Jess McCulloch: Poetry, Pedagogy and Passion

Jess McCulloch is an innovative educator from Melbourne Australia. Through her creative Rhyming for Teacher Learning endeavour, Jess used crowd-funding to help raise travel funding to attend this past summer’s UnPlug’d educational summit in Ontario’s Algonquin Provincial Park.


I am lucky to have close friends who, as educational change agents, attended the initial 2011 UnPlug’d summit. Their enthusiasm and passion for teaching was magnified through interaction with like-minded colleagues. They willingly shared their powerful experience through blogging, presentations, and their free, downloadable resource “What Matters Most in Education”. Their K-12 vision and stories continue to have a tremendous world-wide impact on other teachers and ultimately their students.

So when Jess McCulloch, decided she wanted to travel from Australia to Canada to participate in this year’s UnPlug’d, I decided to help her out with a small contribution.  In return, Jess promised to write a poem on a subject of my choosing. Having benefited greatly from the willingness of others, who share educational ideas and resources, I suggested that “the importance of online sharing” might be a topic worthy of her talents.

I include both Jess’ reading as well as her creative poem below:

I Share Online

by Jess McCulloch


I share my work online because when I do
I hope I’ve added something that’s useful to you
I share my ideas online because then I know
That you adding yours will then help mine grow
I share my pictures online because then you can see
A little bit more about what makes me me

I look for your work online because I know that it could
Help me shape mine like no other would
I look for your ideas online because I want to think
About new perspectives, opinions and make my own links
I look for your pictures online because it does make me smile
To see a different side of you every once in a while.

To make the Internet such a rich space to trawl through
I share online what I can and I’m rapt you do too.

I am amazed at how Jess has captured the essence of the importance of sharing online in this creative 14 line poem. However, I’m sure there are readers who might be wondering … “Why give a contribution to an educator on the other side of the world, particularly one you have never met?”

True, I have never met Jess McCulloch face-to-face but I do feel as though I know something about her through her remarkable online sharing.

I was first introduced to her educational passion when she shared “The Black Line Mystery”, as an innovative and engaging educational activity as part of the free, K12Online Conference last year.  Through the eyes of Agent 42 (in a “Carmen Sandiego” style that older educators will appreciate), Jess engaged her students as they began learning Chinese characters beginning with the most complex symbol.

My next encounter with Jess occurred when I participated in the free DS106 Digital Storytelling course this past spring. There was Jess, participating “from a distance” like me, sharing what she was learning with others. As an educator, I found her creations and comments to be quite inspiring and insightful. Her “Technology Does Not Fit” or “The Journey Not The Speed” are not only creative poems, they share powerful pedagogical messages to educators world-wide.

I must admit that one of my favourite "McCulloch moments" is Jess' inspirational "Magical Connections" keynote ...

I recommend that readers Google “Jess McCulloch”. In doing so, one will be impressed with the wealth of educational ideas that she shares through a wide variety of forums and applications. I must admit that one of my favourite “McCulloch moments” is Jess’ inspirational “Magical Connections” keynote presented in Shanghai. Jess’ focus was to engage the audience so that they would recognize “the importance of connecting with students”.  Having delivered educational keynotes myself, I know how challenging it can be to share ideas that are applicable and meaningful to an audience of educators who teach a wide variety of grades and different subject areas. However, Jess demonstrated her talents and pedagogical passion to paint a powerful picture through poetry. Jess’ simple background instructions “My pictures are the ones that are in your head” helped those in the audience engage with her poetic keynote as they identified similar magical moments in their own teaching careers. 

On Jess’ “The #technoLanguages Blog”, she referred to herself using the “LOTE” acronym. Not knowing what these four characters represented, I Googled them and found that as a teacher of Chinese, Jess was considered to be a teacher of “Language(s) Other Than English” or LOTE. However, I think that in Jess’ case, this LOTE acronym might equally represent “Learning on the Edge”. Jess continues to risk-take, learn, and share widely with others. This commitment was revealed in her UnPlug’d profile when Jess made the following comment when asked what her interest was in “unplugging”:

To stop, sit, and really focus on what is important to education. To take the chance to reflect on what direction I’m taking and what conversations I need to have to push my own learning.

This comment really resonated with me because Jess is, indeed, a kindred spirit and exemplifies what it is to be a life-long-learner.

Jess … on behalf of all those educators and students who have benefited from your ideas and resources, thank you for caring and sharing.

Take care & keep smiling 🙂

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