Sunday, December 29, 2013

Year End Summary Videos

This year, I 'made' a few videos to summarize some themes from my Instagram and Twitter accounts. Fun, easy to use tools that take info from your feeds to create a short video - why not make your own? The past two years, I put up a summary of my photo a day projects, which I did not do this year - I think I will do it again this year though - I did get a new lens for my Canon Rebel T3i for Christmas :-)


Monday, December 23, 2013

Being Connected - a Twitter Reflection

A few weeks ago I tweeted my 6000th tweet. I marked it with a shout out to my current & past students at BU. This 'milestone', and I use the term lightly (I am not a prolific user of twitter, well that might be relative, I tweet more than many, but less than many others), along with being a participant in someone else's Ph.D. research,  prompted me to reflect back over my use of social media. It was really starting this career as a teacher educator and educational researcher that prompted me to start using social media to connect. While I had dabbled in some forms of Web 2.0 and social media as a school Principal, I started really using social media seriously in 2009 for many reasons. Primarily I thought I should know more about the media that many educators were using and beginning to use in the classroom. I did not want to be one of those people who criticize social media without a real knowledge of it. As I started using twitter - and adding in other media - slideshare, several Ning groups, LinkedIn ... (I now have too many social media accounts to keep track of) that I began to realize even more value. About this same time I also began blogging - this one is my first, started as part of a course in my Ph.D. program, and I added a few more after that. I found twitter to be the mainstay of my PLE, it was a way to share and discover resources, articles and posts of interest, but was even more so a tremendous way to connect and keep in touch with others. It is also, at times, a source of amusement! I follow many educators at all levels (I think it is vital to keep current with what is happening in schools given my role as a teacher educator & researcher) in addition to many other people from many walks of life. I have met so many of these people face-to-face, through online chats and other ways and each adds value to me as a person and a professional. I could go on to name some of the people I have met, but there are many & I have mentioned some in previous blog posts. This is the real value of twitter (& social media) - it is a technology, but it is much more - it is about people, and it does us well to remember that the people we meet - in person or online, that give life value.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Best Practice? and other phrases & words we use ...

A few comments about the words we use.

One of the terms/words we often use in education is 'best practice' ... I have grown to bristle a bit at that one. I know it is just a term we use, however, it gives the impression that there is a set of such practices, you know, the best ones - ones that always work, right? I don't think so, there might be promising practices, or practices that often work ... but I think it is presumptuous to believe that there are best ones. Educators know that context is important. What works in one class or with certain students will not with others. In fact, something that works one day in a certain class may not in the same class on a different day. There are more of these misleading terms we use, most often we know what the person means, but we should try to be more accurate - or misconceptions will occur. In my dissertation, I found that defining 'social media' is also not a clearly defined term - and clarity is pretty important in a dissertation, as I am finding out, what might be clear to one person, raises questions for another - fun!

Oh - one more, the saying that the technology is 'just a tool'. Now I know what folks mean by this, I say it too, however, I think we need to be aware that the tech is much more than just a tool - it can change the way we do things. Cars changed our world in so many ways, computers have too, the way we communicate, research, and create - and they change - or could change - what we do in the classroom. I agree with those who say we need to start with pedagogy, but the tech is not just a mere tool. I don't mean that in a deterministic way - we do have control over how we use the tools, but the tools do affect us. As McLuhan said; 'We shape our tools and thereafter, our tools shape us.'

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Video in the Classroom (part 1?)

On Thursday, Nov 28, I attended an event put on by Andy McKiel (@amckiel) and Dean Shareski (@shareski) in Winnipeg. I used the occasion to attend to have a bit of fun and to also visit a few friends and my advisor. I have made much use of video in my previous career as a high school teacher, I co-designed and co-taught a course on video production and was involved in an amazing project that involved all of our grade 12 students in writing, acting, producing and premiering (to the entire community) a movie. This was one among other projects that helped my school earn mention in Maclean's and on the Apple web site. I think I will describe the project in another part to this post sometime. I also have and continue to use video in many forms in my teaching. I believe it to be a powerful medium to tell a story or share learning, addressing many of the senses & our emotions.

Dean and Andy's evening was an enjoyable evening & an interesting, interactive presentation that got the audience involved - not to mention the cool ('er warm) Discovery Ed toque I was given. I had a few reasons to attend - first and foremost was the company of fellow educators. I make a conscious effort to maintain connections with educators involved in public schools (and in ed tech). I don't want to become one of those dreaded teacher educators who is out of touch with schools. The session was also timely in that I only just finished a section of my ICT in Education course about digital storytelling - and using video in particular. It was fun to think about how I might use the videos if I was still teaching high school vs how I would (will) use them in my teaching now. The format of the evening was also an idea I will probably borrow. The videos were presented in pairs representing a theme, such as 'courage'. We then used polleverywhere to vote on which we would be able to use in our classroom. At the end, we picked our top three vids. In between much great discussion was had. One of the top 3 (I think it was number 1 overall) was 'The Time We Have' embedded below.Overall an enjoyable evening. The vids Andy & Dean chose are on this google doc: . On my google site I use to support my courses, I have this page of resources related to video.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Publish ... or Perish ... A Few Reflections on Academia

So, I have been a member of the world of academia for just over 5 years. I am now a tenured Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Education at BU. I have been thinking about the academic game lately - the publish or perish 'game'. I want to state from the outset that I agree that a big part of the job is scholarly work - including publishing peer reviewed articles. In a few years I hope to apply for promotion to Associate Prof and I know I have to show achievement in 4 areas: academic prep, service, teaching & scholarship. I know service & teaching are not an issue, I hope my Ph.D. will be a done deal by then, and I think I do a fair amount in the scholarship area. I also admit that I have grown to value and enjoy the scholarship part of the job since entering the academy. The 'bee in my bonnet' is the pressure (mounting all the time from colleagues, deans, etc) to publish peer reviewed articles ... in major international journals. I don't really have a problem with that per se, I understand it is part of the job and one way that research & scholarly work is disseminated, I even have a few articles published. I just think that the impression is that we need to publish this way just for the sake of the publication. We put so much focus on publishing ... as if it is the most important task of the university scholar (hmm, still not used to using that, I don't view myself in those terms - maybe that is part of the problem?) My first issue is the nature of most academic journals - behind expensive pay walls. My work is funded by a publicly supported institution, why should anyone wanting access be forced to purchase the article or subscribe to an overpriced journal? There are many open access journals, but again, some require a fee from the author for publication. I think I will try, as much as possible, to submit only to journals that are open access & without fees in the future.

Another problem IMHO, is that it seems that we do not value, very highly, other types of scholarly work. For example, spending time working with teachers and schools for improvement of learning. I am involved with a few such projects, sharing my knowledge and experience. This is valued, but ultimately only if I get a publication out of it - and not just any publication, a peer reviewed international journal - that many people will never have the opportunity to read. I know blogs and other online sharing venues are not valued very highly either. One bonus,  at my institution, I have the ability to try to make the case for other forms of scholarship - for whatever good that will do. Another avenue of sharing academic work are presentations - I have done many, but have come to realize that I should do only a few each year - first they cost a lot of $ and my account for this is not very big, and they take time to prepare - and they count for little in the game. Hmmm, I did not intend for this post to be a rant, but in the end I just question the emphasis on the publishing game - I get the sense (and hopefully I am wrong) that the main point is to get published - not to do work that can help inform yourself and others. Publishing is part of sharing that learning, but just for the sake of a line on a cv? Another part of this game is bringing in grants .. but THAT is another story!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Some Good Quotes to Think About ... and Draft 1: done!

As I was wrapping up writing my dissertation, I was perusing some articles and came across three quotes that I thought I would share. Here they are;

"Condemning technology cannot address these concerns or engage in the affordances; active and informed engagement can." (J.S. Bianco, Women's Studies Quarterly, 37(1/2), 2009, p. 310, )

I like the phrase active and informed engagement, all too often 'we' dismiss new ideas without actually understanding or experiencing them, we are often too quick to judge.

"Some of what is unfolding is exciting; some is terrifying. The key is not to be all utopian or dystopian, but to recognize what will change and what will stay the same." (d. boyd, Educause Review, Sept/Oct 2010, p. 36)

I have always liked danah boyd's work - thoughtful and insightful. This statement is similar to the first, we rush to either embrace or condemn, but we often forget to think and experience.

"The phrase 'technology and education' usually means inventing new gadgets to teach the same old stuff in a thinly disguised version of the same old way." (S. Papert, Teaching Children thinking, Contemporary Issues in Technology & Teacher Education, 5(3/4), p. 353)

This final statement by Papert speaks about how educational technology is often employed - doing the old stuff in a thinly disguised version of the same old way; how true this often is. Sometimes it is okay, but why use expensive tools (toys?) just to do the same old - we need to shake it up and change how we teach.

To finish this post (I started it several weeks ago and life intervened), I have completed the first draft of my thesis, it has been submitted to my advisor & committee. The University of Manitoba just put in a new process for dissertations, so I am in the process, along with my advisor, in figuring out what it all means. However, it is done (for now) and I can put some attention into other parts of my work - and life! (I have actually been reading a few novels the last few weeks :-)

Saturday, July 27, 2013

What's Age Got to Do With IT?

There is a small pet peeve I have - it is 'our' tendency to generalize. One thing that is in this category is the myth of technology and age. I guess in a way, there is some statistical backing to the contention that youth - by youth I mean folks about 35 and under :-), basically the so called 'digital natives', or 'net gen' or millennials and those younger, use computer tech more ... but not all, and that is the problem. I won't go into the research that points out the fallacies of these generalizations (I am involved in one such long term study with a colleague). We hear this generalization in many places, how computers comes 'naturally' to young kids, how young people are so 'tech savvy', how all youth is so connected ... and so on. I have been interviewed for an article in The Manitoba Teacher and interviewed on CBC in the past year about the startling revelation that this is not always true. Just because the Internet and computers have always been around during a person's entire life, does not make them savvy. Heck I grew up with cars and they were central to my upbringing in the auto capital of Canada - does that mean I could just jump into a car at age nine and drive it? Or open the hood and fix any problems? I don't think so. (I didn't even get my drivers license until I was 17.) Now, back to computer technology - I started using computers by taking computer science in high school - a looong time ago (early 70's, ulp) and have learned about them and used them ever since. Hey I am an older guy and can use computers pretty darn well, I even have some idea how they work.
      I just want to comment quickly on 2 problems that arise from the generalization that kids are good with computers. First, if we assume that all young people have some natural ability and affinity to digital tech, then, as teachers, we will be leaving some behind or putting them at a disadvantage. We must keep in mind that everyone is different. Second, some older folks (parents, grandparents, etc..) sometimes use the age thing as an excuse not to learn. Just about anyone can learn to use a computer or social media or ...if they are so inclined, but it is easy to say "I'm too old for that". If you aren't interested, or don't have the time - say so, age has nothing to do with it. If it is important for your job as a teacher (or a parent) - then learn it!  Maybe ask your kids/students to help, they know all about it :-)

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Academic Life in Cartoon

I came across a great cartoon depicting academic life on the Tumblr blog Gradness Madness. I printed a copy to hang in my office, but I am not sure of the copyright, so I did not want to upload it on to here - so please CLICK the link to Gradness Madness above to see it - or click here to see it on the author's web site. As I work on my dissertation and have been struggling with some concepts and ideas (I guess the Ph. in Ph.D. does stand for 'philosophy' .... ) I found this cycle to be often true - and indeed I felt it applied to what I was just struggling with when I came across it.  The feeling at accomplishment is wonderful ... then another thinking dilemma arises... I guess no one said doing a Ph.D. would be easy - and it isn't! OK - back to writing!

Here is a gratuitous, but related image for aesthetic purposes! (it is of my desk area during some data analysis)
Data analysis!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

CASA 2013 in Beautiful St. John's NL

From July 4-6 I attended, along with a colleague, the annual conference for the Canadian Association of School Administrators (CASA). The theme was "Technology Meets Pedagogy: Hardware Meets Headware". It was enjoyable to attend a conference as a non-presenting participant for a change. St. John's, NL is also a beautiful part of our country - as you can see from the photos with this post. I am going to share some of my observations from the conference in this post. Of course, I will not go into the scenic tours, the fun Rally in the Alley & entertainment by 'The Navigators' - suffice to say it was more than just sessions to attend. 

The sessions I attended illustrated several things: that the idea that ed tech should be used thoughtfully and in support of learning is widespread - that is, pedagogy should drive instruction not technology; ed tech is being used in many creative and innovative ways to help students learn, to share learning and to increase communication with community; there are many great things happening in schools across Canada and dedicated professionals working hard to make education better for all students. I also observed the growth of people attending using devices from laptops to tablets to smartphones to document their learning - taking notes, photos, tweeting and so on. Now, if school Principals, superintendents, trustees and other educators are doing this, why do some schools/systems still ban or control their use in schools?

I won't go through all the sessions I attended, however, the point is that the times are a changin' as schools and divisions across Canada are making strides in moving forward and making classrooms more inclusive and student centred. Educational technology is playing a big role in supporting the gains as learning becomes more personal and in many cases more public. Educators are sharing ideas, successes and failures. My hope is that this sharing helps to spread the change.

During the conference there were a good many quotes and tweets. A few are below and the exchange during the Parkland SD (Alberta) was storify-ed here by Mark Carbone.

Dean gets it right here - almost all teachers are hard working and conscientious. In my dissertation research all my participants are trying to do their best for their students. If they are not all using the latest tech, it is often because they lack the time to learn or simply don't know how and would with support. Teachers are a special people - and not just because I was/am one.

I often hear from folks (including a friend of mine) that research does not support use of tech (or it does not affect 'achievement', whatever that means). Evidence is there, so is evidence to the contrary - it all comes down to how it is used. 

My colleague, Dr. Kirk attended a session about this partnership. We both see why schools enter these, but we also both think that partnerships with universities would serve school divisions better than ones with companies (after all their bottom line is to sell a product). We are looking forward to our partnership with fellow attendees from Lakeshore School Division in MB as part of  Brandon Universities VOICE project.

The conference wrapped up fittingly with an outstanding keynote by none other than Dean Shareski of Moose Jaw, SK. Dean exemplifies the ideal of sharing learning - he has skyped in to speak to my classes for 3 years now and is a splendid speaker. His slides for the keynote can be found here:

... and a few photos from in and around St. John's.

Middle Cove

Jelly Bean row houses
View from Signal Hill (a little hazy)

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


(this post also appears on the blog ICTology)

Last month (May 3-5), my colleague, Dr. Jackie Kirk and I attended the first annual Social Media: Implications for the University conference held at York University in Toronto. The conference was not large, however it was amazing in the diversity of presentations and fairly unique in the format. The presentations covered areas of administration and recruiting, research on using social media for a variety of purposes in the university, and a few sessions offering a critical look as well. The format was unique in that each day had a keynote address of about an hour in duration, and sessions were about 20 minutes with 10 minutes or so for questions and discussion. This kept the presentations moving and concise and interesting discussion. The other interesting piece of the format was that there were no concurrent sessions, ALL participants sat in and listened to all presentations. Ths worked very well, in my opinion, since I heard several sessions that I might not have chosen to go to, yet was glad that I did indeed hear them. This gave a broader perspective of the use of social media in areas such as recruitment & retention, sociology, drama, archaeology, and more. It also allowed for the participants and presenters to get to know one another. I made several contacts, interestingly, by conversing on the twitter backchannel then having lunch together! I came away with some new insights and ideas and was able to make some great new friends and contacts as a result. I commend the organizers, Roberta Iannacito-Provenzano and Jana Vizmuller-Zocco of York U., for their hard work on a successful conference.

For our part, Jackie & I presented on "Student Engagement Using Social Media in Teacher Education". The slides we used are below, we took a contextual and story based approach, and I believe our session was well received based on the comments and discussion afterwards. Oh ... the other great thing about the conference was that the weather was beautiful, a big difference form the continuing snow and cold weather in Manitoba!

Beautiful day on York campus
Talking about our plane's problems :(
The other fun note was that on the flight home - which was delayed due to plane troubles and needing to disembark and get another plane (not the fun part!), Jackie and I were surrounded by about 15 grade sixers from Newfoundland heading to a town near Winnipeg for an exchange. Many people might not enjoy that - but they kept us smiling with their chatter and exclamations as the plane bumped about due to turbulence on the landing. We hope they had a great trip and that their teacher kept his sanity :-)

Our slides:

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A Tough Question

Recently my friend Rob Fisher (@RobCFisher), a Principal at a school in Northern Manitoba, asked me to skype in to a group of aspiring school administrators for a few minutes. I was one of three guests he had skype in to talk about being a connected school leader. The question he asked me to consider was to reflect back about how I thought being connected through social media, as I am now, would have affected my role as a Principal. You see, I left the Principalship about 5 years ago to a new career in the Faculty of Education at Brandon University. It has been since that move that I really began to get connected - to explore and use the tools of social media. Rob's request had me thinking and reflecting - how would it have changed me? Has being connected online changed me? Would I still be a Principal?

 Rob's request has prompted me to do some self-reflection (that is having an effect on current events as well). Whether or not I would have stayed on or not is difficult to answer - maybe I would have - my connections through blogs, twitter ... and more - provide a source of many resources, ideas, conversations, provoke thinking & self-reflection, and support. They provide all that now and it has added to my growth as an educator - of course, my experiences in my Ph.D. program has prompted much growth too. That is why it is hard to answer, learning can indeed be transformative and changes in perspective can occur  as a result of a single dissonant or life-changing event. I think most of us, however, grow through our experiences in a cumulative way. My years in admin were ones of great growth, so have my experiences as part of an amazing cohort of people in my Ph.D. program over the past 4 years, so has my almost 5 years in higher education - teaching adult students, as well as working with thoughtful and intelligent colleagues. And, of course, so have my connections made with so many people through my interactions on twitter, blogs, flickr, diigo, instagram, google+, MOOC participation ... Many of my views about education have evolved as a result of these experiences. Whether or not I would still be a school Principal might be a moot point, but if I was connected more as a school Principal, I know my PLN would have provided me, as it does now, with:

  • resources
  • conversation, both to reinforce and to provoke thought: critical, reflective & creative
  • new ideas
  • support
  • inspiration, and
  • fun!

No matter your role, getting connected, building a PLN can be of benefit to you. Let it grow!
(Thanks, Rob - it was a short call, but fun!)

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Are Schools Obsolete?

In a recent TED talk (below), Sugata Mitra contends that schools are not broken, they are obsolete: "I said schools as we know them now, they're obsolete. I'm not saying they're broken. It's quite fashionable to say that the education system's broken. It's not broken. It's wonderfully constructed. It's just that we don't need it anymore. It's outdated." He then goes on to describe his famous 'hole in the wall" experiments and his vision for schools in the cloud or Self Organized Learning Environments (SOLE), that is, schools in which children explore and learn with and from each other. While this is an intriguing idea - and might have some merit, kids should learn from and with one another, the thing that struck me in his description of the current school system - with which we are familiar, was his contention that they (schools) are not broken, they work in the way they were designed, but rather they are obsolete or out-dated. The statement fits with so much of my thinking over the past several years as I struggle to prepare new teachers to enter the field. Are schools obsolete? Do we need them? While I do not think that we can simply drop schools, I do think we need to change them to reflect our times, but how? One way is to make use of the available tools for collaboration, communication, creating and thinking, to make learning relevant and authentic. A good critique of Mitra's idea (& research) is by Donald Clark, and is worth reading. The idea that our schools were built for another time needs exploring, how can we make them relevant to today's world? I don't think Mitra has the answer, but he does provoke thought.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

I {heart} My Job!

This post is a little different. First off, at the end of January, I was granted tenure in my institution with unanimous support at all levels - it is rewarding having the confidence of peers. I am now a full time permanent member of the Faculty of Education at Brandon University, after switching careers (in a sense) after being in the public school system for 30 years - I was really young when I started :-). I have now been an educator for 35 years (wow, that's a long time) and have learned much, and continue to learn. This post is about how I love my new career. First off, there is much freedom to pursue interests and do research, and I have found that conducting research is an enjoyable and worthy pursuit. Then there is the teaching ... every day I am in the classroom I have a smile on my face and am amazed and heartened by the young people learning to be teachers. It is a joy to watch as they transform into thoughtful, reflective professionals. When I think back to my teacher education - one year, I know I was not where I see most of my students now. I truly believe that the two year after degree program is superior. It allows greater time to be mentored in the field and to learn the theory and practice - praxis - in the 'classroom'. The time in the faculty provides time for discussion, exploration and reflection that is not readily available in the field. Both experiences are vital and the growth is obvious.

As an example, this week students in my Internet for Educators class gave group presentations on topics of their choosing. It was enjoyable to sit back and listen as they presented, using many technologies in a fluid, integrated way. The content they provided was remarkable, yet I was struck by how they all used different tools and how the group members interacted as a team. The tools included google docs, wikispaces, glogster, video, todaysmeet, polleverywhere, wallwisher (now padlet), and more. They were entertaining and creative and lead to some interesting discussion. These people will be wonderful teachers, and will be leaders of change and innovation. Their entusiasm helps keep me young, and they make me proud. We often hear that this generation is self-centered and don't have a great work ethic, but don't believe it, the future of education - at least in Manitoba, looks to be in good hands. No wonder I <3 my job!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Digital Storytelling ... Part 2

Well, I thought since I labeled my last post as part 1, I'd better do a part 2! Frankly, I have not had time to keep up with etmooc much this past week. I did take in @dkuropatwa's session, but that is about it. It seems like I just have too much on my plate - for instance, right now I should be looking at student blogs and websites in order to provide feedback. Doing a MOOC while teaching 4 courses, immersed in collecting data for a dissertation, and having some home renovations in progress makes for a full schedule. On the other hand, I have been immersed in digital storytelling the past few weeks, and will be for the next as well. Multimedia and digital storytelling is the current topic in my Using ICT in Education course right now in the Faculty of Ed here at BU. So I have been discussing some of the ways, whys, and means of digital storytelling & multimedia in the classroom. Many of my students are also creating their own stories for another course they are taking - it is great to see other profs having students explore how to use technology in their practice. So far, we have looked at topics such as; what makes a good presentation, basic image editing and how even a single image can tell a story, creating short stories using multimedia (including looking at apps such as photostory, animoto, Prezi, and some iPad apps), and are now looking at elementary video production. I enjoy this topic, there are so many ways to create and share stories - and to be creative. Students also seem to enjoy it and think up great ways to use the ideas in their own (future) teaching practice. I have obtained permission from a few of my students to share some of their creations - please check out their blogs as well.

@MissLwbt created the following tutorial as a story about how to make a digital story. Kirsten is a prolific and well followed blogger and shares openly (her blog is Miss L's Whole Brain Teaching). Enjoy her creative story:

Another student, Brittani (also a former student at the school I was Principal & teacher at :-), created this wonderful little story using Storybird, Audacity & slideshare for an ELA methods class. Brittani also writes an entertaining blog for my course: Miss Britt's Blog.

I can share even more, but will finish with this great little animation made by Tyler (@Tyler_JL) after we heard from a few presenters in my I4Ed course to illustrate the importance of sharing our work. Tyler writes one of his several blogs at ICTyler.

 Hope you enjoyed these examples. They are better than my own stuff anyway :-)

[PS Thanks to these promising young educators for allowing me to share their work here.]

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Digital Storytelling ... part 1

Topic 2 in etmooc is digital storytelling. This is another one of those terms that crops up and gets thrown around, yet it is an apt moniker that highlights some of the affordances of digital technology for learning. The digital, of course, just highlights the medium used to create & tell the story. The important part is the 'storytelling', which has always been around as one of the ways we use to pass knowledge and ideas along (well - that was not a very connectivist statement - but what should I say - perhaps to share or demonstrate knowledge?). Stories, to me, can be a myriad of things; fiction, non-fiction, an explanation, an image, a metaphor ... stories are such a powerful tool for teaching and learning. Many years ago, before I became a school administrator (and subsequently a prof) I was involved, with 2 colleagues, in a fantastic project of storytelling. In our project the entire grade 12 class was involved through their English courses and the video production course that I co-taught. Students were involved in pitching ideas, story development, script writing, acting, props, filming, editing, producing  - and finally premiering - a full length movie. The project succeeded because the entire class was involved, it was supported by other staff and the administration, and the community - who attended the premiere at the local movie theatre (or school gym once we purchased a full size movie theatre screen). What a learning experience and fun, collaborative project. The power of story is still very evident as I use the stories of teachers (case studies) in my dissertation, we can learn much from the stories of others. The affordances of digital technology offer so many ways to create stories using several types of media, but it is ultimately about the stories that people tell.

I hope to explore this topic as much as time allows - it is also the topic we are exploring in the ed tech course I teach at BU. I love how the ETMOOC topics are paralleling much of what I am doing in my own courses.

A Few of My Story Attempts:

Six word stories

Ok, one of the challenges in etmooc was to create 6 word stories, I wrote a few attempts:

  • New career, five years, now tenured!
  • My grandson: smiles, laughter, and love!

I had some more, but I thought: why not put together the idea of 6 word stories with images and audio. I recently purchased the app 'Sonic Pics' on my iPad (on the suggestion of @dkuropatwa and @amckiel, who gave a P.D. session to pre-service teachers at BU recently - I think it was also a trial run of Darren's etmooc presentation). Anyway, I decided to try out this app and created the following story. One thing I did discover, and will have to check into, is that the text, which shows on the app - does not show on the final product :(

Animated GIF

Wow - I haven't made one of these for many years - back when I taught an animation course as a high school teacher. So, I used an online GIF maker I came across to make this ( - it was very easy to do, upload, order, a few settings, then wait.. Mine is called:

"Evolution of a homemade pizza!"

RmeCvk on Make A Gif, Animated Gifs
make animated gifs like this at MakeAGif

Well, those were fun, now back to my real work - but I'll be back, this mooc is making me into a (sort of) prolific blogger!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

A Little More About Connected Learning ...

An important part of the classes I teach are student blogs. In my first year courses (an after degree program - so first year of a B.Ed.) the blog is a choice, this term over half have chosen to embark on reflective blogging, most for the first time. In my final semester course, Internet for Educators, blogging is a requirement. As the first topic of #Etmooc winds up, I would like to present the blogs that my students are writing and invite readers to take a look and perhaps leave a comment or two. I leave links to the blog bundles below.

Blogs from 'Using ICT in the classroom'
Blogs from 'Internet for Educators'

I have used blogging in my courses for a few years now, and am always amazed at the quality of writing, sharing and reflective thought. It is a great way for students to explore ideas they have encountered, wonder aloud, and share resources and experiences. I also find that I learn just as much about students through their blogs as I do in our face to face classes, connecting in this way often leads to deeper conversations in the classroom - or informally outside of it. In the Internet for Ed class (I wrote about abut this course in my last post), I like to think the learning is rhizomatic. I first came across this idea in this article by Dave Cormier, I found the idea fascinating and the analogy an apt one. We listen to speakers, examine ideas and concepts and the students then explore the ideas and take them where they want to go. It is fun to read their ideas, and chat about them. The students themselves have made connections with each other and with some of the guests, who often comment on their posts as well, or connect on twitter. I guess it is perhaps not truly rhizomatic since I (or the invited speakers) choose the general topic, but the students have freedom to go wherever their interests and thoughts take them. The learning I witness (and I learn much myself as well) is exciting to see as these promising educators wrestle with some big ideas.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Connections & Connecting

Photo Credit: cbucky via Compfight cc
This past few weeks has been all about connections for me - and they (the past few weeks, that is) have been pretty well a blur too! First off being a connected educator has been the theme over the first few weeks of the course I teach here at BU's Faculty of Education called 03.467, Internet for Educators (#I4Ed is our twitter hashtag devised by one of my students). I have also decided to TRY to take part , as much as I can in a very packed term, in #etmooc, which has Connected Learning as one of the first topics - and is in fact the nature of the course. Fortunately, since this is the 'stuff' I teach - the tools and methods of connecting are, for the most part, not new to me. I must digress to say that I am getting a new view of Google +. I never really paid much attention too it, but connecting with more people on it and the use of the communities feature is giving me renewed enthusiasm about it - and thinking of ways to use it in my teaching and future research projects.

I have been fortunate and honoured to have three amazing speakers present to my class over the past few weeks to talk about the topic of PLNs and connectedness. John Evans (@joevans, MB Education) came out to share his experience as a former teacher and principal to talk about PLN's and MAPLE (a soon to be released network for all Manitoba teachers). Then Dean Shareski (@shareski) skyped in to present his lessons about being a networked educator, and finally Dr. Alec Couros (@courosa) popped in via Adobe Connect to share his wisdom (this almost right after he presented to etmooc folks!). It is interesting to note that I really got to know this educators through online means (mainly twitter) before I met them in person (to be honest, I did meet Alec briefly when I was in the process of applying to the U of R Ph.D. program - I decided, however, to attend U of Manitoba instead). I like sharing how I have met some incredible people online and that these relationships are every bit as real as the face to face ones (but the 'separation' of online & physical spaces is a topic for another post). Having these various points of view coming into my class spurs great thinking about teaching on my student's blogs (here is a list of their blogs if interested).

Photo Credit: courosa via Compfight cc
One of the tasks I asked my class to do was to consider their connections as educators and to map them out (using Alec's famous diagram shown on the right) as a guide. I also asked them to consider the connections that their students have - and how these connections might impact on their own classrooms. I will share some of these diagrams. One of the first ones in was by Tyler and is pretty remarkable, and here is the next, by Kirsten (btw, Tyler and Kirsten - are taking etmooc with me - we did our lip dub line together - it is enjoyable to have these two along, and now another student, Lisa joined up). If you wish to see more of these visualizations, check out some of their blogs - which I mentioned in the previous paragraph (I made one of these for myself a few years ago and need to reconsider it). I find this an interesting assignment; reflecting on our connections gives an appreciation of the breadth and depth of our connections and how they contribute to our learning. Considering how our students connect gives us insight into their worlds and how we can use the information in our teaching. I really enjoy following the thinking that goes on as my students and I try to make sense of the implications connected learning has for their future careers as teachers. And, these people will be amazing teachers, so if you are a school Principal, start signing them up.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Introducing Myself (#etmooc)

Hello fellow mooc-ers, here is my Introduction made using Haiku Deck on my iPad. Wanted to try something new for this, I have had this app for awhile, but never really used it yet. It is easy to use and does a nice enough job. I can see this as a great way tool for digital storytelling. So ... here it is.

Haiku Deck is the best application for creating presentations on iPad
This term is a little crazy for me, I am teaching 4 courses (full load in a term is usually 3) and I am collecting data and starting analysis for my dissertation ... among some other responsibilities like committees, other research projects... I am NOT complaining, just a little warning that I might not contribute as much as I might like to the MOOC. I will be giving it my best shot though! Looking forward to learning & sharing!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

To grade .. or not to grade ...

     The past few months I have been struggling a bit with the direction to take 'grading' in my courses this coming term. The last term of last year, and for one course in the fall term, I tried using a no grade system. The main reason I went to this is the belief that learning should be about professional & personal growth and improvement.
     The terminology used at my University for this is 'Pass/fail', which is really a misleading terminology. It implies that one can do the minimum and obtain a pass - this is not the way I see it - or apply it. I set, often with student input, a minimum expectation - one that I hope is high - and students must meet that minimum, not just get by. In my courses - generally about educational technology - I want to encourage my students to take risks, try out something new, explore new ideas. Often students will play it safe, striving to get that 'A'. I want them to try things and do their best, then look at how to improve on that. I want them to be critically self-reflective. I want them to think and be creative.
     Now, back to my struggles. I was a pretty successful student in the 'traditional' system, I have been indoctrinated into the system of grades and percentages and competition (not that competition is always bad) - like most of us have been. From this standpoint, I certainly understand what grades are supposed to do - distinguish between people (sorting), provide a measure - of sorts - for learning, and as an external motivator. I even might agree with some of those outcomes, some of the time. I have, however, always really thought that learning is the important thing, not the grade. But grades are so ingrained, it is hard to leave them behind - especially with arguments such as "how will this affect me getting into grad school?" or "getting a job?" and others argue that "some people will just put in the minimum" and others claim that they are motivated to get a better grade. Sometimes I found myself looking at student work and thinking - well, this should be better ... it would only be worth a ...", then I stop and think about what I am doing, it is about improvement, not 'punishment'. I have also found that assessment is so much more enjoyable - I look at the work for what was done well, how it can be improved, and giving suggestions - much more relaxing and productive, often leading to good conversations with students. Last year, most students enjoyed the system - found it made them more comfortable taking risks.... So ... I made up my syllabi last week - and with the input from a colleague and my own reflection about what I was really after - I stuck to the Pass/Fail - and I feel good for doing so. If this term works out, then - unless I am told from someone higher up than me - I will be sticking with this system. If anyone out there has experience with this type of evaluation, I would love to hear your experiences and any ideas.