Collaborative Reflection – Our 21st Century Fluencies

This video is a collaborative effort from people across Ontario, Canada, and the world to demonstrate and reflect how they have incorporated 21st Century Fluencies and NETS (s) with their students and colleagues. These interviews and discussions were done over the past two weeks using Skype and incorporate a large demographic of perspectives in education (students, teachers, principals, consultants and faculty members). Thanks to @Royan_Lee and his class from providing the background music (via Skype)!

Consider widening the perspectives in this video by answer the same questions (audio, video or text form)

1) What is your name, your role and where are you from?

2) What was your favourite learning activity (yourself or with your students)?

3) What advice do you have for other educators learning (and using) about the NETS (ISTE standards)?

4) What are you looking forward to for next year?

It’s a Global Network – Then and Now

Dear Mom,

I was asked to reflect upon what made me so passionate about educating students within a global perspective. From the time that I can remember, you have always taught me to pay close attention to what is happening in our world.  You provided me with a foundation of which I use today as a focus of how I live. You gave me the inspiration and passion to continue your path as an educator.

mom class

I know that education has changed since your first years. However, your vision to make change in our world and to advocate for social justice has not changed. You taught students to be fair. You helped impoverished families. You tirelessly helped immigrant families find their place our community. You taught children to make connections to the world beyond themselves. You helped them see that  they need to be active and engaged participants.

35 years ago you recognized that students need an inquiry approach to learning. Today – we are are saying the same thing, and we say its because they have access to instant information – but its not. It’s because students need to be active participants in their learning.

It is now my turn to continue what you started. To connect myself and my students to the world beyond their own. Many years ago, you said that people are more educated now about injustices- and that it is thanks to groups that were the first ones to bite the bullet, the first ones to talk about things like racism .

YOU SAID.. It may not be popular, but it’s necessary. I hear this same statement everyday about students learning across our world. It is necessary that we provide them with adequate, fair, and universally designed learning space. Not always popular, but necessary.

It was about 10 years ago when I made my first personal connection, as an adult, to the world outside my own.

mom newspaper

Sometime in the spring of 1999,  Kosovo hit the international headlines when forces under the Yugoslav President Milosevic tried to suppress the Albanian majority’s independence campaign. This news item struck my interest because you taught me to pay attention to what was happening in our world, to always ask questions and to listen to stories. So I did. I wanted to know more. With my new computer and first ever Internet connection, I  began following blog posts from Kosovo Albanians who were being forced to flee their homes – thousands killed. Night after night I read posts from people all over the world expressing their disgust and concern over the Milosevic rule.

That was my first taste of the Web 2.0

– My first time publishing my own thoughts for the world to see. This was my first Social Network outside my personal space. I felt incredibly empowered and excited that this could be possible. I had passion ,

I had an opportunity and I had a platform to do what was necessary and give my students the same opportunity to learn that the world needs them.

my class

You taught me to be authentic and current. It is my goal to give my students the gift of a Global Learning Community and as a result, I have found one myself.  And, You were right when you said, “don’t do it alone”. 10 years ago, I began to share my voice to strangers, and  I felt connected. Today, I share my voice with colleagues, friends and supporters from all over the world and I never feel alone.

You helped me see how one person’s passion and dedication can lead to progress and change and you told me to network and be active. I can’t compare my experience with your involvement in anti-war protests in the mid 1970’s or your leadership in the civil rights movement, or your membership in Affirmative action coalitions. But, I can tell you that I am become networked. I have met so many people – across Ontario and Canada- and the world – that share their knowledge, their passion.

Jenny from Australia inspired me to use tools like ipods in the classroom so my students can blog and read news and events from their homelands – in their languages. Doug from Ontario sends weekly props as encouragement. Andy from Bellville –always the first to offer help with any tech question, Jen from Alberta and Kathy from Saskatchewan share their classrooms with me in literacy and numeracy and remind me everyday with their blogs and tweets that learning and teaching is fun and engaging and connected.

You might think that my world as an educator is much different from yours. In many ways, it is. Today,  technology has provided opportunities, and tools, and choices – but most of all – access. With these, tools I can translate,  podcast, listen write, share and collaborate – all for free.

It is my vision – my dream,  I suppose to provide equal opportunity for my students, like you did. While the tools that I currently use in my classroom will change, I promise that I will continue to learn new ways of reaching peoples potential -.

Through innovation, creativity and new technologies, our world is catching up to a movement you started years ago.

Mom, enjoy your retirement.

Have comfort in knowing that the community of activists for students around the world continues growing bigger everyday.

With Love, Zoe

What was your first taste of 2.0? Do share…


Stop Motion – Olympics and the Four Host Nations

This week, students will be exploring a variety of story telling animation and art tools as part of our Olympics and Social Studies Connections Unit. I did a similar unit with a group of primary students last year, resulting in the following video:

For this project, students will have a choice to create a biography of a Canadian Athlete, a Time-Line of a winter sport, or a spotlight about the Vancouver 2010 Host Nations. Students have already had opportunities to conduct research and create an assortment of graphic and text based accounts of sport highlights, athlete highlights and highlights of the Host Nations.

In using Windows Media Maker, we ran into a variety of problems. First, students found it difficult to change the transition times after the picture import. Often, students found that the program crashed during import due to the size of the pictures. They had to use photoshop first to do a batch import and edit the file size. This two step process is unnecessarily and difficult for some students. The use of the chroma key for blue/green screen functionality was not clear for students and required additional downloads or add on’s. Ultimately, the final version of the show was downloaded into my MacBookPro and I used Imovie to create a final product.

For this group of learners, I will use Frames:

  • Ontario has recently purchased the license for Frames – More Info
  • Frames allows easy import of pictures as well as camara hook up
  • Frames has thousands of pictures ready to use
  • Frames allows easy voice integration

As well, I will re-introduce students to an already familiar site called Creative Commons, where they can access pictures, sounds and movie clips and import them directly to Frames.

  • By using creative commons pictures, my students will become familiar of copyright rules and regulations as well as using creative commons attributes for their own work.
  • Students can create Google Searches directly in Creative Commons and will begin to understand the variety of licensing levels and choices that an author can make when publishing work.

How will student upload and store pictures?

For this activity, I will introduce them to Dropbox.  As a student in our district, they receive an email account using First Class. With drop box, I will share a file easily using their email. See example here:

Take a risk, try something new…

Last week, I participated in a online session with Will Richardson (@willrich45) and other Ontario teachers. A major theme to our discussion was the concept of risk. To be at the forefront of change and innovation, we need to be comfortable with taking risk. We are entering new territory by having our students use online tools, including social networking. We are ‘exploring strange new worlds, boldly going where no one has gone before…” (I couldn’t resist). It is risky to try something new because we are not conforming to the norm. I have met many teachers in schools across our globe that say they are embracing a new way of teaching and learning, but feel alone in their school community or district. Perhaps that is why we have adapted so well to the concept of an online professional network. A place where a bunch of ‘individuals’ making change, taking risks and being innovative are working together, in a professional learning community.

Here are few recent tools that I have been exploring with my Grade Six Class:

1. Evernote: Evernote can be summed up in two words: ‘Remember Everything’. In fact that is how the company is advertising the product. That is what got me addicted to this application
There has been a hype about Evernote this year. In fact, I have now sat through 5 presentations at a variety of conferences where Evernote was highlighted. Like all applications presented to me, however, I try to find a way to make this useful for a classroom teacher. A way to make documentation, assessment, feedback and information more accessible

evernote

  • With the Iphone or IPod-touch, I can use evernote to take pictures of student work, make audio comments or make anacdotal notes. With 31 students in my homeroom class, this feature allows me to make quick notes, on the spot. I can then share the notebook with the student as way to provide feedback.
  • Student Use – Our students have just begun using this application. With your account, Evernote can be accessed on any computer. I strongly believe that we need to be teaching students online literacy. Students need a way to organize and keep track of information and research and teachers need a way to provide internet sites and reading resources.  Further, with the ‘isight’ function, I allow students to use a webcam feature to take video notes, and video journal of themselves and progress.

2. Diigo: Another great online application for bookmarking and sharing resources. But how do I incorporate this feature in a Comprensive Literacy program?

  • Diigo allows my students to highlight and comment on their reading passages. This skill is considered a Best Practice for any literacy program. Teaching students to highlight important information, use of stick notes to ask questions. The beauty of Diigo, is that they can read and collaborate. Students can see what other students are writing – can learn from each other. Creating a “classroom” in Diigo is how we share our resources.

diigo example

3. E-Learning for kids: Elementary/Middle School.

  • What a great site for students to practice skills in all areas of a program. In fact, I have used some of this content to incorporate in my online learning management program (learning.com). Students requiring individual programs, or extra practice have benefited from this site.
  • A quick and easy lesson to allow students to work on smartboard during a literacy program. In my class, my students normally have “projects” to work on. But every now and then, they enjoy the video and audio resources and interactive of this site.
  • This week some students will be practicing the skills learned in our Solar System Unit by using this activity: http://e-learningforkids.org/Courses/EN/Planets/index.html

4. DropBox

One of the major changes of how I use computers is that I no longer depend on one single computer to access my information. I use Google Docs for most of my word processing. Recently, (thanks to @aforgrave) I have begun to use DropBox to store my files and easily access them on any computer. I find it unbelievable that this application is free. I can create and save ANY file type. This is especially good for use of Smartboard program (notebook).

Use with students: I have begun to use this feature with students to share pictures. Flicker and Picasa also allows mass sharing of pictures, but with evernote I can drop entire folders easily and quickly and share the folder.

3.  PBS kids, Interactive Whiteboard Games:

Every now and then, I am asked to cover a primary classroom and I don’t always have a prepared lesson. I have found this site very useful to engage students and work on essential literacy skills using the Smartboard.

4. Destination Reading:

reading iv

Most products that I use are Free. Although this product DOES have a license fee,  it  is worth mentioning. This is an interactive Reading Program that explicitly teaches a variety of reading strategies from early primary to late intermediate. I specifically use the program and skills addressed to differentiate for my students reading levels and abilities. The license was less than $50 for the year and was well worth it. The activities are engaging and interactive and can easily adapted to use as whole group, small group or individual instruction. I highly suggest you explore this product.

5. Wikispaces:

This is not a new feature, but for my students, it has become a new way to share, upload and present information. I strongly recommend teachers to encorporate this free, webbased application into their classroom.

  • Use to post exemplars, rubrics, examples of work, links.
  • Students create the content
  • It is always a work in progress
  • Project based.
  • Students edit each others work

Examples of a Wikispaces that my studetns have recently worked on for a culminating project found here:

* You will notice that there are all sorts of levels of work here. A great reflection for students. This application always students to see where they want to go with a project. Helps those students that need that extra “push”.

Classroom Olympics Wikipaces

Classroom Science Wikipaces

Ancient Civilizations Wikispaces – 100% Student Created

Student Created Wiksipace

6. Learning.com

learning.com picture

Learning.com is a Digital Learning Environment that allows me to completely individualize a student program based on needs. I can access hundreds of pre-made interactive lessons that are based on STEM solutions or I can create my own (similar to Moodle). I use the program to differentiate my reading lessons and math lessons as well as use it for my ESL students.

An incredible resource that builds student confidence and allows me to teach explicit skills when necessary. This is DEFINATELY worth taking a look at.

Learning.com – A Digital Learning Environment

Digital Learning Environment provides platform for Differentiated Instruction at Learning.com

By: Zoe Branigan-Pipe, Hamilton Wentworth District School Board

On July 21, I headed to Portland, Oregon to participate in a three day workshop with Learning.com, an education company whose promotes curriculum driven digital learning environments for teachers and students. There were 20 people invited to attend. There were 19 districts across 19 States and one district represented from Canada (myself). Learning.com provided transportation, accommodation, meals (including a catered cruise on the Portland River and an excellent dinner at the Portland Culinary School of Cuisine).

The main premise of this product is for educators to easily fit content to meet the needs of individual students and truly individualize programs for all age groups and abilities. The platform provides explicit teaching of content using a variety of interactive material allowing students and parents to collaborate and contribute with ease. Students can work at an individualized pace and complete assignments and assessments when they are ready. Teachers and Students communicate through a journal where they can also create, send and receive assignments, including video and podcasts if necessary. The platform comes with prepared content (in differentiated processes) that helps educators teach students to use a variety of technology based programs (Excel, PowerPoint, Photoshop, word processing, etc.) and yet it does this while also ensuring that curriculum standards are addressed. The use of other Web 2.0 open source programs such as Google Docs and Forms, Google Maps, and Video (YouTube, blogger, twitter, teacher tube, Discovery Education) can also be easily embedded in all activities.

Learning.com was not what I expected after visiting many other technology based companies over the past year. The rooms resembled that of classroom. There were banners of colours draped across the ceilings and art hung across the walls throughout. Couches with throw cushions were dispersed around the offices for staff to sit, talk and collaborate. The departments (marketing, sales, curriculum, staff development) were well defined, and yet appeared to work in synch. There was a sense throughout the building that the staff, regardless of their positions was treated as if they all contributed equally to the mission of the organization. As the Teacher Camp toured the offices we were introduced to every staff member from all departments. The members of Learning.com had an opportunity to share how they contributed to the success of the organization, from the development of the storyline and characters in the content to the support staff answering phone calls for educators requiring assistance.

What I liked the best about this Digital Learning Environment was the individualized assessments that were standard specific (great for IEP) students. I saw examples of student assessments done in video, written and with project based activities. I saw examples of how this learning environment provided opportunities for students requiring home-schooling due to illness or school closures to continue learning and not fall behind and teachers to continue to provide regular feedback. The platform provides a place for parents to review their child’s work, or even work on their own assignments as a review of content when they are uncertain of the content themselves.

After playing with the Learning.com platform, I found that it allows teachers not only to use the program to individualize but also for explicit instruction and assignment delivery and the flash and interactive capacities are great for interactive whiteboard and podcasting systems. There is a “practice environment’ through a content based “Games” section. Based on curriculum standards – games work well in a whole class environment especially with the Smartboard and FrontRow Sound-System. I also discovered that the science and math resources very interactive and are based on an instructional module and that all activities have blackline masters that are editable. Each activity follows a teaching and learning cyle and includes a background information for teachers about the content. Indeed, this learning platform provides an excellent way for teachers to scaffold content and to, use technology to its greatest benefit by differentiating teaching and learning strategies. This is so important for those students not succeeding. We CAN give them the necessary support, let them see that they are still learning.

As a participant in the Technology Camp, Learning.com provided me with a classroom license for the following school year as well as a license for my students. It is personal and professional mandate of mine that I must provide current, relevant and authentic learning for my students. I must as an educator be willing to meet the needs of my 21st Century learners and to try a variety of methods. I look forward to trying something new and hope that my classroom and students can provide an example for others to follow. I have said this before, and will continue to say it – “It’s not about technology its about making technology work”.