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.

Gamification

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.
playwaresrudios.com

• +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).

Quisquiliae

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.

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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.