Clyde Street

Learning, Teaching, Performing


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Without Borders

One of the joys of my week is my Tuesday car journey to and from Canberra with my daughter Beth.

Beth is a tutor on the Introduction to Sociology course at the Australian National University this semester.

We talk about many things, often prompted by the course content Beth is covering and what is happening in my Sport Coaching Pedagogy unit at the University of Canberra.

This week we talked a lot about supporting student learning and our conversation moved to exceptional students.

Beth talked eloquently about one of her friends, whom she regarded as remarkable, and I was struck by Beth’s understanding and constructs of exceptional performance.

Beth pointed me to two sources of information to help me reflect on the ideas she was sharing.

The first was Young People Without Borders:

Young People Without Borders is a movement of young people who have the courage, imagination and will to make a difference. It’s the ultimate journey of discovery for you to explore, learn, get amongst it and give back to the world.

I liked the idea that young people without borders could become Trailblazers and could Start a remarkable journey. On my journey I have learned more about the Foundation for Young Australians and Jan Owens’ work.

The second link was to Amna Karra-Hassan and the Auburn Tigers AFL team.

At 23 years of age, Amna played a lead role in the establishment of the new women’s AFL team, the Auburn Tigers. She is also an active ambassador for the rights of Muslim women, and is a positive role model and mentor for young people.

The Auburn Tigers largely consists of women from minority communities in western Sydney. Amna’s role in the team, as a mentor as well as a friend, is to guide and support these young women in the right direction and to teach them important life skills.

In an interview in The Australian, Amna pointed out that most of the players in the Tigers are of Lebanese background but there is a Fijian,  a Bosnian, a Turkish and an Afghan … and an Anglo.

Beth’s friend is the Anglo! The story of her engagement with the Tigers illustrates how a remarkable woman met other remarkable women … beyond borders.

Photo Credit

IMG_2641, Auburn


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Seeing Clearly?

Introduction

I love reading our daughter Beth’s blog posts about family and community issues.

I admire her growing political voice too.

She says in her About part of her blog:

I find it is through my interactions with others that I learn best and so hope that you might take some time to respond to my thoughts and so we can help each other along this journey of discovery that is living.

Today I found two items that I thought might interest Beth and contribute to a learning journey. They resonate with my interests in play too.

Item 1: Young Vision

A University of Sydney press release reports that researchers in the Centre for Vision research have found that “six-year-olds who spent the most time watching television had narrower arteries in the back of their eyes, increasing their chances of heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes in later life.”

The press release notes:

  • The study looked at one and a half thousand six-to-seven-year-old children in 34 primary schools in Sydney. Those who regularly participated in outdoor physical activity had wider average retinal arterioles (arteries behind the eyes) compared to children with the lowest activity levels.
  • Physical activity enhances blood flow and has a positive effect on the linings of blood vessels. Retinal microvascular diameter is a marker for cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure in adults, but this is the first study to show a sedentary lifestyle in childhood is linked to a narrowing of the vessels in the retina.

Item 2: Mums

On my way to Canberra I heard the end of an interview between Margaret Throsby and Jessica Rowe. Jessica is the author of Love.Wisdom.Motherhood. The book’s themes have fundamental connections with Beth’s thoughts and actions and I was delighted to hear (if only for a very short time) Jessica’s thoughts about motherhood.

Discussion

The juxtaposition of these two items and their links with Beth’s interests sent me off on a journey today. The journey reminded me too that when Bruno Bettelheim was asked at the end of his professional career ‘What would you do differently knowing what you know now?’ he answered “work much more closely with mums”.

I see playfulness at the heart of learning opportunities. The Sydney study on vision and Jessica’s sharing of eleven stories of motherhood have reinforced my commitment to activity and understanding the roles mums play in young flourishing.

I am off to discuss these ideas with Beth!

Photo Credits

Mother and Baby

Mother and Child


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Blogging, Sharing, Sociabilty

I have been blogging with WordPress since 3 June 2008.

Since that time I have written 350 posts on topics linked to learning, teaching and performing.

Many of these topics are stimulated by links shared by Stephen Downes through OLDaily and were given impetus by a remarkable group of participants in CCK08.

A few days ago (10 March) Stephen posted about blogging and followed up the next day with a link to the self-organising social mind. I was mulling over both these posts when Kent Anderson posted about Kevin Kelly.

All three posts arrived at a time when I was completing an open tender on Wikiversity, making some plans for a visit by Nancy White, and reflecting on an observation by Graham Attwell about “the existence of multiple information and knowledge flows” through the ability of anyone to publish.

Stephen’s link to Luis Suarez’s post Making Business Sense of Social Media and Social Networking – Is Blogging Dead? and Luis’ link to Scott Monty’s Blogging is Dead exemplify the power of blogging to me. Kent Anderson’s post about Kevin Kelly and his link to Kevin’s presentation at the O’Reilly Tools of Change Conference provides an interesting context for the vibrant bloggingscape.

In his talk, Kevin points to six verbs that characterise how we interact with information, how we make and present information:

  • Screen
  • Interact
  • Share
  • Access
  • Flow
  • Generate

George Theiner’s review of John Bolander’s book The Self-Organizing Social Mind starts:

Sociability is one of the most fascinating traits of our species. As human beings, we create and participate in complex social structures with a flexibility of group membership which is unparalleled in the animal kingdom, and we are capable of entertaining a seemingly endless variety of social relationships. What if underneath our dappled social world lies a deeper kind of simplicity, which can be explained by the physics of symmetry and its breakings, akin to the processes which are at work in the formation of a snowflake or a spiral galaxy? In his insightful new book, John Bolender argues that such a view is indeed suggested by contemporary science rather than a figment of social romanticism.

I like the idea of sociability and simplicity. Blogging is a part of this relationship and I have seen it from the outset as a purely volitional activity on the part of the author and reader.

I post to share information and explore wayfinding. From early on I saw blogging as a way of developing a cloud presence that used WordPress as a vehicle for Kevin’s six verbs. I had not anticipated that anyone would read my posts.

I was delighted recently when my daughter Beth started blogging. I read her posts avidly. I have an immense amount of paternal pride and an overwhelming admiration for her desire to share information and experience. I think she has the essence of blogging that Stephen, Kevin, Luis and Scott point to.  I see Beth’s posts as another example of the resilience and relevance of blogging.


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Treasure Trove

Introduction

Last week was another treasure trove week for me. It started with my daughter Beth’s first blog post and concluded with news of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) running at present.

Treasure Baskets

Beth’s post about treasure baskets set me off thinking about the possibilities of guided discovery in play. I thought too about the personalisation that might occur in learning as teachers and coaches adapt the idea of a treasure basket to their own learning environments. A treasure basket is a collection of everyday objects chosen to stimulate the different senses. I followed up on Beth’s discussion of the role the basket has in heuristic play.

Elaine Lambe notes that heuristic play “is the term used to describe play for babies, infants and toddlers that actively encourages exploration by using and developing their senses.” As with all treasure troves one discovery leads to another and through Elaine’s post I found Elinor Goldschmied‘s work. Valerie Jackson has provided a great insight into Elinor’s work. I liked Valerie’s observation that:

Elinor understood the importance of accepting every child as a unique and gifted individual. She didn’t waste time trying to categorise or label children as having special needs, additional needs or anything else. They were all children and we were all the people tasked with the responsibility to encourage and raise good citizens.

She understood that learning to negotiate and compromise are positive skills to allow children to develop so that friendships grow and become strong in the nursery years so that the process of maturation and finally reaching adulthood becomes less arduous and isolating. If a child has one particular adult with whom they can develop a positive relationship during their time away from family, such as in the nursery, then their stay is less traumatic and their play and learned behaviours become more positive. From this, the idea of a key person has evolved and is currently promoted by the Early Years Foundation Stage in the United Kingdom.

Elinor worked with Sonia Jackson to write about People Under Three. I think their work has enormous implications for all learning. I will follow up on their key person ideas. “The key person makes sure that, within the day-to-day demands of thesetting, each child for whom they have special responsibility feels individual, cherished and thought about by someone inparticular while they are away from home.”

MOOC

The concept of a key person was reinforced for me this week with news of two MOOC events. Learning and Knowledge Analytics (LAK11) has been underway for a week. After my participation in CCK08 I have viewed George Siemens as a key person in my learning and trust implicitly his making sense of the world. I am impressed constantly by George’s energy as a guide and catalyst for learning. I will struggle to be an active participant in LAK11 and hope that legitimate peripheral participation is acceptable. There are some great resources available at LAK11 … a wonderful trove. I liked Dave Cormier’s post this week about the roles that can be played in a MOOC.

Stephen Downes is another key person in my learning. I have been writing about Stephen’s work from the origins of this blog. Many of my posts are inspired by links Stephen shares in OLDaily. Stephen is facilitating CCK11 with George Siemens. The course outline is here and week 1 news is here. I was interested to read George’s observation that “We are doing away with the central-space of Moodle – our final break from the LMS and will be using only the commenting feature within gRSShopper. While it might not seem like a huge change on the surface, it is probably our most significant experiment to date.” I found a newer version of Kroc Carmen’s post about RSS via a link in OLDaily.

Both courses are treasure baskets for me. It is great to start the day in Australia with news of goings on in Canada. I have an opportunity to explore ideas some fifteen hours ahead of convivial discussion in the Northern Hemisphere.

Conclusion

Sonia Jackson points out that Elinor Goldschmied’s first job was “in the junior school of Dartington Hall, the “progressive” school in Devon, where she stayed for five years. Dartington in the 1930s provided an exciting cultural and political environment which changed her view of the world.” The post that started me off on this reflection on treasure trove was written by a pupil at the Park School, Dartington. Beth was at the school in the late 1980s and like Elinor has been profoundly influenced by the possibilities of play in learning.

I am immensely proud of Beth’s entry into blogging. Her vision is to find ways to share knowledge and connect parents of young children. She, George and Stephen have a great deal in common in the altruism of connecting.


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Yarn Bombing: A Christmas Treat

My daughter Beth was given a delightful book for Christmas. Mandy Moore and Leanne Prain have written Yarn Bombing (2009) “the definitive guidebook to covert textile street art.” Ironically the image I have chosen from the book (page 85) is from a seascape!

Whenever Beth put the book down I was able to explore some of the wonderful stories and images in the book. I was delighted to find a manifesto created by Incogknito (page 106):

  • We anonymously promote knitting as adventure.
  • We aim to soften the edges of an otherwise cruel. harsh environment.
  • We juxtapose vandalism with the non-threatening nature of knitting.
  • We aim to readdress the nature of graffiti with a nonpermanent, nondestructive cosy medium.
  • If you don’t like it just unpick it.
  • We are a non-discriminating collective.
  • We aim to recruit members to tag on an international scale.
  • Actively contributing to a more positive type of global warming.

The manifesto concludes with the questions “Do you have too much responsibility in your life? Do you yearn for something pointless?” The manifesto suggests that if the answer is ‘yes’ then join the movement and become an outlaw knitter.

Some guerilla knitting appeared near my office at the University of Canberra and my response was in harmony with Mandy and Leanne’s introductory chapter:

Yarn bombing can be political, it can be heart-warming, and it can be funny, Most of all, yarn graffiti is unexpected, and it resonates with almost everyone who encouters it.

Reflecting on the book, its, images and its vibrant social essence encouraged me to think about how social media play a similar role although its pervasiveness (particularly in its Twitter forms) leaves some people with less resonance than the spontaneous joy of encountering yarn bombing.

(Page 81, Yarn Bombing)

I put the book down thinking about Jan ter Heide‘s observation that:

You can change the world a little by doing things, very small things, not big things, but very small things. It sticks in people’s minds. That was the start of this kind of idea (Knitted Landscape), to do something positive.

… and realising I had my 2010 resolution!