Changing Landscapes: Teachers As Knowmads Part 1


 “Rider” photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

Over spring break I happened to come across a Tweet on my Twitter stream about an interesting book to check out (Knowmad Society). Little did I know that I wouldn’t be able to put this book down until I had finished it. Some of the ideas proposed in the book have profound implications on societal and educational systems. One of the most interesting concepts of the book was that of a Knowmad.


1. Are not restricted to a specific age.

2. Build their personal knowledge through explicit information gathering and tacit experiences, and leverage their personal knowledge to produce new ideas.

3. Are able to contextually apply their ideas and expertise in various social and organizational configurations.

4. Are highly motivated to collaborate, and are natural networks, navigating new organizations, cultures and societies.

5. Purposively use new technologies to help them solve problems and transcend geographical limitations.

6. Are open to sharing what they know, and invite and support open access to information, knowledge and expertise from others.

7. Can unlearn as quickly as they learn, adopting new ideas and practices as necessary.

8. Thrive in non-hierarchical networks and organizations.

9. Develop habits of mind and practice to learn continuously.

10. Are not afraid of failure.

Page  24 of Knowmad Society


Australia, Adelaide; Light on the waters photo credit: kool_skatkat via photopin cc

As I thought more and more about the concept of what a Knowmad is, I began to think about how vital it is for educators to embrace the notion of being a Knowmad. We are entering job hunting season across Canada and the U.S. There are new teachers graduating from Ed faculties and experienced teachers simply looking to make a change all on the job search. It’s a stressful time for those looking for employment in such a tight market where nothing is guaranteed.

Many of the points in the definition of a Knowmad remind me of my Twitter PLN and the fantastic educators I have connected with. We work together, share ideas and are always willing to help  each other regardless of location. The relationships and interactions afforded by our online and offline networks allow us gain new knowledge and to apply it in our classrooms the very next day. We are always learning and trying new things out. Having a supportive network has allowed me to gain the courage to try things and to not fear failure.

I am still pondering the idea of teachers as Knowmads and many of thoughts shared in Knowmad Society.  Once I have pondered some more I will write-up another blog post.

What do you think of the idea of teachers as Knowmads?

Interesting Articles to Read:

“What I am Afraid of” by Ben Grey

“Stop Following Your Passions.. the Celebration of Work” by Dean Shareski

“Don’t let your change agents become free agents” by Natalie Foley

“How managers can keep their top talet.” by Maynard Webb

“How to innovate like a Jedi knight” by Diego Rodriguez


Your Classroom: A Thriving Ecosystem?


  Spanish Harbor Key: Mangrove Ecosystem, Florida Keys

photo credit: Phil’s 1stPix via photopin cc

It’s funny how life works. You ponder an idea for weeks and then one day it suddenly becomes quite clear to you.

For the past few weeks I have caught myself sitting in my classroom enjoying how smoothly things were running. You know that zen moment when you realize what a happy place your classroom is and how things are going just the way you envisioned. And then… days like today come by and show you just how good you’ve had it for a while. It shows you just how hard you have worked to reach those moments and how small changes in routine can throw you right off-balance and send things out of whack for the day.

I have been pondering the metaphor of the classroom being an ecosystem for a while now. It all started over spring break after I read the Knowmad Society book was and confronted with new ideas for large societal and educational shifts. The ideas in the book seem daunting at first but in essence (for me) boil down to one thing: we are all human. Many of the issues society is grappling with today stem from the fact that we forget that we are all human: we feel,  we love, we get angry, we think, we laugh and we  learn. We are all connected by our humanity.

As I was mulling over those ideas I came across this thought-provoking post on how businesses can become more adaptable: “To Become More Adaptable Take a Lesson from Biology”In the post it essentially talks about how businesses can become more efficient and adaptable they could take a few cues from biology.

The biologist nerd in me was quite intrigued by this post and it struck me that as a teacher that my classroom really is like mini-ecosystem. Yes, an eco-system is a complex thing but so is my classroom. We could go further with the analogy to a our school, divisional and educational system all as ecosystems. But for now just go with me on the classroom analogy here for a few points…

In a classroom there are many different things at play if it were as simple as a “You sit,  I speak and you learn” kind of interaction, teaching is a job that could be done excellently by anyone. But teaching is not that simple and our classrooms are in fact very complex systems. There are constant interactions with external and internal forces, there is a flow of energy and knowledge that happens in every room. How you manage your classroom will decide how balanced your room looks and feels like. Change happens all the time in natural ecosystems and invariably the same is true for our classrooms: new students, changes in routines, new policies. The list could go on and on. In our classrooms there are always external forces at play. We feel pressures from time, admin, parents, curriculum and a whole plethora of other things. These forces impact the way we interact in the classroom and the things we choose to teach.

Your relationship with your students can have a huge impact on your classroom ecosystem. Have a lack of respect and you lose the balance that is vital for a classroom to thrive. If you are too strict and you can stifle avenues for self-expression and learner directed learning. One of the things I have hoped to foster this year is to have open and respectful avenues of communication. Classroom relationships also help determine the energy of a classroom. If things are always negative you will have an environment students will be reluctant to share openly. Sharing helps deepen learning and provides different perspectives on ideas. When all learners are happy our classroom is happy and the learning flows.

What does it take to make your classroom a thriving eco-system?

For me it would come down to balance. Just like many other things in our lives and in any natural eco-system, for things we require balance. Too much of a good thing can lead to disaster. Too much of a bad thing never quite works out either.

So here’s to balance and finding our inner zen tomorrow.

Digital Identity: The Big Bad Web & Why It Needs You Part 1

Before you read through this post try one thing:  Google yourself. What do you see? Do you like what you see? For some of you that will have been an eye-opening experience for others you already knew what to expect. Perhaps it revealed things that you thought were long-lost in your history or maybe the person that popped up simply isn’t  you.


“241/356” photo credit: kennymatic via photopin cc

Having an online presence helps empower you to have a voice to an audience bigger than you could ever imagine. If you don’t embrace your voice and identity others will shape it for you or things you never thought others see will be what will start to represent you online. The more educational voices there are online the more we can do to counteract the negative stereotypes people may have of educational systems and teachers.

Slide from: Digital Identities: Who are we in a networked public?

C.C @bonstewart 

 As a professional it is important to have an online presence because at one point or another “You will be Googled”.  Before I go to a conference I usually Google the speakers and topics they will be speaking on. I like to know who I am going to see and to figure out if the topic they are presenting on is of interest to me. Before I apply for a job I look through the prospective employers digital footprint to see if they are a good fit for me. I hope the same is true of employers and that they check digital footprints.

Your digital identity is yours to shape.

Your presence should fit your purpose.  Context matters. Some like to keep it strictly professional while others like to mix in bits of their personal narratives with what they share with the world.

Slide from: Digital Identities: Who are we in a networked public?

C.C @bonstewart  


Reasons to join the online education community:

There is a growing community of educators embracing their digital identities and joining various services like: Twitter, Google+ etc. The online education community has worked hard to build a culture of improving practice by being exposed to a wide variety of ideas and resources. The sharing of ideas ranges from sharing links, blogging or engaging in online chats about educational topics.

These online communities have also allowed people to form Positive support networks something that may be lacking in some workplaces. As a rookie teachers it is nice to know that some of the things you go through are completely normal and not to give up. Some days you really do need some kind words to lift you up and help re-inspire you. These networks can also help you collect resources that would have taken hours to collect on your own. Try sending out a request for resources on an educational Twitter hashtag and you will more often than not will be pleasantly surprised.

These communities also allow for respectful professional dialogue to occur on a daily basis. The beauty of the online community is that it breaks down barriers and allows our different educational worlds collide.  Principals, teachers, counsellors, school board members and educational theorists  are all able to discuss and share ideas. These connections help change paradigms and change thinking around different topics. It can also reinforce things that we are unsure of  and help us grow in confidence professionally. These conversations are important to have as a whole profession because classroom demographics and society are changing. These changes are happening fast and we need to come up with creative solutions for many of the challenges we face as a global society. It’s not all kumbaya in these debates there is real open dialogue happening – no need to tear anyone down for the thoughts and ideals they hold.

Having a positive online presence allows you to be a model for digital citizenship in your own classroom. How do you teach digital citizenship without actually practicing it? If you can walk the walk then you are able to talk the talk. Which is more powerful: showing your students a short video clip about commenting etiquette or to show them examples of how you comment online?

With your voice and presence you can help us refine ideas, change paradigms and hopefully make our educational community stronger.

To see part 2 of this blog post with tips and tools to get connected head on over to: Miss L Whole Brain Teaching

Oh yes… and I would be remiss to mention that @MissLwbt is someone I have connected with through the wonderful world of Twitter and Blogging. We have met once but routinely bounce ideas off of each other and push each others thinking. Twitter Changes Lives.

Related links and articles:

Knowmad Society – Book that tackles the changing landscape of learning and work in our ever globalizing world.

Presentation By Bonnie Stewart: Digital Identity: Who are we in Networked Publics.

Who Controls Teachers’ Professional Learning by Joe Bower

Education to Advocacy. Reflections on #etmooc by Jeff Merrell

How Social Media Sharing Makes The World a Better Place. By Kay Bisaillon

Digital Footprints, Connectivity and The Trails Left Behind


Commuter Belt photo credit: jenny downing via photopin cc

This morning as I have been getting back into the blogging groove I have started to think about the digital footprints my students are creating as they grow up. The artifacts that they are creating now will be there forever. As such it is important as ever to educate students about digital citizenship and the footprints they are leaving.

I have made it a conscious effort to have open and honest discussions with my students about digital footprints and connectivity since the start of the year. In fact one of the first conversations we had about our digital footprints in my classroom centered around Facebook and the importance of privacy settings. It takes a few deep breaths and a lot of courage to start the conversation bu in the end it is well worth it. I asked my students what they knew about privacy settings and what we should and shouldn’t share on the internet. It was a bit of an eye-opening experience for me and my students alike. I was very pleased that although they were only starting grade 4 many had clearly already had the same discussions with their parents and knew the protocols associated with sharing and digital etiquette. Some however clearly had not had these conversations and told me the next day that they had checked their settings and closed up their accounts.

It’s no secret I love using tech in my classroom to help deepen my students learning and I have had them create accounts to enable them to use various tools in our classroom. Because I teach grade 4 the accounts I have had my students sign up for are accounts that are connected to a central classroom account and are easily monitored by me. E.g. Kidblog and Edmodo. This gives a cushion for mistakes and learning to occur in a safe space and when needed important conversations can be held with students. My somewhat conservative approach to sharing in my classroom fits in with my comfort level as a new teacher and perhaps will change as I gain teaching experience.

In my classroom the rules around account creation and sharing are pretty simple:

  •  Usernames consist of first name plus a number.
  • Pseudonyms are okay as long as everyone in the class knows who it is.
  •  We don’t give out personal information. E.g. First and last names, location.
  •  We don’t post pictures of our faces despite having all our media releases signed. (This also goes for sharing pictures of students on my blog and Twitter account, I don’t post them)
  • We use appropriate language and tone when speaking to communicating on the internet.
  •  I have scaffolded the use of Twitter in my classroom so students are able to Tweet once we have reviewed what they are sending out. The account is locked and we only follow other classrooms.

Although I know it is just is a start, it is my belief that if I empower my students with knowledge and the tools to navigate and share on the internet safely they will be proud of the footprints they leave and hopefully be able to avoid some long-lasting mistakes.


Next up I am going to tackle proper attribution and creative commons with my students. Any ideas or suggestions are most welcome!


Related Resources:

BrainPop Internet Safety Video:

Common Sense Media: Digital Citizen Poster