Extending into the Open #oextend

Getting started with Ontario Extend is one way to extend my thinking and extend my engagement into digital spaces that are new and interesting. Contributions to the Daily Extend, into the collection of resources in the Activity Bank and capturing the blog sites of others in the community using Domain of One’s Own will be the passion to drive extensions of my learning. At the end of this morning’s workshop, I’m exiting with new connections, new interests and opportunities to add purpose to my passions. I’m excited that this will energize my blogging. I’m extending my blog into the Ontario Extend ecosphere and hoping to learn from the work of others in this space over the next few months.

manuel-meurisse-350263-unsplashAs an exit ticket, I’m paying attention to the prompt: “Use words and pictures that paint the picture of the future of a world with you in it” and sharing an OPEN INVITATION to sit down, have a chat and share your thoughts as we start extending our steps into the OPEN together.

Check other Extend activities using  @OntarioExtend on Twitter and the activity bank link found here: Exit Through the Workshop – Ontario Extend Activity Bank

Follow other Ontario Extenders on this Twitter list.

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Uncommonly Ordinary

This notion of being ordinary continues to pervade my thinking and catch my attention.

I’ve just watched uncommonly gifted athletes compete in the Winter Olympics, my jaw dropping each time there’s a flip, throw, toss, spin, slide or crash. It’s incredible to think that ordinary people are doing these extraordinary things. Anyone who participates and competes at that level of sport is uncommonly gifted – even those who were selected to drive the Zamboni to clean the ice at the Olympics.  For those who did not achieve their dream of acquiring a medal, I commend you for being there and putting your uncommon talents and gifts on the line for family, friends and country. That is no ordinary feat!

Thanks to Donna Miller Fry for nudging these ideas further with her post As It Is, Not As We Wish It To Be. Here she talks about the Olympic experience for those who didn’t achieve their life’s mission of winning a medal and about failed dreams. How we message this for our children can be a valuable way to “make the ordinary come alive and let the extraordinary take care of itself”.

So how does this connect to my teaching?

It’s here in this blog post by Chris Kennedy – They’ll Keep Coming, Until They Don’t. He starts with the challenges of student recruitment but shifts to the bigger issue of staff recruitment – educators, support staff, and leaders. Finding and keeping talented staff engaged in the work of teaching and learning is like finding those Olympic athletes who’ll put their heart and souls on the line. How will systems shift, as all systems must, to accommodate the elusive Olympic athletes of the educational world? These extraordinary teachers make the ordinary come alive and are rarely recognized for allowing the extraordinary to take care of itself. But, they’re being identified, as the Olympic athletes within the educational field and are finding recognition in other places. How can their extraordinary talents be sustained and celebrated, within educational systems, when the market world of educational business is scooping them up and hiring them for more money than school systems can afford?

How do ordinary educators stand out as extraordinary and find their place, sustain their efforts and make a difference to students? With a world wide focus on school improvement, student success, engagement, well being, and global competencies, this is not an easy ask for ordinary educators. This is an extraordinarily complex task, not solvable by individuals in isolation. It’ll take a network of support. It’ll keep the educator as the focus for the endeavour.


A focused network of support

When being interviewed after their event, it wasn’t unusual to hear the medal winning athletes talking about their team, their fellow athletes, their equipment managers, and their family and friends as being their support system for the work they do as Olympians. Having this wrap-around system of support is an essential factor in bringing their extraordinary talents to fruition, whether there’s a medal in the end or not. This system of support is also essential, as Chris Kennedy points out, for ordinarily talented educators, support staff and school leaders. Sustaining and maintaining quality people in schools and classrooms should be as important, if not more critical, than finding, recruiting and supporting our Olympic athletes. Let’s make sure supports for these ordinary ‘amateurs’ are considered or they’ll be enticed to ‘turn pro’.

Creating and building a quality and qualified team around our ordinary educators is an essential way to ensure their success in the extraordinary work being done in classrooms. In today’s educational contexts, it’s supported through a network of engagement, not found only in the physical space in which the teaching happens. It reaches beyond the geographic confines of city, country or systems. It’ll take ordinary educators to create ordinary networks to support ordinary educators – in that, the extraordinary will take care of itself.

Have you found networks to support educators in the classroom?

Here are some of mine:

These networks bring ordinary educators into ordinary conversations, sharing ordinary events, building ordinary connections with some extraordinary results being created.

Share your networks!

Let other educators know their ordinary efforts are making a difference! Let’s recognize that those “who win, inspire others with messages about working hard and achieving your dreams” (Donna Miller Fry), but let’s also make sure the ‘failed dreams’ become visible for others to see. There are extraordinary lessons in supporting teaching and learning found in these ordinary networks.

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Fellowship in the OPEN

The journey has now begun, the fellowship has been formed. As intrepid travellers, we each come from different spaces and places – in both our physical and digital realms! We carry our own packs full of tools and tricks as we journey together, into the OPEN. We’ll  apply our talents and insights to strengthen our bonds as a fellowship. We’ll share our fears as we face the journey together. Our individual presence is essential for the success of the fellowship and the quest will move us further into the open spaces in Ontario higher education.

We will not journey alone. There are many who will support and provide guidance along the way. Just as the Fellowship of the Ring, from J.R.R. Tolkien fame, set out on their quest to destroy the ring and save Middle Earth, so too will we face our own ‘demons’ of doubt and despair. Our journey into the open will not be without it’s own set of challenges and tribulations – maybe not on the same scale as Frodo faced as he carried the ring – but they may feel as daunting. There will be times we’ll need to travel alone!  There will be times our Fellowship will join forces to celebrate our journey.

What is this fellowship? It’s the #OERFellows for @eCampusOntario. It’s a small group of advocates in higher education spaces in Ontario who are passionate about shifting higher education into the open. Within minutes of coming together, as we did at the eCampus Ontario offices this weekend, we’ve bonded in our common interests and passions about teaching, learning and student success. We’ve shifted our own thinking about what it means to be an ‘OERFellow’ and how to engage with others in opening conversations about open education – resources (OER), practices (OEP), and movements (OEM).

Individually, we are one voice. Together we’ll share our voices in chorus. We shaped our song and shared some laughter. We left with a feeling we’re not alone anymore. We’re connected in our passions, in our future endeavours as an OERFellow, and in our journey as gallant leaders in OER, OEP and OEM in Ontario higher education spaces. We’ve got two new hashtags to connect our conversations as we echo across the province – #GlisteningLearningFish and #OEOFellows (Open Education Ontario Fellows). We’ve got a supportive team at eCampus Ontario to provide guidance along the way. We’ll have the #OEORangers to draw strength from, since there are many others on similar paths.

So how did I get to be part of the fellowship of this OPEN Ring? (#OEOring – Open Education Ontario Ring of people). The application was a series of ‘quests’ (letter of intention, CV, letter of reference, social media writing sample, video) where my commitment to open education was ‘tested’. Here’s one part of the application process – a video about WHY I wanted to be part of the fellowship. This will introduce me to my fellow OEOFellows and others interested in seeing what this fellowship is all about.

If you’d like to get to know others in the fellowship – take a listen to these Getting Air podcasts recorded in conversation with Terry Greene from eCampus Ontario on VoiceEd.ca.

Now that we’ve become a fellowship, the work and journey can truly begin! Here’s a sample of how this journey started – in tweets and images! Since it started and ended with snow falling, the snow globe theme seemed appropriate.

For my fellow #OEOFellows and those who will join us on this journey – the greatest adventures lie ahead!

Let’s make this an epic trilogy where amazing memories happen! This story is open – we’re sharing as we travel. If you want to follow this journey – join the conversations at #OEOFellows and #GlisteningLearningFish. Follow where the story will be shared:


Supported by 

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Create, Connect & Share Respect on #SaferInternetDay

Today is Safer Internet Day!SID2018_date_and_year

It’s one day that can spark a year long pursuit to create, connect and share in safe and respectful ways.

Today’s that day! It’s Safer Internet Day!

This year’s theme, “Create, connect and share respect: A better internet starts with you”, is a call to action. Everyone has a part to play in creating a better internet for everyone. We should do this for those youngest users in our homes, schools and media making spaces. Safer Internet Day brings everyone together to talk and engage in a respectful way in order to ensure a better digital experience. The aim of Safer Internet Day is to raise awareness of emerging online issues and highlight  topics that reflect current concerns. The global site for Safer Internet Day provides resources and links to open the conversations about creating, connecting and sharing respectfully on the internet.

In Canada, the Centre for Child Protection promotes Safer Internet Day with a focus on educating parents about the biggest risks kids face online and how they can help keep their kids safe. On their website are resources to support this initiative.

Not sure what kids are doing online? ProtectKidsOnline.ca provides a reference tool to look at what ages 5-7, 8-10, 11-12 and 13-15 are doing online, what the risks are, and how to talk to children about the creating, connecting and sharing respectfully on the internet.

Online-safety_mooc_badges22For teachers, at the primary and secondary level, as well as administrators, there’s another way to build your skills and become informed. This is important since teachers should be able to provide their students with all the necessary tools to face the online world in an empowered and responsible manner. As students create, collaborate, share and connect in online spaces, there are ways for teachers to ensure this is done in a safe and respectful manner. Being an informed educator is the first step to managing this ongoing conversation. The new and updated edition of the Online Safety MOOC will help teachers gain a better understanding of the risks and challenges children face when they go online. The Online Safety course shares strategies for supporting young people to develop safe and responsible online and offline behaviours. A wide range of resources that teachers can use in the classroom will be provided, This can be one way to build a better internet. Completing this course will ‘show you know’ what it takes to teach children about internet safety – the badges will represent your skills.

So send a tweet today, share a post and spread the word! Take a moment to learn more about Safer Internet Day with this infographic. Start today, begin and share. Be part of a global wave of support for creating, connecting and sharing respect on Safer Internet Day!

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Finding Joy in the Ordinary

I admit I’m pretty ordinary. I’m not a shining star or a front page person, and I’m okay with my ordinariness. I certainly want to feel extraordinary on occasion. Being in the spotlight once in a while helps me feel special. Recent recognition of my teaching efforts in two VoiceEd Radio podcasts (Getting Air with Terry Greene & Que Sera Sarah? with Sarah Lalonde) bumped up my feelings of being unique. Being interviewed by Doug Peterson was a confidence boost. Participating as one of the OER Fellows through eCampus Ontario makes me feel extraordinarily special. While I travelled through Northern Vietnam, I was the extraordinary ‘other’ in a sea of extraordinary events and vistas which were ordinary to those who live there.

But, aren’t we all extraordinary in some way? Aren’t our ordinary events unusual and novel to others?

I’m reading a book. For me, that’s an ordinary thing to do. For many people in the world it’s unusual to own a book, have access to books, or be able to decode and understand the text. It would be extraordinary to read a book that you own.

I write and create stuff on my computer. For me, it’s an ordinary thing to do. For many people in the world, who can’t access technology or spend the time in their day to be creative with text and image, what I do would be appear to be extraordinary.

I drive my car to work. That’s certainly an ordinary thing, isn’t it? Not when there are so many who only dream of owning a vehicle, let alone have permission, skill or license to drive. It’s an extraordinary event for many in this world.

I teach at a university. For me, that feels ordinary, but for many it would be unimaginable to attend or be part of a university community. It’s a very uncommon event, in many parts of the world, to participate in higher education.

REFRAME the ordinaryI’m REFRAMING the ordinary.

My ordinary can be extraordinary. Your extraordinary can become ordinary.

As I go through my day, do I find joy in common events? Do I see anything exceptional in the many tasks I complete?

In a world focusing on the perfection of self and the enhancement of the mind, how can we, as ordinary humanity, find joy within the mundane? With global competition battling for market share and viral fame, while acquiring likes and stars on social media, how can ordinary find a space for joy?

In education, we’re focusing on being the best we can be, maximizing student engagement, designing perfect lessons for our exemplary classrooms and immediately celebrating student success. With pressure to constantly be extraordinary, we’re losing the joy to be found in the ordinary. There are so many ordinary moments in a school day that are missed in our ongoing mania to ‘bump it up’ to make it special. This impacts our mental health, our relationship with the students and their parents, and our confidence in the ‘ordinary acts’ in our extraordinary work of teaching.

Finding joy in the ordinary isn’t easy, but it’s necessary. It’s a false narrative to imagine our every moment will be extraordinary. It’s a negative mindset to think that every action will be innovative and lead to profound insights. Let’s REFRAME the view on ordinary.

In a recent ONedMentors podcast, Stephen Hurley relates that we need the ordinary to recognize the extraordinary. The participants discussed how a culture of humility is grounded in the ordinary, and how listening can be a profoundly extraordinary action. With a reframe on the ordinary, a practice of expressing gratitude in everyday occurrences can bring joy. As I read The Book of Joy, the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu lament that “our world and our education remain focused exclusively on external, materialistic values. We are not concerned enough with our inner values” (pg 29). Increasing our happiness is connected to our “ability to reframe our situation more positively, our ability to experience gratitude, and our choice to be kind and generous” (pg 49).

So, I’ll ask this question, one that I was asked while struggling through a particularly challenging time in my life – Where do you find joy in your day?

How can ordinary be reframed positively?

Let’s reframe the ordinary. It’ll be an extraordinary thing to do!

Screen Shot 2018-01-28 at 8.17.35 AMListen to the ONedMentors podcast ‘In Praise of Ordinary’. Thanks VoiceEd.ca for this thought provoking reflection on the ordinary lives of educators.

For those of you who think you’re too ordinary to be extraordinary – this video may help you reframe your ideas.


References and Resources

Abrams, D. (author) with His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. (2016). The book of joy: Lasting happiness in a changing world. Penguin Random House Canada.

ONedMentors radio podcast with Stephen Hurley, Noa Daniels and a panel of educators. Retrieved from https://soundcloud.com/voiced-radio/onedmentors-in-praise-of-ordinary-january-25 

Image by Andrew Neal on Unsplash. Retrieved from https://unsplash.com/photos/QLqNalPe0RA 

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