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.