Past Chats

Photo Week on #slowchated

It was Fourth of July week on #slowchated and what better time to whip out your smart phone and take some pics!  I was inspired by Nicole Dalesio (@magelacanela) and used (with permission) some of her basic instructions for taking better photos and letting your creativity flow.

I used Nicole’s TEDxFrontRange talk as our introduction.  Videos just work as an intro to big ideas.  Love that.  The big idea, for me, was less about taking pics but more about being creative.  We carry a powerful computer around in our pockets and purses but do we use these to stretch our amazing creative potential?  And let’s not get into the argument about being present.  I get it.  I’m not suggesting we miss the beauty of the journey and spend our time behind a lense ‘capturing’ the moment.  Nope.  That’s not it.  Nicole’s video actually suggests being more present than you would be by just being on the journey.  She suggests noticing everything.  Notice the world around you such that you see the details, light, point of view and then feel moved to capture those little moments.  Not a million pics of Disneyland, Yosemite or the camping trip.  That’s something different.

Then jumped in with a question about our own habits with pics.

The responses were numerous and varied.  @Jamisonluke keeps track of his class and has a GoPro too!  @MrLeBrun (like many of us) takes lots of pics of events trying for the amazing one or two, but tries to be present.  @mrsmikesell says her hubby takes lots of pics while she’s totally utilitarian: need a pic, take a pic.

But let’s get to the pics of the chat!  We started with ‘zoom with your feet’ one of the biggest take-aways from the iPhoneography session I attended with @magelacanela at an @nbcue event in May 2014.  Pinching the screen to zoom just makes for a poor quality photo.  Don’t pinch, just walk closer!  Duh!  Now there are many situations where this won’t work, but if you can zoom with your feet, you should!  Here are some examples from our chat:

And Barbara even added her own take on ‘zoom with your feet:’

Our next endeavor was #angle and #lighting.  Don’t hesitate to get down close, take a pic from above or below… #angle can make an image or scene uber interesting.  And lighting… don’t get me started on the rules I learned in junior high photography class… sheesh!  Play with #lighting… create a silhouette, use the shadows to make something amazing.  Here’s what we created:

And this, one of my favorites from the week.  LOVE how weird this looks.  You can’t tell if it’s huge, microscopic, under water or what!?!?  Alien plant species–#angle and #zoomwyourfeet

Not to forget the ED in #slowchated, our almost final question had to do with using pics with students.  Ross Lebrun shared, “A4: I’ve had Ss take pics of projects they’ve done with subs in the room and submit. Ensures they never lose their work!”  And Seena Rich added, “A4:I have had Ss excitedly share work w me,” and “A4:Had Ss take pics and document a session I led at PD,” and “A4:take selfies w Ss…they like it!!”  @mrbradfordtech shared, “A4: I used pics last year to have students document a class project, visually tell a story, and help build community.”  And this from @ajay460, “A4: did an amazing lesson with her K Ss. Taught a new letter & had them take pix of things that started w letter.”  And a discussion idea from @barblarochelle, “A4 During novel discussion Ss took pics of items characters might use or need during certain scenes & posted to Padlet.”  “A4 Pair Ss. Stare. Interview. Take 12 photos of partner. Pare down to 6. Turn into digital story. Courtesy of ,” from @teylaramsey.  Thanks all for some great ideas!

Then, just for fun, we messed with #filters and #apps:

And last but not least an great example of creative photography & student learning from @tborash: In the lesson, we cleaned loose feathers using a variety of detergents- magnified photos were helpful to compare detergents,” and the amazing pic:

And how could we not close with some patriotic pics?!?!  Day 5 was share a pic from the Fourth of July (very anti-the-rest-of-the-world, but I knew #slowchated could never compete with good ‘ole 4th of July festivities).  Enjoy!

A big thank you to Nicole Dalesio for allowing me to use some of her material for the chat!  Hope you enjoyed it, and if you weren’t able to join us, get your phone out, consider #angle, #lighting and always #zoomwyourfeet when you can!  It’s about being more creative for your own edification and considering more use of pics with your students too!



Week 8 #slowchatED Reflection: Teacher Leadership

Jumping off of Eric Demore‘s week 7 topic, curiosity, week 8 was borne out of my inquisitive spirit. I am oddly fascinated with teacher leadership.  Two of my favorite teachers in elementary school were principals by the time I graduated high school, and two of my favorite high school teachers become principals by the time I graduated college. Meanwhile, in the district where I’ve taught, the opposite was apparently happening: as a new teacher, I was regaled with what I can only call horror stories from past students of some of the leaders in my county. I’ve worked long enough to have my own horror stories even. I have worked with amazing teachers who are legally qualified to be administrators but shudder at the thought of leaving the classroom.

Let’s just say I have a bunch of questions about teacher leadership, okay?

I promise question one wasn’t intended to be a modified typical edchat beginning – you know, the kind explicitly listed in David Theriault’s Things That Suck about Twitter Chats:

No, it had a purpose. I wanted to know a few things: how do we describe our leadership roles? Are we a list of titles? Do men and women describe their roles differently? Do teachers recognize teaching as a leadership role itself? How many synonyms do we have for the same job? Obviously if I asked any of those questions first, I would’ve gotten conscious answers. I wanted to just get your answers and make some observations for myself.

As far as leadership roles go, some described their jobs, some gave titles. An equal number of men and women responded, and the responses were mostly titles, but many leaders shared their role, what actually gets accomplished. There were a few teachers whose only title was “Teacher,” and I surprised myself by being one of them (sort of). As far as synonyms go, we have a lot of words for the same jobs. I even learned that California’s mentors have their own acronym:


Suffice to say, #slowchated is a pretty impressive group of people with a lot of jobs. So with our myriad of experiences, surely we can solve all of education’s ills, right?

Teacher leadership is sort of a beast. Everyone has different expectations for leaders, and that’s including the leader himself/herself, which leads to this problem:

While each leadership role comes with its own expectations and goals, many answers pointed to some universal truths about leadership:

 Randa Hendricks shared this image that pretty much sums up all leadership ideologies: boss v leader

And then there’s this one from B. Buck:

true leaders (Comma splice aside, it’s a good point.)

Eric Saibel‘s answers reflect these ideals:

A3: Admin must be willing to empower TLs as true leaders & decision-makers IF we believe in flattening our organizations. #slowchatED — Eric Saibel (@ecsaibel) March 19, 2014

Also, my  love for Jodie Morgenson was affirmed when she shared this video, essentially about buy-in:

The right attitude is a requirement too:

Jeffrey Farley notes that we are wasting time looking for others to empower us; we just need to act like professionals. (That entire conversation is here and worth your time.)

We also need to quit fearing possibilities:

And, most importantly, leaders must recognize fallibility:

Good, strong leaders have specific internal qualities. How do we nurture them? We discussed what it would take to make certain leadership roles more doable or appealing, such as increased time or pay, but beyond making leadership opportunities less stressful and more attractive, how do we attract and support the types of leaders who delegate well, lead without ego, and sustain personal growth? These are the questions I am left with. (Thanks, Eric!)

Week 7: “Curiosity: The Constant UNhappiness?”

The following is a reflection by Eric Démoré (@EricDemore) on Week 6 of #SlowChatEd and is cross-posted on his blog here.

Consider for a moment what brought you to be reading these words. Either:

1) You were asked you to do it. Someone (kindly) made you to click on the link that brought you here. You started reading this post because you felt you should. Or,

2) You asked yourself to do it. You were attracted by what this link promised and decided to open the door it presented to you.

And that, it seems, is what the art of curiosity — our topic for Week 6 of #SlowChatEd — is all about. It’s about following that innate desire to have a question answered. Wait: innate? Mr Barro, could you please clarify?

Questions reside indeed in the soul. So here’s the argument: the right questions are not always the ones handed to us. They’re not always in the textbook. They’re not always the ones on the whiteboard.

So, what then? Teachers can’t ask questions of their learners? Of course we can. But having acknowledged that we are no longer (never have been?) the sole purveyors of knowledge for our students, we find ourselves heeding a call to be more than experts.

We need to be models of curiosity. Lighters of sparks. Sherpas on our students’ quest to have their natural curiosity sated.

Our instinct is to engage the learner’s mind, and this is valid. But let’s not neglect the empirical doors to knowledge: the senses.

Not only might curiosity be a natural tendency, but its ‘sparks’ can come from the natural world, too. A classroom can be an ideal space for fostering inquiry; but so too can a park or an art gallery or a theatre or a neighbourhood. They alight the senses toward questions.

Thanks, @ecsaibel, for that pure bit of poetry. How about reading *that* on your son’s report card:

While Eric has demonstrated a cursory understanding of the periodic table this term, he has begun to exhibit a deeper presence in this world.

Consider what can happen when a student is shown how to ask her own questions, what can emerge if we allow this instinct to follow its natural course. This is the tricky part, of course, because we’re not used to forging ahead without a distinct plan. Teachers are master-planners. We’re prepared; we work well with structure.

But allowing a student to follow the course of her own curiosity — let alone asking ourselves to monitor that of 30 other learners in the same room — can get pretty messy pretty fast. And a bit scary.

I fear not knowing how to deal with chaos. Not to mention adjusting to a drastic shift in our traditional job description. Admission: I fear risk.

But if only we could find a way to structure this type of learning, I’m convinced that what you’ll get is a room full of happy people. After all, as Nobel laureate Alice Munro once said,

The constant happiness is curiosity.

But then also:

Wait, hold up. So which is it?

Does being curious mean being happy or unhappy?

This little gem of paradox came out of Week 6 of #SlowChatEd and I’m grateful for it, because it has placed a whole new set of questions in my hands like a good book, and I find myself not being able to put them down.

Is it possible that I wish to spend my days in classrooms where students are not happy? Not happy with veneer? Not satisfied with injustice? Not content with hypocrisy? Not happy with the immediately unanswerable?

Holy cow. Do I need to change the title of my own blog to ‘The Constant UNhappiness’?

I’ll end with a true story. (Still with me? Still curious?)

(Disclaimer: The following is an update of a post shared last fall. I share it here because it was really the inspiration behind the topic for Week 6 of #SlowChatEd).

As a boy I often found myself staring at a map of Canada that hung above my bed. I could look at the thing for a half-hour, analyzing its contours, focusing on one strange detail or another.

One night, my eye fell upon this shape in the far reaches of northern Quebec:


Is that a circle?, I thought. It looks too perfect a circle not to be some sort of ancient crater. But if a crater, why is it called a reservoir, and not Something crater? Why haven’t I heard about this before?

I was struck by an innate desire to inquire. For whatever reason, I didn’t pursue my question any further. Had it been 2013, I’d have Googled it and had an answer as fast as my thumbs could type ‘crater lake in quebec’. The tools weren’t as readily at hand, I guess (our encyclopedia set from 1981 lived at my grandmother’s).

But here’s the point: I had a question to ask. A good question. Given the right environment and encouragement, I could have set upon a quest to arrive at the answer — and who knows what other answers?

So, what we’re talking about here is a need to find something out — the ability to ask questions that we feel compelled to try to answer.

This was curiosity.

What if all of school were an act of finding the right questions to ask and the journey to answer them?

Imagine a sort of Big Book of Questions from which learners can choose the question that will set them on a path of discovery.

What does it take for a rocket to fly?

What makes banks so powerful?

How do empires fall?

Is war justifiable?

What makes something ‘beautiful’?

What would it have been like to see that crater strike in northern Quebec?

As it so happens, my quest was rekindled recently when Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield tweeted this image from his recent stint as commander of the ISS:


The Manicouagan Crater in Québec. 19 years later, my question is answered.

But now I’ve got more of them.

#slowchated Week 5: Balancing Life as an Educator AKA The Wild Ride

This is cross-posted here –> SLOWCHATED.

Now that week 6 is nearly coming to a close, I am ready to publish (the overly long) reflection of Week 5. (Brevity in writing is NOT one of my strong-points. Brevity in speaking is a specialty, so don’t ask me to TELL you about Week 5; you’ll just have to read about it here). Please note: I consider this a draft, but since it is overdue, I’m going to go ahead and hit “PUBLISH” and go back and edit later, which WILL include re-working the jacked up format.

Jeffrey Farley (@FarleyJeffrey) summed Week 5 up best:

During Week 5, we managed to explore this wide topic deeply (& sometimes irreverently) & the moderator (yours truly) was tricky–a cheater really–who had all sorts of sneaky question maneuvers…


Sunday Summary: 1/27-2/1 #slowchatED Topic: EduCelebs/All-Stars and how to share and care

Educelebs was a fringe topic for our first #slowchatED, to say the least. I was worried that people who have no “take” on the subject wouldn’t want to join AND I was worried that those so-called EDUcelebs wouldn’t want to touch this topic with a ten foot pole. (Or perhaps they are too busy being #eduAwesome to notice) But I did it anyways for two reasons:

  • Not a bad idea for our first chat to be a smaller one, especially since I had committed myself to writing a summary of the week.
  • I really wanted to learn more about this topic and the best way to learn is to get out of my own head and see what OTHERS think about the subject.

Why did I want to learn more?