2012: My Year in Numbers

It's not like I have nothing else to do but when people ask "Where do you find the time?" it's usually not because they think what I've done is so amazing but rather so dumb or insignificant. 

Thanks for the compliment. 

I take solace in Clay Shirky's statement that "even the stupidest creative act, is still a creative act". If I've not created something in a while I feel a little stale. These web and media tools are my paintbrushes and my canvases. I love that folks like Alan Levine and others are constantly making and fiddling with stuff. They inspire me and remind me to just do it. 

So after thinking about Dan Meyer's 2009 Annual Report and sharing it often as a example of using data to tell storie, I decided to give it a shot. While Dan used a wack sack of tools and does a much more professional job that took him weeks to produce, I wanted to see if I could use Keynote to tell the story of my year in numbers. So after an evening of planning, data mining, watching a few tutorials, I built my 2012 report. I spent most of the time working with timings, figuring out to animate charts and then added some music.


I know, you're still saying, "You've got way too much time on your hands." I hope that's always the case. 

Your Research Matters

Cross posted at the Huffington Post

John Spencer is quickly becoming one of my favourite reads. He’s clever, succinct and more importantly works with kids everyday. His recent post about why he doesn’t believe in research comes to me after experiencing a few issues around research of late.

Much of my own feelings about research are a result of reading a lot of Dave Weinberger’s writings. Weinberger talks about the changing shape of knowledge and that network knowledge is negotiated as opposed to traditional knowledge which was more accepted. Print and books are designed to contain and be the final word on truth. You don’t ask questions to paper. Now with work being online, our reaction is always to want to have a discussion around ideas. Of course this is extremely liberating both also problematic when everything is questioned and conversations involved many perspectives. Welcome to democracy. 

While preparing for an upcoming presentation I came across a slide I’ve used citing that our brain processes images 60,000 times faster than text. Sounds impressive and useful for convincing folks to use more images to help understanding. The problem is the research, as far as many can tell is not true. Darren and Alan have done great work in trying to find the source but have had no luck. So given that research is not valid what do I do? I don’t need research to tell me that I learn better when visuals are involved. Some visuals are better than others but in trying to craft a message I know the impact a powerful image has on my recall ability. I could pull up some other research but in the end, if I use John’s questions in his post, I may not find it that valuable.

Yesterday my wife was feeling a bit stressed over a parent who has been emailing her because she’s concerned about the lack of homework, the fact she doesn’t use spelling tests or use paper agendas. These are clearly hot button issues that many feel strongly about one way or another. I tried to track down a bit of research to support her and while I found some that did, I found others that did not. Of course we know as John says, that research can be used to support almost any notion. Which is why for me, the real important research is the reflective teacher. I’ve been talking for an awful long time about the importance, the significance of teachers who blog. I’ve not talked about it specifically from a research perspective but to me the writing that someone does that analyzes and assesses their practice is every bit as valuable as the university studies that follow all the fancy research rules. When working with the dynamics of children, research often leads us to focus on simple solutions. We want to distil and synthesize complex studies down to something manageable and usable. “Give kids homework”. “Don’t give homework.” Do you see how narrow and simplistic those stances are?

Like grading and assessment, many are looking for simple, clean answers that if possible fit in a scale between 1-100. But like parenting, the education of a child is anything but simple and clean. That doesn’t mean research is useless but it does mean that we’ll all continue to use it to serve our purposes and perhaps that’s okay. What’s not okay is to suggest that your findings are definitive and that personal experiences as educators are less important. Again, that’s why I urge teachers to become researchers themselves. I believe they all are involved in action research everyday, trying to move closer to understanding how kids learn. What I need them to do is to share their experiences and describe their own practices. I’ve been saying this a lot to people lately but I try to “describe” not “prescribe” ideas for teachers. There are some things we all agree upon. Among them:

  • reading to kids is good
  • writing a lot makes you a better writer
  • we learn best by doing
  • exercise helps improve learning

I don’t need research to help me support these ideas. I will pick and choose research that support my own beliefs. And by research I mean blog posts and experiences of other teachers. What I won’t do is tell everyone they have to do likewise. I’ll use that research to ask others to consider a new approach, then wait for them to respond. That’s exactly what happened as I described something I was doing with my students around assessment. While I’m building loosely off of research, the real research comes with my practice. I tried it, shared my experiences and invited others to see if it would work. Bill tried it and documented his experience. That’s action research, research that’s valuable and meaningful. 

So my advice is not to suggest formal educational studies and research isn’t valuable. But it’s real value comes practitioners see themselves as researchers, test the theories and share the results in these negotiable, network spaces where conversations and professional dialog provide value not only to yourself but to others.



Guitar Lesson 6

This video showcases a new little strumming drill I learned as well as highlight some others diving into a musical learning project. 


If you want to participate in helping others with their learning project, considering gifting one or more of my students with a little comment, whether or not you're an expert in any of these fields, a kind word of encouragement can go miles in helping them realize that learning in public is a good thing. 

​Dan…learning to make sushi

Danielle…learning to sew

Jeneane….learning sign language

Jennie…learning to read Chinese

Josh.…learning graphic design

Do you have something to share(ski)?

I'm honored to be providing the pre-conference keynote for the 2010 K12 Online Conference. I've been involved in this conference since its inception in 2006 in various capacities and believe it to be not only a wonderful resource but a great model of sharing and generosity that epitomizes what networked learning can be.

While I'm sorting through a few ideas for the keynote, I'm planning on making a case as to why we have an obligation to share and teach to students beyond our own institutions and how that makes your own school a much better place. This is where I need your help.

In the spirit of Alan Levine (see Alan, this is what happens when you have great ideas, other people steal them), I'd love for you to post your story. To be more specific, I'm looking for examples of sharing that directly impacted students and curriculum. Maybe it's simply using a resource created by someone else, perhaps it's an idea you shared that someone else built upon. It could be anything that you used with students in your school or classroom. Ideally, I'd like to have stories from a variety of grade and subject levels.

Given the time parameters of the presentation, I may not be able to use all the stories but by simply posting them here, you've already illustrated my point: Teachers who share with the most people are among the best teachers. So leave your stories, links and tell us how sharing has made a difference for your students.

Oh, and please Retweet.

My hometown

mapInspired by Doug Peterson, who was inpsired by ZeFrank that then inspired Stephen Downes and others I’ve created a little video of my life growing up in Morden, Manitoba.  Thanks to the every growing database of Google Streetview, it’s now reaching even small towns like the one I grew up in.

This one’s mostly for me. Yet, it’s been interesting to learn about other’s experiences growing up. Lots of similarities largely due to a very different attitude toward safety and community. (By the way, I recall a blog post/website a few months back where someone detailed the changes in how far kids are allowed to roam from home, if anyone knows it please leave a link)

Besides the content, the use of Google Maps/Streetview as storytelling tools is largely underused as Alan Levine has said a number of times. Watching Jim Groom’s video, was like literally like going for a walk with him.

I created this with about 3 Jing movies stitched together and then uploaded to blip and youtube. One take. No rehearsal or editing, other than adding a title and one image I had handy. It lacks polish but most of our stories aren’t rehearsed, they’re spontaneous accounts of memory. I’m not advocating for us not to edit and craft our stories but we need to have room for many kinds of stories, some polished and edited to death and some a little rough around the edges. Bottom line is we need more stories about significant experiences. Google maps and street view is powerful tool for that. I for one would be happy to take a walk with people sharing significant stories about places that have meaning.

Here’s mine.

What’sWhere’s your story?