Monday, January 31, 2011

My EduContext

I arrived home from Philadelphia just before 1:00 a.m., and rested well. When I awoke, I found myself in a downright giddy mood as images kept floating into my minds-eye. These are some of the things I'll most remember about Educon 2.3.

Snow, What snow? With schools officially closed in the region due to poor weather, you'd think there would be cause for concern. In the end, it wasn't nearly enough to impede the staff, students or parents of Science Leadership Academy. For details on how Educon came together, check out Chris Lehmann's post that highlights how the community rallied.

Student Engagement

Emblematic of the fullness of student participation in Educon, was the first and final person we saw at SLA. Jeff Kessler, also known as EduConcierge, demonstrated a true passion for addressing the travel needs of attendees. His efforts exceeded all expectations. Don't be surprised if Jeff reaches his goal of becoming Secretary of Transportation. In the words of Michael Wacker: "I heart Educoncierge".

Working under the direction of Darren Kuropatwa and Dean Shareski, our group was in stitches throughout the recording of our trick-the-senses video: "A Nice Light Snack - with Added Crunch". A big thanks to Andy Forgrave for leading Kim McGill, Colin Jagoe, Zoe Branigan-Pipe, Alec Couros, Brian C. Smith, and myself through the project. Be sure to check out the other completed works.

As you likely know, conversations from SLA were streamed to the World Wide Web, allowing a distant audience to participate by auditing the sessions. In a number of sessions, remote participants were invited to actively engage in the co-creation of products and resources. Although most small group conversations were only heard by the participants, you're invited to eavesdrop on this 6 minute conversation from Brian C. Smith's session Share the Joy. The voices you'll hear are Michael Wacker, Alec Couros, and Rodd Lucier.

The song "Bad Romance" keeps running through my head. It was one of many rocking good time songs performed by LiQuid A at Field House Philly. The Saturday evening social turned into a great way to celebrate the birthday of Science Leadership Academy principal, Chris Lehmann.

Powerful stories were the order of the day. Perhaps the most compelling, was shared during Alec Couros and Dean Shareski's session: 'The Obligation to Share...'. Consider the story shared by Sarah Edson: an account of an English teacher who long ago, had fostered the speaker's passion for writing. After the teacher-mentor suffered a catastrophic loss of memory, it was the very student that he had enabled, now a teacher, who was able rekindle the former teacher's memory, through a descriptive thank you letter.

If you attended in person or online, I can't help but wonder: What were your take-aways?

Media Credits: EduConcierge video and Snickers photo, captured by Andrew Forgrave; other images by Rodd Lucier.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

So, What Did You Learn?

Thanks for visiting the blog today, I'm not here. I'm in Philadelphia attending Educon 2.3 where Zoe Branigan-Pipe and I are facilitating "Classrooms of Tomorrow" as a culminating task for attendees.

Our session takes place today at 2:30 p.m. Eastern Time and even if you can't be with us in person, you can participate virtually. Attendees on site will be creating learning spaces with LiveScribe technology, while remote participants will design collaboratively using Scribblar Rooms (links are included in the slidedeck).

Classroom Sample
brought to you by Livescribe

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The List of ONE

There seems to be a movement to collect ideas into valuable 'Top Ten' lists, or worse yet '100 Useful Strategies' lists. Instead of recording ideas in bulk, how about taking one truly powerful idea, and explaining it in great detail.

I know you've done some cool projects in your time... why not tell me about one, and share how the idea was transformative for you and your students? Maybe I'll make the leap to build on your idea, adding even greater value.

When I read through a long list of strategies, tools or ideas, I might follow one or two of the most interesting links, or I might bookmark the page and never visit it again. Why not save us all the trouble and just point us to the most compelling stuff right away?

Photo Credit: Leo Reynolds

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Do You Have Time for a "31 Day Game"?

When I returned from Educon in 2010, I had an idea that has now had a chance to percolate for a full year. It's an idea that attempts to focus the thinking of a networked educators, providing us with common reference points for personal and professional learning. With the goal of further enhancing the toolkit for tweeting teachers, I have a proposal for the first ever professional learning game or PLG.

"What if..."
In introducing Twitter to colleagues, would it be useful to have access to a wide range of articles, videos and presentations that had been considered by the network to be worthy of deeper reflection? Might a month-long debate regarding the potential of educational resources allow educators to demonstrate critical thinking, inventiveness and openness? What will happen if teachers around the world are invited to participate in a common asynchronous conversation? Wouldn't it be great for teachers to be able to point to a specific body of knowledge and resources that were known to just about every teacher on Twitter?

Each day during the month of March, I propose that we consider two competing resources before ultimately voting for one of these tools to advance in a head-to-head playoff format. The 31 Day Game would culminate with a head-to-head competition among the top resources... on the 31st day of the month.

The game can be played at any hour of the day, but would only take place during a month that has 31 days. Each game would have room for the collaborative consideration of 32 topics. Future events might include:
1] a critical review of Web 2.0 tools;
2] a contest to select an 'Educator's Choice' book for a PLN book club; or
3] a fun head-to-head tweeting competition.

It all begins March 1st, but not until we narrow down the field to 32 Compelling Messages for Teacher-Learners. Nominate your favourite video, news story, or blog post by competing this short survey.

Over the past few years, we've seen educators make outstanding use of Twitter for personal and professional learning. Maybe you were around when we organized the first synchronous chats for education? Whether or not you've participated in time-specific chats, what do you say to taking it up a notch with the 31 Day Game!

Photo Credit: Leo Reynolds; ex_libris

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Lessons from the Rink

For the past 5 years, the Optimist Club of my community in Komoka, Ontario, has turned the community tennis courts into an all-season resource. During the winter, it becomes the Kilworth Colliseum. Recently, while out for a game of 'shinney', I found myself reflecting on a few lessons that are transferable to the networked learner.

Lesson #1...Just Play
When fully engaging, an activity can exist for the sake of the experience itself. Learning online, connecting with colleagues, discovering new tools... each of these can be an end in itself. For the sake of learning... just get out there and play!

Lesson #2...Wear a Helmet
When you take learning to public space, you need to do so with caution. Consider how your actions may be perceived by others, and recognize that there may be dangers in sharing too much about yourself or your students. Be sure to take the right precautions before heading out onto the ice.

Lesson #3...Get Back Up
When you take risks; use modern learning tools; and lead with new learning strategies, inevitably, you're going to have lessons that don't quite turn out the way you expect. Regardless of the outcome, teacher-learners need to be resilient.

Lesson #4...Be Sure the Ice is Ready for Skating
When and idea, service, or initiative first comes to light, more often than not, it comes to us in its 'beta' form. Don't expect outstanding results, or a long term solution, if you venture out on such thin ice.

Lesson #5...Throw Your Stick in
The modern equivalent to choosing up sides, may be the co-development of personal learning networks. If you aren't invited to 'throw your stick in'; why not invite others to join you in discussing; learning; developing? Thanks to today's globally hyper-social Web, you can even 'throw your stick in' with people you've never met.

Lesson #6...Room for All
Whether skating on a rink, or learning to use modern learning tools, anyone can participate. Whether on the rink or in personal learning, it's up to the experienced skaters to create an environment that encourages the novices to keep coming out to play!

Lesson #7...Good Ice Takes Time (and Money)
There are a number of high quality apps that can help you and your students be more productive. Maybe it's time we realize that sometimes, it's worthwhile to pay a little bit for the best tools.

Lesson #8...Play to Improve
The more you play the better you get. It's true whether learning to skate, or creating a piece of media. And sometimes, it takes a bit of work, before you can truly see an experience as play.

Lesson #9...Come Outside
Perhaps the most important lesson of all, is that regardless of the season, there are times when we need to put aside our digital tools, and to embrace the wonders and experiences of the real world.
(This final photo is a late addition from Todd Lucier taken at Northern Edge Algonquin.)

The audio podcast episode that led to this post is now online; while my one minute documentary "If You Freeze it, They Will Come" is embedded below.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

'Drive' Lessons

Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose trump Carrots and Sticks

Daniel Pink's 'Drive' teaches important lessons about motivation and engagement. Why is the field of education so slow to adapt?

View a video of Daniel Pink's recorded talk.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

2011: The Year of the Cloud

While I'm not a fan of Microsoft's 'To the Cloud' ad campaign, there is little doubt that my use of communications technologies in 2011, will regularly leverage cloud tools. My digital life will be accessed, edited, and shared through a range of devices including my iPhone, iPad, notebook computers, and desktop computers. As we begin the 'Year of the Cloud', here is a brief rundown of my favourite air-powered tools.

Mobile Devices
MacBook Air: I begin the new year, doing most of my work on a new computer that is nimble, and well-suited to travel. With the minimal component space of every MacBook Air taken up primarily by batteries, my intention is to minimize the use of the machine's flash storage space.

iPhone: For the two most recent conferences I attended, my iPhone was my lone 'communicator'. This one device allows me to capture audio, video, and text without being weighed down by the luggage that normally accompanies my MacBook Pro. As a side benefit, this untethered approach makes it much easier to connect in person with attending colleagues.

Content Hosting
Diigo: With questions surrounding the potential demise of Delicious, I've duplicated my bookmark database at Diigo. Although I've yet to make good use of the community tools there, I do hope make use of the embedded annotation tools in 2011.

Flickr: Over the holiday break, I made the leap to Flickr Pro. With cameras and phones synching photos to many computers both at home and at work, it just makes sense to upload photos to a commonly accessible web space. By backing images up on portable drives, I hope to preserve valuable disk space on my devices.

Workflow Adaptations
Tethered Web Access: Thanks to a generous 6 GB data allowance, I've made a habit of bringing my own Internet service to work. Personal computers are restricted from accessing our school network, so this is the only way I can reliably access my cloud resources in partnership with the Mac tools I've grown to love.

DropBox: Managing my digital life from at least 5 devices, DropBox allows me to access 'active' documents from any given machine, meaning portable drives are no longer a necessity in my daily work. Even better: If you keep your digital locker under 2 GB, it's free!

Creativity Tools
Animoto: With unlimited videos for teachers and students, Animoto is an incredible free resource. As text, audio and transition tools have been added, Animoto has become the standard-bearer for automating the creation of captivating multimedia films.

Aviary: This free audio-editing tool allows users to create unique products with tools very similar to those built into GarageBand. Polished tools such as these are rarely free in the cloud.

Broadcasting Channels
Posterous: Although I've hosted my blog at Blogger for the past 3 years, Posterous is the first tool I recommend to others for creating blogs, e-portfolios, or classroom websites. With a simple email to, you can begin sharing text, audio, video, and a range of e-documents with students or with a global audience.

ipadio: While I still post audio to Libsyn and feed the stream to iTunes, I heartily recommend ipadio as a simple and free broadcast service. Added bonus: Though imperfect, posted audio is automatically transcribed as text!

Network Tools
Twitter: The tools I use to access my personal staffroom varies from device to device, but whether I use the Twitter App; Tweetdeck; and the Twitter domain, the streamed thinking of distant colleagues continues to play a key role in my professional learning.

Skype in the Classroom: In a few weeks, this social media channel will be available to educators around the globe who will be able to build personal networks face-to-face. This is my pick for the tool that has the greatest potential to ignite large-scale classroom collaboration.

Keeping Current
Clever App: I created this app to bring together the most prominent ed-tech news stories of the day, and to archive my slidedecks, podcast episodes and blog entries. The app is designed for iPad or iPhone and is available as a free download from iTunes.

I'm very interested to discover other tools that can help me manage my digital life. Which cloud tools are most necessary in managing your personal and professional learning?

Photo Credit: Trey Ratcliff