Art Miles and Google Lit Trips

One of my favourite things to do with students is connect them globally with others around the world, and I’ve written about that here in earlier posts.   I’m starting to daydream about getting back to a school one day soon, and one of the things I’ve missed is participating in, not just suggesting, some of these awesome projects!

If you or your class are interested, consider signing up for the Art Miles Project in Japan this year.  The sign up deadline is May 31, 2014 and the English registration instructions are provided here.

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If you are looking for interesting ways to use Google Earth, check out Google Lit Trips where you can see how media can be embedded into placeholders in Google Earth tours.  This place-based storytelling helps to bring some of your favourite children’s literacy alive, using Google Earth.  You and your students could consider making your own tours after you check out some samples. Very Cool!

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OTRK12 and Google Summit Learning

My friends Donna Fry and Mark Carbone, co-creators of the #ossemooc  have put out a call for us to share our learning during this month of April and, as always, it takes me a little while to get my posts onto the blog!  Luckily for me, I had two great experiences last week,  one at the #otrk12 conference and one at the #gafesummit in Waterloo.   Starting with Stephen Hurley’s examples of passion-based learning at OTRK12 was wonderful and I enjoyed presenting to the e-learning teachers about creating dynamic virtual discussions and seeing Jaclyn Calder’s presentation about the Grader App for D2L with awesome options for providing differentiated and timely feedback to learners.   It’s wonderful to see what an amazing teacher like Jaclyn does with technology!

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Mark Carbone Opening the #GAFESummit in Waterloo

While I could share all the tips and tricks that I learned at #otrk12 and the #gafesummit,  I think I’d rather share a few observations that I have mulling around and arising from these 2 great learning events.

A principal from my school board approached me at the Google Summit a little distraught that she had perhaps purchased the wrong technology this year. She has provided her teachers and students with a variety of tools like  ipads, laptops, desktops and Chromebooks.  She seemed a little worried that she had made a wrong choice and should have bought more Chromebooks.  I reminded her, that regardless of how ‘feel good and for the cause of all children and teachers everywhere’ this event undoubtedly was, it was also a Google event after all,  and their mission was to make her feel as though Google products were the bomb. Obviously – they succeeded!

I assured her that an effective technology ecology in her school would also include some higher-end media creation tools like her computers and her ipads, and that she’d want to remember that the ability to do some computing with computers is also a really important skill for our students today.  I remember when Nicholas Negroponte from MIT started to predict that ubiquity would be a game changer in our adoption of technology but that rather than getting simpler, as they should over time,  there was this interesting phenomenon with computers called ‘featuritis’ whereby software developers keep the software getting more complex and complicated (bloated and expensive) rather than cheaper.  Google seems to have figured that out.  Make the browser do most of the work, and the machine could remain inexpensive,  although not as robust.   Maybe robust is not what we are looking for in education anyway.  Easy (for teachers)  seems to be the preferred approach when it comes to technology.   I’m not in complete agreement with this, but I’m learning to accept it.   It is what it is.

People often ask me if I think things are suddenly changing, and while I’m hopeful,  I’m still cautious because I’m not sure it’s the technology that has been holding us back.   We’ve been able to connect our students around the world with blogs since about 2005 and with global projects using forums and list serves since the 1980s.  How many of us jumped on board?  We’ve had extremely rich sites sharing how-to’s of authentic learning and Project Based Learning for more than two decades.   Were we on board then?  We have had Ministry Licensed products that allow multimedia creation and assistive technology for our students for another decade or so.  Were we all making use of these?  When I tell people that my students and I were blogging with other classrooms across the world almost 10 years ago now, and we did this by taking turns all throughout the day on two desktop computers,  they sometimes look at me strangely – like they couldn’t imagine doing that without the Chromebook cart rolled down to the classroom or students 1:1 on their own devices.   They complain that there isn’t enough technology, and yet their classroom computer is often sitting silently in the corner reserved for teacher email.  What’s up with that?

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Katina Papulkas’ excellent session on Google for Administrators

Despite my observations, and my confusion about slow progress in educational technology, I refuse to become cynical.  Instead, I’m telling myself that it’s the ubiquity and access that will make the difference this time around.  Now that educators can leap ahead with their own learning through connected networks, they are not bound any longer by the limits of their own school building or in-services for learning…they can connect with and  support each other and learn not only how to use these tools, but what effective use looks like.

I’m reminded that early adopters will always be willing to put in the countless hours that lead them to mastery of technology tools (and other things) if they feel that will  transform their classrooms – that hasn’t changed much since computers were first introduced into classrooms.

Now that we can share our success stories and connect more widely through social media and through networks like the #ossemooc there is no reason to ‘wait for the learning’ – we can just go out and get it!  It was exciting to see so many educators at OTRK12 and GAFE Summit finding their community and learning together!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trusting in Student Awesomeness

For quite some time now I’ve been questioning our desire to have students who are critical thinkers.  Do we really want that?

What happens when these students that we’ve empowered to have wonderfully evaluative thinking skills decide that they need to make improvements to their learning environment?  Will you stand beside them and support them?  Will you empower them to seek and facilitate change?

Or, will you explain the rules of the ‘game’,  bogging them down with all the ‘ya but’ explanations that let them know you really weren’t serious about the development of their critical thinking skills.  Maybe you were okay with it during the the contrived classroom scenario but when it comes to something they really care about in ‘real life’ can you embrace this as part of your curriculum?

I worry that we need to get real with students and empower their dreams about taking action, while supporting them to think critically about how they might do that in order to have a real impact on their world, their future, and of course, ours as well.   I love the following video, where Scott McLeod challenges us to make the extra-curricular the curricular…to make taking action and personal passion a part of becoming a concerned citizen and a life long learner, and be more trusting of our awesome students!

Diving Deeply: Networks or Communities

Originally Posted by on Apr 13, 2012 in Voices from the Learning Revolution, PLP Network

I’ve begun teaching an Additional Qualifications course for inservice teachers, about the integration of technology into their classroom practice. I’ve written about this new learning journey before, and I began revising and rethinking the course as soon as it got rolling the first time around. This is what I miss most about being a classroom teacher — the creative process involved in shaping learning environments that work!

In planning courses we continue to find that many of the resources we turn to for guidance are often traditional, text-based models of learning, especially in higher education. This doesn’t often sit right with me. My goal is to help teachers imagine new possibilities in their own classrooms as they begin to shift their practice.

In setting out to model some more innovative practices, I hope that by seeing a variety of options as learners first, teachers will understand the power of these new approaches and feel free to play with some of these new tools and then reflect on them with a critical eye. Most of the teachers who will join me in these courses are newly connected to social networks, and therefore my aim is to plan a meaningful experience that is not too overwhelming.

These newly connected educators often look for some advice about where to jump in: Twitter? Blogs? Facebook? Social networks for teachers? There are so many choices! As a result, I’ve surfaced some thoughts about the difference between the work I do with networks and communities and how I might advise teachers who are newly connected.

Virtual colleagues? Business as usual

In an earlier blog post I was asking this question:

“I’m gravitating towards more collaborative work that involves a different kind of connection than something like twitter — what should I be recommending to others just starting down this path?”

I’ve been thinking about where I’m finding my best support for my own learning these days. While I’ve been going to my twitter network and saving links, resources, and graphics to help me plan this course, I’ve found that it’s actually my community of inquiry within Powerful Learning Practice that has lead me to the deepest learning along this new journey. Only a handful of these people are actually in the realm of my f2f connections and none of them are people I see day-to-day. Working virtually with people from my online community is just becoming business as usual!

As I begin teaching this course, I think I owe it to my learners to help them understand that while twitter networks might lead them to incredible contacts and resources, our classroom community will be where they can get down and dirty with some really messy learning.

Let me share a recent example. I was extremely lucky to be taking Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach’s PLP e-course Teaching Online: Becoming a Connected Educator back while I was building the first rendition of my own course curriculum. It gave me a source of feedback and critical friends when I was first drafting, asking questions, and pondering my next moves. Even now, 6 months after the PLP e-course, I am still in contact with several of those folks who I know would help me with revisions. This potential for an extended conversation about my work would not often happen on twitter, and actually I don’t know that it’s ever happened to me in a f2f context, either!

A great discovery

Next, something Sheryl recently posted in the PLP Community Hub caught my eye. It was a document that Howard Rheingold had shared, inviting folks to work on collaboratively transforming a course about social media for high school students. I had been cocooning a bit, thinking through my plans, and while following some of Howard’s links I discovered — a visual syllabus!

This was great. I already had the very (19th century) text-based one I’d created from the traditional University model I had been given as an exemplar. And I had the video version that I had made for my students as a course introduction for the first week. However, the ‘good’ thing about video is also the ‘bad’ thing about video…you have to watch it! You can’t scan it well. So a graphic organizer was just the thing I needed to turn the syllabus into more of an infographic. I got busy creating and came up with a first draft:

I posted this to my community inside the PLP Ning space, where Howard’s course outline is also posted, knowing that I would likely get some feedback, suggestions, and perhaps even a discussion wherein more folks share what they are doing in this area – and then BINGO – we’d be building collective knowledge.

Sure enough, the sharing began to happen almost immediately. Suzie Nestico posted a reply that caused me to think more deeply about some of the requirements that will need to be in place before my students will be able to understand the difference between “knowledge sharing” and “knowledge building.” This will help direct some of my next steps in planning.

While I learn lots and connect well with Twitter and my other networks, it’s my community of inquiry (both f2f and online) that helps me to dive deeper, which is where I like to be!

Professional Learning, Teacher Librarians, and the 21st Century!

This past week was a wonderful celebration of the work of over half (about 31) of our elementary teacher librarians who gathered to share the projects they’ve been working on since the fall.  I was lucky to be able to work with Michelle Campbell and Bill MacKenzie , who led Year One of this great project.  I’m already looking forward to being involved next year!

There is a lot of talk at our board about the benefits of on-going, job-embedded professional learning for teachers and this project seemed to be a successful example of how this approach can work.   In the fall,  TLs were given a laptop to use for the year and they initially came together for about 3 after school workshops in order to learn a variety of new 21st century approaches, the main focus being:

  • wikis
  • blogs
  • social bookmarking
  • google tools
  • voicethread
  • twitter

They were then asked to join teams based on their own particular passions or areas of interest, and they were given 2 days of release time to meet on their own and create artefacts of their work that could be shared with their own group and beyond.   You’ll find their projects here on the UGLiWiki under Tech Coach Projects and I think you’ll join me in appreciating this wonderful group of teachers who, in many cases, were beginners to 21st teaching and have taken some giant leaps forward in developing and using wonderful tools and resources!

Great contributions UGDSB Teacher Librarians!

Teaching and Learning in the 21st Century Conference

Whew!  I’ve returned from a whirlwind of 3 days of learning at OTF’s latest conference: Teaching and Learning in the 21st Century and as usual, my brain is full of new learning, not only from the keynote presenters, Will Richardson and Garfield Gini-Newman,  but from my own network.  I’m a little late getting to this post so I’m going highlight some of the folks who’ve provided multiple perspectives on their experience…special thanks to Peter Skillen who made this such an awesome event!   If you aren’t reading these blogs you should really be adding them to your blogroll – they do a great job of capturing the event.  Others you will find to be a source of professional learning on twitter so check them out!

Photo Courtesy of Andrew Forgrave

  • Barbara McLaughlin shared her conference impressions as well as doing a wonderful job getting educators excited about the open-ended potential of a social network like Bit Strips for Schools.
  • Colin Jagoe always has a smile on his face and a funny story to tell and he’s honest about the challenges and rewards of personalizing learning for folks at Minds on Media.  It’s harder to plan for, but more rewarding for both learners and teachers!  It was wonderful to get to know Jeff Brown, his partner in crime (and photoshop) and I watched time after time as  Jeff’s respectful and patient way with people lifted them up!
  • Rod Lucier and Andy Forgrave ended up at an Apple Store adventure.   These two guys are fabulous with lenses…the photographic kind, but also the critical thinking lens as well.  They constantly (and respectfully) push back and ask good questions and we are all the better for that!
  • Doug Peterson and Kelly Moore ran a fabulous session to provide some more support for the folks who were new to Twitter and to answer questions about Web 2.0 and Personal Learning Networks.   Twitter eggs became real people as Kelly helped people to put their avatars ‘out there’ on the web.  Kelly has inspired me to add some bling to my blog or wiki in the next while! :)
  • Lynda Kilpatrick was patiently taking people through tours of Google Earth, smiling all the while, despite the annoyance of bandwidth problems that can sometimes happen with Google Earth.
  • Mali Bickley and Jim Carleton are not twitter users, but are Global Collaborators extraordinaire as co-managers of iearn-Canada.org.  They had teachers from Turkey, Russia, Japan and Taiwan video conferencing in to speak with us at Minds on Media.  I’ve been so blessed as a teacher to be a part of several amazing iearn.org projects…check them out!
  • I think almost everyone got to Creating Media with Kent Manning and Google Tools with Richard Grignon.  These stations were always packed and I heard folks buzzing about their takeaways and I see that people are hunting Richard down on Twitter!  I know he was definitely too busy to be tweeting on Saturday – we swamped him!
  • I always learn more about OSAPAC software from Danuta and she has the understanding of critical thinking that makes teachers question how they use powerful tools.
  • Danika Barker was awesome to get to know and I’ve added her blog to my list of regular reading.  I love how she turns a phrase, and athough she says she’s not exclusively an English teacher anymore, you’ll notice her skill in her exceptional writing.

It’s incredible to stand among these folks who are so generous in sharing their expertise and supporting others.  There are so many others in my network that weren’t able to be here for one reason or another, but I am constantly grateful to all of you for the things you teach me and others around the province and beyond.  These are really good times to be a teacher!

There were some folks who couldn’t be with us (registration filled up really quickly) and we even heard from some of you who were attending virtually on Twitter.  Erin, we will get together again one of these days!

Thanks again to OTF for another wonderful conference about Teaching and Learning.  It has been inspiring to watch the PLN grow over the last two years and to see folks nurturing our new members on twitter and other kinds of social media was really rewarding.  There’s a reason we are all educators – we are ridiculously enthusiastic about life-long learning!

Reflections on RCAC Symposium 2010

Sometimes it just seems to take me a while to put my reflections into writing but having attending another great RCAC Symposium this year,  I thought, “Better late than never!”   Thanks so much to Doug Peterson and Doug Sadler for heading up such a great organizational team that makes this event so successful.

I read @dougpete’s Blog ‘Doug – off the record’ regularly and after the conference he wrote  this great post that reminds us that our passion for professional learning needs to lead to action!  As a life-long learner and a passionate teacher, I find that what I enjoy most about RCAC (I think I’ve been lucky enough to attend about 4 now) is the great balance between inspirational speakers, practical workshops that I can apply in my classroom, and the opportunity to network with other caring professionals.

I loved hearing Ian Jukes again (I’ve been a Committed Sardine for quite some time now) but I hadn’t had a chance to hear Angela Maiers yet, so I was excited about that prospect.  I met Angela at ISTE 2010 with some mutual friends in a pub in Denver after workshops, and her energy was pretty awesome – she quickly let us know about her passion for getting the passion back into school!

I’ve always been a little skeptical of the folks throwing around the ’21st Century Skills’ term because I’ve been teaching for 24 years and I have wanted nothing different for my kids 24 years ago than I do today.   I LOVED Angela’s thinking on this!  She notices that kindergarten kids seem to exemplify all of the qualities of  21st century learners,  so maybe the question shouldn’t be “How do we GIVE students the 21st century skills once they are disengaged 11 year olds” …but instead,

How do we help our students to KEEP those 21st Century Skills that they so naturally display when they enter school?

This isn’t a completely new concept, but it makes me think of the power of the learner in a new light. Mitchel Resnick’s work around creating environments that are more like Kindergarten led to the creation of Scratch, a wonderfully creative programming software from MIT’s Lifelong Kindergarten Lab.   Neil Postman’s book Teaching as a Subversive Activity (1969) notes that ‘Children enter school as question marks and leave as periods’.  We need to help them explore the questions that are most important to them, and teachers need to  understand that we all have different opinions about what is worth knowing.

So check out Angela’s presentation called Habitudes of the 21st Century Learner and ask yourself how you can nurture the already curious, collaborative, creative, persistent, divergent learners that sit with you everyday.   I know I’m going to try to bring a little Kindergarten back into my teaching and see what happens!

Talking Blogs Are Here

You’ll probably notice a Listen Now button on my blog, and a widget in the sidebar that allows you to subscribe to my podcast. It works in blogger..but I’ll have to find out how to get it on this new WordPress blog.

I’ve been getting ready to present at the AT4ALL
Conference
in Milton next week and my presentation will be about literacy tools for the 21st century, thinking specifically of our students with special needs. If you are there, the session will hopefully go something like this:

This session shows parents and educators the new kinds of literacies with which our students need to develop fluency in order to develop 21st century skills. Web 2.0 tools like Google for Educators, blogs, wikis, rss, social networking, global projects, diigo and other online tools for literacy will enhance the education of our students with special needs, while allowing them to access collaborative tools that will be so important as they continue their education and move on to the workforce. This session will provide a practical look at some of the best ways teachers can motivate students and enhance their use of technology to improve their literacy.

I find this an important topic because while modalities available on the web are getting more and more diverse ensuring more and more access, it’s still a pretty text-based place. If you can’t read, it’s difficult to navigate deeply and go beyond “surfing the surface” as my co-presenter Peter Skillen, would say.

This week, while I was checking out a really good article about where to start with using cell phones on a blog called The Innovative Educator I noticed the Listen Now button and soon found out that Odiogo.com allows you to create text-to-speech podcasts from your RSS feed to ipod, iphone, and MP3 players as well as instantly reading your content on the blog in a really decent voice!

It’s called ‘talking your content’. Very sweet! Another way to open access to those who struggle with reading, or perhaps if you have a class blog with younger students who are non-readers this will be a help for you! It’s working great so far, although it seems to take a few hours to upload the feature to new blog posts, so we’ll see how it goes as I get using it. You can see how it works immediately if you click on my older postings for now.

I’m looking forward to learning about lots of new tools to enhance access for special needs students (and ALL students) at AT4ALL…hope you see you there!

Twitter @bsherry

I’ve been giving Web 2.0 lots of thought this week as I become pretty much entrenched in the Twittersphere…and really liking it! I am absolutely amazed at the sharing that I see going on in twitter. It’s pretty incredible to read postings from people I know and technology leaders I’ve been reading about for the past 5 or 6 years.

Creating groups around your career or interests is a wonderful thing. It makes you feel pretty good to be exchanging ideas with people who think like you and have the resources that you have…but I do wonder whose voice is not being heard here? What, if anything, is the danger in developing ideas among like-minded individuals? Is there really a variety of voices and objective participation in most online communities? Are we missing out on some important voices? You’d think that you’d find a diverse group in the Twittersphere, but is the clustering that happens likely to promote a range of opinion, or a similarity that could cloud our view of what other people experience?

Quite frankly, some teachers just don’t have colleagues in their schools that are interested in collaboration around topics of interest in education. Or perhaps they are the only teacher in a particular subject area or with a certain kind of expertise in the school. Our choice used to be taking a course, which would give us a PLN we needed for a period of time. Now, I can take my professional interests online and look for like-minded educators to help me push forward in my learning, possibly in a much more sustaining way than a traditional course offering. This is why I got involved in blogging and wikis…I needed dialogue with teachers who were interested in new technologies and there weren’t individuals at my school who were exploring these ideas. Online communities seemed to be a much more practical and vibrant classroom for me.

In December, David Warlick talked at RCAC about the danger of students without access; he says the real danger is not so much about access to computers anymore, but understanding the power of collaboration, or not. I’m coming to understand, through my own participation online, that these learning networks may meet more of the needs of our learners and teachers than traditional learning spaces (time, choice, just-in-time learning, co-learning), and that teachers really need to be understand the usefulness of these very real and purposeful virtual environments. Now, the challenge of being open to the use of these kinds of tools in our often locked-down school network environments!

I look forward to learning more from my Twitter friends about how these networks work and their experience as participants.