Circles as a Commonplace Book

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commonplace book
In early modern Europe, commonplace books (or commonplaces) were used to compile knowledge. They were essentially scrapbooks filled with everything educated writers didn’t want to forget: medical recipes, quotes, letters, poems, tables of weights and measures, proverbs, prayers, legal formulas etc. And these books often housed collections of materials along a common theme.

By the 17th Century, commonplacing was a well-established educational practice. And the practice is easily associated with the works of influential writers and thinkers such as John Locke, Fancis Bacon, John Milton, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Mark Twain, Erasmus Darwin, etc.

Today’s social media applications are digital extensions of commonplace books. Millions of Twitter & Facebook users aggregate pictures, quotes, jokes, sayings and more and can track their postings over time through their social media accounts. Pinterest users pin recipies, images, videos and other objects to their pinboards. Evernote even touts itself as a “family of products [that] help you remember and act upon ideas, projects and experiences across all the computers, phones and tablets you use.”

For a long time, I have used my blog ( as a commonplace book for teaching ideas and strategies that I have acquired from various readings, connections, classes, and conferences. And while I have amassed quite a bit of content and shared with thousands of people, I can’t help but feel something is missing. How do we create a socially collaborative commonplace for great teaching?

I would like to see Circles of Innovation become a common place where faculty from all disciplines, from campuses across the country, come to see and share ideas and best practices for great teaching.  In a world where we all have smart smartphoneworlddevices and the ability to backchannel ideas and notes to a shared, digital commonplace book, why shouldn’t we aggregate those feeds around the theme of great teaching?

So next time you see some amazing strategy or technique that enhances teaching and learning, consider sharing it with others through Circles of Innovation. Together we can easily build a common place “Where good ideas collide and great discoveries are made possible!”

If you would like to help, you can share by…

  • Calling and leaving a voice mail at 2circles92 or (224) 725-3792
  • SMS Texting your ideas to 2circles92 or (224) 725-3792
  • Submiting your ideas through our backchannel
  • If you are a fellow blogger who would like to blog with Circles, please feel free to contact me,


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