One step ahead


I recently read Glen Cochrane’s blog post regarding a book he read about Jian Ghomeshi.  I haven’t read the book, but I appreciated reading Glen’s thoughts.  One paragraph in particular on his post had me pondering a good while,

I can’t help notice the role of technology here (texting), that enabled Ghomeshi to maintain a presence and a dialog that ultimately signified consent (in a legal and public opinion sense), without actually getting consent. Technology provides an easy way to maintain presence, yet also provides a way to remain ambiguous – this isn’t good nor bad in itself, except that courts and legal matters need to take such new forms of communication and relationship status into account. As does public opinion.”

write and think a lot (probably too much) about the impact of communication technologies on many things.  It can be both interesting and disturbing to me how new forms of communication are being “used” by individuals.  I often think about how technology can help maintain a presence in a “distant” way.  It comes with convenience, but I think it can still be “emotional work”.   But, as Glen referred to, Ghomeshi did what manipulators do… which encompassed how he communicated through texting.  With new communication technologies and changing norms with each, there is a lot to consider — context, relationship, skills, individual intent and purpose, etc.  I often think about cases and situations like this:  How would the situation and/or outcomes been different without texting (or.. insert other form of communication)?  I doubt there is any “one step ahead” in this for society.  We seem to continue to learn, teach, and be impacted “two steps behind”.  It this okay?  Is it always okay?

Just my jumble of thoughts amidst a confusing world of politics and communications today…



Read, filter, share… repeat.


I read a few posts this week regarding the “echo chamber” and “filtering” in regards to social media networking and reading information online (via my Twitter feed).  Aviva Dunsiger wrote about the importance of connecting with those who challenge our thinking and present us with new ideas to chew on.  Doug Peterson wrote about reading, accessing, and storing information online and through our social media networks.  He also featured an article that helps the awareness about “snake oil” in a PLN.  The article and Doug’s post offer good guidance about the information we process and who/what we choose to read via social networks.  At the time of my reading it, I found the comments added by Brandon and Lisa very valuable and insightful as well.

I think we all use different strategies to make our online and social media experiences personally suitable and I suspect those strategies change continually — people read and share online for different and varied purposes.  I am not sure what contributes the most to an “echo chamber” — maybe a number of things.  Social media itself keeps changing how information is received and shared as well.  I find I continually reflect why and how I am using social media, as well as about what I share.  I think it is easy for an individual to feel that what they share is not on the radar of anyone and that it would be much easier and more comfortable to just “lurk” and read.  But then does that just allow for the “big” content sharers to keep being the big “content” sharers and/or “thought leaders”?

I think decisions about what to share (of ourselves and of others) is often impacted by a concern about one’s own “brand” and/or about how one might be perceived by others in these spaces.  We could also be very unaware just how much we might miss about a topic or a side to a story, even if we think our networks are diverse and openly sharing.  Also, we all choose how deep we dig into any particular topic or story.  Last week I read this article and interview with Gabor Maté, “How Capitalism Makes Us Sick”.  His points about the internet caused me to ponder.  For example,

And the Internet, whether it’s the amount of information or the way it’s accessible, it may actually be causing people to remain more on the surface than actually digging into ideas.”

So with that and add in the possible pressures to be positive and considerate about a reputation in social media, such as suggested in this article, it does make we wonder a lot about what we are tailoring and filtering for and of ourselves in these spaces.

I guess we are all still figuring it out… as users, learners, networkers, promoters, and products in online/social media spaces. It’s complicated for adults too. Or is it just me? If anyone reads this to the end… 🙂



Social Media Menus and Venues: Home and School


I often reflect on my social media “diet”… Is it balanced?  Should I consume more of this and less of that?  What should I skim… what should I take with a grain of salt?  Who should I listen to in regards to what is good or better for me?  Will it be suitable to me?  What am I role modelling for my children?  What do my choices, online activity and interactions say about me?  How and where do I choose to connect with others?

While we find ourselves asking these questions as adults (e.g. check out Bill Ferriter’s post), we are also trying to understand and support what is appropriate for children and teens.  Who should do what to nourish and balance the social media “diets” of our youth?  Where does the guidance start?  Can support in the school environment impact choices and behaviour outside of school?  Which has more influence on the choices and behaviour of youth online – home or school?

A related conversation occurred recently between a few education bloggers about supporting youth with social media.  Aviva Dunsiger started the conversation and wondered where lines could be drawn with using social media for learning and personal interactions,

I think that students need a safe place to make mistakes, and I don’t know that social media provides this safe place.

Maybe we need more candid conversations with students about what tools they’re using, how they’re portraying themselves online, and what to do when problems occur.

Please read her full post and the comments here.

Doug Peterson responded to her questions on his blog with the suggestion that student blogging experiences may address many concerns.  Mark Carbone joined the conversation and added his thoughts further in a post on his blog.

I certainly support Doug’s view that blogs are indeed an excellent starting point.  I also think that  the K12 educational experience needs to move beyond this.

I don’t think one can underestimate the power of positive role modelling.  Do you see this as an opportunity for educators? or perhaps a responsibility?

While following the comments of Aviva, Doug, and Mark on each other’s posts, I noticed a post by William Chamberlain in which he reflected about the value of blogging for students.

Doug also weighed back in on the conversation in a subsequent post and mentioned the research and book by Danah Boyd.  As I think by now, like Doug, we all realized, yes, it really is complicated.  Doug ends with,

If you’re interested in another perspective on networking, then you really owe it to yourself to read this book.  Armed, you’re ready to join the conversation.

I recently wrote a summary about Boyd’s work as well.  I posted it along with some questions for parent input and perspectives in on online forum.  There is a lot to consider and discussion is good.  We can all have good intentions to support our children and youth, but the world of online interactions can get very complicated and confusing.  We are all still figuring out this netiquette – as adults and teens.  It must be difficult for teachers as well.  I often wonder if we may just have to accept inconsistency in this area.  Like choosing our diet and habits, there will be inconsistent and conflicting choices between home and school.  Positive role modelling and support may also be inconsistent from place to place…and online space to online space… and home and school.

I would think it is confusing for parents as well.  How can we consider Danah Boyd’s insight to support and respond appropriately as parents and educators together?  I can understand Aviva’s questioning if the internet is the place to make mistakes, especially when consequences can be harsh, if not unwarranted.  I also think that role modelling by parents is really important.  But like diet and food choices, how much can the school impact behaviour online if the messaging at home is different?  As a parent, I have had more concerns with other parents not monitoring enough than over-monitoring.  I don’t have my children as “friends” on Facebook, but we have frequent conversations about the interactions that transpire in that space, and in others.  Yet, there are always new grey areas to discuss.

Let’s keep talking, sharing, and learning from each other.  You might want to consider joining this online chat or “hangout” on April 3rd that Royan Lee has organized to reflect on Danah Boyd’s book.

Post update: Adding the recorded chat/discussion panel that Royan posted to this blog

Why is tape sticky and what about the future?


It is often bedtime when my 17 year old asks the most interesting questions.  Recently it was, “I don’t get tape… how is tape sticky?….and why does it become un-sticky?”.  Last night we had a quick exchange about cell phones which led to, “We really don’t know the impact of technology yet, do we?… like, we really won’t know until many years from now”.  It was past 11 pm, so without much speculation, I agreed, yes, there may be impacts that we don’t realize yet.  I wondered if she had been reading Seth’s Blog.  Earlier in the day I had read his post, “Your relationship with the future”.  And then today’s post, “Our inability to see ahead”.  Wise stuff.  As I dipped into the Twitter stream today, I also caught two other related and thought-provoking reads:

As Technology Gets Better, Will Society Get Worse? : The New Yorker

How Facebook Is Destroying History : Brown Moses Blog

Such articles can be a bit gloomy to read and easy to feel skeptical about, but they did make me stop and think, just as the questions from my children do.  My daughter did satisfy her curiosity about the sticky properties of tape by searching on the internet, but I wonder what answers and outcomes she will learn about regarding technology in the future.  In the meantime, I will keep reading, learning, questioning, reflecting…

A Seat at the Table – Parents, Teachers and Education


I am pleased to have Nancy Angevine-Sands, (With Equal Step @withequalstep) back as a guest blogger this month.  Her previous contribution to my blog can be found here.  She has plans to start a blog in the new year, but I am honoured and happy to offer her this space once again for this post with her appeal to both educators and parents:


I joined Twitter a year ago (I know – late to the game) as a way of hearing new and different voices in the field of education and parent engagement. I found amazing people blogging and having great online conversations about these topics. (And I see only a minute fraction!)  Some inspire me; others almost cause my head to explode; a few make me stop and reconsider my beliefs, while many confirm my convictions. But here’s the problem – I am a member of the converted, being preached to by my brethren. What about all those parents who are not connected – to twitter, to blogs, to their schools? How do they hear the many viewpoints expressed? How do they participate in the discourse? How do they learn about, argue over, and understand all that is happening and could happen in education?

Sheila has written about this topic, in this space – notably in December 2011. In that post, she asked some very pertinent questions, among them –

“How are opportunities created, supported and encouraged for parents to engage meaningfully and concretely in dialogue about learning, technology, etc. at the school level? The district or board level?  Are a few different ways offered?”

Too many of the postings I’ve read bemoan the lack of support parents give to education initiatives. But how many of those authors/educators have taken the time to provide ‘inservicing’ for the parents? How many have created opportunities for parents and guardians to learn about an issue and “engage meaningfully  and concretely in dialogue…?” How many have viewed parents as partners in the education of their students?

Let me give an example. Many of the latest discussions have been around student awards and “losing”.  This is a hot-button topic. I remember arguing with my children’s principal about this 18 years ago. “Awards are necessary and to deprive hard working students of the chance of winning is unreasonable”, I argued. The principal, a wise woman, took me to a meeting on the topic to engage my point of view. And so began my conversion, aided by watching how awards were handled, working with students who would never win the awards being given, and learning more about the topic. (see also Chris Wejr’s post – Nov/13) I now see things differently.

How many parents will get the opportunity for thoughtful consideration of this – or any – issue? In twenty-four years of parent engagement, I have rarely seen opportunities for parents to sit around the school table, learning and debating the latest trends in education. Yes, the school council might offer a workshop on Cyber safety. But will the staff present seminars on using technology in the classroom? Or open up discussion on the concept of Flipped Classrooms? Resilience may be addressed in ‘parenting‘ sessions, but will schools teach their communities how it is demonstrated in their building. Will they seek advice on implementation?

Is it any wonder that parents balk at the newest initiatives? Many educators, themselves, resist change and they are schooled in the topic. Why do we expect our communities to shift beliefs and practices without support?

If we don’t treat parents as partners, we restrict the information they receive, underestimate the value of parent knowledge (Dr. Debbie Pushor), neutralize their input, and convince ourselves that a monologue is really dialogue. The disconnect leads to misunderstandings and grievances with the system. The result affects student achievement because what is learned in the school is not supported in the home.

But let me not put the onus for partnership-building solely onto schools. In workshops with school councils, I encourage members to use twitter and other social media to connect not only with their parents, but the education community at large. In today’s world, information and discourse is at their fingertips. If we encourage the concept of life-long learners, that should include understanding how our children are being taught. Let parents take part of the responsibility for learning, questioning, and supporting their schools in the 21st century. This means school councils, teachers and principals must first send that information out into their communities and then encourage a discourse with parents/guardians on the wide variety of educational topics. That is partnership.

Changing the Conversation: Youth and Social Media


connectThis past week a great dialogue started at a parent/community event hosted by my school board’s Parent Involvement Committee.  Based on the premise that social media is not going away, our school board supported the committee to host an evening of panel presentations and dialogue regarding social media and its impact on our youth.  Attendance was great and included all stakeholders in education for this “Social Media Lowdown” (#SMLoDown).  Our panel of student, community police officer, and teacher/parent provided excellent insight and perspectives to the many aspects of social media and our changing communication technologies.  Parents were eager for the guidance — some attending with their children.  A most engaging and informative Q&A and discussion amongst the panelists and participants followed.

Some feedback from parents already suggests to me that the evening was well received and appreciated and that the dialogue will continue in our community.  One parent expressed her relief that the session wasn’t just about “all the bad things” that could happen to kids online.  She was most happy to gain insight to guide the opportunities that social media networking has to offer.  Other parents felt it was exactly the information they needed to better support their children with social media and online experiences.  Some felt that for such an important topic, more parents should have been in attendance.  However, I think the 60-70 audience size allowed for good discussion and sharing.  I am confident that conversation and critical thinking will branch out from these participants.  It has been great to hear about some engaging conversations that have already occurred within families since the evening’s event.  Further resources will be shared electronically with those who attended and anyone else interested.  I am certain there will be further opportunities for this dialogue as well.

I am most grateful that our school board supported this topic and outreach to parents and to our community.  Much appreciation has been extended to all who supported and attended.  We had a great moderator and support from a local radio station as well.  Our student trustee on the panel was such an important voice in this dialogue!  All three panelists provided valuable perspectives and helpful suggestions.  Andrew Campbell, our teacher/parent panelist has provided his presentation slides and the video of his talk on his blog to help the dialogue continue.  Thanks, Andrew!

I am honoured to have been a part of a change in conversation about social media and the support of our youth.  I hope my sharing of this event and the resources will help others with this dialogue and support in their own communities.

Here is a list of resources/reading we compiled for further support:

Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada – Video

MediaSmarts (Canadian site/also a good follow on Twitter: @MediaSmarts)

Media and Digital Literacy: Resources for Parents

Parent Resources – YouTube Help

Why Being Young Doesn’t Make You a Social Media Expert

Kids & Technology: The Developmental Health Debate

Seven Media-Savvy Skills All Parents Need in 2013

Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media

Keeping One Step Ahead of Kids in a Mobile World

Choose What Happens Next – A Series of Video Lessons on Responsible Cyber Citizenship

A Letter to Parents of Digital Age Children

Creating a Family Media Agreement: How to Have the Conversation

Some food for thought for both parents and educators:

It’s vital we teach social networking skills in school

Should schools offer social media etiquette classes?

Critical thinking about supporting creativity


There seems to be a shift in education conversations – from a focus on literacy and numeracy to innovation and creativity.  This dialogue is not only in Ontario, but across many borders.  It has certainly peaked my curiosity.

I have been reviewing two Ontario education reports with much interest:

Great to Excellent: Launching the Next Stage of Ontario’s Education Agenda. (Prof. Michael Fullan, Special Advisor to the Premier of Ontario)

Fullan Report

A Vision for Learning and Teaching in a Digital Age (Ontario Public School Boards’ Association)


Both are well worth a read and provide great food for thought regarding education strategies that include technology integration and supporting learning with new digital resources.

In Fullan’s report, the six C’s form the agenda:  Character, citizenship, communication, critical thinking and problem solving, collaboration and teamwork, and creativity and imagination.

In the OPSBA’s report, their vision “seeks to define the skills we want students to have by the time they finish school beyond the essential foundation of literacy and numeracy and core academic competencies” (p.7).  In this report, skills for the digital age are also a set of C’s:  Creativity and innovation, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration.

Both reports make good recommendations for directions in education, and what to build on.  But as we talk about these C words, I wonder if they are all being understood in a consistent way.  In a recent post, I did some thinking out loud about creativity and innovation and where technology fits with the creative process.   I got some good feedback and comments.

In Fullan’s paper, brief preliminary descriptions of the six C’s were provided.  The bullet for creativity and imagination states, “Economic and social entrepreneurialism, considering and pursuing novel ideas, and leadership in action.” (p.9). When asked during a live interview what he felt represented the most significant break with the past, he stated creativity and imagination as being the most important.

In OPSBA’s report, creativity and innovation skills were described as follows:

“Think creatively, generating new and worthwhile ideas, exploring innovative formats and media; elaborate, refine, analyze and evaluate one’s own ideas in order to improve and maximize creative efforts; work creatively with others, communicating new ideas effectively and being responsive to diverse perspectives; demonstrate originality and inventiveness in work and understand the real world limits to adopting new ideas; view failure as an opportunity to learn; understand that creativity and innovation is a long-term, cyclical process of small successes and frequent mistakes; act on creative ideas to make a tangible and useful contribution to the field in which the innovation will occur.  Creativity and innovation are particularly important in a world of rapid change.”  (p.7)

A lot of these C words, as well as “innovation”, are used together and interchangeably and I suspect that the processes and actions of each could occur simultaneously and overlap.  In Fullan’s report it is acknowledged that, “This paper has not provided details on how to get to the next level of excellence”.  He refers to the launching of Ontario to the next phase as already leading from strength, “but if anything it will require deeper partnership between government and education and other sectors in order to realize the aspirations and qualities embedded in the six C’s”. (p. 11).

What should be the focus ahead – the how?  Deeper partnerships? Technology? If creativity is essential, what conditions are necessary to support this? Do we understand what we planning to support and why?  Are we justifying one thing with another?

I often hear that failure is important to the process of creativity, but this post of Josh Stumpenhorst’s highlighting failure as important for growth had me thinking in relation to all this.  He also discusses the role of creativity and curiosity in learning.

In my previous post about creativity, I added a video of a talk by John Cleese about creativity.  He refers to creativity as a way of operating and goes on to speak more about the conditions that allow one to be more creative.  He refers to the importance of the “open mode” to allow for creativity.  Conditions that allow for an open mode are:  Quiet, playful spaces; lots of time and specific times allotted to time to play; confidence in whom you “play” with if it does involve others; and humour.  He felt humour was quicker that anything in helping move from a closed to open mode.

John Spencer (@edrethink) has written a number of good blog posts that examine creativity. In a recent one he asks,

“What if the solution for creativity isn’t to teach creativity, but to allow it? What if creativity happens when students make something meaningful, find joy in learning, fall in love with a concept, have the permission to take risks and learn to push past obstacles?”

In this post called, Creativity: The Premier Skill of the 21st Century, the author makes a distinction about creativity and innovation in this way, “Creativity is the ideation of a thought, while innovation is the realization of the idea.”  This blog is hosted by a national organization, The Partnership for 21st Century Skills, which makes a call for creativity and innovation as one of the essential skill sets of future citizens, “And, while we do not traditionally have a Creativity Room in our schools, we have a mandate to instill the skills of creative thinking to foster a never-ending stream of innovations.”

But is this the goal – in that creativity leads to innovations?  Can allowing for students to be creative be a goal in itself?

It is often said that creativity can’t be defined, but I think we can create the conditions to allow for it.  How do schools, teaching, and education have to change to support the conditions for it? Do we have to measure it?

As I was drafting this post, there were many individuals whose tweets helped my thinking on this.  Some were sharing their own thoughts and questions about this while at conferences and sessions about creativity, innovation, and learning spaces. Thanks Jenn (@jennzia) and Fred (@NomadCreatives), and many others for their critical thinking and sharing!

Is the message in the medium?


As I reflect on the last couple of years I have been participating in education conversations through social media, it does seem that there has been a significant increase in the online presence and social media participation of schools and school boards/districts and education organizations.  There seems to be the interest in being IN the conversations, as well as to use social media to learn, communicate and promote good work.  The potential and opportunity for 2-way parent communication and community engagement continues to grow as well.  If some districts are not yet doing so, there are many resources and blogs to help learn how (and why it is a good idea).  I wonder how close it is to a point where talking about social media outreach and communication is no longer necessary and it is becoming just a part of what schools and districts are doing.  I wonder if it is getting similar to the statement made in this post about social media becoming boring and just another tool….but that it is a good thing.

As classroom teachers, school administrators, and school boards increase their online presence and communicate with parents through social media, I think there are a couple of considerations that will continue to be important to think about and reassess regularly.  In addition to surveying parents themselves if communication strategies to reach them are being effective, I think it may also be good to reflect on questions like this:

  • As the invitation goes out to parents to connect, engage, receive information through blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc., is the message also conveying, “You are still welcome to visit or chat in person at the school”?
  • Does online presence and social media sharing of positive stories still include the message that it is okay for a parent to bring forward a concern about their child?
  • Do social media communication strategies still allow for the voices of dissent to be heard in the appropriate place and time?

This post about practices for “resilient communication” also made me think.  How does social media use serve to support “resilient” communication that can be needed in education?

Exciting times in commmunication, but always new things to consider.

Thoughts on Creativity


I stumbled upon this video recently.  I thought the students did a great job putting it and their thoughts together.  It was creative in itself.


I don’t doubt the value of opportunities for inspiration from online sources and interaction.  I can also appreciate the richness and diversity of resources that are available to students now to further explore their passions and interests online.  I have seen my own children seek ideas and inspiration online to help them in their creative pursuits and passions.

But I find my thoughts going around in circles sometimes.  What is the connection between technology and creativity exactly?  Are we really talking about innovation at times?  How does crowd-sourcing fit in to it all?  I worry we might overlook the creative process that can be inspired and facilitated without technology.  Is there an appropriate balance at the right time when so much is available online?  It is not hard for me to look around my own home and see creative works of my children that were inspired simply and only from seeing something in their natural physical world.  Could the same visual experience online/virtually have provided the same inspiration?  With my own, I am quite sure it wouldn’t have in many cases.

IMG_8556 (3)


I am still pondering some interesting reads about the discussions at the World Economic Forum.  An interesting video here about the interaction of art and technology.  Also here, Tim Brown mentions the conclusion from one session he attended, “The overall conclusion from the session was that creativity has an essential role to play in education, whether for the purposes of enhancing technical innovation or for creating well-rounded graduates who can truly contribute to society.”

So my thoughts and questions continue regarding the connection and interaction between creativity and technology.  How does one influence the other?  Which should serve what/who?  When should they stay separate?

I will end with sharing this short video of a creative photographer, as I thought it was quite creative in itself too.


🙂 I didn’t expect that either!

Technology Resistant


It is not hard to catch the concerns in my Twitter feed regarding the lack of technology and social media use by teachers and in classrooms.  There are often many points and issues to consider and I don’t claim to know and understand all of them.  The statements on blog posts and in comments reveal the diversity, if not polarization, of positions and thoughts in this area.

Consider these posts by Scott McLeod (@mcleod), for example, and the comments generated:

What are educator’s professional obligations to learn from social media channels?

Holding Back Our Children

And this report on social media’s role in education.

Also, I found the chart that Keith Rispin (@Keithrispin) provided at the end of this post very helpful, although he admits it may be somewhat simplistic.

The more I read the more I am often confused about what to support.  As a parent, I could choose not to worry about this, especially since parents are often looked upon as the barrier for change in this area.  Andrew Campbell (@acampbell99), a teacher and parent, posed a good question in a tweet recently, “If parents were demanding #edtech would that speed change?”  I don’t believe so.  I think it would have to be a collective response and collaboration of stakeholders to really affect speed of change (in education standards :)).  I could be wrong though certainly.

I may be “old-fashioned”, but I continue to look for reassurance around these points and questions:

  • Is the technology use or device developmentally appropriate for children/students?  E.g. Do young children really need the tools that connect globally? Would we introduce needless anxiety through exposure to situations or issues beyond their homes and community which they are not ready for and don’t need to be ready for?
  • How does the use of the technology/device or social media enhance a learning experience or opportunities compared to not using it? How are the outcomes different?
  • Arguments need to convince me that it is good for learning, not just because it makes teaching easier or more interesting (which could be addressed other ways), or that it “motivates” students.
  • As children/students experience and access more technology, what will they not experience?  And how will we know that it is okay?  Who will take responsibility if we miss something essential?

As I read the concerns about both parent and teacher resistance to technology and social media use in schools/classrooms, I wonder if it is really understood what assurances are needed.  Are the assurances that will build confidence and support similar or different for “resistant” parents and teachers?  Are parents and teachers comfortable enough to share these thoughts?

I invite any thoughts:  Is there an “it” or a “why” that you need to hear to better embrace and support the use of technology and social media in classrooms and/or for professional/personal learning?  Thank you for reading my thoughts.

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