It has been a busy two weeks with three conference presentations on top of regular full-time teaching. I am very thankful that my school so graciously supports me in my forays outside the school walls. Two of the conferences were local to Montréal – the Quebec Association of Independent Schools Symposium and Springboards 2007 – English Language Arts conference. After months of much online conference involvement, the face-to-face conferences were refreshing and I was impressed with the calibre of presentations. Just as I prefer the blended approach to education, I can see that there is much value of having both online and face-to-face opportunities to communicate, interact and be presented with new ideas. I will be reflecting for some time to come on the new people and ideas from these events.
The Springboards 2007 Language Arts conference left me very impressed with some of the collaborative projects I witnessed. While they were not online collaborative projects, they were rich in multimedia use and fantastic opportunities for students to share their voices and tell their stories for a larger audience. Particularly impressive was the project that led to the publication of the book – Québec Roots: The Place Where I Live. The book is just beautiful with photography and writing from young students. It included writing from the Inuit children in the far north and shared a culture with which so many of us know so little. What a wonderful opportunity! I thought about how easy it would be for other sets of schools to do something similar – then use a tool like Lulu press to create their own publication to share in the school libraries and classrooms.
The first of my presentations was a collaboration with Scott Morrison (of Selwyn House School) and was called The Three Cs of the Interactive Internet. The wiki documents conversations Scott and I had about web 2.0 tools and their usefulness in the classroom and the pedagogy we have been using. Scott defends his dislike of the term web 2.0 – I have heard many who don’t care for the term. However, I continue to use it just because it has become so common.
I housed the next presentations on the same wiki – Listening to the Voices: Student Empowerment Beyond the Classroom Walls and reused much of the same material. The main points of the presentation were created on a slideshow web application called spresent which can then be embedded in the wiki. This way all of my content was readily available either on the slideshow or on another page on the wiki. It also left a wonderful artefact for others to go through later.
In particular, I wanted to demonstrate why web 2.0 tools should be used in education and what standards and curricular goals they meet both at our provincial level and the international level. It is so important to be aware of meeting curricular standards, especially when new tools and environments are involved. And, of course, I wanted to demonstrate the learning gains of my own students as they participated in authentic complex learning situations – many of them crossing cultures.
When I was in Mississauga at the Canadian Assoc. of Independent Schools Best Practices’ Conference, I was especially pleased to attend Konrad Glogowski’s presentation about using personal learning environments for teacher professional development. In essence, he examined a number of web 2.0 tools that facilitate professional growth for teachers. I followed his presentation and dove-tailed the discussion about the necessity of web 2.0 tools for education. We made a great tag team!
I later was able to record a conversation with Konrad about his PhD research of blogging in the classroom (please excuse the poor audio quality – we sound as if we are under water!). He described the qualitative study he had undertaken with his grade 8 students using a grounded theory approach. Teachers who are using blogging as a writing tool/environment in the classroom will want to hear his thoughts and reflections! Clearly it was a transformational experience for his students, but especially for Konrad’s ideas of the role of the teacher in a blogging community. I want to thank him for the conversation and hope it will enrich others.