Thursday, January 09, 2014

Sunshine Award Post

Audrey McLaren tagged me (nominated me) to write a Sunshine Award Post. I have not been blogging here lately - more in other places - but this seemed the best place to answer. Here are the steps we're supposed to follow once nominated:

Step 1: Acknowledge the nominating blogger:

I so respect Audrey as a reflective teacher. She is passionate about finding the best ways to reach her students and continually adapts her approaches.

Step 2: 11 random facts about me:

1. I am an avid recorder player. I have many recorders from a Garklein (which I never play - it is so high you could attract the dogs from all around) to a great bass which is about my height which is tall for a recorder but not for a person (about 152 cm or almost 5') - the photo below does not show my entire collection!

Jan 14/10: Recorders

2. I love to read and maintain a web site for my book group. I've been a member since 1995.

3. Summer isn't summer without a week at CAMMAC for Early Music Week. I have been attending since 1988.

4. Chocolate is essential to my life. 80% Camino (organic and Fair Trade)

5. My spouse and I often play Boggle. We have changed the rules, playing bilingually (English and French) and don't use a timer.


How many words can you find?

7. I just joined a group that meets once a month to read a Shakespeare play

8.I bought my first computer (a Franklin Ace) and it sat on my desk for 2 weeks before I dared to do anything with it - was afraid I would break it.

9. I became a widow at 32 - it made me grow up fast and change the direction of my life. 

10. Have become an avid photographer. I treasure the online relationships that have grown out of my posting on Flickr. 

11. Being a single parent has forced me to find my inner strength. Have I made mistakes? Many - but I am proud of whom my children have become even though they have chosen paths that I would not have chosen for them. 

Step 3: Answer the nominating blogger's 11 questions:

1. What's the last book you read that had a profound impact on you, personally or professionally - fiction or non-fiction?

Often it's whichever one I am currently reading. I love books that make me want to find out more, that send me to the Internet to explore the subject in greater depth
Fiction lately - Toby's Room did that to me. I love a well-written book.
Mindstorms - many years ago by Seymour Papert left a lasting impression and currently reading Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering and Engineering in the Classroom

2. What is your number one most-hated-pet-peeve grammar mistake that when you hear it you want to scream? If you can't decide on one, I'd LOVE to hear them all!

It's so fun.

3. How many careers have you had?
I guess about 6 not including Mother

4. Are you the same person face to face as you are online?

Mainly yes - though who I am changes with the context - same is true online.

5. What celebrity are you certain you could be good friends with if you ever had the chance?

I'm not at all into celebrity culture - my celebrities are in the Early Music scene and some are already my friends!

6. Everyone says pedagogy first, edtech tool second, but has it ever worked the other way around for you?

I think as I explore edtech tools I think of the pedagogical uses for them - so in that context it is tool first and then pedagogy. But I don't see the point in using a tool just because it is there.

7. What are your desert island foods, record albums, movies? (That only counts as one question.)

Music - a good supply of baroque and renaissance music. 
Food - chocolate plus enough healthy food to sustain me. (oh and some coffee would be great)
And I would rather have a big supply of books rather than movies.

8. Who/what always makes you laugh?

That's a tough one - I don't laugh easily. 

9. Do you spend any time at all playing something - alone or competing with others?

I spend a lot of time playing music alone and (definitely not competing) with others.
I play in Flutissimo, another large recorder group: Flûtes et companie (I didn't name it!) and a quartet Les Promeneuses. We play occasional concerts.

And Boggle (see above)

10. What was the best professional conference session you ever attended, and what made it the best?

Hmm - I spent a week in Stonington where we played - crickets, programming, microworlds... which led me to take part in two week-long sessions on robotics. Hands on - great teachers/colleagues - playing to learn. One hour conference sessions can be inspiring, but learning takes time.

11. Have you ever watched or heard of the movie Être et Avoir? If not, what do you consider to be the best movie about teaching?

I did see it - I found the teaching a bit too directive. As people they were warm and compassionate. I think that and M. Lazhar both show that it is not always the way you teach that is important (though I am a firm believer in hands on learning), but it is the respect you give to the students that makes them feel they are in a good place for learning.

Step 4: Ask 11 questions:

1. What is something you would really like to learn?

2. If you could live somewhere else - where would it be?

3. What led you to blog?

4. What is your biggest concern about the world today?

5. What brings a smile to your face?

6. What is one way your teaching has changed since you started?

7. What is one piece of advice you would give to a new teacher?

8. What book have you read recently that you would recommend to others?

9. How do you de-stress?

10. What is one place you think everyone should visit?

11. Favourite social media tool?

Step 5: My nominations for 11 bloggers:

Not sure who has already done this. I hope you all don't mind being nominated (again if that's the case), and I truly look forward to reading your responses, if you decide to do this! Please don't feel any pressure - we all have our own priorities!


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...)