#expbound

Everyone from the OTF / ECOO “Expanding Our Boundaries” session in Toronto should be back home again, I would think.  It’s kind of nice just to kick back and do a little reflecting about the events of the past two days.  Big kudos certainly need to go out to the Ontario Teachers Federation and the Educational Computer Organization of Ontario for organizing this event for us.

It was great to meet up with some old friends and acquaintances like @timisually, @nmotiar, @peterskillin, @barbaram, @tgianno, @rickbudd, @bsherry, and @bruceetes.

Bruce has something to share
Bruce has something to share

Image from kpix20 – Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic

It was terrific to put faces to Twitter names as well.  I had a chance to meet @shannoninottawa, @danikabarker, @kentmanning, @ntoft@janesmith, @canadiancurls80, @lmlsof, @davidweightman, @acoupal, and @zbpipe.

And, of course, our facilitator for the two days, @willrich45

It was a very busy two days as you’ll notice from a Twitter search.  In a little ol’ hotel room in Toronto, we were making so much virtual noise that we were noticed as trending on Twitter by the bots that care about that sort of thing.

Mid conference, Will Richardson posted to his blog about the need to personalize professional development for teachers as well.  Over morning coffee on the second day, I was chatting with Will indicating that I had tried to respond to his post but couldn’t quite make sense.  I couldn’t find a way to make it important – it was just a bunch of circuitous statements that weren’t taking me anywhere.  Then, in the afternoon of the second day, I heard a comment that put it into focus for me.  The comment included the words “teacher training.”

Now, those are two words that drive me nuts.  I can train a dog to sit or go outside when nature calls.  I can train a budgie to sit on my finger.  Teacher training?  I suppose that we did a little training on Friday.  After all, Will taught the group to put #expbound in a Twitter post so that we could track comments throughout the event. If that’s the extent of the takeaway from the event, then I guess folks were trained.

The point shouldn’t have been to learn one simple task in true Pavlovian fashion.  The point should be to take this and many of the other skills and ideas to substantially change the attitudes and skills in our professional repertoire.  At that moment, forget the notion of “training”; we’re now in the realm of professional development and growing our abilities because of it.

One of the important takeaways for me was that you can’t do it alone.  You need a network of folks behind you willing to help you in whatever professional development journey we take.  As teachers, we’re not always so good at it.  This post from Danika Barker makes such an important observation about the difference between the generations.  Kids have no problems with sharing at all.  In fact, it is forcing a re-think on the notion of copyright.  Teachers, on the other hand, like to file things away in filing cabinets and not share.  For the teachers reading this post, how many times do you attend an event and you’re asked to bring “one thing to share”.  Wouldn’t it be perfect if that one thing was a link to your website or wiki where you have everything available?

Time will tell what sort of impact this event will have.  If we’re trained, you’ve probably seen the last of it with our initial Twitters, our goofie “Here’s my first blog entry”, our “Hello World” podcasts, our “Follow Will’s RSS” exercise.  If we’ve been professionally developed, you’ll see a community of folks sharing, thoughtful blog posts, a little more wik in our wikis, and an openness and sharing of resources.  We’ll see more and more demands on OTF and ECOO and others to run this event so that we can continue to grow the online Ontario community of educators.

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4 thoughts on “#expbound

  1. Hey Doug! Great to meet you f2f at #expbound. I have been mulling over the ‘personalize the learning for teachers’ post too. Of course, I agree wholeheartedly. Vygotsky’s zone is all about taking someone from where they are on the continuum (if it is that linear) and moving them along. I think there was opportunity for all of us to move over the past 2 days. From where to where is hard to say. I think that some attendees might have made some pretty big leaps in terms of their awareness of what is out there to use in terms of networking. I like Will’s notion that blogging is not just publishing – if you aren’t linking (thus networking), you aren’t blogging. I’m not sure that the ‘networking’ point was brought home during #expbound. I think that a lot of teachers were introduced to a lot of really cool and powerful web 2.0 tools. I will be interested to see how my network has changed and how my use of these tools will change.

    I like more discussion around “how do we bring about the change that will make learning more personalized (for both teachers and students)?” I know that wasn’t the topic, at least on a surface level, for #expbound, but it is on my mind. That is a discussion that I really want to be part of. Maybe I will have to blog it, eh?

    Anyhow, great to meet you – thanks for all your links and thoughts!

    Shannon

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  2. Hi Doug.
    It sounds like Expanding Our Boundaries was a great success. I’m now kicking myself for not attending. I love the ‘electricity’ of a f2f conference. Online sessions do have their place and value – especially when time, distance and cost limit the frequency of f2f meetings.

    Are any of the proceedings of Expanding Our Boundaries – text, audio, video going to be shared with the wider community. Did anyone video Will?

    One thing that did concern me after following the online discussions was the predominance of familiar names and faces – “the usual suspects”. I know that a conference like this would attract those most interested in the topic but these are the same people that you meet at almost every ICT conference.

    We’ve become cliques that chat regularly and publicly among ourselves bemoaning the educational structures in which we are forced to work. Often our communications (blogs etc.) almost become ‘incestuous’ in nature, quoting and referencing each other . becoming a club unto ourselves. There is also an arrogance that creeps in suggesting that we are on the right track and everyone else is wrong. Don’t get me wrong. We’re good people dedicated to the improvement of the learning environment but ‘zealots’ can scare others away or make them feel inadequate. This is of key importance if we want to attract others to the cause.

    Over the last year, I’ve been getting very concerned about the low numbers of teachers who are actually using technology effectively with their students. All of our efforts to increase that number have resulted in limited gains.

    For a long time, I’ve had a very biased and inaccurate view of the growth in teachers’ use of ICT because most of the educators that I’ve associated with have been the ones who were implementing the ICT strategies effectively. I’ve been ‘preaching to the converted’ – or those willing to be converted. What about the others – those who are not taking advantage of these ideas and tools and using hem with their students?

    This year, I’ve had a number of opportunities to work with teachers outside of our little group. It’s been discouraging.

    Last week, you described yourself as ‘fickle’ – given to erratic changeableness. I think all of us working with ICT in our school districts fall into this category. We like new ideas; we like new gadgets; and we like change – always hoping for something that will make kids better learners. We’ve been fluttering from one new idea and application to another and then trying to share all we’ve learned with colleagues. I’m having trouble envisioning you in a butterfly or bumblebee suit ;-).

    Looking back, I think we’ve been part of the problem by trying to share all of the new ideas and applications that we’ve encountered rather than perhaps focussing on a limited number of learning initiatives and a few of the best tools to support them that we feel are best.

    Any thoughts on how we can increase the number of teachers and expand the circle more quickly.

    Ron rambling on a Sunday morning

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  3. Shannon, you make an incredibly insightful point. While there were lots of folks there, it was surprising to me the number who had never heard of Twitter or, if they had, had never taken the time to create an account. There was a time when Twitter was seen as “out there” but it’s becoming so main stream in many ways. As a result of this event, there will be that many more voices potentially in the mix. I hope that they follow through. There are many unique things happening and I felt energized being part of the audience listening.

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  4. Ron, you would have thoroughly enjoyed it, I think. There were actually fewer of the usual suspects (at least in my suspect circles) than I would have expected. There were lots of new faces and they fit in so nicely. In an educational world that is fixated on improving test scores, ITC is definitely not high on the radar and that’s so unfortunate. But, good teaching and making those connections, always is. I think that those in attendance will walk away with a roadmap about how new technologies and those connections will keep them current. We’ve always talk about the need to bottle it so that it can be enjoyed between events like ECOO. A lot of people now have the tools to make it happen now.

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