Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Top #EdBlogs2013 Posts

2013 was a productive year that saw quite a bit of professional development and new thinking, highlighted by traveling, where I made new colleagues, and attending the Google Teacher Academy in Chicago. In reflecting on this year, +Eric Saibel has inspired colleagues who blog to share their most influential posts of 2013 for the #EdBlogs2013 series he's collecting, and I'm honored to participate (read his own post here). Taking a page from +David Theriault, who reworked the organization of the #EdBlog2013 idea (cf. his fantastic #EdBlogs2013 post), I'll reflect on 2013 thematically, organizing my post around some of the ideas that I've been interested in this year. And I'll keep the summaries of each post, so be sure to give them the love they deserve.

Innovation and Mindfulness

I've been very interested in creativity and innovation, along with the part that mindfulness plays, thanks to my PLN. I now believe that creativity is one of the most important skills that we should be teaching (alongside collaboration and empathy), and the following posts are just of the few of a growing body of literature that has helped me to think this way.

 Daniel Goleman, whose book Focus I enjoyed, has a couple of posts shared in LinkedIn on mindfulness and creativity that I enjoyed reading: Three Must-Haves for Team Creativity and Mindfulness: When Focus Means Single-Tasking.
New Pioneers blog

• Collisions of Creativity from the magazine Mindful is a good piece on the relationship between mindfulness and creativity.

• Lee-Anne Gray (@DrLeeAnneG) wrote a great post on the need for mindfulness in education as a source of innovation titled Why Mindfulness is Needed For Education Innovation.

• I love the idea of starting a "life hacker" club build around the modern world, as outlined in Start a Life Hacker Club at Your School by Adam Renfro in the +Getting Smart blog.

• Stephanie Harrison's (@cultivaceThis will make you happier at work is a great post on bringing mindfulness into the workplace, offering several suggestions for doing so. Creating a mindful culture within the workplace is one of my long-term goals, assuming that, if teachers are generally more mindful and happy, we can also help students to be more mindful and happy.

• Finally, this academic year I began to realize the importance of the relationship between pedagogy and physical space and never fully appreciated it, until +Alice Keeler led a revelatory session at #edcampSFBay last August on the topic. The conversation was inspiring, and +Kevin Ashworth followed it up with his own room redesign in a 2-part blog post on his work (Part 1 | Part 2). We're undertaking our own room redesigns of History, Visual Arts, and World Languages classrooms, and Kevin's work will serve as a source of inspiration for us to craft true collaborative space for our students in a mindful manner.

Design Thinking

Mindfulness and design thinking are very similar in a number of ways; to my mind, mindfulness is an internal application of the external principles of design thinking, and they're both critically dependent on problem definition and system awareness. In designing new forms of pedagogy, especially around technology, I've tried to keep a number of basic principles in mind, and the following posts.

• Last winter/spring's #etmooc was the first digital experience that opened me up to the value of taking risks and the importance of building a PLN. In particular, +Christina Hendricks wrote a post Etmooc: Rhizomatic Learning In Philosophy Courses on the concept of "rhizomatic learning." which was one of the first blog posts I read that challenged the way I thought about learning and pedagogy.
Creative Confidence

• Eric Saibel wrote a great piece The Art of Coaching: Or, Disrupting the Echo Chamber that has helped to give me a framework to apply design thinking at our school, particularly the concept of the disruption and the "echo chamber," or the repetitiveness of thinking that we can find ourselves stuck in as a group that too often prevents us from identifying the core of a problem.

• Grant Wiggins, in his post Beyond teacher egocentrism: design thinking, has some great thoughts on what design thinking means in education, and he share some of the same ideas I have about the ways that the ego gets in the way of creating this type of environment.

• In an important discussion about transparency in education, Brad Ovenell-Carter (@Braddo) asks the question Can a radical transparency replace grading?. It's short but asks a great question that opens up discussion of standards-based grading and general openness, of which we still have far too little.

• Though not published in 2013, Cathy Davidson's (@CathyNDavidson) idea of crowdsourced grading in How to Crowdsource Grading grabbed my attention. I haven't yet put this idea to use in this form, but I love the approach to empowering students in this way.


2013 was the year of gamification for me. I got to know the concept in the spring, though through some ideas of the summer, and now I'm working toward creating a gamified Latin IA course around our new 1:1 BYOL program. Fortunately, a number of excellent blog posts have helped me with the work.

• Tanya Sasser's (@TanyaSasser) post 3 Things I Wish Everyone Knew about Gamification corrects some common misconceptions about the role of game-based learning and gamification in education.

• +Rory Newcomb has a fantastic blog series on gamification, starting with Gamification 101: Why Gamify? Part I. It's a minefield of great ideas for anyone interested in game-based learning.

• +Jennifer Roberts has some helpful words of advice on the importance of good game design  in her post Broken Games.

• And last but certainly not least, IDEO founders Tom and David Kelley have a great post on the real-world value that games have for learning with How Daydreams and Videogames Can Make Us Confident In Real Life (Yes).


I'll close with some random yet influential posts on professional development, the MOOC, language study and the humanities in general.

+David Theriault's The Magnificent 60: Introducing Your #gtachi Participants is brilliant for so many reasons, mostly because it paints such a colorful picture of all the amazing people who participated in the #gtachi last July.

• At the beginning of last summer, +Jennifer Peyrot shared her Summer Learning Fun on her blog, which helped me to rethink how I approach the summer. In particular, it's a good idea to plan out some activities to ensure a fairly high level of productivity, lest it go by too quickly.

• In August, I had the opportunity to help +Nancy Minicozzi organize and run the PlaydateLA conference. Her reflections in Playdate L.A. capture the excitement I also felt for providing PD to over 100 people, rather than receiving it at an event. It was such a positive experience that the PlaydateLA team is already looking forward to doing it again next August.

• If you're not yet a regular reader of the digital journal Hybrid Pedagogy, run in part by +Jesse Stommel, I highly recommend having a look. His post The March of the MOOCs: Monstrous Open Online Courses, along with the #moocmooc event last summer, helped me to see the larger possibilities of connectivism and constructivism that the MOOC can bring to education.

• Language teachers are always concerned with promoting language programs, especially as STEM disciplines grow in popularity. +Dana Ariss wrote a great post Learning Languages: Who Says You Can't? that underscores the value that language study has for resilience and taking control of learning. I'm now interested in promoting an "Hour of Language" in a way similar to December's Hour of Code event.

• Along with the diminishing interest in language study, the Humanities have also been suffering (cf. what's happening at the university level). Ben Stern understands Why Humanities Still Matter In 2013, however, and argues a strong case for the importance of the Humanities in understanding the world we interact with.


That wraps up my 2013, more or less. In addition to blogs, I've also been reading a fair number of books that have all shaped my thinking to a large degree, and I've share some thoughts here on a few of them. But as we begin 2014 (and now that my coding streak has finished!), I plan on carving time to read more blogs, and I'll be looking forward to the ideas that develop from them in this year.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Sunshine Gratitude

I owe +Megan Valois (@msvalois) and +Karl Lindgren-Streicher (@LS_Karl) some gratitude for sharing their Sunshine posts with me a few weeks ago, and I'm happy to finally respond with my first post of 2014.

Here's how Sunshine posts work:
  1. Acknowledge the nominating blogger
  2. Share 11 random facts about myself.
  3. Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for me.
  4. List 11 bloggers that I believe deserve some recognition and a little blogging love! (These people can't include the blogger who nominated me.)
  5. Post 11 questions for the bloggers I nominate.

Part 1. Nominators  I got to know Megan on Twitter, and even though we were both at QC GAFE in Montreal last month, I never got a chance to say hi to her in person. Hopefully, I'll get a chance to meet her in person soon. She's one of the mods of #cdnedchat happening Monday nights at 5pm PST, which is chock-full of great educators north of the boarder.

Karl and I got to know each other last summer on Twitter, and we met in person at the amazing #edcampSFBay last August. He's become one of my closest allies within my PLN, and I consider myself fortunate to count him among my colleagues and friends (even though he lives in the Bay Area and doesn't bleed Giants orange!). Make an effort to get to know this guy.

Part 2. 11 Facts About Me
  1. My real name is "Maurice." In England, it ends up as Morris, but in Ireland it's pronounced more like "Marce," which then ends up as "Moss" colloquially. The name has been in my family for generations, and if not for my grandfather on my dad's side, I'd have been a Moss, V or something along those lines.
  2. I was born and raised in Las Vegas, NV. Spent the first 18 years of my life there, before going to college and I'm apparently one of the few natives.
  3. I wear flip-flops year-around and I don't think it's odd. Others do, however, especially those back East. It's one of the perks of living in Southern CA.
  4. My undergraduate degree is in Applied and Engineering Physics, but in my junior year, I instead decided to pursue Classics (MA) and linguistics (PhD) in graduate school.
  5. Thanks to all that time in graduate school, I now think that PB&J is just about the best food ever.
  6. I'm a huge craft beer geek (a trait I share with Karl!). I love West-Coast IPAs most and will drink anything with Columbus hops.
  7. I'm a rabid sports fan, with baseball placed above and beyond everything else. Growing up in the desert, I was drawn to cool, open grass fields. As I hinted above, I'm a diehard San Francisco Giants fan and have made a tradition out of seeing a few spring training games in AZ each year. College football comes second (UCLA Bruins!), and I'm a big fan of Cornell University hockey (my alma mater).
  8. I'm a music snob, with a proclivity toward guitar-based music. I love post-metal and post-rock, including bands like Converge, ISIS, Jesu, Explosions in the Sky, to cite just a few. 80s pop and 90s grunge, though, will always have a place in my heart, and it goes without saying that Spotify is still my favorite "gadget."
  9. I'm an avid yogi and a second-series ashtangi. Though I've moved away from my beloved ashtanga studio, I try to practice as much as possible.
  10. I love reading. Until last spring, I read almost exclusively fiction, including anything by Pynchon and BolaƱo. Lately, though, I've been reading mostly nonfiction, with a tendency toward cognitive science and positive psychology.
  11. I coded on every day in 2013, with a streak of 367 days. Now, I think I'll move on to

Hadrian's Wall

Part 3. 11+ Questions for Me (merging Megan and Karl's questions)
  • What’s your favorite thing about blogging or tweeting? 
Connecting with other educators who think in similar ways as me but still push my thinking in new directions. I love the reflection process in putting my ideas down on a page for others to read. Tweeting and especially blogging has made me think of myself as more of a professional educator.
  • Favorite hobby?
Tough one. It could be yoga or reading.
  • Favorite movie of all time?
Have to go with Heat, followed closely by Real Genius. Heat is so "Iliadic" it pitting two single-minded people against each other. It's a great example of storytelling driven by art and character, including Los Angeles itself.
  • Favorite place you have traveled?
The most amazing travel experience I've had was in Northern England a few years ago, when I drove along Hadrian's Wall in exploration of Roman Britain.
  • Favorite Twitter chat? 
Easy; #caedchat, thanks both to all the amazing people participating in it every Sunday night, as well as to the fact that I've had the good fortune to meet many of them in person.
  • Favorite educational website - person or product? 
I have to go with Google Drive, if that counts. I use it more than everything else combined.
  • If you had a superpower, what would it be? 
I'd choose to control time, whether it's stopping it or traveling back to the past. I'd love to see ancient Greece, Rome, and India in action.
  • Favorite book you’ve read in 2013? 
Looking back at what I've read in 2013, I'm not sure which was the favorite. I loved Drive, and Thinking, Fast and Slow, but I might pick Reality is Broken, thanks to the fact that it opened my eyes to gamification and positive psychology. For fiction, I'll go with Pynchon's Bleeding Edge.
  • Why teaching?
I love the dynamic and intellectual interaction of learning and exchanging ideas with both students and other teachers. And I love sharing things I have a passion for with others, with the hopes that they'll do the same for me. It's incredible to have an opportunity to get to show people why the Latin language (and ancient languages in general) can be so interesting.
  • If you could make one change to the educational system in the US or Canada, what would it be?
I'd get rid of standardized testing, including SATs and APs. More and more, I see how little they contribute toward student growth and teacher innovation and I don't want to participate in this kind of system.
  • What is the most important characteristic you look for in your friends?
Empathy and an awareness of what's going on around them, including the ability and willingness to listen.
  • What teacher had the biggest impact on your life? How did they impact you? Does this teacher know the impact they had on you?
My AP Language teacher Bobbie Cartwright. She was the first teacher who pushed me to really think through an idea and organize it on a page. She went far beyond the "textbook" and had us talking about real-world issues, like education. I still remember her prefacing the education unit by saying that it'd be the most controversial and heated one of the year, which no one believed. But sure enough, she was right, and I think about her often every time I find myself in such a discussion today.

She was diagnosed with lung cancer the spring before my junior year, but she kept teaching into the following spring, until her treatment forced her to leave teaching. When we said our goodbyes to her, she grabbed me by the shoulders and said, "Maurice, you have a good brain. Use it." Until now, I've only told this story to a handful of people.
  • What is the biggest risk you've ever taken in your life? How did it work out?
I left a career in engineering behind for Classics, and I'm quite happy I did!
  • I'll let you off the hook with an easy one: when are you coming to the Bay Area next so we can hang out and I can steal all your best ideas? (With attribution of course!)
As soon as possible, and hopefully before the 2014 MLB season starts! Keep me posted on any and all Bay-Area education meetings.

Part 4. My 11 Nominations  I'm going with some hometown favorites, #gtachi colleagues, and PlaydateLA collaborators below who are great people and great educators. I've met them all in person, other than Eric whom I'll meet very soon I hope, and always look forward to spending face-to-face time with them. I've known Jen Carey for more than 12 years, when we were Classics and archaeology in grad school, and as luck would have it, we're now both in education. If you're not yet following any of them, now's the time to start!

Part 5. My 11 Questions Mixing and matching a few questions from others, while adding a few of my own.
  1. If you weren't teaching, what would you be doing?
  2. What do you like best about teaching?
  3. How do you deal with the stress of the teaching schedule?
  4. What was your favorite class you've taken and why?
  5. How do you like to spend your summers?
  6. Name one place you'd drop everything to visit right now.
  7. List your 3 most influential reads.
  8. You've just found a time machine. Do you go forward or backward and why?
  9. Name one conference you're geeked about attending this year.
  10. What's a passion project or 20%-time activity you'd like to work on this year?
  11. Share one of your bucket-list activities.

Thanks again to Megan and Karl for including me in their Sunshine posts! I'm looking forward to continuing our conversations in the future, and I'm excited to read the responses to my nominations (when you have the time, of course!).