What is Teaching Practice?

It’s often when you stop and think, as I’ve done in the past few weeks, that you can stumble over the most basic question. In an effort to think more clearly about the basic elements of my teaching practice, I need to answer this question. With all my years of experience, I thought it would be easy! I’ve been teaching many years in a variety of contexts, ages, and stages, within physical, face to face places, and in digitally enabled spaces. What makes up my teaching practice?

What is teaching practice?

The Ontario College of Teachers (OCT) outlines five key components or standards of teaching: commitment to students and student learning, leadership in learning communities, ongoing professional learning, professional knowledge, professional practice. The four ethical standards include care, trust, respect, and integrity. I wonder how this holistic view of professional practice connects to the art and science, and the complexity of actions, moves, and thinking that is involved in teaching? Is teaching practice limited to only those actions that relate to student learning – identifying learning outcomes, sharing content, providing learning activities, assessing learning (Paskevicius & Irvine, 2019) – OR can teaching practice be viewed beyond the act of teaching. How do the standards outlined by OCT connect to current contexts for remote, distant, online, and digitally dependent teaching practices.

As I dug a little deeper, I turned to the familiarity of high leverage teaching strategies. Do these help in defining what a teaching practice is or is not?

High leverage teaching practices derive from five key concepts, according to TeachingWorks (http://www.teachingworks.org/work-of-teaching/core-ideas). These include (rephrased from web-site):

  1. Teaching develops knowledge, skills, and abilities that are purpose driven.
  2. All students can and should learn at high levels.
  3. Teaching and learning are active sense-making processes.
  4. Teaching and learning are interactive, co-constructed and collaborative.
  5. Classroom contexts matter. Teachers manage and use contexts to support learning.

From these five core concepts come 19 high leverage teaching strategies. These do not identify ‘practice’ per se, but do outline some of the teaching moves and actions that expert and effective teachers apply. Examining these within the context of remote, distanced, and digitally enabled teaching may be a necessary step in current times. Do these strategies look the same for Kindergarten, Grade 8, or higher education contexts when teaching remotely?

What prompted this question was the re-reading of an interview with Dr. Paul Kirschner. It’s titled “Constructivist pedagogy is like a zombie that refuses to die”. In terms of media, this title grabs attention. The contrasting stance in the interview was not new, but now in the re-reading, it shifted my thinking about teaching practice.

Kirschner bemoans the fact that constructivist teaching, iterated in ‘innovative’ or ‘experiential’ teaching, won’t go away and is hindering the use of effective teaching strategies like direct instruction that expert teachers apply.

“…researcher John Hattie has shown to be unique to expert teachers. They have deep conceptual subject knowledge and an understanding of the substance should be communicated as well as a deep conceptual knowledge and skills in teaching / didactics. Good learning requires good teachers who can adapted for the students. You can’t do this by posting lessons on YouTube.” ~ Paul A. Kirschner

This rings true in current #PivotOnline teaching practices. In this time of COVID-19 and the requirements for remote and distance teaching, or learning, this is a particularly important question. What is teaching practice? How are teachers ‘practicing’ their craft when the students are socially and physically distanced from the teaching action or the teaching context? How does distance or tech/no tech impact the ability to teach?

Kirschner was asked: What distinguishes an expert teacher?

It’s important to point out that you can be an experienced teacher but still not be an expert in teaching. An expert teacher has deep conceptual knowledge of her or his subject area as well as a good didactic ability to reach out to her or his students. To achieve pedagogical expertise, it’s crucial that you have good insight into educational and learning psychology so that you know how learning takes place in the human brain. Knowledge of our cognition should be the most important part of a teacher training program.” ~ Paul A. Kirschner

The importance of knowing and having pedagogical expertise is the critical point here. It’s not because our brains are suddenly different or can process information differently because of the technologies we are using. As Kirschner emphasizes, the evolution of our brain structures haven’t changed since cave-dwelling days. We still learn in biologically primary or secondary ways. Cognitive theory reveals that short term and long term memory works the same way.

What has changed is how these tools and technologies shape our ‘becoming‘ (Ihde & Malafouris, 2019) within our culture, our world, our relationships with each other. Teaching practice, and teachers’ knowledge, includes an understanding of cognitive science and how biologically primary and secondary knowledge is taught and learned. Specifically, cognitive load theory and collective/collaborative learning (Kirschner et al., 2018), or how to provide effective instruction (Rosenshine, 2010). These are not necessarily included in all teacher education, instructional design, or how-to-teach-online crash courses.

“We also know that there is evolutionary primary and evolutionary secondary knowledge. The former is something we need to survive as a species. It has been evolutionarily ‘hardwired’ into how we think and develop. We learn this almost automatically without instruction, such as our ability to recognize our mother and communicate with each other and, thus, acquire our first language. The secondary is all cultural, such as how to read and write and use mathematics. That is something we need school and instruction for.” ~ Paul A. Kirschner

So, teaching practice in online, digitally enabled spaces needs to be taught and requires its own kind of teaching practice. This is not just about instructional design, but there is instructional design involved. It’s not just working out the pedagogy of teaching with technology, but that’s in there too. It’s going to require a shift in Faculties of Education, in teaching accreditation programs, and in teachers’ perceptions of what ‘teaching practice’ is all about. This extends into the research on TPACK as framed in this graphic:

“Reproduced by permission of the publisher, © 2012 by tpack.org”

There’s a ‘sweet spot’ in the centre of these elements! That’s where the magic of learning happens, and the magic of teaching practices shine!

For my teaching practice, it circles back to writings by Parker J. Palmer. My teaching practice is a reflection of everything I am and do as a teacher, since it mirrors my persona and identity, both physical and digital. As Palmer (2017) states, when I come face to face, either physically or virtually, with my students, I have command over one thing, “my identity, my selfhood, my sense of this “I” who teaches—without which I have no sense of the “Thou” who learns … good teaching cannot be reduced to technique; good teaching comes from the identity and integrity of the teacher” (p. 4). This is as true in open, digital, online, and virtual spaces as it is in a physical classroom context. This teaching practice is a complex and negotiated ‘thing’.

In my experience, this practice is just that – practicing! Not perfect, not perfection, not even planned in many cases. My teaching practice consists of a multitude of micro decisions and major experiments in teaching, never getting it quite right, but learning more about what to do or not do the next time. As any Olympic athlete can attest, it’s through the practicing that the perfect can emerge.

It’s a process from catalyst to ideas, actions into reflections. That’s part of my teaching practice.

The sum total of my internal ethos, my acts of hospitality, my ways of knowing, my ways of being “teacher”, as demonstrated in how I negotiate into educational spaces, with students, using digitally enabled teaching activities, whenever and wherever appropriate, presenting learning opportunities, exploring and collaborating on assessments, all while maintaining a relationship with my students in all their humanity – this is my teaching practice.

I’ll end with this thought – in the midst of troubling times for teachers. This describes my teaching practice and my dependence on others, including my students, to help me ‘become‘ a practicing teacher.

“Humanity is a quality we owe to each other. We create each other and need to sustain this otherness creation. And if we belong to each other, we participate in our creations: we are because you are, and since you are, definitely I am. The ‘I am’ is not a rigid subject, but a dynamic self-constitution dependent on this otherness creation of relation and distance.” (Eze, 2010, p. 190-191)

I Teach Who I Am

References:

Eze, Michael Onyebuchi (2010). Intellectual history in contemporary South Africa. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-230-62299-9. pp. 190–191.

Ihde, D., & Malafouris, L. (2019). Homo faber revisited: Postphenomenology and material engagement theory. Philosophy & Technology, 32(2), 195–214. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13347-018-0321-7

Kirschner, P., Sweller, J., Kirschner, F., & Zambrano, J. (2018). From cognitive load theory to collaborative cognitive load theory. International Journal of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning13(2), 213–232. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11412-018-9277-y

Ontario College of Teachers. (2020). Standards of practice. Retrieved April 15, 2020, from https://www.oct.ca/public/professional-standards/standards-of-practice

Palmer, P. (2017). The courage to teach: Exploring the inner landscape of a teacher’s life. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons Inc.

Paskevicius, M., & Irvine, V. (2019). Open Education and Learning Design: Open Pedagogy in Praxis. Journal of Interactive Media in Education2019(1), 10. https://doi.org/10.5334/jime.512

Rosenshine, B. (2010). Principles of instruction. UNESCO International Academy of Education. http://www.ibe.unesco.org/fileadmin/user_upload/Publications/Educational_Practices/EdPractices_21.pdf

Skogstad, I. (n.d.). ”Constructivist pedagogy is like a zombie that refuses to die”: An interview with Paul A. Kirschner. Retrieved April 16, 2020, from http://isakskogstad.se/constructivist-pedagogy-is-like-a-zombie-that-refuses-to-die/ 

Image attribution: Photo by Adi Goldstein on Unsplash

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An Ethos of Care (#OER20 Conference Presentation)

Caring is a sustained emotional investment in an individual’s well-being, characterized by a desire to take actions that will benefit that person.” Weiner & Auster (2007)

This is our open, online presentation for the OER20 Conference that was scheduled for April 1-2 in London, England. As a result of current global crises in managing the COVID-19 pandemic, the conference has gone fully online with both in-time sessions and pre-recordings of presentations. While this session is not how we envisioned our conference sharing, this story is one we feel strongly about sharing. Here we share our actions in caring through our cross-cultural mentoring experiences as a result of the Open Education for a Better World project promoted by UNESCO.

Here is our session presentation.

Please connect with us. We can be found on Twitter @hj_dewaard and @rekha_chavhan. Reach out to us on Twitter if you’re interesting in hearing more about this mentoring experience or about this presentation.

If you would like to know more about the OE4BW project, take a look at their website information at http://oe4bw.ijs.si/

The graphic image created for this presentation is a summary of research from several of the references listed below.

An ethos of care in mentoring, created by HJ.DeWaard, CC-BY

References

Daniel, A., Franco, S., Schroeder, N. L., & Cenkci, A. T. (2019). Cross-cultural academic mentoring dyads: A case study. Mentoring & Tutoring: Partnership in Learning27(2), 164–189. https://doi.org/10.1080/13611267.2019.1611286

Geber, H., & Keane, M. (2017). Ubuntu and transformational mentoring in South Africa: 7 principles of a culturally integrated mentoring response. In D. A. Clutterbuck (Ed.), The Sage Handbook of Mentoring (p. Chapter 31). Sage.  https://www.researchgate.net/publication/315045829_Ubuntu_and_Transformational_Mentoring_in_South_Africa_7_Principles_of_a_Culturally_Integrated_Mentoring_Response

Johnson, W. B. (2017). Ethical considerations for mentors: Toward a mentoring code of ethics. In The SAGE Handbook of Mentoring (pp. 105–118). 55 City Road: SAGE Publications Ltd. https://doi.org/10.4135/9781526402011

Loureiro-Koechlin, C., & Allan, B. (2010). Time, space and structure in an e-learning and e-mentoring project: EMPATHY Net-Works. British Journal of Educational Technology41(5), 721–735. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8535.2009.00975.x

Noddings, N. (1988). An ethic of caring and its implications for instructional arrangements. American Journal of Education96(2), 215–230.  www.jstor.org/stable/1085252

Sanyal, C. (2017). The effective mentor, mentee and mentoring relationship. In The SAGE Handbook of Mentoring(pp. 143–155). 55 City Road: SAGE Publications Ltd. https://doi.org/10.4135/9781526402011

Weiner, S. J., & Auster, S. (2007). From empathy to caring: Defining the ideal approach to a healing relationship. Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine80(3), 123–130.

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Care in Community

“Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For indeed, that’s all who ever have”

Margaret Mead

The FemEdTech group of caring people is such a group. This group has no formal membership. Those in the group don’t hold formal meetings or organize rallies. The group has a quasi, semi, partially structured framework. Membership is self initiated and actions are self directed. Members from around the globe participate in this group of caring people. The #FemEdTech quilt project is proof of the group’s existence and it’s reach into a digital and personal ethos of care.

In preparation and in conjunction with the OER20 Conference in London, England, a plan was crafted by FemEdTech organizers to visualize the conference theme “The Care in Openness” and evidence this notion of care. This became an open invitation and a call to participate in a global quilt project. Participation was described in many ways, not the least being the creation of a quilt square. The project is guided by Sarah Lambert’s (2017) three principles of social justice in open education (referenced below) – redistributive justice, recognitive justice, and representational justice. The project has three parts – preparing and assembling the people and quilt as a link to social justice and open education contexts; creating a physical and digital archive of elements relating to the theme of care; and, the sharing and completion of the artefact at the OER20 conference in both material and digital form.

It was the community and call that caught my attention. The invitation came at the same time as I was writing a proposal for a presentation at OER20 and immediately sparked my imagination. Visions of quilts created and crafted by Canadian women, including my sisters, came to mind. While I have never contributed to the physical production of a quilt, I have participated by sharing fabric swatches from past sewing projects. I described my vision in the intention to submit:

“I have a quilt at home that is made up of all the bits of fabric that my three sisters and I had used for many of our childhood sewing projects. When I look at this quilt I am able to re-visualize each of the finished products that were made from that swatch of fabric, bringing back memories of a rich collage of failed attempts or favourite outfits we four had stitched together with our own hands. My square will be just that – a re-presentation of some of my ed tech failed attempts and favourite ‘outfits’, captured in the colours, shapes, and words embroidered into the fabric.”

As with all visions, they bump into reality and end up looking different. Without my sewing machine at hand, without a handy supply of fabric or tools, and with the parameters of a 6 X 6 inch square in which to craft something meaningful, I was bereft of ever getting the promised square completed. But an after-season sale at a local fabric shop renewed by mission and re-ignited my vision. I gathered a modicum of materials together and shared my promise with the #FemEdTechQuilt community in a tweet.

Then the story emerged. It became a layering of blues and greens representational of the open spaces of the Canadian landscape. Open landscapes look different under a vast blue sky.

I envisioned long walks through tall grass, hikes along forest trails, the open fields of my childhood, dappled evergreen woods covered in layers of snow and ice, the blue of summer lakes, and undulations of waves lapping the shore. Adding a few beads and buttons represent the magic of first snows and snow covered hills. No tech in sight!

My crafting of this vision of landscape calls forth an ethos of care that exists in Canadian landscapes where people come together to help each other when land and weather often dictate rules of engagement. Not just a “come from away” story. It’s a neighbourly thing, and ethos of care, built into the psyche of those who live within open landscapes.

Now to add the tech element! My vision of blues called forth the logo from Virtually Connecting – itself a modified representation of a painting created by my mother where I see heads turned toward each other in relationship and conversation. Virtually Connecting is such a place where relationships and conversations exist in an ethos of care – with intentionally equitable hospitality (Bali et al., 2019). The logo recreation on my quilt square is left without the lettering, not because it isn’t important, but because I wanted the focus to be on the faces, as representative of the people in conversation, not the text that binds many ideas or people together.

Finally, to add the contrasting colour – a few red buttons in the shape of hearts. I decided to gather the buttons strategically around the logo as representative of the limitation of 10 people in a Google Hangout, that is no longer a constraint. The heart shaped buttons are representative of the ethos of care held in these Virtually Connecting spaces, despite the barriers and boundaries imposed by the technology, and where conversations and laughter often flourish beyond the screen. This VC logo and heart shaped button combination is centrally placed on the quilt square, overtop the background of yellow – visions of sunrises and sunsets – and black.

And so, my square is finished. It’s carefully packaged and about to be sent. I won’t reveal the finished square just yet. I’ll share this when I see it again, in the midst of all the other squares crafted and created by others in the FemEdTech community, coming from all parts of the globe. This will happen when I attend the OER20 conference in London England in early April. I am humbled by the stories and amazed by the voices sharing openly about their #FemEdTechQuilt experiences as this Quilt of Care and Justice is created.

References

Bali, M., Caines, A., Hogue, R. J., DeWaard, H., & Friedrich, C. (2019). Intentionally equitable hospitality in hybrid video dialogue: The context of Virtually Connected. eLearning Magazine. Retrieved from https://elearnmag.acm.org/archive.cfm?aid=3331173

Lambert, S. R. (2018). Changing our (Dis)Course: A Distinctive Social Justice Aligned Definition of Open Education. Journal of Learning for Development, 5(3), 225–244. Retrieved from https://jl4d.org/index.php/ejl4d/article/view/290

Image Attribution: Photo by Iñaki del Olmo on Unsplash

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Thinking about Feedback

“What leads you on
Wakes you in the night
What calls your name
When no one else can hear?
What follows you
That even you cannot see…
 
Follow that star.
 
There is no one’s life but your own.
Seize every fiber
Every feather and force
That weaves through all
Surrounding you.
A light, a guide.
A way”

Borhani, M.T., (2017). Living with Words: This “Vale of Soul-Making”. Sameshima, P., Fidyk, A., & James, K. (2017). Poetic Inquiry: Enchantment of Place. (pp 100 – 107). Delaware, USA: Vernon Press 

What leads me on? What wakes me in the night?

How do I seize the feedback I’ve been given and let it guide my way deeper into thinking about feedback – as a giver and receiver of feedback.

It’s one thing to ask for feedback, and another to take that feedback and reflect on it. Reflecting doesn’t mean just reading through it and perhaps considering it worthy of further action. It’s not about listening to the comments made by others after they’ve examined my work, my teaching, my writing. It’s taking it all in – the good, the interesting (because it’s all interesting in some way), and the not so useful (even though it usefully tells you that you’ve missed the mark in terms of explaining yourself with clarity). It’s more than reacting with an ‘ah yes‘ or a ‘wonder why‘ when I look upon the comments made. It’s really thinking deeply and then acting on the suggestions in one way or another. 

I was gifted with feedback, from my classmates in the Research Colloquium course I’m taking, on my draft proposal for grant funding, and from critical friends in digital spaces. When I suggested an open forum using Hypothes.is, I never imagined the deep, rich and responsive feedback I would receive. I am thankful to those who took time to read and respond.

I am also reflecting on feedback I give to others – on conference proposals I’ve been reviewing, on book chapter submissions I’ve offered to edit, on comments I add to blog posts, and feedback I give to my students. What do I expect will happen when I provide feedback to others? This graphic about feedback that I created a while back focuses on the giver of the feedback, but fails to look at the expected action or reactions to feedback.

concept map of feedback
Mapping the Concept of Feedback

What do you do with feedback you’ve been given? How does it shape your ‘NEXT’? Do you attend to every element of feedback, or focus on one or two pieces of feedback that are meaningful? Just wondering out loud! Add a comment to leave me some feedback!

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Gone Away but Not Gone Forever

The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.

Winston Churchill

I’ve been gone from this blogging space for a while. As I look back over this past year’s posts, I notice a uniquely empty space, with few thoughts or reflections. I may have been gone from this space, with it’s focus on teaching, learning, and conversations, but I have not stopped sharing my thoughts – just shifted them to a new space. I have seized a new opportunity to extend my own learning, since I’ve begun a PhD journey. I’ve created a space to capture my learning journey on a new blog site, unconnected from this space. Till now.

For those who wish to learn along with me, you can find me going Step By Step.

For those who will wait for me here, I’ll come back on occasion to post thoughts about topics that more generally shift my thinking about teaching and learning here. I’ll try to come back more often to build stronger connections and bridge between these two unique spaces more often. In the meantime….

Image Attributions

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Photo by Josh Couch on Unsplash

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The End of a Conversation

“I think the best thing to take from the experience of losing someone close to us is to begin a life worth living right now. Not putting off for the future right action and virtuous living, but practising them immediately.”

Doug Belshaw [Death]

I’m coming to grips with the idea that conversations can and should have a natural ending. I wrote about the many conversational spaces and places I’ve been inhabiting, with one of my favourite spots being the TIDE podcast with Doug Belshaw and Dai Barnes. So it was with shock that I heard of Dai’s sudden death. I jealously railed against the empty echoes where conversations would no longer happen. It’s funny to think that someone you’ve never met can impact and leave a lasting impression, just with strings of words, a tone of voice, or a laugh.

I’ve dipped in and out out the tributes about Dai’s life. It’s unusual to think how these conversations about someone I’ve never met, are resonating within my own life. Doug Belshaw’s reflection leaves me with his ‘call to action’ ringing in my mind. It is just this reason that has prompted some shifts in my own life, making decisions about the ‘right action and virtuous living”. So Dai’s death is particularly poignant at this moment as my life transitions.

This is a reminder for all of us, that there are so many more conversations to be had, here, there and everywhere. There is no end to the deeper discourse that can be found in so many places, so many ‘others’ to engage in dialogue. While I have never met Dai, I feel like I knew him, by listening in on conversations in the TIDE podcasts he and Doug Belshaw created. Conversations, even one’s we don’t actively engage in, can leave a lasting legacy.

I’ve captured a few memories, conversations from others, as my way of curating voices for/about someone who’s voice has made a lasting impression on many.

Here’s to you Dai Barnes and the many memories of barefoot conversations!

Photo attribution: Photo by Jordan Whitt on Unsplash

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Elevating Conversations

“Conversation should touch everything, but should concentrate itself on nothing.”

Oscar Wilde

I’ve had many conversations over the past several months. Nothing that concentrates on anything in particular. Nothing that stands out as revelational. In the grand scheme, it’s talking, together, to touch on everything or anything that moves my thinking and learning forward.

Understandably, conversations evolve, iterate, erupt and dissipate in unexpected ways. When my best intentions are to dive deeply into a conversation and build my understanding, these positive plans get derailed by serendipitous, everyday events. The results are gaps in my memory of how conversations start, how I engage in these conversations, or even how they conclude. Just what did I talk about on April 8th? Where was I when conversations on May 15th happened? Sometimes it takes a full stop, retrospective analysis and an honest review of your conversational timeline to get a handle on things. This is my effort to track back in order to elevate some conversations. I’ll need to remember to write so I can reflect after conversations happen, as a way to better elevate those conversations and fill in the missing memories of times I’ve talked about topics of importance.

As I prepare for upcoming conversations at conferences, organized and arranged by Virtually Connecting colleagues and co-conspirators, I’m humbled to listen to and elevate voices – not just the vocalizations, but crafty writing too, since text can echo of voice and thinking. These conversations don’t always include my voice, but my internal dialogue about these external conversations become connected threads ‘between‘ my voice and that of others. Here are some of the spaces and places where I’ll attempt to elevate conversations through Virtually Connecting:

Podcast productions are ways to elevate conversations. When I can listen to these curated conversations, I learn. I’ve become a fan of many podcast collections in the previous months since driving long distances has impacted my everyday life. There are so many conversations found on the VoiceEd.ca podcast collection that it’s hard to hear them all. Here are my current favourites:

A few other podcasts that continue to expand my thinking and entertain my brain:

Of course there are many, many other podcasts to elevate conversations – some suggestions from Bryan Alexander have caught my eye e.g. Some Podcasts I’m Listening to in 2018. There are conversations to elevate, even if it’s your own internal dialogue, or external voiced revelations. These need to be remembered and reflected as ways to elevate you’re thinking.

What’s your favourite conversation that need elevating – post a comment to let others know.

Image attribution: Photo by Tom Hill on Unsplash

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Hospitality – my #OneWordONT

Here, for the fifth year, I’ll post my one word for the #OneWordONT activity. Thanks to the dedication of Julie Balen, I’ve taken time each year to reflect and select one word to focus and shape my teaching and learning practice for the coming year. These words are not selected lightly. The word only comes after reflecting carefully and searching eagerly for other words that might fit for me.

In the past I’ve chosen words like HEART, COLOUR, ALLYSHIP, and FRAMES. Each one helped focus my thinking and my work as an educator and teacher. Each one shapes my work as a learner and student. Each word has power to shift my thoughts and actions for a year, so I chose with care.

Based on work I’ve been doing recently, I’m refocusing on communities and relationships in digital spaces. This stems from conversations originating from the Mozilla Open Leaders project. It leads out from collaborative writing I’ve completed with the co-directors of Virtually Connecting. It connects to reading I’m doing about literacy, transculturalism, and cosmopolitan perspectives.

So, this year’s word is HOSPITALITY. I’ve written about hospitality many times before:

Since it’s been percolating through my thinking for both my teaching and learning, its time to take time to deconstruct and decipher this one word. I’ve got a year to work on it, examine it, write about it, and play around with it. I’ll start with some playing first – a #OneWord word cloud, to get me started.

Hospitality. The interactive image can be found on this Word Art creation.word art 30

What’s your ONE WORD? How will you shape your year with a one word focus?

Are you looking for inspiration and other #OneWordONT contributions? You can find them using the hashtag on Twitter.

 

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