Tag Archives: etmooc

5 Things I’ve Learned in 2013

Or had confirmed, or moved my thinking on….it’s been a big year.

Last July, I came across the Pearson “5 Things I’ve Learned” series via Ewan Mcintosh’s contribution. The idea of identifying five big ideas that I have come to know, or to have learned, appealed to me.


I did have great intentions to follow up this tweet with an actual post, but that never happened. It did for Donna Fry though, and as always, Donna’s post is deeply reflective, refreshingly honest, and eminently relatable. It has sat at the edge of my mind, nudging me to get on with my own “5 Things I’ve Learned” post, until now.

Since the ending of a year causes us to reflect on the past twelve months, and the beginning of the new year pushes us to consider what the new year holds for us, I decided to use the “5 Things I’ve Learned” format as the tool to do all of this thinking. Of course, this means I am tweaking the format so that the “5 things I’ve Learned” is reflective of the thinking and learning from this past year specifically, albeit they are built on the ideas that have permeated my life generally.

I am listing the five ideas, but no hierarchy is intended. I am an interdisciplinary or connective thinker, so all of these ideas lead from and to each other depending on the conversation or problem.

Let’s get started…

1. Work harder to build trust.  Understanding that relationships matter is not new. Neither is it a new idea that trust is a foundation block in relationships.


What I learned this year is that to build real trust (read here trust that doesn’t let you down, that enables you to grow and change, that supports you, that is loyal) you have to work really hard.

LLCI Glogster

But the work, whether it is face-to-face or online, is not quick conversation over coffee or in a Tweet chat. It is not having the same view on pedagogy or technology integration. It is not about being on the same team, in the same department, or in the same course. It’s not only about making others feel good about themselves and their daily work. Rather, the hard work of building trust is that work that is inconvenient, goes against the grain, needs lots of time, pushes us out of our comfort zone, is transparent, and forces us to keep our promises and tell the truth.

2. Passion and Commitment. This has been a curious year for me professionally. I began it as a K12 literacy coach, and I will finish the year as a high school English and Student Success teacher. Regardless of our role, I was, and am, reminded each day that we need to bring our passion for learning and our commitment to our students to the fore. More than that though is the realization that passion and commitment are fed through the collaboration and co-learning work teachers engage in. As a coach, I was privileged to spend time in many classrooms.

Have a peek at what passion and commitment looked like: I saw teachers as storytellers, explorers, researchers, readers, writers, and problem solvers. I saw teachers as learners who did their homework and modeled innovation and change. I saw teachers who worked hard everyday to love what they do and then instill that love in their students.

Teina inquiry


What a honour!


These teachers are my inspiration now that I have return to the classroom. And the experience of collaborating and  co-learning with them pushes me to generate that work in my school.

When teachers work with teachers, we create a culture that encourages the conversation and leadership required to ensure success for all students.

3. Students Reflect Back What They Observe. I believe that students mirror back to us our behaviour, our language, our habits, our values. We can run climate surveys to discover what courses students might like to take, if they feel safe in the school, or what extra-curricular activities they would like offered. We can ask why they are late for class or if they have space and opportunity at home to complete homework. We can ask them for their feedback on how the school can be a better place for them.


Or we can think about our students’ behaviours, both social and academic, as feedback to us based on us.

4. To Initiate  Somewhere in 2013, I ran into Seth Godin in a serious way. I am sure that I knew about him, heard him interviewed on various shows on CBC Radio, and possibly even purchased a book of his for someone I love. But Mr. Godin had not permeated my consciousness until this past year. I like lots of his thinking; I think it can be applied to so much of what we do in our private lives as well as in education, but the idea that really resonated with me this summer is the idea of initiating


I needed to hear this message. I had been enjoying learning about social media platforms and I was having a very nice time engaging in various online professional learning events, but I realized that my attention was beginning to wane. I had been doing a lot of learning and now I needed to use it. I would, of course, apply my new learning in my teaching, but I had just come from coaching for the past three years and my love for developing and delivering professional learning was (is) strong.

Just do it, right? Get started. Don’t wait for others to initiate. Be fearless.

So I have.

  • OOE13 Co-Creator
  • EdcampIsland slated for May ’14
  • School Blog launch Jan. ’14

5.  Be Ready to Make the Shift. This past year I participated in my first mooc–Educational Technology and Media Open Online Course or ETMOOC. This event profoundly changed the way I think about learning in an academic setting. Sure, ETMOOC was an open, online course, but I didn’t know what that meant. I just knew I was taking a course. I knew there would be webinars and Tweet chats and that I needed to blog about my learning. That was all okay with me. I knew about webinars from work and my Masters’ program and Tweet chats from some online communities I had joined and I had started a blog for #cyberpd2012.

I was ready.

Screen Shot 2017-12-31 at 9.51.56 PM

Or was I?

What was going on here anyway? Where was the stuffiness? The stiffness that comes when a group of strangers ends up in some room together for a mutual, yet individual experience? There’s music playing at the outset of the first “lecture”. The “prof” is super casual, chatting away with folks, and the chat box is flying with comments. There is a familiarity in the room; a feeling that we all belong. There are no titles used or groups constructed by what level you teach….no map. There is Dave Cormier heckling Alec Couros (an inside job, but I didn’t know that, yet). There’s the whiteboard interaction that clearly gets out of hand.

Then there’s the cow.

This opening learning event set the stage for a learning experience that was challenging, engaging, supportive, integrated, free-flowing, always on, permissive, immediate, organic, and …fun!

 Did I learn anything? Beyond learning about digital literacy, digital citizenship, content curation, digital storytelling, open education, and beyond developing increased comfort with social media platforms and tools, and beyond creating digital products like Storify, 5 Card Flickr, LipDub, and writing blog posts, ETMOOC taught me about the changing educational landscape. The ground is shifting beneath our feet, and we must begin now to shift with it.


Thanks 2013.



Filed under Year End Reflection

Teaching and Learning…where the edges meet.



I am currently preparing to go back to the classroom after a three-year stint as a literacy coach. My preparations are not so much about tweaking and adjusting my practice as they are about reinventing myself. Don’t get me wrong, I am loving the process of taking what I have learned and applying it in my own classroom. Penny Kittle’s Book Love, Kelly Gallagher’s Write Like This, Harvey and Daniels’ thinking on student inquiry, Alan November’s take on meaningful, authentic work, and Allan Luke’s views on critical literacy all influence my thinking and planning. I have heard the message about student voice and choice, independence and stamina, reading and writing together, and the empowerment students’ can sense and gain through critical literacy.

Do you hear the “but” coming?

But, all of this reading and learning and discussing and coaching is not what is driving the reinvention of Julie Balen and Room 121. It is the experience of having participated in ETMOOC that has fundamentally changed the way I think about teaching and learning. Sure I have experienced a-ha moments in my own learning, but they were more … accidental, as in the learning I did experience was not the intended learning as set out by an instructor or course. The same can be said of my own teaching. The lessons that remain with me because of the powerful student engagement I witnessed were not the lessons that I had intended to teach that day. What exists for both the learner and the teacher is the tension between what learning is intended ( i.e. planned for) and that which is real/authentic/meaningful.

Learning through ETMOOC

ETMOOC presented me with all kinds of interesting content (digital literacy, digital storytelling, and content curation) that was relevant to my work in K-12 classrooms, and that’s what a course, massive or not, should do, right? Well…not entirely.

connected learningAs an educator, I am accustomed to viewing all of the learning, that which I choose to do or that which is provided to me, through the lens of  ‘how is this relevant to my work?’. Although this lens has clearly changed as a result of my work as a coach (a topic for another day),  ETMOOC’s connectivist approach opened my eyes and mind to learning that is open, participatory, collaborative, AND accessible to all. Connectivist learning is about self-direction and collaboration. It’s about making connections and independent work. It’s about creating and sharing content.

10 ETMOOC Orientation wk 1: Contributing to Others' Learning?

Teaching from ETMOOC

While ETMOOC was the most engaging learning that I have ever experienced, it also made me think about my teaching. In ETMOOC, I watched my fellow participants play at their learning.  I listened to them negotiate their learning publicly on a whole host of platforms. I followed along their learning paths. I engaged in conversations across time zones and educational rooms. I contributed alongside them on collaborative projects. I witnessed the power of a connectivist framework to let learners get on with their learning. I need to find ways to help my students get on with their learning too. Christina Hendricks identifies a couple of slogans she would want on her ETMOOC t-shirt that focuses on coping with the flow of information and activity around a mooc (“Don’t feel guilty if you don’t do everything — only feel guilty if you don’t do anything” and “drinking when thirsty”). My t-shirt would read: “No right way, no single path” (Dave Cormier). OOE13 logo (190x158)

Open Online Experience 2013 is a professional learning opportunity for K to 16 educators that have emerged out of ETMOOC. For me, OOE is the space where my learning and my teaching will meet. As a co-creator, I have been privileged to work alongside knowledgeable and passionate educators who are my teachers. As a teacher leader in my school system, I am sharing this opportunity with my colleagues who I will support throughout the year. As a classroom teacher, this experience will inform and transform my practice so that I do meet the needs of all students.  As Will Richardson says, “Instead of helping our students become ‘college ready,’ we might be better off making them ‘learning ready,’ prepared for any opportunity that might present itself down the road. That’s an ecological shift in thinking.”

And that is what OOE2013 offers all of us.

Some of my fellow co-creators have blogged about their take on OOE2013. Have a look and share your thoughts.

A New Open, Online, Edtech Professional Development Opportunity For Educators (Modelled on ETMOOC) by Christina Hendricks

Coming Soon OOE13: Open Online Edtech Professional Development Opportunity For Educators by Rhonda Jessen

How Educators Can Make Time for Professional & Personal Development by Debbie Morrison

Open Online Experience 2013 by Janet Webster

Joining another connectivist Mooc by Fredrik Graver



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Filed under Professional Learning