Watershed Moments (Inspired by Dean Shareski and Chris Kennedy)

I’ve purposefully returned to reading and commenting on blogs in recent months and I read two really good (and connected) blog posts this weekend. I first read My Own Watershed Moments on Chris Kennedy’s blog Culture of Yes which led to me to Dean Shareski’s post, Watershed Moments of Learning, on Ideas and Thoughts. At the end of his post, Dean Shareski invited  his network to write about their own watershed moments of learning. That challenge was the inspiration for Chris Kennedy’s post and, in turn, they both prompted me to spend some time thinking and writing about my own watershed moments.

This task, which initially seemed pretty easy, was, in retrospect, not as straightforward as I expected and turned out to be a good exercise in thinking and ranking. I’m guessing that this list will change with time so think of this as a snapshot of my ideas at this point in my life. I decided to organize my ideas using most of the same categories as Dean and Chris: PD Event/Conference, speaker or presentation, book, tool, and person.

 PD Event/Conference:

TEDx West Vancouver ED (2013) is my watershed PD event because it is one of the PD events I’ve attended in the last few years that continues to standout in my mind. It was my first (and so far only) TEDx, the first TEDx West Vancouver Ed, and one of those PD events where you finally get to meet all sorts of people in your PLN face to face (many for the first time – it was the first and only time I’ve ever had the chance to talk to Dean Shareski!). I loved the event. It reminded me that I became the educator I am because I left my small little town and ventured out to PD beyond. It inspired me in so many ways – the speakers were absolutely incredible (see the youtube videos here). It also, indirectly, reminded me that I learn best through arts based methods. At the time I had been tweeting at conferences to record and share professional learning but for whatever reason (serendipity I think), my devices were not connecting to the wifi that whole weekend so I switched to my default, old-school method – a sketchbook and colored, dry media. My doodles from that day, and a bit more of an explanation, are here.

Speaker(s)/Presentation(s):

Choosing just one speaker or presentation is super tough. For today though, I’m going to pick Helen Keegan as my watershed speaker. Her presentation on gamification at Edmedia in Victoria a few years ago dramatically changed my thinking. She introduced me to gamification and I’ve since become fascinated by this. Because of Helen, I co-created and taught one of the coolest units I’ve ever used with students last year – the Battle of the Books: Canadian Authors. That unit is a new twist on online literature circles that uses gamification as the method through which to engage kids and trick them into loving reading novels. I also have to give credit to Justin deVries and Mike Koppes from Kamloops for their awesome workshop that deepened my understanding of gamification at the PITA conference last fall. I’m still fascinated with gamification and plan to continue learning more about how to use this as one method to engage kids.

Book(s):

I love to read and I read a lot. To have to pick just one book, ever, to answer a question that starts with “Which book…” usually seems like an impossible task to me. So, accordingly, I decided on my top four watershed books as of right this minute, today:

#1: The Arts and the Creation of Mind by Elliot Eisner – This book was recommended to me by Dr. Vicki Kelly (see my watershed person below) when I was writing my thesis. When I started reading this book, I couldn’t believe that there was a book, written by a famous Stanford professor, that summed up everything I believed as an arts educator in such an articulate, academic way. It blew my mind. It still blows my mind. I’d been teaching a certain way and developing certain pedagogical beliefs during my years as a high school visual arts teacher (that transform my practice to this day). This book fit perfectly within, and gave sound theoretical basis to, all that I had learned, experienced and struggled with as a teacher passionate about arts based methods and the integration of the visual arts into students’ learning.

#2: Look to the Mountain by Gregory Cajete – This book was also recommended to me by Vicki when I was writing my thesis. It was the first book I ever read that actually described my mother’s way of teaching. You’d have to read my thesis or sit and chat with me for the complete explanation about that. My great-grandmother raised my mother (and my siblings and I) and my great-grandmother, in turn, was raised by her Cree grandmother. Essentially, my great-grandmother’s and my mother’s pedagogy and child-rearing philosophies were rooted in indigenous ways of learning and knowing. I can’t tell you how much it meant to me to read a book that actually described how my mom taught me to teach and to be with kids as a teacher. I think it will forever be one of my favourite non-fiction books for that reason.

#3: The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman – This is the same book mentioned by Chris Kennedy in his watershed post. In 2005, when this book was first published, I was starting my graduate coursework, learning about the emerging online tools, and attempting to wrap my head around the impact of what was taking place in the field of education because of the internet and the world wide web. This book really helped me to understand the changes happening at the time and pushed me to think about where learning in schools and the world in general was heading.

#4: An Imaginative Approach to Teaching by Kieran Egan – I really like reading books by Kieran Egan and I’ve admired and followed his work for a long time now. Several times when reading this book I would read a chapter at night and try out strategies the next day with my students. Many of those strategies are firmly embedded into my teaching practice. Because of this book, I often weave storytelling into my lessons and kids always seem to respond well. I once saw Kieran Egan when I was completing my MEd. He was working in a garden outside of the education faculty at SFU. I was starstruck and too shy to go say hello. I kick myself for that to this day. He looked so peaceful though, working away, surrounded by plants and I respected him and his peace too much to intrude at the time.

Tool:

The watershed tool would have to be Twitter. It’s been interesting to experience the evolution of this tool since I created my account in 2009. I enjoy spending time learning with and from other enthusiastic educators who love teaching and working with kids and Twitter allows me to do that with people all over the world from a small, rural town in the interior of BC. I can dip in to talk or comment whenever I feel like it and rarely does a day go by that I don’t check my feed to see what’s happening in the world. Of all the technology I’ve tried and use, I think that Twitter has transformed  professional learning for me (one example of how in this post here) more than anything else. Even with the changes that seemed to have come with the explosion of people using it in recent years, Twitter continues to be the tool that impacts my practice the most.

Person:

My watershed person, and someone who definitely had a profound impact on my thinking, teaching, personal life, and everything, really, is Dr. Vicki Kelly. She is one of the most important teachers of my life. Vicki was one of my professors during my Masters year at SFU in 2010-2011. I don’t think there’s any way that I could explain how much I learned from/with her and through her teaching. She is an expert teacher and one of the most brilliant people I’ve ever met. She helped me in a way that I don’t think any other professor could have. especially when it came to my learning about traditional Métis and Cree beliefs surrounding education and child-rearing. And it’s no small coincidence that two of my watershed books above were recommended by her.

Those are my watershed moments. Thanks to Dean and Chris for the inspiration and thanks for reading!

 

Remembering, Honouring, Healing: Truth & Reconciliation Education Day

Today is Truth and Reconciliation Education Day in British Columbia. I’ve been watching the tweets all week to see people sharing photos and experiences from the events. Today is a special day in the week of events because today is the day that thousands of students from around British Columbia, including many from my school district and community, gather at the PNE exhibition grounds for a day tailored to them. For those who don’t know what this is all about, the Truth and Conciliation Commission of Canada website is a good place to start.

I would have loved to have gone. As a person with Aboriginal heritage, I would have been honoured to go. And yet, as a person with a direct family history of residential school experience, I could not bring myself to go. I’ve written next to nothing in this space, or anywhere online, about my great-grandmother’s (Nanny) experiences in residential school. There is only one post that even talks about Nanny. There are many reasons for this.

The strongest thing holding me back from sharing her story online is that she didn’t want anyone to know that she had gone to residential school and she didn’t want anyone to know that she was Aboriginal. She was a perfect example of the desire to assimilate indigenous peoples into the colonial vision of what Canada’s people should be. She died with her Aboriginal heritage her secret and it was only through my aunt’s curiosity that my family learned of our Métis and Cree family in Manitoba years after Nanny’s death.

So while the week’s events that center around a formal attempt to heal and educate about Canada’s residential school history are of direct importance to me, I could never bring myself to go. Is that shame still lingering in my blood? Or is it respect for Nanny’s wish of privacy that holds me back?

While I am not there physically, I am certainly there in spirit. I’ve been following as much as possible online and reflecting on how I can honour and remember and help with the healing in my own way. I have both a personal and professional approach to this, and while, thanks to my Masters research I feel at peace with the personal, I feel the need to do more professionally.

In the past I’ve included Aboriginal and indigenous themes in my classroom in a variety of ways. I’ve made sure we had novels on residential schools in the ECC online literature circles. I’ve connected my students to others learning about Aboriginal heritage in an inter-district moodle project. I’ve planned out and taught lessons on indigenous artforms from around the world. I’ve happily headed off to the St’at’imc room when invited to sing and dance with my students. Every time I’ve brought this topic into my classroom, I’ve thought it was important and every time, in all grades, I’ve inwardly steeled myself for resistance. And most times there has been resistance of some sort, from a quiet rejection of the novel because of the topic to all out emotional outbursts from high school students about ‘why do we have to learn about this stuff in art anyway’?

This year I’m going to try something different. I’m going to honour and remember my traditional indigenous heritage and take a completely child-centered approach. I’m going to ask the kids. What do they want to learn about Aboriginal topics this year? What units would they like me to integrate Aboriginal and indigenous content within? How would they like to honour the people that have lived in the place on which the school is built for thousands of years within our classroom this year? How would they like to learn about all the different family backgrounds that walk into the room with students and adults each day?

The longer I teach, the more this approach seems to be embedded within what I do. And the more it seems to lead to powerful learning and engaged students. On this day of Truth and Reconciliation that honours the kids, I’m giving my word to remember, honour and heal by starting with honouring the kids first.

 

Relaxed and grounded in a state of being uncomfortable

        As I near the end of a summer filled with thoughts of overarching themes in the education system, as I ‘cook’ my thoughts and my learning from the culmination of my graduate coursework, and as I continue to read and engage online with virtual colleagues who constantly motivate and inspire me, I noticed a shift in my mental mindset this week as I planned and prepared for the start of the school year.
        At times I feel relaxed. Maybe it’s because I’m teaching the same grade for the 2nd year in a row. That’s a favourite because I’m finished with the hectic pace of teaching something for the first time (I’ve been a first year teacher five years of my fifteen year career) but while the situation is familiar, it’s also relatively new because it’s only the second year so the inherent excitement of novelty is still attached.
        Other times I feel very grounded. I do feel a certain, new confidence in myself as an educator. The Masters degree allowed me to find a solid theoretical and methodological basis for not only who I am as an educator, but also why I teach the way I do. I am more sure of what’s important to me and my ever-evolving pedagogy. I feel my ‘peeps’ with me, bolstering, offering support, adding to my life’s work.
        And then, at times, I feel unsettled, uncomfortable. As I plan, I notice that I am engaging in the planning process in an entirely new way. After fifteen years of teaching, I’m doing things radically different;  if that’s not transformative learning then I don’t know what is.
        What’s different? I’m faster. I’m able to use social media to ask experts questions and get almost immediate answers. I’m able to find excellent, relevant resources quickly. I know myself better so I’m able to sift through and discard the irrelevant with much more certainty.
        But it’s more than that. I think in a different way. I have a heightened awareness of the different layers of thinking in everything I do whether I’m talking with a colleague or planning a math unit. I have a clearer sense of what I think to be important and I am aware that the kids needs are much more in my mind as I go.
        It’s exciting and a little unsettling at the same time. I am excited about the start of the year. I can’t wait to see the students next week. I know my passion to work with children and help them along in life is an strong as ever. The tricky part is, as I wrote in an earlier post, that after my MEd learning I need to learn how to walk differently as I move through my classroom, my school, my home, my community. That’s the part I’m still adjusting to. And it’s uncomfortable. But that’s okay. That uncomfortable feeling only means I’m still learning and that is a state of being uncomfortable that I’m pretty sure I can handle.

Imagery: iEllen by boeke from Flickr.com

Learning to walk as a master

Last month I completed my Masters in Education in Educational Practice from Simon Fraser  University. This was a graduate field program, meaning that it was designed for working  teachers to complete while continuing to work full time. It involved teacher inquiry into our  practice using qualitative research methods. It was easily the most transformative learning  experience of my life and I feel as if I’m walking through the world differently these days.

What did I learn? I’ve been cooking my thoughts, as Dr. Kelly, our prof, would say, to try to  make sense of the year’s learning. It took me ten days to relax and come down from the  intensity of the thesis submission and final comprehensive presentation. Once I relaxed, I  realized how exhausted I am, both physically and mentally. Aside from the sleep deprivation,  which I can remedy by returning to a normal bedtime, it’s a good exhaustion. It’s similiar to the wonderful feeling I enjoy after a long run when my body feels physically worked and tired, but the better for it. And what was it, exactly, that exhausted my mind? What’s actually still cooking in my thoughts?

I have moments of insight. Moments where there is pure clarity as to what I learned and how the MEd experience changed me. And then there are days of feeling lost and scattered and confused about how to synthesize and articulate even one piece of my learning. Is it even possible to communicate one entire year of intense study? Some days I think I need to just wait and, with time, clarity will arrive. Other days I think that to condense all that learning into so few words is impossible and unrealistic and will never happen, regardless of how much time passes.

I decided on a few profound learnings that I can, with certainty, share at this point:

1. I learned to attend, to be wide awake (see Maxine Greene). Not what I expected at all. I expected to learn ‘something’, not a way of being in the world. I hope to share this with others.

2. I learned that, in my humble opinion, to be literate in Canada today, to be literate in the world today, must include the ability to read and communicate with, and through, images. It’s not enough anymore to simply see literacy as reading and writing; overall literacy must include visuals as one of the forms of communication. I finally achieved an understanding of what this ‘visual literacy’ means and learned the beginnings of how to include it into my practice. See works by Elliot Eisner and David Jakes.

3. I learned that my own notion of citizenship has a local, national, global and digital component. Creating global citizens is a popular topic in education these days, especially in the blogosphere, but to me, that’s only one piece. It’s not sensible to have empathy for those in dire situations on the other side of the planet and yet turn a blind eye on those in dire need in your own community. And the complicated beast that became (digital) citizenship in my thesis is a topic I have yet to tame, although I enjoy the constant and challenging attempt to do so and I now, more than ever before, absolutely see this as a vital component to everyone’s education, not just, but especially, children’s.

4. I learned that deep caring for children, all children, sits as the base of my pedagogy. It always has, but I wasn’t aware of how and why until I wrote my thesis. Motherhood is a part of the deep caring, but not all of it. I care deeply for the well-being, the happiness and the future of all children, mine first, of course, but all other’s children a close second. The theme of care, always present before, but now with the added weight of notions like making decisions based on the 7th generation to come and scholars such as Nel Noddings to bolster and add support, is even more prevalent in who I am as an educator.

5. Finally, thankfully, I learned that I found a place of contentment. This is, of course, more of a mental state than a physical place. I often struggle to be content in life. I have high expectations for myself and those around me. I detest boredom and usually create a constant, positive push to improve and move forward in my life. With the ending of the Masters year, however, I realized I need to stop pushing for awhile and just be. And, thankfully, I’m content with that.

And so, all this learning has left quite an impact on me personally and professionally. I will walk through the world in a different way, truly transformed by the learning experiences of this past year. I know that next month, I will walk into my school and my classroom differently. I’ll walk into that classroom determined to advocate for the arts, an approach, a method that children love and that is important for their education. I’ll walk into that classroom knowing that the reality of shared experience extends beyond the classrooms walls and into an intangible environment entered into through technology and that extension is changing, has already changed how we learn, engage with one another, and live our lives. I’ll walk into that classroom sensitive not only to the influence that my family’s complicated heritage has offered, now offers, to my practice, but also keenly aware that each of my students also bring known and unknown family history to their learning and our classroom environment. Finally, I know that I will walk differently as a mother with a new perspective on how to raise my children.

More to come…

 

Imagery: Waking creativity by jenn.davis and Jurassic Park by mallitch, both from Flickr.com and used under Creative Commons licensing.

 

What’s Creating the Connection?

Yesterday I attended a social media workshop in neighboring SD #73 (Kamloops). This was, for me, a follow up to the Digital Learning Spring Conference and a chance to deepen my learning around notions of digital citizenship for Masters studies. It was also a great opportunity to connect with other educators in my PLN. Special thanks to Cale Birks (@birklearns) for arranging so that I was able to attend!

Kamloops

It was incredible to watch the presenter, George Couros, once again manage to encourage the attendees to the point that many opened up to begin to trust social media. At the start of the day, there were four of us, including George, on Twitter. By the end of the morning, several new tweeters were contributing to the #kamloopsgc hashtag and as the day went on, I noticed the presence of many educators exploring social media, either for the first time or with a new perspective.

As in Vancouver last month, the highlight for me was a chance to connect with like-minded educators, especially those I’d only ‘met’ online via social media. I had the chance to visit with George, whom I’d first met at the Digital Learning Spring Conference. George introduced me to Cale, who introduced me to others. Probably the neatest connection was to Tracy Poelzer (@SD73Techie), the District Tech Coordinator for SD#73. We’ve followed one another on Twitter for quite some time and, at the start of the day, did the “Hey, where are you sitting?” tweets, which led to a wave across the room and, finally, a face to face meeting at coffee. Turns out, though, that I’d seen Tracy speak several times in April at the Regional Science Fair in Kamloops when I attended as a parent with my son. It was really neat to have that extra connection to make an already positive introduction that much more meaningful.

There were maybe 150 in attendance for the morning workshop and, from my viewpoint, many seemed unsure of social media at the start of the day. There were numerous concerns about how to even integrate technology into schools. By the end of the morning, however, there was a hopeful buzz in the room and by the end of the day there was evidence that practice had changed.

I left with some unanticipated questions. The overall experience left me wondering about those in the room who engage in social media and technology on a daily basis. What is it about these ‘like-minded’ educators I’m meeting through social media? Why are we alike? Why do we, if you think of the group as a unique cohort, a subsection of educators, engage with technology the way we do and embed it into our practice?

I know my answer, and I think it’s the same answer many  of my PLN would offer – that we need to because it’s the world our students are growing up in. Is that the common thread that connects us – our related awareness of, and comfort level within, the larger learning environment that our students are growing up within? Or is it that we’re challenge-loving risk-takers who don’t mind pushing outside of our comfort zone to engage with tools and environments that are uncertain and sometimes overwhelming? Simply a contemporary group of overachievers? I’m not certain yet, but I’d love to figure out what’s creating the connection.

Imagery by tiddlywinker on Flickr.com

(Digital) Citizenship

Less than two weeks ago, I was excited that eight months of teacher research was solidifying into the central idea of learning relationships. While I originally focused my MEd on student/teacher rapport through a video camera, there is much more going on in the Elementary Connected Classrooms to focus simply on the teacher/student relationship. There are peer-to-peer relationships, the collaborative relationships between the three teachers involved, and then all the crossovers between the almost 70 students and 3 teachers interacting in different ways (not just through the camera) each week. I decided that the term ‘learning relationships’ better described the complicated web of interpersonal connections in our unique setting and changed my terminology to reflect that deeper understanding.

I was, however, only temporarily satisfied with ‘learning relationships’ as the hub of my research. It just seemed too simple and not quite right. Now, after further reflections on my experiences at the Digital Learning Spring Conference and another weekend at SFU with a brilliant professor, I finally think (I hope!) I’ve found the main themes that connect all other ideas at the center of my learning.

At this point, deep caring for children – all children – sits as the base of my pedagogy. It always has. Motherhood is a part of that, but not all of it. I care deeply for the well-being and the happiness and the future of all children, mine first, of course, but other’s children are a close second. I love working with kids and absolutely fight for the best education they can possibly get because, in my opinion, not offering what they deserve in the classroom every day is a disservice to them.
digital citizenship

In my opinion, if we, as educators, truly care about children, we need to honour the learning environment that today’s children are growing up in. If we are guiding them to become good citizens, we need to incorporate digital citizenship into their learning. Each child, family, and community will vary as to the extent to which new technologies have become a part of daily life, hence the idea of honoring each individual’s learning environment. Thanks to some simple online dialogue with David Truss, I’ve decided that (digital) citizenship is the other main theme that binds all my research strands. Citizenship is still the main idea, but with the lesser theme of digital connected to it.

A vital component of (digital) citizenship is how to create and maintain healthy learning relationships. I worry about those, for example, who don’t understand social media because it is the way of the world in a very real sense. We need more educators to become experts in how to use new technologies, if for no other reason than to be good role models and guide the kids; the kids who will use those technologies anyway, regardless of whether or not they’ve received guidance to help keep them productive and safe. Even more important, we need educators who don’t get caught up in the technology, but who become (digital) citizens themselves and then gain a greater understanding of the larger, more meaningful themes, such as learning relationships, within that new technologically-rich context.

Imagery by I am I.A.M. from Flickr.com and altered as allowed per CC license using FotoFlexer’s SuperPixelate.

Connecting, Innovating, and Personalizing Education

Last November, the Ministry of Education sent a videographer to our district to film the Elementary Connected Classrooms project. The videographer spent the day filming in the TechnoKidz classroom in Lytton, one of our three Connected Classrooms. The video was just released in the Ministry Media Room and, if you watch carefully, that’s me teaching onscreen 39 seconds in. It was my turn to teach that day and, somewhat nervously, I taught about word usage and becoming a Wordsmith (inspired by a writing lesson from the Traits of Writing book).

We learned today that the video made from the filming is part of a Ministry press release entitled “Growing innovation brings personalized learning to life“. The video is mentioned at the end of the press release and it shows how we’re connecting students with innovative technology use and, in the process, taking steps to personalize education for our rural students.

Even though the video is only 51 seconds long, it’s pretty neat to have the project recognized in this way!

The Boys and the Tech Connection

The painting below sits at the front of my research journal for my Masters coursework. It took me twenty years to find and, that story, though too long and not quite relevant enough to include in its entirety here, has woven its way into my inquiry. That painting symbolizes a new layer of understanding into why I do what I do at home, at school and in my Masters research.

Mother and Child

Madame Vigee-Le Brun and her daughter, Jeanne-Lucie-Louise,  1789
(painted by Louise Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun)

Last night I sat supposedly working on report cards watching and listening to my children. My two sons were both on the home PC playing with a friend. The friend was far away – a 6 hour drive from here – visiting family. The friend, let’s call him Leif, has been my older son’s best friend for years. They are both rough tumble boys who seem to be from two worlds; the first world of tree forts and dirt biking switches back and forth with the second, newer world of video games and Youtube.

The boys were playing a free online video game that had a chat feature, so the three of them were chatting away, laughing, yelling, discussing what to do, goofing around, having a great time. They were using, very proficiently, a variety of technological tools to have fun with a friend.

A confession: I don’t always like technology. I do love it for some things, but it’s awful in other ways. It can be a huge waste of time, it can create real problems in people’s lives and I question the overall health of sitting in front of a screen for too many hours in a day. But it’s a part of our lives, our childrens’ and students’ lives very much so, and I feel it’s important to stay one step ahead of the younger generation in order to guide, role-model and help them navigate the world through the lens of technology. That’s a huge, heavy lens that nearly all children wear now. I want to be able to help them be able to stand up under its weight and think critically while looking through that lens. I also want to help them realize that they can, and should, sometimes take that lens off and unplug.

I stopped writing report cards and started to pay attention when I realized what the boys were doing. I stopped when I realized how the technology was allowing for a positive, transformative friendship-solidifying experience. I started to pay close attention to how the communication enabled by the technology was enhancing the connection and relationship between the boys, even over a vast geographical distance.

I started to think about the connection to my job. What the boys were doing is basically the same thing we’re doing with the Elementary Connected Classrooms project. One goal for the project is to create and maintain a relationship, a real connection, using technology, to bridge geographical distance and enlarge students’ peer group while at the same time giving them practice, in a safe and guided way, to learn how to learn from and with others online.

And that’s what my boys were doing. Using technology, under my guidance and watchful eye (from the kitchen table where I sat, I had a direct view of the computer screen, not to mention that I was close enough to hear the chat perfectly) to bridge the distance and maintain and enhance a friendship. They were using technology to play with a friend. It sounds so simple, but the more I think about it, the more complex it seems to be.

One thing I’ve known for years is that motherhood is a huge motivator for me. For example, all that I do with technology…from TLITE to the MEd inquiry to the Connected Classroom to all my independent, online PLN pro-d…it’s all, at the very heart of the matter, to do with being a mother. I am very motivated to stay one step ahead of my children and want to know just enough so that I know more about technology than them. I strive to keep them productive and literate and competitive and safe with their use of technology. I know they are growing up as Marc Prensky’s ‘digital natives’, and I want, as their mother, to be able to help guide them and help them along in that technological environment as I strive to do in every other aspect of their lives. I’ve known this all along. I’ve always known that, before my students, who I do absolutely love working with and who I try to be a wonderful teacher to in so many ways, are my own children. I am always so much more a mother than I am a teacher.

And that’s when I really had to stop. I was reminded of my older son’s entry into a visualization exercise we did at class one day. Basically, in the middle of a guided meditative type exercise to focus our thoughts on our inquiry, my son popped his head into my envisioned classroom. Since it happened, I’ve been wondering why. I was convinced, out of guilt, I think, that he was literally barging in on my imagined inquiry because I was neglecting him and his brother with all of the extra work and travel that the Masters has brought to our lives.

But he wasn’t barging in, he was reminding me. He was reminding me that motherhood is the driving force behind all that I do with technology. I do care about my students and take my job as a teacher in this small community very seriously. But I’m a mom first and foremost in all that I do. Which brings me, finally, to the painting of the mother and child…

I’ve loved that painting since before having children of my own. It is motherhood, simply and beautifully.

I placed that image at the front of my research journal weeks ago, not really knowing how it connected to my inquiry, but sensing and trusting that it did. Watching the boys and the tech connection tonight helped me to not only understand why my son appeared in my visualization, but also to remember why this inquiry is so important to me. Those boys and their technology made me realize that motherhood is one of my deepest motivators and the one lens that I never take off.

Thanks boys. Just another reason to appreciate those rangy boys that I’ve always enjoyed so much…

Research Proposal in Visual Text

I don’t know why I didn’t think of this myself, a little disappointed that I didn’t actually. I just spoke with my Masters buddy because I had to miss class today (and feeling very, very guilty about it, but it was for all the right reasons). She gave me a quick overview of the day and one topic they discussed was Wordle. The group was talking about narrative inquiry and Wordle was introduced as a method to highlight repeating words and ideas.  I’ve used Wordle in this space before, and in my teaching practice, so it’s a natural extension to use it to enhance my Masters learning.

Here’s a wordle of the research proposal I submitted last month. Click on the image for a full size version. Thirty-five pages and over 9000 words summarized neatly into one visual image!

Wordle: Inquiry Project

Based on that image, I think it’s obvious that I’m focusing on my own teaching practice (the whole point, so I’m happy to see that word is the biggest) and that learning is the next key idea. Inquiry is closely followed by students and then it gets a little more complicated.

It’s clearly my inquiry project – everything is there, all three topics: the Elementary Connected Classrooms environment, visual literacy/arts based methods and my exploration of my inherent Metis worldview.

One last thought I’ll share…the inner art teacher that’s still a part of me was very pleased to see the word arts registered larger than technology 🙂

Image above courtesy of Wordle.net.

Preparing to ‘Stop’

Driving home from a weekend of graduate coursework last  Sunday,  I approached signs warning of road work ahead. There, at the side of the road, was this sign:

preparetostop

Those three simple words summarized the first weekend of Educ 807 and, I’m guessing, the next few months of graduate coursework.  We discussed the importance of being aware enough to notice the ‘stops’ during the inquiry process, those moments when reading, or writing, or engaging in the inquiry process, that, although fleeting, offer rich and meaningful learning. More on ‘stops’ and the originator of the idea follows.

In my mind, there are a few steps to take before you are prepared to ‘stop’. It’s good to know these steps; if you don’t slow down and aren’t prepared to stop, you could miss your destination entirely, and I know that no one in the cohort wants to do that. So, my steps, as I see the process…

Preparing to Stop:

  • Know who you are personally and professionally. Understand the  lenses through which you view the world, know your distant teachers and how they’ve influenced you, and be aware of your passions and what ‘rubs’ you the wrong way.
  • When reading, read for what David Appelbaum calls ‘stops’, those gaps or spaces in-between ideas that catch your attention. Instead of reading an article and underlining everything that you find interesting, read with an awareness of what ‘stops’ you and makes you think. Find those few ideas that inform your inquiry and make you wonder. Read in a critical yet personally meaningful way. Not everything that is interesting is relevant to your inquiry.
  • When you notice a ‘stop’, determine why you stopped – why did it matter? How does that inform you, your teaching practice, the inquiry you’re working on?
  • Also note, what questions does the stop raise?
  • Finally, when writing, pay attention to the self-created ‘stops’ that emerge from reflection, observation, data collection, etc. – I’m guessing we’ll be learning more about this in the coming weeks as we’re onto data collection very soon!

If only road signs could always sum up learning experiences for people. The world would be a completely different place…