More of the same

It’s amazing how a year can turn out really.  I like to plan and organise; I’ve learned to be good at these, in fact. Yet, looking back at 2011, I can say that much of the amazing things have not been planned at all.  No real agenda but an attitude of “Let’s see what happens if I….”

Here’s what happened:

My 2011

I abstracted a list of my 2011 highlights and popped the words into Wordle.  I think it’s wonderful that the main themes (patterns) are an alliteration: connect, create, community.  Rather belatedly and with a touch of personal surprise, this makes evident that in 2011, I have followed my bliss.  Fancy that!

I’ve long given up new year’s resolutions.  Change can happen any time especially if I’m open to it.  How can I not want more of the same?

So my 2012 wish is to have more of the same!

Happy New Year everyone.  

If you were a part of my 2011 (and if you’re reading this, you most likely were),

may we continue to connect in 2012.

Be amazing!

We could all do with a bit of motivation sometimes; a reminder to keep believing in ourselves and our capacity to do something of value.  I am very fortunate that motivation comes when most needed.

Good Thinking Made Public

 This is a book I received from @kathleencushman, the author.  In it is a ‘with compliments’ card saying “…thank you for your good thinking made public”.  I’ve previously blogged about this so won’t re-hash too much.

This came early in my blogging career when I certainly didn’t assume my thinking was particularly good, or good enough to really be made all that public.  Truth is, I started blogging for me – read more in “Reader, you are important to me“.  For the most part, I still blog for me, as part of my thinking and learning process. However, I have come to believe in the power of getting it out there – good or bad! well-articulated or not.

As an aside, I have read Fires in the Mind since that previous post and I can tell you that this book is gold.  Kathleen’s work is practical as well as inspirational.  It is practically a handbook for helping youth discover the values of mastery and develop skills accordingly.   If you don’t trust my judgement (which is fair enough), perhaps you will @shannoninottawa in this post.

Ordinary to you. Amazing to others.

This is a gift from @whatedsaid who invited me to join the Inquire Within community.  She gave me the link when I voiced my doubts of being good enough;  I was very touched.  The video itself is powerful, for sure as evidenced by the replies and kudos I got for tweeting the link.  It is even more powerful as a targeted gift; Edna honestly believed it was true for me  – I’m still hoping she’s not somehow deluded.

So I write this post not to say that my thinking or blogging are any better though I certainly hope I’m improving. The point really is to show Kathleen and Ed that their gifts have kept on giving because in my ordinariness, perhaps I have been amazing after all.  So then, my dear reader, be inspired enough to be amazing in your ordinariness….and generous enough to give this gift to your peers and/or students.

We can all….

Be amazing!


Circles, Spaces and Ripples


On Twitter, global connections are common certainly between educators (think PLN) and increasingly between classrooms.  Social media is making such connections possible and from most accounts, desirable.

At my school, however, the stance is still to be wary of the outside world.  Connections via Video Conference are de rigueur but connecting widely through other means or even events are less common.  Collegiality and social media (via Microsoft Sharepoint) are promoted within the school.

I questioned this…of course.  My ‘conclusion’ is that the school has a point.

When I worked with an English teacher on a Blended learning approach (see related posts here and here), I was reminded yet again that learners have to feel safe for optimised learning.  This doesn’t mean not taking risks but rather, perhaps in a Vygotskian Zone of Proximal Development fashion, the leap cannot be too far away from one’s comfort zone.  The class didn’t want anyone else in until they were comfortable enough with blogging themselves.  Their teacher also new to blogging but certainly keen, wanted an even smaller circle – just her and me.

I use Twitter and this blog for my professional networking.  I use facebook mostly for family, nearly all are overseas. I’ve got another blog for my crafting hobby.  I once set up a Weebly site to connect with my class parents. I’ve also got a few emails all serving different purposes.  And yes, more than once I’ve seen these circles overlap and the separation sometimes does not make sense.

My point here is this. This is not a case of isolation vs. globalisation.  Connection is a spectrum. Or maybe, a universe as spectrum sounds linear and connections and networking are far from linear.  We need our own space as well as spaces we can comfortably share with the different circles we belong in, reflecting the relationships we have.  There is logic in Google+ Circles and Posterous Spaces (and yes, I’ve got those too).

So then, it makes sense to have something just within the school. BUT, it also makes sense to connect more broadly and even globally.   AND, it also makes sense to allow the individual student his/her space to call her own – the centre of a circle (Concentric circles of learning).  All these must be facilitated and enabled.

As shown in the photo above, circles ripple out, connect and overlap, each with a middle. Foster communities, for sure but also foster the individual so the individual does not get lost in the sea of connections.

Does this make sense? What do you think?

Keep Blogging

I haven’t blogged for quite a while but now’s a good time to pick it up again. A recent Twitter conversation between @MitchSquires, @kathleen_morris, @henriettaMi and @lindayollis is the real catalyst.  The question was on how to sustain blogging after the initial enthusiasm wanes. In tweet form, the answer boils down to this:

Twitter post

Twitter post

ie, Prioritise, make it a habit, persevere and apply to self (i.e. be a model).

@henriettaMi has written a post on how to make class blogging a habit (please visit and read the comments, too, as the conversation continues).  I’m not about to re-create any of that but rather, in the interest of keeping this going, build on it (also, if you don’t follow this people, make sure you do especially if you teach primary school students, click on my hyperlinks above).

I’m adding by persevering and applying to my self. Here i am blogging again, making myself do it!

Beyond that, let me tell a story.

Working as an IT integrator, it is actually my job to help teachers integrate technology. As it happens, I started two teachers out this year on the road to blogging: one with a focus on numeracy (Teacher A) and another on literacy (Teacher B).  Both work with strugglers and my pitch was that a class blog is an extension of the classroom and allows the teacher to document the lesson so students can re-visit it and associated resources as often as they want as well as free-ing up the teacher to provide more individual support as needed (here’s more on why a having a class blog is good).  Enthusing both teachers was not a problem.  For some reason, Teacher B seems more able to sustain the effort and appears to be more successful.

Here are some reasons of why this is….(just my initial analysis).

  1. Have a specific scope. Teacher B decided to use a blended learning environment (fortunately fits my idea of class blog) for a novel study, incorporating both a class blog and OneNote. She did this as an Action-Research activity such that if it proves successful for one unit then she’s got more reason to use it in other units.  I guess, you can call this as Identify your blogging focus as well.
  2. Have specific objectives. Teacher B knew she wanted her students to write more and that they were only to do comments initially. Blogging was more reflective writing whilst OneNote was used for research. That’s 2 forms of writing right there.  She also wanted more collaborative work which meant getting each other to read and comment on each other and pairing up on the research activity.
  3. Feel your students and have a willing and active audience. Teacher B respected the fact that the class wanted a close environment.  They did open their real and virtual doors to me (Lucky me!!!) and they were happy to see me in both environments (classroom and blog).
  4. Persevere. Yes, it works. Teacher B engaged her students the whole time, prompting them to interact face-to-face and online.  In my case, I kept touching base with her and encouraging her: face-to-face, visiting the blog and email.  She knew she has my full support and my enthusiasm should hers start to flag (it hasn’t).
  5. Highlight and celebrate successes. The beauty of specific objectives and scope is that it is much easier and quicker to see successes. Even in just 5 weeks, both of us have seen improvements in student collaboration and writing.  Her students have shown great empathy for the characters in the novel and understand the context deeper than expected.  Our celebration was a mere exchange of affirmation (is it too early for bubblies?).

So there you have it, a few more ways to sustain blogging from the perspectives of a teacher and IT integrator.

Any other ideas?

Can you describe your journey?

I’ve said time and time again that learning is a journey and blogging about it helps not just for documentation purposes, but with a growing community, actually challenges and supports. Can I describe it in a way that would facilitate someone to not only understand but also do something similar (sometimes we call these processes as meta-cognition and teaching, respectively)?

Why is it important to ask this question in the first place? Looking at learning as a process is a good learning strategy, quite often because the process is more transferrable than the content, e.g. mathematical thinking viz-a-viz maths curriculum.

I digress….

Today, I was fortunate enough to stumble on @Veritasium’s post on the effectiveness of videos – which is interesting in itself and worthy of a reactive post (in the meantime, I did tweet about the veritasium site). I mention it here now merely as attribution for leading me on to a 2011 TED talk by Sarah Kay – If I should have a daughter.

There’s much to glean from this video like being a mother, story-telling and connecting – she’s got a wonderful way with words. Truth be told, I struggle to focus on this one thing about learning journeys. Sarah started and ended with powerful renditions of two spoken word poetry : B and Hiroshima. In between these, she described her journey to being a spoken word poet as involving 3 crucial steps (yes, it’s a list):

  1. I can
  2. I will
  3. I continue to grow, taking what I know already to help me make sense of that which I don’t yet understand. She goes on to say that this is not an end because it’s a constant evolution.

Simple. Powerful. True.

If I were to describe any sort of real learning on my part – including my blogging journey – these 3 steps fit the bill. I would be happy to use this model to describe my journey and, in the work that I do helping teachers integrate technology, facilitate teaching and learning.

For those who prefer nouns to verbs, here’s a parallel list (my interpretation):

  1. Self-belief
  2. Decision or Choice
  3. Growth (others like to call this lifelong learning)

This is how I describe mine – thanks to Sarah. Does this make sense? Do you have another way?