Tag Archives: TEL

Learning with Spheros

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I intended to share this blog post much sooner than today, but life has been a little crazy.

 

On a recent (March)  visit to Ryerson P.S. I had an opportunity to visit the grade 1 classroom of teacher Jenni van Rees.  The excitement in the room was obvious as it was coding day!  Learning goals for the session were clearly laid out and reviewed with the students.

coding_chart

Students were clearly comfortable using both iPads and Chromebooks as they worked in groups of 2 or 3 for collaborative learning and problem solving.

CB&S

 

 

Tickle

 

 

 

 

The students really did work collaboratively, and it was great to see their joy in planning, testing, reviewing results and determining next steps.

Fast foward to April where I had an opportunity to attend a Sphero Challenge event organized by teachers Scott Dickie and Chad Lloyd from Westmount P. S. 

I arrived early to see the first of 4 sphero tracks being marked out in the gym. The remaining tracks were laid down as teams from a variety of schools began to arrive.

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As was evidenced in Jenni’s  classroom, the energy and excitement was in abundance.  Teams were eager to embrace the challenge: planning, measuring, calculating, comparing, testing, observing, collaborating, communicating, iterating … “all in” problem solving for sure. 

I hope this highlights video give you a good sense of the  Sphero Challenge event.

I am already looking forward to the next one!

~Mark
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Shifting Perspectives on Libraries

I stopped at the Starbucks at King & University this morning on the way to see  Carlo Fusco  at Waterloo CI to consult regarding his library project.  As I entered, I happened to notice the striking view change that (literally) just one step made.

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One step, a small step, can strikingly change your perspective.  Have a listen to Carlo’s perspective on library change.

~Mark

Let Them Choose

During my ongoing curation of articles about learning, digital tools and social media, I recently came across this article exploring perspectives on  social media in the lecture theatres.  Although the article was primarily examining post secondary perspectives, I would argue the same discussions are relevant in K12. The discussion was centred around various viewpoints on whether or not students:

  • be allowed (by profs) to bring technology to class
  • are distracted by having access to social media  and
  • experience benefits?

Two interviewees interviewed commented that “… because the students are most likely taking notes. Many don’t use pen and paper, and rely on their devices. She says students are old enough to decide if they are to learn or not.” andMy view is they are old enough to choose and multitask (and choose to fail too),“. Meanwhile, others choose to dictate “no access”.

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Now, if I put a personal perspective on this and let you observe my learning mode,  this is what you would see. Typically I use 2 devices … taking notes on my iPad using notability – not just for notes – adding audio recording, and insert photos for context for a more complete package.  On the second device I organize lists, todos, ideas and share via social media, typically Twitter but this could easily be a Facebook group, G+ community, LinkedIn or open Google doc. I reiterate – this is MY style. This is how I learn best. Paper and pen doesn’t work for me.

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Why not let students choose what works best for them – student voice. To me,  letting students choose what tools they use and how they organize shows a strength based approach to student learning. What benefit is there in forcing students to function in a way that may not be self directed and self optimized?

Weigh in:  Where do you stand?

~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!

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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

Publishing Makes a Difference

I recently had an opportunity to enjoy a site visit to John Mahood PS,  a WRDSB  K-5 school to see a their technology use in action.

Under the leadership of principal Tracy Tait, the staff has been working hard over the last 3 years to explore new effective ways to utilize technology to enable student learning in new ways, change and improve practice and share their successes.

The traditional lab at the school has been dismantled and the desktops have been redistributed throughout the school.  The mobile technology (iPads and Chromebooks) within the school has been allocated so that each classroom has a minimum of 6 to 8 devices to share among the students.  The lab space is now used as a “tech lounge” – more of a flexible creative work space.

In a site walk through, Tracy commented that she expects staff to integrate mobile technology into the learning environment as part of their daily practice.  I enjoyed observing a couple of classes during silent reading time and seeing that student had a choice in both what they read and HOW they read it: paper based, via iPads or Chromebooks. Talk about a great example of student voice and choice!

The school focus on choice for students is making a noticeable difference.  Several staff commented about technology options providing choice and independence for students.  In some cases, the use of technology created benefits in socialization between students both in and out of class.  In conversation, it was noted that technology use  improves the focus on learning which in turn impacts behaviour in a positive way. In some cases, the use of technology removes frustration when paper and pencil based tasks create an obstacle for students.  The result is increased  participation through differentiated approaches.

This video captures some of the observations and thinking of students and staff at the school.

[youtube http://youtu.be/eEDd5oOwI4k]

Ethan’s Story

Kyle’s Story

Samuel’s Story

Note: The video and story presentations are published with permission.

~Mark

Social Media as a Writing Tool

The other day I happened to catch a segment of The Current CBC broadcast as I was driving between school appointments. The topic was big data based the book Dataclysm, which certainly captivated my interest for a variety of reasons.

Dataclysm book cover

              Image from Amazon.com

I happened to tune in just at the moment the discussion was focused on analyzing data written in social media, Twitter in this case.   While many view social media communications as somewhat inane,  an in depth analysis reveals some interesting facts.

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  • writing tends to be more sophisticated
  • word length is 20% longer
  • lexical density ,  the proportion  of meaning carrying words, is  higher than in many other forms of writing (email, magazines etc.  – perhaps opposite to what you would think)
  • with a limitation on the number of characters per message or post, 140 in this case,  people learn to improve word choices
  • in turn,  this improves editing skills

In the interview,  Christian commented that this type of analysis can and has been repeated.   This is not an isolated ‘one time’ look at this area.

When one considers the writing benefits summarized here,  I believe there is a strong case to incorporate  the social media writing medium in the school system.   Of course there are natural connections to digital citizenship, engagement, real world audiences etc.

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As a classroom educator,  if you are already doing this, keep going!  If not,  consider giving it a try with an age appropriate system, a collaborative document with simulated limits  or even  offline.

Related Resources

Listen to the  CBC Podcast  with Christian Rudder on Dataclysm

Book:  Dataclysm  by Christian Rudder

Have a comment?   Please share.

~Mark

Meet the Teacher Night Tech Slam

At this point in my life I find myself with one university graduate and one in first year and on the way.  It has certainly been a long time since I attended an elementary school meet the teacher night.

In a  recent summer conversation with WRDSB teacher  Alison Bullock,  my interest in the parent  aspect of  school year startup was rekindled.  Alison was enthusiastically sharing about her plans to provide parents attending with a fast paced “tech slam” – a quick tour through many of the different online services students would be using in their learning journey with her.  I approached Alison about attending meet the teacher night,  and I was thrilled that she readily agreed.

On parent night evening, I arrived at portable 4 to find an energized room of parents and students.  Students were eagerly leading parents to their seating area.

QRdesk

On the top of each desk was a  QR Code  that linked to a personalized welcome video for each parent.  Students were visibly excited to show their parent(s) how to access the video and have them watch it.

Now it was time for the tech slam.

Wow – actioned packed, filled with key learning statements and clearly highlighted  the connected learner robust technology enabled approach to be used in the classroom.

Casual conversation with parents afterwords showed excitement and interest  about the  approach to learning their child would participate in.

If I had elementary school aged children,  this is the type of classroom learning experience I would want them to have.

Related Resources:

Follow Alison’s class on Twitter: ESTP4.

~Mark