Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Niji Sousaku: Secondary Creativity

It all started when I read this Wired Magazine article about Hatsune Miku.  I'm sure you'll be interested to see the recorded 'live' performance that resulted when creatives, building upon the work of one another, brought Hatsune to life.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Power of Hand-Writing

A story about McMaster medical students being welcomed to the profession by hand-written letters has me wondering what might happen if practicing teachers took to the pencil or pen more regularly.  There is wisdom in sharing a legacy of ideas via the written word... with colleagues, with students; perhaps to inspire those new to the profession.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

One Million Tweet Map

Want to really get an idea of what's happening in the world... as it happens? Watch tweets in real time as they appear on a map of the world via One Two Million Tweet Map.

What might you track this way?

 * uprising in a foreign country (neighbouring countries)
 * natural disaster (flood, earthquake, ice storm)
 * social event (television show, party)
 * major sporting event (SuperBowl, Olympics)
 * conference hashtag (#ISTE, #unplugd)
 * school community (zoom in on your school)
 * global holiday (New Year's Eve)
 * famous places (Disney World, the Louvre)


Thursday, December 6, 2012

A New Way to Blog

Monday, October 22, 2012

K12Online: 7 Degrees of Connectedness

This week the K-12 Online Conference kicks into high gear with video presentations that cross four strands.  If you know of any teachers who could use some mid-semester encouragement or motivation, please point them to the conference.

My presentation is based on 7 Degrees of Connectedness, and will go live in the "Getting Started" strand on Wednesday.  This video was produced with the support of a few of my online colleagues whose stories weave in and out of the narrative.  In short, my talk invites educators to foster authentic relationships by connecting with others through a range of social media tools.

What is it for you that leads you to pay closer attention to the learners in your network? Do you feel close to those colleagues you interact with, even if you've never met? Are you more attuned to those people whose voices are amplified because you met at a conference; exchanged stories; shared a meal? As our connections grow with online colleagues, we may find ourselves in qualitatively distinct relationships with co-learners. By sharing our ideas alongside details of our personal lives, we have a tendency to become more and more familiar to one another. Augment these connections with voices and imagery, and it can lead to deeper and more fulfilling connections. In this presentation Rodd Lucier (AKA The Clever Sheep), invites you to walk along with a few of his colleagues who join him in reflecting on how modern tools are impacting our online relationships. The concept of '7 Degrees of Connectedness' is introduced as one way to qualify the relationships we foster with online colleagues.
Presenter: Rodd Lucier Location: Komoka, Ontario, Canada

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Increase the Achievement Gap

The constant flood of articles and system goals that proport to 'close the achievement gap' has always left me a bit dismayed.  Is the 'gap' really a problem that should be addressed? 

My take is that we should actually aspire to the goal of increasing the achievement gap.  We would be successful should our highest flyers manage to reach beyond the expectations of those who imagine and publish learning outcomes.  Of course, we should celebrate the wonders of our most amazing students, not at the expense of other learners, but while we continue to help all learners achieve to their fullest potential.  It's just that those with the greatest of potential, are rarely challenged to race beyond what most of their peers are capable of. 

But too often, it's the gap that matters.  While ignoring or impeding the learning of our brightest students is one way to decrease the achievement gap, there is another 'mathematical' way to bridge the difference: Play the shell game.

Secret Tips on Closing the Gap

In the province of Ontario, students enter either academic or applied streams of courses in grade 9.  The academic courses are designed for kids who got the 'I do school well' gene; while the in theory, the applied courses are meant for learners who do better with concrete learning experiences. Locally developed courses are provided to meet the needs of students with functional deficits or intellectual challenges well beyond those of the average student.

When it comes to measuring achievement in mathematics, the Education Quality and Accountability Office or EQAO, tests HS students in grade 10.  The results are reported for both academic and applied streams board by board, and school by school . So each school gets a report highlighting the percentage of learners who were successful in each type of course. 

Want to 'reduce the gap'?  The easiest way, is to reduce the number of kids taking academic courses.  Think of it this way.  Students in the high end of the applied courses, will naturally pull up the achievement rates for that group.  But if these same learners are in the academic courses, they are more likely to pull down the results of that group, all while leaving the applied courses with fewer successful students. 
So, if a school hides its modestly talented math test-takers under the shell of applied courses, then both the applied and academic classes are more likely to have higher passing rates.  The academic courses will be filled with mostly high achieving math students, while the applied courses will benefit by having more students capable of passing the test.

Sure, we'd be increasing the gap within the applied courses, but we'd be decreasing the gap in the academic courses, and the resulting EQAO statistics might well make school administrators blush. 

A Test Question?
Maybe this is just the type of 'authentic' math problem that should be on the EQAO test.  My guess is that a few bright students would teach the system to spit out high enough passing percentages, that  future students and teachers could save themselves from the stress of the test.

Photo credits: find x by dullhunk; bridge by Malcolm Surgenor

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Creating a Community QR Poster

One of the first community publishing projects we undertook in my 'learning strategies' class, was to produce a large QR code that will eventually hyperlink to our class website.  Our poster will be 29 pixels square to match our master QR image. If your students use one inch pixels, the group will produce an image almost two and a half feet wide. (Our final poster will be a bit larger than that.)

Step 1: Create a QR code that links to a classroom web page.  I used MobileFish QR Code Creator because it allows the user to specify the size of the first printed image.

Step 2: Decide on a way to cut the code into pieces so that each student can take on a part of the project.  With 16 high needs students in my class, I began our project by breaking our code into 16 equally sized unique squares.

Step 3: Enlarge each student's piece of the puzzle so that the individual pixels can easily be seen and organized.  I enlarged each of the pieces to fit on full sheet of letter-sized paper.

Step 4 (Option 1): Provide each student with a piece of the puzzle. You might elect to print a puzzle grid template on which each student might recreate his/her pixels.  Just make sure the grid is filled with enough fairly precise squares.


Step 4 (Option 2): As an alternative, you can simply have each student produce a set number of dark squares that can be added to a master grid by a select team of students.  So long as the black pixels are composed of images that appear dark when viewed from a distance, the code should work.

Step 4 (Option 3): Instead of puzzle pieces, cut your QR code into strips, providing each student with a binary strip composed of black and white squares.  This solution would work wonderfully for a class composed of 29 students!

Step 5: I asked each student to complete images that represented their favourite things, their talents, and their goals for this school year.  For some, it took a long time to develop a list of words or icons that could most apty represent each individual's uniqueness. (It took even longer for students to produce clean dark images with black Sharpie pens.)

Step 6: Put it all together.  With our QR puzzle being completed on a part time basis, we hope to have a final poster ready in a week or so.

Community projects like this one call for each student to demonstrate some commitment to the collective.  The resulting symbol demonstrates to others that the unified group is made up of many uniquely talented individuals.  While we used hand-drawn sketches, I'm confident that a similar project that uses coloured squares of paper, photographs or images cut from magazines, can yield a similarly effective symbol of class unity.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

UnPlugd 2012: Assessing the Unmeasurable

This summer, 39 intrepid educators embarked on a journey that brought them from the skyscrapers of downtown Toronto, to the shores of Kawawaymog Lake in the region of Algonquin Park. With the promise of a wide range of engaging experiences, UnPlug’d 2012 brought together co-learners from Australia, USA, and Canada to share stories about what matters most in education and to collaboratively author a collection of letters that will be published later this fall.

When it comes to digesting a good meal, a sense of satiation triggers positive feelings. In a similar way, participants engaged in our unique unplugged learning adventure, left UnPlug’d with a feeling of fullness, refueled by deep conversation, nourished by rich natural meals, and refreshed through recreation amid the splendor of Ontario’s near north. While we can measure the success of our event by pointing to the product that we produced, many of the hidden benefits our event, are intangible and immeasurable.
How can you summarize the effectiveness of a collaborative writing venture that brings to life the narrative experiences of a diverse group of co-authors? How can one measure the value of a journey in a private rail car filled with kindred spirits? How do you put a value on the achievement of emboldened colleagues who succeeded in their cross-lake swim to an iconic tree on a nearby island? How might you assess the experience of once distant friends sharing their passion for running by connecting for a morning run amidst the wonder of Algonquin region? How can anyone measure the magic of an evening paddle to a sauna, swim and campfire, when capped by the shooting stars of the Perseid meteor showers? Is it even worth considering what it means to hold in your hands a guitar that is made up of historic artifacts from across Canada or what it feels like to hear that same guitar played at a campfire or at a private indoor gathering?
While educators had to take up the invitation to participate in UnPlug’d 2012, it was through generous sponsorships and donations from a number of Canadian and US EdTech companies, that we were able to set the conditions for a rich and memorable event. We are indebted to many partners who supported our mission to dig into our collective memory, to share experiences with distant colleagues, and to edit and publish our most impassioned ideals.
UnPlugd’d participants continue to talk, share, and collaborate by leveraging social media tools, and by gathering for face-to-face meetings and professional development events. Through open conversations on Twitter, and through deeper reflection on personal blogs, participants continue to reflect on their experiences, to consider adaptations to their professional practice, and to lead by learning in public. As our multimedia publications near completion, the dividends from UnPlug’d 2012 are sure to impact connected teacher-learners from Canada and beyond. We invite you to consider coming along for the ride at

Image credits: Rodd LucierLisa NealeTodd Lucier
Many more images are available in the UnPlugd12 Photo Pool
This article was originally written to appear in the MindShare Learning Report.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

UnPacking UnPlugd12

After an amazing time on the Edge of Algonquin Park in Ontario, we've begun to unpack a lot of things... the most important of which, aren't things, but ideas.  The concept map below was drawn by Giulia Forsythe, one of the small group facilitators at this year's event.  The sketch reflects the many takeaways identified by participants at our final large group circle at UnPlugd12.

Incidentally, this is not the only awesome image Giulia has created.  Beyond her unique ability to represent ideas in doodles, she is also an avid photographer. In fact, one of the images she captured from UnPlug'd 2011 was used as the basis of the postcards being shared by this year's participants.  You can imagine my chagrine when I learned that I failed to attribute this photo when creating the postcards.  I'll make it up to you somehow Giulia.  :)

These images and many other wonderful images by Giulia Forsythe are licensed for use through Creative Commons.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Going Tribal

There was a time not too long ago, when I was lonely in my professional life.  Although I felt that I was doing really good work in the area of gifted education, few of my local colleagues had any idea of the work I was doing.  It was only when I had the opportunity to meet face-to-face with regional gifted education specialists, that I felt connected to a tribe.   Kindred spirits who truly understood what I was going through, began to share resources and strategies and to collaborate in the delivery  of regional events for gifted learners.  

A few years later I found myself in a newly created provincial role, assisting district school boards in leveraging e-learning tools.  My tribe was small, with six widely scattered teachers attempting to do the same work across the province of Ontario.  Our team stayed in touch with weekly meetings that always included a few minutes sharing personal and familial stories.  Although we only met face to face a half dozen times in the two years I was in the role, I continue to feel a deep sense of connection with these colleagues.

One of my local tribe-mates, Jim Pedrech, is a talented teacher who until recently was unaware that he had many peers who were engaged in similar missions, sharing relevant and compelling learning experiences with students.  Today, Jim pointed me to a talk that highlights the value of working and learning with a cadre of compadres.

In this TEDxUSC video, Rodney Mullin tells the story of a skateboarding tribe that builds on the creative work of members in order to ensure the collective moves forward.  In many ways the work of these individuals mirrors the work many of us are engaged in when we share the triumphs and tragedies taking place in our classrooms.  If you can't spare the time for this entire video,
jump to this point... but hear the word 'teachers' when he says the word 'skaters'.

In classrooms all around the world, innovators are doing creative work engaging apt tools to help their students learn relevant skills... and they're doing so alone.  Many have yet to discover who their peers are, let along to connect with them in meaningful ways.  While a wide range of social media tools now allow such teachers to find one another, most have no idea who their tribemates are.  The most lonely, may be those who have discovered true peers in this online world, but who rarely if ever have opportunities to meet face-to-face with their recently discovered colleagues. The lucky few who have intermittent opportunities to engage in conversations and face-to-face meetings, should not take for granted such connective opportunities.

One of my distant colleagues, David Truss has been thinking about the difference between his online self, his real world self.  David's words ring more true for me than they otherwise might, in large part thanks to numerous face-to-face conversations we were able to share at the recent Connected Canada Conference:  "The point is that we are sharing more and more of ourselves online and that ‘person’ that we share online is becoming a bigger & bigger part of who we really are."

I think that the more comfortable we become within a community of online peers, the more we let our true selves leak into the community.  Our voices become more authentic, our lives become more transparent, and our relationships become more meaningful.  
Just as skateboarders push the boundaries of what is possible by sharing within a tight-knit community, once lonely teachers who might otherwise push boundaries in secret, are becoming kindred spirits and members of a growing tribe. 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

140 Voices

The 140 Voices project was co-developed by Rodd Lucier and Zoe Branigan-Pipe, who are working to bring co-learners to life through a collaborative project called 140 Voices.  The 7 Degrees of Connectedness was created in part to help explain the 140 Voices project.  

Why 140 Voices?
It’s the number of seconds that anyone can spare for a quick video.

The number matches the maximum number of characters in a tweet.
Many of the folks who will appear, are actively engaged on Twitter.
How long will it take to engage the voices of 140 educators-leaders-change agents? Here, a short video interview with @Stephen_Hurley explains how the 140 Voices project came about and why we feel it fits so perfectly with the collaborative publishing taking place on

Do you have a story to share? 

Do you know someone else who has a story to tell?While you could wait for us to record you in person or via Skype, with a little video-editing playfulness, you can create your own 140 Voices video. Following the steps below, you can share your own story or any story of interest.

To Capture and Post a Story:

1.  Film yourself or a colleague using any digital video camera or camera-equipped computer. External microphones are helpful, but not necessary.
2.  Answer (or ask) the following questions or respond to the prompts:
* What is your name, role and where are you from (city, organization)?
* What is your current project or initiative?
* How does this project impact student learning? Teacher learning?
* How can folks keep track of your online learning?

3. Upload video content to a video editor of your choice (imovie, youtube editor)
4. Add the 140 Voices intro and extro to your video using the tutorial provided or some other method.
5. Post your video to YouTube using the hashtag #140voices.
To do this part, you will need a Youtube account (or any Google account)

6. Share the link with either @stephen_hurley, @thecleversheep or @zbpipe via Twitter using the hashtag #140voices
7. Videos will be collected and shared at
Rodd Lucier explains walks you through these steps in the 140 Voices Video Tutorial.

Peter Skillen and Brenda Sherry, are two dynamic and innovative educators from Ontario.  Their videos are the first of what we hope to be 140 short interviews to be hosted at   

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Seven Degrees of Connectedness... the Infographic

While I haven't had time to respond to all the comments I received on the framework I posted yesterday,  I did engage in a short conversation with Sylvia Tolisano about turning the Seven Degrees of Connectness into an infographic.

After following Sylvia's work online for a few years, I count myself lucky for having the opportunity to meet her first hand at Educon 2.3.  After sharing an idea, and engaging in a short conversation, Sylvia produced the infographic that follows.  In my personal learning network, I'm now pleased to count her as a collaborator.  :)  

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Seven Degrees of Connectedness

What’s the most significant event that causes you to pay closer attention to the learners in your network? For me, it is meeting face-to-face. I’m more attuned to those people in my learning network whose voices are amplified because we met at a conference; exchanged stories; shared a meal. Fleshed out by personality and attitude, I find myself savouring the words and ideas I consume online.

The framework below was developed with the assistance of Zoe Branigan-Pipe, who is helping to bring co-learners to life through a collaborative project called 140 Voices. More will follow on that project, but for now, I’d be interested to know where you see yourself in what I'm calling "The Seven Degrees of Connectedness".

The thing is - I see myself in different stages with different people and groups. I'm wondering, where you see yourself in the different relationships you’ve developed? Each stage of connectedness has impacted my learning in different ways.  Have you had similar experiences?  Explicit actions lead from one stage to another, but maybe the stages are not sequential...

The Seven Degrees of Connectedness

Stage 1: Lurker
“Hey other people are sharing some cool ideas on their blogs.
“So many people are saying things I agree with...”
“I follow folks on Twitter, but I’m too shy to say anything" 
"I don’t feel I have anything worthwhile to add.”
"How do I get people to follow me back?"

Stage 2: Novice
“When I join in on the conversation people actually talk back to me.”
“I love when other people agree with what I’m saying.”
“I like to read a few blogs.”
“I participate in a few live chats.”
“I comment on blog posts every now and then.”
“I love my PLN!”

Stage 3: Insider
“The same names keep coming up in my stream.”
“I’m beginning to know many of these familiar names and faces.”
“I am part of a PLN.”
“When I’m offline, I feel like I’m missing out.”
“I follow conference hashtags and have refined twitter lists.”

Stage 4: Colleague
“I love when I meet people face-to-face at a conference or event.”
“I sometimes begin conversations by sharing my TwitterID."
“I have degrees of relationships within my PLN.”
"I rely on my network for the most important news."
“I have included the same people in more than one network.”
“Would you join my class for a presentation on _______ ?”
Stage 5:
“Why don’t we start a Google Doc to share our ideas?”
“Want to put in a workshop proposal with me?"
“I’ll see you at the tweet-up before the conference.”
“Can you help me with a project with my students?”
“Let’s get our students collaborating on a blog!”
“How about a weekly Math Challenge between our classes?”
“Our class wants to learn about your country.”
“Sure, I’ll add a post to that collaborative blog!”

Stage 6: Friend

“It feels like we’ve known one another for a long time.”
“At conferences, I’d rather meet face-to-face with my online colleagues than attend workshops.”
“I am comfortable to ask my PLN for help or advice about my work.”
“I know some of the personal details about the people in my network.”
“I care about the well-being of these people.”

Stage 7: Confidant

“I wish the people in my school were as helpful as you are.”
“Can you proof-read my latest blog post?”
“Would you like to meet for lunch?”
“When are you coming to town? We have to get together!”
“How are you feeling?" "Do you want to talk about it?”
“I have an idea, can we Skype?”
“I would rather talk to you in person, can you just call me.”

Is a framework like this worth discussing, or refining.  Can it serve as an introduction to the concept of a personal learning network?  Does it help you make sense of the wide range of relationships you've been building with online colleagues?  I'd love to know your thoughts...

Image Credit: Seven by Losmininos

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Un-Blinded by an Eclipse

If looking at the sun can lead to blindness, maybe looking away from the sun can lead to enlightenment...

Taking advantage of the recent solar eclipse, Mark Day published a short video that demonstrates how dappled sunlight results when interwoven leaves act as pinhole cameras.  It's rare and fascinating footage of sunlight, that can only witnessed by avoiding the instinct to look up.

Earlier this month, Punya Mishra was the first person to alert me to this effect, when he shared photos he'd taken in 1994.  Just as otherworldly is this 'shadow' photo of the eclipse posted to Twitter by Andrew Rice.

The Big Picture took advantage of the distant alignment of our sun and moon by publishing inspiring photos of the event.  The images are for the most part, of the celestial show overhead, and of people from around the world finding ways to see it.  Being that an annular eclipse is such a rare wonder, it makes perfect sense, but it has me thinking about the wonders we miss, because our attention is focused in the wrong direction.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Secret Powers of Gamification

Not only does Gabe Zichermann know his stuff (you'll notice his presentation just flows without reference to notes), but the content of his presentation is highly relevant for teachers and learners.  In this talk recorded at The Next Web 2012, Gabe explains what the most powerful aspects of gamification really are.  I guess his sprinkling of a foul word here or there is intended to humanize his presentation, but the stories he shares stand on their own.  If you find 30 minutes, you'll encounter powerful examples that demonstrate:

Challenge + Achievement = Pleasure

Feedback + Friends = Fun

Rewards = Status or Access or Power or Stuff

Thursday, May 3, 2012

It's a CC World

Yesterday afternoon at the Learning Forward Spring Conference in Ontario, I had the opportunity to introduce a group of intrepid teachers to Creative Commons.  The culminating task was for the group to collaborate on a short video to demonstrate their learning in a 'creative' way.  The vision for this project was for each group to shoot footage simultaneously, in one take, using one of a half-dozen Kodak Playsport cameras.

Each group dreamt up a CC themed title, and created a short vignette on the same theme.   All of the footage was captured from 3:35 - 4:00 p.m. on May 2nd at the Hockley Valley Resort in Orangeville.  Clips were later blended using iMovie, and augmented with the aptly titled 'Freedom in Our Voices' shared by Ditto-Ditto via

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Learning Forward with Punya Mishra

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Note-taking 2.0 at Canada 3.0

It's not quite live-blogging, but it's close.  I've been finding Storify to be a nice way to organize my thinking during the first morning of the Canada 3.0 Conference.

Monday, April 23, 2012

#LitSchool: The Power of Choice

Serendipitous learning happens every time I dip my toe into the Twitter stream.  Although I never know what I'm going to discover, I know I'm going to learn something.  Today, I found myself following tweets from Toronto where a literacy unconference was taking place.  While teacher-learners around the globe have made time on their own to attend edcamps and other informal professional learning events, it came as a welcome surprise that this highly engaging professional learning was taking place during the school day!

Tweeting educators from the York Region DSB used the hashtag #litschool to share their learning with us, and to allow us to engage from a distance. On site, topics that would frame the day's learning were developed by the participants who soon had a schedule to choose from.

From a few storified tweets, you can sense the engagement of learners who were present both physically and virtually.

In an age where professional learning is often dictated from above, it is refreshing to see a district school board model risk-taking. By allowing a model of inquiry to be experienced first hand, there is an even greater chance that teachers will take steps towards bringing such engaging practices to their classrooms.

 #nicemodel #wecandoit #letuslearn #giveuschoice

Followup reading: Is the PD Day Broken?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

You Don't Have Time to Read This

You got past the title?!

I'm taking that as a sign that you may be the type of person who's willing to make a few ripples (maybe even a few waves) to help reshape the educational landscape.   We need more people like you, people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world.  When you take on the challenge of redesigning approaches to teaching and learning, you are indeed participating in such a high calling.

Back in 2007, I adopted the moniker "The Clever Sheep", a tongue in cheek acknowledgement that I see myself as one who both follows and leads.   In addition to towing the line, I'm cheeky enough to try a few unexpected things as well, sometimes things that have never been done before.  Like Harold, the most dangerous of animals, I recognize that we're in a situation that requires innovation in the face of numerous obstacles.

As learning facilitators we have the duty to follow the lead of formally titled leaders, but each of us is also a leader in his/her own right. If every teacher (and every student for that matter) simply waits for directions to follow, then how can change possibly happen?  How can an entire system possibly grow into the uncomfortable spaces where true evolution takes place?

Modern learning is a question in search of an answer... and there is no single solution that will revolutionize the lives of teachers and learners.  There are countless strategies that are superior to last century's models for learning, but it will take a legion of clever sheep to invent, test and modify them.

You, dear reader, have a choice to make. Either limit yourself to doing what you are asked to do; or make the decision to get one with what you are called to do... to be a teacher who models learning, experimentation and risk-taking.

You really didn't have time to read this.  You have much more important work to do.  Join the crazy ones... get going and change the world!

Photo Credit: slimmer_jimmer

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

UnPlug'd 2012

Would you be interested in meeting like-minded colleagues face to face? Are you comfortable amid the hush of nature? Do you like to dine on healthy and nourishing food? Can you go three days without making a phone call or checking your email? Are you willing to join other educators in publishing your ideas?

If so, UnPlug'd 2012 might be perfect for you. This year's UnPlug'd event includes international delegates who will join us from Thursday, Aug 9 - Sunday, Aug 12th, beginning and ending in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  Our organizing team has published a short bit of audio that we'd like you to consider as your personal invitation.

To further pique your interest, read a few of the reflections of last year's participants, or browse the hundreds of photos taken by last year's participants.

Consider this opportunity to think deeply about what matters most; to connect face-to-face with other intrepid teacher-learners; to renew your wonder-filled teacher spirit.  You are invited to add your profile at and to complete the UnPlug'd 2012 application form.

CC Licensed photo courtesy of Lisa Neale

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Stuck in Copyright

A number of years ago, I fell in love with the work of Trey Ratcliff whose HDR photography evokes memory and emotion in ways that are beyond the capability of most artists. It was because of Trey's willingness to embrace the openness of the Web and the Creative Commons, that I was first able to discover his work. In a recent post at Stuck in Customs, Trey encourages artists to 'Stop Complaining about Copyright and Embrace Pinterest'.

Beyond photography, Trey has a spirit and conversational manner that is approachable, passionate, and knowing. If you'd like to discover this for yourself, there is much wisdom scattered throughout the talk he gave at Google last summer. If you have the time, maybe you'll come to understand why I've chosen to keep his work close at hand.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Finding Lessons in Photos and Stories

On short notice, I was invited to speak with a dozen student-teachers who are spending the next few weeks at my school. While I've held court on the topic of 'student success' a few times before, I decided to try reaching this group in a new way.

In the past year, I've been consistent in getting audience members to share personal stories at the outset of workshops and presentations. For this group, the prompt I provided led students to introduce themselves by sharing stories of how they 'overcame or succumbed to key educational challenges'. Through a discussion that ranged both across and around the table, teacher candidates spoke of very personal academic struggles and without intending to, addressed many of topics I was going to introduce.

In addition to introducing topics related to student success, the activity modeled for all, that personal stories are compelling; that getting to know your students is important; that each of us faces up to unanticipated challenges; that remarkable wisdom of learners lies waiting to be uncovered. Rich unanticipated lessons were shared at the outset, because I chose to invite conversation, before launching into a monologue.

The remainder of my Student Success story was told through photos I'd tagged the night before. Instead of using a slidedeck or a handout, my presentation consisted of simply clicking through pre-selected Flickr photos. My lesson was instantly personal, because the images I chose to make my points, were those I had taken myself. Each image had a back-story, followed by a point of information. As a result, the students were learning about me, in addition to attending to a philosophy of education focused on the student experience.

Maybe I'm on a Photo Kick?
There was a time when I first entered 9th grade, that I very badly wanted to join the photography club. As a multi-sport athlete living a 90 minute bus ride from school I was unable to join in. I've loved photography from the time I was a 10 year old playing with what I found to be a truly magical polaroid camera. And now, some 35 years later, I find myself caught up in ny first photo club of sorts. In my second connection to the iPhone Photo Project , I'm reconnecting with Andy Forgrave and others to create and share. Join us if you like.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Which Connections Matter Most?

Over the past week, I've been trying to come to terms why Jabiz Raisdana's recent post, Be More Interesting, resonated so authentically for me. Although many of my colleagues differentiate their relationships depending on whether they take place in virtual spaces or in the physical world, my personal experience tells me that it is the blending of these two worlds that makes for the most meaningful connections of all. Having invested so much time and attention to my own networked learning, I find myself relishing the deepest of these professional learning connections (For more on this idea, see Deeper Connections Matter More).

Multiple interactions over time, when blended with occasional face-to-face meetings, results in a familiarity one might not expect. Now that technology has made it possible for both online and real world conversations to take place face-to-face, ongoing intellectual relationships might grow to be perceived as emotional connections. The more we come to know our online colleagues, the more we come to care about them. In many ways, these relationships of choice are more tantalizing than those relationships we experience by the coincidence of a shared staffroom.

After thinking, sketching, and thinking some more, I created a diagram to help me make sense of the professional learning connections I've made in recent years. Although the actual placement of items on the grid varies depends on many factors, it's clear that my relationships with those I've met face-to-face or voice-to-voice, tend be the deepest both intellectually and emotionally. Online colleagues like Jabiz, challenge me to think more deeply than most, in large part because I can see his gestures and hear his voice when I read his words.

Have we met face to face? If so, does it change the way you read this post? Which professional conversations are most compelling to you? Do your online relationships matter more or less than your relationships with local colleagues? Can you differentiate between those connections you make on the basis of an intellectual connection, and those where you feel emotionally invested?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

We Glow Like Fireflies

Have you noticed there are more of 'us'?
If you haven't noticed, then you haven't been paying attention.

More than ever, educators have taken to social media in general, and Twitter in particular, to connect with like-minded colleagues.

Like fireflies, we're letting ourselves be known to one another through the use of our own secret signals. Tweets are being used to build communities of learners on levels never seen before. Hashtags are binding learners who share common interests and a common vocation.

If you were on Twitter three years ago, you might have participated in the first synchronous educational chat. Like so many fireflies, we were in wonder at the discovery of so many educators ready to talk about teaching and learning.

After taking time to introduce ourselves to one another, the tweets came so quickly, that it was next to impossible to keep up. Looking back at an interesting parallel, I'm smiling in the knowledge that it was in the quiet of the nighttime that we found one another.

And it continues today...
We use Twitter to hail distant colleagues.
We nudge local teachers to share their own firelight.
We inhabit a digital staffroom where the the lights are always twinkling.

We do deep in our thinking - #edbookclub.
We follow distant conferences - #educon.
We play games - #namethattune.
We think in public - #pencilchat.
We build relationships - #PLN.
We become a community - #ds106.

We find ways to let our light shine... on our own time... in the night time.

And though we sometimes dim our lights, going dark to live in the physical world, we always come back. We're drawn to the light of an ever-growing cadre of educators who, to paraphrase Rob Fisher, "care so much about teaching and learning that it hurts."

Time lapse photos of Japanese fireflies were the inspiration for this post. I first encountered them in my daily 'Wired' news feed, and after following a few links, I discovered that they have been re-posted multiple times by fans. Finding the original images on the Digital Photo Blog, I was happy to discover that the images are licensed for sharing under a Japanese CC license by Tsuneaki Hiramatsu.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Publishing With iBooks Author

You may know that I have a twin brother, Todd Lucier who is talented in too many areas to mention. The skills he acquires are often ahead of the curve, so sometimes he ends up learning by way of trial and error. His most recent learning adventure was discovering how to make use of iBooks Author.

While many authors collaborated on the UnPlug'd Facilitators Guide: A Strategy for Getting to the Heart of What Matters, Todd took it upon himself to push us, and himself, to republish this work, making it available in Apple's iBook Store. If you're considering publishing your own resources some day, you might just want to bookmark Todd's tips for future reference.

"With iBook software there are four different versions of the finished product.

1. Preview. Your iPad must be plug'd ;) in with the current version of iPad software and iBooks open (updated version). You see the book as it will look in finished form. Best to use this to make all the edits required prior to publishing.

2. Save. (Creates a .iba version for editing in iBook only) - It happens in the background and you don't have to do anything to produce this version. Nice that it automatically saves the current state of your document and the historical versions (Haven't figured out how to do it, but its there). Note the "Save a Version" option creates a new version of this book.

3 Publish. (.itmsb version - itunes music store books? ) This version is great if you are ready to publish your book immediately to your iTunes iBook account. Saves a version of the book ready to post to iTunes - automagically opens iTunes Producer so that you can fill in the meta data and publish! This version puts the book into iTunes!!!! NOTE: You CANNOT use this option if you are publishing a new updated version of your iBook. See 4 below.

4 Export. (.books) Exported version is the way to publish a version of the iBook for sharing on a Website directly or sharing with others by posting to Dropbox or Google Docs so that they can see it. NOTE: If you want to make changes to your iBook after it is published using iTunes Producer, you MUST use Export to get the .books version to replace the original. Then in iTunes Producer, open the original Published version of the book and on the Assets Tab select the exported version of the book.

Whew, it's crazy, but as a rat in the maze I was able to figure it out after a half dozen uploads of the new book without seeing it appear in iTunes.

Final word of warning: If you have multiple accounts, or change your password on iTunes Connect, iTunes Producer will not know this and will continue to try to upload your work - bringing up repeated error messages and a bounce to Apple FAQ's that have nothing to say about the error you are receiving. You'll just have to muddle along until you realize what's going on.

Have fun."

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Roll Down the Windows

Every day brings changes to our world. Tools evolve; ideas emerge; projects are born. Through your personal learning network, you are already immersed in this change; but what about everyone else?

Your face-to-face colleagues may not truly understand it, but by now, they probably realize that you are part of some larger learning community. I like to suggest that it's time to take these colleagues by the hand, and to introduce them to this dynamic online world of professional learning. The good news is that there is an easy, and not-so-intimidating way to do it.

Like a dog in a car, the world just whizzes by, seemingly beyond our control. Even so, we choose to participate. We engage in conversations that matter. We keep informed about what our colleagues are doing. We amplify the best ideas we encounter. We share.

Sadly, many of our colleagues are so immersed in the day to day experience, that they may as well be riding along behind tinted windows that are rolled up tight. Focusing only on the path they're on, most of our fellow teachers have no idea of the range of thought-provoking conferences, collaborative projects, or innovative tools that are just outside the window.

How do we best introduce teachers to the test pilots among us who are creating and sharing a new vision for education?

My number one suggestion, is to invite your co-workers to roll down the windows in order to get a sense of what's happening in connected classrooms around the corner, and around the world. It's easier than you might think.

You don't have to share a new teaching strategy.
You don't have to impress with the latest gadgets or web tools.
You don't have to coach the development of personal learning networks.
You don't have to introduce Twitter, or hashtags, or social media.
You don't need to teach about curation or subscriptions.

Begin by rolling the window down just a crack, and your colleagues can experience a world of continuous learning. Here are just a few ways to introduce your fellow teachers to people and ideas that inspire.

1. Share the link to one crowd-sourced online newspaper.
The Tweeted Times is where I get my morning fix for the stories I may have missed the previous day. Another I visit for stories shared by my Ontario colleagues, is Doug Peterson's: The Best of Ontario-Educators Daily.

2. Point colleagues to one news feed.
Here, educators can read engaging stories that highlight the thinking of fellow change agents. The stories change every day, but the link stays the same.

3. Share a link to one of the pages you use to collect bookmarks.
Your entire bookmark library may be of interest, but you might also share only a specific tag like 'classrooms of tomorrow'. When you find something, they'll know where its at.

4. Point app-lovers to one education news aggregator.
A few years ago, I developed 'Clever App', a tool I use to access the news from my PLN at least a few times each week.

5. Send your friends to one great blog each week.
If you're a regular reader of blogs, why not share the feeds to some of your favourite writers?

6. Email one story a day.
You have access to dozens, but a teacher who never seems to have the time, might get hooked on one a day if you choose wisely.

7. Pro tip: Automate
If you have yet to discover If This, Then That, you might be interested to know that you can automate delivery of news to your colleagues. If you tweet a link, have it automatically posted to your delicious feed or to your blog. If you bookmark a resource, have IFTTT automatically email it to your friends.

Once they get a breeze in their hair, your colleagues might be eager to join teachers far and wide are learning and sharing everyday. On their very own, they may wind that window all the way down and ask you how they might more deeply engage in this world. It's then that Twitter, blogging, and personal learning networks might become part of the conversation.

What's holding you back? Go ahead and share one resource might lead a teacher to make a habit of professional reading every day. If you roll down the window, your colleagues may well engage in conversation across the hallway... or around the globe! It doesn't have to be overwhelming, just choose a simple way to share the powerful connections you've already discovered.

Photo credits: Zilla in the Car by Vagabond Shutterbug; Sheep in a Truck by smcgee; Coaster rider by Fellowship of the Rich

Saturday, January 21, 2012

It's Time for Change

I recently attended the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan, and one of my big takeaways, was that the auto companies have finally figured out that it's time for a change. New cars are digitally smart; environmentally economical; forward thinking. While it took bankruptcy and a threat to their very existence to turn things around, I can't help but wonder why the departments that manage technology in our schools have been slow to acknowledge the need to reinvent themselves.

If you are a person in charge of making decisions about the direction a school or board takes regarding Information and Communications Technology (ICT), I challenge you to plan a way forward from where you are at this moment in time, rather than letting past history dictate where you spend your available resources in time, money and people.

Limit Desktop Software to what the Machines Can Handle
In my school board, like many others on Ontario, we have access to a wide range of OSAPAC-licensed software. While recent web-based resources have been included in educational licenses, it has been common for most applications to resides on outdated disk drives. In my experience, these drives have been very sluggish in delivering apps to the networked computers that serve our students, resulting in slow uptake of the most powerful of tools. The result of populating our schools with refurbished computers, is that students and teachers are commonly working on computers that are 8 years old. (The workstation I am provided through work, is a 2004 refurbished desktop.)
Question: How old is the computer you use?
Challenge: Teachers and students may need to say goodbye to favoured tools. Remember WordPerfect?
Opportunity: By phasing out desktops, you can pave the way for the ideas that follow.

Acknowledge that the Web is the One App that Matters Most
Prioritize making the Internet the app we serve to all students and teachers. Realizing that browser-based apps are usually optimized for access by multiple simultaneous users, students and teachers are likely to these alternatives to be more nimble than their desktop alternatives.
Question: What is the one app that you couldn't live without?
Challenge: Educators will need to find alternatives for the programs they do use. The ICT department will have to increase the budget for bandwidth.
Opportunity: Educators will eventually discover more online resources than they might have imagined.

Facilitate the Use of Personal Devices
There is little excitement in doing technology based projects when the tools we're using are out-of-date. Move to a model that allows and encourages users to use their preferred devices. Of course such a strategy needs to provide a range of handheld devices to level the playing field for those unable to provide their own.
Question: Does the hardware supplied by your employer meet your personal needs?
Challenge: Someone will need to write a 'Personal Devices Policy'.
Opportunity: Once approved, such a policy will open doors to cross-platform multi-app learning.

Migrate to the Cloud
At great cost, in the name of security and privacy, school email accounts are often managed on board-owned servers. Why did so many boards fail to introduce email to students? In the face of other choices, this tool has become less relevant to the younger generation. Still, providing a collaborative communications suite to learners makes sense... especially if such a tool allows students to take their communications and creations with them upon graduation. It's past the time when schools should have moved to a web-based service for email, calendars, and word processing. While I've been advocating for years that this might best be done through Google, there are alternative web-based office suites available.
Question: Do you access your files from multiple devices?
Challenge: We may have to say goodbye to something everyone has grown comfortable with.
Opportunity: Learners might gain long term access to their work... from anywhere.

Introduce Digital Note-taking
I maintain that the move towards digital notebooks will signal to all that education is changing. The use of web-based multimedia notes can enable the archiving and retrieval of information using a wide range of web-enabled devices. While the saving of content in any kind of notebook may still seem archaic to some, the use of individual collaborative e-notebooks is a skill that I expect will remain relevant for future generations.
Question: Do you collect your learning in a paper binder? Why not?
Challenge: Parents and teachers who prefer paper to bits and bytes will need plenty of handholding.
Opportunity: e-Binders are searchable, shareable, and sustainable.

Focus on Skills Rather than Software
Whether learning takes place in a professional development workshop or during a classroom lesson, the emphasis should be on skills rather than on software titles. Workshops on 'PowerPoint' or 'Smart Ideas' should be replaced with lessons on 'The Power of Presentations' or 'Learning through Visualization' and should be accompanied with access to a menu of relevant apps.
Question: What was the focus of the last tech workshop you attended?
Challenge: Modelling differentiation is a greater challenge than speaking about it.
Opportunity: Transferable digital skills can naturally evolve into differentiated teaching and learning.

Say Goodbye to Desktops; Say Hello to Wireless
By embracing banks of mobile wireless devices, teachers and students will have far greater flexibility in how they do their work. By partnering such initiatives with a movement towards BYOD and ubiquitous wireless, desktop anchors should gradually fade from our classrooms.
Question: Do you still work on a desktop computer? Why?
Challenge: Out-of-date desktop computers have been inexpensive to purchase... but expensive to maintain.
Opportunity: Savings on maintenance will free manpower and funding to pursue the other pieces of the puzzle.

There is no one answer for what educational technology should look like. As an organization, I recommend embracing variety and diversity. Allow schools to choose the types of tools they would like to use in their classrooms. Whether you are a fan of Smartboards, iPads, PCs or Macs, there is room for almost any device in a wireless, web-centred system.
Question: What is your vision for the learning space you'd like your child or grandchild to experience?
Challenge: Varied choices and local decision-making will lead to questions about equity.
Opportunity: Through variety, pockets of excellence will emerge.

Recreating our ICT infrastructure for an unknown future is a challenge. Whether or not you agree with these suggestions, I hope these ideas encourage decision-makers to carefully consider how we can best support the learning of our children.

Photo credits: Rodd Lucier, TarynMarie, Burnt Pixel, aperture_lag, binarydreams

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Deeper Connections Matter More

It's been a full four years now that I've been fully engaged in cultivating an online personal learning network, but I find myself finding the greatest value in those connections that have deepened through repeated face to face contact. The heady days of December in 2007, when I first dipped my toe into Twitter, led me to a jaw-dropping awareness that I wasn't alone. There were hundreds of like-minded educators who were yearning to be affirmed in their belief that there were better ways to teach and learn... and I was eager to connect with them.

Fast forward to the turn of the new year, 2012, and my personal reflections have focused on the reality that I'm not so fully engaged in finding people to follow, or in cultivating a tribe of followers. In contrast, I'm reading and writing fewer tweets, and am taking the time to savour those connections that matter most.

How do I know you're one of the key nodes in my network?

1] We've met face to face at at least one conference or event.

2] We've had at least one conversation via Skype or Google Chat.

3] We've shared comments on one another's blog posts.

4] We've collaborated in developing a presentation/document/video/blog.

5] We've sought one another out to share 'big ideas'.

I think it's these meaningful connections with other change agents that I was most looking for in the first 25 years of my career. Now that many of the teacher-learners I first met on Twitter have become my trusted friends, I don't so much miss the one-way interactions with the more widely scattered nodes of my PLN. I still leverage the wisdom of my network on a daily basis, but rather than dipping into a never-ending stream of tweets, I am more likely to check the pulse of the group via a daily check of my personal news: The TweetedTimes.

Without question, Twitter is the glue of my personal network. But the connections I value most, reach well beyond the Twittersphere.