If at first you don’t succeed… #twistedpair

October 8th, 2015

Steve Wheeler has cast his line again and hooked me this time. After a couple of recent blogging challenges (#blimage & #blideo), he’s come up with another great idea to get us thinking & writing – #twistedpair. Steve suggests we look for a strange (or unlikely) pairing of people to illustrate an aspect of education and learning. I’ve been thinking about the need for students to persist in their learning, to be tenacious, endeavouring to become authentic life-long learners. In thinking of an example of a couple of characters who epitomise this type of learner – who other to look to than Sisyphus and Wile E. Coyote as a #twistedpair.

These two characters are each in a perpetual struggle – they both have goals and in attempting to achieve them, continue to be frustrated. Both are compelled in their desire – either rolling a huge boulder up a hill again and gain, or attempting to catch that elusive Road Runner. These guys just keep trying. They don’t seem to have a choice, constantly trying to achieve their goal. I guess Sisyphus actually achieves the goal, but has to keep repeating the task. I guess he’d be getting pretty good at shoving boulders, but doesn’t have any opportunity to come at his labour from a different perspective, or use some sort of innovation to help…

He man
Photo credit Richard Roche

On the other hand, Wile E. continues to fail at catching the elusive Road Runner, but he’s always trying something else to become successful. He orders product after product from the Acme Corporation and they always look like they will help him achieve his goal, but they ultimately backfire and don’t work. We’re not sure how much he learn’s from his failures, but we admire that he’s alway up for another try. 

When we’re helping our students learn, we should be looking out for different tools that may be of assistance to them. maybe they need to see things from another perspective, or need a specific tool so that they might try another approach to gain understanding and achieve those learning outcomes. As teachers we need to support the development of resilience in our students and encourage them not to give up, to keep on trying, to persevere. As William Hickson once penned:

‘Tis a lesson you should heed:

Try, try, try again.

If at first you don’t succeed,

Try, try, try again.

 I wonder if Sisyphus and Wile E. might be able to solve each other’s challenges – if only they could get together…

sharing is, as sharing does [#blogjune post #30]

June 30th, 2014

Post #30 – where the art of communication is appreciated

This is the final post for #blogjune and I have mixed feelings about the ‘project’ after writing a post every day for the month. Sometimes I’ve struggled to find something to write about and found the discipline to write everyday difficult at times, but overall I’ve enjoyed the experience. It’s given me an opportunity to think, test ideas, and express myself on topics related to my work. I’ve been able to grow my network (PLN) through the list of participating bloggers that was made available by Constance (@flexnib) and it was good to ‘meet’ people of like mind. It was also nice to get some feedback on what I’d written and appreciated the exchange of ideas. It is important to get feedback as it can confirm your ideas as well as provide you with other points of view. Being able to read and comment on other people’s blogs was also fun and a way to begin a conversation. 

I probably won’t be able to keep up the daily blog posts, but I do feel motivated enough to maintain some regularity in putting my ideas out there. Blogging provides an online avenue for conversation and can facilitate a deeper discussion that tools like twitter can’t. Blogging also enables a wider discussion than you might normally be able to have, as the reach of the interwebs is international. Depending on your networks and reach, your blogging can be a way of sharing ideas and getting some validation of your thinking. The two-way (or more) dialogue is a great way to further ideas and confirm their usefulness. You might want to consider participating in #blogjune next year… I’ll give it another go in 2015, and in the meantime share what I’m thinking here – make sure you visit regularly…

Do you find it useful to exchange ideas and talk with others? Are you able to make/find the time to have conversations? 

Catching up on the goss statue

Conversation – statue seen in Montreal

Word of the Day is: ‘rident’ – a great way to start the week

what about all the things we can’t see? [#blogjune post #29]

June 29th, 2014

Post #29 – where infrastructure is the topic of discussion

Do you ever wonder about the backend? What about all those hidden systems and infrastructure that manages to keep our society functioning. The sewers and storm water, gas and electricity, phone & internet, road and water, rubbish removal etc. So much happens behind the scenes that we don’t need to think about, but it keeps things ticking over and functioning smoothly. The photo below show some ancient drainage/storm water system that’s been built under a road. It’s probably two thousand years old and still works! You’d never know it was there though, only that it’s been exposed can you see the foresight and engineering that has gone into it. We rely on these services a lot and are quick to complain when they stop working. The same goes for education – particularly when we are online.

Many of the technologies we use today are supported by a backend that keeps the functionality up and running. It takes skill/s to keep systems running, and it requires resources for hardware and software. Patches and upgrades are a part of this and we expect them to happen regularly to maintain the system. Planning and processes should ensure systems are up for most of the time, and experts are given the responsibility to decide on how best to do this. Many of the online tools and systems we use are complex, and they are often integrated with other systems. Do we make an attempt to understand this, and have an appreciation for the work required to to maintain our access to the systems that drive the backend of our libraries, humans resources, student databases, integrated learning platforms? Frankly I’m amazed that these things work at all – at their base level they use 1’s and 0’s (binary code) to function, and I wonder how many of these transactions are happening at any one time – scary to think about…

So the truth is that sometimes there are downtimes and things break when we don’t expect them. Are we ready for when this might happen? Are we prepared to accept that problems will occur?

Do you appreciate the work that goes into maintaining the backend? Do you have a fallback if the systems breaks?

drainage system

Ancient drainage system exposed in Aspendos

The Word of the Day is: ’smirch’ – not something I appreciate.

how spicy would you like it? [#blogjune post #28]

June 28th, 2014

Post #28 – where questions of taste and flavour are considered

The tongue is an amazing thing – giving us the capacity to taste a wide range of flavours, from sweet to sour and hot to cold. Herbs and spices are able to change the way we appreciate food and we see that different cultures use these additives in different ways. I’ve been fortunate to have been able to try a number of different cuisines and like how spices can change the way dishes taste. I guess a lot depends on other ingredients too, the type of vegetables, what sort of carbohydrate, and the type of meat. It’s all part of the cook’s skill to determine the mix and the correct proportions of ingredients to make for a delicious meal.

So, I got to thinking how we might spice up our our education – what flavours do we add to learning experiences? Do we purposefully think about how we can make learning palatable? How can we make learning tasty, with a hint of spice (and daring) rather than being bland and boring? Do we actively encourage our students to try new dishes to expand their range of taste and appreciation? I guess the ways we present the curriculum can help, making it something different and even exotic can engage students. We should also be active in looking for new ways of cooking up a lesson, reading cookbooks and listening to and watching experts. The flavours and spices could be new types of resources, new assessment, new external activities, and even foreign approaches. It’s always good to ask your students to come along on the discovery of new tastes with you-who knows what you might discover. 

What sort of education cook/chef are you? What special ingredients do you use in your pedagogy? Any secret recipes you’d like to share?


Spices in the Grand Bazaar, Istanbul…

Word of the Day is: ‘clement’ – not inclement I guess…

the things that last [#blogjune post #27]

June 27th, 2014

Post #27 – where longevity and legacy are considered

During this #blogjune series of daily posts, I’ve found it very useful to peruse the photos I’ve posted to Instagram. I use an IFTTT recipe to copy all my instagrams to a folder in dropbox so I can have easy access to them. If I have some writer’s block and struggling for something to say, I find the photos a great way to prompt me as all sorts of things pop into my head.

When looking at the photo I’ve included below, I thought about the longevity of things. The picture is of the necropolis in the ancient city of Hierapolis in Turkey that was believed to have been founded over two thousand years ago. The hillside above the city was where they buried their dead and it’s covered with carved stone coffins. These Sarcophagi are dotted all over the hillside and some have even been either buried or exposed and tipped over as a result from past earthquake activity. They usually include some carved epitaph and inscription about the person inside and they range in size and ornateness. Many of them have been vandalised by grave robbers with holes punched through the lids or sides. What struck me though, was the durability of the stone, they obviously last much longer than a wooden coffin. There were also much larger tombs/temples and even burial mounds with space for a room inside them. These seem to be in better condition but also compromised by treasure seekers. 

Anyway, this got me thinking about our learning resource and teaching materials. When I first studied at university we had access to wonderful printed study guides and readers (which are still in a bookcase at home), but now we generally only provide a digital version of learning resources. We put these online and update them as necessary, which I guess is a benefit as it’s easier to do it electronically, than go through and re-edit a document for re-printing… So, these resources as digital artefacts have a type of longevity, but they might lose their relevance over time. Many of our documents need updating for each teaching period, audio and video recordings can also date quickly and we have a process to regularly review and update lectures. Our multi-media resources are more difficult to edit as technologies and formats change and improve. I wonder what our legacy will be like for those who care to look at them in two thousand years time… 

How do you mark or flag the relevance and/or longevity of your digital learning resources? Do you have processes for making the editing of multi-media resources easy and efficient?


The ancient cemetery (necropolis) at Hierapolis (Pamukkale), Turkey

Our Word of the Day (courtesy the Dictionary app) is: ‘environs’ – what surrounds you…

it depends on where you’re looking from [#blogjune post #26]

June 26th, 2014

Post #26 – where the idea of different perspectives are discussed

I’ve often found that it’s useful to look at things from different perspectives. Changing the angle from which you view something will show you other aspects of it, and can provide new information. You can go close-up, or turn things upside down, or zoom right out for a helicopter or a bird’s eye view to try and get the bigger picture. Whatever you do, you can be guaranteed that things will look different and may suggest that whatever you are examining could be addressed in another way. There are also different lenses (rose coloured or magnifying) that can help in this process, as well as other tools like De Bono’s Six Thinking Hats. I guess anything that change your normal view will be helpful in providing a new perspective with which to see. 

Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes is always a good way to see how what you might intend to do as a teacher, could potentially look like, or be experienced by your student. This can be very enlightening and often encourages us to consider making changes to improve the experience for our students.

How often do you practice taking a new perspective on things?



Bird’s eye view of Melbourne

Word of the Day is, ‘blithesome’ – woohoo!