Lessons from the AGO: A New Lens on Curation

IMG_7603It wasn’t really the lesson I expected to take away from my afternoon exploration with my tween nephew. I had finally convinced him to come with me and couldn’t wait to see his reaction to the various art installations. As we were walking the halls of the Art Gallery of Ontario I kept noticing new lessons in curation.

The Collection & Container

We stood in a square room, a part of the Canadian exhibit, and looked up to see a sky light more than 10 feet above us. As we looked around the room you could see the pieces that were brought together. On one wall there were several pieces arranged with a large piece that lead in to many smaller square pieces that draw your eye down the hall. The experience was the same in each hall. Each exhibit reinforced for me the importance of the collection & container. In the gallery the light filled white room pulled, the arrangement, the pieces that were chosen and left behind all pulled you in to the scene. I left wondering how I can better use digital tools to provide that immersed, multi sensory experience.


We were in the Turner exhibit with many of his pieces of art when I turned to see one piece on one bright blue wall. It wasn’t the only time that a piece was given it’s own special place. The curator understood the need for room to reflect, room to focus, room to breathe. Was I creating this whitespace when curating digital resources?

The Unexpected Challenge

Then came the big lesson. As we wondered the halls, you would find the interesting pairings. The white sculpture on the ornate black chest. The modern pieces sprinkled through out the Turner exhibit. I understood it better in the first gallery we wandered through. The bust pulled us in and as we went around the room we found a collection of European portraits. Many with religious stories illustrated or family moments captured. After the first few it became almost mechanical. Stop, view, read, repeat. And then I stood in front of the Sower and had to stop. It didn’t fit the pattern. You couldn’t see the dog in the bottom right or the saintly glow. The mystery in what seemed the sower’s cape. The radiance that seemed to point to the universe. As I stood in front of the piece I was challenged to take a closer look, to reflect on the collection as a whole and the piece on it’s own. I realized the power of our collection and the power of an unexpected challenge. It felt a little like a concept attainment game. 


So I went thinking my nephew would be the one learning a new lesson or two and instead it is me who leaves wondering how to take these lessons from great curators and reflect on the experience composed, the need for whitespace and that unexpected challenge.

Have you ever had one of those unexpected lessons from exploring your community? Love to hear more!

#peel21st Blog Hop: My One Best Thing

This is our first blog hop of the 15-16 school year where educators all post to their blog the same night at the same time. The prompt for this blog hop: What has been your most memorable learning moment this fall?  Please check out the links below my post to hop on over to their blogs and read their stories. We would love to hear your comments too!

So I’m going to break the rules today and share my two best moments. To be honest, I’m lucky to be able to experience a lot of these happy – exciting – ‘YES!’ – type moments in my job.

When I first started thinking about the prompt for tonight I thought of a meeting with an educator last week. It was one of those moments where all the pieces seemed to come together not just for my own understanding but for the educators as well. It was only a day earlier that a colleague had sent a message asking for advice for some English Language Learners and I was suggesting the Tiny Tap. At the same time I connected with an expert in the field and asked for strategies, when she shared the Language Experience approach. So when I sat down to work with an ESL educator and he mentioned Language Experience, the pieces were coming together. We worked through the steps and possibilities with the app, rejigging a few times along the way. See I am easily excited when those moments happen but it was so cool to see his excitement grow as well. We were a bundle of excitement together. An amazing way to end a day!

I was set with that being my story till I watched some of my grade 3 friends today. Our activity wasn’t anything out of the ordinary with a poster in Pic collage and then sharing our work with the classroom educator. From class to class I watched student after student teach their friend how to get in to the app, attaching a file or scanning a QR code. Now that isn’t out of the ordinary as well. I see a lot of amazing collaboration in classroom. As I stood over my friend walking another student through scanning the QR code and he did it better than I did. Please note he scanned his first QR code about 15 minutes earlier. Another amazing way to end a day!

I’m so excited to read some of my colleagues best moments below. Click on each of the links below to hop on over to their blog.

 What has your best moment been? I would love to hear all about it.



Dealing with Disappointment

This post has been swirling in my head for the last few months and I’m always worried about how it may be viewed, interpreted or better yet misinterpreted. This space has always been where I work out my thoughts so I hope you don’t mind this indulgence on my part.


  • opening the fridge and there being no cold coca cola
  • printing a 3D model and watching it be mangled
  • realizing the night before you have double booked the next morning
  • spending hours on a task and realizing you misread the instructions
  • Seeing what you think I s a brilliant idea wilt
  • hearing no or not being heard
  • having a vision that you can’t seem to communicate clearly
  • knowing that you are letting your ego make more of a situation

I don’t think they ever discussed the disappointments in teacher’s college or coaching training, the moments where things don’t go as planned, where reality and expectations didn’t quit meet. Now I think in theory we all know disappointments are a part of life, with the good comes the not so good sometimes. I’m still struggling my way through those moments whenthey appear but I’ve learned that every disappointment is an opportunity for reflection. An opportunity to look at the other side of an argument. An opportunity to practice empathy. An opportunity to innovate, be creative and find a different path.

So the take away? Don’t dwell on the disappointment but rather on the next step. 

Now to put that in to practice is a little harder than writing it down.

How do you deal with disappointments?

Let it ride.

A photo posted by Victoria Siemer (@witchoria) on

#20hrproject: A Final Reflection

#20hrprojectSo I made it to the 20 hour mark, well probably a bit more than 20 hours and as I was sketching out my last sketch for the project I was wondering what the take away was this time around. Like the #100dayproject I enjoyed the creativity and the connections but I felt there was a different lesson learned this time around. I couldn’t put my finger on it till I heard Royan Lee’s Ignite Talk on Monday night.

As much as I was taking a risk during the #100dayproject and making my learning visible, I was still working on a skill I loved with photography. I’m by no means an expert but I had figured out a few basics. This time around it was different. I was starting from scratch, including the tools & materials. There is definitely a fear attached to being a complete beginner. Standing at a starting line not sure how the race will end. I was glad that Debbie had shared the checklist from Josh Kaufmann’s book. Especially the bullet: Learn enough to self-correct. It went along with some advice from a young hand letter I follow on Instagram of just trying different things out. As I was sitting over a D one day I could hear the phrase pop in to my head. I could see that I had stepped over that start line.

There was also an element of letting go. Letting go of an image of perfection. Some nights it seemed I was erasing more than writing. I woke up one morning and realized how terrible the last post was, I felt I had to redo it. Even the last image and a wonky C made me question my post. It’s hard to let go of the swirling questions whether something is worthy enough to be posted and shared. I follow some amazing folks on Instagram and their hand lettering is gorgeous. I had to learn to not compare my point A to their point M. I had to recognize we each have our own learning paths. That doesn’t mean every like from an amazing designer didn’t build a bit more confidence in my skills (thanks for that folks).

So my take away this time around? Sometimes we need to do the things that scare us. Sometimes we need to remember what it feels like to be at a starting line without a sense of the path. Most of all I hope I remember those feelings and experiences when I sit and work with a learner who is standing at their starting line.

Maybe salsa dancing is next. Now that is definitely frightful! What is your next learning journey?

If you are interested in the journey, you can check out the curated posts HERE on Storify.

Candy, Mangia and the Mall Bench: Lessons on Community from my grandparents

I have been thinking a lot about community, trust and relationships lately and how they impact learning together. It dawned on me I had learned a few lessons from my grandparents.

When i was little my grandfather used to stash his pockets full of candy on a Sunday morning before heading to church. I wish it was for me (I may have sneaked one or two). He’d stand by the front door and use the candy as a way to entice the reluctant child, the coughing adult or the individual that just needed a little cheering up.

My grandmother was all about the food. She had her staple: pasta, tomato sauce and meatballs. She wouldn’t stop there though. If you weren’t digging the pasta, the nuts would come out. Then the cheetos followed by the cake. Whatever she could do to keep you at the table eating. My mom’s side was no different. She would put on the most elaborate spreads to entice groups to come together.

My memories of my grandfather (dad’s side this time) was always as a retired man. There was this bench outside the grocery store in the Queensway. Every day my grandfather would make his way down the block and meet his friends at the bench. They made their own piazza to meet and chat.

It may seem like the three stories above aren’t connected but as I have been thinking of community, more importantly how we build community I realized that there is always AN INVITE. Whether it was my poppy’s candy, my ma’s screams of mangia or my pa’s bench there was an invitation to engage in community.

I worry that sometimes in the routine of community, in the tweets and posts, I have forgotten the invitation to engage. It was that invitation that got me connected online, allowed me to meet great educators face to face, lead me to new learning opportunities. Someone always pulls (or pushes) you into a new community of practice. Sometime takes that risk or sacrifice to pull you in. So I’m left with the question of how am I inviting others to engage in learning together?

Time to go bake some cookies. 

Do you agree? Can you remember any invitations that made the difference in your learning? Love to hear your thoughts!

The Most Important Thing/Part … of Education

Have you ever read The Important Book by Margaret Wise? It’s a classic pattern book that explores the essentials of anything from a spoon to a daisy starting and ending with The most important thing is

I was reminded of the book as I read Seth Godin’s blog post Tires, Coffee and People. As his post explains the most important part of a coffee is the beans, or of a race car is the tires, an organization people even though at times we can focus on all the extras the grinder for the beans, 4 wheel drive for the car.

It got me to thinking what is the most important part of education? Can I narrow it down to one goal, one skill, one element that stands above all else? I was stuck and perplexed and then I watched Ella Luna’s clip for Soulpancake. She shares how she stood at the crossroads of should and must and despite the risks she dove in to must. That was it! The most important thing about education is that when a learner stands at that crossroads, they know (in every sense of the word from the skills needed to knowing themselves) that they can choose must. For happy healthy citizens, for a better future, we need the next generation to know they can choose must.

Maybe that is too lofty. Maybe the important thing about education is much simpler than that. Maybe it’s just kids. But I think there is a freedom that comes from knowing what our most important thing is. We can then let go of our focus on the new and shiny and see that they are all tools to help us with our most important thing.

What do you think is the most important thing/part of education?

Would love to hear your thoughts!

Ella Luna explains the concept of the crossroads of should & must much better in the clip below.

#20hrproject: A Slow Chat #teachersarelearnerstoo

So I made it past the half way mark of the #20hrproject. There are so many take aways even if it is just humbling to realize the difficulty involved in a skill. I have definitely experienced the highs and lows that come from learning. The moments you realize you have been sitting for an hour writing the same 5 letter word to get it just right.As I redid this curved line remembering one of the mentor videos I could hear Kaufmann’s word of “learn enough to self correct” come to mind.

As I was following the hashtag on Twitter and Instagram, Debbie included a great one #teachersarelearnerstoo. I think that is what I love so much about creating whether it was the #100dayproject or this one, it puts me in the role of a learner and beginner all at once. It’s easy to forget the excitement, the nerves, the frustrations that come with learning something as adults.

IMG_6852#teachersarelearnerstoo seems pretty simple, but what a powerful statement. Over all the fancy technology, tools and toys it’s the learners’ mindset that is the greatest asset today (and any
century for that matter).Then we got to thinking, whether you are at the beginning of your project, end of your project or haven’t started a project maybe that is a conversation to be had: #teachersarelearnerstoo. We hope you will join us for a slowchat next week. Each day we will post a question or prompt to the #20hrproject hashtag on Instagram & Twitter and hope to spark a conversation of how we each model that we are never too old to learn something new.

Hope to see you online!