Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Inviting All Teachers!

With the dawning of 2009, I'm going to begin embedding the Google media player to share Teacher 2.0 podcasts in this space. The episode below is a reflection on the potential for the 'yet-to-be-formally-named' Ontario Educator Meetup, which will engage Ontario teachers (and others) in discussions about how to engage a wide range of emerging technologies.

Through the instigation of Rob De Lorenzo, the inaugural meeting focused on 'personal learning networks' and drew educators from Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United States, to an interactive meeting courtesy of Adobe Connect technology.

The next Ontario Educator Meetup is slated for January 27th at 6:00 p.m. EST. Mark your calendar if you'd like to learn more about "How Learners Can Leverage the Creative Commons in their Creative Work."

FYI, If you are a blogger interested in embedding audio on your site, I found the simple instructions at "Digital Inspiration" to be quite helpful.

Monday, December 29, 2008

What is the Culture of Your School?

I've been following Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos, on Twitter for a few months now, but watching him explain how culture and customer service are the mainstay of his company, makes me wonder what might happen if more schools and school boards hired for fit, rather than for qualifications.

Even though as a speaker, he seems a bit nervous, the stories Tony shared at the BIF Collaborative Innovation Summit remind me that every business or service, really should focus on people. Maybe more educators should come to the same realization?

So how would you define the 'culture' of your workplace? What is it about your co-workers and your mission makes you look forward to work each day? What are the core values of your school?

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Twitter, TweetDeck and Massively Open Online Discussions

If you have yet to try TweetDeck, put it on your ToDo list! There are many reasons why I expect this Adobe Air tool to become the Twitter client of popular choice in 2009.

Click the image for a quick overview of TweetDeck:

As users expand the use of Twitter to engage in wide-ranging and ongoing discussions, TweetDeck will remain agile enough to track group activity; to search keywords; or to gather 'hashtags'.

As just one example, Alec Couros' recently recreated a PLN vs. PLE debate, which may have been one of the first massively open online discussions. The use of a tool like TweetDeck will allow users to engage in multiple self-organizing discussions.

A brief tutorial, outlining some of the possibilities, appears below:

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

7 Things You Don't Need to Know About Me

This morning, via Twitter, I was 'tagged' by Barbara Nixon to share 7 Things YDNTKAM, in a meme that has the potential to deepen connections among virtual colleagues. Barbara's list reminds me that the people with whom I interact virtually, are real people, so I'm glad to participate, and to reach out to 7 others...

1] My favourite 'snow day' as a student, was one where I went to school anyway; and as one of only a few attendees, became a 9 year old foley artist, playing with a reel-to-reel audio recorder.

2] Never mind the Wii, my memories of youth are filled with real live outdoor games: street hockey, street football, street baseball, hide-and-go-seek, kick-the-can, capture-the-flag...

3] I vividly recall watching Speed Racer on our new colour television and wondering how the colours came through the air to our home.

4] My Assumption College H.S. basketball coach once complimented my superior box-out technique, when I rebounded a free throw attempt, only to score on my own basket.

5] March 12, 1988, I flew as the only passenger on an Air Canada flight from London to Toronto; and they lost my luggage!

6] On May 28, 1989, I got my one and only hole-in-one in a tournament at Oakwood in Grand Bend, ON. My claim to fame is that it came on a Par 4!

7] I once coordinated a successful world record attempt in support of a colleague who later died of cancer. On February 2, 2004, at 2:00 p.m., for exactly 2 minutes, we made 15,851 Snow Angels.

While you don't need to be tagged to participate in this meme, here are seven folks I'd love to learn more about:

Alec Couros
Clarence Fisher
Doug Peterson
Louise Cote
Jarrod Robinson
Tod Maffin
Peter Purgathofer

Photo Credit: losmiminos

Monday, December 22, 2008

Twelve Ed-Tech Lists for Christmas

With the holidays upon us, I thought I'd take a lesson from "The 12 Days of Christmas", and recommend 78 resources in the guise of a dozen gifts...

12 Canucks You Can Learn From on Twitter: courosa; toddlucier; blanchemaynard; dougpete; glassbeed; shareski; phogtom; gsiemens; rdelorenzo; jagill; robwall; zecool. (Note: There are many other Canadian Twitterers I learn from on a regular basis, but I had to limit myself to a dozen!)

11 Google Apps:
Google Docs; Archive News Search; SketchUp Pro; Google Earth Pro; G-Mail; Google Reader; Google Maps; Chrome Browser; Google Video Chat; Blogger; YouTube.

10 Favourite Mac Apps:
ScreenFlow; Audio Hijack Pro; GarageBand; ScreenSteps; iPhoto; Wallet; Easy Task Manager; Keynote; Parallels; Quicksilver; iCal; xPad.

9 Tutorials on Social Media Tools: Blogging in Plain English; Photo Sharing in Plain English; Podcasting in Plain English; RSS in Plain English; Social Bookmarking in Plain English; Social Media in Plain English; Social Networking in Plain English; Twitter in Plain English; Wikis in Plain English. (All thanks to Common Craft!)

8 YouTube Videos for Educators: The Networked Student; Graffiti (Pfizer); A Fair(y) Use Tale; Learning to Change; The Machine is Us/ing Us; A Vision of K-12 Students Today; Information Revolution; We Think.

7 Super CBC Podcasts: Spark; R3-30; Search Engine; Radio 3; Out Front; Ideas; The Hour.

4 iPhone Apps Worth a Few Bucks:FileMagnet ($4.99); Pano ($2.99); Comic Touch ($4.99); Band ($3.99).

5 Media Archives I Can't Live Without: Internet Archive; Prelinger Archives (video)Newseum; Virtual Library Museums; Flickr.

4 Video Streaming and Conference Resources: USTREAM.tv; DimDim; Adobe ConnectNow; Qik.

3 Sources for Motivational Speakers: TED.com; Pop!Tech; Hitchhikr Conference List.

2 Sites to store and share media files: Blip.tv; Drop.io.

1 Top Tool for managing Twitter feeds:

Realizing that it's better to give than to receive, I'm wondering whether or not you have any items to add to any of these lists?

Photo Credit: laffy4k

Friday, December 19, 2008

Four Christmas Lessons

The Grinch
Tuesday, one of my high school daughters was complaining about the daily classroom chore of 'copying notes from the textbook' by hand. I don't understand why it is so commonly acceptable for teachers to torture kids like that...

Charlie Brown's Christmas

Wednesday, my little guy played Joseph in the Christmas pageant. Nothing is more powerful than this primary school pilgrimage, in reminding us of the reason for the season...

A Christmas Story
Thursday, I was reminded that when writing in a public space, I should be careful not to disparage the important role I play in promoting e-learning. That has never been my intent... Hope I didn't 'shoot my eye out'!

White Christmas
It's Friday morning, and a snowstorm threatens to turn our world white, just in time for Christmas. It's time to celebrate, and to wish you and yours all the blessings of the season!

Photo Credit: Chris Campbell

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Lesson Worthy of an 'A'

Inspirational. Engaging. Passionate.

Maybe other words will come to your mind when you consider the teaching style of Benjamin Zander. See him in action at Pop!Tech, a TED-style conference that brings about 'change' by sharing rich conversations with great thinkers.

There are no slides in this Pop!Cast presentation, but an amazing transformation takes place in both a learner and his audience thanks to the work of a master teacher...

Only teachers who truly love teaching and learning, can possibly lead others to consider living life 'in possibility'.

Thanks to Garr Reynolds for reflecting on this one!

Monday, December 15, 2008

15 Things I'd Love to Teach

I recently applied for a curriculum coordinator position in my district school board, and although my current regional position in some ways restricts my ability to teach relevant skills to educators, there are many 21st century skills I'd love to share with local colleagues.

1] How to model academic integrity in your teaching;

2] How to harness universal designs for learning;

3] How to engage rich performance tasks as assessment tools;

4] How to share resources via social bookmarking;

5] How to employ podcasts and video production in teaching/learning;

6] How to collaborate with regional peers via wikis;

7] How to license student/teacher works via Creative Commons;

8] How to employ the power of Google tools;

9] How to develop a rich personal learning network;

10] How to harness the power of handheld technologies;

11] How to augment lessons with video conference technology;

12] How to highlight achievement through online portfolios;

13] How to create and share lessons via multimedia tutorials;

14] How to use blogs as reflective journals;

15] How to ensure your presentations are Zen-like.

Although my current position does not allow me to pursue these subjects during the working day, I will continue to teach and learn via my evolving network on the read/write web.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Lost Generation

Is this an uplifting message for the weekend?!

Thanks to Dean Shareski for starting his weekend a few hours later than mine (he lives in western Canada), in time for his wife to share this with us via Twitter!

Neil Winton also used Twitter to point to this as the inspiration for the Lost Generation.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Fertilizing the Grass Roots

At today's Western RCAC Symposium, educators from across southwestern Ontario were called to engage with emerging tools in order to ensure learning is relevant to 21st Century learners. The audience was energized by keynote presentations by David Warlick and Amber MacArthur, but many left wondering: "Where do we begin?"

My personal suspicions are that most attendees will fail to make effective use of any of the many tools introduced today. Even with everyone recognizing that we have a long way to go: A significant knowing-doing gap will remain!

The conversations I overheard, tended to focus on problems:

"Our IT department won't let us!"

"My superintendent doesn't get it."

"We don't have enough money."

"Our computers are too old."

"The school networks are out of date."

"We still ban cell phones in school!"

"I've never even heard of RSS."

"The kids know more than we do."

"I don't have the time!"

Many discussions on the drive home, will no doubt focus on the need for change to come from the grass roots. Grass roots on their own, are just baby blades of grass; but get enough of them together, and we'll have a rich, think lawn.

My hope is that conversation will soon turn in this direction:

"Let me show you the great blog post I found!"

"I found a Canadian was nominated for an EduBlog Award!

"Have you seen David Warlick's conference handouts?"

"Look what I found when I Googled the 'wrcac08'!"

"I joined Twitter... and started following RCAC attendees like: redfearn, qdsouza, rdelorenzo, dougpete, and thecleversheep."

"I explored a wiki... and after reading, I even added a hyperlink!"

"I'm exchanging emails with a colleague I met at the symposium."

"Amber Mac's interview was a good reminder about the 3 C's"

If instead of filing our notes from the day, we perform some independent learning as a followup, we may find ourselves participating as members of a collaborative community that will bring much needed change to schools across southwestern Ontario.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

RCAC: 10 Reasons I Love Symposium

The Western Regional Computer Advisory Council Symposium is here!

Last year's symposium was truly transformative for me. Thanks in large part to engaging presentations and workshops by Will Richardson, I was inspired to engage with a wide variety of Web 2.0 tools that have become indispensable in my daily work.

Here are ten reasons why I'm looking forward to this year's event:

1] The RCAC Symposium brings together administrators and technology consultants.

2] The 400 attendees are local, all coming from southwestern Ontario.

3] The keynote speakers are always compelling. For 2008, David Warlick returns.

4] One of the keynotes is usually from a field outside of education... This year, it will be new media expert and tech story-teller Amber Mac!

5] The event is held in London, Ontario... as close to my home as any conference ever gets.

6] This will be my 8th RCAC Symposium, but it's the first year I've had an online PLN... and many of my colleagues will be in attendance!

7] The food at the Best Western Lamplighter Inn is terrific!

8] The door prizes are fantastic... Though I've yet to win a big prize, iPods, computers, software, books, and clothing are mainstay giveaways.

9] Although I've presented in the past, this year, I'll be free to network and micro-blog full time!

10] This year's event marks my first anniversary as a 'regular' blogger and Twitterer and podcaster...

One year ago, I had the chance to learn alongside longtime RCAC committee member, Doug Peterson, and lo and behold, this December, each of us has been nominated for an Edublog Award!

Can Symposium 2008 top that? I can't wait to find out!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Not All Mobs Are Smart

Surely you've seen the effects of Smart Mobs resulting in thought provoking group behavior on YouTube. Maybe you've read fictional accounts of smart mobs in Corey Doctorow's freely available Little Brother?

Smart Mobs as identified in Howard Rheingold's book of the same name, demonstrate how technology can amplify the cooperative efforts of any group of people; I worry about how the same tools can amplify the destructive behavior of a not-so smart mob.

The potential of young people acting en masse to promote positive change, as recommended by Clay Burell, may be a powerful way to challenge the status quo, but the reality that a pied piper with less than honourable means can use this same strategy, tempers my enthusiasm for this 'how-to' video.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Social Networking Outside of the Walled Garden

Social Networking is about to take a giant leap from behind many walled gardens, and will be able to bring a sense of community to just about any site. By pasting some simple free code, your blog, wiki, or other site page, can now host a community, thanks to Google Friend Connect.

If you haven't already done so as a Google account user, you may soon be customizing a Google Profile that can travel with you from site to site, and from community to community. The significant difference between this profile and those of social networking sites, is that your Google Profile is public, and if Todd Lucier is correct, may become your digital 'business card'.

These profiles can now be leveraged by a developing range of social gadgets that are being written and shared freely on the very public world wide web.

I've just added a Friend Connect widget to the lower left corner of this blog. (In doing so, I was shocked to find dozens of new widgets in the Blogger menu!) If you visit here regularly, feel free to add yourself, and soon you may meet other clever sheep who share similar interests in educational technology... and continuous change!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Is it Time for You to Video-Conference?

As I've been thinking about how accessible video conference technology has become, I've come to realize that there are many technical considerations that cannot be taken for granted when communicating with long distance guests.

1] a computer: Probably the easiest component to procure; both teacher and guest will need a reliable workstation.

2] a data projector: Although the day is not far off for every classroom to have access to projection technology, a teacher might need to scavenge a SmartBoard or projector from somewhere in the school.

3] a robust Internet connection: For a reliable communication channel, a high speed connection with reasonable bandwidth will be necessary to maintain the audio and video signal.

4] video conference software or a suitable online account: There are many possibilities, but teachers will need permission to install or access a suitable conference tool. In my own limited experience, I've used Skype, Google Video Chat, Adobe Connect, Adobe ConnectNow, USTREAM.tv, and Elluminate. Other tools are available, and still others are sure to come available.

5] camera & microphone: Although many computers now come equipped with an embedded camera and microphone, other USB devices can also be used. Peripheral multimedia tools will require setup, but most operating systems will walk users through the process.

6] a purpose or topic: Regardless what you're teaching, having an engaging purpose for your video conference will ensure the fruitfulness of the event. The conference/meeting/presentation might be a kick-off to a rich learning experience, or it might serve as the culminating activity to a unit of study. Whatever the event, ensure that students have opportunities to interact with the guest.

7] a guest: Although many will rely on their personal learning networks in order to connect with suitable guests, I'm hopeful that teachers will soon be able to recruit speakers from online directories. Resources like MERLOT Virtual Speakers Bureau, VROC, and WiZiQ highlight the potential, but there is still a need for a K-12 directory of long distance guest speakers. Maybe Dave Eggers TED Prize wish will spark the creation of such a directory?

Although many of us may take the idea for granted, hosting a remote guest for a classroom speaking engagement will require familiarity with many ICT tools and processes. Knowing that comfort with the use of A-V through the World Wide Web comes with practice, maybe you should try engaging in video chat with a member of your PLN?

Photo Credit: Jessica Mullen

Monday, December 1, 2008

Long Distance Guest Speaker Directory

Over the weekend, I was privy to an engaging discussion among a few key members of my personal learning network. To make sense of the conversation, read the screen capture from bottom to top:

Knowing that a number of free tools now make it possible for teachers to engage the services of guest speakers from just about anywhere in the world, I began to wonder:

"What might result if we were to collaborate in the creation of a database of long distance guest speakers?"

Do you know any people with unique areas of expertise who might be interested in sharing their knowledge with students? Adults with unique careers? Educators with specific areas of expertise? Young people with motivational ideas? Retirees with engaging stories to share? Who do you think would be ideally suited as long distance guest speakers in global classrooms?

Speakers might identify themselves as willing participants; or educators might recommend known speakers from past experience. The resulting database might then accessed by teachers from anywhere in the world.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Give Thanks; Get Involved

As the American Thanksgiving dawns, I'm reminded of the significant roles we play, both as parents and as educators. In designing our shared future through the nurturing of our children, our responsibilities are awesome. To help make the point, I'm happy to give a broader audience to an video by Heidi Hass Gable.

This piece came to my attention thanks to Cindy Seibel, and artfully combines text, photos, music and a Heidi's passionate voice, in a hopeful plea to parents and educators. "What I Want for My Children" is something money cannot buy...

Monday, November 24, 2008

Putting Down the Revolution

You may already be familiar with the image chosen as the 2008 NECC Button Winner, designed by Bill Moseley. The caption proclaims: "I'm Here for the Learning Revolution"

I'm wondering if anyone else sees the irony in the poster below that I photographed (with my cell phone) in one of our schools. The caption accompanying the poster announces: "No Cell Phone Use in School Buildings"

Sunday, November 23, 2008

10 Ways to Harness the Power of Google SketchUp

With the recent release of Google SketchUp 7, I posted a brief interview with Guzman Tierno, who has used SketchUp to engage 13 year old students in the creation of 3-D products.

Guzman's lessons are available for sharing, but I'd like also to suggest a few other potential rich project ideas:

1] get with the holiday spirit in designing a virtual Santa's village;
2] create new and improved student desks to accommodate learning tools of the future;
3] draft floor plans for new (or old) classrooms, schools; homes; shopping centres...;
4] reproduce existing products in 3-D;
5] review Google Patent Search before constructing products from various time periods;
6] host an invention convention where new ideas are shared in Google Earth;
7] recommend a new school/community playground or recreation area by construction demos;
8] recreate famous movie scenes (The Wizard of Oz; Gunfight at the O.K. Corral; Mutiny on the Bounty...);
9] explore news archives before creating a virtual reenactment a famous event;
10] design and build new 3 dimensional board games.

To get started, visit the 3D Warehouse, or watch the Google Sketchup video tutorials:

Do you have any ideas to add?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Art 2.0: Digital Pixelation

Mashable shared this artistic use of Google Docs that may be worth considering if you teach technology, mathematics, or visual arts:

The theme of this piece certainly fits with all the snow we've had in southwestern Ontario in recent days, but with these instructions and free access to the spreadsheet template, a comparable project could be undertaken, with just about any subject matter. And while I love the collaborative nature of the project above, similar work could also be carried out by an individual student, perhaps using non-digital tools like paint and paper.

An artist might start by borrowing a rich creative commons licensed image from the Multicolr Search Lab then using photo-editing software like the free and very powerful Picnik, to manipulate the image. The 'pixelate' tool can be used in concert with other effects tools to help students create transferable images with specific numbers of pixels.

For those looking for innovative large scale pixelation, it might be worth revisiting the Jason Eppink's Pixelator project.

What do you think? Is there a place for using digital image manipulation in your classroom?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Does Education Need to Change?

George Siemens' recent post makes me smile:

"As a small research project, I’d like to ask people to answer the following questions (on their blog, in YouTube, Seesmic, or wherever - please post a link in the comments section below):

1. Does education need to change?
2. Why or why not?
3. If it should change, what should it become? How should education (k-12, higher, or corporate) look like in the future?"

I’ve been engaging in dialogue with my PLN about these questions for the past few years and I’m still nowhere near completing my response!

None-the-less, I'll assume this is a point form test, and that there is only one slim blank line below each question. Here are my responses:

1. Yes.

2. Because most present day educational practices are irrelevant, addressing expectations for previous generations, while failing to prepare students for what promises to be a very different future.

3. Education should foster the evolution of a diverse menu of learning experiences. Classrooms should be flexible environments able to adapt to the needs and interests of an increasingly connected student body.

Care to respond? Feel free to add your thoughts below. If you choose to make a blog post of your own, be sure to add a link to your post in the comments section of elearnspace.

Photo Credit: 416style

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

14 Tools to Teach about Creative Commons

One of the most powerful, misunderstood and under-utilized tools for teaching 21st century skills, is the Creative Commons. Besides providing access to hundreds of thousands of media works that can be used to augment the creative process, the Creative Commons offers a legitimate way for students to license their own creative works, be they audio, video, text or hybrid products.

2 Creative Commons Toolkits
Creative Commons International Licenses
Creative Commons Content Directory

2 Great Places to Host and License Your Creative Work
Flickr: a place to host and license photo collections
Blip.tv: a place to host and license video productions

2 Video Explanations of The Creative Commons

2 Creative Commons Audio Sources
CC Mixter: audio remix and share resource
Sound Transit: a Global sounds cooperative

2 of My Favourite Open Source Projects
Open Thinking Wiki: Alec Couros'Digital Resources Collection
M.I.T. Open Courseware : free lecture notes, exams and videos from M.I.T.

2 Slideshow Explanations for Education

Creative Commons in our Schools
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: cc copyright)

Open Educational Resources
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: iil08 downes)

2 Creative Commons Social Networks
The Creative Commons Fan Club on Facebook
YouTube Commons Creative

2 Late Additions
A Multimedia Explanation of Creative Commons
Creative Commons: What Every Educator Needs to Know

Monday, November 17, 2008

South Pole Quest

As proof of the ability to communicate from anywhere in the world to the world wide web, you and your students may be interested in following the exploits of Ray Zahab: ultra-marathoner. He was the first to run across the Sahara and is now poised to run an unimaginable event in "South Pole Quest".

This former smoker has founded "Impossible 2 Possible" where Ray and his team take on adventures to inspire young people to "protect this fragile planet and its people". His interview on "The Hour" with George Stroumboulopoulos gives great background on the story.

The Journey Begins ! from Nick G on Vimeo.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Billion Channel Universe

On Saturday evening, my brother Todd happened by with his Qik equipped iPhone. Although the technology is not yet ready for release to the iTunes App Store, it is easy to see how this technology will be another educational 'game-changer'.

Think about the magnitude of this change:

"Anyone with a mobile device, will soon be able to broadcast live to the web from wherever they are! And anyone with a web-enabled device will be able to watch the feed from wherever they are!"

- provide live updates from a field trip
- simulcast from a concert
- report from a sporting event
- provide updates from the site of a news event
- share traffic and weather updates from anywhere

So as Todd and I chatted about the need for education; industry; and John Q. Public to become aware of such technologies, we couldn't help but use the tool to share our discussion... broadcast live (and recorded) from my dining room table, in Komoka, Ontario.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The (not so) Smart Table

In coming across this new technology, I'm left scratching my head wondering:

What child wouldn't rather have REAL paper, crayons, markers, and other manipulatives with which to learn?

"Because we can...", isn't a very good reason for doing anything...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Dragons at Bedtime

Have you seen the kids cartoon Word World? It's a TV show that has been responsible for teaching my little guy a number of words, and spelling strategies.

Occasionally, bedtime for my 5 year old now consists of writing words on his Cars brand Magna-Doodle, and pretending that the words come to life, just like the characters and objects that inhabit Word World.

Tonight, I found myself laughing out loud as we dove for cover to protect ourselves from a variety of creatures. After starting with the fire-breathing dragon, and the water-breathing dragon, we met up with the popcorn-breathing dragon and ping-pong-ball-breathing dragon.

The puppy that burped ice-cubes, and the dinosaur that sneezed spaghetti soon followed, and I found myself wondering what amazing stories might be told by young people given such a simple premise.

I hold out hope that a creative teacher might engage online cartooning tools, or audio-recording tools to help students bring unique creatures to life. A bold educator might even provide students access to the freely available creature creator tool courtesy of Spore!

While bedtime always includes at least one book, taking time to get on the floor and pretend has become one of our favourite rituals to end the day. I just hope teachers will find ways to harness the creative thinking that at present, comes so naturally to my child.

Does anyone have any recommendations for other 'creatures' we might encounter at future bedtimes?

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Welcome to the Profession

You are likely familiar with the Hippocratic Oath through which graduates from medical school promise to practice with the best of their abilities.

Many Canadians are at least passingly familiar with the Iron Ring Ceremony where unique pinky rings are granted to engineers upon completion of their formal education. As part of the Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer the ring is a symbol that the graduate is obliged to act with the upmost professionalism.

If teaching is such an important vocation, why does no such rite of passage accompany graduation from a faculty of education?

What if instead of taking an oath, or participating in a ceremony, educators upon graduation had the opportunity to participate in a national symposium created just for them? Such an event would allow teachers to demonstrate their commitment to lifelong learning, and would model the reality that one's education should continue beyond the classroom.

Recognizing the need for the teaching profession to to adapt to the realities of the 21st century, imagine an event where new teachers could be taught simultaneously by the brightest minds from across a nation or around the world. Current technology would allow such an event to be carried out at relatively low cost, provided schools were interested in participating.

In order to demonstrate the potential for such rite of passage, I'd like to invite my Canadian colleagues to consider hosting such an event in the 2009-2010 school year. By teaming with other pan-Canadian groups like The Learning Partnership, a group of K-12 and university educators might motivate agents-of-change to share their messages with graduates.

At faculties of education, auditoriums could provide the venue for both 'in-person' presentations and live webcasts where passionate educators from elementary, secondary, and post-secondary institutions would share their stories of personal/professional growth.

Geared towards new teachers, a simul-conference could easily be scaled to provide open access beyond faculties of education. Guest speakers could be recorded to accommodate asynchronous participation by current classroom teachers while back-channel discussions could forge connections between venues.

Such an event might instill in new and experienced teachers an understanding of a number of key messages about the profession:

1] Learning is a lifelong endeavor;
2] Embrace change;
3] Reach through the walls of your classroom;
4] Know that you can be an agent of change.

The scale upon which change is needed in education, is monumental. Why not introduce to the profession a rite of passage that addresses this need for change; and why not do so on a large scale? Such an event has the potential to inspire novice and experienced educators alike, to model lifelong learning. There are few more important characteristics to nurture in classroom teachers.

Photo Credit" M00by; Marie-Chantale Turgeon

Saturday, November 8, 2008

A Model Presentation

If you ever want to teach your students about how to make an effective presentation, you can't do much better than to have them model the work of Larry Lessig. His talk from earlier this week at the Web 2.0 Summit is an example of a polished delivery that harnesses relevant content and supports it with apt visuals. Note that neither the slides, nor the words alone would be as powerful as the combination. My brother Todd who was in the audience, likened his presentation to that of a 'beat poet'.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

CCK08: In Need of a New Operating System

Accelerating change has never been adopted or accepted in classrooms around the world, even though most educators have come to accept change in their daily lives. Instead, as an organization, formal education has acted like a brake, forestalling significant change be it in the tools we use to teach and learn, or the theories we adopt in developing new teaching strategies.

In my second year of teaching, I was able to purchase my first home computer… an AT machine with a 386 microprocessor and the wonders of an EGA monitor (16 colours!). This machine was capable of doing many tasks, but it would be incapable of doing many of those now handled with ease by modern personal computers or mobile devices.

The students entering classrooms during those early years of personal computing, were very different than those of the present day. Not only were their expectations of learning different, but their brains were wired for attention to the static reading and writing tasks presented to them. Handheld game machines, cell phones and other technologies, had yet to impact the lives of young people, let alone rewire their brains.

Today, the world is a very different place, and though the machines we use in our daily lives have changed significantly, the strategies we employ to teach present day students fail to address the reality that the world we share with our students is very different from the one that existed less than a generation ago.

Can you imagine a computer struggling to keep up with the processing requirements of today’s applications? How can we expect a teacher's pedagogical evolution to keep pace with the connected nature of today’s learner? I propose that the solution might be found in regularly scheduled upgrades of firmware (learning theory); software (pedagogy); and hardware (tools).

Upgraded Firmware: Learning Theory
If learning is indeed evidenced by that forging of connections among neurons, people, and ideas, then classroom teachers need to do a better job of ensuring that their teaching strategies encourage and foster the creation of these connections. As new learning theories evolve, teachers need to be ready to learn and to adapt their teaching practices. Keeping current will ensure that the dust of past theories and related policies do not clog the machine.

Evolving Software: Pedagogy
In order for teaching & learning to evolve, educators must realize a sense of urgency in becoming lifelong learners. Though no one teacher can ever know it all, each of us can carve out a niche in which to focus our learning efforts. Whether our colleagues are down the hall, or a half a world away, given permission to network among peers, teachers have the responsibility to learn from and to teach one another. Though it will not be easy to upgrade, there is an ongoing need to rewrite the code of professional learning.

Modern Hardware: Tools
Even though the business world finds ways to ensure that employees are working with the best available tools, students and teachers are required to work on lean budgets that prioritize work with pencils over work with modern tools. Still, educators will need to embrace evolving tools and mobile devices if they are to deliver learning experiences that are relevant. For the benefit of students and educators alike, tools of the present should be harnessed to forge connections well beyond the classroom walls.

While the adoption of modern learning tools and connective technologies will require the support of administrators, and technology leaders, the classroom teacher will always be the most important peripheral device in the system.

Convincing current and future educators of the need for continual upgrades, will be no easy task. In my next post, I will propose a significant learning event that just might lead a generation of teacher-learners, to realize their potential as agents of change.

Photo Credit: All images are licensed for use by Jon A. Ross

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Election Coverage Lessons

Election night in the United States brought us interactive websites, holographic interviews, and more data than any one person could possibly digest. None-the-less, there are a few lessons educators can learn from the news event of the decade.

Words and how they are delivered are powerful agents of change.

In the end, the most powerful part of the evening was simple... a man, a message, and the coming together of people from around the world.

Interactivity can and should be used to engage your audience.

This was the first US Election in the age of YouTube, whose Video Your Vote channel garnered attention from across the United States.

While John King is the master of the Multi-touch Collaboration Wall,the Associated Press map and the National Public Radio map let participants create their own scenarios and to drill down through state and county statistics.

The technology is only the means to an end.

Holograms are 'cool' but the wow factor fades quickly. While Obama's words are sure to live on for decades, the gaudy technologies used by broadcasters to connect with viewers, will soon be forgotten.

Eye candy can be used to tell a story, but don't let the technology fool you into believing it's any bit as important as the real story. Wasn't the story of the presidential election compelling enough? In case you missed it, apparently CNN's holograms were really tomograms.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Top Ten Types of Tweets

While Twitter is fast becoming a recognized way to communicate with friends, acquaintances, and professional peers, those new to micro-blogging often find themselves communicating in a limited number of ways. It's not just about mining your feeds for resources, it's about building relationships with your tweet-mates. The best way to do that, is to make an effort to post a variety tweets.

Do the Play-by-Play: Broadcast a live concert or sports event; or share your response to a popular televised experience. Twitter is about community, and the sharing of your live responses can make any news report, playoff game, or special event a memorable group experience.

Be a Friend: Send supportive replies to the tweets of your colleagues. If you can answer a question, lend your insight. If you'd like to keep your conversation private, don't be shy about sending direct messages. With practice, you'll soon deepen your online relationships.

Let the Twittersphere attend your Presentations: If you are attending a conference, or presenting a workshop, consider streaming or live-blogging the event. Tools like UStream.tv and Cover-it-Live make it possible to share text, audio and video, and to do so at no cost. Tweet the links and use conference hashtags to assist those looking for updates.

Publicize your Learning Ventures: Tell us about your online publications be they blog posts, podcasts or wiki projects. Using Twitter exclusively for self-promotion isn't recommended, but doing so as part of a broad range of tweets can help your followers understand your work 'in context'.

Re-Tweet: Share the best links and stories that come down your Twitter stream. It's great to be re-tweeted, so don't be shy about quoting the people you follow. At their best, re-tweets often serve to introduce your followers to colleagues who can enrich their personal learning networks.

Report the News & the Weather: Have you noticed the number of news broadcasts that are beginning to reference Twitter? Whether you're experiencing threatening weather or are present for a newsworthy event, you can be the first on the scene reporter. Tell your network what's going on, and encourage them to share the story with others.

Tweet the Small Stuff: Let us know you're a real person, by sharing occasional tidibits from your daily life. Share the cute stuff, the aching frustrations, the mini-revelations... In doing so, we remind ourselves and our followers how much we treasure experiences in the real world; and we remind colleagues and friends that family and community play important roles in our lives.

Ask for Help: Don't be shy. If you've built a network of followers, rely on the expertise around you! Need a resource or want feedback on an idea? Feel free to post the occasional question. Over time, you'll be surprised at the range of support you will receive.

Get Your Tribe Together
: With Twitter apps appearing on more and more mobile devices, Twitter is the perfect vehicle for organizing impromptu gatherings among colleagues. Whether meeting at a restaurant, movie theatre, or online meeting space, the tweeting of meet-up details is fast becoming a popular mechanism for bringing people together.

Be Playful: Posting an occasional puzzle, riddle, or challenge is a good way to encourage creative thinking on your network. As Twitter groups become more popular, I think we'll soon see gameshows appear on the Twitter network.

Having a diverse network of followers and followees makes for the richest Twitter experience. Emulating this variety in your own posts will help you to be seen as a valuable and personable node in the network.

The Common Craft explanation of Twitter can help you introduce the idea to colleagues. Are there other types of Twitter posts that catch your attention? Are there any types of post that you'd recommend we NOT try to emulate?

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Post-Modern Digital Story-Telling

Although ASCII characters and emoticons are 'old school', using them to tell a story adds an entertaining, and challenging new twist.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Classrooms of the Future are Already Here

I don't relish long car rides, but they are a fact of life in my current teaching position. As an educator working to assist school boards in leveraging a variety of e-learning tools, I often find myself in my car, many kilometers from home. With podcasts and audio books to keep my mind humming, I'm able to engage in conversations inside my head, with authors and independent broadcasters from around the world.

My most recent brain food, was Seth Godin's nutrient-packed "Tribes: We Need You to Lead" which fit perfectly in a recent two way trip to the extreme southwest part of Ontario. The book is very much an invitation to listeners to stop waiting and to start leading.

While anyone's tribe can be characterized as a group of like-minded people, getting these similarly motivated individuals to pull in a common direction, can be a challenging task.

Grab onto the rope...
The toughest test facing educators passionate for change, is to envision the schools we'd like our children to attend.

The classrooms of the future already exist! It's just that they're widely scattered and remain unknown to the majority.

In order to publicize what's happening through the daily efforts of highly engaged educators like you, I'm making plans to tell your stories. If you have ever thought "I should just start my own school", you probably have at least one story to contribute to our tribe's vision for the future of education.

While each of us has a limited sphere of influence, the sharing of our stories cannot help but lead others to envision what is possible. My hope is that classrooms like yours will become the norm, rather than the exception, but for that to happen, your story must be told.

Our tribe's first story, "Going Mobile!" tells the story of how cell phones have been leveraged for learning on an Australian field trip. I hope that your story will follow...

Photo Credit: Dan Maudsley

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Halloween Treats (and one Trick)

I thought I'd take a few minutes to share a few links for a hauntingly fun week.

Pumpkinizer: Change a photo into a detailed jack-o-lantern

Virtual Pumpkin Carver: Practice your pumpkin carving with this no mess interactive Flash-based tool.

PumpkinGutter: The gallery of 3D carvings is incredible.

Extreme Pumpkins: Many unique pumpkin carving ideas are shared on this site.

Christopher Walken Mask: Instead of "Trick or Treat" just demand "I Need More Cowbell"!

Scary Stories: There is still a few cool and windy late October evenings to do some reading...

The Real Story of Halloween: Among a number of highlights on this site is Hidden Spirits an interactive role playing game.

The Ghost and Mr. Chicken: Of all the movies I own, this has to be my favourite! If you're lucky enough to find it, this is the perfect week to watch it. If you can't find this one, The Nightmare Before Christmas is another Halloween gem.

Those with a strong constitution may be interested in a ghost story that is too disturbing for me to include in this space. After watching Nicolas Cage briefly describe his ownership of the Lalaurie Mansion of New Orleans, I unwittingly came across one of the most deeply disturbing stories I've ever read.

If you take the time to find the story that David Letterman was wise enough NOT to pursue... know that I share your regrets.

Happy Halloween!

Photo Credit: Paul Sapiano

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Let's Teach Them to Cheat!

Earlier this week, I had a rare opportunity to have lunch with my identical twin brother. Even though we've taken different paths in our lives, we've each managed to make use of the tools of the evolving web in order to connect with colleagues.

With this common interest, it's no surprise that our conversation consistently returns to the use of the Internet, and a wide range of teaching and learning applications. While waiting for our meals to arrive at our table, I suggested that traditional tests might be rendered useful, if we were to teach students how to cheat in completing them.

While it may sound radical to encourage cheating, students today have grown up in a culture that generally accepts a variety of unsavoury behaviours:
* finding and sharing 'cheat' codes for video games;
* bypassing digital rights management on CD and DVD media;
* using proxy servers to access filtered/blocked/banned web content;
* downloading applications from the web and using 'cracks' to gain access;
* accessing private networks, whether open or password protected;
* cracking digital devices to expand their functionality beyond licensing agreements;
* creating unique works by appropriating the unlicensed photographic or musical expertise of others;

It's no secret that I am on unfriendly terms with the traditional test, so if I had to give students a test today, I think I'd challenge them to respond with limited restrictions. I might allow them to talk to one another; to copy from one another; or to access the internet or outside experts.

What skills might students develop in sanctioned cheating?

In a group or class test:
In copying content from other students, each learner would have to apply critical thinking skills in validating responses. If a class or group had to submit one complete test for the entire group, you'd really be able to assess the collaborative skills possessed by a group or sub-groups. Without a doubt, an observant teacher would be able to see which students had the greatest sharable 'capital', and which had the most effective leadership skills.

In an open book test:
Students would have to condense material into it's most important elements, and would have to organize their resources so that appropriate content could be efficiently accessed.

In a test to design a cheating tool:
Students would highlight their varied abilities to innovate in creating unique uses for personal digital devices; or they might demonstrate their creativity in re-purposing common backpack or lunchbox objects.

In an open computer test:
Beyond exhibiting their search skills, students would be challenged to assess the validity of their sources. Another important skill might be embedded in this activity, were a teacher to require students to provide more than one reference for any test response.

In an open phone test:

Students might have to budget a limited number of text messages or phone-a-friend calls, meaning they'd have to assess their areas of greatest need. Could metacognition skills actually be testable?!

Here's your test question... Use any source you like, but in posting your response below, reference your source(s), and try to provide a level of confidence in your answer.

"How many different times have human beings been to the moon?"

C'mon, you can answer that one can't you? Go ahead and cheat if you like!

Photo Credit: Mr. Stein; Billaday

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Top 20 Uses for Wordle

Wordle Wordle is a free 'word art' tool that crunches any chunk of text in the production of a visual representation of the content. The resulting graphic emphasizes the most common words by amplifying their size based on frequency. Originally designed to give pleasure, Wordle is being used in interesting ways to provide compelling summaries of political speeches, blog posts, twitter feeds, news articles and more, but there are additional educational uses worth considering.

A few ideas:

1] Convert a sonnet or Shakespearean play; or children's book (Dr. Seuss anyone?);

2] Paste the contents of an online discussion to coalesce the main ideas;

3] Combine student 'Who Are You?' introductions, or 'Superhero
' to develop a class composite;

4] Condense survey data by dumping content of questionnaire responses into the Wordle engine;

5] Combine news articles or RSS feeds on a given topic;

6] Turn an essay into a poster;

7] Combine blog posts over time into a simplified represetation or use it to compare the ideas of competing ideas;

8] Use font, colour and arrangement strategies to appropriately represent content;

9] Automate the creation of word poetry;

10] As an introduction to a unit or course, combine key words; themes; curriculum expectations to provide learners with a visual overview of content;

11] Convert nutritional content of one's weekly diet or of a group's menu preferences;

12] Condense a Wikipedia article into it's essence;

13] Paste the results of a Google search (Can you guess the keywords I used?);

14] Convert social bookmark tags;

15] Enter keywords from weekly weather reports to obtain a seasonal picture;

16] Distill song lyrics like "Stairway to Heaven";

17] Find out what you've been up to by summarizing To-Do lists;

18] Represent the results of a brainstorming session or the minutes of a meeting visually;

19] Show "Today in History" stories in a new way;

20] Convert past or current email messages into a composite of your correspondence;

Do you use Wordle? Have you considered using Wordle with students? If so, what other strategies would you recommend?