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Wolfville, Nova Scotia
Canada

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My Favourite Teacher

Chris Campbell

I'm in the middle of the connected learning that is happening as part of #clmooc this year and Joe Dillon tagged me in the Google Plus community as part of his #celebrateteachers audio recording about his favourite teacher. The challenge is to make something about your favourite teacher. Teachers are wonderful people and the great experiences I've had learning and being inspired by teachers makes me feel honoured to call myself one. I can without hesitation say that my favourite teacher is Miss Croft in grade 3 at Smythe Street School, in Fredericton, New Brunswick. I can vividly remember the moment that set me on the path to be creative and to be a teacher as well.

It was morning in the classroom and a guest was coming in so Miss Croft wanted the classroom to have some art around it. So she asked me if I would paint a picture of a rocket (she remembered that I loved all things related to space and astronauts and science stuff) to put up on the wall. She gave me a big sheet of paper and some paint and I eagerly painted the Apollo 11 rocket and the orange gantry beside it. I felt pure joy being able to make something in the unstructured time before class started. I don't remember the guest, but I do remember how I felt and later realized how important it was to know and remember what learners love and how encouraging them makes a big difference.

Miss Croft was a great teacher and brought all sorts of guests in to the classroom to help us learn. We did so many projects and made so many things. Lots of stuff that we did probably wouldn't happen today in the same way because of safety and insurance concerns. We hand-dipped bees wax candles that we put in antique holders on a Christmas tree (we didn't light the candles on the tree). We also used bees wax and paint brushes and cloth and dye to do batik. The school had a kiln and we did pottery and made mugs and bowls.

There was always a sense of adventure and discovery in the classroom with interesting people to meet and things to do. One of the guests was Peter Paul who told us about the Maliseet people and powerfully influenced my ideas about First Nations people and connections to the land. Later when I joined the New Brunswick Filmmakers' Co-operative and filmmaking became my passion, I saw the first film made at the coop was about Peter Paul and it was him telling stories and making a birch bark canoe. So many connections forward and back in time between people and places for me can go back to that school.

Another remarkable guest I remember was Alden Nowlan, a writer and poet who was writer-in-residence at the University of New Brunswick from 1968 until 1983. A big man with a large beard and a booming voice, he spoke a bit and passionately read poems. He cried a few times as well which made our class a bit uncomfortable, but he also laughed. He read his poem The Bull Moose (which was when he cried) and signed autographs afterwards and drew a picture of himself as a moose for me. Experiences like that helped me fall in love with meeting people and asking questions. I often think of how lucky we are to be able to provide the opportunity for someone to share things they care about with our learners. I'm so glad that I had Miss Croft as a teacher.

Paprika Recipe Manager

Chris Campbell

I love to cook and while it's fun to improvise in many aspects of life, I need recipes to cook most food. There are a bunch of great cookbooks around the house, but now there are so many great recipes online to draw from, it can be a challenge to keep track of them. The best way for me to keep a growing collection of delicious recipes is to use the Paprika recipe manager. It's cross-platform, mobile-friendly, and powerful.

A well-designed app on all platforms, it's become an essential part of the cooking process. It makes it easy to figure out what ingredients to get with shopping lists (organized by grocery aisle), and with the iOS version it can add of the ingredients to a reminders list to make it even easier. Through cloud sync it keeps all my recipes up to date whether I'm using the Mac version, my iPad in the kitchen, or my iPhone when I'm out and about. Being able to find a recipe on my phone while in a grocery store is great to come up with a meal when I see some fresh ingredients.

The most powerful feature for me is the ability to capture recipes from a web page using the built-in web browser. It works in all versions and is kind of magical. When you find a recipe you like you click on the "Save Recipe" button and with most recipe sites it's able to capture the recipe seamlessly. If it can't read it, you can select and copy and paste the elements to bring the recipe in fairly easily. It's synced to the cloud, so when I switch to my iPad the recipe is there. The other important part of the capture is that it gives credit and a link back to the original recipe. It's good to be able to go back to the site where the recipe is from and to be able to share that link with others. Giving credit matters.

It's not just a collection of recipes though. There are timers (generated from the recipes whenever times appear) that you click on to time the steps of the process. When you click on ingredients they get crossed off the list, which is important if you sometimes forget whether you added things or not. You can adjust the size of the recipes to make them bigger or smaller with all of the ingredients automatically changed so it all still works.

There are more advanced features that I haven't used much yet such as the ability to assemble recipes into menus or even plan out a week or a month of meals. Using the calendar would be great as you can plan out when you are going to have things and the grocery list that is generated is for the week or month and not for just one recipe. There are other nice elements like the ability to easily share recipes via email or a converter that will let you make sense of different measurement systems or tablespoons to ml to cups.

I open Paprika every day when I think about food and what to make. It's well-designed, powerful, and easy to use and brings the power of flexibility and sharing to everyday cooking. For me the kitchen just wouldn't have as many possibilities without it.

Remediating an Introduction

Chris Campbell

The second make cycle of CLMOOC is on and I struggled a little bit with what to do in remediating something. Using one of the suggestions from the prompt, I reworked my first introduction (or #untro) which is the catchy tag that emerged by reading it in my voice. This gave me a chance to get back into some audio recording and editing as well as trying out some stuff with Soundcloud and GarageBand.

For the remediation I read my blog post from last week (and found a typo in it) and recorded it using a microphone on my headphones with GarageBand on my MacBook Pro. I did some light editing and processing, but wanted to focus a lot more on making stuff and less on editing stuff. This is inspired partially by Amelia Greenhall who has been doing some fantastic blog posts / podcasts on her blog under the theme of "Amelia Explains it All" which are essential resources for feminists and allies for navigating the socially mediated world (her newest is "What to do if a woman is funny on Twitter.")

This remediation cycle has me thinking about how I share things and the locations where they go. Everything blends together after a while and spills into other aspects of what we do. So when we are teaching or talking with someone the things that are top of mind tend to inform everything. For me, teaching filmmaking, it tends to be films or tv shows. But it also extends to how we do things, so when I was intrigued by podcasts a decade ago I was telling everyone about it (and wrote a podcasting blog post).

During last week's Google Hangout it made me think about other aspects of the people who are part of CLMOOC as you could see and hear some of them too. It's a different way to get to know someone. In the Twitter chat it's another form. In each of these media we have strengths and challenges and not everyone participates in each of those in the same way. Our choice of media (and language) includes or excludes people based on what they are comfortable with and what they use and what they understand.

This make cycle also has me thinking about the places where you share changes what is shared. My own blog is the primary, more thoughtful place for writing. Everything there is written, rewritten, and edited. When I wanted to add another #untro last week I wrote it up in Google+ instead of as a blog post as I didn't want to spend a lot of time writing a blog post. But the limitations frustrated me and I wanted to add more images and links to it. The other challenge with that is that it only exists in G+, so if someone is participating in CLMOOC, but isn't there, they won't see it. So maybe I need another place for stuff like that and I think for things like that it could be Medium, which is between the speed and concision of Twitter and the longer blog posts that I host at my Squarespace blog.

I love to improvise and change things on the fly, but at the core of much of what I do I need to have some sort of structure or rules. So for posting things online I am careful to think about where I share what I share. I don't want to have too much overlap between the different services so someone won't see something from me 3 or 4 or 5 times in a row. I try to keep things where I've chosen to put them with a little bit of overlap between them. So longer and more thoughtful writing goes here (on bitdepth.org), shorter writing on Medium, short movie reviews on Letterboxd, photos on Flickr, more social photos on Instagram, and daily stream of consciousness on Twitter.

Years ago I had a podcast where the audio files were on a few different services, but they were also mirrored to the audio section of the Internet Archive and that's the only location for those files now. For the second make cycle remediation I uploaded audio to Soundcloud and that worked well. That's where I'm planning on putting my new podcast that I'll be doing during my Learning Leave too.

It's good to rethink things and try out different ways of doing and as CLMOOC progresses I need to do more things and push outside of my comfort zone and the familiar ways of doing things that I've developed over the years.

Unmaking an Introduction

Chris Campbell

The past couple of years the Connected Learning MOOC (Massively Open Online Collaboration) has been conducted by Educator Innovator and the National Writing Project. It's a sprawling, fun collection of educators who spend six weeks connecting, making, sharing, and reflection about education and themselves in six cycles of making stuff. It's on this year and the first cycle is to "Unmake an Introduction." One of the things I want to do this year is to make more and think less, so I'm going to start right away with the first cycle.

The strange thing about this summer and the approaching Fall is that for the first time in over two decades I won't be teaching because I'm taking a Learning Leave from the Nova Scotia Community College where I teach. The plan is to research and reconnect with the filmmaking community that I'm from. The form that will take will be blog posts, a podcast, an email newsletter, and some videos that I'll be producing. It's a chance to use the skills that I teach to share what I learn. Today was the first day of my summer vacation and #clmooc is the perfect way to start this journ.

How do we portray who we are when we introduce ourselves? We construct ourselves by what we share and others construct us from those parts that we share. We find patterns and connections, similarities and differences, and have little identifiers that help us remember who they are. For many people via Twitter, I'm the person who tweets about having oatmeal every morning. For my learners, I teach them about making films. For my family I make Dad jokes and love cooking and watch a lot of films (usually at least one a day).

All these things are part of who we are and one of the neat things about knowing people for a longer period of time is the wonder of discovering new things about them. It's fun to share things that don't fit into the expectations that we have built up through conversations and experiences with them. So how to make an unconventional introduction?

I'm going to make a couple of lists, one for songs (that you can listen to), and one for films (that you could hopefully watch or have watched) and I'll lightly annotate them to provide some context and that will hopefully help you figure out a bit more about who I am.

Songs

(playlist on Soundcloud)

  • Colin Stetson and Sarah Neufeld - The Sun Roars Into View
    • One of the newest songs I've started listening to from an artist I discovered a couple of years ago when I saw Colin Stetson at Sappyfest. He plays various saxophones using a circular breathing technique to create a mesmerizing sound.
  • Basia Bulat - Wires
    • Basia Bulat has a beautiful voice and amazing songwriting skills that always connect with me. She's written some of my favourite songs and I was lucky enough to see her last year at Sappyfest.
  • Old Man Luedecke - Proof of Love
    • Another Sappyfest discovery has been Old Man Luedecke, who is not that old, but is a great singer-songwriter in the tradition of Woody Guthrie. I was lucky to meet him years ago and he's a grounded man with a gift for telling a story through song.
  • Julie Doiron - The Life of Dreams
    • One of the founders of Sappyfest and another singer-songwriter, Julie Doiron has a self-deprecating quality that is an integral part of her music and writing which is personal and beautiful.
  • Soronprfbs - I Love You All
    • The only performer on the list that I haven't seen live, but a song from a film that I deeply love, performed as part of the film Frank, by a band formed from the actors in the film with Michael Fassbender providing the vocals.

Films

(list on Letterboxd)

  • Frank - Lenny Abrahamson
    • Forming a connection with the music list, Frank is one of my favourite films of the last few years. It's about the creative process and relationships and tensions between artists. Dark and sad and beautiful, it's a film I've watched many times and will watch many more.
  • Beauty is Embarrassing - Neil Berkeley
    • A fun documentary about artist Wayne White who defies categories and has had a unique and wonderful career as one of the co-creators of Pee Wee's Playhouse and continuing to explore things that interest him.
  • Stories We Tell - Sarah Polley
    • One of my favourite documentaries and a deeply personal film made by Sarah Polley where her siblings and family talk about their late mother who was an actress. Brilliantly constructed and powerful, it's a film that pushes the boundaries of the documentary form to make a lasting statement about family and how we build meaning through the stories that we tell about our lives and those we love.
  • 35 Shots of Rum - Claire Denis
    • Another fearless filmmaker who pushes boundaries, Claire Denis will explore almost any topic, but with 35 Shots of Rum the core story is about a father and daughter and their relationship. The performances are extraordinary and complex in a gentle film.
  • Somewhere - Sofia Coppola
    • An understated and casual film about an actor who deals with his daughter after being relatively absent from her life. A simple story with autobiographical overtones, Somewhere has improvisational elements and at times feels almost like a documentary.

Those are some fragmentary elements that hopefully give a bit of an introduction to me. The more I think about these lists the more things I want to add or change, so I will get this done so I can make more stuff and see what the other members of the #clmooc experience this year are making too.

Early Days of Online

Chris Campbell

With the electronic world we're intimately connected to each other and everything has shifted, so that's what appears normal to many of us. It can be a challenge to remember what we did before as the simplest things from meeting someone to remembering or sharing things are mediated electronically through our screens. For me Twitter is the primary social media connection now and it gives a personal, human connective tissue between people and the things that are on my screens.

The best things are the small, personal connections that we make. If you focus on the positive and stay away from the comments it can be quite special. Something as small and simple as favouriting a tweet can give a nice little boost in the day. It's validation, recognition, a virtual nod or smile at someone. I still get a small thrill when I see something I've written is noticed by people I admire. The usual hierarchies flatten and for a brief moment we're connected.

While listening to Benjamen Walker's Theory of Everything podcast miniseries of The Dislike Club (divided into parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and a finale). I remembered the days before pervasive social media and thought about the first time I was entranced by a computer screen. It was in the Fredericton Public Library and it was a terminal using a system called Telidon. I don't remember the date, but I think that it had to be sometime in 1981. Every time I would go to the library I would look at it and use it and I don't remember seeing anyone else at the terminal.

You could look up information using the simple interface. It was slow and didn't have a lot to it, but I remember the graphics which were colour and slowly drew on the screen. Mesmerizing and the idea that it connected to the outside world was even more amazing. It showed what was possible. A couple years later I graduated from high school and went into Computer Science at the University of New Brunswick and was in the final class that used punched cards in the introduction to programming class. The cards and fanfold paper were a pain, but the electronic terminals were what was really exciting.

The first screen-based terminals I used had blue CRT screens, then some green ones, and amber. But the terminals that I loved were the big and heavy IBM 3270 terminals that had multicoloured screens (mainly green, red, white, and blue). The keyboard was big and solid with metal springs that made great, clicky sounds and gave your fingers a good workout. The programming assignments weren't as interesting as looking up books in the library and the information on USENET and I eventually dropped out of university for a bit before returning in the late 80s to complete a degree in the Faculty of Arts in English Literature. You had to ask for approval for access to the computers if you weren't in Computer Science. Apparently only graduate students were approved, but the English department thought I was a grad student and gave me access.

Connecting with other people was tentative and slow. Initially I'd connected through people I knew in the real world and had all of the information written down in a notebook. So many numbers and letters to connect through different servers and computer systems. During my brief academic foray into an MA in Communication Studies at Concordia University had me using my Toshiba T1000 to connect to USENET and other computer systems and email through an external modem connected to the phone line. In the 90s I had fun in the Postmodern Culture MOO and took an online course offered by Diversity University in their MOO where I collaborated with people from around the world using only text. I'd used IRC a bit, but loved the ways that MOOs created an imaginative virtual space with words.

Thinking about education online now, it's remarkable that people were doing so much innovative stuff with the tools back then. Using things like Slack remind me of the power of text to collaborate and connect with people. Simplicity and reduced friction are important to be able to construct safe and supportive online environments, and now the need to go to a computer to read, and write, and connect is easier as the computers are everywhere and things just connect in easier ways.

But now that everyone (or almost everyone) is able to be there, the small, outsider communities that were like secret places that only a few like-minded people knew about are rarer and rarer. That could be why some of us keep looking for new or old things like electronic secret handshakes that are a combination of retro-nostalgia with small technical barriers that provide a way to construct small spaces for shared memories. It's part of growing up and growing old as remember the things we did when we were young with fondness. We're able to reconstruct and reconstitute parts of our childhood and adolescence through the code that still exists and cheaper hardware that can put a whole Atari VCS into a joystick.

Everything is faster now and you don't need to study much to be able to use a computer or your phone. It's just there and is part of what we do. But the preservation of what we've written and created is important. Things can go away quickly, so backing stuff up is important. I'm so glad that I have my blog and that I've been able to migrate it through many systems (Blosxom, Typo), Wordpress, and now Squarespace) keeping it mainly intact. I'm also glad and thankful that the Internet Archive exists to preserve many things too, as I've been able to recover many things that I have written there from sites that have closed or disappeared.

As formats and storage media change there are things that disappear. I have all sorts of video and photos on old disks and tapes that I may never get back. Copying and maintaining an archive can be a lot of work. There are so many things that we write every day in replies and comments and email. I've got many email and social media accounts and move around between them. Sometimes it's a challenge to find something you've shared or found or commented on. It all blurs together into our days filled with small, casual interactions.

I avoid sharing things on Facebook and other relatively closed systems that don't give you an archive or the ability to get things out of the place once you put them in. With text it's relatively easy to back things up, but for photos and audio and video, it's more complicated as the files are bigger. I'm glad I've been using Flickr for so long and that it remains active. Now I have tens of thousands of photos there and it's even better now with automatic archiving of my photos, so while I've fallen way behind in sharing my photos there publicly, all the photos I take get backed up there.

But now I'm trying to figure out a good balance with all of this. I don't need to save everything as I don't have time to go through it all. I want to be present in the world and to consciously share things by going through them and picking out what is significant. It's good to let things go and to make memories both with technology and without it. For every generation this is part of what they are thinking. Whether it is someone thinking about how the telegraph changes the pace of life and changes how people write letters, to someone texting or people photographing their food, our technology changes who we are and what we do, but it's been that way for a very long time.

What do you remember from your early days of connecting online?