An Introduction to Immersive Journalism

What does it mean to use technology for empathy?

In my journey to reconsider Virtual/Augmented Reality as a tool for educators in the UWC context, I was thrilled to come across the extraordinary work of  Nonny de la Peña.

She is perhaps best known for the work she’s done to author Project Syria in 2013. She’s no stranger to seeing this technology as a way to foster empathy.  Her TEDx Talk is well worth the watch (caution the language and images are disturbing).

Nonny de la Peña continues to provoke audiences with a free VR app “One Dark Night.”

“The near constant flow of news detailing yet another shooting death of a black person by U.S. police officers may eventually dull the shock for some observers, but what if you could relive the incidents reported as if you were there?

That’s exactly what the “One Dark Night” app aims to do with its immersive virtual reality reenactment of the February 2012 Florida shooting death of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman.” (continue reading here)

If you’d like to see the app in action, click here.

Nonny de la Peña wants to put us inside of the scene of an event:

Not only will Immersive Journalism seek to change what it means to ‘read’ the news, but it will also reconsider the role of the reporter.

If you follow BBC News Labs, you’ll find a conversation about the evolution of journalism. This is a great place to start. An example of their work can be seen in this 360 degree video documenting the scene around The Bataclan after the terror attack.

The New York Times has dedicated an app to immersive journalism (here), and they’ve changed what the ‘opinion’ section means with ‘op-docs,’ or opinionated documentaries: “Honors for Op-Docs include two Oscar nominations, two News and Documentary Emmy Awards, and two Peabody Awards …” (taken from their site here).

Anetta Jones produces VR content for The Guardian.

The content ranges from poetry to experiencing solitary confinement to experiencing what it means to be a forensics investigator:



Storytelling and journalism will look remarkably different in the next decade…are we preparing our students to develop that content?

On Thursday, Contrast VR released “I am Rohingya”, the world’s first 360° documentary about the Rohingya crisis.

“Hearing about it or seeing pictures of it was not enough. It just felt it was the right fit for the medium of virtual reality, to be able to take the viewers out into the refugee camp, to be able to take them to these people and give them a glimpse of what their challenges are,” said Rasool. (full story here)


I Am Rohingya from Contrast VR on Vimeo.

Are you exploring immersive journalism? Please leave a comment with other links worth exploring.

New Mediums: Same Mission

Now I know there’s been a lot of hubub about VR/AR for years, and I know that incredible new gaming innovations and the newest VR arcade in Singapore might be the uses of VR that get the most headlines but there are many other innovative uses of these technologies which will be sure to inspire educators

In the next two posts, I’ll be focusing on where we might want to focus our attention when it comes to AR/VR. Whilst the Kolibree Magik is definitely something I would have wanted as a kid, it’s less likely to feature in this series of three posts (as part of our #UWCLearn TriBlogAthon). Specifically, I’m going to do my best to curate connections between VR/AR and the UWC Mission.

“Of all media, VR has the unique transformative power to induce behavioral change in participants, as demonstrated by numerous studies in cyberpsychology and social neurosciences” (Alexandra Ivanovitch, “VIRTUAL REALITY: THE FRONTIER OF PEACEMAKING “).

One example of this intersection can be experienced with the free app Enter The Room:

Have an example of VR/AR which has the potential to inspire a UWC campus? Please leave a comment below!

UPDATE: Excellent feedback From Clint Carlson here:

I’ve been working VR into my classes this year with a few projects.


  1. 3D modeling that was typically for 3D printing I’ve now pulled into VR (TiltBrush) to make things larger, showing 3D models of objects too fragile or impractical for printing, and to start spurring much bigger thinking.
  2. I’m working with a math/humanities teacher who runs a 7th grade “City In The Sea” project. Typically this was a conversation about taxes and governments including each student building their part of the city with cardboard. This year I got involved and had the entire grade build their city in TinkerCAD. We could then take this model into VR and suddenly students are walking down the streets they built, understanding the needs for wider roads, parks, signage that can be seen by the residents, and more.
    1. We were able to color code this as well! We now have versions to quickly interact with where the residential areas are (yellow), utilities (red), etc. so the teams can work to build a city that works best for all.
  3. My 9th grade Digital Design students re-created existing buildings around the world, identified the issues those buildings are having (climate change, crowded hallways, etc.), modeled solutions to those issues and created a fun, non-practical addition (waterslide off the Great Wall of China, cable transport between The Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame, etc.)
  4. My 9th grade Digital Design students are also 3D modeling our ENTIRE SCHOOL for their end of the year project. This project not only requires the entire class to work as a team with daily debriefs on how we will divide up and share the work, but will also result in a 1:1 VR of our school where we can walk down the halls and touch the walls, walk through doorways that end up replicated perfectly.
    1. Future uses of this will include the ability to restructure the school, rethink spaces, create a “haunted school” where we can walk through the school with ghosts coming through the walls, and global warming units where we can flood the VR school to see the impact.
    2. I’d love to work with another school where we 3D model each other’s spaces using just information provided from the distance classes to see how close we can model just using information provided from each other. We could then explore these spaces together in a VR environment.
  5. Piloting a small biology class next year when we have 3 VR headsets. One for the teacher and 2 on students where they will dissect a VR cadaver, see how bones and tendons move and connect, etc. all within a VR laboratory. Assuming this goes well, i’ll be expanding this pilot to include an entire classroom in 19-20.


Lots of potential, lots of planning, lots of thinking to be further developed!”



The Adaptable Scholar

Has technology encouraged a new approach to scholarship?

Madeline Brookes recommended Martin Weller‘s new(ish) book The Digital Scholar to me at the last #Learning2 in Asia.  Weller articulates the moment we are in: a time and place where education is needing to reassess what ‘scholarship’ means. I’m using this post to consolidate what were a few of the highlights from the book, but please do let me know what you’ve thought of it, or provide links to other resources which help explore the new nuances of our academic environment as influenced by a constantly changing toolkit.

  1. Transparency as a tool: “The term ‘open scholar’ has been used by some and can be seen as almost synonymous with digital scholar. The open scholar ‘is someone who makes their intellectual projects and processes digitally visible and who invites and encourages ongoing criticism of their work and secondary uses of any or all parts of it-at any stage of its development’ (Burton 2009).” (p51)
  2. Blog as learning and for learning: “The existence of his blog, though allows Hirst to engage in this ongoing experimentation, as it has an outlet, but it simultaneously encourages it also, since discussions will arise on the blog….Taken as a whole then, the blog itself represents the research process…” (p60)
  3. Understanding the characteristics of a healthy blogging community:

To paraphrase some the ideas on page 67:

  1. Regular contributions are expected by all scholars in the community
  2. Having an open door for feedback and gaining insight from afar can happen on a regular basis
  3. The opportunity to learn in a research-rich environment, as bloggers promote and thrive on research


 So what?

Weller reminds us to see our ability to adapt as our greatest strength.  He references the power of blogs and Twitter as a means to connect with experts and thinkers outside of our day to day normal interactions.  The opportunities for better and broader collaboration are (and have been) here.  For the modern-day teacher, I think we have to ask whether or not we are modeling ‘scholarship’ in the frame in which it currently sits…and are we doing enough to encourage the would-be-scholars on our campus?


Looking ‘life-wide’ with digital literacy

Recently I came across a definition for ePortfolios that aligns so nicely with the Philosophy of Portfolios that we’ve launched at my school this year:

A more comprehensive definition of the variety of ePortfolio affordances was elucidated by Duncan-Pitt and Sutherland (2006) who described it as: A system that belongs to the learner, not the institution; populated by the learner not their examiner; primarily concerned with supporting learning not assessment; for life-long and life-wide learning not a single episode or a single course; that allows learners to present multiple stories of learning rather than just a simple aggregation of competencies; and, importantly, where access to them is controlled by the learner who is able to invite feedback to support personal growth and understanding. (p. 70)  Recommendations for Effective Scaffolding of Reflective Thinking in Higher Education International Forum of Educational Technology & Society, Pauline Roberts, Dorit Maor and Jan Herrington

Could blogs be a means to life-long and life-wide conversation skills?

I’ve blogged a lot about my thoughts on this (see here or here).  I think one opportunity inherent in a school ecosystem and culture where blogging thrives is the comment section.  The comment section is often belittled as not worthy of reading.  Talk shows ridicule the comment section, and (see here) sometimes with good reason.  Schools, especially those with a reputation for encouraging future-ready skills, have a responsibility to up the ante on technology as an amplifier of compassion. How do we do this?

Simple.  We share commenting-best practice, and teach commenting next-practice.

Looking for a list of commenting role models?

On a recent episode of Ear Hustle, the producers take a break from their normal structure to respond to questions they received from fans.  That’s the power of interaction: you can shape content, provoke conversation, and enhance the audience experience. Don’t believe me? Check the show out for yourself, and rethink the power of curating questions.

The TED blog hosts some of their most insightful comments on a special ‘comment of the week’ feature available here. Interested in talking more about that ‘amplifier of compassion’ idea? Start with this one.

Zooming out, there’s a lot of role modeling happening in the comment guidelines of leading news institutions:

From The Guardian:

1. Participate in conversations about our content, and take responsibility for the conversations you start.

2. Focus on the constructive by recognising and rewarding intelligent contributions.

3. Don’t reward disruptive behaviour with attention, but report it when you find it.

From the MIT Tech Review:

We want you to be a resource for your fellow readers and we hope that you’ll use our comment section to do that. We’ve designed it to elevate and amplify the most intelligent and civil responses, and diminish or hide the worst.

So how do we steer our students towards better comments?

Be specific, guide them with prompts, and see it as an opportunity to teach and explore logical fallacies in an authentic way.  I’ve put together this easy comment prompt, feel free to use it or remix it:


Do you have a commenting protocol you use with students?

Please share your thoughts on the best ways to encourage more thoughtful online conversations in the comment section below.


Featured image courtesy of

Spark that impulse…

Listening to others begins with self-awareness.

The longer I’ve been in education, the more I’ve come to understand that ‘worrying’ is just something we’ve always done.  Each generation of teachers has had its own conversation around what we are doing wrong.  If you are teaching in 2018, you’ve probably heard ‘screen time,’ spoken in that tone reserved usually for ‘root canal’ half a dozen times this month alone.

But let’s step back, and make room for a little balance:

Computers, tablets, and smartphones are multipurpose devices that can be used for lots of purposes. Designating their use simply as “screen time” can miss some important variations. The Common Sense Census: Media Use by Tweens and Teens identifies four main categories of screen time.

  • Passive consumption: watching TV, reading, and listening to music
  • Interactive consumption: playing games and browsing the Internet
  • Communication: video-chatting and using social media
  • ​Content creation: using devices to make digital art or music (keep reading here)

Experimenting with voice will make you more empathic.

The longer I’ve been working with blogging, the more I’ve come to see it as a tool for empathy. Students with blogs are encouraged to engage with content creation–they have a space to be creative, and a place to leave a trail of breadcrumbs for future learning. I’ve seen students build archives of poetry, piano practice, visual notes, odes to maths, photo galleries, and essays.  No, their blog may not always be a beacon of innovation.  Nor is my own.  Often this space is messy, ideas are fluid, and perhaps the seedling of an idea emerges not upon the date I click publish…but weeks later when I take the time to look back.  So what is this all about? It’s about experimenting with ideas, with listening to what I clearly still need to ruminate on. It’s also an exercise in self-awareness and design thinking:

Blogging can equip introverts and extroverts with a place to practice being conversant.

The old adage ‘think before you speak,’ comes to mind here: blogging is being more thoughtful about that conversation we might need to have with a boss, colleague, or student.  As someone who identifies strongly as an introvert, I see this blog as a dojo for my ideas.  This is a place for me to be curious, ask questions of others and self, curate reading, and give myself a chance to solidify (or rip apart) my opinions.  Often this dojo is what encourages me to speak up in a meeting or to not feel a need to be confrontational in disagreements.  Coming back to your own thinking month after month, year after year teaches you to be patient with ideas and concepts…and yourself.

Tonight I listened to Alan Alda talk about his new book on an episode of one of my favorite podcasts, Hidden Brain. You can listen to it here:

Alda has fantastic and funny anecdotes on his journey to better listening, and it is worth the 42 minutes.  He speaks of improv as a way towards more empathy: “The more empathy I have the less annoying other people are,” he says.  I think empathy is something we can learn, and I agree that we can train ourselves to strive for more empathetic lives.  In short, Alda’s advice is that we need to find different ways of connecting with others, different approaches to seeing others.  He wants us to notice more about one another.  In schools where  students and colleagues have made their reflection transparent, I’ve seen a dynamic shift, I’ve seen empathy sprout anew in places it wasn’t before.  Alda references ‘an impulse to pay attention,’ and I think when we are purposeful in setting out key opportunities to take snapshots of learning, we spark that impulse.

Ready to sink your teeth into some research on digital portfolios?

Here is a great place to start, and this is a wonderful follow up read.

Make better Mirrors.

“Any fool can know. The point is to understand.”
― Albert Einstein

How can we better teach students to understand their own learning?

Earlier in the month, I put together this post on reflection and refraction: or my thoughts on the need to make sure our networks are part of the reflective practice.  Incidentally, just this week, a group of teachers and I tapped into the collective wisdom of Madeleine Brookes as she toured us through her thoughts on connectivism and blogging (do read her post here). Then, just this morning I listened to one of my favorite pop-culture podcasts (The Slate Spoiler Series), as they ran through the various theories and reactions to the film Mother!, if you have seen the film, I think you’ll enjoy it too (click here).  I mention all of this, because I think mixed together, they speak to a need to diversify perspective when reflecting. In order to make reflection serve the dual purpose of engaging learners with their own learning AND developing networks that foster critical thinking, reflective activities have to hook our imaginations.

Protocols for reflection should be adaptive.

One thing that I love doing as an educator is crafting questions.  It is something I have invested a lot of time in, and it is the reason I am obsessed with podcasts.  Listening to interviews, eavesdropping on professional critics has much to teach us about question-design.  Anyone who listens to Desert Island Discs knows there is a craft to drawing out better answers. Dana Stevens, film critic, and podcaster is my yoda when it comes to provoking her co-hosts to dig deeper into their responses, you can hear her here. Perhaps the #1 take away I have from years of listening to Stevens is this: don’t let opinions float, and don’t let people ‘off easy,’ great conversations are often the result of great challenges.

How can we ‘be more Dana’ in the classroom?

  1. If your students are blogging about a learning experience, partner them up with a reader who will ask five why’s in response—engender provocation within the portfolios.
  2. Use metaphors. Ask your students to rethink their course, that lesson, a project, an experience as a sport. Huh?  I walk through that in detail here.
  3. Use the WOOP method to encourage students to take ownership within their own learning structures.  You can enjoy a long-listen about the theory here (see another podcast!), or take the WOOP challenge and watch this 5-minute tutorial, or check out the WOOP app. The process of identifying and acknowledging the internal obstacle is huge.
  4. Remember that a small change can have a big payoff: Ask this question: If you had just 30 more minutes to revise/plan for that project/event before it launched, what should you have done with those 30 minutes and why?
  5. In small teams, take turns building journey and empathy maps.
  6. Hit the whiteboards and draft out your force field analysis.
  7. Encourage students to be flexible in their reflection–when they are thinking critically about what happened and why, encourage them to return to earlier posts/statements with this question: “Why might the exact opposite also be true?”
  8. Get out the timer, and quickly offer up snapshots of your learning, Nicki Hambleton explains the process here.

What’s your favorite way to engage with reflection?

mirror flickr photo by sharing user info with oath is wrong shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license


Reflection and Refraction in The Classroom

If reflection can only happen in learning ecologies where learners are given time and direction, refraction can only happen in environments where we believe in transparency, networks and perspective. Schools and societies need both.

I believe that portfolios/blogs are a wonderful way to bring refraction and reflection together.  In a recent post about the power of reading for thought leaders, I came across the following:

I’ve long been a fan of Goodreads as a tool to make our reading habits more transparent and our love of learning more visible (I reflected on this years ago),  and I continue to follow #IMWAYR (It’s Monday What Are You Reading?) on Twitter with delight.  One of my favorite mentor texts for both reflecting and refracting learning comes from our acting Head of School, Nick Alchin, because he often updates his learning community on his reading (see here for just one example).  What makes his example even more relevant for me,  is that I’m able to make connections between his reading reflection and refract it with another member of our leadership team’s reflection, Stuart MacAlpine (see an example here).

experiment flickr photo by uberculture shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

School culture is built both intentionally and incidentally.

When members of the community share their learning processes, make connections amongst their inquiry, and collectively consider resources we see another opportunity to enhance our culture.

Could we do more to intentionally synergize our reflective practice? Yes.

The philosophy behind our use of digital portfolios speaks to this, but we need to build and seek out opportunities to bring it to life. In part, I believe it starts with carefully crafting questions which will be creative catalysts for conversation (I tried to do that here). But we also need to schedule sharing.  Where can we make time not just to record and reflect, but to respond to the reflection of others, thus refracting a network of inquiry?  Much has been said about blogging to develop voice, but I think we need to stop underestimating blogging as a tool for better listening, George Couros has commented on this here:


Is your school culture the product of reflection and refraction?


Featured Image Courtesy of Flickr


Sustenance or swish?

Part II of the #IBDP Language and Literature course has long held a special spot in my heart.

Just yesterday I was delighted to come across this amazing new feature via the NY Times, a monthly feature challenging our graph/media-literacy. Now, more than ever before, an awareness of the media’s power and an ability to analyze how that power is made is crucial. Mass media is bigger, faster and more omnipotent by the year.  Adults and students alike struggle to cut through the noise, to decipher sustenance from swish, and to know what is trustworthy:

When presented randomly selected photos — some real, some altered — only 60 percent of participants could pick out the manipulated photos. Of those, only 45 could pinpoint what had been altered.

Test your own abilities to navigate the news via this WaPo quiz.

Illusion flickr photo by tinou bao shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Beginning to unpack part II? Here are a few activities to get you started:

Show an awareness of the potential for educational, political or ideological influence of the media:

 Take a look at the way the NY Times covered the Holocaust below.  Have students create their own short film imagining what the next generation will say about the way they’ve reported on a major issue today.


Examine different forms of communication within the media:

“Facebook is where everyone is actually sharing and discussing that information…”


Host a follow up debate with students to look at the rise of ‘citizen journalists’ and to question whether or not it is doing more good or harm.  Check out this resource and then this one to get started on research for opening statements.

Show the way mass media use language to inform, persuade, or entertain:

“We need to get serious, very serious about making important news important.”


Can your students create a campaign which gets attention? How do they learn to ‘charm us into goodness?’


Thanks Flickr for providing the featured image

Look What PD Made You Do

Networked flickr photo by nrg_crisis shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC) license

Why invest time in portfolios?

As we continue to explore portfolios/reflection as a part of our strategic plan this year, we are bound to come back to the question above again and again.  A healthy, meaningful network of portfolios relies heavily on time–the most coveted of teacher-resources.  The philosophy behind our portfolios is here, and yes, it is aspirational.  So let’s unpack some of the cousin-questions (and please feel free to leave more questions in the comment section below) provided by the English Dept:


1. How can I be persuaded to create and maintain my own blog?

I’d suggest signing up for our teacher portfolio challenge and experiencing the tool first hand.  What have other educators said about the process? Here’s what Madeleine Brookes has to say:

For a longer read, check out Dean Shareski‘s thoughts:

“I’ve yet to hear anyone who has stuck with blogging suggest it’s been anything less than essential to their growth and improvement. I’ve no “data” to prove this but I’m willing to bet my golf clubs that teachers who blog are our best teachers. If you look at the promise of Professional Learning Communities that our schools have invested thousands, more likely millions to achieve, blogs accomplish much of the same things. The basic idea of the PLC is to have teachers share practice/data and work in teams to make improvements. A good blog does this and more.” (full text here)

2. I’d like to know a little more about how others might use the portfolios in inventive ways

 My long answer is this list of 44 different ways schools around the world are using it as a tool to connect.  Ceci-Gomez has been leading students at her school through the ‘This I believe’ challenge for the past few years at SIS.  Students create a podcast as a response, and the school hosts ‘The big deal,’ a day where they spend the morning listening to the submissions and leaving comments. A portfolio is also useful for the student to be able to bring all their learning together at the end of a unit, here’s an example of just that.

3. How can we best encourage authentic reflection, rather than just ‘talking the talk’; how can we best use portfolios to extend rather than just record learning; how can we maximise student buy-in?

Choice. If we want portfolios to be a reflection of our students as learners, we need our learners to have the means to shape those portfolios.  If I want students to reflect on some aspect of our learning through the portfolio I’ll provide a choice of prompt, a choice of ways to reflect, and I’ll offer my own reflection as a mentor text.  If we want students to engage with reflection, it helps if they see us model why and how it is significant.  Reflection has a bad wrap, and it is important to recognize where that rep comes from.  For too long, schools have required students to reflect…and then have done nothing with those thoughts.  The portfolio becomes a time-traveling machine where students can return to prior posts.  One prompt I’ve had success with is asking which of these ‘future ready skills,’ the student feels were most accessible during a given task/unit.  Their response doesn’t need to be lengthy–but I do ask them to provide examples which illustrate their response.

Buy in comes with an audience.  Once you’ve walked your class through the ‘campfire cycle,’ and initiated a protocal of commenting and responding, the students are no longer writing for just one person–but rather for their peers. Kim Cofino speaks to this better than I am, so check out her thoughts on The Power of Audience.

4. How do I access class portfolios or set it up as a class?

I think the #uwclearn teacher portfolio challenge models this.

Step one: provide the prompts (allow for time)

Step two: bundle the posts

Step three: provide time for commenting

5. Are students ready to go/know what to do if we ask them to do something in their portfolio? What’s the language we use for asking them that, make an entry etc?

Students will have a range of experience with the portfolios depending on the teachers they have, and the amount of experimentation happening in those classes.  They do have access to this list of ‘basic bootcamp for WordPress’ and may need to return back to it.  You are also welcome to invite me into the classroom.  Our school is a diverse place, and students are accustomed to diversity in instruction.

5. How can I use it positively in combination with the platform and structures that are already in place?

I think of Teamie as the auditorium—here’s where I go to see the show.  The rehearsals, the hardwork, the direction and choreography takes place via our Google Apps, WordPress, and post-it notes.  The portfolio is the sandbox for the student’s thinking, and your OLP class is the space for the entire class.  Just as this post I’m composing here is a representation of my own thinking on the topic, I’ll be sharing it via the English dept workspace on Teamie.  Could I just have written all of this on Teamie? Yes, sure I could have–but I want to take my learning with me, and this post is one of many–and I know my own thinking about portfolios will change and evolve, in coming years I may wish to go back to this post.  I also may want to share this post not only with the English team, but with another department.
The biggest structural shift here is likely to be the benefit the student sees.  The portfolios ask them to curate their learning, to develop an archive of thought, to map out connections.  In the words of a former colleague, who I believe would even consider refering to himself as a converted blogger, it opens things up:
“The process of learning is social. We understand this implicitly when we take on the roles of teacher and student and believe that by putting people in a room together, learning can happen. And blogging, more so than, say, writing in a notebook, opens up our learning so that it is easily accessed by peers anywhere with an internet connection: it gives you an expanded, flexible, networked learning environment. ” (full text here)

Flipboard is an IBDP teacher’s BFF

Looking to extend your students (your self and colleagues) collaboratively this year? Flipboard is a great tool for that.

Step One: Start your free account with Flipboard

Step Two: Consider adding an author to curate with you

Adding contributors to your magazine can create a new dynamic for you on Flipboard. Another person’s perspective can expand your reach and round out your magazines with articles you may not have thought of or discovered yourself (Full text here)



                                                 (CLICK ABOVE TO SEE THE STEPS IN ACTION)

Step Three: Learn from Flipboard users around the world.  #FlipboardChat happens weekly, you can join or just surf the wisdom left behind, see how educators are using it-and build your PLN:

Step Four: Curate on the move–make the mobile app work for you.   Here’s a quick guide to using the app to curate when you are stuck in traffic, waiting in line, or having a walk on the treadmill.

Step Five: Flip it!  I love using the Chrome Extension to add content–this is probably the most powerful tool I use for building magazines.

Step Six: Integrate with your portfolio!  You can embed your magazine directly into your WordPress site:

Screen Shot 2017-08-23 at 8.39.54 AM

Step Seven: Add your own comments.  This is a new and powerful feature that you can use from the web or app.  More here.

Lastly: Want to connect Flipboard and your PLN? Here’s How:

From fire hydrant to drinking fountain

Welcome to your 2017-2018 Academic Year!

I had a(nother) great chat with our Head of PSE, Louisa the other day, and it inspired this post (thanks, Louisa).

We teach and live in a world with more resources than ever before.  With all we have access to, sometimes it is difficult to know where to start, what to prioritize, and how best to access the ‘grand cru’ of educational media links.  As I write this post, I write it not to curate a definitive list, but rather to spark a conversation with you–the reader.  My list attempts to offer you my Top Ten Favorite ‘watering holes’ online–these are the ten places I go back to week after week–gathering fuel for myself and my students.  I’ve focused on resources which have felt the most relevant to me this year.  Please–like Ann Powers did in her NPR piece over the summer about the top albums by women in music—debate the list, leave me a comment and feel free to e-shout at me about the resources that I missed out on.

My Top Ten Online Watering Holes for Educators:

10. Vox’s Vox Almanac Youtube Channel

What it is: Mindblowing

Where you may want to use it: Right Across the #IBDP

One of my favorite episodes:

9. Deep Look: from KQED and PBS

What it is: A Scientist’s Delight

Where you may want to use it: In the Sciences or ESS

One of my favorite episodes:

8. Great Big Story

What it is: A great buffet of untold stories that you are going to want to hear more about.

Where you may want to use it: Everywhere and Anywhere

One of my favorite episodes:

7. Today I Found Out

What it is: Bizarre and fun.

Where you may want to use it: Great for start of class/meeting provocation

One of my favorite episodes:

6. The School Of Life

What it is: All the stuff you wish you knew when you were a teen

Where you may want to use it: Excellent for PSE, mentoring of anyone

One of my favorite episodes:

5. ASAPScience

What it is: A weekly show bound to get you hooked on Science

Where you may want to use it:  Theory of Knowledge, ESS

One of my favorite episodes:

4. The Infographics Show

What it is: Gorgeous Information

Where you may want to use it:  Any Humanities course, occasional links with Language and Literature

One of my favorite episodes:

3. The Economist’s Youtube Channel

What it is: Bound to make you strike up fabulous lunch table conversations

Where you may want to use it:  across the curriculum

One of my favorite episodes:

2. The Guardian’s VR Playlist

What it is: Youtube journalism at it’s best

Where you may want to use it:  across the curriculum

One of my favorite episodes:

1. Slate Magazine’s Youtube Channel

What it is: The stuff that will keep you awake at night with wonder

Where you may want to use it:   great for PSE, Global Perspectives

One of my favorite episodes:

What’s on your top ten list? Please tell me all about it in the comment section below!

*Featured Image via Twitter: Ten by Andrea Passoni

Your True Teacher Self

This post is inspired by Invisibilia’s podcast episode available here:

“You think that there is some essence of who you are that will endure regardless of the situation or the context but the fact is this is actually not the case.” 

The longer I’ve worked in schools, the more I’ve come to believe in our ability to transform, our capacity to construct our very own chrysalis.  But, time after time, I do hear people question whether or not people change and debate the power of personality.

Educators, perhaps more than any other profession, should advocate for a definition of self that is adaptable.

Transformation flickr photo by Marie-Pierre et Nathalie shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license

Like most opportunities to advocate, the learning needs to start from within.

How can we start to allow our ‘teacher-selves’ to see ourselves as adaptable?

Here are three approaches towards a self-reflection rethink for teachers:

  1. What mythology of your practice have you told yourself? 

When you think of your teaching style, how have you come to define it? Which anecdotes about educating have you most-shared about yourself, and why have they been ‘share-worthy’ in your mind?  Why is it important for you to match that definition? Where and when did you learn to be ‘that teacher’?

Then think: what would change if you abandoned that definition for a month? If you were to redefine the portrait of you, the educator, what ONE WORD would you want to introduce to the new definition and why?

      2.  Host office mix and match up week.

If you sit in an office with colleagues, pick one week to mix up departments.  If your classroom is in a corridor/section of similar subjects, relocate for a week.  If you aren’t in a classroom, but are in an office–move your office to a different location for a week, ie relocate into the library, or a public space.

Then think: how much of my definition of self comes from my routine surroundings?  What is one thing that changed as the direct result of the fresh perspective? 

        3. Rethink your next staff meeting.

Instead of zigging, zag.  When is the last time your meeting’s objective was to get to understand the way your colleagues think? The way you think? Here is my map for hosting a meeting as an open discussion, complete with prompts, questions, and sign ups–feel free to copy and remix. Here is the question guide for that meeting structure:

Then think: what about staff meetings limit our understanding of one another as educators? How can we maximize meeting time to rethink what we want our definitions of educators as educators to be?

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“Tent Caterpillar – Mother Natures Finest Weaver” flickr photo by docentjoyce shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Calling time-out.

Sport Gestein flickr photo by WarrenMillerEnt shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license

“Do we want to measure skill as precisely as possible, or do we just want to feel alive?”

The question above comes from one of my all time favorite Youtube channels, Vox. A recent video investigates the relationship of luck and skills as they apply to sports analysis.  In this post, I’d like to extend their text as an analogy to explore at your school, as your academic year comes to a ‘time out.’

In part, the idea is to help us think about what Seth Godin refers to as ’emotional labor,’ in this post here. There isn’t a school on the planet who couldn’t do with Godin’s advice to invest in the emotional work of engaging with one another in a productive (and compassionate) way.  The emotional highs and lows of any sport, the disipline, and dedication of training, the camaraderie and spirit of fans, the skill, luck and evolution of talent describe not only that next playoff game–but also work as descriptors of an academic year too.

Before we jump into those questions, please take the seven minutes to watch the following:

The following questions could be used with staff, students, or just as a provocation for personal reflection:

Please feel free to share your thoughts on the questions, suggest a better analogy, or let me know when and where you could see those questions being used to spark conversation in the comment section below.


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Jimmys Daskalakis

Blogger’s Block: A quick remedy

generator.x show flickr photo by jared shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

What can nine post-it notes do for your next post?

I think of this space as a sandbox for thinking. Blogs can be a place to curate questions, ruminate, ideate and more. Seth Godin’s blog is one of the best-known examples of blogging for clarity. But sometimes an analog pre-blogging protocol is needed.  Here’s one you may want to try:

Step one: Get nine post-it notes ready

Step two: Have a quick look at Sunni Brown’s ‘Curriculum for a Future Mind’

Step three: Answer each row of questions on this planner. Give yourself three post-it notes for each cycle of questioning:


Row one: Who are the stakeholders involved in this issue? Your potential audience for this might be? When unpacking this issue, which perspectives are of value?

Row two: Go back to the Sunni Brown work and consider potential links with your thinking. OR take a look at this list of future-ready skills and consider the commonalities.

Row three: Which tools need to make their way into your toolkit for you to continue considering this issue? Who might be potential consultants and what would you want to ask them?

Roads At Night: Left, Left, Right flickr photo by Cayusa shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC) license

And then?

You can either:

  1. video/audio record yourself explaining and exploring your post it notes
  2.  try to boil your thinking down to five key bullet points
  3. find three key images which underscore the essence of your thinking.
  4. write an open letter to potential stakeholders asking them relevant questions
  5. curate a list of current resources you have which are pivotal in unpacking this topic

…an online learning community is a manifestation of connectivism as knowledge is distributed throughout the community of people and devices. A blog would serve as a connectivist tool as it facilitates interaction between peer and social communities of learners, continuity of conversations and allows for anytime, anyplace, anywhere learning (Garcia et al., 2015). Other tenets of connectivism addressed through a blog include the ability to involve external experts, control of the environment by the learner as they make and maintain their own connections, and the shift in the role of the teacher as students become accountable to one another (Garcia, Brown, & Elbeltagi, 2012).


Intentional Introversion

quiet flickr photo by hoodoo youdo shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license

A little Quiet is quintessential for schools

Schools are remarkably social places. Conversations are the lifeblood of a healthy campus, and each of us has a role to play in shaping them. In order to mold healthy dialogue, we need to juggle the ever-shifting soundcape of an educator’s week.

There’s a lot of noise involved in a teacher’s day: the soundscape of learning, the hum of remembering what needs remembering, and the cacophony of ideas attempting to come to fruition.

George Couros writes extensively about school culture, and in a recent post he shared this:

I have seen amazing schools with terrible mission statements, but I have seen incredibly forward-thinking mission statements that don’t make a difference.  Valuing our people doesn’t mean we don’t push them; it actually means that we do.  We help them become the best version of themselves, but we start with their strengths, not their weaknesses.

How do we start to build on the collective strengths of our staff, whilst finding balance and harmony as we score the sound of our school community?

Integrate Intentional Introversion.

The operative term there is ‘intentional.’ We never want to send a colleauge off into a ‘silo mentality,’ but we also want to make sure that we respect the need for independent inquiry.  One of the very best ways I’ve found going about that is by doing what I’m doing right now: working on my learning portfolio (aka blogging).

The reason I’ve found this quiet space so useful is that I know I’ll come back to it again, and I’ll also (when ready) be able to share it with others (when needed) to continue to curate conversations I have with my PLN (more on that here).

Integrate Intentional Introversion.

If we value reflection for our students, we need to value it for ourselves.  To integrate that quiet reflection into our practice, we need time and we need one another.  What if we used 30 minutes of one meeting per month to reflect and share? What if PD days created space for teachers to independently make connections between the learning and their practice? What if your PLP goals were blogged about and shared with other practitioners?

Integrate Intentional Introversion.

Some of us may find quiet in the small rituals of our day.  I’m thinking specifically of the way John Rinker describes his morning coffee ritual in this talk:

What if a cycle of quiet reflection and the curation of critical thinking were a ritual of your school?

If that cycle already exists at your school, the better question is: how can you archive it? How can you maximize the benefits of reflection?

When I come across portfolios by educators like Kim Cofino or Edna Sackson, (here and here) I’m reminded that all educators are teachers of thinking.  Perhaps that sounds overly simplistic, let me put it another way: we are all responsible for teaching approaches to question construction, responsible for teaching argument-articulation, responsible for inspiring inquiry, and committed to mentoring problem-solvers.

My blog is my space to do the mental stretching required of those aforementioned aspirations.  This is the place I can go to make connections I’ll need to return to.  This has also been my Staffroom 2.0. I’ve received a considerable amount of help and support in this space from other educators.

Silvia Tolisano makes this visible in her post about ‘blogging for learning,’ here. I love a term she uses there: learnflow. It has me wondering, do we do enough to share best practice techniques for our teacher ‘learnflows’? What’s yours?

Damien is currently spinning BBS. flickr photo by : Damien shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC) license


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“” flickr photo by kryshen shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license