Tag: learning

Making Your Blog a Success


Much has been written about blogging in education.  I read a couple of posts this morning that got me thinking more about it.  One was from George Couros titled “Isolation is now a choice educators make“.  Given how easy it is to get connected and how I can speak from experience to the number of ideas I personally get from this self-help market,  I can never say it enough – thank you to all the people that I interact with regularly.  You are so appreciated.

Much of George’s post relates to the concept of blogging and that’s great.  I would just note that that’s not the only way to escape from isolation.  There are a number of tools that people use and that’s great.  The choice should be the user but the results are so well described in his blog post.

If you’re a regular reader here, you know that the blog is one of my favourites and, as luck would have it, immediately after reading George’s blog post, I read this one.  9 Do’s and Don’ts to Make Your Blog a Success.  If you’re a blogger, I would encourage you to give it a read and then see how you stack up.  If you’re contemplating starting blogging personally or with your class, it does provide some points to ponder.

Here’s how I think I stand up to the 9 points.  (Regular readers know I love these things…)

Do: Blog Regularly

I absolutely agree with this.  There’s nothing that’s worse than loading a great looking blog’s RSS and then wait months or maybe never for the next post.  In the beginning, I struggled with this.  It was a lot of work and it took a lot of time.  At least until I started to do it and then reap the benefits.  When I turned blogging into something that I did to record one piece of thinking on any given day, the process took on a life of its own.  I now have the opinion that, if I’m not blogging, I’m not thinking and I never want to do that.  Consequently, if I’m reading something or exploring something, I write about it.  It forces me to think deeper about the topic and the blog post is now on record and I know that I can always dig into the archives if I remember that I once looked at or thought about something.

Don’t: Switch Topics All the Time

I’m guilty of this and I don’t think I want to apologize for this.  If I chose the same topic day after day after day, I think it would get boring and repetitive.  I do try to keep my thoughts roughly educational.  Does that count?  As mentioned above, if I’m thinking, I’m blogging.

Do: Have a Contest

No budget.  Can’t do it.  This operation is run lean and mean.

Don’t: Be Mean

Well, not that mean.  I understand the concept here and I’ve seen blogs that are just mean and the content is just scathing for whatever topic is being discussed.  I think that’s so counter productive.  You can disagree without being disagreeable.  I know that when I run into a blog that operates that way, I just keep on going.

Do: Connect with Other Bloggers

Absolutely.  Bloggers are among the best group that you can connect with.  We’ll comment on each other’s blogs, interact on other social media and always search each other out if we know we’re going to be in the same place at the same time.

Don’t: Post “Just” a Blog (with no planning)

This is great advice.  If all that you’re doing is posting to say that you’ve posted, it takes the excitement out of it.  You need to blog when you’re inspired to write.  In schools, if you “go to the lab” and blog during the 40 minutes that you’re there, you won’t be universally successful.  I think that’s a major reason why I like the concept of BYOD or other ways to get computers in the classroom.   You need to brainstorm, research, do your rough drafts, and then finish the product when inspired.

Do: Use Images & Video

Used properly, they do serve to break up large bodies of text.  While I like to include things that I’ve created myself, like drawings, pictures, or screen captures, there are wonderful copyright free resources on the internet should you need it.

Don’t: Forget Links & Tags

One of the really nice features of working with WordPress is its ability to analyse your work as you type.  Based on your content, you’ll get a nice collection of tags recommended and related articles.  I think the related articles, in particular, help to extend the conversation that you’ve started in the blog.  And, it’s equally cool when you end up linking to yourself.  I’ve got nothing against circular references!  Remember the old days with endnotes to support the thesis of your paper?  Think of inline linking as a step up in reference.  The resource is readily available as you read – not at the end of the content!

Do: Have Fun with Your Blog

I think this is the best advice of the nine.  I’m often asked “When will you quit blogging?”  My answer has always been “When I want to stop learning” but the answer may well be answered better as “When it stops being fun”.

I know that there are many classrooms that will be making blogging an integral part of any program this year.  At first blush, it may seem to be perfectly designed for Language classes – and it is.  But it’s equally as helpful in Mathematics, Science, … in fact anywhere where you want students to dig deeper.  I think it’s perfect for blended learning classrooms.  That’s just in the classroom.  Circle back to George’s blog post about professional growth and isolation.  What better way to show that you’re learning, ask questions, engage others, create a call to action, define just where you stand, share your vision – the possibilities are endless.

Regardless of how or where you see blogging, you want yourself or your students to be successful.  These nine tips can be very helpful getting started and also used periodically to take a deep breath and reflect on the way things are.

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Cloud at #ECOO13


In Ontario, like in many jurisdictions, there are two popular cloud solutions that have made their way into the classroom.  ECOO is proud to announce that both of these solutions will be at the ECOO Conference to meet with Ontario teachers and provide professional learning opportunities.

On Wednesday, LearnStyle, an Ontario company will provide a full day of learning opportunities for those who are interested in Google applications.  They are calling their program Google Spot.

Meanwhile, just down the hall, Microsoft Canada’s Education team will host its own day of professional learning.

ECOO is excited to have opportunities for educators interested in one or both of these leading web solution.

Why do we feel this is so significant?

Certainly, the opportunity to learn the mechanics and the “how to” is important.  A full day learning with experts in their field cannot be matched.  But, that’s really only part of the story.

Using web solutions is just part of the story.  After all, Ontario educators have been using office suites since Appleworks and WordPerfect were licensed for use in all Ontario schools.  Look also to these sessions to get at the “why”, look at the opportunities to collaborate online, understand how global projects work, and most importantly make connections with other Ontario educators so that your learning can continue long after the conference.

Armed with the learning from the Wednesday workshops, go forward to make even more connections and get ideas from other educators on the Thursday and Friday of ECOO.

Complete program details including how to register for #ECOO13 are available at the conference site http://www.bringittogether.ca

 

Google SPOT at #ECOO13


The Educational Computing Organization of Ontario is proud to partner with LEARNStyle to present a full day, intense series of workshops dealing with Google Apps for Education.  The sessions, led by Google Certified Educators will delve into all aspects of using Google Applications in your classroom.  Sessions will be offered in both French and English.  Pick from the sessions offered to tailor your own professional learning needs.  These sessions are ideal for educators interested in using Google Apps for Education in the classroom.  We know that many were unable to attend the recent Ontario Google Summit and that a large number of school districts have adopted Google Apps for Education recently.  This comprehensive program is for you!

The complete #ECOO13 program may be viewed on Lanyrd here:  http://lanyrd.com/2013/ecoo13/

Register for #ECOO13 here:  http://www.cvent.com/events/bring-it-together/event-summary-e02f22e3d9144718a73faba35000266f.aspx


Google SPOT: A custom-designed Google Apps for Education Program

Google SPOT is a three-tiered program designed by LEARNstyle to introduce, engage and build skills around Google Apps for Education. Participants will gain foundational knowledge and specific examples of how Google Apps for Education can impact and bring excitement to their school boards, classrooms, and professional lives. Tailor your learning experience by choosing the workshops that best fit your classes and lesson plans!

Tier 1, Keynote: DJ Cunningham – CEO LEARNstyle

The Google SPOT keynote will showcase the power that Google Apps for Education has to support your teaching, through the innovative use of collaboration, cloud computing and apps.

Tier 2: Hands-on Foundation Course

This hands-on foundation course is designed to provide you with the core skills you will need to make Google Apps for Education a reality in your classroom. Participants will receive a practical hands-on introduction to Google Apps for Education, guided by 3 of LEARNstyle’s Google Certified Trainers.

BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and learn about Google Apps for Education with our hands-on interactive instruction!

Tier 3: Breakout Workshops Participants in these breakout workshops will have the opportunity to tailor their learning to suit their personal preferences. Choose from the following 8 Google SPOT workshops offered in 2 time slots to enhance your learning with Google Apps for Education!  Two of the sessions will be offered in French!

Break out sessions 1

1.1: Google and Accessibility presenter, D.J. Cunningham

1.2: Google Next Steps for Certification, presenter: Joe Carsdale

1.3: Using Google for Formative Assessment, presenter: Teresa Greco

1.4: French Topic TBA, presenter: Lize Galuga


Break out sessions 2

2.1: Making Videos with Youtube in the Classroom, presenter: Jen Daniels

2.2: Workflow, the Google way, presenter: D.J. Cunningham

2.3: Must have apps & extensions, presenter: Joe Carsdale

2.4: French Topic TBA, presenter: Pierre Sarazin


A Convergence of Thought


A couple of things entered my reading today.  The first was an infographic asking “What Does An Educational Technologist Do?”  It’s an interesting graphic and worth the time to follow the link and take a look.

Technologist

The second reading was a blog entry from George Couros titled “What should a networked educational leader tweet about?”  Just as the infographic is worth the time to study, so is Mr. Couros’ blog entry.  In particular, the summary at the bottom of the article about what or what not should be tweeted.

In both cases, I would suggest that these are significant descriptors.  For those of you who have access to the services of an educational technologist, I would think both are good standards for the position and worthwhile discussion with them.

But, I would take it even further.  Not only should these be considered, there is another aspect.

How often does this communication happen?  Is it sufficient when the educational technologist is in attendance at a conference or a presentation and parrotting points made by a speaker?  I would say no.  Doing so is like saying “I’m here and you’re not”.

The message that an educational technologist often gives is one of you needing to be a lifelong learner and get with the program. But what about her/him?

If you believe in lifelong learner for others, how about yourself?  If you believe in visible learning, how about yourself?

Is it not desirable, heck, even a requirement that you show how it’s done?  If it’s important to learn, I would suggest that it’s at least as important to illustrate that.  Only then, do you lead and learn by example.  Are you not learning something new every day as you would expect others to do?

Take another look at the two resources.  They really show a great convergence of ideas and should be part of a roadmap for success.  Otherwise, it’s pretty difficult to answer the question “Just what is it that you do?”

 

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


Another Friday and another opportunity to share some of the great things from Ontario Edublogs this past while.

Please read on and support these great authors with a visit to their posts.

Zoe Braningan-Zipe takes on the IEPs that were handed to her.  She’s identified them as originating from some sort of template and the content is provided to inform her about the accommodations, modifications, and strategies to use for success.  It sounds like she wasn’t entirely happy with the information provided and so made it a learning activity for her students.

So often, we hear about the “student being in charge of the learning” and in this post Zoe paints a picture of what it might look like for students who carry an IEP with them.

She describes a thoughtful process.  I think it’s worthy of a couple of reads and then to pass it along.  There are some great ideas and suggestions that could be used in other places.

Why shouldn’t students know the content of the IEPs and be responsible for the learning they describe?


I really enjoyed the recent post by Brenda Sherry.  With the system’s current and ongoing fascination for mathematics, science, and language, one could classify these studies as “first level”.  Then, there’s the “second level”.  These would be the subject areas that don’t get the level of attention at times when it comes to school planning.

I guess, as a computer science teacher, I would have fallen into the “second level” just like the arts teacher.  We would fight for student registration each year because our courses are optional.  We fight for resources because often there isn’t a great textbook.  In many cases, we got the raw materials and made our courses work from that.

In the post, Brenda uses her husband as Exhibit A.  I don’t doubt for a minute that things happen in that class as she describes.  That’s what makes the Arts teachers such a special breed.  But, it wouldn’t take much to look at a good Computer Science classroom or a Technology Studies classroom through the same lens.  There are quite a few PBL Experts among us.

As Brenda so correctly notes, there are great things to be learned from them and applied to all classrooms.


Leading Learning and Networking to Learn

Sheila Stewart had actually posted this a couple of weeks ago.  It was a nice summary of various articles about networking and professional learning on the part of those in the educational system.  The links that she made reference to are well worth the launch.

Her post resurfaced in my mind this morning when I read an additional article about the same topic from Jane Hart.  The article talked about “Knowledge Workers” and how they like to learn.  It dovetails very nicely with the previously identifed articles.

It still raises the question though – if it’s so good, why isn’t there universal adoption?  Why do some school districts still block access to the tools that would allow for continuous professional learning and growth?


Ontario Gafe summit day one

I would imagine that Mark Carbone was glad to see the end of the first day of the Google Apps For Education Summit.  It’s a brave IT Department and a brave school that allows over 500 years and their multiple devices onto a school network.  Since we’re talking Google Apps and Networking, there’s no middle ground.  The network has to be there, it has to work and it has to work well.

As a participant in the audience, for the most part, it worked as promised.  The only noticeable slowdowns were in the big theatre where we all were trying to back channel and watch YouTube and stay up with the presenters.

In his post, he summarizes the day not from the technical end, but from his learning.  It is always interesting to see what other people learned when they’re at the same session I am.

Behind the scenes, you just knew that the IT Department was on top of things.

The event was very successful with compliments at every turn.   The WRDSB IT Department surely should feel good about the support that they were able to provide.

Pocket Change

Brian Harrison talks about the tools that we all brought to the classroom.  Pencil cases, crayons, pencils, etc.  All of these bring back fond memories of back to school shopping.  All of the products seem to have an educational shelf life of a year.  (At least that’s what Stedman’s would have us believe!)  I remember in high school having an option between two types of slide rules – the cheapy white plastic model and the metal one that would “last me a lifetime” and was highly recommended since I was interested in mathematics.

Oddly enough, I still have that sliderule and pull it out every now and again to reflect on how far we’ve come in terms of computational devices.

As Brian’s school gets set to embrace BYOD or at least pilot it, I’m thinking of my sliderule.  If a student is going to bring a device with her/him, what’s the life of it?  When you purchase technology for the classroom centrally, you plan to recycle it in a period of time – three years, five years, seven years (gasp), … I wonder – what should students/parents expect from any technology that’s purchased in anticipation of entering a school that supports BYOD?  My sliderule works just as well today as it did when I bought it for Grade 10.  However, it’s next to worthless.

Should this be part of a Grade 9 orientation?  “We’re a BYOD school and, if you’re buying, this is what to do so that it last four years.”  What about a BYOD at a younger grade?  Is BYOD something to be embraced in the short term because of isolated pockets of excitement or does it need to be considered in terms of a multi-year investment by families and schools.  What happens if you run a pilot project and it fails?  Who is left holding the bag?

Thanks so much to all of the above for great thought-provoking posts this week.  That’s the sign of a great blog post.

Please take the time to visit the blogs at the links above.  You can look at the entire complement of Ontario Edubloggers here.

If you’re from Ontario and your blog isn’t listed, please complete the form so that I can get it added.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


It’s March Break in Ontario but there’s still some great blogging happening.  Here are some things that caught my attention from Ontario Educators

First up, and seemingly timely, Stephen Hurley talked about the change of sporting seasons.  I thought it was so timely because we had gone from one freezing day to the next where we were out working in the garden and playing catch.

From One Season To The Next

Reality kicked back in though and it’s winter again.  Hopefully, we don’t run into the same problem with the apple crop again this year.


Primary Blogging Community – April edition

I like the explanation about the Primary Blogging Community from Kristen Wideen.  There seems to be an onslaught of posts recently about why you’d want to blog with students.  I agree with them all.  I think this takes it just a little further and potentially more connectedly – join a blogging community.  In the post, she explains the difference between PBC and Quad Blogging.


Why Mish-Mash is Better Than 1:1

I think it’s unfortunate that Royan Lee used the term “Mish-Mash” although that probably encouraged a number of readers to read his post.  All that I could think of as I read his post was the old adage that “when the only tool that you have is a hammer, everything looks like nails”.  In the post, he explains what his student’s preferred writing tools are but the underlying message shouldn’t be ignored – he’s not ramming any one solution down on every student.

I know that I’ll sit here with laptop and tablet and I’ll choose one or the other depending on the task.  I’ve tried and just can’t do anything substantial when writing on tablet.  Does that make the laptop a better tool or am I saddled by the fact that I took keyboarding in high school?

I think that this needs to go one step further with the choice of electronic tool.  I tried to get to that point when I looked at Brian Aspinall’s Sketchlot program in this post.  Not only do you need to be concerned with the type of tool but it doesn’t need to be platform specific.


WRDSB Futures Forum Program Wins Award

“Go to any computer professional learning event, and you’ll see Waterloo Region educators…”  I’ve said this a couple of time.  Here is a district that is committed to doing professional learning correctly.  It’s not added on if there are a few bucks left over; it’s the way they do business and have been success at it for year.  Whether it’s attendance at the ECOO Conference, the RCAC Symposium, professional learning events held in their own community, or at their own CATC Camp.  I’ve been to them all and have got to know so many Waterloo folks through learning with them.

It’s so good to see that their Futures Forum Program has garnered some recognition for the good work that they’re doing.  Mark Carbone shares the details on his blog.  You should forward this to whoever is in charge of professional learning in your district and ask “Why not us?”  Of course, it helps (and he’d never admit it so I’ll do so here) to have a CIO who has a strong educational background and respect within his district like Mark.


Math on iPads – Sketchalot

As mentioned above, Brian Aspinall released a new application recently and I really like his approach.  Yes, it’s an app but it’s a web app so you’re not tied to downloading from your store and then clobbered with updates.  You just use the web app and he takes care of the updates for you.  You just need a modern browser.  Sadly, after my blog post, at least one person who tried it didn’t have a “modern browser”.  Maybe someday.  At least the kids will be able to use it at home…

In this post, Brian shares how he’s using the application with his own class.  What a deal – write your own software and use it with your own class.  Does it get any better than that?


Check out the complete postings at the links above.  You can read the rest from the Ontario Edublog collection here.  If you’re a blogger in education in Ontario and not on the list, there’s a form to allow you to share the URL to your blog.

Best wishes to all as school starts up again next week – you’re in the home stretch now!

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A Great Place to Learn


If you had to quantify your learning, yesterday was a great one for me.

First, I stumbled upon Jim Kazanjian’s imagery Fantastic Imaginary Buildings Created by Splicing Together Found Photos.  As I was enjoying his wizardry, I got ideas for how this might serve as inspiration for others.

Then, as I am likely to do, I blogged about it.  I scheduled it for 5am and went to bed.  Time and WordPress worked their magic and the post appears on the blog, is announced on Twitter, and is also mailed out to 147 subscribers and who knows how many people who have it in their RSS reader.

As I write this while trying to ignore my wife’s favourite television show, I’ve had 190 visitors to this particular blog post.

Of that, though, there were a couple of special visitors.  Not only did they drop by for the read but they left some thoughts.  It’s these thoughts that amplified my learning for the day.

Peter Beens shared an inspirational image site http://www.flickr.com/photos/pareeerica/.  I’ve been exploring those images off and on all day.  My Photoshop skills are just enough that it’s driving me nuts guessing how I might try to replicate the editing.

Then, Andy Forgrave drops by and takes me to the world of ds106 and its assignment bank.  I had no idea.  I live in a world were ds106 is a radio station where Stephen Hurley hangs out.  But Andy had created and shared an assignment.  My learning had started from encouraging Andy and Stephen to lead a session at edCampWR.  I had bookmarked the radio station and fire it up for a listen when Stephen is online and lets us know over Twitter.  That’s just the tip of the iceberg.

My sincere thanks to Peter and Andy.  I’m so much the better for it.  Where else but in our online community can you share one idea and get two back?