Lots of highs and a low

It’s always refreshing to think about a conference once it’s passed.  I have a to-do list of things to follow up with in the upcoming weeks.  I love stuff like that.

Fortunately, most Twitter users have been using the hashtag #bit15 so that the list of potential learning grows based upon the experiences of those who attended sessions that I couldn’t attend.

As I sit here, my friend Colleen Rose is reminding me how little artistic ability I have as she warms up for Sylvia Duckworth’s Sketchnote session that we’re going to attend.  I’m so worried that I’m going to be left back at the end of the session!  As it turns out, first session was full so I didn’t get the whole experience.

Many takeaways include tech things to discover for sure.  More importantly, I have social takeaways.  I had a chance to meet or catchup with people face to face, including a former student.  We sat together at the magic show and thoroughly enjoyed it.

I also had a great opportunity to meet Jennifer Casa-Todd in person.  She owed me a coffee and I took her up on it.  It was probably the quickest hour of the two days that I was here.  In my mind, she’s exactly the sort of leader that a school district should have in a position of responsibility.  She has a vision, insight and just exudes the passion for her beliefs.  Her district is so lucky to have her on staff.

As long as I’ve known Cal Armstrong, I’ve never seen him present.  I really enjoyed his session on OneNote.  It’s amazing how a tool really shines when demonstrated by someone who knows it inside and out.  I’d never heard of Delve before – if you’re an Office 365 school, you really need to make it available.  Apparently, it isn’t by default.  I like the concept of the class notebooks but I don’t have an educational account so can’t really experiment.

Brenda Sherry and Karen Buetler gave an important session about Digital Citizenship from the OSAPAC perspective.  The resources seem to be very complete and all districts would be well advised to take these in.  It makes you wonder why any individual district would want to write their own.  These are ready to go or you could remix them if there’s something missing.

I chose sessions wisely.  Nobody, in the sessions that I attended, tried to sell their ideas with that tech theory that so many people have embraced without really thinking it through.  For that, I’m so thankful.

I was tired, at one point, so didn’t walk out in the middle of a session.  I normally would – it was a vendor session where the presenter bad mouthed a competitor product.  That’s never a good idea.  Oh, and another good idea for presenters … turn off Twitter notifications while you’re presenting!  Digging through the distraction though, it was mildly interesting.  There should be guidelines!

I did get into Sylvia Duckworth’s second Sketchnote session and, while my culminating activity looks like a dog’s breakfast, I now get so much more.  I’m starting to think that I could actually do one of these things.  Stay tuned.  Of course, Colleen shone here as well.  The big winner?  I got a new image for my Twitter profile thanks to her skills.

Heidi Siwak was dynamite as the closing keynote talking about her work with students and integrative thinking.  This presentation could be canned and made required understanding for all educators.  I hope that this launches something good for her.  ISTE needs to consider her as a speaker; her message needs to be spread wide and far.  We all are wondering just what is contained in the other 40 slides in her presentation.

I couldn’t help but think that this should be on a banner over the entrance to her classroom.  I loved the way that she described her classroom and the dynamic of learning and working together on Wicked Problems.

“Together, we’re smarter than Google”

The low?

Yes, there was a low.  Normally, takeaways from a conference range from great to really great!  I learn so much.

However, in this case, a presenter elected to use this blog and how it’s managed as a bad example in a session.  I remember a quote from my first vice-principal “nobody’s completely useless; they can always be used as a bad example”.  So, I guess the rainbow here is that I’m not completely useless.  In addition to what transpired in the session, this individual elected to take it online via Twitter; I guess to make sure that I (and the rest of the world) got it.  So, if the intent was to be hurtful, it succeeded.

It was a strange year with the job actions throughout the province.  Kudos to those school districts who supported the continual professional learning of their teachers.  Overall, there were a few empty seats and that’s sad.  Hopefully, for the organization going forward, it’s just a little blip in the big scheme of things.

Having co-chaired this conference for the past couple of years, I know at a personal level how much effort, time, and organization it takes to be successful.  It was considerably more relaxing to enjoy the event as a participant and I was happy to help with the promotion of the things I saw.

My congratulations to the organizing committee.

No Guts, No Glory

As I was assembling the Flipboard document yesterday, there was a recurring theme from Ron Canuel’s presentation…

This, from @CCareyHerbert via Twitter

The first quote took me back to Sundays as a child.  After church, my brother and I would have to sit down with our parents and play some Euchre or Bridge before we were allowed to roam the streets.  My dad had this great expression that he would use before playing a lone hand “No Guts, No Glory”.  Then he’d proceed to make good on his promise.

At the time of the above slide, the teacher in me said “that’s not how you spell adopter” but I quickly overcame that and listened to his message.  It was so appropriate to those who feel like they need to make change within their organization.  In my context as a consultant for a school district, it made perfect sense.

I was always the guy who arrived at the planning table with all kinds of ideas for innovation and was generally glossed over.  I still remember bringing the message that our district needed to embrace Twitter and other social media to connect with our community.  Just like it happened yesterday, I remember the remark that was given to me with direct eye contact.  “The world doesn’t need to know what we had for breakfast”.  Needless to say, time proved me right and now social media is a mainstay for communications in most circles.  Some just do it better than others.

I also had a wonderful group of elementary and secondary educators that would meet bi-monthly and they would be the recipients of my ideas.  In my own little world, they seemed like great ideas but it was only after being put into their own contexts and community that they became outrageously successful.  In that respect, perhaps I was the early adopter but it was their efforts in taking the ideas and running with them that put them over the top.  From there, the ideas would cascade to their colleagues until it became a board level “plan”.

By the time Ron was done, I was just sitting there having my Eureka moments.  I finally got it.

I also realized that the district could have saved a lot of money – don’t hire me – just go directly to the mid-adopters.  (tongue in cheek)

Over the past while, there have been a couple of interactions with inspiring minds on social media.

  • Sue Bruyns had asked “I wonder why they don’t get it”.
  • Brandon Grasley had responded in a completely different forum “They might not be ready yet”.

While these were two distinctly different conversations, they could have been asked and answered in the same conversation.

The third part of the conversation would be something like:

  • When they do, look out!

Somehow, the successful implementation of any change needs to come from those mid-adopters.  That, I get completely.  They aren’t the single voice in the wilderness; they’re the mass that will ultimately make it happen so that everyone sees the value of the change.  But, it’s that single voice with the crazy ideas that’s ultimately responsible for seeding the masses with the idea.

If I could poll, I’d bet that most readers of this blog see themselves as that single voice.  My advice – keep those ideas coming; scream them loudly and frequently; there are those mid-adopters who are ready and willing to run with them.

You need to have the guts to provide the ideas; they need to implement successful and enjoy the glory.

#BIT14 Proceedings

I’ll give credit (and blame) to Sue Waters for this!

After I used Storify to show some of the comments from the recently completed Bring IT, Together Conference, she sent me a message asking if I had ever considered creating a Flipboard document to do the same thing and she shared one that she had created.  It was very impressive.  So, I thought – sure!  How tough could it be?

Back in the day, when I used to go to conferences where there were paper handouts, I would “binderize” the handouts for my filing cabinet and later reference.  I would also make a copy for my superintendent if he wasn’t able to attend.  Believe it or not, he actually went though it and it would be a great source for our weekly meetings.  He’d be quizzing me on the sessions and asking me to apply them to our reality.  That was my way of producing a Proceedings booklet.

So when Sue threw that idea out at me, it wasn’t like I was working with a blank slate (like normal).  This was just a transference from one media to another.  My immediate thought was that those pedagogues that use SAMR as the answer to every question would have a hey day with it.  Oh well, and a sigh.

As for the blame, what Sue didn’t tell me was that Ontario Educators are the noisiest on the face of the planet.  I created my book (after fumbling through to learn how it worked) and then did a search for #BIT14.

Good gravy!

How could 1,550 people generate so much content?

There had to be 300 references to people crying because of George Couros’ message alone!

The winning Twitter message had to come from Marie Swift…

Unlike Storify where you could add messages in bulk, each message had to be specifically added manually.  I hope that I don’t get a message from Sue “You dummy — here’s how you do it”.  

I started early.  Oh, I like that.  Great picture.  Oh yes, that was a wonderful video.  Terrific message from Richard.  George nailed that.  Glad to see that folks are Twittering in French during Ron’s keynote.  Loved the pictures of the Falls….

I did move up the media literacy scale trying to determine what to include so I guess it was more than transference.

My fingers started to bleed after 500 or so entries.  I’m sure that there are duplicates but that’s OK.

It even picked a cover photo for me!

You can enjoy the document here.  It plays nicely on a computer screen and will open in Flipboard if you have the app installed on your device.

I hope that it brings back nice memories for those who were in attendance and don’t hesitate to send the link to your principal or superintendent.  There are great messages to be shared by all in there.  Thanks, everyone, for contributing your thoughts and comments.

Thanks to Sue for pushing me to do this.  I think if I ever do it again, I’ll do it day by day instead of summarizing four days into a clicking marathon.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

I can’t believe that people have energy to blog after the three days in Niagara Falls.  But, I was wrong.  There continue to be incredible insights from Ontario Educators.  Here’s some of what I enjoyed this week.

That guy

I stumbled into a conversation, mid-conversation, with Lisa Noble and others online.  That’s my lead in to confess that I didn’t understand the whole conversation and was complete wrong about what was discussed.

Later, Lisa fleshed out her thoughts from that conversation and the resulting blog post really affirmed that I didn’t know what the specifics were at the time.

But, I will say, this is one of the more important blog posts that I’ve ready recently.

Down the Rabbit Hole

When it comes to enjoying blog posts, I suppose that I’m as bad as anyone.  I read, nod my head, and then move on to something else.  The important part, responding to the post, often I overlook.

Sue Bruyns, who I actually got to meet for the first time at the Bring IT, Together conference offered a post based on a relatively simple question.

In this case, not only did I comment, I think I wrote an entire blog post in response to her thoughts.

I found it very promising to run into people in similar leadership positions to Sue at the conference and I was happy to meet so many of them.  I find it incredibly sad that there are leaders in the province who couldn’t be bothered to attend or others that are there and know it all, often shutting out the great ideas and connections that were there for the taking.

The More Things Change ~ Reflections from #BIT14

David Fife talks about the composition of the audience at #BIT14.  In a way, he’s right, but in a way he’s wrong.  Four years ago, attendance was at 500; this year it was well over 1500.  So, there definitely were new people that were in attendance.  I had a chat with Harry from Waterloo Region who had money to sponsor folks to go and he deliberately chose half of those he sent as people who’d never gone to a technology conference before.

Yet, Ron Canuel’s message was really resonating with some …

David says – Maybe the simple answer is to do what Ron challenged all the attendees to do for next year’s conference. Bring someone new. Someone who has never been to an educational technology conference. Because in Ron’s words “change requires courage. Early adaptors don’t convince, mid-adaptors do.”

I know that, personally, I met all kinds of new people.  And yet, they did have the common thread that they were technology users and adopters.  To coin a Huron County expression, I didn’t meet anyone who had just fallen off the turnip truck.  

I’ll just close by quoting myself, having said this over and over again at the conference “This is a nice problem to have to solve.”

Only this time, I mean it.

ECOO 2014 Reflections

I think I should get extra points for actually recognizing Diana Maliszewski in her Minecraft outfit.  A couple of years ago, her efforts just flew over my head.  Not this year, and I made a point of saying hi – but apparently she couldn’t hear inside the cardboard box.

True confession – I have to copy/paste her last name every time I use it.

If you weren’t able to attend the conference, check out Diana’s post.  It’s her reflections from all of the sessions that she attended like this one “Youth on YouTube by Royan Lee, Saman Rajabian and Katya Katsnelson

3 Key Points:
1. Both YouTube stars watched YouTube and thought that they could do it, so they started. Both individuals became bored and dissatisfied with their early videos and this prompted them to change focus.
2. Katya’s tips for success are to be confident, strong, unique, and enjoy what you do. Saman’s tips for success are do what you like, stay consistent, don’t let low views or jealousy get in your way, and don’t do it for money or fame.
3. These high school students say that Mr. Lee was the teacher that used the most technology with them and that their current teachers do not know about their popular YouTube channels (with the exception of Saman’s principal, who arranged to let him get a work experience credit in high school for his YouTube work). They don’t use their YouTube skills often in class, although one made a Romeo & Juliet video.

And folks, Diana is testament that people can use Lanyrd.

Bits and Pieces from #BIT14

Speaking of summarizing the conference, check out Brian Smith’s video.

The Learning That Happens Outside Of The Room

Aviva Dunsiger has to win the award for the most posts inspired by a conference and the most questions asked as she’s writing her posts.

It inspired me to write another blog post in reply to her thoughts.

The one point that really got my fingers going was the concept of walking out in the middle of a session because it wasn’t fulfilling her needs.  The “Rule of Two Feet” was commonly mentioned throughout the conference but there were a couple of things that made me question that.

1)  Maybe it’s not that the session isn’t meeting my needs, maybe it’s addressing a need that I didn’t know I had.  Generally, these days my identified needs can be fulfilled by doing an internet search and finding what I want;

2)  Most teacher-speakers aren’t professional speakers.  Awareness of time remaining can be a challenge – it often is that the really important good stuff comes out as a rush at the end of the presentation!

Why Leadership Now? Reflections on My First Session of Leadership 1

There’s nothing better than a new blog to read.

Sadly, I don’t know who the author of this blog is…she’s from Hamilton-Wentworth and in her sixth year of teaching.

She does ask a good question….

I think my answer would be “Why NOT Leadership Now?”

If the course is good and nicely addresses Leadership in Education and Life, why wouldn’t it be appropriate now?  Imagine a school or a district with people who understand Leadership and what it can bring to the classroom.  I think that the nay-sayers would say that a school wouldn’t function with a staff of leaders – I would counter that all teachers are strong by nature and that’s what drew them into the profession in the first place.  Imagine Professional Learning that respects the learner and isn’t the sort of top down issue driven Professional Development that’s seen so often.

Top of the ski jump

A new Ontario Educational Blogger – this time a principal from Lambton-Kent, Chris Moore dives into the deep end.

That’s about as good a mission statement for an administrator’s blog as any.

It’s a risk – readers and commenters could be students, teachers, other principals, your superintendent, some jerk in Essex County.

But, I’ll extend the same advice as I would to anyone – you can’t help but learn and refine by committing your thoughts to the digital.  You won’t always be right and the comment section is there to extend the conversation.  Just consider the management style of someone who refuses to commit….

There was so much more written and shared over the past week and, obviously, most were inspired by the #BIT14 conference and the two edCamps that followed.

As I sat in my hotel room preparing, I became aware of Eventifier.  It was tracking the conference here and the blogs about the conference here.  Not everything that it captured was totally relevant but it was a pretty good starting point.  You can also check Twitter messages tagged with #BIT14.

Please check out these excellent blog posts and the entire collection of Ontario Edubloggers here or here.  You just might find something new to read!

Will It Continue?

A week ago, we were in the middle of the #BIT14 conference.  Coming off a terrific workshop day, I was moving my poppy from one green shirt to another.  Lots of decisions to be made – my real wife suggested khaki pants with the shirt; my conference wife suggested black pants.  Why do I get myself into these things?

I had already done my morning reading and had replied to the multitudes of email that had come in over night.  I was sipping hotel room coffee which has to be among the worst there is.  I couldn’t wait to get to the convention centre, their good coffee, and the breakfast spread.

From a social media perspective, I had opened a column in Hootsuite to follow messages that were tagged with #BIT14.  There were all kinds of messages from people who had enjoyed their workshops and there were lots of people indicating that they were on the road to Niagara Falls.  It promised to be a great day.

As I scanned the column in Hootsuite, I noticed a lot of new Twitter users.  That was great and I was adding them to one of the two Twitter lists that I have for following Ontario Educators.  List 1List 2.  Hopefully, it will generate some new names for #FollowFriday.

I had also sent out this message…

It made sense to do it here.  Some of the best Ontario educational minds were in attendance and there were also some who were inspired to get started blogging by sharing their experiences and thoughts from the conference.

Then I started to wonder.

It’s a phenomenon that happens at every conference.  People see the value of social media and want to be part of it.  Accounts spring up; Twitter and Facebook messages abound; blogs get started.

And then?

Sometimes, it continues.  Sometimes, it doesn’t.  Sometimes, it goes into dormancy until the next PD event.

It’s easy to get swept up with things at a conference.  After all, there are so many new people, new topics, new things, new thinking.

Then, you return to reality.

But why should the enthusiasm stop?  There are great things that are happening in your reality all the time.  Why not share that with the world and continue the process of making connections that you started at the conference?  We all know that learning doesn’t stop – why should the sharing?

Endnote – I’m not dummy.  Khaki on Thursday, black on Friday.

The Nouveau Geek

One of the highlights of the recently concluded Bring IT, Together conference for me was having a chat with Peter Skillen and Brian Silverman during a break at the Minds on Media event.  Brian came up to me and said “We met in the early 80s, didn’t we?”  Come on, brain.  Fire some synapse and make the connection.  Very, very vaguely I remembered.

I do remember a lot of things from the early days of ECOO Conferences.  It’s where we nerdy, geeky types converged once a year.  Complete outsiders within the traditional school community, we were on a constant mission to make these computing boxes do something just because we could.  It wasn’t just ECOO; I can remember going to a similar series of events at MACUL just through the tunnel in Detroit or across I-96 to Grand Rapids.  I remember being in Cobo Hall at the huge Apple booth when Lisa was shown to we educators, wondering if this thing with the mousey and graphic interface would ever succeed in a world of computers with command lines and a second language learning of DOS.

I remember leaning against a really hot radiator at OISE listening to a presenter talking about the concept of electronic mail connecting university classrooms in Toronto with those in South Africa.  The talk wasn’t about the reason for the connect; it was about a network of computers passing the information along from one to another, check bits and more to ensure that the message was delivered so correctly.  This was excitement; this was computing; this was why we do it.  My inner Geek loved it.

I might even have my geeky glasses around here since I never throw anything away.

During our morning walk, Jaimie asked me how this year’s conference went.  He had a vested interest – he had given up five days of walks with me while I was out of town.

His question made me think about the overall quality of the sessions.  There was nothing that even remotely resembled the early days of ECOO.  Probably the closest was repurposing old computers with Ubuntu for student home use. (although Ubuntu runs well on newer computers like this one too!)

I think it’s a strong indication of a field of education that has matured.  Yes, there are things that are on the cutting edge but that’s not the focus of our learning any more.  In fact, they might not even be part of the program.

Instead, Jaimie and I decided to call the folks in attendance the “Nouveau Geek”.  There was the same level of enthusiasm and devotion that there was back in the 80s.  It might actually even be more frenetic.  The focus, however, is considerably different.  We know so much more about student engagement, how students learn, where technology politely fits in the classroom.  We know that the real learning comes from setting the table and letting students dig in.  We know that, the teacher standing there at the front of the classroom, sharing a concept and expecting students to hang on every word belongs to another time and era. 

We know much more about the conditions for learning.  Sue Bruyns caught and shared one of Ron Canuel’s thoughts…

The Learning Space was a perfect space for the Nouveau Geek.  It wasn’t a place to sit around and play with the latest toy.  It was a place to talk about the issues surrounding education.  It was a bull ring where there was no front of the area.  It was what the original edCamp model was about before it derailed and became a collection of workshops.

Throughout the conference, though, the focus whether during sessions, keynotes, or Learning Space was on improving learning and instruction.  At times, it seems like technology was almost an after-thought.  People “got” the how-to technology part and were there instead to learn and talk about the how and the why.  If they didn’t totally understand the “how-to”, they knew that they could always search for it or reach out to their network.  I kept sticking my head into rooms to catch a flavour of what was happening.  It really was affirming – the Nouveau Geek was there for best practices in teaching and learning. 

And they were getting it.

“Death By Delay”

From the Bring IT, Together Conference and Ron Canuel’s presentation, this quote stood out for me.

“Death By Delay”

The context was about computer related pilot projects – put off the ultimate decision by running pilots.  Ron doesn’t speak in isolation or hypotheticals.  His work with the Eastern Township School Board is legendary.  Decision makers have visited his schools to see it in action.  Decision makers talk about the success there.  Read this article about the impact that his work has had on the current Hamilton initiative.  The use of the technology has shown an improvement in test scores, if that’s important.

And yet, we still see pilot projects all over the place.

The reasons are generally the same:

  • we need to test for sustainability;
  • we need to ensure that we have the capacity to do this;
  • we need to make sure that our teachers are trained;
  • we need to write a policy;
  • we need to make sure this is the right solution.

All of these are just excuses to avoid doing the right thing.

Do your homework before you start.  You’ve been buying computer and related technologies for years.  In these days of big data, don’t you have enough research already to make that decision?  Why not ask those who are already doing it?

Things changes on a yearly basis.  What will determine if you ever actually have that capacity?

I’ve said this many times.  You train dogs, not teachers.  If professional learning is a condition for a pilot project, you’re not currently implementing things properly.  A continuing online professional learning program, coupled with excellent educational leaders in your schools and you should be able to take on nearly anything.  Know your schools and don’t underestimate teachers doing the right thing.

I had a great conversation with a friend at Bring IT, Together.  His parting gift to his superintendent was to add one clause to the complete list of district policies.  “When in doubt, use common sense.”

Right Solution
Could you imagine a Microsoft PC school that was holding off waiting for the perfect/right solution?  We wouldn’t have purchased computers running MS-DOS 3.2, or Windows 3.1, or Windows 95, or Windows XP, or Windows 7, or Windows 8, or …  Every year you put off a decision is a year’s worth of learning and understanding by students lost.  Oh, and the hardware or software for your “pilot” may well have changed as you put off the decision.  What then?  Run another pilot?

I think Ron nailed it with his comment.  The excuses are just that – a failure to pull the trigger.  You should have all the information about your system at your fingertips.  You should have a staff ready to take on the world and do the very best for their students.  Do your homework and know the solution and what it’s going to require.  I would argue that it continues to get easier with many solutions being web based.  Monitor your bandwidth and buy more if needed.

Could you imagine a company like Coca-Cola doing market research the way we do pilot programs?

What are you waiting for?