Supporting Serendipity

“Be there when the spark happens and catch it before it burns out. Try to help with getting people the time and space they need to explore, connect, and reflect. Figure out ways to reward it: we don’t always show that we value the divergent. We can’t create or plan for serendipity. We can’t schedule accidents. But we can work to help create an environment in which opportunities can serendipitously occur.”                                                                                -Jane Bozarth

Have you ever embarked on one learning path just to end up somewhere entirely different?  Where formal learning is usually planned, informal learning depends on people sharing ideas and collaborating with each other, whether on or off the job and it is through these actions that the actual learning occurs.

The majority of how we do our jobs comes from informal learning.  Formal training only accounts for a small portion of how we learn our jobs.  Workshops and trainings can demonstrate the base knowledge needed to perform certain job tasks, but not until you are in the thick of things–making mistakes, observing others–can you figure out how things really work on the job.

Author, eLearning coordinator, and proponent of Social Media for learning, Jane Bozarth writes a monthly column, Nuts and Bolts for Learning Solutions Magazine and often talks about the unplanned, impromptu, and flat out serendipitous way we learn when we are not actually in a classroom.  In this monthly article, Causing Serendipity,  she discusses how many individuals struggle with this concept of serendipitous learning because our minds are programmed to think in terms of formal learning and acquiring knowledge through planned efforts in workshops or trainings, not the spontaneous discovery that can happen by simply observing or talking with a colleague.

While we cannot plan serendipitous learning, Jane maintains we can give people the “time and space they need to explore, reflect, and connect”.

Can you think of a time when you ended up discovering something important by accident? Can you give an example of serendipitous learning you may have experienced?

Have a good afternoon,

Diana Good


Updated Feat-cheers – Microsoft Windows 10- How Microsoft used Social Media

We have lived in a wonderful time… A time where our best friend, the Internet, came to existence with a meme and an innuendo followed by kittens and our sleep schedules!  Continue reading Updated Feat-cheers – Microsoft Windows 10- How Microsoft used Social Media

Better Student Blogging

blogI shared some of my initial difficulties with getting middle schoolers to blog in authentic, meaningful ways, not just to complete the required 2 posts and 2 comments, which was typically the way of my assignments, but to get them to think deeply about what they were reading and to give their peers constructive responses.

I believe that there’s value and learning in blogging that doesn’t happen as readily or immediately with other kinds of writing.  I really liked Kevin’s post about “Social Constructionist” nature of blogs.  In it, he writes, “blogging allows students to construct various social “artifacts” (textual, pictorial, video, etc.) that help them learn and influence culture, both in- and outside of the classroom.  In addition, the social nature of blogging is constructivist in approach, meaning that, as students interact, they are influenced by their interactions, with and without the teacher.” I agree, but I wasn’t convinced that I was setting up my blogs in the best way to help students construct thought through their reading and writing of blog posts.

I then came across this blog post by Mark Sample from The Humanities and Technology Camp, which bills itself as a non-conference (open-source, but in the real world!). In it, he shares what he’s had students do with blogs, methods that he’s tired of but that sound pretty interesting to me, where he varies the structure, roles and/or rhythms of his class blogs.  His goal, one that resonates with me, is to “have students blog and make it worth their while and ours too.”

He then opens up the discussion to others and includes the collaborative notes.  All very helpful.  I’m saving Sample’s post for my next classroom blog.

Marissa Dietrich

Image by Kristina B, CC License

Backchannel: A Digital Conversation

While researching different blogs, I was looking for something different to discuss, perhaps a concept with which I was unfamiliar.  Enter backchannel.  A backchannel is a digital conversation that occurs concurrently with some sort of live event, like a conference, a lecture, or some type of instructor-led training.  People participating in a backchannel do so on a mobile device with Twitter or some other social media site as a platform.

In his book, The Backchannel, presentation guru and author Cliff Atkinson explores how audiences are using Twitter and social media to transform live presentations.  The audience no longer sits quietly taking notes; instead they are commenting, fact-checking, searching online resources, and engaging with each other in ways that were not possible before mobile devices and social media.

In education, a backchannel provides shy or quiet kids a way to ask questions without having to speak in front of the class.  I wish there were backchannel conversations when I was in middle or high school, as I was quite shy and almost always had a question that I was afraid to ask for fear I would look dumb.  Backchanneling would certainly have given me the chance to “speak up” without speaking at all.  Although Twitter can work well for back channeling to a wide audience on the open internet, closed tools such as Back Channel Chat or TodaysMeet are geared toward the classroom, where the teacher can control the content.


In her blog, Edutopia, Instructor and Communication Coordinator at EdTechTeacher, Beth Holland describes how the backchannel can give “every student a voice in the mobile blended class room”.

How do you think the formal classroom can benefit from using backchannels to engage students?

Diana Good

Social Constructivism in eLearning: Moodle and Blogging


In thinking about things to post, I remembered something I read on the Moodle Background site written by Martin Dougiamas that gave me incite as to why blogging has value in education.  In describing why he developed Moodle for educators, Dougiamas explained:

“I am particularly influenced by the epistemology of social constructionism – which not only treats learning as a social activity, but focuses attention on the learning that occurs while actively constructing artifacts (such as texts) for others to see or use... I have a deeply-held belief in the importance of unrestricted education and empowered teaching, and Moodle is the main way I can contribute to the realization of these ideals.”

Like moodle, blogging allows students to construct various social “artifacts” (textual, pictorial, video, etc.) that help them learn and influence culture, both in- and outside of the classroom.  In addition, the social nature of blogging is constructivist in approach, meaning that, as students interact, they are influenced by their interactions, with and without the teacher.  Since Moodle activities like social forums and chats allow for students to create and discuss social/virtual “artifacts” they are similar to blogs, which allow for creative social learning via posting and commenting.  I have been a strong Moodle supporter since I started managing and using the tool in 2005.  The philosophy and open access to this tool has remained impressive to me.  I can see similar qualities in blogging activities for students, which a teacher could easily use in conjunction with Moodle. I enjoy considering not only what tools work in education, but also why they work.  Which online teaching tools work best for you and what is it about them that help students learn?  What added value do the tools you use bring to the classroom and what philosophy or research supports their use?  Having faced such questions from teachers and administrators who are slow to take on technology projects, I have found that having a solid pedagogical response can help when promoting technology integration in the classroom.  Concerning Moodle, I also enjoyed reading Social Constructivism as a Referent.  My two favorite lines from this reference are the first two points:

  • “All of us are potential teachers as well as learners – in a true collaborative environment we are both”; and,
  • We learn particularly well from the act of creating or expressing something for others to see.

Moodle and blogging activities are similar in that they allow for students to be teachers and learners by sharing their own thoughts and creations.

Kevin Britton

Note that logo images at the top of this post come from the moodle website at and the wordpress website at

Ideas on Cross-Curricular Blogging

When your principal says the words “blog” and “cross-curricular” in the same sentence, do not panic.  

It seems that cross-curriculum planning has been around forever; and goes in and out of style like pleated pants.  As with many learning initiatives, some teachers can make it work without a hitch, while others go in pure panic mode.  What would these same teachers do if their administrator adds the words “technology,” social media,” or “blog” to the conversation?  I predict a pure meltdown.


The following blog entry at  Learning Bird Ednest will help any teacher with ideas on how to incorporate blogging and cross-curricular planning.

After reading this blog, I gained greater knowledge of how any teacher can incorporate blogging into their cross-curricular planning.

If you are a teacher, do not panic… the people at Learning Bird has your back.

-Joe Vilcheck