Friday, November 20, 2015

#DigiWriMo: Visual Writing

The second week (yes - this is written in the third week) of digital writing month focused on the visual. In the Manitoba ELA Curriculum documents, the six language arts are described: Listening & Speaking, Reading & Writing, and Viewing & Representing. In my experience (as a teacher, principal, teacher educator) it is clear we value reading and writing above the others. No doubt all are dealt with in schools, perhaps more in some schools than in others, and in higher education it is clear that reading and writing dominate. The visual has always been important, but increasingly so in the digital world. The visual surrounds us and images can convey powerful ideas and emotions. I am currently reading the book Learning and the E-generation and in the chapter on visual literacy the author's state, "relying on traditional print as a means for literacy instruction can often restrict and marginalize learners." In my 'Using ICT in Education' course, we spend much time on using images and multimedia and explore ways to bring this powerful way of communicating into the classroom. We use digital images, infographics, video, and more - these ways of writing are not only important, but kids seem to love to create them as well.

I also value the visual in my own work and life. One of my personal interests is photography, I have taken part in photo of the day projects, and like to look at images on Instagram and Flickr to get ideas - and to see things from a different perspective. I also  enjoy taking my photos (or perhaps ones under a CC license) and create slides/posters - some are in my flickr stream. I share images on Instagram, Flickr, and Google photos. (Google photos is for my other interest - flight. Also see the Photo Project tab on this blog)

The power of visual writing was evident this past week. A colleague and I were working on revisions for a book chapter, one of the editor's comments was to include a visual timeline. We went to the chalkboard (yes, in the ed building we still have chalkboards in some rooms - and chalk actually helped us because the ease of shading ... but I digress) and began to sketch one out. As we did this and reflected on the work we were trying to illustrate, we had several insights into the research as our diagram became more complicated. To make this short - we now have a deeper understanding of the work we are doing - and an idea for a subsequent journal article. By sketching out various phases in the process, shading to illustrate certain ideas, seeing relationships that we did not think about before - these insights came clear and we had a great discussion.

Visual writing, by means of mind maps, were also important in my dissertation work. I found them invaluable to organize codes and themes in my data. They helped me see more data at a glance, see relationships, and generally make sense of the data. I started these by hand on large paper, then transferred them to MindMeister for ease of manipulation - and inclusion in the dissertation.

One of my posters (
So, back to DigiWriMo - the posts and items shared by participants have been great reading, I even managed to share a few 'eyes in the sky' photos' on the shared slideshow. The various forms of writing and sharing have been enlightening.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

#DigiWriMo: Setting Goals

So, my goals for #DigiWriMo. As I said in my unofficial CV post, I signed up to take part in this event so that I could expand my writing, and explore new ideas. I am not really comfortable as a writer, so this should be a good process. But, I have to revise my goals a bit, it seems I have several more traditional pieces of writing to do as well. These include: revising a book chapter (with a colleague), revising an article submission (I have to add more of me into it - hmmm, who am i?), a conference proposal, and I have [finally] just started a journal article based on my dissertation research. Ahh, sabbatical is great.

I will try to respond to various prompts and will definitely be reading others' work. I admit I have always been a little hesitant to put stuff out there, although I am a firm believer in "teaching is sharing" to paraphrase David Wiley. Alas, I must change, and I am getting there. I do like playing with and using a visual approach, I enjoy creating slides/posters (some of which I have on my flickr account). I have also been designing covers for the journal of the Manitoba Education Research Network (MERN). So my goals this month in a nutshell, is to complete the tasks above and also to find time to try some things. Here goes.

Friday, October 30, 2015

#DigiWriMo: "Unofficial CV"

So, I have signed up for Digital Writing Month. During the month of November various digital writing challenges will be given. It sounds like fun, and I would love to play with some other ways of writing, and improve in this area. The first task is to create an unofficial CV. I considered a way to be a little creative, and decided to make an infographic. I have my students make them to explore ways they can be used in the classroom, so I  thought I should give it a try as well. I used Piktochart - it was fun to do and here it is:

Monday, October 26, 2015

Grades, Revisited

Recently a few items have popped up about grades, grading, and assessment. A few years ago, I also wrote a post about my going to - what our university calls a pass-fail system. Basically, I view it as a growth model and a 'mastery' model. In some cases I want to simply have students explore a topic or try something they have not tried before. I have had more than a few comment that they like the comfort to try things without fear of a poor grade. In a few recent classes, where I had reverted to the usual letter grade system, the students asked me to reconsider - which I happily did. A few weeks ago grading and assessment came up in conversation with a participant in one of my research projects. This high school teacher was talking about how he 'knew' where students were at and did not need a bunch of tests to tell him. We talked about formative assessment and outcome based assessment. It was an interesting discussion, but he still has to give a grade. Also recently a slideshare from a presentation was shared by Jesse Stommel (a slide from another if his decks is with this post). Later, a blog post by Maha Bali (also related to this slide presentation) appeared. Maha wrote at one point; "I do think that people who are not educators have difficulty listening to these voices that are anti-traditional forms of assessment because they are indoctrinated by the hegemonic discourses they have been surrounded by all their lives. They can’t imagine alternatives to homework and exams, so they assume they must be good, or at least the only options." So true, some educators still cling to these ideas. These items brought me back to my thinking on this issue. As I proclaimed on twitter, I 'hate' grades and giving them, as I mused in the old post, I was brought up in the grading system, I understand why they are used, I have struggled in my thinking about them ... but I doubt their value for motivation - not real motivation anyway, and definitely not for learning. They can be used to rank and sort, but is that the purpose of education? I guess in some instances it is  - but I would call that training. In the area in which I teach - teacher education - isn't growth as a (potential) teacher most important? I would rather students engage in deep, meaningful discussions, I would rather my students go outside their comfort zones to try things, to reflect, to learn, to grow. If, for example, we are telling a story by video - isn't the experience and thinking about how the idea can be used for learning in a classroom situation more important than how great the video is (especially if it is the first time making one)? Isn't the discussion and exchange of views and ideas about an issue, like digital citizenship, lead to more learning than telling me what it means in a paper? These recent conversations and readings have renewed my thinking about grading - since I am currently on sabbatical it has not been in the forefront ;-) - and helped reinforce my thinking on the non-use of grades in my own practice.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Professional & Personal Accounts ... or just one?

At one of the sessions at the Social Media & Society conference in July, a presenter asked the audience about our use of SoMe - do we have personal and professional accounts or just one? My answer was that I use one, while another participant expressed that he used two. A short discussion ensued as to our reasons. I understand and respect the separate account perspective - whatever works for you! Most people do that, it seems, so that the personal and professional are kept separate. Often it is expressed that some of the personal is not appropriate for the professional setting. Fair enough. I also understand why some K-12 teachers keep separate social media accounts. I certainly understand that inappropriate use can have repercussions, we see examples of that all the time, but that goes beyond having two account.

My use of one account for each medium is based on a few premises. I believe that the 'online me' is - well, me. Sure, I try not to use profanity online, but I do post about my favourite beverage, beer, and I do post some political or other thoughts, but just like offline, I don't go about spouting anything that comes to mind - I try to use a filter.  I also think a person's role has a part to play in that choice. For me, I see a modelling role, and also I teach older students. The majority of them already have one post-secondary degree and are entering a profession - namely teaching - and should be able to relate at a personal and professional level. I also feel, as mentioned, that I am who I am - so take it or leave it. I also think that folks who share some of their character are more (I don't care for this over-used word, but) authentic, or real. It is nice to know a bit about the person as they are. So, if you follow me on SoMe, you will see a mix of personal and professional.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Teaching about Teaching Science

Our Moon!
Our moon - photo by ME!
Way back, my first degree was in science - I then taught science in grades 8-12 for many years. Over time, my main interest turned to educational technology and I moved on in my career. As my role changed to administration and then into teacher education, my interest (passion?) for science faded, but was always in the background. A few events in the past few years and some reminiscing brought my interest in science back to the forefront. This past term I taught a Science Methods course. While I admit I was a bit rusty on some details, it was enjoyable. I concentrated on teaching process - inquiry, design - I have witnessed too many science courses taught as 'read the chapter and answer questions' - that is not science. When I return from sabbatical I will be moving into teaching science methods (as well as my main area of ed tech) - while I have some work to do to get back up to speed and planning my program, I am looking forward to the challenge with excitement. During my sabbatical I will do some gathering of resources and planning for this new adventure.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Conference Season

Over the past few months I have been busy on the conference scene. Starting back at the end of March was the National Congress on Rural Education held yearly in Saskatoon. I was involved in two presentations related to research in a rural Manitoba School Division. In April was AERA in Chicago - the biggest education conference in the world. This year was my first attending. In June it was CSSE at the University of Ottawa. Presentations at the last two conferences also centred on the aforementioned research - part of BU's SSHRC funded VOICE project. Finally, last week I attended the Social Media and Society Conference at Ryerson University in Toronto. The last conference I presented a poster (on my dissertation work) and another poster with a colleague about our self-study work concerning using SoMe in teacher education. While I enjoy doing posters, the main reason for that was that I did not hear of the conference until paper deadlines were past. By the way, most of my presentations can be found on my slideshare page.

So, a whirlwind of travel and presenting - why do I bring these up? Well, I find it interesting to compare the conferences and which ones I go the most out of and found most enjoyable and useful.

Actually, each has something different to offer:
National Congress - focus on rural education, attendees include a range of people: senior division admin, school admin, teachers, trustees, parents, and a student journalism group reporting on the events.

AERA - huge! very international, yet sessions are for the most part a U.S. focus (obviously). I found most paper sessions rather boring and generally slide presentations were not good. I enjoyed the city of Chicago, the round table and poster sessions I attended - perhaps because they are more like discussions. This was the least useful conference I attended.

CSSE - this was also big. Participants are generally from across Canada, and it is held in conjunction with all social sciences (SSHRC). The focus was Canadian, so thus it was more useful than AERA. For the most part, presentations were very interesting, and there were other events - big keynote speakers and a wonderful contest of 3 minute presentations by SSHRC funded graduate students - "SSHRC Storytellers" - one presentation was delivered as 'slam poetry' - awesome! Of course, being in Ottawa, I had the opportunity to spend time at the Space and Aviation Museum and take a flight in a 1939 vintage open cockpit biplane (personal passion!).

Social Media & Society - this conference was my overall favourite. I met several people - people I knew through twitter and more that I added. The conference was very international and interdisciplinary - this might be why it was so interesting. I have a passion for studying social media in education and this conference reinforced that passion - perhaps rekindling it! It was an interesting location right in the heart of downtown Toronto. Ryerson has an amazing student learning centre we toured as well. See the tweets at #SMsociety15. I plan to attend next year's conference to be held in London, UK. Looking forward to it (of course that means I can visit my daughter who lives there, as well!).

So, conferences are varied and one can get something of value out of just about any - I have ideas, met people, and learned at all of them. I also found that I like poster and round tables - seen as the poor cousins of papers - but they are also rapid and more like conversations. I know one shot deals are not always optimal for learning, but these conferences do have their role to play, especially for academic work - a place to share, meet, and plant some seeds.

Posters presented at Social Media & Society

Slides from CSSE:

Monday, May 25, 2015

Not Teaching for Over a Year (i.e. on sabbatical)

My sabbatical is fast approaching, and I am looking forward to it. It is not that I don't love teaching, if I didn't I would not have stayed in the career for 37 years. That said, this will be the first year I am not in a classroom of some sort since my first teaching job all those years ago. In this new career though, I have also been involved with field focused research, so this year will be devoted to those pursuits - not to mention being away from 'service' work on campus - that means very few meetings! (hurray!)

So what will I be up to? I have several projects on the go, and have been fortunate to be awarded several small grants to help the work, as well I will continue working with our large SSHRC-CURA grant called VOICE. I work, along with a colleague and a grad student, with a rural school division a little north of Winnipeg. Our main tasks are working with teachers doing community based action research and studying system change in the division. I am excited to get working on my other projects, and to get some writing done on several projects, including my dissertation.

Some of the projects include:
Action Research and Teacher Change - I will be working with several teachers in one rural MB school division assisting them in doing action research and I will examine the effects on practice.

A case study of a school that has gone to a 1:1 device:student - I am doing this with a colleague who is also on sabbatical - also at another rural MB school.

Numeracy evening for families - I am working with a local school division numeracy consultant, along with a team of teachers and B.Ed. students. We are trying to set up resources and run an event to help parents learn the importance of numeracy and strategies to help their kids. The goal is to share the results of this endeavour widely.

Some of the details can be found on my BU profile.