Saturday, January 29, 2011


My Aunt Mary Margaret Jessee Mayfield loved the word "serendipity." She taught it to me when I was very young. And I have been lucky to enjoy the fruits of serendipity all my life.

Serendipity struck again this week. Anthony Capps called to my attention a new post on the EDM310 Alumni Blog A light bulb moment by EDM310 alumnus Dina Tillman. I watched the movie and read her commentary and decided to have my EDM310 students watch the movie, read the post and answer a few questions.

There were four reasons for making this Special Assignment #1:
1. I wanted to make sure my students were regularly reading the EDM310 Class Blog
2. The video was short, fun and Dina's message emphasized an outcome I wish to foster: creativity
3. The assignment would draw attention to the EDM310 Alumni Blog, the only alumni blog (or even any activity) associated with an undergraduate course of which I am aware.
4. The video was supported by Volkswagen and the activity being shown in the video took place in Stockholm, Sweden. One of my objectives in EDM310 is to get my students out of Mobile, Alabama - at least virtually. This assignment furthered that objective.

Simple reasons for a relatively simple assignment.

But the responses of my students amazed me. You need to read the comments on the Assignment Post as well as Dina's original post on the Alumni Blog. Here is a sample of a very few of the most interesting comments:
"I realized that in order to lead people in a positive direction or to get a certain reaction, sometimes you have to find fun, creative ways of showing them how.:" (Whitney Hale)
"I hope that the red tape/requirements of teaching in high school won't keep me from remembering to make learning fun." (Lisianna Emmett)
"What an excellent thought to tie together! I know for myself, the teachers that I remember the most, the ones who really got through to me, were the ones who made learning fun. This should be our goal as future educators." (Erin Holton)
"I think that creativity is a great way to inspire "improvement" on many levels. And there's no doubt in my mind that we are perfectly capable of such 'light bulb' moments here in the U.S. as well, however, there are too many limiting factors here that prevent these types of innovations. Something like this would be met with hostility surrounding liability, possibility of injury, insurance responsibility, building code, etc...I think that with our current way of doing things under the constraints that we have willingly placed on ourselves, our 'light bulb' moments will be limited strictly to the arts and to the internet." (Richard Howell)
"Lets open up imagination in teaching and in our life and career. Sometimes as teachers it's easy to get caught up in the same everyday routine and you can use so many things to add imagination and fun into learning and in my opinion that's what you did here. It's this type of learning that we hang on to forever and always remember and not just 'burp back'!" (Lara Bishop)
"I will definitely try to think outside of the box. Especially after watching this video. Love, love, love the video!" (Tiffany Blanton)
"This video is so awesome and inspiring to me, and should be to all soon-to-be teachers. This video makes me realize that if we just take the time to think for a second we could make so many tasks in our daily life fun!" (Jessica Battles)
"I think this video is a really great example of how we as future educators can make it really enjoyable to do the right thing or learn to do new things. I'm glad that Dina posted this video to remind us all of how our classrooms should be run. This is also a good example of how we can motivate ourselves to do things we don't normally like to do." (Rebecca Warnburg)
"It inspired me to open my mind and think outside the box while also giving me the desire to enable my students to do the same. Thank you to Dina" (Jennifer Kelley)
"I completely agree with Dina about being a creative teacher who actually challenges students. I want to inspire my kids to not only learn my material, but to look for knowledge on their own as well. If I can make learning fun, exciting, and important, more children will excel and get the most out of life. These people simply made stairs into a piano and 66% more people took the stairs! Everyone has the power to change the world and we need to start now!" (Skye LaDart)
"The connection you made is awesome, and of course, I totally agree! Let's think of a fun-theory way to teach equivalent fractions. Maybe we can engage them at the lunch tables? Possibly incorporate their lunch menu... I wish we had time to just "play" with concepts with the kids. Like, 20 minutes or so just to explore academic ideas and strategies for teaching them....Speaking of 'light bulb' moments... Our brains probably just 'glowed' a bunch having thought about these stairs and their academic application! Thanks for helping me to get my glow on ;-)" (Anthony Capps)

And on and on and on!

Serendipity is alive and well in EDM310!


  1. Dr. Strange, this is the second comment I will make on your blog for our EDM 310 class. First of all, I like that you titled your post “serendipity”. Just like your aunt, I have always loved this word. Your title really made me look back and consider the value of video a little bit more. The Piano Stairs video was a short little reminder in the power of creativity!

    I like the comment from Anthony Capps that you included. This video obviously inspired him (enough to call your attention to it!), and I’m glad that it did. It’s inspiring to witness other future teachers get excited about our profession. I think it’s important for us to all share little videos like this to inspire our colleagues and create a union of strong teachers who will hold ourselves to high standards.

    In case you were wondering, your reasons behind creating this special assignment proved successful—at least for me. It definitely made me think more about the power of creativity. Also, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when you told us to check the blog daily for updates. Now I check regularly so I won’t miss assignments like these. This assignment definitely drew my attention to the alumni blog too.

  2. This is my second comment on your blog for the C4T assignment. I loved the title "Serendipity"
    what a fun word! It invokes creativity just in saying it! As I read the blog and the comments about the video, it made me think back to the video. The video was very inspiring as many of the quotes from the comments of other students said. It really makes you think how something so simple can have such a positive affect. It makes you think about the value of creativity and the importance of fostering it in our students. We don't want our students to become complacent and mundane in their approach to school, to studies and mostly to life. We want and need to inspire them to use all of their brain! Can you imagine the impact we could have on the world if we were to inspire even half of the children to reach their potential! As educators, it is important that we challenge the students and inspire them so they don't become "robots" doing the same thing day after day just because that is what has always been done. I think it is our calling to think outside the box to make school fun so they can see all the possibilities that lie ahead of them! Isn't it crazy how something so simple and can have such impact!

  3. I know I have soaked up more in my last two semesters at South Alabama then I ever have in my all my years of school so far. My eyes have been open more to knowledge and a different teaching styles that I may not have ever known if I had not become an education major.

  4. Dr. Strange,
    The "fun theory" works! It is so true that we have to make learning fun for our students so that they will fully engage themselves and enjoy it. This was a great example of how simple, creative ideas can make a huge difference for the students in your classroom. It does not take much just something intriguing and genuinely out of the ordinary. Just sparking the students interest can get them involved, and they may find they actually like what they are learning. As teachers, it is our job to step out of the box and get our students engaged. If we get creative, so will our students.