Tribal Innovation: Getting beyond failure

What is failure?  Is it the inability to do something? Is it doing something the wrong way?  Or is it both?  Or is it something completely different?

What if some of our so called “failures” occur in part because our desire for collaboration is greater than our desire to sucumb to the present organizational structure of our work and the world which we inhabit?

What if some of our “failures” are merely “nonperformances” orchestrated by our subconscious in an attempt to overthrow the tyranny of the “Success=Independence” equation?

What if we need collaboration with members of our tribe to be successful and we are just not finding it? This week I watched a TED talk called ” Brilliant Together ”  shared by Tracy Vetting Wolf which led me in part to the above series of questions.


Seth Godin‘s elaboration on our need to find our own unique tribes in Tribes has proven useful to me in thinking about failure and its relationship to collaboration.  In addition, he also has a great TED talk called the “The Tribes We Lead” about leading and connecting people and their ideas.  One of his key idea is that we should identify something we want to change in the world and then step up to the leadership of setting out to change it by assembling tribes that spread the idea.  Subsequently, it becomes far bigger than ourselves; it becomes a movement. Some people may call it heresy.   Others call it Tribal Innovation!

I put together this Tapestry  which highlights a few of the key points of Seth Godin’s talk (the idea to use this digital tool was originally shared me by Cathleen Nardi) :

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This week, in CICMOOC, many are posting their project proposals, while others are posting their best and worst collaborations. Reading about some of these projects is inspiring.  However, reading about some of the best and worst collaborations has made me wonder if there is a recipe for success or disaster.  I can’t help but notice that some of the worst collaborations involve power grabbing, unspoken tensions or feelings, and lack of positive group dynamics while the best of course involve the opposite.  I am grateful for all of these posts that give us the opportunity to reflect on other people’s stories and experiences as we begin to collaborate with others.

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Creativity, Innovation and Change: Spare Diamonds

One of our exercises for week 3 is to think about ways in which we are rich in resources other than the monetary kind.  Although, I am essentially an optimist and see a plethora of abundance around me, for this post, I have decided to focus only on one.

The word diamond brings up many contrasting images in my mind from the famous marketing slogan and OO7 movie “Diamonds are Forever”and Marilyn Monroe singing “Diamonds are a Girls’ Best Friend”, to the bloody and enslaving diamond trade depicted in the movie Blood Diamond.

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In reflecting on this activity, I happened upon this quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson which perhaps sums up my greatest spare diamond which is invisible to most and took me a long time to see.

spare diamond

Unlike many people who are short on time, face exhausting 9-5 jobs daily with little time for reflection, I am presently voluntarily unemployed.  I have spent the past two years with ample time for self exploration, trying new things, connecting with others, taking courses and getting in touch with what is important to me.  I have been given the gift of time.  When my life circumstances first bestowed it upon me, I was not so willing a recipient.

However, after a long struggle, I am learning to “guard well my spare moments” and invest them with meaningful play, creativity, volunteerism, learning and meditation. Reading Tim Walker’s blog “Taught by Finland, ” has also encouraged me to embrace being a “human-being” not a “human doing.”

Had I not been given this gift of time, I may never have started taking MOOCs and thinking about alternatives to being a teacher.  A flip side to the global recession and changing economy as well as the heated discussions surrounding education, is that many people (educators and others) have been forced to demonetize (as much as possible) their lives and take the time to reflect on what it is they really want to do/become.

I read somewhere once, that the value of a diamond rests in its ability to be cut.   Much like the cutting of a diamond, what I do with the abundant gift of time that I have been given, rests in how I cut it or shape it into something meaningful.  In addition recently I discovered that diamonds do not come from coal, but “diamonds are still material that has been subjected to great heat, pressure and stress, and has turned into something beautiful.”    So through this sometimes stressful process of shifting my perspective of self and situation, I have discovered a wonderful resource and luxury that many others may indeed covet.  I have an abundance of time!

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Idea Journal: Ventures in the Mind and the Body

This week the weather has turned rainy here signaling the end of summer and the beginning of fall.  As the sky is turning gloomy, I am trying to thwart the melancholy that shorter and grayer days can bring.  So for the second week for Creativity, Innovation and Change, I have decided to start an experiment (I am the only participant) which involves some ventures designed to stretch me in both mind and body.  Those of us engaging in this activity are encouraged to keep the following very wise mantra in mind:


Living in Belgium ,where there are three official languages and English and other languages are spoken widely as well, I have chosen as one of my ventures to engage in daily French practice.   My other venture involves using my sock Poi that I bought over 6 months ago.  These seemingly random choices are partially inspired by my recent move back overseas and Asbjørn Skovsende’s inspiring post on Failure, Juggling and Dewey.

For this venture we are instructed to write in our Idea Journal 4 things that we failed at and what we learned.

At basic poi spinning, I have failed continuously at turns and spinning the sock poi in alternate directions.  I also have failed quite regularly at spinning the poi in split time.  Some things that I am learning are that closing my eyes, listening to music, and practicing frequently help me to get better at these basic moves. Like juggling, doing poi works both sides of the brain and promotes creativity which I think are helpful in both life and embarking on this course.

With French, I have failed quite regularly at getting the gender correct when working with nouns and possessives.  I also have had quite a bit of trouble with pronunciation.  However, I am finding that listening to to the sounds of French via music and conversations without thinking about the complexities of grammar, is useful in improving my pronunciation.  Also by simply memorizing the gender of nouns and possessives, I have improved my grammar.

We are also encouraged to share our experience with others as they may learn from us.  I can honestly say that for both of my ventures, what I am learning most is that by practicing religiously I make quite a bit of progress.


I have found numerous videos on youtube helpful for learning basic poi.  Here are just a few links:



A great mobile resource for language learning, in case you are deciding to venture in the area of learning a new language, is the Duolingo app or you can just go to the Duolingo website by pressing the icon below.


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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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The Priority of Wonderings and Wanderings: MoMA- Art and Inquiry Final Project

I am never sure exactly why I sign up for MOOCS as I continue the search for a teaching job, but I am always pleasantly surprised as I have been with this class.  As ever, I am grateful for the opportunity to participate with others in so valuable a course.

The field of education is undergoing a sometimes quiet but often boisterous revolution which can lead the connected, networked and perceptive teacher to many “wonderings” and “wanderings” about the intricacies of the profession.  Regardless of the answers to all the troublesome and insightful questions we have, I think it is of utmost importance to continue asking the questions.  So in that spirit, I recently I followed up on this tweet:

That tweet led me to guest blogger Nancy White on  One of her insightful suggestions is  starting off a unit or a topic at the beginning of the year with the simple question, “What do you wonder?”  You don’t get much more open-ended!  However, all that “wondering” may imply some “wandering” so to speak, and that can be very difficult when we have a specific goal in mind or are required “by the powers that be” to teach certain information.   Perhaps with a little more “wondering” and “wandering” we may get to the grain of what inspires a student to learn in their own way.

So in thinking about this final project, I asked myself, ” What does it mean to wonder or to wander and how can I integrate this meandering stream of consciousness into my art inquiry final project and into my teaching approach as a whole?”

Then fortuitously enough I came across Cathleen Nardi’s Google + link to Guadelupe de la Mata’s blog which links  to a document on The Art of Powerful Questions in which his visual proved helpful in thinking about formulating questions for art inquiry:

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As this class  has given me the opportunity to think more about how I can encourage students through open-ended questions to use language in both spoken and written form to express their ideas about what they see and the connections that can be made to literature, the world around them as well as the world within them, I came up with the following plan.

Being a literature and language teacher, I have often looked for visual representations and viewing activities that I could integrate into classes that tend to relate to themes or vocabulary in stories.  So for the final project  I have decided to create a unit on the broad theme of “Tradition and Society” at the beginning of which students view Girl with a Pearl Earring (Het Meisje met de Peral) by the Dutch master Johannes Vermeer as a pre-reading and viewing activity which would lead to a discussion of the themes in either a Contemporary Studies (Humanities elective course) or an English B course (for the IB program).

For this piece of artwork, first and foremost students will be asked to form groups and be encouraged to brainstorm “I wonder” statements about the piece that they are viewing, which they will share with the rest of the class.  This would preferably be done in a school garden or auditorium where larger copies  of the paintings can be displayed.  This would also encourage movement (students move around -up close to and away from the artwork) as I find that thoughts move more freely when when one allows for the free and uninhibited movement of the body. Then students will use the links below on (thanks for the tweet about this site Amy Burvall) to record their responses to three open ended questions regarding the painting. After everyone has posted their responses students will be asked to go back and listen to other student’s perspectivies on the artwork as a homework assignment.  The teacher will also do the same.  The following day, students and teachers will engage in a class discussion of the artwork and some of the factual details surrounding it as well as their observations and “wonderings” and “wanderings”about the artwork.

After the initial viewing and responding activitity, the class will read and discuss Tracy Chevalier’s  Girl with a Pearl Earring which is a fictional account of the girl behind the painting and lends itself to discussion of the traditions, mores, and society of 17th century Holland in which a young servant girl learns about the process of art and tensions surface often in this highly structured Dutch society where everyone has a place and Catholics and Protestant ideologies conflict.

Upon completing the reading and discussion, I will repeat and perhaps modify the instructions (depending on how the first part went) for the Vermeer painting  and have the students use them on a modern take on the Dutch masterpiece done by the young Israeli artist Limor Betzalel (who we discovered while taking EDCMOOC).  As this artwork is a modern take on Vermeer’s work, the traditions, mores and society reflected in the work lend itself to a compare and contrast discussion of both pieces of art.

So this brings me to the end of this blog post, and I there is something I am thinking about as I am writing.   Being without a teaching post, I find these experiments in lesson plans are now always hypothetical and do not offer the automatic feedback one gets when one is actually in a classroom with a group of students, so, I wonder if some of my coursera peers might be kind enough to  give me some constructive feedback:)

(The opened ended questions for the students’ spoken responses are linked here below:)

419px-Johannes_Vermeer_(1632-1675)_-_The_Girl_With_The_Pearl_Earring_(1665) Limor_Betzalel_1

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#H817open: A Visual Representation of Open Education

As a part of the course requirement for #H817open, we are asked to submit a visual representation of our understanding of open education.  Needless to say, being somewhat challenged in the visual semiotic mode, I found this quite a formidable task.

However, I prevailed and tried various digital tools over the course of few weeks, and finally decided to use tiki-toki to create a timeline.  In retrospect, I still think that perhaps some other tool may have worked better as my timeline does not relate to the development of open education over the course of time which sounds like the obvious choice for a timeline.

Rather, it is a timeline about crossroads and intersections and how in part the society in which we live affects and shapes our choices and our stories at the important junctures of our lives.

I hope you have the time to explore and understand my short timeline (just click on the image below)!  I appreciate any feedback that you have.

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#H817open: Why Open Education?

After finishing EDCMOOC aka E-learning and Digital Culture through coursera, I felt that I was not quite finished exploring the digital divide.  To be honest, I don’t know if I ever will be, but for me that is the point. Above all else, I am first and foremost a learner, and I believe that this is one of the number one teacher qualities that I can bring to students in the classroom.

So, obviously in order to continue with any degree of integrity in my field as a teacher in the 21st century, I believe that I must continue to evolve and gain skills and insights about global education, e-learning, and technology, so signing up for this course was a no brainer.  In this MOOC specifically, the course title and description being vague and not overly rigid or didactic gave it some intrigue as well.

Having an educational background in language and literature, I tend to think that I am  always racing to catch up with the newest developments in digital tools.  Technically according to Marc Prensky, I am a digital immigrant but as Ary Aranguiz astutely points out in a blog reaction to Prensky article written during EDCMOOC, the divisive polemic terminology of digital immigrant and digital native don’t do justice to the diversity of digital citizens on the planet, and there is a danger in embracing just “one story.”

Nevertheless, I did spent a great number of years as a passive consumer of technology in what in retrospect appears to have been some kind of  zombie time warp.  As a teacher inertia can easily set in, and I was content to use PowerPoint, an interactive white board,internet and virtually nothing else.  In the past, I have been a teacher of English, Spanish,and ESL  in Georgia, Texas and most recently in Vienna, Austria.

Now I live in California, and being underemployed has given me ample time to realize that I need to change, and if I want to be a part of the revolution facing education at all levels, I need to learn more about how to connect, communicate and create in digital ways.   I want to be a part of a global educational approach that allows for maximum creativity, individuality and innovation via a mixture of traditional classrooms, hybrids, and e-learning.

Those who want to lecture on endlessly at the front of the classroom only to face a crowd of students whose eyes are either glazed over or are looking down at their iPhones or tablets may continue on with their monologues.  Honestly, I was never very good at it.   Rather,  I want to learn more about being a facilitator with others who want to learn what they want to learn and are given those options via peer collaboration, self-directed learning, and project based learning within the different subject areas.  I am hoping that this course in Open Education will give me an opportunity to learn with peers motivated for similar and distinct reasons who are on their own parallel journey to an unchartered place.

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Digital Scouting: The Journey is the Reward

Well, soon marks the official end of the EDCMOOC journey.  It has been a great voyage for me in which I have learned so much about ways in which to create and communicate with others digitally both inside and outside the classroom. The digital artifact that I am submitting as a final project was done on thinglink and reflects some of the unanswered questions that I have and that I hear out there from other participants and contributors about living and learning with technology.

And although this class is officially ending, life has begun to be quite different for me. Recenctly, I have asked myself, “Could a course save one’s life?  Or at the very least, could a course spur one on to reinvent oneself in a way that life takes on an altogether different hue?”  Indeed, this class has done something of the sort for me, and its impact is immeasurable (some academic types may try to measure it though).    Even though this is the official end of EDCMOOC, for me and I believe many others, something is just beginning in spite of all the unanswered questions that we have.

So, I leave you with a favorite quote by Rainer Maria Rilke and an image with a link to my digital artifact.

“…try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue…the point is, to live everything.  Live the questions now.  Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

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