How is collaboration fun?

I wrote recently on an unexpected byproduct of collaboration: Fun. But that fun isn’t always something that just happens, it is something that is cultivated. To cultivate collaboration and have a byproduct of fun, there were a few aspects set in place between my co-worker and I that brought that fun about! Many of these aspects are personality traits, but I think they are needed for most collaboration to be beneficial and fun.

Lose Inhibitions
You have to get rid of your inhibitions in true collaboration. For the fun to happen, and real collaboration to take place you can’t be wrapped up in your self. You can’t be self-conscious. There is no way to have a true collaborative spirit if you can’t be relaxed in who you are, and be natural. With those I am truly collaborative with, there has never been a sense of competition, but a sense of working toward a common goal. Everything is open and there is no restrictive feelings.

Risk Taking
In any collaborative venture that is fun, there is a sense of risk taking. That risk is partly because you see the big picture and are willing to shoot for the moon while still gazing at the stars. There have already been volumes written on taking risks, but when you are taking them within a collaborative mindset there is always somebody else to buffer the success and failures. Risk taking becomes fun because of the collaborative environment.

There has to be a big picture for the fun to start. You see it is the big picture that we, in our collaboration, are aiming for. Having fun seeing the pieces come together, starting to see the vision come to be, and sharing that with your collaborators is what is fun. Again sharing in the failures and success as the vision comes closer to be.

Agreed upon Mission
The mission is how we get to the vision. The mission is the particular steps that will be taken, the HOW TO part. Whenever there is a conflict that arise within our collaborative ventures, we step back and look at the agreed upon mission. The mission holds us together. We already agreed upon this mission and we can now rest in the fun of following it through. Having the mission keeps us focused on achieving the vision.

Lunch (something not work related yet sharing life together)
For me (us) one of the biggest things that makes collaboration fun is discussing Life, The Universe, and Everything (yes we have discussed Douglas Adams too). We spend a lot of time at lunch talking about things that have nothing to do with Educational Technology. It is in these moments of discussing the Bob’s (Dylan and Marley) when we often times find answers that have plagued us. It is in the fun of discussing Doctor Who when we learn about each other and how we can communicate better with each other. You see, that is key, communication. In any relationship Communication is most important, and building a friendship over lunch (hundreds of lunches) allows for our collaboration to be that much more fun.

Finally there needs to be compromise. If there is not compromise then there can not be collaboration. I have to remind myself of this often. I have these ideas, and I think I know how they should be, but often times I have “missed” some pieces, or not seen an aspect that my collaborator has. I need to be willing, from the onset, to allow my ideas to be compromised, and hopefully made better! In compromise, a complete vision will come to be. Collaboration is a lot of give and take. If there isn’t both then there is no collaboration. If all you do is GIVE and get nothing in return time and time again, you are not collaborating. If all you do is receive and never give, the same is true. The willingness to compromise is key to collaboration.Fun has been an unexpected byproduct of collaboration, but it didn’t come by chance. It came by having a vision and shared mission. The collaboration was built upon many lunches where we allowed our real selves to show, our real lives with all our frailties. Through risk taking and compromise our collaborations have been made better and ultimately more fun!

Note: It goes without saying that I am indebted to my closest collaborator Jacob Standish. Without his collaboration and commitment to all these things, our success (and failures) wouldn’t be nearly as fun as they have been.

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Fun: An understated aspect of 21st Century Learning. Collaboration.



I deal in the world of 21st Century Learning Skills from an education perspective. I work with the concepts of 21st Century Learning daily, thinking about how teachers are going to incorporate them, teach them, and inspire students to apply them in every aspect of their life. My friend (Jacob Standish) and I have distilled the overarching aspects of 21st Century Learning Skills down to 3:: Create, Collaborate, and Organize. What I realized this weekend, while reflecting on the past weeks, is that 21st Century Learning is also, and always has been, FUN! 

The past month has been a culmination of working through ideas Jacob Standish and I have been playing with since November 2010. We collaborate on everything. That collaboration has been (and continues to be) FUN! Fun was not the intention. We didn’t start collaborating together because we were looking to have fun, we collaborated together because our ideals seemed in line with the directions we both wanted to go with district implementation of 21st Century Skills and Learning. Fun has been in unexpected aspect of our collaboration. When we are creating for our district the collaboration is fun, it is something I look forward too!  

This collaboration wasn’t forced on us, it came about after some time hanging out. A teacher (or boss) didn’t say “You two work together” or “You will be collaborating with Jake.” Our collaboration developed over time. So often Teachers “force” the aspect of collaboration with their students when collaboration can (and should) happen naturally, organically (like the web itself). I do collaborate with others, groups and people that I am asked to work with on projects, as we also ask our students to collaborate with different individuals. And I seek others out to collaborate with, both at work and through my PLN. I believe fun should be a byproduct of these collaborations. Does that mean that EVERY ASPECT of the collaboration is fun? Usually not. Jake and I usually get into a weekly argument about something we are collaborating on, but it is because we are passionate about helping our teachers in the district. As we develop opportunities for our students to collaborate we should consider fun as a byproduct. 

When people are collaborating and having fun the products they are creating end up as a much better product. Outside the education world I’ve seen this to be true too. I’ve noticed this in the music industry for certain artists. The music industry is one big machine of collaboration. When artists truly collaborate and have fun the product they have to show for it is by far a much better product. Take Eminem’s Album Recovery. Whether you like Eminem or not the songs on this album that he has collaborated on are better because of the collaboration. The collaboration is seamless, the hard work is obvious, and the fun shines through on these songs. Included is a playlist of some of his collaborations that highlight the quality and fun because of the collaboration. 


Collaboration is a 21st Century Learning Skill. We are asked to collaborate weekly with co-workers. We ask our students to collaborate with fellow students. The product of true collaboration should be better because of the collaboration that took place. The unexpected fun that ensued will show through in the products. As we all continue to explore implantation of 21st Century Learning and teaching in the 21st Century we shouldn’t overlook the understated aspect of fun. [Now, how that fun comes to be? That is for another post.]

Posted in Educaiton, Educational Technology | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments in the classroom: Create Collaborate Organize w/ Students & Music

Students are into music. Most teachers are into music too. There are a couple music web tools I share with teachers to help them teach. Pandora and Rhapsody are the two main tools I share with teachers. They booth meet a little different need, relatively cheap, and they are assessable in my district.  The problem is these are primarily consumption tools. We use these tools to listening to music for classroom management, to set a mood into the classroom for study or excitement. Now imagine using artists music (new and old) as a way to create not just consume.

I came across Playlist this week. At first glance its like all  “the rest” of the web music apps (because now there is more than Pandora and Rhapsody out there). What do these music apps have in common? You pick your music, and let it play (up to two hundred songs per playlist for Playlist). But upon further look, there is a whole lot more to Playlist that the others are no where near yet. In my opinion Playlist is the epitome for music in connection to 21st Century Learning Triad: Create, Collaborate, Organize.
The coolest aspect of Playlist is the embed code. You can take ANY PLAYLIST you create and embed it into your website (blog, wiki, google site, ect.). Think about the learning potential here in ANY subject! If I want students to listen to and compare Jazz Female Singers. I create a playlist in Playlist, and then embed that list in my website. Students then can listen to what I want them to and discuss. If you are discussing a time period with your students incorporate the music from that era, easily with Playlist. As your students study a time period, find the music on Playlist, and share the playlist. Students can become immersed in the time and hear what things were like.

The embed and sharing is powerful. You can tweet, facebook, and social media your playlist like crazy. But there is more.

Group Playlist. Students and teachers together can create shared lists. Ask students to have a hand in the music they will hear while taking a test, or reading silently. Involving students in the climate of the class through music. Every student can have a say in the musical surroundings. Take this opportunity to have students discuss why they choose that song and how they feel it fits the playlist you are trying to create. Using the gmail resource Jake Standish and I discussed in July’s itWeekly 118 ( you can create accounts you control that students use to facilitate collaboration.

Create Playlist
Collaborate on Playlist
Playlists themselves are organized content.

Share your ideas of how you plan to use Playlist as a way to incorporate 21st Century Learning Skills in your classroom? What lessons come to your mind for students when you are able to hand them the music via the web to interact with?

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Simplify Your Life Even With An iPhone

I’m connected. I’m wired. I’m plugged in. I’ve got more ways to contact me than needed (Multiple Emails, Multiple Phones, Google Voice, Multiple iOS devices, ect.). And yet I STRIVE to make my life simplified. Is it Possible? Yes! But you have to make conscious choices, especially if you own an iPhone.
If you look up the word simplified this is what you find:
To make simple or simpler, as:
a. To reduce in complexity or extent.
b. To reduce to fundamental parts.
c. To make easier to understand. (source:
The Simplified Life than would be one that is made simpler, reduced in complexity, and my favorite concept here would be to reduce ones life down to its fundamental parts. Is this possible while “plugged in” 24/7? By far no it is not. If I simplify my life down to its FUNDAMENTAL PARTS it is not these “things” that surround me, but the PEOPLE that surround me. I wrote about the concept of People Over Production in a previous post ( In this thought I want to share one of the best ways to simplify your life with an iPhone. Truly silence your phone.
The best way to simplify your life and focus on its fundamental parts when you have an iPhone is to truly silence your iPhone. Notice I say TRULY silence your iPhone. You see, in the past, I have turned the ringer off, and I have turned the volume down, but the iPhone has this unique ability to call to you anyway. It calls you in the silence with a BUZZ sound. It buzzes on the counter, it buzzes next to me while I sleep, it buzzes in the middle of presentations, and it grabs my attention away from the Simplified Life. What is this “buzz”? It is called VIBRATE.
When the iPhone vibrates it pulls me out of the moment I am! It tries to takes control of my actions (and used to win). In the second of a Buzz (Vibrate) thoughts rush through my head: Who is it that just wanted to get hold of me? Was it a call? Was it a text? Was it a SMS from another app? Was it a HeyTell from cousin in Germany? Was that my name mentioned on Twitter? Why did my phone Vibrate? A simple “glance” at my phone will tell me. 

All the while I was doing something else prior to this vibration, this buzz. I look around me and I see a world of people that are doing the same. They are in the middle of conversations, and they reach into their pockets. They are at meetings and a buzz sound is made. This is NOT a simplified life. This is NOT a “productive” life either. It is a distracted life, with little focus, and even less true accomplishment. Oh I know people will argue that they are getting things done (when they reach for that buzz, that vibrating phone), but I ask to what extent? and to what sacrifice? are they “getting things done.” 

I’m a strong proponent of the Sabbath Manifesto ( Been involved with this movement for sometime (I first bookmarked it in Diigo in March of 2010). Participate weekly, and of course yearly at the national day of unplug. I have taken and tried to ingrain the concepts a little further in my life. Technology should not dictate to me when I will answer its call. There is a time and place for everything (, We (Instructional Tech, Education Tech) need  to model and teach our Administrators, Teachers, and Students how to handle technology appropriately. We are the masters of technology. We still have the ability to choose and focus on the FUNDAMENTAL PARTS of our life, and not let technology master us. 

Here is how to TRULY SILENCE YOUR iPHONE. Turn vibrate off too. That means if the sound is off, and the vibrate is off, your iPhone will not make one single sound. I have been living this way for about 3 months, and it has been GREAT! All the power of the iPhone, and I am the master of it, it is not the master of me. To do this touch “Settings”, then touch “Sounds”, and then make two more choices: Silent-Vibrate switch to OFF, and further down switch the other Vibrate to OFF. (Pictures attached.) 

Simplify your life! Trust me, your life will thank you for it…


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Curriculum Design Backward Design Critical Thinking

I enjoy designing classes, courses, and learning. I enjoy developing a curriculum that has the end in mind (vision, goal, ect) and then adding in all the pieces that are going to get us (the class) there. I have always thought of assignments with the end in mind. Backward Design has been my method of creating assignments and developing PD’s since I’ve had the privilege to lead others in their learning.For the past couple of months I have been working and developing with my co-worker and true “partner in crime” on a course that allows our teachers (Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools) to get a full breadth of learning 21st Century Learning Skills, without burdening them, and giving them many opportunities to attend. Understand that we have this grand plan of how to help teachers and still NOT over burden them. There area  few “ends” in mind as we developed this overarching course. It is not by accident, but by design that this course is helps any teacher where they are at. You see Jake Standish and I care a lot about what we do. We plan, we think critically, we research, we explore, we even fight and argue! (This week there was quite an argument that broke out in the Studio we film and plan in. I believe Jake won, but in the end let me tell you Jake does NOT like a bulleted list with only one bullet!)
The point is we put our blood, sweet, tears, and reputation behind everything we do. We take risks and try new things. The reason we are able to do this? Because we have an end goal in mind. We KNOW where we want to go, we know what the final product is that we want, and then we start to design to get to it. We’ve done a lot of the hard work (critical thinking) and then we are able to piece it together. The outcome? Usually a well crafted presentation, PD, course, and vision.

Start with the end in mind requires you to know what you want…

PD Course:

(Click on details to see the details)

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Why Blog? – The question was asked of me. I answer #edtech

I was asked a couple of weeks ago by a colleague if they should start a blog. I thought long and hard about it. As I wrote my response I decided it was worth developing into a blog post. 

I think blogging is a natural extension from the twitterverse (or ones PLN). For me it seems kind of strange to be going “back” to blogging, because blogging is so “early” Internet. Yet, in the arena we are talking, professional educators, I believe blogging is valid and needed. Blogging allows for you to express your expertise in a more full way. I admit it, I love Twitter. I love working in 140 characters, and after you have experienced it, you realize it is a great way to learn from so many people and get connected. But sometimes you just want (need) to say more, explore more, or share more of the story. I think this is where blogging comes in. There is a few questions to ask though. First being: Why? Why blog? 

Jake Standish (@edtechstandish) and I spend a lot of time talking about this kind of stuff at lunch. We are educators and care about the educative “spirit.” We desire to continually grow and stay in touch with teachers even if we are not in the classroom as much as we used to be. Something Jake has pressed us on is “Why are you doing that?”. Its not a bad question. The question at its core is: For what purpose are you going to do that activity (blog)? What is the mission or vision you have for blogging? Since we began working at the district level back in November 2010 Jake and I have explored this concept of Vision and Mission. We believe everything we do should have a vision and purpose. Without a vision or purpose you will not have a direction. It may seem strange to think about that in terms of a blog, but it is how I think. What is the vision you have for a blog? How often do you plan to blog? Why do it? When you are able to articulate that idea a little bit more then I think you will know why you want to blog. 

Why do I blog? (Not that you are asking.) I blog because I like to write. I like to think about and reflect on the things I am doing. I run across so many great ideas all week I like to delve a little deeper into some. I also believe I have something to say (even if nobody is listening). I write about things I am interested in. I also blog to set the tone of why I am in the profession I am in. There is nothing hidden on my blog. I am spelling it out why I am in Instructional Technology. I am blogging my journey. Sometimes it is a reflection upon what somebody else has written, and sometimes its a tweet that needed further exploration. Ultimately I blog because I like to write and get my ideas out about what I do. I blog because I like to be creative. 

Blogging is hard work though. You should know what you are getting into. I work long hours and don’t blog doing work. I do not believe it is part of my job (quite yet). I believe it helps me do my job better, but I don’t get paid to write a blog. I have a family (Wonderful Wife, and Three Boys) that I want to pay attention to and have fun with. My family is the most important aspect of this life, and I will pay attention to them first. That being said, I found it difficult to blog as much as I wanted! So, with much discussion with Jake, we decided we would try to write one blog post a week to start. This has worked for me. I get ideas and write them down in Google Doc’s. I have 10 half written or unedited blog posts in a Google Doc collection. That is where I keep my ideas and keep adding to them. I tell you this to set a goal for yourself. Blogging is hard work, like being active on twitter, but set a goal and be realistic and please don’t let it take over your life.

Why should teachers or educators blog? Off the top of my head the obvious one is MODEL. We want our students to write, we tell them how important it is to write “professionally”, but do we? I think we need to model the writing and practice of writing for students, even if it has to do with our profession and not a particular “assignment.”

I think Blogging is the natural progression for anyone in a PLN. In fact this week I spoke on that at the CMS conference. The PLN (to me and for CMS) can involved these four things: Yammer (CMS Connections), Diigo (organizing the web), Twitter (PD 24/7), and Posterous (Blogging). Which brings up the next question: Which blogging service to use. [Edited 20110807: I have switched my love for blogging to WordPress over Posterous} 

So my thoughts, if you actually read that whole thing, is that you should blog. Have a vision or mission of why, set realistic goals, and enjoy the creativity that flows.

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Ready to present #cmsitcon on Personal Learning Networks … Obv Twitter is part of the convo. How do you use your PLN?

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