How heavy is a glass of water?

On Valentine’s Day, I attended a function where Doreen Blackman, another retired teacher, handed me a piece of paper containing the following story and suggested I might enjoy the message. After reading it, I knew I wanted to share it through a blog post. When I got home, I searched the web and found a variety of similar posts to the following:

glass-H20-400x600-TA professor began his class by holding up a glass with some water in it. He held it up for all to see and asked the students, “How much do you think this glass weighs?”

“50 grams!” ….”100 grams!” ….. “125 grams!” … the students answered.

“I really don’t know unless I weigh it,” said the professor, “but, my question is: What would happen if I held it up like this for a few minutes?”

“Nothing” … the students said.

“Okay what would happen if I held it up like this for an hour?” the professor asked.

“Your arm would begin to ache,” said one of the students.

“You’re right, now what would happen if I held it for a day?”

“Your arm could go numb, you might have severe muscle stress and paralysis and have to go to hospital for sure!” ventured another student and all the students laughed …

“Very good, but during all this, did the weight of the glass change?” asked the professor.

“No” was the answer.

“Then what caused the arm ache and the muscle stress?”

The students were puzzled.

“What should I do now to reduce the pain?” asked professor again.

“Put the glass down!” said one of the students.

“Exactly!” said the professor.

Life’s problems are something like this. Hold it for a few minutes in your head and they seem OK.

Think of them for a long time and they begin to ache.

Hold it even longer and they begin to paralyze you.

You will not be able to do anything.

It’s important to think of the challenges or problems in your life, but EVEN MORE IMPORTANT is to …

“PUT THEM DOWN” at the end of every day before you go to sleep.

That way, you are not stressed, you wake up every day fresh and strong and can handle any issue, any challenge that comes your way!

So, when your day ends today, remember my friends to …


I must admit that, as someone who can be somewhat perfectionistic at times, I often spend hours trying to complete a task to my high standards. My wife says in some cases, I may in fact perseverate when I cannot solve or complete a task to my self-imposed benchmark. I recall when I was an Educational Technology Consultant and was editing and writing my monthly “Bits and Bytes” educational newsletter, I often got home from work at 2:00 or 3:00 am. Such 18 hour days often occurred at the middle of each month when my newsletter submission deadline approached.

A colleague often asked me “When is the job good enough?” In other words, could I submit the newsletter after working a 10 hour day knowing that it was not still not up to my standards. I admit, that in those days, to use this water glass metaphor, I was reluctant to spill any water regardless if it would reduce the stress I was feeling.

When I look back at the efforts of our Educational Technology team, we were amazing, worked long hours both in the office and at home and were motivated from within to complete all tasks to the best of our abilities. We didn’t take short cuts, we didn’t spill any water, and and we rarely “put the glass down”. Now that I’m retired, I must take care to put the glass down each night, so I can focus on any time-consuming tasks with a fresh, new outlook each morning.

Take care & keep smiling :-)

Credits: The above anecdote is modified slightly from the post “Put the Glass Down”.

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Teacher Feature #47 – I Love to Read

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”

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Happy Fifth Blogging Birthday

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

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

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

Five cupcakes in a row 400x266

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take care & keep smiling :-)

– Flickr – Creative Commons image “Five (No Jive)” by Gerry Dulay

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A Teacher’s Daily Survival Kit

Early this month, Gerald Brown, the former Chief Librarian of the Winnipeg School Division, sent me a “survival kit” by email. True, variations of this list have circulated over the past 20 years but the message contained within, is still very important.

survival kit 400x400

In fact, my wife, who taught at the elementary level, used to make up “kits” like the following, including all the objects, together with the important instructions, to give out to each student in her class. This unique “survival kit” was as one of the many ways she used to foster how important each and every student was.


Today, I am giving you a DAILY SURVIVAL KIT to help you each day.

A Toothpick … to remind you to pick the good qualities in everyone, including yourself.

A Rubber Band … to remind you to be flexible. Things might not always go the way you want, but it can be worked out.

A Band-Aid … to remind you to heal hurt feelings, either yours or someone else’s.

An Eraser … to remind you everyone makes mistakes. That’s okay, we learn from our errors.

A Candy Kiss … to remind you everyone needs a hug or a compliment everyday.

A Mint … to remind you that you are worth a mint to your family and me.

Bubble Gum … to remind you to stick with it and you can accomplish anything.

A Pencil … to remind you to list your blessings every day.

A Tea Bag … to remind you to take time to relax daily and go over that list of blessings.

This is what makes life worth living every minute, every day.

Wishing you love, gratitude, friends to cherish, caring, sharing, laughter, music, and warm feelings in your heart in 2015.

Take care & keep smiling :-)

– Flickr – Creative Commons image “Altoids Tin Survival Kit” by Chris

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Teacher Feature #46 – Sharing the Light

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”

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The amazing power of 140 characters

With the initial release of Twitter, I couldn’t see how this application could act as an effective way to communicate when each tweet was limited to only 140 characters. Those who have followed my writing over the past three decades know that I am severely challenged whenever I try to share educational information in a concise manner. Furthermore, when I initially signed up for a Twitter account and started following educational colleagues, I couldn’t see any value in receiving miniscule messages such as “I had Corn Flakes for breakfast this morning” or “Have just picked apples off our backyard tree & am helping my wife bake apple pies.” True, I learned about other interests that my “friends” might have, but I wanted to quickly separate the educational “wheat” from the “chaff”. To illustrate this point, I ask you to examine the tweets of Dean Shareski, an innovative educator from the province next door.  As of today, Dean has in excess of 22,200 followers, who if they had started following Dean when he first started using Twitter, would have subscribed to more than 93,500 of his tweets. One might suggest that Dean generates a great deal of chaff but I can assure you when you do encounter Dean’s  educationally relevant tweet “nuggets”, they are well worth engaging in the winnowing process. In fact Dean has a YouTube video warning potential followers entitled “So You’ve Decided to Follow Me on Twitter” in which he shares his reasons for tweeting about all interests in his life.

We are in the midst of the holiday season, be it Chanukah, Christmas, or Kwanza, and most of us are in a gift-giving mode. In today’s post, I want to share how, through the serendipitous use of Twitter, a gift was created for Alan Levine by a number of individuals who have only virtually connected in cyber-space.

Many of my regular readers know that in 2012 I participated in a free, online, digital storytelling DS106 class that was offered though the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Jim Groom and Alan Levine were my instructional leaders for this innovative course which engaged me right from the start. Alan Levine (aka “Cogdog”) continued to teach and refine DS106 over the past couple of years as he introduced new learners to this amazingly, creative DS106 educational environment.

One of the motivational activities that challenged DS106 participants was “The Daily Create” (TDC) which is described as:

The Daily Create provides a space for regular practice of spontaneous creativity through challenges published every day. Each assignment should take no more than 15-20 minutes. There are no registrations, no prizes, just a community of people producing art daily. Developed as part of the ds106 open course on digital storytelling, TDC is open to anyone who wants a regular dose of creative exercises (and it more fun than jumping jacks, pushups, and P90X).

To appreciate the wealth of creative prompts and ideas shared here, I encourage readers to visit The Daily Create Archive.

Even though I actively engaged in a host of DS106 assignments for four months in 2012, I still subscribe to The Daily Create feed which arrives daily by email. In fact it was The Daily Create #1069 that arrived in my in-box on December 12, 2014 that jump-started me again.

Alan Levine challenged us to “Generate a Meme Image That Emphasizes the Spirit of DS106”. However, it was Alan’s request for assistance that resonated with me when he stated “You can help me (@cogdog) out for a presentation I am doing January 8 by using something like the Meme Generator to create an image that highlights the experience of DS106 in one loud, proud utterance.”

Not fully understanding what constitutes a meme, I used Flickr’s “Advanced Search” to find Creative Commons licensed images that I could modify by adding text that I felt might help outsiders to better understand the DS106 learning experience. My fist two meme attempts included the remix images “Learning the DS106 way” and “DS106 is Engagement!”. In keeping with my DS106 training, I documented what I had learned in the process and shared my reflections in my blog post entitled “Engaged Leaning is Authentic Learning”.

Tweet AOnce I had uploaded my two memes to my Flickr photostream, I tagged them with “dailycreate” and “tdc1069” so that images would be automatically transferred to the DS106 “The Daily Create” web site. In addition, I sent this first tweet to Alan Levine (@cogdog) and anyone who was filtering or searching for tweets based on the #DS106 hashtag.

Imagine my delight when Alan responded to me with the adjacent tweet which I immediately made a “favourite”. Not only was he extremely pTweet Bpositive but his tweet was shared with not only the #DS106 community but also with more than 8300 of his Twitter followers. In fact, it was through these Twitter connections that I was once again complimented. To my knowledge, Mariana Funes, was not enrolled in my 2012 online course, but she practices one of the DS106 “ABC” mantras. Although “Always Be Creating” was the focus for DS106 participants, the power of “Always Be Commenting” should not be overlooked.

Tweet CWhether it was a instructional comment on another DS106 student’s blog post or a positive tweet highlighting the work of a colleague, such feedback is indeed an intoxicating elixir. Tweets like Alan’s and Mariana’s are powerful motivators which encourage you to continue to share online. Furthermore, I was delighted with Mariana’s next tweet which indicated that she was “inspired” by my efforts and decided to create her “Doge does DS106” meme to help out Alan.

Tweet DI must admit that I didn’t know that the dog in Mariana’s DS106 meme was called “Doge”. In fact our son, who is a software engineer and returned home from San Francisco for Christmas, patiently explained to me that the true memes were pictures that had gone viral. Perhaps, if I had researched Mariana’s reference to “Doge”, I would have found “Know Your Meme” and become somewhat more aware. As our son said … “Just because you uploaded an engagement ring image into Meme Generator, and added some text, doesn’t make it a meme”. I suggested that perhaps my remixes of Creative Common licensed images with DS106 text attributes were actually ideas in their infancy waiting to go viral :-)

Tweet ERegardless of my lack of understanding of memes, another “favourite” tweet from Alan Levine, which complimented my life-long learning passion, motivated me to create more memes for my mentor. Although they are really “remixes” and not “memes”, my efforts were to try and capture the essence of what DS106 meant to me and to share my creativity with Alan and other members of the DS106 community.

Having been an educator for 40 years, I was quite familiar with the delivery system where “one assignment fits all”. Imagine my delight in the DS106 process which encouraged me to choose a variety of innovative activities, which captured my imagination, from the DS106 Assignment Bank. As of today, this repository contains 809 assignments with 7292 examples created by engaged learners. Each of these assignments was given a difficulty rating from 1 to 5 stars and the instructor might challenge students to complete 10 stars worth of work in one of the 10 categories including Visual, Design, Audio, Video, Web, Mashup, Writing, Fanfic, Animated GIFs, or 3D Printed Assignments.

Tweet FWhen I was enrolled in the DS106 online course, I was intrigued by assignments like “Fat Cats Make Art Better”. I thought that I might create a meme using the “fat cat” theme together with the DS106 “ABC” mantra “Always Be Creating”. In addition, I was so intrigued with the flexible nature of the assignments in DS106 that I thought it was important to try and capture this powerful idea in a “Metcalfe meme” (not to be confused with the real memes). The resulting remixes of “ABC” and “Flexible” were uploaded and Alan was advised with the tweet at right.

Tweet GOnce again Alan sent me a tweet indicating that he loved my “Flexible” meme. He reinforced that thought by adding a comment associated with this remix image in my Flickr photostream. Not only did I appreciate his feedback regarding my artistic remix of  “Flexible”, but also this activity allowed me to learn how to add text to a curved line. I know that in Photoshop and Photoshop Elements v.10 there is a built-in feature where one can simply add text to a curved path. Unfortunately, I own Photoshop Elements v.9, so I had to search Google for ideas. I imported the Creative Commons licensed image into PowerPoint, added the spaced-out letters “F L E and X”, and then individually positioned each of the remaining characters I, B, L, E and ! to create the effect.

HoweTweet Hver, it was Mariana’s next tweet that I believe was the critical tipping point in all this Twitter communication. By suggesting that perhaps Rochelle Lockridge (@Rockylou22) might consider creating an “HTML book” for Alan Levine, members of the DS106 community went back to this “5 day old” Daily Create and designed more memes to help out with his January 8th presentation. In fact, when I uploaded my last “Flexible” remix on December 17th, there were 14 memes in the list. Now there are 21 with the last entry, to date, being uploaded on December 22nd.

Tweet IUsing a variety of remixes and memes created by the DS106 community, and a tweet prompt from Mariana Funes, Rochelle Lockridge created an amazing, online flip-book called “What is #DS106?” using Flip PDF Professional. She presented the link to Alan Levine, through the tweet on the left, and advised some of the DS106 Daily Create #1069 contributors of her creation. This innovative present to Alan was a fitting tribute to a mentor who so willingly shared his expertise and motivated so many within the DS106 community.

Tweet JOnce Rochelle sent out her tweet regarding this innovative flip-book gift, the accolades starting flooding the Twitterverse from the #DS106 community. Like Sandy Brown Jensen, many individuals that Rochelle credited on page 2 of her online flip-book, sent out a congratulatory tweet or connected with Rochelle to acknowledge her efforts and creativity.

Tweet KAlan was “totally blown away” with Rochelle’s innovative flip-book and considered perhaps forgoing the use of slides at his upcoming January 8 presentation. Obviously the contents of this “What is #DS106?” flip-book highlighted, in a very unique way, the experiences that participants had when they were engaged in the DS106 learning environment.

Stephanie Jeske also sent out a congratulatory tweet to the flip-book creator as well as several of the DS106 meme generating participantTweet Ls. I, too, felt that it was important to provide Rochelle with feedback as to my thoughts on her creative present for Alan Levine. I think it is very important to acknowledge the good that people demonstrate. I believe that as educators we can identify with the small pebble that is tossed into a quiet pond. The ripples spread out forever in concentric circles and we never fully comprehend to what degree we have influenced others.

Tweet MThus, it is very important to acknowledge the work of our colleagues, be they creative DS106 members or K-12 educators. It takes very little effort to send out a Twitter message of 140 characters. However, in many cases that motivational comment or educational link may motivate them or help them be a better educator. Not only do they, as teachers, profit from the message in the tweet but ultimately, and perhaps indirectly, their students benefit from this same action.

Tweet NIn summary, I want to thank the members of the DS106 community who took time to construct their Daily Create #1069 memes. Undoubtedly, Mariana Funes was a key player because she saw the potential in showcasing these remixes and memes for Alan in an on-line flip-book.

Tweet OUltimately, it was the creative work of Rochelle Lockridge who blended these memes and ideas into a digital story that represents so well the creative talents and caring of the DS106 participants. Indeed, I am so proud to be a part of this DS106 community and know that through the judicious use 140 characters I, too, can share my learning with others.

Take care & keep smiling :-)

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Engaged Learning Is Authentic Learning

For me DS106 was an amazing learning experience. I enrolled in this free, online Digital Storytelling class, hosted at the University of Mary Washington, in the Spring of 2012. Jim Groom and Alan Levine (aka “cogdog”) were the instructors who introduced me to a completely new style of authentic learning.

Having conducted numerous workshops for educators over the past 35 years, I always prepared appropriate handouts to distribute to participants. If, for example, I was reviewing the elements of Microsoft Excel, I made certain that all attendees had step-by-step resource material which corresponded to the version of Excel that they would use on their computer.

In DS106, we spent time manipulating images and creating animated GIFs. I expected that the instructors would also provide step-by-step resource material that would help class members learn the basics of Photoshop or GIMP. Not so … rather the class was encouraged to search the Internet for tutorials which matched the application and version to which the student had access. Also we were encouraged to share what we learned, comment on other student’s blog posts, and network with our classmates so that we formed a true learning community.

Additionally, the flexibility of the course “hooked” me. I was impressed by what Jim Groom stated in his welcoming post entitled “ds106: We’re open and you’re invited“.

… what made it amazing was that anyone can do as much or as little as they wanted as part of the open, online section and leave the rest. We don’t accept apologies and we don’t believe in guilt, there is no sorry in ds106. Simply come prepared to make some art, have some fun, give some feedback, and leave when you want.

Although I was retired at the time and had much more time to devote to this endeavour than the average teacher, I liked the idea that I could opt in or out whenever I wished. In fact, I continue to subscribe to the “The Daily Create” activity which continues to stimulate my imagination.

Tonight, after supper, was the first time I turned on my computer today. Today’s “Daily Create” asked us to “Generate a Meme Image That Emphasizes the Spirit of DS106” I must admit that I was not that familiar with the “meme culture” so I skimmed over the explanatory text and viewed the visuals submitted earlier today. My first thought was that I might be able to add some text to a Creative Commons photo and create the following remix to pay tribute to the amazing learning opportunity afforded me through DS106:

DS106 Learning - 400x300

Thankfully, I went back and read the directions more closely. Alan Levine suggested that the visual should attempt to explain DS106 “to the outsiders, the people who just do not know or understand what you have been doing?” I then realized that baby’s message above did not explain how learning in the DS106 way was any different from other learning techniques.

I then noted, in The Daily Create’s fine print that we could use Imgflip’s Meme Generator to produce a visual that highlights our experience with the DS106 learning community. Ever ready to try out a new application, I searched Flickr for an engagement ring with Creative Commons attributes which allowed me to modify the image. I uploaded this image into Meme Generator, added the top and bottom lines of text, and produced the following meme with a message:

DS106 Engagement 400x286

When I enrolled in the DS106 course and was challenged to manipulate images, create audio and video segments, without my familiar step-by-step handouts, I was forced outside my comfort zone. However, it made me realize that teachers today may be doing a dis-service to their students by supplying too many instructional step-by-step resources. When our students graduate and enter the work force, they are going to have to learn on their own. Undoubtedly they are going to have to become problem solvers and find answers online or learn new tips and strategies from their colleagues. Regardless, if they are to be successful, they are going to be engaged in authentic learning. We, as teachers, need to foster such authentic learning by having students successfully search for answers on their own and engage in more challenging collaborative learning opportunities.

Take care & keep smiling :-)

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Teacher Feature #45 – Vision and Venture

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, 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”

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December Difference-Maker Project

I would be remiss it I did not remind teachers of an innovative and engaging classroom activity for December. Not only will your students remember this special endeavour, but also I can assure you that needy individuals in your town or city together with others world-wide will benefit and remember this special project long after your students have graduated. Of course, I am referring to a student-inspired activity that I first shared in my November, 2010 post entitled “How to Make a Difference in December”.

donating a coin

The main steps in this activity, which was initiated by 10 year old Laura Stockman in her powerful blog post entitled “Twenty-Five Days to Make a Difference”, include the following:

  1. Ask students to contribute a coin a day in December. For younger students, it might be a nickel whereas middle school students may contribute a quarter. As Chris Harbeck states, it is important that each student contributes from his/her allowance rather than ask Mom or Dad to fund this project on their child’s behalf.
  2. Following up on the “We Day” philosophy, students are encouraged to make a difference in their school, community or world. As funds start to accumulate, ask students if there are local charities to which they would like to contribute half their donations.
  3. To extend the power of giving, I encourage teachers to explore to see how a $25 loan can be contributed to needy individuals in third-world countries. The Vimeo video entitled “How Kiva Works” is an excellent resource to explain how the Kiva micro-loans process can help.
  4. Engage students in exploring the various third-world countries and individuals that Kiva supports. Make a donation and monitor how the recipient repays the $25 micro-loan so that your students can reinvest this same $25 with another person in need. Make certain that parents are also made aware of the individual(s) that your class is supporting so they, too, can go on line and monitor the difference that their son or daughter has made to those less fortunate.

If, after perusing the related resources, you feel that there is not sufficient time to get this challenge operational in December, I recommend talking about it with your students and targeting 25 days in January to make this important difference. With many, making “New Year’s resolutions” as of January 1st, it might be more appropriate for your class to consider this activity as a “Resolution Revolution”.

If you do accept accept Laura Stockman’s challenge, I’d appreciate if you would share feedback and tips through the comments at the end of this post so that other reasders can benefit from your practical, classroom ideas.

Thanks, in advance, for caring and sharing.

Take care & keep smiling :-)


– Flickr – Creative Commons image “Gimme a penny” by Marwa Morgan

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Teacher Feature #44 – Teaching Superheroes

It’s the last day of the month and I am scrambling to write this month’s “Teacher Feature” blog post. I was motivated to write this message by the antics of some of our neighbourhood children who, dressed as superheroes, visited our home tonight shouting “Hallowee’en Apples!” or “Trick or Treat!”. Many of these children were elementary school age and it got me thinking about my teaching colleagues, who are indeed real superheroes.

Teacher as Superhero - 400 x 300

Teacher Feature #44 – Author Unknown – October, 2014

When I began teaching in 1967, I was able to spend almost all of my school day focusing on the curriculum and helping the students in my classrooms. Today, however, there seems to be an ever-expanding plethora of demands on teachers’ time. Often more than half of the weekly hours that the average teacher devotes to school-related activities are non-classroom duties. Often it is spent preparing for classes, marking, working with individual students, supervising extra-curricular activities, attending meetings, committee work, completing paperwork, and contacting parents. In addition, today’s teacher is expected to stay up-to-date on the latest trends, partake in professional development, and learn to use technology and social media to improve the educational experience for all members of their class.

Furthermore, when I began teaching I believe that I had the support of all my parents. Should a student misbehave in the classroom, I knew that his/her parents would back me up and that the individual student would be reprimanded by his parents as well. Toady, I’m not sure that all parents respect and support teachers to the same degree as they have in past.

Donald D. Quinn expresses the challenges of teaching today with the following comparison:

“If a doctor, lawyer, or dentist had 40 people in his office at one time, all of whom had different needs, and some of whom didn’t want to be there and were causing trouble, and the doctor, lawyer, or dentist, without assistance, had to treat them all with professional excellence for nine months, then he might have some conception of the classroom teacher’s job.”

I am proud to state that I have met so many dedicated teachers over my 40 year teaching career who were indeed superheroes because they strongly believed in the words of Barbara Colorose:

“If kids come to us from strong, healthy functioning families, it makes our job easier. If they do not come to us from strong, healthy, functioning families, it makes our job more important.” 

In closing, I leave my colleagues and educational readers with these wonderful, wise words: “To the world you may be just a teacher, but to your students you are a hero.”

Take care & keep smiling :-)

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

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