Find Your Sweet Spot

Sir Ken Robinson

CC license LGivens

I love listening to Sir Ken Robinson.  And last night in person was fantastic.  He has a lovely way of reminding me to focus on my own passion; by being passionate in what I do can be the start of a domino effect.

Sir Ken is wonderfully entertaining;  he seamlessly embeds his sense of humour in an important message for education: change will happen when people’s behaviours change.  The change must come from the bottom up where there is honour for teachers.  The message I am taking away:  to students, the school (admin) is the entire education system; if you change practice for those kids, you have changed the system.  I have a vision for changed practice where bells are bygones, curricular areas are blended and students learn in groups according to passion rather than by age.

Sir Ken spoke of finding your sweet spot; as I golfer I am totally in tune to the impact of finding that spot.  When everything comes together, whether in golf, marriage, career or hobby, the sweet spot is the euphoria of all your efforts being in synchrony.   Our challenge as educators is to support those around us to find their sweet spot.

Gandhi reminds us to be the change you want to see; Sir Ken demands we get on and do it.


Trust the Process


CC LGivens

I’m not trusting the process yet.

A participant described #etcmooc experience as manic;  I could not agree more.  The course is half over and I’m not settled into a rhythm of learning.  The activity level is incredulous, amazing and intimidating simultaneously – and that is wreaking havoc on my brain.

I am standing at the edge of the deep end of a cold pool delaying jumping in and #etcmooc will be over if I don’t jump.  This blog represents me “jumping in”.

My participation has been personal viewing and interpretation of resources, watching/reading/viewing participants’ contributions and generally being in awe of the incredibly creative and talented contributions people are making.

Traditional learning – assignments and due dates – are a comfort and provide structure; I did not realize until #etcmooc how reliant I am on such traditions. I am not among the top contributors but learning about myself will be a stepping stone to being a more active participant in the next mooc.  I have succumbed to the excuse of “feeling overwhelmed” in the last couple of weeks, but in my own mind, that’s a cope out.

Dialogue around what constitutes learning and how we are being assessed is an easy conversation.  The difficult conversation is convincing myself that it’s okay to self-evaluate my learning using my own rubric.

What amazes more than anything in #etcmooc, is the high level of energy and desire to learn and explore and be creative. Maybe #etcmooc is my grand canyon and I just need to be in awe and look around for awhile.

Break the Cycle of Measuring

tape measure alongside a baby

CC auiinsperation

Our society is big into measuring – the moment we’re born, the sports we play or watch, earnings, number of friends on Facebook, followers on Twitter, even stats on stats, and in education, learning.  Dave Cormier facilitated a lively dialogue during an #etmooc webinar, Rhizomatic Learning.  It was a bit philosophical  as we explored the purpose of learning, open syllabus and assessment –   which led us to measuring learning.

I find our #etmooc community insightful and reflective.  A number of good points were shared.  As the purpose of learning opened up dialogue, the need to teach students for a future that is largely unknown and uncertain, Lorraine Boulos commented on essential learning in a broad sense: “not of being afraid of uncertainty, know that we have the skills to cope.” Skills.  Skills in the future will be the high school diploma of the sixties.

Kristen Swanson’s response to, “When do we learn?” –  “For me, the learning happens after the session when I process it with others”, reminds me so much of Michael Fullan’s leadership ideas. Fullan suggests workshops as an effective professional development strategy is weak; rather what happens between workshops is the learning.  Processing it with others, reflecting – whether in the form of a blog or a tweet, is when we learn.

At this point the membership is hyped about learning and the “A-word” surfaces: assessment.  If someone is out making money, count on the tax man being nearby and likewise, if there’s learning happening, count on someone to start measuring.  Some people say the best things can’t be measured, others suggest it is merely a fanciful belief to be able to measure learning.  I agreed with Fred Haas who frequently tells his students, “ the only assessment that ultimately matters is self-assessment”.  We are so caught up on measuring and certificates and numbers.  As MOOCs take off, or perhaps they are already in mid-flight, perhaps the life-long learners among us will stand true and be satisfied with self-assessment.

My favorite quote (and I apologize for not knowing the author):  Think of MOOC as a gathering place – collaboration can’t happen alone – we all decided to walk through the same door on the internet so we could think together.

#etmooc: Pushed (gently) to Share


CC Search Engine People Blog

I really enjoyed Dean Shareski’s webinar on Sharing = Accountability; his presentation  was engaging and thought-provoking.   Dean is one of many #etmooc webinar hosts who opens up the screen for all participants to respond to questions; as a visual learner the blast of responses is energizing and inviting.

One message in particular from Dean Shareski  resonated with me: he “gave permission” not to be a blogger.  I have found there is a great deal of hype among educators/leaders to have a blog; not everyone is cut out to be a blogger.  And that’s probably a good thing.  Dean talked about finding your niche – and it doesn’t have to be a blog.  I am thinking this may have provided relief for many people.

Dean simply asked, “What will be your contribution?” Blogs are just one avenue.  Participants were encouraged to find what works for them.  Feedback, conversations and connecting people were a few ideas that came up.

I connected Dean’s encouragement to find a niche with a question he posed:  Can I find your best work online?  My immediate response was “No!”.  When Dean revised his question to “Can I find any of your work online?” my response changed to, yes, I do have some work online, and that got me thinking about all the “work” I have shared, from “how-to” documents, exemplars, presentations, videos, photographs, links, and contributions I have made in MOOCs.

I have an assortment of social media accounts including a blog; I am just starting to develop my social media identity and still searching for my niche.  It’s good to be aware that there are valid ways to share, not just through blogs.  MOOCs are intended to meet an individual’s quest for learning; this MOOC may guide me in discovering my niche.

Jumped into the Water. Now What?

January 14, 2013 @ 7:00pm EST etmooc had the equivalent of a “meet ‘n greet” online.  Over two hundred participants were online pumped and releasing a surge of energy and ideas into chat  and Twitter while Alec introduced the course.

I feel exhausted from the hype, the technical difficulties, trying to catch up and thrilled with the interactiveness of the slides.  The ideas appeared so fast from active participant- as though a movie was on fast forward.

People looking for answers….Alec suggesting the “answer section” will emerge; a bit ironic that students in a MOOC are looking for traditional structure.  Even those who intellectually know that a MOOC is not a traditional form or teaching or learning, many seem to grasp onto the security of structure and “syllabus”.  It is apparent that we need to move away from teacher as sage on the stage and look to our peers to reveal questions and create answers and solutions.

I get the sense that collaborative learning is like swimming in the ocean; you don’t have to know everything about the ocean to swim in it. In etmooc, one can walk in, jump into a wave, snorkel…..whatever you’re are comfortable with.  Get in and explore on whatever level you are comfortable with, of course moving towards new waters. Staying in our comfort zone is not what MOOCs are for.  The adage, “you get out what you put in” is probably the essence of our etmooc.

One participant suggested the synchronous sessions as a catalyst for learning.I like that:  catalyst for self directed learning.

Where will we go in the upcoming week?

Let #etmooc Begin

Jump In#etmooc is finally here.  What an adventure it’s been to get here. I must tell you, I thought I was doomed when I discovered Alec Couros was on sabbatical for 12-13.

I met Alec and his brother George a couple of years ago when they were keynote speakers for a digital symposium at a local high school.  My first impression of them was “Wow, they really know what they’re doing, and they do it well.”  The fluidity of using technology and connecting to students was commendable, even more so when an appropriate tweet came onto the feed in the afternoon and the duo handled the situation  as a learning opportunity rather than a disciplinary issue.

I stumbled into their paths online through blogs, twitter and the like.  Alec was offering a Social Media course one fall that was open – and I so badly wanted to take it. I had just started my master’s online work and could not handle more work – next year I thought, when I’m on sabbatical. I contacted the University of Regina to sign up to be told it would be offered.  Not to be deterred, I contacted Alec directly who informed me of his good news – a sabbatical, and my bad news – no Social Media course.

Last September I stumbled onto Alec’s blog to discover the possibility of #etmooc – I was elated.

I am both excited and nervous.  This is my second MOOC and hoping I will be able to keep up better than in the first one.  I am worried about “doing well”, learning enough, contributing, wondering where will I be at the end of this MOOC and mostly, I’m feeling a little lost because I don’t have a “map” of the course!!

The upside is “jumping into the cold water” may be good for me.  Jump in and figure it out as I go along.  Some of the best adventures are those that just happen.  It will be interesting to see if any authentic connectedness occurs, or if it just a series of tasks that result in good learning.

Fostering Effective Relationships – #leadership20

people cooking

Food: The Building Block of Relationships
cc licenced Flickr shared by gewitterhexer

“Relationships drive the perception of your school” – Jeff Delp .  Jeff left us with the task of reflecting on what’s been done or seen in our schools that fosters effective relationships.

Shared meals comes to mind first.  One principal I purposefully crafts meals for his staff, believing with a vengeance, that sharing meals builds relationships.  The most significant memory I have is of him hauling his personal BBQ to school to cook steaks (and salmon for the vegetarian) for his staff on parent- teacher interview evening.  Impressive. And, he marinated the steaks all day.

‘Laughter is the best medicine’ was the mantra of another principal who arranged for a local improv comedy troupe to wrap up a professional development day for his staff.  Near the end of the day, a mock announcement was made to immediately report to the small gym – for laughter and refreshments.  One staff member recalls laughing for a half hour solid.

Lunchtime need a little pizzaz? One staff orchestrated a flashmob for elementary students. Started with one lone dancer and finished with about 30 staff members.  Students loved it! The energy in the gym was through the roof. As quickly as it started, it was over and staff left the gym in single file.  Powerful experience for students and staff.  A neighbouring school heard about the flash mob success and decided to try it with a few modifications.  At morning break, teachers put on a cowboy hat walked into the hall and started line dancing; they promptly took off their hat when the song was over and walked back into class as though nothing out of the ordinary had happened.

Those events highlights for many teachers.  The day to day relationships are equally important.  “Be a steward of time” suggested Jeff; honour time when you start and when you finish.  Honour the value of your staff’s time and reduce faculty meetings to discussion and instructional development.

I have saved the best for last.  One staff hosts its very own Iron Chef, complete with a ‘secret ingredient’. It cumulates the best of building relationships:  teamwork,  strategy, competition, food  and lots of fun. It appears as though we’ve come full circle; started with a principal cooking for his staff and ending with a staff cooking for each other. Clearly, food is a winner in fostering effective relationships.  How are you fostering relationships in your school?