Teacher Feature #47 – I Love to Read

Activity, How To, Project, Teacher Feature, Tutorial No Comments »

In last night’s post, I indicated that I have set a personal goal to create and share one “Teacher Feature” each month. Furthermore, I stated that it seemed like this  challenge was more frequently occurring in the latter half of the month as opposed to the first half. In that today is the last day in January, I guess you might say that I best get started. However, my delay (some might call it procrastination) this month has benefits in that I can be inspired by a theme that traditionally takes place starting tomorrow as “I Love to Read” month begins.

Teacher Feature #47 - 400x300
Teacher Feature #47 – Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis – January, 2015

One might ask … “What connection exists between ‘I Love to Read’ and my monthly ‘Teacher Feature’?” If you have followed my blog posts for some rime, you will know that I have difficulty writing in a succinct and direct manner. Back in the 1970’s, I wrote two different theses which shared my ideas regarding computer use and my practical resources to support classroom teachers. During each of these challenges, my advisers kept requesting that I “expand” certain ideas, thoughts, or classroom activities. Little did I know that these repeated suggestions would ultimately shape the way in which I write and share information today. I often laugh and tell people who comment on my wordiness, that “If I can stick a subjunctive clause anywhere in a sentence, I go for it!”

Knowing that I have this penchant for verbosity, I stand in awe of those individuals who can describe an event or share a teaching strategy with an economy of words. Furthermore, like the stories read by adults to young children during “I Love to Read” month, they are often succinct yet they engage young minds during the animated story-telling. Thankfully technology and the related apps are helping me become a much more concise writer. I find that our sons do not want lengthy replies when texting us. In addition, Twitter has forced me into sharing information in 140 characters or less. Furthermore, these limited character tweets are often significantly reduced because my friends and colleagues often embed important hashtags like #edtech, #ipadchat or #mbedchat into the message which further reduces the coveted text “real estate”.

With this background you can understand how I really appreciate a person who can express themselves in a clever, yet concise, manner. I often explore motivating, educational quotes to find relevant, short passages that I can embed into the “Quote of the Day” generator found in the top right corner of my blog’s home page.

When I began searching for motivational quotes, I was impressed with the power and succinct choice of words that I found to be the common element in the sayings that I enjoyed most. About the same time, I first began exploring how to find images on Flickr which were shared with a “Creative Commons” license.

These two ideas of searching for impressive quotes and enhancing the message with a powerful Creative Commons licensed image were the two ingredients that I used to create my popular “Image with a Message” classroom activity. Through this endeavour, students learned to critically search the Internet for quotations of interest, to use the advanced search on Flickr to acquire Creative Commons licensed images which they could modify, and lastly to give appropriate credit to both the author and photographer. Teachers have used this activity with students to create posters for their classroom.

After I created and shared this engaging activity, I thought that I should create some examples and this action expanded into my commitment to create a “Teacher Feature” and share it within a blog post each month.

Should you chose to explore this activity with your students, I can assure you that they will indeed become engaged in the process. Furthermore, other students and teachers will take notice of these “Image with a Message” creations because each individual probably embraces the “I love to read” initiative … particularly if it is concise.

Take care & keep smiling :-)

Larger Image: Brian Metcalfe’s Teacher Feature “photostream”

Tagged with: | | | | | | | | |

Teacher Feature #43 – Life & Photography

Food for Thought, How To, Teacher Feature, Tutorial No Comments »

In education, like most professions, there are good days and bad days. Having worked closely with educators for more than forty years, I have observed the following … Although we may have a series of good days or inspiring situations, with all the associated positive feedback, we tend to focus on the single, bad, or negative incident.

In five years time, will this issue really matter or make a difference?

On the occasion when we had experienced a unsettling day or action, a former colleague would often ask me … “In five years time, will this issue really matter or make a difference?” This simple question helped me put such concerns into perspective. To help us avoid perseverating on the few negative incidents that we may encounter in our educational careers, we need to focus on, and celebrate, the positive opportunities. More importantly, we need to share such positive energy with our colleagues to motivate them as well.

Animated Life & Photography

Perhaps Ritu Ghatourey expressed it best, when she said, “A negative thinker sees a difficulty in every opportunity. A positive thinker sees an opportunity in every difficulty.”

A Teachable Moment
Often, I am intrigued by the ingenuity of other bloggers and wonder how certain elements on their web displays were created. Some readers may wonder how the above animated GIF was created. In that I plan to use this same animated process in my next blog post, I thought that it might be wise to share how such an effect was created. Those who are interested in the above animation style, can create a similar one by following these steps.

1. Locate a suitable image which one imports into PowerPoint. In the above case, I chose an old PowerPoint template, which I remembered displayed a filmstrip or series of negatives.
2. I entered the “Life is like photography … ” quotation into the “Title” text box and positioned this frame appropriately.
3. Next, I copied this original slide and repeatedly pasted it into the PowerPoint slide tray to create a total of eight slides.
4. I right-clicked on the first slide and chose the “Format Background” option. I did not change the “Picture or Text Fill” option but explored the changes made to the slide by moving the “Transparency” slider. When I moved it from 0% to 100%, the filmstrip graphics disappeared leaving only the important quotation. Since I wanted my animated GIF message and image to “slowly develop”, I thought that if I altered the “Transparency” level on this, as well as each subsequent slide, the message would slowly appear or “develop”. I closed this first slide, with the “Transparency” level set to 100%.
5. Using the above process, I next selected each of the subsequent 2nd through 7th slides and set each “Transparency level” to the respective values of 90%, 80%, 60%, 40%, 20% and 0%. The seventh slide, with it’s 0% “Transparency” level, appears with all the “developed” colours and quotation as intended.
6. I right-clicked on the eighth slide and chose the “Format Background” option. Next, I selected a “Solid Fill” with a black background which I applied to only this last slide. I thought that by removing all film elements and the quotation, the plain black background slide would be an important “fade to black” process to end the animated cycle.
7. To complete this task, I saved this PowerPoint slide set.
8. To create an animated GIF, one must collect a series of similar slides, with slight changes, which can be cycled through rather quickly. To save these individual PowerPoint slides, I chose the “File>Save As” option and selected “JPG File Interchange Format (*JPG)”. When prompted “Do you want to export every slide in the presentation or only the current slide?”, I selected the “Every Slide” button.
9. On my computer, each of these eight PowerPoint slides had dimensions of 960 x 720 pixels. Unfortunately, my blog can only accommodate images that are less than 450 pixels wide. To reduce each of the eight slides to their corresponding 400 x 300 pixel format, I chose to use the “Batch Conversion” process of “Irfanview“, a very powerful, but free, Windows application.
10. Using an old Windows freeware application called Ulead’s GIF Animator Lite, I was able to import these eight 400 x 300 pixel images into this application and vary the display speeds of each image.
11. Once I felt that the individual images and timing were appropriately set, I was able to save the results as an animated GIF.
12. The last step was to import this GIF image into my WordPress blog, so that when viewed in a browser, the eight images would rapidly display providing, the above, animated look.

Take care & keep smiling :-)

Tagged with: | | | | | |

PA “Interruptions” Inspire Innovation

Activity, How To, Professional Development, Project, Tutorial No Comments »

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

  Pardon this interruption

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Replicating the Remarkable

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

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


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

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

Could we, as educators, wish for anything more?

Take care & keep smiling :-)


– Flickr – Creative Commons image “Angelica Jordan’s classroom” by the Herald Post

Tagged with: | | | | | | | | | | | |

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

Activity, Freebie, How To, Info, Project, Tutorial No Comments »

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

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

Hour of Code-400x300

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

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

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

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

Take care & keep smiling :-)

Tagged with: | | | | | | |

Lip dub: I’m havin’ a good time!

Activity, ETMOOC, How To, Project, Tutorial No Comments »

Educators looking to engage their students in a fun, educational activity should consider having their students create a collaborative lip dub video of a favourite song. For those unfamiliar with the process, Wikipedia states:

A lip dub is a type of video that combines lip synching and audio dubbing to make a music video. It is made by filming individuals or a group of people lip synching while listening to a song or any recorded audio then dubbing over it in post editing with the original audio of the song.

Having joined the Educational Technology & Media’s Massive Open Online Course (#ETMOOC), I was invited, with other participants from around the world, to participate in a collaborative lip dub.

[ETMOOC Lip Dub: http://www.youtube.co/watch?v=cxwbdLMt_Bo]

I admit that my knowledge of the lip dub process was limited. In early March 2011, Andy McKiel and Darren Kuropatwa hosted a professional development session entitled “Social Media: Challenges & Opportunities for Education”. Not only were they willing to motivate their own teaching staff, they also extended an invitation to educators outside their Division. As this previous link indicates, I left this P.D. session reflecting on the power of one’s Personal Learning Network (PLN). This focus was the result of Dean Shareski’s lip dub video in which he invited 75 friends from around the world to help create a 40th birthday video entitled “Happy Birthday Alec Couros”.  I envied the organizing strategies together with talented movie editing and the commitment of hours that went into creating this masterpiece. It was evident that Alec’s friends were having so much fun engaging in this collaborative lip dub that I knew that the process had potential for students. 

I was delighted when Dean Shareski took the time to share the important “behind the scenes” processes involved in his “Happy Birthday” lip dub. Although his blog post entitled “So I started this Google doc..” shared many of the critical steps, I still felt that the steps outlined were still somewhat theoretical for me because I had not invested my energies or passion into the process. The key part that was still missing in my learning journey, was to be more actively involved in either participating or making a lip dub.

Imagine my delight when I signed up for the Educational Technology & Media’s Massive Open Online Course (#ETMOOC) to find that Alec Couros was planning to create a lip dub, with collaboration from people around the world. I decided to sign up. as a participant, so that I could get a better understanding of the mechanics involved in organizing and creating a lip dub.

To help my readers gain a better appreciation for the steps involved in organizing and creating this #ETMOOC lip dub, I’ll outline the steps below:

  • Alec first invited #ETMOOC participants to consider taking part in this crowd source lip dub activity. Information was sent to participants by both email and through Twitter. Members were given ample time to consider how they might like to participate.
  • Using a Google Docs spreadsheet, Alec invited members of the #ETMOOC community to suggest the name of a song whose lyrics promoted or provided meaning to this special collaborative “singing” experience.
  • Once several songs were suggested, Alec used the “Poll Everywhere” survey process to gain feedback as to which of the 10 most popular suggested songs would become the actial audio track. All members of the #ETMOOC community (regardless of whether they wished to actively participate or not) were encouraged to vote for their favourite. Through continuous tweets, Alec kept the ETMOOC community aware of the the voting results.
  • Once Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” was chosen as the most popular, Alec then provided the #ETMOOC community with a specific YouTube video of a Queen performance so that participants could practice singing along with the performer or refining guitar solos.
  • I found Alec’s “Lip Dub Project” instruction document to be a key ingredient and insight in the organizational requirements of a lip dub with so many participants, from so many different locations, with so many different combinations of hardware and software. This is a “must read” for teachers who are considering creating a lip dub activity. True, you may not need all the extras that Alec has considered (in that his participants are from around the world), but Alec has identified key items that all teachers will find beneficial.
  • In his instruction manual, Alec printed line by line the lyrics to the  song “Don’t Stop Me Now”. After each line, a space was left where a participant could add his/her name indicating that they would sing this specific line. Alec even suggested lines where he encouraged more participation that just one individual. Furthermore, participants were encouraged to engage others  (as well as pets) in creating their video segment so that the fun and laughter could be shared.
  • Participants were encouraged to showcase images to represent the community where the individual was located. If you look closely, at my participation in this #ETMOOC lip dub, you will note that I am wearing a red jacket with the letters CANADA displayed across the front, with a Manitoba flag hanging in the background with an NHL “Jets” cap positioned proudly on my head.
  • Alec suggested that participants make a video of them singing their selected lines(s) of “Don’t Stop Me Now”. To facilitate merging the individual participant clips, Alec suggested participants capture themselves singing their selected line as well as the previous and next lines to allow for trimming during the challenging editing process.
  • The key to working with so many different video segments is to determine a file-naming code or convention. Alec insisted that each individual name his/her video as a combination of the participant name/twitter, geographic location, and the song line number. Following this important advice, my video file contribution was named:

Brian Metcalfe-@bkmetcalfe-WinnipegCanada-Line5.MOV

  • Alec set up a mechanism so that the respective video clips could be sent to him using the Dropbox and DropitTome services. An alternate email process for sending video files was also included so that all participants could send their song snippet to Alec by the stated deadline.
  • Alec then shared the collected video files in Dropbox with Josh Stumpenhorst (@stumpteacher).  Josh volunteered to use his “magic” with Pinnacle Studio to create the resulting #ETMOOC Lip Dub.
  • Once the video was created, it was shared on YouTube with the #ETMOOC community and the world.

I think that Alec summarized the intent of this lip dub project when he stated:

Let’s have fun with this! Show some of that joy and exuberance that many of you have shown thus far. I hope that this results in a great bonding experience, more familiarity with community members, and an artifact that helps to represent the experience of #etmooc.

Although many would consider the uploading of the lip dub to YouTube as the final process in this creative endeavour, I am so thankful that Alec took a most important additional step. Alec found the time to reflect on this lib dub project in his post “Making of the #etmooc Lipdub”. I find that I always learn so much from educators who are willing to share tips and strategies to improve projects with the benefit of hind-sight.

I encourage readers to check out Alec’s reflective post to learn how using a file-name convention starting with the line # (rather than at the end) allows one to automatically sort video clips in order of the songs lyrics. In addition, I particularly liked Alec’s reminder of how he added a “+” sign alias to his Google mail “couros+etmooc@gmail.com” so that he could more easily filter email related to this innovative project. However, without Alec’s reflective post, I would not have realized that my “Don’t Stop Me Now” video clip (which was my first video attempt on our iPad Christmas gift) was suffering from the dreaded “Vertical Video Syndrome”.

In conclusion, I was so delighted to be an active participant in this engaging and fun activity. Furthermore, having the flexibility and freedom to choose which of the Queen lyrics I would sing was very important to me. I felt that as a Life-Long-Learner and recent MOOC participant, I was proud to sing “Don’t stop me now … don’t stop me … ’cause I’m having a good time … having a good time!”

Take care & keep smiling :-)

Tagged with: | | | | | | | | | | | |

The eyes are the windows into the soul

Activity, DS106, Food for Thought, How To, Tutorial 6 Comments »

You might ask, like my wife, why am I enrolling in the DS106 course again. Didn’t I get my “fill” of on-line learning a year ago? The simple answer is that there are gaps in my learning that I want to try fill. I have found that through the on-going support, comments, and instructional blog posts of the DS106 community, I can take ownership for my own learning and professional development.

In the previous post, I alluded to the fact that GIF animation had become so much more sophisticated over the past dozen years. Certainly, I was actively engaged in the Spring 2012 DS106 course and I was extremely pleased at the skills and knowledge I had gained. However, as I continued to read other DS106-related blog posts, during the remainder of 2012, I realized that my GIF animation was quite limiTed.

So now that I have “dotted my “T”s … we’ll now cross our “I”s” :-)

Judge Judy Animated Eyes

[Animated GIF reflecting “The eyes are the windows into the soul”]

The Back Story
As an educator, I am so grateful to the DS106 individuals, who not only share their assignments, but also take the time to provide insights and instructions into their creative process. Sometimes when we attend Educational Technology conferences or professional development sessions, we are exposed to perfect, polished activities or projects. However, on returning to our classrooms, we may become discouraged when we attempt to replicate the process ourselves. Some of the reasons for this failure might include lacking the necessary hardware, software, or more importantly, the skills that the sharing educator took for granted. I welcome the DS106 model in which participants are encouraged to share their insights into their creative process.

To illustrate the importance of this “Back Story” process, I urge educational readers to view Dean Shareski’s K-12 Online Conference keynote video entitled “Sharing: The Moral Imperative”. Here, Dean suggests that “the ability to teach and share beyond our classrooms is moving from ‘nice to do’ to ‘necessary to do’”. Although this keynote was extremely powerful and the message is still just as important today as it was in the Fall of 2010, it was Dean’s “Back Story” that I appreciated. Later in the conference Dean shared a remarkable, instructional “behind the scenes” video to help educators better understand why and how his original “Sharing” video was created. Here, I learned a number of tips including how Dean set up his scrolling iPad (above the video camera) to function as his teleprompter.

In the past, the vast majority of individuals were content to be “consumers” of information from sources such as Internet web sites. Only a few were “producers” who created animated GIFs and learned to craft web pages using HyperText Markup Language (HTML). However, there has been a dramatic shift!. Today, the vast majority of students, particularly those in the DS106 community, learn best as “producers of knowledge”, be it their own blog or crafty, video-based, animated GIFs. In order to encourage such production, I recommend that one strive to include insight into how each assignment was crafted through a “back story” process. Through providing such “teachable moments” your learning will improve and perhaps, more importantly, you will provide a learning legacy for others.

My “Animated” Learning Journey
My motivation to begin was the realization that many of the creative “GIF masters” (that I referenced in the previous post) were starting with video rather than a static image to create their animated GIFs. As I was unfamiliar with the process for capturing video, I searched the DS106 website for  information on “animated GIFs”. I was delighted to find a DS106 wiki, which was a veritable gold mine of tutorials. The one that I explored was:

Based on this information, I jumped in “with both feet” and started searching YouTube for possible videos. I selected a video entitled “Judyism: Judge Judy At Her Best”. I thought that the expression in Judy’s eyes might not only help me learn more about animating from a video clip but might also qualify my work for the “GIF Me Again About My Eyes” assignment worth “two points”.

My next hurdle involved finding a reliable mechanism for downloading YouTube videos. I still use an older Windows computer running the XP operating system so my choices of free downloading options may be somewhat limited. I investigated the Fastest YouTube Downloader, Freemake Video Downloader (for Windows) and the Pwn YouTube process.  Gizmo’s Freeware  posted “Finally a Free, Flexible Youtube Download That Works” which recommended Freemake Video Downloader. I had previously installed this software during last year’s DS106 class. However, during a more thorough investigation this year, I became rather concerned when it was revealed that Freemake Video Downloader used the “Open Candy” system during installation. I admit that when I install software, I always read each page and opt-out of any additions of other products or new toolbars. I pay a yearly license fee to run commercial, up-to-date virus protection and regularly run Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware to remove any potential unwanted threats. So with this latest information, I utilized the Pwn YouTube process, which appeared to be the least invasive approach, to downloading video from YouTube.

Once I had captured the “Judge Judy” video, I downloaded MPEG Streamclip to trim the frames that displayed the eye movement. I found by using the arrow keys on my keyboard, I could advance along the timeline and select video frame-by-frame. These frames were then exported into the GIMP image manipulation program which I had downloaded and installed.

I admit that I do not know very much about making animated GIFs from video. However, I found that by viewing Michael Branson Smith’s excellent “Animated GIF” video and following the detailed steps in the DS106 wiki tutorial, I was able to produce my first animated GIF from video.

The Last Important Question
My wife, who was also a teacher, was very involved in her school divisions “Science Fair”. When judging student projects, one of her most important questions near the end of her interview with students was “If you were to do this over again, what would you do differently?” Such a question is one that I think we, as professionals, should continually ask ourselves.

In my case, I know that there are three things that I would like to attempt:

  1. Explore the process for adding an additional “reverse string” of selected video frames to the exported images  to make a smoother, cyclic animated GIF. Michael Branson Smith explained this process do well in his video “GIFFing Video Clips with Photoshop”  (starting at approximately the 5:00 minute mark). However, I’m not sure that my copy of “Photoshop Elements 6″ has all the necessary features.
  2. Explore different YouTube download processes and conversion to different formats. I would like to find the best combination to not capture quality video clips but also display the resulting animated GIF in the best format in my blog.
  3. Most importantly, I’d recommend that DS106-ers use as their primary resource “The DS106 Handbook”. I believe the renovations to the DS106 web site have been spectacular. The format is so much more inviting and is organized in an efficient manner with all the tools you need identified in the handbook. Therefore, don’t search for “Ds106 animated GIFs” like I did, which brought up the older wiki-based information; rather check out the ever-evolving and updated links in the handbook such as:

I admit that this post is rather lengthy but I hope that by modelling the “Back Story” process, I can encourage others to share their tips and tricks along their learning journey.

Take care & keep smiling :-)

Tagged with: | | | | | | | | |

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

Application or Web App, How To, LwICT, Professional Development, Tutorial No Comments »

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 :-)

Tagged with: | | | | | | | | | |

‘DS106: Thanks for the Memories’ Video

Activity, DS106, Professional Development, Reflection, Tutorial 1 Comment »

My first DS106 video assignment is a “Digital Story Compilation” in which I was challenged to “Create a video compilation of some of your favorite things you’ve made in ds106″. I titled it “DS106: Thanks for the Memories” because while I was creating this video, I was totally engaged in the process of documenting my new-found experiences in my DS106 learning journey.


I must admit though I was so envious of some of my colleagues who assembled a 3-5 minute video of their creative images, added a soundtrack, uploaded it to YouTube, and quickly moved on to their next video assignment. True, their videos represented their accomplishments and other DS106 students, who shared the learning experience, could view the elements without the need for additional commentary to explain the back story.

By comparison, my video, like my blog posts, tend to favour the longer formats. I am jealous of my colleagues who can write effortlessly and share ideas with an economy of words. Some might consider my style to be somewhat “anal”(ytical). This approach might be reinforced if one knew that I initially attempted the relaxed “voice over” narration and rejected it after several “takes”. As an educator, I just felt uncomfortable “winging it” and recording a narration as the video progressed.  Therefore, I created a Word document with an embedded table which contained both the slide images and their respective narrative “sound bites”. Believe me, after matching images and writing appropriate narration to enhance the video, I have a new-found admiration for the work that goes into video production.

Your “Teacher’s Voice”
However, it was my adult son who raised another aspect of video creation that I had not considered. After listening to my “20 Questions & Answers About DS106” radio show, he provided me with some constructive feedback about my sound-track, when he stated:

Dad … in your narration, you pause too much and your speaking is too slow and deliberate. Radio announcers talk quickly and move right along. I think you seem to be lapsing into your “teacher’s voice”.

Certainly my “radio show” narration was somewhat stilted. In fact, I will warn viewers that even the following “DS106: Thanks for the Memories” video appears to have this same deliberate narrative quality that I, as an educator, tend to use in an instructional setting.

It was this feedback and reflection that caused me to finally ask this very important question:

Who is your audience?

While most DS106 students were designing audio-visual creations, their primary audience was their respective instructor and their supportive DS106 colleagues. Each of these audience members were quite familiar with the DS106 massive, open online course (MOOC), the “Daily Create” activities, and its challenging assignments. These individuals were immersed in the ABC’s of “Always Be Creating” and “Always Be Commenting”.

On the other hand, as a former teacher, who has been sharing educational blog posts for more than two years, I write for a primary audience who are K-12 educators, with my DS106 community an important secondary target. Whereas, my colleagues are creating for an audience who knows the complete DS106 back story, I am sharing with many educators who are not even aware of what the MOOC acronym represents let alone understand the mechanics and learning that goes on within this course. For this reason, I feel the need to explain in more detail so that my blog-following educators can better understand the dynamics, the energy, the fun and most importantly the learning that is taking place within this creative DS106 community. As an educator, I am doing my best to share powerful ideas and creative endeavours that I hope can somehow be adapted to work successfully within the K-12 environment. So perhaps, I am using my teacher’s voice but in many ways, I am still teaching.

I trust that readers will find ideas and learning opportunities within my 18 minute Vimeo video entitled “DS106: Thanks for the Memories“:

DS106: Thanks for the Memories from Brian Metcalfe on Vimeo.

In closing, it seems particularly fitting to share with you Solomon Ibn Gabriol’s five step process for learning and acquiring wisdom:

The first step in the acquisition of wisdom is silence,
the second listening,
the third memory,
the fourth practice,
the fifth teaching others.

Take care & keep smiling :-)

–   Flickr – Creative Commons image “Thanks for the memory
by Leo Reynolds – http://www.flickr.com/photos/lwr/4037019936/

Tagged with: | | | | | | | | | |

‘ReCaptcha Illustrated': A Unique Assignment

Activity, DS106, Tutorial 3 Comments »

Although this assignment and tutorial has been created as part of my contribution to the DS106 learning community, it also has great potential as an activity/project for our Senior Years’ students. “ReCaptcha Illustrated” is a unique Visual Assignment that was proposed by Alan Levine (aka cogdog), who challenged DS106 students to:

Include a screenshot of a word pair from a reCapctha in an illustration or visual mashup that shows what the words might mean. Use your imagination to create something meaningful out of the random words.

When you write it up, provide some narrative that puts the image in context.

As someone who can trace his heritage back to the “Emerald Isle”, it would have been ideal if my visual mashup creation, and its equally important narrative, could have been posted on March 17th.

I will provide a step-by-step tutorial to help engage others in this unique learning experience.

1.   After reading the description of the “ReCaptcha Illustrated” assignment, I searched for a web site that would allow me to activate a ReCaptcha display.

2.  My Google search led me to the “What is a reCAPTCHA?” site with an active reCAPTCHA “generator”.

3.   I examined the initial “two string” display, which made no sense, so I kept pressing the “recycle” button located above the “speaker” icon to generate a new text combination for consideration.

4.  I admit that I rejected perhaps 80% of the reCaptcha images generated because I was unable to visualize a context under which the displayed text might apply.

5.   However, when I found a reCaptcha display which looked promising, I took a screen capture and saved the image. Some of my “possibles” are shown below:

This one had possibilities if I could find an image of a “farming family”. I could then manipulate the photo and add a speech bubble having the children complain that “Ma …kills o(ur) farming”.



This one looked much more promising. I envisaged a teenaged boy, texting his buddy and (with an unfortunate slip on one letter) proudly announcing “I’ve dat3d Lisa”. Perhaps this display might also be a person typing in a 15 character password using the popular technique of replacing the letter “E” with the image reversed number “3”.

6.   When the reCaptcha displayed this one, based on my Irish heritage, I immediately imagined “a bubble in green beer”.



7.   The next step was to find an image of a “green bubble” using Flickr’s “Advanced Search Tool”.

8.   In the “search field” at the top of the page, I entered the two words “green bubble” (without quotes). Since I only wanted Creative Commons-licensed images that I could modify or mashup, I clicked on the check-boxes in front of the following two statements near the bottom of the search screen:

  • Only search within Creative Commons-licensed content; and
  • Find content to modify, adapt, or build upon

9.   I began searching for images that I felt had potential. Whenever I found an image that I thought I might use, I clicked on Flickr’s “Actions => View all sizes” menus to check the “license type”, and verified that the image was available for downloading.

10.   Whenever I found a possible image, I always recorded the image’s URL address in my Research URL File, together, with a brief description and a 1-10 rating. Experience has taught be that it takes little time to record the URL at the time of download as opposed to deciding to use an image and then having to go back later to find the image address. If you finally decide on an image and then have to go back later to find its URL for citing purposes, you often can no longer remember the exact search parameter terms which can be very frustrating and a real time waster!

11.   I decided on this “Green Bubble” Flickr image with its Creative Common’s Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike attributes. Under this photo’s license, I could “Share” and, most importantly “Remix” or modify/manipulate it by adding a speech or thought bubble. I proceeded to download the largest format size available that didn’t exceed 1024 x 768 pixels.

12.   I think that one should always follow the DS106 “ABC” mantra of “Always Be Commenting”. In particular, I believe that it is proper etiquette to leave a “Thank You” comment below the original Creative Commons image that you are going to use. Furthermore, I try to provide a URL link to the the remixed image in your own Flickr photostream. This provides an opportunity so that the individual who uploaded the original file can visit your remixed or modified creation so s/he can see how you utilized the original.

13.   Next I decided that I would need to add a speech bubble to the image. The only mechanism that I knew for accomplishing this task (at that time) was to use PowerPoint 2007. I started this application and used the Insert => Picture menu items to transfer this image on to a PowerPoint slide.

14.   After dragging the image’s corner handles out to fill the entire slide, I clicked on PowerPoint’s Insert => Shapes => Callouts menu items and selected the “thought bubble” icon. I clicked on the slide and dragged the “thought bubble” into position.

15.   Since the reCaptcha’s “A green bubble.”  text was displayed on a white background, it is very important that one right-clicks on the active “thought bubble”, selects the Format Shape => Fill => Solid Fill => Color, and selects the white “Theme Color” to match the white background of the reCaptcha disply.

16.   Next one must choose the Insert => Text Box menu items and enter an appropriate “thought” as a layer above the bubble image.

17.   One must now use a graphic viewer, such as the Irfanview freeware for Windows, or image editing software to capture only the reCaptcha’s “A green bubble.” text with its white background. Once this portion has been saved as a new image, it can be inserted onto the PowerPoint slide.

18.   All that remains is to add appropriate text into the thought bubble, add the “A green bubble.” image, and experiment with resizing and positioning these components.

19.   Once you are satisfied with the thought bubble text and it’s position on the slide, it is important to save this file. Certainly one can save this PowerPoint file (of one slide) as “Greeen Bubble.ppt” or (.pptx using the newer 2007 file format) or any suitable file name. However, it is also important to save this single slide as an image. To do so one must click on PowerPoint’s Office Button” in the top left corner of the screen and select Save As => Other Formats menu items. Under the “Save in:” location options, navigate to an appropriate folder or location on your hard drive. Next, click the “Down arrow” at the right end of the “Save as type:” field, scroll down, choose the “JPEG File Interchange Format (*.jpg), enter an appropriate “File name:” and click the “Save” button. When prompted “Do you want to export every slide in the presentation or only the current slide?”, click the “Current Slide Only” button to save the following creative image for display and/or later use.

“Enquiring Minds Want to Know”
Providing a narrative to put the image in context

This assignment has great potential for being used to engage students in Manitoba’s Senior Years Information and Communication Technology (ICT) courses. Undoubtedly, it could be introduced in both the “Applying ICT” and the “Digital Pictures” courses.

One might consider having students investigate the work of Luis von Ahn at Carnegie Mellon University as he developed different CAPTCHA processes. Some excellent resources were provided in my earlier blog post entitled “CAPTCHAs Reduce Blog Comment Spam“. Once students are more familiar with CAPTCHAs, this “hands-on”, multidisciplinary assignment will complement the theory and provide an excellent opportunity for students to demonstrate their creativity.

Although the somewhat technical portion of this Visual Assignment is completed, there are still ample ways to demonstrate creativity. This “reCaptcha Illustrated” activity has many learning opportunities for Senior Years students. Why not request that pairs of students work on this activity together? One person may take the lead in the more technical areas while his/her partner may wish to focus more on this narrative component. Regardless of how the work load is divided, students will learn more through communication in a collaborative environment.

ReCaptcha Illustrated – The story behind the image
The scene opens on St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland. The story centers around a wee, Irish leprechaun by the name of Tommy O’Toole. Since early morning,Tommy has been celebrating all by himself in the local public house (or bar) called “Clancy’s Cellar”.

Tommy has not been keeping track of the number of beers that he has consumed. but it is safe to assume that even the locals would agree that “wee Tommy” is, indeed, intoxicated.

Tommy shouts to the barman … “Clancy  … draw me another pint of your best green beer, my good man.” Within moments a large glass tankard automatically appears in front of Tommy.

Just as Tommy toasts St. Patrick, hoists the tankard to his lips, and is about to pour the green nectar down his throat, he stops abruptly. He spies a large green bubble staring back at him from the frothy surface of his beer. Grasping the mug in both of his alcohol-induced shaky hands, Tommy slowly lowers his tankard and gingerly sits it carefully on the bar so as not to upset the delicate equilibrium.

Although his mind is somewhat clouded, after spending more than seven hours sampling all varieties of green beer, Tommy says to himself … “Faith and begorrah … have ye ever seen such an amazing green bubble? I wonder if St. Patrick is, indeed, sending me a sign of future good luck? I must share this good fortune with my closest friends.”

Through squinting eyes Tommy surveys the patrons of “Clancy’s Cellar” and, regretfully, does not recognize any of his friends. “How can I share this moment with my personal learning network?”, Tommy thinks.

“I could take out my cell phone and take a picture of the bubble”, thinks Tommy, but he quickly dismissed that poor idea. He says to himself. He mutters to himself, “Although my brain is a bit fuzzy, the picture would be worse, as my hands would shake so much while taking the picture”.

He continues problem solving as he thinks of a strategy. “I could brace my shaking hands on the bar and take a much steadier photo to send to my friends. No … even if I they were to receive a good quality picture of this green bubble, they would all accuse me of “Photoshopping” it. There has to be a better solution”, he thought.

Then Tommy shouted out loud … “OMG!”

He quickly realized that he had to invite all his Irish friends over to this bar ASAP, so they could witness for themselves, this wonderful green bubble.

He reached into his pocket with one shaky hand and slowly withdrew his cell phone. He grasped the device in both shaky hands as he navigated his thumbs over the keypad. Even in his drunken stupor, “wee Tommy” remembered he had to be extra careful with that one key that kept sticking.

“Was it the letter ‘e’ or the number ‘3’?”, he muttered under his breath.

“I’m sure that every sober person knows that the uppercase ‘E’ looks like a backwards ‘3’”, however Tommy was far from sober. “It’s understandable that everyone becomes confused over their similarities. They look so much a like”, thought Tommy in his drunken state.

Tommy realized that there was some urgency in sending a quick message to members of his PLN, so they could quickly travel to “Clancy’s Cellar” and view this amazing green bubble.

In his mind he began formulating a message he could send out through Twitter. Wee Tommy struggled to compose a coherent message. Furthermore, he knew he had less than the standard message length of 140 characters, because he needed to alert his friends using the important “#Irish” hashtag.

Tommy’s brain tried its best to send signals to activate both thumbs appropriately as Tommy stabbed at each key in turn.

As displayed below, there was a close correlation between the thought image in “wee Tommy’s” brain and the message that each of his friends actually received through Twitter …

Take care & keep your “Irish eyes” smiling :-)

–   Flickr – Creative Commons image “Green Bubble
by jacsonquerubin – http://www.flickr.com/photos/spacial/4861327151/

–  Brian Metcalfe’s DS106 “photostream”

Tagged with: | | | | | | | | | | |

SmART ART that is “off the chART”!

Activity, Project, Tip, Tutorial 2 Comments »

Today I will focus on some “hidden” Art-based projects that Manitoba students and educators have created and shared. I have purposely used the adjective “hidden” because these educational treasures often get little exposure beyond the school in which they were originally created. However, should the ideas migrate to other students or teachers, they often, unfortunately, tend to stay “hidden” within the originating school division’s boundaries.

Why do we, as educators, spend so much time searching the Internet for practical classroom-based ideas which we can download and then “tweak” or modify to meet our local provincial curriculum? My experience suggests that we often do this because we are unaware of the proven educational resources that have been created and used successfully by other Manitoba educators and students.

I recently attended a meeting in Brandon of the Manitoba Association of Educational Technology Leaders (MAETL). I regularly attend such meetings because I am eager to learn of new educational ideas and  resources that I can share with other students and teachers. At this meeting, I was not disappointed. Part of the morning was spent discussing how technology leaders might, more actively, share the inspirational, educational “nuggets” that each individual knew about within his/her own school division. Following the formal discussion, I had a chance over coffee to talk to Ron Nordstrom, who is the Technology Coordinator for the Beautiful Plains School Division. As is so the case, a chance remark afforded me the opportunity to learn a great deal. Although, I have known Ron for perhaps 15 years, I was unaware of his many talents. Recently, I have been following Ron through Twitter and I was impressed with the sketch that Ron had chosen for his gravatar. I asked Ron, who had he commissioned to created his life-like sketch. Ron replied that he had sketched his own image and that in addition to acting as Technology Coordinator, he also taught Grade 5 and 6 Art at Hazel M. Kellington School in Neepawa.

We then discussed some of Ron’s engaging Art activities, together with the student creations, that I wish to share with you. Readers should begin by examining the wealth of Art-related resources that Ron has compiled and displayed along the side of “Mr. Nordstrom’s Art Wiki“. To showcase the creativity of his students, together with the focus for the Art lesson, Ron designed this powerful image-enhanced blog resource called “Nordstom Art“.  I encourage readers to examine, and comment on, the creative student image galleries and lessons that Ron has shared under the following categories:

  • Superheros
  • Shades of Joy
  • Beauty of the Beasts
  • Cartoon Watercolor
  • Van Gogh Style Landscapes
  • Patterns and Texture Fish
  • Creative Names
  • Cartoon Watercolors
  • Ted Harrison Water Colors
  • Crayon Value Drawings
  • Faces in Proportion
  • Value Half-Drawings

Ron has also conducted a Superhero Challenge where students, with Internet access, may submit their own superhero drawing. Not only can viewers compare and contrast this gallery of portraits (all which display correct facial proportions), they can also examine each hero’s individual profile and super powers. Imagine the fun that students can have drawing their superhero and then writing about his/her exploits?

Finally, Ron described a book-creating service that he had recently used. As an dedicated teacher, Ron wanted to capture the lessons, ideas and, most importantly, the creative art work that his talented students had produced. To do this Ron submitted the ideas and images to blurb.com where he made his own book entitled “Art Projects – Examples From Grade 5 & 6 Art Classes“. I encourage readers to preview Ron’s excellent Art resource and share it with other educators who appreciate and/or teach Art to middle years students.

So often, as educators, we expend a great deal of effort preparing lessons and activities which engage our students. Perhaps there are some readers that will want to investigate the Blurb book building service to create their own coffee table book.  Regardless of whether such a book captures the creativity demonstrated by your students, a grandchild’s first steps, or a trip of a lifetime, the resulting book, that you create, will indeed be treasured.

Speaking of treasure, I want to thank Ron Nordstrom for sharing his talents and treasures with me and my readers.


Since this post is focusing on educational Art projects, I thought that I would share with readers two instances of unique Art projects that Winnipeg School Division teachers and students created several years ago.

Kate Wallis and her Grade 3 class at Sister MacNamara School challenged other students to take part in an innovative “Picasso Principals” challenge. At that time, Kate’s students sketched an image of their principal, Dale Scott, using Picasso’s creative style. Although this challenge started as an Art activity, it quickly developed into a unit which integrated Language Arts, Mathematics, Social Studies and Technology. I encourage readers to examine this web site and peruse the wealth of integration ideas and resources that are displayed through the “Index” links menu. Although this Art unit is more than 10 years old, it still demonstrates creativity and innovation on which today’s teachers and students might capitalize.

When I viewed Ron’s lesson on “Ted Harrison Watercolors”, I immediately remembered another Ted Harrison-related article that I had published in my “Bits and Bytes” newsletter in March, 2005. Sheila Malcolmson, of Tyndall Park School, shared an instructive article entitled “Smart Art – Tyndall Park students showcase Ted Harrison“. Here, in her article, Sheila described how her students created images using Ted Harrison’s style to complement the Social Studies unit on the Arctic Region. Windows users will still find the Anfy book flip freeware a unique tool to help them display exact-size images in a rather effective manner. Furthermore, I encourage readers to peruse the “Tyndall Park Alphabet Book’ that Sheila’s students illustrated using the Ted Harrison technique. Wendy Groot, who was the technology support teacher at the school, helped showcase the student’s artistic talents by displaying their creativity on the school web site as well as incorporating each student’s Ted Harrsion style image into a HyperStudio stack. Although HyperStudio may not be as popular in schools as it was several years ago, one can still download this creative “Tyndall Park Alphabet Book” as a Windows executable HyperStudio file, to view the talents of these Grade 5 students.

In conclusion, I ask that readers pass along these engaging Art-related resources to teachers who might wish to use them with their students. Regardless of when these ideas were first created, the resources of such creative and dedicated educators need to be shared so that other students might benefit.

Thanks to all for caring and sharing.

Take care & keep smiling :-)

Tagged with: | | | | | | |

WP Theme & Icons by N.Design Studio
Entries RSS Comments RSS Log in