Rethinking Reading | “Do you read me?”

Before we begin this post, an urgent note for those of you who are into comics – Halftone 2 is the App Store’s App of the Week. If you haven’t gotten this app yet, now is a good time to get into it!

Which brings us to today’s topic – Reading! Following on the theme of Divergent Thinking in a Convergent World, today we tackle ‘reading’. I mean, we read books, read comics, read a chart, but do we read a painting? As media converges, what will reading look like in the future? How can we prepare today’s learners to cope with its evolution?

“Do you read me?” – funnily enough this is radio talk… You can read about its history and significance here. Reading applies to more than just words and books. It can mean many things. So, why when we mention reading we automatically revert to the idea of reading a book and little else?

As the world of reading converges because of multimedia, innovative ways to communicate and sub-culturalism, a lateral approach to reading is required. Are our learners being educated to embrace and wrestle with this?

Reading will become more interactive and lateral

Instead of just reading words and sentences, the future of reading will become more lateral. iBooks and interactive books for example now present information in new ways. Learners will now need to ‘read’ not just literal words but also graphics, colors and ‘actions’. Pictograms and other graphical elements become the new universal language. Information can be presented multi-dimensional and layered – meaning, like an onion, information can be layered and you can take a different perspective as you digest and analyze information and go in different directions. And (scary thought for some), reading becomes non-linear. Like websites, pages don’t have to flow in a straight fashion anymore. You can have multiple sources of information AND choose to multi-read at the same time! Have you heard of De Bono’s 6 Thinking Hats?

Some examples that stretch the idea of reading include

Reading will become more nuanced

Apart from media and new delivery methods, reading will also become more nuanced and personalised. One of the biggest trends in education today is personalized learning. Educators are beginning to see the inadequacy of ‘batched learning and teaching.’ Learners do not conform by age, demographics or psychographics. Because every individual is unique, his/her personal combination of nature and nurture will present a huge challenge for any system that reduces learning into a fixed, rigid and narrowed curriculum. Learning will become more outcome based, with building blocks that can be mixed and matched into countless combinations to suit the personal learning preference of each individual learner so he/she can each learn more effectively. Hence, reading becomes nuanced – while some learners ‘read’ books, others ‘read’ by listening to audiobooks, and others ‘read’ by playing a game. What is important is that learners understand there is no right or wrong way to read, just ways that are more effective than others depending on the goals and the media involved as they comprehend and engage with their world.

Some ideas to think about include

Writing and reading are obviously intricately related to one another. We sometimes take reading for granted because when the writing is done well, it just flows. That’s one of the reasons why I like movie scripts so much. They are writing that need to read well enough to be translated into a visual narrative that engages the audience and make them see, hear and feel the story. Wow, that’s one sentence that helps us see how many things converge when we talk about writing and reading!

Now, all we have to do is bottle that thought and take reading to the next level. Do you read me?

PS : Here’s a link to an article about how challenging it is to create something that reads well… Enjoy!

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Our Lady’s Craigieburn & Roxburgh Park RE Conference 2015

I had quite an adventure last Friday at Craigieburn with a wonderful lot of participants and presenters. Always refreshing and mind-boggling to see how others are embracing learning, teaching and educating in this ever-changing world of ours.

As promised, here’s a blog post with references to further reading, viewing and experimenting for those who were there (as well as those who weren’t!)…

The theme of the conference was John 10:10, “I have come so that you may have life, and have it abundantly”. Succinctly, Mark the keynote presenter pursued the theme of Greatness, which coincidentally, was mine too!

For those who are keen to explore further the personal vision template I adapted from Jim Collins’ ‘Good To Great’, here’s a good link for a guide you can use. Just adapt and replace ‘organisation’ with ‘you/me’ and you should be able to create a framework for yourself. I personally think having a clear picture of who you are and what your personal vision/mission is help you communicate better and more effectively to the people you are influencing.

For those who are a bit stumped as to what I am referring to, this is the framework I am talking about.

Good2Great

We then discussed the difference between a compass and a map, which is pretty well summed up by this set of slides about the difference between a teacher and a guru.

We touched briefly on the difference between process vs content, and also the SAMR model – explained here.

The apps we touched on (different for each of the 3 sessions depending on where the conversations were leading to) include :

Videos and other web resources

Phew, that’s quite a big list to check out! I’ll close this blog with a video and a link to an article – a sign of things to come – mind boggling in its technology and application, but no less impactful in its simplicity and audacity to challenge us about the fundamental things that make us human, enjoy!

 

Women’s Aid from Ocean Outdoor on Vimeo.

One Thing

It’s a new year, so we all do what we usually do, reflect on the past, audit your present, set goals for the future. And then, 12 months later, we do it all over again. It’s pretty much the same pattern in schooling, and at work. Does it really make any sense?

Einstein once said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” In time, some not-so-informed wannabe motivator decided to turn that quote into the oft-used but totally misguided definition for insanity – doing the same thing and expecting different results. And attribute that definition to Einstein himself!

Anyways, I digress – the point I am trying to make in this post is – Focus is very important for anyone, from the very, very young, to the very, very old. We lament these days as parents, educators and learners that the ‘current’ generation (X, Y, Z, Millennials, Alpha etc) all lack this elusive and rare trait to focus. Is that true?

Digging further, we start to realize that there could be 3 main reasons why we struggle to focus

  • We are easily distracted – i.e. we don’t know (or want to choose) what’s important and what’s not
  • There are too many things crying for our attention – from the really mundane to the really useful and urgent
  • We worry too much

For me personally, focusing is more a choice than a character trait or habit. The ability to focus (especially as you get older) banks on my self-discipline and self-control. Of course, there are tools and techniques (see below) that can help, but generally, it all comes down to discipline.

If we can get learners to focus, I think the battle is half won. So, how can we do this effectively?

1. One Thing – Focus

Have you ever heard of The Pomodoro Technique? Maybe that can help. And thankfully, there’s an app for that too!

2. Prioritizing

We should really spend more of our time and attention on what make us tick. There are now so many convergences happening – one of my fave – science and emotions – there are so many videos here to get started. Along the way, you will learn how to better equip yourself against science used against you and your willpower.  And of course, there are wonderful apps like One Hour A Day, Rescue Time, GPS for the Soul and Stop Breath Think to help you stay sane in an insane world.

3. Getting Things Done

One of the biggest setbacks to a productive schedule is worry. Anxiety, fear and worry can disable anyone, kill enthusiasm and trigger paralysis. Once you understand the science and look at techniques or systems such as GTD to overcome (or sidestep, more like) worry and anxiety, you’ll become more productive. Apps like Life Balance, 2Do and Things are just a few tools you can use to help you get started.

I believe once we get the discipline to focus and become clearer about who we really are, what drives us and why we do what we do, we can have more enriched and fulfilling lives.

Here’s to an extraordinary year (and life!)

 

 

 

Creating a (Sacred) Digital Space

I was a tad disappointed that we had to cancel our Digital Space iGod session this weekend. Alas, past experience had shown us that this period is one of the busiest in the school calendar so it’s not unexpected. We didn’t have enough numbers to make the interaction meaningful between participants so we decided to call it off.

But, all is not lost – in this post, I hope to give enough information for you to Create Your Own (Sacred) Digital Space – most of the apps and resources I was hoping to cover in the session will be introduced here, so with a bit of ingenuity and effort, you should be able to re-create the session in your own space and time.

The idea of a Digital Space is something new and recent thanks to the depth and extent that gadgets and devices and apps can create a meaningful and engaging experience for users. Thankfully, with just a gadget or two and some accessories, you can create your own digital space.

Sacred Music

Personally for me, music is one of the most important ingredients to create a digital space that works. There are a few ways for you to start the ball rolling. If you have an extensive music collection, create a ‘Holy’ playlist and have Siri play it every time you are in the mood, just say, ‘Siri, play my Holy playlist’. Works for me! Here’s a great article on how to create a playlist, if you haven’t created one before.

If you have way too many songs, you can take a shortcut and do a Genius playlist instead. Pick a song you feel gets you into the ‘Holy’ space, then use the Genius function in iTunes or Music app in your iPad or iPhone to make a Genius playlist based on the song. You’ll be amazed how quickly and effectively the smarts in the playlist maker select the right songs to put in the playlist.

Another option to consider is iTunes Radio. To make that work, you’ll need to log into your iTunes account first. Once that turns up in your iTunes, look for the Radio tab, get to My Stations and create your own streaming radio station, even from your iOS device! Pick an artist, song or genre to kickstart the selection. If you need some help, try ‘Planetshakers’ or ‘Hillsong’ to get started.

Internet radio apps like TuneIn, Spotify and Pandora works too. Download the app onto your device and just set up your preferences.

Of course, getting a nice set of external (preferably Bluetooth or Wireless) speakers help with the ambience. Or a nice set of headphones (wireless is good) helps too.

Prayer Apps & Websites 

There are way too many apps and websites dedicated to prayer and devotion to cover so I’ll shortlist a few very unique and different ones just to give you an idea of the scope and diversity available. All of them are free so take them for a spin and see if any suits the way you engage with spirituality.

There are many apps and resources available, and they are there to cater to all the different ways people engage spiritually. Experiment, explore and discover the ones you prefer. Share them with others and seek out how others engage too. There are also many wonderful videos like the Gratitude video, and if you’re looking for a spiritual eye candy experience you can’t go wrong with Samsara or Baraka.

Happy Exploring!

 

 

 

 

RU OK?

12

Today is RUOK? Day – So, Happy RUOK? Day everyone!

It sounds like a very simple idea, but it’s a huge idea that can make a significant impact in someone’s life. I don’t think I am exagerrating when I say it could be a life-changing idea at the right time.

In our daily grind, we come across people who either add or subtract the little stresses that can make or break the mental time bomb we carry everywhere. Unless enough people care to instinctively and deliberately defuse that bomb, we grow up harboring negative thoughts, ideas and notions that eventually become physical manifestations in our lives and the lives of people we love around us.

RUOK is a simple starting point to show you care, and can sometimes open doors and invite conversations that can restore and repair relationships, hurt and pain so that healing and loving can happen.

So, why not step out today and ask someone near you, ARE YOU OK?

Another idea I’d like to share along this theme is, how about asking yourself ‘ARE YOU OK?’ Technology has progressed sufficiently these days to easily, conveniently and discreetly send your future self letters. Have you read this heart-wrenching article about Taylor Smith’s letter to her future self?

So, what would you write to your future self? And when?

I personally don’t think there’s a rule for either. It’s entirely up to you, and you can write many different letters or even just short notes. You could be going through a tough or euphoric time now, and you just wanted to ‘bottle’ the moment and remind yourself a week, a month, a year or a decade ahead how you actually feel right here, right now and what triggers you want to include to remember the moment – music, smell, who you were with, a photo, article, thought, idea – anything!

If you’re really stuck for ideas, try this for inspiration.

So, now – how do you do it? Here are a few resources to try out…

Alternatively, you could be someone who prefer to look at the past and think about those moments. How do you organize your special memories and revisit them?

Personally, I use DayOne to organize my ‘memories’. I looked and looked for an app that can help me chronicle my life in thoughts and photos that I can easily revisit every year to the day just to remind me where I was on that day a year or more before but there weren’t many that fit the bill. So, I did a workaround and used DayOne to do what I needed.

Firstly, I created a hashtag for each day (i.e. #sep11) and ensured that I used the hashtag for every day entry to mark the date. I also ensured they are consistent and spelled right! Hence, every day when I end my day, I recapped my day and took the opportunity to search the day’s hashtag to see where I was and what was happening at the time in the past. DayOne worked great with this workaround and because I sync with my iMac, iPad and iPhone, I can capture and reminisce anytime, anywhere… This little trick would work with almost any note taker available today – Evernote, Awesome Note, OneNote – the key is in the hashtag.

It may sound like a lot of work but over the years, it’s worked out nicely and I am so super glad I took the trouble. Especially now that I am starting to forget what happened and how I felt at the time. The kids growing up at the speed of light doesn’t help either. It’s hard to imagine how different things were 3, 5 or 7 years ago. With video and audio and photos, wow – you can almost relive the moment… Trust me, it’s priceless! For your future’s sake, do this NOW!

 

 

 

Reflections CEOM RE Conference 2014

Firstly, thanks to all the participants at the iGod workshop last Friday – it was a very meaningful and engaging experience for me, and hopefully for you all too. It’s always encouraging when participants engage and ‘hijack’ the presentation 🙂 To summarize, here is a list of the 8 mind shifts we were attempting last week :

  • Half full or Half Empty – you have a choice to change the options
  • We need to shift our focus from Teaching to Learning (it’s already happening!)
  • Empathy is a powerful universal principle for learning (near future)
  • Discernment is a compulsory principle for learning (near future)
  • We have a responsibility to AWE
  • Genius is seeing the unseen – that’s the realm that future learners need to thrive in
  • God is in the unseen – If we seek we will discover Him
  • Education is not the filling of the pail, but the lighting of a fire – everyone should be on fire for God, especially teachers!

Half Full or Half Empty – Where’s the Jug?

We talked about how people view things and explored the idea that sometimes we need to see beyond what is present to uncover new opportunities. Ken Robinson’s video helps us to understand Divergent Thinking.

Shifting our focus from Teaching to Learning

The shift from teaching to learning is already happening. Concepts of learning such as Blended Learning and Flipped Classroom are clear examples of this thinking in action. Although the current education system had been adequate over the different ages (enlightenment, industrial, information) it is becoming apparent that the explosion of the tech revolution is changing the way we learn (and teach) and rewired the brains of learners such that the education system must change. The good news is that the fundamentals of what drive learning remain the same and that small shifts in thinking is all that is required to leverage on this. One effective way to focus on learners is to understand what multiple intelligences are and how we can spot them in the learners.

Empathy

One of the most important and universal learning principles is Empathy. If we can tap into this talent, we can overcome almost any barrier (language, religion, beliefs, cultural etc) and educate one another. RSA has a wonderful video that teaches us a lot that recent science and research have uncovered about empathy.

Here are a few other resources we can use to start discussion about how we can empathize with the rest of the world :

Discernment

The bible talks about what the eye sees helping us to discern and act. This video says it all.

In the groundbreaking book, The One Minute Manager, there are many principles about management that teachers can learn to apply learning in the classroom. These 3 are priceless – try it and see what you can accomplish!

Resources to help you AWE and inspire young geniuses

And finally, here’s a list of the apps we tried (and some we didn’t get a chance to try out) that’ll bring some awes to your day. Enjoy!

Have a great week ahead! And remember, every bush is burning!

Being an educator just got a bit more powerful…

Apple updated iTunesU app yesterday, and wow – is it getting even more fun for educators. Included in this latest update is the ability for any educator to create their own courses – right from their iPad!

Here’s what iTunesU version 2.0 can do for you (and your class) :

Introducing the new iTunes U

Let the discussion begin
• The new iTunes U makes it simple for students participating in private courses to pose questions on the course or any post or assignment.
• Other students in the class can jump into the discussion and ask more questions or provide answers.
• Teachers and students can keep up with the conversation when they receive push notifications as the discussion progresses.

Create courses on iPad
• Teachers can now create and update their courses using the iTunes U app on their iPad—getting started is fast, simple, and completely free.
• Provide every student a course outline, write posts, distribute assignments, upload class materials, easily track participating students, and much more.
• Take advantage of the built in camera on iPad to easily capture photos or videos and upload them for course assignments.
• Create materials using Pages, Numbers, and Keynote—or other apps from the App Store—and add them to your course by using “Open in iTunes U” from within each app.
• Teachers affiliated with qualified institutions have the option to publish their courses to the iTunes U Catalogue—making them available to everyone for free.

To learn more about what iTunesU can do for you as an educator and for your ‘learners’, click here. Apple has also provided a very clear set of guidelines to help you get started on iTunesU courses. The beauty of Apple’s approach is that they let you be the educator and focus on teaching and gathering almost any type of content from the web to create your course. With collaborative tools built in, there are very few reasons why any educator would want to use anything else.

If you’re keen to create something a little more elaborate, what about iBooks Author?

With Apple’s suite of iWork apps (Keynote, Pages and Numbers) and iBooks Author all easily integrating into iTunesU course design and creation, you won’t need much time and effort to digitize your existing or even new course content.

The e-Learning race is heating up, recently with Google Classroom launching, and also forays into education scene by Samsung and many others. Educators and learners of all ages are winners here, and not a moment too soon 🙂

For me though, this is what I hope the future of education will look like one day soon. The technology is already here, and so is the vision. All we need is the human spirit and conviction to step up and embrace it to make it real – right here, right now.

 

7 Habits of Highly Spiritual Teachers (who use technology)

I came across this article over the weekend – The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teachers Who Use Technology – and decided to do a take on what these habits could be for Highly Spiritual Teachers who use technology effectively.

I do think they would share very similar traits with those in the article, just with a bit more emphasis on soul-healing and spiritual-unravelling. Just my thoughts, so feel free to chip in with comments and remarks.

Habit #1 : They are always inspired (and inspiring)

Firstly, they are always in search of divine inspiration and seek to stimulate and engage using technology for the right reasons and outcomes. And more often than not, the outcome is to point to spirituality and challenge their mentees (is there such a word?) to ask questions and seek further enlightenment. People see them and what do they see? – A spiritual sojourner.

Habit #2 : They care

That one word says it all – care. They care that their audience learn, are interested and inspired enough to do something about what they’ve seen or heard. They enthuse, cajole, encourage, rebuke and mentor incessantly to get the point across. And their points must always open new doors, new thinking and bigger perspectives. It all starts from a spirit of caring. They are addicted to spirituality and everything they do imparts a little bit of that addiction to the people they meet and touch.

Habit #3 : They are magical

Everything they do, they do it with panache. That’s crucial because confidence is contagious, and when you’re taking people outside their comfort zones, you need to imbibe in them a sense of ‘I can do it too’ – otherwise, that becomes a form of disempowerment. What’s the definition of magical? Well, it’s only magic because you don’t know how it’s done, right? Try this – anyone can do magic with technology… And magic is literally the magic wand to break down the barriers of ignorance.

Habit #4 : They are absolutely, fantabulously, madly, truly and deeply serendipitous

Did I emphasize that enough? There is no greater responsibility and opportunity than that which arises out of a questing mind and heart. Serendipity – a talent for making fortunate discoveries while searching for other things. And we all have to make our own luck these days, right? So, to improve our luck, we must have at our fingertips (literally) a huge toolbox of ideas, resources and cool stuff to keep stimulating and engaging questing young minds. A highly spiritual educator who uses technology effectively is always collecting, organizing and looking for opportunities to turn the spark into a flaming inferno. If you’re looking for tools to help you, rewind to an earlier blog here.

Habit #5 : They are seminal

There are too many useful and appropriate definitions for the word seminal for me to list here, but if you’re keen to explore – click here. What I am interested in though, is to focus on the ability and opportunity to ‘seed’ for the far future. Think back on your own journey, who and what was the scenario that had made a significant and lasting impact on your values and character? How did technology play a part? In my own journey, these ‘seminal moments’ have been seeded long ago and are triggered when I face certain life-scenarios. As educators, we have the opportunity to do the same and create a future legacy. But, how will we do it? Begin with the end in mind and see what makes people think here.

Habit #6 : They are vulnerable

Now, this may seem weird and counteract habit no 3 but like Woody said of Buzz in Toy Story, ‘That’s not flying, that’s falling – with style!’ Vulnerability is honesty, transparency and authenticity. The worst thing you could do as an educator is to try and show that technology is perfect and works exactly how it should ALL THE TIME. The same goes with spirituality. When you add them both together, you need to be vulnerable and open to learning yourself. This stance will be mirrored and give your mentees (that word again!) the opportunity to be vulnerable too and seek enlightenment. Being human is part of the spiritual journey. In my experience, the best way to involve and bring the learning into the personal and intimate realm of the audience is to encounter problems and together, we overcome them. Tech failure or issues are cheap, and they happen all the time. But, in taking the audience on the journey and getting them involved, they learn and gain the confidence that you’re like them, and they’re like you. That is the best form of empowerment I’ve ever known.

Habit #7 : They always end with the why

I am a firm believer that as an educator, the class or workshop is the beginning, not the end of learning. That’s why I think every educator should use technology to stimulate and engage, but the trick is to keep the engagement going after the class or workshop is finished. And that’s the reason I say, ‘Educators must always end the learning with a why’. And the ‘why’ must be able to be personal and different for everyone. To do this, educators need to think about the What-How-Who-Why in the lesson and utilize the technology in a way that leads the learners along that path.

And there you have it, my thoughts on the matter. If you agree or disagree, feel free to comment and we can have a conversation about this. If you’re looking for more guidance and tips, here’s a PDF Apple has just issued for Teachers – it’s a guideline for using the iPad and what you should consider when selecting the right apps to use. Very comprehensive and refreshing, if you ask me.

Here’s an additional bonus for those of you who wants to change the world – it’s a design toolkit for educators developed by one of the leading designers on the planet, IDEO – follow this link. Enjoy!

So, what will your verse be?

 

Helping the blind see


 

Although this video is now more than a year old, I recently stumbled upon it again. Although I am not an app developer, my role in iGod as a ‘enabler’ especially for those who have not realised how easy and accessible apps are to help them in their daily lives, have given me a renewed appreciation for the developers that have created their amazing apps to help others. Literally, they are changing the world – as the video so rightly trumps.

Since 2011, we have been involved with different schools and educators and have seen the eyes and minds light up at the possibilities. It’s quite awesome to note that we are on the verge of the biggest social and educational revolution in recent history. Not only are the apps and technology ripe and ready to power charge the revolution, but that the target audience, kids and next gen learners are all ready to rumble!

Bring on the revolution! In the vein of Les Mis –

Will you join in our crusade?
Who will be strong and stand with me?
Beyond the barricade
Is there a world you long to see?

Incidentally, there is also a story in the video about an extraordinary teacher who is making learning so fun and interesting for his kids, despite their resources and environment.

Habit #7 : Getting & Staying Connected

The 7th Habit in our series of highly spiritual people is ‘Getting & Staying Connected’. One of my favorite verses in the bible is Matthew 5 : 13-6

Matthew 5:13-16   |   Salt and Light

13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

It talks about how we as spiritual influencers should be living examples of Jesus’ spirituality wherever we may go. The internet, on-the-go mobile devices and social media today give us the ability (a curse if left unchecked) to stay connected anywhere anytime with people we love as well as people we look up to. It has become seamless to converse with many people across geographical divides (as well as cultural and socio-economic ones) to bond, debate or challenge.

So, how do we live as the salt and light of the earth?

This brings me back to a couple of stories I’ve read from the internet shared by people and I think these two especially captured the essence of what I’m trying to say here – Click here for one and two. Not exactly salt and light but hey, coffee is a good metaphor too!

There is a new ‘back-to-the-basics’ sense of spirituality and awareness that’s sweeping the world these days. People are becoming tired of the affluenza and ever-growing need to be more ‘successful’ and many have simply given up or are looking at ways to simplify their needs and in consequence, their lives.

Have you read about Jose Mujica, the world’s ‘poorest’ president, or about how newly elected Pope Francis is ‘living’ the new spirituality – simplicity?

Or this video about one of the world’s richest (and most wealth-magnetic) businessmen?

Interesting times, but one that empowers us so much that it is quite literally, the Age of Possibilities. This age, more than any other in our experience is one which has so much potential and possibility in it that you can almost become anyone and achieve anything you could dream of within one lifetime.

“With great power comes great responsibility” – Uncle Ben, from Spider Man

And because ‘Knowledge is Power’ – that basically means all of us who have access to knowledge and who spread knowledge are now endowed with a lot more power than we can possibly imagine. We must steward that well.

You can begin with some of the best tools to get and stay connected :-

1. Facebook
2. YouTube
3. Google+
4. Path
5. Instagram

I hope that the last 7 blogs on the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People have helped you take your spiritual journeying to the next level. To close this entry, here’s a little YouTube video on something about a change of perspective – and how that can sometimes create a new reality, which is after all, how new habits are formed. Enjoy!