Five Habits of Highly Creative Teachers: Is Reflection Aloud/Allowed?

This summer I was co-teaching and co-learning in 5 Habits of Highly Creative Teachers.  I’m not sure where the teacher ends and the learner begins, but this was an open online course and such is the nature of learning in many online learning communities.  Many of us have long ditched the top down hierarchy of traditional classrooms allowing us all to become creators of our own potentially vast and complicated ongoing learning environments.  If you have not been following the course, you can read more about it here.

As the course consisted of five modules with five different guides, the team- Tracee, Strawberrry, Cathleen, Melissa and I agreed that we would all try to reflect on the experience, but I put that off until the time felt right.  Sometimes a little distance and letting what we’ve learned bake in helps us make sense of our experiences.  In addition, as I approach the 3 year mark for my teaching “sabbatical” and as school starts again in August and September in many parts of the world, the time feels right.  As an educator, it’s is a great time for me to reflect on the past, be in the present and plan for the future.

Getting Feedback

I was the “guide” in last module which was on reflection, and each of our modules integrated a feedback mechanism which consisted of a quiz at the end of the module.  This generated some quantitative and qualitative data and in order to help me sort out “what the heck just happened with reflection”, I made a presentation of charts/graphs and added ideas/questions.

Since I put together the presentation, I’ve been able to synthesize some of my thoughts on teaching and reflection.  Here follows some of the salient items that appeared in the data and that kept lingering in my mind and coming back to me.

The Data

The following items were what stood out in the data that I sorted out.

  • More participants read all the content than participated in the online discussions
  • A large majority of participants reflect in isolation via their own observations/self-talk/journaling/writing
  • Reflection is generally not done for its own sake or as a means of self expression, but rather done to improve/get better or with a specific goal in mind
  • Most educator/participants didn’t say that they value or use their own reflection as a model for student self reflection
  • Teachers need the support of their tribe (s)
  • Teachers need to feel that they are not alone

I would be overgeneralizing if I said that educators are passive consumers of content, reflecting in isolation, unaccustomed to modeling their own deeply personal reflection process with their students/peers and who yet desperately need the support of their tribe and collaborative teaching/learning opportunities to battle both the internally and externally imposed demon of aloneness and to bring about a radical change in the teaching profession.

I know many educators are not “that educator.”   I was “that educator.”

My Personal Experience

Recently when I was teaching overseas at an international school from 2008-2011, I had the opportunity to collaborate with some great colleagues in both the Romance Language Department as well as in the English B department where we put together units of inquiry for the IBMYP.  It was always a very intense experience and we were all eager to create the perfect unit and to improve and continuously tweak our practice/curriculum.  In my opinion and in my recollection, here’s how I did reflection:

  • Collaborated within my departments to talk about what went well and what didn’t when there was time
  • Constantly looked for new and creative ideas to teach and shared them with others when possible
  • Received feedback from students at the end of the course and considered it (sometimes)

Here’s where I didn’t scratch the surface:

  • Actively seek out student input on what went well and what didn’t in the moment that the learning/instruction was taking place as opposed to the end of the course/unit
  • Model reflection for my students.  For example, at the close of a lesson, think out loud about what I  learned and seek student’s input on what they learned
  • Observe colleagues teaching (except during required evaluation time)
  • Film myself teaching in order to get feedback through observation as well as others’ input
  • Look for opportunities to co-teach classes to tap into the potential of teachers’ complimentary strengths and as an enhanced learning opportunity for both teachers and students
  • Participate in a creative process with my students as a student
  • Delve really deeply into my weaknesses as a teacher and identify concrete ways to improve by soliciting the help of fellow teachers

As a teacher I lived the feeling of “never having enough time and never being enough.”  Educators continue to suffer from time restraints coupled with curriculum demands that perhaps don’t allow for this level of engagement and peer and student collaboration.

The gap between what we know and where we want to be remains.  The school “schedule” and “curriculum” goals need a huge overhaul in order to allow for a new kind of teaching and learning to emerge.

PD-Where Do We Go From Here?

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Although I have no concise answers, listening to this talk on EDchat radio confirmed to me that professional development for teachers and the direction it is heading is on the minds of teachers as well as administrators. The bottom line is that teachers are not learning by observing other teachers on a regular basis. In addition, concerns were voiced  that much like students in the traditional classroom, educators are passive consumers of professional development but now need to be engaged in a more active style of learning that allows them to network and collaborate as well as share and do activities with their peers.

In addition, as a communal call to speech and action, I would like to share a few thoughts about being”silent” as opposed to reflecting out loud that I recently discovered in Audre Lorde’s “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action.”   

1.  If it’s important  it’s worth saying regardless of  feedback or support.

“I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood.”

2. If a concern lingers and continues to come back, it need to be voiced.

 “What are the words you do not yet have? What do you need to say? What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you will sicken and die of them, still in silence?

3.  When we talk about what’s important to us and what we think, we engage in a dialogue with the world that allows learning about ourselves and others to take place.

 “…the transformation of silence into language is an act of self-revelation…”

Although these excerpts were written for a different time and purpose, its message resonated with me about what we as educators aren’t saying aloud (or aren’t allowed to say or allowing ourselves to say) and how by not speaking up/reflecting out loud, we are not allowing our whole selves to unfold.

And if we do not engage in an ongoing endeavor to speak and act upon that which unfolds and opens us, then how can we expect that from our students?


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“Digging” into Creativity, Innovation and Change

Last week the Irish poet laureate and Nobel Prize winner Seamus Heaney passed away, and many of us (Irish, Irish descendants, travelers, lovers of the written word, human beings etc…) were drawn to celebrate the life of this man and his remarkable craft by savouring and remembering some of his poetry which embodies so much of the harshness and beauty of life.  For quite some time now one of my favorite Heaney poems has been “Digging”, a powerful autobiographical poem to which I always return.  On the surface it looks to be largely about farming and writing; however, as always with poetry, one must dig deeper.
Upon hearing the news of Heaney’s death, I, like many others, was also embarking on pre-course activity and thinking about my creative style and possible projects for Creativity, Innovation and Change, so Heaney’s poem became excellent food for thought and led me to a brief reflection about the connection between”Digging” and the process of discovering one’s creativity.  So in this post,  I would like to share the following insights which may help in digging our way through this process.
PicMonkey Collage
(Although you may not be a fan of poetry, I ask you to bear with me and encourage you to either listen to/watch “Digging” or read it/listen to it depending on your preference.  They are both linked here and are both quite brief:)
Dig Deep and Get Dirty
Those of us who are embarking on this course as either Adventurers or Explorers, are asked to think about the CIC principles of CENTER, Creative Diversity, and Intelligent Fast Failure in our lives.  At first glance, this appears to be a relatively simple process.  However, dig deeply and the process can get a bit dirty!  For example, after posting her Life Ring in Google plus fellow quadblogger and courserian Felicia Sullivan  ponders the following, “I found one of my core areas had too much going on and was unfocused — I had not really thought about it before. ” Digging deeply means being willing to ask the “jugular questions” of ourselves and others which can be disruptive but also life changing. Like Heaney’s father and grandfather, the potato farmers making their way through the muddy bog everyday, “going down and down for the good turf” digging deep and asking the questions is hard work, and it means being relentlessly willing to get dirty perhaps over and over again as we rethink and re-imagine ourselves.
Think Local
In this course we are also encouraged to find projects that are personally challenging and based on topics that are important to us and perhaps even to our community.  Like Heaney who chose to write about something local, something very dear and close to his home and family- potato farming and turf digging, what makes this journey a challenge is to discover the unique and very personal way that we can discover and use our creativity within the community in which we live.  Knowing more about our community and our creative style can prove useful in this endeavour and perhaps after digging here and now where we live, we may start to live some of the answers. As long time friend and Feminine Business Leader  Sherri L. McLendon points out “Today, 21st century coffee houses evolve as hubs of connection and influence in the local landscape.” I wonder what other places in our community outside of museums and schools are gathering places or hubs of local connection and creativity.  Can tapping into that local flavor help us in our journey? How can our unique brand of creativity be celebrated in the service of others in our own community and beyond?
Applying Intelligent Fast Failure in our lives means stepping up to challenges and accepting failure as a part of the creative process.  Heaney’s father and grandfather showed tireless perseverance in digging. His grandfather is described as straightening up from his toil to take a to milk break and then immediately heading back out again.  We too must head back out again regardless of our failures.  As Randy Pausch said in his inspiring Last Lecture , “The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.”
Expand upon Tradition 
Where is home? Where do we come from?  These are often difficult questions to answer.  Pico Iyer speaks eloquently about “Where is home?” in his TED talk (linked in the Idea Cloud for this course), and acknowledges the fact that for him like many of us, he doesn’t come from or live in one tradition or culture and at the same time is drawn to others.    However, at the end of his talk he states that regardless of all this moving around, there is an importance to stepping outside of our world to find out what is important to us and at the same time acknowledging a place to stand.    In “Digging,” the narrator knowingly says that he is not a man of the spade like his father and grandfather,”I’ve no spade to follow men like them.” However, Heaney did often chose to observe and write about the life and traditions that surrounded him.  A part of our creative journey is to acknowledge our roots and yet at the same time to see how our paths branch out from them.
During this process of self discovery, some of us might be able to stand and speak our truth as concisely as Seamus Heaney did at the end of his poem “Digging”:
“Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.”
However,  I suspect that for many more of us, we will simply have found another piece of our own personal jigsaw puzzle, yet it is always important to remember and celebrate each unique piece as indeed one more that we didn’t have before.
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#Napowrimo #26

“The Road I Made” (Remix “The Road Not Taken”)

TWO roads diverged in a forest,

Yet, I could not travel either

And I stood not long

Before I decided

That neither would suffice;


I unsheathed my scythe

And began to hack away a path

Between the other two,

But the undergrowth was dense,

The work was hard, my body sore;


Yet that morning I forged

A path that no step had ever trodden.

Oh, I kept my mind’s eye

On the ever-fixed mark-

A place, a path of my own;


I’ll tell this with conviction

To all who will listen

When two roads diverge in a forest-

Build your own

That will make all the difference.

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Blissful Hiking Nirvana

Lately I’ve been co-learning in The Five Habits of Highly Creative Teachers while dipping in and out of the Make Learning Connected MOOC.  This week in #create5 we are focusing on tribes, and it’s been fun and fascinating to identify the tribes we belong to while reflecting on who we are and experiencing how our curiosity and social nature drives us to belong to various groups that support us in our learning adventure.  Meanwhile in the CLMOOC, this make cycle is about making a “How to Be” guide, and I have been inspired by the great work that has already been posted in the google plus community.

Being a bit on the lazy side when it comes to assignments (or maybe it’s creativity), I’m always looking for ways to bring ideas together from different places (teachers may call it submitting the same assignment for both classes).  So I decided to create a “How to” about one of the tribes I belong to and how to experience “Hiking Nirvana” in La Promenade Verte surrounding the Brussels area.  I latched onto the idea for “Hiking Nirvana” from Jill Duplessis Tribe Collage Pinterest Board and decided to do my own take on it within the context of these two MOOCs.

When I surrendered my teaching tribe(the one in the building) a few years back, I felt like the rug was pulled out from under me.  With no rug to stand on, I was on shaky ground for spell until I happened upon EDCMOOC which turned out to be a magic carpet of sorts carrying me into a world that offered me a way to learn and be with others that I had never experienced before.  Since then I set out (as much as a somewhat gregarious expat introvert can) to find other ways of being and other tribes to belong to both within MOOCs as well as in physical spaces.  It seems to be a teetering balancing act for me; when I swing too far one way, I need to swing back the other way and so on and so forth.  Being a part of this hiking tribe has grounded me and given me among many things the opportunity to practice the messiness of face to face communication and being with others.

The hiking group that I am a part of just finished the last walk around La Promenade Verte.   It was certainly the mélange of the people, movement and walking through the green forests that kept me engaged.  The experience of  being, learning and moving, moving, being, and learning worked to catapult me into a state of self-forgetfulness, unity, oneness.  That cycle feels like flow, and I’m wanting to keep that momentum going.  Amazing things can happen when one gets engrossed in walking, communicating and observing nature. Part of it may even be an ancestral calling to walk the lands, and I’m heeding that call in my own way.

This video/slide compilation is specific to La Promenade Verte around Brussels, but the ideas behind it regarding informing oneself, finding a tribe, and forging out with an intention to be with others and enjoy and observe nature could be applied to hiking anywhere.  I put it together as a memento of the journey (there were no badges given but we’ve got the invisible insignia).  It serves as well as a reminder to me of how to begin again and as potential practical guide for others.  I’m hoping that it resonates and gives a glimpse of the nirvana that awaits as we go and when we go afoot in Mother Nature.


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What’s your punctuation story?

In “5 Habit of Highly Creative Teachers”, we are exploring curiosity this week.  In order to dig into curiosity, Douglas Rice’s metaphors for our deeply engrained habits and tendencies were placed in our path.  Such metaphors help us tell our story and human beings are story and meaning making creatures.


I am a walker.  I also often ride.  More often in the car but ocassionally on a bicycle.  The mere act of moving and experiencing a changing landscape of forests and feilds as well as and man-made structures while listening to the chirping of birds, frogs singing, sounds of human life, or music sets my creativity in motion.

So I find that I am more inclined to be curious and creative when I am moving , observing and listening and generally soaking up my surroundings using all my senses.  That is when I am most often a question mark.  However, sometimes, it takes a huge effort to get into that mode because it feels playful and I’ve allowed myself to be programmed to work at not making waves and being a concensus builder (.) or to be a reliable and efficient problem solver always delivering a finished product (!)

I think it is easy to fall into this trap.  In fact society rewards us for our measurable output and deliverables.  However, I’m working from the inside out trying to “cultivate my inner question mark” by being playful and bold and not overthinking things as well as following up on my interests.  In order to help me get on with it, I’ve made this reminder list:

  • Get moving
  • Look
  • Listen
  • Embrace uncertainty
  • Be bold
  • Try new things
  • Follow up
  • Be persitant
  • Show up

What’ s your puctuation story?




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Week 3 #Rhizo 14: Uncertainty, Hedgehogs, Compasses and a Yoruba Trickster god

Disclaimer: I am one of those people that doesn’t really answer Dave’s questions.  Read no further if you are looking for useful information.  I proceed to unanswer his questions.

“It’s better to go into the world half-cocked
than not to go into the world at all.”

James Hillman

For some oddly rhizomatic reason, I started thinking about hedgehogs on Monday evening.  Mostly because as an introvert, I often feel like one, but in retrospect I see it as a kind of thread that I can weave into an answer to one of Dave’s provocative questions as a variation of  the “Hedgehog’s Dilema” for Wk 3:

Question 1: How do we make embrace uncertainty in learning? 

Unanswer 1: Here follows a parable by Arthur Schopenhauer from which the “Hedgehog Dilemma” originates:

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The original interpretation and meaning of the “Hedgehog Dilemma” appears to be about intimacy and relationships.  There is always a potential psychological pain that we can inflict on each other by forming close relationships, yet at the same time our dilemma becomes that by rejecting those relationships, we also risk inflicting the pain of loneliness on ourselves.

However, I’d like to extend the hedgehog analogy a bit to the nature of certainty and uncertainty in learning.   Like the porcupines in the Hedgehog’s dilemma, human beings seem to be drawn together to seek out answers, resources and certainty around issues, but then over time accompanied by its technological and scientific advances, we often clash over the particulars and are then mutually repelled returning again to universal uncertainty.  Thus we are constantly participating in an endless cycle in which we vacillate back and forth between certainty and uncertainty.  Therefore, both certainty and uncertainty seem to ever elude us.  Once we embrace the certain, eventually it falls away to the uncertain and vice-a-versa. Undoubtably, my logic is flawed.  If you have gotten this far, be certain to let me know. However, I find some mutual support for this idea in Janet Webster’s visual unanswer to Dave’s question as well as Terry Elliot’s lyrical and mysterious Zeega.

C’est la vie.  I guess we must prepare ourselves to just dance with it, walk with it, flow with it, be still with it….

Questions 2: How do we keep people encouraged about learning if there is no finite achievable goal? 

Unanswer 2: So as it seems that here are no clear road maps and yet we are conditioned by many institutions, authority figures  and the past to look for them.  We have to start giving out compasses instead. But we can’t give them out, so we have to encourage people to listen to their own voices and their own compasses. As Nollind Whachell points out you must be, “Listening to the harmony, the song in your heart, that is calling you and causing you to step off the well-worn path defined by others and to set off exploring your own path with your own internal compass to guide you.”

But how do we teach that? PBL, Inquiry Based Learning, Deep Play, building places and spaces of permission…..?

Question 3: How do we teach when there are no answers, but only more questions?

Unanswer 3: We must do less teaching and more guiding.  Yesterday in quite a serendipitous way @reprograma tweeted me.  I clicked on the link and Voila, this blog and story about Eschu/Exu, a Yoruba trickster guide.  Here are some takeaways that I think apply to education:

  • “The intrinsic nature of Eshu is movement”
  • “He is the guardian and lord of pathways, passages, doors, gates, roads and crossroads, and bearer of messages between worlds.”
  • He is usually represented in statues with an erect penis and carrying a trident invoking readiness and vitality.
  • He is always the first to be address, because without him nothing can happen, not even thought.

If much of the nature of what we should teach, is always in flux, then it is important for students to find and hold fast to their compasses during this perpetual tempest.   Much like their inner “Eschu,” this guide or inner compass will carry them down pathways and ferry them between worlds and must be honoured by themselves and others as movement, decisions and thoughts take place.

Do we “enmasculate” our own inner “Eschu” and that of others in learning and education by expecting certain outcomes/answers?  If so, could our inner “Eschu” and that of others be reinvoked and revitalized by a more open, playful, learner centered and inquiry based approach?

Je ne sais pas…. Dis moi…

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Rhizomatic Learning Week 2: Zen Koans and Provocative Questions

This marks the start of week 2 of Rhizomatic Learning: The Community is the Curriculum, so after I got my email reminding me of this, I headed over to P2PU and read Dave Cormier’s blog, watched his video link, and read Simon’s poetic rant/blog which he probably spent another sleepess night composing as he is in the same time zone as I am.  I call it a rant, but I appreciate his passion and the depth of his narrative as well as his willingness to buck the system and ask good questions.

As I made coffee, I pondered further dropping the Coursera course that I am also enrolled in.  All this learning my own way and rhizomatically has ruined me for the institutionalized learning and xMOOCs as well.  In addition during this 2 year sabbatical  from teaching (quickly becoming a permanent exile), all this cMOOC business has made me see teaching within the 4 walls of an institution with its objectives and curriculum as well as its meetings and its oversized classroom as a dystopian nightmare.   In the words of the controversial Sebastian Thrun, I feel “I’ve taken the red pill. I’ve seen Wonderland.”

As I learn, I continue to search for a way to get back into the profession without feeling like I am taking a huge step backward.  I hope that as I read more about your teaching stories and how you embrace this paradox, I can learn rhizomatically and solve this kind of existential and professional quandry in which I find myself.

All that aside, I also decided to go to the forum on P2PU which I don’t normally do in MOOCs, but I am stretching myself and I am glad I did as I came upon the following brief post:

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This piqued my curiosity as a way of  cultivating independence, and I decided to explore  Zen Koans more and see what they might bring although the original intent of the post may have been different from the meaning towards which I am moving.

Week 2’s challenge is as follows:

Explore a model of enforced independence. How do we create a learning environment where people must be responsible? How do we assure ourselves that learners will self-assess and self-remediate?

Apparently a Koan in the Zen tradition is a paradox to be meditated upon which is used to train Buddhist monks to abandon their ultimate dependence on reason while forcing them to question and doubt leading to an experience of sudden intuitive enlightenment.  Simply put it could be seen as an exercise used to clear the mind and open it up to the possible.  Opening up the mind through a kind of mind training that clears the mind of preconceived ideas and notions via a befuddling question/story sounds like an interesting exercise to me especially if the result is an empowering burst of sudden intuitive enlightenment.

As intuitive knowledge is one’s own and usually stumbled upon independently, being in touch with that makes me wonder if the act itself of pondering Zen Koans and provocative questions which Dave Cormier seems to fond of, as he says himself, might help us retrain or cultivate our minds to be independent and initiate our own learning paths while assessing and self-remediating along the way.

The paradox of this particular Zen Koan may allow an opening up of oneself to the possible or one may even experience a sudden burst of intuitive enlightenment. I won’t analyze it and tell you what I think it means as that is for each of us to do.  Your interpretation is probably different from mine.  And isn’t that the point?  I do have some ideas about it though that I am ruminating over.  In addition,  I have taken the following Koan and read it and set it to music here as well in hopes that you might ponder it and be enticed to be carried away by its story:

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Cheating or Standing on the Shoulders of Giants?

“Each of us is all the sums he has not counted: subtract us into the nakedness and night again, and you shall see begin in Crete four thousand years ago the love that ended yesterday in Texas.”
― Thomas Wolfe, Look Homeward, Angel

One of the various assignments for the course that I chose to follow up on is the Week 1 Challenge, which is as follows:

Use cheating as a weapon. How can you use the idea of cheating as a tool to take apart the structures that you work in? What does it say about learning? About power? About how you see teaching?

Although I may not answer these questions directly, my intention is to hint at some responses within this blog.

“Cheating” is defined in different ways but for the purpose of this blog, I would like to use the following definition as it applies best to the field of education.   Cheating is to break a rule or law usually to gain an advantage at something.  Did I get that right?  It really doesn’t sound that horrible except for the breaking a rule or law part, right?

For some unknown and perhaps innately rhizomatic reason, the idea of cheating then lead me to recall an idea and a song from my studies and experiences.  The idea comes from the 12 century scholar Bernard of Chartres who is quoted as saying, “We are like dwarfs on the shoulders of giants, so that we can see more than them, and things at a greater distance, not by virtue of any sharpness of sight on our part, or any physical distinction, but because we are carried high and raised up by their giant size.”  (Wikipedia) Apparently, this was an accepted way of looking at the world,  learning and one’s work during the time and perhaps to a certain extent even today.  Like modern day cheating, one sought out advantages by using the work and advancements of others to build upon his/her own thoughts, ideas, or positions.  However, there is no mention of breaking laws or rules.   In addition this manuscript shows no ill will or usurping of the giant’s status:


Furthermore, both the dwarf and the giant appear to be looking ahead almost collaboratively at a portion of the text (knowledge). Here David is clearly not battling nor stealing from Goliath, but note that the dwarf is able to see a bit further than the eye level of the giant.  This idea that one can see further than those that came before and because of them as well is central to Bernard’s idea.

For the most part within the world that we live and work, the word “cheating” has enormously negative connotations ranging from infidelity to using performance enhancers to win races as well as cheating on tests.   There are abundant and clearly defined rules and laws in our societies that define and prohibit cheating, and there is a case to be made that we need many of them.

However, my questions are as follows, if we remove some of the rules and laws about cheating within the realm of education and learning, are we not freeing up space and time to work collaboratively?  Can we then take the opportunity to acknowledge the giant in others and allow them to guide us?  At the same time, can we acknowledge the giant in ourselves and offer up our unique gifts to others? Are  collaboration and cheating sometimes just two sides of the same coin? If so can we find ways to flip the golden coin from time to time within an educational setting?

PicMonkey Collage

On that note, I’ll leave you with the song which I mentioned earlier from one of my favourite bands in the late 80’s from my college town, Athens, Georgia.  “The King of Bird” by REM is about standing on the shoulders of giants and that often futile angst that one feels trying find his/her own way  or “mean idea” in a culture that values uniqueness and individuality.  However, like the wise ancient Greek chorus of antiquity, the chorus in this particular song always comes back with “Standing on the shoulders of giants…” because we simply and always are building on past experience, living in symbiosis and rhizomatically woven together.

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MOOCs don’t really end: From CIC Project to Story MOOC


There is no end.  This week CIC MOOC has formally ended and yet the group and the project that we started continues.  The project Promoting Creativity in the K-12 Classroom headed up by Cathleen Nardi and teammates Melissa Goodwin, Tracee Vetting Wolf , Strawberry Olive and myself plans to continue ahead with full steam.  In addition, I have started another MOOC –The Future of Story Telling which easily blends into getting our project’s story told.  What we gain from a successful cMOOC environment has no formal ending, and each cMOOCs can be a bridge to another.

The project created for the CIC MOOC focuses on helping teachers and school districts change the way they do professional development.  Historically, PD has been seen as an isolated event done on staff development days or off campus.  It is our belief that PD for teachers should be ongoing and integrate social media platforms that connect teachers to a global network of educators so that the synergy and creativity that takes place there in PD spills over into the classroom.  Therefore, lessons learned in PD become lessons extended into the classroom and in the long run teachers’ lives become much easier because of connectivity.  In a recent blog post by Tom Whitby, he points out that with the dawn the internet, social media and self-directed learning, PD for teachers can be transformed.  However, he notes a few formidable barriers:

1.  Resistance to gaining digital literacy (Ironic! Do you see this when you look around?)

2. Being programmed to the model of Control, Compliance and Permission for PD (How many of your colleagues are all about following the rules?)

3. I would like to add a third that was tweeted at #edchat this week by Cathleen Nardi.

Like many promoters of change in the world, we did meet resistance with our project which Cathleen Nardi talks about in her blog.  So while thinking about this resistance this morning, I was grateful for a tweet from Eric Sheninger who posted George Couros’  recent insights on getting others to embrace change.

His three points/ ideas are these:

1.  Show them how your idea will save them time in the long run.

2.  Show them how your idea is different and not just more of the same.

3.  Show them that an investment in time on something different on the front end equals a saving in the long run and that can equal BETTER in the end!

In addition, as we think about moving this project forward in spite of resistance and by embracing strategies for change, the first chapter of Story MOOC helped me focus on a key point.  Christina Maria Schollerer of Story MOOC talks about Robert McKee‘s theory of the importance of good story design.  Of particular interest is the idea of the “inciting incident” which is when an idea or event comes along either by choice or accident or both and life is thrown into imbalance.  The protagonist wants to regain balance and does everything possible to restore life’s balance.  A well designed story has a hook, a hold, and a payoff of the audience’s interest.

It seems that getting others to embrace the change that we promote with our project also involves the protagonists (educators, students, particpants and other collaborators), a hook, a hold and a payoff.  I believe that the hook is there and our challenge is to maintain the hold which will lead to enormous payoff for countless educators and children all over the world.

So as I think about CIC: Promoting Creativity in the K-12 Classroom and Story MOOC, I made a visual list of some of the multiple and ongoing inciting incidents(some by choice/some by accident) and character traits that have kept this group together and push our project forward. Here are just a few for which our team gets a huge star!

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“The Treachery of Images”: The Classroom is not the Classroom

Recently I came upon a post in my twitter feed from the Chronicle of Higher Education and written by guest blogger and University of Maryland professor, Jason Farman (Coincidentally I attended the University of Maryland in 1988 for one year and took a fascinating course in American Studies, the department where he now teaches)   Reading through “A Manifesto for Active Learning“, I found abundant interesting material there that merited further reflection but over the next consecutive days my mind came back to one particular subheading and section of the blog entitled “The Classroom is not the Classroom.”  For some reason it reminded me of René Magritte’s painting called “The Treachery of Images” pictured here below.


Belgian Surrealist René Magritte’s painting of a pipe with “This is not a pipe/Ceci n’est pas une pipe” written below it holds a message for educators seeking to showcase what is happening inside our classrooms.

My question is what happens outside of our classrooms? Because, surreal as it sounds,  we now know that the classroom is no longer the classroom.

Magritte’s painting has been interpreted to mean that the pipe pictured here merely represents the actual object and is not the object itself hence the title -“The Treachery of Images,”  which implies that images are deceptive.  In a similar vein, Jacques Derrida believed that words and signs can never truly articulate what they mean.  Some people may interpret these artistic and philosophical expressions reflective of  a pessimistic or nihilistic view of the world, but I beg to differ, and would like to extend the analogy one step further.

Back to the classroom. If the signs and words (exercises and curriculum included) we use  to describe the classroom/learning process are simply images that don’t truly represent the classroom/learning taking place, where is the classroom?  The classroom is out there in the world.

Lamentably, most K-12 or university classrooms are still physical spaces where tasks are assigned, lectures given, tests taken etc… But what happens with the information garnered in the classroom and the interaction that ensues outside of the classroom via face to face as well as socially networked interactions?   And how are students able to broadly apply the skills and knowledge that are cultivated in the classroom to improve their lives and the lives of others? Wherever that happens, now that’s the classroom.

For all our love of rational measuring and metrics, the classroom and all it entails can’t be measured or captured within the walls of a little red schoolhouse or in any building for that matter, and similarly I think that is the essence of what Magritte and Derrida were getting at in their own way with their art and philosophy.  Learning and classrooms have grown weary of being imprisoned and need and want to tear down the four walls of space and the prescribed curriculum that are holding them in.   They want to merge with the world where openness and connectivity reside.

However, that means changing and making more flexible learning spaces and school hours.  It means blended learning, multi-age classrooms, PBL, personalized learning, inquiry based learning, autonomy in learning, and relaxing our national obsession with data as well as hundreds of other changes, connections and openings.

Are you ready to break down the classroom walls and let the world in?

Check out Kyle Pace’s Presentation on “Breaking down the Classroom Walls”

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Résistance: If Not Now, When?

For some odd reason I like to say the word “resistance ” in French as it has more flair and sounds so much more powerful.  But what exactly is resistance? An online dictionary gave me these two useful definitions:

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The first definition shows the external, physical quality of not accepting something and the second seems to be more about how we internalize or act, in the short and long-term, in relationship to “our setbacks.” So resistance can mean resisting something that we don’t agree with but it can also mean chosing not to be affected by something adversely.  It denotes both an internal and external action.

But what happens when resistance meets resistance?  I imagine it looks something like this:


As I set out to do the Week 5 exercise called “ABCD’s of Managing Resistance,” I kept both of these definitions and the above possible scenario in mind.   In addition, thinking about resistance and its multiple meanings led me to think about the Resistance movement during WWII and its vast underground network of supporters throughout Europe.  So remembering a powerful book, I headed to my small, trusty, dusty bookshelf and pulled it out.

If Not Now, When? by Primo Levi, first published in 1982, depicts the harsh life of European Jews involved in the Resistance movement and their supporters who fought back during the Holocaust.  Their struggles and their lives are a tribute to the best of both meanings of resistance.  The title of Levi’s book was taken from a famous passage which is quite apropos in thinking about this weeks exercise on resistance.


This week I met with great resistance in trying to forge ahead with one idea that I am trying to advance.  At first glance,  it was quite daunting.  But as we were encouraged to listen,  and dig deeper into it, I moved ahead with the exercise and came up with some disputations.

As I put forth my ideas and listen to the resistance and dig deeply into it, I can’t help but think that  Hillel was onto something and for that reason Levi borrowed this passage from him to title his book about the Jewish Resistance.

What I am taking from Hillel’s passage are these three fundamental considerations which I aim to keep in perspective in getting any project, movement, or business started: the importance of self, the importance of others, and the importance of timing and action.

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