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--