Pre #BIT14 Interview with Derrick Schellenberg and Brian Aspinall


Michelle Cordy (@cordym on Twitter) continued her series of interviews leading to the Bring IT, Together Conference in Niagara Falls on November 5-7, 2014.

Last night, she talked to Derrick Schellenberg (@Mr_Schellenberg) and Brian Aspinall (@mraspinall) about their sessions.  This time, the focus was on inquiry in the classroom.  Both Derrick and Brian have TLLP projects and they served as the basis for the interview.

It was a rainy, rainy night here last night and I was unable to get a good, reliable connection to watch the interview live last night.  There are parts of the interview where internet connections were definitely an issue.  I guess I don’t have a monopoly on that.  Anyway, you can enjoy the interview since it was recorded.

Look for shout outs to Royan Lee, David Fife, and James Cowper and their blogs.

Michelle’s previous interviews leading into the #BIT14 conference…

Another Interview with Brian Aspinall


A little over a year ago, I conducted an online interview with Brian Aspinall.  We’ve stayed in contact and certainly I follow the stories and articles that he shares every morning.  Recently, he indicated that we should do another interview.  That sounded like a good idea so here goes.

Doug:  Thanks for agreeing to do another interview, Brian.  It will be interesting to catch up with what’s happening with you.

 

Brian: Thank you again for this opportunity. I cannot believe it has been over a year since our last Q & A!

 

Doug:  So, where are you teaching this year?  What grades?

 

Brian: I have (finally) secured some seniority and am here to stay at Indian Creek Road PS in Chatham. My current assignment is a grade 8 homeroom with some grades 7 & 8 rotary Science and Phys Ed.

 

Doug:  I’ve read that you’ve been out of class on special projects.  Can you elaborate on that?

 

Brian: This year I am active on two Board committees. This first of which is a Creating Pathways to Success committee. We are revamping our program to coincide with the new ministry document. More about inquiry and student choice. Our K-6 students are now required to have a portfolio of “all About Me” that will follow them to grades 7 & 8. We are working on what that will look like for our students.

 

The second project is a TLLP grant we received from OTF. We have been granted some release time to teach other intermediate staff about some of the news, technologies and pedagogies of today’s classrooms in order to level the playing field – so to speak – across the feeders schools in our area. This is a cross panel group and we have members from the local high school involved as well. This gives us an opportunity to share and highlight the great things happening in each of our schools and provides us with an opportunity to actually tour each building.

 

Doug:  During our last interview, we talked about Sketchlot and Clipkwik.  Where do these projects stand?

 

Brian: Clipkwik is still alive and well. I’m not sure what I am going to do with it now that youtube etc. is pretty well wide open in our classrooms. As you remember, Clipkwik was a solution to a problem – a way to find videos fast from sources other than youtube as it was blocked at the time. I haven’t used clipkwik much lately but still own the domain name.

 

Sketchlot hasn’t been on my radar since Scrawlar was developed about a year ago.

 

Doug:  Most recently, your biggest project is Scrawlar.  Can you give the readers a short description of it if they haven’t tried it already?

 

Brian: Scrawlar is a web whiteboard and word processor for schools. Essentially it is a place to collaborate on writing or math for younger students who do not have an email and want a simple tool. Students can create documents and sketches and then share them with anyone in the class. With tools like Scrawlar, our school alone saved close to $7500 last year just on printing costs! Students do not need to sign up for Scrawlar as the teacher adds them to the class network.

 

Doug:  Was there a little something extra in your pay cheque?  <grin>  Now, you’re entering a space where there are existing online products.  Why would someone consider Scrawlar when they could use Microsoft Office 365 or Google Documents?

Brian: Privacy! Scrawlar is just me. No data mining. No ads. No bots. Just me and a few lines of php code. Secondly, I have had many conversations with teachers trying out Google Classroom with young grades and they find it difficult. Many are making the switch back to Scrawlar. Lastly, Scrawlar is web based so it is always up to date. Teachers won’t have to bug site admins for app updates. It is HTML5 and works on all tablets, phones and PCs – for those BYOD classrooms.

 

Doug:  Is there room for a classroom to use both?

 

Brian: App smash away! You can now upload pics from the camera roll to sketch on in the whiteboard section.

 

Doug:  How many classrooms are currently using your online projects?  

 

Brian: As of this writing there are about 5500 users.

 

Doug:  In your mind, you must have a target figure that you’d like to reach.  Could you share that?  

 

Brian: I’d love to see it reach the numbers twiducate hit a few years ago. Last time I checked twiducate was about 160,000 users.

 

 

Doug:  Who pays for the bandwidth and storage space for these projects?

 

Brian: My wife! Ha, jk. I do. As it grows so do my bandwidth fees. I believe I currently have four godaddy accounts. Maybe I should re-think this now that you brought it to my attention!

 

Doug:  I had asked earlier if you would open source your projects and you indicated that you didn’t think you would.  One of the things that I think would be useful would be for a classroom teacher to customize their students instances of the projects.  Would you consider adding room for a school or classroom logo so that the teacher could really make it their own?

 

Brian: I’ve never considered this but I LOVE the idea. Like a Google Site or D2L teachers could make their network a little more custom with school logos and colours. Something to consider, thanks for the idea.

 

Doug:  I’m guessing that you’ve got a few projects on the go.  Can you share with us some of what you’re working on?

 

Brian: Nkwiry is my #1 focus right now. Again built as a solution to a problem. Over the last six months I have heard teachers saying “I want to flip my classroom but videos get buried in timelines on websites or social media we use”. Class websites are great but it seems there is difficulty in sharing many videos, filtered by subject area, on these sites.

 

Nkwiry is a place to share videos with and alongside students, based on subject area. teachers and students alike can post math videos under a math tile, science videos under a science tile, etc. I see nkwiry as the perfect flipped / blended learning tool for teachers who want to stop using textbooks and have their students research authentic class concepts. The videos shared under each tile and be posted back to a class website using a public link. www.nkwiry.com

 

Outside of the technology front I am an active planner on the EdCampSWO team. This year we are piggy-backing #BIT14 by offering George Couros as a keynote to those local here in south western Ontario who cannot make it to Niagara. EdCampSwo is November 8, 2014 at Tecumseh Vista school in Windsor. People may register at www.edcampswo.com. Based on numbers so far, I think we may hit 400 participants this year!

 

Doug:  Over the past year, I’ve noticed that you’ve become more vocal online about getting students to code.  If a person was a fly on Mr. Aspinall’s classroom wall, what would they see on a typical day with respect to programming?

 

Brian: Noise. Bean bag chairs. An Arcade machine. I have students coding choose your own adventure graphic novels. I have students coding math applications to make rote tasks more engaging. I have students coding games in Unity to be played on the arcade. I also have students teaching themselves javascript from code academy.

 

Doug:  We’ll undoubtedly get a chance to catch up at the Bring IT, Together Conference in Niagara Falls in a couple of weeks.  Can you share with us a bit about your presentation?

 

Brian: Based on my summary for #BIT14 I need about 6 hours to cover everything! I want to discuss Google Classroom, augmented reality and coding but 50 mins will be a challenge. I am toying with the idea of taking a vote as I love choose your own PD. I think I will cover the big ideas from two of the topics and go into greater deal on the third topic the group has voted on.

Doug:  Thanks so much for being available to be interviewed again, Brian.  All the best to you.  I’ll look forward to catching up again.

Brian: Thanks Doug, see you in a few weeks!

You can follow Brian on Twitter at @mraspinall

You can also follow his apps!  @scrawlar, @nkwiry, @clipkwik, @sketchlot

His home on the web is here:  http://brianaspinall.com/

Michelle’s Been Busy – #BIT14


Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to join Michelle Cordy in an interview with #BIT14 keynote speaker, Richard Byrne.  You can read about it here.

Since that time, she’s been busy with a couple more interviews related to the Bring IT, Together Conference.

In addition to Richard, she’s interviewed George Couros and talked about his keynote address “Leading Innovative Change” and his leadership session “The Networked Leader“.  If you missed the interview, you can enjoy it here.

Her microphone had barely cooled off when she was back at it again.  

This time, she connected with Heather Durnin and David Hann.  At the #BIT14 Conference, Heather will be presenting “Three Dimensions in Student Learning“.  David will be presenting “How to make use of a Makerbot 3D Printer in Your School – Year II“.

You can enjoy that interview here.

Excitement is building as we get closer to the Bring IT, Together Conference.  Michelle nicely works the interview process to really tease us about the great learning that will happen.

Registration is still open – you can register through the website and read about these sessions and all of the other great happenings at the three day conference here.

Interview with Richard Byrne – Keynote Speaker at #BIT14


Michelle Cordy (@cordym) has been doing a series of online interviews with educators.  Starting on Tuesday evening, look to her efforts in putting a human face to the Bring IT, Together conference through the interviews.

I was honoured to be invited to share the microphone with her as she interviewed Richard Byrne.  (@rmbyrne)  Richard will address the group on Thursday morning in a keynote titled “The Power of Technology to Prepare Students for the Future” and then will offer a breakout session “Ten Common Challenges Facing Educators and Tools to Address Them”.  He promises this to be a practical edtech approach in the classroom.

Those who tried to watch live know that there were a couple of challenges – Richard was in one Google Hangout Room and Michelle and I in another wondering where he was!  We eventually solved the problem and were able to complete the interview, albeit a bit late.  If you missed it, or would like to enjoy it again, it’s presented below.

LEARNstyle at #BIT14


LEARNstyle has long been a good friend of ECOO and they will return to offer a full-day’s worth of activities this year.

In the past, you may have associated LEARNstyle with its Google and Assistive Technology content and training.  As we discussed a partnership this year with LEARNstyle, we pointed out that there are other offerings being used throughout the province.  LEARNstyle was quick to respond.  Their offerings this year will go far beyond a series of Google workshops.  (although there’s still plenty of Google there if you wish)

With their offerings, they’re truly headed to the Cloud.

There are essentially four areas where you’ll find LEARNstyle’s presence at the Bring IT, Together Conference.

  1. In the Exhibit Hall.  Again this year, drop by the LEARNstyle booth to talk with the Cunninghams and their staff about all of the areas that are supported.
  2. LEARNstyle’s CLOUD STYLE Conference (Google Focus)
    • Google Classroom, Google Chrome in the French Language Classroom, Strategies for Flipping a Classroom using Google tools
  3. LEARNstyle’s CLOUD STYLE Conference (Microsoft Focus)
    • Introduction to Microsoft in the Cloud, OneNote in the Classroom, Office 365 in the 21st Century
  4. LEARNstyle’s CLOUD STYLE UNconference-ENGLISH AND FRENCH
    • This will be a truly unique learning experience.  The format will follow that of an unconference where you can join conversations with others from around the province.  There will be an additional twist – some Ontario educational startup companies have been invited to demonstrate and talk about educational offerings that just might impact your classroom some day.  Here’s an opportunity for you to see things first and provide initial feedback about design and usability.

If that wasn’t enough, D.J. Cunningham, the CEO of LEARNstyle and Joe Wilson, Educational Strategist from the MaRS Discovery District will deliver keynote style presentations to all in attendance for the LEARNstyle events.

This is a really fluid, unique opportunity for Ontario Educators.  If you are interested in more than you can learn by yourself or through what your district currently offers, this is a wonderful opportunity to do so.  If you’ve never been to an unconference event like an edCamp, you can experience it here with the potential of making connections from all corners of the province, in both languages.

Make Sure To Book A Nap


Last year, when Cyndie Jacobs and I agree to co-chair the Bring IT, Together Conference in Niagara Falls, we wanted to take advantage of everything that we could.  The Scotiabank Convention Centre is a beautiful facility and was very conducive for the type of learning that technology-using educators need.  In no small part, a large, formal exhibit hall let participants experience the latest in technologies that you were either currently using or could reasonably expect to use in the near future.

 

But we wanted more!

Niagara Falls is such an incredible place to visit and could there be a more social place in Canada?  To that end, we built in all kinds of social activities to the event.

It’s so good to know that this year’s committee is committed to bringing back the wonderful events that happen outside the traditional conference hours.  Look for:

  • Tuesday Welcome Reception at the Convention Centre;
  • Wednesday Welcome dance with the Kung Fu Lawyers;
  • Thursday Bring IT, Together Reception & Network @ 4:45 – 6 p.m. in the Exhibit Hall;
  • Thursday Photo Walk @ 8:30 p.m. leaving from SCCN and heading to the Horseshoe Falls;
  • Thursday BIT Jam Session from 8:30 p.m. – 12:30 am @ SCCN, Ballroom C;
  • Thursday BIT Minecraft LAN Party from 8:30 p.m. – 12:30 am @ SCCN;
  • Friday Run/Walk/Be Active with Alana! @ 7:00 a.m.

Photo Credit – thanks, Heather Durnin (not photoshopped!)

And, a new event this year -  #BIT14 #SelfieScavenger Selfie Scavenger Hunt

The selfie is all the rage these days with young and old alike!  Join in the fun at the Bring It Together conference by getting to know our conference venue and each other with our selfie scavenger.  Capture yourself with a conference committee member, an exhibitor from the exhibit hall, of yourself learning something new in the Learning Space, a staff member from the Scotiabank Convention Centre and at least three of our six fantastic keynotes.  All you need is your best smile, your smartphone, and a Twitter/Instagram account to play.

To enter:
1.  Take a photo or video of one of the #SelfieScavenger suggested capture ideas.
2.  Tag it with both #SelfieScavenger #bit14 starting on Wednesday, November 5th, 2014.
3.  Share it on Twitter/Instagram.  Last entry by noon on Friday, November 7th, 2014.
4.  Follow the hashtag, like your favourites and encourage people to like yours.
5.  Win some really COOL prizes for participation, popularity, and originality!

#SelfieScavenger prizes?  Thursday and Friday … in the theatre and exhibit hall.

Complete details are available on the Social Events page on the website.  Look for restaurants offering meal discounts for #BIT14 conference attendees.

Oh, and don’t forget the learning.

And … make sure that you schedule a nap somewhere in there.

Need a Conversation?


The 2014 Bring IT, Together conference will soon be here.  It promises to be three days of learning and connections that you can get nowhere else.

Despite that, there might be a topic or two that you want to explore deeper.  Or, perhaps you want to have a conversation with someone new?

Last year, the conference committee set aside an area for those types of conversations.  In the best spirit of the unconference, it was a place to sit and chat about technology, education, and goodness knows what else.  The area was at the back of the Exhibit Hall and we had chairs, scribble spaces, and more to facilitate the conversations.

We liked what happened – it was new for the ECOO folks.  We’re looking for a repeat this year. 

At the Niagara Falls Convention Centre, there’s a really cool gathering space that will be devoted to this.

Grab a coffee or a water and use the place to learn or continue the discussion.  (There will be a whiteboard so that you can sign in with your Twitter handle.)

We’re hoping that the need for ad hoc conversations will start at the conference and there will be a sign-up board for discussions. 

In advance though, the planning committee would like to get started on the scheduling of ideas.

To that end, they have created a form here so that if there’s a burning issue in your mind or just some connections or learning that you need, you can express your desires in advance.

This is YOUR area to extend the content of the conference.  Please use it!