Saturday, November 1, 2014

Crowdsourcing: My Thank You to All of You

Last week, I posted here about how frustrated I have been while trying to encourage and inspire connected learning in my team of teachers.

I didn't know it at the time, but in that post, I crowdsourced advice.  

Crowdsourcing is something I have been intrigued by for some time now.  Without realizing it, I had tapped into the collective wisdom of an amazing group of people.

When I read the comments and advice on my blog, I was blown away.  First, I was blown away that people took the time to comment, and second, I was blown away by the diversity of ideas offered, and the incredible helpfulness of said ideas.

What I had thought was a simple dumping out of my heart became something more.

Terry Elliott also offered me John Prine: 
Ain't it great at the end of the day
When there ain't no sound around
Just me and the fence post
Staring each other down

And Terry gave me word origins for "ruin," including: 671 Milton P.R. iv. 363 In them is plainest taught‥What ruins Kingdoms, and lays Cities flat. 

And Terry gave me quotes

And Terry connected connected connected me to ideas as only Terry does: unmoored, unbalanced, neutral nowheres, reaching forth....

Mostly, this is a thank you.  To all of you who read, and who offered ideas, and connected.  I can't really describe fully how I felt when I read your comments, but suffice it to say that my heart was full.  On a day when I had felt alone, I suddenly felt a part of something bigger.

Here is a more artful version of my thanks to all of you: Thank You Note

Sunday, October 26, 2014

#Ccourses Has Ruined Me and I Don't Know How to Fix It

I am typically a very optimistic and positive type of folk.

But lately there's been no balance in my life. And that's not me.

Work. More work. No walks.  No exercise. No real feeling of accomplishment other than not falling off of a mental treadmill.  Lots of trying. Hamster-wheeling.  More trying.  Reflecting.  Action planning.  Susan-What-Are-You-Doing self-chats.

So I went on a walk today.   You know how when you get a new car, and you notice that kind of car wherever you go, for weeks?

I noticed signs on my walk.  Signs.  
OK, universe, I get it, not too subtle on your part.

Two "No Outlet" signs.  Yep.  That's accurate.  Thanks, universe.

A "walker" sign, with an arrow.  A mindless, neutral, robotic walker on a sign.  Yep.  Accurate.

I was starting to understand that this walk was trying to yell at me.

Don't worry, I also noticed beauty. Everywhere.

But what struck me as the perfect analogy for my brain was a bunch of stormdrain leaves, all crammed and forced and mashed together.  Sure, there is a sort of beauty there, but mostly I saw a lack of intention.

And lastly, an arrow pointing at a curb.  I likened it to beating my head against a wall.  Lookie here, look, nothing!

I am big on taking responsibility.  I have been having a lot of WTF moments.

Year three of trying to facilitate a new program at my school.  This week, a team meeting where blank stares were the predominant feature.  Where people did not do things that they were supposed to do.  Simple things.  Team things.  "I am a part of something" things. That they had agreed to do.  Phoning it in.

Clearly, I am doing something wrong.  

So, I reflect.  Why am I so dissatisfied?

My goals have been changed by #ccourses.  I now expect people to want to connect.  To thrive on connecting.  To make time to connect.  To think and research and have fun sharing ideas.

#Ccourses has ruined me.  There's no going back.

I love this course, but am I better at getting other people to want to do this connection thing? Apparently, no. I have modeled, and encouraged, and cheered and all that.  

So, I go back to my question from a couple of months ago - how do I create a connected experience for people who are satisfied with boxed macaroni and cheese?

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

How to Make Bad Decisions About Students' Placements

Concern yourself foremost with money.  


Put student needs last on the list.

Decide before you have all of the information.

Once you see all the data, make excuses for it.

Once you see more data, contend that it is not accurate/adequate/current/applicable.

Don't communicate with the relevant parties ahead of time.

Nitpick the team decision-making process to deflect real concerns.

Circumvent the process in order to assure the outcome you want.

Blame the process for the outcome.

Choose a scapegoat.  Better yet, have someone volunteer to take the blame.


Forget that this is a child, not a commodity or object.

Put the team through a protracted meeting in order to appear that you are actually giving them input.



Saturday, October 18, 2014

Blackout Poem - Reimaging Education #nuggets

Connected Courses Unit Three pointed me to Jon Udell's article "Reimagining Education."

Please read his succinct, effective explanation of how motivation and context can push us into being able to learn things for which we do not have traditional "prerequisites."

As I delve into unit 3 and sadly try to understand the difference between the internet and the web (still pondering John Naughton's article), Udell's article seemed ripe with parse-able ideas and #nuggets.

At our school, our computers are forever being "reimaged," which pretty much cleans them off and gives them a blank slate. So here is my blackout poem of Udell's "Reimagining Education," transformed into Reimaging after being sent through my brain. (Go here to see the full blackout doc.)


Partner with a web, a sandbox for exploring open experimenting, with its possibilities.
Was the result like so?
Gardner listened.
I interviewed,
and commented, “He is so close to what I've been thinking!”
I was seeing incontrovertible proof of telepathy,
discovery, and the blogosophere.
And linked
where I linked back -
the scale and pace quite different in that world.
“Ascendant uses of the Internet” -- could education?
Was supposed to, but of course never did.
What's changing?
The will?
We're a dual inflection point: widespread widespread knowledge.
Compelling how the 21st century would have predicted no ability to read,
and then, arriving, asking well-informed questions only semi-jokingly:
this shouldn't be called intimidation but, rather, "shared decision-making?"
Two factors govern motivation and context.
When you're loved, your motivation is a given.
They build a context. The first time they get what's going on here.
But what happened when I did the same topic?
I got a start.
I take back the experience of making,
kind of grateful,
every new development
comes from people who "know" one another.
Those who can rapidly acquire these contexts needed both.
Learning is, arguably, learning
more broadly.
Thanks to  a glimpse of the future, I talked about the remarkable  process --
its extreme transparency to the surrounding design,
Its specifications.
Its testing.
Its use.
Write --
you can tap,
learn how,
bootstrap yourself.
Enlarge that context.
Access access.
If principles look like challenges,
figure it out.
everyone -- should be asking and trying.


Monday, October 13, 2014

Being @DogTrax - An Homage

If you can't sing it, it won't come alive.

Last Sunday, our #dailyconnect asked us to collaborate on a song.  I got together with some #ccourses folks and collaborated to create a new version of an old favorite. Some people were really trepidatious.

That got me thinking - what must it feel like for people to step outside their comfort zones with music? I am comfortable making music, sharing music.  I enjoy taking things others create and adding my own musical touch to them. I sing, play saxophone, guitar, write songs.

There’s a certain feeling you get when you share a song that is close to your heart. On one hand, you don’t want to let it go. It’s so personal that it feels like a child that needs protecting. On the other hand, some songs come out nearly perfect (or so it seems) and the only way to breathe real life into it is to share it. 

I also love making comics.  See some examples here.  Comics are not for everyone.  But they help me to zero in on important ideas in the writing of others. It's my way of "reading" the posts and material, searching for interesting tidbts.

So I decided to take a comic look at how it might feel for others to make music in #ccourses.  The second panel in this comic includes my friend Terry, our favorite writer/pirate.  His use of obscure phrases always makes me laugh (and think).

Finally, my friend Maha posted here, where she asked, "Can Less Be More in an Age of Abundance?"  Maha had planted a small garden of green beans, but then found she had planted too many and they were too close together.  She took that and applied it as a metaphor to revision, and growth, and collaboration.  One of her lines grabbed my attention and made me think:

Peace (in the frame),
as Kevin

(comics made with

Saturday, October 11, 2014

poetrope, entropy, trophic, trope, nonsense

entropy, a gradual decline into disorder.

trophic, position in a food chain.

poetrope, a word I just made up, a gradual decline of metaphors into a lower part of the language food chain.

poet rope, how we hang ourselves with our words.

trope, a convention that can be relied on.
trope, a cliche.
trope, overused plot device.

synecdoche, referring to a whole through use of a part.
your glasses are more than glass.
more than your bones are tired.
life itself is more than DNA.


not sense.

it made sense.

S.Ensor, Sensor, senser, he who senses, sends her.

tell us.

where's the con.
convince me.

tossing words out like confetti/
but with a less celebratory fling./
i forgot to add velcro/
so the words may not stick./
perhaps pushpins were in order/
but yesterday such things were weapons/
in a war against disorder./
i was a pacifist./

a pushpin/ a pinprick/
a drop of blood/
i push the thumbtack in/
because skin is penetrable/
and then i can feel/
something certain./

it gets messy/
with no one to ask/
but. still.


Sunday, October 5, 2014

What is a bomb?

Part 1 Identity: We can't ever really know someone.  Often we don't even know ourselves.

So how do we trust people in our Connected Learning Networks?

What can we do to protect ourselves?  Encrypt? Decrypt? Password Protect? Lie in wait. Lie?

This is not  We don't have reason to pretend we are 10 years younger, or that we don't have grey hair.

So what's the big deal?

It's not. A big deal, that is.  Unless you're pouring out your heart.  Like many of us do, in spite of [probably] [maybe] [sometimes] looking like silly fools.

It's those that I love, though.  The silly fools.  If you can't "push past the platitudes," as Tania Sheko put it, I am not all that interested.  If you just want to sound smart, look dignified, write big dense paragraphs, then I don't read on.  AKA I don't develop trust in you.  

Can you be vulnerable?  Do you share idiosyncracies? Do you reciprocate?  Do you not only post, but also comment on others' posts?  Then I start to trust you.  

And if you are willing to connect outside of the [albeit loose] confines of #ccourses, then I really start to trust you.  Not required, but nice to have and know.

Part 2: Bombs I built this trust bomb, using the article here. Why this article?  Because "Real Names Policies" can hurt.  Can kill.  Because if you fit into an historically enfranchised category, you might not understand what the big deal is.  Hiding.  Daily. Fearing. Daily. That who you "really" are might be shared in the wrong place, with the wrong people, at the wrong time.  

A pseudonym lets you participate at whatever level you want.  Otherwise, you are a buffet who can only share your flatware, or your dessert.  Losing the multi-dimensionality of what you could be, when you choose.  Meaning we lose that, too.

Part 3: Hiding:Reading about encryption last night, my first impulse was to encrypt everything. My second was, "It's too late anyway." My third was, "I don't really understand a lot of this." My fourth was, "I better learn more."

Part 4 [final part] Challenging: I was reading a blog post in module 1 when I realized incorrectly thought that the person writing it had political views directly opposite of mine.  I was taken aback.  WHAT?  I stupidly clearly thought everyone in #ccourses shared my political views [not really, but yes, but you get my point]. I emailed with another friend about it, and she helped me see that I had read it wrong.  We are actually not on opposite sides of the political spectrum.  But my friend and I had a good conversation and a laugh over it.  

Clearly, I am still learning. And asking.  And misreading. Ancora imparo - Michelangelo.

 Watch my full Zeega reflection here and feel free to remix:Reflection.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Swamp-bound, Dinner Is Burning, In Absentia, Adding and Subtracting, Meaning More, Meaningless

100% Swamp-bound.

Zero blog posts.

109 hours.

Never been good at math.

[Trigonometry was fine.  Higher than that, my brain did not compute.]

Lots of math this week.  Actually got a compliment from a colleague - "nice job with this complex math problem."

I have what's called an 11-month position. For two extra pay checks, we need to work 128 extra hours beyond the school day, between July 1, 2014 and July 1, 2015.  

So far I have worked 109.  I have until July to work 19 more hours.  Math.  You do the.

Spent three hours Wednesday night making a plan for distribution and transportation of 22 new Chromebooks throughout the middle school.

Lotsa compliments on said plan.  "Good math."

But. Plan now revised; some initial requisites became moot. [Teachers who had demanded Chromebooks no longer needed them once it took a tiny bit of coordination and cooperation to get them.]

Mine, all mine.

Don't wanna share.

"It's not about you.  What do the kids need?"

Too. Much. Work.

In the background, my Connected Courses friends got to play.  9 p.m. Three hours into the Chromebooks plan, I was irritable. I wanted to play, too.  But. Sleep.   @ 9 p.m. EST. 


I have not gotten to read blogs this week. Only tiny dips into Twitter.  I know beautiful things have been happening.  I can't wait to rejoin.

Right now, my dinner is burning in the stove.  I smell the delicious burntness as I write.  So it burns.  I need to write. I like crispy veggies.  It all works out.

Brief respites with a student, writing to Maha Bali, have kept me encouraged, connected. He is excited to have a long-distance friend in Egypt.  He has few real friends here. Thank you, Maha.

Meaning more.

Not meaningless.

Lessons Learned.  
You can miss people you've never met.  You can wonder what they'd think about something that is happening in front of you.  

People. In France. Kentucky. Egypt. Massachusets. Ohio. New York.

Dinner.  Delicious.  Crunchy.

Out of the swamp. For now.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Needle in a Haystack

Posts inspired by posts inspired by posts....

People inspired by people inspired by people....

What does it mean to be inspired? Word origins fascinate me.

Inspiration (n.) c. 1300 "immediate influence of God or a god." From Old French inspiracion, "inhaling, breathing in." From Late Latin inspirationem, "inspire, inflame." Literal sense "act of inhaling," attested in English from 1560s. Meaning "one who inspires others" is attested by 1867.

Act of inhaling. That IS sometimes what it feels like to be inspired.  

Also - immediate influence of God or a god.

Yes, at the risk of sounding like an insane person  misunderstood hyperbole, in a sense, yes.  Simon Ensor has "touched" upon the fact that something bigger than "us" is at play here: here and here and here and (you get the idea).

Mimi Ito wrote a freakin brilliant an incisive, incredible post that has many of us still thinking, annotating, and reflecting.

Maha Bali was inspired to reflect on the aspect of Mimi's post that discussed preferring to read blogs to reading recommended books. Mimi's post was added to the Diigo group so we could all jump in and annotate.

So many things in Mimi's post resonated with me - and made me laugh.  Was +Alan Levine @cogdog more than one person, an amalgamation?  And was +Kevin Hodgson @dogtrax also more than one person?  They are able to make so many connections that they seem superhuman.  They've assured us they are each one person and also two different people.  

What inspired me to create what I think of as the Twitter Haystack image, though, was what she said about @howardrheingold and anxiety:  [he] wakes up in the morning worried that a co-pilot has fallen asleep at the wheel or that the delicate social machinery we've stitched together is going to fall apart." Mimi then goes on to say that in her opinion, "We may not be too big to fail, but [she] would like to believe that we are too diverse to fail and distributed to fail."

My image is meant to reinforce that idea - we are too happily enmeshed to fail.  Just like my summer #clmooc that never ended, this construct has a life of its own.  We are all needles in haystacks that managed to find each other.  The massiveness of a MOOC is not just about numbers, but about depth and intricacy.

Thanks, all. Nice haystack.
attribution for picture:

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

This is about you....

This is about you.

You are 14.

You came here to the U.S. from the Ivory Coast because there was a civil war.

You told me about weapons hidden in Banco National Park by your house.  Seeing people shot.  Seeing people die.

You told me about not being in school for a year because of the war.

You told me about a cloud descending on your village.  And a weeping statue which could end the war. 

You told me about why there was a war - there is a President, and someone else who thinks he should be ruling, so they were killing people who were against them.  

You showed me magical protection amulets that local fighters wore.

You showed me your favorite foods. Foufou. Alloco. Kedjenou. Cacao.  We talked about cooking.

You told me your father and mother spoke two different traditional languages, as well as French and English.

Now you are in the U.S. 
At an alternative school. 
You are struggling to understand how to interact with your peers.  They make fun of your accent.  You try to fit in, often in ways that disrupt.

Today you finished a project.  I told you that a lady from Egypt had created the project.  Other students in your class balked at the programming language involved, but you jumped right in.

You were fascinated that I could be in a class with a lady from Egypt.  I explained (as best I could) online connections and classes. After looking at her project, you said, "Me and dis lady, we have a lot in common!"

"Dis lady" was Professor Maha Bali, who then wrote you an email, in spite of her own busy life with work and family. I can't wait to share it with you Friday!

You've never talked to anyone at my school for more than 5 minutes.  Today you talked nonstop for 40.

Thank you, Maha. You helped someone half a world away.

If this is Connected Learning, let's keep it up.

I learned I have so much to learn. 
That is all.
child in front of French troops, Ivory Coast