Tuesday, July 16, 2019

50 years

50 years ago today saw the launch of Apollo 11 and arguably the most significant
achievement of the 20th century, perhaps of human history. I was very fortunate
to be around during the days of Apollo as a young teenager. I vividly remember
following all the Apollo missions as an avid space and science geek. I watched
mesmerized as Eagle landed on the moon and Armstrong and Aldrin took those first
steps. The 60s were an amazing time to be alive, rock and roll was at its height with
the Beatles, the Stones, and so many more great artists. It was also the time of civil
rights and anti-war protests. I still remember seeing smoke curling up from downtown
Detroit in the summer of 1967, as I watched on the banks of the Detroit River from
Windsor. Despite the tumultuous times, Apollo 11 reverberated around the world and
was - and still is - an amazing accomplishment. To think the computers that got us there
and back were so much less powerful than the ones we carry in our pockets today.
I remember the entire family sitting around our TV set in our basement recreation room
watching spellbound and hearing those immortal words, “Houston, Tranquility base here,
the Eagle has landed." Here we are 50 years later and I get to look back on this
exciting event and enjoy the numerous documentaries and specials reliving the event,
all with the knowledge that I actually witnessed it as it occurred. It is amazing, and yet
demoralizing, that we have accomplished so much, yet have so far to go when we
look at the hatred and narrow mindedness exhibited by so many people who have
power. I hope the next 50 years sees us attack our current problems - climate change,
racism, etc. -  and conquer them as well.

One of many videos about Apollo online.

Friday, July 14, 2017

New eBook on Coding & Maker Spaces - Call for Proposals!

My colleague and friend, Dr. Rennie Redekopp, from the University of Manitoba, suggested that we co-edit a second book (see this post to download our first eBook - its FREE!). This one will tackle the maker and coding movement in Manitoba. As with our last book, the Manitoba Association for Computing Educators (ManACE) is supporting this endeavour. The call has been out for almost a month and and proposals are due August 1st (go here to see the call - and it includes a link to a google form that can be used for a proposal). So, if you are a Manitoba teacher and you do coding or computer science or have a maker space - then consider contributing a piece - they do not have to be long! Let's share all the great things going on in Manitoba schools and help inspire others!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Reflections on the School Year That Was

Last year I was on sabbatical so it was the first time in 38 years I have not been in a classroom. This year saw a few changes in my workload, as well as picking up some of the courses I have previously taught. I enjoyed the year out of the classroom - first one in 37 years or so, but I also enjoyed being back. I also think this year proved once again that a person should be always learning, and reflecting on that learning. I have always told my students (aspiring teachers) that as a former Principal, if a teacher thinks they know all there is to know - I would not want them on my staff.

In Fall I taught my first graduate level course - Intro to Curriculum, not only that but it was online as well. I held biweekly zoom classes and Moodle in between. This was a big learning experience on many levels. I had students from 4 different countries and from across Manitoba. We had great discussions about curriculum and how it plays out in various jurisdictions. I am sure I learned as much as the students. I also will make adjustments in future grad courses from what I learned about delivery. One new thing I tried was to have the final major assignment an ignite style presentation (along with an annotated bibliography), the result was fantastic and the students agreed that they enjoyed them. I will continue to embrace different ways of presenting learning - and will include writing as part of it, but not all ;-)

Taken (by me) in July 2016 at Emerald Lake,
Yoho National Park,B.C.
In my B.Ed. courses (they were all ed tech courses) I continued to make use of blogs, as usual there was mixed reaction, but what was interesting was that some of the students giving push back, relented in their summary post and admitted the value - some even enjoyed doing them and vowed to continue the practice. I was considering giving more choice with alternatives to the blog, but I am now thinking of keeping the assignment but adding suggestions for posts for those who struggle with that. I also want to find ways to help students dig deeper in their posts and make it truly reflective. Some offer summaries of what we did - I want them to dig into topics of interest and how they may/have impacted their thinking about teaching/learning. Being reflective and thinking about practice is - to me - important in being a good teacher who grows and continues to learn, somehow I want to promote that, I think I model that - 38 years as an educator and I by no means profess to know it all and am always on the lookout for new ideas. One thing I can do better is take more time to read and write!

Another major assignment I use in my ed tech course is building (starting to) an eportfolio. I go over the why and give ideas for the how - we usually brainstorm what should be on it and I use example s(with permission) from previous years. Again I had some push back on this assignment form some, most of my students find it a useful exercise and something they can build on and use. The process also gives them some hands on creating a web site. I have been thinking though, that I should do some research and survey admin in the province to see to what extend these are useful artifacts, and what types of information they suggest is most useful for seeking employment.

One thing I do want to be sure to employ is more choice - I am a believer in giving choice
, but I want to allow more in a few major assignments ... but mostly I want to encourage and model deep and critical thinking about the use of ed tech.

One final thing, a few weeks ago I was fortunate to hear Yong Zhao speak in Winnipeg. While I am not sure his idea of entrepreneurship is the be all and end all, I really enjoyed his message and way of thinking. He is an interesting speaker and provides good evidence and prompts thinking. If you have not read his work, I encourage you to do so. While I have read and used his work before, I bought a few more of his books and am reading one now. I like his analogy of standardized testing, and standards in general - how educators are 'sausage makers' and despite all the talk and work about differences and embracing passions, we test to see how the sausages came out by comparing them to a standard. At one point, he answered a question about PISA and other standardized tests saying they might have some good aspects, but overall are destructive!

A break, some research work - and then back to planning these changes for next years' courses!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Educational Technology in Manitoba - a FREE eBook

Late last year my colleague, Dr. Rennie Redekopp (University of Manitoba) and released a new free eBook we edited title Education and Technology: Manitoba Action and Reflection. This book consists of 15 chapters written by Manitoba Educators. The book is divided into 4 parts: Current Trends and Issues, Connecting and Sharing , Stories of Personal Transformation, and Where Do We Go From Here?

The book was an idea I had over a year ago and Rennie agreed to help out. The chapters paint an exciting portrait of educational technology use in Manitoba schools. The editors hope that it can act to inspire others to implement educational technology in thoughtful and meaningful ways.

You can get the book here:
on the ManACE web site as a pdf, or in the iBook store. (It is also available on Kindle store - but you have to pay for it there!)

Download and enjoy!!