Visionaries and Innovators from the Grassroots

In a very short compressed space of time of the last few days here in Charlottetown, I have met some cutting edge educators who are changing the face of education from the grassroots level.

Dr. Sandy McAuley is using the latest iteration of the former CSILE knowledge-building environment with his students at University of Prince Edward Island. He provided a demo of the environment for all of us to explore. It takes a sort of concept-map building approach to a content management system-like environment. While it has its limitations in being a very closed system, I particularly appreciated the tagging/keyword system that it uses. Another disadvantage, however, is that it is not possible to export the knowledge that is created there. Sandy worked with Scardamalia and Bereiter at OISE in the early 90’s developing and using the earliest iteration of CSILE up in the Canadian Arctic communities.

Sandy and I had a few conversations about whether new pedagogies were required to use the latest web 2.0 tools and environments or whether we were reinventing the wheel and ignoring the important research that has already been completed about the creation of knowledge and learning in online environments. As I have reflected upon my students’ conversations and multimedia products in the last few years, I have returned to the published research that has explored the benefits of online learning spaces. Much value has been documented along the way. On the other hand, it has remained in silos as web 2.0 tools and environments have proliferated in the last two years. Educators without any prior experience with online learning environments are discovering the tools and using them in very innovative ways. Accessibility to the research is sometimes prevented or not encouraged. There has been a huge disconnect between the teachers in the trenches and the researchers in the white towers. In the meantime, critics are quick to point out that little qualitative or quantitative research has been done on their use in the classroom. The fact that they have not been developed exclusively for the education domain makes them even more dubious. Those of us who see the benefits should draw upon the pioneers of online collaborative learning environments from the 1980’s and 90’s.

I also met the creator, Mike MacAdam, of Chuala, a language community and web-based pronunciation application that shows great promise for learners of other languages. My own son’s resistance to learning French could certainly be helped by this great tool.

Elana Langer was also at this conference as one of the presenters, but she also was with Dave Cormier from the beginning in creating the goals of the Living Archives. Besides being a videographer who will create a documentary about the project, she teaches in New York at SUNY and is also involved in the One Laptop Per Child program. Her involvement with the OLPC was what fascinated me in particular and I had an opportunity to have a couple of conversations with her about that. We actually audio-recorded our conversation in Dave’s pantry as he and Jeff were webcasting live in the living room!

The developers behind the XO (the machine for OLPC) have created a new platform for the machine (Sugar) which is based on a new pedagogical approach to education. Elana explains it much better than I can try, so you are invited to listen to the podcast (soon to be posted!). She has also agreed to come on to a WOW2 webcast on December 8th as our special guest, so tune in then to hear her live!

In the meantime, OLPC has just released an offer to purchase/give the XO laptop. For $400 a person will purchase a model of the XO and finance one to be sent to a developing nation. I am dying to see the XO for myself and play around with it to see how it can be used pedagogically in a school community.

Earlier this afternoon I was also able to help out with the WorldBridges videocast from Dave’s livingroom and then later capture a video interview with he and Jeff Lebow that will be featured in our WOW2 K12 Online conference presentation in about three weeks. Jeff Lebow’s vision for WorldBridges is more than 10 years old and it was fascinating and inspiring to hear his convictions and passion for webcasting at the grassroots level.

And, of course, we were all here in Charlottetown, PEI, to support the Living Archives Project which is a brainchild of Dave Cormier, who is himself also a visionary of education. Originally, he had wanted to use Second Life as the environment to support the project’s goal of student-created villages of digitized historical content. Due to the young ages of the student participants, he was not able to use SL so, undeterred, he has since discovered OpenSim. This program allows him to install and host the virtual world platform on his own server or even computer. Islands can be connected and disconnected with each other by user control. This provides him with a great deal more control and ownership over the project. The students appeared very enthusiastic when they saw the virtual world the other day. Students in Virginia also were invited to look over the virtual world and are watching this project carefully in the hope they can build their own world too!

Keynote to New Media Literacies Conference

It is exciting to be here at the University of Prince Edward Island to participate in this conference. I am sitting at a “blogger’s table” with Harold Jarche, Sandy McAuley, and Stephen Downes with Dave Cormier and Jeff Lebow hovering the background. Will Richardson is delivering the keynote and he is going through it to demonstrate how the world is changing and the social technologies that are being used by students, teachers, ordinary folks and even politicians. He points out in particular how Obama is using social networking sites in order to promote his campaign. Physical space can be transcended and we can now have meaningful conversations with people around the world. Will makes the statement that model of journalism has to change – we can add our own information so easily so instantly. I really liked what he showed about how a teacher was using twitter to teach about the student uprising in Myanmar just two days ago. Students were able to view photos and videos of Burma within hours after the incidents took place.

Will also looks at how business is changing and shifting as they exploit these web 2.0 tools. His wiki page is worth exploring for the information he has collected there. He reminded us, too, of the digital divide still due to socioeconomic disparities.

I like the way Will shows off his blog as a place where HIS learning takes place. “It is a powerful learning network.” However, there is a disconnect between this kind of learning and what is going on in classrooms. He also shows off FanFiction and MySpace (not a good site – he shows it as a bad model of how young people are using such sites).

Will and I both twittered before his session that the conference could be found live at with an invitation to join. Within a few minutes three of my twitter peeps had come back to say they were following us – Graham Wegner in Australia, John Pederson in Minnesota, and Alice Wells in Maine. How cool is that?

I particularly appreciated how Will put a focus on the importance of AUDIENCE. This is often overlooked as having any pedagogical value for students, but I think it is one of the most powerful and compelling reasons we should be using web 2.0 tools and environments. I have said it before – I think all student-created material should be up online. However, this is based on the premise that the material has authentic value. He mentions three great Canadian educators who have been so innovative in creating new pedagogies around these tools – Clarence Fisher, Darren Kuropatwa and Konrad Glogowski – and I heartily concur.

He challenges us to be participatory together during these exciting times – and to build our own learning networks. We also need to be modeling our own learning to our students.

What!! This Presentation will be Videocasted??!! And other developments….

Little did I know, some 11 or 12 months ago when I first heard of the proposal for the Living Archive project (yes, I made a few editing suggestions to the grant proposal – really, nothing much!) that I would be heading off to Charlottetown to participate in a conference to help carry out the goals of the project!

Kudos to Dave Cormier for pulling off a seemingly impossible and daunting task of a project – having young students collect and digitize content that would later be reconstructed in a virtual world (very short summary!)! It is student-driven social constructivism at its very best in concept.

I am honoured to be a part of the New Media Literacies Institute taking place at the University of Prince Edward Island (Charlottetown, PEI) Sept. 28-30th. Other (much more) notables include Jeff Lebow and Will Richardson.

What they *didn’t* tell me was that the presentations would be videocasted! And that Stephen Downes would be there. Okay, now I am a little … intimidated. Please note that both Will and Jeff are presenting simultaneously to me (phew!) and make your own choices!

This week I was able to finally finish and post the teaser videos to my K12 Online presentations. Please note that Vince takes most of the credit for our teaser on professional development. It was his idea for the scenario and he provided most of the slides for the opening and closing of the video. He also had a fun time screen capturing and editing together all the bits in movie-maker – a new experience for him.

See you all in PEI, Canada!

More New Learning Environments for Global Educators to Check Out


A look at the WiZiQ Interface

The weather here in Montreal has been blindingly beautiful, but the last week has provided much distraction with new web-based tools and environments to explore. It seems that there has been an explosion of synchronous environments in the last few weeks.

This morning I just missed a meeting of a number of educators (which I heard about via my twitter), mostly in the other hemispheres, led by Jeff Utecht in Shanghai, of a new environment called WiZiQ. The link will bring you to their archived recording once you sign in. I am waiting on Jeff to provide more information, but as you can see, it provides audio, chat, whiteboard, powerpoint and an asynchronous environment with such features as mail and calendar. I am hoping this will be either low cost or free (UPDATE -IT IS FREE!) It seems entirely web-browser based – no special downloads. Another tool which could very useful for classes wanting to meeting globally!

Jeff has just twittered to me that WiZiQ is free with unlimited seating, but with no desk-top sharing. If you are looking for an environment like this, check it out!

Of course, the big buzz earlier this week was about the release of Google Presentation. Over fifty educators from around the world have been editing a slideshow presentation that has been viewed by now by hundreds and currently has well over 1100 edits. I am particularly impressed with the chat feature it offers so the audience can also share their views about what they are seeing. If you would like an invitation to edit, just email me. This tool holds great promise for collaborative sharing between classes. To find Presentation, go to the top left of your gmail page and click on documents, then you will see the option along with docs and spreadsheets.

Of course, people are still talking about FlashMeeting as well. I have known a few educators in the last few days that have stated that they are booking FlashMeeting time with the folks over at Open University in the UK. If you are interested in making contact with them in order to book a time, email me and I will happily pass along the information.

On Thursday and Friday, I had the great pleasure of meeting Michael Furdyk (co-founder and director) and Luke Walker from TakingITGlobal as they had come to Montreal to train the school boards’ ICT consultants as well as those of us at LEARN about how to use their learning environment for education. LEARN is arranging for all the schools in the English sector of Quebec to have access to the tools and environments of the educational features of TakingITGlobal, which opens up exciting possibilities for classes from Quebec to connect locally and globally. The classroom walls are being flattened in Québec!

We HAVE to have Michael and Luke with us on a WOW2 webcast – am working on that along with some teachers here in Québec who are getting involved with TIGed.

I was quite impressed with the sophistication of tools available in the TIG environment. They celebrated their seventh birthday the other day, have over 150,000 participants (mostly youth) from every country in the world, offer services in 12 languages (with many more to follow), and have largely been a grassroots movement with a focus on connecting youth for the purpose of social activism. They also offer the ability to set up classes with chat and video for expressly educational purposes. Only a small percentage of their users are students involved in a class, most of the participants have joined on their own in order to meet others and work collaboratively on projects on their own initiative.

What does all of this mean? It means that connecting with other educators and students around the world has never been easier and cheaper!

So what is stopping YOU from making a global connection?

By the way, my twitter name is speters – so please be sure to add me if you are using twitter. It seems to be the number one way I am keeping up with what is happening in the moment!

Jeff Lebow – Technology and Leader of the Year award nomination

Jeff Lebow

I am joining a few others who have been blogging their endorsement of Jeff Lebow for the Technology and Leader of the Year award: Jen Maddrell, Dave Cormier, Alex Ragone, John Schinker, Jeff Flynn and Lee Baber.

My words are not nearly as eloquent as theirs, so please do check out their endorsements as well.

Jeff Lebow is a world-class educator who possessed the vision to establish WorldBridges, a community of communities which serves a variety of educators from around the world. He has largely done this on his own initiative and has provided much of the funding for the servers and hosting of the necessary technology elements over the past few years of its existence. He has also provided training and support to a large group of educators who have wanted to learn how to webcast over the Internet. The training was provided at a distance through asynchronous and synchronous tools and environments found on the WorldBridges sites.

In essence, Jeff has freely and graciously provided his considerable expertise to train educators so that they, in turn, can teach and build networks of support for other educators and learners. Thousands of educators have accessed the WorldBridges sites where audio files (podcasts) from shows hosted by the educators are stored.

My own personal involvement with WorldBridges began over a year ago as I would listen to some of the shows hosted by educators who had been trained by Jeff. About a year ago, I started to host a weekly show for educators along with three other educators (the Women of Web 2.0). Later I would receive training from Jeff from the Webcast Academy so that I could myself handle the technical aspects of hosting a live audio webcast over the Internet. We have now had over forty weekly shows which feature guests who are innovative leaders and thinkers in education from around the world. We are aware that hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people have since accessed those audio files.

Without the leadership and vision of Jeff Lebow, these shows would not be possible. WorldBridges provides the infrastructure and environment which supports a large network of educators who are seeking to learn and grow from each other.

I heartily endorse the nomination of Jeff Lebow for this notable award because of the positive impact his efforts, through WorldBridges, have had on so many educators around the world who have, in turn, influenced the next generation of learners.

Sharon Peters

M.A. (Educational Technology)

Pedagogical Consultant

LEARN (Leading Educational and Resource Network, Québec)

The 5 Cs of the 1:1 Laptop Environment

The 5 Cs of the 1:1 Laptop Environment

This conviction about the 5 Cs of the 1:1 Laptop Environment came to me when I was in New Brunswick last month making a presentation to teachers who were teaching to students who had just been given laptops. It comes from my own observations from teaching with the use of laptop myself for the last four years and in being in a 1:1 environment for two years.

Tonight I listened to Gary Stager’s presentation at Learning 2.0 in Shanghai (care of Wes Fryer) just last week. I agreed with MOST of his presentation. He stated that the most important activity the laptop permits is that of construction (creation). It is certainly a very important goal within that environment and, as a social constructivist who has been inspired by the work of David Jonassen, I would agree that this is an important goal in a 1:1 environment.

However, I would say that given today’s super-powered Internet tools and environments, that while we educators have done a fairly good job of fostering the ability to collate, create and construct, we have NOT done such a good job at providing opportunities to communicate and collaborate given a ubiquitous wireless environment which always accompanies a laptop environment. (I realize I somehow left out connect, but that sense is there, I think!)

It drove me CRAZY in the last few years that we would inflict digitally-based projects on our students, they would submit them (often over the built-in email service), we would evaluate them, and poof! that was it, they were gone. Unless the student self-consciously saved their projects themselves, usually the project was doomed to be flushed out at the end of the year because the server space needed reclaiming. No vision for sharing that project with a larger audience or preserving it as a portfolio artifact for the future. No sense of reflection about progress over a period of time. No idea that another audience existed who could benefit from this constructed knowledge.

I also believe there is a great deal of value in socially-constructed knowledge and even better if the collaboration has to include a distance education component to it. Many of our 21st Century learners will have to do this as part of their future education or employment – or just for pleasure.

I would love to hear from other educators about *their* opinions on this issue!

Fun with Google Presentation – Share your fave web 2.0 tool!

A bunch of us had fun this afternoon playing around with Google Presentation. Particularly impressive is its ability to have an online presentation with chat built in for the “audience”. While Presentation does not have ALL the functionality of PowerPoint or KeyNote, it does keep an rss feed of changes by collaborators. Very cool!

Google Presentation app

Help out Cheryl Oakes who is trying to get AT LEAST 80 educators sharing their favourite web 2.0 tool on! She describes how in the TechLearning blog post. We can all learn from this!

Finally! Google Presentations and More on Global Connections

Google has finally released its long-awaited slideshow application! To see how this feature works, go to any of your google docs and select FILE, then you will see that “presentation” is now an option. Once in presentation mode, one can import a PowerPoint slideshow as well. This is going to be a great new addition to what are already awesome collaborative tools! Here is more information about Presentation.

It is hard for me to believe that just this time last year, I was putting together a presentation on global collaborative projects for the K12 Online Conference. At the time, I felt as though I was one of the few educators participating in such projects. This year, not only have I met a few seasoned global educators along the way, I am witnessing an explosion of interest in these initiatives. I believe it is because of the affordances of easy communication and collaboration which the tools and environments of web 2.0 have

Through conferences, twitter, WorldBridges (edtechtalk), and the edublogosphere (made up of many different voices), I have met many educators, some very new to using Internet tools, and I am encouraged about the growing numbers and interest in making global connections between teaching professionals and their students. Is a critical mass of use approaching? Well, I think we still have a long way to go, but it seems that these tools are now being somewhat acknowledged and even accepted in the mainstream of educational practice. More voices also means more potential for discourse and even disagreement, but I appreciated George Siemen’s take on that subject recently.

I was thrilled to be invited along to two such global conversations, once again using FlashMeeting, just this past weekend. Unfortunately, I was only able to attend one of the meetings, initiated by Lucy Gray, but here is the link to the meeting that was initiated by Paul Harrison. I met once with that group another time and was really encouraged to meet even more educators who were interested in global education.

Everyone was new to me at the FlashMeeting I attended on Sunday night. I had a chance to meet Kim Cofino, who was just back from the Learning 2.0 Conference in Shanghai, and hear a bit about that.

I was also introduced to Westley Field, a teacher in Sydney, Australia and heard about his very interesting collaborative project called skoolaborate. The teachers and students involved in this project are using Second Life (they have even met with the Lindens and SL who are helping them facilitate the initiative) in order to meet and learn about global citizenship. It was inspiring to hear about schools whose leaders have the vision to see the importance of facilitating global partnerships!

One of the issues that was discussed was the need for a place where educators interested in global partnerships could find each other. I mentioned this yesterday to Christiane Dufour, the LEARN consultant who oversees the telecollaborative projects and she reminded of one such place on the LEARN website where one can register their project. Check it out if you are looking for a partner, or want to register for your need for a partner.

Also be sure to check out the various social networking sites that exist to connect teachers from around the world – Global Education Ning,EduBloggerWorld Ning, Classroom 2.0 Ning and, of course, the Women of Web 2.0.

Join us tonight on the WOW2 webcast – we have Steve Hargadon, Darren Draper, and Julie Lindsay with us and I am sure we will be talking about making global connections!

Let’s Go Global!

Last night on our WOW2 webcast, we had an impressive set of teachers with us to describe their plans and involvement in global projects for this academic year. Kristin Hokanson was effusive in her enthusiasm for using web 2.0 tools and getting teachers connected and involved. Her “Connected Classroom” wiki is very impressive – check out the video she has embedded in it.

Cheryl Lykowski, with whom I have been corresponding for a few months now, has just won an award for her impressive work on a master’s thesis project involving her students (in Michigan) in a podcast project with teachers and students in Colombia.

Another teacher whom I had invited, but was not able to join us last night, is Jennifer Meagher, a teacher who involved her Sherbrooke Québec high school students in a collaborative project with teachers and students in Uganda using the tools and environment from TakingITGlobal. Although she has since moved to another province in Canada, she is an enthusiastic proponent of global partnerships and knows of several classes around the world that are seeking partners this year.

While on the local level in my own setting I know of few teachers who are flattening their classroom walls to communicate and collaborate with students outside of their immediate environment, I am encouraged that this is changing. Opportunities for global collaborative projects abound and the tools of the Internet have never been easier to use!

Other projects/portals worth mentioning: Life Round Here (by Chris Craft), The Global Education Ning, and Teachers Without Borders.

IMPORTANT!!! If you have a great project that has used WEB 2.0 TOOLS, Terry Freedman asks that you would fill out this form so he can show off best practices examples with the upcoming Coming of Age – 2nd Edition. Please consider doing so – this way we can all share our students’ great work using these neato tools.

Below is a slideshow of a presentation I recently gave at the Literacy and Learning in the 21st Century conference in New Brunswick. I include slides of my own three teenagers who each use the Internet in very different ways – yet in ways that I believe are typical of our generation of youth today. All three of them are using tools and environments which permit them to collaborate and share with others not in their own immediate location. I included them in my presentation to demonstrate how teenagers are using the Internet as a means of communication and collaboration OUTSIDE of educational purposes. They do so easily and naturally, not because they are “geeks” (they would quickly cringe at that label!), but because that is how today’s teens are having fun and getting connected with their friends.

Check out the other portals mentioned in the slideshow if you are looking for an Internet Project or Global Partnership this year!