MindMeister- Mind mapping and global brainstorming

MindMeister brings the concept of mind mapping to the web, using its facilities for real-time collaboration to allow truly global brainstorming sessions. Users can create, manage and share mind maps online and access them anytime, from anywhere. In brainstorming mode, fellow MindMeisters from around the world (or just in different rooms) can simultaneously work on the same mind map and see each other’s changes as they happen.

Website : http://www.mindmeister.com/

As I walked around my classroom today, observing and encouraging kids as they engaged in a Writing Assessment mandated by my school district (OWA), I noticed that many of the students were drawing mind map webs as a familiar method for planning their stories.

Later in the afternoon, the students began using the Smartboard and Smart-ideas, to describe and re-tell our classroom connections and travels (Classroom-Classroom Skype calls). Students worked together to create interactive maps using google maps and interactive mind maps using Smart Ideas. As the students worked, one student asked me if they could just “combine” and share their maps and  then he discovered the “share” function.

Since we couldn’t do this with Smart Ideas – we are going to learn to use MindMeister as a collaborative mind-mapping tool in the classroom as well as globally. I’d like to ask another classroom – one that we’ve already been in contact with to participate in a mind-mapping activity with our students based on one topic.

The Maker Culture – a collaborative project

Everyday that I spend in the classroom, I become more and more convinced that we need to begin changing the way we are delivering our curriculum. Today was no exception.

Wayne McPhail, a Social Media Expert and Journalism teacher from Western and Ryerson University visited my classroom and we engaged in a conversation about meaningful  and experiential learning.

We couldn’t be coming from more polar opposite worlds as it relates to Education – Wayne, an adult learning instructor/facilitator and me – an elementary school teacher. Yet, we found ourselves speaking about the same concepts. Wayne showed me the online classroom management system that he uses with his media course students. I showed Wayne my on-line classroom system (learning.com). Wayne discussed the importance of reflection, collaboration and communication in one’s own learning and showed me how his students use blogs and tools such as posterous to maintain a regular line of communication with and between learners. I showed Wayne my “pipedreams” classroom blog and explained our most recent Skype project – 15 places and 40,000 km’s in three days. We read through a few comments, that spanned from Australia to Arizona.

As I walked through my classroom, showing Wayne the tools that I use, I  continued to maintain that that while the tools and resources are essential for today’s learner -what is most important, is letting the child discover his/her own learning through problem solving and a constructivist approach to learning and that this cannot be done with support and on-going professional learning.

Today, was my first in a series of differentiated tasks that relate to the Olympic theme “The Inukshuk”. Wayne listened carefully as I showed him each lesson, explaining that it is the students that pick their tasks, often relating to their own learning style. One group, for example, spent almost an hour painting small Aboriginal designs on rocks and then used the rocks to create their own Inukshuk display. Another group, using the smartboard, created a concept map based on the events and locations of our previous days lessons and experiences. Another – used local news clippings and begin to write their own scripts based on a series of news stories and began to use the video camera and recording software. I explained to Wayne that it was during these “hands-on” activities that I do my most valuable teaching. I can meet with individual students for reading, writing and numeracy help.

As we spoke about problem based learning and constructivism, Wayne introduced to me an idea that I am now compelled to learn more about. It is the concept of ‘the maker culture’.  I learned that the  maker culture involves growing community of  professionals dedicated to making their own functional devices, whether it be technological gadgets, open source hardware and software.

As I reflected on what my role is in the maker culture, I began to review the information and websites that Wayne introduced me to:


-is a place where people can upload their own designs in a 3-d format which can be then delivered to a 3-d printer. An open source website that allows digital designs to be made into real, physical objects.


rep rap is the actual tool that allows you to print your design in 3-d.

Today, virtually everyone in the devleoped world runs their own printing workds, their own photography laboratory, and their on CD pressing plant. Moving from two-dimensions to three, why shouldn’t they also make their own MP3 players, their own coat hooks, and their own car wing mirrors? Andy why shouldn’t they use the machine that does the making to make new improved versions of itself?

As we wrapped up our conversations, we agreed that a partnership between his adult learners, and my student learners would work well. For my students, they will be introduced to the Maker Culture and will begin to reflect on what their role is in discovering their own tools and creating their own discoveries. For Wayne’s students, they will benefit by collaborating with true, 21st century learners – the youth that will be creating the products, designs, solutions, ideas that the Maker Culture will one day be developing.

Global Collaboration, Part Two

PODCAST – Listen here: Students tell what they learned about our Global Connections

We started our second day of the school year in Australia. At 9:15 ET, @jjash, an innovative educator in Australia,  contacted our classroom through Skype. Admittedly, I was just as excited as my students. She described her rural yard and told us that in the summer months, it is common for her to see groups of Kangaroos behind her house. She described the dry climate and told us that Australia has been in a drought for almost ten years. Students shared with her, their experiences this summer in Northern Ontario and shared with her their sitings of black bears, deer and moose. What we loved the most, however, was listening to Ms. Ashby tell us about her students and how she has initiated an itouch program with her primary students to teach literacy and numeracy skills. As we were just beginning our day, Ms. Ashby was saying good night. “See ya late -ah” she said.

Only minutes later, our class traveled to New Jersey to meet another fabulous and innovative educator, Erin Borino and her grade 7 class. Again, we shared the story of Lawfield School and how it was hit by a Tornado a few years ago, resulting in a new building.

We ended our morning with a call from a class in Ancaster, Ontario from an enthusastic teacher, Aviva Dunsiger and her grade one class. Austin read them a Pirate poem by my favourite children’s author, Shel Silverstein,  and we introduced the class to our toy pet “Piper”, who literally wouldn’t stop laughing (that’s another story). It was inspiring to see these little faces laughing through our smartboard.

By the afternoon, we were in Quebec, Canada learning from J. Meacher and her grade five students. Her students talked to our in their French Canadian dialect and they told us that for most of them, English was their second language. Our students, one by one, shared with them their native language, determining that we have more that 12 languages, not including English or french spoken by these 10 and 11 year olds.

As we discussed our travels throughout the day, our students began exploring Google maps and discussing the distances between locations. We discussed the similarities and differences between each classroom and concluded that among other things, the students shared the desire to learn through innovation.

View Global Citizenship in a larger map

Travel the world in a day…

Today was the first day of school, September 8, 2009. This was like no other first day. We started the morning by welcoming and congratulating JK/SK students in Sault Saint Marie, Ontario via Skype, thanks to Mr. Poluk.  Many of my students were stunned and they quietly watched as I read the primary students, 500 km’s away a story called “10 Dinasaurs”.

My students then gathered in groups of 5 and with a list of curriculum/standard items, they began to plan their own activities. Their list was something that I have never seen and was an excellent example of what students in 21st Century expect. Students talked about using Google Docs as a method of writing and some of my students (from last year) excitedly told the others how we could “collaborate” and “edit” and “share” their work. Some asked if they would be getting their own blogs and would be able to make their own Wiki’s. Some students suggested that they create wiki pages about the Winter Olympics (our theme for the year) and others asked if they could do math on the “Smartboard’. Many students talked about doing “hands on activities” and experiments.

Before we knew it, it was 12:00 pm and we were anxious to watch Obama address the students of the nation. Transcript of the speech is  HERE. We discussed our connections with the U.S and why it is important to hear what the president has to say, even though he is not “our” president. Students understood the concept of global relations and partnerships.  We watched the speech in complete awe.

It was then, that I felt most inspired. Not by Obama, but by these 10 and 11 year olds. One of the students said, “That is why we need to be allowed to work in different ways”. Another student reminded me of a conversation that we had last year about multiple intelligences and learning styles. Angela told the class that while her “strength” is reading and writing, she needed help with Art. She empowered another student in my class by telling her peers what an “amazing artist Brianne is”. They went on to identify the strengths of each other. The students were beaming with pride. Imagine your peers, telling the room how good you are at something. My goal for the day was achieved. I just wanted the students to feel worthwhile and empowered. I want them to be in control of their own learning, not to be controlled by our standard driven curriclum.

I asked the students if they could relate to anything they heard in the speech. Every hand went up. Every student has their own story – a story that they will tell.

Only 10 minutes after the speech, our class called Mr. Turner, in Glendale Arizona for a videoconference. We discussed how the speech impacted them, as US citizens. We discuss how the speech gave us the motivation to set goals and not to give up, even when things seem tough. It was fun to compare our climate and environment with this Arizona class. “Does it ever get cold there?” Logan asked. “What was the hottest day this summer?” asked Angela. We learned that what they think “cold” is, is not the same as what we think it is. To answer the second question, they saw temperatures over 120 degrees F.

We finished that video conference with so much excitement and enthusiasm, which was perfect for our next trip. We went to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. These Grade One students sang us the most adorable song and then I read a Shel Silverstein poem, picked by Leah. Students, on both sides of our great country giggled together while they listened to a familiar poem.

As the students were dismissed, I asked them, as they left the room, to tell me ONE thing that they did today that was meaningful. “Meeting classrooms across our world”, “being spoken to by Obama”, “reading to Grade Ones”, “Going to the Desert”

What an incredible first day of school. I look forward to more.