CTL 1608: A Final Reflection

As our time together in Constructivism and Online Design comes to a close, it is hard to capture it all in one blog post. I have to admit that there are still times where I feel like a wanna be but I believe I am leaving with a better understanding of the terminology and concepts we explored. As I look back on my take aways I feel they could be applied to both face to face and online learning experiences which is very exciting as we head in to more blended learning environments.

Here is a quick sketchnote that outlines my 10 take aways but feel free to also listen to the audio version on the bottom of the page.


For a better explanation, please CLICK HERE.

#peel21st Blog Hop: Learning in the 21st Century is…

After a successful #peel21st blog hop in September, a few of us decided to take another stab at it. We hear the term 21st Century learning often but what does it mean to each of us. Don’t forget to hop over and see the other blog posts listed at the end.

In trying to define 21st century learning, it seems so much has changed and then at times nothing has changed.

Nothing has changed: Learning is learning. Relationships are still essential.  Play and discovery still draw in the young and old. Real world experiences help learners transfer from the classroom to the big wide world.

Everything has changed: The list of digital inventions continues to grow. Information at our fingertips. Limitless ways to contribute to a global understanding.

With the passion of educators of the past and new digital tools of today, learning in the 21st century is continual, empowering and exciting. 

John Seely Brown and Douglas Thomas said it much better than I can:

IMG_9230What does learning in the 21st century mean to you?

Read some of our thoughts:

CTL 1608: Lessons from Gaudi

I was never much of a Gaudi fan. Liking the clean smooth lines of century old homes, his architecture always looked a little tacky from far behind my computer screen. But as we visited his works in Barcelona, I feel in love.


In love with his environmentally friendly design whether in Park Guell’s naturally cooled market square or finding new life for broken ceramics in the Casa Batllo’s exterior.

In love with the story behind the design, the details in the facade of Sagrada Familia so all could access the story without entering and yet the simplicity of the interior to draw you up to the stars.

In love with his dedication to his vision and passion no matter how uncool, unpopular or ahead of it’s time it may have been.

7903661114_ec8f7636a3_zAs I stood in the middle of towering columns of stone it was hard not to be in awe. In awe of the intricacies of design in the seemingly simple, the vision that had to be laid out for the many to carry forward years later.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Gaudi and his Sagrada Familia project as we have journeyed through the readings about constructivism, situated learning, distributed cognition and now communities of practice. When I first blogged about the Sagrada Familia a few years back for a work blog what stood out to me was the distributed nature of the construction. The shared vision that each artist carried forward almost 100 years after Gaudi’s death. The selflessness that must exist when you have a vision that you know is greater than your lifetime, the urgency that must come with wanting to pass it on. Although I didn’t know the term distributed cognition or distributed constructivism at the time, standing in the middle of Sagrada Familia reminded me of the power of a community, the fact that no single person could accomplish the masterpiece but rather it was the knowledge of the past and the community in the present.

I thought my take aways were done but there always seems to be more to learn. As I was reading the characteristics of a community this week in Barab & Duffy’s, I wondered if they could be applied to the artistic community around the project. The community definitely has a heritage spanning 100 years. They have a clear vision driving their work which is being passed down by the community. With out each of the community members the project would halt. They are interdependent on each other to complete the work being done, mentoring those that are at the peripheral’s of the project searching for more.

The question I had the day I stood between the towering columns, is the same question I have today. How can I foster or contribute to such a community of practice that stands the test of time, that reproduces and creates a web of interdependence? Can I be selfless enough to share in a collective vision, to know at one point I may have to walk away? Our tools may be different, but as we design online learning environments I think there are many lessons we can take away from Gaudi.

Gentle Daily Reminders

IMG_9735-2I realized I may have a problem when more than one individual mentioned my morning sky pictures. I can’t help myself! It seems like this fall we have had more stunning sunrises then usual. They were begging to be captured. As I paused and took a few minutes to enjoy the sight, It was interesting to notice how such a simple act can help put things in perspective. My gentle reminder of the beauty in the world.

It has been a busy fall. Busy year for that matter. Busyness seems to be the lesson I just can’t get a handle of (see past blog post). So as I stumbled upon Matt Steel’s post on The Abundance of Slowness I was a little taken back. His opening quote had me up in arms: “Workaholics aren’t heroes. They don’t save the day, they just use it up”Have I been using up my days? At the end of a week of 5 am starts and midnight crashses I could see myself more and more in his story. I think what spoke to me the most was how the busyness took over the time for reflection, creativity and innovation. I could see myself in that moment. I keep telling myself if I finish my work I can: go for a photo walk, get lost in designing a poster, read that book but I realized I had it backwards. It is hard to give myself permission to pause, the emails can wait, the work will get done. What is even harder is to let go of the fear of judgement (probably imaginary on my part).

Just as my sunrise snapshots are a reminder of the beauty in the world, I have been reflecting on the reminders in my day to day that make me pause, reflect and recharge.

  • The connection felt with an old friend, falling back in to deep conversations
  • The simple words in a closing keynote that remind you of the gift you have as an educator
  • The amazing workings of a child’s brain when they are engaged and you take the time to listen closely
  • The back and forth conversation of a learner that thirsts for feedback

For me the work is in remembering to cherish and pause for the gentle reminders, to take the time to create, reflect and recharge and to hide the long to do list even for just an hour. I’m a work in progress but the gentle reminders help.

What are your gentle reminders? How do you stay focused?

A Tale of Two WORDs

I have been reading and chatting with colleagues a lot about vocabulary and it’s expiry dates. It has made we reflect on how powerful words can be. So here are two stories that show the two sides.

Story 1:

It was my first M.Ed. class and I was nervous as heck so tried to make myself small in a corner of the room. The discussion started and I thought ‘I can do this’ and then I heard it. An eloquently composed statement that included the typical Edujargon and educated language I knew I couldn’t keep up with. I had a B.A, B.Ed. and several AQs but at that moment I felt like the kid from Italy that was sitting in the back of my grade 12 English class trying to fake an understanding of Macbeth. It took me a class or two to let go of the eloquent language and just jump in with my ideas. I carried a small fear of criticism along but was grateful for amazing professors that encouraged the dialogue. I wish I could say that was the only time I felt inferior and confused by the words used but the moments keep popping in courses, in meetings, even in Twitter chatter. There is always a moment where I ask myself if I have been faking it all along. It is amazing the power words have.

Story 2:

Last week we were reading Mitch Resnick’s writings on Distributed Constructivism, the idea that we can use computer networks to have learners discuss, share, and construct together. Resnick points out that the constructing together truly maximizes the potential of the technology at our disposal and engages learners in new ways. Now it may not seem earth shattering with my description of it, but I felt like I just found the Holy Grail. The word sounds lofty and intimidating when you first look at it but I finally could name my inquiry. I had a label, a concept to explore further. It was hard to articulate before what I felt was missing with educational technology, this need to go further than I have gone before. Last week I really felt the ideas that have been floating in my head connect and organize under with just that one paragraph, one term. It is amazing the power words have.

As a social linguistics major, words and their journey have always fascinated me.  I understand the power words carry with them but I don’t know if I have taken the time to reflect on the power educational vocabulary can have both to draw us in as well as alienate. I am always stumbling upon posts about what words are trendy in education, words that are overused, words that are just taboo. I will admit that I am guilty of dropping the educational vocabulary often.  But maybe that isn’t a terrible thing. Maybe it comes down to how I use my words. Am I using them to draw colleagues in, to help clarify, extend understanding and connect or am I using them to prove how current I am? We often blame the word itself for it’s overuse and  misunderstandings, but perhaps it is more the tale to blame. I have to let go of whether it is in style or not and focus more on whether it is the right fit for that moment. I know I will be thinking more about the words I choose and the tales I tell this week.

What are your thoughts about words in education? Would love to hear your thoughts!

CTL 1608: Qui Docet, Discit


He who teaches, learns.

As I was wandering the ROM gift store this weekend, a plaque jumped out: Qui Docet Discit. Ok I have to admit I have a thing for sayings, and being that my Latin is rusty the caption on the shelf helped: Qui Docet Discit-He who teaches, learns. As we have been exploring situated learning and consequently the transfer of knowledge between learning situations the last two weeks in CTL 1608, the plaque reminded me that I have had many situated learning experiences along my professional journey.

After two weeks of back and forth in the course environment I leave the conversation with an understanding that all learning is situated, influenced by the context, and that transfer can be encouraged through inquiry, deeper exploration, and time (those rich authentic tasks we always talk about). As I came to my own understanding of situated learning and the transfer of knowledge and skills one professional learning experience came to mind as what I would wish for in a situated learning experience.

It must have been the fall of 2006 or 2007 and an Additional Qualification course was being offered to explore Instructional Intelligence (based on Barrie Bennett’s work). It would be a three part series providing participants with their specialist in Primary or Junior education so I jumped at the learning opportunity. Looking back now I realize how much that year of learning together has influenced my practice as an educator, from the small instructional tactics I picked up to the understanding of the complexity of teaching. As I think back to my inquiry project on mind mapping and storytelling, I can see the transfer of knowledge from the course environment to my daily practice. Bringing that learning back to the community of adult learners allowed me to see how my transfer of knowledge and skills is not one way but rather an interconnected web that is always UNDER CONSTRUCTION. The greatest gift of the course though was the gift of time. The opportunity to explore, question and engage with people I knew personally and trusted. Most of all though, I don’t think I understood how much I learned from this experience till I facilitated AQs myself. That act of facilitating an adult learning experience allowed me to transfer my knowledge and skills in new ways.

Qui docet discit: As educators it is hard not to learn from the many situations we are immersed in daily. So much of my professional learning journey happened in my daily interactions with students. I taught, I learned. As I search for that ideal professional learning framework, I am reminded that perhaps the greatest learning opportunity is a great community of learners we trust, the time to engage deeply and a learning situation to test it all out in.

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.