Just because you can to mainstream

One of the trending topics yesterday was a video release from the folks at Commoncraft.  This video, from the folks that have given us a lot of good instructional content in “plain English” is entitled “Zombies in Plain English“.  As with all of the products from this company, it is simply genius.

When I think back to video and movie making in education, it started as a pilot project quite a few years ago.  We bought some fruit coloured iMacs, Panasonic cameras, some lights, and more for the Communications Technology classes.  These folks moved from working from printed communication medium to the big time and really ran with the technology.  As time progresses, the equipment and the software gets so much better.  Now, movie making is within the reach of anyone with today’s modern digital cameras.  To aid the cause, we have purchased RCA Small Wonder cameras for all of our schools.  Such a success has resulted from this that individual schools have gone out and purchased additional cameras.  With this technology, educational lives are being documented in manners unseen before.  We live in a “YouTube World” and so the amateur author is really supported in this area.  For those who are serious about communications, there still are Communication Technology courses where production qualities and values are taught.

It is just the right thing to do.

Yesterday, I attended the launch of the Ontario Powerful Learning Practice session.  I’m the “fellow” to two groups of educators in our district.  We’re there for the learning and the pedagogy but I can’t help but think that we’re there for more.  We’ve talked many times about the OPSBA’s “What If?” document.  Supposedly today, a press conference will be held by the US Secretary of Education calling for change in teacher education.  All of these are for the educational good, I suppose, as we go through and beat up on teachers again.  But, can real and substantive change be made in the way that we approach contemporary learning technologies if we don’t lay out a concerted path?

We complain at times because we can’t access YouTube and Facebook from school computers.  But, for the most part, the collaborative tools that would be helpful are available for our use.  For the past three years, our Computers in Education School Contacts have been working with Web 2.0 tools, constructing wikis, inviting collaboration on projects, and reaching outside the classroom and taking some of their colleagues with them.  My monthly newsletter GEC Computers in the Classroom tries to take its readership on a journey exploring these technologies.  In many ways, we’re moving, but is it fast or inclusive enough?

There’s a big difference between using the technologies and using the technologies well.  There is a lot of low hanging fruit on the internet that passes as contemporary tools.  But, there are also all kinds of incredible tools that lend themselves to deeper student engagement and much better learning environments.  Using them appropriately and in a manner to promotes deeper student understanding is the goal.  That’s where I’m hoping that our participation in the PLP Network will take us.


As I sat in the room yesterday, it was interesting to see the mix of folks that were there.  The nerdy amongst us were impressed that we were able to connect as well to the internet as we could with just two wireless access points.  Those with computers that were there for the learning were just there to use it.  The really didn’t care how it worked – just that it did.  They even got to meet Twitter’s Fail Whale.  I couldn’t help but think that this was the way that it should be for everyone.  Unfettered internet access, engagement in the topic with the tools at hand, and a person on your elbow to help out when the going got tough.  I knew some of the people in the room going in and knew a few more going out.

I did get a chance to have extended conversations with a couple of friends from Waterloo.  I consider both of them great minds in Ontario Education and really value their insights.  It was interesting to see their focus for being there.  We’re all thinking big, but it’s only big within our districts.  What was missing was inclusion from other districts from all over the province.  It was kind of disheartening but our leader, Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach gave us permission to ignore the global change the world mentality that all teachers have.  She gave us license to be selfish and deal with our own personal needs first.  That is great and I’m sure that we’ll take advantage of it.

It’s going to be a great experience for those in attendance and in the room.  We’ve got district teams, project teams, and a real opportunity to go deeply into this realm.  We’ll learn and really start to soar with this.  We’ll be the Communications Technology teachers in the big scheme.  We’ll create the high definition, 5.1 stereo experiences for our students.  You’ll read about it publically by following the Twitter tag #ontarioplp.

The bigger question becomes how does this become mainstream and the collaboration that it affords becomes the natural way of doing things?  We’re not just doing this because we can.

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