doug — off the record

just a place to share some thoughts

Reflections from Sudbury

Thursday, I had the wonderful opportunity to work with a group of educators at an eSymposium in Sudbury.  With all that’s happening in Ontario, it could have been a griping type of event but I didn’t see any of that.  Instead, I witnessed a wonderful group of professionals interested in making Blended Learning work in their classrooms, schools, and districts.

The day started in the eDome at Cambrian College.  For me, it was a unique presentation experience.  I worked from a table in the middle of a round room with five screens around the circumference.  Data projectors mounted in the ceiling displayed simultaneously on the screens.  I started the morning with a presentation titled “So now it’s Blended Learning and BYOD and Personalized Learning and Flipped Classrooms and …” where we went from the olden days of computer labs and built a case for wireless, BYOD, and how Blended Learning fits together.

It was an awesome audience with lots of folks coming up afterwards to talk, share ideas, and get some more of my ideas.

I took the opportunity to sit in on a number of other sessions throughout the day.  The topics were so timely for a group that were ready to experiment and launch Blended Learning in their own reality.

A panel discussion (after some coffee!) related some firsthand experiences with Blended Learning and Student Success.  It was filled with great stories from the field that served as inspiration for the attendees.  Hey, this stuff actually does work.  Not only does it work but we learned how it becomes a saviour for an occasional teacher with split classes and video evidence from all grades and levels.  We even heard how the Desire to Learn Learning Management System could be used for communication with parents.

Then, we were off to individual sessions.  I elected to stay and hear Martha Walli talk about “Getting the Right Blend”.  I think that’s the question that was in many people minds.  We understand Face to Face; we understand full online eLearning; but what does a blend look like?  Martha shared some of her thoughts and gave suggestions about what might work from her experience.  She constantly used the metaphor of blenders throughout her presentation.  I thought it was nicely done, offering some safe suggestions for the beginning blender.  I was thinking that it would work well in the future to have a set of sliders to move between the two extremes with the various attributes to show how you could mix and match eLearning elements.  That might be a good idea for a project…

After lunch, we had a plenary session about the importance of Digital Citizenship.  I totally agree with the premise that it needs to be taught consistently throughout the province.  Yet, we still have content filters in place with some boards blocking this and others blocking that with no common set of rules.  I’ve long been a proponent that one course or at least one unit needs to be taught online for all students.  Perhaps that’s an initiative that eLearning Ontario could take on?  It would be well received throughout the province, I’m sure.

I was late getting to the next workshop – got in the middle of a discussion and then realized that it was a very long walk to the next location – I didn’t get the presenter’s names.  I was curious to see how they were going to teach some tricks and tips for using the Ministry LMS to a group of new teachers.  Each came with a login to the LMS and an empty shell.  They were shown how to construct news items, calendars, use the dropbox, and got the idea that there were conditional releases built into the software.  There were lots of requests for assistance but I think that most left with a solid idea of what could be done.

Finally, I ended up in a round table discussion with supervisory officers and principals.  We had a nice discussion about how Blended Learning could be used to solve some of the challenges that are faced.  Many of the topics were the same that we’ve had about the need for eLearning in the first place.  Small schools; small classes; teachers teaching outside their qualification areas; schools not offering desired courses, etc.  In many of the areas, it still seems like the Ministry’s eLearning offering offers hope for at least partial solutions.  Challenges are heavy duty – good minds are going to have to work hard to solve this one.

In between sessions, I got into some absolutely terrific discussions.  One was with the A/V guy talking about the setup in the eDome.  You need to be there to experience it.  Another discussion talked about the advantages of taking a Communication Technology global.  We talked about external collaborations, audience, … and how it could empower the students.  Another noteworthy discussion surrounded a plan to incorporate badges into an online computer science course.  I saw all the badges and heard how they’re all tied to curriculum expectations to be awarded to students as they address the expectations.  I really like the concept.  The only stumbling block was how to conditionally award the badges.  If that gets solved, I think the concept will take the LMS by storm.

It was a fabulous day.  I was so impressed with the quality of the people organizing the day.  It was second to none and those that attended had a first-rate professional learning experience.  I was proud to be part of it.  What a terrific group of educators – passionate and professional about their beliefs.


Please share your thoughts here. I’d enjoy reading them.

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