Experimentation Week: Get out there and try something new!


You’re out for dinner at one of your favourite restaurants about to order your favourite menu item (which you’ve eaten multiple times before because its delicious!) when all of a sudden the waiter tells you about tonight’s special – something wild and exotic that you’ve never tried before, like octopus ravioli. It sounds enticing and you want to order it, but you’re reluctant to pass on old reliable – spaghetti and meatballs – because you know it will make you happy.

The age old dilemma of trying something different and new, or sticking with what’s comforting and predictable. It comes up a lot in teaching. Do you you pull an old lesson plan out of the file box or play with an idea that’s been nagging you? The latter has more potential for excitement and discovery, but can also result in complete and utter failure.

As I reflected on all my colossal classroom flops from the past year, one thing that struck me was how much – despite hair-pulling frustration at the time – I had gained from every single one of them. In fact, I actually learned quite a lot more from experimenting and failing than I did by succeeding with tried and tested methods.

This made me curious about how other teachers approached the subject. One thing that became clear during last week’s discussion was how unafraid teachers are of taking risks with their craft. For most, experimentation is central to being an effective teacher.

(“Worth his salt” – I like that expression. It sounds old schoool!

Good on ya Barb! I hope I can say the same thing 25 years from now. Thankfully, we have teachers like yourself to connect with on twitter. I loved how eager everyone was to share their own learning experiences with experimentation in their classrooms…

(Well, the ego’s not THAT important…is it?)

(As a perfectionist, something I have to remind myself constantly!)


I’m totally stealing some of these. So many new ideas!

Of course, teachers expressed the need for a supportive environment, where risk-taking is encouraged and failure is accepted…


We even heard from some Ed leaders on how they inspire their teachers to experiment!

(The risk-taker motto!)

(Love the open-mindedness here!)

In the end experimentation is what school’s all about: Imagination, investigation, discovery, learning and FUN!


After all, what does anyone have to gain without getting out there and trying new things!










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!



Finding Purpose in Education (June 9)

My name is Moss Pike, and I teach Latin at the Harvard-Westlake School in Los Angeles. I’m excited to host a #slowchatED discussion on finding purpose within education the week of June 9, since it’s a topic I’ve become very invested over the course of this past year. Our school is on the verge of making some potentially big changes, based on a quite thorough “Workload Study” we recently completed with all of our students, and purpose has been one of the more salient talking points in the discussion. In thinking about how to design more engaging classroom experiences for my students and more engaging PD opportunities for faculty, as well as considering reworking our school mission, we’ve been doing a lot of thinking about purpose, focusing on the question of why do we do what we do.

Alongside autonomy and mastery, purpose is one of Dan Pink’s three essential requirements for intrinsic motivation, which he outlines in his fantastic book Drive (cf. some of my thoughts on the book). Pink (2011:137) points out that we don’t often enough ask “Why?” in the workplace, and I think the same is true within the classroom and at schools in general. Now that we’re starting to understand the value of the so-called “non-cognitive” or “soft” skills like creativity and empathy that play a central role in engagement and happiness, it’s the perfect time to call more attention to purpose and think hard about this question, as we’re pushing change in our schools.

When I learned about Aaron Hurst‘s new book The Purpose Economy, I couldn’t wait to read it and see what he had to say on this idea. It’s an excellent book to add to the list of “books not about education that have everything to do about education,” and if anyone is looking for something to inspire deep thinking about important ideas, I highly suggest picking it up (cf my notes on it). In the book, Hurst (2014:18) makes it clear that his idea of purpose goes beyond service, thinking of it within the following framework:

“When I say purpose, I mean more than serving others and the planet. Service is certainly at the core, but in speaking with hundreds of professionals and reading thousands of essays, I’ve discovered that there are two other key sources of purpose people seek: a sense of community and the opportunity for self-expression and personal growth. In other words, they pursue personal, social and societal purpose.”

That said, the book (cf. also Hurst’s blog) have served as the inspiration for me to have a wider discussion on the topic, with the hope that we can bring together a number of diverse ideas on purpose and start to answer the question “Why?” for both ourselves and our greater communities. “Much like technology a few decades ago, purpose has now become a business imperative,” Hurst (2014:21) claims, and in my opinion, purpose should also be an educational imperative. If interested in discussing more on the book itself, by the way, share any thoughts or questions in our EduRead G+ community and/or use the hashtag #eduread14 on Twitter.

So to this end, we’ll discuss the questions below next week using the hashtag #slowchatED on Twitter, beginning with Q1 on Monday, June 9, followed by a new question each subsequent day of the week. All are welcome to participate throughout the week, whether it’s just for one question or for the duration of the discussion. As always, there are no wrong answers in a discussion like this, and I’m excited to see what ideas we can come up with together.

Suggested Reading

There’s no need to read The Purpose Economy for our #slowchatED discussion (though you certainly should at some point!), but it may be helpful to read through a couple good blog posts on the idea:


Q1 Why is purpose important? What does it do for us as community members?
Q2a Define what purpose means to you as an educator, sharing examples. What is your own personal purpose?
Q2b Define what purpose means to you as colleague, sharing examples. What is your societal and social purpose?
Q3 What are some myths or misconceptions about purpose? Why isn’t purpose often pursued?
Q4 How can we find, celebrate, and sustain our purpose as educators?
Q5 Why is finding purpose more important than ever for students? How do we help them find it?
Q6 Share a purpose project you intend to work on in the next academic year.

N.B.: This post is duplicated in my personal blog.