A Plan to Learn With

Where Do You Want To Go Today?

Suppose you needed to get something from your local shop. It could be some bread, or milk, or a jar of your favourite jam, or anything else that you usually buy. I guess that you would go towards the shop, rather than just walking around in circles:

A man walking in circles

Illustration By Frits

What you have inside your head is a PLAN! It says to you how you can get to that shop. Think about it:

  • You know where you want to go (the shop)
  • You know how to get there: walking, driving, catching a bus
  • You are aware of any potential problems (Is it raining?)
  • You know when you want to go (Now? This afternoon? Tomorrow?)

Image courtesy Thomas Cizauskas

Not a Shop, But a Something Else!

If you want to learn something (instead of buying something) you still need a plan. Here are the same four items:

  • What do you want to learn about?
  • What are you already good at (try “walking” 🙂 ), and how might this help you?
  • What problems might there be, and who can I ask for help?
  • By when will I have learned it?

What we are really talking about here is goal setting – there are a variety of different strategies to help you set goals. Checkout the Slideshare for more about gols and goal setting.

Just to help you, there is this Word document that you can use to write down your initial ideas. It is a blank template.

If you want to see a template with some of the spaces filled in for “Underwater Basket Weaving”, you can see it here.

Credits: Basket image: Vilseskogen, link: http://www.flickr.com/photos/vilseskogen/3781517030/
Underwater image: photohome_uk, link: http://www.flickr.com/photos/photohome_uk/1495438762/.

Edublogs Serendipity webinar overview – gifted & talented students


Our first Serendipity session of the year was a great session! As always the session was recorded and is well worth a watch/listen for the huge amount of sharing of ideas and links. I’m sorry for the delay in posting – a combination of migraines, a visitor staying and too many things still to do before I go back to work has left me without enough time!

The Session

We started as usual by putting our topic ideas on the whiteboard and then polling to choose the topic for consideration. The winner was a double topic “IEP for gifted students” and “Behaviour strategies for gifted”.

Once the topic was chosen we started with a whiteboard for the headings and to collect some of our ideas and thoughts on this including some links. As usual ideas were also shared via text chat and audio. This was a lively session with much of the sharing via audio leaving me with a dilemma about an image/interactive for this week’s post. The whiteboard has only a very small part of those things that were shared as does text chat. So what I have finally done is to experiment with a survey!

While the survey doesn’t give us an image in the post it does give us something different to do and so meets my personal criteria for something other than just plain text in every post 🙂



I enjoyed this session – this is one of the topics that we have visited before from different angles and I am always fascinated by the different directions taken when topics are re-visited. Because we never have exactly the same group of people each week Serendipity sessions are truly serendipitous in that our direction is informed by the particular experiences of out participants each week. Love it!

Our Next Session

Our next Webinar is our first Edublogs “Fine Focus” session for 2012, where we invite you to share your favourite online survey tools in “What survey was that!”  join us on Thursday January 12th at 23:00 GMT/UTC the time for you will vary depending on your timezone (check yours here) Thursday afternoon/evening in the USA, late night Thursday in Europe, and Friday morning January 13th in Australia – in the usual Blackboard Collaborate virtual room.

Edublogs Serendipity webinar overview – fun, individualised, interesting & easier learning?


In this session we took a look at making learning: fun, individualised, more interesting and easier! A very tall order – but it seemed to us when we looked at these suggested topics that they were closely inter-connected so a unanimous decision was taken to consider them all at once! As always the session was  recorded and is well worth catching. We were a small group – all of whom have participated in many of these webinars. There were many whiteboard and chat contributions with everyone also taking part in the audio discussion.

The Session

Just for once we didn’t have a proper poll! Because the topics were so closely related we chose to  encompass them all within our discussion. Also unusually there was not a heavy focus on the “e-” components we might include, although I think we were all aware that that “e-” components are great tools for making learning more fun, individual, interesting and even easier!

As we often do we began with a whiteboard having the chosen topic as the heading and simply added our own ideas about the topic. This was a mixture of strategies, ideas and practices.

Each of us then chose ONE of our contributions to the whiteboard and expanded on it through audio (these are the ones enclosed by red rectangles on the image). This is something I really love when it is feasible – really only possible for everyone to do this when we are a small group and when we all have microphones. Each of these gave rise to questions and further discussion.

In the remaining time we looked a little more at “making learning easier” with some debate about whether it should be always easy and indeed if it is possible for it to always be so. The consensus seemed to be that there are some things that require a degree of repetition and or  practise to learn them to a degree where they are useful. My own particular take on this is a feeling that by always making it “easy and fun” we may be setting students up to fail later in life in workplaces and in life. There are dull, boring, routine tasks that we all need to do in life and in our workplaces, there are also many things which are not easy. If we lack stamina and the ability to be persistent to some degree then we risk not achieving our goals.


This session was fun – this group of “old hands” are all great contributors giving rise to a great  feeling of collaboration throughout the session. I so much enjoy Serendipity because we never know where we will go!

Our Next Session

Our next Webinar is an Edublogs “Fine Focus” session, this week in: “e-Portfolios – what, why & how!” Sandra Stewart from New South Wales will take us on a journey into the understanding and  use of e-Portfolios. Join us on Thursday September 22nd at 23:00 GMT/UTC the time for you will vary depending on your timezone (check yours here) Thursday afternoon/evening in the USA, late night Thursday in Europe, and Friday morning September 23rd in Australia – in the usual virtual room

Edublogs Serendipity webinar overview – Find e-learning work!


If you access the link to the recording it would be great if you would just leave a short comment on this post to let me know. I would really like to know if it is useful to people when I post the overviews & recording links


In this recorded session we talked about some of the possiblities for finding work in the online/e-learning field.

The Session

We started the session by sharing our thoughts about our own dream e-learning role.


The rest of the session was spent sharing and discussing (through whiteboard, text chat and audio) our ideas about finding work in the e-learning field. This was an interesting and productive discussion with many possibilites shared.


This session was particularly interesting in the different perspectives we had on the possibilities for work in e-learning. I took away an increased awareness that often we might need to create our own job and then “sell” it to someone!

Our Next Session

FineFocusSmallOur next Webinar is an Edublogs “Fine Focus” session.  This week’s session  “Digital safety and YOUR students?” will be focussed around sharing and discussing resources that you use to highlight issues of digital safety with your students. Bring along resources you use and find out about those others use.  Join us on Thursday Feb 24th at 23:00 GMT/UTC (6pm USA EST, Midnight CET) or Friday Feb 25th at 7am West Aus, 10am NSW, depending on your timezone – in the usual Elluminate room

In the Future

If you are a regular visitor to our webinars you will know that we alternate “Fine Focus” sessions on specific topics with “Serendipity” the unconference sessions where we choose a topic by poll at the start of the session. Sometimes the very fact of being asked for “hot topics” or other ideas for discussion or learning tends to make our minds blank. This has prompted me to start a Serendipity Wallwisher for topic suggestions. Please visit the wall and add your ideas for Serendipity topics so that we have more choices to consider. Some of these ideas might also form the basis for future “Fine Focus” sessions.

Overview Edublogs Serendipity webinar – Sprite and 2E


We were a very small group for our  recorded Serendipity unconference webinar this week. I think this was the combination of Thanksgiving in the USA, nearing the end of the academic year in Australia, and the fact that the conference season is still in full swing. We tend to have very low numbers at this time of year and this usually improves after Christmas.

The Session

We didn’t really formally decide on a topic for this session, one just “grew” out of the initial conversation. My interest was sparked by a references to “Sprite’s Site by Jo Freitag (@jofrei). Jo told us about her cartoon character Sprite who is twice exceptional (2E). Sprite is a gifted student with a learning difficulty/difference.


This session was fascinating as Jo told us about (and gave us links to) Sprite’s Site where  you can read about Sprite and her learning journey. We also heard about the Gifted Resources website that Jo coordinates. This is an information service for parents, teachers and service providers involved with gifted students. Jo also mentioned #gtchat on Twitter, a weekly forum for discussion around gifted issues.


This session was very exciting for me with lots of “take-aways” about the issues 2E students encounter that will help me with my own students. It has also made me think about how I might better organise the resources I use regularly for literacy and numeracy and make them more accessible for others.

Our Next Session

FineFocusSmallOur next Webinar is an Edublogs “Fine Focus” session. This week we have a treat in store as we will be joined by Sue Waters (@suewaters) the Edublogger. Sue is going to share her ideas and strategies relating to one of the topics suggested on our Wallwisher. The topic is ” How to manage using more than one Web 2.0 tool (incl social networks, virtual worlds and other comms tools) at once for education.” This is guaranteed to be a lively session as Sue’s sessions always are – she certainly always keeps me on my toes as a moderator!

.Join us on Thursday Dec 2nd at 23:00 GMT/UTC (6pm USA EST, Midnight CET) or Friday Dec 3rd at 7am West Aus, 10am NSW, depending on your timezone – in the usual Elluminate room

In the Future

If you are a regular visitor to our webinars you will know that we alternate “Fine Focus” sessions on specific topics with “Serendipity” the unconference sessions where we choose a topic by poll at the start of the session. Sometimes the very fact of being asked for “hot topics” or other ideas for discussion or learning tends to make our minds blank. This has prompted me to start a Serendipity Wallwisher for topic suggestions. Please visit the wall and add your ideas for Serendipity topics so that we have more choices to consider. Some of these ideas might also form the basis for future “Fine Focus” sessions.

Webinar Overview – Motivating the Unmotivated Learner


The recorded Edublogs webinar of the 20th/21st of May was a fantastic session led by guest presenter Lynne Oakvik of the Learning Resources and Instructional Media Department, Broward County Public Schools, Florida.

I really enjoyed this session for the content and activities but also because I was able to participate more in text chat than is often possible while Lynne led the session ably supported by Phil Hart.

The Session

After the usual preliminaries and some introductory words from Lynne she took us straight to the heart of the matter by asking us to brainstorm the factors influencing student motivation. We had a very full whiteboard very quickly!

Impactson Motivation

This first activity set the scene for a lively and well paced session. We moved on to look briefly at some of the possible overarching institutional strategies for supporting unmotivated (at risk) students. Next we shared individual strategies we had used with students. This again produced a well filled whiteboard as well as a busy chat stream. Lynne then summed up by showing, and asking for our input on, the outcomes from a report suggesting items that might be fundamental to keeping at risk students in education,


All in all this was a very interactive and thought provoking session and our thanks go to Lynne for giving us all such food for thought in such an effective way. As with most of these sessions this overview is no more than a fleeting glimpse and you will get much more from the recording.

Next week

SerendipitybsmallOur next Webinar is an Edublogs Serendipity – unconference session so bring along your hot topics and burning issues (what makes you spit with anger or thump a tub with passion) and throw them into the melting pot for the poll to choose our topic in the first ten minutes.

Join us on Thursday May 27th at 23:00 GMT/UTC (7pm USA EST, Midnight BST) or Friday May 28th at 1am CEST,7am West Aus, 9am NSW, depending on your timezone – in the usual Elluminate room


Two Webinar Overviews


Our missing recording has been found and is now available – Thank you to the Elluminate Support Team for their persistence finding this long after I had given up!

A combimation of pressure of work and miscellanous other issues including a lost recording for the first of these two sessions meant that I got so far behind on the overviews that this week I have done a combined overview for the week with the lost recording (Students are Students) and the following week’s Serendipity session. I will also be doing a separate post for the most recent webinar on motivating students.

Students are Students


Unfortunately we have no recording available for this session which was very lively. Also I’m sorry for the delay in posting about this webinar but I was hoping that the recording would become available. If the recording goes eventually become available I will add it to the post and Tweet this. The post will be longer than usual because of the lack of recording, and will try to describe the activities and outcomes in rather more detail than the usual overview.

The Session

The focus of the session was on classroom management issues and on drawing some parallels between these issues in a face-to-face situation and in the virtual context. We began by inviting people to put their main classroom management issues on the whiteboard.


Then we grouped them to try and put similar ones together. This was slightly arbitrary as there is certainly a case for combining the “need/relevance” group with the “motivation/interest” group in that perceived irrelevance impacts on motivation. In my personal opinion, a perception that the class/work is not relevant is not the only reason for poor motivation and/or a high level of disinterest. So we ended up with six issues: behavioural; motivational; perception of need/relevance; attendance; parental pressure; differing “level”.

Using a series of polls we narrowed these down as it was not practical to consider them all – lack of motivation was a clear winner, we also took a brief look at the behavioural issue.


In both cases we whiteboarded some of our own strategies for managing lack of motivation, mainly in a face-to-face context.


Several of these were described in much more depth by people who used them giving us a great “feel” for how they worked in a particular context. We also touched briefly on barriers to implementing some of these strategies including: the heavy demands made on the teacher by project based learning; and the requirement in some places for “seat time” where students have to be in class for set times – this precludes time-out options.


In the short time left before the end of the session we talked about managing potentially disruptive behaviours whatever the cause in both the face-to-face and virtual environments. Again we used whiteboard, text chat and audio. As before a variety of strategies were suggested although we lacked the time to explore these in more detail. However there were a range of ideas put forward in text and audio as well as on the whiteboard.

These included: involving parents; the use of ground rules – preferably wholly or partly developed by the students; invoking peer pressure; adopting calming techniques and removal of the student from the room. There was considerable discussion in text and audio about the factors that may contribute to behavioural issues. Two main possibilities were raised:

  1. The almost continuous consumption by students of sweet beverages and “snack” foods high in sugar and other additives and the possibility of countering this by encouraging the drinking of water instead.
  2. An increasing trend for shorter breaks (recesses) and less physical activity undertaken within those breaks leaving students with excess energy that may be channeled into disruptive behaviour.

Due to the time factor we didn’t really explore the behavioural issues in much depth. Although from my personal perspective they are much more significant in a face to face situation than is lack of motivation. This is because in my opinion an unmotivated student impacts mainly on their own learning whereas a student showing disruptive behavior impacts negatively on the learning of all the others in the class. Of course unmotivated students often move into disruption for various reasons and then this becomes a behavioural issue. In a virtual situation it can be easier to manage disruptive students by simply restricting their access to tools and so limiting their impact on others.


Finally we looked very briefly at our perceptions of a few of the advantages/disadvantages of face-to-face vs virtual with respect to motivation and behavior. Face-to-face was seen as having advantages in: seeing body language and in opportunities for teamwork, and disadvantages: in that the students know if you are having a bad day, and also in the potential for physical risk. Virtual has advantages in: the physical separation for reducing risk and minimising disruption through controlling access, and disadvantages in: not being able to pick up non-verbal cues and also the inablitity to see when students are “playing” rather than working’

Luckily (from my perspective as we have no recording available) there were few links shared during this session. One of our participants Heidi Chaves suggested this book for  a variety of classroom management strategies.

Serendipity – the Place of Technology in Education


Our regular Edublogs Serendipity unconference sessions are always enjoyable, not least because we have no idea at the beginning where we will go in our journey!

On this occasion we explored our perceptions of the place of technology in the schools of today and tomorrow. For this session as usual we have a recording link that is well worthviewing.


As often happens in these sessions the discussion was wide ranging touching on many of the well known issues around technology in education. This is very much the nature of the Serendipity sessions in contrast to our Fine Focus sessions where we endeavour to stay ”on topic”. In addition to audio and text chat we filled three whiteboards with thoughts and ideas!



With lively sessions such as this using the three communication strands of audio, text chat and whiteboard a post can only give a “taste” of the session, catch the recording for the full “flavour”.

Join us each week for our webinars  alternate weeks we have:

Edublogs Serendipity – unconference session where you bring along your hot topics and burning issues (what makes you spit with anger or thump a tub with passion) and throw them into the melting pot for the poll to choose our topic in the first ten minutes.

Edublogs Fine Focus – one of three strands “Talk Time” facilitated discussions on specific topics;  “Tools and Strategies” where the focus is on the use of specific tools or strategies in a teaching and learning context; or “Techie How To” where we learn how to use a an application or tool

Same time each week on Thursday  at 23:00 GMT/UTC (7pm USA EST, Midnight BST) or Friday 1am CEST,7am West Aus, 9am NSW, depending on your timezone – in the Edublogs/Elluminate Community Partnership Elluminate room

Polymath or Specialist?


I was ruminating a couple of days ago about how learning, and teaching, have changed in so many ways since I was a scruffy kid at a small rural grammar (high) school in the UK over 40 years ago.  Even subjects such as chemistry and biology were taught largely by “chalk and talk” and “read your textbook”. The occasional inclusion of “a film” was just that with a projector and a large reel of film. Even more rarely we migh have the opportunity to watch a BBC Schools programme on a grainy black and white screen as it was being broadcast.

Polymaths and specialists

Anyway enough of the reminiscence! What was really in my mind was how all of my teachers when I was young were definitely “specialists” they taught in their own (usually quite narrow) field, and were never asked questions or expected to know anything about anything else. I think I have had a “bee in my bonnet” about specialisation since those days. Even then I saw connections between subjects that others seemed unaware of and I found it intensely annoying that everything was compartmentalised.


It seems to me (and this is purely my own opinion) that for most of my life (until about the last 12 years) there has been a huge emphasis on specialisation. People have been encouraged for a long time to “know more and more about less and less” whether it be the works of a particular author who wrote two books or the lifestyle and physiology of a minute insect. I have always found this type of very narrow focus almost impossible for me as this degree of specialisation often seems to exclude the broader context in which the subject is set. It also (from my perspective) tends to diminish the opportunities for cross disciplinary input.

As one of those people with polymathic tendencies – and I am using polymath in its sense of varied (cross disciplinary) knowledge rather than in the sense of knowing a vast amount – I have often felt that I am labelled in a number of ways. Some of those labels that have been applied to me over the years are: “having a magpie mind” in the sense of remembering a lot of unimportant “glittery stuff”; “butterfly minded” ie flitting from subject to subject; “academic lightweight” with its implication that just because I have not chosen to “pile it higher and deeper” about one topic I therefore lack the capacity to do so!


My perception is that it is now more acceptable to be a polymath than it has been for many years. The ruminations that gave rise to this have also led me to wonder on the validity of this perception and consequently why this might be so. The first instant thought was that this is a result of the exponential growth of easily available information through Internet publishing and increased access. In my opinion the skills of a generalist and synthesist (often held by polymaths) are better suited to a burgeoning information situation than are those of a specialist. There is also the additional point that, with increased access to information, specialists are no longer the exclusive curators of detailed knowledge and information. Perhaps this is why (in my opinion) polymathy (and respect for it) is on the rise. However it may just be the usual cyclic nature of change – there have been other times when polymathy was common. Both the Renaissance period and the late 19th Century stand out in the number of polymaths who were high achievers in more than one field.

To Conclude

Finally, all I have written here is just “my take” I have no supporting evidence for any of these thoughts and opinions – just my own feeling from what I see around me and in my PLN. So my perception of a rise in polymathy is just that. As always, I would be most interested to hear your point of view.

Serendipity Webinar – convert resources for e-learning

A very lively recorded Serendipity session this week in the Edublogs/Elluminate Community Partnership room. The topic chosen was “helping people to convert materials for e-learning”. As usual in these sessions the discussion was wide ranging not just narrowly focused on the precise wording but including many stories from participants of e-strategies that they use and that provide terrific examples to help those needing to convert materials for e-learning. The microphone, text chat and whiteboard were all humming with activity giving us many ideas to consider.


Comments throughout and at the end suggested that much serendipitous learning had indeed occurred this week, and that we had lived up to our name. I think that the sessions always provide learning, food for thought and are engaging but it’s very exciting when we get a “Wow!” session such as this one. In my opinion these happen mostly when the topic chosen is broad, and links very strongly with the passions of participants.

ToolsStrategiesSmallOur next Webinar is an Edublogs “Tools and Strategies” where guest presenter Tomaz Lasic (teacher, coach & mentor) will present “Teaching with Moodle”. Currently at Moodle HQ where he is an interface between educators and Moodle developers. Tomaz has many Moodle stories to tell – today he will give us an overview and then throw the session open to questions (not-tech) about using Moodle “on the ground” Join us on Thursday March 25th at 23:00 GMT (7pm USA EST, Midnight CET) or Friday March 26th at 7am West Aus, 10am NSW, depending on your timezone – in the usual Elluminate room.


Trials and tribulations of learning Adobe Flash CS4

I’m trying to get my head around a new application – Adobe Flash CS4. Usually when I pick up something new I find it fairly easy to catch on to how it works. I use a blend of “play” with it, look at demo’s/tutes if available, and use the manual for reference – to find out about specific tools/aspects or check how to do something I’ve forgotten. From the start I like to work with something real – I loathe tutorials that give you a set-piece to work through because they never do what I want to achieve and usually give a simplistic view! When faced with these I usually try and do something of my own and just follow the recipe with different ingredients.

With CS4 I am having problems – I don’t find it intuitive. Think my mind works very differently to Adobe’s – probably doesn’t help that I don’t use other Adobe “stuff”. Have used Photoshop a bit but usually find that it is overpowerful for my needs (usually just a bit of simple pic editing). Also suspect I would find it easier if I was used to Macs – never used one – as I think maybe it was really developed for Mac. Also for me a major issue is that there appears to be no text based manual or help system. It doesn’t have to be printed/printable – but I really need a searchable reference text where I can look at an index or search for a term/tool and find out how to use it. I am finding the video tutorials are OK but limited in scope and not flexible in use. Without a manual there is no way to check on something you are not sure about other than to go through the entire video again (if you can remember wich one you need to revisit). If anyone knows of a basic user guide/manual for CS4 available online from Adobe and I’ve missed it I would be very grateful if you could let me know – and I will then grovel suitably!

I don’t find I learn very well when forced into someone else’s concept of how I should learn something. I feel that this is what is happening to me with CS4 and the “follow these steps” approach. I am more of an exploratory/discovery type learner then a learn by rote person. It also seems that part of the objective may be to encourage people who are trying to learn the application to spend money on additional resources to help them learn. While I feel that it is fine to produce as many additional training materials as required and indeed to sell them to those who need them, I do feel that it is unfair to customers to fail to provide a basic user manual in some form. I expected to find this on the second CD in the pack – however there are just “tasters” of training for a whole range of Adobe products. I also found that much of the internet available training material from Adobe shows a Mac screen not a Windows screen and is still heavily focussed on CS3 – there has been a major change in functionality from CS3 to CS4. I know I will eventually get my head round all the “how to’s” but at the moment it is very frustrating!