Category Archives: Life

Thanks for the Follows!

For the past year, I have been copying most of the posts on my new site to this older blog.  I have encouraged followers to move from this site and subscribe here instead.

I will no longer add more content to this site but I will continue to maintain the resources and content found here for your use.

Please take the time to follow Learning about Learning here.

Thanks for your support as I worked to understand the process of documenting and sharing my own learning.  I believe strongly in the importance of owning my own space on the web, and that is why I have moved to my own domain here.

I hope you will continue to learn with me and challenge me as I try to make sense of what learning needs to look like in this exponentially changing world.

 

 

Featured image by Matt Jones on Unsplash

Where Truth Gets Eyeballs

*Please note that this blog has moved to http://blog.donnamillerfry.com/*

 

We all know carbon dating has been disproven.  Homosexuality is a choice.  Climate change is a hoax. Hillary is a criminal. Everyone should carry a gun for protection.

All of these statements have been treated as facts in the media over the past few weeks, in preparation for USA to go to the polls.

And many people fully believe them to be true.

“People have difficulty now just sorting out what is true and what is not, and if you don’t have some common baseline of facts… it’s very hard to figure out how we move the democracy forward.”

US President Barack Obama

in conversation with Bill Maher

If we don’t have a common understanding of the facts, how do we have a national conversation about policy?

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President Obama goes on to say that the filters on the information getting to the people are very challenging to overcome.  News sources report untrue information that people believe.  People don’t think critically about the information delivered to them through AM Talk Radio, Fox News, Facebook, “Reality” TV…

Confirmation bias has people making decisions then looking for the statements in any media to confirm their beliefs.

 

In Canada, what questions are we asking about our media?

During our last national election, some of our largest newspapers used their front pages for partisan politics to influence voters.

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Canadaland with Jesse Brown explores the state of media in Canada on the regular podcast.

In Ontario schools,  while we are concerned about the ability of our students to make up an article for traditional print media, how do we also ensure that they know how to critically examine media and ask questions to separate fact from belief?

 

If ever there was a time for educators to make digital literacies, including critical thinking, a priority, today is it.

Canada needs critical thinkers who make evidence-informed decisions.  We need citizens who know how to  keep their eyeballs, their heads, and their hearts on the truth, no matter what filters are on the media that they tune into.

We need citizens who stand up to the indoctrination of children and the perpetuation of false information.

screen-shot-2016-11-08-at-9-30-56-am Canada flag image shared by Brandon Grasley CC-BY-2.0

Featured image (Where’s my eyeball?) shared by Alan Levine CC BY 2.0

Resources:

OSAPAC Resource for School Leaders

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OSAPAC Resources for Digital Citizenship: Critical Thinking and Information Literacy

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The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies by Doug Belshaw

 

Emotional Uncertainty in Exponential Times

I’m not sure how to share this experience because it is new, intense and raw, and writing is the way I try to sort things out.  So please bear with me.

How do we describe and define the intense feelings we experience when we see people we care about, colleagues in our profession, working their fingers to the bone at tasks that just don’t matter anymore?

Exponential change is our reality, yet many of our institutions continue to work hard to be exceptional at what mattered yesterday.

Picture yourself at work, and suddenly the discussion turns to whether term “flip phone” should have a hyphen or not.  If we argue this for even a single minute, we have missed 347222 Tweets, 2.4 million Google searches and 701389 Facebook logins.  Nobody cares about flip phones or flip-phones or how you spell it any more, yet  discussions this meaningless can consume our days.

We can be so busy at irrelevant tasks that we completely fail to take notice of how quickly the world has abandoned any interest in what we are doing.

As we strive to understand and embrace exponential change, recognizing this commitment to irrelevance in others creates an intense intersection of sadness, defeat, frustration, isolation and the irresistible desire to escape.

It’s coming to terms with the fact that a compelling case for change may not exist for these dedicated educators – the realization that the past is too entrenched, that beliefs are not going to shift, and, sadly, that you are no longer part of this tribe.

Or maybe that they still believe in certainty.

We have to know when it’s time to run, and begin again.  Maybe this emotional intersection is that sign.

Featured image by Stephen Downes CC-BY-NC-SA-2.0

 

 

 

Do You Have Time?

We all have time.  But how much?

And how will we spend it?

As an educator, I struggle with doing too much.

As a teacher, I packaged content endlessly, provided feedback on everything, read tirelessy, reflected on everything.  It consumed me. It consumes many.  Balance, alignment, living a rich life away from school – all of these things can be hard when there are no “hours of work” or boundaries of work.  There is always more that can be done.

Many of us work really hard – too hard perhaps.  But the passion for what we do, for changing life trajectories, is hard for others to understand at times.

It takes intention to stop and rethink the effectiveness of the effort and the purpose in how we spend our most valuable resource – time.

RULER
John Sills and Ben Kelly share the career of Jim Fry, NWO Regional Director, MNRF June 2016. Photo by Kira Fry.

Recently, two dear friends spoke at my husband’s retirement celebration.  They shared a timeline of his outstanding career in protecting Ontario’s natural resources.  Then they focused on what is left in the timeline, and how we need to be intentional about how that time is used.

LEO
Leo Suazo shares his understanding about the value of time. June 2106. Image by Kira Fry.

 

Retired US Fish and Game Officer Leo Suazo spoke eloquently about the value of time, and how after retirement, we have the opportunity to choose how we will share our gift of time.  What life trajectories will we impact? What changes will we enable?

How will we use our time to support those doing good in the world?

Kira Chloe retirement
Kira and Chloé. Image by Jake Avery.
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Shannon and Kyle with Jim. Image by Kira Fry

 

So then, how does this help us decide how to spend that precious time? Perhaps a recent commencement address by Harvard Graduate School of Education Dean James Ryan helps us think this through.

 

Dr. Ryan proposes five good questions we can ask in all that we do.

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From Five Good Questions by Dr. James Ryan http://www.gse.harvard.edu/news/16/05/good-questions

The last question?

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Late Fragments, by Raymond Carver http://allpoetry.com/Late-Fragment

 

From Dr. James Ryan:

My claim is that if you regularly ask: wait, what, I wonder, couldn’t we at least, how can I help, and what really matters, when it comes time to ask yourself “And did you get what you wanted out of life, even so,” your answer will be “I did.”

 

How will you use your gift of time?

Featured image of Diane Corbett, Ian Anderson, Doug Hyde and Jim Fry (Ontario Provincial Peer Support Program) by Kira Fry, June 2016.

This post is dedicated to my father, Melville Charles Miller, who would have been 81 years old today, on this Fathers’ Day 2016.

His dedication to the natural resources of this province inspired many of the people who have continued that legacy.

References:

Good Questions

 

 

donna jim
Image by Kira Fry, June 2016

The Robots are Coming…. No, Wait, They are Here!

How are we preparing our students for the digital economy that is not their future, but their present?

How do we create the compelling argument that this is important, that this should be a priority in our school system?

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Walmart is mere months away from replacing their warehouse workers with drones and robots.

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More menial low-skilled standardized jobs lost to automation. http://www.reuters.com/article/us-wal-mart-drones-idUSKCN0YO26M

Automation is not new.  We have had the “robots are taking over the world” narrative in our minds for decades.

Have we become desensitized to it?

Because now they really are.

The extent to which robots are able to do menial jobs has grown exponentially, and artificial intelligence is no longer science fiction – it’s commonplace.

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Automation has become extremely sophisticated using AI to do jobs not previously thought possible. http://www.forbes.com/sites/jacobmorgan/2016/06/03/automation-isnt-new-so-whats-the-big-deal/amp/

 

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From http://chronicle.com/article/Robot-Proof-How-Colleges-Can/235057 by Joseph E. Aoun

 

But when robots can do standardized work, it creates new opportunities. New opportunities for creators, for coders, for those educated to take advantage of these new opportunities.

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by Joseph E. Aoun, Chronicle of Higher Education http://chronicle.com/article/Robot-Proof-How-Colleges-Can/235057

 

How are we embracing the opportunities robotics will bring to our economy? In Ontario alone, we will have a deficit of 76,300 digital economy jobs by 2019.

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Canada Labour Market Outlook http://www.vancouvereconomic.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Labour-Market-Outlook-2015-2019-by-ICTC-March-20151.pdf

 

Or are we just going to continue to blame corporations for embracing the technology available to them?

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If we create standardized students, they can easily be replaced.

 

If we create unique individuals with the skills and competencies to rise above the menial and embrace new opportunities, we will be enabling our communities to continue to grow and  prosper in our changing world.

 

As a parent, do you ask your school how your child is being prepared to thrive in the digital economy?

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LEARN HOW TO LEARN

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Featured image shared by Robin Zebrowski under a CC-BY-2.0 licence.

 

 

References:

Technology Has a Language. It’s Called Code.

Are Robots Going to Steal Your Job? Probably.

3 of the World’s Top 10 Employers are Replacing Workers With Robots

What If? OPSBA 2009

A Vision for Teaching and Learning in a Digital Age OPSBA (2013?)

Robot-Proof: How Colleges Can Keep People Relevant in the Workplace by Joseph E. Aoun 

Canada’s Digital Talent Strategy March 2016

Digital Canada 150

Michael Geist: Digital Canada 150

Automation isn’t new, so what’s the big deal? by Jacob Morgan

 

 

Be That One Person

You can change a life trajectory.

It is a powerful message, and it’s one I have heard often throughout the last month.

Richard Wagamese, storyteller and Canada Reads Peoples’ Choice author, spoke to educators in Thunder Bay about the one person who rescued him from a desperate life path.  It’s a remarkable story that began with a simple kindness to a homeless native teenager in southern Ontario.

It ended with Richard reminding us that we have the power to be the one person who makes a difference in the life of another.  As educators, we have no idea where our influence and impact will end.

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Richard Wagamese, speaking to educators at the NAN Education Conference in Thunder Bay, March 30/31, 2016

 

Recently, I have been studying the impact of childhood trauma on long term life outcomes, including school success.  The CBC Ideas 3-part Podcast, All In the Family, examines the ACE Study – Adverse Childhood Events.

trama podcast
CBC Ideas Podcast: All in the Family Part 2: http://www.cbc.ca/radio/ideas/all-in-the-family-part-2-1.3532422

With traumatized kids, “executive function” becomes derailed.  In other words, their control over their behaviour is damaged.

A “code of conduct” is about punishment for behaviour without addressing the root cause.

How does a Code of Conduct negatively impact our most vulnerable kids, and amplify their inability to cope?

“Traumatized kids have a “fragmented” executive function”.

“The single greatest predictor of academic success that exists is the emotional stability of the home, it’s not the classroom.  And if you really wanted to do education reform, you would start with the home, darn it, you wouldn’t start with the classroom, because it is the greatest predictor.”

(John Medina, CBC Ideas Podcast, All in the Family, Part 2: 34: 01)

At #uLead15, Pasi Sahlberg talked about the “invisible factors” that impact school success.

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Pasi Sahlberg, uLead 15 slides: http://pasisahlberg.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/uLead-Talk-2015.pdf
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Pasi Sahlberg, uLead 15 slides: http://pasisahlberg.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/uLead-Talk-2015.pdf

 

At #uLead16, he spoke about the importance of small data – understanding individual children and the causes of what we observe.

And about equity – the idea that genetics and geography should not impact your life chances because the school system is an equalizer, not a separator/filter.

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The Globe and Mail, April 23, 2016 http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/education/how-finland-is-fighting-inequality-with-education-andwinning/article29716845/

 

We cannot continue to believe that test scores matter, that sorting children is what schools are for, that code of conduct thinking is best for kids.  These stances perpetuate inequity.

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Pasi Sahlberg, uLead 16 slides: http://pasisahlberg.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/uLead-Talk-2016.pdf

 

And here is the thing:

“Resilience studies show that if just one person is looking out for a vulnerable child, that can mitigate trauma.”

(CBC Ideas Podcast, All in the Family, Part 3: 35:35)

One person, can change a trajectory.

Teaching is the most important job in the world because every single day we are handed the opportunity to change the trajectory of a child’s life.

Just by caring.

Resources:

Pasi Sahlberg – presentation slides uLead16

Pasi Sahlberg – presentation slides uLead15

A substantial resource list is available on the CBC Podcast site here: http://www.cbc.ca/radio/ideas/all-in-the-family-part-2-1.3532422

#innovatorsmindset Blog Hop #3: What If?

“Daddy, what is that yellow stuff they are spraying on the plane?”

“Daddy, what are those big white things for?”

“Daddy, will we still be able to see the ground when we take off?”

“Daddy, do you think it is snowing in Toronto yet? Will there be snow when we get there?”

I heard all of these questions this morning from a boy, about 7 years old, sitting behind me while taking a flight with his family from Thunder Bay.  They were on their way to Miami, via Toronto.

Then the Mom, who was sitting across the aisle, said, “Why can’t you be that interested in your school work?”

What if?

What if parents asked questions like, “Why can’t you learn about things you are interested in, like this, in school?”

What if parents asked those questions all the time?

Would it impact the pace of change?

Check out some other wonderings about the What Ifs of school:

Patrick Miller

Paul McGuire @mcguirp

Tina Zita @tina_zita

Mark W. Carbone @markwcarbone

Amit Mehrotra (@AmitMehrotra78)

Stacey Wallwin @WallwinS