Note to Media Orgs: Make My ‘Blanking’ Day



Life took a huge chunk of my childhood innocence when (__________) shot president John F. Kennedy and time and the world seemed to stop on November 22, 1963. And blank’s face, name and history were instantly plastered on countless newspapers, glossy magazine covers and featured in television programs around the world.

As a young man driving home from a pick-up hockey game, just after midnight on December 8, 1980 – the radio blared the unbelievable news (__________) killed John Lennon and, for a time, the music and a little piece of my soul died. And blank’s face, name and history were instantly plastered on countless newspapers, glossy magazine covers and featured in television programs around the world.

And on December 6, 1989 I was horrified when terror hit home when (__________) murdered 14 women in cold blood at École Polytechnique at the University of Montreal. And blank’s face, name and history were instantly plastered on countless newspapers, glossy magazine covers and featured in television programs around the world.

Just when I thought my soul and pysche could not bear the shock and horror of another bloody, tragic tale, in the span of a few days, in another flash of insanity (__________) and (__________) brutally killed Canadian soldiers Patrice Vincent and Nathan Cirillo.

And blanks’ faces, names and histories were INSTANTLY and FOREVER posted on social media websites, plastered on newspapers, glossy magazine covers and featured in television programs around the world.

Photo Credit:

Queen: Youth wasted on the young – really?

People do you hear me, just give me the sign,
It ain’t much I’m asking, if you want the truth
Here’s to the future for the dreams of youth,
I want it all, I want it all, I want it all, and I want it now

I Want it All – Queen

Those who casually claim that ‘youth is wasted on the young’ – have not experienced the recent incarnation of Queen . If their (July 28th) performance at the ACC in Toronto is any indication – the young people I saw seemed fully aware and appreciative of the musical brilliance of the rock royalty (Brian May, Roger Taylor) and the ‘new guy’ (A-Idol sensation Adam Lambert) on dazzling display before them.

In fact, I would argue that, for a few brief hours, time stood still for the throngs of aging boomers as well as those weaned on reality TV, mobile phones and social media. That’s the beauty, or should I say ‘booty’ for today’s slick concert promoters and performers – the ability to woo and mesmorize both the hipster and hip replacement generations simultaneously.

adam lambert

Oh sure, 21st century photo and lighter apps flickering on omnipresent pocket phone screens may have replaced instamatics and butane lighters at today’s pyrotechnic-laden performances, but they’re just fluff. What really resonates with the faithful, what no computer-generated app can recreate – is the live concert experience.

It was and it wasn’t Queen on stage at the ACC. May and Taylor are perennial ‘lions in winter’ who can still bring down any house, anytime, anywhere with searing guitar riffs and commanding drum solos. And as much as some people like to compare them – Adam Lambert is NOT Freddie Mercury, nor, thankfully, does he pretend to be.

It’s the purity, genius and grace of iconic songs like Love of My Life and Bohemian Rhapsody that seized the collective attention of the audience. No easy task considering that most of today’s concert goers have the attention span of a tse-tse fly hooked on meth. More importantly, for those of us who remember Queen of the 70’s and 80’s – their songs and music likely evoke memories of special moments with loved ones from a romanticized, though now distant past.

It’s the flair for theatrics, musical and vocal talent and ‘fire in belly’ of Lambert, May, Taylor and company that win the day. But more than that, it’s their ability to reimagine and recreate the classic Queen songs, in a way that holds the audience spellbound. By refusing to try and clone Freddie, an impossible task, this version of Queen is able to seize the glorious past, present and promising future and hold it all, briefly, in the palm of their hands.

In the end, if they are at all like me, I believe many of the excited and exhausted fans leaving the ACC (especially the energetic young woman in the seat beside me who stood, hollered, danced and sang for most of the concert) could say that they ‘had it all’, at least for a few magical hours.

Photo Credit: wikipediacommons

Circles & Catholic Education

It does not happen very often in life, but when it does, there’s no experience quite like it. I am referring to those rare moments when fate, destiny and circumstances collide and converge to bring a chapter of one’s life full circle.

This particular chapter started in the fall of 1984 when, fresh out of the faculty of education University of Toronto and three weeks into September, I landed my first fulltime teaching job at Philip Pocock Catholic secondary school in Mississauga. 1984-85  was a year of firsts for me: my first teaching gig, matrimony and the birth of the first of my five children.


Hanging out with my student peeps in portable city at the original Philip Pocock campus circa 1987

I spent only 3 of my 21 years in the classroom at Pocock in Mississauga 1984-87 (Kitchener-Waterloo was home for my wife and I) – yet those 3 short years were filled with precious people, moments and memories that have endured for 3 decades. Following another 18 years teaching at St. David Catholic secondary school in Waterloo and 7 years as a school district K-12 technology coordinator – I decided to transition, to strike out on my own (Michael Redfearn Consulting) in a new role as a digital literacy consultant.

While scanning the Internet for potential conferences at which to share my ‘Being A Catholic Parent In A Digital World’ presentation – I found OAPCE (Ontario Association of Parents in Catholic Education), sent them an email and received a response from Renata Quattro, one of the conference co-chairs. After exchanging a few emails we quickly discovered that our paths had crossed at Pocock from 1984-87.

 A school is much more than bricks and mortar and measured more by the collective spirit and generosity of its many members than any fleeting material wants.


The original Pocock campus, located at Rathburn and Cawthra in Mississauga was, previously, an elementary school site. An additional 10 classroom portapac and 33 portable classrooms outside the main building were added to accommodate approximately 1,800 students. Inspite or because of the cramped, bizzare conditions – I spent 3 incredible, unforgettable years with dynamic, dedicated teaching colleagues and a culturally diverse mix of energetic inquistive students. As a ‘Pocock pirate’ I learned early on in my career that a school is much more than bricks and mortar and measured more by the collective spirit and generosity of its many members than any fleeting material wants.


Former Pocock teacher Michael Redfearn with former Pocock student Renata Quattro at the OAPCE Conference 2014

Both Renata and I left Pocock in 1987 – she as a grade 13 graduate and I to return to Waterloo for a teaching job at St. David Catholic secondary school. That we are now both immersed in and working on behalf of Catholic education in Ontario and united again at Philip Pocock CSS (Tomken Campus) for the 75th Anniversary of OAPCE Conference – is a delightful and deeply satisfying irony.

The current Pocock campus, constructed in 1992, is a truly impressive three-story building that is designed around a bright, expansive indoor atrium and cafetorium – which make it an ideal facility to host events like the OAPCE conference.

During the moments before and between my workshop presentations – I took a little time to wander some of the halls and peruse the beautiful wall murals and scores of framed photos of former Pocock graduating classes. But what really seized my attention was the framed photos of the current (2013-2014) Pocock staff on the wall outside the main office.

As I eagerly scanned and recognized the familiar names and faces of staff members I worked with from 1984-87 (close to a dozen) my mind raced, my heart warmed and my soul soared back, to another time: to staff ball hockey nights, students, school teams, tournaments, clubs and assemblies, to the glory that was ‘portable city’ on Rathburn road, where new friendships, circles, fate and destiny converged and another chapter in someone’s life . . . began.



The #DCMOOC Is My Oyster

Blue Earth In Child's HandsThe late great Canadian communications theorist and media guru, Marshall McLuhan, once stated that, “one of the effects of living with electric information is that we live habitually in a state of information overload. There’s always more than you can cope with.”

Since his passing in 1980 – the advent of the Internet and unprecedented explosion in information, communication and digital technologies, has helped solidify McLuhan’s reputation as both prophet and 20th century philosopher king.

To further reinforce McLuhan’s point – I am creating this post while: listening to James Taylor’s greatest hits via YouTube, monitoring my Facebook, Twitter and email feeds, consulting Wikipedia and conversing, periodically, face-to-face with my 19 year-old daughter.

So why then, am I so excited about immersing myself into another electronic endeavor or digital distraction? The answer – DCMOOC (Digital Citizenship Massive Open Online Course). Led by Dr. Alec Couros, professor of educational technology and media studies at the Faculty of Education, University of Regina, the DCMOOC is free and open to virtually anyone on the planet with access to a computer and the Internet.

The concept for the DCMOOC originated from Saskatchewan’s Action Plan to Address Bullying and Cyberbullying and one of its key components – the support and promotion of digital citizenship instruction for K-12 students in Saskatchewan schools. Since the DCMOOC may contain upwards of 1000 registered participants – the learning model will follow a Connectivist format

My wish is that the DCMOOC will allow me to share and exchange digital citizenship ideas and resources with other learners around the world. Ultimately, I hope my interactions with my fellow online MOOC-mates will help support and nuture my new venture – Michael Redfearn Consulting.

To paraphrase Shakespeare, I dive into this bold initiative by envisioning the DCMOOC as my oyster, which I with computer and keyboard will open.

Why, then the world is my oyster, 
Which I with sword will open. 
(2.2.3-4), Pistol to Falstaff
From Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor

You can follow my DCMOOC exploits and learnings via this blog, my Twitter feed – @redfearn and the Twitter hashtag: #DCMOOC. Let the habitual state of information overload begin . . . or, continue!

Related Link: DCMOOC Web site

Photo Credit: Blue Earth in Child’s Hands

We must teach students how to create an ethical digital footprint (Waterloo Region Record, Apr 24 2014, PageA13)

We must teach students how to create an ethical digital footprint
Michael Redfearn Michael Redfearn, a former high school teacher and information technology consultant for the Waterloo Catholic District School Board, is a digital literacy consultant, showing students, teachers, administrators and parents how to ethicall
Waterloo Region Record
Apr 24 2014

Woodrow Wilson is reputed to have said it is easier to change the location of a cemetery than to change the school curriculum. Fast forward a century, and the statement by the 28th U.S. president still largely rings true, especially regarding the…read more…

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Twitter & Facebook: A Self-Imposed Fast

A little more than a couple of weeks into my self-inflicted forty-day Lenten social media fast and I find myself reeling from the fallout. I have even stooped so low as to changing the email alert on my mobile device to the sound of a chirping bird’s tweet – just to soften the psychological blow and separation anxiety of temporarily withdrawing from Twitter.

One could try to rationalize, by channeling and modifying the famous axioms of existentialists like Descartes, tweet ergo sum (I tweet therefore I am) or Socrates, ‘the unexamined online update is not worth posting’. Or perhaps Einstein would be more appropriate; ‘a person who never made a mistake never tried SnapChat’.

A person who never made a mistake never tried SnapChat.

Make no mistake, information dependency, especially new information, however trivial, is an addiction. From both a psychological and behavioral perspective I can honestly state that I am addicted to the constant need for new information and the need to share that information (photos, videos, links to articles) with as wide an audience as possible.


How do I know this you may ask? One does not spend a good part of the past six years investing time in thousands of twitter posts and Facebook updates without feeling the effects of suddenly going cold turkey. I hunger for the immediacy of social networking and the convenience of being ahead of the curve on breaking news. But most of all I miss being able to share via my social media feeds – inspirational content like uplifting videos, unique photos or inspiring quotes.

To a lesser degree – I will miss the narcissistic feeling of having my posts liked and shared. Yes, I too have savored the sweet siren call of the odd ‘selfie’. I do not deny that these are also motivating factors for my social media obsession. What gives me some comfort, though, is that I and my digital dependency demons are not alone, that millions of people across our global village are just as digitally dependent, or more so, than I am.

Choosing to temporarily fast from Facebook and Twitter has opened my eyes to how truly ubiquitous and embedded these forces are into the social fabric of our modern culture. Unless I purposely choose to shun all electronic media – this dynamic social duo shows up in numerous forms such as social media feeds on news-related web sites, television news and entertainment programs and automated programs. Ironically, new McLuhansghost blogs , when published, are automatically launched to my Twitter feed as is my Ontario Educator’s Daily, the daily twitter aggregator that originates from the self-publishing site.

Blessing in Disguise

As dire to some as my time out from Twitter & Facebook may seem – I have managed to fill some of the void by: reading more electronic and hard copy daily newspapers and books, enjoying the beauty of the natural environment through peaceful walks, as this blog indicates – writing more and spending more face-to-face time with real people. I have also had more time to explore the features and communities on Google+.

As unsettling as it has been – abstaining from daily Twitter posts and Facebook updates during this brief hiatus has restored some serenity and balance to my life, forcing me to refocus and gain perspective on what really matters. So far, my social media fast has been a blessing – allowing distance and perspective on current provincial and national political and social issues that could have increased the possibility of a spontaneous, regrettable knee-jerk rant on Twitter or Facebook.

Some Final Thoughts

Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become txts. Watch your txts; they become tweets. Watch your tweets; they become Facebook posts. Watch your Facebook posts; they become habits. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.

PS – feel free to retweet this post on Twitter. I promise I will try to get to it . . . eventually.

Photo Credit:

Technology in the Classroom

Waterloo Region Record
Mar 6 2014


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