Change History in a Moment

Forever change history by having someone, or something different happen in a moment. Find an image to illustrate the momentous change, and add a quote to it. Here’s an example where the Lenape get a better deal from the Dutch on the sale of Manhattan island.

I found the image here and added the line of text using Photoshop. The assignment is an adaptation of the ds106 ‘Messing with the MacGuffin.’

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Michael Branson Smith

I Don’t Get Mad…I Just Get Even

My favorite teacher growing up was my 4th grade teacher, Ms. Buckwitz, a Corpus Christi a Catholic grade school. And I’m not Catholic, I just took a three-and-a-half-year tour of grade school wearing dark brown slacks, white button down shirt, and a brown clip-on tie. This was part of my roving schooling days, as my family attempted to find the ‘best’ education in town.

Ms. Buckwitz had a way with students that weren’t motivated to work on their cursive, or times tables. She would simply say, “I don’t get mad…I just get even.” It was threat that included the playful throwing of semi-soft objects at students from a distance if she caught them not on task. I’ll admit that I don’t recall whether she was a progressive educator, or simply following a curriculum that was likely rigid and boring (remember it’s Catholic school). But Ms. Buckwitz was a lively teacher, getting everyone working on something with a good energy. I can’t believe I found an image of it online, but this was a figurine I gave her at the end of my 4th grade year.

Now Ms. Buckwitz does not blog about teaching, or not that I could find (4th grade was a lonnnng time ago). But but the blogger about education and his teaching I’m going to write about is Jim Groom and his site BavaTuesdays. Jim is an instructional technologist at the University of Mary Washington working in the Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies (DTLT).

Jim also teaches a class out of UMW on digital storytelling, called DS106. I found Jim and ds106 in the past year while he was in the midst of teaching DS106 as a massive open online course (MOOC). This basically meant teaching a class with registered students, and then inviting the world to come and take the course as well. I was one of those ‘open participants’ taking the class with probably another 100 or so people.


Jim did a summer section of ds106 that he renamed the “Summer of Obliviion.” Why? Because Jim played a character called Dr. Oblivion who was a reinvention of the Dr. O character from the film Videodrome by David Cronenberg. He also played, himself as the teaching assistant to Dr. O. You should know that to play Dr. O, Jim shaved his head into a really, really bad looking bald man. (See figure VI below.)

There’s a lot more to talk about when it comes to Jim’s teaching and his theories about models for open education. But for this post, it’s this risk taking, the willingness to play alone with his students and become someone else, literally to make a point about story and teaching I find amazing.

Why Improvisational Teaching and Learning Matters.

In Dave Cormier’s post for #change11 about rhizomatic learning, I had two favorite quotes the first of which was this:

They are not looking for ‘the accepted way’, they are not looking to receive instructions, but rather to create.

This is something I personally liked to do as a learner, figure it out as I go alone. Find the things I need to accomplish or create something. I feel like there are so many digital tools I learned to use just for the sake of making something (Slideshare Presentation, Prezi Presentation are recent examples). Whether I went back to that tool ever again didn’t really matter. It helped me create or accomplish the thing I wanted to do at the time. And I’m pretty sure that I learned more than that tool at the moment, (because I surely forget how to use a lot of them 🙂 ) I learn to solve problems.

The second quote which I am using now in my teaching is this:

A curriculum for a course is something that can be created in time, while a course is happening. The syllabus becomes a garden space, a context setting within which learning can happen and the curriculum is the things that grows there.

I have gone through a lot of changes in my teaching over the past years, trying to find ways to help students learn the concepts in a course. Usually this involved fiddling with an assignment or two trying to improve it. But in the past year, having spent a lot of time engaging communities that are working out in the open as academics has really transformed how I teach. First there was the CUNY Academic Commons and the York College E-portfolio platform, both of which are built on WordPress and Buddypress. These were both my first experiences using WordPress, but more importantly they both started to help me make connections to people in the University that I never would have previously. This was through a blog I created about my old artwork and through joining groups like the Digital Humanities Initiative.

But it was in the Spring, through the Commons that I was introduced to Jim Groom and DS106. Jim is a instructional technologist at the University of Mary Washington and DS106 is an open course/community about digital storytelling. This was a class that had registered students from UMW, but Jim also invited anyone in the world to take the course as well. Just create a blog and play along. So I did.

In creating my own domain and participating in ds106 I found people to create work for and learn from in ways I never had previously. I was making artwork at a productive level that I had done since I was a graduate student (here’s a GIF, don’t be scared).

And when I made work there was feedback immediately, and I gave feedback to others. I was inspired by them and they we inspired by me.

So this is how I try and teach now. I taught DS106 this past fall to my registered York College students and I’m not going to look back. We make things together, we figure out which assignments to do together, and it’s become this wild, rhizomatic like garden that is rich and unpredicatable.


Organic Chem Head

Old School Organic Chemistry Model

As an undergraduate I studied both organic chemistry and fine art. My favorite part of chemistry was the chemistry models. I sat in a lecture with probably 200 other students only 10 of which were chem majors. Everyone one else wanted to be a doctor.


I spent too  many hours in an organic chemistry lab do work that I already knew as experimentally know to work. What’s the point of ‘experimenting’ on something then with a known answer! No fun in that.