What will you do?

Along with several other millions, I follow Humans of New York on Facebook. They always manage to share the stories that should be shared, and right now is no exception. They have turned their focus to the refugee crisis throughout Europe, and although heartbreaking, these are stories that need to be told and heard and acted upon.

One reader’s comment summed it up beautifully:

“When I read about the Holocaust and the terrible things that happened to people I always wonder what was the rest of the world doing then?  We are the rest of the world right now. What are we doing?” (Syma Khan via Facebook).

So, what are we doing? What are you doing? What am I doing? Are we discussing? Are we reflecting? Are our actions putting humanity first?

As educators, what are we doing? Are we truly raising global citizens or are we buried in the daily stresses of safe and secure classroom life so much so that tragic times such as this can’t be squeezed into our daily class schedules? How can we expect our students to do better for their future if they are not educated about the issues we are faced with today?

I feel that even though we can’t possibly hope to have an answer to solve this problem, discussing it is necessary to demonstrate the importance that everyone around the globe is playing a role in the refugee crisis. We are either actively viewing, reflecting and contributing how we can or we are actively convincing ourselves this is someone else’s problem.

I know what type of citizens I would like my students to grow up to become.

Happy teaching.

(Thanks to Alana Besley for sharing the link)

Resisting liminal spaces . . .

I have been involved in discussions lately investigating the place and purpose of liminal spaces (specifically in education), particularly in light of the uncertainty surrounding Syrian refugees.

In my googling (aka home “researching”), I came across an interesting article. It wasn’t specifically about liminal spaces, or Syrian refugees for that matter. However, something she wrote struck me as I have been reflecting on what liminal spaces represent to many of us.

Although change is a necessary aspect of growing, learning, evolving and living in general, most people are uncomfortable with it. Change doesn’t always represent something bad. In fact, it can be something wonderful (e.g. becoming a parent).  However, many people don’t face uncertainty with ease. Liminality is defined as the “quality of ambiguity or disorientation” (Wikipedia, 2015) – being on the threshold of something new, but it hasn’t quite happened yet. Ambiguity and disorientation are rarely qualities that one strives for in their daily lives. Most prefer certainty, structure and security, with the occasional “planned” change to liven things up a bit.

However, how do we cope nowadays when we are faced with liminal spaces? As I read this article, I wondered if part of our coping is that we become more consumed with something else instead – “So many experiences. So much we’re doing. So busy our brains. So fragmented our lives and so fluid and so busy. We see too much. So much, it’s hard for something to leave an impact.” (El-Katatney, 2015)

Today, we are able to distract ourselves from reality with just the touch of a finger to a phone.  For many people, this means that we can even steer ourselves mentally away from the uncertain, ambiguous spaces that we may be experiencing. Not permanently, of course, but enough to not be consumed by it perhaps.

But, what happens when you can’t escape that uncertainty, that ambiguity, that disorientation? For many of the refugees who have had to flee Syria for their lives have lived ‘civilised’ lives up until recently. They have had businesses, education, careers, hopes and dreams. They, too, were possibly able to distract themselves from uncertainty a few years ago with their own busy lives. But, when that ability to remove yourself from a situation – physically, mentally or emotionally – is not possible, how do you cope then?

I wonder if that is perhaps why some people nowadays struggle to relate to the plight of refugees and countries barricade borders and refuse asylum in their country? Have we become so used to resisting our own liminal spaces and places of uncomfortable uncertainty that we cannot truly empathise with the situation refugees are facing every day? No one can fully understand the trauma that a refugee may have experienced (or still be experiencing). But I do wonder whether we would be more inclined to show humanitarian kindness if we were more familiar  with liminal spaces ourselves.

As an educator, how does this affect me? Well, I wonder whether we should be encouraging students to allow themselves to be accepting of not having all the answers. To be open to experiencing uncertainty from time to time. To role model to our students that life isn’t a neatly mapped out pathway for everyone to follow like a board-game. To stop and reflect for a moment. Perhaps it would be helpful as teachers to encourage our students to recognise their own areas of ambiguity and disorientation (academically or emotionally); help them identify their feelings towards those spaces; and demonstrate how to embrace that some liminal spaces are in fact the start of something good. Perhaps that would be a good place to start to challenge what seems to be a resistance to experience liminal spaces in today’s westernised world.

Happy teaching.




As the saying goes, don’t judge a book . . .

This week I have been involved in discussion about the Syrian refugee crisis and what role education will play for refugees, both now and in their future.

The future of many refugees is uncertain, to say the least. But, it is important to remember as educators to avoid presuming that because someone is a refugee it means they are uneducated.

There are many types of education, both formal and informal. As a refugee, reliable and regular access to formal education may certainly be interrupted (or in some cases, non-existent). However, it is also possible that many of the people being displaced are in fact educated professionals – teachers, accountants, medical professionals, and so on.

Although an “everyday teacher’s” direct contact with educating refugees may be remote in many settings around the world, it will be a teacher’s job somewhere to welcome, support and educate a refugee student when they join their class and school. And it is for those teachers that I post this reminder, even though this applies to everyone you will come in contact with as an educator.

everyone you ever meet Image 1 (2014)

Happy teaching!



Image 1 (2014). Retrieved from http://hollymueller.blogspot.com.au/2014/07/digilit-sunday-online-collaboration.html



Learning Spaces E-Presentation

As part of my ongoing study into Learning Spaces and their role in education today, I have created an online presentation about learning spaces. To view it, please select the red, highlighted link above and ensure you have your sound turned “on”.

Attached is the full transcript for the presentation, if needed.

Kayri Shanahan – Learning Spaces Presentation TRANSCRIPT

Happy viewing!


Salmon anyone? My journey of learning online.

“Salmon – more than just a fish”.

I was asked to reflect this week on whereabouts I felt I was within Salmon’s Five Stage model of online learning and I was reminded of the above quote that my lecturer shared from a prior student . For some reason, that made me compare my online learning journey to the challenges faced by the actual fish – fighting against the odds, swimming upstream for miles, ultimately reaching their target (hopefully!).

Perhaps online learning isn’t so different, after all? Students may agree that trying to succeed and thrive in an online learning environment can be very similar to that of the fish fighting for survival. At first, and without support, it can feel very daunting and foreign learning in the online space, particularly when it is not facilitated by someone familiar with the a model such as Salmon’s Five Stage Model (Salmon, 2011, p.31).

As an online student myself, I agree that when a facilitator has not supported me adequately as part of a larger learning group, nor put the strategies in place to foster and transform that group into a learning community, my online learning experiences has been far less enjoyable, felt somewhat solitary and my interactions with others were out of necessity  (i.e. “tick and flick”).

In fact, prior to learning of Salmon’s Five Stage Model, I may have gone so far as to assume that this was what online learning was meant to be – an individual exercise with limited interactions with fellow students.

However, as someone who has now had the benefit of studying online under the Five Stage Model, I can proclaim that I have seen the light!! Not only has my thinking of the online learning space been adjusted, so has my approach to it. I now see not just what I can gain personally, but moreso what I can contribute to the creation of something far more authentic – a Community of Practice (Smith, 2011, n.p.) with my fellow students and the facilitator.

This realisation and the subsequent change in my attitudes and behaviours has helped me progress far quicker through the stages in my current online studies. I have tried to resist the urge to “stalk” in the shadows and instead offer support and contribute –  even if I am afraid of being wrong.

The fear of feeling inadequate in an online space can be heightened, especially if you bravely post your thoughts, feedback or opinions and no response is received. However, the reality is that even by doing this you are still contributing to your own learning, and most likely to that of your peers.

Reflection on how different my current experience is to some that I’ve had before is eye-opening. I feel that I have been eager to dive in and get on with the learning that I know is possible once my fellow members and I become a learning community of our own. I have progressed quickly past Stage (Access and Motivation) and I feel I have tried to incorporate Stages 2, 3 and 4 all together (Online Socialization; Information Exchange; Knowledge Construction) (Salmon, 2011, p.32). I have certainly been motivated to access our online learning environment and eager to get to know my peers. However, as I have done this, I feel I have tried to incorporate more of Stages 3 and 4 than I have in the past. That is, as I am getting to know others, I am sharing information with them where I can (Stage 3) and using their information to help construct knowledge of my own (Stage 4).

It has been an enjoyable journey so far, so I am excited to see what is yet to come and whether I can get all the way upstream, so to speak.

Happy teaching!

Screen Shot 2015-08-24 at 1.20.02 pm


Salmon, Gilly (2012). E-Moderating : The Key to Online Teaching and Learning. Retrieved from http://www.eblib.com

Smith. M. (2009). Communities of practice. Retrieved from http://www.infed.org/biblio/communities_of_practice.htm


Salmon, Gilly (2012). E-Moderating : The Key to Online Teaching and Learning. Retrieved from http://www.eblib.com