Tag Archives: Jabiz Raisdana

Some of My Favourite Posts From 2012

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Jon Glittenberg

Many people are sharing some of their favourite posts of 2012 from their own blog, but I thought that it would be more beneficial to share some of the great reads I have found out throughout the year.  The one thing that I dislike about the “blogosphere”, is that some of the best posts tend to disappear way too quick.  This is my chance to bring them back for others to read.

The first one though I wanted to share though is very selfish though, yet it was probably one of my favourite days of the year.  This post from Alyssa Lamshed, who I have connected with through her dad and blog, showed me the power of connecting online to create incredible connections offline.  It was just a really cool experience to meet Alyssa in Adelaide and it reminded me why I do, what I do.

Here are some great reads from my year (in no particular order):

1.  Overcoming Digital Dualism – A great post by Dean Shareski (who reads this blog all the time but won’t acknowledge it publicly) on digital dualism which is defined below:

Digital dualism is the belief that the on and offline are largely separate and distinct realities. Digital dualists view digital content as part of a “virtual” world separate from a “real” world found in physical space. 

Dean has some great thoughts on our world today:

My struggle remains in helping people understand that our world now includes digital connections not simply as supplements to relationships but embedded and at times equal to or at least different from traditional non-mediated relationships. Like our computers today, we feel a need to label this and distinguish them as “technology” if only to understand their “newness”. Perhaps someday we’ll not point out these differences and see online connections as less meaningful. For now, I don’t know how to help folks get over that idea without them experiencing it for themselves. I also don’t want this conversation to be about making people feel like “I get this and you don’t”. That’s when the discussion becomes more polarized.

2.  Blogging is the New Persuasive Essay – I could easily share all of Shelly Wright’s posts here, but this one stands out as a favourite.  She makes a very simple yet compelling case on how you could include blogging as a component in your classroom:

I’m not proposing that you need to do things radically different. Teach whatever you teach for Language Arts, or other subjects, but include a blog component.  So if you’re teaching sentence structure, teach your students to create complete sentences while blogging. Blogs, like traditional writing, need great structure.  If you’re focusing on capitalization or punctuation, transfer this skill to blog writing as well.

Another one of my favourite Shelly Wright posts is “I Used To Think“.  If you are ever looking for a speaker to show how much better it is to transform your teaching to focus on powerful student learning, Shelly is a solid choice.  She has such a compelling story that resonates with many.

3.  Everything you know about curriculum may be wrong. Really. – This is just a really powerful post by Grant Wiggins, that uses some simple analogies to talk about how curriculum (and learning experiences) should be designed:

In athletics this is very clear: the game is the curriculum; the game is the teacher. And each game is different (even as helpful patterns emerge). Knowledge about the game is secondary, an offshoot of learning to play the game well. As I learn to play, knowledge – about rules, strategy, and technique – accrues, but it is not the point.

So, it would be very foolish to learn soccer (or child-rearing or music or how to cook) in lectures. This reverses cause and effect, and loses sight of purpose. Could it be the same for history, math, and science learning? Only blind habit keeps us from exploring this obvious logic. The point is to do new things with content, not simply know what others know – in any field.

4.  What it might be: Authentic Student Blogging – I have been watching what Jabiz Raisdana has been doing with student blogging this year, and I have just been amazed at how he has empowered student voice.  As we embark on digital portfolios in Parkland School Division, I have been greatly influenced by what Jabiz has written on student blogging and love his advice:

If you want your students to blog effectively, give them the freedom to experiment and write about what interests them. Stay away from portfolios and forced reflections on their learning, at least until they get the hang of it. Wait until they find a voice, find an audience, and become involved in the conversations around ideas, before you push your agenda of meta-cognition and reflective learning. 

5.  What Leading With Vision Really Means – This is not an education piece, but its implications for educational leadership are obvious.  As we have more access to information from different sectors, educators should be looking outside of the field to see what works for people and business, and then try to make the connection to what we do in schools.  Visionary leadership is needed in our schools/districts so we (as a whole system) can do what is best for kids:

People also want to see that the leader’s farsightedness is based on a deep sense of what’s necessary, right, and good for the business and the team rather than what’s simply expeditious, popular, or self-serving. We want to feel that our leaders’ “far-sight” is focused on the greater good, that their vision promotes the group and not just their own selfish interests. A truly farsighted leader envisions a possible future that responds to and resonates with people’s aspirations for their individual and collective success. When employees or potential employees hear about the good leader’s vision, their visceral response is, “Yes, I want to go there too.”

In my travels, it is so apparent that schools/districts are a huge reflection of leadership and their success.  With that understanding, schools/districts need to put more effort into developing the innovative leadership our schools need, not simply running the same programs with the same objectives of the past.

Here are some other posts I really liked as well:

5 Reasons Your Top Employee Isn’t Happy

The Five Percenters

Is Algebra Necessary

Teachers Should Change How They Teach Students Today

The Question Should be: Why are you not blogging?

Hopefully I have provided a range of great reading to start off your New Year!  If you want more, please feel free to check out my Diigo Bookmarks.  Also, the Edublog nominees for “Most Influential Education Blog Post of 2012” is another great place to look for some great reads.

I am constantly inspired by so many people and could share 100’s of posts so thank you to all that inspire me daily!

Have a great 2013!

Empower Their Voice

cc licensed ( BY SD ) flickr photo shared by HowardLake

It seems that serendipitously, if you are continuing to read blogs, some ideas that may be floating around in my head are made clearer by reading what others wrote.  In many of my conversations with educators and students, we have talked about empowering students to have a voice in not only learning, but to actually make a difference in the world.  Bloggers like Martha Payne and my friend Alyssa have inspired many in different ways through their blogs and by sharing their voice.  In both of those instances though, it was not necessarily a school or teacher empowering them to do this, but a parent who guided and gave them an opportunity.

So why should a teacher give these same opportunities in the classroom, especially with the demands of the profession and often an overwhelming curriculum that we must cover. In an article by Dana Edell titled, “Why Students Should Blog”, she discusses the power of blogging and why it is beneficial to our kids:

Though often more informal than structured essays, blogging can encourage young people to trust that their written words have power and that expressing themselves through written storytelling can transform themselves and our communities.

In the same article, Edell shares the story of a young woman challenging a company on some of the stereotypes that there were reinforcing with their product line and how her voice had made a difference:

Stephanie, 22, wrote a piece in December critiquing a popular toy company’s new line that was marketed for girls. She believed that the company’s pink and purple beauty salon reinforced negative gender stereotypes. She was angry. She wrote about it. Her blog post circulated throughout the blogosphere and eventually garnered a Twitter response from the toy company. SPARK decided to take the issue further and launched a petition that was supported by a dozen more blog posts by girls, expressing their charged opinions about the toys. Mass mainstream and social media attention led to a meeting with executives at the toy company. We have recently seen positive changes from this company, showing us that they not only read our concerns, but also listened and took action. It all started with a blog.

 Pretty neat huh?  A young woman voicing her opinion and making a difference; isn’t that something we want to happen because of schools?

I was then pushed to think about the art of writing from a post I read from Ryan Bretag and how what we do with student blogging  often takes away from the things that we love in the blogs we read (transparency and emotion are two big ones for me):

What makes us want to make everything fit into our preconceived notions of school assignments and activities? Why do we value and appreciate the great blogs that are out there BUT FAIL TO USE THOSE AS MODELS for students and their blogs? Why do we use models so far removed from what we consider powerful?

This is not to say that every teacher is intentionally doing this but the reality is that it is happening.

I get that not all students will be writing at the level of the blogs we read but that isn’t what I’m referencing when I say use those as models. I mean modeling the qualities that draw us time and time again to blogs.

Simply telling our kids what they should blog about does not make them their blogs. It makes them our blogs that the students are simply writing; there is little ownership and it is not something where we empower our students to actually use their thoughts and their voice. 

If we want our students to make a difference in the world (not only in the future but now), and blogging is something that we see as an opportunity for doing this, how do help them take this next step?

Well…here’s one way…

I have been watching Jabiz Raisdana’s work regarding student blogging very closely and he gives some fantastic advice to educators on getting authentic student voice:

Blogging is about trust. Trust takes time. Students must feel safe to become vulnerable and open up. This trust is not built online, but in your classroom, when you are together, as a group, face-to-face. It is built through effective classroom discussions at the table and understanding the power of commenting and conversations. It is building offline spaces that are fun and creative and open to new ideas and projects. It is built by  sharing as much of yourself with your students as you can. Share your music, your ideas, and texts that move you. Share your contacts and friends and model what you teach. Use your network to show the power of networks. Before you know it your students will be writing about all kinds of things…

What I was most impressed with Jabiz was not what he had shared with educators, but what he had shared with his students to build that trust and show his belief in them.  He recently wrote a post entitled, “I Believe“, which he openly shares how he is inspired by his students:

I believe in you. I believe in your voice and your writing. What you write and how you write, right now in your life is you. For better or for worse it is true. If you wait until you are writing is perfect or good or accepted you will be waiting forever. If you wait to be yourself and stand behind your ideas you will wait forever. Confidence is about being happy with who you are and where you are in terms of skills. Confidence isn’t about measuring up to other people’s expectations. I don’t believe in good or bad or ranks or judgements or comparing or anxiety. I believe in confidence through risk and self-esteem through vulnerability. I believe in trust. I believe in communities.

An open, honest, and caring post that models what we would want from our students.  And what does he get from this?  A student that writes an amazingly powerful, courageous and honest post that, at this moment, has over 70 comments from people all over the world inspired by the honesty of his message:

And I envy those people in the Lunch queue who just turn around, talk to random people and become best friends (and beyond) instantly. I find it hard to go beyond my class. And those lunch groups. ARGHHHHHH. I try to join them, but how? Do I just walk up, come up with something amazing to say and just hang out? Because I can never find the right thing to say. And I’m not popular. And people don’t take me seriously…But then there are the endless websites that tell you to be yourself and not change your personality. So now what? How do I change the fact that people go “Oh, what’s Solal doing here?”to my face? And if they say that to my face, what must they say behind my back?

Judging by the comments and honestly, my own feelings, Solal inspired many kids and adults alike with his words. Sharing his experiences of what many of us have gone through, he has shown us that we are not alone.  Again, the thoughtful use of technology can bring people together and humanize us in different ways.

A couple of things here.  Does Solal have the understanding of how to blog this if his teacher does not model it first and give him the opportunity?  Does Solal have the courage to write this post if his teacher does not show his belief in him?  I will be honest here that I believe that we can never really teach this to our students if we do not experience this opportunity ourselves.  Many educators are working with their students to try and give them the opportunity that they themselves have experienced and many educators are starting to wonder what would happen if all teachers blogged.  Our voices matter.

How are you empowering the voice of your students?  Stories like these strengthen my resolve that we have to continue to create these opportunities for our kids to make a difference in our world.  And if it wasn’t for so many that shared their thoughts and stories, I am not sure that I would have been able to write this post myself.

Thanks to all of you that are willing to share.

(If you are reading this and thinking, “I should really start blogging”, here are some links that might help you get started.)

You Should Read… (September 30, 2012)

cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by gcouros

I missed sharing this post last week as I decided to take a Sunday off from everything and just watch some football :) There is a ton of great stuff and the article this week really pushed my own thinking about what can be happening in schools right now to push what we do in schools.

1.  What it might be – As our own school division embarks on the second year of digital portfolio implementation, I really enjoyed this post by my friend Jabiz Raisdana who shares not only some thoughts about student blogging, but shares his own experience with blogging as well.  I really believe that if we are to be effective with kids in teaching this skill, we must not have knowledge, but also some experience with it as well.  Whether that is in a personal blog or a classroom blog, seeing both the benefits and negatives is powerful.

I think back to my own experience blogging and how I started off with the idea of “blog as a portfolio” but really started to fall in love with the writing process.  My style has developed over time and now I find that blogging is crucial to my own learning, both personally and professionally.

Jabiz ends the post with some great advice for students to get into the flow of blogging:

If you want your students to blog effectively, give them the freedom to experiment and write about what interests them. Stay away from portfolios and forced reflections on their learning, at least until they get the hang of it. Wait until they find a voice, find an audience, and become involved in the conversations around ideas, before you push your agenda of meta-cognition and reflective learning. 

Seriously, read the entire post.

2.  5 Critical Mistakes Schools Make with iPads – Too many times, I watch schools/organizations focus on the tool as opposed to the learning. That has led several schools to buy mass amounts of hardware (including iPads) and have many teachers not understand what their purpose is or see it as an add-on.  Many school leaders may not think that, but if you talk to their teachers, they may have a different point of view.  That is I have found this Edudemic article such a great guide to start for implementation of iPads (or any technology) in a school.  The last point in the article is the most important in my opinion:

5) Failure to communicate a compelling answer to “Why iPads?”
Many school administrators simply fail to communicate to their constituents why they’ve purchased iPads. As a result, many initiatives face resistance from teachers, parents — and even students – who don’t understand why these devices are being introduced into their classrooms. Letting the purchase speak for itself isn’t enough – districts need to explain why they’ve invested in these devices.

I encourage you to read this before you implement anything in your school.  If you have already done so, still read it and ask yourself, “what have we missed?”

3.  Learning Today Looks Nothing Like in the PastKaren Lirenman, a grade one teacher in Surrey, BC, shared some of the things that she is doing in her classroom and when I read her post, my jaw literally dropped.  It is amazing what a grade one classroom can look like now but is this the norm?  Is it even something that many are aspiring towards?

Some of the things that Karen listed in her post that she does…Quad blogging, Skyping, blog for classroom collaboration, high school/elementary school collaboration, global read aloud, and much more.  This is in a grade one classroom!

So a couple of things popped in my head while reading this.

a.  When I hear teachers in elementary classrooms say that kids are too young for technology, I can easily send them to this post (and I probably will).

b. Many may take Karen’s post as that she is not doing some of the traditional “literacies” in her classroom and think it is technology focused. I saw Yong Zhao this past summer and he said something that stuck out to me.

“Reading and writing should be the floor, not the ceiling.”

Karen is shooting for a much higher ceiling then she probably has before, probably because of all of her own learning that she has done.  A master teacher always grows and Karen is exemplifying that in her work.

c.  What happens to these students after Karen’s class? What is her admin team doing to ensure that these types of activities are continued after next year with this group of students?  What is Karen doing with the teacher’s of the next grade?  It has to be a team effort in a school where we must all push each other’s learning to do what is best for kids, not just the sole responsibility of the “admin team”.  This is where we go beyond “classroom teacher” to the notion of “school teacher”.  Leadership can come from many different avenues in a school.

Hopefully you have some food for thought this week from these posts.  I know that definitely with these three articles alone, my thinking has been stretched significantly so I hope they have given you some food for thought as well.

Just as an “extra” share, I wanted to share this awesome song by The Avett Brothers.  I love their music and just started listening to their new album (is that what you call it nowadays?).  Below is my favourite song from it.

Have a great week!


cc licensed flickr photo shared by Digital Blue

I was asked for my thoughts on a blog post by my friend Jabiz Raisdana on his blog post regarding the movement of his own community in blogging. Jabiz shares some of his thoughts on how blogging has maybe not caught on in his own building to the extent that he had hoped and how he hopes that he can move them forward.

It is amazing how much I can learn from the comments in my own blog post, but also from writing my own comments on other blog posts.  The way we can develop and nurture our thoughts through writing has been one of the best, unintended benefits I have had through my experience blogging.  Here is what I wrote to Jabiz on his post:

Hey Jabiz,

I totally get where you are coming from and appreciate your role modeling that you have done for others. The fact is, that many of us expect that educators just JUMP in and do some deep reflective thinking on a blog space, when they may have never even done that in any writing space (online or offline). It is not that these teachers are not reflective, they just may not write down their thoughts.

To help with this, I think that you will need to scaffold with them. I think of it on the level of Bloom’s taxonomy. To get to the high level thinking, we have to start often with some of the lower end stuff. I have seen teachers go from posting spelling lists, to some VERY DEEP, reflective posts that involve their students comments and conversations. The role modeling that you are doing is a great step, but it often needs to be accompanying other elements that you are bringing into practice.

One of my mentors said the following to me: “There are three elements of being a strong leader. You have to know when to stand in front to share and role model the vision, you need to stand beside and work together towards the vision, and you need to stand behind to encourage them to move on their own.”

I heard someone say something along the lines of this: “A rock is not formed in one swift move, and if it is, it can be destroyed. A rock is formed through the continuous shaping of the tide over years.”

As educators, we need to stop thinking of learning in yearly segments.  Learning is continuous, along with the process of change and growth.  When schools work together, and have that same belief, what they can do together is absolutely amazing.  When we are rushing to get everything done by the end of the year through our own growth process, that is when things feel like add-0ns and we lose our belief in them.  I for one, do not want to look back at my time as a school administrator and believe that the ideas I have implemented were “fads”.  The tools might be different, but the learning should be continuous and built upon.  If we really believe that an idea is truly  better for education, the process will (and should) take awhile.

Is this not a great way to role model to our students that we are continuous learners?