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.