Connected Learning & Forward Momentum

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The city of Chicago is fortunate to have an incubator for connections and change.  Hive Chicago is a magical place where civic and cultural institutions come together to change they way education happens.  When I returned to Chicago last year I was introduced to the Hive and I totally have a crush on the model.  In my adventures big and small I have found time and time again that there is no greater currency than learning and connecting the perspectives of others; the Hive is a honey pot of varying perspectives.  The trick is to capitalize, listen and take action.

Fast forward to the Chicago City of Learning (CCOL).  CCOL aims to merge student experiences, establish that learning happens everywhere and builds systems to effectively document that learning.  I carried lessons from the HIVE to CCOL and someone noticed.  I am honored to share with you a small space of the CCOL inaugural e-newsletter dedicated to a story about how I, through my position at Project Exploration, work to learn and connect.

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Chicago City of Leaning March e-newsletter

A Genuine Talent Finds Its Way

Most of the time I would put money on the fact that my dad doesn’t listen to a word I say.  Then, seemingly out of nowhere, he says something that proves my theory entirely wrong.  I received a card in the mail from him today and written inside, in his hallmark left-hand penmanship, was this quote: photo (9)

Brilliant and timely.

I was the first person in my family to go to college.  I will forever be proud and responsible for that fact.  Proud because we proved that it is true; you can do anything you put your mind to if someone around you believes in it too.  Responsible because we were unaware of the resources available and I will forever be imprinted with the lessons I learned forging a new path for my family.  I am in the midst of identifying my way and trying to clarify my mission – responsibility reverberates.   My responsibility is to pass on the lessons I learned that my parents did not know to the next generation of pioneers and provide equitable access to those who don’t even know that access is something they can have.

The Golden Rule of Habit Change


“The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg

I picked up “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg at the Logan airport on my way home from the Digital Media Learning conference last week.   I was nearing the end of a two week traveling excursion and I had been removed from my traditional environment just long enough to provide me with an entirely new perspective.  I had the chance to look back on where I have come from by visiting the University of Northern Colorado and seeing suggestions I made last year fully implemented.  It was a unique experience to actually witness my impact on process.  In Boston I had a chance to see what the future could look like.

And then I returned to the present.

Fortunately, I had several hours to devour “The Power of Habit” on the flight home.  Duhigg’s message struck me as incredibly profound considering my current collection of perspectives.  “Most of the choices we make each day may feel like the products of well-considered decision making, but they’re not.  They’re habits.”  Holy s____, why didn’t someone tell me this before!  I keep reading and relating and reading and oh man; I have got my work cut out for me!  
“For habits to permanently change, people must believe that change is feasible… Belief is easier when it occurs within a community.”  I bought a new journal and some colored pencils and I started to look at my days.  What makes me who I am and what can I do to make me who I want to be?  It has been an interesting exercise in reflection, vision and speculation.  As I reach the cornerstones of habits I am excited to find new communities to help me believe.  


Ignite Stage Fright

There are two things I am petrified of: 1. water when I can’t see the bottom and 2. microphones.  On Saturday I had the great fortune of delivering the second-to-last Ignite Talk at the closing of the Digital Media Learning Conference.   My competition was beer, hot dogs and popsicles in the back and when I landed on stage (facing the enormous, elegant room with a microphone) I could see that it was full of attentive listeners.  It wasn’t as scary I though it would be and no one could see me shaking!  Here is the proof that I did one thing that scared me on Saturday:


Click above to see the Ignite Talk.

Mind. Blown.

The Digital Media Learning conference will blow your mind.  Consider yourself warned!  I have to spend a few moments each day “downloading” from my brain!  I love the breadth of people represented here and exposure to their thoughts and ideas has stretched my perception of the Universe to new places.

I felt a lot of productive friction in the badging conversations yesterday.  “It’s not just the badge” was packed even though the workshop had solid competition.  There are many ideas for how to execute badging in a meaningful way and I’m excited to read about it until mu eye balls fall out!  I may have also gotten myself into a bit of a heated conversation with a Harvard grad student at the HIVE mixer; I asked her to consider badges not as a reward, but as a stake in the sand of education.

Speaking of the HIVE mixer, holy guacamole!   For those of you who don’t know, or were unable to crash the party  it ruled.  Here is a tiny snippet, by no means all-inclusive list,  of the folks I ran into:

Flat Elsa was the life of the party! 

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Matthew Williams has no idea that I was stalking him and I found him at the bar! I think he was a little freaked out. Sorry!

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Armando and Mikey were amazing! I can’t wait to get to NYC and see this magic in person! Good luck on the Ignite talk and I can so help you rock out meaningful badges!

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Courtney Francis arrived just as the booze was overflowing. Working examples is a vehicle for ideating and building radical innovations to change education. You should be using it and so should I. (Must listen to Robert more often.)

I had a blast!  I think my favorite part was when I realized who these guys were (definitely after the photo and after the party) :

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Here comes day three!  I am trying to keep cool kid composure, but there are a few parts of today that I am afraid of!

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Thankfully the security staff at the hotel rules, on an epic scale.  They let me into the ballroom at 11pm last night, a little intoxicated and full of burrito, to practice my ignite talk.  Their feedback was really powerful and I am pretty sure I’ve got this!  Spoiler alert – I will also have notes.  I only hung out with theater kids growing up; turns out I am not really one of them.

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If you want to check it out live click here:

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The Cup Runs Over

The first day of the Digital Media Learning conference was  jam-packed with information and super awesome people.  The day kicked off with familiar faces, Sybil and Tene, from DYN.  They gave me a few pointers and sent me on my way!  Right away I started running into folks from Pittsburgh.  They have really cool things going on; check them out here:

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Ani Martinez is rocking the digital corps at Remake Learning.

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Jessica Pachuta (short Jess) and Jessica Kaminsky (tall Jess) are rocking Hear-Me and we had a lively conversation about permission slips.

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Louise Larson coordinates this community maker space.

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Dave English is the man-in-charge (according to me) at the Sprout Fund.









I also was able to learn more about people from Chicago!

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I enjoyed lunch with Maggie Waldron Lauren Pemz and Natalia Smirnov from FUSE.

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I had coffee with Deb Kerr from Youth Muse.










It is wonderful to be surrounded by ideas and inspiration.  Bobby Lox mentioned starting a HIVE exchange program!  I think it is a brilliant idea and a way for the HIVE to continue to share ideas on a higher, cross-network level.  I volunteer myself to go first in the event that Sam Dyson reads this post!

PARLIAMENT OF BEES. woodcut fronispiece John Day 1641

This is more like golf than basketball; we are playing against the course not each other.   
Knowledge is fluid and sometimes, as human beings, we create silos that keep us from finding answers. 
Productive friction.