#CLMOOC Learning Walk


The other day my mother and I had an interesting discussion about the future of their house and cabin on Echo Lake on Mt. Desert Island, ME. She told me that one day it would be a part of my family and could do with it what I needed to. I told her that I had no plans of selling the properties. Spending summers in Maine is a big part of my life and is now a big part of my daughters’ lives. Losing the lake house for some short term monetary gain would not be in my best interest, I told her.

Later it occurred to me that even though I’ve used the house and cabin for nearly 40 years, I really dont know what it takes to run either place. So today I took a walk around the property and was amazed by how much I really don’t know.


How do you take care of the beach area?


How do you take care of the wildflowers?


When should the float come out of the water for winter?


How do you maintain this garden?


Does this deck require the same maintenance as the wooden decks?

Thankfully my mother is already passing on the answers to these questions and many more to her grandchildren.


#CLMOOC Sticks and Stories


Photo Credit: Sean Rogers1 via Compfight cc

Thanks to Bart Miller for giving me the title to this post. In fact I’ve hacked his title just so it had a ring to it. Get it, sticks and stories? Kind of sounds likes sticks and stones, which turns out was a hack to a game I wanted to create with my #clmooc PLN. It’s like our own six degrees of separation.

I went into Cycle 2 of the Making Learning Connected MOOC full of ideas. It started out in my parent’s basement. It’s a tinkerers dream, full of tools and scraps and whatchmajigits and doodads and thingamabobs.

Want a sneak peek at the Toyhack Workshop?

In a small basket I found 10 small sticks, slightly longer than ball point pen and slighty squarer than said pen. They reminded me of another game using sticks where players throw them on the ground. What happens next? I don’t know. I couldn’t remember the game – which I figured was a good idea. I could create a game from scratch. But I wanted to add a twist. I wanted to embrace the idea of connected learning by inviting my #clmooc colleagues to collaboratively build this game from the ground up. Turns out this is much more challenging than I anticipated. I envisioned a game that was a hack between Yahtzee, Farkle, and Rummy. But I didn’t want to share that with my PLN. I figured that would be too leading. So I just sat back and watched Kevin Hodgson, Chad Sansing, Jennifer Denslow, and Stephanie West-Pucket add titles, remix game objectives, modify rules, and generally have some fun with my idea. The game is certainly far from completion and it may never happen. And I’m okay with that. Turns out my little social experiment worked. A community of like minded individuals came together to help hack an idea. And I appreciate each one of them for doing so. And if you’re interested in adding to the game now called “Splinters, here’s the link to the Google doc: http://goo.gl/rEZEg

I’m on vacation in Maine and I thought I would be able to play a bigger part in this MOOC, but Internet connection is hampering that goal a bit. Plus, it is vacation. Time to tune things out a bit even though I find it incredibly difficult to disconnect from my professional life. But some things don’t need technology (even though I used my phone to capture the moments).

While we’re on vacation we always have dinner with my Aunt Vickie and Uncle Jim and he always has something unique to share. Maybe it’s a set of books he wants to read to his nieces. Maybe it’s a new game. This time it was a story…sort of. More like a story hack. Each person at the table would take turns making a noise. The rest of the table needed to remember all of the noises. Once each person had a chance to make a noise, any person could start a narrative based on the sounds. The trick was to incorporate as many sounds as you could remember. Once a person stopped, others could start a new story or add onto the one already started.

Here is our first Sound Story.

Now we didn’t get too far with this game since it was getting way late and my daughters were having a hard time keeping it together after my wife made armpit farts. But I’m sure we’ll be coming back to this in the very near future.

These two experiences reminded me that the process of the Making Learning Connected MOOC is not perfect. It’s messy. It’s unplanned. It’s organic. An idea for an original game may or may not pan out. The game might go through several iterations before it’s ready for public consumption. A series of silly noises can inspire a community of storytellers to connect at a whole new level at the end of a great meal.

And shouldn’t this be how we all learn? Unprescribed. Intuitively. Connected.

#CLMOOC Coffee Connection


cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo by Michael Buist: http://flickr.com/photos/buistbunch/9163943585/

While strolling Southwest Harbor on Mt. Desert Island, ME my wife and I stopped into a local cafe for coffee. We’d been there many times before and have ordered the same thing every time: a double Café Americano with an extra shot. For some reason I paid attention to the bubbles as I added packets of Splenda to my drink. Almost instantaneously an image appeared that seemed so familiar to me. Not familiar like the Jesus toast or the George Washington chip, but something that reminded me of a cartoon or movie character. But I just couldn’t figure out who or what.

On vacation I’ve had some time to reconnect with Instagram and other social tools, so I figured I share my query with my PLN on Twitter and my firends on Facebook. Within seconds two people commented on my Instagram post, one via Twitter, the other on Facebook. And both said the same thing: Mr. Burns from The Simpsons. Not being much of a fan, I quickly looked up an image of Burns and I was quite amazed by their accuracy and the fact both had the same answer.


Photo Credit: trackrecord via Compfight cc


Photo Credit: smcgee via Compfight cc

Soon I got several more responses. Someone said Snoopy. Ironically someone else said Woodstock.

The Sneetches from Dr. Seuss were even suggested. As was Dr. Finklestein from A Nightmare Before Christmas.


Photo Credit: Jesse 1974 via Compfight cc


cc licensed ( BY ND ) flickr photo by Loren Javier: http://flickr.com/photos/lorenjavier/4063174775/

I guess the point of me sharing this story with you is that we have access to a very powerful set of tools. And whether or not your a fan of Twitter or Facebook or other forms of social media, these tools can connect you to people who you can learn with and learn from. And while interpreting images in espresso is a fairly silly example, there is untapped potential in social media for business, for education, for families. And the reason for sharing it with #clmooc is this whole process is somewhat serendipitous. We started out sharing ourselves. Those intros were hacked without a plan. Now we’re into #toyhacks. And there seems to be plenty of serendipity in this process.

I can see a little of every one of the previously mentioned characters in my coffee, but I was absolutely blown away by one answer. And as soon as I read the Tweet, it was exactly who I was thinking of.


Photo Credit: DaveFayram via Compfight cc

Scampering My Way Through #CLMOOC


Right now I’m feeling like that jackrabbit scampering across the desert floor being chased by a million ideas. Except that I’m not in the desert.  I’m actually off the coast of Maine in Acadia National Park. I’m not even sure if they have jackrabbits here. But that doesn’t matter,  because the ideas are still chasing me.

It’s Summer vacation and I can’t turn it off even if I wanted to. A big part of my life is work. It’s where I’m my best. It’s where I connect with colleagues,  students,  and families. And it feels good. Thankfully it’s 2013 and even though I’m not in school I can still develop and maintain important connections through events like #clmooc.

In just over a week of #clmooc I’ve participated in a Google+ Hangout, I’ve shared my photographs with the community, had a video I created remixed by new colleagues, added over 100 people to my G+ circles, made a sculpture out of plastic, made fish stock out of a halibut rack, participated in a Twitter chat, been mentioned several times in others G+ posts, blogs, and newsletters. And to think this MOOC is just over a week old.

One of the things I know about myself is that I’m not necessarily a maker. I’m not a tinkerer, a crafter, a designer. But I joined this MOOC just for that reason. I knew that the tasks and people would challenge me to take responsible risks. And after seeing what people have already shared, I’ve got my work cut out for me.


Because of so much we will do in #clmooc will be commenting and remixing other people’s work (an assumption), I thought I would share a strategy I use with my students when creating and designing: SCAMPER

Someone once told me that there are no new ideas, simply remixes of old ones. I’m not sure if I believe this 100%, but there are so many examples that seem to suggest this person is right. Just open up the drawers in the kitchen. You’ll find hack after hack of kitchen gadgets.

So when designing something and you need a muse, think about SCAMPER.

S – substitute one thing for another
C – combine pieces
A – adapt
M – magnify or minify the object
P – put to other uses
E – expand, elaborate, or eliminate
R – reverse

For more details about this thinking tool, visit http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newCT_02.htm

I know #clmooc will be a challenge for me, but I’m not backing away. The people I connect with with support me fully throughout the entire process. I know that because I’ve already seen it numerous times.

This is an amazing opportunity to make, learn, and connect…with other jackrabbits chasing ideas.

Cut the Bottom Out of the Peach Basket

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by Wicker Paradise: http://flickr.com/photos/wicker-furniture/8614149921/

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by Wicker Paradise: http://flickr.com/photos/wicker-furniture/8614149921/

Thanks to Kevin Hodgson (@dogtrax) I had the honor of participating in the Make With Me Cycle 1 Google+ Hangout – click here for the archived footage and chat stream. The panel included Kevin, fellow #clmooc moderators Elyse Eidman-Aadahl (@ElyseEA) and Terry Elliott (@tellio), Christina DiMicelli (@MrsDi), and Gail Poulin (@poulingail). The idea behind this Hangout was fairly simple: introduce the purpose of the MOOC and have each of us share not only the product for our introductions, but also the process.

During the Hangout I was taking notes in Evernote (as well as a few snapshots in the Hangout app). Several comments resonated with me at the time and still ring clear two days later. The ideas that came from this video conversation will keep me glued to the MOOC process and hopefully transfer into my classroom.

Entrepreneurial Learners

Elyse made this comment at the 13:10 mark. She’s referring to the fact that learners nowadays have such a wealth of information and access to experts that they can almost personalize their learning. I really like this idea since we know that the one-size-fits-all model of education does not work today (and probably never worked). How we get our students to be advocates for their own learning is an important discussion all of us in education must participate in. This is certainly a major shift in the century-old paradigm, but one that must be made if we are going to expect young people to be competitive in a global market.

Tools Extending Tools

At the 47:58 mark Terry mentions tools extending tools in regards to my Animoto introduction. After I had posted the video on our Google+ Making Learning Connected Community page, he uploaded it to vialogues and used this site as a video commenting tool. The fact that Terry felt compelled and comfortable enough to take another’s work and augment it using polls, comments, and questions speaks to the power of not only this MOOC, but also to the power of a PLN. None of us are experts and we need to rely on our peers to help us up the mountain. Our colleagues essentially become our sherpas as we navigate our own Mount Everest. If someone can show us other ways, better ways, new ways, hacked ways of doing something, then more power to them. And we need to embrace this type of collaboration.

Share the Process of Makes

At 49:25 Kevin mentions a key element of #clmooc: sharing our makes. The products we ultimately create will be important and we will learn about various edtech tools and capture ideas for the upcoming school year; however, the process of making is essential in this community if we are to indeed transfer this experience to our own classrooms. So as people make and create, my hope is that the Make Bank becomes a regular place I visit, to learn about other people’s processes, their proverbial trials and tribulations, to hack their ideas and remix them to fit various make cycles.

Cut the Bottom Out of the Peach Basket

Terry leaves us with a bit of wisdom at the 58:30 mark. He shares the story of how it took quite some time for someone to figure out that if you simply cut a hole in the bottom of Dr. Naismith’s peach baskets, the game of basketball becomes a lot more fun and a lot more fluid. I am taking this as a challenge, not in the sense that I expect to make some sort of great discovery during this make process, but that if I allow myself to take risks, accept failure as a learning tool, and learn and connect with others, the possibility for making great discoveries is out there and attainable.

I really appreciate the opportunity to participate in the Make Cycle 1 Hangout. I’ve gotten to briefly now some new makers, some new tinkerers. And hopefully I can develop these relationships and add to my PLN. I’ll wrap this up with a quote from Franklin D. Roosevelt.

“It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.”

Do or Do Not. There is Always Another Try

Photo Credit: Luis.Vieira via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Luis.Vieira via Compfight cc

So I used some poetic license on this blog title. But it seems to fit as I embark on my second MOOC journey. Last January I started – with fervor – the #etmooc started by Alec Couros (@courosa). I added at least 400 people (of the nearly 1700 participants) to my Google+ circles. I participated in the Blackboard sessions. I joined in on the #etmchat. But then I quickly fizzled out. It wasn’t that the material wasn’t relevant or interesting. Heck, I even participated in a lip dub! It just seemed too many other things took over. I’m not sure if the timing for Making Learning Connected is better or not. Summer vacation could prove to be the perfect time to re-energize and reconnect with my PLN. Or it could turn out that, once again, other commitments get in the way…like family, a wife, two girls, a dog, a cat, a two-week vacation in Maine, school starting back on July 15, etc.

I want to make the most of this experience. I want to learn from others. I want to share my knowledge with a larger audience. I want to connect. I want to make.

So to get things started, I’m sharing my digital self with the rest of this community. It is important that I make myself as transparent as I can to my students and families. My job as a teacher of modern learners and the 21st Century family is to open up my classroom as much as I can. I am including several places I share with the world.

CLMOOC Introduction

Looking forward to learning with and from all of you. Looking forward to making new connections. Looking forward to see what we all make.

It Doesn’t Hurt To Ask

Photo Credit: cpalmieri via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: cpalmieri via Compfight cc

You know the saying, “What’s the worst thing they can say, no?” Well that certainly applies to social media. I asked Nirvan Mulick (@nirvan) to Google+ Hangout with our 5th graders when they built their own cardboard arcade. I asked several teachers in other states to collaborate on a problem-based learning project – thanks @MrBillySpicer, @LLacrosse, and @venspired. I’ve asked parents to share their field of expertise with my students. In every one of these cases, I’ve used Twitter orFacebook or Google+ to connect with others.

Recently I began following @AstronautAbby. Her dream of becoming the first astronaut on Mars made me think about a project we’re working on with our fifth graders from Knox Gifted Academy. As I began to dig deeper into her blog, I realized that this was someone I had to have my students connect with. So I asked. And she said yes.

Below is the Google+ Hangout from Thursday, March 28.

The power of social media is that is connects people who might not otherwise have a reason to meet in person. I can ask a film director in Los Angeles to check out our cardboard creations. I can ask teachers in Illinois, Ohio, and Missouri to work together on a series of engineering tasks. And I can ask a 15 year old aspiring astronaut to share her story to a group of fifth graders.

One person’s connections can help another person meet or exceed their goals. So if you’d like to contribute to Abby’s mission to get to Kazakhstan, please visit her RocketHub site.

And, Abby, thanks for saying yes.

Thanks For My Pen

Photo Credit: cygnoir via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: cygnoir via Compfight cc

Tomorrow morning the school district for which I’ve worked for the past 15 years will be honoring me and other teachers based on milestone years of service. In fact, the 15 year milestone is the first time teachers and classified staff are recognized. And for our dedication to our craft, we get a pen. Now I’m not being ungrateful. Quite the contrary. I will cherish this pen, because it means so much to me.  And I wouldn’t be walking across the Chandler Center for the Arts stage tomorrow without the help and support of some significant people.

First, I want to thank my parents. Sandra Wilcox and David Buist supported me as I made degree and career changes. They supported me when I made both good and bad choices. They pushed me to be the best person I could be.

Next, my wife deserves much of the credit for my success. Being a teacher herself, Melissa Buist recognizes the sweat equity that goes into being a great teacher.

In my 15 years working for Chandler Schools, I’ve had a chance to work with and learn from some amazing people. I want to thank John Kiemele for giving me a chance and hiring me for my first job as a 6th grade teacher. John taught me the value of professional development. I want to thank Gina Vukovich for pushing me to be the best teacher I can be, not just for underprivileged students but for all learners. I want to thank Diane Hale for supporting me and teaching me what it means to be a great teacher for gifted learners.

Finally, I want to thank Jennifer Nusbaum and Albert Notley for being tw0-thirds of an amazing 5th grade team at Knox Gifted Academy. In my 15 years, I have never worked with such a positive, supportive, and creative team.

So when I receive my pen for 15 years of service to my school district, I will be thinking about all the people who have helped make me the teacher and learner that I have become. Thanks for my pen.


Visible and Connected

Photo Credit: Domiriel via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Domiriel via Compfight cc

So I’m 128 minutes removed from Dave Cormier’s (@davecormier) “Rhizomes, MOOCS, and Making Sense of Complexity” Blackboard session and I can’t get the following phrase out of my head: visible and connected. On the way home I think I rewrote this post four times, but the content stayed the same. If I want to grow as a professional I need to share my learning (be visible) with my professional learning network (be connected). I’ve been teaching for 15 years, the last eight with gifted learners and I am learning more now than at any point in my career. I attribute that to two things. First, my supportive fifth grade team allow me to take risks, share ideas, listen, fail, be a clown, be frustrated, be myself. I’ve never been a part of a team like this and I hope it never ends. And second, Twitter. I’m getting a sense that we’re nearing the point where saying Twitter is the best professional development is a bit cliche. But I don’t care. It can be powerful as long as it’s in the right hands and you’re following the right people. Plus it’s free! But this is not a post about my amazing 5th grade team or about Twitter. It’s about the Newbery Award. It’s about students crafting an argument. And it’s about being visible and connected.

This morning hundreds of educators, authors, illustrators, publishers, librarians, and anyone else interested gather in Seattle to be a part of the annual American Library Association Youth Media Awards. Lucky for the millions of interested fans outside of Seattle, we were able to watch the ceremony unfold on a live webcast. 70 fifth graders and 3 teachers from Knox Gifted Academy in Chandler, AZ were part of this digital audience.

This past weekend in my post “And the Winner is…” I began to describe where our team was headed with the Newbery Award ceremony. To get their feet wet, students researched the Newbery Award, its origins, the criteria, other ALA awards, etc. Today, we watched the awards ceremony. Some of us were pulling for The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate because we read it as part of The Global Read Aloud – created by Pernille Ripp (@pernilleripp), some were excited to watch a webcast, while others were just glad not to be doing work. After the ceremony we put students to work.

Instead of simply telling students what to write, how to write it, when it would be due, we asked the students to define the assignment. They discussed word length, font size and style, who the audience might be, minimum number of supporting details, format of the writing, and due dates. Once we reached a consensus (or as close to consensus you can get with 70 5th graders), we added ELA Common Core objectives to the assignment and posted it on our website and Edmodo and shared it with students on Google Drive. I know that by putting the learning and decision making in the students’ hands, the end product will be infinitely better.

So in the interest of making my learning visible, I am more than willing to share the document we created today and any other related materials. Feel free to adapt it to your class. Feel free to share it with others. Fee free to look at it and give us some constructive feedback. You can find the document here. Just request for me to share it with you. And in the interest in being connected, I am sharing this writing across every social network to which I belong. I figure someone might find value in what 70 fifth graders created.


Photo Credit: Krug6 via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Krug6 via Compfight cc

Webster defines serendipity as “the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for”.  And this is exactly what happened to me on Tuesday.

I’ve been exploring the use of Creative Commons work in the classroom for over a year now. Unfortunately I so confused about the history  the reasons for, the reasons why, how to cite work, implications for not using it, etc. But it’s one of those ideas in educational technology that keeps smacking me in the face. So I knew that I had to become the expert in my classroom and at my school.

For awhile I had played around with Open Clip Art Library but was never satisfied with the images, nor was I completely sure how to properly attribute the work. I checked out the Getty Images and the Creative Commons section on Flickr, but once again was ignorant on attributions.

Recently we started reading Dan Gutman’s The Genius Files: Mission  Unstoppable. The main characters travel cross-country to their aunt’s wedding, stopping off at odd Americana sites (i.e., the world’s largest ball of twine in Cawker City, Kansas). Having used myHistro as an Edmodo app for another language arts project, I knew that this would be the perfect edtech tool to compliment the novel.

For those of you not familiar with myHistro, you create timelines using text, images, and maps to help tell a story. I wanted my students to add real pictures, not drawings or clip art, to their timelines. So teaching them about Creative Commons licensing and attribution seemed a perfect fit. That is until the technology got in the way.

On my teacher station, I can easily add the appropriate attribution from the Flickr Creative Commons site. Unfortunately, something is not installed on the students’ laptops and the link does not show up.

Not to be outdone with limitations of our school’s technology, I was determined to find a workaround. And wouldn’t you know it, the very next day after getting stuck, I found a blog post from Foter that explained in an infographic another way to attribute creative commons work. This process involved a lot more copying and pasting, but still did the job.

My students and I quickly realized that the idea of copying and pasting the link to the photo and to the photographer’s Flickr stream simply was not efficient. But it was a way to correctly attribute the work, and that was the important lesson. But that’s when etmooc came to the rescue!

Thanks to Sue Waters (@suewaters) and her Advanced Blogging Blackboard session I learned about Compfight (http://compfight.com/), a search engine that uses Flickr images. The process is extremely simple and much more efficient for the umber of pictures my students would be adding to their timelines. Simply search for the image you need (be sure to select creative commons on the left hand side of the screen), save the image to your computer and add the attribution code.

Compfight attribution

And once I showed them how to attribute using this process, they were off and creating their own content. I can’t wait for the book to be over so that we can share out myHistro timelines with world.

Serendipity. It seems like the best ideas happen when we’re not looking for them. I joined Sue’s Blackboard session because I was part of the class and because I wanted to learn. I didn’t join the session because I was looking for a better way to attribute Creative Commons photographs. Perhaps you’re reading this because I posted it on Twitter or to the etmooc Google+ community, but hopefully you’ll find something you weren’t looking for.

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