The Risk of Hospitality

Digciz is a conversation centered around ideas of Digital Citizenship. The focus this week is on hospitality, in particular, the openness, risk and vulnerability relating to existing in online spaces. My response involves a series of short reflections:

Context First

Peter Skillen recently reflected on a situation where he corrected someone. He was sorry for the way it went about. This had me thinking about my own conversations with Skillen, especially around computational thinking and Twitter. One of the things that I have taken away is the place of technology to change the way we think and act. The problem is there are contexts where the conversations move away from the ideals. Although I agree with Skillen (and Papert) about the power of Logo and Turtle to explore mental models, especially after reading Mindstorm, sometimes when you are asked for simple material you put aside your bias to share a range of visual resources. In this situation, technology is only one part of the equation. First and foremost is pedagogy and the place of coding as a lunchtime club. The focus then becomes about entertainment, engagement and ease of instruction. The ripe conditions for initiatives such as CS First and Code.org.

Crossing Imaginary Lines

There are some learning experiences which seem to stay with us long after the lights have been turned off. In regards to online learning, my participation with Rhizo14 was one such experience. I neither knew exactly why I was there or what the protocols were. Stepping out into the unknown, my focus was to hold my judgements for as long as possible. Sadly, I think that I went a little too hard. Caught up in the flow, I critiqued everything a bit too much. (If you read any of Jenny Mackness’ research, apparently there were some heated conversations on Facebook which I was not a part of.) This questioning even included Dave Cormier and his assessment methods. Although this was a risk he fostered, it felt as if you knew you had crossed the line even if there were none. Maybe this is the reality online, the challenge I guess is knowing when to take your shoes off at the door and apologising if you happen to forget.

Tribes and Tribulations

In the book Teaching Crowds, Jon Dron and Terry Anderson unpack the different ways that people gather within online spaces. One way that really stands out to me in regards to open online spaces is the idea of tribes. At the intersection between groups and sets, tribes involve bringing people together around complex ideas and interests, tied together by certain rules and expectations. When I think about my participation online, I would say that I am a part of many tribes, some of which I collected here. The challenge with tribes is that they do not always talk to each other, sometimes even working against each other. Indirectly though they influence each other in a number of ways. For example, when communication is shared openly, it carries the risk of being appropriated by other communities. This bleeding and breaking can be construed as negative, but it also has a positive outcome of extending our thinking.

Mapping Our Digital Bits

David White and Alison Le Cornu offer a more fluid typology with their notion of digital visitor and resident. White and Le Cornu suggest that our use of different spaces on the web fluctuates between two states: that of the visitor whose use is often short term and task orientated compared with the resident who sees their participation as being an important part of their lived experience. Amy Collier goes beyond the notion of residency to describe the web and instead suggests the ideas of kindred spirits and belonging. I wonder if a different way of seeing the divide is from the perspective of APIs and the little bits of ourselves that exist around the web. In discussing the notion of personal APIs, Kin Lane provides the following breakdown:

  • Profiles – The account and profile data for users.

  • People – The individual friends and acquaintances.

  • Companies – Organizational contacts, and relationships.

  • Photos – Images, photos, and other media objects.

  • Videos – Local, and online video objects.

  • Music – Purchased, and subscription music.

  • Documents – PDFs, Word, and other documents.

  • Status – Quick, short, updates on current situation or thoughts.

  • Posts – Wall, blog, forum, and other types of posts.

  • Messages – Email, SMS, chat, and other messages.

  • Payments – Credit card, banking, and other payments.

  • Events – Calendar, and other types of events.

  • Location – Places we are, have been, and want to go.

  • Links – Bookmarks and links of where we’ve been and going.

As with White and Le Cornu’s mapping, Lane’s emphasis is on the journey, rather than a destination. Mapping our APIs provides the potential to dig down into our particular uses. The problem is, I am still trying to work out exactly how to go about this.


So they are some of my thoughts on the risks and vulnerabilities associated with belonging in open online spaces. What about you? What do you have to add to the conversation? As always, comments welcome.


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Caring – A Practical Guide


flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license

So the #Rhizo15 challenge has been set, build a learning artefact for the practical rhizomatic guide. What to make of it? I initially wondered about a Thinglink with a whole heap fork-able fun. However, I then thought instead of sending people elsewhere to something to make their own, I would create an artefact that itself can be modified and adjusted in order to suit. Inspired by Dave Cormier’s post from earlier in the year reflecting on the importance of caring, I decided to start a ‘Guide to Caring’. Not caring in the sense of how do I look after someone, but more how we might create the conditions, a community, a culture, that allow others to care. To adapt the resource for your own, go to the following link and make a copy.


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Feedback, Content and People


flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

I have not participated in #Rhizo15 as much as I would have liked to. However, I have definitely dwelled on the various topics. Although a little belated, this is something of a response to Dave Cormier’s wondering about the myth of content.


As a part of the roll out of my school’s instructional model. We all chose a topic which we would like to delve into next. I chose to focus on ‘feedback’. Partly because I have a real passion for sharing learning and see a lot of potential for using technology to listen to voices in and out of the classroom. I also really like working with the people who were leading the group.

Although I already had collected some articles and posts on the topic in the past, I thought that I would put it out to my PLN to see what they might have to offer. So I sent the following Tweet:

What follows is the collection of posts, links and resources I got in return:

Is the Feedback You’re Giving Students Helping or Hindering?

Jon Andrews directed me to this post from Dylan Wiliam discussing the importance of feedback and how it is connected with persistence and the growth mindset. It discusses how some feedback can actually be unhelpful in regards to improving.

Feedback on Learning

In addition to Dylan Wiliam’s website, Jon Andrews also shared a link to a short video from Wiliam on importance of giving learners effective feedback as an integral component of formative assessment.

Feedback and Mindset

Dan Haesler directed me to his resources from all his presentations. This includes some really good information on the connection between assessment, feedback and mindset.

Webinar unpacking Embedding Formative Assessment

Jason Borton and Ross Halliday both recommended Dylan Wiliam’s book Embedding Formative Assessment. While Borton also directed me to this video/webinar, where Wiliam explores some practical techniques that teachers can use to develop their formative assessment classroom practice.

Using Gallery Walks for Revision and Reflection

Michelle Hostrup recommended BIE’s work in regards to gallery walks as a model for peer feedback. It provides suggestions how to structure such activities to make them specific and meaningful.

Feedback Matters

Shaun Allison shared a post he wrote collecting together an array of quotes and strategies associated with feedback. The best part is that he provides actual images and examples for each of the strategies that he discusses.

Feedback: Medals and Missions

Jennifer English pointed me to post from Geoff Petty who focuses on the ideas of ‘medals and missions’. Petty supports his discussion with plenty of proformas and research to further unpack the various ideas and arguments.

Formative Assessment

Cameron Paterson linked me to the slides for a presentation he did on formative assessment. Not only does he provide a really clear narrative in regards to assessment, but it also includes a great array of links and quotes. One of the interesting ideas is the potential of students and teachers engaging in the practise of Reggio inspired documentation.

Feedback for Learning (ASCD Vol 70 Num 1)

Peter DeWitt recommended a collection of articles on feedback from ASCD. This includes pieces from Dylan Wiliam to John Hattie to Grant Wiggins. It is also has a great infographic on the seven things to remember about feedback. A great summary of Wiggins’ piece. Although some articles need to be purchased, there are a few that are free.

Austin’s Butterfly

Andrea Stringer shared a short video from Ron Berger which highlights the importance of critique and feedback when striving for excellence. This is one of those presentations that really captures anyone of any age.

Visible Learning

Riss Leung argued that you can’t go past the chapter in John Hattie’s Visible Learning for  unpacking both the research and how it can be applied in the classroom.

3 Variables That Profoundly Affect the Way We Respond to Feedback

Although not responding to my call-out, Tom Barrett shared a link to this video from Big Think in his post written at much the same time. According to Sheila Heen and Douglas Stone, the co-authors of Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well, there are specific variables that distort the way we perceive feedback from others.


Having collected some people’s thoughts on feedback, it makes clear that content is actually people, as Cormier put it in his post. What is important isn’t that I find that one resource that satisfies what I already know and am looking for. Instead, as Cormier highlights,

What is important is that you come to know enough of the stories of a particular field in order to be able to function in that field.

With the discussion of people, stories and resources, I am again reminded of Dean Shareski’s adage about when we go to conferences,

If you leave with one or two people you can continue to learn with you’ve done well.

Too often we focus on collecting ideas and resources, as a stagnant process. Instead what we need to celebrate is the remixing and re-imagining ideas in new and innovative ways. As David Culberhouse describes in relation to the ideapreneur, a term coined by Peter Thiel in Zero to One,

The work of the ideapreneur is not always founded in the making, but often in the connecting of ideas and thinking that already exists in very new and novel ways.  Ideapreneurs are able to make connections that remix and reimagine our current world in very inventive and innovative ways.

If you have something to add, maybe a new idea or a different take on things. Comments are welcome as always.


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Goals, Growth and Getting Going in 2015

creative commons licensed (BY-SA) flickr photo by mrkrndvs: http://flickr.com/photos/aaron_davis/16134110796

It is that time of year again when we all the talk turns to the new year. With this comes talk of new resolutions. Like last year, I am using this opportunity to set new goals. Last year, I set myself three goals:

  1. Utilise data in a more structured manner within the classroom in order to better personalise learning

  2. Provide clearer instructions and more time for student lead learning

  3. Lead by providing clearer reasons for change and supporting others in becoming better leaders

Looking back at these, I think that I have come some way with creating more opportunity for student lead learning and improved on how I introduced change and innovation. However, I still feel that I can improve the way I use data to inform my choices in the classroom. So moving forward, here are my new goals for 2015:

1. Think more about the impact of space to support learning

Last year my focus was placing the learner at the centre. However, what I came to realise was that the key was not necessarily about who was at the ‘centre’, but what conditions are created for learning. Teaching electives, I too often left spaces as I inherited them. Subsequently, by adopting someone else’s environment, I therefore placed undue restrictions on the learning possibilities and potentials. Whether it be moving desks or finding space to create displays, I am going to place more emphasis on how the space is structured and why.

In addition to this, I used Edmodo as a digital space to support learning. However, the problem I found is that although it was fantastic, and much more user friendly than the Ultranet, it did not provide appropriate means for students to work collaboratively and provide each other with ongoing feedback. I was always in control. I think that the answer maybe to better use Google Drive and create a richer culture of sharing and collaboration. Although at present I am not exactly sure how to best organise this.

2. Use assessment to better foster more personalised growth and development

A part of the problem that I faced in my focus on data is that what actually constitutes ‘data’ and for what purpose I am collecting it. Too often we look for measurements that are easy to calculate and quantify. However, learning is not always so neat and tidy. In hindsight, I think that I was asking the wrong question, I was focusing too much on summative assessment, instead I should have been giving more attention to assessment for learning.

I really like a comment that Dave Cormier made in a recent post, “we need to replace the measurable ‘content’ for the non-counting noun ‘caring’”. I feel that a key element in all of this is fostering an environment where students own their own learning or as Cormier puts it, “they care”. This includes involving students in the development of their own learning. I was really inspired by an article in the Guardian from Tom Sherrington reflecting on his experience of students co-constructing their learning. Although Sherrington’s example maybe an extreme, how can we expect students to own their own learning if they do not have any control or ownership over it?

3. Better engage with the community to make relationships and connections the focus of learning

One of the really interesting things to arise out of my participation with a group investigating (Marzano’s) instructional model was that other than semester reports there is no formal process in place in regards to informing parents about the curriculum and learning. Instead, the majority of communication home is focused on discipline and behaviour. Although it is often argued that this starts with making more positive calls home, I feel that a bigger shift is needed than a few more calls home. My goal this year then is to use technology to pro-actively engage with the wider community in what is happening in the classroom. This is something that arose out of my work last year with the Google Teacher Academy. I hope that more time in the classroom and less time in administration will provide more opportunity for this. Maybe this will be through Compass and the act of confirmations, but I feel that something is lost in putting information and ideas behind walls. This was one of the issues with the Ultranet. I will therefore begin by using a Global2 blog to communicate the curriculum and celebrate student learning in a more open manner as I started doing at the end of last year.

One Word: Growth

Lisa Meade recently posed the question: “If you had to pick one word for yourself, what would your word be?” I think that my one word would be ‘growth’. It is easy to lock students into standards of above, at and below. However, such a mindset is both fixed and reductive about what constitutes ‘success’. The question that I would like to think that each action should come back to is how is this supporting learning growth?

So, what about you? What are your goals this year? What is your one word? Do you have any thoughts and suggestions that might help support my growth as a learner? I would love to know.


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Learning in a Connected World – Moving Towards a Life of Learning

creative commons licensed (BY-NC-SA) flickr photo by courosa: http://flickr.com/photos/courosa/2922421696
 
So far I have discussed connecting with others both off and online. In addition to this, I explored taking owner of our identity online, as well as elaborating on and engaging with the ideas of others. The fifth step in being a connected educator is learning.
 
Ideas and inspiration can come from many places and like connections, are not always digital or online. Sometimes learning can be as simple as a chat around the photocopier or walking between classes. I have discussed this elsewhere as the incidental ‘hidden’ professional learning. The reality is, everything in life can offer a point of learning if we are willing to see it that way. For example, an activity that I have done with my students in the past is to reflect upon their classroom and what it says. I have done this in history when considering artefacts, as well as in music when thinking about performance and space.
 
I would argue though that the digital realm only extends the potential of this learning. One of the best things about learning online is that you can do it anywhere, any time. Whether it be reading a blog, watching a video, listening to a podcast or participating in an online chat, there are so many opportunities and options that the biggest challenge that we are faced with is what to engage with.
 
At the recent Teachmeet event at the Immigration Museum+Richard Olsen posed the question about whether there are any negatives about being connected. This has really prayed on my mind. I think there is so much written about the positives, that the flip side is often left silent. One of the initial negatives that I found is having so many different options and ideas out there, it can often leave you in a state of disarray. The challenge then is what we do about this disruption to the way things are. The biggest lesson I have learnt in being a connected educator is that nothing has to be the way that it is, rather we choose for it to be that way.
 
My solution to this feeling of perpetual confusion is to engage with others online in the effort to identify different perspectives. By engaging I don’t mean lambasting those whose views are different, but rather, as +Peter DeWitt puts it, “finding common ground with people I do not always agree with, and building consensus with those that I do.” 
 
In a recent interview with +Ed Tech Crew, +Dan Donahoo provides the suggestion of finding five people that you disagree with and following them. His argument was that we often learn more from those who we oppose, than those that we agree with. In another take on this, +David Truss, refuting the echo chamber argument, states that, “a good PLN will pull in learning from places I don’t normally go, and this means that even when good ideas bounce around, perspectives on those ideas don’t stay static… they don’t echo, and they morph into new insights.” 
 
As I stated in my post on blogging, learning online is about connecting with others in a reciprocal manner, both taking and giving. At its heart, it is about keeping the conversation going. Often though, it is the walls that are often built around us that kill this conversation. 
 
The easiest way to breakdown walls that so often hold us back, inhibit us and prevent us from reaching our potential is to realise that such ‘walls’ are merely a construct. Having been built, they can often just as easily be torn down. To me the Rhizomatic Learning MOOC epitomised (or epitomises, depending on how you think of things) everything that is meaningful about being a connected educator both in content and construct. 
 
Although I connected with some really great people, such as +Simon Ensor, +Keith Hamon, +Luis López-Cano, +maureen maher, +Ronald L and +dave cormier, it was a connection formed around ideas rather than personalities. I made no pretence to assume that I knew many or any of these people. To me though, this is what is so significant about connectivism. Although we may connect with people, a specific identity, to me it is the thoughts and ideas that they may offer that makes them truly meaningful. It may be important to nurture and maintain connections, but it is our capacity to know more that is more critical than what is currently known which stands out the most.
 
Although online learning, whether it be responding to a tweet or participating in a MOOC, may not necessarily provide the same depth and rigor of a more formalised learning, it does provide an opportunity to connect with others who we otherwise would not normally associate with and develop new knowledge in the process. As +George Siemens pointed out in his seminal piece, “our ability to learn what we need for tomorrow is more important than what we know today.” To me, being a connected educator is the first and most important step to a life of learning. For if as David Weinberger puts it that ‘the smartest person in the room is the room”, my learning is more meaningful when it is not restricted to those people who I work with or know through past experiences.

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A Homage to Rhizomatic Learning

So, it is Week 6 of ‘Rhizomatic Learning’, the last planned week of the course, and the focus is how do we teach ourselves into uselessness? How do we empower people so they have the PERMISSION to learn without us?
 
What an interesting topic to end Rhizomatic Learning with, the notion of doing your job so that you are no longer required any more. Maybe the word job is the wrong word, but simply so that you are no longer a required commodity. The question then is what remains? I would argue that when all else has gone, we are left with learning. The problem with this is that so much of ‘learning’ is social, it comes from our connections with other, those clashes of ideas that once settled, develop into new beginnings. The first step then in making ourselves useless is to define who ‘we’ are. Teachers? Learners? Facilitators? Critical friends? Fire starters?
 
What is often missed in discussions about teaching is the inadvertent, incidental, non-traditional environments that don’t necessarily stem from college and higher-education. Take for example a swimming teacher who may have completed a set of modules. However, their ‘qualification’ to teach is often based on their own prior learning and experiences. 
 
I sat watching my two year old daughter’s swimming lesson the other day and wondered what made her teacher a ‘good’ teacher. I had already decided that she was good, especially that my daughter had come along in leaps and bounds since moving up to the next level (although still easily distracted, can’t change everything). Added to this, in the previous group, I had gotten in the pool with my daughter, but now she was going solo and it gave me a whole different view on things. A view from the outside.
 
Some of the attributes that I would say that made her a good teacher is that she is stern but fair, while her instructions are always pertinent and to the point. However, what stands out the most is that she compliments the kids whenever she gets the chance. Although she obviously works from a program, she never ceases to interrupt the lesson when needs be so as to support her students if they are struggling with a particular skill or adapting a lesson to extend them. The reality is that her focus on providing continual feedback and encouragement is the attribute that truly makes her stand out.

Coming back to Rhizomatic Learning, I am therefore left mulling over how +dave cormier has successfully ‘managed the MOOC’. I must be honest that the word ‘manage’ may be slightly misleading, inferring incorrectly a sense of power and control, I think that instead what the course has done is instigate learning throughout. In some respect this has now been coordinated by everyone, although Dave has ‘set’ the tasks and facilitated the communications and conversations. However, as was demonstrated by +Mariana Funes‘ post, much was left to the community to continue the learning.
 
Whoever it may be, whatever the situation is, I believe that the reality is that someone always needs to be stoking the fire, throwing more wood on it, as well as setting some boundaries to make sure that it doesn’t burn out of control. Now I don’t necessarily mean ‘boundaries’ to dictate what you can and cannot say, rather it is about highlighting fractures or providing critical responses. The reality is, we all need constructive criticism and feedback at some stage.
 
I am reminded of a comment +Steve Wheeler made about blogging that restricting it is like going to a party with a paper bag on your head. To add to that, I think that a blog that doesn’t open itself to readers is like going to a party with only one person. Although a blog is usually written by one person, it is the community which legitimises it. Whether it be adding a different perspective or providing push back. For example, I always love when +Richard Olsen writes back to my posts, questioning all those aspects and ideas that I take for granted.
 
To me, there will always be a need for an instigator, someone to stock the fire occasionally, keep it burning, but whether this needs to be a teacher or leader I am not so sure. I am really intrigued by the idea of guest hosted accounts such as @edutweetoz and @vicpln which are voices rotated throughout the online community. In the end, what needs to change is putting learning at the heart of education. In this environment everyone has their part to play. If we all see ourselves as learners then surely that is most of the job done.

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