Thursday, July 23, 2015

Summer 2015 reading this far

Eclectic reading so far...getting into using my Kindle and iPad so had so go online for some of these photos. 

So refreshing to read as much as I like to start my day everyday! 

Suggestions appreciated! Sport Illustrated every week is a given though :)

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Teachers can't compete with smartphones

I admit it. For all the trying in the world, I still can't compete with a smartphone. And although a very technologically oriented person myself, I'm all for banning them entirely from my classroom.

I mean, I have a small love affair with my iPhone. I even have a smartwatch, for Pete's sake. I get it. I used to not bring the phone to class, ever. Then, I started bringing it to class since I thought I might be able to make a bigger impact by modelling for students that I can control when I look at it. When it sends me a notification and I'm in the middle of something, I can continue teaching or helping a student or the conversation I am having. Students interrupt and urgently say, "Ms. Barz, you got a message!" or,  "your phone just went off; shouldn't you check that?"

No, no, no, no and no.

These "no" statements are how I feel when I interact with students who are distracted - scratch that, rather, controlled - by cell phones. It's all NEGATIVE. In fact, with a handful of students, I can count on one hand how many times I've had a positive interaction with them in almost 90 school days this semester. And yet multiple times everyday, I ask them to put away their phones and get insolence, a snarky response, a lie ("it's my Mom," or "I'm not even on it!" or "I'm just checking the time, geez" or "I'm just changing the song.") or even a profanity for me having the gall to ask them to do what their supposed to be doing in class.

I thought I could try some humour to help the issue starting this past fall. My classroom door has had this sign on it for the entire school year:

It didn't work. Pretty sure that the students didn't even notice it. And, honestly, I do find phones a useful tool in a classroom when used for only the task at hand. In some classes, they are regularly used since computer labs and the change to newer technology has necessitated the move to support student and staff Bring-Your-Own-IT initiatives.

So, this semester, I started with a bin for cell phones with the label below.

That didn't last, either. I asked students to put them in the bin when they walked into class. Simple solution, right? Not so much.

Then I actually started to walk around the class with the bin and to prompt every student to put their phone in the bin, again prompting a negative interaction with nearly every student to start the day. Unfortunately, it also singled out the few kids who don't have phones, too, which added to the negativity as a whole. So I crossed that strategy off my list.

A suggestion that has come up several times is having a three strike rule. Given that many classes have 25 students in them, that would mean 75 reminders or negative interactions. To put the potential severity of this into perspective, this could mean that I would have one negative interaction for EVERY MINUTE of class, as 75 minute classes are the norm in Ontario. In short, I could basically do nothing but desperately plead with kids to put their phones away for the entire period and spend no time at all actually teaching to the curriculum, EQAO standardized testing or anything of any conceivable value. This seems woefully wasteful of both their time and mine.

Negativity goes against everything I stand for as a person and that I hope to encourage as a classroom teacher. My simple goal is to have a positive interaction with every student every day. After all, the research says that even a 20 minute conversation can make an impact with a student, no matter how trivial it may seem at the time. Those 20 minute conversations grow out of trust and positivity; I'm convinced of it.

Ask most people who know me well and they will say I'm definitely on the glass-half-full side of life...bordering on full-out, relentless positivity. So, I don't want to be the person who has to start my class three times each day with a negative interaction with almost every student. I do want students to be able to mature and grow into people who can focus when necessary and who can use phones at appropriate times that are agreed upon in our class. And, I do want the classroom to be as positive as possible. We're not perfect in this education system...but we can be better.

Any and all positive solutions welcome from all integral parts of the education trifecta - parents, students and school staff.


Thursday, January 1, 2015

Books for Coaches - Book Review on Questions

A More Beautiful Question by Warren Berger was a highlight of my reading in 2014!

Below is a copy of the notes I took on my iPhone - please excuse the grammatical errors and punctuation issues. The Notes app isn't all that helpful when trying to add different characters or linking information. I've tried to be consistent, however, I'm sure there will be many mistakes!

Chapter Two particularly resonated for me since the "Question Formulation Technique" has such potential for usage in any classroom. However, Chapter Five (questioning for life) also seems helpful for this time of year, when many want to take a closer look at daily routines.... I know there are a few provocative questions that I'll be looking at over the next few days! 

"always the beautiful answer
who asks a more beautiful question."
~ e.e. cummings
• a 4 yr old girls asks 390 questions a day
• Why-What If-How model

Chapter One: The Power of Inquiry
• a naive questioner can sometimes be the best questioner since they challenge status quo
"Questions are the engines of intellect - cerebral machines that convert curiosity into controlled inquiry." ~ David Hackett Fischer
• good questioners tend to be aware of, and quite comfortable with, their own ignorance.
• knowledge is a commodity - easily accessible - value of explicit information is dropping
• must be lifelong learners - become neotenous (biological term that describes the retention of childlike attributes in adulthood)
" Computers are useless - they can only give you answers." ~ Picasso
• the Why stage - first questioning, formulating, and framing the initial question that articulates the challenge at hand, and tries to gain some understanding of the context.
• basic formula is Q + A = I (innovation). Can also be Q - A = P (philosophy)
• Graham Wallace - wrote the classic process of creativity - Preparation, Incubation, Illumination, Implementation.

Chapter Two: Why We Stop Questioning
• a child asks 40 thousand questions between age 2 and 5
• creativity stops because children stop questioning
• Why are we sending kids to school in the first place?
Deborah Meier - Central Park East Schools:
- What might the potential for humans be if we really encouraged that spirit of questioning in children , instead of closing it down?
She developed five learning skills or habits of mind:
1. Evidence: how do we know what's true or false? What evidence counts?
2. Viewpoint: How might this look if we stepped into other shoes, or looked at it from a different direction?
3. Connection: Is there a pattern? Have we seen something like this before?
4. Conjecture: What if it were different?
5. Why does this matter?
Dan Meyer - HS math teacher - TED talk - lesson on how long will it take to fill a water tank?
--he used a visual - video of a water tank filling up agonizingly slowly...students then wonder how long it's going to take...
• class structure determines who will ask questions...upper and middle ask more, lower asks next to none for fear of reprisal, discipline, sticking out, etc
Right Question Institute's "Question Formulation Technique"
-- Ling Se Peet used this with her class for a lesson on torture. She stated, "Torture can be justified." 
-- this opening statement is known as a Q-focus because its purpose is to provide a focal point for generating questions from students.
-- each group's initial task was to come up with as many questions as possible, within a time limit, pertaining to the statement
-- after reviewing a set of rules (write each question down, don't debate or try to answer questions, just keep trying to think of more questions) students start to come at the premise from many angles
-- stage two: change open questions to closed questions and closed questions to open questions
--- ie, Why is torture effective? might be changed to "Is torture effective?"
-- the purpose of this step is to show that a question can be narrowed down in some cases or expanded in others.
-- the way you ask a question yields different results and can lead you in different directions
-- next, students are asked to prioritize their questions: to figure out which three were most important to the discussion to move forward
--- this is the convergent part of questioning - to question effectively, students must learn to analyze their own questions and zero in on ones they would like to pursue further

RQI question focus:
1. Teachers design Question Focus (ie Torture can be justified)
2. Students produce questions (no help from teacher, no answering or debating, write down everything, change statements to questions
3. Students improve their questions - usually asked to pick three favs
4. Students & teacher decide on next steps - for acting on the priorized questions
5. Students reflect on what they have learned
Questioning involves Divergent, Convergent and Metacognitive thinking - these are both subtle and complex...

Chapter Three: The Why, What If, and How of Innovative Questioning
Asking powerful why questions:
• step back
• notice what others miss
• challenge assumptions (including our own)
• gain a deeper understanding of the situation or problem at hand, through contextual inquiry
• question the questions we're asking
• take ownership of a particular question.
-- stepping back can be easier in a different place or situation
-- taking time to reflect and question is essential!
--Robert Burton writes about "the certainty epidemic" - the condition of thinking we know more than we do
-- we don't pay attention well
-- we make judgements in fractions of a second: THIS I'll pay attention to, everything else I'll ignore because (a) it doesn't concern/interest me or (b) I already know about it
• Questioning allows people to synthesize and simplify
• zen principle - shoshin - beginner's mind
• you can do this as an expert by detaching or observing yourself as I you were a third party
• try for vuja de - backwards déjà vu
- Most of us don't observe well or deeply enough, for example:
• 4X4 grid of squares - how many squares do you see? 
The easy answer is 16 - in addition there are nine 2x2 squares, four 3x3 squares and one large 4x4 squares...can even count 30 black squares and 30 white squares....
- point is, there is always another way of looking at it...
- challenger questions: 
"Why should we settle for what currently exists?"
"And why should I believe you when you tell me something can't be done?"
- these are challenger questions!!

Questioning the question:
"Why am I asking why?"
-- ie, the five whys

Open and close the question and vice versa
-- contextual inquiry is about asking questions up close and in context, relying on observation, listening and empathy to guide us toward a more intelligent, and therefore more effective, question.
- to do contextual questioning well you must LISTEN - listening informs questioning.
-- the difference between just asking a question or pursuing it is the difference between flirting with an idea or living with it -- it can be a productive obsession!
• What If?
--in order for our imagination to flourish, there must be an opportunity to see things as other than they are or appear to be. This begins with a simple question: What If? It is a process of introducing something strange and perhaps even demonstrably untrue in our current situation or perspective."
-- connective inquiry is what the What If question encourages
-- also encourages smart recombinations (is Pandora is radio station and search engine)
"A difficult question at night is resolved in the morning when the committee of sleep has worked on it." ~ John Steinbeck (couldn't agree more, John!).
- similarly, taking a walk, going to a museum, etc, is a good way to spark connective thinking
- question: "what if we could not fail?" 
- a what if technique is to create a prototype - a sketch, video, explanation, model, anything that can represent the idea in a preliminary form. 
- share ideas earlier, so others can help with the process!
- use these ideas to try a test-and-learn process BEFORE implementing a whole new idea
- find others who want to answer the same What If questions as you so that you can collaborate.
- don't hoard your beautiful question!

Chapter Four: Questioning in Business
Disruptive innovation - questions of purpose
"What if our company didn't exist?"
"What if we were kicked out of the company, what would the new CEO (coach) do?"
"What should we stop doing?"
What is your tennis ball? - the thing that pulls you as much as a dog chasing a tennis ball...
Often questions are better thought of some.
In "question storming" there are more possibilities - generating fifth to seventy-five questions is best. The group will usually briefly stall at 25 questions - push through this wall!
Then narrow to three (as before)
- HMW - the How Might We questioning framing idea
- rather than using "can we" or "should we", "might we" encourages creativity.
-- the HOW part assumes that there are solutions out there - it provides confidence. MIGHT says we can put ideas out there that might work or might not - either way, it's okay. And the WE  part says we're going to do it together and build on each other's ideas
- should mission statements be mission questions?
*how might we be the best program on the entire continent?
- keep questioning your question statement - does it still make sense?, are we living up to it?, it is growing and as we still moving forward?, are we all in this together?
-- another way of looking a this:
• What are we doing?
• why are we doing it?
• how might we do it better?

How might we create a culture of inquiry?
Be careful of encouraging people to ask questions and then dumping the solution on them, in addition to their regular duties...
Tell people to bring in questions as a part of the interview process 

Chapter Five: Questioning for Life
"Live the questions" ~ Rilke
"What is your sentence?" ~ Daniel Pink
"Climb the mountain not to plant your flag, but to embrace the challenge, enjoy the air, and behold the view. Climb it so you can see the world, not so the world can see you." ~ David McCullough
• why am I climbing this mountain in the first place?
• what is waiting for me at the top?
• what am I going to do once I get there?
• am I enjoying the climb itself? Should I slow down, speed up?
• what am I leaving behind down below?

Why are you evading inquiry?
• questioning is seen as counter productive. It's the answers that most people are focussed on finding...because people think they will improve life
• the right time for asking fundamental questions never seems to present itself
• knowing the right questions to ask is difficult (so better not to ask at all)
• perhaps most significant: what if we find we have no good answers to the important questions we raise.

Process is key! You don't just need answers...
We have to construct meaning in our lives - better to ask "why should I do X?" "Is it worth my one and effort to do Y?" And even better , "when I look back in five years, which of these options will make the better story?"

If you force yourself to sit with a problem or topic and to try to think of questions you will come up with many. The challenge is to think ABOUT those questions - culling the best ones, improving them and figuring out how you might act on them.
 What if we step back or unplug?
Example of technology free Saturdays...just get to sit with a question rather than looking up an answer...
"Where is my place to withdraw and to think?"
"When is my tech Shabbat?"

Start with what you already have - not by asking questions about what you don't have.
Answer instead, "what am I grateful for?" 
Ask, "what did I love doing as a child?" - the things we loved doing then often still give us pleasure later in life or we can update those things to things we like today.
Ask, "what am I doing when I feel most beautiful?"
"What do I find myself doing?"
"When you're in a bookstore, what section are you drawn to?"
"Why do I seem to 'shine' when doing certain things? What is it about those activities/places that brings out the best in me?"
"What if I could find a way to incorporate those interests/activities, or some aspect of them, into my life more? And maybe even into my work?"
"How might I go about doing that?"

Make one small change - ask yourself, "what if I make one small change?"
- when you make one small change it can breed confidence for more changes.
Ask yourself, "what if you could not fail?"
- eliminates fear. We can also teach to embrace's like checking off a box...
Ask questions about failure...
Ie, "how do I distinguish between acceptable failure and unacceptable failure?"
Another question could ask, "what if I fail-how will I recover?"
Or alternatively:
If the worst happens, how could I cope?
What if I do nothing?
What if I succeed?
"What's truly worth doing, whether you fail or succeed?"
In life, ask questions that appeal to both parties of opposing viewpoints -  i.e, between gun owners and non-owners: do you care about gun violence? Are you for gun responsibility? - both parties answered yes to those questions. Perhaps questioning can find a common viewpoint rather than always separating into opposing sides. (reminiscent of using statistics to prove a point, perhaps we can use questioning to get people to agree on a commonality of a point...find at least 1% to agree on on a certain topic and then agree on it 100%). 

Follow someone you disagree with on Twitter :). Try asking questions of those with whom we disagree. Why might they see the issue this way? Why do I see it differently? What assumptions are we operating under?
What are the odds I'm wrong? *probably a very good question for an overly positive person...

How will you find your beautiful question? 
Articulating a bold personal question! 
Choosing a question - find the one that resonates....
"How do we continually find inspiration so we can inspire others?"

Authors referenced for question research (I do this so I can do more follow up on my own):
Dan Rothstein & Luz Santana of The Right Question Institute
Polly LaBarre -HBR
Ken Heilman - author
David Cooperrider - Case Western - theory of " appreciative inquiry"
Joichi Ito - director of MIT Media Lab
Stuart Firestein - author
John Seely Brown 
Gretchen Rubin - "The Happiness Project"
Graham Wallas
Tiffany Schlain - film called "Brain Power: From Neurons to Networks"
Paul Harris - "Trusting What You're Told"
Dennie Palmer Wolf - education prof at Brown wrote "The Art of Questioning"
Robert Burton - "On Being Certain"
Paul Bennett - blog called The Curiosity Chronicles 
David Kord Murray - "Borrowing Brilliance"
Chen-Bo Zhong - UofT Rotman School - research on creative and associative thinking
- Christenson - The Innovator's Dilemma
- Sidney Parnes of creative problem solving institute in Buffalo
Tal Ben-Shahar - two books: Happier and Being Happy
Roko Belic - documentary called "Happy"

My own questions:
• what if we could develop a questioning place to think about deep, personal Quora cutting it?
• what if we could then share this "big think" somewhere?

Thanks to Warren Berger - I thoroughly enjoyed the fruits of your labours! Please, read the book. It is a lovely journey and will cause you to think so much!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Slideshare posting...

After finishing up the last MOOC on Personal Branding for Educators, I thought I'd take a moment to share a few chunks of information online. It seems after many years of attending conferences, teaching classes, facilitating coaching course and, of course, coaching, I've got a lot of information accumulated on my hard drive. Might as well share that information, right? So, I started with Slideshare where I had previously shared one slide deck for my social media course last year.

Unfortunately, that first slide deck was really only labelled for the class (IDC4U) and certainly didn't have any information that would have generated any interest from a search engine or otherwise. So, I took it off the upload file...maybe I'll reupload the next time I teach the course....

This time, I decided to share some info on an area that is a particularly hot topic in sport across the world on Talent ID. There is a ton of quantitative information out there for individual sport Talent ID but not so much on Team Selection for team sport. This is an area I've been facilitating in the Canadian Sport Institute - Ontario for a few years and I had a (long) PowerPoint that I thought people might find interesting. So, I decided to give Slideshare another try and to upload that presentation, which I usually do over the course of an eight hour day.

In any case, I had no idea how much interest the Slideshare slide deck on Talent Identification and Selection in Elite Sport would generate. There have been 400 views in just over two days and this was definitely beyond the interest I'd expected. Really glad that there is so much interest in Talent ID and that for team sports that the selection is also an idea that carries significant weight. It was great even to get some verbal feedback from a coaching colleague yesterday! There are certainly a multitude of areas to consider as a coach and it's a great topic to discuss for a few hours.

I'm interested in feedback if you'd care to share - the slidedeck can be found at Talent Identification & Selection in Elite Sport. Comment here on the blog or below the presentation in the new window.

Monday, April 21, 2014

MOOC success!

The MOOC experiment was excellent. In fact, I've already signed up for two more. One I've just completed with Sidneyeve Matrix at Queen's University - it's called CDS605 Personal Branding for Educators. Sidneyeve is an incredibly connected social media guru who happens to have her ear to the ground on everything digital it seems. The other doesn't start until September (which is truly terrible timing), however, the course title certainly evokes connection to an area of passion in teaching; it's called "Sports and Society" with Dr. Orin Starn. I'm on the watchlist for this one and will connect as soon as enrolment permits.

Regarding the course with Cathy N. Davidson called "The History and Future of  (Mostly) Higher Education: Or, How We Can Unlearn Our Old Patterns and Relearn for a More Successful, Fruitful, Satisfying, Productive, Humane, Happy, Beautiful, Socially-conscious, Socially-Engaged Future." I thoroughly enjoyed it. Granted, I did think I was going to finish the course with all the assignments/discussions/annotations done. The optimist in me always thinks I'm going to get it all done; the realist in me really needs to give the optimist a kick to think a little more, I didn't quite get things done to the level I would have liked but I did get everything I wanted out of the course. 

So, my thoughts to those who are taking a MOOC in future would be this. Make sure you set some minimum expectations for what you'd like to learn and accomplish during the course that may not be everything that will earn a certificate of completion. By all means, attempt to complete everything and enjoy what you do along the way. I did that for the first week and was able to take something out of each portion I completed or participated in. 

The second week started off reasonably well. Then some unexpected life news happened so I wasn't able to complete the rest as thoroughly as I had planned. However, having completed the first week's worth of work, I felt like I could prioritize the rest of the course and still feel like I was getting lots of new learning and good reminders out of it, too. 

Perhaps if you are unsure whether a MOOC is for you, it would be a good idea to try everything that is available in the first week and then to reevaluate the most important aspects based on the course content and life as it happens. Hope this is helpful!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

My MOOC experiment

After many exposures to the concept of MOOCs and other knowledge sharing platforms, I thought it was time to do a MOOC myself. Major influences in this were Alec Courosa and Sidneyeve Matrix through her Twitter account and her online course CDS502 (Online Strategy) through Queen's University that I was fortunate enough to participate in last year. As well, teaching an interdisciplinary studies high school course on social media last year has very much piqued my curiousity about learning online and in trying to keep up with all the changes to digital literacies.

The MOOC that caught my interest was Cathy Davidson's course from Duke University - of course, the possibility of being connected to the Cameron Crazies was a ridiculous but fun idea - called The History and Future of  (Mostly) High Education: Or, How We Can Unlearn Our Old Patterns and Relearn for a More Successful, Fruitful, Satisfying, Productive, Humane, Happy, Beautiful, Socially-conscious, Socially-Engaged Future. Needless to say, the English teacher in me was immediately attracted to the title! The hashtag on Twitter is #FutureEd if you are interested in joining or following the conversation.

Six weeks is the length of the course and the video lecture style is both engaging and very well put together with animated "chalkboards" summarizing Prof Davidson's main points. For a visual learner like me who likes to take notes while I read, this has been excellent. In fact, I'd love to know what program they used to put the videos together to make them professional but (hopefully) not too onerous. In this course there is not necessarily an emphasis on assignments and achievement on those assignments - these can be done and one would assume that the learning would be more solidified through the course by completing the assignments. The assignments are purely voluntary which appealed to me since in Ontario we are just starting up a new semester and I still have my many other involvements in rugby to deal with in life as well. This was helpful as I want to complete the course but wasn't sure of the workload and balancing with these other commitments. The fact that a student can earn a certificate of achievement simply by completing quiz questions as they come up on each video was enough for me to be able to say I've completed this within reasonable expectations.

The question at the end of the first intro assignments leave multiple possibilities. I did the quiz which leads to the certificate - not sure if my motivation was to earn the certificate or to actually see what I had learned. Also, there is an essay assignment that will be peer reviewed on having to "unlearn" something. I'd like to do the assignment, however, I think that the time I've spent on this blog may preclude me from meeting the deadline. There are also other participatory assignments the most notable of which asks "who is your favourite teacher?"I do like this question, and I've answered it on numerous occasions in my coaching development education; only, I've done it on paper and not on video as the assignment suggests. In the MOOC, the best part is that I know I've done it and it doesn't matter if I submit the assignment. Even better since it just gives me a chance to solidify and remember the learning I've done and then mentally add to it with people who have influenced me since. And there are many! I am so lucky to work with people at school and in rugby who teach me by challenging, cajoling and straight up telling me to learn.

Anyone can be a teacher and anyone can be a learner. I LOVE that this course is encouraging teachers and anyone who wants to learn to learn. Learning for learning's sake is such a wonderful and laudable goal. Now, if only this course will help me discover the secret to making sure that others feel the same way!