Curate better questions: construct stronger communities


Why has the portfolio persisted as a powerful tool in today’s classroom?

Teachers and students have been blogging/using digital portfolios for over a decade now.  So why does it continue to feature at conferences, as a topic of online discussion, and in education-themed podcasts?

Perhaps because it is the perfect blend of personal reflection and communal inquiry.

What helps a newbie or a novice develop the craft of community building via portfolios?

1. Spend a little while thinking about your why

(Simon Sinek on why the why is the heart of the start)

Philip Bruce, a fellow teacher-blogger suggests two potential ‘why’s’ in a recent post:

Personal perspective: To reflect by organising and crystallising your thinking on your chosen topic(s), over time, accountable to a public audience.

Community perspective: To build connections and contribute to conversations with a wider, public audience, over time.

Accountability to a wide audience may not be as important to you or your students as their own self-engagement with learning is.  It is worth stating that sometimes an audience can be a group of peers, or just a future-self rendered capable of returning to thoughts/ideas/questions by the portfolio itself.

2. Be intentional about commenting/feedback practices

If you are using your portfolio/blog to generate further lines of inquiry or to promote a sense of community, give think time and guidance to commenting procedures.  I recommend you change up these practices from time to time.  Here are a few options I’ve had success with:

Thinking Moves:

Thinking Moves for Blog commenting – Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires;

Focus on being constructive

Constructive Commenting – Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires;

Evaluate the use of a ‘checklist’

Blogging Steps editable

3. Pivot Points

Blogs are being used as agents of change.  I’ve curated 44 ways to connect your classroom with global initiatives in a post here.

Of course, you are always able to go ahead and create your own event.

If you or your students need a few good role models, start here:

Made with Padlet

4. Set the Tardis for 2025

So what do you need to work on to be marketable in 2025? Here are six skill areas that the experts recommend, as well some of the strongest job-growth categories, as defined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and other sources—that relate to them.

Read the complete text from Fast Company here.

If you love to devour readings about ‘future-ready’ skills, this Forbes piece is by online standards already a bit dusty (from 2014), but I find it highly relevant today.

In her Harvard Business Review post, Dorie Clark suggests that “… for organizations and individuals that want to be known for their ideas, the clearest — yet most underrated — path is through blogging.”

Providing students with an opportunity to gain confidence with a ‘public voice,’ is likely to help them out down the road.

5. The power of choice is real

Menus, menus, menus.  Whether or not you develop them with colleagues, students, or all by yourself, be sure to provide options. Here is a sample menu for a grade 9 Global Perspectives unit on Popular Culture:

Made with Padlet

For a more general set of prompts, here is my menu of 50 ways to start a post.

Portfolio curation is a human skill at its heart.

Don’t believe me? Check out this post AND read through the comments.

If we want portfolios to fuel our community with conversation and creativity, we need to be patient, give ourselves time to process, and to ask for help.


Thanks Flickr for providing Creative Commons images like the ones featured in this post

Pablo Fernández


Get Pronoiad

Is your faculty paranoid or pronoiad?

After recently watching Adam Grant’s fantastic TED talk “Are you a giver or a taker?” I felt the need to write a much overdue ‘thank you’ post to my team of fellow coaches here.

Success is not about competition– it’s about contribution.- Adam Grant

 The phenomenal Keri-Lee forwarded the talk to our group and suggested we use it as a conversation starter for our first meeting back in the new year. That’s (just) one of the wonderful things about working with my team: people give, a lot.

Carsten ten Brink "GIVE"
Carsten ten Brink

Many educators will have experienced working with both paranoid and pronoiad people. Spend 15 minutes in any given staff meeting, and you’ll be able to get a sense for which term applies: do you have passive resistance or engaged constructive conflict? Do people fight back eye-rolls, or are questions received with thoughtful-pauses?  Do we avoid conflict or do we push for greater understanding? Does the meeting need many navigators or does only one person hold the map?

Do we trust one another at the wheel?

kaysha Drive

I am grateful for my colleagues. Every day.

Dave, Ken, Keri-Lee, Andrew and Adrienne have all made me feel comfortable, but not too comfortable.  A good colleague will invite you to rely on them for help, but they will also inspire you to take risks.

Beyond any doubt, each one of them has been what Grant described as a ‘giver.’

if you want to build a culture where givers succeed, is you actually need a culture where help-seeking is the norm; where people ask a lot.-Adam Grant

What’s remarkable about our team dynamics isn’t that we get along, rather it is that we aren’t afraid not to.

What I’ve learned from my team is impossible to distil in a single blog post.  However, in the spirit of a new year, and in the spirit of wanting to pay their collective wisdom forward, here are three trademarks I’d recommend any team replicate:

1. Small talk is huge.

If we don’t bother to have casual conversation, we won’t be able to enjoy ‘casual successes.’  Schools are a blend of the personal and the professional. Carve out space to meet that mix.

2. Go off piste.

If you are a slave to your agenda, you’ll miss out on a lot of magic.  Great leadership knows where the line is, and where to readjust boundaries as needed.

3. Be aware of your collective media diet.

Share links, books, movies, tools.  These things aren’t talking points, they are thinking pivots, and every organization regardless of size or scope needs to have thinking pivots posted from a wide variety of stake-holders.

3.2: Don’t miss an opportunity to express your gratitude.

See above.

Drew Streib Team
Drew Streib




Flickr images featured in this post:

Carsten ten Brink