Tag: Web2.0

A Well Connected Classroom


“You can see a lot just by looking” This quote, attributed to Yogi Berra is one that I think that I’ve used in virtually every interview that I’ve had.  I firmly believe that there is so much to see in any situation if you take the chance to look.  I had yet another chance to do that at Ryerson Public School yesterday.

I met @Gill_Ville last summer at the OTF Wikis and Web 2.0 institute in Hamilton.  She was there to learn like so many and took away a great deal.  At the CATC Camp later that summer, she was a clear leader within the cadre of Waterloo Region educators and was sharing her thoughts and ideas with her colleagues.  It’s quite one thing to share ideas but it’s a completely different game to actually put it into action.  I got to see the fruits of her actions yesterday during my visit.

Ryerson Public School is a new rebuild of an existing school and I had been bugging my friend @Ron_Mill for a tour ever since he had told me about the new facilities.  I’ve had a keen interest in learning spaces and how technology fits for some time now.  I’ve worked with a couple of superintendents with new school construction and school boundary design in the past.  I have a total respect for urban planners and architects as a result.  While new thoughts about learning spaces can certainly be build into legacy buildings, new designs can have the ability to make it non-negotiable, particularly with the proper leadership within the building.

So, off I went to see what this was all about and to hopefully do some brainstorming with Kim about what she’s done.  Essentially, I was there to steal ideas!  I typed the address to the school incorrectly into my GPS and headed east.  When I arrived in Cambridge, I was only off about 500 addresses and as I reached a dead end to turn around and look up the proper address on my phone, I found the school.  Phew!

Ryerson is a K-6 school and there was evidence of that just in the organization of the parking lot, visitor spaces, and student drop off lane.  Upon entry to the school, I reflected upon design.  Unlike the old buildings that so many of us attended, modern architects take great pains to make at least the entry ways open and inviting with natural lighting.  Mandatory, of course, is to have the school office up front to welcome visitors.  I pulled up to the counter – you have to have a counter – and the friendly secretary phoned Kim’s room to let me know that  I was there.

Check out their virtual tour:  http://voicethread.com/share/1412412/

As we headed out to Kim’s room to drop off my backpack, we did pass the library.  Through the class walls, you could hear the message “this is a place to learn” and no “this is a place for books”.  Well weeded, the stacks took second place to the spacious areas and up front a computer lab with iMacs bootable to either a Macintosh or Windows environment.  These students would have the best of both worlds.

Just past the library was Kim’s room.  As with most special education rooms, it is smaller than a regular classroom but there were learning activities everywhere you looked.  There were aides in place, helping students, who were spread throughout the room working on computers, iPads, manipulatives, and reading a book.  As we entered the room, there was also the smell of chocolate chip cookies as the class was also baking for a fund raiser.  I’ve visited a lot of classrooms before and typically everything stops as the “new guy” is checked out either as an intruder to the learning or as a welcome break to the lesson.  Here, I clearly felt like an intruder.  In fact, within the first two minutes, I was elbowed aside as one of the students needed an assist with one of the words to a story.  In great teacher style, Kim didn’t give an answer but provided a couple of alternatives to the student so that she could find a solution by herself.

After dropping off my bag, we took a tour of the school.  You can see evidence of working within funding guidelines.  In order to maximize classroom space, storage is at a premium.  The hallways were friendly and the classrooms were organized by pods with outer learning areas with a couple of computer.  The classrooms themselves were outfitted with SMART Board technology (the school is recognized as a SMART Showcase School) and a Macbook Pro connected.  That was it for computers in the classroom.  Kim indicated that the school had opted for the bookable computer lab and was also part of an iPod project for portable computing.  The entire school had wireless network access so it was a natural.  I pulled out my phone and, sure enough, could see the network but couldn’t attach without credentials but that’s OK – and good.

Charging iPod Touches for projects like this is so important.  There’s nothing worse than a good lesson gone bad because of the lack of a charge.  Your home solution of a charging connection to a computer just doesn’t fit.  Charging bays are the order of the day here to keep things up and running.  The other challenge which Kim indicated is a time consuming challenge is making sure that you have the right applications installed plus dealing with the logistics of the App Store in Canada for purchased products.  Hopefully, this gets resolved so that it’s easy for schools to replicate this.  Quite frankly, I don’t know how many people would put the time and effort into this that Kim did.

After a quick tour and a chance to renew some acquaintances like @NickyTwirp, it was time for the morning nutritional break.  Kim and I took a break from the school and continued our conversation at Starbucks before returning.  Upon return, we would dig deeper into some of the current projects.  With the use of Web 2.0 technologies, the students in the classroom were truly connected to the outer world for parts of their learning.

There was a map outlining the travels of Gill the Goldfish as four of them were shared with classrooms worldwide, travelling and bring back stories from these travels.  The technology that was readily available for student use really facilitated these sorts of projects.  As an adult, I couldn’t help but feel envious for these students.  I never had these opportunities.  They were currently doing research about their community, collecting information about what the various businesses do, websites, email addresses, pictures, etc. and were building an application with the assistance of @ianchia in Australia.  What an opportunity for the students.

There was a real focus on the digital footprint that these students were developing.  Whether it was through their Twitter account, their blog, the iPod Project wiki, or the class wiki, or just the summary of everything, it was quite evident that these students were enjoying the benefits of being so well connected.

Our final event for the day was the trip to the computer lab where the students entered their findings into their blogs for the iPod Community project.  The students hopped on the computers and were off and running while Kim and I interviewed the students individually about their use of the portable technology.  I really like it when students can articulate what it is that they’re doing and more importantly, why they’re doing it.  I experience a student led conversation about the best educational application, their favourite application, and how to work their iPad device.  You haven’t lived until you’ve tried to stay abreast of a lesson on iPad orientation, pinching and swiping as they showed off their skills!

The one area where student and teacher diverge is on their choice of device.  When I asked, to a student, they preferred the iPad mostly because it is easier to read.  (I got a dizzying lesson about how to pinch and zoom on an iPod Touch).  The teacher perspective recognized the reality of costs and would prefer to have the numbers that an affordable iPod Touch would provide.

Whew!  It was a light speed visit.  It almost took as long to write this post as I had to enjoy my four hour visit to Ryerson.  At the end, my head was just exploding but it was a good exploding.  You really can learn so much from students who know their stuff and are willing to demonstrate it.  It was a thoroughly enjoying visit – I could have used a nap at the end but that wasn’t about to happen.  With all of the connections, these students were engaged and motivated so nicely.  What a great environment for them to enjoy.

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I Repeat–Don’t Do Stupid Things


Yesterday, the Ontario College of Teachers, the professional body that oversees the teaching profession in Ontario issued a news release announcing a “Professional Advisory on the Use of Electronic Communication and Social Media” for its members.  As could be expected, conversations were immediately abuzz with with thoughts and comments about the content.  It was interesting to see the initial take by readers and the media.  Teasers are all over television with content that would make you wonder if the script writers had actually read the content of the advisory.

In addition to the PDF document, a video was posted to YouTube supporting the content of the advisory.

 

 

Before you dig into the advisory, I would recommend reading the backgrounder that the College of Teachers provides as a lead-in to the advisory itself (PDF Document).  Read the document carefully.  In particular, three sections lay out the key advice to members: “Interact with students appropriately”, “Understand privacy concerns”, and “Act Professionally”.  The next steps for teachers who wish to use Social Media come in the form of “Important questions to ask yourself”.  Without identifying itself as such, the document really asks educators to analyze and consider their own digital footprints and its implications.  Even the most fervent of users would have difficulties challenging any of the common sense messages conveyed.  I do wonder, though, if all of the educational scenarios have been thought through carefully.  In particular, I wonder about those teachers who are teaching courses online and use these tools as part of the courses.

None of this should be new information.  Check through the content of Ontario EduBloggers and you’ll find that virtually all of them have talked about and carefully crafted their own online presence.  There isn’t a professional gathering in the province that doesn’t feature presentations and discussions about Social Media.  In particular, the Ontario Teachers’ Federation has educated its members about the appropriate use and the power of online resources.  Through the Curriculum Forum, all of the subject councils are well aware of the power of these technologies when used properly.  OTF has also hosted two 21st Century sessions, the most recent being the “Teaching and Learning in the 21st Century” session this past February.  It was at this session that I had the honour of chairing a panel discussion about these technologies.  Teachers, a student, an administrator, three of the four Teacher Federations, and a passionate speaker were on this panel where a thorough discussion about the topic engaged the audience.  The biggest message for me from that discussion came from Bob Fisher from OSSTF whose best advice still applies “Don’t Do Stupid Things”.  After the event, I blogged about it and am reposting it here.  I think the message is as relevant today as it was when originally posted on February 12, 2011. 

The title was “Don’t Do Stupid Things”.

Isn’t that great advice?  I received it from my parents, I’ve given it to my own children, and I was reminded about this on Thursday night.

On Thursday night, as part of the Ontario Teachers’ Federation Teaching and Learning in the 21st Century Professional Development event, I was asked to chair a panel after supper.  I agreed to do this and a great deal of preparation went in to the event.

I decided that I would script the event using a Google Document and laid out the evening as I thought that I would like it to go.  Once I was ready, I shared the document with the project manager for the event, Siria Szkurhan who went through and helped tighten the language in the questions.  We also talked on the phone to make sure that we got the maximum value from the panel of experts to make the event the most beneficial for the participants.  So that the panelists could be prepared, they were shared the agenda as well, in advance of the event.

With as big an audience as we would have (potentially over 200 educators), I felt that we also needed to have some visuals to put the questions in context and so went about doing some research that would complement the questions posed to each of the panelists.  My friend Peter Skillen volunteered to man my laptop and go from tab to tab as the event unfolded.  He did a great job and the visual helped put a context to each of the questions.  I put links to all of the resources together into a bit.ly bundle and shared it here if you’re interested.

During the panel, we encouraged the continuation of the conference backchannel on Twitter and there were many comments flying about from the tag #OTF21C.  There weren’t any specific questions that appeared but we did have microphones for the audience to take advantage of the expertise on the stage.

First up, was Will Richardson who would lead a full day on Friday.  The goal here was to set the stage for why we were here and to break the ice for the rest of the panel.  I know that Will is widely travelled and asked him to share a couple of examples of the use of Social Media that he felt was exemplary.  I liked the answer that it was a great deal easier to find uses today than it was three years ago when he first spoke at another OTF event.  And, the panel was off.

We next heard from a couple of Ontario Educators.  Kelly Moore, an elementary school teacher from Greater Essex County shared some of the successes that she enjoyed as a Teacher Librarian.  She gave some examples as Peter showed off her wiki on the screen.  Through example, Kelly explained how getting online was so helpful for the students that she reached.  I did get her to explain how she used Social Media to help her differentiate the learning process for her students.  After Kelly, we moved to Danika Barker, a secondary school English / Media teacher from Thames Valley.  I think that I had talked with her personally once or twice before this event but I sure knew all of the interesting things that happens in her classes.  She is very open with her comments on Twitter and through her blog.  What I was most interested in getting her to share was how she used Social Media in a blended format with her classes.  There were great answers and I think that the audience may have been surprised to hear that she had the luxury of an English class booked into a computer lab for an entire semester.  That opened all kinds of opportunities to move everything that she did online.  After their individual responses, I did ask both Kelly and Danika about balance and how they managed to learn these new things while at the same time having a real life.  There were interesting responses that reflected the professionalism in both of them attempting to reach every student in their charge, all the while looking for new and innovative ways to motivate.  At one point, Kelly noted that this was her hobby.  Imagine having a hobby that also turned into accelerated learning opportunities for students!

What would be an educational learning event if we didn’t have a student to talk about things?  Jaxson Khan was a very well spoken young man from a Peel Region school.  I didn’t know Jaxson going in and so decided to lob up a softball to get things started.  I had checked before he took the stage and yes, he was packing a smart phone.  What I didn’t expect was him to pull out a knapsack filled with the technology that he uses on a daily basis, including “his baby”, his Macbook Pro that he had worked for and paid by himself.  I suddenly felt badly that I wasn’t wearing a tie.  He then proceeded to share how he connects to his school network both inside the physical building and outside on the yard.  He freely talked about access to technology and how it didn’t seem to be distractive to him or his friends.  Jaxson is also a leader through the Ontario Student Trustees’ Association and talked about a recent survey of Ontario students and their attitudes towards the use of smart phones in school.  Jaxson also shared some insights about equity and even offered suggestions about how to put personal technology into the hands of all students.  Plain and simple, for me, this gentleman stole the show.  You couldn’t help but feel humbled knowing that he was speaking for thousands of students.  We owe it to the Jaxsons in Ontario to provide the very best.

Next up was a guy with a tie.  Mark Carbone is the CIO for the Waterloo Region District School Board and he had his black tie with his Twitter name silk screened on it.  Mark and I have a long history of talking and debating educational technology issues.  I know that he and his district anguished long and hard about what parts of the internet provide the best educational relevance for students.  It was this relevance that led the district to not only unblock Facebook, but to develop strategies for using that as a community learning environment within their schools.  Mark talked about the successes but also reminded us that this project also had questioners within the district, particularly as it launched.  The administrative team is behind this effort and the audience got to experience the visionary approach taken under Mark’s leadership.  If you’re interesting in providing this type of learning environment, then you should cast a look at what Waterloo is doing.

Three of the teacher federations had representation on the panel.  At the first event three years ago, Bob Fisher from OSSTF had delivered his thoughts at that time.  As Bob noted, the big concern then was whether we should be using email to communicate with students.  Things certainly have changed since then!  Bob, Joe Pece from OECTA, and Jennifer Mitchell from ETFO shared some great advice from their individual federation perspectives.  Joe cautioned the group about keeping things in perspective and under control.  Bob talked about professional boundaries which is always a concern whether you’re using technology or not.  Finally, Jennifer talked about the differences between a personal and a professional appearance on services like Facebook.  It may not have occurred to the audience that you could manage two identities for specific purposes.  All three had great reminders that educators are very visible and that people are watching what we do and how we do it online and off.  All federations regularly provide advice to members about important issues.  ETFO provided a paper handout with reference to bulletins from Toronto about how to handle yourself online.  She encouraged all to take a look through the memos.  It is good advice for everyone.  All three representatives noted that their mandate was to stand behind and support their members.  We were all reminded that it is very easy to create videos or podcasts and quickly post them online for good and sometimes not so good purposes.

Coming full circle, I had the opportunity to ask Will Richardson about transparency and the teaching profession.  Just how transparent should an educator be?  Will shared his thoughts while we checked out what things that Danika has on her class blog.  There were specific directions for students and for parents as they use her resource.  As you’ll note in the article that Will wrote recently for ASCD, he pulls no punches in his thoughts about where all learners should head in their approaches to learning that take advantage of the network.  Will loves to talk about his kids and we closed by discussing parts of their Christmas gifts – personalized domain names for his children that he hopes they take advantage of in the future.  He did share with us that they were a little more excited by the other packages under the tree!

As you can imagine, with this great discussion, we had gone beyond our one hour timeline but nobody was leaving.  The discussion was first-rate from the panelists and we opened the mics on the floor to the audience for some great questions.  One that really interested me was a question about making schools hot spots.  There was a good discussion about equitable access throughout the province for all students to bring personal devlces and engage in their learning.  After all, they use them outside school hours and it’s just part of what they do.  Mark took us on one of those cart/horse stories with the neverending question of what do you buy first – connectivity and infrastructure or the devices?  Waterloo is in the enviable position of having their technology budget topped up to cover for the Ministry cutbacks in grants to school districts.

I was so happy with the way that the panel discussion went.  All of the panelists were on their game and shared successes, cautions, and strong doses of reality.  Time and technology are such precious commodities that they have to be managed intelligently.  With all that can be done, a considered approach does need to be taken.  I think that Bob spoke for everyone when he offered the best advice of all.  With all the good that can be done,  ”Don’t Do Stupid Things”.

In closing, the Ontario Teachers’ Federation is offering a complete slate of professional development activities again this summer, including another “Teaching and Learning in the 21st Century”.  I would encourage you to monitor the OTF website and take advantage of the offerings.

Having it All


If there was a big world event happening, what would you do to bring that resource into your classroom?

  • probably search for that term on Google or some other search engine?  Check.
  • read a blog or two on the topic?  Check.
  • check out Twitter to see what’s happening in real time?  Check.
  • check out Facebook to see what your friends are saying?  Check.

What if you were able to do all of this in one spot?  You can with IceRocket.

Touted as a real-time search engine, IceRocket brings all of the above together in one spot.  (and more…)

Head over to the site and type a search term and check out the results.  They will look familiar.  There’s the title of the article, a descriptor, the link to the article of course, but look at the other content.  There’s a link to indicate authority or credibility of the resource by identifying the author.  That’s nice.  But, even more powerfully, you’ll see a calendar reference for the links.  Because the focus of this resource is “real-time”, it’s important to get a date stamp on the results and they’re up front.

So, from a single point of search, head off to look for blogs, the web, Twitter, … or for them all in one spot, opt for the “Big Buzz”.

Like any good search engine, IceRocket features advanced search.  Each area whether it be blog or web or whatever has a custom set of items that can be set for each search.  One of the tips of internet presence is to look for incoming links.  So, ego pops up when I do a search under Web for link:dougpete.wordpress.com to see what web sites have links to my blog.  It was particularly interesting to try that search under blogs to see just what blogs link here.  I guess people actually do read this thing.

So, give IceRocket a shot.  It may not become your daily use search engine but when you’re looking for an easily customizable approach to searching, its design may well yield answers quicker and more relevantly than any other.

 

Rainy Days


Do you remember the old saying about saving things for rainy days?  I had the opportunity to reap the benefits of my own personal rainy day savings yesterday.

It was the Minds on Media event in Toronto.  The event was a full day of professional development for over 200 teachers.  There were no traditional sit ‘n git sessions but rather the event was an Open Court for those in attendance.  In the large ballroom, we had 8 learning sessions available for participants.  Some sessions were structured and others were truly drop in and talk about where you are in your learning and where you wish to go.  I was at a centre with @kellmoor to help consolidate the learning from the previous two days.  We thought that it would be about doing a little work with Twitter and that was that.

In fact, there was a lot to do with Twitter.  Kelly had her camera and was helping new Twitter users break out of their shell and replace the default egg icon with a real photo.  The next step was to find someone to follow.  The traditional route is to search and find people but I had a stash that helped out immensely.  It was the Ontario Educator list that I’ve been curating for a while.  There was real pleasure and surprise when people would recognize others already on the list.  So, folks, check your account today – there may be a bunch of new followers! Welcome them and follow them back.  Let’s keep this thing going.

As I check my form this morning, it’s cool to see that there were a number of people that have signed up at the LiveBinders site.  I hope that there are more great Ontario blogs to read as a consequence.

That was pretty much what my partner and I expected but we were really wrong in our expectations.

In fact, the only time throughout the day we got to talk was before the event and at lunch.  For the rest of the time, we headed in separate directions at separate tables.  I did sneak a look over once and it was classic Kelly.  She had her camera out taking pictures and had some of those at her table working their bling magic updating wikis and webpages with things that sparkled and shined.

Over at mine, we got into the whole concept of social bookmarking.  Again, my rainy day kicked in and I was able to show how Diigo and Delicious works with my own examples.  I explained how I post to Diigo which posts to Delicious which posts to my blog.  It was kind of cool to be able to explain this chain of electronic events rather than just blog about it as I’ve done recently.

Oh, blogs?  That opened the door to a comparison of platforms and we took a look at a number of different platforms.  The popular choice seemed to be WordPress.  We dug into the analytics and talked about the value of analyzing just who is visiting your site.  The question then turned to looking for something simpler.  We took a look at my Tumblr account that I’m using for my DailyShoot images.  Someone had been digging around and I had to explain what my Posterous account is all about.  That’s a place where I just tuck away links to media that I might use in presentations.  BTW, my favourite snag of all time, dedicated to that little guy who hangs out at our house some time.

The conversation just kept getting richer and richer.  We dug into wikis and tools for class organization and establishing a web presence. I had a few exemplars tucked away for that too.  There was a stumper too.  A Desire2Learn question made me “call a friend” and fortunately, there was a current DeLC in the audience and when I last looked, @techguy1717 was doing some noodle scratching as he looked at someone else’s configuration.

And, we did some video embedding and some editing and some configuring and probably a great deal more.  It was wonderfully engaging as a facilitator and so comforting to know that there are such awesome people so dedicated to getting their students connected to these powerful tools.  It’s so difficult to believe that only a few years ago, we tried to host everything on a server at the school level.

The folks that dropped by really seemed to understand the concepts and had a desire to take advantage of it.  I think that it’s a testament to the profession that there were no complains about time and effort to learn these things.  Don’t overlook the fact that this was done on a Saturday when there were a million other things that could have been done.

If people who attended truly follow though, I hope that they’ll take the opportunity to create their own resources so that they have their own rainy day examples that they can share with others and that the learning just keeps on going and going and going.

Thanks, @aforgrave – CC- BY NC SA

That’s the power of Minds on Media.  Kudos to @brendasherry and @peterskillen for keeping the pot stirred.

Don’t Do Stupid Things


Isn’t that great advice?  I received it from my parents, I’ve given it to my own children, and I was reminded about this on Thursday night.

On Thursday night, as part of the Ontario Teachers’ Federation Teaching and Learning in the 21st Century Professional Development event, I was asked to chair a panel after supper.  I agreed to do this and a great deal of preparation went in to the event.

I decided that I would script the event using a Google Document and laid out the evening as I thought that I would like it to go.  Once I was ready, I shared the document with the project manager for the event, Siria Szkurhan who went through and helped tighten the language in the questions.  We also talked on the phone to make sure that we got the maximum value from the panel of experts to make the event the most beneficial for the participants.  So that the panelists could be prepared, they were shared the agenda as well, in advance of the event.

With as big an audience as we would have (potentially over 200 educators), I felt that we also needed to have some visuals to put the questions in context and so went about doing some research that would complement the questions posed to each of the panelists.  My friend Peter Skillen volunteered to man my laptop and go from tab to tab as the event unfolded.  He did a great job and the visual helped put a context to each of the questions.  I put links to all of the resources together into a bit.ly bundle and shared it here if you’re interested.

During the panel, we encouraged the continuation of the conference backchannel on Twitter and there were many comments flying about from the tag #OTF21C.  There weren’t any specific questions that appeared but we did have microphones for the audience to take advantage of the expertise on the stage.

First up, was Will Richardson who would lead a full day on Friday.  The goal here was to set the stage for why we were here and to break the ice for the rest of the panel.  I know that Will is widely travelled and asked him to share a couple of examples of the use of Social Media that he felt was exemplary.  I liked the answer that it was a great deal easier to find uses today than it was three years ago when he first spoke at another OTF event.  And, the panel was off.

We next heard from a couple of Ontario Educators.  Kelly Moore, an elementary school teacher from Greater Essex County share some of the successes that she enjoyed as a Teacher Librarian.  She gave some examples as Peter showed off her wiki on the screen.  Through example, Kelly explained how getting online was so helpful for the students that she reached.  I did get her to explain how she used Social Media to help her differentiate the learning process for her students.  After Kelly, we moved to Danika Barker, a secondary school English / Media teacher from Thames Valley.  I think that I had talked with her personally once or twice before this event but I sure knew all of the interesting things that happens in her classes.  She is very open with her comments on Twitter and through her blog.  What I was most interested in getting her to share was how she used Social Media in a blended format with her classes.  There were great answers and I think that the audience may have been surprised to hear that she had the luxury of an English class booked into a computer lab for an entire semester.  That opened all kinds of opportunities to move everything that she did online.  After their individual responses, I did ask both Kelly and Danika about balance and how they managed to learn these new things while at the same time having a real life.  There were interesting responses that reflected the professionalism in both of them attempting to reach every student in their charge, all the while looking for new and innovative ways to motivate.  At one point, Kelly noted that this was her hobby.  Imagine having a hobby that also turned into accelerated learning opportunities for students!

What would be an educational learning event if we didn’t have a student to talk about things?  Jaxson Khan was a very well spoken young man from a Peel Region school.  I didn’t know Jaxson going in and so decided to lob up a softball to get things started.  I had checked before he took the stage and yes, he was packing a smart phone.  What I didn’t expect was him to pull out a knapsack filled with the technology that he uses on a daily basis, including “his baby”, his Macbook Pro that he had worked for and paid by himself.  I suddenly felt badly that I wasn’t wearing a tie.  He then proceeded to share how he connects to his school network both inside the physical building and outside on the yard.  He freely talked about access to technology and how it didn’t seem to be distractive to him or his friends.  Jaxson is also a leader through the Ontario Student Trustees’ Association and talked about a recent survey of Ontario students and their attitudes towards the use of smart phones in school.  Jaxson also shared some insights about equity and even offered suggestions about how to put personal technology into the hands of all students.  Plain and simple, for me, this gentlemen stole the show.  You couldn’t help but feel humbled knowing that he was speaking for thousands of students.  We owe it to the Jaxsons in Ontario to provide the very best.

Next up was a guy with a tie.  Mark Carbone is the CIO for the Waterloo Region District School Board and he had his black tie with his Twitter name silk screened on it.  Mark and I have a long history of talking and debating educational technology issues.  I know that he and his district anguished long and hard about what parts of the internet provide the best educational relevance for students.  It was this relevance that led the district to not only unblock Facebook, but to develop strategies for using that as a community learning environment within their schools.  Mark talked about the successes but also reminded us that this project also had questioners within the district, particularly as it launched.  The administrative team is behind this effort and the audience got to experience the visionary approach taken under Mark’s leadership.  If you’re interesting in providing this type of learning environment, then you should cast a look at what Waterloo is doing.

Three of the teacher federations had representation on the panel.  At the first event three years ago, Bob Fisher from OSSTF had delivered his thoughts at that time.  As Bob noted, the big concern then was whether we should be using email to communicate with students.  Things certainly have changed since then!  Bob, Joe Pece from OECTA, and Jennifer Mitchell from ETFO shared some great advice from their individual federation perspectives.  Joe cautioned the group about keeping things in perspective and under control.  Bob talked about professional boundaries which is always a concern whether you’re using technology or not.  Finally, Jennifer talked about the differences between a personal and a professional appearance on services like Facebook.  It may not have occurred to the audience that you could manage two identities for specific purposes.  All three had great reminders that educators are very visible and that people are watching what we do and how we do it online and off.  All federations regularly provide advice to members about important issues.  ETFO provided a paper handout with reference to bulletins from Toronto about how to handle yourself online.  She encouraged all to take a look through the memos.  It is good advice for everyone.  All three representatives noted that their mandate was to stand behind and support their members.  We were all reminded that it is very easy to create videos or podcasts and quickly post them online for good and sometimes not so good purposes.

Coming full circle, I had the opportunity to ask Will Richardson about transparency and the teaching profession.  Just how transparent should an educator be?  Will shared his thoughts while we checked out what things that Danika has on her class blog.  There were specific directions for students and for parents as they use her resource.  As you’ll note in the article that Will wrote recently for ASCD, he pulls no punches in his thoughts about where all learners should head in their approaches to learning that take advantage of the network.  Will loves to talk about his kids and we closed by discussing parts of their Christmas gifts – personalized domain names for his children that he hopes they take advantage of in the future.  He did share with us that they were a little more excited by the other packages under the tree!

As you can imagine, with this great discussion, we had gone beyond our one hour timeline but nobody was leaving.  The discussion was first-rate from the panelists and we opened the mics on the floor to the audience for some great questions.  One that really interested me was a question about making schools hot spots.  There was a good discussion about equitable access throughout the province for all students to bring personal devlces and engage in their learning.  After all, they use them outside school hours and it’s just part of what they do.  Mark took us on one of those cart/horse stories with the neverending question of what do you buy first – connectivity and infrastructure or the devices?  Waterloo is in the enviable position of having their technology budget topped up to cover for the Ministry cutbacks in grants to school districts.

I was so happy with the way that the panel discussion went.  All of the panelists were on their game and shared successes, cautions, and strong doses of reality.  Time and technology are such precious commodities that they have to be managed intelligently.  With all that can be done, a considered approach does need to be taken.  I think that Bob spoke for everyone when he offered the best advice of all.  With all the good that can be done,  “Don’t Do Stupid Things”.

Three things social media did for me yesterday


I was going to title this entry “You Never Know” and maybe I should but as I reflected on yesterday, I decided to go with what I did.  The message though is that you just never know who’s going to drop by and interact with your social media attempts.  I had three moments yesterday that just reinforced the power of this medium.

Yesterday, I posted a blog entry talking about the newly Ministry of Education licensed software “Passport to the Internet”.  It was my attempt to reach out to those Ontario and GECDSB teachers who missed my announcement in my December newsletter.  That’s fine.  What I didn’t expect was a response to the post from “Jill” who told me about a resource that they had developed.  Specifically targeted to teens, the short YouTube video talks about Facebook privacy settings.  It’s fast paced and has the content.  I had to play it twice to get the entire message whereas Bubby got it the first time through.  I guess that’s OK too.  It’s intended audience is a bit different from me.

Secondly, a teacher in our board and part of our Ontario PLP Network sent me a message indicating that she’d finally taken the leap and was ready for her blog to go public. Now, she’s an incredible writer, in my humble opinion.  She gave me a complimentary copy of her first book of poetry and I bought her second.  I like to take a quick moment to read a piece of poetry – it’s like reading a short and quick blog.  If you’re interested, check out her blog and there are details there about how to order your own copy.

Anyway, back to the social media bit.  I sent out this twitter message to help give it a good start.

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And, son of a gun, people headed over there and read her message and commented.  I also encouraged her to post about it in our PLP Ning, she did, and got responses there.  I hope that this good start encourages her to continue.  Like most English teachers, she knows more words than I do.  Good words, and big words.  She also has the ability to put a lot of them together to make really good sentences.

Finally, to help me in this task, I received an unsolicited email.  Normally, I just delete these but it had the name of my blog in it so I did check it out and I’m glad I did.

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I’m not naive enough to think that it’s directed to “my readers”.  It’s a message that I could use a little help with my own blogging!  So, I checked it out and there are some really good ideas there.  There are, in fact, enough that I’m going to spend some time there and maybe become a little bit better writer.

There’s my social media stories for yesterday.  What never fails to amaze me is the reach that this affords me.  I’ve learned so much by throwing my amateurish entries into the find and receiving so much back as a result.

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Just because you can to mainstream


One of the trending topics yesterday was a video release from the folks at Commoncraft.  This video, from the folks that have given us a lot of good instructional content in “plain English” is entitled “Zombies in Plain English“.  As with all of the products from this company, it is simply genius.

When I think back to video and movie making in education, it started as a pilot project quite a few years ago.  We bought some fruit coloured iMacs, Panasonic cameras, some lights, and more for the Communications Technology classes.  These folks moved from working from printed communication medium to the big time and really ran with the technology.  As time progresses, the equipment and the software gets so much better.  Now, movie making is within the reach of anyone with today’s modern digital cameras.  To aid the cause, we have purchased RCA Small Wonder cameras for all of our schools.  Such a success has resulted from this that individual schools have gone out and purchased additional cameras.  With this technology, educational lives are being documented in manners unseen before.  We live in a “YouTube World” and so the amateur author is really supported in this area.  For those who are serious about communications, there still are Communication Technology courses where production qualities and values are taught.

It is just the right thing to do.

Yesterday, I attended the launch of the Ontario Powerful Learning Practice session.  I’m the “fellow” to two groups of educators in our district.  We’re there for the learning and the pedagogy but I can’t help but think that we’re there for more.  We’ve talked many times about the OPSBA’s “What If?” document.  Supposedly today, a press conference will be held by the US Secretary of Education calling for change in teacher education.  All of these are for the educational good, I suppose, as we go through and beat up on teachers again.  But, can real and substantive change be made in the way that we approach contemporary learning technologies if we don’t lay out a concerted path?

We complain at times because we can’t access YouTube and Facebook from school computers.  But, for the most part, the collaborative tools that would be helpful are available for our use.  For the past three years, our Computers in Education School Contacts have been working with Web 2.0 tools, constructing wikis, inviting collaboration on projects, and reaching outside the classroom and taking some of their colleagues with them.  My monthly newsletter GEC Computers in the Classroom tries to take its readership on a journey exploring these technologies.  In many ways, we’re moving, but is it fast or inclusive enough?

There’s a big difference between using the technologies and using the technologies well.  There is a lot of low hanging fruit on the internet that passes as contemporary tools.  But, there are also all kinds of incredible tools that lend themselves to deeper student engagement and much better learning environments.  Using them appropriately and in a manner to promotes deeper student understanding is the goal.  That’s where I’m hoping that our participation in the PLP Network will take us.

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As I sat in the room yesterday, it was interesting to see the mix of folks that were there.  The nerdy amongst us were impressed that we were able to connect as well to the internet as we could with just two wireless access points.  Those with computers that were there for the learning were just there to use it.  The really didn’t care how it worked – just that it did.  They even got to meet Twitter’s Fail Whale.  I couldn’t help but think that this was the way that it should be for everyone.  Unfettered internet access, engagement in the topic with the tools at hand, and a person on your elbow to help out when the going got tough.  I knew some of the people in the room going in and knew a few more going out.

I did get a chance to have extended conversations with a couple of friends from Waterloo.  I consider both of them great minds in Ontario Education and really value their insights.  It was interesting to see their focus for being there.  We’re all thinking big, but it’s only big within our districts.  What was missing was inclusion from other districts from all over the province.  It was kind of disheartening but our leader, Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach gave us permission to ignore the global change the world mentality that all teachers have.  She gave us license to be selfish and deal with our own personal needs first.  That is great and I’m sure that we’ll take advantage of it.

It’s going to be a great experience for those in attendance and in the room.  We’ve got district teams, project teams, and a real opportunity to go deeply into this realm.  We’ll learn and really start to soar with this.  We’ll be the Communications Technology teachers in the big scheme.  We’ll create the high definition, 5.1 stereo experiences for our students.  You’ll read about it publically by following the Twitter tag #ontarioplp.

The bigger question becomes how does this become mainstream and the collaboration that it affords becomes the natural way of doing things?  We’re not just doing this because we can.

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