The Blue Sweater: Connections Unseen

I often have the privilege of beautiful scenic drives (not kidding here) between my school visits and they have become moments of reflection. Blue skies, fall leaves and top 40 hits seem to create the perfect environment for some contemplation.

Screen Shot 2014-10-14 at 7.03.58 AMLast week after chatting with a colleague about the wonderful way an app like Word Swag can spread from one person to another I was driving along and reminded of a scene from the Devil Wears Prada. Unlikely place for an AHA moment about education but please bear with me. You can watch the scene here, but here is the messy quick summary. Anne Hathaway’s character is standing back observing the team composing outfits when what seems to be two identical coloured belts are presented. Anne Hathaway’s character snarks at the comment that they can be so different at which point Meryl Streep’s character schools her in the many connections that landed to the exact cerulean blue sweater she is wearing, naming the runway shows, designer choices and the path that lead to her department store purchase.

It made me think of education. I don’t know if we always notice the many connections alive in our schools. From the Pinterest idea that got passed along, to the great book recommendation, the youtube clip you just watched in PD or the app that a teacher got from a child. It may be an administrator that is bringing it back from a system event or a teacher that has hunted for that perfect prompt to engage her math class. Our daily actions have been influenced by the connections of our students, our colleagues, our leaders for years. They lurk behind every activity and task whether we are blissfully unaware like Anne Hathaway’s character or immersed like Meryl Streep.

Screen Shot 2014-10-14 at 7.26.46 AMAs many this month are celebrating Connected Educators Month, I have been reading great posts about why we should connect, the woes of being too connected or the many different tools we now have available to connect. At times it can be overwhelming. It seems like we are tourists in a place where they all speak a different language. I was reminded that perhaps we need to demystify it a little. The starting lines have already been drawn for you. You are a connected educator. The question isn’t whether you will be connected or not, will you sit back like Anne Hathaway or create those connections like Meryl Streep. What lines will you draw? It doesn’t need to be high tech (although today’s tools make it so much easier), it doesn’t need to polished or grand. It may be a conversation with a colleague, a post on Instagram, or a new Twitter chat but remember you have been in this world for a long time. Time to dip in your toes a little, splash around and let the cerulean sweater be your reminder that you are already a connected educator.

P.S. I know what you are telling yourself: “But what could I share?” I ask myself the same thing all the time. A smart person once reminded me what is obvious to us may be just that spark for another. Click HERE!

What are your thoughts? I would love to hear them. Leave a comment below.

CTL 1608: Patience

A reflection for my MEd Course on Constructivism and the Design of Online Learning Environments.

As we discuss social learning this week there is a concept presented last week that has had me reflecting on my own understanding.

I mentioned in my last post for the course that I found the biggest hurdle for me in implementing a truly constructivist approach was TIME. Running from task to task, meeting to meeting, I always feel like there isn’t enough time to delve deep. Madeline then brought up the concept of PATIENCE.

She shared the following quote from the article Building versus Borrowed:

 “But the most important issue, and the one that should concern all educators, is the lack of patience to build a personal understanding of the models they needed to make personal sense of complex phenomena (p.25)… Perhaps worse, they no longer had the patience to see through a problem even with the offer of time and support (p.26).”

I have been thinking ever since how my concept of time may not be complete. Am I patient enough to allow educators to construct their own understanding? Am I patient enough to construct my own instead of borrowing that of others? Yes more time would eliminate the busyness, let me focus on less expectations, provide a few less tasks to complete as quickly but patience will be the difference of jumping in too fast, of struggling through the hard concepts, of playing together.

Thank you for the reminder Madeline!

CTL 1608: A Wanna Be

For my M.Ed. course this term, CTL 1608: Constructivism and Online  I’ve decided to blog my reflections. Although I have shared learning from my masters in this environment, I haven’t done it as the reflective journal so trying something new. Hopefully it works out!

I love photography. Setting up an image; capturing the right light. A year or so I buckled and bought myself a Canon Rebel. Now I have the fancy camera but there are moments where I feel a little like a wanna be. I’ve been lucky and have captured some great shots (or so folks tell me) but perhaps it is the scenery, the right light, luck. I can’t be a photographer if I’m in AUTO mode. IMG_3295

As we have been looking at Objectivism and Constructivism our first two weeks in the course, I have been reflecting on my practice and philosophy of teaching. I have always considered myself a constructivist but while reflecting on the readings and participating in the dialogue I am reminded of how little I know.

Am I a wanna be constructivist?

It is interesting to revisit theories you have explored in the past as experience allows you to take a second lens. I truly, whole heartedly believe learners need to construct their own understanding and with that comes a belief in a growth mindset, that learners can do just that if you set it up correctly (thanks Bruner for the reminder). When I reflect back on my time in a classroom and single school I can see moments. Yet as I reflect on my current support role I wonder if I am facilitating those same constructivist moments. Again there are glimpses but am I coming to a better understanding? If I reflect on what is holding me back, I would have to admit it is TIME. In a rush to accomplish objectives, to meet demands, to help I fear I fall into a more objectivist approach, with a list of tasks to complete, information to impart.

IMG_1510But as I reflect further, I wonder if this is not what theorists of the past wanted us to tackle with. Maybe it isn’t about knowing all the manual settings but being able to capture that moment the best way you can. As I read Dewey this week, a quote stood out about the purpose of education. “Since growth is the characteristic of life, education is all one with growing; it has no end beyond itself. The criterion of the value of school education is the extent in which it creates a desire for continued growth and supplies means for making the desire effective in fact.” Perhaps I need to worry less about what mode I am in, and focus on the picture: Am I sharing/inspiring a love of life long learning?

And the learning continues!

#peel21st Blog Hop: My tool for this year is Photo Editor by Aviary

This summer we were chatting about our favourite digital tools on Twitter and sharing some tools we would like to explore this upcoming year. It seemed like the perfect topic for our first #peel21st blog hop. So here we are! Read on to learn more about my pick, Photo Editor by Aviary and don’t forget to check out the tools and blog posts linked at the bottom of the post.  

I am a big fan of Instagram, maybe too big of a fan. So when I stumbled upon apps like Mextures and Word Swag this summer I was smitten. As I was visualizing favourite quotes and documenting learning in the AQ course, I was reflecting on the potential for the classroom. Knowing that we get many different devices in the classroom and free is best, I went in search for an app that would allow students to edit, alter and enhance their images and an app that was collecting dust on my iPad seemed like the best choice.

Photo Editor by Aviary is a free app with in app purchases, but you can make due with what is included for free. It is also available on most mobile platforms including Apple and Google Products. So whether you use the tool personally or have students use the tool, the possibilities are endless.

IMG_2132Aviary will allow you to bring in pictures from your picture library or camera. Once selected, you have a menu of tools to choose from along the bottom toolbar including the ability to crop, blur portions of your image or add stickers.

IMG_2130-1If you are looking to replicate some of the features Instagram, make sure to check out the filter tab on the menu to the bottom.

IMG_2136Add additional information using the draw tool or the text feature. There is even a MEME tool!

Once finished, the images will save to your picture library which means you can use the images in a variety of different apps.

Here is a quick overview that will walk you through:

So whether you are looking for an app for personal use, want to create MEMEs with your students, replicate the experience of Instagram for young learners, Photo Editor by Aviary may be for you.

IMG_2140-1I am looking forward to exploring it further with students this school year!

Looking for something more, don’t forget to check out Snapseed!

Don’t forget to check out the other blog posts in our Blog Hop!

4 Lessons from my Childhood-I Guess I Should Thank My Parents

It is funny when things hit you, things from the past. Revelations suddenly pop up out of the blue. I think I need to thank my parents for this one.

When I tell people I didn’t have a typical childhood it is a little hard to explain. My parents are both ministers of a church (yes both) but that isn’t quite the whole story. They weren’t always ministers (that’s a story for them to tell). When I was six my parents sold everything they owned, packed us up, said goodbye to family and traveled half way around the world to go back to school. 29 years later I am realizing how much my childhood experiences have affected my philosophy of education, who I am as a educator and leader (small L kind).

Follow your Passions

I don’t think as a child I appreciated how much my parents sacrificed to follow their passion. We often hear about grit and perseverance, but going back to school at 30 has to be the best lesson for it. When money was tight, when the grades weren’t fantastic, when family was miles away they stuck through it because of their passion. I think too often we see grit as sticking with things just because, but we do it because we are passionate. No matter how hard things are, how frustrated we become passion drives our belief that it is all worthwhile: one day it will/can/should change.

Everyone has an Equal Voice

As a kid, I thought the group in Switzerland was just the coolest, young and hip no matter their age. They also hung out all the time (think spaghetti dinners at midnight). Having a model of a caring trusting community was a lesson in itself but to me the most valuable lesson was how each of us was a valued member. I mean each, it didn’t matter that I was 9 I had an equal voice, I was engaged in conversations and dialogue. I had a colleague once note that I spoke to one of my media club students like an adult, just like I spoke to her. I didn’t quite understand what was weird about the moment. I realize now how great of a gift it was to have adults actively listen without judgement. What a gift for a kid and a reminder as I can get sucked in to the busyness of routines.

It’s About the Learning

The joys of living in 3-4 countries in 10 years, is 4 different school systems in 3 different languages. I had to let go of marks pretty fast and focus on my own growth which for a first born perfectionist like myself was probably a bigger blessing then I will ever know. The constant between the different languages and systems was that I knew who I was as a learner, strategies, tools and techniques that I could use to cope. I’ve really struggled with the Back to Basics comments I see on social media and I couldn’t understand why till I realized I didn’t really ever get the basics, in English at least. We left Canada when I was in grade 2 and came back at 15 when they put me in grade 12. That first English class was torture since my teacher was a grammar lover but I graduated with honors the following year. I had no formal English reading instruction I was just an avid reader (not high quality literature either, more along the line of the Babysitter’s Club). That active learner stance that I had to acquire out of necessity was probably one of the greatest gifts.

Love Them Anyways

My parents worked with drug addicts in Italy. I have seen every Van Damme  movie out there as a result. As I watched my parents pour into a community of wonderful young men, it was hard to watch as your hope for success turns into failure. Every now and then though you would see that hint of change, a moment and for some that moment extended and became a new path. It is beautiful to see a transformation but they are few and far between and never as fast and frequent as the self help books make it out to be. My role is not even close to that of my parents but I think the biggest lesson I have taken away is that you love them anyways. You help people no matter what, no strings attached. I am reminded how human our roles can be when supporting others to change. Sometimes we just have to listen. Sometimes we push. Sometimes we just have to wait for that moment of transformation.

So I guess I need to thank my parents for dragging me half way around the world. I thought that was where the lesson ended till I heard Lucy West last week in a coaching clinic.

She made an interesting statement: Your reality is not everyone’s reality.

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So as I reflect on my story I’m reminded that my reality is not everyone’s reality. As educators and students, we each bring our own experiences and stories to the learning community. Again I am reminded to #listenclosely!

#ThisSeptemberPrj: A Reflection

For my masters course this summer we were offered a few different options for our final project and in typical fashion I chose the ‘out there‘ option: creating a piece of digital artwork. I had grand plans at first (an interactive online photography display was one of them). The more I thought, the more I realized perhaps simple was better. What if I took some ideas, stories if you will, that I had planned on blogging about and used a visual medium to share them?

So now a couple hundred pictures/crumpled notes/tech meltdowns/late evenings later it’s complete.

The three stories I settled upon:

Click on each to read the story of how the idea developed.

There is something about creating, whether a blog post, a presentation or a 10 second Instagram animation, that feels very vulnerable. Will anyone see it? Will people like it? Is it really original? Is it  worth putting out there? It’s been a reminder that first and foremost I have to create for myself, reflect on my learning and share the experience. Even if it makes it’s way to just one person, it will be worthwhile.

If you do make your way to the clips, I hope they act as reminders of the possibilities of the digital tools around us, the wonder and complexities of the 21st century child and how each of us can be a champion for one child.

Enjoy!

You can see the complete project, including the digital tools used and how to engage with each at tinazita.wix.com/this-september.

#ThisSeptemberPrj: Relationship Remix

I have watched Rita Pierson’s TED talk at least a dozen times and every time it still gets me. I remember the first time I watched it, between the tears, I felt like I couldn’t stop nodding my head. I have been lucky in my various educational experiences to feel those champions cheering me on so as you spoke to the power of relationships, I could see those teachers standing in front of me. As my role has changed over the years, it isn’t young learners in front of me each day but I hope I have championed a learner or two along the way.

It’s easy to get lost in the busyness of the day to day so I’ve taken some of my favourite sound bites and re-mixed them with other clips online as a reminder this September. I am probably one of the worst, but this September I really want to remember the power of relationships, connections and the need to inspire risk taking and confidence. 

I hope you enjoy!

If it does not load below, please click here: Realtionship Remix with Mozilla Popcorn Maker