Thursday, April 29, 2010

Only the Photocopies are Different

One of the things I've come to notice as a Student Success teacher, is that many of our high school courses are only distinguishable from one another by the photocopied handouts. With a majority of students hiding the very hand-held devices that might empower them to network with a global community of learners, I spend far too much time, leading individuals to 'fill-in-the-blanks'.

While I'm not a fan of the format, here is the 'short answer' worksheet I'd like to teachers to consider:

Having just learned that my school board has budgeted over 1 million dollars to move to a new email system, I can't help but wonder what might have been unleashed, had these dollars gone towards ensuring that wireless networking was available to the learners in our board's 56 schools...

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Clever App

Recently, I spent a few hours customizing an app to consolidate and share a wide range of professional learning content. The resulting tool, Clever App, compiles RSS feeds from many sites into one handy iPhone app.

Creating a custom app has a certain level of cachet, and though it may seem to be a daunting task, the online service allows anyone familiar with RSS to create a working app. With a little bit of photo-editing, you can customize an app icon; splash page; and banner. Then, you just locate; copy; and paste the RSS feeds you'd like to include.

There are 5 custom feeds I've built into Clever App:

1] Blog: This button provides the most up-to-date access to all posts on The Clever Sheep blog.

2] Podcast: All current episodes of the Teacher 2.0 Podcast will load and play right within the app.

3] PLN News: This button provides access to the most popular stories and hyperlinks shared by members of my Twitter network. In addition, notable stories and blog posts from my feed reader, are tagged 'PLN' to automate their upload to the app.

4] Bookmarks: Each day, I save a wide range of described content to my Delicious account. Each of these bookmarks, are accessible from the fourth tab.

5] SlideDecks: Each of my public slide presentations is accessible from this Slideshare feed.

An RSS app like Clever App can serve many functions. Whether you are a school administrator looking to aggregate district news feeds; a teacher or student creating an e-portfolio; or a lifelong learner looking to consolidate your favourite subscriptions, you can create and distribute a custom app after only a few hours work.

While there are other options for building an app, developers can create an AppMakr account and play around at no risk. You only need to pay if you decide to have the app built and posted to the iTunes app store. Before following through with a build, I'd recommend checking the web for discount codes. In the end, my app ended up costing me just $49.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Augmented Reality: Now in Aisle Seven

As I hinted in Augmented Reality 101, our interactions with media, text, and mobile devices will soon include a new layer: Augmented Reality. Little did I realize that my 7 year old would be the first to bring it to the family's attention.

Mikey was trying to figure out how to connect a cereal box to our computer based on the instructions on the back of the Corn Pops cereal box. After visiting the It's Popnetic website, we produce the following tutorial:

And just in case you think it's just cereal boxes that are changing, consider what Alice for the iPad or Elements for the iPad has to say about the future of books:

Knowing that these changes are coming...
What do you think we should we do about it?

If you don't think it's your job to consider that question...
Whom do you expect to provide our answer?

Friday, April 16, 2010

TEDxOntarioEd: Tim the Student

As educators, we sometimes need to be reminded, that our charges have voices too. And if we take the time to listen, we might learn as much about ourselves, as we do about our students.

Although it's rare for a student to get an opportunity to speak in front of an audience of teachers, we considered it the most sensible choice to have Tim Ludwig as the final formal speaker at TEDxOntarioEd. Identified as "Tim the Student" in the weeks leading up to the event, we were confident that a student closer would put a nice lid on our evening.

Little did we realize that Tim's talk would lead to ongoing discussion and reflection. After giving a listen to Tim's talk, I think you'll find yourself, like me, wondering how we can lead students to further inspire educators and students alike through TEDxYouthDay?

Consider these links as evidence of the impact that "Tim the Student" has had:
TEDxOntarioEd: Moments of Adversity that Empower
TEDxOntarioEd: reflections on being there, but not being there
Making Connections at TEDxOntarioEd
When Worlds Collide
Student Voice and TEDxOntarioEd
Inquiry Based Learning - A TEDxOntario Theme
"Speed Dating" My Way Through TEDxOntarioEd
Experience TEDxOntarioEd via a short Animoto video

The video of Tim's talk is now available on the TEDx YouTube Channel. Images of the evening are available on the TEDxOntarioEd photo pool.

Photo Credit: windsordi

Sunday, April 11, 2010

10 Things I Learned at TEDxOntarioEd

As a member of the team that brought TEDxOntarioEd to life, I've been privileged to follow the reflections of participants throughout the weekend. As much as we were able to learn from the motivated lifelong learners who took to the TEDx stage, the lessons I learned were in the process as much as the product.

1] Brand Magic:
When you run an event associated with TED, you are far more likely to engage top notch talent. In our case, we were blown away by the quality of speakers who participated in our event at no cost.

2] Pushing Pixels:
In taking the lead on the LiveStream broadcast of our event, I discovered that pixels go to incredible places; like a prim on cedar island in SecondLife.

3] Creativity Matters:
When educators (and students) get opportunities to create for a real audience, they often do their most amazing work. As evidence, consider the set props, food, and public speaking each of us experienced.

4] Glitches are Part of the Story:
In leveraging computers; remote Adobe Connect feeds; digital video cameras; microphones; presentation media; multi-point lighting; video switchers; monitors; sound boards; and video production software, hiccups were almost guaranteed. Being open and honest with our audience was one way to model the risk-taking that we encourage among educators far and wide.

5] Social Matters:
In his reflective response to TEDxOntarioEd, Graham Whisen's calls it "The New Knowing" and highlights many of the reasons we encouraged remote participants to host satellite viewing parties for the event. Aviva hosted one of these events and writes about a transformation we couldn't see.

6] Support = Trust:
The London District Catholic School Board, (my home board) entrusted us to an amazing site, and a wide range of technology. Colleagues from Building Services, the ICT department, and Program Department, each contributed their time, talent and attention. Trust on the part of many individuals made it all possible.

7] It Begins and Ends with Students:
Our culminating speaker's talk will soon hit YouTube. My prediction is that it will outdraw all of the other talks from April 9th. Change happens when educators can commit to addressing the real needs of learners; and when an 'at risk' student captivates an audience to set us straight, you can't help but pay attention.

8] The TED Divide:
Those who were on hand, 'get' TED; and were likely to have pre-exisitng professional learning relationships with other attendees. Many of those who dismissed our invitation to attend, did so without prior knowledge of TED, and may yet be unaware of the power of personal learning networks. The buzz at our event was due in large part, to the fact that the majority of attendees were on the same side of the divide.

9] TED is a Global Phenomenon:
LiveStream analytics tracked over 800 unique online viewers. As expected, Canada and the USA had the most participants; with Australia, the United Kingdom, India, Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Portugal and the Netherlands each having at least 12 unique viewers.

10] It Takes a Team:
A tight group representing a number of different regional school boards, pooled their collective talents to bring TEDxOntarioEd to life. Planning meetings took place via Skype, so Friday evening was the only time we'd actually been together in the same place. The result was one of the most challenging and affirming projects I've ever been associated with. Without a doubt, I'll be looking for future opportunities to work with Ben Hazzard, Jamie Weir, Sharon Drummond, Kim McGill and Colin Jagoe.

If you are interested in seeing or hearing what others have to say about TEDxOntarioEd, I've been tagging photos and related blog posts at

Photo Credits: rosefirerising and the TEDxOntario photo team

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

TEDxOntarioEd: What Motivates You?

To say things have been busy, would be an understatement. Between preparing students for the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test; putting the wraps on my Special Education full-distance teaching responsibilities; and preparing for TEDxOntarioEd, something had to give.

Each of these projects wraps up this week, so I should be able to get back into publishing my personal and professional discoveries via blog posts and podcasts. Until then, I'm happy to invite you to join us on Friday, April 9th, when, live from London, Ontario, my colleagues and a wide range of motivated presenters, will breathe life into TEDxOntarioEd.

We're encouraging remote participants to connect to our TEDx event by watching with other lifelong learners. Together we can make connections that dissolve the limits of time and space.

I'd encourage you to check out the biographies of our diverse line-up:

6:55 TEDx Intro Video
7:00 Welcome: Rodd Lucier
7:05 Dan Misner
7:10 Paul Finkelstein
7:20 Ray Zahab
7:35 Lee LeFever
7:45 Joey Savoy
7:55 Zoe Branigan-Pipe
8:05 Tim Long
8:15 TEDx Video
8:20 BREAK
8:40 TEDx Video
8:45 Robert Martellacci- MindShare Learning
8:55 Danika Barker
9:05 Nathan Toft & Jane Smith
9:15 Jesse Brown
9:30 Alec Couros
9:40 Kathy Hibbert
9:50 Tim – Student

Are you a novice teacher? An expert? Someone considering entering the field of education? As long as you are open to learning, this event can serve as 'welcome (back) to the profession'. We hope you'll consider joining us via Livestream to consider 'ideas worth spreading'.