On a warm fall day, I sat down with Lisanne Gamelin, the new Educational and Social program coordinator for Blue Metropolis. I was struck by her enthusiasm for projects that bring professional writers, photographers and filmmakers to work with young people in their schools and communities.
Let me say that again: Blue Metropolis writes grants to get money to pay professionals to work with students to tell the stories of their community through words, images and drama. They do this because they believe in “The power of words, the power of expressing yourself – the power of speaking out”. The more I think about this, the more excited I become. What would it take to get more schools and teachers to engage in these types of partnerships?
Young writers connected to their communities
I first came to know Blue Metropolis through the Quebec Roots program. Every spring I would be sent a book filled with student writing and photography illustrating slices of their English community. From Montreal, to La Tuque to the Lower North Shore of Quebec.
Last year, one Blue Met project was called Unearth our Past, which saw students from six schools throughout the province visit local cemeteries in search of heroes and role models buried there. With the help of playwrights, the students turned the stories into short dramatic works presented at schools, in the community and at the book launch in Montreal.
The potential of this type of project is illustrated through a series of stories by CBC radio reporters who followed classes through the process. Listening to the voices of students and teachers you can hear the enthusiasm and nerves that go along with revealing local stories to a real audience.
This year Blue Met has launched Heroes in my Backyard, a project that aims to highlight the contribution of WWII heroes who at times have been overlooked, in particular women and individuals who belong to visible minorities and the First Nations. Combining history and video, and under the guidance of professional writers and filmmakers, Secondary 4 and 5 students will produce a video capsule about the lives of these forgotten heroes.
Real live writers working with your students
Let me say that again. Blue Met is paying professional writers and filmmakers to work with students to produce important stories that will inform and educate young and old. I find this an extraordinary opportunity for a number of reasons. The potential of the partnership was sparked from a conversation my friend Frederic Bohbot who is working on Heroes in my Backyard and happens to have recently won an Oscar Award for the short documentary “The Lady in Number 6” (humble brag).
He said, during the two days he will spend with students, he will listen to their ideas, help them know what not to do and prepare them for the decisions they will have to make. On the surface, this may seem like pretty conventional school stuff, which a teacher can handle. But what is interesting to me are the things a teacher cannot do alone. In most instances, a teacher has not dedicated themselves to the craft of film or screenwriting. And we should never underestimate the power of the outsider in bringing out a student’s best work.
The process Frederic expects to take with the students will force them to grapple with the hard questions of film-making. The film is short. What is important? What do we want to transmit? He expects the process of “getting the essence across” will change how they do things in the future, as his work as a filmmaker has changed him: “I’ll never watch movies the same way anymore. Knowing the decisions you have to make”.
Isn’t this is what we want for our students? To experience the power of words and communication, to know all the things you need to do to make something successful. To create a production that fully captures the attention of the viewer and communicates something of importance.
The partnership with Blue Met brings professionals into the classroom. This often requires teachers change their practice or go the extra mile. When all is said and done, is it worth it? If the answer is yes, what do you as an educator need to make this happen?
I was a first year teacher writing on the chalkboard, simultaneously trying to keep an eye on a room of rowdy secondary 2 students. Suddenly, I heard the words that always make me shudder. “Sir, you spelled a word wrong”. The implication of this phrase is that I, the teacher may not be all-knowing; a fact I was trying to keep hidden until later in the year.
The word in question was learned and my student, a young man of Jamaican heritage, shook my confidence by telling me the correct spelling was “learnt”. Standing in front of 20 students, I was unsure what to do. On one hand, I was fairly confident I spelled learned that way for my whole life. But on the other hand, “learnt” looked strangely correct. Needless to say, the whole issue was dropped when I asked him to look it up in one of our dusty dictionaries.
But I was shaken. After class, I looked up the word and learned/learnt that both spellings are correct. The British use learnt and Americans, learned. Being Canadian, we were free to vacillate between the two.
I tell you this story to underline how authentic experiences cement knowledge and competency. I certainly won’t forget what I learned that day.
Reflecting on that experience got me thinking: in what ways can teachers allow students to have authentic writing experiences, where student work culminates into something that is actually read by people other than just their teacher? If students are writing for an authentic audience, will it increase engagement? Will it change the way they write?
There are two Quebec examples of students writing in English for an authentic audience that have recently caught my eye. Secondary 1 and 2 students at Metis Beach school were given the opportunity to produce a special edition of the Heritage-Lower St Lawrence newsletter. HLSL is a community organization dedicated to serving the English population of their region. I invite you to click on the link and observe the quality of student writing. Highlights include a history of the school and community, an article about bullying and a feature on a class project inspired by the “freedom writers”. It quickly becomes obvious that the students worked hard to write, revise and rewrite compelling and clear articles because they knew their words would be read by the community and beyond. Their teacher, Erin Ross, said her motivation in setting up this opportunity for her students was feeling that it was ”important to have my students have a new learning opportunity in their English class. It is all about the process and showing them that they have a voice.”
I spoke to Melanie Leblanc, the Executive Director of Heritage Lower St Lawrence and she raved about the student-produced newsletter for her organization. She said members “loved knowing what was going on in the school” and noted that since the newsletter was published, the community has an “increased sense of belonging to the school”.
A second example of authentic writing comes from the infamous GrEAU project. GrEAU is a hydroponic based agricultural business founded and run by a group of students from Mecatina School, located in La Tabatiere (a village on the Lower North Shore of Quebec) The project is a sight to behold, in part because of the authentic need the business is fulfilling along with the strong marketing and communications website.
The students involved in the project worked collaboratively to develop a very clear website to share information about how the garden grows along with recipes to get the most out of the fresh produce. The students also had numerous opportunities to be interviewed on CBC radio and Radio Canada communicating clearly in English and French.
I spoke to Ben Collier, one of the founding members and he agreed that collaboratively developing the website allowed him to learn how to present scientific findings and better understand how to communicate what was accomplished. I asked Ben about the editing process and he laughed, remembering how in normal school projects he did not always proofread assignments before handing them in. But with the GrEAU project there was no leniency for errors, the group wanted to make sure everything was perfect.
These two examples show the potential of developing authentic writing opportunities with students. If you are inspired to co-develop opportunities for students in your own schools, please share the results.
In February, I attended a session at the LCEEQ conference given by Avi Spector on Gamification. I was skeptical, as gamification is getting a lot of press from corporate training and marketing folks, and we don’t always see eye to eye on classroom practice issues.
I was pleasantly surprised, therefore, when Avi presented an action-research project that he had undertaken with an FLS teacher in the Adult Ed. sector at CQSB, Catherine Boisvert. Now, before you say to yourself: “Oh no, Adult Sector is not for me, that’s not my reality, I teach kids”, remember that the Quebec Adult Ed. sector is geared towards students over the age of 16, so many students are actually not much older than those in regular secondary classrooms. Moreover, I discovered that the gamification model is so universally applicable across ages, that its principles are valuable no matter what level you teach. If you have read the blog before, you might know that I am a BIG proponent of action-research as a model for professional learning. We learn and grow as educators when we try sound pedagogical approaches, reflect on our experience, adjust and try again. So, without further ado, here are some key points from my interview with Avi Spector:
What is Gamification?
Avi discusses his definition of gamification and how it compares to game-based learning. Important distinction!
*Note: currently, the videos are only available on a computer. We are working to have them available on mobile devices shortly!
Reasons and Motivations for the Project
I spoke to Catherine Boisvert, the teacher whose classroom was the laboratory for the gamification experiment, via Skype last week. She works with teenagers and young adults whose pathway through traditional schooling was not always successful. Catherine had this to say about her reasons for agreeing to participate in this pedagogical innovation in her classroom:
I was looking for ways to jazz up my curriculum. I work in a learning center with a small group of very disparate students, all working at varying levels of French language ability. I wanted to make my classes more dynamic and to move away from the self-perception about their abilities with which the students were coming. I get a lot of students who come into my class the first day and say to me: “I’m not good at French” – they label themselves as not being good students right off the bat. I wanted for them to have this gaming spirit, the same perseverance that came through when they talked to me about the games they played. I was really inspired by the idea of failing forward, of using mistakes as opportunities to try another strategy, or a new way of doing. I wanted to take the drama out of mistakes and have students say to themselves: “It’s ok, it doesn’t matter, I’m just going to try again”. I also wanted students to feel as though they had all the tools necessary to pass the exam, and for this, I needed them to do a lot of practicing. I didn’t want this work to feel like a burden, I wanted it to be fun.
The Six Principles of Gamifying your Curriculum
These are the guiding principles that Avi and Catherine followed when designing the gamified learning environment.
The model used by Catherine and Avi
Avi provides an overview of the setup in Catherine’s FLS classroom.
Outcomes of the Experiment
Catherine talked to me about her ongoing experience this past school year:
I had students in my class who really didn’t put in very much effort before. Less than the minimum, in fact. After the gamification model was put into place, these same people would submit work and demand feedback so they could win stars. When I would say to them “Well, I’m hesitating between one and two stars” their reaction would be “What do you mean? Give that back, I’m going to change it so I can get two stars!” They never would have said that before! It’s as though they weren’t taking the evaluation so personally anymore, it wasn’t a label that they felt they had to stick on themselves – I’m good, I’m no good. These labels are so immovable and students really feel powerless when they buy into them. I see that students feel more in control of their learning – they feel that they have the power to get one, two or three stars. As Avi would say, they feel a greater sense of agency. I noticed that even when they are trying to convince me to give them more starts, they are actually referring to their work and the clearly stated outcomes: “What do you mean I didn’t use enough comparative language. Here, I wrote ‘more than’, and ‘as much as’ and ‘similarly'”. So the learning is actually very deep and metacognitive.
Students are also more clear about expected outcomes, because the outcomes are part of the ‘game’. They are better able to make links between essential knowledge and the situations in which you apply that knowledge. This also gives them more choice as to the ways that they can demonstrate competency growth, within the LES structure that I’m using. My students no longer see tasks and objectives as obstacles to getting a good grade. They see them rather as opportunities to ‘level up’.
My biggest challenge was a cultural one. I do have students who come from cultures where school and learning are a serious business. It was more difficult to get them into the spirit of the ‘game’, because of the perception that if you’re having fun, you can’t possibly be learning. Also, next year, I won’t be starting the project in January. Starting right away in September will mean that there won’t be a disconnect midway through the year.
(Stay tuned for a blog post featuring my whole interview with Catherine Boisvert from CQSB en français, bien sûr!)
Are you working on a Gamification project in your classroom or network? I would love to hear about your experience.
Avi Spector is a pedagogical consultant with the RECIT FGA and the Riverside School Board. His provincial mandate is to support General Adult Education teachers from the nine English School Boards. You can tweet him @a_spector
First I will partially explain the title, as NOT being because my new baby boy woke me up earlier at 2 a.m. It’s about what kept ringing in my head afterwards, and the fact that it continued to ring at all. In part it was because I knew I was going to be writing this blog entry for others, for public consumption. That’s what made it important enough to keep me awake, to drag me out of bed, again, to seek out tea and cookies and finally a keyboard. And likewise, it certainly was not because I was being marked on it, or because my job depended on it. It was instead because I had an idea I thought was worth sharing. And also, it was because something of me was about to end up “shared” on the web, and I wanted that something to be made up of my ideas, or at least in this case my slant on a lot of other people’s ideas. I wanted to represent myself.
These two profound ideas resurfaced for me recently during a highly inspiring workshop I attended by Tanya Avrith, a Digital Citizenship Teacher for the Lester B. Pearson School Board, and a pioneer of their Digital Citizenship Program. On the one hand, she helped me reflect on why my other (teenage) son’s school assignments always ended up in the garbage. They were for marks, nothing more. And as to the other idea, she alerted me to something very important that I hadn’t ever considered, to the fact that my older son already had an extensive digital/internet footprint, mostly made up things he wouldn’t be proud of, and more often than not of things others wrote about him, pictures he didn’t take, etc. Not an ideal situation for someone searching for schools and jobs, whose college registrars and future employers would be Googling my older son’s unfortunately uncommon name.
The question is, why does this happen to him and so many others, this accumulation of embarrassing memories? It’s not for lack of information, not because he hadn’t been warned about the risks and told about the complexities of life online. It was because, and I agreed with Tanya on this, that no knowledgeable adults regularly followed him there, to guide him and set examples. And also… it was because none of his good work, his school work let’s say, followed him there either, to offset all the questionable traces left by others.
Already 5 a.m. and my work day about to begin, so that brings me back to thinking about my main dossier at LEARN, and if and how ideas like this might apply to the Social Sciences (History, Geography, Economics, Ethics in some programs, etc.). These subjects are “academic disciplines concerned with society and human nature” and as such they do serve to engage past and present events and issues, but usually from within the school walls. Obviously you can see from what I presented above I don’t think avoiding the internet during student activities is fair to our students on a personal and on a career-related level, but more than that, I think it is especially ineffective and inappropriate in the Social Sciences.
The Social Sciences Perspective
Let’s start with what I mean by ineffective. In the social science competencies we examine, establish and balance the facts, we interpret realities then we learn ways to voice our opinions. For me these basic skills read like a list of things one cannot do effectively, not in this day and age, by avoiding the digital, social and public space that is the Internet.
Examining what? Balancing exactly what facts? When it comes to subjects like history and geography, are we really talking about facts in textbooks alone? Are we meant to avoid current sources and interpretations, meant to ignore the news and the myriad opinions of the non-experts, the young and the old, and the stories from those who “were actually there”? Sure, the number of sources in our digital world is vast, and many are even unreliable, but is that a reason to filter them out or avoid them altogether? Shouldn’t we be teaching students how to sift through them, how to use search engines effectively, how to compare online sources?
Interpreting, but how? Voicing our opinions, but how, where, and for whom? When we talk of creating good citizens, do we really mean to create citizens who avoid interpreting events, past and present, based on current representations of those events? Do we want to form students who can only write their opinions in a laboratory, for their teacher’s eyes only? In the real world, modern historians … Okay, I will get to that one a bit later, for now let’s say…people. In the real world people balance and reflect on all kinds of sources. They might read the Gazette, catch a clip from CNN, then watch a feature documentary on CBC. They might actually look it up in a library. In Quebec even Anglophones check out La Presse occasionally, or watch half of Tout le monde en parle on Sunday nights.
The world has opened up, and mobile devices help. BBC and Al Jazeera now offer great English-language news services on devices like the iPad, and following a link from any of the above sources can now lead you to unexpected places, to bloggers and tweeters on the ground in Israel, Africa, China or Iran, to powerful and personal images shared via Flickr that scatter a thousand words worth of information across your screen in an instant.
Okay, not all people balance and reflect. In the real world, people also read short articles recommended by friends on Facebook. Are those documents the best sources of information too? Maybe, and maybe not. But either way this is one way people, probably even academics, get information, by sifting through even these social sources, through all sources.
So, given all that, then where do people, or let us now say citizens, effectively voice opinions? Perhaps not on Facebook, which doesn’t lend itself to “reasoning historically” and doesn’t encourage one to really develop an articulate argument. But maybe, maybe even on Facebook, and that possibility is key here to what I am trying to say. What guides educators should be this: any forum that allows and inspires students to articulate their opinion, and encourages and allows them to examine, establish facts, compare, accept and understand difference, any forum that does that is good.
Okay, now it is a few days later and I am in the café across from my local, public library, and I am thinking about a conference I went to mid-April, which had also been what had inspired me to stay up all hours blogging this all down. To write, for whom? That was the question. For you, of course, is the answer! But also and in general terms for the larger public domain, to scratch out thoughts that inevitably become a small part of a larger history, that might take part in a dialogue, or that might completely disappear (but that’s okay, really) like the slow fire of so many old books printed on acid paper. Now, I am indeed talking about a kind of historian, and the conference that inspired me was the National Council on Publish History’s annual meeting in Ottawa, and in particular a workshop series I attended entitled “Connecting Communities: Social Media and Public History Practice.”
What is public history? Okay, I am going to swipe this one from the NCPH site directly:
“Public history describes the many and diverse ways in which history is put to work in the world. In this sense, it is history that is applied to real-world issues. […] Public historians come in all shapes and sizes. They call themselves historical consultants, museum professionals, government historians, archivists, oral historians, cultural resource managers, curators, film and media producers, historical interpreters, historic preservationists, policy advisers, local historians, and community activists, among many, many other job descriptions. All share an interest and commitment to making history relevant and useful in the public sphere.”
Relevant, useful, local. Archivists, curators, and jobs! I really like those words. In my eyes, this conference was about social science students (albeit life-long students) actively being citizens by “doing” history, and actually making a difference in the real world.
Public life=my students’ social world, the community, their small tribe as connected to other small tribes, along paths I absolutely need to dare to cross.
And that’s it. These are some of the many reasons why in the middle of the night I woke up thinking that school really should be more social, and that social sciences (and maybe all subjects) should be more public, and why now, finishing up this blog entry over a cold coffee across from the library, I might just walk across the street to see what that cryptic exhibit poster in the window really means to me, and what treasures I might find there to take home and read, contemplate, pass on.
For the past couple of years now, this is the poem I use to start my lecture on teaching poetry to my second year elementary pre-service teachers at McGill University. Reason being….it makes me laugh and I can recite it by heart with lots of emotion. It is then followed by a couple more silly ones such as this gem.
Falling Asleep in Class
I fell asleep in class today,
as I was awfully bored.
I laid my head upon my desk
and closed my eyes and snored.
I woke to find a piece of paper
sticking to my face.
I’d slobbered on my textbooks,
and my hair was a disgrace.
My clothes were badly rumpled,
and my eyes were glazed and red.
My binder left a three-ring
indentation in my head.
I slept through class, and probably
I would have slept some more,
except my students woke me
as they headed out the door.
And then, very quietly, I change the slide and start to recite another poem. The boisterous and giddy group suddenly, as if by magic, simply stops chatting and laughing and moving around in their seats. You can actually feel the mood change in the large auditorium. I swear it almost even drops a degree or two. And as they sit and listen, you can see them deep in thought. Many of them transported to another time and place.
On Turning Ten
The whole idea of it makes me feel
like I’m coming down with something,
something worse than any stomach ache
or the headaches I get from reading in bad light–
a kind of measles of the spirit,
a mumps of the psyche,
a disfiguring chicken pox of the soul.
You tell me it is too early to be looking back,
but that is because you have forgotten
the perfect simplicity of being one
and the beautiful complexity introduced by two.
But I can lie on my bed and remember every digit.
At four I was an Arabian wizard.
I could make myself invisible
by drinking a glass of milk a certain way.
At seven I was a soldier, at nine a prince.
But now I am mostly at the window
watching the late afternoon light.
Back then it never fell so solemnly
against the side of my tree house,
and my bicycle never leaned against the garage
as it does today,
all the dark blue speed drained out of it.
This is the beginning of sadness, I say to myself,
as I walk through the universe in my sneakers.
It is time to say good-bye to my imaginary friends,
time to turn the first big number.
It seems only yesterday I used to believe
there was nothing under my skin but light.
If you cut me I could shine.
But now when I fall upon the sidewalks of life,
I skin my knees. I bleed.
And when I read Billy Collins’ final line, the sad, sorrowful stillness that hangs heavy in the air is broken only by a sigh or two as the young soon to be teachers consider the power that his words hold. It is at that moment they begin to understand that there is something so special about this genre. This is important since “poetry—merely whispering its name frightens everyone away.” They start to see and feel that poetry can affect a person and touch their very inner self in a way like no other form of writing can.
Kenn Nesbitt, the great children’s poet whose poem you read above has written five reasons why he believes that poetry is importantand should have a central place in our classrooms. Here is my take on how we can use these reasons as springboards for classroom practice.
Good poetry always makes you FEEL something.
“A good poem will give you goose bumps or butterflies in your stomach, or it will make you cry, or it will make you laugh. Or a good poem will make you feel better when you are sad or grieving.”
As a teacher, consider poetry as medicine for the soul. What ails your class, or a particular student? There is probably a poem or a poet that will help open your students to the emotions that they keep to themselves. Or maybe you want your students to become passionate or empathic about something – like peace or the environment – or make others passionate about something. Reading and writing poetry about the things that move us allow us to move others.
Poetry has power.
“How many people remember, to this day, a poem they learned as children? Well, imagine if your children became little poetry sponges. What would stick in their brains? New vocabulary. New ideas. What would be the result? A bigger imagination. More fun reading. Possibly a lifelong addiction to books. Possibly a desire to write.”
No doubt, poetry has sticking power. The sheer joy of reading poetry aloud, and of reading it well, of feeling the rhyme, meter, alliteration, rhythm wash over you, is equaled only by its ability to stay in your head. Reading poetry to your students, or allowing them to read powerful poems and learn them by heart, are the pathways to a multitude of personal poetic experiences.
Poetry is intimate.
“With poetry, you can express your love, your disgust, your giddy elation, your mild bemusement, your wild imagination or any other feelings you have roiling around inside you.”
After a disaster or other tragedy, teachers all over the world reach for poetry and the arts as a way of getting students to come to terms with what they have experienced. Unfettered by sentence structure and punctuation, poetry allows for the immediate release of pent-up words. Writers at all levels can write out their feelings in a way that resonates with them, and share with others something deep without worrying so much about form.
Poetry is something you can share.
“Sharing poetry doesn’t just mean reading it aloud together either…A poem you wrote can make a better gift to a friend than just about anything money can buy.”
As learners discover the poems that move them, they can share these poems with each other, and with others in their family. The Poetry Foundation’s Record-a-poem initiative asks people to record themselves reading their favourite poem, paying hommage to the idea that poetry is meant to be shared as a way of providing insight not just into the heart and meaning of the poem, but also insight into the reader who made the choice.
Poetry will get your kids reading and maybe even writing.
“You see, kids don’t just read poetry once. They read it again and again and again.”
The immediacy and ease of writing poetry (at least, that is what it can be, if you present it as such) can lure reluctant writers into the realm of words. A gateway to self-expression with words, poetry will appeal as a genre for both reading and writing. Poems can be short, but loaded with meaning, and thus appear non-threatening and manageable.
The discussion in my class then goes on to recalling the way that so many of these bright eyed future teachers were they themselves taught poetry when they were so young and impressionable. Sadly, many of them share that they were instantly turned off of this beautiful, rich genre because all they were ever asked to do was to deconstruct the poem to discover the hidden meaning. They became so sick of this procedure, especially because they were often told time and again that their interpretations were wrong, that they simply didn’t want to ever consider bringing this delightful form of literacy learning into classrooms of their own. I reassure them, and tell them that I understand why they feel the way they do. I then recite for them Robert Frost’s Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, a classic from my grade 5 years that I as a student had to pull apart line by line. They sit and nod empathetically, and then I put up this poem
After English Class
I used to like “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.”
I liked the coming darkness,
The jingle of harness bells, breaking—and adding to
The gentle drift of snow. . . .
But today, the teacher told us what everything stood for,
The woods, the horse, the miles to go, the sleep—
They all have “hidden meanings.”
It’s grown so complicated now that,
Next time I drive by,
I don’t think I’ll bother to stop.
– Jean Little Hey World, Here I Am! published by Kids Can Press
Another burst of laughter and then we talk about how traditionally, poetry was introduced by analysis, and interpretation of the poem; that this dissection of the poem’s meaning and structure was meant to provide insight. Unfortunately, we know it only alienated many people from the world of poetry. Famous children’s poet Lee Bennett Hopkins has explained that he hated poetry in school because he was taught by this same method that he refers to as the DAM approach: dissecting, analyzing and meaningless memorization. So many of us were taught to question why did Robert Frost stop by the woods on a snowy evening and why then did he write a poem about it. Well, who cares–the only one who knows why is Robert Frost. What’s important is that we bring our own experiences to the poem. The real question is, what does the poem mean to you?–not what it meant to him.
The first step in getting your students to read and write poetry is to choose and read poems that are immediately accessible, non-threatening, and relevant to the students’ lives. The goal is to ensure that every one of your students has a positive successful experience with poetry. Do not begin with the most difficult poems but rather select poems that show a range of emotions and a variety of subjects so that your students will get a sense of poetry’s possibilities.
I always end my poetry lecture with the story of a thought-provoking piece by Shirley McPhillips where she discusses an interview of poet Robert Bly. In it, she points out that cultures other than ours have found ways to weave poetry into the fabric of both daily life and ceremony. She shares how Bly was fascinated with the little school children in Iran who would stop by the grave of the famous 14th century poet Hafez and sing his poems to him. He then mused why we didn’t do this here. Why we don’t bring the poets into our hearts as opposed to bringing them only into our heads.
There is a country
where children kneel
at the graves of lost poets.
In the morning they come
to the tomb of Hafez
and sing his poems back to him.
In this way, they get associated
with the heart early on,
breathing in messages.
The pull and tear
as the outside world stirs
the linings of some inside sky,
growing orbits of fuel
and fire, outvoicing words,
they become messengers
to the world.
– Shirley McPhillips
This is the power of poetry. This is why it needs to be in each of our classrooms; so that each and every one of our students can for themselves experience what only poetry is capable of doing to our mind, our heart and our soul. It is indeed something to be celebrated and cherished as part of our daily lives…rather than a chore that must be endured.
I have a love/hate relationship with videoconferencing (VC). Ok, hate might be a tad strong. Love/irritation? Love/frustration? You see, living in a rural community here in Quebec, I get to use VC a lot. Granted, it’s incredibly convenient NOT to have to get up in the darkness of early morning and drive for hours in order to attend a meeting or do a presentation in Montreal. But more often than not, I feel that I’m missing out on something by not being physically present: the backchannel conversations that take place out of range of the microphone, the informal discussions around the lunch table, the more subtle body language of participants and colleagues. So, I was very happy to meet Craig Bullett (via VC no less!), as he made me see that this oft-maligned technology as I know it can be used effectively, and not just for something as pedestrian as a meeting, but for the highest of purposes…for teaching and learning.
Tell us a little bit about yourself, your background and experience?
Craig: For the past 4 years, I’ve coordinated videoconferences for the Community Learning Centre initiative that make links to the Quebec curriculum. The CLC concept is a MELS project, with over 37 centres across Quebec, which are dispersed through all 10 English School Boards in the province. These centres serve as hubs for English-language education and community development in their respective communities. We also partner with various local organizations and help them bring their resources to the educational community. I have taught many high school subjects over a 10-year teaching career with specializations in computer & technology and FSL. I also have a Masters in Educational Technology with experience in Distance Ed and e-learning.
Would you share a specific classroom project that you feel was particularly successful in terms of both effective use of VC and student learning outcomes?
Craig: One of the most memorable classroom VC experiences I’ve helped to coordinate was a writing workshop with “The Joy of Spooking” author PJ Bracegirdle. He was in Montreal and the participants were at an elementary school in Magog. This session was good because it was on time, it was on topic, it was on task and…it was interactive! The presenter was teaching a lesson about character development. For the ice-breaker, the author read an excerpt from his novel, a spooky book for young readers. Then, he and the students shared strategies for creating a character’s name. Once the students had a name, they were asked to draw their characters and each student was invited to walk up to the camera for a brief show and tell of the drawing. The final activity involved further development of their new characters and the writing of a sequence of events. The post-event feedback from all involved was highly positive and the teacher reported having difficulty in getting the students to stop writing when it was time to work on other subjects. I was also informed that the school library had to create a waiting list for students requesting spooky books!
Explain how you approach a VC event when working with teachers and others to create engaging learning opportunities. What are some of the conception phase considerations that determine whether VC is an appropriate medium?
Craig: My main caveat is this: If you don’t need interaction/reaction from your participants…DO NOT VC! Unlike face-to-face presentations, with VC you actually need to design the interactions. VC interactivity is more like a game-show or talk show than an infomercial. The host and the participants need to be equally prepared. So, when teachers consider using VC for an event they should be asking themselves:
What is the purpose of my event?
Who is my audience? (Location and numbers are important.)
Why will I use VC? (Think about outcomes. Can VC get me there?)
Once you’ve decided that using VC is the right choice, if you are the organizer some of the pre-planning involves:
Setting a date.
Inviting participants (don’t forget to get confirmations or send reminders).
Booking a venue(s).
Sharing material, resources and links with all involved.
Reserving bridging and technical support as needed.
If you are the classroom teacher you will need to:
Reserve the VC room.
Preview and modify content for your students.
Create buzz for learners about the upcoming event.
Prep the class to introduce themselves at the beginning and make closing remarks or “thank you’s” at the conclusion.
And once everything is over, evaluating the session is of the utmost importance. Follow-up to confirm successful outcomes and critical reflection on the experience are essential in order to integrate improvements into future events.
Where can interested teachers find resources to help with the ideas stage and planning for a VC event?
Craig: I thought you’d never ask! No, seriously there are tons of great resources listed on the LEARN site and you can find specifics in terms of CLC collaborations and educational videoconferencing here: www.learnquebec.ca/clc
As well, the 2Learn.ca Education Society has some amazing resources that support teachers who are interested in VC opportunities. These are mostly within Alberta but there are many collaborations with Quebec partners: www.2learn.ca/VC
And of course, I’m always available if people want to connect directly!
Have you been involved in any interesting classroom or professional development VC experiences that you’d like to share? Please don’t hesitate to school me in the comments section below 🙂
I have been blogging for more than 5 years. I started because I felt, as a teacher, if I was going to ask students to write, I had to write myself. I was starting to read a number of blogs and that, too, pushed me to start one of my own. One of the unexpected things that happened was how important comments became to me. It made me realize that someone was actually reading what I wrote and that it was important enough to him/her to say something in response. It made me sit up and realize that my writing mattered to at least one other person. I had an audience. That in turn made me a more conscientious writer.
Of course, I had to reciprocate – visiting blogs, reading, commenting and always learning. Out of this relationships developed and there are a number of people I care about whom I have never met face to face. Comments start conversations, stimulate thinking and encourage growth.
If comments could do all that for me, imagine what it does for students. A post I read recently, It’s Never Just a Comment, by Kathy Cassidy, talked about comments and her students (grade one) and what it did for them as readers and writers. Their audience outside their classroom was important to them, whether it was people they knew or strangers from other parts of the world. As a teacher, Kathy was able to moderate comments in case any came in that were inappropriate. Her students knew they were not just writing for the teacher but for the real people who are out there reading their work. When comments came from different parts of the world, Ms Cassidy helped her students see themselves as part of a global community. Visit her classroom blog. There are links to all her student blogs – and don’t forget to leave a comment.
Receiving comments helps students become better writers. But this should be a reciprocal relationship. How do we, as teachers, help our students become good at commenting (i.e. leave comments that promote conversation, good writing and positive relationships)?
Just as we need to help students become better writers, we also need them to become better thinkers and commenting on blogs helps with that. Students learn to read blog posts with a critical eye and reflect on what they read. There are a number of educational bloggers who have written about helping students become good commenters. Some tips include:
asking questions to learn more
relating the post to something you are thinking about
stating what you liked in the post
be respectful of the writer
A much more extensive list was written by Ann Davis back in 2006. She talked about how learning to make good comments leads to deeper thinking. Here is a link to a list based on her ideas. For some images – a great set on Flickr is available. For a delightful look at commenting done by some young students in California with teacher, Mrs. Yollis watch this video:
Their ideas, though aimed at elementary students have relevance for all. Still at a loss for what to say when reading a blog? Here is a great set of Flickr posters to inspire you.
Do you want to get comments for your students?
Consider joining QuadBlogging. Your class will be joined with three other classes so each can benefit from reading and commenting on each others’ blogs
Tweet when your students blog using the hashtag #commentsforkids
How about adding a comment here. Let’s get a discussion going. Has this helped you think about using blogs in your classroom? How can you get your students to become better questioners? Do you think reading blogs and commenting will help your students become more critical readers and writers?
By looking back and by remembering the past, I have attempted to bind my past experiences as a professional educator in several contexts and roles to create patterns of my professional development in the stream of my consciousness (Green, 1991).
Okay, I’ll admit it…I’m nosey by nature, so when the high school publication Rainbow of Dreams (http://www.nd.ca/tournoi/ref/rainbow/index.htm) crossed by my desk I was instantly hypnotized. Leafing through the pages, I’ll never forget the countless faces reaching out and drawing me in. There was something about these silent images that beckoned me to read their stories. I had to find out where they had come from and why their pictures had been captured at that particular time in their lives. I read and I read and I thought to myself that this would be a perfect literacy project for my class to undertake.
It took a few years after having discovered the ground breaking high school work (two further publications had come out in the mean time) before I was ready to tackle this type of inquiry assignment with my students. My class’s heritages spanned from various cultural backgrounds that touched all parts of the globe. My motivation was not only for my multicultural students to learn from and about each other in order to build understanding and acceptance but to empower them through the discussions and writing they would produce and share with each other and the community.
Days and weeks that turned into months were spent together pouring over family photographs, asking each other questions about where we came from, why we had left our native homeland, what we had brought with us on and continued to practice in our new country and what we had to leave behind. Questions that couldn’t be answered at the moment, were sent home, discussed with parents and grand-parents and then brought back to move the conversation forward. The students knew they were in a safe environment where no one would openly pass judgement, mock or demean them. Together, we could take risks, we could ask questions, we could share stories, we could laugh and we could cry.
I think one of the most powerful moments during this project came when a student teacher who was in doing a final field experience with me, decided that he would like to investigate his past as well. He worked simultaneously with my students in order to follow the process as authentically as possible. The day came when it was his turn to share with the class the first draft of his “constructed memoir” (the major writing piece for this inquiry was for each student to take a family photograph that spoke to them, interview family members to uncover the story behind the photograph, then take the information from the interview and craft it into a memoir from the perspective of one of the people in the photograph…this involved many, many hours of instruction of reading photographs, asking questions, interview techniques, reading and writing the memoir genre, writer’s craft, oral speaking, peer editing, and much more).
As he stood in front of his young audience, he read to them a story of leaving home and family behind, a story that obviously reached deeply into whom he was and where his roots held fast. I say obviously as part way through the retelling, his voice wavered and cracked, tears welled up in his eyes as he struggled to continue his reading. My students were transfixed. Their bodies in complete stillness as they sat in their seats listening to him try to get his story out. He needed to share this narrative with them and they knew this. Quietly and without disruption, a couple of my twelve year old students turned and questioned me with their eyes of what they should do. I nodded to them and gestured that all was alright and that we should let him continue. As he concluded his sorrowful and moving tale, the class burst into a round of supportive applause. He had put himself out. He had taken a risk. He had shared with them a piece of himself and they understood this. It was a transformative moment in my classroom for each and every one of us.
Reflection of Rainbow of Dreams
I am always hesitant to share anecdotes of successful teaching and learning moments in my history for fear of coming across as some “super teacher” in the likes of Ms. Frizzle of Magic School bus fame (who is my idol by the way…what better mantra than “Take chances, make mistakes and get messy!”). The above narrative was one positive incident where there was harmony between a desired critical literacy outcome and the reality of what actually transpired in the classroom. Occasions like that one are often few and far between with missed opportunities and inconsiderate unconscious and/or dysconscious reactions being the rule rather than the exception (according to King (1991) dysconsciousness is a state of mind that occurs when there is exclusion and disconnect of the Other’s pain).
One of those reactions took place while the students were in the midst of searching for their family snapshots. Most of the pictures that were handed in showcased wedding photographs, images of families partaking in celebrations, outdoor gardens and homes long gone as well as individuals who had since past away but held a place of honour in the history of the family and the country of origin. As I was sifting through the pile of pictures, noting who had brought what in, my student teacher approached my desk with a look of concern on his face. He placed the photograph in front of me and I remember being quite taken aback by the image of the young smiling man standing behind the large anti-aircraft gun, hands in ready position. There was no way that I was going to be able to use this photograph. It was violent and who knew how many people had been killed before or after this picture had been taken.
That night at supper, I spoke with my husband about the photograph and asked his advice as to how I should approach the student in order to discuss the inappropriateness of his choice. What followed was another lesson in how I had missed a critical literacy possibility and was running the risk of closing the door to learning for one of my students. What I have not yet divulged to the reader is that the country of origin of the armed soldier was Iran and what I was dealing with was the bias I had to these types of images in relation to the country in which they were taken. After all, Christopher (whose father was of mixed English-Italian decent and served in three wars himself) asked me how I would have reacted if a child had brought in a shot of a grandparent who fought for the Canadian, British or American army in WW1 or WW2 or Korea, or Vietnam or etc., etc. I had to be honest and say that because I had grown up seeing these types of photographs depicting “our heroes”, I wouldn’t have batted an eye.
In case you are wondering, the student used the photograph in his project and it turned out that his father was not a soldier but an informations officer who had stood there behind the gun and simply asked his buddy to take the picture for a lark. Another bit of information I would never have learned if I had allowed my background and bias make the final decision. The next step though is to ask myself “why does that make a difference and make me feel better”?
My own personal development of any true sense of being conscious came from discussions with my husband who was in graduate school when I began my entry into teaching in the classroom. However, it must be said that even when you become aware of what it is that you should be working towards enacting; there are so many factors that stop you from truly engaging in critical pedagogy and critical literacy. Essentially what occurs is that the majority of your time is spent with acts of micro resistance and with the few and far between overt actions that leave you sick. The micro resistance then becomes lost over time and it’s not those minor attempts that become the critical incidents rather it’s the ones that you lose sleep over when you worry about responses from the administration, peers, parents and community. This is probably why they are so few and far between.
As someone who now teaches at the university level, I disagree with the often repeated notion (and one that I have to admit held myself at one time) that there is such a large chasm between academics and “the real world of teaching”. But the one reality that did and does still exist is the fear. Teachers often pride themselves on being the vanguard for change but after two plus decades of teaching, I am starting to agree with the social theorists that state that schools are a reflection of society; we change only when society changes.
References for further reading:
Green, M. (1988). The Dialectic of Freedom. New York: Teachers College Press.
King, J.E. (1991). Dysconscious Racism: Ideology, Identity, and the Miseducation of Teachers in Journal of Negro Education, Vol. 60, No. 2, pp. 133-146, Spring.
By Melanie Stonebanks The unexamined life isn’t worth living. – Socrates, 450 BC
A few weeks ago, I wrote about my early teaching experiences in inner-city Montreal. This entry builds on that previous post and will hopefully contribute to the current day understanding of the role of critical literacy in the classroom or the lack there of. It will lay bare my attempts, fraught with many mistakes and omissions, to bring into the classroom a critical pedagogy lived out through the day to day circumstances of a teacher and her students struggling with the turmoil and perplexity of a newly implemented curriculum. Due to countless discussions with my husband, whom you may have met here, I was well aware of the underpinnings of what critical pedagogy was and what it was supposed to look like in a classroom setting. But like so many others in the teaching profession, it was one thing to know what it was but to have the courage to enact it was a whole other matter.
In order to be able to visualize the upcoming narratives more accurately, it is important that a setting of time and place in history be offered for the reader. The two stories (one in this post and one in a subsequent post) unfold at one point or another in the decade spanning from 1993-2003 at one of the four public urban/inner-city schools where I worked in Montreal, Québec. All my former schools were comprised mainly of children whose parents were considered to be recent immigrants to Canada and due to their economic situation most were situated below the poverty line.
It was not always easy but for certain it was always worth it. I would not trade in my years teaching in these schools for anything. It is due to my time engaged with my young students that have brought me farther along in my understanding of what it truly means to be a teacher. It is a journey that is only still just beginning. As I write, reflect and reflect some more on the narratives you are about to read, I along with you gain a deeper and more profound understanding of the awesome effect critical pedagogy and critical literacy can have on those that become woven into its fabric. I add my piece to the quilt and encourage those that read along with me, to add their stories and pieces as well.
“Dear Prime Minister”
March 2003 marked the beginning of Gulf War 2. We sat at home around the television and I wept. As I watched the “Shock and Awe” of a city bombed and blasted into oblivion, I cried for the children, for the injustice, and I have to admit for the power bloc to which I was a member of for life. I felt as though we were living in a world gone mad, where a life didn’t equal a life, where the slaughter of innocent people was brushed off as unfortunate but necessary in order to take control of a country and the oil fields that permeated its land. Where family members expressed that it all wasn’t too bad as American technology would improve oil extraction efficiency.
I wondered how I would deal with this tomorrow in class. How could I ever be as strong as someone like Jane Elliot, who in the aftermath of the Martin Luther King assassination, had taught her class what it felt like to be discriminated against simply due to something as out of your control as the colour of your eyes or skin. Her controversial risk taking, and I believe an example of true critical pedagogy in action, “blue-eyed/brown-eyed exercise” was now a staple lesson in university education classes but at the time in the 1960s, her progressive and unconventional teaching brought her negative reactions from co-workers, community members and people across the United States.
I have heard time and again people say that if they had been there, they would have stood beside Ghandi, Martin Luther King or Rosa Parks. I say “No way!” It is much easier to ease one’s conscience and say in hindsight that you would have been there but in reality, it takes a very special person who can stand up to the pressures of a system so much larger than you and one that is pushing so ardently and relentlessly against you (Stonebanks, 2004). Needless to say, I was not this type of person and was at a loss to know what I would do the next day in class with my students. So I took the easy way out and waited to see what would happen.
The following morning, the classroom was a buzz. It was clear that most had spent a great deal of time watching the same images and news reports that I had in my home. As they entered the classroom and found their seats, I sat back and simply let them talk. They shared conversations that had most likely begun in their homes and their variations of what their parents thought and felt about the invasion. I continued to wait, to give them space, part of me knew that they needed time to unload all that they had inside them, the other part of me waited because I still didn’t know what I would do next.
And then it happened, one of my students put up her hand and called out to me “Mrs. Stonebanks, I’m afraid. What if they come and bomb my house? What do I do?” It wasn’t a question that I was expecting but it made sense that children would be worried about the same horror potentially affecting them especially considering that the vast majority did not come from power bloc backgrounds and have probably heard more nuanced and factual comprehensions of Western foreign policy. So as the class quieted down, we took it from there. In the safety of the classroom family, open and honest discussions could be held about what we were thinking, feeling, fearing, what we understood and what we didn’t. I was careful not to promote my own personal agenda or forward my beliefs of what the invasion was based on but what I did was allow them a space to deliberate and offer multiple perspectives to broaden their understanding of each other and the crazy world they were living in.
Part way through the conversation, one of the students asked which countries made up the invading forces, “The coalition of the willing”. When asked whether Canada was going to join in on the invasion, I told them that we were not. That our Prime Minister, Jean Chrétien, had been reported saying, “that forcing a regime change is not desirable. Many leaders in the world are not his friends, but, he adds, only the local people have the right to change government. “If we change every government we don’t like in the world where do we start? Who is next?”
The students decided that they would like to express what they were feeling about the invasion and Canada’s role. Many of them were still fearful that Canada and they themselves would be implicated and hurt in some way or another. Then an idea came to me. One that would give them a voice, a sense of security and a feeling that there was an audience who would be willing to listen to what they were thinking and dealing with at this moment in history. And one that stood in sharp contrast to the direction that my colleagues were taking in having their students write letters of support to soldiers already serving in Afghanistan. They would write a letter to the Prime Minister, the right honourable Jean Chrétien. I put forward my quick thinking idea and they loved it.
Constructivism? Probably not. But I was reminded of the fact that Joe Kincheloe, noted critical pedagogue, would often repeat to teachers in graduate classes when they felt overwhelmed by an anti banking model of teaching that being a critical pedagogue didn’t mean that you stopped being a teacher; that you stopped forwarding ideas. It seemed to fit exactly what was needed at the time. And by week’s end, twenty-eight letters, including one of my own explaining the impetus for the writing campaign, were mailed away to Ottawa.
Reflections on “Dear Prime Minister”
In no way do I feel that this incident is to be viewed as revolutionary, ground breaking or even an act of passive resistance. There was no risk involved in a Canadian class writing letters to a government who was opposed to the invasion of Iraq. I skimmed all the pieces of writing quickly before sealing them in the large brown envelope. They had been peer edited for fluency, clarity and basic grammar and spelling but the content of each letter was left up to the person who had penned it. They were free to express whatever an eleven or twelve year old wanted to share. Out of the twenty-eight letters that my class sent, twenty-seven of them were in support of Canada’s position of not joining the invasion in Iraq.
Had I been teaching in the United States at the time, would I have taken the risk to let my students write these types of letters to the President, free from my interference of what position to take on the matter or even still, did I have them send copies of their opinions to the United States government? No, I would not and no, I did not. Again, bound and gagged by fear of a system that seemed to call all the shots in one’s economic and career advancement, I spent most of the time keeping under the radar. I was not brave. I was not a radical leader. But when a large package from the Prime Minister’s office arrived for my class which included a letter of response to our campaign, thanking us for our words and thoughts and with it was a signed photograph of Jean Chrétien, the excitement and smiles on the faces of my students assured me that it was alright. I hadn’t started a revolution but I had given these children a forum for others to hear their voice and people had indeed listened.
This fall, as my husband and I were hustling through the Toronto airport to catch a connecting flight home, we walked past a gate and there standing waiting for his own flight was Jean Chrétien. My husband immediately dropped his bag and went over to shake his hand. What followed was a lengthy and highly animated conversation between a former Prime Minister and two delighted supporters. Between photographs and many laughs, I was able to recount the story of our letter writing campaign to his office. It seemed that being able to share this classroom experience with the man to whom the letters were addressed allowed me to understand yet again, the importance of engaging and supporting your students in authentic literacy lessons that come to us from the teachable moments that life brings our way whether we are ready for them or not.
Pour cet article, j’ai décidé de laisser la parole à un expert du domaine de l’éducation, un de mes élèves de 5e secondaire et ce, afin qu’il témoigne de son expérience dans notre système scolaire québécois!
Samuel Psycharis est un élève de Laval Liberty High School de la commission scolaire Sir Wilfrid Laurier. Cette école publique située dans la région de Laval se classe dans la moyenne des écoles québécoises avec une clientèle multiculturelle. En fait, elle s’apparente à plusieurs écoles de notre système scolaire.
Là-dessus, je vous souhaite une bonne lecture! Et un gros merci Samuel!
***Le texte n’a pas été modifié afin de garder son intégrité.
Depuis l’âge de 5 ans, je suis un élève à temps plein. Cela veut dire que depuis une décennie, ma vie quotidienne consiste à suivre des cours, faire des devoirs et interagir avec des enseignants. Au cours de ces expériences variées, j’ai beaucoup appris; non seulement à propos du système scolaire, mais aussi sur mon éducation personnelle et les différentes méthodes d’apprentissage. Cela est un voyage qui continue après l’école, puisque l’éducation et l’apprentissage sont des aspects de la vie qui ne se terminent qu’avec la mort de l’humain. Comme l’a si bien dit un proverbe chinois : « L’apprentissage et l’éducation sont des trésors qui nous suivent toute notre vie ».
Au cours de mon cheminement scolaire, j’ai eu plusieurs expériences différentes. Selon moi, le système scolaire de notre province est un des meilleurs à ma connaissance. Les différents enseignants dont j’ai eu le plaisir et le privilège de côtoyer à travers les années m’ont aidé à grandir de plusieurs façons. Non seulement ai-je eu l’aide nécessaire pour devenir mature et grandir comme un adulte éduqué, mais j’ai aussi eu une formation qui est primordiale pour mon succès dans mes études postsecondaires. En ayant été élève dans une école publique, j’ai pu me placer au centre de notre système éducatif. Cela signifie que mon environnement scolaire m’était donné par le gouvernement et n’était pas un produit de mes dépenses financières. Cela ne fait que confirmer mon plaisir d’avoir pris cette décision il y a cinq ans. Mon école possède des enseignants très dévoués à leur métier et qui viennent en classe avec la même passion de jour en jour. C’est grandement grâce à eux que mon vœu de poursuivre des études supérieures est né. La combinaison de cela avec un curriculum très élaboré m’a fourni les outils nécessaires pour pouvoir atteindre mes objectifs éducatifs et professionnels. En conséquence, j’espère qu’un jour je vais pouvoir retourner ce cadeau inestimable en étant un membre impliqué dans la société. De plus, la culture et la diversité présentes dans mon école m’ont aussi appris plusieurs leçons et ont accru ma sensibilité à propos de mon entourage. Cela est très important puisque, de nos jours, le monde est de plus en plus multiculturel et je crois que mon éducation m’a adéquatement préparé pour ce phénomène.
Étant un élève avec des intérêts très variés, je suis très content que mon école ait pu me fournir des outils pour développer ces passions. Des exemples de cela sont ma passion pour l’art et l’illustration, dont j’ai eu la chance d’utiliser à travers plusieurs projets, tels une murale et le chandail des finissants. En plus, ma passion pour le sport a été satisfaite par le programme de concentration sport, auquel j’ai participé pendant la majorité de mon séjour au secondaire. Finalement, mon amour pour les sciences a été développé grâce à l’expo-sciences d’Hydro-Québec et par mes cours dans le programme scientifique. Grâce à tout cela, j’ai pu gagner une bourse à l’université Concordia, preuve du succès de mon expérience scolaire.
Bref, je suis très reconnaissant de la qualité de formation que j’ai eu la chance d’obtenir. Pour moi, chaque matin était le début d’une journée pleine d’apprentissages variés et d’expériences précieuses. Le système en place et ses enseignants sont d’une qualité exceptionnelle et je vais toujours garder d’eux d’excellents souvenirs, puisqu’ils m’ont permis de grandir et devenir un homme.
Sam Psycharis, élève de 5e secondaire
The LEARN community of bloggers is made up of pedagogical consultants, teachers and other educators working on a variety of LEARN projects. Together, we represent a wide spectrum of professional experience and opinions about education in the 21st century, especially when it comes to the anglophone community of Quebec, Canada. Learn Teaching and Learning blog.