Teach with Innovation and Creativity, not Technology

“Technology will not improve student learning, scores, literacy levels until we change the way we teach through the use of technology” (a summarized quote from @Instructivelnt)

On Friday, I had the opportunity to speak to some Secondary Educators about using social Media in the classroom. In these 45 minute sessions (not enough time!) we were able to invite both @thecleversheep (Rodd Lucier) and @Instructivelnt (William Kierstead) to join us us via Skype.

Paper BloggingWhat came out of this discussion, in both instances, is that you do not need “technology” to be innovative.
Rodd presented us with the idea of teaching social media by addressing the skill of sharing and collaborating. He suggested that this can be done through the use of school bulletin boards. For example, having students replicate their Facebook profiles on posters in the hallway. It is ironic that often the same students who are embarrassed to show their work or profiles in a school hallway, are putting up the same information on the internet. He also presented us with a community bulletin board where students at an Elementary school would write opinion pieces and elicit responses from the school community using sticky notes.

Bill, an innovative leader and passionate educator in New Brunswick spoke about the importance of connecting our students to real world issues and using media and communication tools (video conferencing, Bridget, Skype) to connect students to the world around them. Bill is the brains behind the New Brunswick 21st Century Video which provides examples of students using collaborative methods to track the onset of Spring around the world or use their own classrooms as media news hubs.

blogs to shareOnce again, my twitter feed came through. In one short 140 character tweet, I asked my fellow learners to share their classroom blogs, wikis, and sites. I can’t thank them enough for taking the risk and time to GIVE.

@ChrisRzazewski “If it helps it’s my 4u English wiki”.
“I’ve just started this one w 14 yr-old” www.donutsnculture.blogspot.com
“Hope it’s helpful! As you might see, I’m still learning =] “
Zoe, I’ve used these 2 last semester with teen groups www.whenthewheelscomedown-q.blogspot.com
“You don’t have to ask. You can use mine anytime you’d like”.
My blog has links to the public edmodo pages which have outlines of lessons / assignments, etc. dcvi.typepad.com/mcash
“other class blogs from my school listed at wejps.net under links – check JK w Ms. Joanne”
http://t.co/boKlpcn and http://t.co/LfGe6Pw and of course http://t.co/l5zG5CJ
@mgmitchell’s class and student blogs

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Blogging for Real Reform -Teaching Teachers to become Global Educators – an inquiry approach

In September, my teaching assignment changed drastically – from teaching 12 year olds in a Grade Six Class (HWDSB) to teaching pre-service Teacher Candidates at Brock University,  in Hamilton, Ontario. Although the curriculum, standards and focus changed – my intent stayed the same – to develop a program that provoked my students: to think critically, to engage in discussion, to see the potential of the Internet as a hub for collaboration, and to provide a platform for them to develop their own learning communities that are authentic, safe and supportive. I wanted them to see that learning can now take place anywhere, at anytime, and by anyone and that they have choice of how they want to learn, whether it be through video, music, text or images. I wanted them to realize that they have access to information, so long as they ask the questions. I wanted them to see the power that educators around the world have, so long as they stay active and participate in discussions about reform and change.

As a sixth grade teacher, I was used to teaching the same group of students for an entire school year. I had time to develop relationships and trust. I had time to get to know their needs. But in my current role, I have ten weeks and I ask, can a ten week course have the kind of impact that I set forth for these Teacher Candidates? I want to say yes, but time will tell. One thing I know for sure is that I can’t do it alone – no one can.  At Brock,  I never considered myself to be the “teacher”. But instead, a facilitator. In this 10 week course, the teachers were YOU. Maybe not you individually, but “you” as in my Learning Community. ‘You’ as in my twitterverse and blogosphere. ‘You’ as in my Skype colleagues and conference attendees. ‘You’ as my friends.

In particular, a few of YOU, volunteered YOUR time to share your passion and expertise with my Teacher Candidates.

Aviva Dunsiger (@grade1) – joined us to talk about her primary classroom and their role and expectations in the world of web2.0 and information. Her session led to deep conversations and thought about her students and what they will need in high school in just eight years from now. We talked about student blogging and parental concerns which led to questions such as, why do students even need to be connected at such a young age? How can we ensure students are being protected from cyberbullying? How do we really know this is good for students at all? Unfortunately, there is no recording for this event. Doug Peterson (@dougpete) joined us to talk about OSAPAC (Ontario Software Acquisition Program) Link to Recording. His presentation was geared specifically for these candidates, going into specialized programs and what programs/software will be available to them as they enter the field. Jen Deyenberg (@jdeyenberg) from Picturebutt, Alberta joined us to talk about practical considerations with Web 2.0 and Blogging- Link to Recording. She talked about her web2.0 endeavors as a junior/middle school teacher and her connections to teachers and students across the world. Jen talked about Cybersafety and her approach to safe internet use and student moderation. Rodd Lucier (@thecleversheep) Joined us to talk about his expertise with Creative Commons in education,  Link to Recording. Rodd shared with us strategies for collaboration and authentic learning platforms and tools as it relates to Secondary Schools and teacher learning.

Like my 12 year olds, I wanted my adult students to become involved global citizens. I wanted them to  know what if feels like to get your first comment on a blog post, or to have a discussion with a teacher or another student,  from across the world. I wanted them to see that their actions will have impact that reaches further than their confines of their classroom walls.  I wanted them to know what students from primary to high school classes across our world are already experiencing: A global education.

I developed the course assignments to  do just that. First, the teacher candidates developed their own blogs as they platform for  responding and reflecting on the other assignments (and to begin the journey of sharing) I included links to these in the sidebar of this blog.

The Teacher Candidates  had to choose one web-blog community to follow and contribute to the posts, comments and discussions.  They were encouraged to ask questions and seek clarification from the authors (and other contributors) and use an RSS feed to track the blog.  I thank those of you who participated, knowingly or not. You made a difference.











IMG_2121Teacher Candidates were also required to participate in a LIVE AND INTERACTIVE SESSION and to provide a one page (blog) synopsis  (Example – http://pipedreams-education.ca/2010/08/18/teaching-not-a-profession/) of the discussion as well as links and resources obtained and they were encouraged to find session times and topicsat Cassroom 2.0 LIVE (http://live.classroom20.com/calendar.html). These pre-service teachers discovered that teachers everywhere are banding together to talk about current and relevant issues in education. Their resulting posts include, Safia’s reflection on “Professional Development from the Comfort of your own home”; Candida’s post called: My footprint from the Netgen ; Krista’s “Just another art Class” ; Jackie’s post called “Learning from the Students” ; Melissa’s post called, “The Relevancy of Education”; Emma’s post about, “Elevating the Reform Dialogue” ; Dan’s post about, “procrastination-and-facebooking”; Kelsey’s post about, “I’m so networked I feel net-overworked”; Jordan’s post, “Learning while teaching”;  Rob’s reflection on an Elluminate session called “Harnessing the power cells in Education” ;Chanthorns views on blogging; Alisha’s post about Flikr; Rosie’s post called, “Education for a good life” and Alisha’s post called, “In a blink of an eye”

To answer my earlier question, can a ten week course impact my students, so that they will become Global Educators, to think critically and to be active citizens? We’re in week 7 and I think they already have – Not because of me, and this course, but because of the community of educators that share and support one another everyday. Thank You PLN!

“As a future educator it is vital to acknowledge how societal changes permeate the walls of schools. It comes as no surprise that technology has become a cornerstone of a student’s life. Since we as educators must strive to create meaningful and authentic learning experiences for our students, it makes perfect sense to bring technology into the classrooms! Last year I attended an educational workshop at Brock University called “Getting Equipped To Use Free Web 2.0 Tools: Bridging The Learning Gap”. I remember being fascinated by the presenter, a former head of Science in the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board, and his passion for electronic gadgets. In a period of just 3 hours I was introduced to a few of the amazing ways to creatively use Ipods and cellphones to enhance the curriculum. However as with all forms of learning, that was just the tip of the iceberg. Half the battle is learning how to use the technology, and the other half is learning how to use it in a way that engages students”. Source: http://safgilani.edublogs.org/2010/09/08/half-of-teaching-is-learning/

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Student blogging, a new form of literacy?

Student Blogging. Sometimes I feel like I am living in a real life Star Trek episode, going where “no ONE has gone before”. Setting up individual blogs for students, is not new, however, allowing access to the outside world is. And it tends to scare people at the thought that someone, somewhere just might read a student blog and might comment. As a result, many schools (maybe yours?) and districts block access to blogs or moderate using a login/username. But the real question that we grapple with is whether or not blogs are improving student learning and if so, how?

First, we need have a clear understanding of blogging and why we are using it for our students.  I am constantly reflecting on the following questions:

  • Is the purpose to improve spelling and grammar?
  • Are we trying to get students to feel more comfortable about writing ‘their’ connections about a topic or issue?
  • Do we want students to read, reflect and comment on a variety of perspectives and point of views?
  • Are we trying to encourage student collaboration?
  • Are we trying to get students to view the world with a more open mind?
  • How about teaching children that blogging is a way to teach others, and thus, also learn from others?
  • Are we encouraging students to share their work and participate in an “open-source” culture?
  • Can blogging help students synthesize their understanding in a written, visual or audio form?

When I review the above questions, I tend to think that the first bullet – to improve spelling and grammar – is a given, but it is not the purpose for blogging. Students blog to get their voices heard and as a result, they edit, then re-edit, then edit again (just like most adults). They are quite aware of the world wide web and they take pride that their work will be added to it. So, no – it is not about the spelling and grammar. It is about the engagement in writing, reading, sharing, collaborating and commenting. It is about the engagement and motivation in sharing your ideas and that what you say might just possibly be read by others.

Think back when you were a kid – you completed an assignment that either went home (up on the fridge), on a bulletin board or back in your desk. You repeated this all year until you took your work home at the end of the school year, it disappeared into some box. For some, this was fine – they would write and read and change the world without any  prompting from anyone, not even a teacher. But for other students, and we all know them, they did not care. They had no reason to care. They struggled. Words did not come easy – and why put all that effort into something when no one would read it anyway? They didn’t see the big picture  (that it was for practice, for learning, that they would need it someday).

Those are the students that we need to focus are attention. Those are the students that will benefit MOST from blogging.

Student motivation and desire to write and read needs purpose and authenticity. When they write for a global audience, they are giving their voice meaning.  I recently asked my students if they would blog as frequently and as passionately as they do if they did not have a global audience, if their blogs were secured to ‘classroom only’. I was surprised by the response (and a little proud) – they replied that they would just copy and paste their blog to a ‘new – personal’ blog, one that can’t be  blocked – one that can’t be moderated (they are aware that I moderate what is posted and I approve comments). I asked my students what I we should do in June when school is over. Should the blog be deleted? They laughed. They didn’t really even understand my question. Why would I delete their blog?

Please share your experiences with student blogging. Why are you blogging with your students? Are their blogs accessible by a wider audience? Is this a new form of literacy or is this simply a new tool?

A few example student blogs:

  • http://allison213.edublogs.org/
  • http://213angela.edublogs.org/ (student talking creative commons)
  • http://leah213.edublogs.org/ (student talking about creative commons)
  • http://jacob213.edublogs.org/ (student talking about Olympics – concerns)

Consider getting your students involved and commenting these Sixth Grader Blogs as well as sharing your blogs with us.

The video below is by two of my students presenting to teachers about blogging.

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Blogs and Wikis to share

Dear Students and teachers,

I hear that you are planning to use wikis and blogs for your next big project! That is excellent. My students love blogging and using Wikis because they say that they “do better” when they are able to collaborate with each other, or at least look at the work other students are doing. Remember those days that you wrote in your books and put those books directly in your desks, or took the project home? Those days are over.
By putting your work up on the internet, you will have the chance to share your knowledge, your ideas, your work with the world. I bet other students in schools from around the world will read your blog and wiki and will LEARN from you.

For now, take a look at some of the blogs that my students have done (you’ll see the list on the side bar). As well, here is a link of a wiki that my students are working on for their science projects. You will notice that they have included Youtube videos and pictures directly on their assignments.

Project Wikispace:

Social studies: http://olympic2010.wikispaces.com

Also you can find other student/classroom blogs here:

(scroll and find list of “edublog supporter”)

Other blogs to look at:
Grade Eight Ning: http://bit.ly/7CcUfh

It is important to be responsible and safe when blogging and using the internet. Remember not to use your full names. Remember to use the blog as a reflection of your own work and ideas, it is not a place for gossip.

I will update the list, as other classrooms send me their links (I’ve put the word out).


Mrs. Pipe

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