#peel21st Blog Hop: Listening to Uncover Passions

Last Tuesday about 200 hundred educators got together to watch the documentary Most Likely to Succeed. You can catch up on the chatter by looking at the #peelMLTS hashtag. One of the concepts that comes up in the movie is the need to give students a voice and choice in their learning. We thought it would make a great blogging topic.

Watch the trailer for more: https://vimeo.com/122502930

Our prompt for tonight’s blog hop:In your current role, how have and/or could you support students in discovering their passions in your practice?

I remember walking in to Williams Parkway last June, ready to explore. I didn’t know how the big grade 7 and 8 students would take playing with dollar store toys as we created with Makey Makey boards and stop motion animation. I was shocked as they jumped right in and then so pleased to see what they created later that week. That same day, I met a friend. As a former grade 1 teacher it is always odd to have a student that towers over you. If I’m completely honest I am sometimes a little more hesitant with the big guys. I am definitely more aware of their need for space. I was being nosey as a group was playing and started asking questions. My ‘friend’ didn’t say much. Then out of nowhere, in the Makey Makey remixing and the stop motion animation, we got in to a conversation about soundtracks. He mentioned in passing that the tool wasn’t as good as what he used to remix at home. Of course I asked the question: oh  ya? What do you use? and a long discussion ensued about the various tools, when they served best and sharing his beats with his uncle, the producer. He was even willing to create me some beats based on my preferred musical style (side note: this is also when you know you are no longer in the cool age group). As I was thinking about the prompt tonight I realized that perhaps one of the simplest ways to discover student passions, discovered or undiscovered, is by taking the time to listen. It’s easy in the business of the day to day to be pulled in so many directions. We can jump straight in to the task, we can misread the body language, we can forget to dig a little deeper. The small act of listening, when I finally took the time, reminded me not only that there is so much to learn about these unique, complex individuals. It didn’t just give me a glimpse in to ‘my friends’ passions and expertise but it also provided me with sparks to make those connections between his informal and formal learning. Who would have known you could learn so much by just listening?

It seemed serendipitous that the idea of listening came up tonight again in the Innovator’s Mindset OSSEMOOC. A reminder that no matter the age of our learners, to move forward in our learning, to engage and most importantly EMPOWER our learners we need to listen attentively.

Want to read more? Hop on over to the blog posts below and join in on the conversation. How have you supported students in discovering their passions in your practice? 


Innovator’s Mindset Blog Hop: If I could build a school

This blog post is part of a blog hop where a group of us are all blogging about the same prompt at the same time. This is a post in response to Part 1 of the Innovator’s Mindset looking at If we were to start a school from scratch, what would it look like.  Join in at any time and submit your blog link ossemooc.wordpress.com

I just have come from a viewing of the documentary Most Likely to Succeed and the amazing space at High Tech High and it has definitely made me rethink this week’s reflective question. If I were to start a school from scratch, what would it look like?


And I’m stuck. Not necessarily at what I want to see. Ok, I’m stuck with what I hope it looks like as well but I find it even harder to articulate. What do I wish for? How do you capture a vision in a post. It seemed like such a perfect fit for something visual but the video was jumbling up and sketchnote was missing elements. So maybe I come close with the words below and a little bit of a Pinterest tour.

  • I want a space that brings learning outdoors and the outdoor in
  • A space that has open flexible spaces that transform from inquiry labs to exhibition areas but at the same time a space that has small cozy nooks to work alone or with a friend away from the busyness and noise.
  • Light! Lots of light that pings across the surface of a room.
  • I want to see places to learn while moving.
  • I want to see pairs, small groups, large groups working through dialogue and conversation and spaces that facilitate that.
  • I want to see laughter and frustration (the good kind that lets you know you are working hard at something you love).
  • Smiles more then anything. Smiles that come from feeling success, from feeling safe, from feeling challenged.

I know I may have focused on the physical space and let myself got to the ‘blue sky’ dreaming place but it is during those moments that I feel I have challenged my practice the most. How far do the two pictures (reality & my blue sky dream) differ and what is one small change I can make.

So how would you finish the prompt. If I could build a school…

Then hop on over to the OSSEMOOC site to read other posts on the topic.

Happy blog hopping!


I’m not sure what the opposite is of a green thumb but whatever it may be, it is me. I may have snuck to the garbage chute once or twice before trying to discard the shriveled up brown plant before others can see. I’m a responsible adult. I should be able to do this.

Then I got an orchid. It was ok for the first month. Then the blooms dropped but I was told that was normal. A month passed. Then two, three, four. It is now a year later and I was still watering this silly plant. I kept asking myself why I didn’t just ditch it but the leaves were still green and I was holding out hope. It was hard to look at it each day and not see a bloom. It’s usually right before that breaking point that you have that glimmer of hope. Then the unexpected. With a little shift in the position in the room, suddenly there was a bud and then a bloom. Now it’s only one and it still looks sad but all the waiting and watering seemed to suddenly be worthwhile.

It’s always funny when these reminders hit you. I was having a week where I just needed a little bit of hope and the bloom reminded of my role. Whether in the classroom or in my current role, so much of what I do requires hope. Hope that the investment of time will be worthwhile. Hope that I am making things better and not worse, better yet not getting in the way. Hope that through all the glitz and glam, the mess ups, the stutters, people see the passion and moral imperative in it all. Hope that even if it isn’t with me, growth will come.

Now hope alone won’t be enough. Hope with action on the other hand has great potential.

The lesson I learned: Hope is easy in the bud-flower phase but much harder in the brown shriveled up waiting phase but it’s worth the wait. 

The question that remains: When is hope not enough? How do you know when to ditch the plant and when to hold on?



Undercover Innovation

As we approach our first online book club meeting this Tuesday night for The Innovator’s Mindset, it was fun to hear some of the chatter on Voxer (although I have to admit I am failing at it at this point-sorry folks). After listening to the conversation yesterday evening I had a variety of questions and thoughts swirling in my head. George posed a question to the group towards the end of the night about examples of innovation and it got me thinking.

I think often when we hear of innovation we think of the BIG stuff: the iPad, 3D Printers, robots, no desk classrooms of the world. I wonder though if more often than not what we experience is undercover innovation.

I received an email last night with some of the great work from our SWST team in Peel (check out an example here: Mindfulness @Forest Glen P.S.). As I was scanning through the Smores I had a bit of a flashback. It was probably 3 years ago that Shannon, Janet and myself were squished in a small room along with a few others around a table trying to explore how the tool could work for their practice. They were willing to take a risk and try something different, unconventional even. It was a new way to look at sharing a story. A way to bring images, sound, video and most importantly more student voice to a traditional university style paper report. Many are probably unaware of the story of how things got started for the SWST team or even the exploring, play and risk taking they had to engage in to get to the report to work in a new format. It was that willingness from the team to take a risk that resulted in other departments trying the tool and subsequently our board updates being shared in a Smore format last year. If you mentioned Smores today it may seem common place. I doubt it would be considered innovative. It feels a little like undercover innovation that many have missed. To others they may see the final product but not the work that went in earlier.

I wonder how many times we miss those undercover innovations in our system. Do we focus so much on the BIG fancy innovations that we miss the not as fancy changes in practice? How can we showcase the journey and not just the end product? How can we help these undercover stories of innovation spread? Is it as simple as sharing our stories? Is one kind of innovation better than another?

Do you see undercover innovations around you?

When we think differently about the things that we are used to seeing daily, we can create innovative learning opportunities-for our teachers and students.

Chapter 1 of The Innovator’s Mindset – George Couros

I can’t wait to explore the topic further this Tuesday night. I hope you join in on the Twitter back channel chat. 

What does innovation mean to me?

As we start our book talk about the Innovator’s Mindset next week, we thought we would warm up by blogging about our personal definitions of innovation. Here is my attempt but make sure to jump on over and check out the other posts as well.

FC394091-982F-4BF8-906F-D27E97A855AF.fullIt seemed like an easy prompt at the time: define innovation. I know we see the word used so often both in education and the world all around that it’s hard not to stumble upon an example whether it be a story about the iPhone to how to use alligator clips for anything but a clip.

Does innovation always mean a new idea? Can it be built upon our learning in the past? I went back to a post I had written a few years back after visiting one of the most innovative places I know: the very brief DigiPlaySpace at Bell Lightbox every March/April. I think many times innovation in my practice does look like bending the rules, taking an idea or a concept and adapting it, changing it, tweaking it, remixing it. I’m challenged more and more that maybe innovation does look like something completely different but at it’s core are human truths: the need to feel like you belong, to communicate, to play and experiment.

Maybe it doesn’t matter as much what I see innovation as, whether it is a completely new idea or something remixed from the past but rather that we are finding new ideas to engage in the learning process for kids.

“Innovation can come from either ‘invention’ (something totally new) or ‘iteration’ (a change of something that already exists), but if it does not meet the idea of ‘new and better’, it is not innovative.”

Chapter 1 – The Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros

Make sure to make your way over to the other blogs

Stacey Wallwin

Jennifer Casa-Todd

Donna Fry 

Paul McGuire

Patrick Miller

Mark Carbone

as well as to  ossemooc to read more ideas and reflections. I’m sure my definition will change over the week.