Saturday, November 30, 2013

Tiny Tap App for Digital Storytelling...Or Flipped Teaching

Update 3/7/2014: I just updated the app and I was very happy to see they added a "Jump" option to the Sound Board activity! This allows you to make a region of the screen a sound AND a link to a new page. Story lines can now branch, making for "choose your own adventure" style, interactive fiction. This was the feature I was waiting for, so multiply the positive of this original post by at least five!

Tiny Tap is a free app for iPad that allows the user to create very simple games. I installed it at least a year ago and used it with a few young children, including first graders. Recently I discovered newer features that could make it excellent for digital storytelling or maybe even flipped teaching or blended learning.

The primary activity in the games is to tap the correct part of the picture. You can record an audio prompt, such as, "Tap Grandma's picture." When the user taps Grandma a success sound is played and a balloon rises on the screen. I have found students enjoy playing the simple activities.  As soon as I show them how to make them, they immediately want to make their own questions by choosing the "answer area" on their pictures.

At some point the app was updated and I noticed it had a few more bells and whistles. One time when I tried to show someone how to use it, I ran into trouble with getting the imported picture to "stick". I didn't have time to figure it out and I didn't come back to it for many months.

But this week at the family Thanksgiving dinner I decided I'd show it to my nephew. He is in kindergarten now, so I was curious if the app would be simple enough for him to make a game. (I knew he'd be able to play one I made, but I was hoping to encourage some creativity rather than just another gaming experience.)

I learned that with a little assistance he picked it up quickly. I also discovered they added two other types of activities. Now instead of every page being a guessing game, there is also:

  • Sound Board - A picture is displayed and you can enclose areas that are "buttons". For each one, you can record narration or a sound.
  • Say Something - This allows you to add narration to a page.
By using Say Something, the app becomes a very nice tool for telling a story involving pictures and narration. 

It is easy to import the pictures. (I learned that to stick the picture in place after importing it from the camera or Camera Roll you have to double tap it and choose "Stick".) Once imported, they can be resized and arranged. There are a few simple art tools to write or draw on the page.

Next, you can add one of the activities. Once I showed my nephew how to add a question he was excited. He made a few pages with ease. There are a few steps, so I had to remind him where to click the first few times.

I love the potential for a narrated story that has guessing activities or a Sound Board in it. Imagine a story about a toy coming to life and hiding. The question pages would provide fun for the child to identify the hiding place, possibly based on carefully listening to the previous pages. The Sound Board pages offer a lot of room for creative uses, such as an exploration to gain clues by tapping different areas or just a "play area" where objects might make fun sounds.

Besides making simple lessons (flipped teaching or blended learning for lower elementary?) I imagine teachers could use this to teach procedures in the room at the start of a school year. Pictures and narration would explain things first, then question pages could quiz them.

If you make an account you can share the activities. This should allow you to load a creation on multiple devices. They also can be shared on Facebook too, so it could make a great end product parents and family could see from home.  (Sharing requires the user to "tap and hold", so it's unlikely a young user is going to share or access something without an adult's assistance.)

If you make any fun creations like these using Tiny Tap, I'd be glad to hear it! Please share as a comment or by email.

Friday, November 29, 2013

8 Books That Changed My Work in Education

This school year I have been enjoying the best work of my career.

My job change from high school math teacher to an evolving position of K-12 Instructional Technology Coordinator has been a rewarding time for me. I have been excited to explore more creative opportunities in and out of the classroom, with students and adults. I am more inspired and I get to pass that along to other teachers and students who express gratitude for my work.

In this time of transition I've learned so much from the great educators and others that I have met, but I also gained much from books I have read.  The ones that impacted me the most are not the ones I usually see mentioned by other teachers.

So here's the list of eight books that came along at the perfect time for me. They made a significant difference in how I see education, others or myself. Each link for the title is to a page on for an edition of the book.

Disrupting Class - Though a lot of the points are now easily observed, this book opened my eyes to how technology makes things fit. In particular, it describes how online learning can allow us to reach every learner at the point he or she needs to learn. It gave me a vision and a sense of urgency for what I could accomplish for students. One of the co-authors created Sophia, an online learning portal patterned after the model envisioned in the book.

What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Literacy and Learning - I read this book as one of the final courses in my graduate program. The author fascinated me by expanding my view of literacy. Some of his Learning Principles still influence my work on a regular basis. My final project for the class was praised by my professor and I was greatly encouraged that I was onto something important.

Searching for God Knows What - This book, from Christian author Donald Miller, probably doesn't seem to fit well with the others. Among other things, it deals with our tendency to see life as a competition when it's really about fostering relationships. I read it the summer before I started working in all buildings across my district. I can't imagine a better book for preparing me.for meeting so many new colleagues and having to lead them. If you're not opposed to writing from a distinctly Christian perspective, I strongly recommend this book as Miller's best. It impacted my thinking in ways beyond the scope of this post.

Steal Like an Artist - This is a quick read and I love coming back to it from time to time. Probably the most important lessons for me are presented as well in other books below. Still, this one excited me about art. In relating to the author on a few points, it helped me see myself better as an artist and writer. The premise of writing advice to oneself is also a fascinating idea.

Storyline - Here's another one from Donald Miller. This is a short book based on his Storyline conferences. It is also more of a workbook, guiding the reader through the process of viewing his or her life in terms of a story. It was a painful experience to work through this, in all honesty, but the end result proved to be healing. This, along with the next three books, really opened the door for personal expression and art in my work. As promised, it did clarify my vision and purpose. Here's my post about the book and my plans for classroom activities based on the idea of viewing our lives as stories. I also created this game as an introduction for a class.

The Freedom Writers Diary - I read a lot about Erin Gruell and watched several videos online about her work. I don't remember whether it was really this book that made the difference or if it was just her story. Still, it's a good place to start. It reminded me of the importance of tying the content to the students' lives through personal, reflective writing. I can attest that students do generally enjoy it. Not only does it bring the class content to life, but it helps them find a voice and a place in their world.

Poke the Box - I read this short book in the summer of 2012 and I can't believe how it recharged my enthusiasm. The subtitle asks when was the last time you did something for the first time? I got hooked on trying new things and I'm indebted to Seth Godin for life for the learning experiences.

The Icarus Deception - I won this one (also from Seth Godin) on Jeremy Statton's blog. There were stretches of the book that I found hard to get through and I almost didn't finish it at one point.  I'm glad I did because Godin's big picture definition of art and artists helped me find words for what I was discovering in the classroom.  You can see its influences in my posts about engaging students through meaningful contributions and the opportunities technology and connections bring us now (not just years down the road in a career).

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Week Three of the Smart Jams Music Video Project - Music Video Planning Sheet

This was a short week, since we are off for a few days for Thanksgiving. We met with all four classes once. Most groups finished writing their songs and began practicing with basic beats.

As I started last week, I showed more students how to make a beat with Smart Drums on the iPad. Crystal worked with most groups to help them rap or sing the lyrics to the beat. We both knew it would be hard for many of them to feel the rhythm, but in a few cases it has been more of a challenge than I expected! I'm getting better at directing them during recording.

I recorded three groups this week and I'm working on putting their vocal tracks to a full music track over the next few days.

I also gave a few groups this Music Video Planning Sheet. It aids in planning the visuals that will be displayed over three repetitions of their chorus. Even though no one is really ready to start recording video, by having this sheet ready we were able to keep all groups working even though not everyone could be practicing with Crystal or recording with me.

Hopefully I'll have some sample audio recordings to show off soon!

Monday, November 25, 2013

My favorite things to assign students (that they enjoyed too)

I've been working on a book for a few months now. While finishing a chapter tonight, I was thinking of some things I have assigned over the years that students really enjoyed and that I also had fun making up, talking about or grading.

In no particular order, here's my list:

  • Self-reflection journals - I love to have students think about what they have learned or can learn from their own lives. Sometimes we delve into memories and sometimes we plan the future. The idea is to make school more purposeful by tying the content from the lesson to their lives. I believe all truly important learning has to start with a sense of purpose.
  • Reading interviews with artists - I like to have them look up the person behind their favorite entertainment and read an interview with the person. I am inspired by how my favorite artists think and I want the students to see that they do in fact think.
  • Similarly, quote assignments - Students love to find quotes they can relate to. I have them add the quote to pictures or incorporate them in their presentations in some way. You can also have students try to write their own "quote worthy" statements. We did one with six-word memoirs.
  • Writing scripts for videos - I don't recall anyone ever asking me what they were getting for a grade when they were writing a script or otherwise planning a video. It is an engaging activity.  When assigned properly, it simply cannot be done well without deeply thinking about the subject matter. Here are my recent video assignments for high school students.
  • Writing songs - These assignments can be difficult for students, but they are rewarding for all involved when the work is completed. Be sure to check those final submissions for plagiarism! See this page for my work in this area.
  • Puzzles - It is getting harder and harder to make a good assignment out of these if the internet is within reach. If you make your own it's still possible to get students thinking about a good challenge, though. My favorite creations involved:
    • A long list of directions that took them throughout pages in their math books.  Each step had them look up something that was used in the next step. 
    • A triple puzzle I created that had scrambled words (usually content area words, but some teacher names or other school related things thrown in) that were also hidden in a word search. The third part of the puzzle was usually a quote or advice that was formed by entering circled letters from the scrambled word part.  I made these with
    • Visual puns like these.
  • What advice would you give...? - I ask students to make comics or other creative works that could provide success tips to younger students. This makes it meaningful for them. I used to also give high school seniors a much loved assignment where they had to write letters filled with advice addressed to their past selves when they were freshmen. It is a good activity for teachers too!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Week Two of the Smart Jams Project

Crystal and I finished up the second week of our Smart Jams music video project for 5th grade.  I was really encouraged by the students' work!

For the third session with the students I gave them a worksheet that required them to work together on a few problems in their assigned topic.  After completing those, Crystal and I checked their work and talked to them about the process or information.

Having these conversations about math while in music class was one of the highlights of the week.  More than anything else, that is the value of this project.

The worksheet then asked them to:

  • Summarize what a student needs to know or do to complete a similar problem.
  • List any math terms that should end up in the song.
  • List any common mistakes a student might make when doing such a problem.

For the last step, the students were supposed to begin writing the song.

Here's the worksheet I gave them for the topic of rounding to the tens and hundreds.

The groups all ran out of time in the 45-minute session before they could get far on their songs.  Crystal and I evaluated what they wrote and what we learned from talking with them.  Two things were clear:

  • Some of the topics were going to be hard for them.  I misunderstood how far the students had gone in fractions by this time in 5th grade, so adding with unlike denominators, simplifying and dividing fractions was too much to ask.  Before the next session I adjusted the difficulty in these cases.
  • They were not natural songwriters!  That should be a given, but I needed to try this just to see.
I wasn't discouraged by the fact that the songs were not coming along well.  I just accpted that would be one of the biggest hurdles.  (I previously thought it would be fitting their words to a beat, but we'll see how that goes next week.)

We decided they needed a lot more direction on going from the concepts to an original chorus.

Then, as an artist and musician, I was most excited about how the second session of the week went.

For this session I wrote what I called "math words" that explained the steps or vital information for the different topics.  The students had already done this on their worksheets, but to be sure there was no confusion, I built upon what they had written or what we talked about in the groups.

I made a sample list of math words that described how to add two digit numbers when regrouping was necessary.  I displayed this slide for the class:
It's important to note for the videos that we will probably have an animation of their math problem being worked out while they perform the chorus.  That way the chorus doesn't have to stand alone, explaining every detail of what's going on.

I really built it up that the left column was me as an old, tired math teacher.  Their job was to write a fun version that brought my words to life.  

Crystal did a great job of showing how the "song words" could be rapped or sung.  She played a simple beat on her keyboard and improvised over it.  I used those song words to show that maybe every line won't rhyme.  I also used the words in parentheses to show how the group might shout those words or echo them.  Again, we demonstrated that with Crystal's improvisation.  

Being a part of any original music creation in school is a gift to me.  It is good to see the passion that comes from it, even if the words are about math!

So we handed back their papers from the first session and gave each group my set of math words.  They really did a good job!  Again, I was able to go from group to group and have good conversations with the students.  They were taking it seriously and their excitement for creating something new was a great encouragement to me.

Most haven't complete their chorus yet, but some were ready to start working on the performance.  I showed them Smart Drums in GarageBand and they practiced with that until the end of the session.

Next week we expect to record a few groups' work.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

6 Reasons your students need to see your mediocre art

New for 2014: Follow the continuing Teaching Like an Artist series on

I've been trying to teach like an artist more lately and I'm learning a lot from the approach. I can hardly walk through the hall at the middle school now without a student asking when we can work on their next creative project. They are inspired to create music and videos. It's been an exciting year so far.

One thing I'm seeing is the value, I'd even say the blessing, of just being OK at the art I share. I've been frustrated at the mediocrity of most songs, games and other creative works I've made in my life. Now I'm opening my eyes to the gift as I see it helps me encourage others. 

Here are some thoughts...
  • I have learned the value of hard work over a long time when it comes to following a dream. Great talent might make it tempting to amaze the average person with something that was easy. For me, the desire to make a great song or popular game has been beyond my reach, but I got closer by keeping at it longer than most people I know.  Students need to hear of that as they learn to follow dreams.
  • Similarly, I've learned what it's like to push through the fear of failure. I know I'm not a great musician or graphic artist, but I've taken the plunge a few times and put my best effort out there. Every young artist has to deal with that possibility of rejection. Being barely acceptable myself, even after years of effort, provides me with tips as well as examples of failures that I lived through. I can to draw on those to encourage students. 
  • My mediocre creations seem attainable to students. They are willing to try. If my sketched cartoons were amazing maybe they'd never imagine they could do it too. Instead, I've seen many students take a shot at similar sketches when they see me draw simple figures.  
  • I can speak to the joy that comes from sharing an idea. Many artists talk about the pleasure of blessing others with their work.  I believe them, but doesn't it seem easy for them to say that when they make a comfortable living from it at the same time?  I can say with certainty that seeing my creations as a gift for others is a great reward. Sometimes I wouldn't make time for creating art for any other reason. 
  • Being just OK at many things gives me the chance to help more people as they pursue their interests. I think if I had been more disciplined 25 years ago I might have excelled in one area. Instead I spread myself thin. Now that helps a lot in my job where I have to help in every class from Digital Photography to Creative Writing to Choir.  I would never suggest to young artists that they so divide their time, but if you also find yourself average at many things, start doing each of them a little more often in class. 
  • Being OK with sharing OK art is helping me be better.  This is huge. Getting a taste of the joy of self-expression will inspire you keep at it and you'll get better. Probably more importantly, though, it gives you a chance to show your students what a learning, growing adult looks like. They will be inspired to do the same in their areas of interest.
Lest it sound like I'm lowering the standard, I do make sure the students know I'm not a great artist.  Even if the low number of hits on my YouTube videos don't clue them in, I regularly remind them I won't be feeding my family with my game designs or my songwriting.  In fact, half the reason I'm mediocre at most of my hobbies is because I didn't put in the work when I was younger.  When I see they've got a talent for something, I encourage them to do the necessary work to be great.  I also direct them to examples of professionals in the field.

Just remember that overall the students love it when they see you make barely acceptable art. Who cares if the one kid tells you his grandma draws better than you?  Most will find it entertaining. I finally get some compliments on my guitar playing and even my games seem like great fun in what is often an environment void of creativity.

So I encourage you to take plunge this week and share something new you made, even if (or maybe even because) it is just OK.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Starting the Smart Jams Project

Crystal and I started the Smart Jams music video project with the fifth graders this week.  With so many other things going in the district and so much riding on this project I was more nervous that morning than I have been in years.  The first sessions have gone very well, though.

The Smart Jams project requires students to make original, simple songs and videos about classroom content.  In our case, we are focusing on math.  I have been using a process to make the songs and videos in a reasonable amount of time.  The work here was funded by a MACUL grant and it is my first attempt to do this with so many students at once.

Explaining the problem (students with low math scores) and showing them the sample videos we will make to address it, I introduced the project to the four different classes.  I told them we have three goals:
  • Practice math during music
  • Practice creativity
  • Learn new technology
There was a lot of enthusiasm from the students when they realized the will be writing their own songs and recording them.  They liked the examples we made and Crystal received a round of applause in a couple classes for her performance in our sample Perimeter and Area song.

I told them we'll put the final products on YouTube.  It is so clear that students are inspired into action and ideas flow when they know their work will reach a larger audience.  

Each of the classes progressed at a different rate, but the general flow of the lesson so far has been:
  • Introduce the project - I let them know I need their help.  I have to present about this at the MACUL conference in March, so I'm hoping for good things!
  • Talk about to write songs - We brainstormed some things that should be in a song about our school.  In some classes we had students work in pairs to practice writing two or more lines for the song.
  • Take pre-tests - Two of the four classes were given a pre-test so we can determine if the extra time spent on math helped them.
  • Demonstrate the recording process - I wrote a version of a song using the ideas we gained in brainstorming.  Crystal also wrote her version.  We recorded her performing as a rap.  I uploaded it to so students could hear the music it generates and the different styles we can choose from.  I then exported it as an mp3 and pulled it into the Video Star app on my iPad.  We used that to make a video of the students dancing or generally having a great time to the music.  We were done with that process within 20 minutes.
  • Group Warm-Up - Crystal and I assigned students to groups based on their math skills and other factors that she felt would make a good mix.  To help students relate well to each other, I had them fill out a half-sheet paper as warm-up activity.  It asked them questions about their musical interests and abilities.
It has been great seeing some students get so excited about performing.  I look forward to starting the songwriting about math next week and we will record some groups singing or rapping by the end of the week.

Crystal and I both agreed the hardest part of them will be writing lyrics that rhyme and explain how to do the math.  Most likely we will have them write drafts and we'll be putting a lot of time into polishing them up.

For now, here's a short clip of us playing the Area and Perimeter Song live as Crystal taught them the motions.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

6+ Lists of Tips and Insights for Creativity and Technology in Education

My numbered lists have grabbed a lot of attention, so I thought I'd make a list of lists. These are classroom tech tips or insights for becoming a more effective teacher. (I originally only had five, but now I've been adding all my other lists here.  It will be 6+ from here out.)

Friday, November 8, 2013

Five Benefits of Teaching Like an Artist

New for 2014: Follow the continuing Teaching Like an Artist series on

“All things have been given to us for a purpose,
and an artist must feel this more intensely.” - J. L. Borges

I wrote a post at the end of summer about teaching like an artist. It is what I have learned after about seven years working in education at jobs that let me express creativity and passion in school. Contrasted with about 12 years of a largely dull approach to teaching high school math, it has been an invigorating experience. I’m still living and learning it daily, but I want to share what I’ve found so far.

I’m taking the broad perspective of what it means to be an artist and what counts as art. To me, the artist is someone who sees, works to make and then shares something that didn’t exist before. It might be physical or it might be an idea. But in any case, the artist is driven to bring the dream to reality.

And what drives the process? Certainly many things, but primarily it is because the artist is meant to create. I have to believe people are here to make a contribution, to make their piece of the world somehow different than when they first came. To do otherwise is to slowly squeeze the life out of their existence.

Instead of squeezing it out, artists are those who know how to let life shine through. Emotions, especially love for something, personality and talent, come through like light through a prism. What emerges, the art that didn’t exist before, grabs the attention of anyone who can see it.

Defined this way, we can all be artists to some extent. Any sphere of society where we might find ourselves will benefit when we become aware of ourselves in this way, but this is so true of schools. There adults impact the younger generation daily. There it feels like too often the goal is to just find some answer everyone else already knew. Schools desperately need more artists!

I’ve been trying to consciously live this out and here’s my current list of benefits of teaching like an artist:

Teaching like an artist has restored my sense of purpose on the job. I feel connected to why I am here. When I talk to a group of students about the projects I will be involved with, I am amazed at the memories across forty years that flood my mind and add up to what I need to say to inspire learning. I can share stories to encourage, model skills for their success and relate to their dreams and frustrations. It feels like the moment is a gift, not something that just happened.

It is refreshing to see the fruits of our contributions, whether large or small. In a largely consumer culture that requires a lot of input for fleeting moments of enjoyment (TGIF?), the artist can draw energy from regularly creating. When people and parts of the system in your school are different in real ways because of work you have done, you’ll experience something money can’t buy.

Artists enjoy sharing their work. This is related to the above point, but by this I mean sharing beyond the day to day job. Technology allows us to easily share our best work with other teachers around the world. Listen to artists talk about the reward. They often say it is in seeing others enjoy what they created. That’s the reward we can experience when we find other teachers used our lessons or got ideas from seeing what we did.

Students will be inspired when you create. They will thank you for what you taught them or, perhaps more accurately, what you awakened in them. They will begin to create and discover their own ideas and they’ll be excited to tell you about them.

There is excitement and anticipation when you live between your vision of what can be and what your vision becomes. This sure beats the boring approach I hear so often from tired colleagues (though I love them all) who already know the result of their hard work. Within minutes of seeing their class lists they can tell me how the grades will turn out, who the trouble students will be and which projects will fail.

Of course life reflects their low expectations and their reward for being right is as uninteresting as their classes. Isn’t it more exciting to dream and see if the dream could come true? What would school be like if everyone came in wondering how things might turn out?

Artists can live in the face of the negative emotions. Yes, ideas will fail, teaching will be exhausting and students will disappoint. I have struggled with deep frustration and depression throughout my career and many times I have seriously questioned if any of what I say here is worth it. It has helped greatly, however, to recognize all of that as part of living in the space between vision and reality and that I was made for that.

Rest assured that in doing it right we will at times appear crazy, to others and to ourselves, as we work toward our visions. It’s not about living a life void of the negative emotions and moments of insanity. It is living in spite of them. If we won’t push through, who will? And what are we really choosing if we choose to do otherwise?

In short, the teacher who lives like an artist is more alive. To be fully alive a person must recognize the blessings of life and fulfill his or her responsibilities. Artists train their eyes to see both parts. They possess the talent and have developed the skills necessary for the part they are meant to play.

Teachers living like artists get to do this surrounded by young people who are starving for such an example.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Perimeter and Area Song - Teacher sample for math music video project

Here is the current version of The Perimeter and Area Song that Crystal Owen and I created as a sample.  We will show this to students next week, then begin working on their original songs and videos.

Our project is funded by a grant from MACUL and you can read about the process and other examples on my Music Creation in the Classroom page.


Saturday, November 2, 2013

The value of reflection in learning

I did well in almost every class throughout my formal education and I attribute that largely to the fact that I paid attention to my own learning.  Now in my 20th year as an educator, I can see most students do not naturally focus on that.

It is very easy for learners to see school as a series of disconnected tasks that need to be completed.  Little attention is given to big picture concepts and the ongoing learning that should be taking place.

When I taught for years at the high school level I always imagined that shift of focus from learning to getting credit happened somewhere around the middle school years.  I work K - 12 now and from talking to teachers and observing classes I know it can happen much earlier.  Kindergarten teachers relate when I talk about these things.

So I always look for an opportunity to get students thinking about what they are learning and how it relates to their lives now or in the very near future.  Such reflection and introspection is probably the biggest gift I can bring to the learning activity, whether for young learners or the adults I coach.

In no particular order, here are a few thoughts I can share about helping students reflect on their learning:

  • It doesn't have to take long.  I usually put the questions on warm-ups or as a few questions on a final worksheet after a large project.
  • Reflection can take place before the learning.  Thoughts on where the learner is at in the process and what he or she hopes to learn right then are vital.
  • I learned a lot from James Paul Gee about how the learners needs to see themselves playing a role in the domain of what they are learning about (and I wrote about it a lot in the first project highlighted here).  I like to ask students about which part of the project we just completed they could see themselves doing in a career or hobby.  See the reflection assignment at the end of my list of video production assignments in this post.
  • Discussion that allows some students to share reflections in class or in small groups has value, but I almost always require the reflection to be in writing.  I used to have students keep a journal.  Online reflection in a blog is also a great option.  The point is every student needs to do the self-reflection.
  • I believe true, inspiring learning cannot happen apart from a sense of purpose.  I don't shy away from talking about having a purpose that we were created for.  I don't get terribly spiritual in class, but I open the door for students to talk about their faith or lack of it.  Those matters are part of life.  They shape us in ways we might not always consider.  I want them to know they can express those thoughts.
  • Here is the ultimate goal of such reflection on the learner related to the content:  Students should reach a point where they consider their own learning objectives and later evaluate how well they achieved those objectives.
  • You, the teacher, are learning too so reflect on it.  I strongly encourage educators to reflect on what they are learning.  Keep a journal.  Track the professional and personal things (good and bad) that can shape you and your impact on the world.
I will be glad to hear the experience of others.  What advice would you add to the list?  I plan on digging into the research on the topic more too, so if you have suggestions on starting points please pass them along.