Tag Archives: Conferences

Back From The Cutting Edge

Been a while huh? You still there? How did you end up here after so long? Is RSS still a thing? I don’t know about you, but I haven’t read a blog post in almost six months. Have you? Did you follow the Twitter trail here? Are other people still blogging? Are you? Did I miss anything?

I am not even sure who you are, and to be honest, these days I am having a hard time knowing who I am, and what I am doing here. Blogging. Writing. Sharing. It has been so long since I did any of those things that I feel I have lost what it was I wanted to say when I started. Have I turned my back on whatever audience or community I spent so much time and energy cultivating? Do you care? Does it matter?

Yeah, I am and have been having a bit of an existential crisis since the end of the school year last year.

What have I been doing you might ask? I have been spending my time reading every Young Adult book I can get my hands on. I’ve been falling in love with #TCRWP (Reading and Writing Workshop), to the point that I even have grade eight kids writing in notebooks. Pen and paper old school. Pages and pages of it. And it feels great. I am hand writing charts on flip chart paper for goodness sake. And to be honest, I feel I am doing some of my best teaching in years.

What else? I spend some of my energy on the plants in my classroom. I’ve also been playing open mics in the hope that I will be able to sing a full set of songs without tabs and lyrics by Christmas.

Not sure how or why I fell into this new territory. There was no conscious choice to turn my back on ……What do I even call it? What exactly have I turned my back on? Is there anything at all to be named? My PLN? Blogging, Ed Tech? These labels seem so simplistic. Have I turned my back at all?

My thoughts have drifted I suppose and my priorities have shifted, but what really happened is that I have grown bored of my own shtick. Digital stories, sharing, sharing, sharing and networks– round and round left me dizzy, till I just had to get off the ride. I have forced myself to name what I value and why? In short, I know that I still value open networks and community learning. I still value expression and stories and the magic of the web. But what that looks like in my classrooms these days? Your guess is as good as mine.

Things have been feeling stale for me for a while. After a decade of being on the cutting edge, I need a break. Maybe, for the time being I need other people to be the innovators. I need some time to reassess what I value. What felt new and transformative when I started, feels stale and unimaginative.

This re-evaluation reminds me of the value of having people on campus who sustain the momentum when some of us lose it. Every school needs people on the edge, so that when the rest of us need to move back from it, they can push us back where we need to be.  I’m talking to you Digital Literacy Coaches and Tech Facilitators. Thank you for the work you do, to keep the rest of us on our toes. So that when we hit a rut, like the one I have described, you can rejuvenate us and remind us of what we value that we may have forgotten.

Which brings me to Learning 2.014. Feels like I have gone full circle in the last decade. I feel like the doe-eyed n00b again this year. I am very much looking forward to seeing what everyone is excited about this year. I have no role to play at this conference other than open-minded learner. I am looking forward to having energizing conversations. I am hoping to creep back to the cutting edge, or maybe share the view from the way back.


Let’s Form An Alliance

It’s hard to believe the chatter about #beyondlaptops continues. For those of you involved in the conversations, you know how intense and hopefully fruitful it has all been. I hope that, like me, you have been challenged and pushed and forced to think, defend and articulate your ideas. More importantly, however, I hope we can agree it is time to move on. Time to look at the now what. Or like Adrienne said,

Sitting and talking and planning and sharing is great, but what comes next?

I have been hoping to clarify some of my ideas all week, and so here I am to do it. Before I begin, I have three disclaimers:

  1. This post and the ideas it is proposing is not meant to be a debate about the merits of said idea. If you feel that what I am about to propose would not be useful for your school, then please simply ignore it. I see no need to re-hash this conversation. If however, you would like to get involved and help shape what it can become, then by all means please push, pull, criticize and help make it what we all want/need it to be.
  2.  I am moving to a new school and my role as educational technologist and decision maker will be greatly diminished. I am not even sure that I will be able to implement any of the ideas I am about to propose. I have yet to speak to my new team. (New team: if you are reading this, please don’t feel the need to comment now, just use this idea as a starting point for conversations next year.) I have a very faint idea of what is on the ground at my new school. I could show up and realize that nothing I am about to say is relevant or even possible. Having said that, I’ve never found relevancy or possibility important enough obstacles to  impede the dreaming and brainstorming stage.
  3.  Most of what I am proposing is for international schools in Asia, I hope that others will benefit from our conversations, but in order for it to work, we really need to have a small group of schools from similar backgrounds and working with the same sort of students. Perhaps this idea will be useful in a framework that mirrors your own and you can follow the process.

Okay, enough stalling. Let’s get to it.

I am proposing an Alliance–an agreement or friendship between two or more parties, made in order to advance common goals and to secure common interests. I am hoping we can create a confederation of international schools in Asia to share ideas, create shared resources and develop a broad understanding of what it means to use technology in existing 1:1 environments. These ideas, resources and understandings will be co-created and shared under an umbrella for all members to use, adapt or modify for their own individual schools.

Nuts and Bolts:

What can this look like? Where would it happen? Kim has suggest that we make the Beyond Laptops blog collaborative. I think this is a great idea and  fine starting point, but I was thinking a bit more in terms of wider use of tools under the “Brand” of whatever we call this thing.  (Thanks to Kim for offering the blog, but because of the sensitive nature of  previous conversations, I am not presuming to use the #beyondlaptops tag) I would love to keep going with #beyondlaptops or #waybeyondlaptops, which has risen to the top of the dialogue, but the name is unimportant right now, what is important that there is a name to our alliance and our work is tagged and curated accordingly.

Perhaps we have:

  • A shared Google collection where a variety of (group created) documents, that are in progress, can be shared and stored.
  • A Google site or Wiki to keep track of completed documents, presentations, and other useful resources
  • A blog, like Kim suggested, for reflection on the process and discussion

Let’s stop for an example:

Many of the people I regularly speak to are blogging at their schools. Some are using blogs as ePortflios, some are using them to help build community, others to create authentic audiences for their young writers. Different schools use blogs for different reasons, but there is a core understanding that blogs– should do something. We have a shared understanding of what a “good” blog should include. I am suggesting that rather than individually create these understandings, scope and sequences and rubrics of an effective blog, we create them under the banner of this alliance.

We have causally done this sort of collaboration, in the past, with disparate Google Docs, (remember the Blog Alliance) but why not have a K-12 blogging scope and sequence, complete with permission slips, rubrics, expectations etc… in a shared collection, on a wiki or a site for all of us to use. We create it together. Set up action plans and timelines. Delegate responsibilities and timelines and build it. These resources need not be one-size-fits-all. If an adjustment needs to be made for an individual school, then so be it.

The blog is just one example. I am sure we can brainstorm several other common goals and interests, that would be fertile ground for collaboration.  We share many common goals and interests, and by sharing what they are, we can help each other create something, someplace, useful. Some other ideas:

  • Digital Citizenship materials*
  • Professional Development materials
  • Community building and Cultural materials

* materials can include: documentation, posters, scope and sequence, standards, criteria, letters, rubrics, media, presentations etc…

As I mentioned earlier, I am not even sure if I can be involved with something like this at my new school. I need to get on the ground and get a lay for the land, but I have had too many casual conversations about something just like this at every conference I have ever attend. I think there are a core group of schools that could benefit from an alliance.

If you are interested, please leave a comment on this post or email me directly. I will compile a list of people who are interested and get back to you next year. Perhaps Learning 2.012 will be a good time and place to sit and layout a framework. We can consider Brady’s model or work out a different one. Maybe this is still too vague for you and you will wait till something more substantial is in place. Fair enough.  Just, think about it over the summer, and let’s regroup next fall. Maybe you simply feel this is not for you or your school. Fair enough. This is my pitch, if you are interested, please get in touch.



Those of you who have been following my blog for the last few days, know that there is a pretty healthy/heated conversation going on at the It’s About Acculturation post. The back and forth in the comments section has left me pretty well-spent, but thankfully I have learned some  important lessons about digital citizenship, online communities, writing and most importantly, I have learn a bit about myself. I wish that these ideas were original in some way, they are nothing more than what we tell kids everyday, or that they were better articulated (I toyed with the idea of turning them into Haiku, but Friday afternoon exhaustion vetoed that idea) In the end, I brainstormed a list, in no particular order, of the lessons I feel I have learned after my “review” of #beyondlaptops and the affect my post and the conversation that grew from it, had on others.

  • Our words have power.
  • Our ideas affect others in ways we may not intend or even recognize.
  • We should think about the people in front of our words before, during, and after we write them.
  • Don’t write from frustration when what you write about is entwined with other people.
  • If something feels negative it is.
  • What you feel is explicit may have implicit meaning for others.
  • There is a reason why we teach things like tone, intent, and word choice.
  • Don’t be snarky or smug unless there is a reason for it.
  • Praising something only to follow it with a but, is annoying and not constructive.
  • Half-baked ideas can be misunderstood.
  • Online communities are complex and made up of people with different view points.
  • Passion can burn– sometimes a little time and distance may help objectivity.
  • Don’t take it all so personaly.
  • It is not always an argument to win, but a path to walk together.
  • We are on the same team.
  • Blogging (thinking, writing, communicating) can be exhausting.
  • We are figuring it out, this take time.
  • Being understood takes time and practice.
  • It is hard to say what you mean.
  • If you are going to engage in conversation with Adrienne bring extra water. (Good example of being snarky)

Thanks to everyone who was involved in the conversation. I hope that we are creating spaces where all of our voices matter. A place where we are not intimidated or made to feel vulnerable to the point of silence. I don’t know about you, but it is Friday and I am ready for the weekend.


Wisdom and Debris

I am actually meant to be leading my last cohort session right now, but as an English teacher I felt it best to give us a chance to decompress, relax, and chill out. Do some writing, reflect, and share some ideas. As always, after (during) a conference my mind is rife with ideas and possibilities. Tidbits of wisdom, swirl in my head, competing with debris, junk and broken thoughts. It’s a mess in my head and this has me jazzed.

The problem with this sort of mental cacophony is that it is difficult to articulate any kind of coherent piece of writing. Instead, as I often choose to do I want to grab the debris and the wisdom and see what we can make.

We tell stories as a way to understand the human condition. There are many ways to tell a story and technology allows us different mediums that help us find unique and authentic audiences for the stories we tell. The technological tools help us create in new, mobile, and media rich ways, while the connected, networked nature of our digital lives connect those stories in ways unimaginable in the past. We tell stories as a way to understand the human condition.

I see many of the tools discussed, Google Apps, Blogs, Social Networks like the bed of a garden. We till and tend the soil to create a rich and fertile place for ideas to flower and fruit, but these tools are not the rewards themselves. It is important to teach students and teachers how to create an environment (a garden bed) that allows their ideas to take root and grow. The skills necessary to do this are not complex, just as hoeing and planting are not complex. The difficult part should be, the understanding of how to tend what is plant. We must not spend so much energy on the soil (tools) but the actual act of gardening. (Learning)

Kids do no have enough many physical spaces designed for them to handout. Children have playgrounds and parks, adults have the rest, but where are teen agers meant to hang-out and socialize with out adult supervision? This is an idea that Alec shared. Because they do not have these physical spaces, they gravitate to cyberspace and online socialized spaced. We want young people to understand the need for balance, and the importance of unplugged life, we might want to consider building places for them to be together.


Learning 2.011 Presentation

Originally, I had wanted to write a brief blurb to accompany the presentation I gave at Learning 2.011, but time and crazy preparations have made that difficult. For now, I have included the slides and the brief write up I asked each participant to write, below in this post.

I hope to write more about the basic philosophical ideas that drive the presentation, but for no, the gist of my talk is that when you open yourself up, honestly and passionately, you will be amazed at the opportunities made available to you, but more importantly I wanted to highlight the relationships one can build with amazing people across the world. There is so much talk about Personal Learning Networks (PLNs) but I wanted to show that it does not happen overnight, there is no one way to do it, and that it takes time and hard work to build relationships. Trust takes time and is most often aided by honest reflective vulnerability.

It is a simple Pecha Kucha style presentation, which means that there are 20 slides each for 20 seconds. I hope that I conveyed my story as a learner through the people that support, challenge and teach me everyday. A big thank you to everyone who helped. I know it was a creative stretch and big risk taking task for some.

Here are the slides including the blurbs I asked each person to write. All the photographs were taken by the person in the picture themselves. I just asked that they take a well thought out portrait that somehow included me in the frame.

I also hope to reflect on the process of creating the presentation, the fact that 20 seconds goes by really quickly, and the reaction from the audience soon, but I am late for breakfast and we have another full day starting now!

Thanks again for all the support from the audience, #ds106, and of course the people in the slides. There are so many more of you that should have been included. You are all very important to me. Thank you.