A Visual Way to Follow Hashtags

As the summer starts to come to an end, Ontario Educators are thinking about back to school and, hopefully, the excitement that will happen the first of November at the Bring IT Together Conference.  November 5-7 in Niagara Falls – plan now to be there!

The discussions and pre-conference buzz has been spreading via the hashtag #BIT14.  Please join in and follow the hashtag.

Follow the hashtag…that’s a technique that every Twitter user needs to know.

And there are so many ways to do it.  If you click the link I just created above, you’ll get text display in chronological order.  It’s a terrific way to stay up with the latest, as they flow in.

Recently, I found another way to follow a hashtag and it’s my current addiction.  Screensaver-ish, it’s just fascinating.  You set it once and then sit back as it pulls in Twitter messages containing the hashtag of interest and a visual to go along with it.

The utility is Tweetbeam.  And, the #BIT14 hashtag display can be found here.

The feed is currently fueled by our social media expert, @mcguirp so I waited until a Twitter message from him popped up to grab the screen.  He’s doing such a great job creating and maintaining the buzz.  It just seemed to be the right thing to do.

So, on your to-do list today.

  1. Check out and contribute to the discussion about the conference – #bit14
  2. Check out Tweetbeam and see if you don’t get engaged with following this or any other hashtag of interest!

An Interview with Verena Roberts

I’ve recently had interactions with Verena Roberts that culminated in a guest post from her on this blog announcing the CANeLearn Summit to be held in Toronto this summer.  Verena is also going to present at the 2014 Bring IT, Together Conference.  I thought that it might be nice to introduce her to Ontario Educators via an interview.  So, here goes.


Doug:  OK, I’ve got to know.  YOU contacted me first.  How does someone from Alberta find this guy in Ontario?


Verena: I am pretty active on Twitter. I noticed many of the conversations I would watch, from Ontario, often included you. From my perspective I could see people asking you questions and checking for your opinion. So I googled you – I read your blog and thought it was interesting. When the CANeLearn team asked me who I thought we should connect with – I suggested you because you appeared like an online focus for many Ontario educators.


Doug:  Well, OK.  Sometimes a noisy distraction.  So, tell us a little about yourself.  How long have you been in education?  What areas have you taught?


Verena: I started teaching in 1996 at the Canadian International School in Singapore. Then I taught in Montreal, Vancouver and Edmonton. I started teaching online with @KOOL (Kamloops Open Online Learning), and have since taught with Alberta Distance Learning Centre and now Palliser BB. I have taught from Kindergarten  through University but my focus area is Social Studies and most recently MOOCs for K12. Over the last two years, I have been consulting and my proudest projects include learning how to integrate MOOCs in K12, the #Gamifi-ED Project and Healthy Healers.

Doug:  You’ve been a busy person with a great deal of global experience.  What is Palliser Beyond Borders?  How many students are enrolled there?

Verena:  Palliser Beyond Borders in a new online school in the Palliser School District in Alberta. It is located between Calgary and Lethbridge. We have just started, so only about 30 students, but we plan on supporting many more in the new school year. Alison Hancox is the Principal, and she is an innovator who thinks outside the box. It is a pretty exciting opportunity to be working with an Innovative Team and District.


Doug:  What is CANeLearn?  How did you get involved?


Verena: In 2012 online and blended leaders from across Canada were invited to the first Summer Summit in Toronto. Many of the leaders had met at iNACOL and they decided to come together to create an Association of K12 Online  and Blended Learning in Canada. I heard about the summit and asked if I could come as a consultant.  I became the acting Chief Innovation Officer last summer. We have spent the last year working on developing the Association across Canada.

The CANeLearn Board includes leaders in Blended and online Learning from BC to Nova Scotia. We also have representation from First Nations Virtual Schools. We are looking for more participation from Northern Canada and Ontario. Click here for the list of the founding Board Members.


Doug:  Your upcoming summit is a natural extension to this then.  CANeLearn is reaching out to educators across Canada.  What is the ultimate goal?  How will this benefit teachers in Ontario?


Verena: In my opinion, I learn the most by finding out what other people are doing and how they are learning. Working with online and blended educators from across Canada has helped me in my open learning projects and encouraged me to promote pedagogy first in my learning design and practice.  Ontario has a unique online and blended learning system, in that no other province has one resource centre, one LMS and one support network for public schools. Ontario teachers will be able to create and build networks which will help with professional development and hopefully lead to cross-Country projects. We are also promoting Open Educational Resources and considering a National LOR (Learning Object Repository) opportunities. My focus area is the “Centre for Innovation” where we hope to promote research across Canada in online and Blended learning as well as provide opportunities for EdTech companies and industry to work with organizations. Finally, we are starting our professional development programs which include teacher hosted webinars about their programs and possibly a University course on “How to .Teach in k12 Online and Blended Environments”


Doug:  That’s great that you’ve noticed the Ontario Educational Resource Bank.  A couple of other Ontario based resources are Cube For Teachers and the OSAPAC Collection.


We’re delighted that you submitted a proposal and were accepted for the 2014 #BIT14 conference.  What can attendees to your session expect?


Verena: The #BIT14 Session will be a collaborative #CANeLearn effort. #CANeLearn will be sponsoring the annual, “State of the Nation: K12 Online Learning in Canada” Report this year. Much of the research and writing about the different programs across Canada will be included in the Report over the next few months – and I will be able to speak about what we have discovered. The focus will be on Emerging Trends and Innovation – so session participants will learn about options to take back to their own learning environments.


Doug:  I’m very interested in your iNACOL award for innovation.  Can you tell us what that’s about?  What did you do that made them notice your efforts?


Verena: I wrote about it in my blog here. I called it the truth about being an Innovator because being an Innovator can be very difficult.. I remember Susan Patrick, the President and CEO of iNACOL introduced me and my iNACOL award. She  summarized that I was able to prove that you could create a whole online school – completely in the open, based on my work in the OC@ADLC (the Open Classroom at ADLC). I had never thought about it that way – but I guess I created my own “school in the cloud” while working within a more traditional online organization.


Doug:  Will you share your thoughts and advice about innovation at the conference?  Is it something that everyone should be known for?


Verena: Be real. People can tell when you are fake. Stay true to your values. Follow through on what you believe in. Admit when you are wrong and fail and try again. Collaboration and different opinions are priceless – so look for conflict and different people to work with.


Doug:  Readers should know that a lot of our correspondence has happened while you’re watching soccer.  Can you share some details about that?


Verena: I am a mom with three busy kids and their most recent passion is soccer. My husband helps coach my older son’s team and I am the Assistant Coach to my younger son’s U5 Team. Whenever things get too crazy or overwhelming at work – or in my online world – I just have to sit back and watch these amazing kids.  They have just gotten to the point that they realize they are supposed to score a goal – but it is way more fun to play, “What Time is it Mr Wolf”. They ensure that I remember play is the most important part of learning – no matter the situation or environment.


Doug:  We’re looking forward to welcoming you to Niagara Falls and hope that you can take in the entire experience – the learning and the social.  Do you have something in particular that you want to take in while at the Falls?


Verena: I have never seen Niagara Falls so that will be BIG! I also am really looking forward to connecting and hopefully meeting with people I follow on twitter or I met at #ConnectED 2 years ago in Calgary. I also heard about the amazing social activities at #BIT14 – like going for a morning jog (although for me it will be a morning walk) or tweetups. I want to be involved in conversations in order to learn new things.


Doug:  If it’s the first time at Niagara Falls, make sure that you book a falls view room.  The lights at night are amazing.  Plus, bring your camera and join the Photowalk to take some spectacular pictures to bring home.  You won’t regret it.


Thank you for the interview, Verena.  I’m looking forward to meeting you in person, hopefully at the Summit and certainly at the #bit14 conference.


Verena: Thank you!


You can follow Verena on Twitter at @verenanz.

Her web presence includes a Google Site at:  https://sites.google.com/site/verenanz/


May 21st #BIT14 Twitter Chat

Last Wednesday evening, the third is a series of Twitter chats leading into the November BringIT, Together conference was held.

Chat moderator @mcguirp kept the conversation focussed and the topic this time was about Makerspaces. It’s certainly a very hot topic in education at present and the #bit14 Twitterers were all over it.  Some interesting concepts, contacts who have already embraced the concept, and planning for the future were all discussed during the chat.

You read the entire Storify document here.

Look forward to the next chat and join us.  Details will be revealed by following @bit2014 or @mcguirp.

Between chats, please follow in and join the conversation by following the #bit14 hashtag.

Introducing Artemis Papert and Brian Silverman

Your Bring IT, Together 2 Conference Committee continues to plan for the annual conference, November 5-7 2014, in Niagara Falls.  Follow the hashtag #BIT14 on Twitter to be part of the conversation (and, please, jump in!)  The conference website is located at:  http://www.bringittogether.ca.

We are extremely proud to introduce the duo of Artemis Papert and Brian Silverman.  They will open the Bring IT, Together Conference on Wednesday morning and will be part of the Minds on Media team leading a session dealing with Turtle Art.  Read this blog post by Peter Skillen “Turtle Art – am I a programmer or an artist“.

Artemis Papert

Artemis Papert is an artist creating art in both traditional and digital media. After a first career as a research biologist she retrained as a Shiatsu therapist and is currently training to become a Jungian psychoanalyst. Artemis has led TurtleArt workshops for a wide variety of groups in many countries.

Brian Silverman

 Since the late 1970s, Brian Silverman has been involved in the invention of learning environments for children. His work includes dozens of Logo versions (including LogoWriter & MicroWorlds), Scratch, LEGO robotics, TurtleArt and the PicoCricket. Brian has been a Visiting Scientist at the MIT Media Lab, enjoys recreational math, and is a computer scientist and master tinkerer. He once even built a tic-tac-toe playing computer out of TinkerToys.

Registration for the BIT Conference opens in May.  Please continue to monitor the website, follow the hashtag #bit14 on Twitter, and join the Bring IT, Together group on Facebook.

A #BIT14 Twitter Chat

A number of Ontario (and other places … first two participants were from Australia and Singapore) educators came together for the first of a number of Twitter Chats leading into the 2014 Bring IT, Together Conference.  The conference will be held in Niagara Falls, ON on November 5-7.  There are still a few days for people to submit session proposals for the conference so the hopes were that the content of the chat might lend some inspiration for those experiencing writer’s block getting their proposals ready.  The topic?

“Your biggest challenge integrating technology into the classroom/school”.

A Storify of the chat transcript is located here.


A big thanks to those who joined in.  Look for another chat in the near future designed to get people thinking and meeting about computer and technology before the actual conference.

Introducing Ron Canuel

Your Bring IT, Together 2 Conference Committee continues to steam ahead with plans for the annual conference, November 5-7 2014, in Niagara Falls.  Follow the hashtag #BIT14 on Twitter to be part of the conversation (and, please, jump in!)  The conference website is located at:  http://www.bringittogether.ca.

Today, I’m pleased to announce the third keynote speaker for the conference.  In addition to Richard Byrne and George Couros, Ron Canuel, President and Chief Executive Office of the Canadian Education Association will address the group.


Ron Canuel has been President and CEO of the Canadian Education Association since 2010, and has over 36 years of experience in the public education sector. As the former Director General of the Eastern Townships School Board in Quebec, Ron was the principal architect of one of the first Canadian district-wide wireless laptop computer program for students and teachers, and has received numerous awards in recognition of this ongoing initiative. He has been a frequent presenter, panelist, and lecturer at national and international conferences on CEA’s What did you do in school today? and Teaching the Way We Aspire to Teach research and action initiatives, as well as on change management, innovation in education, leadership, and technology in the classroom.

A Brainstorming Tool

A few years ago, I did an evaluation of mind mapping/brain storming tools.  There weren’t too many products on the market at the time.  If you’ve been a computer user for a while, I’m sure that you could even name them.  We actually had a committee chosen to do the task – there were some members who were language arts teachers and had been using graphic organizers for years and then a couple of computery types like me who knew the value of mind mapping because we had used these.


Photo Credit: Marcin Wichary via Compfight cc

We had a great deal of fun evaluating the products although it was a challenge at times.  Essentially, they all did the same thing, the same way.  But, we did finally get one that we liked and went forward with it.

Now, that was a few years ago.

Fast forward to today.

If you head into your favourite app store, you’ll see that there are all kinds of products available to download.  Some are standalone applications and others run inside your browser.  Attempts to distinguish one from the other have been made largely in the graphic design of the product and the documents that they create.  But if you, as a friend of mine once said, peel back the skin of the onion, they all pretty much work the same way.  Essentially, not much has changed over the years.

Recently, there were a number of references to a new product that filled my reading.  The product was called Stormboard and it claimed to be different.  That was enough to get me to take an in depth look at.  I like what I see.

The thinking and design was a little different from what I’d used in the past.  I was encumbered by a knowledge of flowcharting templates where one box leads to another and there are lines connecting items.  Instead, I had to start thinking of how communication central works around here.  Walk into our kitchen and there will be sticky notes everywhere.  My wife is the queen of the sticky note.  Look around and there are reminders, instructions, orders, phone numbers, etc. everywhere.

Stormboard works like that…and more.


To kick the tires, I thought that I’d pull together some of the planning for the BringITTogether conference, November 5-7.

From the top left corner, I have a choice of things to drag out to the work area.  They all look like sticky notes so I was right at home!  Each note could be just a sticky or I could include an image, a video, document, or sketch my own.  As you drag them around the board, it’s hypnotic to watch them wiggle.  Each note has properties where you can change the colour or even a feature that I think would be very helpful – you can take sticky from one brainstorm and plop it into another.  Now, why would you want to do that?

Stormboards are multi-user.  The free version allows you to have up to five collaborators on any document.  So, a teacher, for example could divide a class into a number of small groups and then drop instructions into each of the groups without too much effort.  In face, the multi-user features really separate Stormboard from what I’ve been currently using.  Yes, you can have multiple users but there’s more.  Add the users and put your ideas on the board.  Users can then vote in favour or against a concept.  Each sticky also allows for team members to comment rather than change the original sticky.  Who’s doing the work?  Check out the activity button on the top right for a history of activity.  And, of course, what would a multi-user document creator be without a chat feature.  Think beyond the traditional classroom – think online learning or students collaborating on a project from home.  Chat and monitoring activity keeps everyone up to date.

Not every Stormboard needs to start as a blank canvas.

A group of starter templates come with the product.




So, there’s no need to start from scratch!

When you’re done…a nice feature is the ability to repurpose or summarize your efforts.


Check out the different ways to use your or your group’s efforts.

This certainly takes the concept of a report or summary to the next level.

If you’re looking for a web based brain storming solution, make sure that you give this one a long look.  It may just change your whole mindset about how brainstorming works.

A Chance to Articulate

As I noted yesterday, I think that it’s important that you have the chance to articulate just what it is that you’re doing with technology.  If you can’t explain why and how, it’s difficult to justify the time and cost devoted to the project.  In the post, I really liked the fact that Jenny Luca took the time to explain to the parents of her school community just what it is that her school is doing and why.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t take the opportunity as co-chair for the Bring IT Together Conference to invite you to articulate just what you’re doing via a presentation at this great Ontario conference in November.

From your choice of 45 minute, half-day, or full-day sessions, you’ll have an audience of colleagues where you can share just what it is that you’re doing in your classroom.  Whether it’s a new piece of software, a new pedagogy, a tried and true project, …, the conference is filled with other educators looking for the best ideas to use in their classroom.

What’s unique about a conference articulation is that folks aren’t just chomping at the bit to get it over with and go home!  At a conference, people are there to learn and share.  It’s the social aspect that really enhances the learning.

In the move to Niagara Falls, the conference committee decided that there needed to be more than just a change in location.  A very serious effort was made to facilitate the social.  That’s why you’ll find the Learning Space where you can create your own edcamp like experience, the comfy chairs in the hallways, the photowalk, the socials, and just the location.  The place just lends itself so nicely for conversations.

Whether it’s people wanting to challenge your premise, wanting more information about it, or looking for partnerships between classrooms, this is a great place to start.

Why not consider articulating the great things that are happening in your class and school?

The Call for Proposals is currently open.  Click here to submit a proposal.

A more detailed post by yours truly appeared here.

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Can You Articulate?

Jenny Luca lives half a world away from me.  Or, I live half a world away from Jenny Luca.

Consequently, it’s kind of rare that her comments show up in my timeline (even when I look at my “Over There” list) but they’re a joy to behold when they do.  I happened to run into one this morning that reminded me of how well thought through her work with students is.  Part of the discussion appears below.

When you think of so many initiatives in education, it really is difficult to stay on top of them.  However, those that you plan to incorporate long term are special.  In particular, you should be able to articulate exactly what you’re doing and why.

It struck me as particularly noteworthy that she conducted workshops for parents to show and demonstrate exactly what was happening in her school with a Google Apps for Education implementation.

It seems to me that there are various levels that these discussions could take place.

  • with yourself  (and you’re probably easy to convince);
  • with colleagues (might be more difficult if it requires adding to an already bulging workload);
  • with principal (what will this cost?  what image does it have for the school?  will the board approve this?);
  • with parents (you want my kids to do what?)

With this simply hierarchy, you can see where the most difficult conversations would probably lie.

Are you prepared to lead a workshop for YOUR parents to confidently explain what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and where you’re going with it?

If not, should you even be doing it?

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Call for Presenters–#BIT14

ECOO members received an email yesterday announcing the Call for Presenters for the 2014 Bring IT, Together.  In case your announcement got caught in a spam filter, you missed it, or you’re not an ECOO member, the message appears below.


I had previously announced that the calls were open in a blog post “Get Your Keyboard Out #BIT14”.

Already announced are keynote speakers Richard Byrne from “Free Technology 4 Teachers” and George Couros, “The Principal of Change”.  Look for more details as they get confirmed.

A direct link to the “Call for Proposals” can be found here.

Please consider submitting a proposal if you’re doing something with technology that really works well in your classroom and/or there’s a topic that you’re passionate about.  It would be great to have you on the program.

This is the only conference for Ontario Educators by Ontario Educators in the province.  Plan now to be in Niagara Falls, ON for November 5, 6, 7, 2014.