Skip to content

tracing contoured landscapes

January 19, 2013

abstract lines

CC Image Source:

This week has traced a contoured landscape similar to the image above: Trough, dip, peak, slide and ripple. 

Holidays can be like that, especially when your household is jumbled with young adults coming late/ going soon/ sleeping in/ conspiring. Our bathroom smells like a perfumed hothouse; the garden shrouds mobile-phone-volume conversations that leach to neighbours, and bewitch a fiefdom of ranging cats. Schedules are continually re-negotiated, hair curled/straightened, dresses discarded, footsteps beat on floorboards, hasty farewells cast like spells, then doors echo in closing, and a singular absence prevails.

It must be nearly time to return to the other realm. The sane one. School.

Preparation for this return is one of the reasons I bear witness to our daughters’ comingsandgoings. I am in the study working on this wiki. Working, that is, when I’m not learning from the magnificent entity that is Educational Technology and Media Massive Open Online Course (ETMOOC) transmogrified via Twitter Thursday 8 am Perth time into #etmchat. Yowza! What carnival-scale mayhem this generates for participants more often bent seriously (like me) over planning documents, or found in our characteristic habitat of grading and papers.

ETMOOC is seriously fun.

As to its schedule, formality collides with asynchronous joy in a calendar of events, meantime Google+ community never stops. What’s the term for this kind of learning? A wallow? Awash? Feels like the compass point of distraction while on my laptop with ready access to tabbed browsing. Feel compelled to journey without restraint. Time is my marker. Here’s illumination crafted by Swedish poet and 2011 Nobel prizewinner Tomas Transtromer:

Time is not a straightline, it’s more of a labyrinth, and if you press close to the wall at the right place you can hear the hurrying steps and voices, you can hear yourself walking past there on the other side… (quoted in Garner, 1995, p.47).


CC Image Source:

In the spirit of making learning visible, myself-as-different-other has travelled shadowy alongside this week, monitoring processes I undertake to think and understand. Hmmm – what does this look like?

  • finished reading Wiliam’s Embedded Formative Assessment in preparation for our unit on Leading Accountability and Measurement at uni this semester; also explains why I’m planning to engage more fully with learning portfolios and intentionally showcase an  “incremental view of ability” (Wiliam, 2011, p.157)
  •  engaged in a Google hangout with where I learned that *prototyping* is a means of nudging change, and that subversion can be done “thoughtfully” via @GETideas #etmchat
  • travelled once more into UWA library to collect Reinventing Project-Based Learning where I discovered that DuFour’s 3 key elements for focusing a professional learning community are: Ensure students learn; create a culture of collaboration for school improvement; and focus on results (Boss & Krauss, 2007, p. 32)
  • took stock as a fellow river-visitor sprinkled ashes from a vessel until there was no more left to distribute; this last weighed heavily, but I haven’t yet finished thinking about what I learned. Something significant about time’s purchase, no doubt, but currently a stone in my heart.

There it is. My week’s landscape. Mapped and moulded. Reviewed and retold. Nothing like the reality of a lived experience (as editors we always neaten), but still with me, considered, undergoing re-assembly as a possible contour of ubiquitous learning, and a life-labyrinth.

Selected references

Boss, S. & Krauss, J. (2007). Reinventing project-based learning: Your field guide to real-world projects in the digital age. Washington, DC: International Society for Technology in Education.

Garner, H. (1995). True stories. Melbourne: The Text Publishing Company.

Wiliam, D. (2011). Embedded formative assessment. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. January 19, 2013 9:30 pm

    It is always wonderful to read reflections on learning that are framed so beautifully as you have done here. One thing I am learning in #etmooc is the absolute necessity of reflection. Not superficial “here’s what I learned” reflection, but real, deep thinking and re-creating. I am very good at gathering information, and not so great at doing anything with it. You have modeled best practice for me in such a creative and open manner. Thank you for this.

    • January 20, 2013 9:03 am

      Thanks, Donna – I am savouring the conversation seeds #etmooc is sowing; learning in public space feels a little odd at first, I guess. We need time to acclimatise/ learn this practice.

  2. January 19, 2013 11:46 pm

    Sam, I love the fluidity and tension of your writing. I was drawn in, suspended in a lovely wash of both personal and professional, brilliantly woven together.
    Your first paragraph is delightful and captured the frenetic energy of life with a teen girl (I have one in my world too).
    I have been trying to find an apt metaphor for my first week’s #etmooc experience and have yet to hit one one. But your description: “A wallow? A wash? Feels like the compass point of distraction while on my laptop with ready access to tabbed browsing. Feel compelled to journey without restraint.” resonated with me.

    Really enjoyed the post,


    • January 20, 2013 9:10 am

      Hello Carolyn and thanks for your feedback (we are not alone!). I am glad to share gratitude for what @courosa et al have fashioned for and with us. Impressive feat of designer learning 🙂
      Look forward to sharing with you and other #etmooc sojourners.

  3. January 20, 2013 1:43 am

    Fantastic post. Lyrical and wise.

    I am very much challenged by the “Making Learning Visible” thread, and it’s been taking up more and more room in my psychic RAM…

    Bookmarked the Embedded Formative Assessment link – thanks!

    Now back to the carnival! 🙂

    • January 20, 2013 9:13 am

      Hello Dave – “wise” is a first. Can I quote you?
      As to the brain overload, I’m wishing I had access to Trinity’s buddies back on Nebuchadnezzar when she needed to fly that helicopter. Quick!

  4. January 20, 2013 4:12 am

    Love it, Sam! Your passion for feeding your own learning is evident! Love how you write, as well. Seems like stream of consciousness but has such substance with your references. Enjoy your musings in the lead up to a return to school. Thank you for sharing your thought processes… 🙂

    • January 20, 2013 9:17 am

      Hello and thank you, Denise – hoping your finetuning for 2013 progresses well. So many contingency plans for refining this learning juggernaut.

  5. January 20, 2013 5:31 am

    I love the way you write. I find ETMOOC somewhat overwhelming, but delight in finding writers who share the way you have.

    • January 20, 2013 9:25 am

      Greetings, Susan.
      Are you also blogging your #etmooc experience?
      I love the sensation of kitting out with metaphorical swimming aids (goggles, snorkel, sunscreen) then diving in the deep end!
      Learning feels buoyant when it’s via blogging and therefore shared, but it’s also something that you do. Great reminder of how we want our students to feel.
      Thanks for sharing your response.

  6. January 21, 2013 7:49 am

    Terrific post. Sorry for being slow but keeping up to this #etmooc and managing work and life is- well, a challenge. What the hell- it’s fun, right? I really enjoyed your style but the metaphor of weekly landscape is more than fun, it is poignant too. Some of librarian( school, academic and public) colleagues have been kicking around the metaphor of ‘sherpa librarian’. It isn’t perfect but it does invoke the sentiment of service, challenge, workload, goals… what your post stimulated in me was landscape. We all have to navigate, hike, sweat and contemplate our surroundings; like you say, each week. I think the kernel her is that the teaching challenges are a trek of sorts. Some days it can be a wonderful sunny cruise in a parkway and other days it is a grind uphill with the weather looking ominous. My mountaineering experience binds me to these metaphors as I try to revisit how I implement education technology and teaching in general. If you want the glorious views from up top, you have to do the prep, the work and take the risks. As a teacher we are like sherpas because the expedition is not just for us but our students. Our clients really come first. So how do we serve them best. The landscape changes by the hour, by the day… hazards appear. Like the recent story where a Canadian woman died ascending Everest, ( after summiting, she never returned. That result rather defeats the point. We need to design lessons rather like intelligent expeditions that traverse the landscape with the clients skills and goals in mind not the dreams of the guide or teacher. THANKS

  7. January 23, 2013 5:57 pm

    Thanks for your comment, Al.
    Love the “sherpa librarian” metaphor which reminds me of this along with Peter Block who advocates “stewardship”.
    #etmooc is certainly revealing the mindful practice required to genuinely craft our teaching art-science (especially in online spaces – high visibility learning which some may consider high risk).
    Challenge level? Depends. Certainly easier as design-collaborators. No ceiling, though, on joy/ return on investment.
    I look forward to sharing further illustrations of landscape!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: