Teacher Feature #37 – Video Viewpoints

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

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

Teacher Feature # 37 - Dean Shareski

Teacher Feature #37 – Dean Shareski – March, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take care & keep smiling :-)

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Teacher Feature #36 – A love of reading

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

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

Teacher Feature #36 - 400x332

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

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

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

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

Take care & keep smiling :-)

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Teacher Feature #35 – Curiosity

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

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

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

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

Take care & keep smiling :-)

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Teacher Feature #33 – What was war?

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Today’s “Teacher Feature” focuses on remembering. I have been reflecting on which moments in my life have left me with an indelible memory. For me, there are important images that come to life such as when I first met my wife, being present at the births of our sons, certain classroom “teachable moments”, outstanding family get-togethers, and images linked to various vacations.

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Teacher Feature #33 – Eve Merriam – November, 2013

Today’s remix was inspired by an unforgettable memory that I had while cycling through Holland. Although this experience happened more than 43 years ago, it left me an important memory and message that seems fitting to share with readers prior to November 11th. I encourage readers to view my YouTube video entitled “Are two minutes, too much, to ask?” to learn about my most unforgettable experience.


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

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Teacher Feature #31 – Ask Questions To Learn

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

Ask Questions to Learn

Teacher Feature #31 – Chinese Proverb – September, 2013

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

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

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

Take care & keep smiling :-)

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Teacher Feature #30 – Focus on the Future

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

The Future - Yogi Berra

Teacher Feature #30 – Yogi Berra – June, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Darren Kuropatwa Tweet

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

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

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

Take care & keep smiling :-)

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Teacher Feature #29 – Learning from Experiences

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

Teacher Feature-29

Teacher Feature #29 – Chinese Proverb – May, 2013

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

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

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

Take care & keep smiling :-)

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Teacher Feature #28 – Pay It Forward Day

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

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

Teacher Feature 28 - Pay It Forward Day

Teacher Feature #28 – Aesop – April, 2013

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

Take care & keep smiling :-)

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Teacher Feature #27 – Never look down …

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This month’s “Teacher Feature” displays the results of my “Image with a Message” activity. I believe that all students, regardless of subject area, should be able to use technology to accomplish the following three basic tasks:

  • search the Internet critically;
  • enhance projects with images from Creative Commons; and
  • give appropriate credit.

Help Them Up 400x300

Teacher Feature #27 – Jesse Jackson – March, 2013

To create this combination visual display, I first searched through a variety of motivational quote sites. I particularly like resources such as “Brainy Quote”, “Motivational and Inspirational Quotes”, or “World of Quotes” because it is possible to search for quotations by topics such as “Education” or “Teaching”.

Once, I had selected this powerful quotation by Jesse Jackson, I then began using the Flickr Advanced Search mechanism to search for Creative Commons licensed images that I could “modify, adapt, or build upon”. I entered the terms “reach” and “hand”, into the upper Flickr search field, and was delighted to find this powerful “Reaching Hand” image by Brett Sayer. I downloaded the “large” size of this Creative Commons image and recorded the Internet URL address for giving proper credit.

Although there are many ways that Jesse Jackson’s quotation and the Internet address could be added to this image, I chose to use PowerPoint. I simply start with a blank slide and inserted the downloaded image into the slide format. Once the image was positioned appropriately, I inserted text boxes to contain the quotation, the individual, and the Flickr credit address.

The last step in the process is to use PowerPoint’s “Save as > Other Formats” and pick “JPEG File Interchange Format (*.jpg)” under the “Save as type” category. On the next screen, one need only select “Current Slide Only” and save the resulting remix image to your computer.

Once I publish the remix in a blog post, I usually try to remember to go back to the site of the original Flickr image and enter a comment thanking the individual for sharing her/his creative images with me through the Creative Commons process.

I trust that some readers may be able to use this “Image with a Message” activity with their own students.

Take care & keep smiling :-)

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Teacher Feature #26 – School vs. Life

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Wow … the month is almost over and I have yet to share my monthly “Teacher Feature”. I’m always looking for educational quotes that I can add to my random “Quote of the Day” displayed in the top right corner of my blog. I recently came across Tom Bodett’s quotation which really resonated with me:

School vs Life

Teacher Feature #26 – Tom Bodett – February, 2013

As educators perhaps we might strive to make our teaching more engaging and life-like. Having participated in two Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), I realize that there is considerable difference from the way I learn today and the way I prepared past lessons for students and teachers. If we closely examine how students learn outside the classroom though searching online and sharing and collaborating with friends, perhaps we can improve their classroom learning experiences.

Take care & keep smiling :-)

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