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  • Writer's pictureAmy Burvall

The Magic of 3: Quick and Dirty Reflections

omne trium perfectum

photo (41)

original image by Gwenivere Burvall

You’ve probably always heard there is magic in the number 3. The fairy tales that shaped our childhoods are filled with this: Three fairies, Three wishes, Three Little Bears… This literary device, also known as a “tricolon”, seems to be a simple but universal and powerful structure that, I think, is wonderfully applied to the task of…


I’m going to begin by giving a shout out to my friend and sometimes colleague Brad Ovenell-Carter of Vancouver. He uses Fifty-Three’s Paper app to create his 100% of the Time daily reflections like so:



The tools I used had to be easy, so I chose an app called “Pic Play Post” for my phone (thought I often use PicMonkey collage on the Web) and Thinglink (which is like, the best thing ever). It easily allows one to augment an image (though you have to make a collage first) with YouTube videos, Soundcloud files, or text and hyperlinks. I’d used it before for a workshop I hosted as an introduction activity. Each participant had to introduce themselves in 4 iPad apps: that is, what are the 4 apps that are the essence of you? Here’s a screenshot my 4 app challenge, and you can see I’ve clicked on one of the annotations.

Screen Shot 2014-01-20 at 9.52.10 AM

But back to 3…

Like Brad, I try to match the colour scheme of my L3s to a certain extent – not for meaning, but more for aesthetics. This screen shot of my L3 No. 7 includes 2 original photos and the Paper app logo, but I often use appropriated images.

Screen Shot 2014-01-20 at 9.57.20 AM

Soon, I had over 30 members from around the world, and was learning and appreciating unique treats. I hope you’ll join us- it’s an open community. I don’t post everyday, but I must say when I do I feel a lot better about my life and the little things that one often forgets to appreciate.

Screen Shot 2014-01-20 at 9.48.07 AM

But what about students?

My students are asked to reflect all the time, and I usually ask them to address 3 points or questions in their blog post or vlog. For example, after they presented in groups about various (ok, 3) cheating scandals, they were asked to film a very personal vlog discussing:

1. their own views on and experience of cheating

2. why students cheat

3. ways to redefine, address, or combat cheating

If they have just finished watching a documentary film, I’ll ask them

1. what were the most important, intriguing or “sticky” things they learned?

2. what questions were inspired by the film?

3. what they particularly enjoyed or didn’t like about the film

If they have just completed a project, they are asked to reflect on:

1. what they learned from doing this

2. what they most enjoy or didn’t enjoy, and why (or what they are most proud of)

3. troubleshooting tips and how they solved problems (plus suggestions to improve the project)

Eliminating the Extraneous

Finally, this year I refined an idea that had been going through my head for some time. It’s a little like Pecha Kucha only more restrained. And for want of a better term, I’ve been calling it

Quick and Dirty Presentation

The basic idea, as seen in Part II of this blog post is to extract 3 important points from the curated article, video, or whatever issue students are in charge of presenting to the class. Translate those points into simple, effective image and create a slide for each (some students used Prezi for a less linear look). The point is you can include a word or short phrase but really should avoid longer text and the dreaded bullet point. I wanted students to provide a provocation at the end, so in this particular version I allowed a 4th slide for the question to the class, though this could be incorporated on the 3rd slide with some animation like dissolve.

Check these out

An example with images only and the provocation

An example with some short phrases/ words/ questions

I really loved this and I think it got students to critically think about how powerful images can be in articulating meaning. Definitely incorporating this more in future assignments.

The Three of Me

When I present at conference, I like to introduce myself in 3 images, and I took that idea and gave it to my students at the start of their Senior year in High School. They were to take a good look at their life and decide upon an image that represents

* where they’ve been

* where they are now

* where they are headed

Thinglink was used again to annotate and keep it “clean” aesthetically. Some took it quite literally and others were a little more abstract, like this one

I then was able to make QR codes out of the Thinglink URLS and post them around school

Screen Shot 2014-01-20 at 11.14.02 AM

Younger students? No Problem!

My daughter (9) has decided to start a business in which she does commissioned artwork in a certain style she calls “Big Eyes go Modern”. She’s full-on into making a website, getting business cards and a Paypal and all that, so we thought we’d do a promo video showing her process so that “people could see how I work”, she says. I found the best tools were my iPhone (I have only the 4, but the 5 shoots more creatively), the PicPlayPost app (again) and, of course YouTube. Here is the result of her 3 pronged #showyourwork cinema extravaganza.

When talking with a colleague who teaches Pre-Kindergarten, it hit me that this sort of tri-ad would be ideal for archiving student work and reflection for all ages, and particularly little ones who are more free from print / text domination. What if, as students were working on a project or assignment, the teacher filmed a short clip of them in action, then afterwards, snapped a still of the work/ artifact and interviewed each child? This could be done quickly and efficiently in a smartphone or on a tablet, and the teacher could tailor the oral reflection by asking customized prompts. For added “umph” the PicPlayPost collage could be thrown into YouTube and annotated with annotation button located on the bottom of the video player while in Edit mode

Screen Shot 2014-01-20 at 10.58.46 AM

Works for Pro-D Too!

A couple of years ago I was in charge of helping a bunch of colleagues get started with blogging so they could reflect in a shareable way on sessions at a conference we were all attending. Some, of course, were not at all at ease with the tech learning curve and even felt intimidated by “star bloggers” out there who seem to blog up a storm without blinking.

Say Hello to My Little Friend…the 3

I decided at that point to simply ask them to write their 3 big takeaways from each session – they could be ideas or resources, and could be written in bullet points if necessary. Hey- it worked! (to a certain extent). It took the pressure off everyone yet we still came away with a treasure trove of useful, easily digestible goodies.

I’ve even adopted that for my own presentations and try to ask participants to vlog or tweet their 3 big takeaways from my session.

In fact, when I co-hosted #designlab cohort at Punahou School’s summer Lab School this past summer my partners and I decided to re-cap each day in a video discussing 3 things we did that day and 3 things to look forward to tomorrow (watch at 1:30 in particular)

To wrap up the experience we asked- you guessed it – three questions:

1. What were you apprehensive / excited about / and/or looking forward to before attending PunahouLab (or even after your first day experience?)

2. What is your your “mini PLN’s” focus in our #designlab cohort and your personal plan for implementing your design challenge? (for example, “we are focusing on Processes and I’m going to try to implement the ‘digital farm’ experience with my students”, or “our focus is Physical Space and I’m personally trying to make my classroom space more flexible and allow students to manage the space and re-arrange to their needs”)

3. What was your big takeaway from this week and how have you changed because of it?

Here is the vlog mashup:

So there you have it – some helpful ideas (hopefully) to incorporate the MAGIC THREE in

1. your classroom

2. your professional development

3. your personal life

…see how I did that? 🙂

#BradOvenellCarter #three #YouTube #growth #reflection #presentations #education #assessment #thinglink #thinking #3 #PicPlayPost

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