The Education Battle

I went to see Gifted last night with a friend. I’ll admit it isn’t hard to convince me to see a ‘pull on your heart strings‘ movie with Chris Evans in it.  I expected the tears (you could hear the sobbing in unison at one point in the theatre) but not the reflection on education. Maybe that’s silly, it’s a movie about education after all.

In case you haven’t seen it, the movie in a sentence: An uncle is raising his math prodigy niece in a less than ideal but happy environment when grandma, mathematician herself  wants to pull her away to study math and solve unsolvable problems.

It’s always hard watching movies about education. There are always a few cringe worthy moments like the teacher mentioning ‘we don’t speak unless spoken to’ to the grade 1 class (YIKES). But as GIFTED flows you realize the story comes back to the purpose of education. It’s the same dilemma we see on TV, in our conversations at dinner tables, with siblings, sometimes around our staff rooms as well. What is the purpose of education? Philosophy is pegged against Mathematics, academics versus the ‘feelings’ part of education.

As I was watching the movie I kept thinking of Logan LaPlante’s TED talk a few years ago.

The beautiful complex, competent, capable bundle of energy math prodigy needed them both in the end to be happy and healthy. Don’t we all?

If I have to choose one though I think I would go for the ‘decent humans‘.

 

 

 

Jumping In – A Nudge

It’s always quite the milestone to make the first marker of a long project like #the100dayproject.  As we completed our first week Monday I was reminded why I love the project. Once again I’m learning and being inspired by great individuals sharing their practice openly. Sometimes it is friends like Sharon Drummond and her daily data doodles. Other times the inspiration is from someone new like parade.made and her whimsical daily Kawaiiness prints. I have to admit though that one of the most exciting elements this year is that my dad is joining in.

It was a simple mention. I can’t remember why I tagged my parents in a post about the project but I just mentioned in passing on Facebook they should join. My mom has always been artistic. The calmer pace out in the East Coast is giving her the opportunity to create more (really it is all the snow days). I thought she might appreciate the challenge. My dad is just getting in to photographs and Instagram. I didn’t expect them to follow up (first mistake). And in typical fashion my dad just jumped in. I opened my Instagram account to see my dad’s first post. We then chatted back and forth about hashtags and how it all works: a unique hashtag for his project, the collective hashtag to connect with the community. The hashtags are muddled up most days and the pictures may be of the ordinary but they demonstrate a commitment.

A commitment to a shared experience between us despite the miles, a commitment to try something new, a commitment to continuously learn.

I hope I am willing to jump in so freely the next time I am nudged with a new learning opportunity.

Morning PEI #100daysofcapturingPEI#100daysproject@2847michaelzita

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On the Eve of Another #the100dayproject

I stumbled on #the100dayproject two years ago on Instagram and it has been this wonderful learning journey each year. So when I saw the announcement on Elle Luna’s page that the project was back I couldn’t contain my excitement. Both years were unique but shared a common theme: grabbing my camera and creating just for me. I create a lot for work but taking a few minutes daily to create for creations sake was reinvigorating; to play, to learn, to explore. The power of community also came to mind. I learned so much by just following the projects of others. Having friends’ take on the project kept me accountable to posting (even if I had to catch up once or twice).

So what is it? In short for the #the100dayproject you choose something to create, something you know makes you happy and then share your creations on a daily basis with #the100daproject hashtag as well as a unique hashtag for your collection so you can connect with others and learn together. Repeat daily 99 times.

Now the hard part: the project starts in 2 days and I’m still deciding what I should do. Help! At first I was wondering if I should do something completely different like sketching or painting, learning a new language or knitting. I think though I have come back to photography. Although I have a long way to go, I can see how the project has helped me improve my photography. So I’ve narrowed it down to 3 ideas:

  • 10 x 10: Keeping a similar flow to last year, the 10×10 would let me have a focus. After playing with the slow shutter app today I would know which theme to start with
  • Canada 150: With this special celebratory year one idea was to focus on 100 pictures to represent Canada. Probably taking a 10 x 10 theme as well from symbols.
  • An Appy Moment: I’ve always loved how accounts like the.book.report share new or favourite books and wanted to do a similar stylized photo and video recap for my apps.

Will you join me? What action will you take for 100 days? No one is too old or too young!

See you online.

 

 

The Bread Crumb Trail: Power of a PLN

It was one of those serendipitous moments when the connections fall into place.

I was at one of our new teacher training session on assessment on Thursday. As we were wandering around checking in I was able to reconnect with a colleague. As she was sharing about finishing up the STEAM LABS educator boot camp that we had chatted about before, I shared the Design Thinking for Leading and Learning MOOC. Then the question came: “How did you find out about it?”

The question has been posed many times and more often than not it is always comes back to amazing colleagues willing to share.

I could see the bread crumb trail that led us to the Design Thinking for Leading and Learning MOOC.

  • Going back a step to Mary sharing it in an email and tweet to the #launchbookchat folks.
  • Stepping back once more to when we first met Mary through the Twitter Chats looking at Launch. I think she found us from the official hashtag for the book. We never thought we would have someone join us from the states.
  • The bread crumbs kept leading to the crew that was willing to chat about a book (there is always a fear that no one will be interested).
  • Finally I could see the beginning, chatting after our sunrise meeting with a few colleagues that got the book saying would you be interested in a book chat.

It’s amazing when you take a moment and look back at all the connections, people and moments that are part of one single learning moment. All it took was one small share and then another and then another…

Time to drop some bread crumbs. 

 

 

Weaving a Story

I loved many of the sessions at SXSWedu. The problem was that there were so many to choose from and of course the ones I was most excited to check out overlapped. I was debating whether I should go to the session on Designing for Digital Natives by the IDEO crew or not. I had followed IDEO and IDEOu as an organization on Instagram for awhile. Hearing some of the team in person was exciting and it was bringing design thinking and our students’ lives together (perfect for a IT Coach). Seemed perfect except it was in the farthest hotel (a whole 5 minutes but heh) and there were 3 other sessions on my list.  I trudged along grabbing a seat at the back if I needed an escape route. Within the first few minutes of their presentation I was hooked and I didn’t want it to end. The 25 minute session was an artfully designed story woven together with visuals, take aways, humour and more.

There were so many take aways:

  • I need to up my Keynote game.  From an animated title screen to snapchat videos for their introduction page, to funky personalized fonts the slides showed the teams understanding of design and that visuals tell as much of your story as your words.
  • The team shared their design for an app for first generation college students and the process to making something that high schoolers would actually use and check in to often. As the story evolved you could see each step of the design process come to life, always with the user at the centre, sharing the failures and subsequent re-iteration. The learning was woven through a story.
  • And the story always came back to the learner, the user. As we are designing tasks, learning experiences. As leaders as we talk about change do we take a user centred design approach?
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  • As I was sketching out the 5 design tips for designing for digital natives, the take aways from their experience, I realized they each could be applied as we design lessons especially online learning experiences as well.
  • I think more than anything I was reminded how a well constructed story can affect change, innovate, try something new even in a limited time frame. More than a how to, more than a rally cry, a story often allows us to be completely human, completely authentic in our lesson.

So thank you IDEO team for sharing your story in such an amazing way. I’m off to weave my own story and play with Keynote!

 

 

Learning in Conversations

It was the first time I had been to a conference the size of SXSWedu and the number of sessions was astounding. At any give time you could have 3 or 4 highlighted that you wanted to attend. And yet through all the sessions I was reminded that much of our learning comes in those informal conversations.

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Conversations…

  • over breakfast with your table neighbour Amanda where you pick up a quick strategy like  yes, and 
  • during a social network hearing an awesome idea from Suzie & Alicia about recycling old  admin phones for VR.
  • with individuals at a Maker Meet Up like Mo whose work you have followed on Instagram for a long time and end up in those random deep conversations about education .
  • in a session where you hear about the great stories of a group like UrbanTxt from Oscar
  • where you are able to connect with the people behind some of your favourite tools like Joey from Flipgrid and Kaja from Kahoot (who would have expected an Ontario/Queens university connection in Texas with someone from Norway).
  • over dinner with new and old Apple Distinguished Educator friends where you can share stories and tools with friends like Ann Kozma.
  • with your colleague that ping pong between education, neuroscience and life in general reminding you how awesome of a human they are.

The best part about learning from conversations? They aren’t bound by a specific space or time. Every day brings with it the opportunity to learn from awesome humans.

 

Complexity, Consortiums & Maladjusting: Lessons from Dr. Chris Emdin’s keynote at SXSWedu

I don’t know how I stumbled upon the clip the first time I saw Dr. Chris Emdin. I do remember being so enthralled I ended up sharing it with the AQ course that night and then jumping on Instagram and Twitter to share a few quotes. So when I saw that Chris was going to be the opening keynote for SXSWedu I was pretty excited.

It has almost been a full week since his keynote. 5 days later I’m still digesting it all, reflecting on the ideas shared and questions that remain. There were so many take aways and just as many questions. Was I a frenemy at times? Getting stuck in traditions that were no longer essential? Was I lulling kids to sleep?

You can watch the full keynote address here:

 

As I listened and scribbled down ideas to remember a few have weighed heavier on my mind.

Beauty and complexity

Sometimes (often) in education we try to simplify things. Maybe it is just me. I know I can get caught trying to simplify content, approaches, even learners in an effort to stream line an experience and see success for students. How many times in that simplification was I missing the beauty and complexity of the context of my learners? Was I valuing the uniqueness they each bring to the activity? Was I valuing the beauty and complexity of the knowledge each learner was bringing? Chris’ talk again was a reminder that we teach beautiful unique individuals with which we need to engage in authentic conversations.

Are we as educators going to be humble enough to create spaces to allow young people to teach us what we need to do? Chris Emdin

It’s time to be maladjusted

It’s my 16th year of teaching this year and I think I may have been called loud & passionate a few times in those 16 years. I hope I have been. Now that I am in a type of leadership role (although a smaller one) I can see how the system sometimes takes over. I have seen how you can get stuck in structures and protocols that have been established. How you can get caught in the repeating traditions that may no longer be essential. More than anything I could see moments when I got scared and tried to make my point more palatable, to ask the tough questions or speak up. As loud and passionate as I can be especially over modern learning, was I afraid to have certain conversations? Was I so accustomed to the system that I may be missing moments to be maladjusted?  As Brene Brown mentioned in her closing keynote it’s time to be brave, have courage and be vulnerable.  Time to be uncomfortable.

If we truly want a I need to do what I need to do. I’ve been called to do what I need to do. Chris Emdin

We need a consortium

I think this take away was the most unique. Sometimes we look for a charismatic leader, a leader to take the helm and push us forward. We wait for the one individual who will be able to curve the movement, inspire change and rally the masses. Chris’ notes about martyrs reminded me that not one of us can do it alone. The ideas and approaches that were championed and then passed over. How can I foster a consortium, a collective that is willing to champion education for all and isn’t afraid to be maladjusted?

More than anything Dr. Chris Emdin started off the conference with a battle cry, a cry to action. No more excuses. High expectations for all our learners, following their leads. And if someone gets in the way we will just have to say…

Thank you for your service…we got it from here. Chris Emdin

As a side note I tried to catch some of the ideas from the keynote live in the sketchnote below: