(Posted earlier this month in the NAIS Teachers of the Future blogs)
(Posted earlier this month in the NAIS Teachers of the Future blogs)
I do a lot of conferences. Add to that the 6-7 weeks of time I have spent in July and August in Africa in ’08 and ’09 providing workshop facilitation with Teachers Without Borders Canada to teachers in Kenya and South Africa and you can believe that I have seen a serious amount of PD models of meetings.
Usually, I know a bevy of the teachers who will attend the conferences or workshops and have a fairly good idea of what the venue will be like. So when it was suggested to me that I attend the inaugural BigIdeasFest conference in Half Moon Bay, I had to take a serious look at the line-up of speakers and check out my “network” to see if anyone knew anything about it. And the responses were scant. However, the venue was very close to some family members and the description was sufficiently enticing that I decided to take a chance and signed up for the conference.
When I arrived at the conference, I only knew one person who was also attending. It was pointed out to me at the first dinner that it seemed to be a conference where the majority of the people knew only 1 or 2 other people and that made it an unusual sort of event.
On the one hand, so far the conference has pushed me out of my comfort zone – which was surprising to me, because I really hadn’t realized that I had had a comfort zone. After asking so many *other* educators to step outside their comfort zones while in Africa and at other workshops I have led, it is a good idea occasionally to place myself in that position of trying something new and taking a risk in a new social situation.
Of all the conferences I have attended in North America, I have to say that I find this conference to be the closest to the model we are using in Africa – participatory and constructivist. We have been divided into smaller groups of “action collabs” that have been given the task of creating a new model of education at either the classroom, school or systemic level. My action collab is msde up of a wide range of persons spanning from high school students to policy makers to NGO leaders to educators – young and old. We have already had many lively debates about how we are going to go about addressing the question of what we are designing.
About half of the conference time has been devoted to either keynotes or listening to rapidfire presentations by notable innovators in education such as Dennis Bartels of Exploratorium, Marco Torres, Dr. Erin O’Connell, Gever Tulley, Founder of the Tinkering School, and Tony Jackson, VP for Education of the Asia Society. Fifteen minutes per rapidfire presenter just didn’t seem like enough for these very worthy educators.
You can follow the twitter list I created for the conference for more “in the moment” reactions to the conference.
A GREAT book that I read in preparation for this conference was The Global Achievement Gap. Everywhere I turn I hear other educators echoing many of the thoughtful ideas expressed by Tony Wagner in his book. I should have read this book ages ago – it has been incredibly galvanizing to me.
I look forward to learning and stretching even more in the next few days!
It’s been a week of conferences and I am finally getting around to posting some of the outcomes.
Early last week, I had the opportunity to use prezi again for a 3 hour workshop about how and why to use multimedia tools for education:
Then late in the week, I was challenged to a cool tool duel against two other IT facilitators in Montreal. Below I relate my approach as I shared it in the CAIS community ning:
I also wanted to share the outcomes to the Cool Tool Duel that took place between JP Trudeau (Selwyn House), Vince Jansen (LCC) and me, Sharon Peters (Hebrew Academy).
As a way in demonstrating the power of an educator’s Personal Learning Network, I asked six global educators to hop aboard a FlashMeeting during the duel and share *their* cool tools. I had heard Alan November (the keynote) state many times the importance of including global collaboration as a way of promoting the skills our students will need in their learning careers. It seemed appropriate to demonstrate this to our audience of educators.
To that end, I invited John Thole (director of Edunova in Cape Town, South Africa), Derek Wenmoth (director of CORE-Ed, Christchurch NZ), Chris Betcher (independent school educator, blogger, author, podcaster, Sydney, Australia), Lucy Gray (U of Chicago, moderator of Global Collaborative Ning), Dr. Cheri Toledo (Illinois State University, author, researcher, webcaster), and Brad Ovenell-Carter (independent school educator, asst head, Island Pacific School) into our cool tool duel. With the time zone differences, this took no small effort, but I was very very pleased when all of them accepted the invitation unhesitatingly and enthusiastically.
A special outcome of the FlashMeeting (now recorded) was that these six educators had an opportunity to meet each other and grow their own networks. In fact, they were so excited about meeting, they started a Google Wave where their conversation continued!
Here are the tools that were shared between all of us during the “duel”:
John – Ning
Derek - eXe, QRCodes for Droid
Brad – Tweetie2 Tweetie 2 Review: The Best iPhone Twitter App, Period – Tweetie 2 …
, Kaltura – Open Source Video Platform
Cheri – The Differentiator
Sharon (I had a few lined up as backup plan):
Forty-Two Interesting Ways to Use Pocket Cameras (care of Tom Barrett)
VUE: Visual Understanding Environment (I think Brad showed me this)
The other folk (Vince and JP):
The Prezi I used for the Duel:
“Live-blogging” in Townships Workshops – Day 1
No, not really!
Noble is beginning our workshops by sending SMS messages through skype to the mobile phones of the workshop sessions as a kickoff to the week of workshops.
Today, we start low-tech for our first session by using sticky notes to first identify why we are here, what learning gaps exist in the system, how ICT can be used promote learning, and what barriers exist to using ICT in the system. We are hoping to kick off some lively group discussions as we share our impressions and experiences.
The first session went well and we collected the ideas in order to build a wordle which we will later show them at the end of the day.
Zac Chase was a terrific host and leader of the first session using humour and anecdotes effectively as we warmed up to the educators who were with us.
The next session will have the participants divided into two groups, One group will be in the computer lab and asked to take a technology skills audit (a survey on an excel spreadsheet). They are also given a 2 GB flash drive (generously donated by P from ISTE’s NECC last week!) where we have placed OSS formatted by LiberKey.
We go through basic file management skills with the educators as we model how to use a computer lab effectively
The other group is examining the shift in pedagogy from traditional to digital practices for using ICT and discussing how this fits in to their current practices.
In the afternoon, we broke into two groups and used a second venue with a computer lab so all the participants could have hands-on access to computers. First we had educators create a table using Word (a new skill for most of them) so that they could use it to create a lesson plan. Then we showed them how to create a gmail account – which failed mostly because gmail refused to permit so many new accounts from teh same IP address.
Now tonight, a LONG planning meeting for more to come tomorrow. Boy, will I be tired tomorrow as I attempt to lead two workshops about information literacy, Internet search skills and how to use PowerPoint effectively for teaching and learning.
I haven’t yet decided whether it was in a moment of sheer madness or sheer genius that I signed up for a course in emerging technologies two months ago with George Siemens and Dave Cormier as the instructors to the online course (out of the University of Manitoba).
As part of the course, we have been asked to provide a presentation on one of the applications that could be said to represent an emerging technology. I believe I was the only one of the course participants to claim twitter as my presentation topic.
I settled on the title “From the Ridiculous to the Sublime”, although I was tempted to use “How Twitter Saved My Life and Made Me Lose My Job” (this is a joke; I am gainfully employed!).
Twitter remains an object of ridicule and disdain as well as ferocious loyalty and praise.
However, those five minutes went by screamingly fast, so I wanted to briefly include a few other questions here in my blog.
To understand JUST how viral twitter has become, you might want to look at the links I have collected in my delicious bookmarking.
Why are we fascinated with Twitter? My response is based on my observations of teenage behaviour (I have access to quite a few of those!). The need for instant gratification from our network is huge. Being able to receive almost instant feedback about our thoughts, ideas and experiences, as well as our questions is a powerful force.
Why are we repulsed? For those of us who want more – deeper, and more thoughtful from our communication may find twitter quite mundane and even narcissistic. For some time after I returned from Africa, I found it hard to take.
How is twitter a learning tool? The value of twitter definitely relies on the quality of the network – those that you are “following”. I happen to think that I follow some amazing folks who challenge me and make me think. Most of whom I follow are educators. We help each other out when we are confounded with problems and seek answers. We support each other when we are feeling down or frustrated. We share resources with each other and alert our network to breaking news around the globe. Twitter has become replacement for email because I have found recently that “direct messaging” a person in my network gets there faster than an email (or as fast).
Where does the learning take place? I think the learning takes place in the short, abbreviated conversations we have with each other. We don’t always agree with each other, but we can challenge thinking and offer different perspectives. Often I have to resort to emails when 140 characters just isn’t enough.
Who is twitter for? Twitter is for anyone who wants to build a network of excellent minds whom they can tap into.
Why do I use twitter? I will be honest here – much of what I twitter falls into “social twittering”. However, I am a firm believer that sociability (or sociality) is an important ingredient to learning. I observed this amongst my teenage research participants for my thesis work. My twittering often involves an exchange of information and ideas as well. I try to share as much as I “take” from my network. And I cannot stress enough that it is the quality of folks in my twitter network (those that I “follow”) that make the difference between narcissistic nattering and conversation that matters.
I would love some feedback on this brief presentation about twitter! Apparently, I have to improve this preso for next week’s class, so where did I lack clarity? What information is lacking? Let me know!
Chris Betcher and I have been colleagues online for over two years due to our mutual interest in global projects and social tools of the Internet, but I finally had the great opportunity to meet him face-to-face today for the very first time. When I heard he had plans to come to Montreal while on a visit to Canada, I asked to meet him, of course. And then when I found out he was in the midst of publishing his first book and it was about Interactive White Boards, well, I seized an opportunity. Interest in Smartboard (Interactive white board) training is at an all time high here in Montreal. Just like many so other places on the globe, interactive white boards are being installed (or have been installed), but solid professional development on how to use the IWBs is lacking.
My own Smartboard skills have grown stale. I will readily admit this. Chris and I had a lively conversation about whether there is more to this technology hardware than what it seems. He convinced me there was. So I asked for a personal tutorial which grew into a workshop that drew more than 20 educators on a holiday break. So it was that Chris was invited to my school in order to present a 4 hour workshop to educators in the Montreal area. I was impressed that so many gave up a day of their Christmas holidays to attend this workshop.
And it was good! I have observed myself that bringing in an outside expert seems to resonate more with teachers than their appreciation of a local yokel, at least as a catalyst to discussion.
It was a successful day on a number of levels.
First, I was challenged to ratchet up deeper thinking opportunities for my students. It is not about the playing around with tools and buttons – it is about creating visual and audio materials that we can use to draw our students into meaningful discussion and engagement. Chris showed us that the interactivity of the Smartboards does not occur on the white projected screen at the front of the class, but in the classroom as we interacted with each other to create and share knowledge, insights, ideas, and so on.
Secondly, Chris challenged the workshop participants to consider taking responsibility for their own professional development and showed them many ways in which they could do that. Knowing how many top level Quebec educators were in that room was heartening to me. They agreed! Of course, I am hoping that they will explore some of those professional development strategies themselves and that they will, in turn, influence other educators.
And finally, it was encouraging to me to see educators from so many different areas of education meet in one room to discuss how to create better learning environments for our students. Our participants ranged from public to private, early elementary to adult vocational, new teachers to heads of school, and from novice to quite advanced users of smartboards. The expertise represented was phenomenal. How often can we meet that range of educators in one place? We need to do this sort of thing more often. Chris wisely pointed out that we needed these opportunities to share our expertise and grow from each other, but also that we have tools to also communicate with other such educators around the world. He showed us which tools could facilitate that.
Just checked my twitter reports from the last few hours. Special thanks to those who checked out our Ustream livestreamed video (begins about 10 min into video) of the workshop from across the globe. We had visitors from Utah, New Brunswick, Saskatchewan, Maine, London UK, New Hampshire… and a very special visitor from Nepal!
How about that? Just over two years ago, I met Chris Betcher through other online friends and today he made an incredible impact on some of the best leaders in education in Quebec. Who still doubts the power and potential of a PLN (see Alec Couros’ recent post on this!)?
Here is a compilation of the resources we discussed today. Please share more through your comments!
How has your PLN changed the educators in your sphere of influence? This would make an interesting study!
Originally uploaded by sharonpe
So far it has been three weeks of following along with the Connectivism and Connecting Knowledge (CCK08) online course. I like the way it has multiple entry points and permits lurking as well as active involvement through the use of the moodle forums, the blog, the webcasts and elluminate discussions (all archived). This suits my style of learning in the 21st century – anytime, anywhere learning. But then, I have the tools and the access to the bandwidth ….
With a crazy new classroom schedule in a new school, it has been very difficult, if not impossible, to join most of the synchronous events. But I have been following the forum posts and watched, often in fascination, the conversations that have emerged from those who seem to have much more time than I do to process and engage in discussion. Listening to Stephen, George, Dave Cormier and other guests this week has often left me wondering if I had missed out on the four prerequisite courses (!) that are required to understand some of the headier ideas that are mentioned and discussed.
I am trying to do the readings, but they are not as interesting as either reading a debate or conversation in the forum, or listening to the archived elluminate and webcast sessions. There is just something about that dynamic exchange back and forth that is so much more appealing than the reading of text or even slides.
Because this is such an important topic, I have asked a couple of African educators to participate. One tried, but the high bandwidth demands of the online environments proved to be too expensive for him. And so the digital divide widens because of economics….
Thanaga is a high school English teacher at Miti Mingi School near Gilgil in Kenya. He sent me an email yesterday addressing my questions about the dangers of connectivity in African education. Here is his response:
About your questions, I would really want to participate in the course but our connectivity is limited and very expensive. However am glad to share my opinion through you.
I believe that change is inevitable and internet universal internet access is an eventuality that will catch on for every body eventually like the TV access. Just like TV access we cannot really be able to filter and edit the content for our learners. All we can do as internet people is to try and equip teachers with the information that they need to counsel learner on the wise uses of the internet. Granted there will be culture shock and negative effects when African learners eventually have unfettered access to the internet. But I believe these influences are far out weighed by the benefits we gain from the access. Just as you people in the developed world are grappling with this influence, we also fight to contain ti even as we enjoy the benefits of thee access in terms of the education.
Further more, issues like racism; pornography and hatred are issues that we already encounter even now without connectivity. In that connection then, they would mot be entirely new and I believe with training on what to expect, teachers can handle the influence. Therefore, what we should be striving towards is to enable the access even as we prepare parents, teachers and the children’s guardians on what to expect and the possible ways to deal with it. We should not fight change but embrace it. We should also proactively prepare for the effects than wait to do damage control when the harm is already done. Hope my views have shed a little light to you and your colleagues in the course. Feel free to write to me whenever you need my input.
I wish there were an easier way for us to communicate then just over email. Even so, he wrote his response on a Word doc and then attached to an email because of the cost of being online.
I discovered this summer how much we take our easy access to high bandwidth for granted.
My friends in South Africa have it a bit easier in terms of access, but the schools have monthly caps on their bandwidth usage that would make most of us blush. Unfortunately, they usually seem to run out of their bandwidth before the month’s end.
I also heard from a 16 year old South African student from one of the schools where we worked two months ago:
i was thinking of you this cold afternoon, how are thingz there?
any way we are doing fine here enjoying the XO’z as we always had.
ohh before i forget tomorrow we gonna be visited by S.A’z madam speaker
we also have an opening ,of our new Technology lab and we were given 20 new PC’z .
this is how thingz are this side of town.miss you.
It was encouraging to hear that the school had more computers donated!
We live in interesting times. From my office in Canada, I can communicate, albeit simply, with some educators and learners in Africa. My friend Konrad Glogowski has taken his African experience to an entirely different level by creating a Kenyan classroom showcase in Second Life. I very much look forward to the guided tour Konrad will provide to my students later this week – we will be in Montreal, he will be in Toronto. How I wish my African friends had the bandwidth to join us…..
Sometimes a theory of connectivism sounds like it is only for the elite who have education, access to tech tools and bandwidth. Nonetheless, I will continue to lurk, learn and advocate for ways in which we can promote education for all.
Here is a glimpse of our first week of workshops at Glendale High School in Mitchell’s Plain, Cape Town South Africa:
I have been a bit shy about sharing the news about my trip to Africa with Teachers Without Borders, but so many of you have been asking that it is about time that I share more of what we have been planning.
The last few months I have been quietly gathering resources that will be coming with me – somehow squeezing into my luggage allowance of about 100 lbs. Thank goodness I can put a lot of resources either online or on a CD or flash drive!
Below is my itinerary – in a nutshell and from what I know so far:
June 26 – departure for Cape Town, via London UK (meet with Terry and Elaine Freedman for the day, June 27)
June 28- arrival in Cape Town, work for two days with team members David Dallman, John Ehinger and Noble Kelly on workshops
June 30 – meet with ICT Ministry of Ed folks in Cape Town
July 1 – begin workshops for about 35 teachers on implementation of ICT in the curric. – I will be presenting the info lit workshop – Internet search (for beginners)
July 2 – continue with workshops; Konrad Glogowski, our fifth team member, arrives straight from attending NECC in San Antonio; my daughter Meg arrives for a 5 week program with World Learning: Experiment in International Living
July 7 – second week of workshops for a different school
July 14 – class visits at Fezeka High School – we get to meet real students!!
July 19- panel discussion at principals’ conference
We are partnering with NGOs Edunova and Education Without Borders. The people from those organizations have been incredibly wonderful in arranging these opportunities for us. Emails have flown back and forth for a few months now – as well as a few audio and video conferences.
On July 19th, Konrad, Noble and I overnight to Nairobi Kenya and then drive to the Lake Naivasha region. We will catch up with the rest of our team of ten teachers from across Canada who will be delivering workshops to about 120 teachers in that region. Again, we have been partnering with an NGO, Comfort the Children. I have had a chance to videoconference with teachers and a few students from a school already.
Our first few days, we will have the opportunity to do classroom observations as we finalize our workshops for the teachers. We will be providing resources in the area of math, science and English (I will be helping out with the workshops for the English teachers). I am hoping we will also have ample opportunity to meet students.
On July 25th, we will begin the presentation of workshops.
On August 10th, I will fly home a week earlier than the rest of the team so that I can collaboratively present a workshop with my long-time Internet project partner, Reuven Werber (whom I have never met f2f) at CAJE in Vermont on August 14th.
Here is a list of some of the resources I plan to take (some of which I plan to leave behind):
Konrad and I also have a dream about taking as much video footage as possible of our discussions with teachers and students AS WELL AS putting the cameras in the hands of the students and having them take their own footage which we can then take back to Canada and have students edit.
Three of my own personal goals for the trip:
In August, when I return, I am very delighted to share that I will be returning to the classroom at The Study in Montréal, teaching English and Computer Studies – a great blend for me! They have been very warm in welcoming me on staff and supportive of my trip to Africa.
You can imagine how I already have some ideas about global collaborative projects….
One of the schools where we will be in Cape Town solicited questions and issues they would like for us to address during our workshops. The questions gave us a good idea at the level of understanding that ICT can play in the overall curricula, but most compelling was this question: “How can ICT make me a better teacher?”
I think I would need more than just even one blog post to tackle that one! It has been on my mind for weeks now and probably a good question all of us in educational technology should be asking ourselves regularly. Behind that question, I think I sense a certain disbelief that ICT really can “make better teachers”. And perhaps that person is right! I realize that I will need to keep focused on “why ICT in education”and be prepared to justify its use in education. I would love to hear your thoughts on that!
My hope is to be regularly updating my blog throughout my trip, although I may be going off the grid when I am in Kenya due to limited access to the Internet. You are welcome to join me on our adventure!
Sir Ken Robinson speaking on the importance of creativity in education.
I was especially inspired by Sir Ken’s thoughts that every person having the capacity to be creative and how educators need to tap into that creativity.
The statistics on how much is spent on education globally is astonishing! One has to wonder why it does not seem to be enough for so many regions in the world…..