Just a Lot of Thinking

As I blogged yesterday, David Warlick spent the day with Computers in Education School Contacts, Principals, and the IT Department in a “Visioning Session”.  The goal was to help us with our thinking about what possibilities exist for students and teachers who want to learn and construct with our current and future connectivity realities.

Now, this could have been a session where you come in, sit down, and start taking notes because you are about to get the answers.  Such was not the case here – the answers and potential lie within.

Me, visioning by myself – thanks, David Warlick
So, the ultimate goal, it would seem to me would be for folks to walk away thinking and pondering all that was done.  Judging by the artifacts generated yesterday, it worked.David always starts his presentation by sharing something that he didn’t know until the day before the presentation.  In this case, he shared with us the website Twitcritic where you could get the buzz from Twitter about what movies are trending and popular to help you determine you movie going habits.  Neat concept but I couldn’t help but wonder a couple of things – first I think it’s very appropriate to share your current learnings with others if you want to model the fact that we should always be learning – and secondly, if I’m involved with a movie, I’m going to do my best to enlist folks to twitter about my movie.

So, the table was set and the visioning continued throughout the day.  For some, it was new learning and thinking; for others it was an affirmation that they’re already on a similar track; and for others it opened the doors to new possibilities.

With that in mind, we engaged in the process of thinking and imagining.  There were few “thou shalt” moments.  The tables were turned and we were forced to think about what is possible in our own contexts.  Through a back channel conversation, an electronic message board, to a graphic organizer where activities and ideas were held up to Bloom’s Taxonomy, we we challenged to seek a vision for what might be possible.  Everything had to be expressed in terms of verbs.

Overnight, I checked in with some of the CIESC group who were appreciative of the opportunity and are already talking with their principals about things that need to change in their schools and what types of opportunities are good for kids.  For me, I went to teach my course at the university and we had a good conversation about things and the skills and attitudes that their youthfulness brings to the profession.  Then, it was time to drive to Toronto for the Minds on Media session today and my mind was spinning with ideas and concepts for the entire drive.

I really like it when someone makes me think.  Yesterday, it pushed the entire group in the room to think about the possibilities.  Yes, there will be challenges but we need to keep an eye on the target.  As our superintendent noted yesterday, we need to focus on our students.  What type of graduates do we want leaving our system?  What are the skills and knowledge that they need?  What will prepare them to cope with a future that is so hard to define?

There was a lot of thinking as we left the session.

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Learning with the folks from Waterloo

Last Friday, I had the distinct pleasure and opportunity to do some learning with 75 Waterloo Region teachers at a presentation led by David Warlick.

David, checking out the setup

The message was a powerful one.  His presentation “Redefining Literacy” is one that makes you rethink most everything about education and his examples of how to use the tools of the web as a new literacy put things very nicely in context.

Ron, with his ever present camera

The session was hosted by the ITS Department of the WRDSB and is part of a continuing effort to keep pushing the envelope.  In addition to the great PD with David, it was announced that a new server running WordPress software was recently launched to allow teachers and students to blog in house as opposed to using other resources.

I live blogged David’s presentation using Coveritlive.  My observations appear below.

David Warlick in Kitchener (0pens in a new window)

It was a great day to learn and a good group to learn with. My thanks to Ron, Harry, and Mark for including me.

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Webnation Interview with David Warlick

As noted earlier in this blog, the keynotes at the Western RCAC Symposium 2008 were David Warlick and Amber MacArthur. Both are noted Web 2.0 strategists in their respective fields.

So, what happens when they’re both in the same place at the same time with photojournalist Christopher Dick?

Why, they create an episode for Webnation on CP24.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

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What to do now?

This year, more than ever, there was so much followup discussion following the Western Regional Computer Advisory Committee’s Symposium.

I must admit that I’m taken aback by the tone of some of the comments,  There are comments like “I doubt that things will change” and “Here are reasons why it won’t work” and “I’m concerned about equity” and “It’s all the Technical Department’s” fault and probably more than what I know about.

I think of this powerful quote.  A good friend of mine uses it as the default tagline on all of her messages.

“Our task is to provide an education for the kind of kids we have… Not the kind of kids we used to have… Or want to have… Or the kids that exist in our dreams.”  Mary Kay Utecht

It’s not a big leap to translate “kids” to “technology” and “connectivity” and “access”.

As educators, we face challenges every single day.  Many of these challenges are imposed from the outside and there’s not always things that we can do about it.  But, we need to embrace and take charge of those things that we can’t challenge.  I truly hope that the discussion was meant to be sensational and spark some conversation.  I hope that folks aren’t going to roll over and say “We can’t do it because things aren’t right…”

Things will never be right.  Things will never be perfect for all people.

There are challenges all over the place.  Yes, I get frustrated that I can’t just hop onto Google Images when I need an image for a presentation or a document.  But, you know what…there are plenty of other sources for images that are available to me.

I hope desperately that the comments are borne in the desire to do the very best that we can and that there is optimistic hope that we’re moving in the right direction.  Things in education can be slow to move but they are moving.  I found out recently that the Ontario Mathematics teachers will soon have professional development surrounding Web 2.0 technologies in the Intermediate Years’ mathematics classrooms.  This isn’t something that would be easy to predict a few years ago but we have contemporary educators like Ross Isenegger of Mathfest who know what’s right and are behind this initiative.

There are givens.  There will never be enough computers, enough bandwidth, enough access, enough refreshing of hardware and technology, …

But, we are professionals and will do the best that we can.  We can always do more with more and we need to constantly communicate this to those who allocate monies to education.  We need to always be moving along.  To paraphrase Mr. Warlick, we cheat the kids when we don’t.

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How I Saw It

I promised that I would spend a few moments and share my thoughts about the recently concluded Western Regional Computer Advisory Committee’s Symposium 2008.  Keep in mind, though, that as Chairperson and Ringmaster keeping folks on our timeline, I’m spending my time focussing on what’s next as opposed to what’s happening now!

Keynote speakers:  David Warlick and Amber MacArthur


For the night before the event, we hope to have the keynote speakers “in the house” so that we don’t have to worry about travel plans, etc.  This worked out nicely and we enjoyed the company of David Warlick and Amber MacArthur with fiance Chris at supper.  For me, that’s always a highlight as we get a chance to talk about topics of the day without worrying about timelines and audience.  Over supper, David was curious about our vision for schools in a Web 2.0 world and seemed very interested in Amber’s stories about life and production of regular web content in a contemporary environment.  For me, I was interested in Amber and Chris’ perspective on editorial content and just how things are chosen to air and how assignments are given to reporters.  I was surprised to find out that “The Boy’s” current employer had been a member of the CHUM / CITY group.

Then, after what seems like a quick nap, it’s time for a shower and it’s showtime.

David Warlick went first with his presentation “Our Students – Our Worlds“.  Eyes were opened for many as David took us inside the minds and lives of today’s youth.  His famous tentacles diagram affirmed that students aren’t “human” by a traditional view!  It does drive home the message that they are indeed connected at levels that we suspect but don’t totally know.  (at least until the texting bill comes in…)  Rather than ask folks to turn off electronic devices, David let me know before the event that he would welcome a back channel through his presentation.  Gulp!  What to do?  Fortunately, I knew that TheCleversheep, Rob DeLorenzo, Quentin D’Souza, and Michael Redfearn would be in the audience.  I snagged a quick conversation before David started and we got some access codes so that they could provide some of the chatter.  However, they knew people who knew people, and a back channel was borne.  At the end, David moved it to his wiki and interjected his own comments.  What a way to get feedback from your audience than to monitor their play by play while you’re talking.  I’m also sneaking some side glances at the tables where the Greater Essex folks are sitting and see some principals frantically taking notes.  This is a good sign.  To top things off, Linworth Publishing had donated some of David’s new book, Redefining Literacy 2.0 as door prizes to some lucky attendees.  David spoke with his famous passion and sense of a need for immediate action which so motivated the group.  We could have left then and had our fill but certainly didn’t.

David’s Knitter wasn’t the only place where chat was ongoing.  There was a great deal on Twitter itself.

As happens when you don’t have guards on the door, a keynote speaker will take more than his share of the audience with him.  This was the case and it was SRO in David’s breakout.  But, that didn’t stop participants from attending the other eight great hand picked sessions.


I stuck my head into each of them and there was professional engagement happening in all locations.  I did linger at the session given by Greater Essex educators Lisa, Charlotte, Debbie, Lise, and Margo.  As part of our ELTIP initiative, they wanted to show a model for administrators in the Western Region.  Their fast paced presentation had the audience riveted and wanting to know of the possibilities.  In advance, they had decided that it was going to be a session of ideas and excitement and not one of “click here and this happens”.  As I predicted, there were numerous requests for the Notebook that they had created.  They did post their information here to show what online resources they incorporated into their classrooms.

After lunch, it was Amber’s turn on the stage.  This was her first presentation to educators and so we had been conversing back and forth about the issues of the day.  What was most powerful was her modelling of how to effectively use the new media in a presentation.  It’s only a short trip to the classroom.  Let’s face it, we live in a YouTube world.  There is so much that is appropriate and useful.  In her presentation, Amber showed us an early Peter Mansbridge report, which is a keeper.  You’re going to want to book mark that.  Also, this for those hard texting days.  Beyond the humour, Amber noted and identified the various skills that a teacher needs to go forward and reach students. Even a Greater Essex principal came up on the stage and very quickly created a video podcast.

Ruthven Principal creates a video podcast in front of 400

After her address, Amber participated in a podcast with Rodd Lucier (thecleversheep) where she recapped some of the salient points from her presentation.

The last part of the day is a final breakout session.  Would you think that people would leave early?  Not this group.  The learning continued.

Again, I stuck my head into all of the rooms to make sure that all was running well.  I did spend some time in Amber’s breakout Q&A session.  While I was there, we discussed student safety while using the tools of Web 2.0.  Warlick’s Class Blogmeister is an example of the very best to create a walled garden for students.  There was a good discussion about how to teach students to be participants in such a world when we’re blocking these resources in the first place.

I also spent some time in Greater Essex’s Johanna’s session.  She had partnered with other folks to talk about innovative ways to reach all students with technology.  As a Teacher-Librarian, she explained how she incorporates the best of Partners in Action with technology.  Rather than using traditional software tools in a less than motivating environment, she uses the SMART Board to engage students in literacy discussions.  It’s a technique that’s enjoying huge successes.

At the day’s end, Amber interviewed David Warlick and we hope to see the interview on commandN really soon.

Then, we were done.  Has it been a full day yet?  Yes, my fatigue is starting to take over but there’s still a few things left to do…like drive to the airport to pick up Leslie Fisher for the Professional Development session tomorrow.  But, that’s for another day and another blog entry…

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Thanks to David Warlick for the pictures.  You can see all of his photostream here.