Tag Archives: Modeling Behavior

Identify The Boundaries

People who know me, the ones who I have met, the ones who follow my tweets, the ones who read this blog, know that I am obsessed with identity. I have written on the subject extensively on this blog, and I have explored the subject in depth on my personal blog. While on the surface it may appear that I am being a narcissistic ego-maniac, I assure you my intentions are good. For the last seven years, I have been conducting an experiment of sorts.

What do we feel comfortable sharing online? What is or should be private? What can we gain by over-sharing? How does this theory of openness help us connect to others? How does it affect community? What is everyone so afraid of? Should I be?

There are countless other questions, but you get the point. I have tried to share as much as I can, to see if by sharing every aspect of my life, I can build an authentic “brand.” One that will help me gather a tribe of like-minded people who will not only help me learn, but who will also become close friends. I am hoping that by revealing as much as I can, you will help me identify the gaps and help complete me. See this stuff is deep.

None of what I have written so far is new, so why write this post again? Firstly, I wanted to share my second online stalking! A few years ago, Clarence Fisher’s English class, investigated my online footprint and discovered some interesting things. No surprises. They got a superficial, yet accurate, image of who I was in 2010.

I am happy to announce that I have been stalked a second time. This time as a part of UMW Digital Identity course taught by Martha Burtis. One of her students was assigned to dig up all she could about who I am now. You can read her complete reflection here, but there is not much out of the ordinary this time around either. Beyond being impressed that she was able to identify my daughter’s addiction to Nutella, there was little in what she found beyond my blog About Me page.

She asked me to answer some questions in a recorded interview, which I do at the end of this video. Her introduction is hilarious, despite the poor sound. The interview questions at the end of clip, however,  sound fine. The worst kind of criminal–an educator…

One of the biggest criticism of social media and online sharing is that it is somehow inherently false and duplicitous. Because we can choose what we share, the thinking goes, we only share the best of who we are. We somehow build these better alter-egos of ourselves. We never shed light on our faults, show ourselves being ugly, or delve too deep into the darkness.

I am sure there is truth to this. This is what I want to challenge. I am not sure where the boundaries are, but I am very curious. I have tried to be as open as possible, but I am sure even I have held back. I know there are some definite no-nos. Never talk about sexuality. I will promote gay rights and gender equality, because I feel they are human rights, but personal thoughts on sexuality is a no go for me.

I have begun to share less about religion these days. I am openly atheist, but I hope that as I get older, I am becoming more tolerant and focusing on my own slow Zen practice. It’ a process, a journey. I am on it. Enough said.

Politics? I used to be more outspoken, but even my energy in that field has been subdued. I am trying to sort myself out first. I will speak up about injustice and criticize system I find unfair, but I seldom get into heated debates these days.

What is the next step of this experiment? How else can I dance on the edge of private vs public, personal vs professional? This is where you come in. I need your help. I am going to ask you a few questions.  I do not expect you to answer them. I would just like you to think about where your boundaries are? What would you never share online? What kinds of questions are just too much? Then I want you to ask me those questions. Leave them in the comments below.

I am not asking you to ask me these questions, because I will necessarily answer them; I just want to see how they affect my comfort zone. I want to sketch out my no-fly zone. Identify the boundaries. I am also curious what you feel is out of bounds. I want to test the waters. I am expecting that based on your culture and personality we will have a wide range of ideas in regards to privacy.

What is too much?
What do you feel is too private to share?
What would make you feel uncomfortable?

Thanks for playing along.



I was talking to some friends/co-workers the other night when inevitably the subject turned to school. After some initial chatter about curriculum, school governance etc… I came up with an outrageous idea! I am quite certain that no school will ever implement what I am about to propose, but I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since last week. I will share the idea here, then I will share this post with every administrator I work with from now until the end of my career and see if, perhaps, at some point, it will be possible. If the idea appeals to you, I suggest you do the same.

We were, my friends and I, talking about the Grade 12 IB art exhibition and discussing the mind-blowing work most students produce at the end of this two-year course. I mentioned how impressed I have always been with the accompanying process journals, when I casually mentioned that I would love to take an IB art course. Like right now! As an adult. While I am at school. With the grade 12 students. While I teach. As part of my schedule.

Here is my idea:

What if part of your teaching load as a teacher was to take one course at your school with the students. It could be IB or AP or any course you find interesting. You teach one less class and use that time to sit in with the class of your choice as a student. You do the work, you participate, you model learning. You are a Teacher-learner.

I am not sure of the logistics, or how it would work contractually. I am sure there is an administrator, somewhere out there who can work that out. I am an ideas guy! Perhaps, I need to actually sit down and work out the logistics, because let’s face it, for all the jargon of life-long learning, most schools would never seriously consider a plan like this. Paying teachers not only to teach classes, but also take them? Radical. I know.

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by cayoup

Just think of the community a model like this would create. Think of how the students would perceive teachers as learners, as people who love the act of learning new things. Teacher-learners would model behavior in terms of tech use, discussions, work ethic and more. Imagine siting with a group of grade 10 students trying to figure out how to graph a slope. (Yeah, I still don’t know what that means) Imagine showing students that you are not an expert in all fields. Yes, I can teach grade 8’s how to find inspiration and write poetry, but I am just like you when it comes to the final Drama assessment.

Here are some course I would love to take:

  • IB Art, Drama, and/or Music.
  •  Any basic math class (maybe Algebra again)
  • TOK
  • Language B Chinese Foundation
  • IB Econmics
  • IB Film
  • IB Language A Lit (Yes, I know I can technically teach this class, but maybe it would be more fun to take it)

Like I said, I am not sure how all of  this translates into pay-scales or teachable hours, but I do know that a school with Teacher-learners would be a pretty amazing place to work…I mean learn. It would be a school that takes learning communities and life-long learning pretty seriously. What do you think? Ridiculous or the best idea you have ever heard. Looks like I am may not be the only one and this is nothing new. Take a look at Freedom to Learn by Carl R. Rogers.


Be Sparks

“You can’t go into work like that. It is not professional. That is not a teacher’s haircut.”

Those were the first three sentences out of my wife’s mouth as soon as soon as I got home from my haircut this last week. I shrugged off her professional prudery as paranoia, thinking to myself, I can do whatever the hell I want, but deep down I was a bit worried. Was the mohawk a bit much? Was I pushing too hard?

After a week, I am convinced that not only is the mohawk good for me, but I am here to say that it is good for our school. Hear me out:

Everywhere I go, all week, people smile, pump their fists, and light up when they see me.

“Man, I love that haircut.”

“Really suits you”

“That is just awesome!”

Teachers, principals, students- it doesn’t matter. It is as if everyone is tapping into the sense of freedom one can only feel when one shuns the shroud of conformity and tip-toes along the edge of the preverbal box. You know, the one everyone tells you to think outside of, but choose to sit in comfortably themselves. Schools like all institutions can become stuffy dens of routine. How can they not? With so many procedures, programs, time-tables, curricula, it is almost as if they are designed to bore people to death. Is it any wonder that students and teachers sleepwalk their way through lessons and grumble because they have to write essays, lab reports or report card comments. I can only imagine hospitals, banks, and prisons as places that are more dreary.

But not this week at our school, not for me. Walking through campus with a mohawk seems to have awaken people. It has reminded them that schools were never met to be factories of the status quo. The hair-do is screaming to us all that schools are meant to challenge and excite. There have been times this week that I have been talking seriously about character development with my grade tens and they start cracking up. I mean how absurd right? A 37 year old man with a mohawk spouting off intensely about some ancient novel.

I love the lightness that comes from not taking oneself too seriously. I thrive on the silliness of authenticity and vulnerability. So often we ask students to take risks and express themselves, while we teachers sit behind our walls of adulthood professionalism. If I wanted to be a suit I would have been a banker. I am in the teaching business to be myself, in hopes that kids will see that being yourself, in the face of societal pressure is not that hard to do. We can all be sparks when we are not afraid to get burned. Tell a kid to take a risk…well try it yourself first.

I want my students to realize that adulthood is not some mono-chromatic path to death and professionalism. We are not all mind-numb zombies stressed and chasing bills. We are alive and filled with creativity and passion. I want them to understand that adults come in all shapes and sizes, and our diversity is what makes us such great role models. The way we look, the way we dress, the ink on our arms, the hair on our head is not the only indication of who we are or what we believe. I want my students as well as other teachers, administrators and parents to understand there is no one way teachers should look or act.

It has been a great week. I never thought a haircut would give me such a sense of empowerment. A Swagger. A purpose. Every institution needs a mohawk to remind it not to take itself too seriously. To remind it that life is fun and exciting and that sometimes we need to stand tall and be noticed. I have a challenge for you- what can you do to help ignite a little fire at your school? What can you do to rock the boat a bit; shake things up? Share your ideas below, better yet take some pics of you doing whatever it is you think will enliven your school and add links to the comments below.


Sunday Night Ramblings

Technology need not be some abstract construct. It need not be some terrifying futuristic robotic dystopia. Technology and the tools it enables: Internet, digital media, social networks can be and should be reflections. Not mere reflections of what we do, but who we are. The sooner we begin to understand that technology is a bridge that links minds-to-minds, thoughts-to-thoughts dreams-to-dreams the sooner we can stop being so afraid of it and begin to harness the power it affords us to be collectively human.

For so long humanity has demanded voices for us all, and not withstanding the digital divide, we now (at least those of us living in the first world)  all have that voice. Perhaps the understanding that we can now connect our fears and insecurities as well as our passions and talents to others is what is so frightening for people. Perhaps the realization that students can now voice their disinterest in what we do, is why so many people are fearful of jumping into the digital age.

I feel like a broken record, a blogger who simply writes the same posts over and over. I don’t know what more to say than what I feel to be true. I get this sense of excitement every time I open the ole WordPress editor, or Youtube upload page, or send a photo out to Instagram. Every time I participate in this upload culture, I feel lighter and more free than I did before I shared a piece of my brain, my soul with some vague fluctuating audience that may or may not be there.

There was no point to this post other than to say- it is not the quest for perfection in some finite permanent cypespace that should guide how we act online but rather the ephemeral, fleeting, sharing of random tidbits of who we are into the impermanent flux of of the Internet. If even one person connects to, relates to and/or understanding the essence of what I have said here, something magical has happened. Something organically and authentically human. The technology has become moot and the only thing left is you and me.



Building A Culture

When I first start teaching DC101 a few weeks ago, I had no idea what to expect. I could not have anticipated the level of reservations and anxiety teachers would have about writing. I didn’t not realize the effect that past experiences many of our staff would bring to the table in terms of writing and sharing, furthermore I never imagined the influence these experiences would have on how they view digital citizenship. It goes without saying, that I have learned a lot in the last three weeks.

In short, I am beginning to see that for many teachers with a limited understanding of connected learning and life online, opening up and publicly sharing (blogging) is a much larger obstacle to overcome, than the fear of insufficient technical skills needed to run a blog. The latter are pretty basic and can be learned with some time and training, but the paradigm shift of understanding online life is a much bigger issue. It’s as if people are realizing that running a blog is not very complicated, but writing one is. Perhaps, the early development should focus on writing, on learning, on sharing. Leave the tech stuff for phase two.

I am seeing that many people still struggle with the notion that their voice matters. People feel that they don’t need to add to the noise. Why would anyone care about what I have to say? Is a common question I see. I get the sense that due to time, stress and administrative expectations, the notion of reflections, sharing and writing about their teaching feels superfluous. What if we gave teachers time to blog throughout their work week? We spend so much time and energy on reports, what if teacher reflection and blogging was considered as important to the administration of schools? What if we allowed our teachers the freedom to be learners? Created supportive communities of fellow teachers, who could blog during school time? What if this wasn’t considered a luxury, but an expectation?

At our school, we are trying to work toward a learner based coaching model. We want to encourage inquiry from our teachers as well as our students. In the realm of technology, we are trying to move away from the traditional notion of training and moving towards a more holistic understanding of how technology influences our personal and professional lives. We are not interested in transferring technology skills, but of building a culture of sharing and learning. An open community, where all members have a space (blogs), where they can feel comfortable collaborating and sharing ideas, creating content, communicating and connecting to each other through the use of various tools on a platform we are calling e-hub, which at this stage consists of a system wide multi-user WordPress platform and The Google suite for education.

When I began, I thought that DC101 would be a way to give staff members the tools they needed to access e-hub, but half-way through I am realizing that we need to start with understanding the why first. Once we have e-hub up and running, and every knows how to access it, then what? Trouble is that I find myself in a chicken-and-egg scenario: We need blogs and a basic understanding of how blogs connect ideas and people to build community and culture, but we cannot understand the power of these networks without using the blogs to connect people.

cc licensed ( BY ND ) flickr photo shared by US Embassy New Zealand

Having said that, things are going well. The conversations are starting. People are feeling challenged I hope, and they are  having conversations about things like Creative Commons for the first time. It will, however, be a long road. Culture is not created overnight. This understanding is important for schools hoping to implement blogging and expecting kids and teachers to magically use them authentically. It is not very difficult to set up a few class blogs, or even to implement blogging school wide. It is also not very difficult to train students and teachers to write posts, add hyper-links, add photos, video, etc… but creating an organic system where teachers openly share their ideas without fear, where they read the work of their peers and comment, collaborate and create together is a much more time consuming situation. If you are interested in blogging with your class or in your school, you may want to have some pretty big discussions before hand.

It is clear that we can create blogs as portfolios and have students upload post-after-post of homework. We can create class blogs, which teachers use as administrative tools to share curriculum with parents and students, but is this enough? Is this blogging? Of course not this is content management. You might as well use Moodle or Studywiz. Blogging has to be more than content management. So what next?

I am not sure. We have only been doing this for two months. I should be pleased with what we do have so far, but as always I want it all and I want it now, to quote Jim Morrison. Perhaps, you can share some of your ideas. What does blogging culture mean to you? What can it look like at a school? What do you do at your school that promotes a culture of sharing? How do you get teachers and students to write authentic posts, not just upload assignments? As you can see there are many questions, but very valid ones I think, before we assume that since we have blogs at school that we are really blogging.