Archive for the 'Professional Development' Category

Jun 07 2012


Social Media, Twitter and the need for networked support – how far does our support really go?

Look at the “Seven Degrees of Connectedness” and think about how you nurture, support, and develop relationships on line, professionally and even personally. Do you have a close circle, a clique, a group of educators that you depend on – those in Stage 6 or 7? Do you have colleagues that work in your school, your district, your city – that you empower or that empower you? Do you have their back when they mess up, or need a pat on the shoulder, or need a word of praise here and there? Do you have the strength to DM them a concern? What would you do if you noticed they made an offensive remark? Are you prepared to have that “difficult conversation”? Do you do it in private? In public? Do you Unfollow them? DM them?

For many of us, Social Networking has changed the way we work, relate, share, create and learn.  Just think, throughout history, innovators have created so many different avenues and channels to share and communicate and strengthen relationships at many levels – some very surface and others very intense and deep – even life changing. What about the printing press? The mail system? The phone, radio, television?  In so many ways, the transparent nature of all of these tools makes us all so vulnerable, which is why we depend on our relationships and our trust in others to help us do the right thing and be the best we can be. We want to encourage risk taking so it will lead to new innovations, new thinking, new perspectives. But, with each of these channels comes a risk. Risk of error, risk of misinformation, risk of misinterpretation, risk of bias, risk of judgement. Even risk of friendship or something deeper.

Online tools, like Twitter or Facebook also pose a risk. We know this. Have you ever said something “in the heat of the moment?” that should have been kept private?Have you ever deleted a Tweet?

Sometimes we are just learning, and along the way, we make mistakes.  When I first started on Twitter, about four years ago, I had no idea that I was “Tweeting” with location settings “ON” until @dougpete sent me a friendly DM suggesting that I take it off since he could see exactly where I live. Not a good idea.  Another time I tweeted out comment that wasn’t all that appropriate during a live debate (political) and again, received a DM from an online colleague who simply reminded me “Zoe…you have a very public audience here”. Once, I even Tweeted out my home phone number in the public stream, instead of the intended DM.  Again, an online colleague, one whose relationship and trust was built over time, sent me a little note, “Zoe, delete the last tweet”.

Whatever the channel or method, face-to-Face or online, the way we nurture and respond to relationships depends on the level of trust we have. Even in a public stream like twitter, there will always be a circle of colleagues and friends (STAGE 7) that will protect, support, guide, teach and nurture one another.  So ask yourself,

Where do my colleagues fit in the framework?
Where do I fit in the framework?
How will I respond to a Tweet that offends me?
Do I DM an online colleague to help or offer advice?
Do I make public a concern or do I DM a concern?
Do I have people to count on, in the stream, like in the Face to Face world?

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Jun 04 2012


Due Diligence and Social Media, Gaming and 21st Century Learning. Will education Institutions be held accountable?

Due Diligence and Social Media, Gaming and 21st Century Learning. Will education Institutions be held accountable?

“What?, you’ve been banned from 8 different servers?” I shrieked at my 11 year old son.  

“It’s part of the game – to build trust, act normal, get more responsibility from the server owner and then, destroy” he explained.

I gasped.

 

“In many servers, the point is to build and protect. If you are in a server shared by others, you always take the risk of having your things stolen and your creations destroyed…but for some players, hacking into a server and destroying is the main point”.

I gasped. “But it’s not nice…..”
So he explains, “most teachers and adults aren’t even aware of what is going on in the background of the server and chats”. He grins and asks me, “Do you know that most of us can get the brute force server hosting password?”  “Do you know how many servers don’t use ‘world guard or world bucket’ plugins to protect the word, protect the players?”
Minecraft is Boring.  The real fun and thrill comes from the design, the programming and the challenge. What we do in schools is just the “Basics”. Boring.

I gasped. “Where do you learn all this stuff then?”

“Online. Together.  Youtube”  Never school.

I gasped. “What about Ethics? Character? Kindness?”, I wonder. I continue to wonder (now with my TEACHER LENS),  “I’ve never heard of a school based PD about Minecraft servers, or world bucket”. Come to think of it, I’ve never heard of a mandatory in-service, PD session about any social gaming , or media tool or strategy. 

Step Up Districts and Schools. Parents can’t do this alone.   Make Social Media and Blended Learning Strategies as much a priority as traditional literacies. Be accountable and insist that all teachers have a solid understanding of the tools, strategies, and pedagogies so that we can help kids navigate in these online social environments. I want my children and my students to be safe online to understand online risks, and to have a chance to practice good online citizenship under the direction, coaching and support of a knowledgeable teacher. Help our children understand the hard and soft skills associated with these environments – help their parents understand how to coach, monitor, guide.

When it comes to the use of social media, gaming, multimedia and multi-modal learning strategies, I wonder, how many educators are encouraged to teach with it, without fully understanding the tool itself, or grasping the research behind its use, or acknowledging the implications of its use (including safety). How many educators are encouraged to teach with it without being provided the tools (computer, systems)  and aren’t given in-school time to practice and learn?

It isn’t about updating our skills (like other literacies) it is about learning the skill.

The problem is that with other literacies (like reading and writing) we already knew them before entering the profession – we don’t have to learn them. We have a solid grasp about grammar rules, reading strategies, sentence structure, writing process. But with new literacies, especially the use of online tools, we are having to spend more time and resources to learn them. I’m not sure if our resources  (people, infrastructure, knowledge) fully support this reality.

With this, I ask – where does the responsibility lay on education organizations to guide kids in an environment (even facebook, youtube, twitter, gaming)where they are spending so much time? Why are we OK with them teaching each other?

Ask yourself, in your school, or organization – Do teachers , leaders and parents know how to properly moderate a student blog?  How about protect gaming server? or properly cite resources?  or manage content privately while also being transparent and open? or create effective comments on a blog?  or understand ‘public audience’? or how to have a conversation in an online chat?

In going back to my own children’s online behaviour, the story I started with – I as a parent can’t do it alone. I need support from the school system to guide and support my child’s learning in these online environments.

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Apr 20 2012


Will we value the skills associated with Social Media like we do traditional literacies?

Children are using social media. Who is teaching them?

As a parent,  I see my own children (9,11) communicating online with anonymous friends during their Mindcraft episodes, Wii and Kinect games, Mathelectics and online forums. Often, I observe the server chats trying to picture who is on the other end, wondering if they are aware of networking safety, wondering if their parent, or teacher talks to them about network safety, about how to talk online vs. in private. 

 

While I am thrilled that we are having these discussions online and within our PLN, it continues to concern me greatly that our districts and public education policies continue to put very little emphasis on the teaching of social media as part of a literacy program. While it is discussed and modeled in various capacities around the districts, it continues to be done as extra or optional, rather then as a required aspect of our children’s learning, like we do with reading, writing and math. And yet-  it is the only literacy medium that can have serious personal safety consequences if it is used inappropriately.

I ask  – how is it possible that educators and leaders are addressing the skills associated with social media with students authentically, when so many of them are not trained to use it themselves?  Why is Social Media  NOT a required PD in most schools  (experienced teachers and leaders)  and why is it not mandatory (rather then optional) in many Pre-Service training colleges? 

As part of a media literacy presentation social media in primary classroom pdf that I am facilitating this week, I am discussing a few simple classroom strategies/lessons that address at least some of the skills associated with social media and communication.  My intention is to demonstrate that we do not need to be tech experts, nor do we need to have high end equipment.  In fact, some of the examples demonstrate that we can teach the skill (communication, audience, perspective, online participation, discussion, commenting, blogging, reacting) without the equipment.  Let’s help our colleagues, our leaders, our students (and parents) understand the impact of their digital footprints.

  1.   Paper Tweets to teach Social Media:  This post describes ways to engage students in various topics using tags through paper tweets. The intent is to model, encourage and practice using appropriate dialogue, addressing audience, voice and appropriate vocabulary in simple, clear sentences.
  2. Paper Blogging -Thanks to Rodd Lucier for his discussion on the use of Paper blogging. I think this strategy could be done in any school classroom or hallway, and especially to encourage Parents and community to contribute.  Take it even further and integrate VOICE notes on the bulletin board using Livescribe
  3. Interactive bulletin board – Social Media is about communication. Why not ask for input on classroom bulletin boards?  Make your room talk! Incorporate QR codes and have your boards change and adapt as you change the links.
  4. Creation of a FaceboardAt home, students create a poster of themselves, including information that they would be comfortable sharing publicly.  My son had this for an assignment during his Third Grade. Interestingly, several parents complained, flagging the assignment as “inappropriate”.
  5. Audience is Everything –  Have students write down a comment about a particular topic (ie: the movie they saw, something fun at recess……) and then have them change how they would state/phrase their comment depending on who can see the comment and who it is intended for (parent, friend, teacher, public…). This strategy could work for students in all grades (even adults).
  6. Storytelling (My Favourite example that I first learned from @dougpete and @mrspal) “A walk down Memory Lane” Students and parent go online to GOOGLE maps. Parent tells the child a story about his/her childhood by looking at the map. Child can retell the story to classmates. This could be tiered to different levels. Giving student/parent information on how to make a tiny url, students can mark down the URL, bring to school, and teacher prints off the place. Student writes down the story he/she was told from family member as if it were a blog post.
  7. Skype   @msolomonteacher suggests using Skype to help students learn social media skills. If internet is available, use Skype to meet another class, connect with other students across the country or the world.  Why not have students practice skype calls, oral language skills and presentation skills (online video conferencing can be intimidating!)
  8. BACK-CHANNELING @susan_watt  suggests using todaysmeet.com chat. Have the children make one comment (to start) about a read-aloud or a video.  Part 2 – take the words from the chat and make a Wordle from them! http://www.wordle.net
  9. @susan_watt suggests TypewithMe – another great way to use social media and practice communication in a moderated, supervised environment (http://typewith.me) pad. Create a creative thinking brainstorming challenge (e.g. What are all the things you could do with an empty pop can? – or something like that) and ask the students to add their ideas.
  10. WEB 2.O TOOLS: Bitstrips , Glogster, Voicethread are all examples of Web 2.0 tools that encourage interaction.  All of these programs are interactive allowing students and parents to comment and discuss within the program (social media) – and its moderated and supervised.
  11. COMMENTING: Storybird also encourages commenting within the program. @kathycassidy
  12. Have an Author’s Night at school. Students read their “published” work aloud to all parents. Then, have parents write comments on the last page of each student’s “book”. Thanks @kathycassidy for the suggestion!
  13. @kathycassidy notes that students can also comment on the work of their classmates in #11. What a great way for authentic communication in the online environment with a well trained educator to assist!
  14. RECORD IT! Another great idea from @kathycassidy – Record students reading or reading their writing or describing some other type of learning. Also record comments of classmates.

ANYMORE SUGGESTIONS? Consider adding to this collaborative document: Here

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Jan 21 2012


Essential Tech Tools for NEW and Experienced Educators

What am I introducing to New Teachers as Essentials? While I focus heavily on the TPACK framework during teaching, here are a few of the TECHNOLOGY TOOLS/KNOWLEDGE that my course (s)  includes:

In my current role as a Pre-Service Instructor at Brock University, I have small window of opportunity to introduce (and model) to new teachers to 21st Century Education.The following sites, and resources are what I consider to be the essentials of 21st Century tools (although there are many many more). These are  my “I can’t live without” tech tools as learner and teacher.  I am listing the best time-saving, collaborative, and integrated tools around! So open up your book marking tool, your Smartpen, or your favourite note taking device and save them for later, because you will need them to survive in the fast pace of 21st Century learning.

Some tools are new for me (in 2011) and some are ones that have become part of my toolbox for a few years now 
– but ALL valuable…

1) Google Plus. Pedagogically, I use it very differently from Twitter and Facebook, (which are also essential tools in the learning environment). When Google Plus came out in Beta, I had a chance to explore (just a bit). But I didn’t see the full potential until it was fully released and I could create circles for each of my classes and professional circles.

I see four major uses and benefits to the use of Google+ as an instructional tool:

 

* Allows for pre and post-teaching in both OPEN and CLOSED environments
* Allows for distributed leadership within the class (students are adding information, questions and discussions as well as the teacher)
* Allows for both synchronous and asynchronous learning
* Allows for teacher/student/group meetings (using Google Hang-outs)

2) IFTT http://ifttt.com/

With so many Social Media tools – all with a variety of purposes, cross posting can be a bit time consuming and not very efficient. With this AMAZING resource, I can create recipes with my Web resources. IF I favourite a video on Youtube, THEN tweet it out. This program helps me stay in control of my digital footprint, extend my network and share more dynamically.

 

3) GoogleSites – Free, Easy, Collaborative
It’s never been so easy to create a website – Anyone can do it.  This is where we discuss BLENDED LEARNING.
2011 was the year of  GoogleSites for me. I present at many conference across North America as well as teach full-time for the Faculty of Education at Brock University, and rarely do I use PowerPoint when I can use a collaborative resource like Google Sites to present my material and invite participants to use, edit, share and maintain the resource. Sustainable, collaborative and organic. BEAUTIFUL.
For a major assignment in my Intermediate/Senior Pre-service Technology class, all students were to create a Google Site as a way for them to practice teaching in a blended learning environment. There is no more, “I don’t know how”. The resource is straightforward and many tutorials are found on line. So get started!!

http://eh-trigiani.blogspot.com/2011/12/weighing-and-of-google-sites.html
https://sites.google.com/site/shailjaguelph/

4) Be your own News CURATOR
Paper.li: My twitter stream often leads me to a variety of “Paper.li” news items, all with specific topics. One of my favourites is from Doug Peterson who curates this Ontario Educators News source: http://paper.li/dougpete/ontario-educators
Scoopit: Another News curator that allows me to bookmark sites, add them to a specific Scoopit topic and then share it – in magazine format. Here is an example of a topic on Differentiated Instruction: http://www.scoop.it/t/differentiation-teaching-learning- TRY IT! A fantastic way to collect information for your students, your colleagues, your staff and your PLN (Professional Learning Network)

 

5) Livescribe SMARTPEN
The tools allows teachers to add audio to paper notes (seems like magic). Students simply touch the ink and can hear what the teacher said at that moment. So many uses with ELL, and LD students. Teachers can post Livescribe course notes on a website for pre/post learning. So many uses with students at all levels and abilities.
MY entire GRAD studies are on ONE Livescribe Smartpen, accessible in audio, paper format, and interactive on my computer. I can share my audio/interactive notes using Google, Everynote, or  in an audio enabled PDF. YEP – MAGIC. 
http://livewithlivescribe.edublogs.org/
http://www.smartpencentral.com/
http://www.livescribek12.com/

6) Livebinders
What an incredible resource to help students and teachers create digital binders that can be shared. Parent Resource binder? Student created binder? Math Resource binder? Student project binder? The possibilities are endless. I first introduced this to one of my students as an accommodation to help her organize her course load, links and information.
http://www.livebinders.com/welcome?mycat=ED&type=category
ipad in schools livebinder: http://www.livebinders.com/play/play_or_edit?id=26195

7) Google Documents and Collections

Using Google Docs with my students is ALWAYS a hit. When they see the magic in shared learning and collaboration they are unstoppable – like I was.
This year, I used Google COLLECTIONS in a few new ways. Creating a class collection and then adding sub-collections with each student and then sharing their collection with them allowed me to hand in personalized assignments, rubrics which are co-created and co-assessed. Very handy tool.

 

 

8) GOOGLE BLOGGER

First day of class – whether it be a grade six class, or a pre-service education class – I introduce blogging. People blog for different purposes. What I emphasis to those NEW to it – is to blog for REFLECTION, for writing practice, for ON-GOING LEARNING, and for SHARING. I emphasis to new bloggers – USE YOUR VOICE. BE VULNERABLE. RISK YOUR OPINION. ASK QUESTIONS AND MAKE IT INTERACTIVE.

Teachers should be very  AWARE of AUDIENCE.Have two blogs – one for personal reflection and professional sharing and one for classroom instruction and blended learning. Different purposes and different audiences.

9) Delicious Bookmarking – NO MORE “JUST GOOGLE IT!!”
http://delicious.com/zoebraniganpipe/
A tool that I cannot live with out. How incredibly awesome is it that I can collect my links and resources using an online tool and share my collection with others. Even better, I can access other teacher’s bookmarks too – ANYTIME, ANYPLACE, ANY DEVICE.

 

 

10) Jing – Sharing isn’t just text.

Jing is a screen capture tool. I use it everyday for quick screen captures, tutorials, and for video and audio instructions. I used it for this post.

 

 

It is hard to stop at  ten. However, the biggest complaint I get is that there are TOO MANY TOOLS, SITES and RESOURCES. My suggestion to new and experienced teachers is to ALWAYS try it first for themselves. Play with it, get comfortable, learn it. Then integrate it into your classroom lessons.

Thanks for reading – Zoe

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Nov 16 2011


Teachers Leading Teachers

These are a just few words that come to mind when I reflect on how I felt as I toured the hundreds of projects that were on display at the #TLLP2011 summit this past weekend in Toronto, Ontario. What an honour!

Together, teachers gathered from across Ontario’s 72 District school boards – all grades, disciplines, subject levels, departments and from across a diverse province of French and English learners, Aboriginal communities and Gay and Lesbian groups to share insights, perspectives, research and best practice. If the passion and energy of these leaders could have been bottled up and harnessed for power, I am certain that it would be enough power to get us through the next hundred years.

SEWATAHON’ SATAT PROJECT  (SEWATAHON’SATAT = “LISTEN” in Mohawk/Haudensonee language

The TLLP is a joint venture between the Ontario Teacher Federation and the Ontario Ministry of Education and provides an opportunity, funding and support for teachers to engage in leadership initiatives within their schools and districts.

Although throughout the year we used an online network to share our progress, I don’t think that any of us were prepared for the magnitude of depth and detail that was on show at the summit.

As a participant and lead learner of the TLLP project, with my team -we too had a display that focused on a year long project that investigated the use of sound and ink and its impact on learning and we documented our learning on a collaborative blog called, “livewithlivescribe”. Being able to share and discuss our projects with other teachers across our province was incredibly empowering.

As I toured the showcase, it was hard not to feel overwhelmed with emotion. Over and over and over, I heard teachers talk about how their project helped engage their students. I heard teachers talk about how their project put confidence in the students, how their project provided opportunity for students, how their project gave hope to students. I tried to imagine how many students were impacted by the initiatives in the room. As one teacher excitedly explained to me, “we only thought, this project would effect the 10 people in our school that joined, but over 30 teachers were ultimately involved”. He repeated with a huge smile, “30 teachers”. I smiled when he said that and pointed out to him the people in the room. “Your project will impact 100’s of teachers”, I said with a lump in my throat just imagining how many children’s lives would be touched.

 

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Sep 15 2011


New Teachers ‘…the times they are a-changin’

Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you
Is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’. (Bob Dylan, 1964)

There is a new group of teachers in town. For the next eight months, at Brock University in Hamilton, Ontario,  these teachers will learn and practice what it truly means to teach in the 21st Century. Nope. This doesn’t mean they will graduate as Information Technology Specialists. Nor does it mean that they will be computer programmers, or expert gamers, or trained ‘techies’.

What it means, is that they will truly understand how to work in a networked world, that doesn’t have the limits of walls, or buildings. They will learn why relationships, equity, environment and community are above and beyond anything in the learning model. They will practice a distributed leadership model by sharing their skills and knowledge across their program, their internship schools, and within the wider global community.  These new teachers will blog – not to just deliver information, but to share their learning, to reflect and to lead in an open and transparent way. Shawn, one Pre-service Teachers, explains,

“I have never integrated myself into a project of many people (strangers, really, though only for a short while) working collectively towards a goal larger than themselves. The fact of that now amazes me, because that is what 21st technology is all about. And with that realization, I find I’ve been incorrectly viewing new technology as an end in itself, and not the means with which I can make a contribution in “real life.” Touch screens, smartboards and live feeds are tremendous advancements, but they’re usefulness goes so much deeper then simple fodder for gadget hounds like myself. As a teacher, I am going to have to get very used to linking my life collectively with groups, and that is the first and easily the most important lesson this cohort has given me thus far.

A FEW GUIDING PRINCIPLES as we facilitate this journey of Teacher Education:

1. ALWAYS  participate in a  Professional Learning Network, be genorous and mentor others:

Virtual Associate Mentors/Teachers  have welcomed this cohort with arms wide open into an established professional learning network. Incredible demonstration of generosity of skill and time.

 

2. ALWAYS demonstrate that good teaching means learning together in a variety of ways, with a variety of tools.

Teacher Candidates using the Livescribe pen to make audio and digital ink recordings to capture their thoughts about Professional Teaching Standards. They ask, “What does Society expect from its teachers? They explore a variety of mediums – text, audio and digital as a way to express their thoughts and as a method to share with others.

 

3. ALWAYS demonstrate that good teaching means facilitating a SAFE, CARING, and EQUITABLE environment where everyone can learn using a variety of skills, and talents.

Teacher Candidates explore symbols in learning. Here, they personalize rocks in a deliberate effort to begin the process of relationship building. They begin to understand the power of CREATIVITY and ARTS when working within a diverse group.

 

4. ALWAYS collaborate and share

Teacher Candidates gasp as they see the power of co-creating for the FIRST time. They explore the content and pedagogy that is modeled to them and they relate this  to their own journey as Teacher Education students through the TPACK framework.

 

5. ALWAYS be open to learning new skills and new methods of learning and teaching.

All Teacher Candidates are required to take an Technology in Education course which provides them with an opportunity to explore a variety of new teaching tools. They work in classrooms with integrated Front Row Audio systems, Smartboards, Wireless internet. They are encouraged to bring in their own devices. They have access and can sign out projectors, iPods, Livescribes and Video Cameras. They are provided with class time to learn web 2.0 tools and they use blogs and podcasts to share their learning.

 

I find myself in complete awe of all of this. Is it really happening? Is this the change we need?

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Sep 04 2011


Connected Coach – an authentic Professional Development Model


From the bottom of my heart and with every single fibre of my body, I thank those leaders and principals and district decision makers for giving teachers an opportunity to learn with other teachers in an authentic, customized and  inquiry driven  environment that focuses on the most current and changing educational pedagogues. Thank you.

There were  many key events that have happened in my   professional life over the last six months. Events that have changed my approach and my understanding of teaching and learning – especially as it relates to teacher Professional Development strategies. One of those events was my experience as a connected coach with the Powerful Learning Practice (PLP).

While I’ve never had the opportunity to be a participant in the Powerful Learning Practice model, I have followed PLP for the couple of years.  It is hard not to pay attention to the many free PLP webinars, articles, and on-going dialogue between educators at all levels across the globe. In fact, right now PLP is offering a free 2 week e-course about Web2.0 in the classroom.

In March 2011, I had a phone discussion and interview with Sheryl Naussam-Beach about what I can offer to the PLP organization as a connected coach. I was a bit skeptical because I wasn’t sure if I had the essential skills needed for this position. In my role as a classroom teacher, I have never been trained formally as a coach. But, in the online world, I have acted as a mentor and coach to many networked teachers and learners across the world. I have spoken and written about this topic passionately. Online methods of learning are reshaping how information is delivered, understood and synthesized.  We are seeing a world of co-everything. We insist on collaborating, on sharing, on co-creating, on co-editing – and yet, we don’t insist on formal online training for our teachers about how to use and implement 21st Century Learning skills both with each other and in a classroom context. I worry about that. I really really worry about that.

For several months, I participated in rigorous on-line  coaching training with Lani Hall and Dean Shareski, our connected coach facilitators and six other connected coaches from across across our globe. This training consisted with a mixture of theory, research and practice. We read and discussed Chapters from, The Reflective Educator’s Guide (Coaching Inquiry-Oriented Learning Communities) and then we spent several weeks practicing a variety of coaching techniques on each other and then providing feedback for improvement.  It was fascinating and exciting to learn this way. It is rare for me as a teacher to get to practice a technique before implementing it. It is rare to get on-going feedback from my colleagues or leaders.

The leaders and other connected coaches in the PLP insisted that even in an online environment, relationships come FIRST. And so, we spent eight weeks getting to know each other through digital story telling, online conferences, skypes, twitter, Facebook conversations and in the Ning network (a private space for us to chat and offer support).  Eventually, we had an opportunity to practice some of the techniques learned with groups of teachers from both ElPaso, Texas and in Australia – both with very different focus. In ElPaso Texas, we engaged teachers in conversations about Digital Story telling and with the Australian cohort, the teachers went through a rigorous action research about Inquiry Based Learning.

As the work with these cohorts comes to an end, I find myself reflecting on  what made this experience so meaningful.  It wasn’t very hard to conclude that the engagement we all felt was a result from the authenticity of the training.  Teachers were empowered to think critically, to work at their own pace, to ask questions and discuss alternative answers. Teachers were given an opportunity to share stories and work at a pace that suites them. Teachers were given choice and freedom to create projects that were open ended and based on a variety of techniques and research methods.

As someone who writes often about the importance of authentic teacher training, I can’t help but feel extremely inspired by the amount of work, effort, and passion that is being put into the PLP process.

From the bottom of my heart and with every single fibre of my body, I thank those leaders and principals and district decision makers for giving the PLP opportunity to teachers. It is these teachers who are become the digital leaders in education.

It is my hope that Ontario takes this kind of Job Embedded learning serious. There are so many possibilities around this model of PD. I urge our program conusltants and system/district leaders to take a serious look at offering this opportunity to your educators.

Brenda Sherry, an Ontario Educator writes about PLP Ontario and offers this opportunity to all Ontario schools for the upcoming school year!

PROFESSIONAL LEARNING PRACTICE IN ONTARIO!!!

 

Zoe

 

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Aug 12 2011


Why Relationships Matter: An ‘Unplugd’ Model

Alec and Zoe's GroupThere are many takeaways from Unplugd11 and finding just one theme to write about is difficult. Do I write about the authentic collaboration and peer review of essays? Do I write about the deep conversations that took place in our small and large groups? Do I write about how 37 educators joined together, leaving behind organizational authority and leadership and worked in a truly distributed leadership model? Do I write about the impact that meeting face-to-face had on individuals who have only ever met in online spaces? Do I write about the risk people took when sharing their stories? Do I write about the blog reflections and twitter feeds, radio podcasts and photographs and skype calls that have resulted in the days after the event?

Jen and Zoe at Unplugd, already friends, teaching partners and colleagues - g meet face-to-face

Jen and Zoe "Alberta vs Ontario" Math and Spelling every Friday

What I really wanted to write about was what it has meant to me to be part of the Unplugd initiative over the last year. The support and friendship that resulted changed me in many ways. It humbled me. It gave me confidence. It was that that fueled me when I sometimes felt like I was loosing my focus. I smile when thinking about the impromptu skype calls, road trips, or the late night meetings due to time zone conflicts. Sometimes we laughed so hard that it hurt.

TalkingI smile when I think about the many conversations that we had that where not part of the agenda, but intended to offer care and support for one another during those tough days in our own organizations. And other times, we shared the joys we had in our lives. The soccer games, birthday parties, our trips, our accomplishments.

United on the train!

Heading toward Toronto to begin the Unplugd11 event. Here you see our excitement as we are watching the twitter #unplugd11 stream

This is why Relationships Matter.

Before Unplugd, during Unplugd, and now after Unplugd- in every discussion, story and anecdotal, it was about relationships. It was first about knowing each other, knowing our students, our colleagues and our staff. It was about being aware that everyone is starting in a different space and place and different level, whether it be emotionally, socially or intellectually.

This summit was intentionally designed around the idea that if Professional Development is built around relationships first, the people (students, teachers, leader) are more likely to take risk. And with risk, people begin to think more critically, talk more candidly, and share more openly. With risk, people are free to give and receive feedback and to reflect deeply. People are free to embrace change. The relationships that were built gave us capacity.

What I learned, was that this element of relationship building, of safety in groups, of trust was missing for many of us. Our walls were built so thick that when they were broken down, we could be our authentic selves, without judgment.

We set out to accomplish a co-authored book, but what was accomplished was a great deal bigger than that.

Getting down to work
I wonder, how this will change our practice, our leadership, our direction? I wonder if we will be more aware of relationship building when going back into our organizations. I wonder if our actions at UNPLUGD will be heard.

I hope so.

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Jul 23 2011


New Knowledge in the Digital Age

IMG_0643I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how Knowledge is changing in the digital age.  With all the amazing resources, tools, connections, community information, mediums, people -it really all comes down to access, information and data. The World Wide Web has allowed us to access people, places and community – and how we are handling the abundant sources of information and data – which is changing how we are thinking and learning. I wonder how this is changing how we are learning literacy itself? Information is constantly being reconstructed and reshaped – in real time through combinations of mediums and perspectives and links and ideas. Our knowledge is being accessed, shared, given by anyone – adults to children and children to adults.

I was given a book to read by my thesis supervisor a couple of months ago and to be honest, I left it sitting on my desk because I wasn’t sure how relevant the information would be with a publishing date of 2003. But, I couldn’t resist to read a few chapters and ultimately got pulled all the way in.

Lankshear, C., & Knobel, M. (2003). New literacies: changing knowledge and classroom learning. Buckingham [England: Open University Press.

While these authors discuss a variety of perspectives, (historically and culturally) about the development of literacy in education, what resonated most for me is their discussion that “schools (today) operate on the belief that knowing, thinking, believing are located within the individual, and that knowledge is seen in the final analysis as a private possession and is examined, and accredited accordingly”. Here they ask, “Have schools operated to regulate scarcity of credentialed achievement – including allocations of literacy, ‘success’?”. It was this idea that began their critical reflection and journey of what literacy really is today. Does the demonstration of individual knowledge, on the spot, tell our true level of literacy for each individual? Is literacy for an individual carrying out on something that already exists? Today, knowledge and information are accessed, shared, discussed, reshaped, redesigned, edited, re-edited, co-edited and so on, in public spaces -in collaborative spaces – spaces where questions and inquiry are encouraged. Yet, even so, these authors remind us that “knowledge is seen in the final analysis as private”, based on a mindset that was developed long ago.

Eight years ago, even before Facebook and Twitter, these authors were questioning how we define knowledge and literacy in the digital age and how we are constructing and organizing our schools as a result.

I am left uneasy with the thought that still, even with all the research, books, articles, blogs, and discussions that tell us our society is now depending on a problem-solver generation that can work collaboratively and seek out ideas globally -is evaluated on individual performance and often without access to tools such as networks and people. Unless it is individually demonstrated, is it cheating? It really is in the mindset. When will the mindset change I wonder.
Thoughts?

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May 09 2011


Who is your Doug Peterson?

IMG_3488A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to spend some time with Doug Peterson (AKA @dougpete, AKA yoda <my master>) in Windsor, Ontario. It may have appeared that the purpose of the visit was to ‘Faceoff at Maxwell School”. But the real purpose was to connect face to face with a colleague and friend that has truly impacted my professional growth by inspiring and teaching me to think outside the box and challenge me in so many ways –to be authentic, creative and innovating in my teaching and learning.

My visit with Doug has truly made me reflect about a dichotomy of learning that I have been thinking about and I ask, why has this learning community – this PLN –  had such a strong impact on my relationships within my workplace (the brick and mortar workplace)? Have I become more distant and less social and even less collaborative? Does it matter? Is it just that our learning spaces are changing and that I am adapting?

In fact, this is a dichotomy that I struggle with in a profession where collaboration and team work are key ingredients to success. On one hand, my organization tells me who to collaborate with, when to collaborate, how to collaborate and what to collaborate about – but most important – to be there in person. Choice is rarely an option. I admit – this has resulted in disengagement. I wish it hasn’t. But, on the other hand what I have discovered through learning networks is so incredibly empowering. I have become fully engaged and inspired by learners (YOU) and educators (yes, you again) across the world that challenge me and engage me, EVERYDAY to be creative and critical at the same time.
Doug Peterson is a perfect example of a colleague that has helped me improve my practice and yet lives over 400km’s away.  In spending these days, (in person) with Doug -as we toured schools and drove across the countryside,  Doug explained to me the importance of authenticity, 

“We need to use the tools and strategies ourselves first and tell our stories, that’s what makes us connect to our students”.

Perhaps it is this very statement that has caused such a struggle for me–  and so I asked Doug, “How do I be fully engaged within buildings that I work in, while also embracing these new digital coaching platforms?” Doug has been a leader, a coach and a mentor and to him, distance or time zones or buildings is not essential when developing supportive learning communities or learning spaces. It is simply about the people and their choices.  I am not sure if it really matters whether or not Doug works in my immediate building, or collaborates and coaches from a distance. I am not sure it really matters if  my learning and professional development and growth happens in networked environments vs brick and mortar – as long as the learning a growth happens, builds capacity for others, and is sustainable.  I wonder how long it will take our organizations to embrace the idea of choice and customization when developing our PLC’s. Who is your Doug Peterson?

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