reflectively assessing my professional goals

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Serendipity, hangin’ out and pure genius? Power of MOOC?

Serendipity Today was a morphing dreamy kind of day as Bonnie Stewart blogged today. It was also a strangely fulfilling day because of the organic intermixing of my PLN. And the Etmooc Community I’ve been engaged with recently. Today I taught, coached, blogged, Tweeted, joined a Google Hangout for the first time and with fascination made cognitive connections. Serendipity? Random? Or we’re these connections for me the RESULT of the MOOC design and nature?

So I followed the lead of Linda Hall @mslhall to join a Google Hangout. My first. It worked rather well. Informal. Like a Starbucks tutorial in a way. The conversations about the ETMOOC and work evolved to even specifics like hardware but included methodology like #geniushour. I was familiar with Google’s corporate model having read Googled by Ken Auletta, but never heard of its educational application as Linda explained it. I was excited about its potential immediately! ( Manicly pasting the Hangout chat URLs into my Evernote and Diigo) and moved on grinning that I got as much as I gave. This Hangout thing might be a value-added tool?

So while closing down my browser and getting dinner, I’ve got a brief DM with Carolyn in Twitter . I saw her question about contract and assessment and then whimsically asked her about #geniushour. Well! Guess what? My colleague down the street, who is also an ETMOOCer is a Genius! She’s using Genius Hour with senior Biology this new semester.

Carolyn Durley (@okmbio).
2013-01-30 9:16 PM
@MsLHall Sounds great!

Serendipity? Random? One minute I never heard the term , the next, Ive got an expert in my own town and it took a connected learning environment/community around the world to make it so. Another blogger( Denise Krebs ) writing about PLN refers to N as neighbour. This MOOC is a course, is a community, is a network- its like a neighbourhood. Maybe this kind of nurturing isn’t clean but I think it works for professional development and I think it promotes innovation and spirit. I’m not so sure about k-12 or even college except in doses. So far MOOC. Might be pure genius but it demands considerable skills sets and some great neighbours!


Are you going to Etmooc faculty lounge GOOGLE HANGOUT tomorrow?

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Slow simmer…connected learning needs low heat and time

This week I had the pleasure of working with a few teachers on projects that mesh nicely with our discussions at ETMOOC  Topic 1-Connected Learning.  Although I’m still feeling all over the ‘map’ I’ve recognized themes in my day and added new skills inspired by the community.   Connected Learning – Tools, Processes & Pedagogy is the current ETMOOC focus and I was engaged in all three.  I’ve added EduBlog to my toolbox and some of its assets.  I’ve tried the embed Twitter from the Blackboard session. I’ve used the discussions and other blogs as resources for teaching. Tomorrow I have a session with a new cohort of UBC interns and I will share some of the themes with them and encourage them to join my PLN.  My post today was inspired by trying out a new tool suggested by Andrew Petrus, Vine app. I just happened to be playing in the kitchen. So … naturally I had some blog fodder.   Connected learning on slow simmer.

-Al Smith CC. NCSA attribution.

-Al Smith CC. NCSA attribution.

Slow simmer lets the flavours and aroma mature. High heat boils all the goodness away.

Sharing ones workflow or learning paradigm  is a challenge but I’ve found this ETMOOC wild ride a real personal inspiration even if I cannot articulate how it is all going. (If) I was on sabbatical or taking graduate courses and not working full-time I certainly would reflect longer and deeper to assess this entire process. I’m sure I am not alone.  The responsibilities, both mundane and exciting, inundate us like the tides- they never let up. I believe heartily that technology and modern culture devalues the value of slower learning that requires reflection and contemplation but that is for another post and day…

An  educator in my PLN, Erin Gregory has considered this issue:  @erringreg Indeed.
I’m sure that getting real in learning means we must design more opportunity for reflection pause #reflectivetweet
— Al Smith (@literateowl) November 9, 2012

What does my PLE/PLN look like? How can I share it? I’ve started posting my Twitter on Monday for my faculty. It is getting readership and generating QA far wider than I expected. Staff that do not follow Twitter or read my blogs are opening doors to ideas and content shared from educators in my close PLN and from others far beyond.  My network expands wider than my immediate contacts through my Diigo bookmarks. I’ve added the RSS feed of my bookmarks to the as well as submit specific web sites or articles directly using a widget in my browser. This is one connected learning tool that shares my personal explorations without me making extra steps.

How important is connected learning? Why? It seems to me that the question is obvious. Expanding horizons, points of view and activities is far greater if you add the connected element than if you just worked with your school or even local sphere. We all reach points in our learning where our support systems need to develop. I find in a large high school even the site interactions and sharing in person is severely compromised.  The connected world let’s me share far beyond the inadequacies of email news ( this tool is drastically overused in my view ) The challenge I see for educators is the immediate urgency of the day-to-day tasks. Teachers hesitate to embrace activities they perceive as adding to their work load, even if that is only a mouse click into another platform.  We are drawn into the daily urgent tasks, marking, etc and teachers struggle to learn effectively with just a few PD days during the year.  Many cannot even afford to travel to conferences.  Others cannot manage the time to sign up for endeavours like MOOC.  We need a community plan. A site plan.  This is often not possible or seems improbable.  Connected learning has a large role to play.

“We work too much like a triage center and faculty email bulletins are like cold blue”

Is it possible for our classrooms and institutions to support this kind of learning? If so, how? Classroom support and institutional support are two unique creatures.  I think the technology tools available now can provide a teacher with an effective means to supporting students without large expense or even major investment in training. If the will is there, individual teachers and small groups of teachers can support students almost immediately.

This week I was working with a teacher to develop her first classroom blog. She wanted to add a more social and technological component to her French 10 classes but wasn’t confident about where to start. Her inspiration may have come from my helping her class last semester with a multimedia project.  A seed gets planted on fertile ground. After some scheduled time contemplating options, we started designing and setting up her blog.  I will provide instruction with her classes and guide her community along. I’ll act like a safety net for her and a coach for her students. I think this is a sensible way to support connected learning.

The question of institutional support is much more problematic.  Many times I see my large school board moving with good intentions but slowly and sometimes off the mark because they do not consult enough with educators in the field. Teachers who have become ‘experts’ in ebooks, or blogs, etc are not invited to contribute toward a policy or strategy. I see talented creative teachers planning ways around or over the district because their patience has expired. Policy and practice often do not keep pace in this dynamic environment. Some administrators and school boards are supportive of initiatives while others find ways to implement road blocks of caution.

What skills and literacies are necessary for connected learning? How do we develop these? I think that having leadership that supports development for connected learning broadly as a culture.  Placing connected learning in the hands of the IT departments and directors is a major mistake.  It needs to be a best practices layer in the entire culture.  Just signing off on some Distance Learning proposal or adding some fancy new technology doesn’t generate much education reward. Start with pedagogy. Stimulate the culture. Provide resources as much as possible.  THe leadership needs to model digital technologies and embrace the people and communities that are innovative. Too many administrators do not comprehend the process of integrating technologies in learning beyond just the RFP. I wish we could develop a community model for districts more like our own PLN. Then there is the politics. British Columbia is almost toxic. The new BCedPlan had all the trends and language but no meat. There was no pedagogy.   There was no consultation with the innovative teachers in the field.

Source: via Alan on Pinterest

As far as student support, a teacher-librarian lives and breathes literacy and nurtures every way he/she can.  Like administrators, counselors or other non-enrolling professionals, the librarian has to solve the reality that he/she does not have scheduled contact with students. ( triage again ) I follow the simmering slow cooking model.  Add good ingredients, add some heat and let the aroma fill the air.  A ‘if you build it, they will come’ kind of approach.  It’s like Alec’s ‘six-degrees of separation‘ slide last week.  When you provide assistance that renders smiles for one teen the word gets out and learning opportunities can ripple forth.

I’ve been training a senior student to be a library staff blogger.  @dharmaayla She has started with book reviews. ( read and give her a plug) She has full access and editor authority now on my book blog . In itself this is fun, rewarding and educational. The etmooc point? Other kids are now interested and learning some of the tools. We have a dozen or so kids now writing reviews for a local book store blog and a few want to blog more.

“My student bloggers will be growing, slowly  simmering away while I occasionally stir the pot to prevent burning.”

What are limits of openness in regards to privacy & vulnerability? Are we creating or worsening a digital divide? Wow! As far teachers are concerned, the degree of openness for things like a MOOC or EdCamp, etc are quite dependent on local leaders.  Teacher evaluations that include flexibility help build trust and risk taking.  Our district uses a PGP model.  This ETMOOC will be part of my report. I will be sharing my goals, observations and documents with my admin and faculty. That helps teachers to be more open when it comes to professional development. Student privacy and vulnerability is another matter. Balancing open sharing while protecting social privacy is a balance.  I think that we fall back on strong pedagogy again. If we only rely on connected learning then we handcuff a teachers ability to address personal and social concerns with some students. We need variety and levels of openness. A Creative Writing class might need more privacy options than would a Biology class? If students have options and can be made to feel safe then I think they will response accordingly.

“We have guided missiles but misguided men.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

The distinctions of privacy need to be taught.  Children, do not acquire digital citizenship skills by osmosis or accident. The digital divide seems to growing rapidly now with or without our help.  As educators, in specific regions or neighbours even, I’m not sure how this plays out. I’m very concerned that the affluent student getting opportunities, access and equity that other students may not. Public school does it’s best to flatten the field but the divide in skills is there. I live in a fairly homogenous demographic area and I can recognise differences already.

How do we expand this conversation?  Have a ETMOOC every winter? Maybe try regional MOOCs?   Essentially I’d say we expand the conversation much like we expand our own professional learning. I start by strengthening myself, then helping my immediate colleagues and students and hopefully work my way outward wider and wider. Organically if you like.  I’d have to say that Twitter has changed the world in this regard for me. Now I’m using Google+ the same way.  Perhaps MOOC is another. Start local and personal and let things germinate.

” Where did you get that?  Can I get help with that idea , I’d like to try it out”

So, I’ve come to believe that education projects that are designed well to work with one person or just one class will often find a home somewhere else.  Learning takes time.  Educational initiatives are not like tech startups;  they do not have shocking IPO’s or media hype.   In fact, I’m suspect of education projects that get flashy media breakthroughs.   Like some cooking or building projects, the end result may take some simmering and slow stirring.   Like my hot mulled apple cocktail, you can add all the right ingredients but to enjoy a perfect beverage take several hours of slow warm steeping.  Today, we want everything to produce splashy results immediately.  We’ve become sucked in to the very short turn around of sexy technology innovations but forget that these impressive announcements were built on decades of slow gradual engineering grunt work.   Education initiatives, despite are excited anticipation,  are maybe better off simmering slowly and steadily?

Appendix… from my ETMOOC digital kitchen, something new I’m simmering

“… Never confuse the special devices that connect us, with the precious moments that keep us together..” -unattributed

Simmering…. Hot Spiced Apple beverage > nb. after realising I let my podbean license expire I was hunting for a podcast solution. It is quite as nice as iTunes but Soundcloud work pretty well. At least I can embed in WordPress.  ( Soundcloud is going Beta with a RSS podcast option soon.)

Alan Smith invited you to Etmooc faculty lounge GOOGLE HANGOUT

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Connecting meaning- a schema to learning beyond Harry the Dog

(Al Smith [NCSA] CC license via Flickr)

I recently read an informative and endearing blog post by Jacqueline Van Dyk about early childhood reading initiatives. Her post, although all about reading works very well to make my points about connected learning. Like early childhood and the experiences that seed the reading child, powerful appropriate integration of technology to assist all learning demands engagement and connection- choice and content – that builds meaning. It’s not about the skills or devices initially. It’s about the stories and the person. We edtech specialist teachers need to always stay on point- meaning and engagement for the student is central not the technology.

“…And that, after all, is the point, right? To draw the child into reading. To engage and support the child in the learning. To help them be successful in learning to read. And ultimately, to foster a joy of reading that will last a lifetime.

And that’s what got me thinking about Harry the dog and his trip to the seaside. I don’t recall what attracted me to the book, but I know the experience made a lasting impression. Simply selecting that first book gave me the desire and confidence to begin to learn to read, and a degree of comfort around books and libraries.

As Faye says, pushing the skills before the learning does not create engaged readers! The skills are not more important than understanding the content. Connection and engagement trump readability levels and skill acquisition. So it doesn’t really matter whether the child selects an appropriate book every time at the library; what matters is that the choice is up to them. And the librarian supports that choice with a view to opening doors to the world for the child. Engagement leads to learning…”(Open Book, Van Dyk, 01-21-13)

20130124-214706.jpgJacqueline’s own childhood memories of borrowing a book and recalling its impact proves clearly that making connections and providing engagement is the key to learning (and reading) not just pure skills and the testing of them. That’s just business school theory manifesting itself in the wrong discipline. Education should be about personalized learning and that starts with the realization that we are connected. The bond starts with engagement and validation. Too many kids fail at skills, understand their weakness and then equate that poor reading or numeracy to personal flaws of birthright. “I suck at reading” or “I can’t do math” are blunt instruments against self-worth perpetrated by bad strategy. Like Jacqueline eloquently narrates, it about opening doors early on. I think finding meaning in the world through connecting words and pictures -from stories- is the key to the doors. What kid doesn’t love to hear stories or look at picture books. They get engaged with stories – connected – long before the skills. Librarians understand this truth so deeply many dedicate a career toward it. Ms. Van Dyk was one.

(Pete Souza [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)
Van Dyk, Jacqueline. “pick a book, any book | Open Book.” Open Book | Thoughts of a provincial librarian. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Jan. 2013. .

Connected Curation needs to be short term

Response to : Hoarding, curating and sharing
Filed under: Uncategorized — by bettyannx @ 9:28 AM

I’ve come to believe in a few principles with regards to sharing and curation. Not that different than the old bankers box really- if it hasn’t been opened, edited, or given away recently, chuck it out. When I moved from elementary school to high school last century, I realized I had files and boxes that were just storehouses of memories and no longer useful.


I would never use the worksheets, or notes or carbon copies or even student samples because the kids change, my course or grade work changed, my style changed, the technology changed or I just was no longer inspired by it. I saved because I had invested hours hours of prep in the curated paper. I wasn’t archiving scrapbooks of goodies for my children and grandchildren. What was I doing? The shift into high school assignment gave me an obvious exit point to pitch out my bankers boxes. I literally went to school with only a briefcase and it felt wonderful.

Now we have our folders of Dropboxes or Skydrives to wade through. The same best practice dilemma exists. What am I doing? I have colleagues in my city @math_johnson and @okmbio who #flipclass. I would presume some video and support docs last for short term but I suspect they need to rebuild screencasts, content continuously- and would wish to. Some other teachers I know capture their notes and lectures live in OneNote and include student feedback and annotations. Those docs are unique to that section.

As a librarian, I’m always cognizant of archiving content for that future reference moment but even in the Library, I’m revisiting the process. What is current? What content will have historical legs and can I (students/teachers) easily get it elsewhere without archiving myself? There are times when the hoarder in me is thrilled. I recently rediscovered an old book from 1957 that we NEVER threw out.
We collect old relics of books and media. Items get catalogued, shelved and displayed. – Curated for nostalgic reasons mostly. The book itself was donated by Jon Day, Benvoulin to Kelowna High School Library 1962 a 2nd copy. 1st Edition hard cover with original dust jacket. It is now a title in the CanadaReads challenge on CBC. The original owners grand-daughter now goes to the school. We are going to go visit and share his book. THAT IS CONNECTIVISM in my mind!

I believe that we need to curate more than ‘stuff’. We need to curate relationships, stories and a sense of meaning and connectedness through history. I believe that is how humans learn. If filing a document in GoogleDocs or uploading a photo to Flickr triggers the ability to retelling of a story, then the file needs to tagged, named and uploaded. My own workflow has moved from hard drive file management to LAN file sharing to cloud computing. I want to manage content wherever I am and also deliver it to my patrons and colleagues on demand. Despite our amazing tools, I’ve run into institutional technology obstacles. Our unfinished portal doesn’t work. Our wifi is faulty. Skill sets vary widely. LMS unreliable. ..etc. Too often, people still rely heavily on email flow and redundancy and collaboration is stymied or messy. That said, there still is very exciting exchanges and projects developing.

Im not sure of the best workflow or the best tools but somehow the content that connects our stories needs to be curated with the precision of a librarian or the care of an old shaman!

Unfortunately,my response doesn’t go very far to answering your question- “How can I streamline and simplify access to great stuff for the very dedicated and hardworking teachers I’ve worked with?”

Teachers, unlike, scientists or librarians, need not concern themselves with archiving content but engage in it while they can.

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Connected learning- librarians staff picks with high touch


My collection connection URL >

I’d like to draw some literature picks to your attention to connect some dots or just make us think divergently. Even in hard core science curricula, using story or language to develop understanding is just good practice. We will see more next week… Digital storytelling…
Sherman’s Curiosity of School connects schooling traditions and social change. His anecdotal tales will make our absurd debates and reform crisis perhaps not seem so bad. 🙂
Tubes by Blum is a collections of descriptions defining the Internet design and operating. What happens once your Internet cable leaves your home? Blum illustrates the physical networks and in doing so really showcase how magnificent something like a MOOC is.
The Divinity of Dogs is a collection of narratives that showcase various bonds between dogs and their people. What is striking to me is the powerful connections people make with animals. Not so much the why but the how? There are hugely powerful forces in our humanity and in the cosmos that are not digital or technological and we need to remain vigilante to not lose sight that learning is a human experience not so much a mechanical one. I believe , like dog philosophy, that learning is more high touch than high tech. The simplest connection metaphor is the handshake and the shake a paw- don’t forget that.

“One design that appears through out the world is branching … This occurs every time we marvel at the tree-shaped design of lightning bolts that flash across the sky and when we watch chimneys of steam escape from pots of cooking …… not a visual suggestion, but the design itself. A lightning bolt is the tree-shaped architecture that evolves in a flash to move electricity from a cloud to the ground. ..” -Bejan, A

Whether trees or tubes or the training of dogs, connected learning principles and examples are infused around us, in our lives and in our literature. Powerful reads are invaluable resources to illuminate ideas, stimulate discussion, or prompt debates. Adam Gopnik tells te story of winter, Canadian winter primarily but in doing so make connections about our heritage and our humanity. Absolutely scholarly work. You can listen to his speaking erosion in mp3 via CBC podcasts.

Design in Nature: How the Constructal Law Governs Evolution in Biology,…
by Adrian Bejan, J. Peder Zane

20130123-212524.jpgIn this groundbreaking book, Adrian Bejan takes the recurring patterns in nature—trees, tributaries, air passages, neural networks, and lightning bolts—and reveals how a single principle of physics, the Constructal Law, accounts for the evolution of these and all other designs in our world.
Everything—from biological life to inanimate systems—generates shape and structure and evolves in a sequence of ever-improving designs in order to facilitate flow. River basins, cardiovascular systems, and bolts of lightning are very efficient flow systems to move a current—of water, blood, or electricity. Likewise, the more complex architecture of animals evolve to cover greater distance per unit of useful energy, or increase their flow across the land. Such designs also appear in human organizations, like the hierarchical “flowcharts” or reporting structures in corporations and political bodies.
All are governed by the same principle, known as the Constructal Law, and configure and reconfigure themselves over time to flow more efficiently. Written in an easy style that achieves clarity without sacrificing complexity, Design in Nature is a paradigm-shifting book that will fundamentally transform our understanding of the world around us.

Winter: Five Windows on the Season (CBC Massey Lecture)
by Adam Gopnik

20130123-215751.jpgA taste for winter, a love of winter — “a mind for winter” — is for many a part of the modern human condition. International bestselling author Adam Gopnik does for this storied season what he did for the City of Light in the New York Times bestseller Paris to the Moon. Here he tells the story of winter in five parts: Romantic Winter, Radical Winter, Recuperative Winter, Recreational Winter, and Remembering Winter. In this stunningly beautiful meditation, Gopnik touches on a kaleidoscope of subjects, from the German romantic landscape to the politics of polar exploration to the science of ice. And in the end, he pays homage to what could be a lost season — and thus, a lost collective cultural history — due to the threat of global warming. Through delicate, enchanting, and intricate narrative detail, buoyed by his trademark gentle wit, Gopnik draws us into another magical world and makes us look at it anew.

The Curiosity of School. by Zander Sherman

20130123-220717.jpgIt’s one thing we all have in common. We’ve all been to school. But as Zander Sherman shows in this fascinating, often shocking account of institutionalized education, sending your kids off to school was not always normal. In fact, school is a very recent invention. Taking the reader back to 19th-century Prussia, where generals, worried about soldiers’ troubling individuality, sought a way to standardize every young man of military age, through to the most controversial debates about the topic of education today, Sherman tells the often astonishing stories of the men and women—and corporations—that have defined what we have come to think of as both the privilege and the responsibility of being educated. With clarity, detachment, and wry humour, Sherman presents the story of school through the stories of its most influential—and peculiar—reformers. We learn that Montessori schools were embraced by Mussolini’s Italy, that the founder of Ryerson University was a champion of the Canadian residential school system (for which the government apologized a century and a half later), and that Harvard was once a byword for mediocrity.

Troublesome Bill Bryson Fascinating connections between words, histories and how people choose to use words.

20130123-222732.jpgThis dictionary provides a straightforward guide to the pitfalls and hotly disputed issues in written English. The entries are discussed with wit and common sense, and illustrated with examples of questionable usage taken from leading British and American newspapers, plus occasional references to masters of the language such as Samuel Johnson and Shakespeare. No familiarity with English grammar is needed to learn from this book, although a glossary of grammatical terms is included and there is also an appendix on punctuation.

Pirate Cinema by Cory Doctorow

20130123-222907.jpgTrent McCauley is sixteen, brilliant, and obsessed with one thing: making movies on his computer by reassembling footage from popular films he downloads from the net. In the dystopian near-future Britain where Trent is growing up, this is more illegal than ever; the punishment for being caught three times is that your entire household’s access to the internet is cut off for a year, with no appeal. Trent’s too clever for that too happen. Except it does, and it nearly destroys his family. Shamed and shattered, Trent runs away to London, where he slowly he learns the ways of staying alive on the streets. This brings him in touch with a demimonde of artists and activists who are trying to fight a new bill that will criminalize even more harmless internet creativity, making felons of millions of British citizens at a stroke. Things look bad. Parliament is in power of a few wealthy media conglomerates. But the powers-that-be haven’t entirely reckoned with the power of a gripping movie to change people’s minds.

Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet
by Andrew Blum

20130123-223410.jpgWhen your Internet cable leaves your living room, where does it go? Almost everything about our day-to-day lives—and the broader scheme of human culture—can be found on the Internet. But what is it physically? And where is it really? Our mental map of the network is as blank as the map of the ocean that Columbus carried on his first Atlantic voyage. The Internet, its material nuts and bolts, is an unexplored territory. Until now.
In Tubes, journalist Andrew Blum goes inside the Internet’s physical infrastructure and flips on the lights, revealing an utterly fresh look at the online world we think we know. It is a shockingly tactile realm of unmarked compounds, populated by a special caste of engineer who pieces together our networks by hand; where glass fibers pulse with light and creaky telegraph buildings, tortuously rewired, become communication hubs once again.
This is a book about real places on the map: their sounds and smells, their storied pasts, their physical details, and the people who live there. For all the talk of the “placelessness” of our digital age, the Internet is as fixed in real, physical spaces as the railroad or telephone. You can map it and touch it, and you can visit it. Is the Internet in fact “a series of tubes” as Ted Stevens, the late senator from Alaska, once famously described it? How can we know the Internet’s possibilities if we don’t know its parts?


The Divinity of DogsTrue Stories of Miracles Inspired by Man’s Best…
by Jennifer Skiff

20130123-224511.jpg“My dogs have been the reason I have woken up every single day of my life with a smile on my face. I am among the ranks of millions of people who appreciate the souls of dogs and know they are a gift of pure love and an example of all that is good.” —Jennifer Skiff
The Divinity of Dogs is about the moments you learn something profound about life from an experience with a dog. Featuring more than seventy stories culled from hundreds of submissions to the author’s website, these inspiring and heartwarming true stories show where love, tolerance, comfort, compassion, loyalty, joyfulness, and even death have provided experiences that have led to spiritual enlightenment. You’ll meet Little Bit, the Chihuahua who detected a small lump in her owner’s breast, a growth even doctors couldn’t find. There’s Emma, the devoted Rottweiler who ferociously grabbed her owner’s arm at the moment he was trying to commit suicide, saving his life. You’ll be inspired by Luna, the Retriever who dragged her owner to safety after she collapsed late at night in a field. And you’ll fall in love with the many dogs who simply provide steady comfort when needed— dogs like Bo, the Boxer who soothed his mistress after the loss of her son. The author also weaves her own experiences with dogs throughout the book, showing how they comforted her through mistreatment as a child, a divorce, and a cancer diagnosis.