This Week in Ontario Edublogs


As the school year winds down, it’s a time of reflection for educators.  How did my class do?  Why didn’t this student do better?  This student really caught fire.  I was most effective when I …  I was least effective when I …  I need to grow professionally in this area.  My biggest strengths are …

On the Ontario blogging front, I caught some reflections that people chose to share with the world.

Feeling Intellectually Safe – My Students Reflect on Their Year

Heidi Siwak was moved to post after her students were interviewed for a video from the Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat.  I really liked the way that she described her reactions to their comments and thoughts that they shared while being interviewed.  I can imagine that it would be a nervous time – we all wonder why our students say when they go home and talk to mom and dad.  But to be on tape and potentially sharing it with educators throughout the province?

Heidi

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Staying Positive

Aviva Dunsiger notes that the end of the year isn’t always an easy time for everyone.  There are lots of things on the horizon that can be a challenge.  I was fortunate to work in an air conditioned school which makes a world of different in hot and humid Essex County.  In our department, we also had a philosophy of working hard right to the end of the school year.  That’s what we were hired for, right?  In her latest post, she talks about some of the things that she’s positive and thankful for.

It’s been a difficult school year in Ontario and the public elementary school teachers still aren’t out of the woods.  It’s good that she can focus on the positives.

Aviva

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Professional Reading: Summer of 2013

Julie Balen is already planning her own personal professional development.  On her blog, she’s listed 9 titles on her “to read” and “to re-read” list.  As she notes, she has selected a very interesting collection of titles.

As I look them over, I see some that I have read and I’m intrigued by a couple of the titles.

Julie

Look for What is Good and Strong

Paul Cornies’ latest post seems like the perfect summary for the blogs referenced above.  Good and Strong, reflective, interested in professional growth and student achievement.  You can see it all!

Thanks to these Ontario Edubloggers for being so visible with your learning and sharing.  These blogs are great reads – take some time to read and enjoy.  The complete collection of Ontario Edubloggers can be found here.

Cube Gets Groups


Late this summer, I was invited to test out the new Group feature that Cube for Teachers was incorporating into their excellent resource for Ontario Educators.  I can’t believe that it’s been almost a year since I reviewed and blogged about the initial release of the online resource.  At the time, there was a concern from a reader that the service would become pay for use and Cube for Teachers replied that they would remain free and there’s no indication that has changed.

The concept of groups really leverages the service.

It now goes beyond the original concept of a repository – now you can use the area as a collaboration space for writing teams, planning groups, NTIP, …  Rather than rehashing my thoughts, what follows below is the announcement from Cube for Teachers.

There are a lot of repositories online but this grouping feature makes the Cube for Teachers really unique.  Keep that in mind if you’re ever working on a project that requires pulling resources together.  Even if you’re not ready for that yet, it’s still a nicely organized resource for Ontario teachers.


As over 1800 teachers across the province have already discovered, Cube for Teachers allows teachers to search for, share, and save links to internet resources which will help them meet the needs of their students.

And now, Cube for Teachers has introduced a powerful new feature:  Groups. Teachers across the province can now invite other teachers to form professional learning networks (PLNs) inside Cube for Teachers.

The Group feature within Cube for Teachers can be used:

a)     to share resources
b)     to share teaching ideas
c)     for professional development
d)     as a forum for discussions on important educational topics

Reasons Why Educators Will Want to Use the Groups Feature:

1.     Ontario teachers can now connect with others throughout the province on specific topics or other areas of interest.

2.     School departments can collaborate on resources for various courses.

3.     School administrators can invite their staff to form groups for professional development.

4.     Subject Council members can share ideas, resource links and next steps.

5.     Administrators can form PLNs with other administrators.

6.     School Family representatives can support each other and share ideas.

7.     Faculties of Education instructors can establish networks for their teacher candidates to share ideas, resource links, and support each other.

8.     New teachers (NTIP) can offer support and ideas for each other.

9.     Teachers can form groups to continue collaborating after an in-service.

10.   The Groups Feature helps make Cube for Teachers the one-stop shop for Ontario teachers to collaborate!

We welcome all Ontario educators to register with Cube For Teachers and try our latest feature! Remember that The Cube is a secure community designed exclusively for Ontario teachers. Teacher can search for, share, and save links based on grade, course, subject, and expectations based on the Ontario Curriculum.

And please, spread the word!  Refer a friend. Let others know what a fabulous website www.cubeforteachers.com has become. The greater the number of teachers who register and contribute to the website, the more valuable it will be to you!

Look for it


 

Pretty soon, you should see something like this on your favourite blog or wiki.

Actually, it will probably look a whole lot better since I won’t be the one creating it but, for now, it’s a proof of concept.

ECOO 2012 will happen on October 24-26 in Richmond Hill, Ontario.  The convention hall is booked and Ontario educators who have offered workshop suggestions have been contacted.  There is an incredible collection of workshop offerings for those who will be in attendance.

ECOO is the largest computer using educator conference in the province.  With a thirty-three year history of sharing the latest in technology and classroom success, it is a conference not to be missed.  The conference is run for educators, by educators.

Keynote speakers for the event are:

In addition to the main conference, a pre-conference devoted to a wide range of topics is bound to appeal.  And, don’t forget the social events either.

Registration is now available here.  Hope to see you there.

 

What Does Twitter For PD Mean


 

Twitter for PD?  What does this mean?  (Old radio listeners from Detroit will recognize Dick the Bruiser format)

I referenced a couple of blog posts yesterday in my post about hurting yourself with social media.  There doesn’t pass a day when I see reference to using Twitter (or other social media for that matter) for professional development.

I often wonder about this.  I agree with some of the assumptions made but not all of the examples given actually work for me.  I think the joy of it is that it can work at so many levels.  Here are some thoughts about mine.

Twitter Chats
Inevitabily, any discussion about Twitter for Professional Development includes reference to Twitter Chats.  I’ve bookmarked a number of references to my Diigo account and probably the reference to start with is this one. I know that people swear by these online sessions.  For me, I tried and gave up.  I find the time commitment for active participation too much and, if we’re looking for examples of echo chambers, the ones that I’ve participated in just seemed that way.

But that doesn’t mean hashtags are to be ignored.  Put together after the fact using something likeStorify can be a terrific way to quickly scan the thoughts and sharing from a focused event.

140 Characters at a time
Anything Meaty?  I got taken to task yesterday for sharing the post about Twitter and Facebook replacing Traditional Teacher Professional Development.

From the title of the article, it was probably justified.  Just getting a Twitter account and doing a couple of Twitter messages and reading a bunch certainly doesn’t cut it.  It’s a modern equivalent of going to the library and skimming the card catalogue and calling yourself informed.  Even if you do use “texting talk” to imply more than 140 characters, it can still be lacking.

Getting a PLN
Creating your own Professional Learning Network is easy.  Just log on to Twitter on any Friday and look for #FollowFriday or #FF links and follow those people.  Put together more than one and you’ve got yourself a network.  If that’s all that you’re doing, it’s the equivalent of hanging around with a group of strangers outside a movie theatre.  It’s nice to be there and associate but that’s as far as it goes.

So, now that I’ve started this post off in a negative fashion – which quite frankly isn’t something I like to do – how can it be productive and why does Doug spend so much time with it?

Lose the Development
I’m not a fan of the term “Professional Development”.  In my mind, it reinforces the concept that someone or something else is doing something to, or for you, to help you improve…just like everyone else at the session.  There was a time and place when this was valuable.  At a Teachers’ College, for example, there are a certain set of skills that should be part of any future educator’s toolkit.  Well all know, though, that once you get into your classroom and close the door, it’s you and your students.

Gain the Learning
If you’ve graduated from that Teachers’ College, your professional needs don’t stop.  In fact, they should probably grow exponentially.  The more you know, the more you need to know.  Have you ever taught the exact same class two years in a row?  Heck, have you ever taught the same class exactly the same way two days in a row?  In a lock stepped curriculum, perhaps a standardized development approach would do the trick.  For all others, learning as you go, on the fly, as needed, is a necessity.

Differentiate
You just know that there had to be some sort of edu-babble introduced into a discussion like this.  Remember those needs?  They now become YOUR needs.  At any quality conference, you are enabled by allowing you to select just what you need during any time slot.  Learning online should work the same way.  Track down and engage in the discussions that feed your present needs.

Build a Critical Mass
I was showing off my RebelMouse page to a friend recently as a way to show how we might accumulate stories for a totally different reason.  Her comments were “You have over 5000 followers?”  Yes, but more importantly, I follow over 3000.  The folks that I follow have been chosen for a purpose.  I can count on them to engage, inspire, and challenge me daily.  It really helps to grow my thinking.  I recall when I did follow 20 or so people.  My impression then was that this whole exercise was a waste of time.  Not now.

Twitter as a LaunchPad
The best learning for me happens when the conversation takes off and doesn’t necessarily stay in the social media.  I like following the links – take me to news reports, research, forums, wikis, and blogs where the meaty stuff resides.  You don’t get the full monty 140 characters at a time but like the library card catalogue, it should be there to tease and inform you about where the good stuff is.

Give Back
It’s one thing to be there and suck it all in.  Anyone who has ever put together a child’s toy where “some assembly is required” knows that there’s much more to the job that simply reading the instructions.  You’ve got to roll up your sleeves, find those tools in the toolbox and then get to the job of doing it.  The same thing happens with social media.  Find and share.  You can do this 140 characters at a time.  While you’ve differentiated for your own needs a set or sub-set of yours will undoubtedly have an appeal to someone else.

Don’t keep your best learning to yourself
You can’t get in shape by watching other people work out at the gym.  You can learn the techniques of the exercise but you don’t get the benefit until you do it yourself.  Ditto for social media.  Did you learn something inspiring, out of the ordinary, or just something that got your through to morning recess?  If it worked for you, it just might be of value to someone else somewhere.  Blog about it; add it to your wiki.  Education isn’t about the person who wins by hoarding the most; the winner will be the one who influences by filtering and sharing or creating the best of the best.

When you look at Twitter and what it can really do, I think you’ll see that it can be an incredibly powerful tool.  Unlike Professional Development where you show up for a coffee and muffin and sit back, Professional Learning with Twitter is work.  It requires engagement, active interactions, creating and sharing your learning.  Isn’t that what we expect from our students?  Should we expect no less from ourselves?

Related articles

 

Welcome New Bloggers


Tomorrow, as part of our Vision to Practice Program, Greater Essex County Educators will get an opportunity to learn with Will Richardson.

Blogging is a hot topic and there’s a keen demand to explore the use in literacy and professional development in the district.  Over the day tomorrow, 60 more educators will get the opportunity to work hands-on with Will. 

It’s going to be an interesting day.  As I look over the attendees, some folks had already heard Will’s message at the Western Regional Computer Advisory Committee’s Symposium 2007.  Some have taken my workshop and experienced the power of blogging on FirstClass.  Others are just keen to learn and get some ideas.

It will be a very comfortable setting for professional development as attendees snuggle into the cozy chairs normally reserved for trustees and superintendents in our board room.

It should be a terrific experience for all.

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Teacher Professional Development


It’s a shame that good news stories in education don’t hit the newspapers more often that these stories.

I led Professional Development sessions yesterday.  I’m a certified SMART trainer and made this opportunity available to our teachers.  As is normally the case, there was a waiting list longer than the number of people allowed to attend.

It’s a shame that the news story wasn’t “Teachers learn while on holidays” or something akin.  After all, teachers do have the summers off, don’t they?

Tell that to the group of people who stuck it out in the hottest day of the summer to date.  The thermometer in my car said 36 degrees when I left at the end of the day.  The rest of the story was that in that dark ol’ hall in Essex, there was no air conditioning.  So, you put a group of teachers in a room with all that body heat, computers, and no windows, it was pretty unbearable.  Yet, nobody left because of heat exhaustion (although the instructor was tempted to many times…).

These teachers were there for the PD.  Not for an immediate raise in pay, but because they wanted to improve the learning environment for their students.

On the other side of the world, Teachers Without Borders was doing a SMART Board session as well.  I Skyped in and chatted with the leader in South Africa about what our district was doing with interactive white boards.  Sharon Peters had a group of teachers that she was working with in Capetown.  They were obviously similarly motivated to make the magic of technology happen in their classrooms.

As a leader of Professional Development, you do these things because you know that there will be an impact in the classroom.  My focus is on computers and technology and there is a demand to improve learning opportunities for students … even during the summers.

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Professional Development


It’s been a very ambitious September. Professional Development activities all over the place. Three days of CIESCs, three days of Notebook for new teachers, four nights of SMART Board introductions, blogging/podcasting, Graphic Organizers and FirstClass filled the month. Then, an evening presentation on Internet Safety at Centennial Central and an online OSAPAC meeting fill my waking moments. Beauregard doesn’t recognize me anymore.