Tag Archives: etmooc

Out of the Pool; Into the Ocean


image via Post Ranch Inn

About two weeks ago I hopped out of the ETMOOC pool in order to kick start my second semester. That feels like yesterday, but I’m typing my first post in February, and it’s after Valentine’s Day! ETMOOC has been quite the immersive immersion (Sorry, I shouldn’t mix technology and water terminology ;-)). I’m new to Twitter, Google+, Blackboard,YouTube, vlogging… I wasn’t drowning, but I felt I needed to focus on my students’ classes and not my own.

Somewhere in the midst of prepping for second semester, I realized that my subconscious pool metaphor was shortsighted and wrong. Suddenly, I didn’t see myself climbing out of the ETMOOC pool and diving into my Second Semester pool, but rather, I knew I was swimming in the ocean. The two bodies of water weren’t separate at all, but connected in ways that I hadn’t seen. My learning is an essential part of student learning.

Why was I compartmentalizing my learning and my students’ learning? I discovered that in the past I connected my learning to student learning in a very linear way. I learned so that I could better help them learn. Notice how that thinking sets up a Me-Them relationship? I work intentionally to build relationships with students, and yet, my thinking about my own learning has been holding me back from greater depths of relationship and learning in class. My learning needs to take place far more visibly during class with my students, not only before and after. When students and I are learning together, much of the Me-Them dynamic switches to We.

So now what? Well, I decided to share my ETMOOC experience and learning with my students, and, to start learning more visibly with them. I committed to turn one of my classes (a small group of grade 12s) into a learning lab. I started by ensuring every student had a mobile device. Next, I handed them the provincial outcomes for the class, and we began re-writing them in more student-friendly (read people-friendly) language. They sat, stunned, as I explained that they could demonstrate their ability to meet those outcomes in any way they liked, using content they liked and that I’d help them do it.

We’re two weeks in, and the shock is beginning to wear off. We’ve set up blogs to use as learning logs and, possibly, portfolios (You’ll find mine here). The students use a shared Google doc to take notes. One or two students each class handle the notation while the others engage without the extra responsibility. The practice has allowed several students to participate at a much higher level while others are improving their note-taking skills because of the accountability of others relying on them.

The group wanted to start something together before branching out; they’re unsure about how to exercise their freedom (I’ll have to give them improved support). We decided on poetry, so we’re using the poem of the day on Writer’s Almanac to authentically learn together. I sit with them as we discuss the poem projected on the screen. We make meaning, and tease out relevant terms and concepts for the notes. It’s liberating and exhilarating for me to not only avoid leading students through a poem with heavy hand, but also to see real proof that previous lessons about poetry in earlier years have taken root. It’s empowering for the students as they participate in dictating the direction of their own learning and discover that they can read poetry far more independently than they thought. They suddenly see evidence of their own learning in action, which is far superior to a good test grade. It’s been a fine start to our semester.

So did I really get out of the ETMOOC pool? Well, my developing PLN gave me the inspiration and encouragement to recognize and rectify my situation. The tech challenges of ETMOOC gave me several new tools for school and the confidence to use them. I’m hoping to continue to collaborate with ETMOOC participants and that my students may even work with their students. Did I get out of the pool? No, I just saw the ocean for the first time. Ain’t she grand?



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Narrating Our Learning

While I do intend to return to blogging, I’m getting caught up in vlogging at the moment. I’ll be sure to add words soon. If you’re interested in what you see and hear, join the conversation on Google+ with the Reflective Practice Vlogging community.

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January 30, 2013 · 1:21 pm

The Nature Trail

This is a response to Ben Wilkoff’s post, The Three Learning Paths: The Beginning of an #etmooc Journey.


January 28, 2013 · 5:34 pm

Breathe Deeply

This post is an expanded version of a comment I left on Jenni Scott-Marciski’s blog, Ed(ucation) Musings. She posted about participating in ETMOOC as an investment in herself.


On airline flights, the safety instructions alway remind you to secure your own oxygen mask first before attempting to help anyone else with their mask. The direction is there because the instinct of a friend or mother may likely be to help the friend or child first. A few moments of clear thinking reveal the logic–I’m not much help to my child if I’m unconscious–but a few moments of clear thinking can be hard to come by in an emergency.

For me, the same advice applies to parenting and teaching. We have to take care of ourselves in order to take care of the kids and students in our lives. If we don’t recharge, personally and professionally, we won’t have the energy, passion, and clarity to be of much help. However, during many days in a classroom, a few moments for clear thinking can be equally difficult to find. My personal and professional commitments stack-up, one after the next. Early morning grading, classes, email, hasty meals, coaching, evening meetings, and yawn-punctuated bedtime stories for the kids run together, and by mid-semester I’m wondering why the “stack” of essays in my iPad isn’t any smaller and how my teaching feels a bit robotic. What went wrong?

I know what went wrong; the same thing that always goes wrong: I stopped reflecting. Busyness crept in, and slowly I traded a little moment of clear thinking for a few extra minutes to empty my inbox. Next I swapped some self-assessment for an hour to respond to some student research proposals. Soon I didn’t even barter with myself, but plunged headlong into my to-do list without any nagging whispers about reflection. When will I learn?

Reflection is essential to learning. Mark Clements writes a good article about its importance at edunators.com. At a basic level I can’t learn anything without reflection. It needs to be as important as oxygen in my classroom. I must model its practice and importance for my students; significant time and space needs to be carved out of class time for it. ETMOOC is a tremendous opportunity, but it could simply become another obligation, another item on our long lists. In order to maximize our learning, let’s encourage each other to remember and engage in one of the most important educational apps of all–reflection.




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Fear, Technology, and Discernment

ImageA blog post by @mrsdkrebs got me thinking about what is holding me back from being the chief learner in my class. For many teachers it is fear.

Several ETMOOCers have expressed levels of fear and uncertainty about the course or an app, but I think the real source of fear is much deeper. While some of us are genuinely nervous about technology, most of us are really worried about losing our status as “Expert”. For decades teachers have been experts, the source of knowledge in schools. When students had questions, they asked the teacher. Bringing technology into the classroom often ushers in fear as well because teachers are sure that several of their students will know more about the tech than they do and that will mean the end of their reign as “expert”. I’m not proud of this feeling, nor does it match my educational philosophy (or my practice most days, I trust), but if I’m not brutally honest about naming that splinter of fear in my mind, I can’t locate it and pluck it out for good.

In my previous post I mentioned fear as a catalyst for growth, but too much fear is paralyzing, so in the interest of balance, I offer a charm to ward off the fear of technology rooted in losing the title Expert. In many of our classrooms we may have to concede that title to a student(s) in regards to technology (and what wonderful learning relationships will blossom), but there is one vital area of expertise that you and I have that our students desperately need–discernment.

When it comes to technology, development happens at a near exponential rate. Technology evolves with a because-we-can attitude with not enough but-should-we?. More than ever our students need us to be experts that walk and work along side them in the real and digital world. We need to model discernment, sharing our own mistakes, discussing our own time and content boundaries, making time for reflection (for them and ourselves), asking them to join the larger discussion of which technologies should be developed and how. In this way I can hand over some of the control in my classroom and still be an “expert”. Sometimes my students may be way ahead of me when it comes to the latest apps, but I need to be leading them when it comes to applying those apps.


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Steep but Fun

A year ago I joined a committee at my school to explore an iPad 1:1 pilot. My role was the tech rookie, representing tentative adopters of new technology. We researched and drafted a proposal that is now working its way through the funding and approval stages; if all goes well we’ll have iPads and training for all grade 10 teachers and students next fall.

Two months ago, as we were finishing the proposal, my administrator put a new iPad into my hands, and it revealed a whole new set of options and ideas for me. I saw a bit more clearly into the mobile world of my students and colleagues. I envisioned the boon a room full of iPads would be to PBL and In the Middle style workshops in my classroom.

Of course, I also recognized how little I know and how much I have to learn, which brings me to ETMOOC. Two months ago I’d never used a mobile device; now I’m using an iPad everyday in my classroom and next week I’m participating in my first MOOC. That’s quite the rollercoaster, and it’s only beginning! I like my learning and my rollercoasters the same way–the steeper the curves the greater the fun (and fear). That’s a combination for growth.


January 12, 2013 · 9:30 pm