Category Archives: Blog

Learning to take better photos – Part 1


My backstory: ¬†It began in the 1970’s for me as a young boy watching my father take photos of all the significant events in my life: birthdays and Christmas day. ¬†But with the cost of film only a few photos were collected of my formative years. ¬†Every image tells a story though. ¬†A little while later my dad began to collect SLR camera and his primary one was the Canon AE-1. He would carry this camera with him, along with a 70-300 mm zoom lens on backpacking trips (the camera body and 55mm lens alone weighed 590 g). ¬†I marveled at the images of the backcountry he would return with. ¬†Waiting with anticipation for the film to be process and a stack of prints to be delivered to the photo shop in the mall, photos were a marvelous way to tell and supplement the stories my dad would share about his adventures. ¬†During high school I took graphic arts where we would roll our own film into canisters, head out into the school and take photos of objects and people at various settings, to return to the lab and enter the dark room. ¬†What a magical experience to see the light capture on the film show up in the dark. ¬† Then began the printing of these black and whites. ¬†None of my photos were contest worthy, but I was really impressed by my ability to capture an image in a way that other wouldn’t see.

I have had a number of 35 mm film cameras since graduating high school. ¬†Nothing in the SLR world as that was too expensive for me, but the point and shoot small cameras. ¬†One of my goals then as it is now is to capture the sights of the places I would go. ¬†My Nikon did not weigh much in comparison to dad’s Canon AE-1, but did have a small zoom lens built in. ¬†On a weekend it was common for me to use a whole roll (36 exposures) on one outing or even for a day trip. ¬†Fortunately my dad worked at London Drugs so I could justify processing film as he was able to get me a discount on it. ¬†But still I had to consider my film economy. ¬†Having little formal training I forged ahead trying to take panoramic pictures of mountain vistas by taking a series of images, then physically taping them together for display in my bedroom.

Years later after I was married, we bought our first digital camera. ¬†How fantastic that you could see the newly captured image on the little screen on the back! ¬†Do I need to take another as no one was smiling. ¬†It was hard to tell on the little screen but a vast improvement over the 35mm counterpart I had just given up. ¬†Some will now argue the benefits of analogue film over digital, and each has it’s place. ¬†Today, I know of no one using analogue film, but remember it is 2016. ¬†The digital camera was a great little device which could interface with a computer to download the images which were then sharable on a memory stick or through social media. ¬†For me it when I joined Facebook in 2007 that digital photography began to have more meaning for me. ¬†A picture is worth a thousand words. ¬†Not long after I acquired my first smartphone with a camera. ¬†What a cool little device but I couldn’t take very good ¬†pictures with it, so I carried on using the stand alone device. ¬†It was okay, until one day my camera was stolen from my truck. ¬†Thus endeth a dedicated device. ¬†From that point on I used my iPhone 3 and 4s for everyday family pics and capturing the scenery of our outings. ¬†To the river for salmon fishing and hiking and kids in the backyard playing. ¬†And the images started to get better once I accepted what my little 3mm focal length digital camera embedded in my iPhone could only do. ¬†Then I would watch my friend Jeremy take pics with his similar device. ¬†His pics were amazing. ¬†What was his trick? ¬†He is a very capable 35 mm and digital photographer. ¬†So I would hangout with him and watch how he would use his camera and also photo editing software builtin to the iPhone and on his computer.

The trick, understanding how your camera functions and setting up the photo so as to be able to capture what you were seeing with your eye.  Apps are important for manipulating the image by adjusting contrast, brightness, highlights and such.  But more importantly is the ability to see something creative in the ordinary that is around us all the time.  That is taking time to smell the roses and also to take a picture of them.  Haha.

My photographic journey is still ongoing with my iPhone 6 which has a 8 megapixel camera and I’m enjoying taking pictures of things around me. ¬†If I’m out fishing for the morning to walking with my wife about our neighborhood, my iPhone 6 goes with me. ¬†It’s quite something to have a camera available to you all the time. ¬†I take pics of everything. ¬†People say to me, “why so many pictures Carpenter?” and my response, “with out them you can’t do anything with them later.” ¬†So am I wasting electrons by taking so many pictures that aren’t getting used? ¬†Maybe but that’s better than burning through rolls and rolls of 35 mm film. ¬†But none is a waist as I enjoying sharing my view of the world with my friend and family.

Maybe later I’ll share some of my favorite photo apps and software with you.

Carpenter out!

Want to be a better Googler?


I work with teachers on a regular basis who ask me a similar question when I show then something cool you can do with Google. ¬†“How did you learn about that?” ¬† That’s a great question and I wish my answer was straight forward. ¬†As I mentioned in a previous blog entry, “Learning can be¬†Messy”. ¬†We all learn in a different manners.

So, how¬†do you become a better Googler? A Googler is¬†a person who is better at using Google Apps? This a almost a professional development question, but the great thing about Google Apps is that they can spill over into your everyday life. As a teacher I am all about using Google Apps for Education (GAFE) but outside of my classroom I use Google Apps for my personal life. So how can you learn about what ‘s available?

  1. Play Play Play – open your Google Drive, Email or other App account and play by looking around at what each icon or button does. Worst case, you may delete something important so be careful of the TrashCan. Undo is CTRL-Z which is a handy keystroke to remember (along side CTRL-C (copy), CTRL-V (paste), CTRL-F (find on page)).
  2. Talk to your professional learning community (your colleagues or even your students) about how they are using Google Apps. Regardless of your place in the journey will can learn something from someone else and someone else will have something to teach you.
  3. Google (the verb meaning Google Search) your question. The power of the Google Search is that the better your question the better the results provided will be. When you get your results take a look at the different kinds of results provided by changing from WEB to IMAGE to VIDEO. There are many video tutorials available for most of the Google Products.
  4. Subscribe to a newsletter online which can email you tidbits to your district or other email address on a regular basis. One such service I subscribe to is The Gooru (
  5. Go to the source! Welcome to the Google Help Centre (
  6. Oh, and there are other ways to learn about Google Apps, that are combination or variation of the above.  Thus this is not an exhaustive list but some suggestions to increase your learning about Google Apps (or other things as well).

The thing about Google Apps is that they¬†changes and typically improves. So if are looking for something in a Google App that used to be there but isn’t look around, be patient and

Google On!

Carpenter Out!

Learning can be messy – Genius Hour

Today I visited an elementary school where I was working with two boys to create a website about their genius our project. This was all I knew about what I was going to be doing before I arrived. The teacher in the classroom of grade 5/6 class exclaimed it’s genius hour. The kids cheered. I didn’t understand why they were so excited about what they were going to be doing. But genius hour is an opportunity for the students to investigate and learn about a topic of interest to them and then after some significant research, present to the class what they had learn. The teacher said that this time is sacred to her students. She doesn’t let anything else cut into their genius hour. If genius hour gets bumped she will skip something else in their schedule later in the week to allow for them to have their genius hour time.

The two boys I was working with in the class struggle to stay engaged in most of the learning they do during the regular school day. The teacher said genius hours the one hour a week that each of them is fully engaged in learning about something that’s of interest to them. For one it was football and the other video games. I was glad to be a part of their¬†today. Teaching a grade 5 boys how to program a website can be challenging. It was incredible though to see their focus and determination is they learned a little bit more about how to create a website.

Learning can be messy. Messy is not the necessarily the bad word that we’ve grown up with. Messy just means it’s scattered and abstract and random. The students were scattered about, through the library, the learning Commons, in the classroom, in the hall in and the computer lab learning about something they were interested in. They recorded the research into duo-tangs on paper, in a word processing programs, collected videos from the Internet, and composed and made music videos, slideshow presentations and websites using digital technology.

I’m looking forward to heading back to work with those two grade 5 boys next week on their website. Is it messy? Yes! Is it good? Yes!

Does your passion drive you work – TEDxLangleyED

Saturday January 16th Langley Education hosted a TEDx event at the Chief Sepass Theatre in Fort Langley BC.  Before arriving at the theatre I was thinking about why we do the work that we do.
Job or career. ¬†Which do we do with passion and which do we not. ¬†This came to mind as I was considering going to TEDxLangleyED after a full week of engaging work as a Helping Teacher in SD34. ¬†It was Saturday morning at 6:30am and I was giving up my Saturday for work. ¬†But as a teacher do we ever stop working? ¬†Are we compensated for working all the time? ¬†The answer is “yes” as we are salaried employees of our respective school districts, at least in most of Canada and likely the US. ¬†I’m not arguing the merits of overworking and the potential non-compensation of that overwork. ¬†But what I am saying is that our passion drives us beyond our regular hours and affects are interest in that which is a job and makes for a rich career. ¬†Richness in the activity which occupies our time is important. ¬†My activity is being an educator. ¬†As a teacher I am always thinking about my recent lessons, the plan for the upcoming week and how to get my students to come along a journey with me. ¬†Students in my job are mostly fellow teachers who have requested help with technology in their classroom. ¬†This help ultimately makes a difference in kids lives. ¬†That’s why I work. ¬† Knowing why you are passionate for a job helps you frame the various task needed server your passion. ¬†Is making a difference in kids lives my ultimate purpose? ¬†No, but it is while I’m “at work”. ¬†At work takes the form of going to my office everyday, working through emails and other administrative work, going to schools to increase the digital literacy of teachers and students.
Passion makes us crazy and we are driven to do more than required or at minimum what is required with excellence.
TED Talks are about Ideas worth sharing. ¬†Yesterday I saw many great talk as per the Storify below. ¬†I left inspired to be innovated about how I connect with students. As @hollyclark shared “Stop talking about tech but talk about learning.” ¬†Tech is not the beginning or end of the conversation but a tool we can use to leverage learning.
I trust that the work you are doing is your passion.  If not how can it become your passion?
Later I’ll consider the question, have you changed a life today? ¬†That’s a great guiding question to start each day with and reflect on at the end of it.
May you be inspired today to follow your passion!
Carpenter out!
Later I’ll consider the question, have you changed a life today? ¬†That’s a great guiding question to start each day with and reflect on at the end of it.
May you be inspired today to follow your passion!
Carpenter out!

Websites, Blogsites, oh my! was started in September 2009 while I was teaching at Yale Secondary.   Since that time my website has been Goomla, WordPress, and now Google Sites.

The reason for this site is to test to see which is best for my purpose. ¬†Is there one “get myself out there website” that is best? ¬†Well that depends. ¬†Depends on a number factors from how digitally literate are you (not being condescending by the way), how much work you want to put into posting and what are you reasons for posting. ¬†Blogging is a good reason to have a “website” as it can be a public facing journal about something you are learning. ¬†There are many reasons people blog which can be found at
Website you ask? ¬†Are you needing a place to post information that other will need to see, for example, as classroom teacher having a class website? ¬†This can be informative but not very dynamic. ¬†You could post blog entries on to a website, like I’m doing right now. ¬†This can make your site more dynamic as the information has a more up-to-date feel but not necessarily needing to edit pages. ¬†Blog post can be posted via email which makes blogging possible from wherever, whenever.
Ultimately your digital footprint is being affected by your online actions.  So, choose wisely in what you post and how you post.
Stay safe.
Carpenter out!
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At the beginning of a new year, but not the school year.

Happy New Year 2016.  I trust that you had a good Christmas Break and are refreshed and ready to return to your post.  I found this cartoon hilarious but all to true as it takes energy to reengage after a time of rest.

Back to School Teacher - Horsey

New devices, new years resolution and reflection are on our minds as we start up our classrooms again. ¬†It’s a softer start as our students are already used to our teaching routines since September 2015. ¬†But this softer start may be a time to reflect on how the Fall went for your classroom (students directly affected by your teaching practice). ¬†This time of reflection is not so that we can beat ourselves up over what went wrong but to look at what went right and to make the right part better than before. ¬† ¬†Don’t be a “No, but…” teacher but be a “Yes, and…” teacher.

Over the next while I will blog about apps and devices for use in education.  This will not be an exhaustive review but a look at how we use tools for different jobs.

As a teaser, consider the hammer. ¬†What’s the best hammer for you? ¬†Depends…

Have a great start of 2016!

Carpenter out!

A Series of Selfies and Movember

About Movember. ¬†This past month of November I was supportive of those around me who are struggling with the diagnosis of cancer. ¬†Movember was started to bring light to men’s health issue and particularly prostrate cancer a number of years ago. ¬†Since then our awareness of men’s cancer issue has increased as men around North America are more cognizant of their vulnerability with respect to prostrate and testicular cancer. ¬†I found out at the beginning of November that a friend was diagnosed and another friend’s wife was also diagnosed with breast cancer. ¬†Hmmm, that’ll get a guy thinking about his own health. ¬†My story over the past month has been to fast from shaving, not just around my moustache but my whole head. ¬†Below is a video about how the hair grew back, in a daily photo blog format.

Now to the details of how I collected the images so that I could effectively do a stop motion animation of or time lapse video of the progress. ¬†It’s more stop motion in the sense that I didn’t stand there all day long but went about my business of being a father, husband, teacher and fisherman but each day returned to the same spot in my kitchen, albeit for one photo, to take a similar photo. ¬†I used my iPhone 6 with the forward facing camera set to capture a square image. ¬†With the lighting the same as Day 0 I began the 30 Day photo shoot. ¬†Once captured to the camera roll, I would open that day’s image in MocaDeco which can be used to put text captions on photos. ¬†Having setup the template each day I would just upload the picture to the template and change the day number. ¬†Exporting the newly captioned picture back to the camera roll, the daily template would be saved. ¬†Once in the camera roll Google photos could upload the image to online storage. ¬†Once safe and sound there, I could create an animation in Google Photos of each days events to make an animated GIF. ¬†This was good for the first while but as the images count increase watching a mute animated GIF got old after the first few pics. ¬†I resorted to a video creation app called WeVideo, which is like iMovie but simpler. ¬†Rendering the stitched images into a movie with some music created the video below. ¬†Another feature of WeVideo which I like is the ability to voice over the music and images. ¬†This could be effective for telling a story. ¬†Pros of WeVideo on the iPhone 6: easy to use, uploads to WeVideo web service so that you can continue editing your work on a PC or other browser based device. ¬†Cons of WeVideo: signin is required which is cumbersome for students but with web-based storage an account is necessary.

That’s about all it took to create the stop motion animation of #Movember2015. This was a matter of learning.

Thanks for reading.  Carpenter Out!

Why Blog and why I’m late

I started blogging after being inspired at a Pro-D event (CUEBC 2015 Conference) when the Keynote Speaker, George Couros, challenged us to make our learning visible by telling other what we learn on a regular basis, thus BlogEntry1-At-The-Beginning. ¬†I began to formulate a way to show my learning on my website here and it’s been okay. I called it my Weekly Blog for which I made a weekly calendar appoint for myself on Friday mornings to be able to sit down and write for an hour. Well, my experience had been good at the outset, but then server issue followed by a full week of helping teacher work, family life and all distracted from my writing. Was I still learning something? Definitely, but I wasn’t sharing it with you here in this venue.

So back to my question, Why Blog? People blog for many reasons. “Why Blog? Should I Start a Blog? 34 Reasons You Should”¬†has many reasons. Their first reason, “It helps you learn new things”, is my first reason to blog. Learning new things happens often for me, but having to report on that makes take the discipline from vicarious to intentional and requires my attention. Discipline in learning. Their ninth reason, “It challenges you” is another. Writing is on the shy side of my comfort zone and pushing myself in this uncomfortable direction will grow me as a writing. Will I write a book one day? Not sure, but my thesis for my MSc. was a daunting task but that was my first real attempt at significant writing, defense that I learned something while I worked in the la. Is this significant? To me, yes. To you, that depends if you are inspired to do something with what you read, if you read this at all.

I could go on about the importance of blogging but I’ll let you read it for yourself at the aforementioned link. Good stuff there.

I’m writing this week to apologize for not showing up. Apologizing to myself mainly, as I’m blogging for personal discipline and personal growth. “Striving for excellence motivates you; striving for perfection is demoralizing” (Harriet B. Braiker). I’m striving to be excellent at what I do and who I am. Perfection is impossible. Sometimes excellence approaches perfection but this ideal is unattainable. I’ll settle for excellence and serving those around as I learn.

Thus I blog. Thanks for reading this edition. Trusting I’ll get another entry out back on schedule but that may not happen. My schedule will be to share when I learn something and that may be weekly or biweekly.

Thanks @gcorous for your inspiration. One day I won’t be perfect like you (not saying you are perfect, but you got it together pretty good), but excellent in my own way.

Carpenter out!

Relentless Persistance – a force of learning

Physics says work has been done that when a force is applied to an object to cause it to change location (displacement).  What work is done in the process of learning?  That is, what force drives the learner forward in their learning and understanding.  There are external forces like parent, teacher, monetary rewards one-day and so on that can motivate us to learn.  But consider the internal drive that can carry one farther to learn for the sake of learning and self confidence.

IMG_2634Jake Virtanen, a Vancouver Canucks 2014 draft pick, started the 2015/16 NHL Season with the Canucks.  As a rookie he needed to prove himself to the coach to remain a part of the team beyond Game 10.  On Sunday Nov 1st, Jake Virtanen and Jacob McCann, another rookie, were welcomed to stay in the big organization with the rest of the team and not have to go down to the Canucks Farm Team, the Utica Comets in New York.  What a sense of accomplishment to have his dream realized.  Jake as a young hockey player in the Lower Mainland and in Hockey Academy at Yale Secondary likely dreamed of one day making it to the big show, the NHL.  Well, his dream has come true, but now the trick is to stay there and play hockey for much longer.  On Monday November 2nd, during the Canucks vs. Philadelphia Flyers, at 8:28 in the third period, Jake scored his first NHL career goal!  Yet another milestone for this young 19  year old from Abbotsford.  So how did he get to this place of success.  Likely through HARD WORK, parents and coaches who did not relent in pushing him forward.  Was there a cost, quite likely, but as he is enjoying his time in the Canucks bench, it may just be work all the work of the past.

Relentless Persistence is a way of looking at what motivates me to learn. I believe I am a relentless learner who persists at the task of learning so that I can be a better educator, husband, father, fisherman and friend.  As a research scientist in my former career relentlessness was a key driver in succeeding over chemicals to accomplish new molecules.  Chemicals have attitudes (or are those just their properties) and researchers need to be more tenacious than the chemical to overcome and make new medicines.   I am learning all the time and as I discussed in my last blog entry, all the time learning is important.  The work of learning is the force of motivation combined with moving one to a position of better understanding.  Learning is reflected in understanding content and how to apply that content to new problems.

The challenge of being an educator, parent or another caring adult in a child’s life is how to grow relentless persistence into their character. ¬†Tenacity and stick-to-it-ness are¬†very important character trait that should¬†gently and delicately be woven into¬†a child’s life. ¬†As they get older inertia sets in and more fore is needed to grow these traits.. ¬†How are you modelling relentless persistence to those in your sphere of influence?

A very motivating video called the 51st Door show how hard work, relentlessness and persistence can pay off.  What drives you?


Go be a relentless persistor!

Everyday Learning from paying attention.

“If your not learning something new everyday, then your not paying attention.”


I’ve said this for sometime now. ¬†I really started to believe it when I started to watch my son learn about his world when he was an infant. He’s 12 now and still eager about learning, but not necessarily school learning. ¬†As a Minecrafter and iPod game app player my boy is always learning. ¬†Albert Einstein said, “Once you stop learning, you start dying.”; Thanks George Corous for sharing Einstiens quote in the opening chapter of you new book, The Innovators Mindset.¬† I didn’t know he said that when I first thought about “…then you’re not paying attention”. ¬†Albert didn’t say you’re dead but headed that direction, maybe quicker than if your were mindfully engaged in learning.

Learning is a likely a key part of healthy living. Consider some of your best vacations. Not necessarily the most luxurious, but most enjoyed. ¬†We went to Oregon this past summer and I think I sat on my camp chair for maybe 90 minutes, not per day but over the entire eight day trip, thus not restful. ¬†But it was a great vacation. ¬†What did I learn, you ask? ¬†How to catch crabs from the public pier; how a microbrewery made a name for itself and partnered with a locale Restaraunteer to care for the community of fisherman and families in the small town ¬†of New Port; how to find a swimming-hole that the locals frequent as the ocean is just toooooo cold for any of our liking. Yes, my family and friends played games but not the ones that were basic but complex strategy games. We were always on the go. And it was the best trip we’ve been on in recent times.

How do you vacation? ¬†That may tell you something of your value of¬†learning. I’m not trying to guilt you into learning, but challenge you to try something which throws you off balance just a bit and you learn from.

How do you approach your classroom, everyday? ¬†When I was student teacher 7 years ago I observed my sponsor teacher’s drive to improve his practice even after he had it all dialed in after many years of teaching the same courses. His students benefit as a result.

I just did a Google search for my opening statement concerned that it someone else’s idea and I found that Ray Leblond,¬†‚ÄéRegional Marketing Manager, British Columbia at Stantec
“You learn something every day if you pay attention.” ¬†My statement is from a not perspective. Does that make me a glass half full Or half empty kind of guy? ¬†Not sure but I do know that the half glass of water is heavy, due to gravity, if you hold it for a long time, Learning too is heavy. ¬†Relationships affect our learning a great deal. ¬†Dr Steven Sheiner shares his thoughts on learning at ¬†Here’s a videoblog he¬†recorded:

My hope is that you are inspired to keep you mind open as well as your eyes, and other senses, when you walk into tomorrow. You may just learn something new!