As Easy as Riding A Bike

The saying “it’s as easy as riding a bike” really got me thinking!

What are the things I do in open digital spaces that just come naturally?  Now that I’ve done them so many times, worked through the issues and challenges of learning how to do them, what mindsets do I take for granted?  How do I figure out how to do things digitally? Why is being ‘open’ my default mode or why can I keep trying things out, digitally speaking – like riding a bike?

I may not always consider the difficulties others face when trying digital and technology tasks for the first time. For me, learning how to ride a bike didn’t happen until well into my teens. It wasn’t easy on an old hand-me-down bike since I lived on a road that, with a gravel base, was not great for stability. But once I mastered riding, I now enjoy biking since it comes easily to me. What essential bike riding habits and mindsets do I take for granted in my current, smoothly-paved-pathway environments?

These thoughts link to my teaching practices. Last night, in the final class for the semester, we watched this Backward Bike video.

I encouraged my students to talk about all the ‘backward bike moments’ they’ve faced during this course. It was intended to be a reflective activity for them, but it became more so for me. As an instructor of digital teaching and learning, I take for granted the skills and mindsets I bring to the learning. I’m working from a solid foundation of experience with digital technologies.

My ‘backward bike riding’ moments, when using digital technologies for teaching and learning, are not the same as my students. I’ve developed a set of skills to deal with ‘backward bikes’. I’m supported by a whole network of helping hands, ready to reach out when I’m wobbly or catch me when I fall. There are individuals in communities that encourage me, talk me back onto that bike and cheer when I get things going the right way. My students are getting on that bike, many for the first time and there are challenges and frustrations they face that I need to understand and find ways to support.

Teaching and learning in open digital spaces is full of ‘backward bike’ moments. It takes a persistent and dedicated effort to master that bike. Whether it takes you two weeks or eight months, you have to keep getting on that bike in order to get it to work. It’s not going to feel comfortable until the switch in thinking happens. Even then, it’s not going to be easy. Having a connected, collaborative, supportive and open network helps you get through the challenges of ‘riding’ that digital teaching and learning ‘backward bike’.

This brings me to why and how this backward bike thing really hit home for me. I’ll thank Donna Miller Fry for the provocation.

Some may read this, stop in their tracks and declare ‘that backward bike looks scary’. Others may be intrigued by the way these backward bike bits fit together and want to give it a try. For me, this flow through digital pathways is as easy as riding a bike. I instinctively know where the pedals are, how to turn the handle, when to brake (break), how to slow down for bumps, and how to pick myself up when I fall sideways. This was a fairly smooth ride through open digital terrain even though I’m still new to and I’ve never used before. Having others watch, learn, judge, critique or just enjoy seeing my open, digital ‘backward-bike’ experience is part of the joy of riding.

5-things-i-know-for-sure-copySo, back to the reflection my students are doing as part of their digital teaching and learning. I’ve asked them to write a final blog post about the Five Things they Know For Sure. I’ll use this same framework here. For any of my students who may be interested, here are the five things I know for sure. I’m using the experience of backward bike riding as a metaphor for teaching and learning in open digital spaces.

  1. You may not see much of a difference in what it does or how it works, but teaching and learning with open digital technologies CHANGES EVERYTHING. Just as the backward bike exposes ingrained and rigid ways of thinking, so too will working openly with digital technologies change your knowledge and understanding. Once your default mode is OPEN and DIGITAL, there’s no going back to the ‘old’ ways of doing things.
  2. You WILL fail and fall OFTEN. It’s part of the experience. You will need patience with yourself, with other backward bike riders, and with the bike (although you’ll be tempted to chuck it into the ditch on occasion)! Be persistent, keep getting on and keep trying. One day, it’ll feel natural and it won’t be so hard.
  3. You can’t do it alone, but you need to do it yourself. You’ll need helping hands to steady your wobbly moments. You’ll need supportive friends to pick you up when you fall off. But in the end, YOU need to ride that bike – your friends or colleagues can’t do it for you.
  4. Knowledge DOES NOT equal understanding. Proficiency and fluency does not mean you know how to apply digital technologies to teaching and learning. Once you master the bike, it’s a whole other thing to try teaching someone else to use their bike. You may be fluent using Twitter but linking it to your teaching and classroom collaborations may not logically follow. Your knowledge about digital tools and technologies will help, but understanding comes through application, experience and reflective practice in the classroom.
  5. Don’t avoid learning – it’s worth the frustrations. Once you do learn to ride that backward bike, there are choices and opportunities open to you! It’s worth the effort! Just like in Amsterdam, where bikes rule the roadways, digital technologies are everywhere in today’s teaching and learning landscapes. You may think you can do without and teach without having to learn how to use digital technologies. Some think it’s just another novelty, another new phase that will pass. But you’ll quickly realize that bike riding is the only way to get around. It doesn’t mean you need to ride all the time or even in the same direction others are going. Once you’ve learned how to use digital technologies in open learning spaces, there are choices and opportunities that weren’t there before. There are paths open to you that wouldn’t have been seen or experienced. There are people and places where your voice can be shared and heard. Don’t avoid that new digital technology – take a ride with it and share your experiences along the way.

In the end, it’s about trying.

Whether you find it easy or hard, with persistence and practice, you can rewire the pathways in your brain to work comfortably and confidently with open digital tools and resources. For my students, who may read this post, I’m hoping you enjoy the ride! It may not be as easy as riding a bike, but it is well worth the efforts!


Image credit – CC BY HJ.DeWaard using Canva, Morguefile image of bike

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A bit after BIT16 – reflections from a cave

The annual Educational Computing Organization of Ontario conference has just ended with echoes of many voices ringing and events resonating in my mind. There may be many blog posts that come from this ‘reflection-on-action’ since those who attended can certainly say it was impossible to reflect-in-action. So here are some top take-aways from my bit of BIT16. (As you read through, think about how these elements could transfer to your teaching practice.)

Bring a friend, meet a friend, make a friend.   The post conference conversations happening on Twitter (#BIT16) echo how important it is to have colleagues from your school, district or region with you, to share the BIT16 experience. Although I was on my own, there were so many familiar faces from local places that my alone-ness didn’t feel lonely.

img_0662The conference gave me a chance to meet many virtual friends in a face to face space. They remind me of the important role of conversation and listening in my teaching and learning – so happy to chat with Aviva DunsigerBrian AspinallSusan Kwiecien and more! Renewing digital connections at a BringIT conference is inevitable.

Making new friends from hallway conversations or session discussions will last beyond the conference and continue into digital spaces. Thanks Alanna Callan for the rich conversations and common connections we discovered. Thanks Cathy Beach for going deeper into the vision and actions with A Kids Guide to Canada. So BIT16 was a great place to bring a friend, meet a friend and make a friend.

screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-10-02-36-amRemember!   BringIT 2016 is and will continue to be a place to remember those who are gone, or could not attend, but are not forgotten. Since one of the days of this event was Remembrance Day, the conference organizers prepared an emotional tribute to honour and remember. The sound of the trumpet echoing through the conference halls brought tears to many more eyes than my own.

screen-shot-2016-11-12-at-4-18-11-pmReferences and tributes to the work of Seymour Papert was evident in many sessions and presentations. Remembering the impact of this foundational edu-tech thinker and builder was an important way to honour his voice.

With the recent news of the death of Canadian Leonard Cohen, many conversations included personal memories of songs and lyrics written by this poet and writer – a voice remembered.

Sending shout-outs to those who couldn’t attend using the #NotAtBIT hashtag was a way to engage others in virtual conversations. Tagging and tweeting was a way to stay connected to others who were missed but not forgotten (Donna Miller FrySylvia DuckworthLeigh Cassell and many more)!screen-shot-2016-11-12-at-4-48-32-pmscreen-shot-2016-11-12-at-4-44-53-pm

For me, it’s great to be able to remember the conference experience by returning to the Lanyrd site as well as the BringIT Together Facebook page. Both are rich repositories of resources, videos of sessions, links and connections. The keynote talks by Shelley Sanchez Terrell (@ShellTerrell) and Jesse Brown (@JesseBrown) were live streamed and archived on the Facebook site so I can remember those ‘aha’ moments.


Let Your Star Shine  There were over 300 speakers at BringIT 2016. That’s a lot of ideas and conversations about all kinds of interesting topics. It takes courage to stand in front of one or one thousand and share your light. Stars shone in every conference session, in the learning hall, innovation stations, the DemoSlam, Ignite talks, and the HyperJam. There were so many stars shining in so many ways. There were stars from previous conferences and those who were new to the stage. Every ONE was a light for someone else. Thanks to David and Norma Thornburg (@dthornburg), some of us left with a 3D printed star that lights up!

Find your place in the #BIT16 space!  There were so many sessions and events at this conference that it was a challenge to sort out and decide where to attend. I found myself returning to the Lanyrd site repeatedly, trying to find what fit my interests and needs, then changing my mind at the last moment.


With Norma & David Thornburg

I applied David Thornburg’s ideas of learning spaces (campfires, watering holes, caves, life) as I travelled through the conference events. I found sessions and moments that fit the description for each of these learning spaces – the watering hole was the social in the learning hall at the end of the day and in the BreakOutEDU play space; the campfires happened in most sessions where conversation around the topic expanded my learning; cave moments happened in silent reflection with a coffee or curled up in my hotel room. It was a great honour to meet David and Norma Thornburg and hear about their work with STEM projects ( – one bright campfire moment that is a highlight from the conference.

screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-11-52-59-amIt’s all about the ‘US-IES’!  When it comes to enjoying time together the motto of BringIT 16 and BIT16 was all about the ‘us’ – fewer selfies, more we-sies and us-ies. The roving frame that found it’s way into many conference spaces added to the feeling of friendship and inclusion. Photos together were encouraged and celebrated – especially at the BreakOut EDU event! Cameras were turned to capture groups, gatherings with others into the photo frame to share the moments of learning. The ‘us-ies’ became a way to connect and have fun (including a few photo-bombs)!screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-1-30-54-pm

Tinkquiry counts!  After BIT16 ends, it leaves a legacy for those who attended and those who could not. Individuals and groups will continue to think about, tinker with and inquire into the ideas and explorations from BringIT16. Thanks to Peter Skillen (@peterskillen) and Brenda Sherry’s (@brendasherry) play with words, the ‘tinkquiry’ will continue and it all counts for deeper learning. Part of this notion of ‘tinkquiry’ is deeper reflection on conference experiences such as this one by Doug Petersen – Observations from a conference and Aviva Dunsiger’s post – Breaking At #BIT16: My Self-Regulated Conference Experience.

Just a bit of my learning from #BIT16.

Where have you posted your campfire conversations, your watering hole learning or cave reflections. Link them here – leave a URL in the comments or share them through the @BringIT16 Facebook and Twitter sites.

Let the learning linger and the ‘tinkquiry’ continue.

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Radical Doubt and Digital Identity – “Dubito, ergo cogito, ergo sum”

I am! I exist! My digital self is me! Do I doubt about digital identity or about myself? Absolutely. What do I really know about my digital self?

As I reflect on digital identity and digital citizenship, I’m waxing philosophical. Descartes, as shared on Wikipedia, explored the deeper meaning of life. The phrase “I doubt, therefore I think, therefore I am” prompted this reflection, but Ken Bauer and iTec Semana i Course, 2016 was the catalyst. Descartes postulates that thinking and knowledge results from radical doubt. How does this apply to digital identity?

As I reflect about personal doubts and digital identity, I’m asking myself

  • Is digital persona uniquely different than physical, in-the-flesh identity?
  • How or where do we behave or share our ‘selves’ differently in digital spaces?
  • How do affinity spaces shape my digital presence?
  • Are digital identities a ‘transitional technology’ (Dave Cormier)?
  • Do we own our identity or do we rent or lease a presence in digital space?
  • Is our digital identity enriched as we give away parts of our selves, as we share with others?

meme-to-startI won’t pretend to have the answers to any of these questions. There are doubts in my thinking about digital identity. Some thoughts about digital identity are expressed here.

Personal identity is a transitional technology. Who I am in digital spaces and what I share changes over time. Iterations are inevitable. In digital spaces, I live in perpetual beta! I have littered digital space with bits of myself, my thinking and where I’ve shared digital creates. My identity is shared differently in specific communities, conversations or events. Iterations and permutations or my self exist as I think about what I’m doing, learning or making. John Seely Brown talks about play and tinkering as a way of knowing. Digital identity is a work in progress and I tinker on my presence as I make and remix. In shaping my digital identity I need to be aware of ‘tethered capitalism’ (Belshaw, 2016) and who owns my presence. I’ll carefully consider the costs (financial, reputational, effort) as I transition through digital spaces.

Digital identity is crafted through conversation. Sharp edges of opinions or rock solid thinking is smoothed and shaped through talking and listening to diverse and contrary voices. This happens in physical, face to face places and can be amplified in digital spaces. My identity has shifted as I participate with really smart people. When I listen to dissimilar voices, I accommodate new ideas into my mental schema. As I present or argue in social media, my identity is crafted or renovated. As I collaborate in digital spaces, I become a connector of ideas, people, and resources.

Media matters as digital identity is constructedMarshall McLuhan is known for the phrase ‘the medium is the message’. In terms of my digital identity, the media I chose to create and share will shape the message of myself. My digital voice, personal biases, interests, and distractions will be evident through my media messages. As I share in digital spaces, I need to consider the audience, production and text. Media matters in digital identity to honour and respect digital selves by producing and sharing material that is inclusive, accessible and empathic. For example, when making memes or movies, who’s voice is present or absent, disenfranchised or excluded. Are my audio recordings accessible to all or are hearing impaired persons excluded from my media message. Where and how do I share my intention, bias or explicitly identify the filters I’m using in my media texts? Media choices make my identity open and available if that is my choice.

Digital identity is enriched by being humanly present. I make choices in all social media spaces on what to share and how to share it. Being honest, personable and hospitable is part of my personality and this will come out in digital texts and media. While I’ve become more comfortable sharing my face in image or video, I can certainly understand when others are not. Beginning with a ‘third thing‘ in a blog post or tweet can build a human element to your digital presence. Digital identity does not need to share personal or private information but does need to be personable, relatable and contextual. Digital identity is enriched by sharing the physical, human side of your being. I’ve share my self using a ‘shoe selfie story‘ as a low barrier digital activity to sharing my self in digital space.

Digital identity does not happen in isolation. Yes, you can think it’s all about you, but it isn’t. Your digital identity is a relationship, certainly with your self, but ultimately, it’s in relationship with others. In digital spaces it’s often easier to find your affinity group. James Paul Gee talks about affinity spaces in terms of participatory presence in gaming communities, but it is applicable to all digital spaces where we build relationships. Choices in how and when I shift and move from periphery to central activator within an event, activity or community will redefine my relationship with others. Collaboration shifts my my position within affinity groups. My place in digital networks shapes my digital identity.   It’s important to find your affinity space and participate in some way. These will become your circles of influence, your trusted guides and your personal digital network.

Digital identity is yours to build and control. Digital identity doesn’t just happen – it takes time, effort and attention. Managing a digital identity is important. Starting and building identity doesn’t happen in the short term. Like any project manager knows, you have to have a plan, make selective decisions and manage the work over the long haul. Taking control is the first step. Curating your identity is part of the never-ending process. Uniformity can set your identity as unique in a world full of digital personae – see Amy Burvall’s website or blog as an example of how to select and consistently use design principles in a digital presence. I actively curate my digital makes, creates and productions in order to shape my presence in social media spaces. I monitor and act when issues or responses are required. Be willing to share your work through Creative Commons licensing to build a better internet.

So, back to the philosophy – when thinking about digital identity, doubt can be a catalyst for action. There isn’t any one person actively using the internet and digital media who doesn’t have doubt or faces fear when putting their ‘selves’ out there. Doubt can prompt and shape decisions as you build your identity online.

What are your doubts and how will you overcome them? Who will you become as you reflect on your doubts about digital identity?

“I doubt, therefore I think, therefore I am” – digitally me.


Belshaw, D. (2016, Sept 15). Digital Literacy, Identity and a Domain of One’s Own.

Gee, James Paul. (n.d.). Affinity spaces: From Age of Mythology to Today’s Schools.

Bauer, K. iTec – Digital Identity Course site

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It’s Not about Raising My Average

“We are each the average of the people we hang out with and the experiences we choose.”

Seth Godin, June 13, 2016. (Seth’s Blog)

When I really think about it, my average is, well …., it’s average. It’s not in the realm of Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield. I’m admittedly and certainly not astronaut material. Topics of conversation in my average day aren’t about rocket science or black holes. But I enjoy reading and experiencing stuff that challenges my thinking. I enjoy connecting to people who talk about difficult topics where I’ll mostly listen to learn. But raising my average isn’t why I do what I do. I’m not consciously choosing experiences that will improve my average. I’m not connecting to smart people to make myself appear smart. I risk and push myself into open spaces to raise my awareness, to learn something new. I step out of my comfort zone to show others it’s OK to risk when learning new things by reaching out and talking to smart people.

Seth Godin talks about the courage it takes to raise your average, as an individual or organization. It takes guts to seek out and engage with people who express ideas and sharing information that you know nothing about – it’ll show your averageness. It’s a risk! Agreed! To seek out and actively engage with smart people and challenging ideas is daunting, but in the end, it will make a difference. It’s not about raising my average, it’s about getting in the game! It starts by taking that first step! It starts by reaching out to others!

Over the past year, I’ve had to dig deep into my courage bank to talk to smart people about challenging topics. I keep reminding myself that this is my choice. I’m stepping out of my comfort zone! It’s a necessary risk to improve my practice as a teacher and learner.

  • When attending the  New Media Consortium Summer Conference, sharing experiences as a conference correspondent and talking to leaders in educational technology were risks with the inevitable outcome of raising my thinking. I raised my game by attending conference sessions, town hall meetings and participating in hallway chats.
  • Participating with Virtually Connecting, in conferences of interest, as a virtual or on-site buddy, I continue to push myself out of comfortable spaces to expand my thinking. Participating at NMC2016 as a Virtually Connecting onsite buddy, I engaged in rich conversations with Autumm Caines, A. Michael Berman, Bryan Alexander, Maya GeorgievaGardner Campbell, and Dr. Ruben Puentedura. Virtual buddies also share challenging ideas and creative thinking that improves my understanding.
  • With the Digital Pedagogy Lab in Prince Edward Island and Virginia, I stepped into virtually spaces with smart people that made my mind work really hard. I turned to video annotation to clarify my understanding. This resulted in a collaboration with Rebecca Hogue and Britni Brown O’Donnell (Transcription as Deep Listening) that raised awareness by going deeper into an exploration of listening in virtual spaces. That’s why I keep risking and stepping into the open. It’s a conscious decision to risk and work hard at engaging in deep thinking.
  • Collaborating and co-constructing in CLMOOC this past summer raised my creativity. Sharing time and space with participants kept me on my toes, virtually speaking. Humour, insights, honesty, support and understanding were shared in good measure and resulted in an  experience in unbounded creativity and media production.

As I begin a new academic year, joining together with students I’m just getting to know, I’ll continue to step out of my comfort zone and risk going deeper. I’ll support students as they step out of their comfort zones by learning something new in digital and media spaces, many who will be blogging for the first time.

Together we’ll deepen our thinking through rich conversations about difficult topics when teaching with media and digital literacies. Ideas and challenges will continue to spark new directions of thinking for us. Collectively, we’ll seek out and connect to smart people who will share ideas we’ve never thought of before.

It’s not about raising our average. Our understanding and awareness will raise up and go deeper when talking openly about topics that challenge our perceptions, biases and beliefs.

It’s not about raising your average. It’s about improving yourself and understanding your part in our collective humanity.

It’s not about raising my average. It’s about being the best I can be to make a difference for others. That’s the risk worth the reward.

How will you raise your understanding? Who will you reach out to? How will you do this? Where will you risk yourself to gain inspirational rewards?


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Conductive Threads: A #CLMOOC #DailyConnect


Conductive Threads

My conductive thread this week connected Virtually Connecting from the Digital Pedagogy Lab in Prince Edward Island to the CLMOOC community. I wasn’t the only one weaving these threads together. There were others weaving with me. It created a colourful intertwining of ideas and conversations about digital teaching and learning. Today, I’m formally anchoring these two groups together and linking through  my work in digital spaces over the past few days.

First CLMOOC – meet Virtually Connecting (@VConnecting). Their presence at DigPed PEI has brought me here to our shared space. I’d like you both to know what it means to be connected in relationships and deeply passionate conversations (with lots of laughter involved). Here’s one of many conversations we’ve had this week that will shift and shape your thinking about going digital with students and colleagues.

Screen Shot 2016-07-15 at 1.51.28 PM

Image created during CLMOOC Make With Me Hangout

Virtually Connecting – meet CLMOOC. I’m happy to connect you together because of the playful, fun, creative, amazingly diverse group of people that have come together, and will continue to share digital space and time together over the next four weeks, and into the coming year. There are many Virtual Connecting people who have and are participating in the @CLMOOC experience so I’m not the only one making this connection. #CLMOOC voices are sharing and making connections that will transform the way I teach and how I engage students in the digital spaces in which we tinker and play.

14442561574_49812a5fd3_mHappy to be a conductive thread today. Planting some seeds of connection. Go on. Get to know each other. Talk amongst yourselves. You have lots in common (you both talked about Pokemon Go this week)! I know you’ll continue to share and play nicely together.

Please comment if you weave together in some way – I’d love to see the threads that bind and bring us together.

Photo Credits

Threads: flickr photo by zimpenfish shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Seeds and threads: flickr photo by *Psyche Delia* shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC) license

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