Open Up and Share

Managing to get back and watch the recorded session True Stories of Openness with Alan Levine was well worth it.

I have never been one to hold my thoughts, ideas or questions to myself.  Some people have mentioned that motivation not to share comes from a competitive or selfish base.  I disagree with this completely. I am an extremely competitive person.  I want to win every game I play, regardless of who I am competing against! This does not equate to me holding all my cards to my chest.

Insecurity was another reoccurring theme throughout the recording. People suggested feeling self conscious recording themselves, or sharing their ideas because they considered them “mediocre” and were worried about “other people’s judgements”.

I find this intriguing that as lead learners we have this expectation of our students to stand before their peers and talk, record and construct in a social arena yet we struggle with these things ourselves.

We live in a world of over 7 billion people.  To think that our experiences and ideas are completely unique and not  shared by someone else is somewhat irrational. When we open up and share our experiences we connect and build upon our understandings. What we won’t know is how this may positively impact on others.

Today I also read this blog by Angela Watson responding to a keynote by Maya Angelou as part of the ASCD conference in Chicago.  Angela wrote:

“I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.”

”… the truth is, I had a lot of rainbows in my life. Black ones and white ones, fat ones and skinny ones, pretty ones and plain ones, gay ones and straight ones, rich ones and poor ones. All sorts of rainbows in my clouds.”

She told us about several important rainbows in her life, beginning with her uncle Willy. She described him as “poor, black, crippled, and living during the era of lynchings.” Disadvantaged in every way. And yet he taught her to memorize the times tables so she could work in the family’s store. She learned later on that her Uncle Willy has done the same for other children, including a young boy who  later became a mayor in Arkansas. Uncle Willy didn’t let his limitations keep him from teaching what he knew, and he was a rainbow in the clouds for countless others simply by doing what he could to give them opportunities and hope.

Creative Commons Double-alaskan-rainbow

Creative Commons Double-alaskan-rainbow

I love reminders like this, because as there is a huge push for teachers to take advantage of the amazing technology and opportunities to connect using social media (twitter, google+ etc) we dont have to be connected globally to share.  ‘Uncle Willy’ gave of himself what he could and we all should.

We all have a story, a passion, a skill that we can share with others, so let us be rainbows in the clouds.


Be Like a Kid!

Will Richardson said something during his blackboard collaborate session T3S3 – The Challenges & Opportunities of Modern Learning which struck a  chord with me. Something I hadn’t realised that I had already embraced and something that I can now identify that frustrates me when I am supporting other teachers’ learning.

“Stop waiting for Professional Development Workshops, if there is something you want to learn, be more like a kid and go out and learn it!”

Photo Credit kids playing with sand image by Cherry-Merry from

Photo Credit kids playing with sand image by Cherry-Merry from

When I see something, hear of something or experience something I want to embrace or use, I find out how!  I determine whether this new skill or understanding will support my teaching, or develop my understanding and I make a choice whether I invest my time in it.

When kids learn things, they share it with their friends, they build their understanding together. When I learn something new or discover something interesting, I share it and try and develop it further. When staff approach me about supporting them to use a tool or develop a skill, I always say yes, or point them to the person or place with more expertise than I.

Instead of being frustrated by colleagues who don’t pursue any learning, I need to address WHY their interest in learning has faded.

Attention Please….

The beauty of watching a recorded etmooc session, means that I can stop half way in and respond to ideas whilst they are fresh before returning to the session. As I write this I am 26 minutes into Howard Rheingold’s session – Literacies of Attention, Crap Detection, Participation, Collaboration & Network Know-How.

The discussion is currently focussed on how we pay “attention to intention”.  Whether some people are genuine “super taskers” and whether they were born this way or have somehow developed the skill. Some people within the chat admit to being able to multi-task but as Alec Couros @courosa asked is this actually just “continuous partial attention“!

I would love to say I am a “super tasker” but in reality I just like to have my hand in everything and I am constantly seeking information. This means that my reader is exploding, my tabs are often in excess of 20 and I stay up late reading and sorting. This I don’t begrudge, because I love discovering and sharing my learning, plus there are just not enough hours in the day to see the latest goat screaming clips!

Using Diigo and TweetDeck to filter and keep organised has had a huge impact for me. I also have a TO DO list on my notes shared between my phone and iPad which keeps me on track for the things I have prioritised. I find it helps me keep focused on the important tasks.

There is no doubt I am a busy person and fairly organised, but can I actually attend to two tasks that require more than motor memory at the same time with precision or appropriate attention? Sure I can cook dinner, hold a conversation with the kids, and pay bills on the phone at the same time, but these are things that do not require real attention for me because I have done them numerous times. If I was cooking a meal I had never made before and needed to follow a recipe, having a conversation with someone I was unfamiliar with and finding an alternative insurance plan online, would I do any of these things successfully?  I think not! I think it would result in disappointing and possibly unsavoury meal, a disconnected conversation of which I would remember little and a search I would have to complete again!

Some of the participants asked for strategies to become better at mindfulness/attention. Howard suggested a couple of “probes” to engage students in class.

via Wikipedia

Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson via Wikipedia

I have always played word games in the car with my own kids. When they were little it was “I-Spy” and remembering the previous guesses and clues was essential. Lately it is more word association games, where a topic is chosen and you have to name things related or within that category eg. names of dinosaurs.  If a name is repeated, that participant is out!

My children and I are fairly competitive in these games and we enjoy playing them whilst travelling to and from school.  I had never actually made the connection that these little games could actually improve their attention.

Is there something to be said for some of the games we play in early childhood that contribute to our attention state or our ability to focus on what is important?

In this TED talk Richard Gill (Australian Composer) talks about the role of music in education and gives a live example of evoking attention with his audience participation.

Digital What?

It seems the last two weeks have flown by and I have completely missed Topic #2 Digital Storytelling! I have not had a chance to catch anything via google+, see anyones creative pieces, nor engage in any #etmchat. I have resorted to just sulk and peek shamefully at the 100plus messages in my gmail 😦 reminding me how much I have missed!

What I HAVE done to keep my learning progressing, is to utilise a few tools to increase the story telling in my classroom and as an example to my peers.

I used videoscribe to tell my own story to my peers in a demonstration, I used the App Dash of Color with my students to tell a story around an image and tonight I played with popcorn webmaker.

I do tend to preach to my peers about deciding the “what” they want to say before choosing the tool in which they “tell” it, but I was so desperate to play that I do admit I started with the tool, then came across this YouTube clip I couldn’t resist! There is something about the “Aussieness” of this (guessing 1970’s) clip that is both embarrassing and endearing.  One regret was that I did not create my account first. As a result I lost my entire project, which I then had to recreate. Definitely sign up first before you start creating to avoid tears!

Check out my creation here – Toad Lovers and Fighters!

Here’s hoping that I can access more of Topic #3 Digital Literacies (fingers crossed).

Holy Connectedness!!!

I just completed listening and watching the recorded session with George Couros titled “Becoming a Networked Educational Leader” (you can find the recorded Blackboard Collaborate session here).  Once again George reflected on many amazing examples of how being connected to students, families and staff has improved their experiences all round. It’s not hard to listen to what either Couros bros (insert nintendo characters here)  has to say and the crowd cheered, ooohed and ahhhhed at all appropriate moments. That is, all but one! Throughout the conversation George questioned how we get our administrators connected? Many in that chat stream contributed examples of their own and all supported George in his assertion that connectedness is paramount. There was one brave voice amongst the crowd…..antiface.  I should have known by the name that he (assumption) was going to challenge the convention that had arisen.  I applaud his (?) gumption to speak out against the tide of nodding heads and agreement and express his (?) point of view.

The following is part of the dialogue that antiface evoked…

antiface :   Do you really want to connect with students via social media? I wouldn’t.

Maha    :  @antiface why wouldn’t you want to connect with students that way?

bonstewart :  would you not want your kids’ teachers/leaders to connect?

antiface :  I don’t need my teachers to connect with me outside of school.

anitface  : I think they work hard enough.

Kirsten Tscholen : you are right.  What happens to boundaries? I need time with my family.

antiface  : maybe it’s just me, I don’t want to spend time with my doctor either.

I found this conversation really confronting.  I was desperate to join in, unfortunately 36 hours too late! I hold dear the connections I have with my students and their families. I have always had an open door policy and endeavour to provide as many authentic opportunities to share my students learning with families as I possibly can.

When social media wasn’t available for me to connect with families, I was constantly writing notes, printing off tags to explain learning to be pasted in books, calling families, writing to families and I constructed weekly news with photos of student work, class activities and events.  This format restricted me to perhaps a page or two each week,  1 or 2 photos each time and normally no more than one students work showcased but I honestly believe that I gained so much by communicating with parents and investing my time to listen and inform them about what was happening in our classroom.

Now that social media IS available to me, opportunities have just increased and I am able to connect with families in a more immediate and authentic manner.  Using edmodo I can post photos of our learning at any point in time.  Students can engage in their learning online and it is immediately visible to their families.  I can update instantly, request support, add links for information and add reminders for my students, all in real time.

Does this increase the invasion of my “personal time” – YES! I do get edmodo messages from students and parents at night, on the weekend and during the holidays.  I also get text messages and emails! I have visited my students in hospital and I engage with them and their families when we cross paths in public.

Do I feel I HAVE to respond/engage? – No.  I respond because I know that the rewards are greater than the few minutes it takes to talk/type/text/post. Plus I kinda actually like kids (call me crazy).

I gain so much from engaging my families, but my greatest reward is TRUST!

The relationships I have built with my families means they trust me when I turn the curriculum upside down, when I challenge their children to try things they have never before. They may hold their breath a little, but they support me nevertheless. They know I have their child’s best interests at heart, that I am invested in their growth and success.

One of my students taking on a challenge to rock climb.  She has several disabilities and has trouble negotiating stairs!

One of my students taking on rock climbing.  She has several physical and intellectual challenges and even has difficulty negotiating stairs let alone a climbing wall!

So in response to the chat dialogue..

Do I really want to connect with my students via social media? – ABSOLUTELY! Does this mean I am FB friends, not at all.

What happens to boundaries? I need to spend time with my family. – This, you need to construct for yourself.  I don’t think it is healthy for families to have an expectation that you will respond 24/7 but what is wrong with being contactable 24/7?

Maybe it’s just me, I don’t want to connect with my doctor either. – Anyone who saw their doctor 7 hours a day, 5 days a week, 40 weeks a year, would have a pretty intimate relationship! I expect even a few house calls 😉

Obviously I am in disagreement with antiface on this topic of using social media to connect, however, I am grateful for the courage and stoicism he(?) displayed challenging an overwhelming tide. So many thanks to antiface for provoking dialogue!

Another post will be devoted to anitface’s thoughts on SM and introverts! To be continued……..


Isolation – WHY?

“Why do people have to be this lonely? What’s the point of it all? Millions of people in this world, all of them yearning, looking to others to satisfy them, yet isolating themselves. Why? Was the earth put here just to nourish human loneliness?”
― Haruki MurakamiSputnik Sweetheart

In the lastest #etmooc Blackboard Collaborative Session Dave Cormier talked about “MOOC as a gathering place”.

Twitter is my gathering space, or perhaps the place where I like to hang out to learn. I use TweetDeck to organise my favourite spots to mingle, using lists to ensure I cross paths with people who provoke my thinking. I often invite myself  “home” visiting links and blogs of people who attract my attention!  I am so grateful for the sharing of my PLN. I have learnt so much from hanging around and inviting myself in. It brought me to #etmooc!

My mother was the most generous person I have ever known.  She taught me the rewards of giving, giving of time, support, friendship and love. She was generous to the point of exhaustion, but never once expected acknowledgement, award or returns. What she got was respect and admiration of people from all walks of life. From the grounds keepers son who she discreetly bought clothes for so he could go on school camp, to the Parliamentary Counsel whom she supported through his cancer treatment.  It wasn’t until I stood at her funeral, in a room full of strangers desperate to share their stories of her acts, that I truly got a sense of the impact she had on so many people.  She never once stood on a stage, held a room full of people or gained the attention on any great scale.  What she did do was give!

via the Practice of Generosity (Dana)

via the Practice of Generosity (Dana)

“We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men; and among those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects.”

― Herman Melville

If we live in isolation, in our classrooms, in our faculties, or in our schools, then we are truly missing out.


Freshly MOOCed

So I completed my first etmooc session today and to tell you the truth it was really fun! If you suspect a hint of surprise, you would be right.  Having never experienced a MOOC before, even having read a little about it, I was unsure of what to expect. Whilst the session was just an introduction to things that will be covered in the course, it was a great taste of what is to come.

What I have learnt already…

1. There are people from other countries who laugh at my jokes!

The chatroom was a buzz with people connecting/reconnecting, commenting, suggesting and providing information and support via links. It was exciting to see so many people engaged in an opportunity to learn or develop their skills and from so many different professional backgrounds.

2. Alec Couros has a good sense of humour and can tolerate being teased.

Alec is a good sport and exemplified the fun in learning. It was quite impressive how he managed to keep his train of thought, talk and read comments fly by all at the same time. The chatroom did at one point become somewhat of a “Couros love fest” with @gcouros being thrown in there, even though he wasn’t a part of it!

…and on an educational note..

3. Blackboard Collaborate is a great tool.

This was my “virgin” experience of this collaborative tool.  It was CRAZY! I definitely see the value in using this space, however, due the the hoards of people participating, the comment feed flew so fast it was hard to keep up AND contribute/graffiti on the slides Alec was presenting. As one participant suggested though, this forum would possibly not be where the significant learning would occur.  Instead, the development of groups and discussion via twitter or Google+ would be where the connections would come to bear fruit.

4. Plenty of folks are on the same page!

There are many people asking questions similar to mine and responding to prompts similarly.  This provides me with confidence that our collective voice will come up with some really interesting ideas and possibilities.  I am also looking forward to challenging some of the ideas presented. Alec prompted us to discuss what is digital literacy? It was amazing to see so many comments that were fear based.  This will be an interesting discussion me thinks!

5. Plenty of folks are on a different page!

There are many people within the etmooc crowd that are well established digital contributors and it is heartening to see their willingness to help those with less advanced skills/experiences. It was also great to see so many people taking the “ski jump” (as Alec showed) and entering the blogosphere and twitterland for the first time.


Needless to say that the first etmooc session has left me enthused for the next round, bring it on!


Excited about #etmooc 2013

I am looking forward to participating in my first MOOC via #etmooc! I am curious to experience the benefits of learning in an open online environment and engaging with and learning from others around the world. I have experienced “online” training in the past few years, however being located away from the “host” country and the time zone difference will be a new challenge. I am hoping that engaging in this course will support my digital skills and knowledge and advantage my classroom time and my role as a leader in my school.

#etmooc starts this week so stay tuned for further posts or follow the discussions at #etmooc on Twitter.

See below for my etmooc introduction and my first play with xtranormal animation!

My #etmooc introduction