“I Couldn’t Agree More” is Meh.

First off, if you rarely read the comments in a blog, you ignore the fact that some of the best learning comes from those who respond and contribute additional ideas, perspectives and insights. Grant it, many spaces, like news sites and youtube are often places where civil discourse is difficult to find. But many blogs, particularly educational blogs offer some of the best places for conversation. Blogs are by nature conversational. Posts are meant to be reviewed, discusses and challenged in the same spaces.


Yet, perhaps it’s the overly kind nature of many educators or a fear to engage in meaningful debate, it’s amazing how often I read a blog with some interesting ideas and the comments are filled with replies beginning with “I couldn’t agree more.” Now certainly there are many times when that’s exactly how you feel and so you post with enthusiasm the joy of finding a kindred spirit, I’m not here to criticize you if you’ve ever began a comment like that. Well, maybe a little criticism. 😉

I’m here to suggest that if you only leave those kind of comments then maybe you aren’t putting yourself in a position to think critically or maybe you only read people that you “couldn’t agree more” with. If you own a blog where everyone tells you how awesome your ideas are, maybe you continue to share ideas that you know will get people telling you how awesome you are, I don’t know.

I should really change my blog title to include the phrase, “half-baked ideas and thoughts” since that’s essentially what I enjoy most. Even as I write this, I wonder how it will be taken. Case in point, my previous post on the Digital Divide create some nice discussion. I did feel like I had a point, I still do, but thanks to people like Darren Draper and Andrew Campbell, suggested I might not be thinking it through completely. Darren even wrote his own post pointing out a similar idea about half baked ideas. Sure, it was nice to have people agree with me but I learned more from those who suggest I may not have it entirely correct.

While this is certainly about trust and having known both Darren and Andrew for a few years and have met them both a few times, that helps. But even having strangers challenge my work is great. Recently a dude ironically named Dean found my blog and put me to task on one of my favorite pet peeves, “rigor”. He respectfully argues and makes a great point forcing me to clarify my own thinking.

Now to try and make a point. If you comment and only tell people how wonderful they are, challenge yourself and try to find people and ideas you don’t completely agree with. Not to be antagonistic but to practice and engage in meaningful discourse where ideas and perspectives can be fine tuned. Be kind but be candid. It’s not easy but it’s worthwhile. See Bud Hunt for more. If you write things and people can’t agree more, try writing things where they agree less. I think it will make you wiser in the long run. Thanks to all the people who agree and disagree with this post. Stay kind.

Pimp My Slide

I like design and I like making slides. We know that images can increase recall and understanding. You don’t have to agree and this post isn’t so much about convincing you of that as it is about the wonderful ways in which collaboration and push back can happen online and actually make things better. 

I’ve been thinking about the phrase which I have come to dislike, “it’s not about the technology” I wanted to capture that idea in an image and began thinking about the way musicians use their instruments. Trying to find a name of someone who would be most recognizable I chose Yo Yo Ma. You don’t have to acknowledge if you’ve never heard of him before because the image I found tells you all you need to know about his love of music and the cello. 



​So I began with this:


After I posted it to flickr, Darren chimed in with this suggestion:


Try using a brown similar to the cello instead of yellow. You can use the colour picker in Keynote to do that.

Love the pic, and the quote.

I tried that and responded:

Tried your advice Darren but the brown was too dark, not enough contrast with the background. I used the cello colour for the outline though. I think it’s better this way though. Thanks for the feedback. I’ll take more if you have it. 😉


I like this. Looks better. Are you using two different fonts? I think I’d stick with one; there’s something about the font used in the smaller text that clashes with the larger font.

Fair enough and wise. I tried again.

Darren continued to work at making it better,

Ooo, liking that better; wonder how it looks without white outline of the brown text. Maybe no outline but keep shadow? No shadow?

I played a little with the kerning and positioning until I had it somewhat better.


 Darren Draper joined our conversation with his own ideas. 

Outlined text helps, but a solid bg on the photo would make it stronger. 

Darren then went off and made this:

None of us are graphic designer experts and will all admit our amateur approach to design. However we all three understand that it does matter and we also enjoy the process. But also the collaboration, the push back and willingness to go back, edit and revise lead to a better product. We joked later about starting a Fix My Slide meme. I don’t know about that but I do think there’s some simple ideas here for you and your students to seek feedback and find ways to learn with others without the limitations of geography and time. 







7 things you might not know about me

Angela, Barbara tagged me and I’ll oblige.  I thought I had already done one of these but I guess it’s slightly different.

With the amount of sharing I do, I’m not sure if there are 7 things people don’t know about me, but knowing I’ve likely broke the TMI rule several times, here goes:

1. I never planned to go into education. I began my
undergraduate studies intending to go into journalism.  During my first
2 years, I spent time helping in a church pre-school program (I have no
idea how that happened). Several people recognized my love of kids and
suddenly I did too. Having a blog has rekindled my love of writing.

2. I took my daughter with me to University. I was married at age 20. We had our first child 2 years later while we both attended University. My daughter was born 3AM on a Saturday and I wrote a final exam at 9AM that day. The following year was my last year of school and when the babysitter bailed, I’d cart her to class with me. I don’t recommend it but it worked for us.

3. I taught grade 1 for 6 years. I love little kids. My wife says I relate to them very well. 

4. I cook. I never learned how to cook till I was married
and as two young people trying to figure out our roles, she picked
cleaning and I picked cooking. I’m not that awesome but in general, I’m
in charge of meals.

5. I have an outstanding memory of the trivial. I’ve pretty much memorized every Seinfeld episode, can recall yardages of golf courses I’ve played 10 years ago, and know that the winners of every major golf championship winner for the past 40 years. I’m not sure of all my kid’s birthdays.

6. My faith is of paramount importance to me. While I don’t think this is the space to share it, my faith is really the basis of who I am.

7. I’ve fallen out of love with hockey. For someone who grew up playing the game and even getting as far as tryouts with Major Junior hockey, I rarely watch and never play. I stopped playing about 4 years ago after 35 straight years and haven’t watched more than about 5 games in the past 10 years. I really can’t explain it.

I now tag,

Amy Bowllan

Clay Burell

Darren Draper

Lee Kolbert

Jeff Utecht

Podcast 42…Student Voices

Wednesday’s class was one of those classes that make you glad you’re an educator. Once again, I prove that my greatest strength as a teacher is my ability to outsource and maximize my network.

In the early stages of this course there’s no question that students feel overwhelmed. They are introduced to many new concepts and ideas that are pretty foreign to most. I wondered if a few of my students from previous sessions would want to share with my current students what, if anything, they learned and are using today.  I have spent a fair bit of time with Kyle Lichtenwald so while his responses were excellent, they were not all that surprising since he and I are fairly connected. Darin Janssen and Nicole Little were students in my Winter 2008 class. Both showed quite a bit of growth in the class and were two that continued blogging.  They shared some powerful lessons about many of the themes I’ve tried to focus on throughout the class:

  • Learning is social and connected
  • Learning is personal and self-directed
  • Learning is shared and transparent
  • Learning is rich in content and diversity

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about the work I do is that the more you can point to others who are doing the right work, the more powerful and applicable it is. Darren’s student voices is a great example of this.   Alan November has apparently discovered this as well. In other words, “don’t take my word for it, listen to these people”.

Listen to these three students share their discovery and application of networked learning.


Everyone once in a while you try something and it turns out far better than you imagined.

Photo: The Blonde, the Contrabass and the Microphone #5