Pursuing the Organized Mind

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I have been described as a fast processor, divergent thinker, creative, the Tasmanian Devil (cartoon version) on speed and masterful multi-tasker.  I have also been informed my desk is too messy, my purse too full and my overstuffed bags should not be carried back and forth from home to school.  This being the case, I have engaged in a lifelong pursuit of the ultimate organizational system to allow me to expedite and coordinate family demands, professional responsibilities, social schedules, travel plans and provide the time to allow me to read, write, exercise, get outside and to sleep.  This Christmas, Santa, in his infinite wisdom, put Daniel J. Levitin’s book The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload, in my stocking.

Daniel J. Levitin takes the reader not so much on a tour of the evolution of the brain, but the evolution of the demands on the brain.  This book includes but moves beyond the typical self-help shelf about how to find keys and remember names. This book is neuroscience meets cognitive psychology.  It is exceptionally well researched and provides the information about the workings of the brain that provides important considerations such as time, relaxation, focus, sleep and engagement to organize aspects of home, social and the business life.

Levitin brings to light the objections raised to the proliferation of books by 15th century intellectuals:  The concern was “…people would stop talking to each other, burying themselves in books, polluting their minds with useless, fatuous ideas.” (p.15)  Our concerns have shifted with what to do with our addiction to internet, cell phones and social media.  New technologies are not to be dismissed, but considered in light of what we are gaining, what we are losing and how to best use them for our purposes.  The primary consideration is the working of the prefrontal cortex and the ways that we can focus our attentional systems and assist our memory system in coping with the demands being made on them.

Strategies are suggested to organize our world so we don’t get lost in the endless pursuit of keys and cell phones.  Bayesian probability models are explored through use of the fourfold table which sheds a whole new light on taking control of health related decisions.  I am committed to only multi-task the minutia that does not require focused thinking.  I will continue to call my Dad en route to the gym and unload the dishwasher while I make coffee, add to the grocery list and listen to Ted Talks.  The shift is that I will jot down ideas and things to do on index cards (to be sorted, categorized and completed later) and close the door in order to focus on tasks requiring more focussed thinking and to maximize my creativity.  Yet, the biggest take-away for me is making decisions about how I use time and organize based on information about how the brain works.  Levitin has been able to provide the information required to take control over the barrage of information that is tossed our direction on a regular basis.  I recently signed up for a two week online blogging class provided compliments of WordPress.  I have been able to sift through the myriad of ideas and incorporate the tools that externalize memory and are conducive to focusing my attentional system.  The mark of a great book for me is that it creeps into your thoughts and discussions long after it’s been read.  Great book!

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Let the Blogging 2016 Begin

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I love the new possibilities that come with each new year.  I have been blogging for several years now for a variety of purposes:

  • to discover unexplored terrain- the world of blogging
  • to share my adventure teaching and traveling in China with friends and family at home
  • to explore my own ideas and thinking
  • to develop my own writing skills by sharing with an audience
  • to share food, wine and experiences I love
  • to share subject specific information with literacy educators
  • to provide content with students
  • to encourage student writing and development of skills
  • to develop reading -writing connections
  • to share my ideas on a broad spectrum of educational issues
  • to develop a sense of community with my readers

It was interesting when I first looked at the WordPress stats and realized that people beyond my friends, relatives and acquaintances were reading my professional blog.  It was flattering but also gave me the sense that there were many like-minded people who I’d like to connect with.  I just don’t quite know how to do that.  My quest for 2016 is to figure that out.

I have a three pronged plan to develop a online community of people to challenge my thinking with divergent opinions, affirm my “ah ha” moments and shared realities, and provide information and thoughts on their own educational contexts.

  1.  I signed up to be part of School Administrators Virtual Mentorship Program (#savmp) in fall
  2. I signed up for Blogging 101 offered by WordPress. Thanks for pushing the card on this post, Josh!
  3. I’m scheduling time to respond to other bloggers.

The focus of my professional blog has morphed from a singular focus on literacy development to encompass a broad spectrum of professional issues and concerns.  I hope you’ll join me in my efforts to develop an online community of learners.

To Blog or Not to Blog

The perfect sunset.  The funny moment. The great jazz performance.  There are all kinds of reasons that people take to social media to “share”.  Tweets and blogs abound.

  

I started my first travel blog,  Hoodooquest.blogspot.com, on my first trip to China as a way of learning about this “new terrain of blogging” and to share my Chinese teaching adventure with family and friends.  My friend, Jan Wells, informed me she read it every morning with her coffee and the newspaper while I was in China.  Then I discovered that people I didn’t know, read it too.  This gave me the confidence to jump down the “rabbit hole” into the world of blogging.

I’ve always written a journal. I have volumes, starting with the pink Holly Hobby diary, on family, school, friendship, skiing, romance, food, travel, motherhood, injustices of life and grand celebrations.  They are highly personal and come with disclaimers that they should be destroyed and certainly not read when I die.  Yes, I have always had a flair for the dramatic.  Blogging can encompass a similar style of writing with strong voice and opinions.   However the public aspect of blogging requires an additional lens.  I am processing my own thinking, but very aware of engaging an audience.

My early blogs were specifically intended as teaching tools (T2fish.wordpress.com, tecumsehcomputerwhiz.wordpress.com).  They had specific learning outcomes and a body of content to present.  They targeted Tecumseh students but the stats reflected the interest was beyond the school community.  My next evolution of blogs were very similar to newsletters.   They shared relevant information with a specific audience and I tweeted them for accessibility to a greater audience:  For the foodies – SeriousIdulgences.wordpress.com; For educators and community members interested in social justice for children-  cultureofpeace4kids.wordpress.com ; For PDK members in Vancouver – pdkvancouver.wordpress.com.  However I learned most about engaging an audience when I used Kidblog to introduce blogging to gifted students.  Those kids created amazing blogs about their passions and our conversations about audience inspired interesting thoughts about reaching a like minded community of learners to provide feedback and mentoring.  I’m just beginning to touch on the things they taught me.  It was at that time that I started to actively follow blogs and the twitter feeds of people who inspire me and make me think, such as Jordan Tinney, George Couros, Chris Kennedy, Steve Cardwell and Ruben Puentedura.

This input, suggested reads, my professional  inquiries, collaboration with colleagues and students have made Inquire2Empower (carriefroese.wordpress.com) my most interesting blog to date.  I started writing it as a way to build community with other literacy educators in British Columbia.  It has emerged to a place where I not only share information but also develop my thoughts on a variety of professional topics including literacy, leadership, thinking skills, educational technology, human rights …basically all of those issues that are near and dear to my heart.  The public nature of my blog, holds me accountable for taking the time to reflect on my learning and articulate my thoughts. Once it hit over 2,000 views, I realized people were interested and I had developed an online PLN.

Inquire2Empower is very much question driven, as suggested by the name.  During my first temporary contract as a teacher, I was doing a maternity leave.  My burning questions were why did I hate teaching reading when I loved to read?  How could I engage students in the lesson with contrived, didactic material?  It taught me early on in my career that the pursuit of the answer is what has the real power to make a difference my practice.  Blogging and tweeting brought to light the concept of Virtual PLCS (Casey Reason 2015).  Social media has very much facilitated the formation of a wider community of informal groups that have emerged into symbiotic relationships.   The world of blogs and twitter have provided a structure for me to reflect on my learning but also provided opportunities to participation in Ignite Nights in Vancouver and Coquitlam that personalized the online connections.   It also opened up risk taking ventures like “One Word Burger”.  It has provided amazing choices of speakers for professional learning and the people attending are eager to participate.  It also allows for the follow up and consideration of the ramifications after complex sessions, like Ruben Puentedura’s SAMR model.   It has opened up opportunities for me to personally present to interested audiences.  Multiple pathways of learning.  Isn’t that what makes the world of education so interesting? Yes, for me, the answer is “to blog”.