Year 2030 Learning Spaces: My Predictions!

I was recently asked to consider what learning spaces of the future might entail. Rather than giving a vague, general answer, I thought it would be fun to put a date on it!

Consequently, here’s what I think the six learning spaces will look like by the Year 2030:

The Personal Learning Space:

Students will no longer be “batched” by standardizations where the same thing is taught to all students on the same day (Horn & Evans, 2016). Leveraged by technology, students will learn tailored, personalized content at individual rates, allowing mastery of content to occur at a personal pace. No longer will the progress of brighter, faster students be hindered by average or slower students, nor will those struggling with concepts be forced to progress before mastery is attained – asynchronous learning will be a hallmark of 2030. Distinct academic needs and even personal interests will be accommodated. One size will no longer fit all!

Pilot programs based on personalized learning models have already been heralded as a great success (Horn and Evans, 2016) using online learning environments such as the Khan Academy as explained in this video. (It is well worth the 11 minutes taken to view it!)

The Classroom Space:

By 2030, virtual classrooms will be commonplace. Unbounded by physical walls, students will gather in cyberspace instead of physical classrooms and brick-and-mortar institutions. Already initiatives such as Google Classroom are paving the way for such innovative change; the new Google Cloud Platform with its powerful infrastructure, data analytics, and machine learning is ready to support innovative virtual classrooms and virtual schools. The emergence of Internet2 will further help develop revolutionary solutions to facilitate advancements in delivering education. Physical classrooms may eventually be a thing of the past!

Beyond the Classroom Space:

Virtual reality experiences (both as something to be experienced as well as something that can be student-generated) will also be commonplace. Projects such as the joint undertaking by the USA National Parks and Google are already giving school children virtual access to sights and experiences that are simply not accessible by a school bus (and just think of all the paperwork, risk assessment, permission forms etc it will avoid!). Further ventures in virtual reality learning environments like zSpace are currently in place to enhance STEM learning.  The potential applications for virtual labs in science, technology, engineering, and math are nothing short of phenomenal! Samsung (2016) also reports: “Students can gain a better understanding of how the heart works by simply picking up a virtual one with a stylus and peeling back the layers to see how it looks inside.” Already students around the world are enjoying exploring virtual realities with Google Cardboard –  this is engaging and immersive learning at its best!

The Group Space:

By 2030, the world will indeed be a smaller place. International certification will allow global citizens to attend classrooms in any part of the world; free, world-class education will be available to anyone anywhere via virtual platforms such as the Khan Academy. Hand-in-hand with this innovative trend will come increased collaboration and co-operative learning that will transcend physical borders, nations, and countries. No doubt, in the next couple of years, communication technology will be further honed and advanced, making the world a very connective and networked environment in which to learn.

The Liminal Space:

In the future, artificial intelligence (AI) will drive much of our collective futures and steer the direction of education. “Science fiction is slowly becoming science fact, and robotics and artificial intelligence look destined to play an increasing role in our lives in the coming decades” (BBC, 2016). While this generates exciting possibilities in realm of education, groups such as the Science and Technology Committee have called for “careful scrutiny of the probable ethical, legal, and societal impact”(BBC, 2016). It is imperative that wisdom is exercised with such liminal developments. “The impact of AI will reflect the values of those who build it. AI is a tool that we humans will design, control and direct and it is up to us all to direct that tool towards the common good” (BBC, 2016).

My Reflections:

Are my predictions accurate? I guess only time will tell! The biggest takeaway for me is that I need to be constantly updating and incorporating new advancements in education and technology in my pedagogy and use of learning spaces. I will also need not only a growth mindset (as mentioned in this post), but also an innovator’s mindset as illustrated below:

How will I keep abreast with the latest advancements and innovations in education? One of my biggest EDFD459 “aha” moments has been the use of Twitter.

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Tweeted by @sylviaduckworth and @adamstaples

With just minimal time spent daily TRAWLING (not trolling – ha!) through Twitter, I have the latest breaking educational news, resources, pedagogies and innovations at my fingertips! For me, Twitter will be an integral part of my future personal learning space and my professional development.

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Tweeted by@kylieoloughin

In just 12 short weeks, I have undertaken the #EDFD459 journey with its incredibly steep learning curve. Studying this unit has not only opened my eyes to new learning spaces, technologies, understandings and global educational issues, but has also given birth to a totally transformed mindset and outlook. My next challenge? To replicate this with my future students!

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Tweeted by @SchoolLeadNow on Oct 14, 2016

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The Narrative – Voice of the Marginalized

While researching the Calais Jungle, I came across an interesting project instigated by the University of East London. Running since November 2015, this undertaking involved a short, accredited university course called “Life Stories” which was made available to the refugee residents of the “Jungle”. It recognized that the residents had extremely limited access to further university education despite often being highly motivated and qualified. (Many refugees are professionals or university graduates.) Some were using the course as a gateway to further intended higher education study, while others were using it as a vehicle to improve and hone their written or oral English expression (Lounasmaa, 2016).

Stories are an important part of anyone’s identity, and the narrative has the incredible potential to “give voice” to people who are in marginalized positions of influence and power. It was hoped that through this vehicle of expression, residents would also be able to process not only the physical and psychological difficulties faced in the camp, but also the extremely harrowing and traumatic situations from which many of them have fled.  (Hansen, 2016).

Workshops were held to read and discuss life stories of famous people such as Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, and Mala Yousafzai, as well as examining photographic, poetic and video presentations of the lives of various other global figures. These substantive discussions helped to perpetuate the development of the residents’ oral English skills (Hansen, 2016).

From this foundation, the students were then given the opportunity to create their own life stories via a variety of mediums and modalities such as written essays, artwork, photography, video, drama and poetry – much of which could be created or documented using smartphone cameras or apps. These stories could be visual, oral or written in nature.

The ultimate goal was to give a platform for the voice of the marginalized to be heard. As Hansen further explained: “Not all stories are equally voiced. There are worlds of privileged voices and worlds of lost voices. Stories are always embedded and patterned through cultures of inequalities; of ethnicity and class; of gender and sexuality; of health and age; of nation and country” (2016, p. 10).

As a culmination to the course, students were collectively co-authoring a book called Voices from the Jungle which is due to be published by Pluto Press in 2017.

As Lounasmaa (2016) aptly stated:  “European politicians and citizens worry about the integration, employability and the cost of the refugees and migrants arriving in the EU. My experiences of teaching students in the Jungle show that access to education immediately upon arrival is one of the most important solutions to all three of these concerns. More importantly, it is a human right.”

The final benefit of this project was that it may play a substantial role in aiding future asylum claims for the residents. During the process, applicants are repeatedly interviewed and required to give persuasive narrative recounts in intricate detail of traumas from which they have escaped. Presenting a logical, coherent story is paramount to successful claims. (Merriman, 2016)

As an educator, I can see the amazing potential and value in replicating a similar initiative with primary-aged students. Hopefully, through using the narrative as a vehicle for voice, students can simultaneously process their prior journeys and begin to embark on a healing journey of their own.

 

“The Refugees Have Smartphones” – Really??

Essentially a computer that is able to fit one’s pocket, the smartphone is increasingly becoming recognized as a refugee’s most valuable and essential possession (Dubinsky, 2015). While some envisage refugees as poor, destitute or digitally illiterate people who would not have or know how to use a smartphone, this is proving not to be the case.

Mercy Corps (2016) reports: “In the developing world, a basic cell phone can be purchased for under $10, a smartphone for only a few dollars more.  In these countries, a mobile phone is not a luxury or supplementary device. More often than not, it’s the primary — or only — way to communicate across space.” Another report states: “It is possible to pick up the second generation iPhone – the iPhone 3G – for around £25, and despite being a few years old is still perfectly serviceable.

Many of the refugees (such as those fleeing from Syria) can be described as both urban and educated and are adept users of smartphones and technology.  Not only do refugees often possess a smartphone, but many also carry chargers and backup phones as well. (Graham, 2015)

While some would question the availability in relation to plans and roaming, Alter (2015) points out that in Europe, it’s even easier than in the States to go without roaming because Wi-Fi is ubiquitous. “Wi-Fi tends to be the first thing people ask for once they arrive in refugee camps” (Mercy Corps, 2016). Recognizing the importance this, aid groups like the Belgrade Centre for Human Rights in Serbia are setting up Wi-Fi networks just as quickly as they’re distributing food (Dubinsky, 2015).

Mercy Corps (2016) further purports that: “Today, the International Telecommunication Union reports 95% of the global population is covered by a 2G cellular network. The United Nations (U.N.) says more people have cellphones than toilets.”

Consider this interesting quote:

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On their often arduous and harrowing route to freedom and a better life, information sourced from mobile phones equates to empowerment for the refugees – information to aid survival, avoid exploitation, and assist in the eventual transition and integration into their new life. Refugees are using the smartphones for GPS navigation tools and Google maps to guide and direct their journeys (Graham, 2015).Facts about the best and safest routes, road closures, sites for shelter, and water distribution points are now sourced via social media; there is even a Facebook group where people can share recipes for turning wild, abundant urban plants into an edible dish! (Witty, 2015)

Communication with loved ones at home and abroad is also facilitated by free apps such as Facebook, Viber, Line, and WhatsApp.

Furthermore, mobile phones are being used for the narrative – to record not only the atrocities of massacres from which they have fled, but also to document their travels and journeys. “Migration is part of our story now,” says one refugee. (Alter, 2015). Their tribulations are documented on social media like Instagram and Twitter, chronicling their narrative and life-story.

Mobile phones are also helping with integration. For example, an app called Gherbtna, which was made by a Syrian refugee, helps refugees in Turkey with obtaining residency, finding employment and opening bank accounts records UNICEF. Refugees are also using online translators, currency exchange tools, and apps to learn the language of their new country.

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Mercy Corps, in partnership with Google, The International Rescue Committee and other colleagues, developed refugeeinfo.eu, a multilingual website for refugees moving through Europe. Refugeeinfo.eu is the first thing people see when they connect to the Wi-Fi hotspots many humanitarian organizations host throughout the region. It can detect the location of the person accessing the site, and it’s updated daily to reflect constant shifts in conditions and laws, like restrictions on movements and refugee camp closures. (Mercy Corps, 2016)

Perhaps, the situation is most aptly described in this quote:

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Since I am a teacher, what excites me the most about smartphones being readily accessible to a large number of the refugees is that it opens up incredible possibilities and opportunities for educators to capitalize on this resource in order to effectively deal with the dire need for education amongst refugee children and adults alike.

In their own words…. A Call to Action

Education is not something that is solely valued by teachers; the refugee children themselves not only grieve their loss of education, but also grasp the significance of what they have lost.

Below are stories of children who are all currently out of school, innocently caught in the crossfire of conflict, waiting indefinitely in a liminal space… waiting for the normalcy of school life to return. Most are located in refugee camps. Some, like Edo, are working to support their families. Others, like Khalida, play with sticks in desolate camps and pretend the twigs are pencils. Still others are confined to extremely overcrowded living quarters in impoverished cities. None of them want to be out of school. All of them want to continue their education… and learn.

In their own words:

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Image retrieved from http://www.anera.org

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Image retrieved from http://kawarthanow.com

Sadly…

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Image retrieved from https://i.ytimg.com

These children’s sentiments are echoed in the international legal obligations for the right to education:

“Education is a fundamental human right and essential for the exercise of all other human rights. It promotes individual freedom and empowerment and yields important development benefits.”        ~ UNESCO

“Education is a powerful tool by which economically and socially marginalized adults and children can lift themselves out of poverty and participate fully as citizens.” ~ UNESCO

The exact price of losing access to education is undetermined, although the trends are evident:

It is impossible to calculate the immense costs that are incurred by depriving refugees of education. A refugee who goes without education cannot look forward to a more productive and prosperous future. A refugee who is unable to attend school or a vocational training course is more likely to become frustrated and involved in illegitimate or military activities. A refugee who remains illiterate and inarticulate will be at a serious disadvantage in defending his or her human rights.”  (UNHCR, 2001, p. iii)

Education provides a vehicle for rebuilding refugee children’s lives, through social interaction and gaining knowledge and skills for their future lives. For some, the alternative is depression and idleness, and for others, a range of anti-social activities and the thought of revenge through a renewal of armed conflict. (UNHCR, 2001, p. vii)

But below are perhaps the most sobering words of all:

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Image retrieved from http://media2.s-nbcnews.com

The challenge is for educators, world-wide, is to rally and answer the call.

Blackout Poetry: A Vehicle for Voice?

While recently trawling through Twitter, I came across a selection of blackout poems which were produced by some young students. Their work was incredible – creative and imaginative, expressive and beautiful.

I was instantly captivated by the idea and its application to an upcoming EDFD459 assignment on the refugee crisis since:

  1. Few resources are needed. (A page from a newspaper and a pencil or a black texta/marker would suffice.)
  2. It would be suitable for a wide age and ability range – from early readers to adults.
  3. It combines the voices of art and poetry as a vehicle for the narrative.

With my recent research on the refugee crisis foremost in my mind, I printed out a page of text from a novel I am currently reading, and began creating:

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This is the message I would wish to portray to the refugee children: “Amongst the grief, the heartache, and the uncertainty – you are not alone.”

In order to create a successful blackout poem, Scholastic.com suggests the following steps:

Step 1: Scan the page first before reading it completely. Keep an eye out for an anchor word as you scan. An anchor word is one word on the page that stands out to you because it is packed and loaded with meaning and significance.  Starting with an anchor word is important because it helps you to imagine possible themes and topics for your poem.

Step 2: Now read the page of text in its entirety. Use a pencil to lightly circle any words that connect to the anchor word and resonate with you. Resonant words might be expressive or evocative, but for whatever reason, these are the words on the page that stick with you. Avoid circling more than three words in a row.

Step 3: List all of the circled words on a separate piece of paper. List the words in the order that they appear on the page of text from top to bottom, left to right. The words you use for the final poem will remain in this order so it doesn’t confuse the reader.

Step 4: Select words, without changing their order on the list, and piece them together to create the lines of a poem. You can eliminate parts of words, especially any endings, if it helps to keep the meaning of the poem clear. Try different possibilities for your poem before selecting the lines for your final poem. If you are stuck during this step, return back to the original page of text. The right word you are searching for could be there waiting for you.

Step 5: Return to the page of text and circle only the words you selected for the final poem.  Remember to also erase the circles around any words you will not be using.

Step 6: Add an illustration or design to the page of text that connects to your poem. Be very careful not to draw over the circled words you selected for your final poem!

Here are some amazing examples which are useful for inspiration, varying from the relatively simple (text only) to the incredibly complex and intricate:

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Retrieved from http://austinkleon.com

What a powerful vehicle to give a voice to people (both children and adults) whilst simultaneously unleashing their artistic creativity!

Note: For more information, visit Austin Kleon’s website (the inventor and instigator of blackout poetry).

Using Art to Heal and Grow

Various initiatives were set up in the Calais Jungle in order to facilitate education and the narrative voice via written, oral and creative expression.

As mentioned in this post, the Life Stories initiative for university students extensively utilized art as a vehicle for the narrative.

Similarly, the Jungle Books Cafe (set up by British teacher, Mary Jones) not only provided residents of all ages with books and literature, but also activities for art and creative utterance.

Baloo’s Youth Centre was a project aimed at “giving an open space where young people were able to connect with others of the same age” (Egan, 2016). It provided sporting activities as well as arts and crafts to facilitate an avenue for fun and creative expression.

 

A recent article tweeted by my peer, Bec Nalletamby (@RNalletamby), documents the use of art and clay modeling as therapy for aiding the healing of children who have witnessed the atrocities of war.

Edutopia further promotes that art education benefits students by developing self-confidence, improving cognition, aiding communication, deepening cultural and self-understanding, and helping to promote a growth mindset – the development of resilience and “grit” (2016).

Due to advancements in technology, smartphones can also be used to create incredible artwork as exemplified beautifully in the image below:

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As an educator trying to reach and provide a vehicle for expression for refugee children in order to process their liminal space, mobile phone art is an exciting development that is laced with possibility! Not only can mobile phones be used to capture images of art (such as the photos shown below), it can also be the tool with which the art itself is created by using apps such as Procreate (as used in the example above).

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Tweeted by @nowhumanity

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Tweeted by sepia serpent

Enjoy the slideshow below which was made up from artwork images retrieved from  https://www.facebook.com/junglebookslibrarycalais

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Power of the Twitter Narrative

Recently, one of my EDFD459 peers, Leesa Holbert (@trebloh, T I N K E R I N G Teachers) tweeted about an extraordinary little seven-year girl from Aleppo. Bana and her mother Fatemah are using Twitter as a vehicle for a powerful real-time narrative which documents their current dire liminal space.

The pair created their account in September 2016, and at the date of writing this (October 20), they already have 76,000 followers.

Beautiful support from other children all around the world has poured in…

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But perhaps the most important factor is the powerful way they are commanding awareness for the terrible situation in Aleppo.

This is one brave little girl making a difference through the narrative via Twitter.

Watch the two-minute video below, then scroll down to see  her Twitter feed.

**WARNING: Bana’s Twitter feed (embedded below) is a live feed. Recent images (as of October 25) are extremely disturbing and graphic.

Calais migrants: Life in the Jungle

What is life like for refugees living in temporary camps like this one situated in Calais, France?

This video documents the day-to-day life and existence of these refugees – their hopes, their dreams and the obstacles they face.

It also contains footage of Khalid, an eight-year old Syrian refugee whose story will simultaneously inspire you and break your heart. His narrative emerges at the beginning, middle, and end of the video.

Khalid is also a temporary resident of the “Calais Jungle” refugee camp – certainly NOT a place where any child would choose to be or a situation any mother would wish upon her child. And yet it is Khalid’s reality; it is Khalid’s liminal space.

In his words:

The young Syrian boy’s leg was deformed and mangled after soldiers in his home country of Syria tricked him, kidnapped him, then proceeded to run over him with a car.

Yet his indomitable spirit drives him and his mother to seek a better life in the U.K.

In his mother’s words:

As I watched this video, I was continually drawn back to the challenge (as an educator) of designing a learning space for primary/elementary aged students like Khalid, who are caught in this crisis – a learning space that assures their continued education in such a fluid, transient, turbulent situation.

As a mother and a teacher, what would be my heart’s cry and ambitions if Khalid was my son?

Take time to watch this video and begin pondering with me…  What can be done?

Should Wisdom Be On the Curriculum?

We simply don’t know what the future will hold. Who would have thought 30 years ago, for example, that a large portion of the world’s communication, trade, and source of knowledge would be based on a platform called the internet? The world we live in is dramatically changing and morphing at lightning speed. Only just recently, I read an interesting article that I found on Twitter on artificial intelligence . The ramifications of this one area of technological advancement alone are mind boggling – the implications on future jobs and even upon the fabric of society and humanity itself are far-reaching!

Added to that are complex and difficult issues and problems on a global scale – the current refugee crisis, poverty, sustainability and the global economy are the immediate ones that come to mind.

So how do we as educators equip the upcoming generation? What will be the fundamentals of learning as we move further into this century and into the future?

In my mind, there are three areas to be considered: basic literacy, attitudes and mindsets, and the development of wisdom.

BASIC LITERACY SKILLS:

I recently read a chapter from Tom Bentley’s book Learning Beyond the Classroom: Education for a Changing World (2012)This was a very sobering read as an educator. Failure to master basic skills in reading, writing and maths have been linked (in varying degrees) to unemployment, crime, drug use and even homelessness. Clearly, one of the mandates of educators is to equip their students which a basic battery of skills in the language arts and mathematics; this is undeniably one of the foundations of learning. With skills in these areas, learning in all other content areas (such as history and science) can be accomplished and life-long learning can be perpetuated. I would add that in the contemporary world that we live in, digital literacy is also a fundamental requirement for learning.

ATTITUDES AND MINDSETS:

In order to develop life-long learners, certain mindsets and attitudes need to ungird our students’ make-up. The use of lateral, creative, imaginative, critical and reflective thinking are imperative to address the pertinent personal, local, national and global issues they will be facing. Underpinnings of resilience, self-efficacy, self-direction, flexibility and adaptability will be also essential qualities of contemporary 21st-century learners.

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And, of course, the future will also entail students (and educators!) having a growth mindset:

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Tweeted by @misskyritsis

WISDOM:

But perhaps the most critical foundation of learning in the future will be wisdom. “Wisdom” is not traditionally an educational term, but maybe it should be put on the curriculum!

The New Oxford American dictionary states that wisdom is “the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment”. Wikipedia further elaborates by outlining that wisdom or sapience is the “ability to think and act using knowledge, experience, understanding, common sense, and insight”.

Wisdom essentially is gained and refined through observation and enacting. As Anthony Douglas Williams has been quoted as saying, “Knowledge comes from learning. Wisdom comes from living”. Frank Sonnenberg adds to these sage words purporting that, “Lessons in life will be repeated until they are learned”.  

To me, wisdom is also knowledge and understanding “with the heart”, incorporating the notions of empathy and compassion. 

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So what does the future hold? To be honest, I don’t know. I am, however, sure that it will take the ingenuity and collective wisdom of future generations to navigate and embrace it.

And in the wise words of Albert Einstein:

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Embracing the Liminal: A Taxonomy

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While designing a taxonomy that encapsulates my learning during my EDFD459 journey and has the longevity to extend beyond the unit of study, I came to the (sobering) conclusion that I tend to resist the liminal space.

Whether it be acquiring new skills (e.g. in technology), facing social issues which are overwhelming in complexity and severity (such as the refugee crisis), or tackling a project (such as a current assignment), I need to develop a strategy for embracing the liminal. Below is a visual representation of my new paradigm of thinking:

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ACKNOWLEDGE the liminal

As mentioned in this post, the liminal space takes you out of your comfort zone and into a place of uncertainty. This can be a rather daunting space to occupy, but it is an extremely rich, necessary and desirable space to inhabit; to avoid it is not an option if one wants to grow, develop and change.

Recently I have been researching the global refugee crisis. I am appalled and saddened by the plight of so many; their stories are piercing my heart and arresting my thoughts. It is an issue that simply cannot be ignored – their situation needs to be addressed and as educators, it is our social responsibility and obligation to do what we can. To acknowledge their precarious situation in the liminal space is the first step towards change.

On a more personal level, I also need to acknowledge my deficits and areas of liminality as a teacher and begin to work simultaneously on those areas as well. For me, one blatantly obvious area is my lack of digital dexterity and technological knowledge.

DECIDE to change

Deciding to change is crucial. Not only does it need to be a decision made at a single point in time, but it also needs to be a daily (perhaps hourly) decision until embracing the liminal becomes a way of living. The power of a single person’s decision always amazes me. Deciding to change not only impacts the course of your own life, but also has a ripple effect to all those around you – your family, your friends, and even your students. If the ripple is large enough (as in the case of great men like Martin Luther King Jnr), it can even change history!

ADJUST your perspective

One of my peers, Jolene Mitchell (@JoMitchell4974) made an interesting statement on a forum which really resonated with me:

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This idea was furthered by reading a post written by Kristin Bell entitled The Power of Yet and exhortations by @KayriShanahan on a forum (LEO, Oct. 12, 2016) to transfer statements such “I can’t do this” to “I can’t do this, YET”. A simple change in perspective can alter the formidable to the possible.

BEGIN to move forward

The best way to address anything which is daunting is to begin taking forward steps. Michael Hyatt in his post What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do gives some excellent advice in this regard. He encourages those caught in the liminal that it is sometimes best to forget about the ultimate outcome, and instead focus on the next right action, and begin implementing it right away. It is often when we are actually on the journey that clarity is gained.

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AVOID perfectionism

Perfectionism has always been my Achilles. I tend to get caught up in the details; I prefer to have a solid grasp on concepts or understandings before I move forward. In real life and the realm of the liminal, this is often not feasible or productive. My stance of perfectionism was also challenged with this quote:

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Along a similar vein, this quote also impacted me greatly:

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ENTER a new personal space

Perseverance through the liminal, although trying and unnerving, has wonderful rewards. On a personal level, it launches one into a new personal learning space. The sense of achievement and self-satisfaction can be a reward within itself.

On a professional level, embracing the liminal could almost be said to be mandatory:

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Tweeted by @justintarte

On a more global perspective, traversing through the liminal space and approaching and addressing a social issue such as the refugee crisis can perhaps culminate in life-changing results for global citizens living on the other side of the world.

Embracing the liminal is not an option – it’s a necessity!

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Tweeted by @KayriShanahan