#BIT15Reads: Google hangout and making your reading visible

Today at 7:30 pm ET I’ll be hosting our second Google Hangout On Air so please join us if you’re able at:


or watch the live videostream here:

A few years ago now I worked with a team at my school in a Professional Learning Practice action research project where we learned how to help our students make their learning visible, by reflecting on our own teaching practice and making our professional learning visible.  That experience truly informed my career and I’ve found that being authentic and vulnerable in front of an audience, online or face-to-face, is a humbling and rewarding experience.  Ultimately it is sharing that leads to deeper personal connections and I aim to do this as much as possible.

In our book club #BIT15Reads, I invite you to share your reading as much as possible to join us as a community.  This week I found an upgrade to my favourite aggregator Zite….which has transformed into Flipboard.  I’m trying it out.  It might not be right for you…maybe you prefer Instagram or Tumblr but if you can, and you do, please share it to the hashtag #BIT15Reads as you’re making your way through a book.  It might be when a quote or graphic resonates with you, or it might be when you question or disagree with something written.

Jennifer Casa-Todd is reading Will Richardson’s book and she tweeted early into her book with a snapshot of the book (maybe an e-version?) of a quick quote she approved of.

Jennifer approval

Stepan Pruchnicky is reading Daniel Levitin’s book and took snapshots of his notes and his book highlighted  with tweets about his wondering.

Stepan wonder (1)Stepan Wonder 1

Stepan later turned his early thoughts into a blog post: http://140pluslearning.tumblr.com/post/128715359806/shhhhh-for-learnings-sake

So how we can make our reading visible to each other is one of the things I hope we can talk about in today’s Google Hangout.  Hope to see you there.

Making thinking visible

I started the year knowing that I wanted to spend more time helping students to be more visible about their thinking process.  Why?

  • I think we spend too much time evaluating products and not enough time evaluating processes
  • Learning to express yourself is such an important skill
  • Dissecting your own process will make patterns/habits visible and we can honour those that work and work on those that don’t
  • Creating an archive of processes means we’ll have a whole bank of ideas to jump off for future projects
  • This kind of documentation is a huge component in making inquiry questions richer/deeper

So then I thought can we combine this reflective practice with the authenticity of an online audience?  Could we insert some Vygotzky here and make reflective practice social?  I had the opportunity to take these questions to the next level when I was asked to join a group of other secondary teachers and we were given time release to collaborate and later share our findings.

With my grade 12 media arts students, I asked if each of them would make an individual blog and suggested WordPress or Blogger as the tool. I asked them to blog twice a week.  I gave them 9 required topics for the semester, a whack of suggested topics, and ample time in class to do it.  I had varying degrees of responses.

I was surprised that the students didn’t leap all over this.  Here are my students, in grade 12 media arts, the culminating year, the last semester of grade 12 and they were shy!!  I thought this would be their legacy, their swan song as they’re leaving high school forever (ever ever – insert echo).

I was also surprised how disadvantaged students who are already challenged by literacy had a hard time with this.  You have to understand that my classroom is filled with technology and cool art stuff so there are countless mediums to express with….but the basic interface, and maybe fear of expression were stumbling blocks that for 3 of 24 of the students, they could never quite get over.  I also found it a huge advantage to have public spaces and private spaces.  We had public blogs but a private wikispace where students could discuss academically, and where I posted all my content.  Our final research project was to explore a media artist and create a wikipage for our artist in a visual way based on common guiding questions.  We also used Twitter to encourage communication.  Their final exam is coming up and it will be entirely reflective as well.  I’m prepared to do it all inside GoogleDocs and to accept their responses electronically, but I’ll also have a ream of foolscap and printout copies in case the wireless is dodgy.

Questions I still have:

  • Why does appearing vulnerable prevent us from sharing our creative process and learning?
  • What can we do to foster trust in our face-to-face environments and online environments?
  • How can we get past the idea that only ‘experts’ have a valuable voice?