An Initial Blog Encounter (and why we should blog)

Courtesy of the Way Back Machine

Huddled in my college apartment’s bedroom among my four roomates, we click through the female members’ scanned images on http://www.Hot-or-Not.com at a lighting speed of 128kps. Abruptly, one of our female friends bursts into the adolescent male enclave.  Nicole gasps at our audacity to participate in such a degrading pastime.  We retort that our own personal pictures are posted as well receiving the same scrutiny among the other members.  She counters that there are better things to do with the internet than just simply rating each other’s appearance.  [insert crickets here]

Within the next couple of moments and with energetic passion, Nicole slides into the computer seat, takes the controls, and introduces us to a revolutionary form of internet use–a web diary, or web log.  As she navigates triumphantly through her own two or three pages on the web, our male huddle sits silently….waiting, watching, biding our time to…mockingly interject how great it would be to post our private thoughts so others could see them. How  productive?  How innovative..?  

Nicole puffs in exasperation and exits the room.  We resume the import task of giving and receiving ratings.

…..sharing through blogging is not just a high form of internet use; it is a high form of human existence.

humanity

Humanity by D.C.Atty via Flickr

While the internet has dramatically changed since 2002, the same sort of vain activities can be found on the web, just faster and slicker.  With 15 more years added to my belt size, I agree with Nicole now.  My current perspective has emerged from numerous constructive encounters with blogs.  My friend Nicole was right that one cold January evening.  There is a higher purpose to the internet.   Sharing our thoughts and experiences for others to read and interact with is a high form of internet usage.  However, sharing through blogging is not just a high form of internet use; it is a high form of human existence.  

We contribute to a blog, digital space, e-portfolio because we want to enhance our human capacity to establish and share the elements that make up our narrative.  A commitment to these type of constructive contributions may be driven by

  • Inspiration
  • An external task, assignment, reward
  • The need to connect with an audience
  • Reflection and growth
  • Emergence of one’s own ideas
  • Expression of one’s own opinions
  • The need to respond to others’ contributions from various corners of the world

Blogging, and similar contributions, engage individuals in the nonlinear, communal process of essential human endeavors.

cycle

Cyclical adapted from Tom Magliery via Flickr

Finally, contradicting my initial, un-informed reaction to an online diary/web log, blogging is much more than just displaying your intimate details for strangers to read. Blogging, and similar contributions, engage individuals in the nonlinear, communal process of essential human endeavors.  The practice of blogging allows us to

  1. Collect and piece together a personal story or narrative of our life
  2. Observe and reflect upon personal growth in various areas of our life
  3. Incorporate and process what we are learning from others on the web
  4. Use the web as a sounding board for feedback and critiques
  5. Practice new techniques in critical thinking, rhetoric, and presentational skills
  6. Connect with others and contribute to a community and address a real audience.
  7. Remix our previous experience with current ideas, products, and skills
  8. Learn skills and approaches that help us navigate and create digital content.
  9. Contribute our story for others to learn
  10. Pursue, expand, and showcase of our thoughts, ideas, interests, curiosity, and passion.

Feature Image Blogging by Sean McEntee via Flickr

A Tropical Playground: Culture, Rocks, Flower, and Creativity

A Tropical Playground Gift

As I digest ways Seneca’s Stoic philosophy relates to our modern, connective, bustling existence, my daughter, Sophia, and an entourage of friends take an intermission from playing in the park and enter the house. As girlie remarks are offered up amongst the bite-sized gaggle, a few snippets of sense peirce through.

“A gift daddy…” my daughter, Sophia, declares.
“Yes, it is Teacher’s day today” comes a friend’s voice.
“No, not just for daddy but also for mommy. Yes, a gift for both of you” asserts Sophia as if tripping between two essential thoughts.

As the dialogue unfolds, Sophia presents me with a rock, two Asian citric fruits, and two flowers, she declares her gift with a caring eloquence only my daughter exudes in such moments. She’s saying look at this beautiful rock and its accompaniments; I give them to you daddy. Where would you like to place them.

The intermission concludes just as abruptly as it began. Sophia and company dart out to continue playing as I place the assorted bouquet on the table. The randomness of this gift is, in fact, quite revealing. I’ve come to know my daughter as a sweet, caring individual who loves giving her precious, valuable hugs when greeting others. Every hug she gives is special to her because the hug comes from her. And even more telling is the fact that she invests her playful energy into creating a gift for her parents.

A Gift Emerges

As I reflect on this incident, I speculate on how this mundane, fantastic little gift found its way on my table, and in the photo above. In many ways, I see this playground bouquet emerging from basic stages of creativity (basked on John Spencer’s ‘Seven Stages‘).

Stage 1: Exposure
We are constantly inundated with stimuli providing the context and soil for our thoughts and actions. In this case, my daughter’s tropical playground (and the private gardens around it, unfortunately) exude flowers, rocks, and little fruits. All of this is within reach of a 4-year-old’s grasp. The simple act of exploring the playground (her environment) presents a bountiful view full of decorative fodder that her and her friends undoubtedly soak in as they dash between hedges, fountains, and concrete.

Stage 2: Active Consuming
The exposure to this lush playground of decorative fancies infused with a 4-year old’s impulsivity is too much not to explore. My daughter is engaging her surroundings and weaving together her joyous experiences. She picks the flowers, rummages through rock beds, nestles her toes in a playpen of sand, and screams with raucous girliness among her cohorts and friends. She’s finding an affinity for these surroundings that make up the tropical coolness of her day.

examing-nature

Observation source here by Eric Milet

Stage 3: Critical Consuming
True, I doubt the word critical could be rigidly applied to a 4-year old’s thought process; however, an evaluative approach does come into play. I’ve often observed Sophia and her friends combing the rock beds for that perfect, beautiful rock or surveying the hedges for the fullest flower. Most rocks are wanting and get tossed away and flowers can be just as fun to cast aside, but lately, Sophia has absconded with rocks and flowers to display their beauty to others. Not at all something I’ve paid particular attention to until today, but nonetheless, there seems to be sort of personal, or shared, evaluative criteria guiding her and her cohort of friends.

Stage 4: Curating
For the past several months, my daughter has seemingly developed a fondness of decoration, arrangement, and patterns. Stickers are her favorite while decorating various household items, and she takes great pains to ensure the stickers are the appropriate color and size and are aligned (or misaligned) a certain way. This attention to detail displays a sense of organization. An organization she is very eager to share with others. She presents this playground bouquet with contents obviously chosen with the right combination of elements.

Stage 5: Copying
One of the great benefits of being a young child is licence to copy anything and everything you see without any regret (unless of course a peer is complaining that you copied them–and still that doesn’t matter all that much). In fact, copying is essential to a young child’s development and should be encouraged in almost all instances. When you think about it, young children learn language, other forms of expression, and social norms/roles at incredible rates simply by copying others. This particular day was Teacher’s Day, a special Thai Cultural day where Sophia and her friends observed and participated in giving gifts to teachers. Given a child’s tendency to copy and the fact that I’m an educator, it seems only natural for Sophia to give a gift to me, just as she did her teachers during the school day. Furthermore, I’m sure the collaborative discussion among Sophia’s playground peer group is rife with copying each other’s’ proclivities and tastes in floral, fruit, and quarry.

Stage 6: Mashups
Of course copying, while engaging, does not go far enough to produce a sense of accomplishment for my daughter. Simply copying someone else doesn’t automatically lead to a product that’s shared. It was only the repurposed, numerous elements coming together in the context of Teacher’s Day that spurred my daughter to share this wonderful gift.

jobs_sharing

Experience and Sharing source here by Brian Solis

Stage 7: Creating
As Sophia stands with her hands cupped and filled with the decorative arrangement, she is taking a risk. Yes, not a big one since she knows her father is trustworthy and willing to give praise when it is due. And herein lies the crux of creation, she took the time and the risk to finalize her gift and share it with someone. There are many philosophical arguments to be had concerning the point of creation and whether something can have been actually created without being shared (sort of like the tree in the woods). At any rate, putting the care to polish and present her creation, she took a step from remixing various things and made the product officially HER gift to daddy. The product emerges through her experience and is given to me.

The Creative Lesson

This post emerges from me to you via pondering Seneca, curating ideas on creative stages, and a 4-year-old in a tropical playground on Teacher’s Day in Thailand

This is Creation: Weaving together something that has simmered in you over time and sharing it in an expressive unique way. This could be a painting, drawing, song, poem, essay, formal talk/discussion/presentation, video, social media comment, GIF, blog post, etc.

So on this Teacher’s Day (January 11th, 2017), I reflect on how my daughter teaches me about mysteries in life. My daughter’s gift serves as the catalyst for the emergence of these ideas.

Can you find ways these stages of creation influence the products that come from your own experience?

The Highest Form of Internet Use

Feature image via Wikimedia Commons.

Human Advancement and Creation

Throughout evolution and development, every advancement, from cave paintings to enhanced digital reality, has been driven by the human need to connect and express ideas.  These advances emerged from the human desire to pursue:

  • Explore
  • Build and Maintain Relationships
  • Entertainment
  • Ideas
  • Personal/Community growth

Systems and products are developed to enhance and improve people’s daily lives.  Over the course of human history, ideas diffused relatively slowly compared to today’s internet enhanced society.  The internet has exponentially increased the collaborative nature essential to the creative process.  

Internet and Creation

As people share new advancements with others, new ideas and products result in even more creations. With the internet, the act of sharing is one simple click away now; the act of creating is one idea away; the act of collaborating is a few keystrokes away.  From my desk, I can access all the necessary elements that make human attain one of their highest forms of existence. I can create.

How could one use their access to the internet to engage and further their creativity?  These 7 ideas can help people move from just using the web for entertainment to using it in a way that helps them pursue a creative, productive mindset.  

iPad meet Google Classroom: A New Workflow for Grading

Just a couple years ago, I found grading multimedia projects laborious and time consuming.  The whole process from showing students how to submit their work, the time uploading their large media files, accessing the media files, viewing the media project, commenting on the work, and assigning grades was just too much to deal with and worry about while assessing all the skills.  This is not to mention all the different programs and applications I needed to be running to complete the task of assessing a student’s learning.  A few years ago, I still did it, but that’s only because I’m a ‘techy’ I guess.

Recently, I finished grading a number of multimedia projects that my students submitted via a completely online delivered course.  In my ‘techy’ way, I was committed to try the grading process using the iPad, Google Classroom App, and other Google Suite applications.  To my great surprise, these tools streamlined my experience in such a way that the grading process was not only as simple as grading on a computer, but as simple as grading with pen and paper.  The entire process fit right on my screen from collating all the student work, checking the student plan, viewing the final product, providing feedback, and communicating the grade with the student.  This heartening experience re-affirmed that educational tech tools are quickly catching up to the production capabilities of our students.  This is very good news for teachers’ workflow.

Here’s an annotated screenshot depicting the workflow of grading a multimedia project using an iPad.

Marking the Conditions for Innovative Learning

Featured Image:Exploration-Innovation Missy Schmidt via Flickr

Technology integration at Ruamrudee International School ties instructional practice and technological resources into 6 Markers for Innovation: Expansion, Creativity, Digital Citizenship, Digital Literacy, Lifelong Learning, Connections.

These markers set forth various indicators/descriptions that can help educators innovatively design instructional experiences and learning environment.  In his book, the Innovative Mindset, George Couros explores the necessary conditions for innovation in the classroom.  The following attempts to synthesize RIS’s Learning Innovation Markers and Couros ideas.

Expansion

The key to expansion is learning how to access and work with content to construct and revise new understandings.  Through active learning and reflective thought, learners develop methods and strategies to find the right information and content for the purpose at hand.  Using constructive practices and a variety of resources, learners increasingly access valuable content via reliable avenues while developing adaptive learning approaches that promote critical thinking and idea creation.

What is Your Choice

by Aaron Davis via Flickr

Couros Conditions: Choice-One of main ideas of expansion is to promote authentic learning experiences.  There is no authenticity without ‘Choice’.  Critical Thinkers: Learning to evaluate resources to separate truth from fiction and separate the biases within sources helps students sift and develop ways to pursue valuable content.

Creativity

The driving force behind creativity is the process of finding new ways of doing or expressing oneself to improve, or enrich, the life and experience of oneself and others.  Creativity does not originate from a void.  Rather, creativity is the emergence of thoughts and ideas one has from the interactions and reflections of their environment.  Finding new ways to meet others needs or connect with others enables a person to begin the creative endeavour.

 

Metacognition

by Denise Krebs via Flickr

Couros Conditions: Opportunities for Innovation–Innovation is combining, tweaking, and modifying various ideas and products to address a unique need for one’s community. Time for Reflection:  This condition of innovation can be closely tied to other markers, such as Expansion and Lifelong Learning.  However, creativity requires honest and concise reflective practices to promote active/critical observation of one’s environment.

 

 

Digital Citizenship

Empathy

Pierre Phaneuf via Flickr

A learner can not gain valuable citizenship qualities in the vacuum of a self-contained classroom.  While it may start in the classroom, learners must develop healthy, positive interactions and respect for others, both in-person and virtually.  Learning to acknowledge and respect the validity of others’ expectations and values is essential.  By acting and interacting from this acknowledgement and respect provides the basis for developing healthy interactions.

Couros Condition:  Voice— Finding one’s voice in the sea of opinions and facts is an exercise not just in communication but also in conviction.  In the process, learners should develop an open understanding that others may not agree with or even criticize .  A learner who is developing a healthy ‘voice’ will attempt to positively interact with those who agree or disagree with their perspective in every context.

Digital Literacy

2015-07-05b Thinking about problem-finding -- index card #problem-solving #problem-finding

by Sacha Chua via Flickr

The ability to navigate different contexts by searching, constructing, and conveying meaning requires strategies and skills involving the ability to read, understand, and deliver.  Often times conceptual and physical tools are necessary to assist learners’ literary development.  In the modern era, digital tools are increasingly at the populace’s disposal when finding problems, generating solutions, and conveying results.

Couros Conditions: Problem Solvers/Finders–The better one’s level of digital literacy is the more access they have to ways of finding problems and developing solutions for the problems they find.

Lifelong Learning

By finding one’s passions and interests in life, individuals can become motivated to adopt and implement personal learning systems that help them pursue and develop into the next iteration of themselves.  Basically, learners who pursue improvement throughout life become masters at transference and can teach themselves anything that piques their interest at any time.  The ability to self-assess one’s own understanding and skills in a certain area is key to transference.  Learners must know where to start to gain new, more advanced, understandings and skills.

by Sebastiaan ter Burg via Flickr

by Sebastiaan ter Burg via Flickr

Couros Conditions: Self-Assessment: Being motivated to assess one’s own understanding is essential to learning something new .  In order to assess oneself, there needs to be some sort of comparison to set up an evaluative measure for true self-assessment.  Evaluative measures for self-assessment could include external comparison, authoritative guidelines, and personal evaluative approaches.  Whatever the evaluative measure used, a learner must produce some kind of evidence to employ an evaluative measure.  Over time, the collection of evidence provides an arch of development detailing one’s growth.  Digital portfolios can help tell the story of this development and evaluative strategies.  This intrinsically sets up a learner’s road map to passions and interests. Connected Learning: By connecting with others, students can learn how to do new things and old things in new ways.  While this process should not be directly competitive in nature, connecting with others to see how they do things can help one evaluate and improve upon their own practices and habits.

Connections

This marker focuses on the connections learners make to resources to further personal development and learning.  These resources can be physical inanimate objects (books, journals, etc), places (library, resource centre, maker space, classroom, etc.), people (teacher, mentor, coach, parents, professionals), and of course virtual.  In fact, virtual connections can supplant or augment the former resources.  This is why virtual connections are so important to focus on as we teach.  The more exposure learners have to various ways to connect with resources via virtual connections, the more resourceful learners become to draw upon in new situations.  Good connections can set up better adaptability to new situations.

Connections

by David Armano via Flickr

Couros Conditions–Connected Learning:  With technology and the skills to connect virtually  “students develop their own understanding of where they have been, where they are, and where they are going.”  Educators should create learning opportunities and environments that enable students to find and build connections both in-person and virtually.  Through their interactions, learners can access feedback while finding inspiration in others’ work, whether peers or experts.