Thursday, 31 January 2013

Doodle-Notes: John Finch

I am a very visual person and have started putting this into practice when I take notes in class. When I convert something into a picture or graphic I am able to remember it much better. Here are my notes from John Finch's talk with us this week.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Writing - It's Not Just Essays

Our class' brainstorm of writing forms to use in content area courses. They'd probably be good for ELA too! ;)
Here is the list in regular table form too:
Journal Entry
Wanted ad
Persuasive Speech
Press Conference
Short Story
News Article
Facebook Status update
Plays/Skits - monologue
Morality Tales/Parable
Letter to editor
Personal Letter
Grocery List
How to
Graphic Novel
Sports broadcast
Ransom Note
Short Writing

Tuesday, 29 January 2013


I have started playing to my strengths when it comes to studying. I have realized I'm a very visual person, so I convert notes and important concepts into pictures to make sure I remember them. This is how I studied for my counselling quiz. (I was going to say it's tomorrow, but it's just over 12 hours from now today.)
lolcats explain the steps in Reality Therapy.

Sharing is a Seed

Friday, 25 January 2013

The Power of the Internet

Alec's page.
This week Dr. Alec Couros { @courosa } shared with our class using adobe connect. I'm a fair hand at skype, but simultaneous video, audio, chat, presentation is awesome, even if the audio crashes every few minutes.
Alec started with talking provides a place to unify your online presence with a bio blurb and links to all your online spaces. As someone with a growing digital footprint I think this is great. It's like an iBusinessCard. Give your page to someone and they have all the ways to connect with you! I've made one for myself and have started using as my default URL/website for any service that asks what mine is.

Alec presented the power of the internet in five categories and gave us some tips to get started.

Our tools keep changing. Smart phones have become the norm. (I guess this means I'm abnormal?) One just has to take a quick peak through her or his facebook feed to see that everyone is highly connected and sharing everything, seriously, EVERYTHING! Yet schools are a few tech generations behind and most force students to disconnect from their personal tools when at school. Alec said that the share button has changed everything and I agree. If we don't acknowledge this we do our students a disservice. We need to teach what TMI is if we don't want TMI.

The internet is open, well at least for now, ulp, and education is moving that way. If everyone can access information, why not make instruction available to everyone too! This the idea behind massive, open, online courses, henceforth MOOC. Places like coursera and edX offer many MOOCs to anyone interested. Alec is also involved with #ETMOOC, an education technology MOOC. I've joined and am enjoying it so far. I haven't been in sync with the synchronous sessions yet, but I've made use of the archives and have already made some valuable connections!

The internet is a inter-connected network of computers, but it's real power is the networks of people that inhabit it. Sites like tripadvisor, urbanspoon, and couchsurfing allow people to help people in new ways. My friend introduced my wife and I to couch surfing and we found it invaluable in our travels around Australia.
Alec also mentioned crowd sourcing - getting many people to work together on small parts of a large project.

These projects are incredibly fun! I'm currently involved in two:
Star Wars Uncut is getting fans to remake Empire Strikes Back 15 seconds at a time.

#ETMOOC lip dub of Queen's Don't Stop Me Now. 
Screen shot of my line - "I'm havin' a good time!"
These are great ways to collaborate and have so much potential to use with our students. My friend Miss L came up with some great ideas for using these with our students. Those got me thinking and I've come up with a few of my own:

  • A lip dub of Martin Luther King Jr's "I have a dream" speech as a History project.
  • A collaborative final project for pen pal or skype pal classes.

new possibilities
Alec talked to us about an internet phenomenon - memes. I love that memes are defined as idea viruses. Most people know them as funny, or almost funny, pictures with captions, but we can use even these with our students. They can use them to learn from and to show their learning. They can be social commentary, like the pepperspray cop meme.
Alec told us about know your meme, a site where the latest and greatest memes are tracked. This allows us to keep up with the pulse of the internet and bring current content into our classrooms.
I like memes and I like to make stuff, so I decided to participate in meme-dom. I've made a cheezburger site - Memes for Learning where I'll store the memes I've made and archive ones I think will be useful to educators. Maybe one day you'll see one of my memes features on know your meme?

The internet has enabled everyone to have a voice and to use their voice for change. We can stand up for what we believe in and have people take notice.
Alec talked about Martha Payne, a blogger who turned her commentary on terrible school cafeteria food into helping provide meals for schools in need. There are also websites, like kiva, that allow those with more to give a leg up to those with less.

where to start

  1. Embrace new communication tools (appropriately).
  2. Experiment with new forms of expression. Focus on how students can learn from them.
  3. Teach (and MODEL) Digital Citizenship
  4. Find hashtags about what I like and connect with people. Cybrary Man has a list to start us off.
  5. Make learning visible.

I'll end with a few good quotes Alec shared with us.
"It is no longer enough to do powerful work if no one sees it." Chris Lehmann
"Don't limit a child to your own learning, for he was born in another time." Tagore

Visualizing PLNs

I have spent a lot of time this week pondering connecting. It's been the overarching theme of the first weeks of my Internet for Educators course at BU. I joined #ETMOOC and the first topic was connected learning. I've heard speakers talk about it. I've had assignments to research it and visualize it.
I think connecting with one another is so important. Through the internet we have access to more information and more people than ever before. However, making good use of this depends the connections we make. There is no possible way I could scour the entire internet to find the best physics resources, but if I connect and share with communities of physics teachers, physicists and like minded individuals we cover more of what's out there and all get access to more and better resources. This is just one example of the benefits of being a connected learner.
Here is a map I made of the connections I've forged so far.
Click here for a closer look.
It's also important to remember that everyone has a personal learning network, even my students. This is what I imagine what my future students' learning networks will look like:
I've found thinking about the connections my students use to learn on their own a very productive exercise. If I can align how students learn in my class with how they learn on their own I hope to connect the classroom to their lives, to change school learning from a chore to a natural process.

Learning - A visual journey

Brain as PLEBrain as PLN

Learning, a set on Flickr.
I've just created a set on flickr where I will share my learning. I'm very visual and usually study by making pictures. Everything in here will be available to use through a creative commons licence.
I will put things I'm learning in here, things I've used to help students learn, and anything learning related.
I added a slideshow of the set on the pictures page for easy access.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

hello #etmooc

After much humming and hawing I've decided to join #etmooc, the education technology & media massive open online course. I'm still not really sure what it is all about, nor if I really have the time to add something else while I'm finishing my last semester of my Ed degree. However, I've heard a lot of great speakers in the last week talk about the participatory nature of the online learning space and I want to participate.
I look forward to learning new things, but even more to meeting, and collaborating with, great educators.
Here is a little bit

Monday, 21 January 2013

Digital Storytelling

Darren Kuropatwa { @dkuropatwa } and Andy McKiel {@amckiel } Technology Coordinators for my home division, St. James-Assiniboia, shared 6 easy pieces for digital storytelling at BU last week.
The great part of the PD was the hands on nature. We got to try everything presented, which makes using these resources in our classroom much easier. We learn by doing, so how can we teach without having done it?

1 - What did you contribute to the learning of others?
This is a great question to consider. I realize that once I am a teacher it will be my job to contribute to the learning of others, but I want to extend this everywhere and apply it now. I am making a conscious effort to help fellow students in any way I can and I intend to continue this with my colleagues, both locally and digitally.
Our activity for this piece was to pick three prompts from this google doc, pick a partner and select one question, and then record our conversation about it. We did this through the iTalk Recorder app for apple devices. We limited ourselves to 90 seconds and then emailed it directly In less than five minutes we had posted a simple podcast!
REMEMBER: None of us are as smart as all of us!
Here's our conversation. I don't do a lot of sound stuff on this blog, but I want to do more. It's a great differentiation tool. I am very dissatisfied with the quality of my laptop microphone, so I guess I'm in the market for an upgrade.
My favourite story from this section was about using podcasting in a French classroom. Students were told they had a short time to think of a memory or feeling connected to thunderstorms and then they'd have to record themselves talking about it for a podcast. Having an authentic audience outside peers, family and their teacher motivated the students: they asked for extra time to look up vocabulary, to write out what they wanted to say, and even to practice it to make sure they were pronouncing everything correctly. The students were coming up with these requests themselves! So often we simply assign students to do these things, when they could be asking us to do them.

2 - What do you see in your world today?
Drop boxers, this is worth checking out!
We split up into the same groups and were given five minutes to capture 5 seconds of beauty on video. I enjoyed this a lot. I took a video of a public cup collecting pop tabs to help a young boy get a wheel chair. When we were done we used to send our videos to Darren's drop box.
 He then imported them into iMovie and quickly made a video of all our beauty clips. I do a lot of movie editing, but I'd never seen iMovie before not having a Mac. It looks pretty good.
When it came to music, we were given a great resource for finding creative commons music - I love not having to worry about copyright violations and will definitely add jamendo to my list when I'm looking for music to use in videos and presentations.
This is the beauty we found:

Again I've been inspired and am collecting moments of beauty to make a video response.

3 - Who are you?
How do we explain ourselves, share ourselves? A life can be written down in volumes of volumes (Winston Churchill's biography anyone?), but our task was share ourselves in 4 slides attached to a minute of narration.
I chose to share how I decided to become a teacher. I drew my slides, but we were shown various ways to find creative commons licensed images for our slides, including and Appropriate crediting was also covered. Two ways that make attribution easy are the flickr cc attribution helper and open attribute.
I drew the pictures myself and put them into Powerpoint. I then exported the file as a pdf. To record the audio I used It was very easy. We then logged onto slideshare and uploaded our pdf and added our audio to it. We listened along in the editor and set the slide lengths to match our narration and, boom, an audio/visual story about me!
This will be a great way to learn about my students. It takes some of the nerves out of having to speak in front of their peers, but I still get to hear students talk about themselves.

We sort of ran out of time at this point, but these are the remaining pieces

4 - What did you learn today?
Students pair a picture and audio on the class blog to share what they are learning. Examples were students reading from picture books with a picture of them reading it.

5 - Scribe blogs - Blogs are used by students summarize their learning and write their own textbook!

6 - The learning culture is participatory
The internet is no longer just a giant bowl of jelly beans where we pick out our favourite flavours, but a jelly bean factory where we work together to make amazing flavours for everyone!

I loved this session. It flew by. I wish it could have been twice as long. Thanks, Andy and Darren!

Thursday, 17 January 2013

The Human Network

This week Dean Shareski { @shareski, Ideas and Thoughts, Community Manager for Discovery Education Canada, UofR Education Professor } talked to our class via skype.
He shared a lot of good ideas, like:
  • Teaching isn't rocket science, it's more complex and demanding!
  • We can never find THE solution/method for being the perfect teacher.
  • Describe not prescribe. Do over telling.
  • We are in the middle of a media explosion, akin to the printing press - we need to be the ones to figure out etiquette, appropriate use and teach it.
Dean had 3 Lessons for us as teachers entering a new and changing educational landscape.

1. Think Differently About Literacy
Normal distribution of Language Arts in class.
Literacy is more than reading and writing now. There are so many ways to communicate with others and so many ways messages come to us, that we need to teach students to how to be informed (read/listen/view)ers and effective (write/speak/represent)ers.
Storytelling is an important part of this. We have so many facts available to us that sharing lists of facts means nothing, we need to deliver them in context and with emotional impact.
This video is an excellent example of this. It shares a lot of facts, but is memorable and engaging because of the story. I've only watched it once, when Dean shared it, but I don't think I'll ever forget the penguin thief, especially if at some point in the future I'm building a nest of "hand"-picked rocks in the Antarctic to try and secure a mate.
Dean addressed the common complaint that internet content is primarily inane, profane or just plain bad. He thinks, and I agree, that creation is a continuum. Practice and training make us better. Most of us will start off terrible, but even making a lolcat is MAKING something!
The question is not "Why is this so bad?", but "How do I help my students get better?"

2. Teachers are everywhere!
The best thing about the internet isn't that content is digital, but that our learning culture is participatory. Most schools still think of the internet as a giant, unreliable and dangerous encyclopaedia. It definitely can be, but we need to teach kids to be resourceful and responsible.
Expertise works differently now. Credentials aren't what they used to be. Excellent tutorial videos for nearly everything are available on Youtube and quite often they are made by children still in elementary school. Dean shared a personal story where through the magic of twitter he connected with a class of teenagers who taught him how to play the guitar through a series of videos they made for him. I learned how to replace a leaky radiator hose online. I didn't to see if the video was posted by a qualified mechanic and my car runs fine!
He also mentioned how teachers continually harp on Wikipedia. Telling students not to go to Wikipedia,  but to go to people for primary resources. Wikipedia is made by people! It is a different kind of encyclopaedia, but it is an incredible work of shared knowledge. {aside: I love that there is a Wikipedia article on the reliability of Wikipedia.} Dean brought our attention to the commentary/discussion section of Wikipedia and the fact that it is completely transparent. We have no idea how what gets into a textbook, or other credible resource, gets in there. Should we have more trust for what an academic's peers reviewed or what our peers have created?
To sum it up, individual connection is still important, it just happens in new ways on the web and a person's small contributions can have a big impact.

3. You are What You Share.
The thought that really stuck with me is that great ideas seem obvious to the people who come up with them. We encounter ideas we think are amazing and beyond our abilities, but our ideas are the same to someone else. So, let's share! If everyone pools their unique ideas and talents together we accomplish more than the smartest individual can ever do alone.
This blog is one of the places I share. Here are a few more:

UPDATE: I forgot to mention that Dean is not as interested in curating information and resources as some, instead he curates people. He explained it like this:

Saturday, 12 January 2013

PLN 2.0

This last Thursday our Internet for Educators class was visited by John Evans. John is a technology consultant for Manitoba Education. He shared many useful websites, talked about the importance of a personal learning network (PLN), and gave us a quick tutorial on Maple, an upcoming sharing site for Manitoba educators.

John has been compiling sites for a long time. He mentioned wikis, diigo, pearltrees, scoop it and to name a few. I use diigo myself and love it. I can group and tag my links, share them, highlight parts of websites, and they go wherever I go! John shared his diigo group, Literacy with ICT, and I followed it. There is tonnes of stuff there and I get new additions emailed to me.
Another of the curation sites looked at was
It is aesthetically pleasing and I like how each site, or scoop, is a tile with title, thumbnail and text from the site. I just made a diigo bookmark of John's Professional Learning for Busy Educators. I'm used to diigo, but if has a chrome extension that lets me scoop within my browser the impressive display might just be enough to get me to switch.

The meat of John's presentation was PLNs: what they've been, what they are now and why they are important. John stressed that we need to shift from talking about professional development to professional learning, because development is incremental and finite (eventually you are fully developed), but learning is continuous and infinite. This idea really struck me and I plan to remember it throughout my career, especially if know-it-all thoughts start creeping into my mind.
Teachers have been islands in the past. Working alone with only their training and whatever books they could acquire to look to. In multi-class schools colleagues became an added resource to improve teaching practice. Now a typical teacher's learning network looks something like this:
The internet, especially web 2.0 with its focus on collaboration, has dramatically expanded the professional learning opportunities available to teachers. There are so many options available and they are two-way (sometimes n-way), 24/7, at my pace, based on my interests, in real-time or asynchronous.
Conferences and seminars used to only be available locally, but skype, twitter, live streaming and the like have removed the distance barriers and allows world-wide learning. I started on twitter last year for my ICT course and have found in to be a highly valuable resource for learning from and connecting with people. I blog, use diigo, share with dropbox and google drive. However, there is no set things you need to be doing, or sites you have to join, to have a PLN. John stressed that a PLN is not so much a thing, but a state of mind. A PLN starts, and continues to grow, with a commitment to learning and sharing.

With so much available to us it can be overwhelming thinking of where to start, but John gave us a leg up in that too. He signed up our whole class for the beta version of Maple. It's going to be a hub for sharing resources and ideas, and building relationships with fellow teachers in Manitoba. We each have a library of resources we share and can join groups, make events and follow others. It looks like a great addition to my growing PLN.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013


This blog is again going to be the home of course work. I started my Internet for Educators class at BU today and I am pumped. (To all those starting a blog for this course, "Hello and welcome! I hope you enjoy it.")
We had some introductory assignments, a.k.a. tech tasks, and I was happy that I'd already fulfilled most of them: I have a blog, twitter account and RSS reader. However, I have yet to give this blog a page sharing biographical information, so that's what I've been doing tonight.

Concerning Me is my bio, or about me, page and it is brand new. It doesn't go into great detail, but shares some information I find pertinent and gives a brief explanation of why this blog exists.
I made a photomosaic for the page. The over photo is one of my favourite pictures of me of all time and the mini-photos are all the pics of myself I could find on my laptop's hard drive. It was made on, but there will be more to come on that later.

Construction has finally finished on Links! I wanted something visual and fancy for this page, so I've embedded a symbaloo webmix I made of sites I think are useful to educators and that I also like. I'm not the biggest fan of having to scroll the embedded webmix, but that seems to be the best symbaloo is offering at the moment. 
Sites I post about will be added to this page, so, if I talk about something cool that you end up forgetting, this page will hopefully be an easy way to find it again.