about being special

_OL_6142-1
                                                        (photo credit: aarif_foto)

Recently a colleague was voicing some frustrations. He works in an environment where most people he works with are some sort of expert. He finds himself frustrated when folks he works with don’t know things that he considers to be “basic”.

So I asked him if he thinks he is special.

“No. Do you think you’re special?”

I told him I believe there is no one more special than I am. My specialness is something I get to share with other people. If I don’t believe I am special, I wouldn’t really expect anyone else to think I am either.

I reminded him that no one he works with knows the things that he knows, or knows them the way he knows them. He has access to certain knowledge and understanding of things that his other colleagues do not.

Working in academic environments with academics who are more regularly recognized for what they know, we sometimes forget that our knowledge, and how we apply it, is special.  We are special.

Realizing one’s specialness is a problem of becoming. Once you realize that you are special, you can become anything.

I told my friend, be special.

about online shared spaces

slide1

When I was in high school we had a snack bar and a lounge called the fishbowl. These were public spaces but generally understood to be student lounges or congregating areas. There were also spaces right outside of the teacher’s offices, the “outer offices”. Students might be found in these spaces waiting to meet or get help from teachers. These weren’t exactly the teacher offices, but they also weren’t classrooms. So between hallways and stairwells, the outer offices, the snack bar, the fishbowl, etc. there were many spaces within the learning environment where teachers and students interacted, and each of those interactions potentially impacted the learning experience.

Now with technologies impacting the formal and informal ways and spaces where students learn, I’ve been thinking a lot about connected learning and how connected learning looked for me as a student in the late 90’s through my undergraduate years. Many of the things in my real world that grounded classroom learnings made their way into conversation with peers and teachers, and many times these conversations happened outside of formal learning spaces, but within the informal spaces inside of the learning environment.

Connected learning is espoused to help learners create and have more authentic experiences because learners are able to weave and interconnect their real worlds with classroom materials etc. I wonder, though, where do students and teachers interact informally, and maybe even accidentally, online? If there aren’t many spaces, or any spaces, where students and instructors interact online in natural and authentic ways…as they might do in the hallway, in school lounges, in outer offices, or across the campus quad, where do those connections the students are making in online spaces connecting to the online spaces teachers visit and reside?

about the Green Schools Conference & Expo

IMG_9570For the past several years my colleagues and I have been working with secondary environmental science teachers on developing curriculum materials which integrate learning technologies and inquiry-based learning models in science education.

I was very proud this past week to accompany a pair of these teachers to the national Green Schools Conference & Expo to showcase how their learners use mobile and digital technologies to investigate and report on environmental issues in their communities.

Cheers Gents, I am very proud of the work we’ve been doing together!

about being a Visiting Scholar

MTUposter 1I was invited this past week by the Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences and the Center for Teaching and Learning at Michigan Technological University to offer a series of lectures, workshops, and forums on the use of social media in learning experiences and on academic presences in online spaces.

I gave a talk to the  Applied Cognitive Science and Human Factors Forum about Taking Presence Online. Juxtaposing the notions of Native-Immigrant with  Visitor-Resident I invited the participants to consider different ways they are resident online, how they participate in those spaces, and how they might identify and honour different types of engagement in online spaces.

I offered a workshop for faculty and graduate assistant instructors on Social Media use in Learning Experiences in which I showcased my integration of tools like  Flipgrid, Vidku, and Blogger to engage learners in rich immersive learning by reflecting, reacting, and responding to content within their respective learning and living contexts.

It was also an incredible honour to be the featured speaker during the Visiting Women & Minority Lecturer/Scholar Series Luncheon. I advocate a shifting of the discussion towards a Visitor – Resident paradigm of thinking about  the ways we reside and participate online. Online spaces afford us the opportunity to participate and engage in ways meaningful to our various roles. Networked Scholarship broadly describes the activities of scholars within online networks. Connected Learning offers a perspective for linking online networks and ways of knowing to construct meaning.  In my talk I offer a bridging of these frameworks as a way to embed learners within authentic and emerging contexts.

This experience was a tremendous privileged and I thank my colleagues Josh and Emily for facilitating this opportunity to share my work.