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.Β  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’sΒ  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 πŸ™‚

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 ofΒ  “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 πŸ™‚

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8 Responses to The amazing power of 140 characters

  1. This is the kind of reflective practice that I cherish in DS106 and all of its assorted connected cousins. Thanks.

  2. admin says:

    Thanks Kevin for your comment on my reflections. As a fellow educator you know how important it is to take time to think about what actions we have taken in the classroom. It’s better yet if we can share these ideas with our colleagues so that we can all learn and improve together. I checked out your “Kevin’s Meandering Mind” blog and I was impressed with the way in which you invited readers “to join in the conversation and enrich your experience”.

    I confess than in searching through your posts I was enriched when I played your “Writing on the Wall” music video. I think that you have captured the essence of the support and connectedness that I have experienced within the DS106 learning community. I, too, feel so thankful for those who motivate me by taking the time to send me a tweet, email message, or comment on a particular blog entry. To paraphrase your powerful lyrics … “Thank you for being that ‘Someone who Wrote me a Note'”.

    Take care & keep smiling πŸ™‚ Brian

  3. Rochelle says:

    I am touched that the daily create and consequent “What Is DS106?” flipbook impacted you so much. You’ve written about your experience so eloquently. Acknowledging/celebrating the individuals and our creative DS106 community as a whole is something I hold very dear. I joined DS106 in the summer of 2013 round and have never turned back. It has enriched my life tremendously both personally and professionally. (A paper co-authored by Alan & Mariana was just published – ) I am proud to be a part of this community of engaged adults who honor and respect one another. Thank you for your post.

  4. admin says:

    Hi Rochelle … Thanks so much for taking the time to generate several #DS106 memes as part of the Daily Create #1069. A special thanks for demonstrating your talents at creating your “What is #DS106?” flip-book to capture the many facets of DS106 learning. Not only was Alan Levine “blown away”. I know I speak for other DS106 participants who think your flip-book was a very creative way to share the DS106 experience.

    I believe you exemplify the model DS106 student who struggles (for example, with the learning required to make animated GIFs with GIMP) but is so willing to share her accomplishments with others so that we may all learn together.

    Thank you for sharing the link to your co-authored paper with Mariana Funes and Alan Levine. I found the reference links to be especially helpful as they transferred me back to your insightful and reflective blog posts that you shared while engaging in your DS106 learning journey.

    Thanks for caring and sharing.

    Take care & keep smiling πŸ™‚ Brian

  5. Thanks for your eloquent post in praise of DS106! I can only echo your experience, as that has been my experience, too since Fall 2011. I hope to see you join me as frequently as possible in posting Daily Creates, which is where the blood really pumps through our far flung community.

    Sandy Brown Jensen

  6. admin says:

    Thanks Sandy for your motivating comment and your meme contribution to the Daily Create #1069. I do remember how supportive you were when I was actively participating in the DS106 session in the 2012 spring term. In fact, being a long time Windows user, I contacted you because I was amazed that you were able to create a short movie as part of a DS106 “Daily Create”. I knew it would take me (with Windows Movie Maker) the better part of an hour to create what you accomplished in less than 15 minutes. I had to know your secret, so I emailed you to find out that you used the iMovie trailer template to produce a professional-looking movie segment. Since I had just purchased an iPad with iMovie, your willingness to share helped me explore this whole new movie making experience. Undoubtedly your willingness to share, demonstrates what the DS106 learning community is all about.

    I thank you for continuing to create and share your “Daily Creates” and motivating me to participate in a more frequent manner. After all it has been rumored that another popular DS106 mantra is “DS106 4 Life”.

    Take care & keep smiling πŸ™‚ Brian

  7. Mariana Funes says:

    What a gift to come back to from my Xmas break! What a lovely post, Brian. This is a pretty special group of human beings sheltering under #ds106 to make art πŸ˜‰

    Look forward to getting to know you a little better this year. And let’s all keep making art, damn it!

    I did the Headless DS106 open in 2013 and never left…. #4life

  8. admin says:

    Hi Mariana …Thanks for the kind comment about my post which captured the power of 140 character tweets between DS106 inspired individuals. Like you, Darren Kuropatwa (@dkuropatwa), a dedicated educator and friend, used the blog comment mechanism to provide feedback and advise me of the upcoming Spring 2012 DS106 learning opportunity. I learned so much from Jim Groom, Alan Levine, and the various DS106 participants who learned together and shared in so many ways.

    You are to be thanked again for providing me with a motivating tweet, as I created my “ideas in their infancy” memes, and suggesting that Rochelle Lockridge (@Rockylou22) might capture the various DS106 memes in an HTML flip-book. As an enabling catalyst you fostered both the development and sharing of ideas in a truly unique way. I’m sure that as Alan (@cogdog) shares information about the DS106 creativity and community in tomorrow’s (January 8th.) presentation, he will benefit from your willingness to create, inspire and suggest a sharing process.

    I’m amazed at how “like minded individuals” can connect today. Although we may be separated geographically by “the pond”, we can still share and support one another with relative ease. In browsing through your “Mariana Funes” web site, I was amazed at both the content and creativity of the displayed elements. It certainly looks like Alan Levine has shared more than his love of dogs with you :-). Your web site is indeed a treat to explore!

    All the best in the New Year.

    Take care & keep smiling πŸ™‚ Brian

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