean has motivated me, and many other educators world-wide, with his willingness to share resources and educational insights through his Ideas and Thoughts blog. In the Videos section of his blog, Dean feels that “as teachers we have become text prejudice. We focus so much on reading and writing and forget that most of what our students take is in the form of video”.

I have maintained that educators learn best when they first explore software or create a digital story for their own personal needs. Regardless of whether one creates their first Excel spreadsheet to record game data in their child’s soccer league, or a PowerPoint presentation for a wedding reception, or a digital story to share at the passing of a loved one, the learning effort invested in this meaningful,  personal task will eventually move to one’s classroom to engage and benefit students.

This personal approach is evident when one peruses Dean’s approach to digital storytelling or creating videos. Many of his video adventures are created outside the educational arena. Whether it is was the Happy Birthday Alec Couros lipdub or a I Have Cancer (as a series of cancer victim videos), or a Mother’s Day Tribute, Dean practices what he preaches through creating and sharing his amazing videos. In addition, to creating powerful, educational videos like Sharing: The Moral Imperative as a keynote presentation for the K12 Online conference, Dean often creates informative “behind the scenes” videos. For example, The Making of Sharing: A Moral Imperative gives viewers many important tips and strategies that can be used to improve their own video creation techniques.

I must admit that I was inspired to  choose Dean’s quotation as part of this month’s Teacher Feature remix because yesterday I had an opportunity to read Dean’s latest blog entry. For Dean’s 50th birthday, Alec Couros and Diana Williams decided to utilize social media to play a prank entitled “Let’s Sock It To Dean Shareski”. Recipients were encouraged to send, via snail mail, a pair of socks to Dean’s home address. At last count, Dean received 86 pair of socks from all across North America and even, as far away as, Australia.

I wasn’t surprised at all to see how Dean acknowledged receipt of the various pairs of socks in his #Socks4Dean post. True to form, he created a Google Map showing where his various “sock senders” live, a time lapse video with Dean and his dogs opening all 52 packages, and a SlideFlickr presentation showing Dean together with each pair of socks.

In closing, I encourage you to allow your students, like Dean, to express their passion and creativity through digital storytelling and the making of videos.

Take care & keep smiling :-)

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

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Professional Development with Puentedura

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

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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Connecting to Make A Difference

Food for Thought, Freebie, How To, Professional Development, Social Networking No Comments »

As the 2014 year begins, tradition suggests that one should consider making a “New Year’s Resolution”. True, I have made many over the years that have unfortunately fallen by the wayside as the year progressed. However, one resolution of which I am proud, is the one I made in January, 2010.  Four years ago, I decided I would adopt a new “lifestyle change” and create my Life-Long-Learners blog to “provide you with professional development ideas, educational tips, classroom resources, strategies, ‘freebies’, and humour to help infuse technology, to enhance lessons, and to help engage your students as 21st century learners.”

This year, I need a new focus. Thanks to serendipity, I chanced upon Victoria Olson’s “Blogging for Sunshine” post. Victoria described a process to foster connectivity and understanding between different PLN members by sharing information about themselves through 11 random questions.

Question #4 really resonated with me and I encourage you to consider it:

What needs to happen in 2014 for you to be reflecting on a successful year 52 weeks from now?

So often in education, we look back wondering if we could have changed a current outcome through the past introduction of a different process or action. This question, on the other hand, looks at the opportunity to make a change, so that when we reflect on outcomes, a year from now, they will be primarily positive and uplifting.

Thanks to this powerful question, I was prompted to make the following New Year’s resolution:

During 2014, I want to improve my connectivity to help make a difference in education.

Undoubtedly, this decision was influenced by the following free, educational poster from Krissy Venosdale:

Social Media

Without a doubt, Twitter has helped me connect with some amazing educators. In fact, it was through Twitter that Vicki Davis (@coolcatteacher) alerted me to Victoria Olson (@MsVictoriaOlson) and her innovative Twitter resources. For example, educators will find Victoria’s “Twitter for Teachers” video to be both extremely informative as well as professionally crafted using a variety of innovative tools. Not content to just share her amazing video resource, she took it a step further. To help other educators, Victoria shared her “behind the scenes” magic, by identifying the steps and software used in her post “How I made my Twitter Video”.

“Behind the Scenes”

Teachable Moments

Kudos to all educators who showcase how video projects are created or reveal tips and strategies “behind the scenes” of their educational activities. Admittedly, it does take extra time, but on behalf of all those individuals who have learned so much by analyzing their “magic”, I say “Thank You!”. To help other educators learn about the “behind the scenes” magic, and to encourage others to share in a similar fashion, I plan to maintain a list of these “difference makers”. Not only will I identify their original activity/project, but I will also link to their “behind the scenes” (BTS) revelations. To date, I’m aware of these creative educators and their related endeavours:

Difference Makers

– Video: “Re-Imagine Your P.D. Experience with Twitter”
- BTS Magic: “How I Made My Twitter Video …”

– Video: K-12 Online Pre-Conference Keynote
“Sharing: The Moral Imperative”
– BTS Magic: “The Making of Sharing: A Moral Imperative”
– Video: “Happy Birthday Alec Couros”
– BTS Magic: “So I started this Google doc ..”

I encourage readers to share with me the online activity/projects of other educators, together with their “behind the scenes” insights, so that I may add them to this list of “Difference Makers”.

As a complementary resource to her “Twitter for Teachers” video, Victoria also shared a “Weekly Twitter Chat Schedule”.  This Google spreadsheet lists educational chats by names, hashtags, days, and times of sharing. One of the first things I did was scan to see if the Manitoba Educational Chat (#mbedchat) was listed on the schedule for Wednesdays from 9:00 pm to 10:00 pm (CST). I was so delighted to see it listed along with other Twitter chat sharing and learning opportunities.

As one who has recently connected with other Manitoba educators through the #mbedchat Twitter chat mechanism, I realize how powerful this learning vehicle can be. Zoe Bettess, the creator and co-moderator, shares the importance of connecting in her post “The Power of Twitter Chat and My Journey to Starting #mbedchat”.

At the start of 2014, the talented trio of Zoe, her #mbedchat co-moderator Georgette Nairn, and archivist, Tanis Thiessen decided to foster educational connections in a new and exciting fashion. They created the 2014 Manitoba Ed Chat Blog Challenge. Manitoba educators, who maintain a professional or classroom blog, are challenged to write one post per month and share it with others by using the Twitter hashtag #mbedchatblog. In addition, they invited participating educators, as well as non-participating  ones, to list their respective blogs on the MB Ed Chat blogroll. If you are a Manitoba educator, who is responsible for a personal or classroom blog, I encourage you to submit your blog information. Better yet, if one of your New Year’s resolutions was to investigate creating an educational blog, I encourage you to share it using this process. Not only will others benefit but you, and ultimately your students, will gain from the connections fostered through this endeavour. As of today, there are links to 40 educational blogs and I’m sure this list will continue to grow as we share and use this powerful resource.

“Hats Off” to all these dedicated educators and students who are so willing to share their creativity, ideas, resources, and reflections on their educational journey.

I am so lucky to be connected with educators who are, indeed, making a difference.

Take care & keep smiling :-)

Endnote: Those interested in additional free posters created by Krissy Venosdale, are invited to explore my earlier post entitled “Free Motivational Educational Posters”.

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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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