Final Reflection – Course 1

It’s incredible that Course 1 of our Certificate in Educational Technology and Information Literacy is complete (well as of midnight tonight it will be!) Reinventing Project-Based Learning: Your Field Guide to Real-World Projects in the Digital Age: Suzie Boss, Jane Krauss, Leslie Conery: Books Our final face to face session yesterday was a doozie!  Kim and Jeff organised for the authors of Reinventing Project-Based Learning – Your Field Guide to Real-World Projects in the Digital Age (from which our project assignment stems from) to skype in.  It was very powerful to receive words of encouragement and advice from Suzie Boss (Portland, Oregon) and Jane Krauss (Eugene, Oregon)  Also impressive was the fact that they were giving up some of their Friday night to talk with us.

Take-aways from the conversation:

  • If the technology (tools) is leading your project then go back and look at it again, make the learning lead the project
  • 8 Essential Functions (Recommend that we read that section in the appendix – the tools will change and/or advance but the set of functions are enduring
  • Visible Thinking – Do something that has students showing their thinking. When you do this you can get some dialogue going – ie: what are they doing and why?  By the time you get to the final product it’s too late to get into a dialogue
  • Must check out The American Crawl – amazing English teacher with a great reflection blog.
  • You don’t have a network for no reason.

One of the great things about Course 1 has been the chance to collaborate with members of my own Grade 5 team as we put together a Project especially after hearing the authors of Reinventing Project-Based Learning!!  We set ourselves a goal of establishing our Enduring Understandings and Essential Questions by 11.00am (Lunchtime for the Course).  It’s such a pleasure working with people who are willing and enthusiastic about learning in the 21st Century.

365/58 Julie Lindsay joined us via skype today too.  Sheis an IT Director, currently working at Qatar Academy, soon to be at Beijing International School.  Along with Vicki Davis (CoolCatTeacher),  Julie developed an amazing project-based learning opportunity for students around the globe based on the Horizon Project, The World is Flat and Grown Up Digital. Julie and Vicki have recently completed the first ever Flat Classroom Conference and have received multiple awards for their ground-breaking work. Her blog, E-Learning Journeys, is a wonderful resource for all things related to globally collaborative projects.  When I was teaching Year 7 in New Zealand (Grade 6) my class and I were lucky enough to be a sounding board for the Horizon Project in 2006 and 2007.  It was an amazing opportunity to be involved at a lower level.  My students got real insight into the kind of students that they themselves, in the not so distance future, would be.  It was interesting for us look at the ways other students communicated and collaborated and produced a final product during the Horizon Project as well as provoking a lot of discussion about critiquing people’s work / thinking.

The last part of the day saw us back together in our teams finalising our Project.  The GRASP was excellent as it kept us focused on exactly what learning we wanted to expose our students to.  We struggled somewhat with the “Six Facets of Understanding” because none of us really had any experience with this.  Having the template on our CoETaIL wiki helped a little, but we were unsure of what exactly to write.  This provoked some discussion about our own understanding and together we were able to nut it out.  Fabulous cooperation, contributing and collaboration!  You can read our Project Page here – although please note it’s still a work in progress.  We are going to share it with the rest of our team and have them add their input too, as we believe this has the potential to be a wicked Social Issues Unit for Literacy!  We welcome any feedback or suggestions you might have – just scroll down to the bottom and start a thread!

Kanchanaburi Day2It really is hard to believe that Course 1 is complete.  The weeks went fast, the readings were thought-provoking, reaffirming and sometimes prickly. But that’s ok – we’re life long learners and this is what life long learners do – extend themselves, challenge themselves and learn new things.  There’s more photos in my flickr photostream of Course 1 if you’re interested.

Is my journey of learning continuing?
Crossing the bridge as I hit “publish“.

Bring on Course 2!

Implications for Teaching & Learning

This weeks readings were Adopt and Adapt: Shaping Tech for the Classroom by Marc Prensky (Edutopia) and Living and Learning with New Media: Summary of Findings from the Digital Youth Project “Conclusions and Implications” pg. 35 – 39 (MacArthur Foundation Report)

I have to admit, I’ve been putting this post off.  Whilst I found the MacArthur Foundation Report Flickr Photo Download: Working Together Teamwork Puzzle Concept rounded up the messages that all of our readings have been pointing us toward – the value, recognition and importance of social networking, messing around, collaboration, peer-based learning etc,  I am just a bit wary about what Marc Prensky writes.

This wariness originally grew from a valid point written in a blog post that a very good friend and colleague of mine wrote after he completed an assignment for a paper he was doing – the topic – the frequently- commented-on terms Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. The valid point?  Marc Prensky made some statements in that article for which there are no references to research carried out or other reading he has gleaned pieces of information from.

I find myself wondering the same about this article.  Where is Marc Prensky’s information coming from.  What does he base his statements on – research? personal opinion? observations?  Has he ever been a classroom teacher?  Or is this point of view solely from someone who may have spent a lot of time in various schools but not actually been a part of one.  Has he traveled around the world visiting a variety of schools or is this article aimed solely at the American public education system?  And what about the parents?  Where do they factor in all of this?

Technically speaking, I’m a Digital Immigrant – but I’m definitely beyond the old things in new ways step and I do ask my students their opinions, and value their feedback.  It is my firm belief that we should be using the right tools for the job.  If a letter is required, then I shall write a letter, if a face to face message is more appropriate than an email – that’s what I will do.  If a digital tool can help students construct meaning in an authentic way then use that technology.  Don’t use the technology just for the sake of using it – make sure it’s right for what you want need to do.

I think we need to be a 1 to 1 school if we are to truly prepare our future workforce for jobs that haven’t even been invented yet – but the reality is it’s not going to happen yet.  So should I sit back on my heels and blame lack of computers or lack of skills a reason for not using technology in my class? – Heck no!  I’m innovative, I’m creative and I’m darn sure that technology embedded in learning is the direction education and educators have to move in and it’s the direction that I am committed to move in, passionate to move in and prepared to move in!

Flickr Photo Download: long prickles The thorny part, for me, is the sweeping generalisations about teachers.  There’s a fair few of us out there in education land that aren’t like what you describe Mr Prensky and we are definitely living up to your last words which I really do agree with SO
I’ll let you have the last word …..

Let’s adapt it, push it, pull it, iterate with it, experiment with it, test it, and redo it, until we reach the point where we and our kids truly feel we’ve done our very best. Then, let’s push it and pull it some more. And let’s do it quickly, so the 22nd century doesn’t catch us by surprise with too much of our work undone.

Image Attribution
long prickles‘
Working Together Teamwork Puzzle Concept

No Google for a Week

I’ve just finished reading Michelle Martin‘s latest post, A Week Without Google, on her Bamboo Project Blog.

My heart darn near skipped a beat at the thought of it.  Could you imagine it?  No gmail, gchat, gtalk,  google calendar, google docs, google maps, google search, google earth, google alerts, no blogger, and alas no iGoogle – no google anything!  And this is an actual assignment for Michelle’s daughter to do for her New Media Research class. And her assignment includes no YouTube either!!365/35

Oh my!  Could I do it? Um … NOPE.  Not a chance!  And then it dawned on me just how reliant I’ve become on one company’s products.  I hadn’t meant to, I didn’t do it deliberately and I certainly didn’t realise it – til now.  I can’t think of any other aspect of my life (even financially) where I’ve literally put all my “eggs in one basket.”

How many Google products do you rely on?  All the ones I use religiously (that’s on a day to day basis) are listed in the first paragraph.  I am so dependent on Google. I really need to think seriously about how to manage if Google “went down”  (as she’s frantically touching wood so that doesn’t happen)!  Over the past week our school server has been hit with a virus that no one has the fix for.  Work with the internet in the classroom has all but ground to a halt.  Today my students alternated between reading their books and writing with a pencil while we waited patiently for pages on our blog to load.  At least we had the books and pencils as an alternative.  But that’s my point really.  What alternative do I have for all the google apps I use?

What about you?  Could you go a week without google?  Are all your eggs in one basket too?

Search: Chris Betcher

The thing I love most about hearing Chris Betcher speak is they way he constantly teaches me more about things I thought I already knew.  Chris has already posted some incredibly helpful links on the ISB Wiki so I’m just sharing the link to the wiki rather than reposting all his links.  You’ll find the links here: (Just scroll down past Chris’s mugshot)

In just few short minutes Chris has just taught the entire room some very useful tips for searching “smarter” with Google, how to use basic search syntax and Google Advance Search.

Course 1

Chris’s session was extremely interactive – he had us all searching and learning in a fun way.  The Google quiz was great – I like the fact that you needed to apply your search techniques – great for doing with our students – and the last question was excellent because it required a deeper level of thinking/synthesizing – kinda like Blooms Taxonomy thinking.

I especially enjoyed the Spaghetti growing on Trees Video and the link to the Tree Octopus website bought back memories of my entire Year 7 class a couple of years ago being completely fooled by this site when we were learning about the validity of websites and information on the internet and how do you know.

Even more informative was the discussion we had about Wikipedia.  In just a few minutes (again) Chris was able to explain the ins and outs of Wikipedia’s questionable validity and truthfulness in such a way that the majority of us could go back and explain the exact same thing to our students.

This session was fabulous practical session and I am so grateful to have been reminded about the Google for Educators website (bookmarked in my delicious account but certainly not looked at closely).  Even better are the resources we now have on our ISB Cert. Ed. Tech. & Informational Literacy wiki, (COETAIL.Asia) available at our fingertips (and we’ve experienced them) to help us teach ourselves and our students what’s real and how do you know and how can you find out and can you tell the difference?

Thanks Chris – great way to spend the afternoon and thanks so much for sharing your expertise with us.  Hope Kim and Jeff ask you back for another session!

Used To Be A “WOW gotta use all those Tools” Teacher

Note: I began writing this post back in September.  It’s been a while since then and I’m not really sure where all that time has gone – it’s been hectic working in a new school, a new country and a new level.  In between writing Semester One reports, I thought I better finish this draft and get it posted!

I had an interesting conversation with our  Elementary Curriculum Advisor Guru teacher ( I forget what her official title is – but this one sounds good) the other day.  We were both at Learning2.008 in Shanghai and were reflecting on our time at the conference.

The conversation began with our mixed feelings on our individual “take-aways” from Learning2.0.  I had feelings very similar to Jenny Luca, whose post, Learning2.008 – my take sums up those extremely well.  I too, didn’t learn anything new that wasn’t already on my radar.  It was an honour to have conversations with like-minded and extremely talented and grounded colleagues.  Connections were strengthened by the opportunity to meet face to face people already an integral part of my PLN, and strong new connections were made, enhanced by the face to face connections.  The chance to “give something back” and “pay it forward” was a delightful experience.  Affirmation abound,  I’m still on the right track, have a sound pedogical purpose for using technology in the classroom and am still looking for ways to “kick it up a notch”.   As far as walking away with something practical – David Jakes’ two sessions I attended on Digital Storytelling were most beneficial for me with ways I can help my students enhance and add to the quality of the writing we have begun with  Lucy Calkin’s Writer’s Workshop.

But I digress ………  back to the conversation the other day.  Eventually the conversation rounded a corner into something like some teachers being sucked into the “WOW – gotta use all those amazing tools” stage of Web2.0.  I surprised (I think) said Guru by announcing – I used to be that one of those teachers.  (And this is why having conversations, having the time to have conversations and reflecting on one’s journey is so important).  I realised just how far I’d come in my own learning journey and identified the “tipping point” for me into a sound pedogical reason for doing all this Web2.0 stuff in the classroom.

In my first year of really discovering Web2.0 tools I was extremely fortunate to be teaching an extraordinary class of motivated, willing, curious 11 year olds.  They soaked up whatever I threw at them and asked for more.  It didn’t matter whether I knew how anything worked – we just figured it out together.  It was an amazing journey for all of us (give or take the odd student not that keen on the Web) but for the majority we surfed this big wave, having a whale of a time in discovery and learning mode.

I assumed it would be exactly the same the following year.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  My next class didn’t want a bar of technology, the web or anything remotely close to a computer. Zip, zilch, nada!  No matter how I packaged it, what reasons I gave for it, nothing, and I mean nothing interested the majority of this class.  I even tried reverse psychology and packed away everything and bought out one thing at a time, thinking that I’d overloaded them with the abundance of “techie-looking” equipment scattered around the class.Nope, no good either.  I was heartbroken but I also learned a valuable lesson.  It was no longer about the tools – it was about the using the right tools for the job.  In the case of this particular class, they didn’t see the technology as “how we do things round here”.  I’m really not sure how they saw the technology.  It suddenly occured to me that, for this class – technology was not the best tool in my teacher’s toolbox for the job.  That didn’t mean we stopped using the technology altogether – because I still firmly believed that Web2.0 had a place in learning, but I began to consider, very carefully, what tool I bought out for the class to use for the learning that was going on in the class.

This became my tipping point and facilitated my change from being a teacher who was sucked into “WOW-gotta- use-all-of-these-amazing-tools-as-much-as-I-can”, to a teacher who now uses Web2.0 tools and technology when they are the best tools for the learning.  The beauty of all the amazing tools that are out there and the amazing teachers that are sharing what they are doing with those tools, means that there is almost the perfect tool for the job, no matter what you are learning.  You just need to chose the one that mets your needs as a teacher, mets the needs of the learning and the needs of the learners.

Now, I’m teaching in a different school, in a different grade, and in a different country but my pedagogical thinking about Web2.0 tools and their place in the classroom remains the same.  I just had bend in the road to negotiate in order to continue on with my own learning journey.

Image attribution: aftab

Commenting Self-Audit – Day 1

How often do you comment on other blogs during a typical week?
Probably once a week. Most of the time someone’s already made a comment similar to the one I’d like to make, so I tend not to repeat it by adding my comment.

Do you track your blog comments? How? What do you do with your tracking?
Not often – sometimes I get email notifications if I’m particularly interested in a conversation. Now because of the 31-day Comment Challenge, I’m using coComment, (which I actually signed up for ages ago, but never got round to doing anything more with it ….) and right now I’m just watching how it works.

Do you tend to comment at the same blogs or do you try to comment on at least one new blog per week?
I read certain blogs religiously, then other blogs if I have time – so I tend to comment on the same blogs. I do, however, comment on a new blogger’s blog if someone in my twitter network says “new blogger – please support”
Gina Trapani’s Guide to Blog Comments My Self-Review

Stay on topic.
I definitely do this. Comments are short.

Contribute new information to the discussion.
Not something I do all the time and definitely an area I could improve in and want to improve as part of this challenge. As I said above, if someone’s already said what I’m thinking – I don’t usually leave a comment – unless it’s something I feel strongly about.

Don’t comment for the sake of commenting.
Not guilty – I’m too busy reading all the posts in my reader to do this one!!

Know when to comment and when to e-mail.
Yes, I agree with this one – and I appreciate those people who read my blog that know it too. (It’s kinda like the way I treat twitter – somethings are not necessary for every man and his dog to read ………. )

Remember that nobody likes a know-it-all.
I certainly do not know it all, not even close. My mother always told me to treat others as I would like to be treat and this definitely applies to what you put in writing too.

Make the tone of your message clear.
Since my comments are relatively short – (aka: lacking substance 😉 …….. ) my message is usually one of encouragement or agreement.

Own your comment.
Always. I have never made an anonymous comment – again, something my very wise mother taught me – “if you’re going to say it – own it”

Be succinct.
Short comments usually are! I will keep this in mind though, as I begin to work on improving the substance of my comments.

Cite your sources with links or inline quoting.
Already a habit – comes from all those B.Ed assignments I think!!

Be courteous.
Thanks Mum, another thing you’ve already taught me well.

Don’t post when you’re angry, upset, drunk or emotional.
Never done this ….. especially the drunk one – I can’t read when I’ve drunk too much! Plus I don’t think I’ve ever been that incensed at a blog post ……. yet ………

Do not feed or tease the trolls.
I watched a couple of conversations when this happens – and I don’t like it.


This Self-Audit has definitely highlighted a couple of areas for me. The lack of substance to my comments was something that I was aware of already, but didn’t quite know how to move beyond it. I’m hoping that, by taking part in this 31-day comment challenge, this area in particular will improve.

I’m also looking forward to reading some new blogs and taking on the challenge of keeping to Gina’s guide to blog commenting.
And if you are part of The Comment Challenge remember to add the ” comment08 ” tag to your post.