Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The classroom - According to The Book of ICT

OK so here we go – this is my very last education project and probably the one that is most relevant to my own slant on education.  For me using technology (laptops, the internet, smart boards etc.) come fairly naturally.  Last term I even had one of my students ask me if, “I would always be using [my] laptop and the smart board?  Cuz, like…none of our teachers do that…they just sit in the room.”  I looked at him and said, “Yeah, I will be almost every day.”   The only response I received was, “Cool!”  I think this goes a long way in showing the difficulty with using some of the technology that is already available in many classrooms – most of the teachers today see it as this new thingy that they can use to ‘connect’ their lesson plans to their students.
 In a way that’s fine, it shows they want to make their lessons more relative – they just find it hard to fit them in.  I’ll go back to my own experience with the same group of students as I quoted above.  Apparently me using computers just blew them away because the question this question came up a few days later, “Why do you use it? Just cuz you like it?”  I replied with the only response that came to mind, “Yeah, in a way.” I explained the concept of the ‘digital native’ I explained that I had always used computer.  They had always been around and from very early on in life I have played with settings, learnt programs and eventually pulled them apart and put them back together.  I explained that he (the student) and I shared that aspect we were both digital natives.  Then I explained that people only a few years older than me did not have that advantage – computers were something they learnt because it was a new tool, a way of doing things easier or faster.  They didn’t incorporate computers into their lives in the same way that digital natives did.  This discussion I had with my class not only helped them understand their teachers a little better, but it also helped me understand myself – and therefore other young teachers.  Currently many PD workshops involving ICT are about “how we can integrate it into our classrooms”, again that’s fine – I went to one this year during SAG.  But that’s not going to be the major issue for ‘our’ generation of teachers.  What our generation needs is for the system to catch up, to stop viewing the internet as a tool to help connect the old style of the classroom with students; and start looking at it as a way to change the classroom all together.  Our schools need to understand that the wired world is not the future – it is the now students already know it, they just need schools to catch up.
I produced a video that I think sums up my feelings and what we have been learning all term long.  I hope everyone enjoys it and has had as much fun as I have:

...Sharing is Education

I think this is probably the most important line from Dean Shareski’s video.  I really agree that today sharing is much easier and the BEST way to get great resources and ideas today is by venturing into the internet and ‘meeting’ colleagues from around the world.  One of my other favorite quotes from the video came from our friend George!  He says that, “...if we want what’s best for kids then we should share our ideas with other teachers.”
In the end I completely agree that as teachers it is our responsibility to share our ideas about not just resources, but also our views of education itself.

WBC - Blackboard

So I have been fiddling around with Blackboard for the last couple days on my Computer Sci 30s course (I will be teaching it this term coming up).  I have to say I was pretty impressed - the layout was very intuitive and clean.  To me thats a huge first step - most of the screen could be used for what I wanted to do - not with side bars, top bars, bottoms bars, popups, etc.  I liked that there was an easy to use calendar and email system.  I really liked that to send e-mails it had a number of options to send to different groups that was 'right there' easy to find and such. I also ran through the assignments that were available and they were really useful - it not only had explanations for you but one of them even had an example of the 'program' they were going to develop.  Anyone could simply click on the link with the assignment and the program would load.  Depending on what topics in the class I am going to be teaching are I may very well use some of the resources on Blackboard for my f2f teaching this term and I would be very interested in using it to augment a f2f classroom of my own in the future.  The ability to have students connect with material outside of the classroom alone would make it worth the effort.

Edu Blogger

So for my edublogger portion of this course I have been following George Couros because - let’s face it George is fun, exciting, and most importantly - pretty much the principle that we would all like to work for. One of the things I love about George’s site: The Principle of Change - is that he spends a lot of time both talking about his own personal experiences and about creating positive communities. I think really his message is all about community - whether it’s online or in his school.
I remember one of my favourite posts from his site was on the topic of principles and what makes a good principle. He quoted one teacher who said that they loved their principle because they 'stayed out of her way'. George then commented on how he felt the principles most important job was not simply 'getting out of the way' but that he felt principles should set the goals and atmosphere for a school. That really resonated with me because it’s a powerful idea - one that he has clearly accomplished in his school. Without his vision of bringing tech into the 'school' instead of just the 'classroom' I doubt every teacher would be using tech to the extent they are today.
For me I think I will continue to ready The Principle of Change because George not only has a lot of great ideas - but he also advocates for change is such a positive manner.
If you want to check out The Principle of Change check out: http://georgecouros.ca/blog/

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Just For Fun!

Ok so this sorta has to do with Alec Couros and kinda has to do with Mike but mostly its just funny.  It was made for Alec for his 40th Birthday.  Check out the 3:43 mark to see our prof rocking out!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Westcast - Couros Part 2

Yeah I know my description was a little cryptic so I will try and explain it a little better. Alec actually actually calls himself an Open Educator - basically he does all (or I would assume as much as he can) of his teaching, classwork, lectures, assignments, etc. in an open and transparent way using the internet. He beleives that using online apps such as Google Docs, Flicker, Twitter, and basically any other Web 2.0 programs will take education to a whole new level. People will no longer have to be locked into a classroom to take a class - or to become a student. Student's from around the world can take the same class and all contribute to work or ideas using online programs. Naturally topics such as digital citizenship and social justice online are topics that he is also passionate about because without them its very difficult to have meaningful online relationships.
I think this is a really important philosophy to have heading into the future. The internet is not going away, and the amount of information available in it is only going to expand - probably dramatically. It makes sense that educators should start breaking up the idea that learning has to take place in a classroom. Students should be able to get notes, or assignments, ask questions, do homework or classwork from anywhere they happen to be. I don't think this means the end of the classroom - far from - I just think that it means an extension of the classroom to everywhere a student can access the internet, which increasingly is anywhere.
Well that was a bit intense so I think I'll finish with a spoof vid that Alec made of himself - it does a good job of showing off Alec's philosophy and his sence of humour as well:

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Westcast - Couros

Ok so I attended Westcast this week and was lucky enough to have had Alec Couros as one of the keynote speakers. Alec is a pretty remarkable educator and is responsible for some pretty big ideas in the Internet Education world. One of his major beliefs is that education has to become far more open, and flexible in this new networked era. When people can connect with anything at anytime just about anywhere then teaching and the classroom has to shift with it. It's a powerful and really positive idea I think! One of the great things about Alec is that he puts his ideas into practice Alec actually puts his grad courses online and has people from all over the world watch via the internet! What a cool idea! Honestly I have too much to say about Alec right now so I'll leave it at that and come back and write some more when I have more time! If you are interested in seeing more (and also seeing Mike singing) check out Alec's blog at:

Monday, February 21, 2011

ICT in the Classroom

So Shaun and I are going to be presenting on ICT devices in the classroom.  Although very few people would argue that ICT should not be in the classroom - a lot of educators and school divisions do not allow or provide personal ICT devices in the classroom.  Seeing as this is a tech class in education we decided not to argue for or against ICT in the classroom, but instead we asked the question:

As an educator, what would make the best personal ICT device for the classroom?

This led us to other questions like:
What does the perfect personal ICT device look like?  What features does it have?

So - basically to decide this for ourselves we created a criteria for what we felt would make the perfect personal device and then we rated the 3 big categories: Smart Phones, Tablets, and Laptops against them.  Finally, we added up our scores and then included a final annalysis of what we felt about each device!

If you want to check out our presentation its available on Google Docs here:

See ya all tomorrow!

Darren Kuropatwa

I was really impressed with the amount of both interesting and really practical information that Darren inundated us with!  I was especially impressed with how he put a lot of emphasis on community both in the classroom!  If you read this blog you know that I think community is HUGE not only in the classroom but also online.  We have to create positive, responsible communities!  Therefore much of what Darren said fit with me really well.  I was also really liked what he said about letting students admit their mistakes.  This is one of my goals as a teacher, students in the classroom are so paralyzed with fear about not getting good grades or ‘doing it right’ that they have no intention of doing something like…take a chance, think for themselves, or experiment.  That could cost them marks and who knows what the repercussions of that could be in the future!! (yes I know it’s hard to be dramatic with type…)  This has got to change – we need students to know that mistakes happen and more importantly – it’s all good when they do.
Darren also pushed a few theme lines that are really effective and important:
Create It – when students create things they learn much more efficiently than reading through a textbook!
Publish It – when something is created by students - put it online, make it visible to the world, make their creations matter and students will then take pride in what they do!
Watch It, Do It, Teach It – I was already aware that medicine used this philosophy and I think it is dead on!  If you teach someone something there is absolutely no doubt that you yourself had to know it first – you can’t teach what you don’t know!
Interestingly each of these three principles can be aided by using ICT in the classroom!  Creating projects, videos, pictures, slideshows, etc. is soooooo much easier with a computer.  Obviously publishing is quick and effective with the internet and its even easier for students to be able to watch, do and teach by using technology. 

Monday, February 14, 2011

Web 2.0

So I know we were supposed to write a topic on Web 2.0 and I know its kinda late but honestly it was because I didn't really feel I had a lot to add this year.  I mean I think Web 2.0 is great - there are a ton of really useful sites out there than Mike has shown us (Shelfari, Wikipedia etc etc etc etc etc etc etc)  and I am sure I am going to use a lot of them in class.  Recently one of our other profs told us that a recent study found that Wikipedia is actually 'correct' more often than printed versions of the Encyclopedia Britannica - so obviosly Web 2.0 sites and resources are effective and they ARE going to be part of the classroom in a VERY big way.  But honestly saying that really hasn't changed my outlook much over the past year.  Bascially, there are a million options out there; as teachers we have to find creative ways of using them for a miriad of reasons; and the net has become so inundated with Web 2.0 stuff that really its almost impossible NOT to use it if you are using the internet.
I do find the idea of Web 3.0 interesting - and honestly a little scary.  I'm not sure why really, but the idea of google or other internet companies collecting enough information on all of us to predict our needs is just a little - well - scary.  I am sure I will use it when it comes along to a greater extent, but it still gives me a little nervous itch at the back of my head.  Any comments?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Whats going on in School's TODAY...or at least what should be!

So on Tuesday we had a Skype conference with George Couros! (George is evil!! I'm actually kidding I just want to know if gets this on his Google Alert thingy!  George if you are reading this let me know!)
Anyway, I think if I were living in Alberta I'd be applying for a job at his school because I think his philosophy is EXACTLY what we need to have more of in schools.  I completely agree that students should be able to use more and more and MORE tech in the classroom and that ultimately all students are going to be bringing in their own laptops, iPod’s, BlackBerry’s, etc. to do their school work.  The internet is far too powerful a tool for research and the sharing of ideas or work not be used by students, teachers, whoever!
I also completely (and I really can't relate in words how completely) agree that schools have to STOP trying to prevent students from possibly stumbling on something 'bad' or more likely controversial; and instead move to a philosophy where teachers discuss how to use the internet responsibly and safely.  This is not only good for schools but it’s important for society; and currently the only institution capable of teaching internet responsibility to students is the school system.

Thursday, February 3, 2011


Animoto is a cool little free program available for anyone.  Basically it makes movies in minutes!  There are tons of different ways you could use this in the classroom.  All students would need to do is prepare some pictures and then plunk them into Animoto.  They could use the videos to spice up a presentation or as a 'virtual tour guide'.  One of the best tools that is included is the music that you can add to your video.  It's not bad - they already have it in theme packages AND its acutally legal to use! Which is often a worry and/or struggle to find.  Here is a video of my wedding I made quickly this week:

Create your own video slideshow at animoto.com.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Is the Internet Making us Smarter or Dumber?!?

So I have to say I will admit that students today don't seem to have the same level of focus as generations past.  I say don't seem because really I don't think any of us 'educated' graduates can really remember how distractable we were or how 'deeply' we thought about the topics presented to us.  I have a feeling that maybe we were just as distractable and shallow.
Regardless, I'm not sure if the internet can be blammed for loss of focus - there are numerous distractions imposed on students today including television, magasines, ipods, mp3's and of course the one that has always been around - teens tend to be distracted by each other.
In addition I would argue that students today have a far greater amount of cursury knowledge over their contemporaries.  Today if a student has their interest 'peaked' they can quickly locate information and move along to other topics that are related!  Thats not being distracted - that's connecting different topics and making real connections!  Regardless, even if students are not delving as deeply into content on the internet - then it's up to teachers to encourage and teach students to develope those skills.  If students can be taught to reflect on what they read AND they have the access to information that the internet provides then I think it's obvious that society will benefit.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Literacy and ICT

It is so important that teachers not only teach students how to get information from the internet, but we also have to train them to know how to pick out the truthful information, from the un-truthful.  With pure content at their figuretips people must understand how to access it, how to understand it, use it, analyse it, and then communicate what they think about it.
The power of social media and the internet is obvious today - as popular revolts/protests are breaking out across the middle east.  This has happened despite in some of these countries despite government attempts to limit the effects and openness of the internet.  The power to learn, communicate and share knowledge and ideas with ease will empower this generation and the ones that follow to a level that was impossible in the past.  This power comes with a possible negative if the message being sent (or the one that is being listened to) is untruthful or emphasises intolerance etc.  As teachers we can educate students to understand and use the interent, but also to avoid the potential dangers.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Should We? The Bird Thinks So...

Social Media sites are kinda the double edged sword for educators.  We have already covered using them as a personal learning tool - so I'll put that aside.  Using them with students in the classroom can be a bit more of an issue.  Not only is it difficult to control content when using some of the larger mass social media sites, but teachers have to be careful not to 'cross the line' with regards to their students.  Having them as 'friends' on Twitter or Facebook can open up several difficulties.  First of all teachers have to make sure that their own content is very professional - thats easy enough though just make a professional account and keep it clean.  More difficult is making sure that your students don't inadvertantly show 'you' the teacher incriminating content. Seeing a number of your students engaging in dangerous or illegal activities will not can put you in an almost impossible situation.  If you don't say anything you could be disciplined or fired depending on the circumstances, but if you 'rat' on your students you may loose their confidence and trust - not a situation you wanna be in.
It's unfortunate because using Twitter or other sites could be very possitive.  Honestly the suggestion to use sites such as classroom websites, blogs etc would be the safesty way of connecting with student and giving them a place to discuss or access resources online.  That being said it may still be possible to use means such as Twitter - maybe you can get students to set up their own 'school' Twitter accounts and encourage them to keep the content clean - you could even explain that you also have 'professional' accounts online and therefore role model how professionals use the internet responsibly.  You could also connect this with discussions on the longevity of what goes onto the internet (the fact that it never really ever leaves!) and awaken them to the fact that what they post today could come back and bite them tomorrow.


There is no doubt that Web Based Courses are going to be the way of the future.  I can completly understand their use in rural or remote schools around Manitoba (or the world for that matter).  They are simply too great for allowing schools to supplement the core courses with some of the topic courses that are not necissarily required to graduate.  Being able to include more student interest classes or advanced classes can only help increase the amount of students who are interested and engaged in school. 
I was also interested in the study that found that classes that had less face to face time and more internet time were more successful.  I would like to see this study because I have my doubts about its legitness (yes I know thats not really a word).  I can understand that intrapersonal learners would have success but extrapersonal leaners would be at a disadvantage - and I have a feeling that the majority of people who have used WBC's thus far are probably those that feel this type of learning would be appealing to, which of course would skew their stats a bit.  Regardless, they are hear to stay and I am sure I will be using it as a resource for myself.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Gap Minder World

Ok so this is probably one of my favorite sites that I have found on the internet.  The site has gathered information from a pile of countries over time.  The information is then displayed on a graph - so you can take two different categories and have them shown.  The information on the graph shown can be 'played' which will then graph the changes that occured over time.  Countries can also be selected and their statistics will be highlighted.  Honestly I'm having trouble describing the excellence of this site with words - so maybe an example is best.
The default graph on the site is called 'Health and Wealth' which graphs GDP and Life Expectancy of countries.  As an example for a history class studying World War I you could select Great Britian, Germany, Canada and France.  A teacher could then select 1900 as a starting point and 'play' the graph from that point.  When you hit 1914 the Life Expectancy for Great Britian, Germany and France will suddenly drop and then begin climbing again after the end of the war.  This is an excellent visual tool because it allows students to actually see the statistics that teachers often talk about.
Although this tool might be best for Social Studies teachers there are tons of different categories of statistics in areas such as environment, health, education, industry, economy etc. which means just about any teacher could find a use for this site.
Try it and let me know what you think!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

John Evans

I enjoyed John's chat - especially when he just let us check out some of the tools he was talking about.  I think the idea of having a PLN is really important - there is no doubt that the Internet is giving everyone the ability to connect like never before, it almost renews the idea that the internet was supposed to fulfil - being a tool to connect professions from around the world to share and improve society - instead of the uglier, frivilous network that most people use it as.
Right now I doubt that the PLN network includes all (or even many) of the teachers out there but I completely believe that it will be the way of the future - as more and more of us 'computer' generation students become the mainstay of the teaching profession a larger and larger preportion of teachers will be invovled and the effectiveness of the PLN will increase.
All in all a pretty great presentation.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

bloggED Started

So this is my first post - just set up my blog.  I got my Twitter account up and running - seems alright so far and should be a useful tool if you find people who don't let you know everytime they get up for anything.  I hope it will be a useful tool for getting ideas or help from fellow teachers.  Only time will tell i guess.