Adapting to Change, Loss, and Possibilities: Our Communities Are Smiling

April 10, 2020

There’s no denying the tragedy that is all around us during the current coronavirus pandemic, as I have noted in earlier sets of reflections in this series; it continues to hit colleagues, friends, and family. And yet we somehow are finding comfort. In each other. In our communities. And, of course, through laughter because of and in spite of adversity. As is obvious through this sampling of videos found through friends and through my own search for a terribly needed laugh in challenging times.

Pluto Living

I’ve loved this ongoing series, from Nancie Wight, ever since Jill Hurst-Wahl introduced me to the introductory offering at It’s difficult to choose favorites, but Pluto’s April 1, 2020 reflections on cats still stands out to me: The entire set is accessible at:

Holderness Family

There is an absolutely loveable wackiness to what the Holderness Family has been producing online, and it absolutely shines and shimmers in the coronavirus parody songs that keep flowing from the seemingly bottomless pool of creativity on display. Grateful to Nichole Brown—herself a continual source of inspiration—for leading down the path of addiction on this one. The “She’ll Be Missing You—Target Parody” was my gateway to their work: The entire set is accessible at:

Chris Mann

The consistently high level of writing, videography, and humor from Chris Mann—another referral from Jill—makes it a pleasure to just let YouTube lead you from one video to the next, starting with his “Hello (from the Inside): An Adele Parody) provides a wonderful introduction to his work: And if you stick with him long enough, you’ll find his poignant tribute to front-line workers, “Thank U +Frontline (Alanis Morissette): More available at

Shirley Serban

Serban, who, on her YouTube channel, identifies herself as a “school principal by day – kayaker, photographer and musician whenever I can be,” is from the West Coast of New Zealand. She had gained well-deserved attention for her The Sound of Music parodies, including  “Do Re Mi—The Covid-19 Version,” on YouTube at Other videos, including her charming a capella “Wash Your Hands, Man,” are available at

And then there are the wonderful moments from a variety of other sources:

Honest Government Ad: Coronavirus—Flatten the Curve

Neil Diamond: Hands Washing Hands

Jen Houston: Just Stay Home

Julia Louise-Dreyfus: Just Stay Home (which I found, of all places, in a tweet from California Governor Gavin Newsom):

Pixel Playhouse: Social Distancing—The Musical

Les Misérables: The Family Version

A great place to conclude—for now—is the beautiful, poignant version of Crosby, Still, & Nash’s “Helplessly Hoping,” created online by the high school and college students who form the heart of Italy’s Il

Coro Che Non C’é, a group whose work was brought to my attention by writer-teacher-friend-source of inspiration Ann Harleman:

–N.B.: This is the third in a series of reflections inspired by colleagues’ reactions to the coronavirus and shelter-in-place experiences and our continuing interactions online.

Synthesis, Shifting Perspectives, and Storytelling: Hidden Garden Steps and #etmooc

February 12, 2013

Sometimes the slightest shift in perspective reveals the presence of stunningly beautiful interweavings that moments earlier hadn’t been obvious between various elements of our lives. That moment came for me this morning while viewing a colleague’s newly-posted video on YouTube.

etmoocCommunity, collaboration, and creativity in a variety of venues seemed to be coalescing into an incredibly beautiful tapestry as I watched  the video prepared by Hidden Garden Steps organizing committee co-chair Liz McLoughlin. I was initially captivated simply by what Liz had produced: a chronicle of the community collaborations between Steps volunteers, elected officials and civil servants here in San Francisco, and partners including the San Francisco Parks Alliance and the San Francisco Department of Public Works Street Parks Program; cash and in-kind donation successes; and community workshops designed to allow hands-on involvement in the actual construction of the mosaic that is at the heart of the project.

I became even more enchanted and emotionally moved when I shifted my perspective slightly so that the connections between Liz’s work and other elements of my own current explorations in online  and blended learning as well as with building abundant communities became obvious. What made me see that video in the larger context of creative interactions, collaborations, and community-building was the fact that that Liz, as one of many who are pushing this volunteer-driven community based effort to create a second set of ceramic-tiled steps along with gardens and murals  in San Francisco’s Inner Sunset District, had perfectly captured the playful spirit and energy of the Hidden Garden Steps effort. There was also the simultaneous realization that Liz, in the context of documenting successes for the Hidden Garden Steps project, had produced a wonderful example of digital storytelling. By combining enticing music, wonderful images, a set of PowerPoint slides, and an engaging story into a video, Liz had, all at once, produced an attractively positive story of how members of communities work together to bring dreams to fruition; an update to current and prospective project supporters; and a great example of what thousands of us are currently studying in #etmooc, the Education Technology and Media MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) organized by University of Regina professor of educational technology and media Alec Couros and several co-conspirators.”

As I’ve documented in two interrelated posts here on Building Creative Bridges, digital storytelling draws upon archetypal elements at the heart of vibrant, creative communities by enticingly documenting what is most important to us. And the experience of exploring digital storytelling within such a dynamically stimulating community as the one developed by those who have organized and are facilitating #etmooc has certainly been inspiring me to look more deeply about how the stories we tell are at the heart of nearly every successful effort that attracts my attention. I see this in my various roles as a volunteer, in the work I do as a trainer-teacher-learner, and in the writing that puts me in touch with creative colleagues worldwide through our promotion and use of social media tools—including those we routinely use to complete assignments within #etmooc and the Social Media Basics course I just finished facilitating again.

The more I think about the interwoven threads of these various stories that are unfolding in my life (the Hidden Garden Steps project, #etmooc and digital storytelling, the Social Media Basics course, my face-to-face and online interactions with colleagues at conferences and in social media platforms, and my ongoing efforts as a trainer-teacher-learner), the more fascinated I become at how the smallest part of any of them sends out tendrils along the lines of the rhizomatic learning concepts we’ve also been studying in #etmooc.

But then I also realize that I’m falling into the trap of making all of this too complex. What it really comes down to is that we’re incredibly social and interconnected people living in an incredibly interconnected onsite-online world. We live socially, we learn socially, we dine socially, we thrive socially, and we build socially. And, at least for me, one of the key pleasures comes from the leaning that occurs in each of these personal and shared short stories that become the extended stories—the novels—that we are creating by living them.

With that act of circling back to learning as a key element of our individual stories, we find one more thread that ties this all together. Given that learning is a process of responding to an immediate need by engaging in positive transformation, we can all continue learning—and creating the stories that give meaning to our lives—through our involvement with challenges along the lines of nurturing the Hidden Garden Steps project, finding community in #etmooc, and becoming active participants in a variety of other collaborative and community-based efforts. The more we look for and document interweavings between these seemingly disparate endeavors, the better learners—and storytellers—we become.

N.B.: This is the fifteenth in a series of posts responding to the assignments and explorations fostered through #etmooc and the fifteenth in an ongoing series of articles to document the Hidden Garden Steps project in San Francisco.

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Celebrating Life. Making positive connections and collaborating with people from around the world. Living everyday with positive energy, possibility, passion and peace of mind. Learning from a School Counsellor lens. I'm not a Counsellor because I want to make a living. I am a Counsellor because I want to make a difference. Gratitude for ETMOOC roots.

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