Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Super Secret Society

It's been a while since I've published my thoughts on this blog, having spent the past few years focused on supporting teachers in my local community.  Today, I'm reaching out to my online colleagues to share an idea I'm hatching this week, in support of students who are feeling lonely and disconnected.

Where Have Our Children Gone?

While no one was paying attention, a large proportion of our teen community has decided that free time is meant to be spent alone, in private, with a glowing screen.  Whether connecting on social media, binge-watching video, or playing video games, our young people have retreated to their bedrooms.  I'll wager that you, or parents you know, are wondering what happened to their children.   Whether interacting on their mobile phones or portable computers, the most connected generation of all time, seems to lack for opportunities to engage in a face-to-face context. The steady diet of dopamine and serotonin, induced through follows, likes and comments, seems to have stifled the urge for physical interactivity that used to characterize the lives of teens.

And now, in school districts across North America, adults are trying to get a grip on how to engage young people in helping themselves.  The term 'mental health strategy' has become and education obsession as educators, parents and community members attempt to fix what's wrong with a generation that seems to be withdrawing from traditional society.  Never before has a generation of learners cried out so loudly for help with their social and mental well being.

The Birth of a Secret Society

As I sat in a large group planning meeting last week, student success teams from our local high schools attempted to make practical sense of the guides and supports that were available to school communities.  Action plans were drafted to be shared with our board level student success leaders, and a follow-up was promised.

While this work was underway, Jane McGonigal's book 'Reality is Broken' began rattling around in my brain.  During my drive to/from school, I had recently finished reading the audio version of the book and I was inspired by the ways in which game mechanics were being leveraged to increase social engagement, to connect co-conspirators, and to solve problems.  Long story short: before leaving the meeting, I had purchased a domain name, created new social media accounts, and had a draft in my mind for a new community-building game to be called 'Super Secret Society',

Meaningful Missions + Human Interactions = Joy.  

This is the secret sauce for the Super Secret Society.  I believe that ordinary days, spiced with a positive community extra... can become extraordinary. The semi-mysterious logo was designed by blending S+S+S into a symbol that is reminiscent of that doohickey we once needed to play 45 RPM records.  The symbol is circular, representative of how positive behaviours might be 'paid forward'. What goes around comes around. My hope is that others will find themselves engaging in socially generous behaviors that are sparked by thoughtful missions.

What type of missions are you talking about?
With a goal of creating a culture at our school that is based on friendliness and personal engagement, the missions that I'm collecting for broadcast can be characterized as fun (wear mis-matched socks); interactive (take time to notice the eye colour of your friends); challenging (stand up against an unnecessary use of vulgar or hateful language); generous (share something from your lunch with someone you've not shared with before); habit-forming (hold the door open for at least 5 different people today).

Who participates?
The missions will vary in difficulty depending on one's personality and comfort with social interaction.  In general, tasks can be accomplished by anyone young/old; student/teacher; parent/child.  Without realizing it, other community members are also participating.  The more a person takes on challenges, the easier future missions will seem, and the more connected an individual will become to those in the community.

How does one discover the day's mission?
Missions are posted on TwitterInstagram.  Participants can access the missions by following supersecretsoci on either platform.  Only those who follow will have access to the missions.  The group is top secret after all! (For those without social media accounts, the missions will also be posted openly on Pinterest.)

How are missions accomplished?
Missions are accomplished in secrecy!  Don't let on why you're doing any particular task... just complete the assigned missions and enjoy the fruits of your labour.  To accept a mission, simply click the like button/heart icon to confirm that you've received the instructions.  If you'd like to document your achievement, each day's mission has a matching hashtag that can be used to share your personal experience.

What's the payoff?
The payoff for individual participation is positive human interaction.  The payoff for school or family participation, is the fostering of a collegial community climate.

Can I tell other people?
Since there is a bit of joy at figuring out that the society exists, my hope is that hashtags appearing in the posts of game players might spark the curiosity of new players.  "What was that sock photo with the #sss0001 tag all about?"  There will be times when a mission will ask agents to gather co-conspirators but if you know of individuals or groups who would make good agents, please share a link to  . Perhaps at your school, the logo, posted conspicuously, and paired with a QR code can be used as a cue to induce the curiosity of potential agents.

What if I have an idea to share?
If you have an idea for a super secret mission, please share your idea.  Inspire people you'll never know, to interact in positive ways.  Together, we can create ripples of friendliness, fun, and fulfillment.


Monday, May 5, 2014

Global Voices - Universal Vision

Back in March, I had the great fortune to attend the Microsoft Global Forum, a conference that brought together educators from around the world.  While there, we shared projects from our home countries and collaborated in the creation of new projects like One World.  While the work was meaningful, it was through side conversations I had with educators from across our planet where I came to realize how common the experience of teaching really is.

The prompts:

Who are you?
What do you see as the most significant barrier to learning?
What advice would you give to teachers today?


My hope is that as CEA continues to host regional "What's Standing in the Way of Change" workshops, that my Canadian colleagues will come to realize that we are playing active roles in a global movement to reimagine education.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

25 People Who Influenced My Thinking On Assessment

A few months ago, I had the privilege to share some of my ideas about assessment with an audience that is very data savvy.  Without realizing it, teachers are the product of interactions with present colleagues, former teachers and past students.  Beyond the ideas I've shared, I hope this presentation inspires you to think about who has had the greatest impact in your teaching.

In the original talk for MISA, I shared stories highlighting 50 people who have influenced my thinking on the topic of assessment and evaluation. I'm really happy with the look of the original slidedeck which is available below, but it's difficult to argue with the nice editing job the creatives did with the presentation.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Western Active Learning Space

Five years ago, I hosted a conversation with my colleagues at RMC about what the classrooms of tomorrow might look like.  Since that time, I've led a handful of workshops at conferences where design ​thinking has similarly led eductors to envision the future. Yesterday I went on a professional development field trip to the Western Active Learning Space at the Weldon Library on the Western University campus where many of the ideas my colleagues dreamt up, have become real.   

To add context to the video, you should know that this is the prelimary test of concept space, in the next few weeks, the full scale WALS, consisting of seven learning pods will be opening in as new research classroom on campus.  The final design will see the teacher's work station moved to the centre of the room, with each pod moved slightly from the touch sensitive projection screens to more easily facilitate multi-user access.

Each collaborative pod can be accessed by a wide range of mobile devices that connect via Internet to a specific IP address. While each pod has been provided with a notebook computer, any device with the freely downloadable Crestron app, can access any of the seven sub-networks. To foster collaboration, each screen can host simultaneous projections from up to four unique devices.

There are two mounted cameras in the space either of which can be fed to the pod screens. One captures the entire room in 360° and is intended to track student engagement and participation by researchers, the other is a remote controlled camera that can focus on particular area, to record or share the work of any pod or individual. 

It's an expensive venture and one that will continue to evolve.  From my perspective, I'm content knowing that Western University has found a way to promote active collaborative learning among large groups of students.  If the vision proves productive, new classrooms at the university can be built using this prototype as a template.​​​

Sunday, March 16, 2014

One World

Still feeling the effects of jet lag upon my return from the Microsoft Global Summit, I have taken some early morning hours to draft an open letter to the team that organized the event.

One World
A number of hours ago, my learn-a-thon group made a pitch with an inquiry project called 'One World'.  Evocative of the 'one' branding that Microsoft has recently undertaken, I believe this project holds incredible potential.  For the purposes of the project, an open and social hub was created for this project at

Student Inquiry focused on Millennium Development Goals
Many believe that the Millennium Development Goals are a natural fit for the Microsoft Global Summit, and that these goals, tethered to student projects hold the key to realizing Microsoft's stated goal to "Empower people and businesses to reach their full potential".  I personally believe that the 'One World' project has the potential for ensuring that the rich cross-cultural conversations I witnessed at the forum, continue year-round, not only among teachers, but among the true global change agents: our students.  If you have yet to see our pitch, please take the time to consider our work.  It will take ten minutes of your time, but may well hold the key to the future of the Microsoft Global Summit.  I have posted our pitch online at

One World in Canada
In order to ensure that the hard work of my team does not fade away, I have shared the details of the One World project with my brother Todd who runs Northern Edge Algonquin, a Canadian retreat centre.  If financial support can be found, Todd is willing to assist in hosting a regional summit of educators and students, where One World projects can be shared. 

An Elephant in the Room
My project team invested many hours in a project that took but minutes to be judged according to a rubric.  We invested our time, talent, emotions and intellect, yet to date, we have received no feedback on our work.  We have no way of knowing the project was successful or where it fell short from the judges' perspective.  Although our project did not win any of the awards in the poverty category for which it was produced, we are very proud of our work and believe it deserves a larger audience. I believe that all participants, including those who showcased their individual projects, are justified in expecting some kind of feedback other than 'you didn't win'.  Any efforts to rectify this gap in this or any future forum events, would be much appreciated.

Continuing the Conversation
The true measure of the value of a project is whether or not it can live in the real world. I welcome any opportunity to discuss the potential of breathing life into the One World project.  Please feel free to contact me through email, or through Link or Skype.  (My Skype ID is r.lucier, and you can also find me at Skype in the Classroom).  

My days in Barcelona will be remembered for the rest of my life. Here's hoping that the full potential of the Microsoft Global Summit will continue to impact teachers and students from around the world.  One student project at a time, we can be One World.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Pulling the Plug

As summer approaches, it's often the best time to reflect not only on the accomplishments of the passing school year, but to consider what it is that really matters most.  The UnPlug'd experience has always been about connecting in meaningful ways with co-learning teachers embroiled in a common lifelong mission as learner and leader.  And as much as that connecting with others does matter a whole lot, lately I've come to recognize the importance of connecting with my immediate world.

In the adrenalin rush that comes from being noticed, or from being invited to hang with the cool kids, or from having one's idea valued by others, we sometimes forget the reality that there are other people in our lives that are more important than those we may strive to impress with a witty tweet or an artful photograph, or a compelling blog post.  And even as surely as we treasure our daily lives with immediate family members, we won't be able to add full value to their lives, if we don't take care of ourselves first.

So, as summer approaches, I'm sensing the need to unplug... to go deeper, and to once again figure out who I am, and what I want to be when I grow up.  Seriously, having recently turned the page on 50 years, I can't help but wonder what else it is that I'm supposed to be doing, now that retirement from teaching is approaching like that stop sign just a few miles down the road.

It so happens that I'm also dealing with a mostly minor health issue that calls for me to 'stay out of the sun'.  As you might have guessed, I see hiding in the shade as a metaphor of sorts.  It will be a rare treat to be free from teaching online this summer, one that is calling me to be quiet on the social media front as well.  As one who commonly seeks distraction from distant folks I'm happy to call my friends, it will be no small feat.  Ironically, some of my shade will come from the withdrawal of what had been planned as this summer's UnPlugd13 summit.

In lieu of organizing an opportunity for others to forge deeper connections through, I'll be taking that time and attention to truly focus on my personal needs.  I'm going to spend a few months being still.  I will relish reading, in place of tweeting; thinking in lieu of blogging; meeting face to face instead of gathering in virtual spaces.

Before I take leave to my shaded hammock, I wonder:
What's your plan for rejuvenation this summer?