Tag Archives: connections

SOLC Day 23: Making Connections

We’re still at it–the “it” being remote learning while our schools remain closed. On our 6th day I’ve learned some things that I didn’t know when we started this last week.

  1. Remote learning is not the same thing as teaching. I’m able to push out learning activities and provide feedback, but I’ve yet to get the teaching part in order.
  2. Technical glitches are a given. There is a constant barrage of technical questions from my students and their parents. Where is the attachment? It says file not found! My attachment won’t load. Where do I do my writing? My stream is gone!
  3. Related to number 2, we are lucky to have responsive tech support in my small district! Today my email cries of help were met with a productive Google Meet session with one of our tech team members. I got help troubleshooting, established a reasonable work around, and even squeezed in an extra question about Google Meet!
  4. I love Flipgrid! Posting a prompt each day–both written and as a video that I make as an invitation–allows my students to show each other a glimpse of their interests at home. They seem to enjoy it…and so do I. I just wish there were a way to comment that wasn’t limited to making a video back. (If any of you know a workaround for this, please share!)
  5. My students love to chat! I knew that they loved to chat–as in verbalize–in the classroom. But I learned quickly last Monday just how much they love to chat (like texting) on the Google Classroom pages. Which also means that I’ve been thinking about ways for them to connect that are less annoying that hundreds of emails in my inbox.
  6. So today, I decided to schedule an impromptu classroom meetup through Google Meet. I posted a note on our classroom page, letting kids know a couple of hours in advance that I would post a link to Meet…and gave brief directions about how to get on. I decided not to email parents this first time, just see who would come and figure out from there how it would work. Right on time, about half my students along with my co-teacher and our science teacher starting to pop onto my screen. At first with no volume…but eventually at full volume. I was able to get them to all mute themselves and then I called on them one by one to unmute and tell us all how they were and what they were doing. They absolutely loved being together…and then toward the end of our time one student discovered the chat feature–so I explained where it was to all of them and let them go wild chatting. Emojis began to fly along with the Hi and I’m here kind of posts they seem to love best. I gave them a one minute warning on the chatting and then wished them all well and signed off. I’ve already had an email from a parent thanking me for making her child’s day!
  7. I still haven’t figured out how to get everything done–including my report cards–in a reasonable time . But I know more about how to manage this new learning context than I did last week. I’m thinking about how to use our Meet tool in two different ways–one for a sort of “recess” like today, and another to support student learning in more specific ways. I’m still worried about the kids who are not as present, staying on the fringes of this remote learning thing. Are they having tech problems, are their parents too busy trying to work from home to help them, are they home alone without help? I hope to answer some of those questions in the days to come.

What’s happening in your learning context? How’s your homeschooling or remote learning going? What is working for you? What isn’t? What connections are you making?

Influences: The Power of Audience

I wasn’t going to post today.  After 61 consecutive posts I was going to take the day off.  But today I found myself reminded of the influence and power that comes with having an audience, no matter how small.

I started the day with a twitter post from Kevin…

Screen Shot 2019-05-02 at 7.51.32 PM

And then a response on Facebook from Ronald…

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When I got home tonight, I came across a blog post from Sheri where she highlights parts of my reflections on writing (from yesterday’s post) that resonated with her.

As I think about those responses I realize another important aspect of writing that I forgot to include in yesterday’s reflection:  the importance of writing in a community of writers.  In addition to Kevin, Ronald, and Sheri, there are myriad others who influence my writing and thinking–some who respond to my writing, some who post their own writing, and some who read my writing and don’t respond but make a passing comment to make me realize they read what I write.  Some of these people I only know from our digital connections, some I know both from in-person encounters and digital forums, and others I see in person on a regular basis.

Knowing that others will read my writing helps to keep me accountable…not only to others but also to myself.  And reading the writing (and other kinds of creating) of others, inspires my writing.  This mutuality of being in a community bring sunshine, water, oxygen, and fertilizer to my thinking and my writing creating the perfect conditions for blossoming.



Connecting to Learn and Grow: March’s Photo-a-Day Challenge

I’ve been studying the concept of Connected Learning for a couple of years now, and have spent lots of time working to understand how the information in this infographic is relevant to me as a learner and how it might also impact my students.

Connected Learning

And through my studies I have become a connected educator…and a connected learner, especially when it comes to photography.  I learn so much from my fellow photographers and following their blogs.  Joy and Margaret and Janis and Cee and Naveen and Connie and Lynn and so many more people inspire me, teach me, encourage me, and support me as I explore what it means to take photos every day, striving to improve my skills and challenge myself.

So for this month I thought it might be fun to highlight connections in our #sdawpphotovoices photo-a-day challenge.  The connections might be environmental like those that Janis makes. Janis is passionate about keeping the beach clean and regularly posts gorgeous photos of trash she collects on the beach using the hashtag #litterati on Instagram.  Here’s an interesting post called Yuck! she wrote about the trash she collects.  Yesterday, maybe because of our stormy weather, the beach where I do most of my walking and photographing was much trashier than usual…and like Janis, my husband always walks with a trash bag to pick up the trash we find along the way.  Here are a couple of pieces of trash we picked up (and disposed of) yesterday.

love lost litterati

found float litterati

Many of the photographers mentioned above highlight the beauty of the natural world in their photos…often capturing the uniqueness of the place where they live.  Connecting with the local environment means paying attention to the details that others might overlook.  I’ve been pretty obsessed with seagulls lately and have tried to capture in photos the variety of seagull behavior I observe. Quirky is often hard to snap…but if you look closely, you can see that this seagull is shouting out directions to the others around.  What you can’t see is that there are lots of other seagulls nearby, seeming to respond to his directions!

seagull sounding the alarm

I’ve also noticed the ways the gulls gather during low tides, milling around together in pretty large groups.  They don’t seem to be eating, but do seem to enjoy hanging out together.  I notice when I walk toward them, they start walking away from me.  If I get too close, they often take to the air!

seagulls with clouds

And there aren’t many lifeguards on duty in the winter, but the few who are there make regular runs in their trucks when the tide is low.  I always love seeing the red lifeguard trucks on the beach!  (No one else drives on our beaches…and during high tides, there isn’t much beach exposed!)

lifeguard truck

Other photographers I connect with highlight the urban experience in interesting and unusual ways.  I find myself having to stretch to take interesting pictures in the suburbs where I live.  (I’m much better when I visit interesting urban, metropolitan places.)  But I did notice the balloons against the cloudy sky over the newly opened Petco.

balloons over the strip mall

And these rows of flags when I looked up.  The flags remind me of swimming lane lines…and I purposely included the palm tree peeking into the frame!

flags and palm

Then there are the photographers that take gorgeous images of flowers.  I love macro shots…but yesterday I only had my phone with me when I came across many native species seeming to thrive after the morning rain as I headed to my car after presenting at a science conference on a local community college campus.  These California golden poppies caught my eye!


So March’s photo-a-day challenge is to connect…with another photographer, with nature, with the environment, with architecture, with your place, with the unique quirkiness of the subject… and more.  Here is a list to help inspire you as you connect.

1.  weather

2.  plants

3.  work

4.  transportation

5.  environment

6.  animals

7.  people

8.  inspired by a photograph

9.  nature

10.  household

11.  sky

12.  architecture

13.  interaction

14.  explore

15.  color

16.  sound

17.  celebration

18.  green

19.  ugly

20.  ordinary

21.  beauty

22.  connecting to art

23.  taste

24.  local

25.  exotic

26.  pets

27.  tree

28.  signs

29.  children

30.  movement

31.  still

Let’s spend March making connections…to each other, to our place, to ideas and passions.  Let your interests drive your subjects…and your peers support your continued growth. Pick a single photo to post each day or create a gallery of your efforts. Post a photo or gallery each day with the hashtag #sdawpphotovoices to Twitter, Instagram, Flicker, Google+ and/or Facebook (the more the better!), so that we can all enjoy the posts. If you would like to expand your exploration, write the story that the photo tells, compose a blog post about a photo, a week’s worth of photos, write a photo essay, or make a video or slideshow. You are invited to create a pingback by linking to this url or post your blog address in the comment section. It’s fun for me to see what others are doing with the same prompts I am using!

You can post every day, once a week, or even sporadically throughout the month…whatever works in your life. You can post your pictures in the order of the prompts or post the one you find on the day you find it–or make up your own prompt for the day or the week! You get to make your own rules…and find your own connections. Be sure to share and tag your photos with #sdawpphotovoices so we can find them!

Let’s connect through our photos, our passions, our goals, and our interests.  I can’t wait to see what connections you make through your lens!

Blog Birthday: A Reflection

Today marks one year since I began this blog.  I began with a 30 day blogging challenge for myself–creating an urgency to blog every day for 30 days in a row.  And in retrospect, that was a smart move to help me establish a habit of writing every day, day in and day out, even when I wasn’t feeling like I had anything to say.  In the last 365 days, I posted a blog post 293 of them…that’s a little over 80% of the days in the year!

This morning I had plans to read all 293 posts and then create some kind of reflection based on that reading.  And while I think it’s a good idea to go back and read all my posts, I only managed to get through the first 30 days before my life called and I was off to the beach and running those errands that just don’t get accomplished during the work week.

(Making time to photograph and play pushes me to create more balance in my professional and personal life…a good thing, I think!)

I’ve noticed lots of bull kelp on the beach in the last week.  There is something beautiful and fascinating about these large floats…definitely evokes the wabi sabi for me!

bull kelp

So instead of reflecting on the year’s worth of posts, I decided to highlight five from those first 30 days that continue to speak to me…and I know that I returned to their themes throughout the year–and may continue to return to them.

1.  Dandelions: A Photo Essay – I noticed that I had a number of posts about my fascination with the ordinary, and what I learned about myself and my students by paying attention to small details.  This particular post continues to be one of my favorites.

2.  Fireflies – This is another post about something little–that many people take for granted.  I loved learning that fireflies are the most ordinary of insects, and the most extraordinary!  We southern Californians miss so much by not having these lights in our everyday lives!

3.  Spaces for Learning – Hmmm…I just discovered I have two posts from last July with the same title!  I like this one that talks about “third spaces” for learning, outside the spaces claimed by hierarchies and organizations.  These are the spaces we claim for ourselves as learners.  I’m not done thinking about this idea… and it keeps emerging over and over again in my life…as a teacher, as a learner, and as a human.  (The other post was about Genius Hour, which is related…)

4.  A Small Orange Bead – This post is really about the power of connections and connectedness as a learner.  Opportunities to learn in a community create deep pathways and provide support that matters to learners.

5.  Boys and Bears – There is a physicality to learning that we sometimes forget as adults.  My observations of boys at the polar bear exhibit pushed me to think about how physical interactions have the power to pique curiosity and deepen learning experiences.

A year of blogging has taught me so much about myself as a writer, as a learner, as a photographer, and as an explorer in the world.  It has heightened my senses as I lean closer to my surroundings to understand them and myself through my writing and photography.  When I chose the blog title, Thinking Through My Lens, I wanted to play on the word lens to represent more than a camera’s eye…I also wanted it to represent my own biases, questions, and goals.

I look forward to another year of Thinking Through My Lens…and hope you will continue to bump your thinking against mine, sharing your insights and discoveries so that we can learn more about our world and ourselves, together.


Airport Reflections

My blog has been dark these last few days as I’ve taken time to ready my home and my head for holiday celebrations.  With school in session through the 20th and home renovations that same week, little things like cleaning and decorating…and bigger things like Christmas shopping got pushed off to after the break began.

As I headed off to the airport yesterday (the day after Christmas) to pick up my oldest son, I found myself thinking about the ups and down of the airport.  Anticipation, dread, excitement, drudgery…they are all part of the airport experience, depending on the reason for being there.

Traffic was light and parking was easy as I arrived at the airport.  I parked in my favorite 60 minute parking zone and knew I had a bit of time for some photographs before Andy’s plane landed.  I thought I might see crowds of people ascending and descending the escalator either arriving in our sunny city or departing for parts unknown.


But instead, as you can see, it was pretty empty.  As I got to the top of the escalator, I realized I could see the cityscape in the distance…as well as the sea of cars parked in the parking lot. (The illusion of emptiness was just that, an illusion!)


Crossing the bridge from the parking lot to the terminal I noticed the line of shuttles below. Who will get into these cars?  Are they visiting family? Vacationing? Working? Were they for visitors to the Poinsettia Bowl?


When I arrived in the terminal, I immediately went back outside (into the 75+ degree weather) to take photos of the people.  You can see that there were lines of people checking their bags…and there were also lines inside of people checking in for their flights.


And then I noticed this big crowd of people dressed in red.  I first saw them near the baggage claim…and then they headed outside together.  There were lots of them and they all wore red t-shirts that said something like, “Brown Family Christmas 2013.”  There were little children in red shirts, teenagers, adults, and some grandparent looking folks too.  Once outside a big fancy tour bus pulled up and they all began to load their bags and themselves onto it. And I wondered…did they all come from the same place to spend Christmas in San Diego? Did they come on different planes from different places?  Do they do this every year?  Who makes the arrangements and the t-shirts?  I was reminded of a colleague I met this summer whose family collects dues to put on a family reunion each year…something that has never occurred to me!


And then I got my gift…my son arrived!  Now that my children are grown I don’t get to spend every special occasion with them.  I share them with their wives and in laws and jobs and friends.  And instead of feeling like I am missing out, I feel grateful for the time I get to spend with them.  And in that moment yesterday, the airport was one of my favorite places!

And even though Andy is here, the airport will continue to be present over this next week as my daughter-in-law arrives tomorrow and my other son and his wife board a plane to fly back this direction the following day.  And then, all too soon, they will go back to their homes and their lives and their work.

I’ll be boarding a plane in not too many days too as I head off to meet with colleagues about some interesting ideas for our work.  Many people focus on either the excitement of the airport as they travel off on exotic vacations…or the hassle as they get stranded, stand in long lines, or searched in the security process.

But the reality is, in so many ways the airport connects us.  It shrinks the miles between us and brings us together…as families, as colleagues, as friends.


Airplanes bring my kids home to me…and who can complain about that?


Today, out of necessity, I had to scrap a plan and invent another without notice.  For teachers, this is something that happens with some regularity and most of us pride ourselves on our flexibility. And I love it when that spontaneous plan blossoms into a wonderful learning moment.

We always have picture books at the ready to read to our class.  Some are set aside for specific purposes and lessons, others we know we want to read but are waiting for the perfect time to present itself.  Last year we read Spoon by Amy Krouse Rosenthal–a book that our students loved.  We revisited it a number of times throughout the school year for different purposes…from mentor sentences to a situation for opinion writing.

At the end of the year, I came across a new book by Amy Krouse Rosenthal: Exclamation Point. So today, in that moment when I needed a plan at a moment’s notice, I picked up Exclamation Point, reminded my returning students (two thirds of them) that this was the author of Spoon, and started to read.  I love those moments when each student’s attention is fully engaged…and they were hooked by the bright yellow cover and the whimsical smiling exclamation point. They noticed right away that there wasn’t a title…at least not written in words. The exclamation point itself stood as the title.


We read and discussed and noticed and connected all the way through the book.  We delighted in the words and the pictures and the message.  And we were inspired to write our own stories about punctuation.

And then later in the day we managed to get packed up and ready to go home with enough time for a book before the dismissal bell.  Overwhelmingly, students wanted me to read Spoon. It was sitting near Exclamation Point…and suddenly today became the day for a mini author study.  The second and third graders were treated to an old friend, and the first graders were anxious to get acquainted!

After reading, students volunteered their observations, connections, reactions, reflections. They had so many thoughtful comments and ideas for their own writing.  And one student pointed out that Amy Krouse Rosenthal wrote about ordinary things…in wonderful ways.  We started thinking about all the ordinary things we might write about and how our writing could transform them beyond the ordinary.  They were excited to write as the dismissal bell rang today…I hope they sustain that excitement long enough to actually get to the writing.

I’ve also been noticing the power of the ordinary.  Yesterday’s post was about the transformation of an ordinary photo into something I was willing to name as art.  And today on five minute friday the prompt is ordinary.  Today in the classroom the ordinary business of reading a book because an extraordinary opportunity to notice the magic of writers and writing…and turned students into active learners making meaning for themselves.  Today I was reminded that ordinary is a state of mind, and each of us has the power to re-look and re-see the ordinary in new ways.  I love when that wonderful learning moment in the classroom means that I learn too!