Professional Learning: A Road Trip Adventure

IMG_3115.PNG-1A few summers ago I had the brilliant idea of taking my nephews on a road trip to Newfoundland. Ok, so maybe it wasn’t so brilliant to take two kids who had never left the province or stayed in a hotel on a 14 day road trip but I promise we ended up having a good time. Thank goodness for my mother’s willingness to tag along. I started planning right away; looking for different stops, activities, landmarks to visit on and off the beaten track. Despite all my planning I found some of our most memorable moments were not planned: spending an hour sorting through fossil imprinted rocks, having a moose cross our path at dusk, having paper airplanes be destroyed by the strong coastal winds, standing in the reeds behind my great grandmother’s cottage.

I wonder if professional learning isn’t a little like our crazy east coast road trip. Could what makes a good road trip make a good professional learning journey?

  • A good road trip is filled with a variety of memorable moments. When I think of our east coast road trip I think what made it great was the variety of activities from the planned, the quasi-planned and the completely spontaneous. In the same way our professional learning journeys require a variety of moments from the inspirational keynotes, to the practical after school workshops, the ongoing inquiries with our colleagues or a critical friend that we trust asking the hard questions, along with the tweets and Instagram posts. The depth of our professional learning journey lies in the variety of experiences.
  • It’s not about the destination but the journey. A road trip like ours had many amazing moments, but it was great because those moments happened in between sing alongs in the car and crazy I spy games. I think earlier on in my career I equated professional learning with the moments that were offered to me instead of understanding that professional learning is what comes from my reflection and application of those moments along the way.
  • No two road trips are the same. Someone else could have followed the same path that we took, stopped at the same stops and yet have had a completely different trip. In the same way our professional learning journeys are personal. We bring our past experiences, our passions, our learning moments along the way.

What do you think? Is professional learning a moment or a journey? Is there one form that is better than others or is it in the variety that we truly grow?

Love to hear your thoughts!

10 Good Things

I was challenged by my pal @jrichea to share my ten good things from the past year two weeks ago now and am finally sitting down to reflect. My memory plays tricks on me some times so I’ve decided to use some photographs as triggers.


To read the complete list, click here to access the STELLER story.

The Year Behind – The Year Ahead


2014 had some pretty amazing bookends. It started off on the cobblestone streets of Rome at midnight with my little brother and ended (almost) on the beaches of the North Cape of PEI exploring my parents new home province. Seems pretty spectacular looking back now. There were great moments of learning, a new appreciation for Papert and A LOT of change.

Despite all the good this year has felt a little off. I could never put my finger on it. On paper I am doing exactly the same things I’ve done before. I’ve always been a dreamer. It has never gotten in the way YET. Slowly but surely as the year progressed the busy seemed to take over. I was forgetting more, sleeping less. And with a record number of missed emails and double bookings in the fall for me, the guilt creeped in. I got bogged down in the changes. A new year seemed like the perfect time for me to learn that lesson about balance I have avoided for my first 35 years.

As I was reading Seth Godin’s new book What To Do When It’s Your Turn (many lessons learned from the book, more to come) a page stuck out to me: Setting the mood when you’re not in the mood .

Here’s the real question: if all it takes to turn a lousy day into a great one is a little dinner party and a phone call, why would you ever choose to have a lousy day? Even better, why would you let someone else have a lousy one?

The people who need you need you to fix their mood, even when you don’t feel like it. And we need you to learn to fix your own mood so you can be the one who fixes the rest of us. The mood fixer is a precious resource, and you can learn how to be that resource.

Do what you should do. Your mood will follow.  

Quite the challenge after a year of feeling off. Did I get lost in a lousy mood forgetting that I had the choice to change it for myself and others?

My 2015 Bucket List (1)So while standing at the oceans edge after a weekend of reflecting, observing, listening, capturing I realized perhaps more than resolutions for this year I needed a bucket list. Small items I know would reset my mood when the off feeling crept back in. None are unrealistic (like giving up coca cola), expensive (gym membership) or big time commitments (turning off my phone each day). Small moments of creating and connecting I know will recharge and inspire me.

My 2015 Bucket List (1)

So I’m printing off my bucketlist for my fridge as a daily reminder to create, connect and try something new. Here’s to hoping I needed a second list this year!

How do you reset your mood? Do you agree with Seth Godin’s quote? Have a bucket list for this year? Love to hear your thoughts!

Christmas Memories

I hope you forgive me for some reminiscing in this post. Hopefully it links back to education at some point!

Ever since I was little, December has always been my favourite month. Growing up it had this magical feeling with the first snow fall, the twinkle lights, the family gatherings. As the courses have come to an end this semester, I have been thinking of some of my favourite Christmas memories. I have the worst memory (to the point I fact checked the below with my parents) and often can only remember single snapshots. Most of those images are from December with Swiss Christmas markets or chestnuts roasting on an open fire in Rome. There are three that have taught me invaluable lessons.

St. Nicholas Day

In Germany and Switzerland St. Nick (aka Santa) doesn’t come on the 25th, he stops in on December 6th to fill your shoe with goodies. The night before you leave your boot outside (more room to fill) and excitedly check your shoe in the morning. We were living right off the Rhein river in Busingen in an apartment that was probably too small for a family of 5. I didn’t expect much. So you could imagine our surprise when we opened the door to see our boots overflowing. Someone in the building had taken it upon themselves to brighten our day just a bit, with out ever wanting recognition.That sense of magic has stayed with me all these years.

Christmas Eve in Milan

It was our first Christmas Eve in Milan as a family. My parents dropped off the little ones, packed us up in the car and then hussled down to the busy train station. With some food and wrapped presents, we spent our first Christmas Eve wishing those without a home a Merry Christmas with the little we had to give. To be honest I don’t know if the 12 year old me appreciated the depth of the experience at the time. My introvert self was just panicking that I had to talk to strangers and probably was a little worried about what others would think. Looking back I realize how much that one small experience shaped how I see the holiday season.

Last Night at the Sharing Place

I have volunteered for a few years now at a food bank up the street. It is small and cozy and the holiday season is always the best, most hectic time of year. Last night I came with some rice krispy squares and 3 food hampers that would only be a small contribution to a much bigger event. As the food hampers and well wishes were exchanged, an older lady who attends regularly stopped before for a holiday greeting exchange and after the Happy Holiday’s and Merry Christmas came by to say goodbye with her usual big smile. She hesitated this time, stopped, looked me in the eye and said Thank You and We Love You with a big hug. She said it with such warmth and sincerity it was hard not to get lost in the moment. As much as I say I get more than I give from the experience, that moment proved it. At just the right time the right words were a much greater gift than anything I may have brought.

The lessons learned are many: the wonder and magic of a surprise gift with no expectation of return, a reminder or model that it is better to give than receive, and sometimes the best gifts cost nothing at all. These memories have acted as great reminders this season to focus on what is most important and after a busy, hectic year I am reminded that we all make choices. There is never enough time, but I can choose how I use it.  Of course the teacher in me leaves hoping that my nephews, niece and the kids I care about have the pleasure of the same lessons one day. The lessons above didn’t happen in a school, classroom with books or paper, but there is nothing to say they can’t. I hope they get to experience compassion and the good in humanity.

Happy Holidays! I hope that whatever you may celebrate, it is a season of rest and joy.

Professional Learning: My Moment

I was asked to reflect in writing about a profound or transformational professional learning experience. It is hard to choose just one. I find that they come in different formats, sometimes through one on one conversations with mentors, other times through the back and forth of tweets, a great book like A New Culture of Learning or an inquiry for my Masters of Education (I fell in love with Papert this weekend). If I have to choose just one experience though it would be my Junior Specialist that focused on Instructional Intelligence.

This is a few years back now, but my board put out a call for a three part specialist program in primary or junior education that focused on Instructional Intelligence. I had already received my specialist in Computers in the Classroom (Integration of ICT today) and was looking for a new path to explore. The board kindly provided funding for the course as well so that the financial burden did not factor into my choice. It seemed like there was nothing to lose so I filled out my application and was eagerly awaiting the first day of class. There were so many valuable lessons learned through out the course, guest speakers that enhanced the experience, instructors that were supportive but I think there are a few things that made it an experience with immense impact.

Personal Inquiries:

It was the first time I actually engaging in a professional inquiry around student practice. The instructors did a great job at giving us just enough to get started but then also enough freedom to follow our own passions. As I reflect on how the inquiries evolved over the three course I can see how my understandings of instructional strategies and concepts evolved. Having a learning journey to share empowered me to find new ways to share with colleagues. More importantly it better allowed me to frame my understanding of teaching and learning.


Although everyone didn’t follow through with all three parts of the specialist, a core group did and it was amazing to be on a learning journey together for just over a year. It is very rare to be engaged in conversations about ‘good instruction’ with people you trust for that long. Time was essential to build relationships; to consolidate our ideas, to challenge and extend our understanding. Time is what I feel often holds me back today. Busy in the day to day needs it is hard to take the time to stop, connect, question, challenge.


After spending close to a year learning together the relationships that were formed continue to this day. The time to get to know each other, share our learning journeys, share our struggles helped build a trust that I have rarely experienced in another structured learning experience. I think partly it was due to the time we spent together. I think it is also due to the community that was established by the instructors. I think it also came to our willingness to be present in the moment. I count many as friends and can still count on many of the course members for advice now years later.

I didn’t know it at the time, but I think now that I look back I can see that active, constructivist approach situated in my classroom context coupled with an emerging community of practice facilitated a professional learning experience that has had a profound affect on my practice.

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: