Understanding How Communities Work

This post was last updated on 2 hours ago at 2 hours ago

Having held the title of “Community Manager” and been directly involved in this work for a decade, you’d think I’d know more about the topic. The truth is I’ve been searching for a framework, structure or maybe a magic bullet the whole time. By many accounts and metrics, I’ve had success in this role. I can think of all the events, relationships and connections that I’ve made and fostered and feel pretty good. And yet, I still struggle with how to articulate what community really is and how it can be created, designed and how to grow and nurture it.

I suppose it’s much like teaching. Yes, there are many frameworks and strategies that can be useful ways to think about teaching but the reality is, teaching in schools is really about connecting with humans and that is something that comes with uncertainty and variables that are very difficult to control.

My current role with ALP includes a continued pursuit of building and creating community. It’s always a challenge to explain this to those inside the education world, let alone those outside it. I continually reflect on … Read the rest

Delight 19: Data

I can’t believe I’m actually saying this but I do love data.

It shouldn’t really surprise me. As a kid, I fell in love with sports, particularly baseball because of statistics. Baseball is a sport that loves numbers and data. Well before cyber metrics came along, baseball fans followed home runs, batting averages, strikeouts, stolen bases and other individual races as much as they followed the pennant race. Same with football and hockey for me. I remember in grade 5 being asked my favourite book and I said “ Pro Football’s Street and Smith Official Yearbook 1975” Mrs. Cram was not impressed. I would memorize stats and could tell you Fran Tarkenton’s throwing percentage and Chuck Foreman’s yards per carry.

Fast forward to adulthood and teaching and data were equated to tests and other measures. While this practice of “data-driven” instruction was taking root, I intuitively felt at odds. Without having the language or research I knew teaching was a human experience and there was a danger in trying to quantify learning. The work of Alfie Kohn in particular started me on the path of de-emphasizing grades and data. This has remained a theme for me.

It was about … Read the rest

Delight 18: Grass

This post was last updated on 2 weeks ago at 2 weeks ago

Not that kind of grass. Grass represents summer which as a Canadian is something I feel we savor more than those who have never or rarely experienced -40F/C temperatures.

Grass, for me was first associated with baseball. John Fogerty’s opening line of Centerfield says it well:

Well, a-beat the drum and hold the phone

The sun came out today

We’re born again, there’s new grass on the field

Baseball diamonds are special places. Even the word “diamond” adds a bit of delight to what is essential a pasture. I remember seeing major league ball parks where the groundskeeper would etch a logo into the outfield.

It’s totally unnecessary, superfluous and yet brings delight to those watching and playing. My love affair with grass shifted to golf courses. As I began playing more golf as a teenager, I also worked on a golf course and learned a little about growing grass, types of grasses and how to maintain them. I can tell you about Bent, Bermuda, Rye, Poa Annua, Kentucky bluegrass and various other strands. The experience of walking on these carpet-like surfaces is in itself delightful. The … Read the rest

Delight 17: New Tech

This post was last updated on 4 months ago at 4 months ago

I still remember the first time I used a digital camera. A Sony Mavica with a floppy disk for storage. The ability to take a photo, insert a disk into your computer and be able to view the image was magic. From the time I began my journey with educational technology in the late 1990s until my first iPhone in 2008, I had so many of these moments of magic. Building my first website, making and editing video, video conferencing, publishing tools, blogs and early social media were examples of new and shiny tools and software that captured my imagination and opened my eyes to endless possibilities, joy and yes even delight.

Then things plateaued. Not that tech was stagnant but I now lived in a world where I expected things to change and improve. As an early adopter to so many tools I also began to see that for all the new technology we were given, it wasn’t making the difference in our lives I had once hoped it would. Add to that the growth of mobile technologies in particular and its impact on our attention … Read the rest

Style Over Substance

Remember the first time you used PowerPoint? Being able to take some written content and magically have it include images (likely clipart), have it spin around and transition to the next slide with glitter or swivel? Admit it. The very first time you thought it was pretty cool. You may have even had your class do a report with the tool and had kids stand up in the front of the class as their presentation was displayed on a projector screen. I will timidly raise my hand and admit I did it. There was a moment when I thought these presentations by my students represented quality work. However, soon after the shininess of the tool wore off, it was clear that their actual work wasn’t any different. Adding an animated flag of Canada to a slide telling me its population was 37 million didn’t represent anything more than a student’s ability to copy and paste and insert. What surprised me was how long this facade of quality work lasted. Many teachers, years later still had students creating presentations that underscored a lack of depth and creativity but were disguised, and by this time, not so cleverly with copyrighted images and … Read the rest