Archive for the “On the Personal Side” Category

Quickly – for those 2 or 3 of you who are still reading / subscribing:

I’ve changed homes – yay! Please come visit me at my new space:

I’m very happy to have been with Edublogs all this time but I must say their lack of features and my increasing need for more space to expand my portfolio really just propelled me to self-host.

I do hope you join me in my new space! It’s looking pretty simple at the moment but stay tuned and check back often as there will be SEVERAL changes in the coming days and weeks! I’m very excited to share with you and hope to see you there!


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Hello? Anybody home?

First things first — I am still alive and around.

Yes, this blog has been neglected as of recent months. But I have been around on Twitter, Skype, IM, and a few other places. I haven’t disappeared altogether. It’s just that I find it so hard to properly upkeep this blog when life gets insanely, ridiculously busy. I wish I could be the kind of person that hammers out blog posts whenever I have an idea. But I just can’t. Am I a slow-blogger? I’m not sure. I think it’s just that I am constantly in editing / re-writing mode. So, for me to write a quality post usually takes a long time — at least a couple of dedicated hours, and not fragmented hours. I need time all in one space to write.

Secondly — are you still here?

Is anyone still reading? Or have you all stopped checking into the blogosphere and simply are relying on Twitter and Facebook to keep you in the loop? And really — is anyone still reading my blog? I’ll be honest, if I were a reader of connect. create. question. , I’d be wondering what the heck is going on.  So, here is what has been going on since May 15, 2009 (the date of my last post).

The Nut-shell Version

  • The Final Four Weeks: Not only were the final weeks of the school year at UNIS Hanoi busy with exams, assessments, and clean-up like the end of any academic year, but they were particularly emotional for me as I prepared to leave UNIS and Hanoi, my home for the past three years. There is not enough space here for me to adequately describe my feelings about leaving. (I’m terrible at endings.) Let’s just say that it was difficult, scary, and yet exciting on so many levels. I was a bit of a mess for a little while, trying to sort through all the debris, both figurative and literal. Not to mention packing up my house, cats, and international life to return to the very developed world of the USA. I realize I am highly condensing a very intense time and by doing so I am probably not giving it the full respect it deserves, but I am not certain that this blog is the outlet for such things. Thus, I leave it at that for now…
  • Travel: My final hurrahs in Asia included a lovely trip to Hoi An, a true getaway to my favorite island of Bali, and a brief check-in with a dear friend in Bangkok. All were fabulous, memorable, and a perfect send-off.
  • The Death of the iBook: In the middle of a much-needed creative writing session — in fact, in the middle of the 2nd draft of a poem about the lessons of grief, inspired by Sark — my beloved 5-year-old iBook crashed and died, as I sat on the balcony of my bungalow on Nusa Lembongan, sipping a Bintan and gazing at the sunset. I cried.
  • The Return: because my visa documents for study in the USA could not be sent to Vietnam (postal woes), I had to return to Canada for a few weeks. Plus, there’s family and friends of course, whom I wanted to see. I was able to take in the Calgary Folk Festival, a true treat, and mix & mingle with several cool people whom I love dearly. It was good to be home. I spent a week at my grandmother’s house and thoroughly enjoyed picking garden lettuce, playing bocce, and eating my grandmother’s cooking! Deeeee-lightful. Yet, the stress of The Visa Papers lingered… would they arrive in time?
  • The Fall: shortly after my return to Calgary, I received word that one of my cats, Scout, had fallen off the balcony of the 8th-floor apartment where she was being cared for. She did not survive the fall. This heartbreak arrived the same day as I learned that Michael Franti had to cancel his Folk Festival show due to illness, and I got a $95 parking ticket because my ticket was not completely upright on the dashboard. It was a crappy day all around.
  • The Move: within a very short time, It All Happened. The Visa Papers arrived, I booked a flight, and BOOM — I landed in NYC.

And Here We Are

So, I’ve been in NYC for about 3 weeks now. I have a (very small) apartment, and I am a registered full-time graduate student in NYU’s Educational Communication & Technology M.A. program. To say I am experiencing rapid lifestyle changes across the board would still be an understatement. I am adjusting to a major life upheaval. The main challenges for me so far, and in this order, are:

  1. adjusting to being in a very developed consumerist society, after having witnessed abject poverty in far-flung corners of this planet
  2. wrapping my head around being a full-time student, with no $ coming in and lots going out
  3. wrapping my head around being a full-time student in the 21st century, and understanding how to read, take notes, and BE a student in a tertiary program when it has been 11+ years since I’ve had to think about academia. I feel like I am learning a new language and modality, and it’s difficult.
  4. finding my niche in NYC, a huge intimidating city with many micro-communities
  5. managing my time between unpacking boxes and all this school work that is already piling up, while at the same time trying to make new friends (I know very few people here) and take in all that this city has to offer
  6. finding space in my Teeny Tiny Apartment for the whack of stuff I have accumulated over the last 8 years overseas — and that’s after 4 boxes already went in storage in Calgary. I have already called Manhattan Mini Storage for a quote…

The Education: What’s in Store

Classes started last week. So far, so good. (I still have not unpacked all my boxes, nor visited Ikea, but they will have to wait.) I haven’t even bought all my books yet. But my classes seem pretty cool and so do my classmates — a very diverse group of people from a plethora of backgrounds. My courseload this semester:

  • Representation & Interaction Design for Learning
  • Educational Design for Media Environments
  • Cognitive Science and Educational Technology
  • Professional Applications of Educational Media

(You can find descriptions of these courses here.)

So far I am finding my readings to be really heavy on the design aspect, which for me is good. Coming from an educator’s perspective, my understanding of the design process has all been about instructional design and I am quite comfortable with it. However, looking at design from the perspective of media and technology in learning is something new to me, and I daresay it’s one of the main reasons I’m here. :) But more on that later. I will be blogging about my readings for several of these courses, and will save such thoughts for those posts.


Thanks for reading, if you’re still kickin’ around! I can safely say that I will be blogging more often now that school has begun. Several of my professors have requirements for us to journal about what we read and learn (I love that they implement pedagogy like this) and I intend to use this space for some of that.

P.S. I do now have a new MacBook Pro and an iPhone, and quite happy about both!

Image credits:

Is Anybody Home? Free Girl Looking in Window by D Sharon Pruitt under this license

Bathmophobia III by Tarnishedrose under this license

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Many of you who follow me on Twitter know that besides being an teacher dedicated to MYP and international education in general, I am a yogini. I have been studying yoga for only about 4 years, but in January 2008 I made a choice to get really serious about it (if you’re curious about the story behind that decision, IM me or Tweet me and I will share with you, as it was very much an “a-ha” moment). Since making that decision — only a little more than a year ago — I have learned so much about yoga, meditation, the human body, and myself — all dimensions of myself, including physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual.  To say that yoga has been transformational for me would be just beginning to describe the journey I’ve been on. It has been, and continues to be, a tremendously rewarding learning experience in the most holistic way imaginable. All aspects of myself are addressed through yoga. And believe me, this was not how I intended it to be. I began to take yoga seriously more or less because I wanted to do something physical and to feel strong. Yet, my practice has evolved into something so much deeper and more meaningful than just the physical asanas.

One of the many wonderful teachers I have had the pleasure of working with is Twee Merrigan. Twee is a dynamic and focused teacher whose openness and generosity is not only overflowing, but infectious. Her energy is genuine, and she wants her students to be genuine, too. I think this is what I appreciate most about Twee — that she expects you to be no one other than who you are. However, Twee recognizes that sometimes things get out of balance. And, let’s face it: things are often out of balance for various reasons.

Let’s look at education for a minute. (Not forgetting, of course, that this is an education blog, first and foremost!) One of the reasons I began this blog was an effort to balance some inequities I saw that were unaddressed in The System:

  • the unfairness of some prevalent methods of assessment and grading practices
  • the treatment of viewing and speaking skills as secondary to reading and writing
  • the lack of access to technology in schools, or — even worse — the use of abundantly available technology being used to “do” teaching and learning the way we did 15 or even 5 years ago, despite the fact that our world has changed
  • the lack of student choice in “standard” classrooms, being primarily driven by choices made by curriculum, teachers’ backgrounds, or admin decisions


Twee has recently written about how to, in the words of The Doors, “Break on through to the other side.” She suggests we re-name Global Warming and Economic Crisis to Global Balancing and Economic Re-alignment. Think about this for a minute. This is really what we are trying to do: we are trying to balance everything in the world.




So my question of the moment is this: How do we re-align education? 

My initial response is, “I have no idea.” My second response is, “I have a thousand ideas!” And then I get overwhelmed — out of balance again. 

Secondary questions, beneath the “How do we re-align education?” umbrella are:

  • Can we re-align education? or does it have to be completely re-designed — that is, do we have to throw it all away and start all over?
  • What parts of education need the most alignment attention? Is it the issues of academic vs. creative knowledge, as Ken Robinson emphasizes in Out of Our Minds? Or is it something else?
Thus ends my initial post on how I hope to approach education issues: with the hope of re-aligning and putting things in balance. I don’t profess to have any answers — only more questions. But please feel free to post your own ideas in comments. Or Tweet ‘em to me. :)


And stay tuned… 


Image Credits:


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If you’ve been following me on Twitter for any substantial length of time, you’ll know that I’ve been searching for, preparing documents for, and applying to graduate schools for the 2009-10 academic year. Well, after returning from a 4-day field trip in the jungle with 66 sixth-graders, I received this email (abridged) from the program director of NYU Steinhardt’s Educational Communication and Technology program:

Dear Adrienne,
The ECT Faculty Admissions Committee is pleased to inform you that you have been accepted into the Fall 2009 Master of Arts class in the Program in Educational Communication and Technology. This is our pre-notification to you. You will receive your official acceptance package from the Steinhardt Office of Graduate Admissions within the next week to 10 days.

The ECT faculty hope you continue to view the focus of our program — the design of technology-based learning environments, informed by theory in the learning sciences — an excellent match with your professional interests and goals.

You Can Go Your Own Way by andy in nyc
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I am thrilled! Although my first two schools did not accept me — I was initially very disappointed to receive rejection letters from both Stanford’s LDT program and Harvard’s TIE program — the idea of going to NYU is quite exciting! They have a very cool research area: C.R.E.A.T.E., which stands for Consortium for Research and Evaluation of Advanced Technologies in Education. And hey – New York! I have never even visited New York, let alone lived there. Big changes ahead…
And for those who might be going through something similar, I will include here my Statement of Purpose, which I submitted as part of my (very thorough) application to NYU Steinhardt.  But please note: unlike almost everything else on connect. create. question., this work is copyrighted — that is All Rights Reserved.

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October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month by Natalia Gustafson
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While this blog is normally for things of a personal-professional nature, I can’t help but tell you about my latest personal involvement: Cook for the Cure.

My birthday is tomorrow (well, I guess that’s today now), and to celebrate, I am hosting a Think Pink theme party* to raise money for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. I’ve already got donations coming in — my friends’ and family’s generosity is astounding! It is so exciting and makes me want to already start planning another one! But if you, dear reader, would like to donate to the cause and sponsor my party from wherever you are, you can, too.

Visit this link and you will be directed to my party details page. Credit card details can be entered on the website, and if you are paying taxes in Canada, this donation is tax-deductible and you will receive a receipt.

*This party is being held in honour of my aunt, who has beaten breast cancer twice (she was my age when she had her first cancer), and my cousin who is at 38 suffering through a second round of Inflammatory Breast Cancer, a very scary type of breast cancer.

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[Edit: if anyone can help me properly use footnotes, I'd be much obliged! Thanks!]

Ok, so we’re on what, Day 10? And I am still thinking about Day 7.

Here’s the thing: I’ve been falling behind because I am, on some level, not finding the Comment Challenge to be such a challenge.

Let me explain. The purpose of the Comment Challenge is to:

. . . [become] better blog citizens . . . by actively participating in conversations and [share] your learning, especially with those new to blogging . . .

And I get that, I really do. That is, in fact, why I signed up for the challenge. Indeed, I even was initially intimidated by the challenge:


And I even understand the purpose of the Daily Activities, which is to

challenge our thinking, writing and . . . aid in the process of becoming better commenters.

But here is my problem: I think I am already a good commenter, without the Daily Activities.
Task 1 was a good starting place, and definitely uncovered some areas for me that I need to focus on in my commenting. Basically, after the Self-Audit I felt more mindful of how I make my presence understood as I go about life in the online world, interacting with people who have never met me. I realized that at times, my tone is unclear and perhaps not accurate, and so I have been more cognizant of what I say and how I say it.

Tasks for Days 2 through 6 were things that were not unusual for me — i.e., I do these things anyway, fairly regularly. So I didn’t really, officially, do them as part of the Comment Challenge.1 And then I got to Day 7 (even though today is Day 10) and thought, Hmm… what am I really learning here?


  • I often make comments on others‘ blogs that are perhaps even more insightful than what I post here on my own blog. Therefore, I think I am better at responding to others’ ideas than coming up with my own. Question: What does that say about me? Am I not that innovative? Or am I just too social?
  • I don’t need prompted tasks to make sure I am expanding my PLN, communicating with the people in it, and respectfully disagreeing with people. Perhaps others do, but I don’t.
  • I comment enough, but definitely since the challenge began, I have been commenting more — which I guess was the point, so … ta-da! Mission (thus far) accomplished.

And one more question for anyone reading this: Is there a word which means “not having discovered something new and epiphanous2 when one was expecting to?”

1(Even coComment was already installed on my Firefox browser at home, though I had not enabled it in a while. The only new thing I needed to do was enable it on my tablet at school.)
2Ok, I made that word up.

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