After The Party: MBEdubloggercon

We had a great night! There were over 60 people in the room, some familiar faces and lots of new ones too. My only regret was that I didn't get a chance to talk to and meet more of the people who were there. The real hero of the evening, IMHO, was Andy McKiel, the president of our provincial Ed. Tech. association, MANace. Andy organized the evening and made sure all the technology ran flawlessly. This never would have happened without him. At one point during the evening, all of us who were presenting were chatting; we unanimously shared how grateful we were for all of Andy's hard work. Thanks Andy!

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

I've just updated the Manitoba EdubloggerCon wiki. We had a live Twitter feed and UStream feed. All the videos of the unpresentations can be seen from the Manitoba Edubloggercon UStream account or the wiki.

The next day, yesterday, Chris, Clarence, Dean, John and I had lunch together to catch up and chat. Unfortunately, John had to leave early but as we lingered over the end of the meal, Dean fired up his laptop and started streaming video and audio on his Ustream channel. We were joined for lunch by over 20 people from across the world. We forgot to click the record button so we've lost the video archive but Clarence saved the chat which you can download from his blog or read directly on the MBEdubloggercon wiki (it's easier to follow the links off the wiki page). There was lots of interesting discussion and some good links shared. One of them led me to a voicethread archive of lots of math content that's giving me ideas for how I can use it in my classroom. That's also a resource I can link to and use in my Consumer Math 20S (grade 10, approx. 15 y.o.) class. (My daughter (7 years) and I watched this one this morning and left a comment on the last slide.)

Dean took some photos at lunch. I aggregated them into this voicethread. (I know Dean wants to hear lots of comments about the salad (slide 2) I had with my lunch.) I haven't had a chance to add any comments yet. Feel free to add yours before I do. ;-)

One thing that came out loud and clear (you can see it in the chat transcript) is that our ideas about what good professional development should look like have changed dramatically. It's not worth our time unless it provides an opportunity to engage with what's being shared by dialogging about it. And that dialogue should include global participation via twitter, UStream or some other way to access our learning networks. More than that, archiving the experience somehow is also important. The archive provides people who were there the opportunity to go back and reflect on what they heard/learned/participated in and offers other educators around the world an opportunity to participate vicariously after the event and add their voices to the conversation.

Having been immersed in "networked learning" for a while now, the power of the network to connect and amplify learning still amazes me every time. Even my 7 year old daughter got something out of all this. Thanks to an email I got from Brian Metcalfe (who attended the event on Thursday night) while I was chatting with Dean this morning we're talking about an idea that may make math a little more fun in classrooms across the world, in March ... on the fourteenth, to be exact. ;-) I'll share more about it here as we flesh this out.

Like I keep saying to my students, again and again, "Learning is a conversation. If you're not talking to someone about it, you're not learning it."

Thin Walled World

So much to blog, so little time ... but this is exciting (at least it is to me) and I wanted to archive it here in my outboard brain.

I have had online mentors working with my classes for about two years now. Lani Ritter-Hall has been there from the beginning and continues to model the art and science of effective blog mentorship. (This latest example was fantastic! The kids faces as they heard her voice for the first time was priceless.)

Alec Couros and I are collaborating with his two classes of student teachers mentoring my classes via their blogs this year as well. For the last six weeks they have worked mostly with my Consumer Math 20S (grade 10, aged approx. 15 years) class and recently begun expanding their work to my Pre-Cal 40S and AP Calculus classes. I think it has been something of an eye opener for the student teachers to compare the nature and pace of work and the character of the online interactions in the different classes.

The students in my AP Calculus class have been mentored online going on three years now. I have had the good fortune to teach this same group of kids for three years in a row; I have taught them all their high school mathematics. The group is much smaller now; we're at 11 students down from nearly 30 in grade 10, one of whom is new to the group.

Anyway, their learning has been enriched via these online mentorships and they have started to think of ways they can pay it forward and maybe get a good reference for scholarship applications they will be making in the near future.

Clarence and Barbara are pushing the boundaries of education this year in their Thin Walled Classroom. The students in "this class" are learning at least one thing together each day. Using a suite of online tools, they are creating a classroom with very thin walls where the kids have teachers in two countries and two time zones; one they see face to face, one they don't. (Man, how I wish my own kids were students in this classroom.)

When three of my AP Calculus students approached me with the idea of of taking on the role of blog mentors I tweeted about it and got three bites in short order. I shared the urls of the people who were interested and my kids chose to work with Clarence and Barbara in the Thin Walled Classroom. I have letters of permission from their parents that I keep on file and am keeping tabs on their work from my end. Clarence asked them to be positive in their comments but also to push the younger students and challenge them in their work to help them amplify their learning. They are not to act as cheerleaders but as catalysts for growth. (After their experiences being mentored by Lani for these last few years they knew exactly what the expectations were.) Clarence also asked them to archive and email him with the comments they leave behind every five or six comments or so. It struck me that it would be much better to use a blog to record their comments.

Using Blogger allows the functionality of emailing a post to a unique, user determined, address where the subject line becomes the post title and the body, including all formating, become the body of the blog post. (See my recent test.) Each of my student/mentors is building a blog where they will archive their comments and post urls to the students in the thin walled classroom. After they have done this for a few weeks they will go over the comments they have left behind and post a brief reflection about the work they have done and how they can improve it in the future. This also makes it really easy for Clarence, Barbara and I to monitor their work and creates a concrete artifact they can point to when they reference this work in their scholarship applications.

Yesterday, the first of the new student mentor blogs went live. Grey-M's new blog is called Advice Through Ethereal Walls. He left his first comment to Hannah whose blog is called Believing is Succeeding (great name for an edublog).

I was so taken with this idea that I went to share all this with my principal and discuss how I see this evolving in the future.

How would it be if students who begin grade 9 or 10 at my school, in blogging classes, are mentored via their blogs so that by the time they reach grade 12 they can assume the role of mentor as well to pay it forward? Commenting/mentoring students in the younger grades in our school and our feeder schools builds a self sustaining model so that by grade 12 we may have a cadre of blog mentors that can support the learning of students in our community and abroad. After all, thanks to blogging, we live in a thin walled world.

He liked the idea. We'll see where it goes.

In the mean time feel free to mentor the mentor by dropping in on Grey-M and wishing him well on the launch of his latest blogging adventure.

This is a test ...

Does emailing a post to blogger work well? What does it look like?

This is a test to see how that works. I'm checking this for for a project that I'll share more about here as soon as all the pieces are in place.

This sentence is just to see how the blockquote feature gets published on the blog.

How about bold, italic, coloured text and highlighted text?


Questions About Blogging in the Classroom

About two years ago I was interviewed by Robyn MacBride as part of her research for her Masters thesis which was about blogging in the classroom. Her adviser, professor April Luemann, contacted me last spring to let me know she and Robyn had shared the results of their research at a conference in Chicago. It was a real shot in the arm for my students to see the slides where their words were held up to be exemplary edublogging.

This week April contacted me again. She and another student of hers are presenting at another conference. They've been focusing on edublogging in science classes and came across a number of references to me and my students work. April asked if I'd be willing to answer a few questions for their research and presentation at the conference. I said yes and that I wanted to reply in a public way where others might also have an opportunity to share their views. So, I created this voicethread.

I don't claim to have all the answers; these are just my answers. Please add your own as well directly on the voicethread or in the comments to this post.

Photo Credit: 5

It started with a lunch date ...

Our provincial professional development day (with the most unfortunate name: SAG (Special Area Groups)) is coming in about two weeks, on November 23. Clarence, Chris and I we're talking:

"Hey, Clarence will be in town. Why don't we go for lunch, maybe a drink, and spend some time catching up?"

"Yeah, good idea. I like that."

"Hey, maybe we could start a homegrown Manitoba EduBloggerCon. We'll just throw up a wiki, publish about it on our blogs, maybe there'll be five or six of us who can all get together for lunch."

So, Clarence throws up a wiki and we wait to see what happens. (In spite of the url typo, there will be no nasal effluvium involved ... but there will be beer.)

To make a long story short, Andy McKiel, the President Elect of ManACE signed up first and generously offered to host what is turning out to be a much bigger event.

John Evans, Chris, Clarence and I will give 6 minute (6 is my favourite number) unconference-like talks about what we're up to vis-a vis teaching and technology. There will be an open mic so anyone is welcome to do the same. We'll have a projector and screen with wireless and might even have a SMARTBoard set up running twittercamp. Dean Shareski (who will be attending another conference in Winnipeg that week) will be there too giving it a broader "Prairie Province feel." We might even have a Ustream feed.

As of last week we had over 40 people signed up (not all are registered via the wiki) and Andy has put together the flyer you see below. I think twittercamp is a definite go. Ustream is still in the discussion phase but we all like the idea.

If you are in or around Winnipeg on the night of November 22 drop in and say hello. We'd all love to see you there. ;-)

[Just experimenting here, I uploaded the doc to my new account to see how it all works. It has a great many more cool features than just hosting jpeg files.]

Blogging is Pointless in Education

How is someone writing their diary online, for everyone to read, going to help anyone learn anything? I mean, who cares about what you did today? Why on earth would I be interested in the minutiae of someone's personal life? Who they like; who they don't; where they're going this weekend; what they ate for breakfast; or ... any of it?!?

How do you reply to people who feel this way? In my experience the best answer is to point them to the ever growing list of excellent educational blogs published daily. We have class blogs, individual student blogs, teacher blogs, professional development blogs, course blogs and the list goes on and on. There are many good reasons we blog.

Along comes twitter. The stupidest idea you've ever heard: "What are you doing right now?" People everywhere sharing the minutiae of their daily lives as it happens. Ridiculous! Or is there something more to it?

My first reaction to twitter was: "Huh? Why would anyone want to do that?" I watched it take off across the edublogosphere, amazed. Why are people doing this? Who has time for such nonsense?

Alan Levine wrote a series of blog posts about his enthusiasm for twittering. I finally asked him, in a comment, what's the value gained from tweeting. His reply essentially said: Educational Technology is not a spectator sport. We learn by doing. Alan's recent presentation Being There, underscores this perspective quite powerfully. (I highly recommend taking it in via the flickr set.)

Some of the advantages I've found from tweeting:

• Links to resources like walk2web, fauxto, screencast-o-matic and many more.

• I've made new friends (one of many) who share their resources and contribute in meaningful ways when I give PD workshops.

• It's intimate. People say good morning and good night.

• It's very personal and it's very professional. It provides instant access to a community of practice where people share knowledge and expertise and also provide support and encouragement and problem solve together.

There are many more example of all this in Nancy White's wiki. (A great resource; thanks for that Nancy!)

Twitter has become very much my staffroom where I connect with a variety of educators (teachers, principals and superintendents) across the spectrum of teaching domains, age groups, socioeconomic and geophysical contexts. There are also a number of consultants and others working in education whose job descriptions don't fit neatly into any box. All these people have become integral players in my ever growing community of professional practice.

Joan Badger and Ben Hazard in the SmartBoard Lesson Podcast: Episode 72 talk about twitter. They seem to be sitting at the start of Alan's Twitter Life-Cycle. Like Alan says in his "Being There" presentation about edtech tools in general, you can't judge the worth of a tool by watching someone else use it; you have to use it yourself to understand it. You won't appreciate the true value of twitter until you jump in with both feet. Maybe try something like what Bob Sprankle did in July: Tweet regularly for 30 days ... then see how you feel about it.

I started writing this almost three months ago. This week Ben Hazard added me to his twitter stream and I added him to mine. Maybe this whole post is now moot but when Ben added me to his stream (actually, twitter is more like the Mackenzie) I was inspired to publish this post; the first of 23 posts I have sitting in draft. Thanks for the push Ben, you got me writing again. ;-)

By the way, if you've not listened to the SMARTBoard Lesson Podcast I highly recommend it. I've been a regular listener for about nine months now. Always engaging, always good for a laugh and a great model for collaborative professional practice and development. If you use an interactive whiteboard in your teaching then you'll get a lot out of listening to the podcast. In the meantime, I'm going to try to get my "SMARTBoard Tip" in for the contest before time runs out. (Listen for the podcast to find out more.)

Cheers Ben and Joan!