Understanding How Communities Work

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 things that have worked for me and others. When I engage others in … Read the rest

Why Am I Still Using Social Media?

Since the inception of social media which emerged in and around 2005-07, it has gone from something as silly and useless to essential and powerful to dangerous and divisive. Perhaps all of those elements remain in some respects but certainly, the danger and divisiveness is the dominant narrative. If you’ve watched The Social Dilemma or done any other extensive reading, you’re quite aware of the harm it has and continues to cause our society. There isn’t a current issue that isn’t ripe for controversy, misinformation and vitriol. We’re overheating everywhere.

When I joined Twitter in 2007, it was definitely a silly and seemingly useless space. There were no such thing as followers, hashtags or mentions. As someone interested in the power of connectivity and networking, I found it to be a fantastic way to find interesting people. While some were already using it as a space to share serious and useful content, I just wanted to get to know others. As an educator is was a virtual staff room. A place where educators would come together to try and get away from the challenges of teaching but like any teacher will revert back to the job and look for support … Read the rest

“Whatever it Takes” I’m not sure…

This post was born out of a conversation I had with teachers a few weeks ago. I was sitting in a computer lab with about a dozen top-notch educators who had either been using Discovery Education’s Science Techbook or were just being introduced to it. After exploring it for an hour or so and having lots of dialogue one teacher said something to the effect of, “I don’t see why any teacher wouldn’t use this. It’s got everything you need, aligned to the new curriculum. Not only is it an amazing resource, but it’s also a real time saver.” To which another teacher replied. “It is a time saver but in order to get there, you likely need a couple of days of PD or just time.”

I suddenly had an image in my cost benefit analysis scale.

It occured to me that this is essentially … Read the rest

Finding and Developing the Willing

The idea of student empowerment over engagement is a growing conversation and trend in education. Rightly so. Many emerging ideas such as genius hour, project-based learning and others are designed to empower students. As we examine and reflect on any implementation of these ideas, we typically hear some reference to “motivated students”. If students are seen as motivated, any kind of independent learning is more likely to work. Conversely, people’s resistance to giving students more ownership and autonomy is often because they don’t feel their students are motivated.

I had a chance to visit Thames Valley School District this week in London, Ontario. I had been to the district before and seen some of the innovative work they are doing. They have a long-standing art program at one of their high schools that embodies so many of the principles of empowered learning. In addition, they recently have developed a “school within a school” concept. Essentially they are working with  grade 9 teachers who were asked one question: “What if there were no subjects?” From there the district outlined the “bumpers” (must still address curricular needs, no major additional funds, must work in teams) and now nearly 20 cohorts have been … Read the rest

The Problem with Curiosity

I’m noticing an unusual pattern of late. In education, there’s a strong underlying message to bring back or maintain curiosity and wonder as the foundation of learning. Meanwhile the media, both mass and traditional and social is intent on killing curiosity. Whether it’s politics, racism, environmental or a host of other modern issues, the message is pretty standard.

“Unless you believe me/us, you’re stupid or evil.”

The problem with curiosity is, it’s nice in theory, it might work in schools, but in the real world, curiosity is not valued and it’s often disdained.

I understand the passion the people have about many of these issues. But the absence of wonder and curiosity sends exactly the opposite message to our children when it comes to lifelong learning. The shortage of thoughtful, welcoming conversation and discourse is alarming. For a person genuinely interested in learning about two or more sides of an issue, good luck. There aren’t many safe places to ask questions and learn. Phrase a question incorrectly, and you’ll be hammered and chastised for your ignorance. So instead of engaging in civil discourse, you’re forced to choose a side and be bombarded inside an echo chamber that paints their opposition … Read the rest