Monday, November 19, 2007

Personal Learning Network

Crossposted at learnconnect

I have been thinking a lot lately about the people who have influenced me in my learning and those who play a part in my learning now. It has been an interesting journey.

I taught for 18 years at a private school in Montreal where I was the computer teacher. I am grateful to my colleagues there and to the environment that was fostered by the administration. We talked education frequently and they became a part of my learning and growth. We debated whole language, grappled with what it truly meant, planned and implemented many projects together and always questioned our practices and approaches. However, as the only computer teacher in the school, there were areas of what I wanted to know for which my colleagues could not be my mentors. I had to go elsewhere. There were books and certainly Seymour Papert was a huge influence in my becoming a more constructivist educator. But I did not have contact with him directly except on a rare occasion when I heard him speak at a conference.

I often think of Frank Greene, a professor at McGill who encouraged and nourished me. He spoke of walking the floor at a conference - that the contacts and conversations were as important as listening to the speakers. So true.

As I attended and spoke at conferences, I met people from outside my city and, through e-mail was able to start expanding my circle of mentors. I learned that people, even those on the conference circuit, are approachable and are truly happy to share what they know. People in the education business seem to want to share, to see the changes they are hoping for multiply.

When I left teaching and started my current job, my new colleagues were as collaborative and supportive as those whom I had left. Our conversations have forced me to think and rethink about my beliefs and to read and reflect about what I would like to see in education. As we do not meet often face to face, our conversations were often through e-mails and my personal learning network expanded.

However, it has been through the advent of web 2.0 that I have been able to have access to the people in my field on a regular basis and my own growth has been exponential as a result. I regularly read blogs (though I have learned to limit the number), listen to some podcasts and through online communities have come to know people as friends and collaborators whom I have never met face to face. I have many people I can call on to answer my questions, reflect back my thinking and to expose me to their explorations and ideas. Now I can walk the floors virtually and carry on conversations or just listen in on them to nudge my thoughts and point me to articles, new applications and exemplary student work. It has been an exciting time.

I know that teachers have limited time, but I also know that we want our students to be lifelong learners. I feel we have to model this and continue to learn ourselves.

So here are my questions
Who have been your mentors?
Who is part of your personal learning network (face to face or virtual)
How can you use the people in this group to expand your knowledge, share your ideas or create community?
Choose one new thing to learn this week.
Where are you going to go to learn it (real world or virtual?)
Who can help you?

Don’t keep the answers to yourself. Share them by commenting on this entry.


Thursday, November 01, 2007

Travel Through Space and Time

Sylvia Tolisano, in her K12 Online Conference presentation, described an interesting way to open up the world to the students in her school. Two teachers were funded to go to China and communicated with the school along the way. She tells the story of this experience and talks about the importance of story. The school started a global studies curriculum with the objective of introducing the students to a new country in each of their years in the school.
Travel - 2 Faculty travelled for two weeks and collected artifacts and data
Connections - students connected with the travelling faculty through José the Bear as well as through blogs and podcasts etc.
Interdisciplinary Studies - units designed to teach conceptual and procedural information to bring all subjects together.
The teachers tried to make a connection for the students. Based on the book "Letters from Felix" they brought along José the Bear. He spent a few days in each class before going away. Each grade participated in different ways. How could they make the experience almost synchronous for the students so they would feel they were travelling along? They recorded sound-seeing tours, videos etc. Blogs, comments - gave students a lot to learn and to connect with. A virtual connection was made through the use of technology. A blog on which videos, audio files and text were shared. Images went to Flickr and the slide shows were shared. Skype was used for some video-conferencing. You can learn more about the global studies program here.

I think it was great that the students learned about another country. How much better it would be to contact people in the country and learn from children their age. I also found some of the activities rather directive. Nice to be a teacher there - with travel opportunities! However, global understanding will happen more when we reach out and learn from each other.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Holding a Mirror to our Professional Practice

Holding a Mirror to our Professional Practice the K12 Online Conference keynote by Derek Wenmoth is a thought-provoking presentation. He says that "mirrors provide a reflection of ourselves" and that we need to provide a reflection of the way we behave.

He talks about how we need to change our practice - and need to reflect - but we need enough teachers to do this to get change. It is only through reflecting that we can see if our espoused theory is actually being put into practice. In New Zealand they began a cluster-based PD program. They had money for PD activities and schools had apply in clusters. Teachers tried to get ICT into their program -
questions: What is effective integration of technology
How can we ensure it has educational value?
What is educational value?
People picked up many new technology uses - but is it making a difference?
We need to reflect to see if what we are intending to happen is happening and is it working.
He and his colleagues have developed a tool to assess teaching and learning with ICT in classrooms and results are reported as a map.
He talks about examining why you are introducing tools - what are the educational intentions and then reflecting on whether or not those educational intentions are being met. He says that reflection requires time, challenge and mentors for it to be truly helpful. Then it is important that teachers share what they have discovered. New Zealand's e-fellows - teachers released for close to a year to reflect on their practice, to share with the other e-fellows and thus expand on their thinking allows them to grow and then go back to their schools and help others grow. The teachers involved talked about how important the interacting with other teachers was for them. "The collaboration with others that really has broadened my depth of knowledge and taken me out of my comfort zone." one of the teachers said. This reinforces the idea that learning is social. We need to transfer that idea to the classroom.

They talked about how using ICT in the classroom and how their pedagogy changed - that the classroom was more collaborative. Sharing ideas is valuable for reflection on practice. Technology allows for this kind of sharing.

He asks
What are the mirrors you are holding to your professional practice?
I have started to blog - though sporadically. I am getting braver and am publicizing when I post. I keep saying to teachers - that we need to model risk-taking and this has definitely taken me out of my comfort zone.

Who are the mentors that you relate to?
I have to say that my online community is growing, especially through being part of Webcast Academy. I can twitter questions, write in my blog and share it, skype my professional colleagues. I am fortunate to be part of an organization with people who want to share and reflect.

What is the professional reading that you do?
I read a number of blogs - though inconsistently. I appreciate recommendations from my online community and have been directed to some powerful posts. I have been "reading" the K12 Online conference - slowly but attentively.

What communities of practice do you belong to (online or f2f)

Where do you record your ideas and reflections - blog?

What RSS feeds do you subscribe to and with whom do discuss them?

When did you last visit another classroom?

When did you last present a workshop (to a staff meeting or conference) expose your practice

I won't answer all the questions here - but will come back to them for myself. How can we inspire teachers to reflect on their practice and see themselves as lifelong learners?

Pushing the Envelope or How to Integrate Web 2.0 Tools on a Shoestring

I am listening to Lisa Durff's presentation: Pushing the Envelope or How to Integrate Web 2.0 Tools on a Shoestring and I am struck by how she just plunged into trying things out with her students. She is a self-professed newbie to web 2.0, but, although she says she is a baby, she has experimented fearlessly and involved her students immediately. She has created a large personal learning network. As she says "knowledge is collective" The larger her network, the more she can know. I am so impressed with what she has done with her students, from video conferencing to blogs, from instant messaging to wikis, RSS to podcasting and so much more. She has tried all kinds of free tools with her students. She is really a great role model for other teachers who may be afraid to get involved. Bravo!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Assessment & Evaluation: Konrad Glogowski

It's hard to follow all these sessions and still work. That is the beauty of the K12 Online Conference. I can stay at this conference for many weeks or even months and learn at my pace. I'm sitting and listening / watching Konrad Glogowski's presentation on Assessment and Evaluation in an Age of Networked Learning. He talks about how traditional assessment blogs the flow of learning by stopping conversations - implying the end of the task. "grades tend to divide learning into chunks that once completed seem unrelated in the minds of students to other tasks...." In blogging classrooms, it is more about a continuation of learning with conversation - assessment should encourage further engagement. He discusses Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's notion of flow - when a person is fully immersed in what s/he is doing.

In a blogging classroom, Glogowski focuses on 3 of the characteristics of Flow - Goals are Clear, Feedback is Immediate, A Balance between Opportunity and Capacity. Goals all along the way should be clear. Feedback from others and self should be continuous. Complexity will keep people involved. Glogowski talks about the need to set goals, both longterm and short term (how to get to the long term goals). Blogging is a journey. not about finishing an assignment but about engaging with ideas. to produce a body of work

How to grow a blog.
Top - name long term goals for their blog - for their own success in grade 8
What do I want to accomplish?
What do I want my blog to represent at the end of the year

Bottom - habitat
Think about steps they need to take to create the right environment for their blog
How do I sustain?
What resources do I need to tap into to nurture myself as a thinker and writer.
What will make my blog grow?
Predict commitment and habits necessary to reach goals

This helps long term planning but also the little steps to take that will get them their.
He shared some good examples of how students wrote about their goals, habits and habitat they will need to find to help them reach these goals.
How the community they grow around them will support them? How will they support others? This is a social environment.

Feedback - in blogging classroom, feedback is often immediate via comments.
He also gives an example of a feedback sheet for "How to Grow a Blog" The feedback is anecdotal - with simple images to indicate progress. Comments is on progress (work already done) and work that needs to be done. He uses 21 Classes as his blogging platform. Comments by peers and teachers are separate. He feels this feature encourages conversation.

Constant challenge is needed to create flow provided the increase in complexity is not too big a leap so as to produce anxiety. Glogowski feels that stopping for self assessment helps the students stay in flow - to visualize their progress, their level of engagement and sense of ownership. Promotes reflection and conversation between teacher and student, provides opportunities to examine the quality of what has been done and the quality of what will be done.
- skills and challenges are in balance.
Self assessment leads to thought about all aspects of blogging. Who are they as bloggers? Where are they on their journey towards their goals?
Teachers need to ensure that students have ownership for their work.
I recommend listening to Glogowski's presentation. It may not have the pizazz of some of the others, but it is full of things to think about, to reflect on and to challenge. And as Glogowski suggests that it is conversations that guide and empower, we as educators should engage in conversations to support and develop our own learning.
If you want to read more - go to Glogowsi's blog.

Good How Tos

I have been watching Sharon Betts' presentation on Google Tools. She gives a good step-by-step demonstration on how to use Google Notebook, moving the information to Google docs and then creating a presentation- first with Google Docs' presentation tool and then through Page Creator. The latter can be found in the Google Lab section: tools still in testing stages. It is an easy way to create web pages. I have played with it a bit - found that saving took forever. I have some concerns about the ease with which you can copy and paste from notebook to doc - will this encourage plagiarism?

One suggestion I found interesting was the idea of using a Google group for discussion and reflection.

You can find out more at Sharon Betts' wiki

Google Tools are great for collaborative projects. I use them frequently when working on presentations with colleagues. I have yet to try them with students.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Classroom 2.0 Clarence Fisher

Classroom 2.0 -

Here are the high points.
Clarence Fisher lives in a small, isolated town: Snow Lake, Manitoba but his students have access to the world. Classroom 2.0 is about change - not about the tools. He talks about changing the possibilities in classrooms. Pedagogy comes first - we have to change the way we teach. We can't just teach our kids to memorize. Tools that promote collaboration can help us change how we teach. Collaboration can happen within our school and around the world. He also talks about how important it is to foster good thinking in our students - so that they can be creative workers, responsible citizens. Finally there is the curriculum.

Clarence doesn't just talk. He tells a visual story.

He spoke about the tools he uses in his classroom - blogging, rss, Flickr, Voice Thread. A classroom that is concerned about information and relationships relies on Internet based tools. His classroom is about relationships. Change has to happen regarding power. They are not just consuming information , but also creating information. It gives them another perspective. Day 1 - relationships are important. That sets the tone. The classroom isn't about "me" but about "us" - what we can do together, learn together - and not just in the classroom.

The most important thing that has to change is society's view of education. They think they have an idea of what should happen in classrooms. That has to change. We have to redefine what we think should happen in classrooms. We should think of the classroom as a studio. It should be a place where lots of different things go on. Not everyone is doing the same thing. It may be a bit noisier. When you think of a studio - time doesn't necessarily go in regular blocks. The studio metaphor is better for how we think of classrooms.Paraphrased a quote by Tom Carel? Learning today is a collective effort and not an individual one. Learning is social and we need to give our students opportunity to interact both in and out of the classroom to construct their learning. Alan November - every classroom should be a global communication centre. Learning is something that is networked.

I certainly know, that for me, this has been true. My learning recently, with my webcast academy community has been moving. We all need networks, connections that help us see new things and things in new ways.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Technology Buzz

I try to stay up to date - take occasional vacations from the fast pace of shared learning - but yesterday threw me into superspeed. Not for the faint of heart. Last night I settled in for the Fireside Chat with David Warlick only to be pulled into warp speed as I tried to follow David's talk, the chat which flew by and various Skype messages Twitters that chirped and pinged at me. It was hard to ignore the chat when it was peopled by some of the top tech people in the world. Too bad there wasn't a Clustr map to show where everyone was from.

Fortunately, David's talk and the questions only elaborated on what he had said in his keynote - as it was difficult to concentrate on what he was saying (it will be archived). On the chat someone announced that Will Richardson was going to be doing a Ustream - so that was my next stop (trouble-shooting with my webcast partner on Skype simultaneously). If you want to see some of what Will is doing, have a look at weblogg-ed-tv So much to learn - and one of my webcast partners is gung-ho to try it all out.

After a brief interlude with my webcast partner and a successful attempt at streaming and recording on the Webcast Academy sandbox, I turned my attention to Women of Web 2.0 and an interesting discussion with David Jakes and Ewan Macintosh. I'm now feeling both exhilarated and brain dead.

So I'm living life in the fast lane. Trying to learn faster than my brain likes - but it's a great feeling. I'm living what I would like the teachers I work with to live - taking risks, but in a protected and secure community and feeling the support that all offer. My Skype friends, webcast cohort and Twitter community make it possible for me to learn. It's an amazing experience.

Monday, October 08, 2007

David Warlick's presentation: Inventing New Boundaries

Well - here goes - 3 weeks of thought-provoking presentations to watch and listen to in the comfort of my home from the K12 Online Conference. But the discussion doesn't have to stay there. Through blogs, twitter, wikis and chat rooms the conversation continues. That really is one of David Warlick's messages - the importance of networks for learning, building knowledge and collaborating. So spread the word to others, if you read this post.

I am now watching David Warlick's pre-conference presentation.
He is talking about the importance of side trips in education. Walls are invisible for both teachers and students and it is possible to learn any place. But this comes at a price - how do you get the interaction that happens face to face? What are the new boundaries (not classroom walls)? The traditional boundaries are going away - we need to create new kinds of boundaries to find a sense of structure in this new world.

He goes on to discuss: With the speed of change our children can no longer look to us to see their future. We can no longer describe the future - it is unpredictable. Change is happening so fast - when we talk about digital natives - which it is really about adapting to the constant change. The territory is shifting so quickly. The big difference between digital natives and digital immigrants is not being afraid of the technology and knowing where to go for help. Students know how to find networks that can help them problem solve their technology problems. They are part of a community. They are learning about the power of collaboration - through social networks, online games, text messaging. Our classrooms do not take advantage of this. Instead - we cut them off.

New literacies -
Information (find information, evaluate it, organize it into personal digital libraries)
Math (numbers now apply to full range of content - binary)
What information is competing for our attention
Can you produce an information product that competes for information attention
we can shape and reshape information to create new learning experiences. We can make students remixers of content
Many of our students know how to do this, how to publish online. Our new classrooms are flattening - students and teachers must all be learners.
3 converging conditions
Info-savvy students and tech savvy - know how to play the information, they need us to help them learn to work the information
New information landscape - information increasingly networked, digital, participatory
Unpredictable Future - preparing our students for an unpredictable future - need to teach students how to teach themselves

And I will add - teachers need to learn how to teach themselves - to be open to lifelong learning and to welcome the excitement that comes of mastering something new.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Participation in online communities

After a long hiatus, I'm back - hoping to post on a more frequent basis. I just read a post by Derek It's an old post - but new to me. He talks about the different levels of participation in an online community. Yesterday I worked with a group of teachers to help them become part of the online community. We're setting up ways for them to be connected to share their learning and to support each other as they get their students involved in online work. I talked about the fact that lurking is an acceptable beginnning step to becoming part of a community. I liked Derek's four categories: consumer (my lurker), commenter, contributor and commentator.

I think any of these levels are acceptable entry points - much depends on the person's personality. I hope to help the teachers see the value of online communities. I know I have gained and grown so much by being part of the online world in education.

Friday, March 30, 2007


Today is Stop Cyberbullying Day and I felt I should post something about it. Fortunately I have never been a victim, but when I was still in the classroom I certainly had to speak to my students about it as they (by grade 6) were already starting. I don't know why people think it is acceptable to do things behind the annonymity of a computer that they would never do face to face.

I was horrified recently to read about the plight of Kathy Sierra. I cannot imagine what she must be feeling. Blogs have been a rich source of educational exchange for many of us. It would be tragic if people stopped writing out of fear caused by a few deranged individuals.

Here are a few sites that might be helpful for teachers, students and parents

Wired Safety

We all have to spread the word to educate people to behave responsibly, whether on line or in other areas of their lives.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Podcast interview with Sharon Peters

Listen here

It was a delight to interview Sharon Peters. She is an amazing teacher who understands the need to help our students become global citizens.

Show Notes

Global Virtual Classroom Project -

Lower Canada College - Grade 7
Percy Julian Middle School - Grades 7, 8
Santan Junior High School - Grade 8

Grade nine student wiki projects:

Glengarrypedia Wiki
The Glass Castle audio interviews -

The collaborative literature project with Israel -

The travel blog for the Australian students - / (1400 visits in 1 month! WOW!)

Women of Web 2.0

Teachers Without Borders

Music by Ensemble Caprice excerpts from Rondeau and Les Barricades, composed by Matthias Maute -used with permission.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Planting Seeds

I have been very busy giving and preparing to give workshops. It is a time when I read blogs, go off on tangents that the bloggers send me to and find myself thinking a lot about what I want to transmit to the participants in the workshops. Terry Freedman warns about being an evangelist. I want to plant seeds. In some people the seeds will germinate quickly. In others, it will be more like those seeds which need a fire to help them germinate. The seeds may lie dormant for a long time, but later a fire will be lit that will let them flourish.

I get very excited by the possibilities of web 2.0 and wish that others shared my enthusiasm. I worked recently with some teachers who are trying out podcasting. The seeds are flourishing. I helped them set up blogs where they will be putting up the show notes and linking to the podcasts. We have also set up a joint blog where they can document their process, share documents such as rubrics and help each other along. I am excited about this. I hope it is well used. But the seeds are there.

Next week I am giving a workshop with my colleague on 21st century literacy and web 2.0 tools. How do you gently introduce without being an evangelist? I have set up a workshop wiki. I wonder if the participants will go there. I say to myself that the participants have chosen to come to the workshop so I hope they will be open to what we are saying. Perhaps the seeds planted in the workshop will entice them to the wiki to learn more.

Gardening is always full of surprises.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Second Life for the First Time

I have finally succombed. I have started to explore Second Life. The Women of Web 2.0 offered a tour, which for me was a great way to start. I'm still just getting the hang of walking around, but I don't mind being seen as gauche. I can hide behind the anonymity of my avatar.

Our guide skyped the participants so we had the advantage of voice interaction as well as the Second Life interface. I was impressed by the Space Museum. There is certainly a lot to explore there, with many links to Internet sites to elaborate on what you are seeing. I would not be ready to take students there as, when I looked at the list of most popular places (even when I did not click "include places in Mature regions" I found arms testing and gambling. Not my speed. On a further visit (while listening to a webcast done by Steve Hargadon of EdTech Live (who is an excellent interviewer) with Sarah Robbins, I learned about more educational areas in Second Life. I can now teleport directly to the library and other educational venues. More exploring to be done. The interview is worth hearing. Sarah talks about how she tries to create an environment for her students that is different from what there would be in a face-to-face class. Otherwise there is no point to using the virtual space. She commented that some students were more comfortable, especially initially, with the virtual space. More students contributed to the discussion. Her class met face-to-face once a week and in Second Life once a week.

I know there is a lot to be said about virtual environments. I would like to see a safer virtual environment if students are going to use it. From what I understand there is a youth only section, but that bars adults. We need to have a safe place where teachers and students can interact. I know that students would find this very engaging. I'll reserve judgement until I have explored more.

Going with the Flow

I am finally taking more time to read some blogs despite the fact that many work deadlines are looming. Today Bud Hunt quoted a comment by Bruce Schauble. I'll quote it here:
"....the best classes, for me, always seem to be the ones that go sailing off in some direction I hadn't anticipated. I used to worry about having to pull the kids "back on track." In recent years I'm more interested in trying to explore with them where the new track is leading. Truth to tell, a great deal of my lesson "planning" is actually done after the fact, trying as you say, to figure out, given today's surprises, what would be a good thing to do next.

And all of that connects to the objection that I think we both share to curriculum design driven by standardized testing. There's no room there for side tracks, we've got to get to page 48 by Thursday.

The artfulness of teaching is about knowing when and how to respond on the fly to things you hadn't anticipated. And if you don't provide room for those things to happen, if you don't give the students room to make them happen, education devolves into something mechanical and soul-deadening."

This is the way I have always tred to teach - to leave room for side trips and sometimes that side-trip is better than the planned trip. I am involved in developing an online course. That is a concern for me - how to build in room for side trips. I would hate to be "teacher-proofing" the experience and thus soul-deadening the students. This was a good reminder.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

You Tube and the Arts

I have been exploring youtube after reading an article from The New York Times about youtube and culture and started exploring for myself. I came across and astonishing number of videos of interest to me in a short search. In dance I was able to watch short clips of Nureyev, Alvin Ailey's company and others. I watched short clips of Glen Gould playing Bach and talking about Bach. These could be very interesting to show in arts classes. Here's an example.

It is easy to include the video in a blog, so you don't have to send students to youtube.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

I've Been Tagged!

The latest blog meme going around is "five things people don't know about you" . I've been tagged. When you get "tagged" you are supposed to write 5 things about yourself that others may not know about.

So for Pam Shoemaker who tagged me.

1) I taught dance many years ago.

2) I love orchids. I buy them when they are cheap and marvel at the way they reflower under my benign neglect.

3) I'm a mac-aholic. I work to support my habit. My first computer was a Franklin Ace (an Apple II compatible).

4) I'm intrigued by the far north and want to go there some time. I would love to see the Northern Lights in a variety of colours.

5) I have a turtle collection. My many years of working with children and Logo in its many incarnations is what started the collection. Once children know you have 2 turtles, they are eager to add.
I've always loved Ogden Nash's poem. My explorations with children using the turtle were certainly fertile.
The Turtle
by Ogden Nash

The turtle lives 'twixt plated decks
Which practically conceal its sex.
I think it clever of the turtle
In such a fix to be so fertile.
Tag - you're it! Jill Hammond Janice Stearns Lucy Gray Steve Hargadon Ian Jukes

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

New Year's Resolution

I guess it's that time of year when thoughts of self-reform surface. I took a hiatus from blogging as other aspects of my life became more time-consuming. And I still work to find a balance. While I think blogging is important, I also need to keep time for music, exercise and people in the real world. But I know I need to take the time to think - so 2007 resolution is to take more time to reflect.

I listened to a podcast interview done by Steve Hargadon with Will Richardson and while it didn't say anything new, it did remind me how important it is to take the time for reading and writing. I do recommend listening to the interview.

I also read some of the responses.
Steve commented on others who talked about star bloggers
Certainly, for someone like me who does not have a "large" readership,
most of the motivation for blogging is the ability to think and learn
and network. Is it different than posting to a list? For me, yes,
because my blog becomes a personal repository of my journey. In the
same way that a young person likes to bring a friend over to see their
room, the posters they have on their wall, and the music they listen
to (ergo, the appeal of MySpace, I believe), my blog is a way for
someone to come and see what I am thinking about and working on, in a
way that used to be reserved only for those who were prominent enough
to be published by traditional media.
I liked this for several reasons. I give workshops to teachers about blogs and am often asked "Why blogs? - why not just a listserve or forum as a place for a conversation? I think Steve pointed out one important reason - a personal space, a place to watch your thinking develop, a place to invite others in to view your thoughts and musings. A part of me likes to think of it as a private space, that others may see, but if they don't, that's fine. It's a place for a conversation with myself as much as a place for a conversation with others.

So - to avoid being thought of as odd - and talking to myself in the street, I hope this year to talk to myself virtually, try to make sense of where my thinking seems to be going and if others drop in, that's OK. If not, that's OK too.

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