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A New Beginning – Again

Here we are again, waking up to Labour Day with the usual anxiety pangs about the start of a new school year. I know, I know, my role means a very different type of anxiety from that of the teachers and students who are anticipating the work of the first day.  As a system administrator responsible for system and school programming, my summer meant many days at the office cleaning up files, completing reports, answering Ministry emails, and planning for the next year’s budget.  But all done at my own pace and much of it done at home.

So my first day of full-speed action is tomorrow – meeting with my team of consultants and special assignment teachers with system responsibilities – revisiting our goals and planning how to reach them.  Long days, hectic days, stressful days – same for the teachers, but still very different.  What this year will look like is anyone’s guess now that we are facing turmoil with the contract mess.

In the meantime, we surge forward with optimism since I know that our teachers will put the kids first.  I look forward to the Blended Learning expansion, the BYOD expansion, the professional learning network we will continue to build with our secondary administrators and department heads, the increased focus on mathematics  and disciplinary literacy.  I am greatly disturbed by the cut in our professional learning funding from the Ministry – that is the only way we were able to fund Collaborative Inquiry projects for every teacher…how we will continue to support professional learning is beyond me right now.

My presentation for our August Administrators’s meeting was about the role principals play in monitoring the Blended Learning in their schools.  Just as they monitor the level of instruction and student work in the f2f classroom, they need to login to D2L to see the action in the online classroom. We need to overcome the myth that a low level task can become high level just because it is done with technology.

So tonight will be the night when every educator tosses and turns all through the hours of darkness – worrying, rehearsing, revising, imagining everything that can go wrong, and excited for everything that can go right.  After tomorrow, we will all wonder how it happens that summer seems so long ago!

All the best for tomorrow – students, teachers, administrators, and parents!

Creative Commons image courtesy of capl.washjeff.edu

 
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Posted by on September 3, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Thinking a lot about rocks lately

Spending a lot of time reflecting on our Unplug’d12 experience and with all the tweets about our rock sharing, I find myself considering what rocks mean to me.  As I shared in our circle at Northern Edge Algonguin, I grew up with the notion that rocks were a nuisance, actually a hazard (no pun intended Ben) that would result in damage to my dad’s (and later, my husband’s) farm equipment.  Rocks became the bain of my summer vacation, back-breaking work actually that kept me from spending time with friends.

Interestingly enough, I studied geology in university and came to appreciate their beauty, mystery, their value for all living things on earth.  My very existence is thanks to rocks.  And what parent doesn’t have a box of their child’s rock collection stashed somewhere special?

So, I brought a rock to Unplug’d12, a hurried choice, a shallow reflection accompanying it.   When I listened to the meaningful connections of the others, I knew I would do it differently next time. I hope I get that chance.  Every song, every poem, and every story (thanks Kelly) about rocks I encounter will be different. Connections with people just expanded to include these mineral wonders.  Spent the weekend hauling a fine assortment of these weighty wonders throughout my garden to honour my time at unplug’d.

Rocks rock (sorry, couldn’t resist)

 
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Posted by on August 19, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Approaching the Edge

I’ve just returned from an amazing – what shall I call it?  A Retreat?  Summer Camp for Geeks? Educator Rehab?  Not quite sure yet, but one thing for sure, being unplugged for a few days allowed for some incredible face-to-face interaction that has been missing for me for some time.  The event was Unplug’d 12 held at the most-beautiful site called Northern Edge Algonquin, known for its retreat and/or adventure facilities that are outstanding!

photo by cogdogblog on Flickr

I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting during my return trip from there and I will be posting quite a bit as the thoughts percolate to the surface, but for now, with the indulgence of anyone who reads this, I would like to ponder the metaphor of the edge – a word we used frequently during this event.

For me, the word edge can mean many things depending on its context:

  • danger!  edges of knives, shards of broken glass, cliffs, diving platforms – scary things and places that make us take risks, with varying degrees of potential for harm.  Depending on your point of view, trying anything new might mean “living on the edge” – a scary, dangerous place
  • transition from one place to another – my favourite place to walk at home is along the edges of our fields – this is where the wild things grow, where there are so many uncultivated plants so unlike the monoculture of the wheat, corn, or soybeans that exist along side.  Other transitions include dusk and dawn, rural/urban, private spaces/public spaces etc.
  • adventure to those who find “living on the edge” to be exhilarating, renewing, surmountable.  Innovators and explorers always push the edge further back as they show us that the danger really wasn’t there after all

So Unplug’d 12 at Northern Edge may have been a place to experience all three of these.  Dangerous risk taking for some of us who weren’t really sure what we were getting in to when we applied and walked into the reception at the Westin on our first evening together.  A transition for some, who were beginning careers, retiring from others, adjusting to new living arrangements, leaving higher education (for now) – Unplug’d was an opportunity to reflect on these edges between the past and the future.  For some, it was an adventure, not only through the physical activities we enjoyed, but through meeting new people, hearing new stories, stretching our own knowledge and skills we will take back with us.

The Edge – a word that will evoke a lot of memories and meanings from now on every time I hear it.

Now to sit on the edge and consider what else is percolating!

 
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Posted by on August 13, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

About To Be Unplugged!

It is hard for me to imagine, after 3.5 years of intense online work in my Masters of Educational Technology with UBC, to be spending a few days completely offline – no cell, no internet, nothing!

Image:  Samuel M Livingston on Flickr

 

Where is this happening?  Northern Edge Algonquin.  Why am I going there?  To attend the second annual Unplug’d retreat and for two reasons:

  • to celebrate the completion of my Masters – a chance to reflect on what I have learned, synthesize the key learnings that I will take with me into my next year’s work
  • to “connect” f2f with those like-minded techies who I have been following for some time on Twitter, Google+, and even in my courses. People from all over the world in fact are descending on this retreat location to discuss the same interests as my own

We are also writing an e-book – imagine groups of tech-obsessed educators sitting together with paper and pencils in hand, sharing our thoughts about what we consider important in education in letters to be compiled eventually in an e-book.  So getting away from the distractions of the online world will be critical for its success.  Some outdoor fun and recreation will be a great boost as well.

So, the train is now taking me on the first leg of the journey – a reception in Toronto, followed by another long train ride north.  And a cheery “goodbye” to anything plugged in!

 
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Posted by on August 9, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Putting Learning into Practice

We are about to delve deeper into BYOD in our board after a successful pilot in 2 schools – teachers AND students in one elementary school, and teachers only (for now) in one of our secondary schools.  We are about to open it up much wider this September and it will continue to grow.  At the same time, we are about to begin our fourth year of Blended Learning, using the provincially-licenced D2L platform.  So the time is right to provide much more support to a wider audience of teachers than just the pilot groups.  How can we do this?  Since we can’t financially support board-wide PD for all of our teachers, we will have to rely on online modules and resources for self-directed, self-selected learning.

Where do we start?  We have an ICT web page on our website where teachers can access lots of ideas and tutorials, but having finished my Masters in Educational Technology from UBC, I can see that this can result in fragmented, disconnected, and ineffective integration of technology in our classrooms.  We need to go much deeper and revisit some basics in pedagogy for the 21st century learners ( yes, an overused term, but it makes my point!)

I am impressed with the graphic organizer found on M. Kharbach’s website called Educatorstechnology.  He has identified 33 digital skills every teacher should have, but more importantly, has identified what skills the students need using our understanding of pedagogy.

From here, I want to include the digital tools that teachers can and should use to help students develop these skills to their fullest potential. But first, I want to ensure that teachers understand why they should use these tools – not just for the sake of using technology – but for the optimum learning potential for the students.  Sometimes, the best tool is NOT technology – but let’s make sure that the teachers understand the learning potential (and pitfalls) of each tool.

So this is my focus for this year – finding the time to develop this framework and start the creation of learning modules that start – not with the technology – but with the skills the students need, followed by the skills the teacher needs – then the possible tools that can help.

More to come….

 
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Posted by on August 2, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Reflecting on ETEC 532

As I consider my learning in 532: Technology in the Arts and Humanities, I find it difficult to isolate the knowledge and skills gained in this course from those I gained in the previous 8 courses I have completed.  Perhaps that is the goal.  The program courses are so networked, so interdependent and interrelated, that it is impossible for me to determine what is unique about this course over the others.  A Creative Commons image that depicts exactly what I am referring to is this:  (my thanks to  Michael Heiss for posting this in Flickr)

 

A network of learning resources, a network of colleagues, a network of course designers and instructors have surrounded me and yielded fruit.  I am about to end my journey in the MET program and can now move on more confidently than when I started.  I have a much better idea as to how to apply my learning in my daily work with schools in our district as we move ahead with our plans for BYOD and Blended Learning from K-12. Seeing firsthand the benefits of constructivism has been valuable.  The importance of networking with others has been proven to me over and over again.

One final resource that sums up my learning is in this video on Murmuration:  

 
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Posted by on July 29, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Nearing the end of an amazing trip

I’ve spent the last 3.5 years immersed fully in an online Masters program through UBC – Masters of Educational Technology – and what a trip this has been!  I wanted to do a Masters program of some kind for a few years but none of the Masters of Ed programs excited me – policy? no thanks admin?  no thanks either  curriculum? I was a curriculum consultant for 4 years!  So I was searching for something that would excite me – and technology always did. Got that from my dad I guess – he taught me how to fix things – cars, tractors, tools – my whole childhood and so I was always fascinated by technology.  As a 70 year old, he bought his first computer because he couldn’t stand being out of the loop – what a role model for me!

So I am now completing my last 2 courses and in 3 more weeks, I will be logging off the UBC VIsta site for the last time with very mixed feelings.  Happy to have my evenings and weekends back, but very sad to lose the incredible connections I have made – yes, in an online program.  Pooh pooh to all of you face-to-face advocates – this was an amazingly well designed program based on the most current constructivist learning theory.  And it worked!  I feel like I know my colleagues as well as if I was in the same room – perhaps even better than those who meet once a week in a huge lecture hall.  Try chatting every single night!  That’s how you get to know someone!

The final assignment for this graduating course was an ePortfolio.  Check it out if you want to learn more about the MET program at the University of British Columbia.

 

Now it is time to put my learning into practice – stay tuned for the application!

 
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Posted by on July 12, 2012 in Uncategorized