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 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 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.