Educating With Technology: Changes for the Better

Food for Thought, Info, Professional Development, Reflection 6 Comments »

After 60 years in the classroom as a student, teacher, and K-12 Educational Technology Consultant, I have seen many changes. I maintain that the changes, particularly as they relate to the infusion of technology into K-12 classrooms, have improved the lives of both students and teachers.

I plan to address how technology has changed and improved education over the years. First, I want to make sure that the reader is aware of what drives educators. Regardless of whether a teacher uses the latest technology or the more traditional blackboard, I believe that what matters most, can best be described in Kathy Davis’ quotation:

Teacher Feature #3 - Kathy Davis 300 x 225

Since the child is the most important ingredient in the educational process, I thought that I would use the letters in the word “child” as an acrostic technique to frame my thoughts regarding educational change.

C is for: Computer Science & Change

I began my teaching career in 1967 teaching Grade 7 & 8 students Mathematics. In those days, my only form of technology was a spirit duplicator, a hand-cranked calculator, and my slide rule that I used to determine report card marks. I must admit that when I taught Mathematics, I assumed that all students solved problems using the same strategies and algorithms that I used and taught.

A few years later, I proposed teaching Computer Science to Grade 11 & 12 students. In those days, my Grade 11 & 12 students either used a school keypunch or pencil-marked optical cards to create a program on a deck of cards. I maintain that they were better programmers than today’s student because they only had “one run per day”. In other words, they flow-charted, traced their code extremely thoroughly, and assembled their program(s) into elastic-enclosed decks of cards which I drove out to the university each evening and ran through the U of M mainframe. The next day my Computer Science students would be waiting eagerly at my classroom door at 8:00 a.m. when I arrived. I would distribute their print-outs wrapped around each program deck of cards. There would be those who whooped with delight if their program ran successfully and printed out the correct answers. Others would frown as they carefully searched their print-out for the easy-to-spot syntax errors or the more challenging coding flaws in logic. It was while teaching programming to high school students that I had a real epiphany or change.

Teaching students Computer Science ... brought about four important changes in my teaching:

I remember reviewing an assignment and noting that while most students solved this one particular problem using the same logic that I would use, there was one student who tried a different approach. Although his print-out provided the correct answer, he took a rather unique approach in his logic. Perhaps it wasn’t the most efficient program because he used more lines of code but the important thing was that his coding showcased for me that not everyone thinks the same. In teaching junior high Mathematics, I had always assumed that all of my students would problem solve using the same algorithms or steps that I demonstrated and taught. Furthermore, I was quite proud that no Mathematics students could ever stump me and that I could solve every problem in the textbook to arrive at the correct result displayed in the answer key.

Teaching students Computer Science, and how to program computers, brought about four important changes in my teaching:

  1. The revelation that not everyone solved problems using the same methods or steps that I used;
  2. No longer did I feel as confident in always being able to solve all programming problems using the framework or existing coding proposed by each, and every student;
  3. Teaching programming helped me realize that I was no longer the “gatekeeper of knowledge” and that students often learned so much from their friends; and
  4. I learned how important it was for me to be able to say “I don’t know …”, but I always quickly followed this remark by stating “… but, when you figure it out, please show me.”

I have to agree with Steve Jobs who stated “Everybody should learn how to program a computer because it teaches you how to think”.


H is for: Help, Hand-outs & Hardware

Teaching a brand-new school initiated Computer Science course in the early 1970’s had its challenges. Unfortunately there was no one from your own school to mentor you in computer-related problems. Rather, you had to search out others who were, like you, introducing Computer Science to their Grade 11 and 12 students. Long before the Internet, we had to phone one another or meet face-to-face to gain help and share resources. Whenever I used the school’s ditto machine to duplicate Computer Science hand-outs, tests, or resource pages, I always ran off 10 extra copies. Each of these copies was carefully filed into a large manila envelope addressed to another educator in our city or province that was also teaching Computer Science. When the envelopes were filled, I would “snail mail” my resources out to my 10 Computer Science colleagues. I eagerly looked forward to the arrival of similar “hard copy” resources that I could modify and share with my students. Long before the acronym “PLN” became popular, we thrived and survived thanks to a willingness to support and share with one another.

In the late 70’s, the Apple II, Commodore PET, and Radio Shack TRS-80 microcomputers entered the market place. I bought my own Commodore PET 4032 with its cassette tape drive on which I stored programs. Within a year, I purchased a Commodore dual floppy disk drive to speed up access and to improve reliability. Undoubtedly, lower prices and increased storage capacity have dramatically changed over the past 30 years. For example, my first package of 10 Dysan 5.25” diskettes cost me $70. In other words, in those days, I had to pay $7 for a mere 170 KB of diskette storage space. Today by comparison, one can buy an 8 GB USB flash drive for the same $7 which can store the equivalent of 49,344 of my old Dysan floppy diskettes. Furthermore, today’s cloud storage has become very inexpensive with Flickr, for example, offering new users one free terrabyte of data storage. To put this in perspective, this free offer of storage capacity compares to the equivalent of 6,316,128 of my Commodore PET diskettes. Storage capacity and hardware improvements have definitely improved immeasurably over the past 30 years and with it improved ease of use for today’s educators and students.


I is for: Internet, Initiatives & Innovation

During the 80’s and early 90’s, my home and work computers were used in isolation. During those years, most of my computer use consisted of exploring computer assisted learning software, creating word-processed documents, managing databases, and manipulating spreadsheets. With the Internet came connection to other like-minded individuals and the excitement in education exploded as we learned and shared electronically. As access speeds increased, so did our capabilities.

When I first became the Educational Technology Consultant for the Winnipeg School Division in September 1981, I realized that I would be challenged to keep current with this technological explosion and to inform educators and students in our 80+ schools. To facilitate such sharing, in October 1984, I created a monthly educational newsletter called Bits and Bytes. In October 95, I started sharing my newsletter on the Internet as well as continuing to distribute it to each school through a limited number of printed copies. Teachers were delighted when this newsletter appeared on the world-wide-web as now many more readers could gain access to this resource. Furthermore, many teachers liked the fact that they now could quickly search my “Bits and Bytes” web site to find information rather than have to visit their school’s library and flip through past archived hard copies. Although “Bits and Bytes” is no longer available on our school division server, the Internet distribution undoubtedly facilitated the ease of sharing of information and resources during the majority of this newsletter’s 23 year existence.

In the fall of 1995, as the Internet and the Netscape web browser were evolving, Rod Brown and I came up with an innovative plan to run a “Let’s Get Connected” contest in the Winnipeg School Division. Schools were challenged to demonstrate how their staff and students were collaborating as they used technology to enhance learning. This innovative contest was scheduled in May 1996 and I asked other Computer Education Consultants, from nearby school divisions, to help judge the creative applications. These adjudicators were so impressed with the concept, that Richard Burkett, a Computer Education Consultant from the River East School Division, and I teamed up to expand this initiative to schools throughout our entire province. The goal of all “Let’s Get Connected” activities was to “connect” teachers and students in learning opportunities using technology. Not only did the Minister of Education declare May 12-16, 1997 as “Let’s Get Connected Week”, we also encouraged educators to design 32 innovative technology-related activities that engaged students. Through Internet connectivity with other innovative educators, we were proud to be able to facilitate a “Let’s Get Connected” learning adventure for four years in succession.

Without the Internet, the following powerful and inspirational initiative would not have blossomed.  Laura Stockman, a ten year old girl, decided to save her December’s daily allowance of $1.00 to donate to a worthy charity on Christmas day in honour of her recently deceased grandfather. I (@bkmetcalfe) shared Laura’s story in a blog post entitled How to Make a Difference in December. Chris Harbeck (@charbeck), a dedicated middle school colleague in the Winnipeg School Division, shared this idea with his students and challenged other educators and students to do the same. Chris’ UnPlug’d 2011 video entitled Why Digital Citizenship Matters celebrates how Laura’s initial idea caught on with his students. Three years later, thanks to Internet connectivity, I was enrolled in an innovative Digital Storytelling (DS106) open, online course. Our instructor, Alan Levine (@cogdog), challenged us to create a video describing an unexpected positive outcome after sharing something openly online. My Sharing is Caring video describes Laura’s inspirational story and how Internet connectivity facilitated the sharing of this inspiring initiative.

Clarence Fisher (@glassbeed) of Snow Lake, Manitoba and Heather Durnin (@hdurnin) of Wingham, Ontario have embraced the Internet and demonstrated innovative teaching with technology. Although these two middle school teachers and their classes live in two different provinces and are separated by 2700 kilometers, they have effectively used the Internet and social media tools such as Google Docs, Twitter, Skype, virtual bulletin boards and WordPress blogs to build a caring community of learners. The Idea Hive is where the collaboration between the students in the two different schools occurs and their powerful online learning takes place. Using different technologies, these two educators continue to explore innovative ideas and exciting ways to engage their students.

Undoubtedly the Internet has facilitated easy communication, so that educators and their students can benefit from the innovative ideas and resources that are shared by both master teachers and master learners.


L is for: Literacy with ICT & Leveraged Learning

In 2006, after much research and working closely with educators throughout the province, the Manitoba Education, Citizenship and Youth produced a state-of-the-art model entitled Literacy with ICT Across the Curriculum.

“Literacy with Information and Communication Technology (LwICT) means thinking critically and creatively, about information and about communication, as citizens of the global community, while using ICT responsibly and ethically.”

The inquiry-based LwICT developmental continuum continues to be updated with many resources including the LwICT teacher handbook, parent handbook, posters, and web-based support.

This remarkable initiative continues to foster dramatic learning opportunities in Manitoba classrooms as teachers infuse technology to engage students on their journey to becoming responsible digital citizens.

Today, “just in time”, real-world, learning is the key. The Internet, together with its various social media applications makes learning so much easier. Not only can teachers search for and share engaging lesson activities but educators can also get inspired. No longer does one need to travel to expensive conferences to hear well-respected individuals.  Rather, one can stay at home in one’s pyjamas and become inspired by watching TED Talks presentations. Certainly one can learn from amazing presentations like Sir Ken Robinson’s How schools kill creativity. Similarly, Matt Henderson (@Henderson204), a high school teacher in Winnipeg, also presents his inquiry-based teaching model at the TEDxManitoba. Matt’s passion for inspiring and engaging his students is aptly shared through his powerful Teaching Ourselves to Last Forever presentation. Educators are encouraged to examine the powerful and creative conversations of the learning communities that Matt facilitates by visiting his Henderson Hallway blog.

Andy McKiel (@amckiel) has been an amazing catalyst to foster learning. As an active executive member of the Manitoba Association for Computing Educators (ManACE) and the provincial BYTE Conference, Andy has created and archived a multitude of online learning resources. Undoubtedly, one of his most exciting learning opportunities was the week he spent in Churchill, Manitoba studying polar bears. Working with scientists, Andy learned many important aspects about polar bears and their habitat which he shared with students and teachers world-wide via his blog Chilling with Nanuq.

Moving from bears to birds, we find Andy active tweeting (@amckiel). To facilitate learning amongst Manitoba educators, Andy has been collecting the Twitter “handles” of Manitoba teachers. He then uses the content curation service to collect daily tweets of Manitoba educators and display them in The Manitoba-educators Daily. If you want to find out what Manitoba educators are tweeting, you need to investigate Andy’s online newspaper.

With Twitter becoming so popular, three Manitoba teachers, decided to create a process by which educators could use this social networking tool to connect and chat about topics of interest. Zoe Bettess (@ZBettess) from Thompson teamed up with Winnipeg educators Georgette Nairn (@GeorgetteNairn) and Tanis Thiessen (@tjthiessen) to organize the “Manitoba Education Chat” (#MBedchat).  Every Wednesday night from 9:00 – 10:00 CST, interested educators filter tweets using the hashtag #MBedchat and provide answers to five questions related to the evening’s topic. Past chats have focused on our provincial SAGE Conference, the new Manitoba report card, the connected classroom, picture book month, and sharing strategies to support EAL students. All tweets are archived on the Manitoba Ed Chat blog so that others may learn. This #MBedchat educational chat provides great learning opportunities as ideas are shared and connections are made between like-minded educators. I encourage readers to sign up for Twitter, explore tutorials, utilize an interface like HootSuite, TweetChat, TweetDeck or another client which allows tweets to be displayed in columns, and join in the learning and fun.

For years, John Evans (@joevans) has been a prominent sharer of educational ideas and resources. In fact, his Why Sharing Matters video, in which he uses an apple basket metaphor as a measure of teacher wellness, imparts a powerful message to us all. John starts each weekday by rising early and sharing a wealth of educational ideas and resources through Twitter. Not only does he distribute educational information through his The Tech News Daily online newspaper, he also uses the Scoop-it online publishing tool to curate news, reviews, and resources which he shares through his online iPads in Education. However, John is perhaps known by more educators as the champion behind MAPLE – the MAnitoba Professional Learning Environment (MAPLE). This new Manitoba Education social networking service can be used to connect Manitoba educators to each other, to curriculum content, and to a variety of professional learning opportunities. This unique endeavour will provide Manitoba educators with new ways to connect with their curriculum, communicate, collaborate and learn.


D is for: Devices & Dedicated Dynamos

Lately there has been much discussion over the “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) initiative. Starting in 2010, Dakota Collegiate, in the Louis Riel School Division, was one of the first schools in Winnipeg to facilitate this endeavour. As one of the school leaders, Roy Norris (@Roy_Norris) teaches English in a 1:1 environment where each student brings his/her own technological device to school to enhance his/her learning. When visiting Roy’s class, I was astounded by the variety of devices that the students in the classroom were using. Some had Mac laptops, other classmates were using Windows netbooks, while others were connecting wirelessly using smart phones or tablets. My initial two thoughts were …Wouldn’t it be simpler, if all students in the class had the exact same device; and, as a teacher, is Roy expected to know everything about how each of these different devices work? From observation and discussion, it was clear that Roy empowered his students and encouraged them to collaborate to find solutions to both technical as well as subject-related problems. Furthermore, despite the variety of technology employed by his students, it was evident that they were all engaged in the learning process.

Some of you might wonder “what changes when every student has a computer in class?” To investigate such opportunities and challenges, I invite you to explore Roy’s wiki where he reflects and shares his thoughtful insights into his teaching in a dynamic BYOD classroom.

The leadership team in the St. James-Assiniboia School Division implemented a division-wide initiative to place devices into the hands of all K-12 students. The school division purchased about 3000 iPads which were distributed to every student in grades 6, 7 and 8. Students in lower grades will share 6 – 8 iPads in each classroom, while the senior high students will be encouraged to bring their own device from home. Undoubtedly the digital learning team of Andy McKiel (@amckiel), Darren Kuropatwa (@dkuropatwa), and Joan Badger (@jbadger) were extremely busy implementing this well thought-out plan.

As one would expect, the leadership team conducted a number of workshops and one-on-one mentoring to help teachers implement their school division’s Digital Learning Project’s 5C’s of: Communication, Collaboration, Creativity, Critical Thinking, and Citizenship. However, I was impressed with the attention to detail with other tasks that needed to be addressed. Right from the start, the middle school parents were informed of this iPad 1-to-1 initiative through a Learning in the Digital World presentation. Additionally, a Parent Information Page was created on the divisional web site to further inform parents about Technology Acceptable Use Policies, Creating an Apple ID, the iPad Take Home Agreement, and Caution Fees.

Other school divisions in Winnipeg, and throughout the province, are watching to see how this Learning with an iPad endeavour progresses and the benefits that these devices bring to the domain of learning.

The previous two references demonstrate what can be accomplished on both a school-wide and a division-wide basis when devices are introduced to each student. With such wide-spread support and effort, one would expect success. However, it is equally important to showcase the work and effort of individual teachers who encourage their students to learn in new and exciting ways. I have selected innovative ideas from Early, Middle and Senior Years environments to demonstrate how dedicated and dynamic educators can inspire and engage students.

What innovative learning can be implemented in two Early Years’ classrooms with the acquisition of two iPod Touches? Erin Clarke (@erinbrie) and Jeff Hoeppner (@bluebomber6), of the River East Transcona School Division, applied to the Manitoba Association for Computing Educators (ManACE) for a grant. Their application was supported with a rather creative Haiku video. These two teachers created a monthly Instagram challenge which presented a different word or theme each day. Teachers, students, and classrooms from across Manitoba (and beyond) shared their creative photos based on the theme of the day. Their #eduphotoaday blog traces their innovative journey as well as shares useful tips on photo apps, or important considerations such as Public vs. Private Instagram. Their November challenge was particularly interesting as they attempted to improve students’ picture taking by using daily prompts associated with photography such as “rule of thirds”, “birds-eye view”, and “reflection”. Erin and Herb, together with their students, demonstrate how technological devices used with dedicated dynamos can bring about engaged learning.

At the Middle Years level, Miles MacFarlane (@milesmac), from the Seven Oaks School Division, encourages his students through innovative ideas and projects. His students are engaged learning History as they create ancient civilizations using the Minecraft program. Furthermore, Miles’ blog entries and comment conversations are a powerful learning resource. Miles is the consummate blogger. Regardless of whether he is sharing his parenting thoughts in TeacherDad or his teaching journey through his Miles’ Tomes blog, his learning is transparent and genuine. How many educators do you know who would risk sharing online their Annual Reflection on Learning for all to see and comment upon?

This past June, Miles organized the first EduCamp – Winnipeg which was an “un-conference” where participants planned their day and learned and shared ideas and resources in an open environment. Not only does he have a busy teaching day, Miles is also engaged in online graduate work at George Washington University. Sharing his instructional workshop package for delivering a Creating a Twitter PLN definitely helps other educators “make connections with a global professional community using Twitter”. Although Miles and his family will be shortly leaving our province for a teacher exchange in Australia, we know he will continue to share with us through his Teacher Exchange blog. With Internet access, educators like Miles, can connect and share world-wide.

Phil Taylor (@ptaylorsjr), a Senior Years’ teacher at St. John’s-Ravencourt School, has always been one to share. Not content to only focus on sharing through his Learning Technologies blog, Phil is passionate about micro-blogging through Twitter. He uses a variety of applications to curate and distribute resources through such channels as Phil’s Learning Technology News, Trending Ed Tech News or his RebelMouse feed.

To facilitate and share learning, Phil created the SJR Learners wiki. For the past two years, Phil has been exploring Google’s 20% time concept with his students. Others may know this initiative as Genius Hour where students are given a portion of school time to explore, with the help of technology, any area of interest to themselves. As Phil states, it is remarkable to witness the time and effort that students will invest when focusing on an area in which they are passionate.

Like his students, Phil is passionate about sharing with fellow educators. As an early adopter of the Diigo personal information management system, Phil maintains and publically shares nine Diigo lists ranging from Android, Google Drive/Docs – Resources, Student Digital Footprint Guidelines, to Tablets in Education. However, the one which resonates most for me is his list of bookmarks shared in Building a PLN. I believe the key to survival in today’s fast-paced teaching environment is for educators to get connected and share through a Personal Learning Network or PLN. I have attempted to address the power and potential of a PLN in my own blog post entitled My PLN: A Teacher’s Treasure.

PLN-Get Connected

Having showcased dedicated Manitoba teachers in the Early, Middle and Senior Years areas, I thought I should finish with a brief look at the contributions of a Manitoba educational curriculum coordinator. Knowing that this last section focuses on the acrostic “D-words”, many readers might suggest that it would be a true oversight, if I did not include “Darren”.

Over the years, Darren Kuropatwa (@dkuropatwa) has been an inspiration for many educators looking for ways to integrate technology and improve student engagement and learning. Undoubtedly his scribe post, which he developed with his high school Mathematics students, continues to be an innovative learning process. Those unfamiliar with the background and benefits of this endeavour are encouraged to listen to Alan November’s interview of Darren about the specifics in Student Scribes 1, Student Scribes 2, and Student Scribes 3.

As a founding convener of the K12 Online Conference, Darren has provided educators world-wide with an opportunity to participate, share, and learn together. Darren is a well-respected international keynote speaker who is a dedicated, sharing, professional. Not content to research and keep his learning private, he shares his creativity and new-found knowledge with everyone. With more than 1000 slides displayed through Slideshare, Darren continues to enlighten educators with the wealth of powerful ideas and resources. For example, some of his creativity includes:

Lately Darren has shifted sharing his thoughts and ideas on his A Difference blog to a new video blog mechanism. He has now uploaded and shared more than 100 #WhileWalking YouTube videos where he poses questions and shares his thoughts about improving education in short, articulate video messages.

Clay Shirky states that “The change we are in the middle of isn’t minor, and it isn’t optional.”  Darren realizes this and does everything in his power to help educators adapt to this change.

In closing, it is obvious that changes in education have increased dramatically in my 40 year educational career. However, teachers today have so many more ways of connecting and sharing resources with other like-minded educators.

The key, I believe, is connectivity! Teachers today, who want to connect effectively with their students, must connect with other educators.

Connect or be Side-lined

One way that educators can improve is to examine the wealth of information that is being shared by these Manitoba educators. Take time to learn about your colleagues and investigate the related hyperlinks that I have identified. I purposely have listed each one’s Twitter “handle” in brackets following their names. For example, if you were to enter into a Google search field “Twitter @bkmetcalfe” (without quotes), regardless of whether you subscribed to Twitter or not, you would be presented with the particular educator’s real name and Twitter profile. In many cases, you would learn a bit about the educator and possibly gain access through a hyperlink to his/her blog. Below this information, one can see the number of tweets s/he has generated, the number of individuals s/he follows, together with the number of individuals following the particular educator. In addition, you would be able to scan the past tweets shared by this educator and gain a sense as to whether you might benefit from the information s/he was sharing.

Regardless of where you are in your journey to use of technology to enhance learning, it is important to remember that it is the “Child” that should always be your focus. Perhaps this final acrostic might summarize this post:

C onnections

H elp

I ndividuals

L earn

D ifferently

Take care & keep smiling :-)


- Flickr – Creative Commons image “A hundred years from now …”  by Brian Metcalfe

- Flickr – Creative Commons image “Get Connected!” by Paco Paco

- Flickr – Creative Commons image “Expand your Global Connections” by Langwitches

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“Sharing Is Caring” – A story worth re-telling!

Activity, DS106, ETMOOC, Food for Thought, How To, Project, Social Networking 7 Comments »

Although this tale has already been documented in my earlier posts, this powerful, inspirational story needs to be regularly shared with educators and their students.

Alan Levine (aka @cogdog) has challenged DS106 and ETMOOC participants to share “True Stories of Open Sharing … examples of times when there was an unexpected positive outcome after sharing something openly online.”

My inspiring story starts with a serendipitous visit to 10-year old Laura Stockman’s blog entitled “25 Days to Make a Difference”. Through a blog post, I shared Laura’s passionate quest “to make the world a little better”. In turn, two amazing educators Chris Harbeck (of Winnipeg, Manitoba) and Karl Fisch (of Centennial, Colorado) challenged their students to contribute funds in December to be shared with different charities. I have tried to capture this story of concern, caring, and connection in the following “Sharing Is Caring” YouTube video:


I have included resource slides at the end of this video which list the 10 respective Internet addresses of important components of this inspirational story. However, I am also including them below, as active hyperlinks, to make it easier for readers to examine this story in depth:

I encourage educators to bookmark this video and review it each November so that you and your students can consider making your difference in December.

Take care & keep smiling :-)

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Brian Metcalfe: A Life-Long-Learner

Application or Web App, ETMOOC, Info, Reflection 10 Comments »

The Educational Technology and Media #ETMOOC, that I recently joined, suggested that participants introduce themselves in a unique manner. Following in the creative steps of Jess McCulloch, I decided to try my hand at writing and narrating a poem to help others better understand my learning journey.

Learning Journey Poster

Once my poem was created, I thought that I would read it and share it as an audio file through SoundCloud. Readers should be able to hear my narration by clicking on the “Play” button below. Should the orange “Play” symbol not display, readers may have to click on the hyperlink to transfer and play my narration from the SoundCloud web site. I have also included the text of my poem so that one may more easily follow along.


Brian Metcalfe: A Life-Long-Learner

Here’s an audio introduction
to a Metcalfe, named Brian
who keeps on learning each day,
without really tryin’.

My educational career
spanned 40 great years!
I shared resources and ideas
with any, and all my peers.

I taught grades 7-12 students
Computer Science & Math,
and for my last 25 years
took on a new, career path.

Towards Educational Technology
in a consultant’s new role,
To help K-12 teachers
use technology was my goal.

I created a monthly newsletter
which was called “Bits and Bytes”.
For 23 years I shared resources
and worked on it many long nights!

Some say I’m somewhat anal ;-)
with a perfectionistic passion.
I believe in … a “job well done!”.
I trust it’s still “in fashion”.

I really value family and friends
and am truly lucky as well,
that my “best friend” is my wife
with a family … that is swell!

My teacher-wife & I retired together
and are no longer wage earners.
So I created an educational blog
which is called “Life-Long-Learners”.

I’m now enrolled in a MOOC -
a massive, open, online course;
where one gets to choose assignments
where engagement is the force!

When you start to chart your own path
MOCCs make learning fun!
Supported by a creative community,
Your learning’s never done!

So I ask … what do you value?
What can you share
with educators world-wide
to show that you care?

So I’m passionate about sharing
and learning for me is beguiling.
So I’ll sign off, as always, with
Take care & keep smiling :-)


Credit: The “Learning is about the journey …” image was created by Krissy Venosdale and is available from her {Free} Posters web site.

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Are eight-letter words twice as offensive?

Bits and Bytes, DS106, ETMOOC, Reflection 4 Comments »

What does one do when time is a critical factor and one is challenged to accomplish two different tasks in two different environments? Well … some might get uptight and vent their frustration, by swearing, using profane, “four-letter words”.

In my case, I chose to focus on common elements that satisfy the needs for both entities. Let me explain. I’m currently enrolled in two different massive, open online courses or MOOCs. This year, I am returning to Digital Storytelling – DS106 and thanks to information shared in this learning community, I signed up for Educational Technology & Media. Both of these MOOCs have certain unique expectations.

For example, in today’s  DS106 “The Daily Create” (#374) assignment, I was asked to “Take a picture of your favorite thing in the world to do, however simple or complex.” At the same time, ETMOOC facilitators are asking participants to “Tell us a little bit about yourself – perhaps, where you’re from, what you do, or what you want to be when you grow up – and let us know what you’d like to gain from #etmooc?”

My challenge is to try to meet both of these tasks without uttering any “four-letter words”. Perhaps one might assume that since I have twice the challenges, from the demands of two different MOOCs, my favourite “four-letter words” should increase or double in character length. That is indeed true. In fact, my favourite pastimes can be best described by the “eight-letter word “learning” followed by its slightly shorter, but equally important task of “sharing”. I trust that these two words are demonstrated in the following picture where I glean information from books, magazines and the Internet and share my findings in my educational blog called “Life-Long-Learners”.

Learning & Sharing

[DS106 - TDC #374: My favourite pastime - Learning & Sharing]

Although I am a retired K-12 educator, I’m still passionate about learning. About a year ago, a good friend and innovative educator, Darren Kuropatwa, suggested that I should sign up for the DS106 MOOC. He felt that the innovative learning style, where one can choose his/her own assignments, would challenge and engage me. Darren felt that I would use my blog posts to reflect on what, and how, I learned and share my journey with others. Furthermore, he knew that I would make connections with other like-minded participants and, through mutually supportive blog comments and tweets, extend my Personal Learning Network (PLN).

When I returned to DS106 this year, Ben Rimes (a talented Michigan educator whom I have never met face-to-face) shared in a blog post that he was about to sign up for #ETMOOC. So when another learning opportunity presented itself, be it in a somewhat serendipitous manner, I signed up.

As a former Mathematics/Computer Science teacher, I was always sharing resources with colleagues throughout our school division and our province. When I became an Education Technology Consultant for the Winnipeg School Division, I decided that the best way to help K-12 teachers and their students harness the power of technology was through a monthly educational newsletter. For 23 years I wrote and edited “Bits and Bytes” whose focus was “to provide educators with tips and techniques to help them integrate technology to enhance learning in K-12 classrooms”.

I believe that my philosophy about sharing and the importance of belonging to a PLN can best be summarized in my previous post, and video, entitled “My PLN: A Teacher’s Treasure”.

One of my favourite quotes, that I re-mixed in my first “Teacher Feature” is by Margaret Fuller, who stated “If you have knowledge, let others light their candles in it.” I think that as professional educators, we should strive to share our knowledge with others. Today, the Internet makes it so much easier.

In closing, I’ll end with the following two, “four-letter words”:

Take care :-)

Larger Images are available on Brian Metcalfe’s Flickr photostream at:

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Learning – Motivated by MOOC Madness

DS106, ETMOOC, Professional Development, Social Networking 6 Comments »

I believe in serendipitous learning. For those educators who are connected online, or consider themselves to be part of a professional learning network or  PLN, such learning opportunities present themselves with regular frequency. Readers who have followed my blog for the past year know how excited I was when Darren Kuropatwa sent me an email suggesting that I might like to participate in a free, “massive open online course” or MOCC called Digital Storytelling – DS106. Those wishing to learn more about my amazing adventure, need only click on the DS106 category link on the right-side menu to filter out more than three dozen posts that share my excitement as I became engaged in this free, online learning environment.

Learning - The Ultimate Game

I was so excited about the learning and networking opportunities that were afforded me through my initial DS106 exposure last Spring, that I again enrolled in DS106 this January. This action exposed me to Ben Rimes and his informative blog called “The Tech Savvy Educator” where he announced in early January that he had “also signed up for #ETMOOC”. I was intrigued and searched out this Educational Technology & Media MOOC. Like DS106, participants choose their own learning goals, engage in dialogue with other educators, share ideas and resources, and reflect through their individual blogs posts. All tweets with the hashtag #ETMOOC and blog posts with the tag or category ETMOOC will be aggregated centrally thanks to the dedication and hard work of Alan Levine (aka cogdog) and his team. Needless to say, I was intrigued, so I signed up for ETMOOC and officially start this unique learning adventure tomorrow with over 1200 participants representing 67 countries around the world. Future blog posts relating to this unique endeavour will be classified and listed under the newly created ETMOOC category found in the right-hand menu.

My second serendipitous learning opportunity occurred last night while I was scanning some of the aggregated tweets from ETMOOC participants. One individual (who I unfortunately cannot remember, so as to give credit) commented about the creativity of the educational posters created by Krissy Venosdale. As luck would have it, I searched through Krissy’s posters and thought that the image that I included above represented well my love of learning. Thanks Krissy for caring and sharing.

Take care & keep smiling :-)

-   Flickr – Creative Commons image “Learning”
by Krissy Venosdale –

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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 :-)

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Jess McCulloch: Poetry, Pedagogy and Passion

DS106, Food for Thought, Professional Development, Reflection, Social Networking No Comments »

Jess McCulloch is an innovative educator from Melbourne Australia. Through her creative Rhyming for Teacher Learning endeavour, Jess used crowd-funding to help raise travel funding to attend this past summer’s UnPlug’d educational summit in Ontario’s Algonquin Provincial Park.


I am lucky to have close friends who, as educational change agents, attended the initial 2011 UnPlug’d summit. Their enthusiasm and passion for teaching was magnified through interaction with like-minded colleagues. They willingly shared their powerful experience through blogging, presentations, and their free, downloadable resource “What Matters Most in Education”. Their K-12 vision and stories continue to have a tremendous world-wide impact on other teachers and ultimately their students.

So when Jess McCulloch, decided she wanted to travel from Australia to Canada to participate in this year’s UnPlug’d, I decided to help her out with a small contribution.  In return, Jess promised to write a poem on a subject of my choosing. Having benefited greatly from the willingness of others, who share educational ideas and resources, I suggested that “the importance of online sharing” might be a topic worthy of her talents.

I include both Jess’ reading as well as her creative poem below:

I Share Online

by Jess McCulloch


I share my work online because when I do
I hope I’ve added something that’s useful to you
I share my ideas online because then I know
That you adding yours will then help mine grow
I share my pictures online because then you can see
A little bit more about what makes me me

I look for your work online because I know that it could
Help me shape mine like no other would
I look for your ideas online because I want to think
About new perspectives, opinions and make my own links
I look for your pictures online because it does make me smile
To see a different side of you every once in a while.

To make the Internet such a rich space to trawl through
I share online what I can and I’m rapt you do too.

I am amazed at how Jess has captured the essence of the importance of sharing online in this creative 14 line poem. However, I’m sure there are readers who might be wondering … “Why give a contribution to an educator on the other side of the world, particularly one you have never met?”

True, I have never met Jess McCulloch face-to-face but I do feel as though I know something about her through her remarkable online sharing.

I was first introduced to her educational passion when she shared “The Black Line Mystery”, as an innovative and engaging educational activity as part of the free, K12Online Conference last year.  Through the eyes of Agent 42 (in a “Carmen Sandiego” style that older educators will appreciate), Jess engaged her students as they began learning Chinese characters beginning with the most complex symbol.

My next encounter with Jess occurred when I participated in the free DS106 Digital Storytelling course this past spring. There was Jess, participating “from a distance” like me, sharing what she was learning with others. As an educator, I found her creations and comments to be quite inspiring and insightful. Her “Technology Does Not Fit” or “The Journey Not The Speed” are not only creative poems, they share powerful pedagogical messages to educators world-wide.

I must admit that one of my favourite "McCulloch moments" is Jess' inspirational "Magical Connections" keynote ...

I recommend that readers Google “Jess McCulloch”. In doing so, one will be impressed with the wealth of educational ideas that she shares through a wide variety of forums and applications. I must admit that one of my favourite “McCulloch moments” is Jess’ inspirational “Magical Connections” keynote presented in Shanghai. Jess’ focus was to engage the audience so that they would recognize “the importance of connecting with students”.  Having delivered educational keynotes myself, I know how challenging it can be to share ideas that are applicable and meaningful to an audience of educators who teach a wide variety of grades and different subject areas. However, Jess demonstrated her talents and pedagogical passion to paint a powerful picture through poetry. Jess’ simple background instructions “My pictures are the ones that are in your head” helped those in the audience engage with her poetic keynote as they identified similar magical moments in their own teaching careers. 

On Jess’ “The #technoLanguages Blog”, she referred to herself using the “LOTE” acronym. Not knowing what these four characters represented, I Googled them and found that as a teacher of Chinese, Jess was considered to be a teacher of “Language(s) Other Than English” or LOTE. However, I think that in Jess’ case, this LOTE acronym might equally represent “Learning on the Edge”. Jess continues to risk-take, learn, and share widely with others. This commitment was revealed in her UnPlug’d profile when Jess made the following comment when asked what her interest was in “unplugging”:

To stop, sit, and really focus on what is important to education. To take the chance to reflect on what direction I’m taking and what conversations I need to have to push my own learning.

This comment really resonated with me because Jess is, indeed, a kindred spirit and exemplifies what it is to be a life-long-learner.

Jess … on behalf of all those educators and students who have benefited from your ideas and resources, thank you for caring and sharing.

Take care & keep smiling :-)

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Pizza, Pedagogy & P.D. – ManACE TIN – Nov. 8

Activity, Info, Professional Development No Comments »

Want to be inspired by practical classroom pedagogy over a supper of pizza this Thursday? If so, make certain to register below for the Technology Information Night (TIN) hosted by the Manitoba Association for Computing EducatorsManitoba Association for Computing Educators (ManACE). This opportunity is being held in Winnipeg on November 8, 2012 at St. John’s-Ravenscourt, 400 South Drive, from 5:30 pm – 7:00 pm. While it is free to register for this learning and sharing opportunity, $5.00 will be collected per person at the door to offset the food costs.

Innovative educators will share their ideas and resources through the following three presentations:

Window to the World
Facilitated by Erin Malkoske & Leslie Dent Scarcello
This presentation will provide an overview of blogging with early years students.  Whether you’re considering a classroom blog or individual student blogs, Erin & Leslie will show you how easy it can be for you and your students to break down the barriers imposed by classroom walls by using your blog as a window to the world.

Creativity & Collaboration – Making Video Mashups
Facilitated by Christin Mackay
Bring a little joy to your classroom by enabling your students to demonstrate their creativity when it comes to producing collaborative video projects.  In this presentation, Christin will demonstrate how she and her Grade 4/5 students recorded and produced a short video that was inspired by viral video techniques.

Rocking the Airwaves
Facilitated by Matt Henderson
As recipients of a ManACE SEED Grant last year, Matt and his students will highlight the ways they’ve taken to the airwaves to amplify student voice.  Whether you’ve caught a CSJR broadcast or you’re looking to broadcast the learning that’s taking place in your own classroom, you’ll want to tune into this presentation.

To register please visit:

Come out to learn and network with some very dedicated and creative Manitoba educators.

Please help spread the word about our upcoming ManACE TIN within your school/division.

Take care & keep smiling :-)

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ManACE Annual General Meeting – May 29th

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

The Executive of the Manitoba Association for Computing Educators (ManACE) are to be congratulated. They have arranged for Dean Shareski and Alec Couros to present “Learning in Public” at their AGM. As outstanding educators, this “dynamic duo” from Saskatchewan plan to “look at creating & sharing digital content & online collaboration”.

Don’t miss this opportunity to learn and connect in Winnipeg with other technology-using educators on May 29th at 7:00 pm at the King’s Head Pub at 120 King Street. Additional information can be found on the ManACE Memos blog.

All our welcome to this free educational experience. All that is requested is that you please REGISTER ONLINE to help the planning committee better organize this event.

Please view and/or print this ManACE AGM Poster and share it with your staff and other educators so that all that may be interested can attend.

Take care & keep smiling :-)

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My PLN: A Teacher’s Treasure

Activity, Food for Thought, Professional Development, Project, Reflection 13 Comments »

My Personal Learning Network is the key to keeping me up-to-date with all the changes that are happening in education and how technology can best support and engage today’s students.

As the current year draws to a close, I wanted to pay tribute to all the students, educators, and friends who have helped me over the years. However, if I were to try to name them all, the list would be lengthy and I would run the very real risk of forgetting to acknowledge someone. Rather, I thought … perhaps I might write about the importance of my PLN and how it has helped me become a better educator. I must admit that when I first heard the acronym PLN, I thought that it might refer to support nurses who had not as yet earned their R.N. degree. However, over time I realized that my Personal Learning Network (or PLN) would become a very important, and key, ingredient in my life-long learning.

As an educator, I have always learned best when preparing a lesson for students or a workshop for teachers. I wondered if there was a way to pay tribute to my PLN through a video remix project that other educators might be able to adapt for use with their students.

I thought that perhaps I might consider writing a song and incorporate it into a music video as a tribute to my PLN. You may recall that I had a brief fling at song-writing when I created my “ICT-rap”, which was shared in my earlier blog post entitled “Reflect, Review and Rap”. After listening to this creation, you can perhaps understand why I’m still an educator as opposed to a celebrity who signs million dollar record contracts.  However the task, at that time, was to illustrate how students might use technology and their creative talents to summarize and review a unit of study through a unique and engaging process.

Over the past year, I have been exposed to two different creative musical videos that have made a dramatic impression on me. Recently, I viewed the powerful and professional song “It Starts With Me” that Ryan Miller and the staff and students from Stevenson School created to promote the Digital We venture. Earlier this year, I also remember being motivated by Dean Shareski’s inspirational musical birthday tribute “Happy Birthday Alec Couros”, where he facilitated a unique collaboration of individuals who thanked Alec “for being a friend”. On reflection, I realize that I was first exposed to both of these remarkable musical celebrations through two different talented educators, who regularly share and are part of my PLN.

Realizing that I do not have the creative, musical talents of Ryan Miller, nor the video expertise that Dean Shareski demonstrates, I felt that I might try to tell a musical story and pay tribute to my PLN in a somewhat different manner.

 YouTube Video: “My PLN – A Teacher’s Treasure
(For those who cannot view YouTube videos,
alternate video files are available for download at end of this post.)

To help educators adapt this musical video project idea for use with students in their classrooms, I will briefly identify the basic components and then provide additional information to explain each step in more detail.

  1. Pick a theme
  2. Create/find a tune
  3. Compose lyrics to tell your story
  4. Blend lyrics and melody into a song
  5. Select Creative Commons images
  6. Tell your story through technology
  7. Share your creation

1.    Pick a theme
I was motivated to pay tribute to students and teachers, and particularly, those in my PLN. On the other hand, students might decide to create a unit overview or showcase their musical and creative talents in a subject-related project. With the recent enthusiasm generated by Manitoba’s “We Day” and the “Digital We” contest, students may wish to demonstrate how they can make a change in their school, community or the world. I would encourage students to work in teams of two or three to collaborate on creating a song or music video.

2.    Create/find a tune
Admittedly, I am not a musical composer nor am I a great singer. Although I could perhaps create a tune with freeware musical loops, I considered attempting to find a melody that I could remix for my PLN project. With the festive season fast approaching, I wondered if there were any traditional Christmas carols whose tunes were now in the public domain. Melodies that were composed in the 18th or 19th century are no longer protected by copyright as they would now be in the public domain. In fact, I searched for “public domain music” and found the following list of “Public Domain Popular Songs Hits 1900 – 1920“. I was delighted to find that the “Colonel Bogey March” was listed in the public domain. Further research indicated that this popular tune was composed in 1914 by Lieutenant F.J. Ricketts, who as a British army bandmaster, created marches under the pseudonym Kenneth J. Alford. Older readers may remember this tune as it was whistled by British prisoners of war in the 1957 movie entitled “The Bridge on the River Kwai”. Perhaps viewing this movie’s trailer will jog one’s memory.

Teachable Moment: I had decided on this popular melody, which was free of U.S. copyright (or so I thought) because it was first composed before 1922. I found “The Colonel Bogey March“, played by the U.S. Navy Band, and downloaded the tune as an .mp3 file. Now that I had my tune component completed, I started creating lyrics and having fun as I created a story that I planned to share with students and teachers. In fact, I completed my musical video and had it converted to a YouTube format and starting writing this blog post when things started to unravel. First, I learned, upon a more in depth investigation, that Canadian copyright states that if the works were published before 1923, public domain occurs 50 years following the death of the composer. On the other hand, in England and the European Union, the works are protected under copyright for 70 years following the death of the composer. Since F.J. Ricketts passed away in 1945, the copyright in England would still be in effect for another four years and his march would only enter the public domain in 2015. However, what I failed to identify, during my initial brief investigation was that these past stipulations of works created before 1923, with public domain status occurring after 50 or 70 years following the composer’s death, apply only to music, lyrics and sheet music publications. In fact, Public Domain Info states that “there are NO sound recordings in the Public Domain in the USA and all sound recordings will remain under copyright until 2067.

I share my misfortune with students and educators so that you will not make this same mistake that I have in trying to “Find a Tune”. Rather, I urge students to avoid making music videos with popular songs (or even “old” songs that were created before 1923).  Use royalty-free music that can be legally download from sites such as ccMixter or Jamendo or better yet, create your own tunes and demonstrate your creativity.

3.    Compose lyrics to tell your story
Whenever I write poetry, I like to have the words in my verses rhyme appropriately. Likewise, when one uses a known or familiar melody, there is a tendency to want to follow the designated rhyme scheme. Often, I will hum the song to myself as I try a combination of words. Sometimes, I find it is better to play the .wav or .mp3 tune while composing lyrics, so that my words match the proper tempo and beat. For example, when trying to rhyme with the word “share”, I would go through the alphabet in order and list all possible rhyming words such as “bear”, “care”, “dare”, “fair”, etc. This rather time-consuming process was reduced considerably when I found the following two, indispensable rhyming tool web sites:

4.    Blend lyrics and melody into a song
Although Macintosh users will favour GarageBand as a popular music creation tool, I use the Audacity freeware audio editor which is available for Linux, Macintosh and Windows computers. If you are planning to use a previously created melody or a downloaded musical track, I recommend that Windows users set the following Audacity preference. Start Audacity, click on the “Edit” menu, and select “Preferences”. Under the “Audio I/O” tab, make certain to check off the option “Play other tracks while recording new one” and then press the “OK” button. This simple setting will allow users to listen to the background musical tune through earphones, while they sing and record the new lyrics or vocal track. Once the composition is blended, students can exhibit their creativity through remixing and adding a variety of effects to their musical creation. I’d recommend that students who create and share a song, also share the lyrics. An accompanying lyric sheet not only helps all audience members recognize all the words when listening but also helps listeners appreciate the the lyrical message and creativity demonstrated in the song-writing process.

5.    Select Creative Commons images to support your story (as required)
Although some students will be quite satisfied with the creation of a song, there will be others who want to blend images with their song to create the popular “music video”. In fact, pictures add so much interest to the story that I recommend students select Flickr images with Creative Commons licenses to enhance their message. It is recommended that teachers:

For example, to find the picture of the two people at the right, I entered the words “sharing hot dog” (without quotes) in the top search field on the Flickr “Advanced Search” page. I then checked off the “Photos/Videos” media type. Lastly, and most important, I checked off the bottom “Creative Commons” filter by selecting the two qualifiers to “Only search within Creative Commons-licensed content” and to “Find content to modify, adapt, or build upon” since I might possibly alter or remix the selected image.

I realize that student use of Flickr may be blocked by some school divisions. However, I would hope that educators would review, with students, the Creative Commons license types, how to search for such images, and stress that all images included in a video should be properly cited. Students who become engaged in such a project will use computers at home to search for Creative Commons images. Furthermore, if students plan to enter their music video in the “Digital We” contest (which closes March 14, 2012) and share their creativity, it is important that all components of the video be “free of copyright violations”.

A technique that I use whenever I am searching for possible images to include in a story is to use a word-processor to identify both potential images with their corresponding URL addresses. For example, if I think that I might use the above image, I would add it to my image list as “Couple Sharing Hot Dog:”. I can assure you that this process saves a great deal of time, particularly if you have already included a picture in your story and are now trying to find it again in order to provide the address link in the video “Credits”. Better to identify the picture with its source address and not use it, than waste valuable time attempting to locate the credit link later.

6.    Tell your story through technology
Once students have picked a theme and identified the audio and image components, they can then begin the assembly and blending of components to tell their story. Students, today, can tell their story through a variety of applications. Although I used PowerPoint, with specific, timed slide transitions, Alan Levine shares a powerful resource called “50+ Web 2.0 Ways to Tell a Story“. Alan, not only provides an alphabetical list with links to 50+ storytelling applications, he also organizes them by story categories. Teachers and students will find this resource to be very useful.

7.    Share your creation with others
I strongly believe in “leveraged learning”. By this I mean that we all learn and improve, by looking at, and examining, projects or stories that others have created. For example, I decided to include my refrain “1, 2, 3, 4, 5 … Learning everyday helps me survive … ” after I saw Ryan Miller’s video “It Starts With Me”. Ryan’s students chanted “1, 2, 3, 4 … I won’t sit back anymore … ” and I thought that this refrain added impact to their music video, so I adapted this idea. Likewise, students leverage and improve on tasks and projects when they have an opportunity to view similar endeavours. However, the key to facilitating “leveraged learning” is that we must share our creations in order to motivate and encourage others.

In closing, I would ask readers to click on the title of this blog post and then use the feedback comments form at the end to share links to creative songs, stories and/or musical videos that your students have created so that we may all improve.

Thanks for caring and sharing.

-   Flickr – Creative Commons image “Have you hugged your PLN today?”
by Corey Dahl –
-   Flickr – Creative Commons image “5/52 – Sharing a Lord of the Rings Dog
by kimncris –

Freebie Downloads:

Realizing that in some schools, students and teachers are blocked from viewing YouTube videos. To facilitate others viewing my music video tribute, I have provided my story in a variety of other formats.  These file variations are listed below, in order of increasing file size, so that readers may download and view a version which is appropriate for their environment:

Take care & keep smiling :-)

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