Saturday, October 26, 2013

Does Anyone Watch Cooking Shows for the Spatula? An ECOO Reflection

Another conference complete, and another set of thoughts swirling through my head! That's the feeling I now have after attending ECOO 13 - Bring IT, Together. Anyone who attended would attest to it being a great conference - well organized, very diverse set of sessions, excellent keynote presenters, and a wealth of information gained through many discussions. I always find myself walking away from professional development such as this, with a hundred new ideas to try, and a hundred more questions that need clarifying. Many of these thoughts and questions have been shared by many, as the twitter stream (#ecoo13) provides such confirmation. However, like last year, I thought I would share my 5 takeaways from the conference. Here they are, in no particular order of importance, significance, or any other ranking:
  1. Teachers Role in Educating Peers - I found myself in a number of conversations with other teachers who are attempting to teach other teachers edtech. The same questions always surfaced, with the big one being - "How?" How do we encourage other teachers to adopt educational technology, and integrate it effectively into their teaching practice? The answer to this question - No one knows! For a long time I have thought that this is unfortunate; however, I am beginning to find this encouraging. I don't believe there ever will be a definitive answer, nor do I believe there should be. As well, I think that it is a continuous process and we have to use a different set of tools to help & encourage our peers; and one way will not work with everyone. The simple fact that we are having this discussion is the encouraging sign. What it shows is that many teachers have realized that we have a place in supporting each other, and we can learn from each other along the way. In my mind, that is so much more profound than if we had found a single answer to apply to everyone.
  2. Students Need to be Creators & Collaborators, Not Just Consumers - I heard this mentioned in a number of sessions, and from both Amber Mac & Jamie Casap (keynote presenters). I love how this indicates just how much the conversation is changing with regards to the 21st century education. I have found the focus of many 21st education conversations to be about how to deliver information, access information, and a little bit about creating; using this cool new app, that cool new website, etc. However, 21st education has to be about more than consuming, and I loved how many people referred to this.
  3. Wifi is as Important as Electricity - Now don't get me wrong, this is really a statement of context, and depends on a whole range of things. However, when it comes to 21st century education and the way a classroom should function today, I think this is very true. As mentioned previously, we want our students to be collaborators, creators, curators, critical thinkers, and communicators, and to engage in these activities across borders and with others around the globe. In order to do this, we need to focus on ensuring that connection is reliable. I hope one day we do take wifi for granted, as we do currently with electricity. That will signal to me, that we have realized how important it is to communicate with others around the globe.
  4. Technology SUPPORTS Pedagogy and Content - I also love the fact that much of the discussion moved away from "Here's a new app" to "Here's a new app, and this is how it supports learning in my classroom". Any new app, website, or other piece of technology, is a tool just like the pencil, typewriter, or any other classroom tool we have used throughout history. Technology is just a tool, how it's used is what matters. There were great sessions and conversations around SAMR, TPACK, the 4/6 C's of 21st C skills, and what goes on in a truly 21st C classroom. When it comes to any educational technology trend, I think this is very important to remember. Whether it's blended learning, BYOD, or the flipped classroom, the focus and conversation has to be about the classroom - NOT the tech tool. I like to think of it this way - I don't watch the food network to see what spatula the chefs use. Who would? I watch to see the creation.
  5. The Value of Conversations - As great as the sessions were throughout the conference, I made sure to take a break each day so I could engage in both real conversations and those on Twitter. I find these conversations are where I learned some of the best things. I wish all PD realized the value of informal conversations, where teachers could come together and just share anything & everything (it's also probably why I think edcamps & unconferences are so great). 
There is a lot to think about now that the conference is finished. Lots to consider, lots to attempt to implement, and lots to further research. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Technasium Roadshow

Well we've decided to take the #Technasium on the road - we've packed up the room, put the whole thing in a winnebago (pretty large winnebago I know!), and set out on the open road to share our idea. We have Steppenwolf blaring through our soundsystem, and nothing but freedom in front of us.  First stop is the ECOO & OASBO ICT Conference 2013 - "Bring IT, Together".

We have never presented our idea to anyone outside of our school before, and don't know how it will be received. We keep thinking it will be a very large room, filled with the sound of crickets - we just don't know what to expect?!  However, surprisingly we have begun to see some interest developing, as people have connected via email, Twitter, and other social means who wish to learn more. Some will be attending in person, others unfortunately, can not. Therefore, thought it might be beneficial to live stream our session, for those who are unable to attend. And with the support of Ustream we have created our own channel for the session - Enter the #Technasium

Live streaming video by Ustream

So if you can't make it, not to worry. Grab a comfy chair, a coffee, some popcorn, and watch it live on Thursday, October 24 @ 2 PM.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Lack of Trust? or Just a Misunderstanding?

How would you describe the phone you have in your pocket? Would you just call it a cell phone? Would you call it a computer? A gaming device? A glorified calendar? Address book? Organizer? Or a device that allows you to waste hours of your day? Whichever description best suits your device, one thing is apparent. It's not really the device that determines the description, but the user.

Thanks @gcouros for the inspiration!

Most of us possess an 'i' device of some sort, and are constantly checking it, playing with it, or using it for just about everything. When you think of it, it's actually quite amazing isn't it? We are able to connect with each other in so many ways now. To some this seems strange and foreign, and doesn't make sense. To others, this is just the way we do things now.

I was struck by this today during our professional development day. I am a constant Twitter'er and find the information and messages on it to be a great source for learning. As I was participating in my own professional development, I was on Twitter as well, learning from other teacher's in our board about what they were doing. I saw tweets from teachers and schools across the board sharing their own experiences, quotes, videos, thoughts, and just about everything else. If I were to attempt to find this information out another way, it would take me days to send out emails, phone calls, or carrier pigeons; and I still would never gather such interesting information.

I also take all my notes on my device. I find it very beneficial as I don't have to worry about carrying around another 'tool' to do so. I can organize them, tag them for future reference; and add not just text, but visuals, links, and anything else I feel would benefit my ideas. I'm able to organize and express my thoughts this way, without worry; and access them no matter where I am. To others this may look like texting or someone who is distracted, to those who use their device in the same way, it's just normal practice.

Our own students use their devices in much the same way. They own very powerful, portable computers and can use them to do just about anything. Many teachers would rather ban the devices from their classrooms, and tell their students to put them away while they learn. I always find this interesting, as such devices can (and should) actually aid their learning. Don't get me wrong, there is a time and place for them to be put away, and greater digital citizenship is needed by our students. During tests, while having group discussions, and a few other activities would all provide reason for students to put their devices away. However, this is quite different from banning them altogether or for a period of time. Many will say those who don't allow students to use their devices in the classroom, do not trust their students. I believe however, that it's not as much about a lack of trust, but a lack of information; and thus a misunderstanding about the ability students have with their devices.

My iPad and iPhone, have become my notebooks. Twitter has become my professional development tool and learning network. My PD is now controlled by me, where I am able to customize it to 'fit' me. I don't have to wait for learning, I go to learning. I follow interesting people, and share information from them on a regular basis. I have made a choice to learn from others, and not attempt to in isolation. I trust that others learn in the same way, and that students use their devices to engage and connect with others. It's their comfort zone - an environment where they are able to share, discuss, collaborate, and create. And isn't this what a classroom is all about?

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Making Connections

The #Technasium is in full swing with lots of learning going on. Over the past month, the staff has gradually trickled in to learn about various edtech tools; with more coming each day. A few of us have even made it into our own staff room, and have been hanging out there each period we have off. It's provided an environment for collaboration, sharing, planning, and just about everything else we set out to accomplish. However, even if you plan, and plan, and plan, there are still some unforeseen events that may still occur. And that's exactly what we've seen with the #Technasium.

It all started with a very simple idea to encourage greater use of the room. We began a series of 'Lunch 'n Learns' where we have invited staff to come down to the #Technasium on their off-teaching periods to learn how to use devices such as document cameras; social media like Twitter; and other tools teachers have found very useful. An email was sent out, a tweet was tweeted, and next thing you know connections were made! We fully expected staff from the building to participate, but after a colleague sent out a tweet, it was amazing what happened next...

As a high school we have plenty of connections with the community around us. Jim realized however, that we also have plenty of connections with our feeder schools (or family of schools). Learning about edtech is not an isolated learning environment, but one where many people need to collaborate, share, explore, plan, and discuss. Whether you are a secondary teacher, or an elementary teacher, learning about effective instructional technology implementation is all the same. The simple tweet Jim sent established a connection where not only the intermediate school next door jumped on the opportunity, but also one of our elementary schools a number of kilometers away.

From this one tweet we've now seen teachers from outside of our school come into the #Technasium to learn about edtech tools with our own staff. It's an environment we could not have foreseen nor planned, but one that we have gladly welcomed. It's still in its infancy, and whether we see more teachers visit the #Technasium is still too early to tell. However, these connections that have established themselves may not have happened previously; and collaboration between a family of schools may not have happened otherwise. It's as simple as that. Provide an environment for teachers to learn, and the result will not just be learning, but connections as well.