Wednesday, December 30, 2015


Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.
And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb.
And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.
On Death, Kahlil Gibran

She was kind, she was firm, she cared, she wanted more for the students she served.
She was a principal and a friend.

She welcomed me to Jane Addams Business Careers Center in 1988 with a invitation to lunch in the Executive Grill that the students run-- a kindness and thoughtfulness that I'd not experienced with any previous principal (nor did I encounter at any other time in my career). 

I had applied to teach at Jame Addams, as what might be called today, an intervention specialist for students who had been labeled learning disabled, many of whom were enrolled in the culinary arts program. I supported students in their vocational programs and provided instruction in academic areas as needed.  And I had recently discovered the potential of computers for learning. 

Ms. Lynton cared about and supported all students. Initially when she learned how I hoped to infuse technology into learning (think Bank Street Writer and As Easy As), she made sure my students could be scheduled into the computer lab. Then, she arranged for computers for my classroom. And when we were stifling from the heat in our classroom (the air conditioning didn't work and the windows were sealed shut), she shared the fan from her office with us. David had asked permission to go to her office to request a fan and came back with hers.

She led an initiative to transform learning at Jane Addams that held great promise. In my role as adviser to students as we planned, our collaborations led to a friendship I cherished. Unfortunately, LATTICE never came to fruition as Gwen fell victim to a stroke and then retired.

We remained friends throughout the years--  she visiting in our home and I in hers. More recently, we've connected through Christmas cards each year.

When I received the email titled Gwen last week, memories of her, of her smile, of her thoughtfulness and selflessness flooded over me and remain with me.

A special woman, a special educator-- my life has been the richer for our connecting-- thank you Gwen.  

May you truly dance -- now free.

flickr photo by davidhuiphoto shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Constraints and Possibilities

Creative Commons Licensed
Designing for learning
And realizing in the process

How coming up against a constraint (thanks to Amy Musone for sharing the importance of that term)
Is tough
Is frustrating
And can uncover insights into learning that became somehow buried a bit

As I considered the learning environment for the new Blended Learning eCourse I'm designing and facilitating for Powerful Learning Practice, I had what I thought was a terrific idea.  During the week that we explored questioning and feedback more deeply, I'd use forums for that purpose on the Edublogs class blog that I'd created.

Knowing little to nothing, like always, I jumped in confident that I could tinker and figure out how to make it work.  There was documentation with clear instructions. I activated the bbpress plugin and figured I was on my way!  Thinking I was on a roll and anxious to see how the forum would display, I created a forum, a topic within that forum and a reply and embedded it on a page on the blog only to find that the contents didn't display.  It clearly said there was a topic with a link to click which in turn provided an option to reply ---  but with no content--  sigh!!!

So I tried it in another browser.  I searched in troubleshooting forums. I changed themes as suggested in one forum.  And I tinkered, I left it to try again another day, I deleted everything I did, I reread the documentation, I tried creating again, I searched the forums, and I played and tinkered to no avail.  After some 12 hours of that, I knew I'd hit a wall.  I didn't know enough, I didn't have enough foundational knowledge for what I wanted to do, and I didn't have time to continue.

Two epiphanies--
I had moved too far from my zone of comfort
Excerpted from with permission
I can't say I was panicked, yet I did not have enough background to make progress, to ward off frustration.

As I thought of all I was designing for learning for the ecourse, I realized that  many co-learners might experience similar frustrations when faced with creating their own dashboards, or repurposing a tool for deepening learning; I have always tried to be sensitive of that and this experience will support me in being even more mindful of that.

Second, and perhaps just as if not more important--  I began thinking more deeply on what technology really best suited the goal of engaging in more meaningful conversations by making use of more accomplished questioning and descriptive feedback. The conversations I envisioned can occur in a forum, or on a message board or in the comment feature of blogs.  And yet, strangely, I had discounted that last option; strangely because I had incorporated blogging as a potentially powerful medium for blended learning.  It makes good sense to continue to examine more fully the possibilities that blogging and connected learning offer.

So I'm switching gears, so to speak, realizing my current constraint--  we'll be having our discussions in the comments of co-learners' blogs.

And the bbpress forums-- I haven't let that go--  something keeps nagging at me--  what if it's just one little thing you didn't realize--  that nagging may compel my future learning that will start with foundational knowledge on which I can grow my troubleshooting skills.  Just imagining the possibilities--

Friday, November 27, 2015

Gifted and Thankful

Strikingly beautiful
This gift
Out of the blue
In a Walmart parking lot
From a perfect stranger
With a wide smile saying
I want to pay it forward
Happy Thanksgiving--

More than touched by her kindness and generosity
Filled with gratitude

Renewing and reminding us for the second time in one day of the goodness of the human spirit

The first being the gift of a "Doo-wop" CD from Gus'  gracious and thoughtful physical therapist, having heard him sing to that same music in a previous session.

In these times of horrific violence, hate and fear mongering, these acts of kindness are extraordinarily sweet.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

We can do better--

flickr photo shared by honikum 
I couldn't help it--
Tears in my eyes--
A pain in my heart--

For the third time in a month, a small child (this one just 5 months old riding with mom in the car to the grocery store) was killed in a drive by shooting in Cleveland, just 30 miles west of here and our home for many years.

3 children in one month-  one 3 years old, one 5 years old and now one 5 months old-- all victims of driveby shootings.

The Cleveland mayor saying "enough is enough" and the Chief of Police crying as he reported what happened saying  "marches are not enough, we need to do something."

Two days in a row--
first President Obama at the federal level about the horrific tragedy in Oregon and now the Mayor on the loss of life of these 3 little ones.

And I wonder-- is this who we, as a nation, want to be?

I know solutions to these senseless tragedies are complex and multifaceted and will take a focus and determination as yet unrealized. And I believe there is a path to a better tomorrow.

What if--
Everyone of us advocated for a better system of background checks, more funds and programs for the mentally ill, mentors and initiatives for urban areas where gangs are prevalent to reduce gang violence,  and new endeavors to eliminate childhood poverty across the nation?

What if--
Everyone of us carefully vetted the federal, state and local officials we voted for to learn their plans for decreasing the violence across the country that has permeated both urban and rural areas? And what if our votes aligned with that vetting?

What if  --
Everyone of us watched out for those we sense are fragile-- stepped out to be more inclusive; stepped back with vitriolic language; and stepped back out to report our concerns when signs of depression, instability arise in others in our face to face lives and on social media ?

What if--
Everyone of us drew a circle that pulled all in?

Outwitted-- E. MarkhamHe drew a circle that shut me out--
Heretic, a rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Lack of limits

Going through some of the many papers still saved from more than 35 years of learning and teaching--
And running across this--
From my cubicle in 2001--

Unfortunately now not able to locate the source-
Education in the 21st century will be defined by its lack of limits,
by the idea that we can virtually take our students around the world,
back in time, out among the stars,
and in between the atoms.

Pretty powerful--
Seeing pockets of that--
And wishing for so many more--

Monday, February 09, 2015

Discover, Dream, and Design

creative commons licensed (BY-NC-ND) flickr photo by ChimpLearnGood:
Sunday afternoon I saw the title of this post. The connected educator movement is failing and we're all to blame. That caught my attention-- alot. And I did something I rarely do, I jumped into the comments mainly because the judgment for failure is based on metrics from Twitter and I've strong feelings about....

Very honestly -- I don't know Daniel, the author, and I don't think I've ever been an "edtech" person (whatever that is). Even as a "resource teacher" in the instructional technology office of a very large urban district, I was the one with a Masters degree in curriculum; I was the least "tech" person in the office.  How did I get the job?-- I recognized the power and potential of technology for learning and connecting- opening new windows onto a world for so many. And in all the professional development I have designed and facilitated --learning, collaboration and connecting was the focus. So I guess that was the reason I jumped in, and perhaps not very cogently, as the contents of that post touched the core of my passion.

Here's my comment:

I guess I'm surprised that a focus on Twitter is the metric for determining the failure of educators connecting. What about educators connected through online communities of practice, those connected through the ongoing K12Online conference, and those connected through Connected Educator month, not to mention those connected in ongoing projects with colleagues and classrooms around the world? 
From one who sees connecting as all about connecting with people (see the intro quote in chapter one about human networks in The Connected Educator: Learning and Leading in the Digital Age), connecting with context made possible through the affordances of technology-- the possibilities for systemic change we'd like to see happens when we can engage in deep, meaningful and messy collegial conversations. In my humble opinion, a prerequisite for that to happen is a relationship built on trust. Although growing and nurturing trust occurs on Twitter, I think more than 140 characters are needed to immerse in the kinds of discussions that deepen relationships that in turn enable those conversations necessary for change. 
I'm likely one of those you've mentioned who you see as positive to a fault. The angst I feel about certain named "reform" efforts hurts my soul yet I know that our words create our reality and we grow towards that on which we focus and so I'll continue to maintain that positive focus. I'm old; I've been blessed to see and experience the power of connectedness made possible only by the affordances of technology. And I've a deep belief in the importance of relationships in teaching and learning (Barth). Without them (face to face and in online spaces) and without context, how can we even think of engaging in conversations with others?
I'm wondering if an "us" vs "we" mentality contributes to the creation of a wall of resistance? What if all our efforts were about "we". What if our "we" efforts focused on what's working, what's the best of learning in everyone's classroom? And then together, we ask how can "we" grow our collective practice to improve learning for all of our students? And as all voices contribute, we leverage what we've learned from others across the globe into the conversation?

I guess I was hoping that perhaps I was articulating an inclusive approach, an avenue to develop a more collective accomplished connected practice. And I guess I'm advocating for this from a lens not often taken in the "edtech" community, that of appreciative inquiry.

Daniel was generous to reply
Twitter is simply a metric, but I see it as helpful. Tom's insights also are helpful, but again are also just a signal. They obviously don't show the whole picture, but they're a helpful insight. The Twitter numbers are kind of shocking because of the promise that Twitter held for the rest of education in the past few years. Last year it made this Top 100 Tools for education. Clearly, the folks responding to that survey have their own bias. 
Others have reached out to me over the past 24 hours. I have questions like this: "What about all the connections that go on in Schoology and Edmodo: that's "connected education," correct?" 
Sure, there's also places like K12 Online Conference, which is probably a microcosm even compared to the Twitter numbers. We can't judge this by looking through our own glasses, or we get it wrong. Schoology certainly doesn't have a million teachers on it. Looking through Edmodo's communities, they're connecting going on there, but how does that compare to 6.9 million other educators? Microcosms.
We keep looking at things from our own experience, our own schools perspective. What is working for you, is most likely not working for the school down the street. In order to bring the other 6.9 million along, we need to start communicating in a way that empathizes with the non-connected educator.
If a tech tool can eventually bring a physical connection (or a virtual connection that goes beyond Skype or Hangouts)- that's more powerful. How do we make that happen?
Obviously I did a very poor job of sharing my perspective-- at least that's how it feels to me--

Perhaps I've tunnel vision--- yet there is an incredible amount of research around appreciative inquiry as an effective approach to systemic change.

I just so wish I was better able to articulate it's potential--