The Small Moments

It might have been the piles of snow or the dark grey mornings but this winter has seemed busier and a little too long. While whipped up in the frenzy that comes with busyness, it was wonderful to be jolted by unexpected, small moments.

Small moments including…Image

  • a free parking pass from a kind stranger
  • a week of brilliant sunrises
  • a voluntary ‘good morning’ from a middle school-er
  • a giggling child on their way down the hall (who knew attendance was so much fun)
  • coffee with a  friend
  • an encouraging tweet
  • a thank you email

It was amazing how one very small moment could help refocus an entire day.

So it got me thinking.

As a teacher leader, do I need to focus on the small moments a bit more? Name them, share them, celebrate them.

The snow may have melted and the sun returned, but I reminded of a need to focus on the small moments moving forward.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mobile and Ubiquitous

Tonight is the final night of my MEd course this semester. We have been exploring mobile and ubiquitous computing for two months which has been a fascinating topic that has boggled my mind from wearable technology to robots to cyborg men and surveillance.
 
Over this time my nephews and I returned to Bell Lightbox digiplayspace. I absolutely love this exhibit and was hoping and praying my nephews didn’t think they were too cool. Luckily they jumped at the possibility to attend. There were led walls that reacted to water, robots made of digital cubes that snapped together and a bike riding oculus rift (new word for me) paper boy game.

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Being immersed in technology day in and out I often forget how amazing it can be. The digi playspace is my yearly reminder of what can be, that technology does not need to come in a box and can appear seamless at times.
 
Last week in the course we watched the following Ted talk:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=utV1sdjr4PY

If you want to be wowed by technology, watch a robot in a music jamming session. As I watched the clip though I realized the most amazing part of the technology is not the technology but the process.
 
The spark of an amazing (maybe outrageous) idea, going with it, searching out learning, connecting with colleagues, testing, trying, playing.
 
What a gift for our learners in an ever changing world full of mobile and ubiquitous computing.

Even if I give that gift to just one child, how amazing!

Lost in Translation

There is a page in one of my favourite books The Arrival by Shaun Tan where the protagonist is having difficulties communicating.

I think I love it so much because I remember those frustrating days as a kid when I couldn’t communicate with my peers in school in Germany or Italy.

If I am completely honest sometimes I feel the same way in discussions about education. We love our terminology (me especially). Just to think about the number of terms that have come and gone since I started 13 years ago is amazing: SAMR, documenting, II, Differentiation, Personalization, TLCP, Collaborative Inquiry and so on. It is good (essential) to evolve, to improve, to deepen our understanding as professionals. I don’t believe the words or concepts presented are at fault.

At times though I wonder if we are lost in translation. We get so attached to the terminology,  strongly discussing and defending our own definition, our interpretation of meaning. Sometimes we think we are discussing the same thing and leave confused why we haven’t come to an agreement. Other times we argue about a difference in vocabulary but really had the same goal in mind. Worse yet I fear we judge individuals based on how current their terminology is when they are common threads through out. How can we improve the conversations? How can we dig deeper if we are so attached to the terminology?

Are we complicating the simple and simplifying the complicated.

A few weeks back I was so excited to see some former students. I was at the same school for nine years (probably too long) but had the opportunity to watch many of them grow up from the small shy Kindergarteners to the grade 5 graduating class. I am always excited to see them and their smiling faces when I travel (sometimes in the most unexpected places). I got to see C this time and as C ran over to say hi, I found myself rushing over as well. I think every educator has had those moments when you are reassured you have connected with a learner, when you have the opportunity to check in after a few years and see they are doing well. And it hit me, I can’t tell you what I taught her. I know we spent hours chatting about books and reading together but her passion for reading was sparked at home way before me. I could learn a lesson or two about confidence from C, so that is certainly not the lesson I taught her.

Are we complicating the simple and simplifying the complicated.

C reminded me that the most complex part of our job is the learner; the unique, marvelous, mysterious individuals that are in front of us every day. The frameworks, terms, research are all there to help us better meet the needs of our learner not to get in the way of it. They really are the simpler part of our job.

My take away from it all? I am going to make a better effort to not name drop the current terms, but make strong connections to ideas of the past, the evolution and most importantly the learner. Above all else before jumping to conclusions, I will take the time to listen closely so we aren’t Lost in Translation.

#lookingclosely: Kids These Days

I had planned to write this post a while ago. I was debating whether I should put it out there since so many wonderful writers have done a much better job then I will but here it is anyways.

When I tell people I am a teacher, the first thing I hear is usually “That’s nice” and then comes the “Kids today” followed by a long list of complaints. “Kids today are self absorbed.” “Kids today don’t get outside.” “Kids today are addicted to their devices.” “Kids today have no manners.”

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Every fall my nephews get a special day all to themselves for their birthday (they wouldn’t let me call it a date). Luca and I decided to check out the SkyZone this fall: a warehouse with trampolines from wall to wall. After about 15 minutes of jumping I was showing my age so I stepped off and stood back to observe the craziness. Yes, I saw the kids not listening to their parents or others not following the rules but when I looked closely I was amazed.

The amazing:

  • my nephew making a new friend in dodge ball
  • a kid on the other team ensuring a turn for a younger child
  • chatter and feedback on how to accomplish a better dive into the sponge pit.

So I left there reminded that

“Kids today will amaze you if you look closely.”

Over the following weeks, those moments of wonder seemed to pop up everywhere from the Kindergarten kid that invited me to sit down at the picnic table and chat; to my nephews’ vocabulary when discussing historical events, the high school student who greeted a stranger with a ‘Good Morning’ and smile in the parking lot or simply the smile of a 6 year old when they accomplish something new.

Once again I thought I had a lesson for others when the lesson was really for myself. As I was thinking of all the wonders I had observed I caught myself. Was I doing the same for educators, leaders, administrators?  In the busyness of pushing forward was I taking the time to look closely, search out the amazing before providing next steps?

This year I want to make sure to #lookclosely. And when the ‘kids today/teachers today/leaders today’ creeps into my mind I will try to redirect my attention to find the amazing no matter how small.

No Ordinary December

This December was no ordinary December.

Ordinary December: A mad dash of finishing assignments for my M.Ed., marking assignments for an AQ, baking at 5 a.m., racing to get gifts, wrapping at midnight on Christmas eve and trying to avoid the fact that I’m a year older. Hectic- busy-much too fast.

Ok, well this December was ordinary except for the ending.

2013 was a great year with wonderful opportunities, learning and colleagues. With the best of intentions of not getting lost in the busyness this year, somehow I got sucked in. A wonderful colleague reminded me that sometimes we need to step away to better contribute. So when my little brother sent me a message early in December asking if I wanted to come meet him in Italy, I said yes. Now those that know me, probably aren’t surprised. I’ll do almost anything for my little brothers but I have never booked a trip across the world three weeks before hand. I like to have a plan (details are not required but overall picture), to prepare (even if I pack the night before). So Christmas day, after the morning gift giving I went to the airport. For the first time in my career I put an out of office reply on my work email, packed only mobile technologies and got on the plane without a plan for 8 days.

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I learned many lessons from my Christmas adventure.

  • I can survive without my phone. I must admit I have gotten a little attached to my technology. Nothing like overseas’ charges to make you put it away. For the first time in a long time, I wasn’t checking email, Twitter or Facebook every 5 minutes. Being connected is wonderful, but I need to remember to shut off sometimes.
  • It’s amazing what you see when you look closely. With the technologies away and worries shut off it was amazing to look closely (which I know many of my Kindergarten friends do so well). The flowers growing along the ancient ruins, the window boxes or detailed fountains seemed to pop. When you look closely it is hard not to marvel at the world.
  • Listening closely is just as marvelous. My Italian is not the best but it is such a wonderful language I love fumbling through and even if Rome is a big city, we seemed to have these amazing conversations each day: waiters, travelers, old friends.
  • Not everything can be planned. Like I said I like to have a general plan. I don’t need details and am up for changes but just waking up and getting lost is not my thing. My 23 year old brother on the other hand was adamant against the plans so we compromised in the middle. Wandering, exploring and relaxing weren’t necessarily comfortable but definitely needed.
  • I can’t do what I did before. I was in Rome ten years ago with a friend on a backpacking trip and we went up the cupola in St. Peter’s. When my brother asked me if I needed to take the elevator I said “No way. I’m not that old!” Thank goodness there is no photographic proof of my panting and puffing as I tried to drudge to the top of the 551 steps. I need to accept that I’m getting older. Just because I did it before does not mean I can still do it.
  • The world continues without me. This was the hard lesson. I can’t be part of everything. Going away for the week meant I had to give up family dinners. It was more a lesson in humility than anything else.

So as I stood on the Fori Imperali at midnight on New Years Eve with the fireworks, ancient ruins, thousands of people and my little brother I was excited for the year ahead and grateful I didn’t say no to the adventure.

It definitely was no ordinary December.

Hopefully this will be no ordinary year.

The 6Cs Project Week One: Creativity

Recently I was at a symposium where the keynote speaker made a statement that caught me off guard: “It isn’t that we measure, it is what we measure that is the problem.” I couldn’t agree more but to measure something we have to understand what we are looking for. As we advocate the 6Cs of 21st Century learning represented in Fullan’s From Great to Excellence report for the ministry,  what did we understand each C to represent? So I hit up a few great folks and asked if they would join me on this journey to clarify each of the terms. As we tackle a different one each week we hope that we can start a conversation and build a better understanding of what we are looking for and how to assess it moving forward.

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The Coll-APP-orative: Connecting and Collaborating Through Apps

Earlier this fall I was asked if I would to participate in a blog hop 
where a few of us would blog about our favourite apps. 
How could I resist working with such a wonderful group! 
Below I have shared one of my favourite open ended apps for early learners:Soundbrush. 
You can then continue the blog hop by following the links below the post.
 

Soundbrush: Painting A Song

Click on the image to download from app store.

Click on the image to download from app store.

I was in search of an open ended app where even our earliest learners could explore and create.

Enter Soundbrush.

Although it’s first edition was a paid app, the current update can be installed for free with in app purchases.

It’s quite simple really. You choose  your instrument from the top left toolbar and use your finger to paint your music on the screen.  Play your music back by using the controls in the middle top toolbar.

Are you proud of your creation? You can share your musical creation by emailing the sound file or uploading it to their site and sharing the link.

An overview

Click on the circles in the top left to add more instruments. The app gives you a set of 4 instruments for free if you tweet out your support. Additional sets can be purchased including a rock pack, jazz pack, orchestral pack and synth pad pack. You choose the colour for each instrument. If you want to channel your inner DJ/musician tap on the synthesizer or wrench to further edit the sound.

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So much is possible with the app as you can see in the company’s overview. Your creativity is really the limit! What I love about the soundbrush app is that there is little to no instruction required. Place the iPad in front of the learner and they can begin exploring, interpreting our world in new ways.

The app pulls our young and curious learners into exploring the possibilities, playing with sound and how various sounds interact.

If you like the soundbrush app you may want to explore Musyc or Garageband as well.

Make sure to check out the other blog posts of our Coll-APP-orative blog experience: