Category Archives: reflection

Exploring Moocs at CyberSummit15

Last week I had the opportunity to attend and present at the  Cyber Summit 2105  conference.  I was thrilled to be partnered with Jonathan Schaeffer, a Distinguished University Professor of Computing Science and currently the Dean of the Faculty of Science, at the University of Alberta for the presentation topic:  Are MOOCs Past Their Peaks?

I began the session by sharing the 2 year journey of  OSSEMOOC,  a learning community supported by OSAPAC which I co-lead with Donna Miller Fry. (@fryed)

Jonathan shared his perspective and insights on the MOOC movement, noting that  while it is only a few years old, it has already had a tremendous impact on teaching and learning. Although some of the original hype surrounding MOOCs has not been realized, the reality is that they are here for good and are influencing institutional thinking.

In reflection, although the perspectives we each  presented represented significantly different contexts,  some very interesting commonalities emerged.  In summary:

  • teaching is all about meeting the students needs (not limited to the teacher’s needs or comfort zone)
  • MOOCs do, and will continue to play a role in moving learning forward
  • MOOC’s are playing a disruptive role along with other technologies
  • Educators own the responsibility to keep exploring new possibilities (including with technology) to achieve the best possible learning experiences for students.
  • There is an important need for “mini moocs” that needs to be recognized and acted on
  • Building a quality brand matters

My slides for the OSSEMOOC portion of the presentation:

Many thanks to those who attended our session.

~Mark

 

CATC Camp – digging in deeper

Once again our annual summer computer camp,  CATC By the Water,  was a great learning experience. You can check out some of the learning and innovating thinking at: CATC Camp learning and sharing or CATC innovators.

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One of my favourite conversations this year happened when I took the time to sit down with George Couros and Donna Fry to  revisit a conversation from a year ago, where we debated why educators look to one well known lead or theory to follow rather than leveraging the room – the educators who are learning, changing, innovating and sharing publicly.  After all,  the smartest person in the room, is the room!

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                 Personal photo

Digging deeper into the conversation this year we talked about another angle that I believe is important in this discussion.  Perhaps the most important element is not if fact “the one” vs “the room”,  but each of us recognizing which one of these causes the personal disruption needed to learn, change, grow and share.  After all, we each have a responsibility for owning our professional learning journey. Perhaps a good term for this would be “differentiated disruption“.

Perspective2A

                 Personal photo

Where do you stand: the one, or the room?  What does it take to shake up or clarify your  practice?

~Mark

 

We Dared to Dream

Five years ago, we dared to dream – created our first teacher support role dedicated to focusing on in servicing and supporting elementary teachers to use educational technology in the most effective ways.   It seemed like the right approach, at the right time to forge a new path forward, create interest, synergy, and impact the future.  Susan Watt was the successful candidate for the position – and the journey began!

palmtrees

Standing now in 2015, and looking back,  what a journey it has been.  A new path was definitely forged.  I look back fondly on all of the annual “system tours” as they were affectionately known – professional learning for staff at each school — using a dual boot Mac, what can I do with an iPad, we have wifi hotspots – now what, wifi in the classroom, GAFE, chromebooks, dropbox and more.   Another important project was migrating our acceptable use procedure (AUP) to the responsible use procedure (RUP) where our initial thinking about staff as digital citizenship role models and use of social media for positive purposes was captured.  I could of course, list many more highlights, but you have the idea of system impact.

SWatt

In her retirement speech, Susan challenged her colleagues:  “ So, I have some advice for our retiree supporters tonight: go off script, listen and respond to your students’ spontaneous questions and observations. Understand that every moment is teachable. Don’t settle for the status quo. If it doesn’t feel good for kids, challenge it. If it’s being done a certain way just because it’s always been done that way – question that rationale. Follow your heart and intuition.  Explore new options. Take a risk. Embrace change.

Susan, it has been a privilege to work with you.  Thank you for your creativity, determination, enthusiasm, ability to see a big picture, having a huge positive impact, and, perhaps most of all,  daring to dream.

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I look forward to staying connected and following along your life journey via your  new blog:  Watts Up Next. Thank YOU!

~Mark

Tribute to Marilyn Allen

Today is one of those markers in time.  For the last 7 and a half years, I have had the pleasure of working with and reporting to Marilyn Allen,  Executive Superintendent of Business and Financial Services at the WRDSB.  As Marilyn winds up her final day and prepares for stepping into retirement, it seems appropriate to share a few comments.

baseball hat

Over the years, there have been many hats worn: mentor, coach, cheer leader, planner, organizer, advisor, team builder, strategist, problem solver and friend.  All hats were worn with purpose, integrity and thoughtfulness.

Mark&Marilyn

                    The #selfie

I have appreciated the qualities you emphasized in our going work: up front and open conversations no matter what the challenge or topic, pro-activeness, no surprises and clear language.  On a personal note, I loved that no matter what was going on, you ended every meeting with a resounding “go forth and do your best work“.

ducks in a row

Marilyn, you have been the champion of “awesome” and “keeping our ducks in a row“.  Thanks for being  a great mentor, open to new ideas and believing in me!!!

You have much to celebrate.  I wish you a long, happy and healthy retirement!

~Mark

 

uLead: Engagement Take 2

In the uLead 2015 Monday afternoon keynote,  Andy Hargreaves spent some time exploring the idea of student engagement. He closed by asking us to do some deep thinking about the notion of engagement.   What does it mean in our K-12 context?  I felt compelled to comment on the challenge and explore this for myself.

stop the press

This is my second go at writing this blog post.  Wait!  Maybe I am engaged with this task.  Aha!!!  Here we go with a clean slate, or whatever you call that in bloggers land – a clean screen or a clean digital writing space perhaps?

I am thinking that perhaps instead of getting stuck on some formal or historic definition of engagement, I am simply going to consider it in this learning context as being “in the active learning & participating  zone”.  My way of considering this will be to consider a number of factors as they relate to the person I know best — me.

I know I can be engaged when alone or with others.  A good example for me is music. I might be practicing a new piece of solo music or perhaps rehearsing with the members of my quintet.  I should be totally engaged during a performance situation.  Perhaps focus vs distractedness is an element of this too.  Level of readiness or willingness also plays into this.

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I know that I can be engaged with or without technology. For those of you that know me, I’ll bet the “yah right” thoughts are  flowing through your mind.  So yes, there a lots of ways I engage with and through technology: learning something new, solving a problem, collaborating, reading, discussing, searching, researching … arranging a piece of music, writing a blog post 🙂 …  and on the list goes.  It might be the technology itself – learning to use a GoPro camera or a Myo wrist band, or the technology might simply be the means to get to another process such as writing, composing, arranging or creating.

MYO

I enjoy a great conversation too: something new, something deep or maybe just a new context.  I like variety – these conversations could happen F2F, on a walk, over the phone, or online.

I know the potential level of participation and/or newness plays a role.  I am sure we can all think of a scenario or two when you simply want to opt out or not be there … the KMN situations.

Timing is a factor for me.  I am in tune with my high and low  energy  times. I might be more or less engaged depending on my energy level.  Balance is in the mix too.  I know when I need my introvert time – recharge time. In some ways this is a powerful force within me – a must have.  I know that I will not engage well in an extroverted situation when I am in introvert recharge mode.  Simple:  overruled,  not happening.

As I think through this, I am realizing what engagement isn’t. I don’t think engagement is a one size fits all “thing”. There is no magic formula that applies to all people in all situations.

cookiecutters

So,  put those big paint brushes and cookie cutter ideas away.  There are no everyone should  do this, stop that, use this, don’t use this etc. solutions.  Engagement is a complicated recipe that has many variables.

Perhaps the secret is building our skills as learning chefs by being aware of the ingredients and knowing how to create that perfect recipe with the ingredients on hand.

Develop skills in reading people as individuals and groups, consider readiness and trust in trying something new, sense the energy level, learn to maximize participation, ask great questions, poke at what comes next, what if, I wonder … know your learners.

Clearly,  this is a complex topic. I know I have much more to learn about this topic.  Help me learn by sharing a comment or insight here,  send me a link to your blog post about this or consider connecting on social media.  Whatever you do, on your own terms:

engage

~Mark