Teacher Feature #37 – Video Viewpoints

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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 :-)

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Teacher Feature #36 – A love of reading

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February is “I love to read” month. As an experienced educator, I realize just how important a skill reading can be. In fact, one of the greatest gifts teachers can share with their students is a love of reading.

To pay tribute to this important idea, I chose to create the following remix. The two youngsters below are not only sharing a book but are also sharing B. F. Skinner’s important message.

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Teacher Feature #36 – B. F. Skinner – February, 2014

I admit that I enjoy reading. I often delay visiting a theater to take in a popular show until I have read the book which inspired that particular movie. My reason for this approach is that I like to form my own mental images while reading the book, rather than be initially influenced by the movie director’s interpretation.

Yes, I do enjoy a good book. However I must admit that, this was not always the case. As a rather naive junior high student, I remember in English class being forced to read a “great book” of which I had little interest. In frustration, I remarked to a friend, “When I finally graduate from Grade 12, I will never have to open or read another book!” Thankfully, my outlook changed as I enrolled in university and later graduate courses where research and reading were definitely required. However, because I had some choice in the direction of my research, I soon appreciated how important reading was as part of my overall knowledge acquisition. In fact, I began to appreciate reading more and more as I grew older.

As Francis Bacon stated, “Age appears to be best in four things; old wood best to burn, old wine to drink, old friends to trust, and old authors to read.”

Take care & keep smiling :-)

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Teacher Feature #35 – Curiosity

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“Information at your fingertips” can be a detriment to teaching. Don’t get me wrong. As an educator, I appreciate the ease at which Google, and other search engines, serve up results to the inquiring minds of today’s students. However, I believe there are times when students, who are engaged in a problem-solving task, should have to struggle to find the answer. Too often, students who need to hone their problem solving skills are too ready to give-up and search for the answer on-line.

Some of my fondest memories of classroom teaching involved activities where students struggled to find a solution to a problem and explored a variety of paths before selecting a final outcome. I still remember the glint in their eye as curiosity motivated students to seek out a solution.

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Teacher Feature #35 – William Arthur Ward – January, 2014

Over the next few weeks, I hope to be able to share with you some problem solving activities which I believe will engage your students. Undoubtedly, you will have to insist that all your students turn-off their cell phones and refrain from going on-line in an attempt to solve these challenges. However, it is my hope that you, too, will ignite the flame of curiosity in the eyes of your students.

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?

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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”:


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 :-)

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Teacher Feature #33 – What was war?

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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.

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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.


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

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Teacher Feature #32 – Assessment Today

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As an educator who taught junior and senior high students (Grades 7-12) Mathematics and Computer Science, I was proud of my assessment strategies. The percentage mark that appeared on each of my student’s report cards was extremely precise. In fact, it was so accurate that I never had any difficulty explaining to parents the mathematical formula that I used to determine each grade.

Teacher Feature-32 -Irmeli  Halinen

Teacher Feature #32 – Irmeli Halinen – October, 2013

However over the years, K-12 assessment has moved from my somewhat analytic procedure to a more anecdotal process to better capture the essence of the individual student’s strengths and weaknesses.

One of my past serendipitous learning opportunities, led me via Twitter to Joe Bower’s thought-provoking blog “for the love of learning”, which was subtitled “Assessment is not a spreadsheet — it’s a conversation”. I was so impressed with this assessment quotation, that I emailed Joe asking who was the originator of this powerful idea. He replied that he had heard this awesome statement from Irmeli Halinen who was Head of Curriculum Development for the Finnish National Board of Education. For more background, Joe recommended I read his blog post entitled “Irmeli Halinen on Finnish Curriculum”.

As I was writing this post and reviewing Joe’s blog, I was once again, by chance, exposed to a powerful assessment question entitled “Who Will Pack Your Parachute?” by Cherra-Lynne Olthof.  For those, like me, who used to feel so confident with our formula-driven, assessment procedures, this parachute packing anaolgy might causes us to think differently. Do you not agree?

Take care & keep smiling :-)

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Teacher Feature #31 – Ask Questions To Learn

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Today’s “Teacher Feature” remix has a special connection for me. I have been lucky throughout my educational career, both as a student and as a teacher, to have usually felt confident enough to ask questions if I did not understand. For some students, this can be a challenging task. However, with human knowledge currently doubling every 13 months and, with IBM predicting in the next couple of years, knowledge will double every 12 hours, it will be impossible to know even a small amount of all the answers.

Ask Questions to Learn

Teacher Feature #31 – Chinese Proverb – September, 2013

Although I am able to increase my knowledge and tap into vast resources of information on the Internet, it is still my friends and colleagues in my Personal Learning Network (PLN) who help me find meaningful answers to my questions.

As teachers we should foster collaborative activities in our classrooms to encourage students to ask questions and learn as much as possible from their classmates.

Perhaps Bruce Lee said it best … “A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer.”

Take care & keep smiling :-)

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Teacher Feature #30 – Focus on the Future

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As the Canadian school year officially draws to a close today, I thought I’d take time to reflect on the future.

The Future - Yogi Berra

Teacher Feature #30 – Yogi Berra – June, 2013

To help readers understand my “future perspective”, I thought I’d share the process I use to create my monthly “Teacher Feature”. My procedure is based on an activity I created called “Image with a Message“. I maintain a list of thought-provoking, educationally-related quotations. Whenever I wish to create a “Teacher Feature” image, I choose an appropriate quotation. Next, I use the Flickr advanced search process to select a Creative Commons-licensed image which gives one permission to “modify, adapt, or build upon”. After downloading the appropriate image, I insert it into PowerPoint, add the quotation and Flickr URL credit line, and save the resulting slide as a “Teacher Feature” image.

While searching my list for an applicable June “Teacher Feature” quotation, I thought that Yogi Berra’s statement about the future seemed fitting. In particular, the future of education has changed dramatically over the years as technology and the Internet resources have impacted on students and staff.

When I began teaching Grades 7 & 8 Mathematics, the future was so much simpler. As a new  teacher, I could focus exclusively on curriculum. For me, there were fewer non-classroom-related issues. By comparison, today’s teachers have to worry about a plethora of responsibilities and are often forced to teach a multitude of different subjects to a wide variety of student needs.

True, I did “network” and share resources and ideas with other Mathematics-teaching colleagues in our school. However, with the introduction of technology, the Internet, email, blogs and a host of social media apps, teachers today can “connect” with teachers within their same school with the same ease as like-minded teachers throughout the world.

Without a doubt, I believe the key to survival of overworked educators is to belong to a supportive Personal Learning Network (PLN). To better understand what my PLN means to me, I encourage readers to peruse my earlier post entitled “My PLN: A Teacher’s Resource“. In fact, it was a serendipitous sharing opportunity that motivated me to write about the power of joining a PLN to be better prepared for the future.

As you recall, I had already selected Yogi Berra’s quotation “The future ain’t what it used to be.” Normally, I would have proceeded to the advanced Flickr search to find an image that I could use to enhance the quotation. However, I first happened to check a series of tweets of individuals and educators that I follow on Twitter.

In scanning my tweet feeds, I was intrigued by the following “Cloud busting” message shared by Darren Kuropatwa. Darren is a talented Curriculum Coordinator for Digital Learning with the St. James Assiniboia School Division. When I clicked on the link in Darren’s tweet, his creative Instagram image was displayed.

Darren Kuropatwa Tweet

Darren’s innovative image of clouds, viewed through a pair of glasses, was a perfect image to complement Yogi Berra’s quote about the future. So, it was Darren’s sharing of his creative image, that motivated me to write this June’s “Teacher Feature”.

Below his innovative image of clouds viewed through a pair of glasses, Darren asks viewers “What do you see?” ….

I see educators connecting and sharing resources so that the future with technology can be an exciting place where students and teachers learn together.

Take care & keep smiling :-)

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Teacher Feature #29 – Learning from Experiences

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My father was a very wise man. He claimed that he got to be so smart because he attended “the school of hard knocks”. Ever an optimist, he said that it was important to learn from one’s experiences. In creating this month’s “Teacher Feature”, I was thinking of Dad’s outlook when I searched for motivational quotations and found the following Chinese Proverb that definitely applies to both students and teachers.

Teacher Feature-29

Teacher Feature #29 – Chinese Proverb – May, 2013

My own experience was enhanced today as I searched for the components of this month’s “Teacher Feature”. As many of my readers know, these motivational or thought-provoking messages are created following the steps outlined in my “Image with a Message” educational activity. When I decided to enhance this Chinese Proverb, I used the Flickr Advance Search process to find a Creative Commons-licensed photo that gave me permission to “modify, adapt or build upon”.

I searched through several photos before I chose this one, depicting a student falling down stairs. However, my experience was definitely enhanced, when I discovered that although I could have selected a photo from a multitude of world-wide Flickr contributors, the image I finally chose had a very important connection. This photo was taken by middle-years students from the province, of Manitoba, where I live. Furthermore, it was shared online, as part of a Bias Photo activity, by their teacher Clarence Fisher from Snow Lake, who I have met on several occasions and follow on Twitter.

In summary, not only was I able to create my monthly “Teacher Feature”, I was able to experience and learn from other students and teachers who willingly shared their Creative Commons-licensed photos. Thanks to Mr. Fisher and his talented students for making my experience so positive.

Take care & keep smiling :-)

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Teacher Feature #28 – Pay It Forward Day

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I must admit that I look forward to reading the regular Saturday’s “Random Acts of Kindness” page in our local Winnipeg Free Press newspaper. With all the drama and sensationalism, that is often dispensed through our news media, it is so refreshing to read about individuals who do good deeds for others without any thought of thanks in return.

For this month’s “Teacher Feature” remix or mashup, I thought that I’d attempt to accomplish two tasks – one to inspire and one to remind:

Teacher Feature 28 - Pay It Forward Day

Teacher Feature #28 – Aesop – April, 2013

Following the inspiring pattern that I have established in my previous 27 “Teacher Feature” remixes, I blended a powerful message with a complementary Creative Commons licensed photo, together with its Flickr address. However, I also took the liberty of including a reminder for teachers and students that, each year, the last Thursday in April is reserved as “Pay It Forward Day”. Unfortunately, due to family commitments, I have not recently been blogging as regularly as I would like. As such, I missed giving adequate warning this year of the very powerful teaching opportunity of the “Pay It Forward Day”. It is hoped that teachers will print out this image reminder, or at least mark their calendars well in advance, to take advantage of this teaching opportunity in future years. Perhaps, Aristotle said it best … “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.”

Take care & keep smiling :-)

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