Monday, March 5, 2012

Sharing the Learning in Coronation

On March 5, 2012 I had the pleasure of travelling to rural East Central Alberta to a town called Coronation to share the learning on the topic of technology in education. I was asked to present some different topics on technology to students, teachers and parents. I began my day working with Grade 8 students on blogging using the site I briefly explained blogging to the students, and Mrs. A, the classroom teacher, was the observer and learner in the background. Once the students had the chance to begin blogging, the fun began. They were truly engaged. Of course with learning something new, the students may or may not have blogged with purpose, but the experience and ease of set up was a hit with Mrs. A. Once the trial blog session was over, Mrs. A created her real classroom blog in approximately 10 minutes. The best part for her was that the site is secure, she is in control of posts and comments and she can allow more freedom if students earn it. Blogging promotes literacy, assessment for learning, 21st Century skills and digital citizenship. Thank you Mrs. A for allowing me to work with your Grade 8 class.

Next was an iPad apps for education session with a small group. We shared apps that are being used among us. It is always difficult suggesting apps because it depends on the learner and the classroom.

Third was a Digital Citizenship presentation for parents at a luncheon. It was great seeing around 15 parents show up. Bring food and they shall come. My presentation is called Technology: The Good, Bad and the Ugly. I presented through video and many parents in this rural town are nervous about the dangers. One question asked was on advice in raising their kids. My advice to all parents is to be a good role model in using technology and have a strong relationship with your kids. Many parents use technology as a babysitting tool and do not monitor their kids use. This is when inappropriate use or contact with online predators usually occur. Stay connected with your kids and set boundaries.

I repeated my presentation on Digital Citizenship with Grade 9 students in the afternoon. The students really enjoyed the video clips of the positive sides to technology. The Sophia Grace and Rosie YouTube videos YouTube video was a big hit. When presenting to junior high I always try to caution about once something is posted it can be there forever. The consequences of cyberbullying was seen by showing the Ryan Halligan Story to the Grade 9's. I always get choked up thinking this could easily be my son. The students were a great audience and very respectful. Thanks Grade 9.

My final session of the busy day was a TLC (Technology Leadership Coordinator)Web 2.0 SMACKDOWN. Usually these sessions are information overload for teachers, but there were many questions asked and I stressed that it is not about the tools but about the learning. I would say that out of all the free tools online that blogging with students reaps the greatest benefits. Literacy, effective feedback, 21st Century Skills and digital citizenship can be accomplished through a classroom blog.

Things I can take back to my District in Medicine Hat include learning about a dual platform in a rural school. Coronation School runs both Mac and PC computers and teachers enjoy the choice. Some like the PC and others like the Mac. IPads are being used as well but mainly for assistive technology. Coronation has a great computer to student ratio 1:2. Credit earned units in high school classes help this ratio exist.
All teachers have a Macbook Pro supplied by the school. Digital learning and motivation to learn new ways to integrate technology by teachers was evident during my stay.

Lastly, I do thank Sharalynn Anderson for asking me to present in Coronation, Cam Brown and family for allowing me to stay at their acreage, the staff, parents and students at Coronation for the kindness and learning I can take back from my time at Coronation School. I love my job in that I can help stakeholders embrace technology and in the process, also deepen my learning.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

What if?

We had our annual Teachers' Convention on February 23 and 24 and I was happy to attend a session by Bill Belsey titled "My Classroom is Wired, Now What?" Bill provided plenty of stories of how he makes learning authentic and real for his students in his classroom. He shares his classroom experiences on his class website called Although Bill uses technology fluently with his students, he stresses that it is not about the technology, it is about the learning.

One example Bill shared with us was his story about how he got his classroom involved in Kiva. Kiva is a non-profit micro loan organization helping alleviate poverty by providing loans to people to help them start a business. Bill explained that 98% of the loans get repaid.

Here is what Mr. Belsey's class did. The classroom had to raise $100 by working, not getting a hand down. When the class earned the money, Bill told them they had to research Kiva and find a person they feel would benefit from the money. The students presented to the class and they voted on 4 people to give $25 dollars to. The loan was repaid to the class, and they started the process all over again.

To me, this is a great example of Global Education, citizenship and authentic learning. So I titled this post "What if?" What if more and more classrooms raised money and got involved with Kiva? What if teachers read this post and spread the word through Twitter and other Social Media? What if hundreds, no thousands of classrooms raised a little bit of money to provide a loan for someone trying to break out of poverty? I will leave you, the reader, with these questions and will be happy to have you comment. Please do, and please spread the word. You can empower your students to make a big difference in the world we live in.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Don't Be a Dentist!

Today, I went to the dentist. Just a check-up and cleaning, but the phobia remains. I have had plenty of dental work since my childhood days, and earlier haunting experiences have left a lasting impression on me that does not see me laying on a beach in the tropics. Going to the dentist to me is like standing out in minus 30 degree weather with no gloves or scarf.

How many students feel this way about school? Do children get the same impression of school as I do with Dentists? A teacher can make a world of difference, good or bad. I always thought I was friendly and fun as a teacher and last week at a Christmas party I met a former student to whom I taught Science. I asked her what she remembered about being in my class and the only thing she said was, "I remember getting a detention from you."

Wow! Not the impression I was looking for. It made me reflect on my practice. How many other students over the last 20+ years in the classroom remember the negative? I know in my heart that I made learning fun and provided opportunity for group work laughter and individuality.

I hope this situation was a rare one, and I hope that all teachers have rare occasions like this. If going to school for children is like going to the dentist, then why would they want to go? Learning should be fun and teachers have the power and gift to make school more enjoyable days of a student's life. Don't be a dentist.

My dentist today was excellent, and has always been. I am not trying to depict that going to the dentist is horrible, but for me the impression from years ago still lasts today.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Digital Citizenship in the Classroom

Being out of the classroom for 3 years now, I do not know if there is an issue with using technology in a responsible manner. 3 years of change in technology and new innovations leaves me feeling left behind in awareness of Digital Citizenship needs. As an Educational Technologist, I have presented a number of times to parents, teachers and students on the topic, but have not been on the front lines of technology use in the classrooms like teachers have. So I would like to hear from teachers. Is there a need to teach Digital Citizenship? How is it addressed in school? Are there any concerns about students using technology? If so, what are they? If you have 1 minute, please contribute to the poll created for teachers in the classroom. Click here to participate.

Friday, September 16, 2011

I Switched to Axe!

Last week I had the pleasure of presenting to a room of Learning Coaches for our School District. I began with a story about Axe.

I was shopping with my wife and headed down the deodorant isle. Here I saw a man, shopping with his wife, sniffing all brands of deodorant. At first I giggled to myself, because I am a Speed Stick guy, but then gave in to sniffing brands of deodorant. So I began smelling different brands, and stuck a few in my wife's nose for approval.Finally I settled on Axe Twist. It reminded me of the commercial where the guy was getting licked everywhere he went.

Here is the catch. I told this story to the Learning Coaches. I tied it in to changing what I am normally use to and taking a risk to try something else. In education, many teachers are not willing to take the risk for many reasons: fear of failure, too much on their plates, and tradition to name a few. One of the roles of Learning Coaches in our district is to help teachers find ways to meet the individual needs of the students. Differentiate. This means looking at new things and trying different ideas. Risk can mean reward, or failure, but trying new things leads to learning.

I believe my message went over well with the Learning Coaches. They were disappointed they did not get the Old Spice guy from the commercial, but they got the story behind Axe. And I didn't get licked once.