Monthly Archives: September 2014

large pink flower


What’s the difference between education and learning?



“Education is what others do to you. Learning is what you do to yourself.”


Amy J.C. Cuddy


cogs and wheels

It’s often good to follow your own advice

Last Friday I presented to a group of health practitioners (registered dietitians) at their annual conference. The topic was “presentation skills” – an important element of their professional practice, as dietitians frequently work with various client goups experiencing complex and challenging health conditions. They are not just presenting information. It’s more about inspiring and motivating health behaviour change when the stakes are high.

I have always found that ‘presenting about presenting’ poses a particular set of mental challenges. Audience expectations are generally higher than the norm and my expectations of myself are correspondingly escalated. I have to keep reminding myself of the axiom that any presentation needs to feel more like a conversation than a performance. That means focusing on the audience’s learning needs, goals, and practice challenges, as opposed to my own ‘performance’.

And mirroring the dietitians’ clinical practice with groups, the information that I shared was nowhere near the most important part. (There’s a whole library of books written on presenting and facilitating, covering more content and in greater depth than any 45 minute talk could ever do justice to.) Sparking some lively critical reflection and dialogue (internal and external) about the pitfalls and best practices for us all to pay attention to when presenting to groups was the most meaningful part of the session.

It’s often effective to follow one’s own advice, and happily I was able to come reasonably close to putting into practice the four themes of my session:

1. Stop performing

2. Engage everyone

3. Transform your slides

4. Make it sticky.

OK, maybe I didn’t engage absolutely everyone – but on my way out of the room the A/V guy did give a big thumbs-up, and let’s just say that hasn’t been a uniform experience. I say, gather your nuggets where you find them!

acorn in forest


what if collage


Learning how to learn and deciding how to decide


We are all lifelong learners, and this has got me thinking about the learning that occurs outside of formal, post-secondary classrooms via the series of decisions, big and small, that comprise each person’s life path. In clinical/professional practice, critical judgment and decision-making are key, and we get to hone these skills every day in the multiplicity of choices that we are continuously called to make.

Sometimes the implications and outcomes of making one choice over another are clear; but a lot of the time there’s mighty thick cloud cover. On those occasions I have found myself wishing for a crystal ball to foresee the results of a specific decision before I decide. And maybe some future convergence of digital technology and computing (“the singularity”) will offer an uber-intelligent clarity and vision to better inform which direction to take. But at this time we pretty much weigh our options and just do the best we can.

psychic advisor sign


So, I’ve been wondering…is life’s learning trajectory essentially based on how we navigate through our own individual series of crossroads? For example…


We have to make many decisions without benefit of much experience or perspective to guide us:

Which high school? What’s after that? What’s my career path? How do I approach parenting? Do I choose to be a parent?


Some decisions are made either by default (inertia, status quo), or because we are willing to take a chance and leap into the unknown:

Start a relationship or end the relationship? Take the job or leave the job? Stick close to home or move to a whole new place?


Some decisions can be heartbreaking, and represent a lack of positive choices at all:

Do I pay the rent or feed the kids? Support the family or get an education?


And many crossroads test our own moral compass and integrity:

Should I speak out or follow the pack? Stand up and take action or do nothing?


crossroads house


The chaotic complexity of an individual’s inward/outward subjective experience and learning is never still. Each person’s journey accretes a unique composition and form. And every decision point at every crossroads iteratively informs the ones still to come.

Through this lens, effectively teaching professional decision-making might rest on our ability to come alongside learners, and link our vast, collective landscape of lifelong learning with discrete and situational reflective practice. In other words, the ultimate “meta crossroads” are learning how to learn and deciding how to decide. Over and over. Each and every day.


tree reflection in puddle

Toy Bucket Blue









Nine things I’ve always wanted to do and haven’t gotten around to yet


The first week of classes always feels like a fresh start. Just as students are wondering about what lies ahead in order to accomplish their dreams and aspirations, I am feeling inspired to consider some of my own outstanding “to-do” items. Here are some of the things on my Bucket List – not all are related to teaching, but all relate to learning, and in my mind that is as it should be.


1. Be inspired attending a TED Talk (in person)

Clouds blue sky








2. Take a chance and enter a poetry contest

someplace better woodburning








3. Join thousands of other students and enroll in a MOOC









4. Step outside my comfort zone and teach a MOOC

Big ladder sky








5. Witness the drama of dining at Hell’s Kitchen









6. Mine life’s experiences and write a novel

blue metal door








7. Eat perfect, delicious sushi in Tokyo, Japan









8. Enter a whole new world at Burning Man


wooden beaver carving on woodpile







9. Hear stories of the sea on a cargo ship across the ocean

rusty ladder rail water








Our time here is precious and finite. What’s on your bucket list?








%d bloggers like this: