Get Connected for #BIT14


It’s now less than a month until the #BIT14 Bring IT, Together conference in Niagara Falls.  ECOO hopes to see you there November 5-7.  Three days of great learning and socializing have been planned.  Don’t miss it.  Complete details are available at http://www.bringittogether.ca.

Make sure you check out the accommodations page.  We’ve negotiated discounts for rooms with selected hotels.

Please note that the price at the Marriott hotels is good until October 16. 

Arrangements are also being made for discounts at local restaurants. Your registration badge is your passport.

BIT14 Logo.png

Please stay connected as we lead up to the conference, at the conference itself, and celebrate in the learning afterwards.  The official hashtag is #bit14.

Facebook

Facebook users, you can keep up to date with BIT by adding the BIT Facebook Page to your news feed.  Go to the Facebook Page and click ‘Like’ – do it now!  https://www.facebook.com/bit4ontedu

Google Plus

Our Google+is a community of like minded people interested in educational technology.  You can join the Community – now 177 members –  and read about upcoming workshops, pose questions to presenters or present your own ideas.

This is a growing audience of educators that can be a valuable resource to us all.  Please join the community, then post your workshop, a comment and/or a question.  It’s time to get things humming for BIT 2014!

Twitter

Stay in touch with the conference committee here – https://twitter.com/bit2014 (BIT14 was already taken)  Our Twitter social media presence is highlighting sessions that you’ll be able to attend with your registration.

Lanyrd
Again, this year, there will be no paper program. Everything is published through Lanyrd.  http://lanyrd.com/2014/ecoo14/Download and install the Lanyrd app on your mobile device or bookmark the site so that you have easy access.  By logging into Lanyrd, you can plan the sessions that you wish to attend so that you’re not scrambling at the conference.  Don’t forget to book your time in the Exhibit Hall or to the many social events.  In Lanyrd, you can even identify the people that you want to meet at the conference.  Don’t miss this opportunity to meet the people face to face that you’re learning from daily.

See you in Niagara Falls!

An Interview with Verena Roberts


I’ve recently had interactions with Verena Roberts that culminated in a guest post from her on this blog announcing the CANeLearn Summit to be held in Toronto this summer.  Verena is also going to present at the 2014 Bring IT, Together Conference.  I thought that it might be nice to introduce her to Ontario Educators via an interview.  So, here goes.

Doug:  OK, I’ve got to know.  YOU contacted me first.  How does someone from Alberta find this guy in Ontario?

Verena: I am pretty active on Twitter. I noticed many of the conversations I would watch, from Ontario, often included you. From my perspective I could see people asking you questions and checking for your opinion. So I googled you – I read your blog and thought it was interesting. When the CANeLearn team asked me who I thought we should connect with – I suggested you because you appeared like an online focus for many Ontario educators.

Doug:  Well, OK.  Sometimes a noisy distraction.  So, tell us a little about yourself.  How long have you been in education?  What areas have you taught?

Verena: I started teaching in 1996 at the Canadian International School in Singapore. Then I taught in Montreal, Vancouver and Edmonton. I started teaching online with @KOOL (Kamloops Open Online Learning), and have since taught with Alberta Distance Learning Centre and now Palliser BB. I have taught from Kindergarten  through University but my focus area is Social Studies and most recently MOOCs for K12. Over the last two years, I have been consulting and my proudest projects include learning how to integrate MOOCs in K12, the #Gamifi-ED Project and Healthy Healers.

Doug:  You’ve been a busy person with a great deal of global experience.  What is Palliser Beyond Borders?  How many students are enrolled there?

Verena:  Palliser Beyond Borders in a new online school in the Palliser School District in Alberta. It is located between Calgary and Lethbridge. We have just started, so only about 30 students, but we plan on supporting many more in the new school year. Alison Hancox is the Principal, and she is an innovator who thinks outside the box. It is a pretty exciting opportunity to be working with an Innovative Team and District.

Doug:  What is CANeLearn?  How did you get involved?

Verena: In 2012 online and blended leaders from across Canada were invited to the first Summer Summit in Toronto. Many of the leaders had met at iNACOL and they decided to come together to create an Association of K12 Online  and Blended Learning in Canada. I heard about the summit and asked if I could come as a consultant.  I became the acting Chief Innovation Officer last summer. We have spent the last year working on developing the Association across Canada.

The CANeLearn Board includes leaders in Blended and online Learning from BC to Nova Scotia. We also have representation from First Nations Virtual Schools. We are looking for more participation from Northern Canada and Ontario. Click here for the list of the founding Board Members.

Doug:  Your upcoming summit is a natural extension to this then.  CANeLearn is reaching out to educators across Canada.  What is the ultimate goal?  How will this benefit teachers in Ontario?

Verena: In my opinion, I learn the most by finding out what other people are doing and how they are learning. Working with online and blended educators from across Canada has helped me in my open learning projects and encouraged me to promote pedagogy first in my learning design and practice.  Ontario has a unique online and blended learning system, in that no other province has one resource centre, one LMS and one support network for public schools. Ontario teachers will be able to create and build networks which will help with professional development and hopefully lead to cross-Country projects. We are also promoting Open Educational Resources and considering a National LOR (Learning Object Repository) opportunities. My focus area is the “Centre for Innovation” where we hope to promote research across Canada in online and Blended learning as well as provide opportunities for EdTech companies and industry to work with organizations. Finally, we are starting our professional development programs which include teacher hosted webinars about their programs and possibly a University course on “How to .Teach in k12 Online and Blended Environments”

Doug:  That’s great that you’ve noticed the Ontario Educational Resource Bank.  A couple of other Ontario based resources are Cube For Teachers and the OSAPAC Collection.

We’re delighted that you submitted a proposal and were accepted for the 2014 #BIT14 conference.  What can attendees to your session expect?

Verena: The #BIT14 Session will be a collaborative #CANeLearn effort. #CANeLearn will be sponsoring the annual, “State of the Nation: K12 Online Learning in Canada” Report this year. Much of the research and writing about the different programs across Canada will be included in the Report over the next few months – and I will be able to speak about what we have discovered. The focus will be on Emerging Trends and Innovation – so session participants will learn about options to take back to their own learning environments.

Doug:  I’m very interested in your iNACOL award for innovation.  Can you tell us what that’s about?  What did you do that made them notice your efforts?

Verena: I wrote about it in my blog here. I called it the truth about being an Innovator because being an Innovator can be very difficult.. I remember Susan Patrick, the President and CEO of iNACOL introduced me and my iNACOL award. She  summarized that I was able to prove that you could create a whole online school – completely in the open, based on my work in the OC@ADLC (the Open Classroom at ADLC). I had never thought about it that way – but I guess I created my own “school in the cloud” while working within a more traditional online organization.

Doug:  Will you share your thoughts and advice about innovation at the conference?  Is it something that everyone should be known for?

Verena: Be real. People can tell when you are fake. Stay true to your values. Follow through on what you believe in. Admit when you are wrong and fail and try again. Collaboration and different opinions are priceless – so look for conflict and different people to work with.

Doug:  Readers should know that a lot of our correspondence has happened while you’re watching soccer.  Can you share some details about that?

Verena: I am a mom with three busy kids and their most recent passion is soccer. My husband helps coach my older son’s team and I am the Assistant Coach to my younger son’s U5 Team. Whenever things get too crazy or overwhelming at work – or in my online world – I just have to sit back and watch these amazing kids.  They have just gotten to the point that they realize they are supposed to score a goal – but it is way more fun to play, “What Time is it Mr Wolf”. They ensure that I remember play is the most important part of learning – no matter the situation or environment.

Doug:  We’re looking forward to welcoming you to Niagara Falls and hope that you can take in the entire experience – the learning and the social.  Do you have something in particular that you want to take in while at the Falls?

Verena: I have never seen Niagara Falls so that will be BIG! I also am really looking forward to connecting and hopefully meeting with people I follow on twitter or I met at #ConnectED 2 years ago in Calgary. I also heard about the amazing social activities at #BIT14 – like going for a morning jog (although for me it will be a morning walk) or tweetups. I want to be involved in conversations in order to learn new things.

Doug:  If it’s the first time at Niagara Falls, make sure that you book a falls view room.  The lights at night are amazing.  Plus, bring your camera and join the Photowalk to take some spectacular pictures to bring home.  You won’t regret it.

Thank you for the interview, Verena.  I’m looking forward to meeting you in person, hopefully at the Summit and certainly at the #bit14 conference.

Verena: Thank you!

You can follow Verena on Twitter at @verenanz.

Her web presence includes a Google Site at:  https://sites.google.com/site/verenanz/

Five to Keep


It’s hard to think but there was a time when a web browser didn’t have tabs.  You could browse a single website and that was about it.  It made using a lot of the up and coming Web 2.0 activities a bit of a challenge since you could only do one thing at a time.  Fortunately, browsers evolved to the point where you could have multiple websites open.  It was possible at that point to open one tab with one website and another with another website and move content from one to the other.  Copy/paste or export/import were valuable skills. And if your basic browser didn’t have the desired function, you could extend its functionality with add-ons or extensions.  That single feature moved me years ago to make Firefox my default browser.  Of course, all of this is ancient history in the digital timeline given the modern browsers that we all enjoy.

In particular, working with a document in Google Docs was a big example of this for me.  I would often start with something in one tab, develop it, and then bring it into my document in another tab.  Doing so made you feel so cutting edge!

Now things have changed.  Recently Google upped the game by adding add-ons for use right in your open document.  This is an incredibly valuable feature.  With the right add-on, there’s no need to even move to another tab – you stay right in your document, create your content and then use the add-on as needed.

As you might expect, people were right out of the blocks writing posts about the “Top 10 Add-ons” for Google Docs and essentially picked some of the best for a post.  (Go ahead – Google it)  I started poking around adding, removing, based upon what I could see myself using and/or recommending to others.  At the end of the testing, I settled with five that I feel really comfortable with now.

To install, it’s as simple as selecting Add-ons menu and then “Get add-ons”.

The option to “Manage add-ons” as you would expect lets you have control over what’s installed and to delete the ones that you don’t want anymore.

Adding opens a menu of what’s available.  

My first visit was overwhelming.  I need this; I need this; I need that….

So many options.  As you add one, you have to give permissions for the add-on to access your Google information.  It’s worth noting every time you give any application access to your account.  Check to see if you’re comfortable with the permissions that you’re granting.

As I explored, I just knew that I had to keep things under control.  Which ones to keep?

From my perspective, here are my keepers.  I know that I’ll use them often.  Each of the add-ons make a “call home” and then opens on the right side of the screen.  No more tabs or windows browsing.  I’m really liking the functionality at my fingertips.  Just like extensions for the browser itself, extensions to the documents just extend the functionality and increase my productivity.

Here’s the calculator.  So often, I end up doing calculations when working in a document.  This tool now makes one instantly available.

At this point, here are the five that I have decided to keep.

  • Calculator
  • EasyBib Bibliography Creator
  • Lucidchart Diagrams
  • openclipart
  • Thesaurus

Other add-ons can be added on a whim.

I’m excited about this addition to Google Docs functionality.  These five definitely are keepers from my perspective.  I’ll keep checking the menu and looking for more exciting tools.  First to write an RPN Calculator wins my heart!

I’m interested in hearing from you.  What add-ons have you found to be keepers?

OTR Links 04/07/2014


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