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.

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?


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


Owning up to the ownership shift

Via Flickr's Creative Commons Image Bank
Via Flickr’s Creative Commons Image Bank


How can teachers foster the creativity, entrepreneurialism, and lifelong curiosity necessary for young people to thrive?


What can we do to unpack the significance of the self-directed learning movement?

This post hopes to curate resources related to self-directed learning.  It also wants to pool more resources and build bridges for future conversations.  Please leave a comment with your favorite SDL resource or your questions.


What is it, and who is shaping the movement?

Here are 15 educators to follow, and resources to shape conversations around #selfdirectedlearning:

1. Children in Charge is a brilliant post via Edutopia
2.  Welcome to Epic is an inspiring read via Mindshift
3. Jane McGonical has been preaching about the benefits of intrinsically motivated schools and societies for a very long time, check out any of her TED talks here
4. Sugata Mitra has also been incredibly innovative, his story here
5. Steve Hargadon is leading the revolution, learn more on his approach here
6. George Couros, educator, author of The Innovator’s Mindset has a great post on his blog that looks at organic learning at its best here
7. John Spencer is not only the educator behind this fantastic video series, but he’s also the author of Launch.
8.  Sean Bengry’s delivered this great TEDx Talk
9. Bodo Hoenen is the founder of  DEV4X check out his vision here
10. Madeleine Brookes is leading the SDL movement at her school, listen to her reflection here
11. Till H. Gross takes an innovative approach to SDL, he walks you through his thoughts on dropping university here
12. Camp Stomping Ground provides a beautiful visual notes mural on the fundamentals of SDL here
13. Akilah S. Richards has a brilliant podcast AND you can preview into her insight here
14. Martin Ruthaivilavan embraces SDL  and shares frequently via #selfdirectedlearning on Twitter
15.Amy Harrington delivers an inspired argument on why we need SDL now more than ever in this Wired piece








Thank you to the following photographers for providing their images on Flickr