A Great Starter Kit


Now, probably the great readers of this blog won’t need this but will download and pass it along, I’m sure.

When I think of all of the Professional Development activities that I’ve attended over the years, few really leap out to me as game changers.  However, when I think of the great learning activities that I’ve been part of, it’s hard to name just one.

And they weren’t always as a teacher.

I recall a memorable experiment in my high school.  For one day, attendance at school was optional and all regular classes were cancelled.  Instead teachers opened their classrooms doors and they all gave short seminars about things that they were  passionate about.  I distinctly remember a certain mathematics teachers who always wore a black jacket, black pants, and maybe a coloured tie to go with his white shirt.  He was the definition of straight laced.  So, a bunch of us math nerds decided to see if he was passionate about slide rules.  We couldn’t have been more wrong.  It turned out that he was a pretty good artist.  He brought in some of his good works and some that weren’t so good and told us the stories behind each.  It was fascinating.  Actually, the whole day was.  In this experiment, there was the possibility of halls and classrooms being empty.  But, like kids who could actually stay home on a snow day, we showed up, participated, and were hooked for the entire day.

Later, I attended what could have been a success.  We were going to “do Open Court”.  By the time that we were doing listening to and reading the rules and laying out the parameters, the moment had been lost.

Without a doubt, one of the best events I had the pleasure of being part of was Minds on Media.  It was learning at its finest.  Your feet lead the way to the learning activities that you felt you needed.  It reminded me of the high school event.  Participants are driven by their passions and needs rather than a timetable driven by someone else.  Similarly, the Waterloo CATC Camp model provided the same sorts of learning experiences.  I can’t help but note the power in the learning when it’s driven by the learner and not by someone with an agenda who has to cover the concepts.

In time, I had the opportunity to send a couple of teams to participate in a Powerful Learning Practice event.  This was even more unique in that you had the same dynamics of learning but it took place over a much longer period of time – in our case it was over a school year.  The results are still evident today, a couple of years after the event, one of the teams in particular gets together to work and share with each other.  The attitudes and skills that they took away from the learning took each of them into different directions for continued learning and that doesn’t really matter.  The key was the continued energy and enjoyment of professional learning.  Some wiki, some blog, some Twitter, some Facebook, some …  It’s funny how it took the group into different directions.  None not necessarily “better” than any other, but personal learning that lingers after the event is over.  I’ve tried to encapsulate that with my own online summer course “Eight Weeks to Web 2.0“.

August 2012 is the Connected Educator Month.

I didn’t know either.  Heck, every day is full of connections for me.

To support the initiative, Powerful Learning Practice has been supported in the production of a 30 day roadmap to connected learning.

You can, and absolutely should, download the document from this link.  Then, you need to immediately share it.

It’s not a PDF to read; it’s a PDF that’s a call to action.

I would recommend that you download and take a look at the items in the index.  If you’ve been online, you’ll see that it’s a pretty comprehensive and aggressive course load.  If the friend that you forward this to is intimidated, they should be.  But, they will be joined in the learning and the activities by educators worldwide.  Why wouldn’t they participate?

And, there are badges.  What’s a good MOOC without badges?  In this case, think of them as breadcrumbs documenting your process through the month.  Where to put them?  Check out Day 11 or Day 14.

As I look at the activities contained within the month, I can’t help but notice the similarities to great activities that I’ve enjoyed from the past.  There isn’t an event that’s a “sit ‘n git”.  If you’re going to be successful, you need to be actively working your keyboard, your mouse, your mind, your imagination.  At the end of it, you’ll be prepared to go to the next level with your students because you’ll be a motivated and active learner yourself.  What could be better?

OTR Links 07/31/2012


Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Truth, Damned Truth, and Statistics


My apologies to Mark Twain.

WordPress has added some new widgets to the suite that may be dragged and dropped into place on your blog.  Of course, I was all over it to see what was new and how it could amuse me.  Or, at the least, inform me.  

Chances are, you might now be interested in the widgets that adorn this blog post and appear along the right side of this layout.  (I would hope that you do but I know that they don’t appeal to everyone).  It does add to the insights that I have about who is interested in what I’m posting.

To help with my informing, I’ve added three new widgets.  At least for the time being, they’ll provide some information for me.

Top Posts & Pages
It’s difficult to keep track of who is clicking on what.  This provides some idea of what’s currently appealing.  Interestingly, the Anti-Bullying post goes back to April.  Maybe that throws my theory of the importance of current posts for loop. 

Top Clicks
There’s nothing like having your blog as a portal to other places.  But, where are people headed once they leave this blog?  I know of at least one person who will be happen that the CSTA blog is the top destination! 

My Community
This is so valuable.  A blog is nothing without readers.  Those who comment or like things put it over the top.  Look at the “Community” of people that interact with the blog.  They’re the best.

 

Yes, I realize that my ego is behind this post, but hey.  

It is the truth and does provide some additional insight into the statistics of running the blog.  For that, I’m thankful.

OTR Links 07/30/2012


Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

A Colours Project


This morning, I stumbled into a neat project.

Vicky Loras had posted a picture of her purple armchair.

Thanks, Vicky Loras – CC

Now, normally, I would have looked and moved on but I was interested in this.  A purple chair on a hardwood floor.  I have a daughter who would flip for that combination.

I had a little chat back and forth with Vicky and learned that this was part of a much larger project than pictures from her living room!

This was part of an ELT project – this was focused on colours!  Follow the conversation at:  #eltpics

It turns out that the results are shared via a Flickr group where people are shooting pictures of very distinct colours for use in ELT classes.  What a cool concept!  Certainly it’s very easy to participate – just find and shoot an image illustrating a particular colour and share.  All of the images are available for anyone to use under a Creative Commons license.  The full descriptor from the Flickr site is:

A set of photos, based on a weekly theme, taken by ELT teachers, trainers and writers from around the world.
These are, in turn, available free to others in the field of ELT under a CC license.
Anyone interested in joining in can tweet an image with the hashtag #eltpics
For a more detailed explanation of how to join in, see this post.
To learn how to download pictures, watch this screen capture.
For ideas on how to use some of the photos, visit the eltpics blog: takeaphotoand.wordpress.com

If you back your way out of this Colours set, you’ll find all kinds of sets based on different themes.

I really like this concept.  Teachers world-wide working together to support each other (and anyone else) and all shared via Creative Commons.  Kudos to the group and my sincere thanks to Vicky for dangling the carrot that lead me into this in the first place!

OTR Links 07/29/2012


Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Google – Now with more …


… ways to search on the iPad.

For the longest time, I think I was like most people.  When I’d visit the Google site, wishing to conduct a search, I would just tap in the search bar and type with the standard keyboard and then execute the search.  It’s functional and normally, that’s all that matters.

But then, I thought I’d died and gone to searching heaven when I realized that I could split the keyboard (two thumbs and tear it apart) and search like the golden days of my first Blackberry.  It was so much more efficient.  Must less travel on the hunting and pecking finger and I get the sense that it’s actually more accurate.

Even that got superceded when voice search was added.  Just speak into the microphone and your search was ready to go.  This lasted, I think, until about 10 minutes into American Idol where I was told that I’d found a new way to be annoying …  Back to the keyboard.

A recent feature makes it both efficient and quiet.   Handwriting on the iPad.

This is very, very cool.  It’s just a matter of configuring Google Search for the tablet to recognize handwriting.  Now when I visit Google’s search page, a little icon in the bottom right corner of the screen indicates that it’s ready to recognize my handwriting.  I just write on top of the screen, “magically” it gets scaled and inserted into the search field, and away we go!

This is a configuration that you set within your Google account.  Make sure that you’re in tablet mode and go to the search settings.  You’ll see a toggle mid-screen to enable handwriting recognition.

Could tablet search get any better?

UPDATED — to include this video from Google —