Monday, November 5, 2012

Ninth International Conference on Self-Study of Teacher Education Practice

by Mike & Jackie (originally posted on ICTology, imported September/15)

This August, we had the amazing experience of attending and presenting at the The Ninth International Conference on Self-Study of Teacher Education Practices, held August 15-19, 2012 at  Herstmonceux Castle in East Sussex, England. The castle, owned by Queen's University in Ontario, Canada, is a beautiful setting for a conference (see photos included). The SSTEP group is a part of AERA, and focusses on the improvement of teacher education through self-study. The process for acceptance is extensive, the proposal, then the paper submitted are subjected to blind peer review. Our paper & presentation was titled: Using Social Media to Engage Teacher Candidates in Relevant, Timely, and Rich Learning Experiences (proceedings for previous conferences area available - and I am sure this one will be as well). In a nutshell we examined our practice as we tried various ways to engage our students in discussions via social media. In particular we looked at a Ning network we had set up for current students and alumni of our teacher education faculty. Our goal was to create a network where our students could engage in rich, deep discussions that extended beyond the classroom. The Ning allowed us to include practicing educators, including many enrolled in our graduate program, to join the discussion with teacher candidates. We tried to find strategies that would lead to a dynamic, meaningful community of learners, and in the long term, we would like to find ways to help the community to become self-sustaining and a place for current and former students to share & engage one another. Our presentation is below, followed by some photos of the beautiful castle & grounds.

2012/366: August 16
Herstmonceux Castle, East Sussex, England
2012/366: August 18
The Castle from another angle. Amazing setting for an academic conference
2012/366: August 17
Jackie & I presenting in the Board Room in the Castle

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Some Rambling Thoughts: Part 1

Warning - this post is a bit rambly - just a few things I have experienced or thought about lately.

As a teacher, how do you organize all those great sites, online resources, blogs and so on? This is something I have thought about from time to time, especially as I use and take various web based 'tools' for a spin. As part of my job, I feel I need to keep up and, at the very least, be aware of what is out there. Thus I have lots of sites to juggle. We know that technology is ubiquitous, it is used in just about every aspect of our daily lives, it is also very personal. With this in mind, I introduced a few suggestions to my students (teacher candidates) a few weeks back. Included in my quick tour were services such as Diigo, Pearltrees, Symbaloo, Pinterest (which most were using) and Learnist. RSS was also prominently featured as a way to keep all those news feeds and blogs organized, particularly since they were all writing blogs and Google Reader is a great way to keep track of them all.

Slide_ToolsversusTeaching After doing a rather quick overview, one student asked if they were expected to use them - of course they are not. I told them I was just showing some ways to help organize and it is up to them to find what works in their context, whether it be one of the sites I showed them or something else. This is something I stress to my students, there are so many tools and services to use, that it is impossible to know about, let alone use, them all. The key is to be open to learning what is out there, let their students use different ways to show/share their learning, read and listen to others to see what works for them in their context, find what works for themselves and their students and use it - and share how and what they are using. One way to do that is to build a PLN, to get connected, to share, reflect, and learn.

This makes me think of a pet peeve, if you will, that I have. It is when people dismiss something - even in a hostile manner - that they know nothing about. Twitter is a great example, for some it is dismissed as a waste of time, only good for gossip or meaningless trivia. I am sure you know what I mean. The thing is that many of these people have never tried it, nor do they really know anything about it. The tech we use is personal - find and use what works for you, twitter, or whatever, might not interest you or you may not see the value, but others do. If you try something, and it is not for you, that is okay, but at least you tried and speak from some experience.

In this light, I share stories with my students from my own experiences - meeting people online & off, finding great resources that I did not know about, sharing, being prompted to think and reflect. I believe that since I really started connecting online I have become a more thoughtful & better educator - even in my 35th year in the field. Getting connected and being an open reflective educator can pay great dividends.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

PhD Journey: the Proposal Defence

Well, after several months of writing, revising and a change (slightly) in direction - my thesis proposal defence arrived. June 21 was the big day. At the University of Manitoba, proposal defences are public affairs - just to add to the stress. My defence was attended by about 10 people - the associate dean (chair), advisor and committee, another faculty member (an acquaintance) and several good friends from my PhD cohort. I have to admit that I was so nervous, I thought I was going to be sick - but I got through the presentation, then the questions, after which everyone was asked to leave the room while the committee deliberated. After several anxious moments chatting in the hall with friends, we were called in. To my relief, the Associate Dean announced that I had passed both the oral and written proposal with no changes needed - just a few points to clarify on the ethics application and eventual dissertation. Whew! Now, I can get my ethics applications together - I have to apply at two instituttons, U of Manitoba and Brandon U, where I work. I have since then completed these - and they are in the process of being submitted.

The entire process to get here has been long, a lot of work and at times stressful. After my initial submission, I met with my advisor and one committee member back in January, who gave me input - I made some revisions and submitted again - this time to the entire committee. Again, I received suggestions and comments - as I worked on changes, reflected on the input and on some other events that had occurred, and discussed ideas with colleagues, I decided to change the direction of the research a bit - in one way it would be more convenient, and would also allow for deeper & richer data collection. Finally in May I submitted the new version. I met with my entire committee. At the time, it felt like I was way of track and my thought at the meeting was that I would have to restart - yet, committee members left the meeting commenting on how good the meeting was and that the proposal was - with a few changes - ready to defend. Reflecting as I made the long drive home, I realized that these scholars were pushing me to think - to expand my views, to consider new things. Over the next few weeks, I took the advice given - I went into Winnipeg and had great conversations with individual committee members. These really helped to clarify what I needed to do. I completed these final revisions, wrote up an abstract and sent it all in. The defence came and here I am. Ethics applications are ready to go, and once approved I can get started on the research.

A bit of advice for others taking this journey. First, you have to be patient, it is a long process. Take the time, don't set unrealistic deadlines - I had to revise mine a few times - it is a powerful learning process. Something I did that helped a lot was talking with colleagues and cohort friends. Such support and input was vital, if you are going to do this, a learning network is very important. I was able to bounce ideas off of others, talk out issues I had, discuss theories and get input into writing. One thing I would do differently, though, is to include my advisor and committee in the process more than I did. I tried to do the work with little input from my advisor & committee as I went, not wanting to bother them, trying to prove that I can do it. When I finally took the time to meet and talk with them, I found they were truly there to help - to stretch my thinking, to help me grow as a scholar and researcher. So - lesson learned - as I proceed with the research and dissertation writing - I will meet and converse with these people more as I go.

Oh yea - my thesis title is Teaching Using Social Media: A Multiple Case Study Approach. I plan to examine teachers' perspectives as they use social media in their practice - how? why? barriers, supports needed, does using SM have an affect on their practice? etc. As a few of my committee put it - I want to tell their stories. Should be fun!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Inquiries into Technology Based Course Delivery: Lessons Learned (MADLat 2012)

(originally posted on ICTology, imported in September/15)

Glenn, Mike, & Lilli J. are presenting a session called: Inquiries into Technology Based Course Delivery: Lessons Learned at the 2012 MADLaT conference held in Winnipeg, MB on May 4. The session description is:
Online learning is growing in popularity and importance in all levels of education. This presentation focuses on what has been learned about online learning in Southwest Manitoba based on three recent studies conducted at Brandon University. These separate studies looked at: 1) learning modalities and online learning, 2) high school teachers’ perspectives of online learning, and 3) high school students’ perspectives of online learning. Jointly, these studies provide a multifaceted snapshot of online learning. After the findings of each study are highlighted, session participants will be asked to join in a conversation about their experiences in relation to these studies.

MadLat Handout

Social Networking in Teacher Education (MADLaT 2012)

( originally posted on ICTology, imported in September/15)

Mike , Jackie & Clark are presenting a session called: Social Networking for Students in Higher Education at the 2012 MADLaT conference held in Winnipeg, MB on May 4. The session description is:

Is learning social in nature? Sociocultural learning theories suggest that learning occurs through social interactions with others and that learning is often mediated by cultural artifacts and tools (Rogoff, 2003; Vygotsky, 1978). This presentation will examine online social networks as a tool for learning in higher education. The presenters from Brandon University will share their experiences with using a social network for education students to extend their learning beyond the time and space of the classroom. Presenters will also share the results of a follow-up study that considered both the design of the network and users’ opinions.
This session will look at our work as we have tried various social media tools and approaches to enhance our coursework in the Faculty of Education. A few years ago, we set up a Ning social network for our Faculty. Jackie & Mike have been using it to engage our students in discussions that extend beyond the classroom, and several other Profs have joined in using the Ning as an extension of the classroom. This year, Clark (an M.Ed. student) has conducted a focus group, as part of his thesis work, in which he is looking at the design of the network. In this session, we will share our experience and what we have learned to date.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Reflections on the 17th National Congress on Rural Education

This past week I attended (and presented) at the 17th National Congress on Rural Education in Canada, held in Saskatoon, SK March 25-27. This is the second year I have attended and presented at this conference. It is an interesting one since the audience is very different than other conferences I attend. Attendees include many school trustees and superintendents in addition to school administrators, teachers and post-secondary educators. This gives the conference a different flavour than others.

I presented, with a colleague during the last slot of the day, it was surprisingly well attended, and we engaged in a great conversation with the attendees. That is all I will say about it, on to other parts of the congress.

The conference started off with an impassioned keynote by Craig Kielburger, who, when he was only 12 years old, co-founded the Free the Children foundation. He shared powerful stories and told us about the work of this foundation, including the popular Me to We Day events (one of which was held in Winnipeg last November). The major theme of Craig's keynote was that even one person can be an agent of change and can make a difference.

Alan November giving Keynote
The Monday morning keynote was Alan November, who I have heard present on three previous occasions, and I have enjoyed every one of them. His message was excellent, and he handled a few technical glitches without problem. Alan's main message was that technology itself will not make a difference in learning. As much research has shown, using technology bolted on to traditional pedagogy does not work. There must be a change in process to make a difference. Another message is one that I firmly believe, that learning is social, we need to let students talk and discuss. November used many examples to illustrate his points. One was the wonderful work of Kathy Cassidy(@kathycassidy) from Moose Jaw - someone he called one of his heroes. I must say I have often used Kathy's blog as an example for my students. Another example was my good friend, Darren Kuropatwa, (@dkuropatwa) from Winnipeg. His work with daily scribes in his (former) high school math courses was the example Alan used. The audience was asked to consider a few questions, including; who should own learning? and who should be working the hardest in the classroom? The obvious answer for both, of course, is the student, yet how often is it true? One line I liked was when he said that lesson plans should be tossed. Many would disagree with that, but I am not one of them. While I would agree planning and a direction is necessary, I would also say that a lesson plan can lead to a lack of flexibility, a rigidity that shows that the teacher owns the learning - not the students. November used the example of the flipped classroom that is the rage - while I am not a big fan - especially as set out by the Khan Academy (watching his poorly made video lectures - they are still lectures - rote, algorithmic learning), the idea can be useful if used wisely. November made other great points and had many examples to share. All in all a thought provoking and interesting keynote.

I attended two other sessions of note. Both were from School Divisions sharing their use of technology. (strangely, last year, there were very few sessions addressing technology, this year there were several). In the first, a group from Peace River S.D. in Alberta talked about how they have engaged the community in obtaining online feedback. It was great to hear that students are encouraged to bring their own devices (at the urging of parents!) and that they do not block social media sites, preferring to teach digital citizenship & literacy rather than blocking! As we see more successful and forward thinking divisions like this, maybe others will see the light (we can only hope). I find it ironic that some school divisions are proud of having a presence on Facebook and Twitter, yet block these sites in their schools. I should note that the presenters consisted of the Superintendent and several trustees. These people were genuine in their use of media to share and get input. @misuzb tweeted the following, from a different session, mind you, that summed this up: "When we block the internet, we stop internet literacy and remove critical thinking opportunities for our learners" - nicely said!

The other presentation was a group of tech leaders from Good Spirit S.D. in Eastern Saskatchewan (Yorkton area). They showed us how they have engaged technology to be virtually paperless. This ranged from a number of administrative applications to professional learning for teachers to the many innovative uses of hardware and software tools in the classroom. They illustrated with many student created examples. This use of technology also included the use of a wide range of 'web 2.0' tools. Exciting work.

Finally, in addition to spending time with a few colleagues from BU, I met some other great people as well. Included in that number were Shelley Wright (@wrightsroom) and Cori Saas (@corisaas), both from Prairie South S.D. in Saskatchewan (Moose Jaw & area). These two educators are doing amazing work and were looking after the 'geeksquad' - student journalists from several schools in that division who interviewed, taped and reported on (via their blog) the various events at the Congress.

My colleague and I left to make the long drive home and missed the last half day, but the tweets from the event (#rced17) indicated that there were more good sessions. All in all, it was an interesting conference - besides it gave the chance to enjoy some of the best pizza anywhere at the restaurant in the Radisson Hotel :-)

Sunrise in Saskatoon

Friday, March 23, 2012

Enhancing Technology‐based Course Delivery

post by Mike & Glenn ( originally posted on ICTology, imported in September/15)

Presentation at the Seventeenth National Congress on Rural Education held in Saskatoon, SK, Canada on March 25-27, 2012. This presentation titled: Enhancing Technology‐based Course Delivery:  There is no magic bullet. In this presentation, Glenn & Mike looked at the results of three independent studies that looked at various aspects of online learning. Glenn's study examined Perceptual modalities and online learning, Mike's (Mike was PI of the study done with 2 others) looked at educator's perspectives about teaching online in SW MB high schools, and the third was conducted as an M.Ed. theses by Lilli Jardine (a teacher in Brandon, MB) - used with her permission since she could not attend this conference. Participants were encouraged to look at how these studies overlapped and the implications they held for online learning in rural schools. The presentation & handout are embedded below.

Comparison Table

 If you are interested, the complete research report for "Study 2" can be found here, on scribd.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Learning is ...

Learning is ... social
The past few weeks saw a few more guests enter my classroom, and a lot of good learning took place as a result. John Finch (@jfinch), from Manitoba Education, was on campus on Jan 26 and he literally sat down with my Internet for Educators class (pre-service teachers in the last term of their after degree B.Ed. program) and had an amazing 1.5 hour conversation. It was learning in action; informal, frank discussion and exchange of ideas. The topic centered on using technology in education, however the real topic was learning. How do we make use of the power of the Internet to make learning come alive? This was exemplary social learning as we all shared thoughts about many issues, and the learning continued later as students reflected on the experience in their blogs. The importance of social interaction in learning cannot be overemphasized, we negotiate meaning, make sense, and learn deeply through dialogue. David Weinberger's new book "Too Big To Know" (which is the topic of an #edbookclub on twitter) has many examples of this. In fact he states "knowledge has always been social" (p, 51).  Check out my student blogs to read about the growth and learning going on.

Learning is ... reflective
The following week, two friends from Winnipeg, the dynamic duo of Andy McKiel (@amckiel) and Darren Kuropatwa (@dkuropatwa) visited campus to deliver a professional learning opportunity on building empathy. This session was, from all reports, excellent, however it is the time they spent in my two Using ICT in Education classes (students in the first year of an after degree B.Ed.) I want to write about. In the 50 minute class time, these two excellent educators talked about creative commons, showed off several very useful tools, and created a slideshow that completed the statement 'Learning is ...". The results are below, I think you will agree that there are some powerful slides & ideas. So often we go into a classroom and 'do our job' and do not often reflect on what we really believe about learning. When we do stop and reflect - the real goal of this exercise - what do we see? How does our practice reflect those beliefs? A simple activity like this can lead to learning itself. We all should take time to reflect on what we are doing. Do our actions reflect our beliefs about learning? If not, what can we do to change so that they do? Take the time, become a reflective practitioner - you and your students deserve it!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

SHARE(ski) Lives Up to His Name

For the past few years, I have been working to develop my course titled Internet for Educators. This is an optional course for students in their final term of an after degree B.Ed. degree. My goal is to create an engaging, up-to-date course based on constructivist principles. Shortly after I began my work in the faculty of education at BU three and a half years ago, I became acquainted with the work of Alec Couros and Dean Shareski at the University of Regina, about a 4-hour drive west of Brandon. Since that time I am pleased to count these two educators as friends. They have jokingly called themselves “lazy professors”, since they often had various educators present to their classes. I have since “borrowed” this approach. For the past few years I have been fortunate to enlist several excellent educators to present their insights and experiences to my students (this post talks about the speakers who helped out last year). The students keep a blog in which they make sense of the presentation topic and how it would apply to their own teaching and learning. This has proven to be very successful, as evidenced by the reflective thinking of the students as they explore these ideas.

This term my 1st guest was none other than Dean Shareski from Moose Jaw, SK. Dean is known far and wide for his views on sharing as an important part of teaching. Dean spoke to my class (and to a colleague’s class who joined us) via Skype. He presented his ideas about sharing and transparency and how it can benefit not just the individual, but others as well. He provided many examples to illustrate. Dean certainly lived up to his credo, giving up over an hour of his time to share his ideas with student teachers from another Province. It was gratifying to see the effect this talk had on my students. Not only did they speak and write glowingly of the presentation, many have taken Dean’s advice and have been working to increase their online presence in order to share their own work.

I personally try to actively promote and model the same attributes. When others, like Dean any other guests I have lined up to present, are so willing to share their expertise, it can only help to promote this culture of openness, respect, and sharing. If you have not heard Dean speak about his passion, I would suggest you watch the video of his K to 12 online conference keynote below.

Monday, January 2, 2012

My Photo of the Day (2011/365) Project

This past year I joined the photo a day project. A pummelvision of my photos is below, I hope you enjoy it, it is kind of neat to see all the photos put together in this way. I used Flickr to share my photos and post them to the 2011/365 group, started by cogdogblog I found this activity to be mostly fun and educational, at other times tedious - almost forgetting to take a photo when things got a little busy! However, I prevailed - a photo was posted for each and every day of 2011! I plan on continuing this in 2012. Some days it was hard to decide what to shoot, I found the Daily Shot site helpful to generate ideas - at least until they discontinued it! I also found it educational as I started to try different things, effects, angles, subjects. Looking at the submissions of others was also a great way to find inspiration, many amazing photographers are part of this group. It was also fun to share with others. So, here is my result, as I embark on 2012/366!