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.