Tuesday, 12 March 2013

TEDx Manitoba

This is a quick post to send you the link for the application to be part of  the TEDx Manitoba Youth event. Click here to apply. If you are unfamiliar with TED, it's an organization that organizes conferences around the concept, "ideas worth spreading." Check out TED.com for some great videos of TED talks.

Sunday, 10 March 2013


CC license shared by Ross Mayfield
There are a few things I've learned this week, but I haven't had time to properly reflect on them. Instead, I've been chasing down ideas on Twitter, previewing videos on YouTube, filling up my Pocket and Feeddler readers, and downloading apps for work and play on my iPad.

Computers and the internet have always been part of my teaching and learning, but in the last year I've really tried to explore the potential of technology as a central element of school instead of an add-on. The experience has led me to a whole new level of literacy, but I think there are some weaknesses in my skills. Digital literacy is a much debated concept these days. People, including me, are trying to develop a working definition of what skills are needed to successfully navigate the fluid digital world.

One challenge of the digital age is managing and filtering all the information and access of the internet. This week revealed to me that I need to further develop my ability to limit and focus. I often felt rushed and a touch frantic as I flitted from device to device like a hummingbird in a bird-feeder factory. I skimmed articles and sampled ideas like I was binging at Costco which made me slightly motion sick and didn't satisfy my hunger.

Now, I did get a lot of work done, but only after I stopped churning and decided to focus on one thing at a time. I cleared away all unnecessary devices and windows in order to focus on one task until it was complete. My eyes didn't sneak a peek at my inbox counter, and my mind didn't wander to the score of the Jets game because I intentionally limited my exposure by cleaning up my desktop and tabletop. I controlled the flow of digital information and distraction, taking only what I needed to complete my current project.

So, I learned that I have plenty to learn about digital literacy, and it made me wonder about ICE. Last year I had no trouble unplugging for a week, but this year I'm much more heavily and regularly connected than I was last year. Will I feel different about the experience? We'll see, but after a hectic weekend on the world wide web, I'm looking forward to a week of being me, unplugged.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Oops! My Bad

This week I learned more about how important mistakes are when learning. In class I mentioned how our school system has inadvertently taught us that being wrong is a very bad thing. This has stunted our creativity, our critical thinking, and our playfulness. We're so concerned with avoiding being wrong that we'd rather not raise our hand or participate in something challenging. Failure is the ultimate shame.  The embedded video is a TED talk by Kathryn Schulz who studies being wrong and its role in our lives. If you're interested and have 18 minutes to spare, you may want to check it out.

I'm trying to change our attitude toward mistakes and failure starting with this class, and this week only increased my belief that it is a much needed attitude adjustment. Not only did this video inspire me, but so did an encounter with one of my daughters. She's six, and on Friday after school she started crying. I took her into my arms, calmed her, and tried to decipher the sniffly, sobby story of what was wrong. Turns out she made a mistake at school. 

The class was working on optical illusions. Students were supposed to draw boxy, plaid-like patterns on a circular piece of paper. The paper circles were pierced in the centre by a pencil, resembling a flat umbrella. When the pencil is rolled between the palms, the circle spins, and the boxy pattern whirls into a colourful circle. Well, my daughter, not seeing the relevance or the big picture, quickly scribbled a blotchy pattern on her circle. When the teacher gently tried to show her the need for a plaid pattern, the shame of being wrong descended on my little girl. The only thing that reduced her shame to a manageable level was another little girl in her class who immediately volunteered that she had made the same mistake.

Back at home, I tried to convinced my daughter that school was one of the best places to make mistakes. She recently learned to ice skate at school, and she's getting pretty good. I asked her if she ever fell. 
"Of course!" she said with her silly-daddy look on her face. 
"Oh no! I said, "That's a mistake."
She quickly replied, "No it isn't. That's how you learn to skate."
I let her wisdom sink in and then we talked some more about learning, but I have haven't been able to shake her innate understanding that learning involves mistakes while at the same time she's ashamed to make any at school. This is a big problem within our education system. I learned a bit more this week about how deep it runs within me and the system, and I want to be part of the solution. Any ideas? Let's talk and learn playfully without fear of being wrong.