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.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Shh! No More Video Noise!

I still enjoy all the visuals that YouTube has to offer. Well sort of? I find myself clicking x's all the time now to get rid of ads that I don't even read, but take up so much video space. And some ads on the side can be risky, especially in front of young eyes.

Solution: Quietube! It is a java install right on your browser toolbar that allows you to go to a YouTube Video, click the Quietube extension and the video will begin playing with empty surroundings. That's right! No ads, comments (which many begin with the "f" word) and no pop ups.

To access videos with no advertising go to Quietube and follow directions to install the extension. Next find the YouTube video you want to show. Finally click on the Quietube extension in your toolbar and you will be redirected to the video with no ads. Very refreshing!

Two other websites to mention that eliminate advertising and other distractions are ViewPure and SafeShare . Both are great ways to show a YouTube video without distraction.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

#ISTE11 Here I Come!

It has been a great lead up on Twitter with my PLN chatting and posting all the excitement as we head to Philidelphia. I am looking forward to meeting new colleagues. It amazes me how global we have come in a short time in sharing and learning from each other as we plan and deliver new ideas in the best interests of the students.

Cheers to all of my PLN friends! @tibon007 is looking forward to connecting at #iste11.

Only Peanut Butter, No Jam

Yesterday morning I threw in the toast, got out the PB and searched high and low for the jam. None. So I sat, complained to my wife and ate bland peanut butter and toast.

How does this story fit into education? Well, sometimes students are faced with Peanut Butter day in and day out. No jam, no variety. Sometimes teacher's can become unaware that they are only serving Peanut Butter. My advice: reflect, add some jam/variety to your lessons and your students will enjoy their menu.

Friday, May 6, 2011

The "F" Word

"FOIP! I'm FOIPed! What the FOIP?!" Yes, sometimes Alberta's Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act can seem like a swear word to educators and students. FOIP can get in the way of creativity. Myself, I enjoy dabbling in the creative and collaborative world that is offered by the WWW, and take the risks associated with putting myself out there. Sites such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Animoto, etc. offer everyone the chance to create, communicate, collaborate and express themselves. These sites provide an avenue for teachers to reach Bloom's higher levels of taxonomy. I enjoy many great student and teacher produced videos and other products on the web and wonder about how many more could be produced if it were not for FOIP.

However, as educators in Alberta, how closely are we reading the terms and agreements on the sites we use in our classrooms? Are we abiding by the FOIP agreements set by our districts, governed by our province, when we ask our students and parents to fill out the technology use forms at the beginning of the year?

With the increasing discussions of allowing Personal Owned Devices in Alberta schools, we need to strengthen our communications between all stakeholders in educating our students. At our Alberta Education Jurisdictional Technology Contacts meeting, FOIP and Acceptable Use policies created a wealth of discussion, some of it through a web 2.0 tool called titanpad.
At the top of the list is making sure Digital Citizenship is embedded in daily teaching pedagogy. Awareness in using online tools is important before we allow our students to access many new sites that are being introduced and used in the classrooms. This should not, however, deter teachers from using these fantastic learning tools.

Years ago, I had no concern with FOIP. Realizing today how easy it is to access, post and download pictures, video and information, I still take the risks myself, but as an educational technologist, I make sure that teachers are aware FOIP issues.

One easy step to continue the creativity in the classroom using technology, is to get a FOIP form signed each time you are unsure of a web activity you are doing such as YouTube or Animoto. It may be a pain, but you will feel more at ease.

What are your thoughts regarding the right to privacy regarding technology and education?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

TLC's Tips for Twitter

I am definitely not the expert regarding Twitter, but have learned some helpful tips for the Twitter newby. I am sure there is a Twitter term for a newby. Let's start with an introductory video via Howcast.com

Next it is important to learn about Twitter terminology. Why reinvent the wheel? No need for me to write. Here are some great links to twitter terms.
Basic Twitter Terms via @gregpincus
The Twitter Glossary

Once you get the hang of tweeting, you will want to build your profile so that others will recognize you for your interests. This builds your PLN to suit your needs. Twitter has a great link that explains this. How to Promote Your Profile

You may want to find specific people to follow. For example I am an educational technologist so I want to read tweets pertaining to uses of technology in school. An administrator may want to look for other administrators to join. A website that is a search engine of people you may wish to follow is called http://tweepz.com/. For example if you are an elementary principal and wish to find people in this category, type in "elementary principal" and tweepz will give you great suggestions.

Learning about hashtags will allow you to filter out specific topics you are interested in and join in on a specific discussion. For example every Tuesday there are many educators who get together and discuss a certain topic under the hashtag #edchat. Medicine Hat School District can use a hashtag such as #sd76 to send messages pertaining to Twitter users in the District. Other examples of School Districts using hashtags for their teachers include, Peace Wapiti #pwsd, Grasslands #gps6, and Lethbridge #lethsd.

Mentions and people to follow begin with the @ sign. The @ sign before a person's twitter name will send any tweet to their mentions link. This means you can tweet an idea and if you want a follower to respond, just use the @ sign in front of their twitter name. They will get a notification that they have been mentioned. I tend to use my following bff's names alot. @cunningandy, @jenclevette, @VanessaSCassie, @Grade1, @gcouros, @shareski, @justintarte, @tomwhitby, @Larryferlazzo and @web20classroom. These people are a combination of Principals, educational technologists, great teachers and social networking enthusiasts. I have learned more from my Twitter PLN than I do reading a book or attending a conference. Thanks to my mentions, and I know I missed a whole lot of wonderful Twitter friends.

To add followers from a Twitter friends list, you can click on their profile and click on their following list. Many times you will see similar interests in profile biographies. Click "follow" and you have just added a new twitter friend. I like to look at how many tweets a user has because it may show experience in a certain area, or it may be a person that sends out many good informational tweets.

If you have some good tips to share about Twitter, please comment below.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Way Back When . . .

A fellow colleague, Lorne Cooper @LorneCooper, emailed me a great link to archived websites. The website is called WayBackMachine. It is in beta right now but it seems to be working fine.

What you do is type in a web address and click on go and choose the year you want to look back on. WayBackMachine searches the archives and takes you to the website from that particular year. It is a great way to remember for those like me who have "sometimer's disease," only can remember some of the time.

I guess why it is interesting to me is because I have moved from Brooks to Medicine Hat, and I use to have a classroom website. I was always curious on how it looked, and even what I used it for.

I also was the webmaster for the Brooks Bandits Junior A hockey team for a number of years. Curtis Glencross, #20 for the Calgary Flames, was a part of the hockey club in 2001. Take a look at the screenshots I found from using Way Back When.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Don't Steal from a Tech Geek

Taking responsibility for your actions is very important in today's tech savy world. People who post slanderous messages on their social networking sites may not be aware of the consequences they face, like not getting that job they hoped for. The story from the Global News this morning motivated me to write this post.

You may remember the "Two Teachers, one chair" pep rally incident that ended up on YouTube and resulted in teachers losing their jobs. While the teachers did not use technology inappropriately, their actions were inappropriate and technology was used to show it.

The latest news story comes from a University student who got his laptop stolen. While turning his back in a study hall, his laptop was nabbed. Fortunately for this student, he used the web to back up his files. Following the heist, he went online to see his stored files, and he found the thief's files were on his backup server. BUSTED! Now the student is sharing a video of the thief on YouTube.

Using technology comes with responsibility. This message has been shared over and over again, and there are more and more stories that to show why we need to think before we act.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Sounds Like a Broken Record

Many of my PLN colleagues will agree that we hear the same thing over and over again regarding educating stakeholders about the responsible and appropriate use of technology. And the importance of teaching Cyber Safety. Well this post is no different.

In my job, I have been speaking with students and parents about the important topic of Digital Citizenship. Lately, I read a tweet from @tomwhitby which linked to a video about SMART phones and gps tracking. The way it works is that these new phones have automatic settings to track applications created by the phone. For example, when a picture is taken and posted to Facebook, Flickr or other sharing sites, the information from that picture can be copied. I thought, "Good to know," and then on the morning news, a similar video was shown. It made me stop to think that many parents, teachers and even students do not know the implications. I found a similar video on YouTube that will help bring more awareness. The video below shows how this works.

A website called icanstalku.com was made by a father after he found out that a picture taken by his daughter revealed the location where the picture was taken from. The website is used to warn people about the gps tracker feature on their phone.

This post is not to scare away teachers and parents on allowing students to use their phones. It is the opposite. Awareness of the changing world of technology and how things work is important along with the discussions and education with the students/children. Digital Citizenship and Cyber Safety cannot be left solely to the digital natives who are risk takers and love to take pictures and post them. Adults need to get in the know about the rapid changes happening daily with our digital devices. Educate! Do not think that what you do not know won't hurt you. It just may. Once you have the open discussions about technology, as a parent and teacher, you should feel a little better about your student/child using it.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Future Teachers: What is needed from you?

Today I had the pleasure of presenting to 33 aspiring University students studying to become our next fellow colleagues. As I am the President of our local Teachers' Convention, the presentation was suppose to be about convention, however I had to speak a little about my passion, and that is 21st Century Learning. I put together an Animoto presentation, but while I was thinking about what is needed from our future teachers, I thought that I would like some help from my PLN. So I shouted out to my Twitter PLN and asked the question, "In one word, what describes a successful future teacher?" Here are some responses.
@courosa, tweeted 'Connected (with multiple meanings)'. So true. More so today, teachers need to be better connected with their students; understanding what makes them tick. Connection needs to happen more with parents; involving them more by communicating, be it with the use of technology. Connected with the community helps students relate to the world around them. Connected globally, for the classroom should not have walls. These are some thoughts about how teachers need to be connected.

@jenclevette, tweeted 'Resilient (willing to make mistakes)'. Yes! Making mistakes =learning. Improving and trying again is the assessment for learning piece. Miss Frizzle would be proud. "Take chances, make mistakes!" Thanks Jen.

My Twitter PLN was very helpful with the creation of the Animoto below. @AmyInspires, tweeted 'Patient', @earlsamuelson and @bdyck, tweeted 'Adaptable', @chaugen 'Flexible', @Grade1 'Innovative', and j_wasch 'Curious'. All these adjectives and more are what are needed from teachers now and in the future. The Animoto was the product of some great collaboration. Collaboration allowed me to think outside the box, and from this I was helped in presenting a message to our future colleagues.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Web 2.0

What is Web 2.0?
Wikipedia defines Web 2.0 as, “commonly associated with web applications that facilitate interactive information sharing, interoperability, user-centered design, and collaboration on the World Wide Web.” I look at Web 2.0 as free resources for teachers to connect with students, collaborate with colleagues and celebrate learning. A good video to explain Web 2.0 is located here. 1000 administrators were interviewed and listed Web 2.0 as positive factors in education for the following 7 reasons:
1. Student engagement increases
2. Opportunity to differentiate learning
3. Improves critical thinking skills
4. Develops new capabilities in students
5. Gives students and alternate learning environment
6. Extends learning beyond the walls of the classroom
7. Promotes life-long learning
In the following sections I will describe some categories of Web 2.0 and link you to some popular applications.

Web 2.0: Presentation Tools
PowerPoint is one of the most common ways of presenting. Features including background, transition, adding sound and embedding video make it very useful for teachers and students. What if you didn’t have access to Microsoft products? The WWW has many free presentation tools that users can access. Here are my top 5 with brief descriptions:
1. Animoto- automatically produces creative, unique video pieces from your photos, video clips and music. Fast, free and easy. The new educator’s feature allows you to add your class to the account. Check out this Animoto example.
2. Prezi- is the free zooming presentation editor. The website comes with many examples and tutorials to make your presentations pop.
3. Photostory 3- free download from Microsoft that allows you to add still photos, text, voice and even add background music that you can create in the program.
4. Slideshare- allows you to take your slides and add them to the internet to share, edit and add voice so your presentation runs automatically and you can access them anywhere.
5. Glogster- interactive poster that allows teachers to create student accounts. ClipArt, video, voice, pictures and links can be added to create and engaging presentation. Here is one of my examples.

Web 2.0: Image Tools
Flickr is a popular site that allows you to upload your photos and have access to photos from other people. This is considered a social photo sharing site. From Flickr you can take photos and edit them. By clicking on the edit button you will be directed to an editing site called Picnik. Here you have a selection of photo editing tools like cropping, removing red-eye, adding shapes or frames. A fun tool to make images talk is called Blabberize. Upload photos, follow the instructions and you can make any image talk.
Another great image tool comes from Bighugelabs.com. Students can upload photos to create posters, id cards, magazine covers, billboards and more.

Web 2.0 Collaboration Tools
Many teachers are looking to the web for learning platforms for their classroom. Web 2.0 tools exist for this purpose. Here are my top 5 website picks that offer platforms for classroom collaboration, and are free.
1. Edmodo- is a private online social platform for teachers and students to share ideas, files, events and assignments. It
looks somewhat like Facebook, but the Teacher has user control. Edmodo allows teachers the ability to handle pieces of class activity online. Teachers can send out assignments, receive completed assignments and assign grades using the online platform. Students can collaborate with each other under teacher supervision. Edmodo does much more but the main thing is it is secure.
2. Wikispaces- free platform for teachers to add content, embed video, have students share their projects and chat about a certain topic in a class. Click here to see how a Grade 1 teacher uses a Wiki.
3. Google Docs- available through a Google account. Google Docs allows the creation and sharing of documents similar to Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. You can also upload documents from your computer and access them anywhere. Once a document is shared users can edit, and have the ability to work on it at the same time. To collaborate while you are working together, there is a chat box on the side. Of course, you have the choice to share or not share a document.
4. Kidblog- allows students to publish posts and participate in discussions within a secure, teacher controlled environment. Blogging promotes communication, literacy, a chance to reflect and other higher level skills. An example of a classroom blog is here.
5. Twitter- allows you to create your own Personal Learning Network. Find links, articles, and opinions and share your thoughts by following some colleagues sharing your interests. Alberta Education and the ATA are tweeting regularly and it is a great way to catch up on news, on your own time. Some teachers are using Twitter with their students to have online discussions relating to a topic in the classroom.