Before every event I have a chance to design there is always this moment of panic worrying if it will completely bomb. The voices in my head start playing on repeat whether it is a good idea, what could mess up, will anyone talk. With an event like #TableTalkED where I had been thinking about it for a few years, the emotions were just off the charts.

The idea came from a SoulPancakce Series: That’s What She Said. The very first time I watched the group of women flowing through authentic conversations I knew I needed that for my journey in education. I had had moments of it in conferences and Edcamps over the years, but never an event where the sole purpose was to engage in authentic, honest conversations with colleagues. After some weird ups and downs lately I decided it was time. Put together a quick PASTE presentation, sent it out to a bunch of folks and hoped someone would be up for the crazy idea. There were mess ups – I got no pictures or video, forgot a friend in Vegas completely (sorry Mike), but as I sat around the table with fourteen passionate colleagues, some old friends, other new acquaintances, and we chatted about professional learning it was everything I imagined and more.

The take aways from our conversation were many and I think it will take me awhile to really realize all of the lessons learned. The big ideas?

  • Through out the afternoon it was interesting to see how our conversations kept coming back to relationships. The relationships we foster through professional learning, the trust and challenge that can come with ongoing relationships, how to foster relationships when you don’t have the luxury of time, plant relationship between colleagues that have shared passions. No matter how we look at it, learning is a human endeavour grounded in relationships. We know it is true for our classroom communities. Maybe even more so for educators as we try to do this education thing differently.
  • Another idea that popped up was an idea of balance, a balance of meeting colleagues where they are on that day, in that moment and challenging colleagues to look beyond their current experience. The million dollar questions seemed to be when do you push and when do you support? There is no secret answer but see relationships above.
  • As with any group of educators that would give up a Saturday afternoon to sit and chat, you can imagine the passion in the room and IDEAS. Lots of ideas. As we chatted about tackling different approaches to professional learning a big question that remained was how do we invite colleagues in to empowering learning opportunities that look different to what they are used to. Sometimes we are so trained to believe professional learning needs to look, sound, feel a certain way. It is unfamiliar when we attend experiences that don’t match our view of learning. How do we invite colleagues into experiences that may be different? How do we empower them through our learning experiences?

There was some dreaming as well with crazy app suggestions and amazing timetable possibilities. We probably are left with just as many questions as answers after the discussion. More than anything I leave with a reminder of how reinvigorating it is to spend time with a passionate group of educators.

Thank you to SopaboxHQ for hosting us and sharing their space so freely. Thank you to those that took the earlier frantic DMs wondering if this idea could be anything but a crazy idea. Thank you to @natsschneider  for making the time on a beautiful Saturday afternoon to chat.

Join in on the conversation! What was your best professional learning experience? What made it a great experience? What would you like to see in professional learning? What can you do? 

Interested in future #tabletalked sessions? Let me know HERE.


Exploring Intentional Design

As I get ready for a day of learning with OCT around course design, it’s funny to see how the learning really trickles down into all of our design as leaders. I feel like over the years I’ve become a bit of a learning design junky always looking for new tools, strategies and formats. Then it hit me I may have always had a fascination with creating that just right experience, an experience that provokes, challenges and nudges just a little more growth.

In Primary Basic we use the quote from How Learning Happens as our guide. As I sketched it out I couldn’t shake the feeling that it is true for LEARNERS OF ALL AGES (and maybe why we snuck it into our Empowering Modern Learners document). Are we designing learning experiences that see educators as competent, capable of complex thinking, curious, rich in potential? Do we recognize the diverse social, cultural and linguistic perspectives they each bring? Especially in an online environment, do they feel they belong and are contributing to our collective learning journey? Do they see themselves and their passions in the discussions and resources?

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If we want educators to embody the statement above, they need to experience it. If we want to inspire experiences that empower learners to be globally compassionate citizens, then even our learning as educators must be rooted in our understanding and belief of the competent, capable, curious and rich in potential learner.

Can’t wait for the learning ahead today!

Untold Stories

There are always those moments where an idea pops out and challenges your thinking. As I worked through @ideo_u Storytelling for Influence lesson this week I was a little taken a back. A quick mention of a website as a storytelling medium popped up in the video. I do admit I felt a little silly even questioning it for a second. Of course it’s a tool to communicate. The last few months feel like an ongoing learning adventure about storytelling from photographs to animations. So with my story in mind for my project and as I worked on a tardy recap for my schools on communication a nagging thought came to mind: Are there untold stories in our community? Are there learners in our communities that haven’t found the right medium to communicate? In a world that communicates in a multitude of mediums do we only value a small few?

The best part of being a modern learning coach is to see those moments of wonder. To see the learner that never shares, voice their thoughts in a blog comment. The second language learner finds a voice in their comic or Scratch jr animation. The disengaged friend finding success in their game design.

As Maya Angelou says, there is no greater agony than an untold story. And there is no greater reward than when a learner finds their voice.


Simply Complex

A snowflake in a snowstorm.

A beloved recipe you can finally replicate.

A photograph of sunrise or sunset.

All around us we find moments where the complex has been captured and shared simply. The simple message does not downplay the wonder, power or difficulty of the subject but rather captures it’s essence.

After 10 or so years of trying to influence change in education (in my own small tiny way mind you) I think this is the greatest lesson I had to learn. So much of our work in educational change is helping others to see the why, the possibilities that come with the hard work of change. It can be overwhelming, intimidating or even just plain insulting if we can’t state it simply in a way that connects us. And yet on the opposite end we see so many strategies, protocols, frameworks that desire to simplify and streamline the process but somewhere along the line have lost the complexity that comes with a human endeavour like education, that doesn’t recognize the wonderful uniqueness of our learners, settings and educators. It feels a bit like a safe road trip that missed it’s final destination.

How do you state the complex simply? I’ve spent the last few weeks pondering how to do just that as we try to squish a 2 year long process summarized in 12 glossy pages inEmpowering Modern Learners  into a 2 minute nutshell animation. Funnily enough the process to the simple definition has taken months of pondering, chatting and feedback. We want to state it simply so we all can connect but also not loose the complexity of the ideas being shared.

In education I feel we are torn by one side screaming ‘Keep it Simple’ and the presenting the hard to read manual. Perhaps in our endeavour to innovate together we need to find a way to identify the simply complex work we are focused on because the learners in our care are just as wonderfully simply complex.


My One Word for 2018 (maybe two)

Every year I get to this point and am stumped. What is the one word for the year ahead? You climb this mountain, stand at the summit and shout out your word hoping the universe shouts back some tips. As I read through past posts, I realized perhaps they are still areas of growth. I still need to focus on the necessary (#oneword2016) and I’m not sure I was as fearless as I wanted to be in 2017. Maybe I need to work on the action piece or perhaps a quarterly revisit will help.

Back to the word.

As I have been reading Creative Confidence by Tom and Dave Kelly this week, the pieces started falling in to place. The authors define creative confidence as the combination of thought and action: “the ability to come up with new ideas and the courage to try them out.” It feels like a perfect fit for many reasons. One it builds on last year’s word of fearless but it also focuses on action. As much as the ideas come, the fear creeps in: fear of being judged, fear of failure, even fear of success. Tom & Dave address it so well in chapter 1.

In our experience, one of the scariest snakes in the room is the fear of failure, which manifests itself in such ways as fear of being judged, fear of getting started, fear of the unknown. And while much has been said about fear of failure, it still is the single biggest obstacle people face to creative success.

So for 2018 I want to live out my creative confidence. A year of new ideas and the courage to bring them to life and push the fear aside.

Here’s to wishing you each a year of action!

The Half Way Mark

I was sitting begrudgingly cleaning my den last weekend when I stumbled on a pension wise pamphlet. I have to admit I usually set them aside but, in full procrastination mode, it seemed like a perfect time to have a closer look. And there in the front cover popped the number 16; 16 years down – 16 years to go. This is the half way mark of my career.  

Then the internal dialogue starts swirling:

16 years! Oh my goodness. What have I done in 16 years? Is it enough? Have I had an impact? How do you measure impact? Could I be doing more? Was it worth the time/energy/money? What will the next 16 years look like? I should have done…..

I stopped myself from the comparisons for a minute to think about what I wanted my legacy to be. It’s easy to get caught up in numbers, awards, accomplishments (they are all nice and greatly appreciated) but is that what mattered? Is that the legacy I want to leave behind? And then I read a quote from Carol Ann Tomlinson in her monthly reflections in Educational Leadership:

That’s it! I found my measuring tool. I don’t want to measure my impact in the number of publications, likes, people in attendance but rather in how many gentle nudges sparked growth. Sometimes you nudge a system in looking at resources differently, sometimes it’s nudging a friend in a class to see their potential, and other times it’s nudging friends to share their amazing stories or try something a little different. Each nudge a small seed requiring different supports to grow. I realize as I write this I’m choosing the harder path. These seeds are often not glitzy or glammy. It may not always be the popular path. It often happens in the small one on one moments, not big events. Nudges and growth are hard to quantify. Sometimes it takes years to see the impact if you get to see/hear of the impact at all.

I realized I wouldn’t be where I am if it wasn’t for the educators in my life that nudged me along, planted the seed and supported it’s growth. So here at the half way mark I’m grateful for the nudges and will check myself as I think of my impact. As I start fixating on the numbers or accomplishments, I’ll pause to count the seeds.

I stand

on the sacrifices

of a million women before me


what can I do 

to make this mountain taller

so the women after me

can see farther




the sun and her flowers

Better Together

“The people I respect most have one thing in common — they gather.”


Sometimes you just can’t avoid a lesson. It hits you at every turn. This time it was a reminder that we are better together.

It was the morning of our presentation at BIT and I opened an email update from AJ Juliani. He was sharing a moment from a session with Austin Kleon where the idea of everyone being a scenius came up –  the idea that many of the geniuses we know were actually part of creative scenes. The genius was in the group.

Brandon, Heather and I had just started our session on creativity at #Bit17 when it hit them. We had such a great response to the first interactive activity and being responsive to some of the pre-session chatter, Brandon & Heather had the idea to do a YES AND activity with the group. It wasn’t part of our original plan but we went with it. Looking back it made the session, it kept the energy level high and imparted a quick strategy before diving even further into our discussions.

The pieces came together as I stumbled upon Good Good Good Co post on Instagram. The quote about the importance of gathering had me reflecting on the many times an experience was better because I did it with others.

Collaboration may look different at different times, virtual – face to face, brief or ongoing, but great learning can’t happen in isolation. We need to find times to gather. Sometimes it may just be a Flipgrid collection but we are all better together!

There was a famous film actress that had attended this conference we've been attending in Egypt and she said something that really hit home for our team. . "The people I respect most have one thing in common — they gather." . We loved this. We think it applies to people who seek to bring messy hope into the world — they always gather. Ideas, dreams and hopes for change can manifest themselves while we are alone, but the difference between making those dreams a reality or letting them die is community. There is strength in numbers and strength in the oneness of purpose. Furthermore, gathering requires showing up. . So here are a couple of questions for you today: 1. Where are you showing up? 2. How do you show up? 3. What keeps you from showing up? . While abroad, we've been paying close attention to the idea that we have to show up for our own lives and gather to make real things happen in our communities. . (PS: This is a photo of our new friend Homam. He’s was born in Syria and currently lives in Dubai who works as a creative marketing director. Our team has decided that we all want to be more like him.)

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