Monday, February 18, 2013

A story with POP!

It has been fun to experiment with digital storytelling. I had fun with popcorn

A little story to share. But what did I learn - (thinking about digital literacy after today's talk by Doug Belshaw).

Be patient - skills learned before transfer to new situations. This was my cognitive aspect kicking in.
I wanted to communicate an idea.
There is definitely a cultural context.
I constructed a video before remixing it via popcorn
Definitely an ounce of creativity.
One part of the message was about friendship - a message about good citizenship - sharing a place where young and old play music together (and not in the video - CAMMAC functions in French and English and no one cares, or knows for that matter, whether you are a doctor or a secretary).
I was not afraid to get my digital fingers into the "pie" and mess around - a bit of confidence.
And sitting back I have a better idea of what popcorn can do - and will think critically about how it fits into what I want students doing.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Week One Learning Creative Learning

I'm really challenging myself being in two multi-user courses at the same time. But there are not marks. I'm not really answerable to anyone but myself and I will get out of each what I can. The good thing is that so much is archived, so the course can continue long after the actual finish date. So much to read and think about. And the connections I am making are valuable - so many people to learn from and with.

In terms of Learning Creative Learning - I am not new to many of these ideas, but as I believe learning is a spiral, I am here to reflect more and to deepen my understanding.

In Mitch Resnick's paper: All I Really Need to Know (About Creative Thinking) I Learned (By Studying How Children Learn) in Kindergarten, he talked about the spiral nature of learning  - imagine, create, play, share, reflect, imagine - a recursive paradigm.

This should be true of all learning - but the stages sometimes take on a more formal structure. Imagining may need more formal planning (storyboards for digital stories, plans for construction). Then after creating, testing of hypotheses may lead to revision of the imagining stage. It is not a linear path. Sharing, too, may be done in more formal ways. The tools of today allow for public (on the web) sharing via pictures, posting of projects, even Skype calls to present to others outside your classroom. But sharing should only be a stage that allows for feedback and self-reflection. There is not an end. Reflection leads back to new imaginings or re-imagining.

I was fortunate enough to be involved in using Crickets with my students when I was teaching. Students created wonderful products - from mobile art to vehicles to whatever they could imagine. They were used in class and in an after school club. The talk that went on as these students tested their creations, discussed problems and ways to solve them was rich.

Today I happened to catch an interview with Pasi Sahlberg, author of Finnish Lessons who spoke of schools in Finland. He also spoke about the importance of play - something we don't encourage enough in our schools. It is through hands on play that we learn - just ask any cook! Schools, particularly in the US are moving the opposite way - spurred by testing (and the huge lobby of the testing industry). But testing is usually of lower level skills on Bloom's taxonomy. Sahlberg spoke also of schools as a place to develop self-fulfilled individuals. Through playing in a variety of subject domains, students can find their niche in the world, the place where they will be happy working and creating.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Thoughts on Tools

I've been thinking about the challenge of using a variety of tools to tell the same story and I'm not sure if that is the best approach. It does help you understand what each tool does, but not every tool lends itself to every story. As I have written before, it is important to look critically at the affordances of the tool to think under what circumstances the tool would work well.

  • Can you use the tool collaboratively? 
  • How much control do you have over the look? 
  • When is this important?
  • What medium or combination of media best tell the story?
  • How do I want it shared?
  • Do you just want something quick and easy? (for what purposes)
  • Do you need the story to be hyperlinked? Is this possible with the tool?
These are just some questions to ask. I would love to have you add questions below.

and some more playing

Five Card Story: Where Does it Lead

a #etmooc story created by susanvg

flickr photo by dmffryed

flickr photo by mrsdkrebs

flickr photo by mrsdkrebs

flickr photo by cogdogblog

flickr photo by debbie.fucoloro
Travelling down a learning path. Sometimes I feel alone, an anomaly in my face to face community. I travel on this voyage of discovery, piquing my curiosity and creativity. Looking for new vistas. Online I find community - fellow seekers. I howl with joy as I find my pack in this wide open space. Serenity in the knowledge that I have fellow travellers.

Friday, February 08, 2013


I really enjoyed the post by Brendan Murphy on rhizomatic learning. He talked about deep learning and how to encourage that both for himself as a learner, but also for his students.

I am experimenting with a variety of tools - feeling a bit like a groundhog - popping up to read and get ideas and then back in my burrow to experiment. Maybe rhizomatic learning for me is also "groundhog learning"

I played a bit with Haiku Deck, a free presentation tool for ipads. It was not quite what I expected - more of a visual powerpoint for ipads. It exports as a powerpoint so I had to turn my 6 word story into an image

I visited Susan Angel's blog. She inspires with her incredible visual sense. My quick attempt at an animated gif using Gimp can be seen below.

What you don't see is the back story - this was part of a concert - with the two in the back singing an aria. I'm thinking hard about how I want to create a meaningful story - what tool would work best for it and why  - about a place that changed my life.

I enjoyed Darren Kuropatwa's session today and really appreciated his parting words - that the most important thing is the story. It doesn't matter how many bells and whistles we add - a story without substance is a bad story.

In these two weeks, much is about playing and experimenting. Erin Luong commented on my last post who said "....however sometimes when we are learning the tools our stories may be more shallow. Thoughts?"

My reply: "
I do agree that as teachers when we play with these tools, often the stories will be shallow. That is because we are concentrating on the tool and thinking about how we can use it with students. Our purpose for using the tool is not about the story but in seeing potential. But when we ask students to produce digital stories we need to emphasize the story and explore together how the tools can make the stories powerful. Students also need time to play and explore - but final products should demonstrate that good choices were made because the story speaks for itself.

I also think that this is about scaffolding. When students are young, we introduce fewer tools. But as part of the process we talk about why the tools are good for certain things - developing a critical sense in students. Later students need to have more leeway to select the tools that best fit their needs and be able to justify why they chose a specific tool."

So above are a few explorations about tools - not so much about story. Writing a good story, deciding on which tool to use, which layer will tell what part of the story requires serious work - time that will have to be spent when I am not in the flurry or reading, exploring in the fast lane of etmooc.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

ETMCHAT on a Wednesday evening

I participated in Wednesday's etmchat. I'm getting better at watching the tweets fly by, stopping to read some, skimming over others. It's a test of brain power. As I get older, I keep reading about doing activities that keep the brain flexible. Tweet chats have to qualify with the enormous amount of processing, multi-tasking and connecting.

As I read, I quickly click on links to be visited after the chat. So here are some I explored later.

Someone mentioned cowbird
I love their byline: Stories: How we make sense of our lives.
Later someone pointed us to the stories of Barbara Ganley on cowbird

The premise is simple - an image and a story. I've been doing that through a photo blog I have, though the story-telling has diminished a bit. It was an interesting process as with each image I was inspired to try different genres from story to editorial writing to poetry.  I started doing the photo blog because I firmly believe as teachers - if we ask students to write, we have to write too.

Bryan Jack shared a post on digital radio
I loved listening to the story behind DS106 - linked from his post

Someone else shared 
I'm always a little wary about the lists of tools - concerned that the emphasis is on the tool and not on the content. I love digital storytelling - but we have to put the emphasis on the storytelling with the digital being the way we can make the stories more powerful - adding images, video, transitions, music with a purpose - so that each layer strengthens the story. We have to be cautious to avoid the powerpointlessness syndrome of animations and transitions that add nothing to the message. I have spent time reading Joe Lambert's Digital Storytelling Cookbook and one thing always stood out for me - "the gift of your voice"
Don't get me wrong - I love these tools - but we have to look at them with a critical eye and think about what each offers and how they can be used for specific stories. While I like Animoto - I don't like the fact that so much is canned - that most of the creativity is given over to Animoto. Not bad for a quick upload to show off photos from a day at school - but not great for a deep story.

Winter in Quebec

  Not sure if this link was shared last night - but from Wes Fryer I highly respect the work he has done. His book Playing with Media has many great ideas for K12 schools

Some stories I have loved to share in workshops:
I adore Connor's story - a great place to explore and think about what the student had to do to prepare for this production. And think about what his voice adds!
 Visit SFETT - started by Marco Torres. There is a large collection of student made videos
or visit the youtube channel of the Center for Digital Storytelling (adult made stories).

So much to explore. So much to learn. Keeps me young!

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Walking the Talk

I think one of the reasons I joined etmooc was to force myself to "walk the talk." I give workshops to teachers - one of which is on digital storytelling. I know about the power of story and encourage teachers to help their students to become more powerful storytellers. We talk about the use of the different layers of the story. Each (image, text, voice, music, timing...) should compliment each other, adding a new dimension to the story. But how many digital stories have I made?

So here is my iMovie attempt. I'll be exploring other ways of creating stories over the next couple of weeks (iPad apps, online apps...)

Friday, February 01, 2013

Comments Feedback Grades Self-reflection

Single slice
Single Slice Photo by Pernilla Rydmark under a CC license

As we each carve out our slice of etmooc, I know that I am just nibbling on a slice, not eating the whole pie (nod to Darren Kuropatwa's vlog about moocs. I guess we each have to think about how this fits in with our lives. One idea that has been percolating in my head is the difference between grades, feedback and comments.

Grades end conversations. It is a long time since I was in school, but I do remember that virtually anything that was graded was quickly filed in the garbage can - no discussion, no reflection, no going back to puzzle out the why of the grade. So sad that our society seems to thrive on grades without understanding what they do and don't do for learning.

Feedback is an improvement. Hopefully teachers give feedback to help a student on his/her learning path, to point out ways of improvement, to start a conversation with the student about ideas. Does the teacher expect a  response to the feedback or is it one way? What does the student do with the feedback? Feedback is often about the form and not necessarily about the content of a student's work. While this is important to becoming better writers (or scientists...) too much emphasis in our current education system is on those things which are easily measurable. After all, it's good for the testing industry which has a lot of money invested in this way of thinking.

Comments are conversation starters. I find as I write, it is the comments that drive me to write more. And what kinds of comments are most helpful - those that deal with the ideas not just the "I like the way..." I don't always find blogs the best place for these conversations. Sue Waters has been pushing us to go back and read the comments, to continue the conversations. In my experience, often once a comment is made that is the end. I have enjoyed using Google+ more because it is easier to go back and discuss, to follow a threaded discussion. Comments create connections

Comments are important because they help us examine our ideas. Mulling them over, revisiting them and remixing them because of the input of others as well as because of our own thoughts leads to clarity. But learning requires more than that and etmooc is a great place where self-reflection is essential. Not only do we have to think about ideas, but also about how much and how we will interact with them. This requires strategies.

And it is that self-reflection that is most important. Julie Balen shared a post on How Metacognitive are You. Self-reflection is involves setting goals, thinking about strategies to meet those goals and always revisiting and refining both the goals and the strategies. We all need a tool kit of strategies to help us learn in a variety of situations. Learning isn't just about the skill we are acquiring or the knowledge we are assimilating, but it is about the processes that get us there. Still working on those... but then life is about always learning.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Finally Got the Nerve

As an educator I am always encouraging students, workshop participants to risk. It is through mistakes we learn. When I was an ed tech teacher I had a sign in my lab
"An expert is a person who has made the most mistakes in a very narrow field - Niels Bohr"
Mistakes were celebrated as an opportunity to learn. Yet how many teachers risk and are willing to make mistakes. Our culture doesn't seem to celebrate those.

While I am not a risk taker in terms of sports, I have always pushed myself out of my comfort level when it came to trying new things with students, allowing myself to say to them, "I don't know, let's figure it out." And since I left teaching I have blogged and joined all kinds of social networking sites just to see what they were about. But a video blog! Oh no!

So here is my first - not inspired, but a first attempt and a willingness to put myself out there. Isn't that what we have to do? Learning isn't about doing over what we already know, it's about confronting our beliefs, listening to others, pushing our thinking and trying new things even if at first it is beyond what we thought we could do. Isn't that how we learned to drive or to learn any of the many things that our now in our repertoire.

So here it is.
Much to learn but I had to start somewhere.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Getting Organized

I jumped into ETMOOC without much preparation. So now I am going back and thinking things through. 

What do I want from this experience?
* I am hoping this will push me to try out some new things - to push myself to put myself out there.

Some years ago I was involved in teaching philosophy for children. One of the notions we tried to get across was that once an idea is put out there, it is there to be examined. A disagreement, a building on it, can be done by anyone including yourself. Funny how as teachers we often ask students to do things we don't ask of ourselves. So I will have to put my ideas out there - to be examined, critiqued, and expanded upon. And be willing to examine them myself and, after thought, may retract or change them. It's not only OK to do this - this is the path to growth.

* I have been toying with blogging for a number of years and have wanted to do more reflective blogging. I get started and then peter out. I hope this will push me to write and reflect more, both on my own ideas and those of others - getting inspiration and seeing where it takes me.

In terms of technology -
  • I want to use twitter more, both as a contributor and consumer.
  • I want to explore curation tools I have not yet used - storify, livebinders - how to keep this flow of information and ideas organized...
* I want to make more connections with educators who are thinking about the changes needed in education. How can we make those changes real (and not just grumble about the current situation).


Some thoughts on curation.

I have been a long time user of delicious and then diigo. I really appreciate social bookmarking because I can easily re-find articles, sites etc. that I save. I can also create lists of links on a specific tag or tag bundle and embed them on a web page


This is one way to supply links on a specific topic.

I have played with Pinterest. While I like the visual aspect, topic curation can get unwieldy, especially as more and more sites are added. What seemed like a good way to organize at first may have to evolve. The advantage of social bookmarking is that the multiple tags allow you to sort in multiple ways.

I have also been using Again - it creates a nice visual artifact. If you are not tagging large quantities or sites on a specific topic (e.g. favourite reads on digital storytelling ) this is a nice tool. I have used this when giving workshops. However, I discovered that you can only have 5 topics with the free version, so that really limits its use.

I'll be exploring other possibilities and share my reactions. The amount of information being shared through etmooc is massive. I need to keep organized.



I've been thinking about sharing. I participated in last night's etmchat -an interesting challenge as the tweets quickly scroll by. One topic had to do with one's PLN and sharing and I wrote
PLN like rings in the water - different levels get different contributions - links, blog posts, direct contact
I started to think about my online presence and my PLN. It seemed to me that I am different things to different people and what I share is different in each sharing space.

There are overlapping circles each spreading their own ripples. I sometimes feel alone, but the experience of writing and sharing, whether photos, personal writing or thoughts on education has helped me grow. Will I ever know how far those ripples reach? Perhaps they barely reach out just to that first degree of separation, but perhaps a little farther.

 I started blogging over 6 years ago and experimented with different blogs from reporting (critiquing) on the many early music concerts I go to, to blogging some of my travels. I vowed I would have a professional blog and share there and started this one in 2005 but I never managed to sustain the writing. That is definitely a goal for this etmooc course.

I had been on Flickr for quite a while when, in 2009, I discovered groups of educators who shared a photo a day. As I am always up for a challenge I joined and decided to blog as well - a way to make me write (it has helped me explore a variety of genres of writing, even getting the courage to share some poems). Each step led to other steps.

Each foray into social media, whether Flickr or blogging has helped me build the confidence to share more. While my digital footprint is large and my online relationships have been increasing and deepening, I still haven't consistently added my voice to the education community. I have lurked. I have even interviewed people in webcasts through edtechtalk and been able to virtually touch some amazing experts - but I haven't really shared a lot of my thinking.

I think an issue with many educators is isolation. Many teachers teach behind closed doors. Sharing is not part of the culture. I spent 18 years as an ed tech teacher. I was not always able to connect with others doing that kind of job. Some questions I would like to think about:
  • How do we get teachers to see the need for community - for a sharing and caring place?
  • What should those spaces be? Look like? (surely not one size fits all!)
  • Do teachers join more if they have colleagues who join? or when they feel isolated and need to find like-minded educators?
  • How can an animator help grow a community without becoming too directive?
I'm sure more questions will come to mind. In the meantime - I have blogs to read, comments to leave to start building some connections that may help me answer some of my questions.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

About Me

This voicethread will help you learn a bit about me.

I also have many more interests.
I'm an avid photographer, having really started when I got involved in a photo a day in 2009 on Flickr. I also started a photo blog. Although I no longer post every day, my photo blog continues:

I am very involved in music, especially early music (baroque era and earlier) and play a variety of recorders. Here are some of my instruments.

I'm a reader, a would-be writer and lifelong learner. I hope through etmooc I will learn from and with others, and hopefully, they will learn from and with me!

Monday, January 14, 2013

A New Adventure

I decided I needed to polish up some skills and be part of a larger community so I joined the etmooc course. One requirement is blogging. Though I have had blogs of one kind or another since 2005, I have never sustained a professional blog. This is the challenge for me over the next few months. It all starts tonight. And then serious blogging begins.