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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@MozOpenLeaders – Building a Healthier Internet

djim-loic-94369-unsplashI didn’t think I was that important. I’m just one small part of one small space in one small corner of the world. I never realized the work I do was helping to build a healthier internet. Those ideals were too lofty for my thinking and action. But the Mozilla Open Leaders Project changed that perspective.

For the past 14 weeks I’ve been working on a Mozilla Open Leaders project in Round 6, with Cohort D. The project focused on supporting the Virtually Connecting community in the work we all voluntarily do, as a global grassroots group organizing to bring voices into conversations where and when barriers prevent participation and access. So in a small way, I was offering my gift of time and attention to build a better internet, in collaboration with others, specifically Wendy Taleo, Nate Angell, and Rebecca Hogue.

At the end of the project there are some insights to share.

First, everything you or I say and do on the internet is either one small step to make it better, or one small block to build barriers for others. It’s my responsibility to make sure I’m not putting blocks in places where they don’t need to be. I have a responsibility to look closely to where barriers should be removed. It’s my responsibility to be hospitable in my actions on the internet.

Second, there’s a code of conduct inherent in the work we should do on the internet. Every Moz meeting started with a review of the code of conduct. I respected the time and effort it took to make sure these were understood and followed. This can be extended into understandings about digital citizenship or civil discourse, but without some sort of ground rules that are understood and abided by, there can be no better internet. Our words, actions and treatment of others requires a sense of the humanity of others in these spaces or the whole thing will devolve into negative space and chaos. My kindnesses and hospitality, in small ways, can build a healthier internet, one word or digital piece of work at a time.

Third, there are people like me in every corner of every small space in every part of this world. The Mozilla Open Leaders, with mentors and open project leaders (divided into five cohorts), was truly an opportunity to get to meet some of those individuals who would otherwise toil in anonymity, without recognition, without encouragement or support. Individually we’d all continue to try to build a better internet but together we can support each other while we’re doing it. It was amazing to hear the voices of individuals about their work, some of this being done in places where basic human rights may not be recognized, but where these brave individuals are working, on their own, to build a better internet. All projects are described and project leads are identified in this open listing:

Each of these projects is worth a closer look. Each one is led by individual people working toward building a healthier, safer, more open internet through technical or cultural initiatives. The listing is truly global in scope. Use this listing to see what others are doing in their own small pockets of the world. It is an eye-opener and a way to join in – there are open invitations to collaborate with any one of these projects, since Moz Open Leaders is only the beginning for most of them.

So, now that the Mozilla Open Leaders project is completed, what’s next? The work we’ve accomplished for the Virtually Connecting community will continue, maybe not in such a concerted or structured way, but it will open conversations about the work we do as a community. Conversations about hospitality, reciprocity, roles, and processes are only starting.

There will be new connections to continue to nurture, in new spaces and places to continue to explore. One of these is GitHub. This was the first time I used this digital resource and there is so much more to learn. For many of these projects, I’ll only be an observer or catalyst, since the projects are well out of my comfort zone or areas of interest. For others there may opportunities to build stronger ties and connections.

I encourage you to take a peak at the projects yourself. They are posted and linked above. Each cohort presented their projects to each other in a final Zoom meeting that was held this past week and the links are posted above. I’m sharing a few of the ones that caught my attention:

For those looking for a way to help build a healthier internet, get involved in something meaningful, or just learn more about internet related tools and processes, this is a great way to engage. Most projects are asking and actively seeking supporters for the work they are doing. If you’ve got talent, time, energy, interest, or just want to learn along with others in some meaningful work, here’s your invitation. Jump in, introduce yourself since Twitter handles and GitHub links are included in the project information.

Why not do something from your small part of the world to build a better internet, share a positive message, and connect with others.

You’re not in this alone. You’re not just one small part of one small space in one small corner of the world. Get involved, get connected, get building a better internet!

Image Attribution:

Featured image: Photo by Elaine Casap on Unsplash

Apartment building image: https://unsplash.com/photos/Sq7WPOjHGDs

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In Consideration of Due Dates

We live with them all the time. We work around them. We anticipate them or get anxious over them. Our lives are filled with due dates.

Holidays are due dates. As we approach Christmas, I’m reflecting on the nature of this holiday as a hard and fast due date. Gifts need to be purchased, wrapped and ready for the date and time we’ll share with friends and family. Food, meals, travel, special gatherings are all planned, adding additional due dates to our schedules. An Advent calendar even helps count down to this due date. Even our own, self-selected annual holidays become a series of due dates with flights booked, bags packed, vehicles readied, or camping gear organized. Some of these major and minor due dates are more stressful than others, depending on how we anticipate the outcomes. How we survive the seasons depends on how we view these due dates.

Some due dates are self-imposed while many are imposed by rules, regulations, and legal considerations. Getting your income taxes done by a certain date or renewing your driver’s license are annual due dates we all work within. When you purchase a house or condo, the closing date becomes a due date over which you have little control, since it is often arbitrary. These due dates impose due dates to so many other people. Lawyers, agents, sellers, buyers, accountants, banks, and family members are all impacted by these due dates.

Life sometimes creates due dates for us. Often they are planned but sometimes these due dates happen without warning. Weddings are due dates that impact a lot of people over a sometimes lengthy period of time, with micro due dates leading up to the main event. This date then becomes an annual due date to be remembered or forgotten, with consequences for both. A retirement due date can be eagerly anticipated for years, yet when it arrives, it can add stress, until it has come and gone. Then life continues with a different set of due dates. The birth of a child is a due date, eagerly anticipated, as days lead up to this special event, and it then becomes an annual due date for birthday parties and milestone markers. Turning 15 in some cultures is worthy of its own due date, while turning 100 means extra special consideration. Maintaining our health sets up a sequence of due dates we shouldn’t avoid, while illness or death become due dates we can’t avoid.

bulletin-board-3233653_1920As a teacher and student, I’ve lived with due dates imposed by the nature of the work and the requirements of the system. The first day of school in September is a due date, as is the last day of school in June. Report cards are arbitrary due dates that add stress to everyone’s lives for a period of time. In higher education, due dates abound, outlined by systemic expectations, e.g. getting applications in by a certain date and time, or by course schedules e.g. assignments and exams. Again, how we react to the many due dates within a classroom or learning schedule, with the ebb and flow of getting things done, can impact our view of the work of teaching and learning.

We need these due dates. We don’t work well if we don’t have them. When we don’t have them, we delay or defer getting things done. If no-one imposes due dates, we often impose them on ourselves. Having a hard, cut-off point can be a trigger for action. Knowing we have to get something done, submitted, completed, signed, or delivered by a certain time and date gives us the momentum to accomplish tasks. While we often begrudge due dates, they are necessary. We use due dates to add tension to the task, often delaying or procrastinating until the pressure builds to a point of necessary action. Working within these pressure points can be healthy. Unfortunately, due dates frequently become stressors in our lives, when too many due dates collide. We all know Christmas is coming, yet we delay our planning and preparations until there is no more time to get it all done. We all know taxes need to get done, yet we procrastinate in getting the paperwork organized and the numbers calculated. Then unexpected additional due dates become a tipping point that drives us over the edge and into anxiety.

So today, I’m choosing to reframing due dates from an evil to be avoided, to a necessary and supportive friend that helps me get things done in a timely fashion. I’ve had a month filled with some pretty incredible due dates, with additional due dates yet to face before this year comes up to its inevitable due date on New Year’s Eve. I’m reframing these timelines and schedules into a necessary part of my life, something to be welcomed and worked toward.

Just remind me I said this when tax time rolls around in April!!!

How do you look at due dates? What due dates are you looking forward to? What due dates do you dread? What due dates do you self-impose just so you can get things done?

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Media Literacy Week 2018

the-climate-reality-project-349084-unsplashThe focus for Media Literacy Week is Fake News and Fact Checking

For more information about this week, you can find more on the Media Smarts site medialiteracyweek.ca and follow #MediaLitWk on social media. You can also follow the #ONedSsChat hashtag for the growing student voice on this topic.

Some resources to support your Media Literacy week work.

Some Resources from Media Smarts Canada to support your fact checking and fake news detection skills.

Some resources from the University of South Carolina Library:

  • Fake News
    • Has a great video resource that can be used to fact check for fake news
    • Seven types of propaganda – infographic
  • Website evaluation using the STAAR framework – slant, topical, authority, accuracy, relevance – with downloadable PDF file and checklist/ fillable version
  • Analyzing a web URL – helps you determine if the site you’re checking has a legitimate web address.

I have to include Mike Caulfield’s open access Pressbook publication titled Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers – and other people who care about facts. This book introduces the 4 habits from the fact checking process – check for previous work, to upstream to the source, read laterally, and circle back (Caulfield, 2017). This resource may be better suited for older students or higher education contexts.

I’ll post additional resources as the week progresses.


I look forward to participating in the ONedSsChat on Friday morning.

This event is part of a month long conversation about Media Literacy.

How to spot fake news

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What happens when you bring passionate educators together to talk about digital citizenship? A whole lot of deep thinking and rich conversations. The connections extended and expanded to others in diverse locations through active engagement on Twitter. These conversations will continue to ripple out from this event and impact many other digital citizenship discussions in days, weeks and the year to come.

My thanks to the organizing team for making this event happen. There is a need for these conversations, and this day delivered! Take a look at the DigCitSummitCA web site. Reach out, connect and collaborate with any one of the listed speakers. The repository of presentation notes is open and available too.

Some highlights from my day:

  • Screen Shot 2018-10-28 at 9.03.13 AMfinally meeting Stephen Hurley and watching him engage voices from the DigCitSummitCA with an unseen and unknown audience. His passion for VoiceEd Canada is exemplary and his motto “your voice is right here” was evident.
  • meeting Noa Daniel for the first time, after spending so much time in conversations through a variety of media. She truly is a change agent, and a passion driven teacher and learner. I eagerly listened as she shared about the pilot project for OnEDMentorsConnect which is just heading into a second phase for connected, participatory mentorship for new educators beyond the boundaries of schools or systems.
  • engaging with Allison Fuisz (from a coffee shop in Ottawa), Brock Baker and Jennifer Casa Todd to learn more about the @ONedSsChat willingly sharing how to set up and manage a class twitter account. The students who joined the conversation are powerfully presenting their passion for connections and conversations beyond the walls of their physical locations. I’m looking forward to participating in their next chat focusing on fake news and fact checking, being held during Media Literacy Week (#MediaLitWk) an annual event that is planned and supported by Media Smarts Canada.

  • having a conversation with Matthew Johnson, Director of Education from Media Smarts Canada about the latest research report – The Digital Well Being of Canadian Families –  and the ongoing work to promote and advocate media literacy education in Canada for teachers and educators – check out the Digital Literacy 101 for Teachers that has been developed and openly shared for use by educators, for educators across Canada, and beyond.
  • learning with Julie Millan about building a digital presence as a professional. She challenged us to think about how we include digital citizenship work in how we do this. Her presentation notes – Go Google Yourself!
    • earning about @McM_MsT and digging into permissions vs restrictions in building an online user agreement written by students
    • writing a ‘persuade me’ letter to use Google Classroom for ‘fun stuff’
    • take one classroom event to embed an element of digital citizenship
    • teaching about the power of LIKE and how ‘likes’ in social media impacts mental health and self esteem
    • sharing the site ‘I know where your cat lives‘ as a way to talk about geo-location settings
    • being aware of your digital shadows – how do Google and Facebook know it’s your birthday?
    • think before you click and click with compassion, with classroom posters available in French (Thx Larissa Aradj) as well as English
  • having a chance to talk to Sharon Drummond about the possibility of dropping into my class through a video conference session to talk share her sketch noting skills and how they tie into teaching and personal learning
  • having a rich discussion about open education pedagogies and practices with Lillian Rigling, Sue Kwiecien, Andy Kwiecien, Patrick Miller, Noa Daniel, Rebecca Chambers, and others.
  • reconnecting with Yana Bauer and meeting Neely Powell to continue building digital connections despite physical distances
  • meeting up with Diane Maliszewski and sharing our interest in media education and @A_M_L connections, and reading her blog reflection on Monday Molly Musings.

After an event or conference, I take time to step back, look at the impact that speakers, presentations, and topics have on my thinking, my teaching, and my connections. These will continue to impact digital citizenship conversations in my classroom and for my students.

Thanks Jennifer Casa Todd for sharing your reflections today.

What strikes me today, as I reflect, is that the dust isn’t and shouldn’t settle! Just as Jennifer Casa-Todd reflected, these conversations need to continue, spread, and gain momentum. If this was the first DigCitSummitCA, I’m looking forward to seeing how this evolves and grows into next year’s event – with additional willing hands and voices to make this happen! I thank all those who worked tirelessly and supported financially to make this year’s event happen.

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