What’s cooking?

An interview with Susan Carter Morgan.

What you can do when there is not a computing device or clarinet in your hand. see page 16

I am thrilled to be part of the new Powerful Learning Practice (PLP) Connected Coaches project.

~ Mark

A Surprise Conversation

You never know when an interesting social media conversation will break out.

Last Sunday, our woodwind quintet, the Venturi Winds, performed a concert at the Wellington County Museum & Archives building. Following the program we decided to go out for a light dinner along with a few family members who attended the event.

Seated at the table and previewing menus, the unsuspecting conversation started. One person, who operates their own business, begins to tell the story of needing to terminate an employee for continually spending company time on their personal cell phone. They turn to me and ask “What you you do in the schools? Do you allow cell phones in the classroom?”

I provide some background on our digital citizenship program indicating that it is important to:

  • recognize that value of mobile devices to support certain aspects of curriculum delivery
  • teach appropriate, ethical and safe use for a particular situation
  • and teach self regulation

Many of our schools have designated some ‘cell phone safe’ zones where students may use their phones. Classroom use is generally at the discretion of the teacher. Everyone could see the value in our approach, and that providing some real world context to these experiences was of value.

The conversation deepens. “What about laptops? What about Facebook? (etc.)? Are these allowed in the classroom? These are distractions.”

I provide some additional information about our program and approach. True enough, these could be distractions, but mobile technology and social media tools provide:

  • ways to interact with the world in real time
  • access to information
  • collaboration opportunities
  • authentic audience opportunities and experiences to students

I went on to explain the use of blogs, wikis, ning, Google docs, Facebook etc. and how the use of these tools can support important curriculum goals such as non fiction writing (e.g. journals, poetry, peer review of projects …). The conversation went on to talk about the role of the teacher shifting from the ‘sage on the stage’ to the learning coach who facilitates inquiry and project based learning.

All in all, a great conversation that stretched out over most of the meal time.  The conversation did eventually drift to other topics. Finally  a question came up about time zones and daylight savings time.

My solution: “If you had a smart phone, you could look that up right now.” – and I did. What a great segue to the power of access to information via mobile devices. Our time together concluded with a good laugh from the group.

~ Mark


A Visit to @ecmackenzie’s classroom

One of the highlights of this week was my visit to @ecmackenzie ‘s classroom. Students in Ms. MacKenzie’s class has been working on producing book trailer videos over the last few weeks. The new twist in this year’s project is that students are sharing their video via a Facebook group. With the group structure, students can enjoy and peer comment and receive teacher feedback.

The Facebook group was created by Ms. MacKenzie. She sent a group invite to herself to establish the first member of the group. Once this was done, students were invited to search for the group and request access. Using this methodology, suitable professional boundaries are maintained with regard to the teacher/student online environment.

As an honourary member of their Facebook group, I have enjoyed watching the videos as the students completed their projects and posted their work. I was impressed by a number of aspects of this project.

  • Dialogue and comments within the group showed a solid level of respect among the participants
  • It was clear that there had been discussions about Digital Citizenship
  • Based on viewing the movie trailers, students had received excellent instruction regarding use of copyright free images and source siting
  • I was very impressed by the level of creativity demonstrated in the student projects
  • There is potential to share work to parents using this model

I really enjoyed meeting the students face to face after watching their work. Following the video viewing session, I talked to the students about some of our key ITS initiatives to support learning – our dual boot Macintosh environment, wireless hotspots with bring your own device options, and social media and collaboration tools available.

I appreciated the student feedback regarding our progress on these initiatives. Their comments included:

  • Facebook access was very valuable for sharing and collaborating (class project, homework, receiving school information)
  • From their view, Facebook provides a one stop shopping approach to obtaining school related information
  • Access to web based resources & internet searching is a critical part of researching – wifi access allows more effective use of class time
  • Facebook is a familiar tool. Using it eliminates the need to use (and learn) extra tools that may not be required
  • Bring your own device wifi takes advantage of personal technology that contain one’s collection of information and frees up school computing resources for others to use
  • Expansion of wireless access for greater classroom coverage would be a significant advantage

The students also raised the issue to electronic textbooks. Clearly, they see a shift to e-books as a good thing. Key discussion ideas identified were:

  • easy portability (many books on a single device)
  • makes it easy to have all your resources with you (ebooks, internet access, bookmarks etc.)
  • no need for ebook to be more expense, business models should make this an affordable transition

Summary: an excellent teacher + motivated and respectful class + innovative project = first rate educational experience

Thank you for the opportunity to participate in your project and visit your classroom.

~ Mark

Twitter at the Board Table

Tonight I had the wonderful opportunity to participate in a presentation to the WRDSB Trustees. The focus of the presentation was to provide in-servicing regarding the many diverse program opportunities and supports for secondary school students. Main goals included a demonstration of using social media tools in a classroom context and to showcase work from our Futures Forum Project.

@kimkeena provided a nice over view of many of our secondary program offerings, with a focus on eLearning and Futures Forum opportunities.

My role was to provide an explanation of Twitter in less than 5 minutes, then introduce a brief activity. Click here to view the slide deck of my Twitter explanation effort. Students were seated a various tables with our Trustees. After sharing their thoughts describing how learning in our Futures Forum classes was different from their experience in traditional classrooms, their thoughts were shared via Twitter using the hashtag #wrdsbtss.  I demonstrated a live Twitter feed using Twitterfall to capture and display tweets from the group.

Next, @kempscott demonstrated a Google Docs collaborative writing example. The evening closed with a student speaking about his experience in one of our alternative learning programs.

All in all, a great evening and wonderful opportunity to share our student learning experiences with our Trustees.

~ Mark

Teaching the Facebook Generation

I came across this post today via Twitter from @pmcash.

The article covers the use of social media tools with in Australian schools. Based on the article, the general approach seems to be cautious about allowing access. Concerns raised include safety, teacher awareness of how to use the tools and online relationships between teachers and students.

In my Board (WRDSB), we have been making great strides in moving forward with the use of social media tools. Facebook and Twitter (and other tools too) are open for use to support curriculum delivery. These tools offer incredible opportunities to connect, collaborate and access real world information and events in real time. Teachers are finding many exciting uses for these technologies within the classroom.

Currently, teachers are using Facebook for:

  • fan pages to distribute classroom resources to students (& parents), raise awareness of issues etc.
  • study and enrichment groups
  • online writing (poetry, character analysis, debates/discussion re current events etc.)
  • opportunities to share student work (within groups)
  • online galleries (artwork, student created music and videos etc.)
  • teacher feedback and peer review
  • ‘ask a question’ homework groups
  • casual writing for learning second languages
  • teaching digital citizenship in a real world context

It is critical that staff and students understand the importance of having their privacy and security settings set up appropriately. This must be part of the education process.

In terms of staff/student relationships in this environment, it is business as usual in many respects. Any online relationship must follow the same professional conduct as any situation whether it is in the classroom, on the playground, on a school trip or in an extra curricular situation. Relationships must be kept at the professional level. No one should put themselves in a risky situation.

These social media tools are powerful — we need to leverage their power to support curricular delivery, while educating staff/students about appropriate use and maintaining the required professionalism within these environments.

~ Mark

Up next: Demonstrating Twitter to our Trustee group on March 7th.