Monday, November 30, 2009

Collaborative Learning Networks

While each of us has an individualized way of interacting with co-learning colleagues, Dave Cormier's recent post and intermittent tweets have led me to regard the term Personal Learning Network as slightly 'oxymoronic'. My contributions to a group experience might be qualified as 'personal', but I would never use the word as an adjective to describe a team, a committee, or a class to which I belong. Maybe it's time to reconsider the use of the term PLN?

Personalized Learning & Participation
Each person's learning network is certainly unique. The tools we use to interact with our networks are chosen to suit our personal tastes, and the types of information we share among our colleagues varies widely; but the name we've come to accept for this inter-connected learning: Personal Learning Network, implies individual ownership and control.

Whether or not you subscribe to the theory of Connectivism, you likely realize that our networks are chaotic and self-organizing all at the same time.

A Collaborative Learning Network
The value in any learning network comes from the contributions of many individuals. No one member has ownership of the group, or of the work that's been collaboratively developed. Additionally, it's clear that if any one person fails to add value, then the net results are less striking.

Do you have a Personal Learning Network?
Do you have a Collaborative Learning Network?
Do you have something different?

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Audrey

Friday, November 27, 2009

An Invitation to Bleat

The map that anchors this blog, is evidence that networked learners are capable of sharing their ideas around the world. But these global connections become more real, when words, images, and audio are leveraged to bridge the geographic boundaries that separate us.

And so, to celebrate the 200th episode of the Teacher 2.0 podcast, I'm inviting you to share your voice around the world. Simply forward an audio shout-out that identifies your school, teaching assignment, city & country. I'll do my part, by tacking one or more such 'bleats' onto the closing credits of future podcasts.

Your invitation is the focus of today's podcast:

It's just an idea, and it may not take off, but I'm game to give it a shot if you are. I suspect that listeners will revel in the knowledge that authentic voices are working as educational agents of change in classrooms around the world.

Thanks to Marie-Therese Le Roux for the inspiration.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

My Edublog Nominees

For the past few years, the Edublog Awards have been very effective at highlighting a wide range of blogs across the educational spectrum. Last year, I only came to learn about these awards by being nominated in the Tech Support category, and while I voted for my favourites last year, I'm ready to make nominations this year.

Best Teacher Blog
Mr. Robbo's Blog: Jarrod Robinson is a teacher-learner-experimenter in his second year of teaching, who models lifelong learning. Jarrod comes to teaching with a specialty in physical education; and he uses his blog to highlight the many innovative ways he's managed to tap into the technological interests of his students. Jarrod is proof that the future of our profession is in good hands, and if you give his blog a read, you'll realize that there are many ways kinesiology specialists can make use of communication technologies including video games; Bluetooth-enabled devices; MP3 players; QR codes and much more.

Best Individual Blog
Off the Record: I came to blogging the same day as my colleague Doug Peterson, whose blog is unsurpassed at humanizing the ed-tech experience. Passionate about leading others to share their learning, Doug walks the talk by publishing his reflections, observations, and personal growth experiences on a daily basis. If you know of an educator new to using communcations technologies, they'll find affirmation in the public learning Doug does... 'on the record'.

Best Class Blog

Pipe Dreams: Zoe Branigan-Pipe has only been blogging for the last year or so, but her classroom site highlights the potential of public learning. On the site, you'll find everything from student podcasts and blogs, to best practices in classroom education. As a class blog, the site demonstrates how teachers and learners can engage a range of communications tools to reach through the walls of their classrooms.

Best Educational Wiki
Open Thinking Wiki: As an open teaching advocate, Dr. Alec Couros has led the compilation of resources on a wide range of topics. Although the content is intended to support his work with post-secondary candidates, this wiki is filled with nuggets that should be of interest to any modern educator. Whether considering social justice, media literacy, digital storytelling, or copyright, visitors will find links, videos and slidedecks sure to enrich personal or professional learning.

Best Individual Tweeter
@courosa: Yes, it's the same Alec Couros. Whether tweeting from the airport, the back of an ambulance, or his classroom, Alec is always sharing relevant and interesting content. He regularly engages in give-and-take with colleagues from around the globe and at the very least, his tweets inspire followers to think, to share, and to learn.

That's my take, what's yours? Which edubloggers, podcasters, tweeters are most effective at inspiring your professional learning?
To make your nominations, simply record your preferences in a blog post that links to the Edublog Awards. Then share the link to your post on the Edublog home page. (Thanks to Sue Waters for reminding me about Step #2)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Twitter Bingo

Earlier today, I found myself reflecting on the variety of positive professional interactions I've had on Twitter in recent days. As an illustration of the great many ways an educator can put Twitter to use, I've just created a mock-up of Twitter Bingo for Education.

Originally meant to let non-Twittering teachers understand what goes on in the Twittersphere, you might want to try this challenge yourself: Print a card, and see how long it takes you to fill it, based on the edu-tweets you follow.

Image Credit: Rodd Lucier

Monday, November 16, 2009

Classrooms of Tomorrow: The Untold Story

It's been almost two weeks since teachers at my school designed Classrooms of Tomorrow. What's most satisfying, is that already there are signs that teachers are adopting strategies that call for students to collaborate with one another.

So, What did teachers create?
I've posted a series of classroom posters on my Flickr account in case you'd like to see what was designed. To hear more about what took place, including how teachers can assess learning by having conversations with learners, check out the podcast below.

Past episodes of the Teacher 2.0 podcast are available on iTunes.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Classrooms of Tomorrow

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to lead the academic staff of Regina Mundi College, through a morning of learning, reflecting and designing. With the staff still getting to know me through the first ten weeks of school, it was a unique opportunity to revel in my passions for emerging technologies along with local colleagues.

The Lesson
I began the workshop by highlighting Ten Trends sure to affect teaching and learning in the years to come:

Peppered throughout the morning, were unexpected bonuses that I like to call 'soft returns': resources that can immediately impact classroom teaching & learning. Tools you might take for granted such as Wordle, WolframAlpha or Mr. Robbo's blog, are a few of the examples that rewarded participants for engaging with the 'formal lesson'.

The Culminating Task
To demonstrate an understanding of highlighted emerging trends, teachers were asked to consider the following questions:

Which trends are most likely to impact your classroom?
How will your classroom change?
What tools will you need to address these trends?
What will you need to learn?
What will you need to un-learn?

Rather than answering the questions in a journal, or writing a test, teachers were grouped and tasked with designing a 'Classroom of Tomorrow'. To highlight the potential of collaborative design tasks, members of each group were invited to take on roles with entry points differentiated to meet the needs of a diverse 'classroom':

Team Leader: ensure all have input
Architect: sketch the classroom
P.R. Specialist: communicate design decisions
Espionage Expert: sample the ideas of other teams
C.F.O.: calculate a budget for proposed design
Timer: reinforce timelines for design and presentation

Showing What You Know:
Participants came to realize that it was possible to demonstrate an understanding of the 'course content' through an engaging activity. If such a task were to be used for assessment purposes, teachers were reminded that each individual should be required to explain the group's design choices, in the context of course expectations. It was also emphasized that any rubric for such a task, might de-emphasize the artistic presentation, in favour of a focus on design thinking and understanding.

The Wrap-up
In completing this design task, my teaching colleagues transformed into students before my eyes. Letting their true colours show, we staff members unwittingly took on the characteristics of just about every type of student you can imagine. The animation and willing participation of my colleagues was beyond my greatest expectations.

To conclude our morning, an eloquent Ontario teenager, and 'wired' high school student, Patrick Quinton-Brown joined us via Skype. Patrick is a student trustee with the Durham District School Board, and Director of Communications with OSTA-AECO whom I met six days earlier while sitting on a panel at the People For Education annual conference in Toronto. Having heard him speak about the role technology played in his life, and about how the restrictive classroom environment often impeded his learning, I knew he'd be the perfect guest to wrap our morning.

In arranging an appearance, 'live' from his home school, Patrick was instrumental in helping me to put an exclamation point on the need to transform our classrooms. Indeed, my colleagues were able to experience first-hand, the Classroom of Tomorrow!

Photo Credit: Rodd Lucier

Monday, November 9, 2009

Tools for Learning

Jane Hart from the Centre for Learning and Performance Technologies, has organized the most recommended e-learning tools for 2009, into a number of useful categories. Check out 25 Tools: A Toolbox for Learning Professionals:

In my opinion, Compfight (photos), and ScreenFlow (screen capture) will one day have enough recommendations to make this impressive list.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Which Brands of Soda Do You Sell?

In my search for an motivational piece of media for an upcoming PD day, I happened upon a gem that will be used to introduce the topic: Engaging Classroom Environments. When viewed through the right lens, John Nese of Galco's Soda Pop Shop has many important messages to share with educators.

Passion: When you are lucky enough to be doing something you love, you can't help but share your enthusiasm with others. Are you passionate about learning new things? Are you are willing to give novel ideas a shot? Do you validate the passions of others?

Community: The most successful entrepreneurs see themselves as part of a larger dynamic community. Do you see what you do in the context of an entire school? Do you go out of your way to connect classroom experiences to the real world? Do you encourage and empower learners to reach through the walls of your classroom?

Variety: There is no need for this vendor to offer run-of-the-mill product. Customers can get Pepsi Cola anywhere. What unique experiences do you offer to your students? Is there something uniquely available in your course or class, that has students hoping to be on your classlist?

Customer Engagement
: John Nese has the trust of his customers, and he recognizes that each one has unique tastes. In a similar fashion, the movement twards Differentiated Instruction, is calling on teachers to recognize the uniqueness of the students in their classrooms. How well do you know your customers? Do you embrace their unique tastes over a one-size-fits-all approach?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Math Homework with WolframAlpha

When students come to me for help with their math homework, I'm sometimes at a loss as to how to help them convert and graph quadratic equations. Now that I've learned to leverage Wolfram Alpha, I can assist students in finding patterns that allow them to complete assigned problems.

The Search for Thirsty Teachers

Educators who are active participants in their own learning, tend to be the most engaging teachers I know.

I've revisited this truism after reading Will Richardson's recent post "Teachers as Learners (Part 32)". I believe it's true that people of all ages love to learn. Isn't it unfortunate then, that there seems to be no correlation between a love of learning, and a love of school?

Many times, I've been asked by colleagues: "Why do you use the World Wide Web to connect with other teachers?" My response has always been: "It's where the learners are!"

If you know of a teacher out there who loves to drink in rich discussions and experiences, please let them know there are many others out here who have a similar thirst for discovery. If we connect with one another, the next drink is on me!

Photo credit: Andrew_1000

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Most Important Thing

I'm in the midst of preparing a workshop for staff based on an earlier presentation: 'Collaboration: Top Ten Trends'. In polishing an interactive session, I'm offering educators from around the world, the opportunity to help me teach a valuable lesson.

Step #1: Engage Google forms to create a simple survey;

Step #2: Elicit the cooperation of Twitter colleagues, in sharing the message;

Step #3: Embed the form in my blog to gather more suggestions from the edu-blogosphere.

Step #4: Publish the survey results. I'm thinking at present of engaging Wordle, but also hope to consolidate the data into a Top Ten list.