2007 – An Audible Gasp!

With less than two hours to go, I have decided to finally put the year of 2007 in review.

It was the year my oldest child started university. She graduated with honours from the Pre-U programme (gr. 12 equivalency) at Lower Canada College and accepted a scholarship for neuroscience at Brock University (where she continues to flourish academically).

Enough said? Well, maybe not….

It was the year that I left the best teaching job I had ever had (or hoped to have), also at Lower Canada College, in order to pursue a job offer at LEARN. I am still wondering why there was an audible gasp in the audience of my colleagues when this was announced? Did I miss something?

I have learnt a lot from my colleagues at LEARN and have also appreciated the distinct differences in our education programme from those elsewhere. In my opinion, we do have the most progressive education programme in the world – even if we do not currently implement it particularly well. I have greatly enjoyed my work there and the potential for the future. Thanks to those with whom I work – we are doing great stuff for the students of Quebec. Kudos for you for going forward!

The year of 2007 was the year that I presented quite a few sessions or workshops at a different variety of conferences in North America. A personal best. I suppose. It was a privilege probably not to be repeated.

It was the year of twitter and skype. I have met some terrific people whom I greatly admire through these applications.

It was the year I decided NOT to apply for my EdD or PhD. Just not the right timing.

This year in February, I met Cheryl Oakes at her beautiful mountain house in Maine where I surprised her by taking up her offer to come and ski (she is a mere four hours from me in Montreal, but I bungled it, got lost and took closer than 10 hours to reach her – I have since acquired a GPS unit!!).

It was a great year for WOW2 – almost every week we had such an amazing guest or set of guests from whom I learned so much. A special thanks to each of you who accepted our invitation – we had fantastic conversations and so many benefited from your wisdom and experience. My particular thanks to my fabulous co-hosts Jen Wagner, Cheryl Oakes and Vicki Davis. Our differences complement our strengths. Each of you are amazing women I have admired and appreciated! What a privilege it has been to work, learn, and laugh with each one of you!

The year of 2007 was the year I realized how important, very, very important, face-to-face meetings were. The NECC Bloggers’ Café really drove this home. It was amazing to meet so many of you face-to-face and have that connection through body and eye language. The BLC conference in Boston, just a few weeks later, also reinforced that notion. It was there that I *really* connected with DJakes, DKuropatwa, DShareski and JValenza – so great to meet each one of you.

It was a year where I came to value my relationships abroad – but more so for having met you f2f. I was able to ask questions, deep questions and I want to continue that!

This past year I came to value my students – really, truly appreciate them. WOW! You have amazed me, dazzled me, and I continue to brag about you far and wide by showing off the stuff you were able to accomplish last year! I miss you!

What a year! I can’t say that I have had a year like it. Thanks to all of you for teaching me, listening to me, advising me, laughing and just *being* with me. I am so privileged to have you as friends!

My New Year’s Resolution for 2008 – Go Deep and explore how online learning spaces benefit learners. Cya there!

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OLPC – How educators can help out

Last night on our WOW2 webcast, we had the incredible privilege of enjoying a conversation with Elana Langer who is currently working on the educational features of the OLPC initiative. The initiative and the many issues and criticisms surrounding it has been well-covered by the media recently – BBC (great videos of OLPC in Nigeria), webcast with Leo Laporte and Cory Doctorow, TED Talks interview with Nicholas Negroponte, Sixty Minutes.

For a child’s view of the XO, watch the youtube video:

We spoke with Elana about a different focus – the educational features of the laptop. Unlike its competitor the Classmate, or just about any other generic computing tool, the XO has been specifically designed with education and learning thoughtfully in mind. This may well be its selling point over the “big guns” who have indicated through their brutal marketing attempts with the developing nations that they are feeling quite threatened by OLPC. The OLPC movement has become a little David going up against the Goliath combination of Intel and Microsoft.

We had a dedicated group of technology-minded educators in our chatroom last night, some of whom are raising funds for their school to purchase the XO machines for their own students as well as giving away a matching number. These teachers were also very interested in how they themselves to help out the OLPC program – besides buying and giving. Elana pointed us to the OLPC wiki, encouraged us to add to the teachers’ section (a sort of place for best practices), and also encouraged us to directly send her our best practice stories of using computers in the classroom. Our collective experience will be used to help train teachers who will be receiving the XOs in their classrooms – be it the developing nations or our own communities. Please consider sharing your own stories!

We also spoke of the possibility of creating mentoring partnerships between those of us who have taught with laptops and now own an XO and those teachers who are new to the XO and using technology as a tool in the classroom. Elana said this was something she very much wished to explore. Stay tuned for more on that!

Elana brings her experience as a maker of video documentaries to the OLPC project. You can find her work on youtube (OLPC Learning Project). She is also the video documentary maker of the Living Archives Project in PEI.

Please enjoy this video which features Carla Gomez, who works for OLPC in the communities where the XO has been introduced.

Let’s all make some noise!

Self-regulation and independent thinking are two important goals educators seek to promote in their students. We should stand up and cheer for those students who have taken initiative and created meaningful products that are designed to support a higher cause. I am privileged to observe quite a few educators who are consistently striving to support learning situations and environments which propel students to be thinking outside of themselves and outside the classroom and school walls. This year has been a banner year for global student connections. Let’s hope for a critical mass during 2008 (although that is incredibly optimistic!).
Recently a few students took the initiative to begin an ongoing student blog, Students 2.0. Curiously, their audience seems more designed toward their adult teachers rather than their own peer group. It is an interesting glimpse into the thoughts of some intelligent young people who likely have a better grasp of the big picture of social networking than do most teenagers.

Student-driven social-networking initiatives are not entirely new. A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of attending another conference presentation by the young people of Taking IT Global. Once again, I was incredibly impressed by the achievements and vision by the young people who started TIG a few years ago. They were teenagers at the time and now maintain the world’s most popular and successful social networking site that is centred around global issues. I encourage you to watch the video and to visit their site – I am sure you will be impressed by the thousands of student voices who share the passion for bettering our world together. Taking IT Global also offers opportunities for teachers and students from around the world to collaborate and partner together. The education component of TIG is a recent addition – TIG’s primary mission is to connect individual students who join on their own initiative.

I am pleased to note that LEARN, here in Québec, has partnered with Taking IT Global so that our teachers and students can use the online environments and services of TIG for classroom global exchanges. If you are interested in knowing more, please contact me!