A little every day: Learning with RSS

I don’t have a lot of time to pursue a lot of side interests. My fellow educators know that teaching is a full-time-and-a-half sort of job. However, by using an RSS reader (I have used Feedly ever since Google Reader was discontinued) I nevertheless engage regularly with a variety of topics that interest me: yoga, cooking, personal finance, photography, interior design, theology, and many others.

I am not an expert in any of these areas, but reading a little a few times a week over several years has contributed significantly to my knowledge. In conversations, I find myself frequently saying, “I read somewhere that…”. I will often find ways to include what I have learned into my classroom, giving richness to lessons that might otherwise fall flat. I think that many of my acquaintances think that I read and study more than I do, when in fact I spend no more than ten, maybe twenty minutes per day catching up on what appears in my Feedly reader. And most of that time is over coffee or in-between other tasks, so that the time spent is essentially none at all. 

Here is an incomplete list of some of my favorite bloggers, by topic:

Since I have already experienced the benefits of small doses of information over a long period of time, it is no trouble at all for me to imagine that I could do the same for my professional work as well. I look forward to discovering new friends and mentors that will challenge and encourage me in my teaching practice as much as I have in my personal life.



My Professional Learning Network

Who is on your (professional learning) team?

As a student, I knew that a mentor was never far away. My teachers, parents, coaches and many others were readily available to help me with a problem.

As I moved away from the role of “student” and into the role of “teacher”, the availability of mentors began to thin out, even though my need for quality input remains. Instead of waiting for mentors to come find me, it has become my responsibility to seek out the resources and mentors that I need to improve and support my teaching practice.

Below, you can see a Popplet that I made to show you some of the places where I find that positive input.

PLN Map   Dashe

Isn’t it interesting that all of these communities are ones that I access primarily online?

By staying connected to other professionals, I am able to stay up-to-date on the developments in my field, challenge myself to try new ideas, reach out when I need help with a problem, and help others with the problems that they encounter. They are on a “team” that helps me to be a better teacher tomorrow than I am today.

Adventures in Online Learning Part 1: Calligraphic Script

Do you remember years ago when everybody was making scrapbooks?

Yeah, I know.

I was cleaning out my closet last weekend and re-discovered my box of stencils.


Don’t worry, they’re gone now. Somebody under age six will be thrilled to see what mom found in aisle three at Salvation Army.

But I was thinking about how much I enjoyed making art with paper. Some of it has rightfully found its final home in a landfill, but some of it wasn’t half bad. I made Valentine’s Day cards once that were a big hit with my friends. They were almost, you know, cool. I’m not too bad at cutting up paper and gluing it together.

That is, they looked cool until I had to write on them.

My handwriting isn’t bad, but it isn’t anything to brag about, either.


…and that is about as fancy as it gets.

But wouldn’t it be grand to be able to do something like this?

Wisdom by Ian Barnard

Beautiful, right? I would never have to buy a thank you note again. I would merely touch pen to paper and beautiful works of art would magically appear. Or at least something presentable.

The trick? Because this is a project for a class about technology and learning, I need to learn everything using only online sources.

This is my plan:

  1. Look at stuff on Pinterest.
  2. Read some blogs and watch some tutorials on YouTube.
  3. Start with something small, like a birthday card for a baby who can’t read.
  4. Troubleshoot and connect in one or two forums.
  5. Try something else, maybe a letter or a note to someone who thinks I am cute and won’t judge me.
  6. Maybe try out a few different styles.
  7. Eventually work up to something I can frame. Maybe part of a poem?

I already have paper and pens, some of it leftover from those long-ago days when I had free time and printed photographs to work with.

Supplies, etc.

I even have a fountain pen that I bought on a whim one day. Because that is what people sometimes do. Right?


Okay, so I guess that is just me. But hey, maybe it will come in handy for this project. Make sure to tune in next week for Adventures in Online Learning Part 2!

“Is this going to be on the test?”

Technological advancements have often heralded paradigm shifts, and this is definitely the case in the field of education today. Thanks to new technologies and scientific methods, we now know more about how the human brain processes information than ever before, and we learn more every year. Some of these advancements are discussed in the book How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience and School (2000)edited by John D. Bransford, Ann L. Brown, and Rodney R. Cocking. These discoveries are propelling educators to take a fresh look at traditional methods of running a classroom, conveying information, and assessing students on what they have learned, and pushing us to find new ways to teach so that students develop true understanding of the material – not just learn the right answers for the test. Sound interesting? You can read more of my thoughts on teaching for understanding here and tell me what you think!