Listening to others begins with self-awareness.

The longer I’ve been in education, the more I’ve come to understand that ‘worrying’ is just something we’ve always done.  Each generation of teachers has had its own conversation around what we are doing wrong.  If you are teaching in 2018, you’ve probably heard ‘screen time,’ spoken in that tone reserved usually for ‘root canal’ half a dozen times this month alone.

But let’s step back, and make room for a little balance:

Computers, tablets, and smartphones are multipurpose devices that can be used for lots of purposes. Designating their use simply as “screen time” can miss some important variations. The Common Sense Census: Media Use by Tweens and Teens identifies four main categories of screen time.

  • Passive consumption: watching TV, reading, and listening to music
  • Interactive consumption: playing games and browsing the Internet
  • Communication: video-chatting and using social media
  • ​Content creation: using devices to make digital art or music (keep reading here)

Experimenting with voice will make you more empathic.

The longer I’ve been working with blogging, the more I’ve come to see it as a tool for empathy. Students with blogs are encouraged to engage with content creation–they have a space to be creative, and a place to leave a trail of breadcrumbs for future learning. I’ve seen students build archives of poetry, piano practice, visual notes, odes to maths, photo galleries, and essays.  No, their blog may not always be a beacon of innovation.  Nor is my own.  Often this space is messy, ideas are fluid, and perhaps the seedling of an idea emerges not upon the date I click publish…but weeks later when I take the time to look back.  So what is this all about? It’s about experimenting with ideas, with listening to what I clearly still need to ruminate on. It’s also an exercise in self-awareness and design thinking:

Blogging can equip introverts and extroverts with a place to practice being conversant.

The old adage ‘think before you speak,’ comes to mind here: blogging is being more thoughtful about that conversation we might need to have with a boss, colleague, or student.  As someone who identifies strongly as an introvert, I see this blog as a dojo for my ideas.  This is a place for me to be curious, ask questions of others and self, curate reading, and give myself a chance to solidify (or rip apart) my opinions.  Often this dojo is what encourages me to speak up in a meeting or to not feel a need to be confrontational in disagreements.  Coming back to your own thinking month after month, year after year teaches you to be patient with ideas and concepts…and yourself.

Tonight I listened to Alan Alda talk about his new book on an episode of one of my favorite podcasts, Hidden Brain. You can listen to it here:

Alda has fantastic and funny anecdotes on his journey to better listening, and it is worth the 42 minutes.  He speaks of improv as a way towards more empathy: “The more empathy I have the less annoying other people are,” he says.  I think empathy is something we can learn, and I agree that we can train ourselves to strive for more empathetic lives.  In short, Alda’s advice is that we need to find different ways of connecting with others, different approaches to seeing others.  He wants us to notice more about one another.  In schools where  students and colleagues have made their reflection transparent, I’ve seen a dynamic shift, I’ve seen empathy sprout anew in places it wasn’t before.  Alda references ‘an impulse to pay attention,’ and I think when we are purposeful in setting out key opportunities to take snapshots of learning, we spark that impulse.

Ready to sink your teeth into some research on digital portfolios?

Here is a great place to start, and this is a wonderful follow up read.