A five step #PrideMonth challenge for Educators

One resource I find myself coming back to again and again is this provocative piece via Medium. The author is honest and thoughtful in his discussion on Twitter as a mean to engage with ‘other’:

In a serendipitous moment, content strategy expert Karen McGrane posted a link to a series of 26 tweets by Marco Rogers. In a few hundred words, Rogers had outlined four steps that he recommends (and has used himself) to use Twitter as a way to understand viewpoints that diverge from your own. Suddenly it clicked, and it felt like it should have been obvious all along. In order to resolve the dissonance, I needed to be able to accurately evaluate this new information, and that meant really listening to these diverse voices with an open mind.

In the spirit of #PrideMonth, it is wonderful to see initiatives like #500QueerScientists light up Twitter and Instagram.

@CAS_Arachnology  reflects on the story of the hashtag in this article:

I still “come out” every other week to colleagues, and I am often reluctant to speak about my personal life when working in the field or at scientific conferences. That’s why I started this project. I want LGBTQ+ STEM workers to come out of the shadows of the heteronormative culture in science, to see each other, and to be seen by the world for the STEM accomplishments we have made and advances we have driven forward.

One project I’ve been so thrilled to celebrate recently is the great work from   and  on behalf of .  Their launch this month comes at a critical time for queer teachers and students around the world.  It isn’t uncommon for someone to tell me they are so amazed by the progress and support for the LGBTQ community….but I think this optimism is a touch misguided.  In an opinion piece in The New York Times this year, we are reminded that:

“…support for L.G.B.T.Q. people has dropped, in all seven areas that the survey measured. They include “having an L.G.B.T. person at my place of worship” (24 percent of Americans are “very” or “somewhat” uncomfortable), seeing a same-sex couple holding hands (31 percent are uncomfortable) and “learning my child has an L.G.B.T. teacher at school” (37 percent are uncomfortable).

If you work in education, here’s my 5-point #PrideMonth challenge for you to take if you want to be a better ally and mentor for all students:

  1. How diverse is your social media feed? Could you follow and support more LGBTQ activists? (start here)
  2. When is the last time you referenced or played music in your classroom that included queer narratives? (start here) “Fletcher also wants to shift the way queer couples are portrayed in media. “Too often LGBTQ characters’ love stories are depicted as a tragedy or rejection,” Fletcher says. “Yes, it’s important to recognize the struggles the LGBTQ community faces, but I didn’t want to focus on that struggle.”  When is the last time you referenced an athlete from the LGBTQ community? (start here)
  3. Do teens have access to coming out fiction at your school? Is it labeled as ‘queer fiction,’ or is it included with the general collection and folded into the ‘mainstream’? (learn more about why this matters here)
  4.  Question the queer narratives you support: are they what we need them to be in 2018? Start a debate, unpack why some queer narratives are more popular than others, this is a good place to start.
  5. Have you considered what the future workplace for LGBTQ student might feel like? Check out this episode of Nancy to gain perspective:

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.
    1. https://twitter.com/clinty/status/980758973732319233
  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.
    2. https://twitter.com/clinty/status/956810661773873153
    3. https://twitter.com/clinty/status/955364140666810368
  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.)
    1. https://twitter.com/clinty/status/990841751425478657
    2. https://twitter.com/clinty/status/990100892945997825
    3. https://twitter.com/clinty/status/980780815972995072
  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.
    3. https://twitter.com/clinty/status/993805294521192448
  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 Pexels.com