Reflections on the year and the WorldBridges Webcastathon

Ed Tech Talk

It is my birthday today and because it is also so close to the year’s end, I have been quite reflective of the events of the year.

First, a reminder about the upcoming webcastathon.

The WorldBridges’ New Year Webcastathon begins tonight, Friday, at 9pm EST and will continue on until Monday at 6pm EST.

I will certainly check it out throughout the weekend – WorldBridges has provided an environment for some of the best learning opportunities I have had this year.

Since I have finished the course work for my graduate degree, I have missed the engaging discourse and opportunity to rub shoulders with like-minded teachers who use technology as a tool in the classroom. EdTechTalk has met that need while also providing a terrific community of support. And it doesn’t end when the term is finished!

In a recent conversation with Dave Cormier (of ETT and WB), I realized that this had been a year of emancipation for me – freedom from relying on my school or school system to provide the means and support to my professional growth.

It was also the year that I made a conscious decision to “go global”. I have had the privilege of having some terrific mentors who encouraged me, listened to my rants, gave me good counsel, and provided me with vision when those in my immediate situation would not or could not. When I look back on 2006, I am amazed – the calibre of my peers is incredibly high and I feel so blessed to call many of them friends. I am thankful.

What a great way to end off a year! The coming year already seems so full of potential.

I have agreed to do quite a lot of reading and reviewing in the coming weeks – will have a good deal to post soon about A Whole New Mind (by Daniel Pink), Knowing Knowledge (by George Siemens), and couple of articles by Terry Freedman, “Go On, Bore Them: How to Make ICT Lessons Excruciatingly Dull” and “Every Child Matters – What it Means for the ICT Teacher”.

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Let’s Play Tag in the Blogosphere

Apparently, a game of tag is currently going on in the blogosphere – and I have been caught!

Chris Harbeck, a new friend from the K-12 Online Conference, has tagged a very unsuspecting me. I am embarrassed to say that I wasn’t even aware that I had been tagged until today (2 days later) AND it had to be pointed out to me by someone else…..

According to the rules, I am now supposed to share 5 things you may not know about me. And then, I am supposed to tag 5 other bloggers.

I will try not to bore you. Usually I am very conservative about how much I share about myself – including photos – but I am gradually becoming a little less shy about all that. I left out the fact that we have a hedgehog as a pet (does that count?).

    #1 – I love to sing.

Yup. Loudly too. And I’m not too bad. I even sang in the recent school staff production of “Guys and Dolls” last April. I sang for a few years as a teenager in a church youth chorale. My scariest moment in MY LIFE was not defending my thesis or presenting web 2.0 tools to my very critical colleagues – it was singing a solo in front of the entire body of high school students at last year’s Christmas assembly. I chose to sing “Santa Baby” – and, of course, I changed the lyrics – “Santa Baby, just slip a laptop under the tree for me….” and so on. The grade 10 boys actually gave me a standing ovation…. Many were disappointed when I chose to do the chipmunk’s version of “Jingle Bell Rock” this year.

    #2 – The rest of my family calls me “a freak of nature”.

Not just because I am the only blonde. 😉

I am the shortest by 8 inches in my family of giants. My baby sister is a statuesque 6 feet tall and has often been mistaken for a model (not so me!). Her oldest son, Josh, at 16 years, has finally stopped growing at 6 feet, 8 inches tall. Here is a pic of the three of us standing together. I am the … uh… short one.
Eight inches between them...

    #3 – I made an interesting career decision and stayed home with my young children for about ten years.

It was not a conscious decision at the time – our family was bumped around three different provinces over that ten-year period. Of course, I found other things to do outside the home – part-time teaching ESL and I spent many hours unwittingly honing my computer skills. Both of those pasttimes provided invaluable experience for the next stage of my teaching career.

    #4 – My first university degree was concentrated in medieval and Renaissance studies.

And now, most people just know me as a techie. I like to think that there are certain similarities between today’s culture shifts and the dramatic shifts from the “dark ages” to the medieval times and then again to the Renaissance era. Of course, these changes are greatly telescoped in today’s times. Greatly.

    #5 – My favourite medium is not digital, but H2O.

Of course, there are times when I wonder if I only think digitally. But truly, my favourite place to be is in a swimming pool. Maybe it is the fact that I am only able to get there twice a week that makes it so valuable to me. I love to thrash water. My best creative ideas have come to me when I have been in a swimming pool. Or when I have been doing my next favourite activity – speed-walking along the lake. On non-school days, I usually walk 5-6 kilometres and very fast, at that.

Okay, so now that you know that much about me…. time to play tag!

My five picks are Jen Wagner, Cheryl Oakes (both WOW2 friends), Chris Betcher (good on you!), Terry Freedman (let’s see how long before he notices), and my own daughter Meg (we’re now venturing into MySpace!).

This could get interesting!

Blessings to all as you enter into 2007!

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“Georgia on my mind” NECC 2007

I am breaking my vow of silence during my marks and reporting frenzy (due in tomorrow), to announce a few exciting developments.

NECC 2007 in Atlanta!

What we have long been waiting for has finally come through! WOW2‘s conference proposal for NECC 2007 has been accepted!

This means that Women of Web 2.0’s very own Cheryl Oakes, Vicki Davis, Jennifer Wagner and I will be leading a panel discussion at NECC, tentatively slated for Wednesday, June 27th. Woo-hoo!

We are already talking about scheduling our own birds-of-a-feather soirée, so please keep that in mind if you are planning to be at the conference.

I am also absolutely delighted that my own proposal, based on my M.A. thesis research about online collaborative learning for high school students, has been accepted as well. That discussion session is tentatively scheduled for Monday, June 25th.

And while we are on the topic of conferences….

Last night, George Siemens and company have announced their own Connectivism Online Conference (scheduled for the second week in February-cost is free!) – sponsored, in part, by the University of Manitoba. So far, the speaker line-up includes George, Stephen Downes, Will Richardson, Terry Anderson, and Bill Kerr (a new name for me, but he is out of Adelaide Australia, so he must be good!). Quite an impressive group of heavy-weights! I have already signed up….

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The urgent message of teaching and learning for the 21st century

Yes, it has been a while since I have blogged; however, I have not stopped collecting experiences and thoughts to include here.

An overriding theme of the last two or three weeks in my experiences and reading has been this sense of urgency that schooling must change if we want our next generation of learners to be able to keep up in the rapidly changing global economy.

When you are a teacher in a system where important issues brought up and debated at department meetings are whether or not to permit the use of spellcheckers in English exams (which are handwritten) or whether Shakespeare should be taught at every grade level, sometimes it is difficult to gauge whether or not there is a great shift happening in the “real world”. (These are real examples, by the way)

I try to listen to podcasts and videotaped conference presentations regularly so I have a bit of an opportunity to see what other educators are grappling with. Of course, I also have an rss feeder and try to keep on top of my blogstream – not easy with so many good edubloggers out there!

One of the videoconference presentations I watched last week which I thoroughly enjoyed was the video of Alan November’s conference presentation at the Christa McAuliffe Technology Conference in New England. Some of his ideas that resonated with me:

  • Skype in every classroom
  • engaging in online discussions with other countries
  • “I think every teacher should think globally!”
  • “In order to do that, you gotta know skype, You gotta know the syntax of the Internet….”
  • “Watch what kids do when they are not school – what if we could combine what kids WANT to do with the curriculum?”

Alan tried very hard to get his audience to see the urgency of the situation.

It was very validating to hear those things because of my own use of skype in the classroom recently and my passion for international projects.

A Real Life Sense of Urgency

Last week, when I was at the staff party of my husband’s workplace, I had a very interesting conversation with Stephan, an engineer and project manager with the company. I told Stephan that because I was a teacher I didn’t often get a chance to talk with those in the “real world” and that I wanted to ask him a few questions. So I asked him how often he communicated with someone outside of our country. He said many, many times a day he had to communicate with others around the world. Then he went on to tell me that, although he had been trained as an engineer, he rarely needed his technical skills – those were outsourced to other countries – but how he now relied on those communication and collaboration, most often cross-cultural. He went on to say how fearful he was of his own children’s future because he felt that the present educational system was not preparing the next generation for the realities of this new global economy.

I asked him if he had read Thomas Friedman or Daniel Pink – he had not. He clearly saw these problems on his own and it bothered him a good deal.

I finally picked up the book, A Whole New Mind, by Daniel Pink and was quite impressed with it. He is another author who has also picked up on the changing reality of our global situation and is recommending, among other activities, the necessity of promoting collaborative skills.This book deserves an entire blog post on its own.I have already had a conversation with at least one person who does not like the concepts presented in the book and it has forced me to be a more critical reader as I go through it.Definitely worth its own post…

My IT Director passed this article on to me:The Disruptive Force of Web 2.0: how the new generation will define the futureThis is a speech made by Viviane Reding at a youth conference recently in Hong Kong and it provides another good overview of web 2.0 and its influence on the next generation. Again the sense of urgency is present in the speech. Web 2.0, or social networking, is presented as a disruptive force. Its exponential growth is pointed out. The negatives are highlighted – such as Internet piracy and the potential of diminishing value for the telecom providers because of VoIP (Internet telephony).She also points to the positive and great potential as this new version of the web provides more possibilities for “connectivity, communication, collaboration, and creativity”.I liked her point that the more people who use it, the better the service becomes.

Particularly interesting was Reding’s discussion of the digital divide – a topic that is not covered enough by we in the edublogospere and one that we at Women of Web 2.0 would very much like to cover in an upcoming webcast.

And this week’s Time magazine cover article was How To Build a Student For the 21st Century.
It is a terrific example of the urgency finally being sensed and reported in the mainstream media.We discussed the article at some length with our guests the other night at the weekly webcast of Women of Web 2.0 (podcast is here). It was a fantastic evening with special guests David Warlick and Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach – such a great opportunity to pick the brains of educators who have been trying to spread this message for some time now.Stephen Downe’s coverage of it was very interesting a worthy exploration.