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Ian O'Byrne

Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity. - Martin Luther King, Jr. In this week's issue of TL;DR - #truth

Ian O'Byrne

Oppositional Conversational Style

3 min read

As we engage in discussion or debate with others, we often come across the person that wants to argue just for the sake of arguing.

Gretchen Rubin identifies this as oppositional conversational style

Oppositional conversational style is a person, who in a discussion or debate disagrees with and corrects everything that you say. They may do this in a friendly or perhaps a belligerent manner. This may be face-to-face, or in online settings.

What does this look like?

This person will provide facts, alternative facts, beliefs, & suppositions all to suspend or carry on the debate. There is no desire to engage in a real debate. There is also no desire to come to a common ground through dialogue.

The individual may not listen in the debate. They frequently interrupt, monopolize, and/or hijack the conversation to present their own agenda. 

This may include attempts to force a dynamic in the discussion, or not moving on from a topic when both parties are not receptive. Alternatively, this may also include randomly and abruptly changing topics without transition or apparent reason.

There may be several reasons individuals engage in oppositional conversational style. It could be that emotions are causing them to act irrationally. They may be trying to cover up an incomplete understanding of the facts. They may simply not have the knowledge or intellectual fortitude to engage in discussion or debate.

What to do

In these instances, we often want to continue to debate and understand the individual...or make them understand our point of view. This is often a fruitless endeavor.

Keep in mind that it's not always necessary to change someone's mind. Do not get emotionally overwhelmed in the interaction. 

Realize that some issues are objective and some are subjective. Objective issues deal with concrete, or observable facts. If the other individual does not want to discuss facts, you may be arguing in vain.

Move on

When you find yourself in a discussion or debate with someone that utilizes an oppositional conversational style, the best course of action may be to end the discussion before it starts.

If you see any of the patterns identified above, it may be best for you to end the debate before it continues. 

I believe that it is much easier to be direct and honest with the individual. Ask them the following question:

Is there anything that I can say to change, or make you reconsider, your perspective? 

If they indicate that there is nothing you can say or do to make them change their mind, it is time to remove yourself from the conversation. 

Your relationship with the person should dictate your response. If it is a family member you may decide to ask them about their conversational style to better understand their logic. If it is a boss or co-worker, it might be better to accept their position and move on. If this is an acquaintance or someone that you don't really know, you should change the subject, or walk away. 


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Ian O'Byrne

Policy, advocacy, & activism in education

1 min read

We're quickly moving into an age of of decreased trust in institutions and "alternative facts." This impacts work in education, research, and scholarship.

The more that I investigate this online, it is difficult to identify sources from a variety of perspectives that help shape and problematize our thinking about these concepts.

Who do you read and follow online when you want to think about issues of policy, advocacy, & activism? I would like read more from individuals or groups that are actively writing, tweeting, & sharing about these issues in educational contexts.

I'm looking to build this list openly and collaboratively. I'm also looking for individuals from a variety of perspective that represent a diversity of opinions.  


Please share names and where to find these materials online as a comment below, or on this Google Doc. You can sign out of your Google Account and leave this information anonymously.

Alternatively, you may also DM me on Twitter and I'll add (or remove) your information from the list.


Thank you in advance. Please feel free to share this list widely.



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Ian O'Byrne

Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth. - Marcus Aurelius

Ian O'Byrne

If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear as it is, infinite. - William Blake

2 min read

One of the major stumbling blocks to changing perceptions and awareness of these "truths" that we've manufactured is that we do not want to recognize that we are wrong or mistaken. Furthermore, we do not want to admit to others (or ourselves) that these mistaken perceptions have distorted or modified our lives.

To counteract this, it is important to periodically challenge our beliefs and viewpoints. We need to problematize these perspectives and question their validity. We need to question their role and relevance in our lives.

In a normal state, our personality undergoes a constant process of reorganization. We routinely review, prioritize, and in some cases reject viewpoints and perspectives. In a misguided or neurotic state, the personality clings to beliefs that may be false or distorted. In these situations, a major crisis or event is required to force the individual to recognize alternative viewpoints and perspectives. 

If your mind and personality has been programmed or conditioned to accept and distort concepts and values, you develop a lifestyle and actions to support or justify your version of truth.You make assumptions that events are true or casual when neither is valid. You seek to prove these aspects to be correct, to make the facts fit your perspective. 

You need to identify a means to wipe these away and cleanse your perspectives.

Ian O'Byrne

Review of Chapter Submission for Handbook of Research on Teaching the English Language Arts

6 min read

Repositioning Online Reading To A Central Location In The Language Arts

Kervin, Mantei, & Leu

Review of Chapter Submission

Handbook of Research on Teaching the English Language Arts, 4th Edition


The submitted manuscript identifies a much-needed step in the advancement of the integration of technology in literacy instruction. The chapter is of high interest the educators and researchers that would use the Handbook as guidance in the field. The chapter continues to make the case for why we need this thread of instruction in the classroom, but also builds this case by providing a more global perspective to these activities. Finally, the submitted manuscript includes connections to other fields of research to make it more inclusive and connected to related work in the field. For these reasons, I recommend the publication of this manuscript in the Handbook of Research on Teaching the English Language Arts.

Making the case for the centrality of online reading

The Internet is the dominant text of our generation, yet we continue to have to make the case for why digital texts and tools should be authentically embedded in classroom instruction. The authors of this piece have been at the forefront of pushing this agenda and continue this important work in the submitted manuscript. The authors expertly frame this chapter for the handbook by starting with the framing of the social practices necessary for these new spaces and contextualize this with guidance from the worlds of economics and global development. With this subtle framing, they move on to paint a picture of the need for these literacies while considering a more global focus for this discussion. It is this nod to the more global aspect of online reading and literacy that I most appreciate in this submission.

As these new and digital literacies continue to become much more ubiquitous across global spaces, I believe we need to continue to push and advocate for those less fortunate that may not have access to these texts or spaces. If the inclusion and use of online texts in the classroom is a necessary and powerful element, we need to advocate for opportunities for all learners in global classrooms. Literacy is a powerful force and this is augmented by the influx of the Internet and other communication technologies. As governments and businesses increasingly monitor and adjust our online reading habits, we need a global population that fully understands the challenges and complexity associated with being digitally literate.

Connections to other fields and perspectives 

            In reviewing this chapter submission I also appreciate the nuanced changes in framing this work from previous examinations of online reading. The primary focus on disciplinary literacy recontextualizes this work within another dominant perspective in literacy education and research. This first theoretical perspective makes it easier for educators to align the reading of online texts with current initiatives that draw most of the attention in the English Language Arts classroom. Much of the challenge in carving out time for these new and digital literacies in instruction is that the Common Core State Standards and other frameworks often dominate the focus. The role and use of technology is often given a back seat, or ignored as educators and curricular coaches frame pedagogy. By focusing first on disciplinary literacy, the authors truly seek to reposition online reading.

            In the review of the chapter I was also excited to see a focus on theories of materiality and multimodality guiding this work. It is these examples of material culture that provide important perspective on the skills and practices associated with online reading. Furthermore, I believe this inclusion adds to the global perspectives that are imbued throughout this submission. This provides connections to other perspectives on new and digital literacies, and makes this a much more accommodating and inclusive guide to educators making room for online reading in their classroom.

Actionable advice for the literacy educator

            The remainder of the chapter presents granular guidance for the literacy educator and pre-service teacher as they identify opportunities to make this happen in their classroom. Too often we hear that educators “don’t get technology,” this submission provides approachable, actionable advice for integrating online reading into classroom activities. The authors also do a stellar job of identifying and addressing most of the arguments, or counter narratives that may exist as we integration technology into literacy instruction. An example of this is evidenced in sections that address assessment practices, simulated assessments, and the basic computer skills needed to operate in these spaces. The authors effectively balance theory, perspectives, actionable advice, and questions that remain in this work.

            I also appreciate the focus on beginning with younger readers and connections between emergent reading and online reading. In far too many examinations of new and digital literacies we identify the skilled and less proficient use of these skills and strategies with a population of adolescent or adult learners. We understand that learners develop their learning and literacy roadmap for their future from Pre-K up through third grade and then beyond. Yet, very little is know about best principles associated with brining online reading and associated literacies into the context of emergent reading or soon after. The authors interject this discussion by bringing connections to online reading into the work and research in emergent reading. This has the potential to guide and motivate future literacy educators and researchers.

Repositioning a central location

            The submitted manuscript presents a necessary, and forward thinking chapter for the Handbook. I believe the materials attempt to situate the reader in the current milieu, and then prognosticate for that crystal ball that you requested. The focus of the text is thankfully shifted to a more global perspective. These threads are evident across the text and woven in to the conclusion. The theoretical perspectives are accommodating, and make for a much more inclusive read as educators try to identify places to embed online reading into instruction. Finally, the guidance and materials presented to operationalize this in the classroom is actionable and specific enough to guide all learners. I believe the authors have developed a piece that certainly carves out a spot in the English Language Arts classroom and in the process helps reposition it to a more central location.

Ian O'Byrne

April 5, 2016

2 min read

Your audience is one single reader. I have found that sometimes it helps to pick out one person - a real person you know, or an imagined person - and write to that one. - John Steinbeck

As we create, it's important to identify and speak to a specific audience. Identify one person that you know would value or connect with your words or content. Find one specific person that your message would resonate with. Your words and content should be directed specifically to them. 

There is no need for archetypes, or people "just like them." That's what algorithms, and Facebook or Google ads are for.

Your job is to think about that one person. What are their needs and wants? What are their desires? What are their pain points?

Most likely, you're in the position that you're currently speaking from because you're just like that person. You are that person before you went on this life journey and you now have this new perspective or expertise.

Speak to that one individual that you once were...and now you can connect with them.

Find and speak to that one person. In the end, you'll see that it's more than one person. There are many behind them. But, first identify and speak to them. And then continue to focus and address that individual.  

Ian O'Byrne

March 25, 2016

1 min read

Over the past couple of days I've been engaged with Amy Burvall as she's been unpacking this idea of "best practices" and the challenges behind this naming.

Over my years in education, I have spent a lot of time thinking, developing, identifying, and promoting "best practices." It wasn't until three years ago at LRA was I in a discussion with Rich Long and he mentioned that it's not "best practices", it should be "best principles."

Hmmm. I didn't see the real difference in the naming of these two. 

I really like the pushback that Amy provides in this post on ditching "best practices." 

Her perspective is more about knowing and understanding the "rules" and givign yourself the license to go and break the rules. Have fun, be creative, remix, and don't lock yourself in to one's prior indication of what to do...what not to do.


Ian O'Byrne

February 25, 2016

2 min read

Yesterday I brought my daughter to the doctor's office.

She's 9 months old and has the usual set of maladies a late infant will have. It was one of those "sick" visits in which two or three issues are linked (or not linked) together. A rash, a sore throat, a possible ear infection, no fever, had strawberries for the first time, not sleeping, etc. You're basically playing CSI detective with the pediatrician to see what the problem might be.

At this time point, from a language development perspective, she is tuned in to the sounds of voices and language in our family. She isn't really listening for meaning...she's listening to the phonemes, cadence, and rhythm of the way that we speak in our home. These will be in the initial buidling blocks and "DNA" of her spoekn langauge. 

This was brought home for me as I was waiting for the doctor in the examination room with my daughter. Usually Mommy brings her everywhere, and this is one of the first times it's been just me. 

She was immediately upset and crying as they weighed her, and checked out her vitals. When the first nurse left, and we were waiting, I slowly, sofly started singing in her ear. It's something stupid..."Who let the dogs out" by the Baha Men. 

I very softly, lowly, in a deep bass whisper this into her ear. I noticed earlier that it calmed her down. I decided to try it out here in the office because it would be a mess if she just was upset and crying the whole time.

She rested on my chest as I stood and swayed her. I monotonously sung this to her like a meditation refrain. 

She quieted down immediately, and began to sleep on my chest. She slept and waited for the doctor to come in.

It's amazing how the human mind is tuned in to specific things, exactly when it needs it.

Ian O'Byrne

January 12, 2016

2 min read

Posting publicly online. 

I'm a proponent of sharing openly, and publicly online. This means that warts and all I (for the most part) share what I do..and who I am. I mean...look at what I'm doing here. I'm doing my daily five minute journal here openly online. No one may come and read this...but that's not the point. :)

As I guide others, there is often the question about WHY would you do this. There is also the question about what should you share...and do you share everything.

From my own perspective...I share what I believe fits into this "brand" that I've developed. It's not the right term, and it does rub some people the wrong way...but I share things that deal with literacy, education, and technology. I do try and work some aspects of advocacy, or activism...or productivity into it. But, it's all in the same realm of content. 

I believe that overall, sharing and opening up over time has helped me. I believe that it helps me build my identity and I've had offers and opportunities because of this collection of materials I've shared online.

For the most part, I don't believe that it has been a negative. There have been one or two times that I've shared something and I've gotten a response that's been a bit less than I planned for.

I do wonder as I build up an audience and this identity...will the expectations change?