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.



  • 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.


Are You Happy?

Maybe it’s just me but I find it easy to get caught up in the busyness of every day life. I also have a terrible tendency to reflect and focus on what to change, do better, what didn’t work. It’s sometimes can feel like you are stuck in a grey cloud.

So as I was scrolling through posts on Facebook this weekend stumbled on Courtney’s post.



What was I happy for?

  • warm temperatures
  • a breezy walk
  • sunsets/sunrises
  • quiet time with my ‘nephew’ dog
  • catching a glimpse of an authentic laugh from my two tween nephews
  • a cold cane of coca cola
  • and so much more

There is a science to happiness! If you don’t believe me, watch the Soulpancake special.

So what makes you happy? Or as my MEd instructor would say What makes your soul sing?


It was a very grey January here in Ontario. It seemed like a continuous month of overcast grey skies. You know you have seen a lot of grey skies when you get as excited about sunshine as I did this weekend. Even though I know it won’t stay and we probably will get a big dump of snow soon enough, the sunshine, warm temperatures, and blue skies gave me hope that spring is around the corner.

As I was thinking of the hope I was reminded of some of the examples of positive viral videos we shared at the #peelpowerup with kids on Thursday. As we were looking at the images & video we realized how simple they were sometimes.

  • a young man tying a shoe for an elderly man he didn’t know
  • another holding the hand of a stranger with special needs to help them through their anxiety

As I was walking it hit me. Perhaps we love those random acts of kindness because they provide us hope just like a warm sunny day does in winter. As small as the act may be, it reminds us humans aren’t all so bad. There is hope that we can be better, that we are better.

As I continued my walk I wondered what the role of hope is in education. Education can feel like those overcast grey skies sometimes. Two steps back for every step forward. I find that no matter how grey, there are gentle reminders like a warm sunny day.

Education is…

On Thursday night as I was following along with the Game Changer 2.0 kick off with Sir Ken Robinson, I perked up as I heard him mention the idea of defining education. So much comes back to our definition of education. As he shared his description below it was amazing how it captured both understanding the world and it’s knowledge as well as knowing themselves all in the hopes to contribute to a better society.


Then Friday morning someone posed a different question:

Education certainly is not limited to the four walls of a school, but should our definition of schooling and education differ? Do they serve a common purpose? Can the same definition guide our learning in many different settings; from the home, to the art gallery, to the soccer field and classroom?

I may be left with more questions than answers but of one thing I am certain. I would love to see the above definition of education guide my daily work.

How would you define education?

If we can pick only one…

During our monthly #peel21st Twitter chat we started discussing the elements of our  Modern Learning Vision for our district. I’d like to think there was more sense to our planning, but most likely we landed on Learning Culture because it was the first box. As we got to chatting, it kept popping up how the 6 elements we had highlighted all overlap. I could see how the nice tidy boxes should have been more like an abstract watercolour painting with blended edges, an experiment in colour combination.

At around the same time I was reading through Will Richardson and Brian Dixon’s white paper on 10 Principles for Schools of Modern Learning and this quote caught my eye.

I kept coming back to the idea that maybe learning culture was at the core of it all.

What is the purpose of inquiry without a learner with a questioning disposition, global citizenship without student agency, transparent assessment without student voice? 

Maybe the hallmark of a modern school is a passion for learning, a willingness to innovate, take risks and grow together.

If we can pick only one to focus on maybe it should be learning culture .


You might have seen the below clip making the rounds on social media.

As I watched the clip the first time, I flash backed to one of the first classes of Curriculum Foundations in my MEd when we started talking about boxes after an activity similar to the clip. My idealist self just wanted to do away with all boxes but as we got to discussing we talked about our brain’s tendency to sort in that linear format. To my dismay there was no way to avoid them. I had to accept that boxes will always exist.

As I watched Hidden Figures this week I was reminded of the impact our ‘boxes’ can have. It’s aggravating at times to think how narrowly we categorized individuals. How could such small details as the colour of someone’s skin justify the actions of the time? Then, as I often do, I catch myself. How often had I judged someone by what I could see alone? What other boxes were holding me back? What boxes was I bringing to my practice?

Boxes may always exist but perhaps it is our role in education to help learners see how they do not define us. How for each of our differences there are just as many if not more similarities.

How do you address the boxes in education?




When Ideas Collide 10/10

I was doing a session last night for Ontario Teacher’s Federation on Play, Math and Digital Tools for the early years. Together we explored a variety of tools from Shadow Puppet Edu to Chatterpix to Scratch Jr. We wanted apps that had “low floors, heigh ceilings and wide walls” as Mitch Resnick recently mentioned in a journal article but more than anything we wanted to share ideas that fostered that curiosity and inquiry we see in play.

Innately curious, children explore, manipulative, build, create, wonder, and ask questions naturally, moving through the world in what might be called an “inquiry stance.”

Ministry of Education

Then this morning I saw it unfold in front of me as grade ones coded with Scratch Jr (always great when you get that reassurance after a session). From the student who forcefully was insisting no one feed the ducks in their local park as he recorded his voice to another friend discovering on her own the purpose of certain blocks of code. It was a quiet excitement as I walked over and she said: “hey I found this block. It makes everything repeat.”

Then I kept thinking of professional learning opportunities and adult learners.

  • Are there opportunities to play?
  • Will people respond to playful learning experiences? What do they look like for adult learners?
  • Who documents the learning?
  • Am I willing to play and become uncomfortable?


Addendum: Then I wake up this morning to look through the chatter from MIT’s day honouring #SeymourPapert and more questions abound.