Sunday, November 15, 2009

A few thoughts on Religion

I have been on Twitter this morning and following the Tweets of Alec Couros as usual and I followed his links as usual which lead me to Joseph Hack's blog and and an article called ipod Religion. Not only did Alec post a link to the blog but then he tweeted, "But in thinking about this, how do ppl currently choose "religion", do they rly "choose"? Is it not most likely ur born into belief systems?" Well my mind got working and what follows started as a comment on Joseph's blog but evolved into something I thought more appropriate for my own blog. To make sense of what I write you really need to visit the links in this introductin first.

Interesting questions raised by the article and as I respond to this my conscience is challenging me about my own non-attendance in church today, but I'll have to resolve that issue in my own conscience.

I do no give modern media any more power in the changes that are happening to people and their faith today, rather I think it is just an extension of what has been happening through the last half of the 20th century and maybe even earlier. After all, I think the Beatles can be given some credit too as they were singing about "No Religion" long before the ipod and easy access to the internet; I believe they had quite the influence on the parents and grandparents of kids today. And to just single out the Beatles is unfair because there have been many other forces in the media that have presented images and ideas that are contrary to Christian beliefs and teachings. Organized religion has been challenged by the diversity of ideas for quite some time and in our part of the world (the west) organized religion has lost its political power to punish those who question. Remember the Church once considered those who believed the world to be round to be among the worst of sinners. We have progressed as a people to be more tolerant, but it has come with some costs to those who wish to preserve insitutions as they were.

Young people are continuing to evolve in their thinking and belief systems and if it looks like teens are seeking answers and experimenting with other faiths, is it really any different than it was when I was a skeptical teen in the 70's questioning the Catholic faith that I was "forced" to attend to.

Yes people are not attending to their faith the way they once did, yet it seems to me that spirituality is alive and well. It just doesn't look like it did centuries ago; I'm not sure that's a bad thing either. I am a Catholic but as a young adult I drifted away from Church; was it I didn't believe or is it something many young people go through? I think many young people are struggling to find themselves in an increasingly complex and multi-cultural world. Should we blame technology or should we blame learning? For me it goes back to an essentially spiritual question, "What is our purpose here on earth anyway?"

As I have grown older (I'm in my 40's), I have become much more aware of my own spirituality and now I usually attend the Catholic church in my community and I regularly take a turn with doing a reading. Does it mean I am practicing the faith the way Christ intended? Does anyone really know that answer. Many believe they do, but I know the church I attend has been molded by people with their interpretations of what Christ taught based on stories that have been passed down. I am educated enough to know that man has twisted the words to meet their own perceptions and have used the words of the bible to create laws and rules that suit their own purposes. I am also educated enough to know I need spiritualism of some form; it bonds me with a community, it comforts me when my mind is tormented with the fears and apprehensions of being mortal, and it defines a way of living that does not harm my fellow man (not to be confused with the fact that the Catholic Church has had members who have done harmuful things to people in the name of God).

I think the fact that young people can find information about other religions so easily is a positive thing; it is allowing them to explore their own beliefs. I believe we can learn from other cultures and all religions which can only help eliminate some of the ignorance of others that lead to such horrific events like the Holocaust. Those who think their belief system is right and should not change are similar to the Luddites who smashed machinery during the industrial revolution. Not all change is good, but some is and change is inevitable.

Anyway, I've recorded some of my thoughts on a topic I do not normally speak out loud about because of its sensitive nature. I trust those who read these words understand that this is me making sense of the world the way I see it and in no way is it intended to be judgemental of others or the way they see the world. Thanks Joseph and Alec for taking me down this road.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Wikispaces Orientation

Later today, some colleagues from Edcentre.ca and I will be presenting wikispaces to a group of teachers in my school division. Consequently, I've spent a lot of my evening trying to think about how best to demonstrate wikispaces to them; I know very few have much of a background in web 2.0 tools so I'll have to be careful not to overwhelm them.

I've decided to start with Suzie Vesper's Learningweb2 wiki as a starting place and follow it up with the slides below. I hope can a least spark a flicker of interest in those attending; perhaps some will be using wikis in the classrooms of Northern Lights School Division before Christmas. Without hope, where would we be?

I wonder how others would present wikispaces to beginners with only 30 minutes to work with and no computers in the hands of the learners?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Moving towards online learning!





I got a call from Ted Green, the principal of Edcentre.ca in La Ronge, the other day and he was inviting me to help him and his staff present at our annual teacher convention coming up this week in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. I had been planning to attend the session, "Getting Connected," anyway and immediately agreed as I realize that my limited level of connectivity places me ahead of most in our school division. I also believe in the spirit of sharing that I have to credit my PLN for instilling in me which means I am obligated to share my knowledge that I have learned from others. Anyway, the call actually turned into a bit of philosophical discussion about the state of affairs of technology in our school division and the need for a Digital Learning Consultant to take our Division to the next level.

One of the pieces of the conversation centered on the issue of getting teachers to start using the web tools available to connect with their students, parents, and the world in general. In my world as a principal, I have been encouraging teachers to incorporate technology into their classrooms, I host interested staff at Tech Thursday sessions, and I am thrilled that a few have started (Melva, Megan, Tessa, and Sarah). Nevertheless, I am struggling with why it is so hard to get some to see that there are new things in education because of technology that can really engage a learner. In fact, I've been warning people that the day is coming when teachers will be expected to use online tools to make their classrooms available to students and parents. How long will it be before teaching jobs come with advertisements that call for teachers with the skills to use Moodle, blogs, and wikis (to name a few)?

If I could get some to read Jeff Utecht's blog titled Preparing for the worst = opportunity from September 21, 2009, they might begin to understand that increasingly it is normal for teachers to use the internet to work and communicate with their students. He also points out that there are external forces at work on schools like influenza that may make it necessary to work with students in non-traditional ways.
He says, ...I believe every classroom today, especially in the middle school and high school where students are more tech savvy should be a blended model of both classroom learning and online learning…

This is something I've been saying in my school where the problem we face is irregular attendance. We need to find ways to meet the needs of learners who do not do the traditional school day the way it was intended and an online - classroom blend may be the solution. I just need staff who are willng to try the idea with their classes.

Image from: about="http://www.flickr.com/photos/wakingtiger/3156789807/"><> rel="cc:attributionURL"

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Is technology really that scary?

I've been back in school now for almost a month and I continue to turn to technology to make my own work easier and to find ways of sharing with my 100+ colleagues. So far this year, I've used Wordpress to build a site dedicated to the Northern Lights Jr. Games that my school was chosen to host in March 2010. I've been contributing interesting items to a school Ning site that I help administer, I've been posting items including my schedule to a wiki site I built last year, and I've been sending weekly memos by e-mail to the staff. I even had a Technology Thursday session with staff to visit the idea of classroom blogs like Mrs. Cassidy's Classroom Blog.

And I've seen some progress, baby steps I guess. I have a teacher who has embraced technology and is busy incorporating our Smart Board into his teaching; this is taking off as other teachers now want a board in their room. I also have staff who have started blogs and are beginning to share; for example, there is a new teacher blogging about her experiences and an intern invited me into her digital world a couple of nights ago. Nevertheless, I am feeling somewhat disappointed; it seems like some are choosing to ignore the powerful medium that the internet offers preferring to do things the way they've always done them. Is the technology really that scary?

How many of us reluctantly gave in to the cell phone craze and now cannot live without them? What is so different about picking up a new computer application and embracing it as a new way of doing business.

Today, a teacher shared with me that people see communication as a problem within the school and feel that we need to stick to one way of sharing information. I am not so sure. I believe we need to put the information that needs to be shared in multiple places in hopes that one actually works for each individual. I know I've tried the paper memo thing in the past and failed to communicate a message, I've called meetings and failed to get everyone I needed in place, I've published newsletters that not everyone read, and I've even tried the old intercom thing but was not listened to. All methods have a place, and all in way, rely on technology in one way or another (some newer than others). I really see today's technology as offering many novel solutions; we can now seek information when we want it not just when someone is presenting it. However, we are at the mercy of the individual receivers of information and their interest in learning something new. Unfortunately, some teachers are resisting learning something new; some are modelling what frustrates them about their students (they are reluctant learners). Ironic!!!

There is hope though; the cell phone thing was not embraced enthusiastically at first by all, but when people saw a use for them, they became widely accepted. I even know retiring teachers who have learned to text; if a teacher on the way out of the business can learn new techological skills then surely there is hope for the teacher who thinks he/she does not have time to learn "another" thing! I look forward to the day when we do not have to work to peruade staff about the powerful network tools that exist; I look forward to the day when people accept that technology provides us with tools that make doing business easier!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Dreams versus Reality

I took the principalship of LLCS because I believe that I can have a positive impact on the the staff and students of the school. I dream about the students doing very well in school, I hope the teachers who come here love their experience teaching here as much as I did when I first came, and I want to strive to build positive relationships with our parents and the community in general. The realities are still there though and we, the staff, have so much work to do.

I have to be realistic about what is in my control and what is not though. I felt things started off fairly well for me, but change has allowed me to do some new things and see some new things. I have managed to spend a few hours at the Ducharme Building and see the K-6 end of things; the differences I have seen have been an eye opener. At the k-6 level I am seeing students anxious to please adults, students who are curious and want to learn (one grade 5 boy taught me that Dandy long legs have venom), and I am seeing students who are quite cooperative. On the other end of the spectrum, I am seeing high school students who seem disconnected with the purpose of school. They challenge authority and rules, and some appear to have little interest in attending classes although they do want to be in school. What causes this change? It is too simplistic to just blame it on adolscence because there are teens who remain focused and who do want to pursue a good education. I wonder what kills the dreams of childhood of those who get lost on the journey? I wonder how do we rebuild those dreams? I wonder ... I wonder....

I approached one class in the high school on Friday afternoon after I witnessed some of the students from the class arriving excessively late. I went in to talk to them about what they want from school. I tried to reason with them that to get educated you need to work at it. They have a very hard working and enthusiastic teacher in their class; I could see her frustration though as she was struggling with them to meet their responsibilities. I felt at least for a few minutes some of them were understanding that we, the staff, are not the enemy, but I have a feeling it is a lesson that will need to be re-taught and in more than one room. I really hope the staff are willing to adjust their expectations for what a student should be and learn to meet the students from where they are coming from. I dream that the staff will see the strenghts of their students, will see their humanity, and do their very best to take them in a positive direction. I know after the first week of wandering two buildings with nearly 1000 students, I am seeing many staff working very hard to make it happen. That has to be regarded as a good thing! A new week is coming with new challenges; we have to realize we won't always make the progress we dream of, but we also must realize that we have to dream or we have already failed.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

First Day Musings

I've had a very long day today and though its late I'm not ready to call it a night. You see tomorrow (actually today), I face a staff of over 100 people for the first time as their principal. I have been given the enormous responsibility of leading a group of educators in the task of educating over 900 students. What do I tell them? I mean I love the people in my community and I want what is best for them; I want the decisions I make to only have a positive impact on the students and our community. What I say, what I do, how I act could have an enormous consequence on them and the community. Just reflecting on that thought makes me wonder if I will sleep tonight.

I also know the realities of life and work will at times interfere with my goals and will affect others on staff in ways that will not always be in the best interests of students. Things will happen that take me and other staff members away from the school and the things that need to be done. And I wonder, .... I am seeking the right words to say to this incredible group of people that will ignite a spark that will inspire positive change in a community that has been struck by too much tragedy. In some ways, I feel inadequate or maybe a little scared that I now have the ultimate responsibility for what goes on in the school. Can I be the leader that makes the difference needed for this community? Can I be the leader that can pursuade others to follow and work to their fullest potential acting in the best interests of their students?

Man oh man what have I agreed to do? Tomorrow's 30 minutes with the staff will be a defining moment for this year and maybe for me. I'm not sure exactly what I will say, but I've decided that I can't say it better than Dalton Sherman. So tomorrow I'll play it safe; I'll share some things with staff and then , thanks to the advances in technology, I'll invite Dalton into the meeting and let him tell his story to another 100 people and just maybe a spark will ignite our teaching community to believe in our students - all of them. What more could a principal hope for from a staff?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Creating a User Name - the origin of kicode

I just finished reading How to Create Cool User Names by Srikanth and I'd like to share the way I created my user name. But first the background; for those who know me, you already know I share a name with one of the most read authors in the world, Stephen King. Obviously, there are problems with trying to use my real name online as my digital identity would disappear beneath the thousands (millions?) of references to the author. So I decided I wanted to create something easy to remember as Srikanth suggests you do. My solution was to take the first two letters from my last name- "ki" from King, the first two from my son's name - "co" from Colin, and finally the first two from my daughter's name- "de" from Demetria. The result was kicode; I pronounce it "key code".

I discussed this over a skype call with @robwall back in June after he expressed curiousity about where the name came from. I am finding that the user name works with almost all sites that require a user name although someone beat me to it with g-mail! The nice thing with this solution is you can play around with the order of the names; in my case I used my last name, my first born, and then my second child. I could have had something different using the same plan in a different order; for example, it could have been dekico or decoki or codeki or cokied. Try it for yourself; you might find something that sounds cool,is easy for you to remember, and has not yet been taken.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

An Adult Alternative 12

On Thursday, the 28 students in our class of 2009 will be celebrating their graduation from High School. One of them will be an adult alternative 12 graduate who I have to confess I had my doubts about ever being around long enough to graduate. He was a young man few of us could figure out; he was loud and very often acted in inappropriate ways. His teachers quickly lost patience with him and he was a social misfit with his peers. He basically did not attend school from the time he was 16 until he was 19. When he returned to school, I wondered what the heck we were going to do with him because nothing we had tried worked. Fortunately though, the right teacher came along who saw a student who needed our help, who needed education, and who needed support.

She challenged staff to change the way we looked at him. His nickname, Spinner, which he had happily responded to, was quickly dropped and we began to use his proper name. We still saw some inappropriate things from him, but we also saw something else; his humanity fell into focus. We learned about a person with feelings and questions though it was sometimes difficult to understand what he was trying to say. We began to accept some of his quirks and we got down to the business of trying to work with him. And guess what? He proved to us that he could learn, that he could stay in a classroom, that he could do some algebra! He also proved to us that he could push some buttons still and his teacher was not afraid of telling him that he had crossed a line and it was time to go home.

Some will view the alternate status as a negative no doubt, but he has grown more over the last three years than most I've known. I also saw him commit one of the greatest acts of kindness I've ever seen from a student. We had a literacy carnival in late May and he attended. He happily went around playing the various games we had set up winning tickets to buy books. When he got to my station, Yahtzee, he quickly won 12 tickets. Well he immediately turned to a little girl who was watching and who had run out of money and tickets and gave them to her saying, "Go get yourself a good book!" With that he left my station and left me convinced that he was graduate material.

Now that his time with us is coming to an end, I feel some sadness and a lot of concern. What will happen to a young man going into an adult world that does not always tolerate differences in people? What kind of future is in store for him? Ours is a small town where unemployment hovers over 60% and it is a town with huge addiction issues. He is going out into that reality and we are holding our breath. I hope he finds his way; he's earned it.

Monday, May 18, 2009

RockYou.com

I visited The KinderKids' Classroom Blog by Maria Knee and was thoroughly impressed with the way she used web 2.0 tools to document the activities of her Kindergarten class. The visit introduced me to RockYou.com as well which kind of reminded me of Animoto. However, it is also somewhat different as it gives you more control of the way the pictures are displayed during the presentation. In any case, it is another "cool tool" for presenting images to the public. I selected some images from an Elder's Evening that our school hosted back in February for my first attempt at preparing a RockYou presentation. I'm quite happy with the result!


Thursday, April 23, 2009

Curse you Twitter!

I'm supposed to be writing up my Master's project right now, but just had to take a few minutes to share my morning lurk around Twitter. First of all, I normally do not allow myself the time to get on Twitter in the morning because I find myself struggling to pull myself away; there is just so much good stuff there. Today is a good explanation of why I don't do Twitter in the morning; 30 minutes on Twitter turned into another hour of exploring (and I only scratched the surface of most of it).

Twitter itself is not the problem. I posted one Tweet this morning; a re-Tweet of a colleague's Tweet and sent one direct message to the same colleague. The problem is I can't resist opening links that look interesting to me; here's what I found this morning.

@shelleydeck suggested I check out a site that is a check list for Foundational Digital Literacy skills - http://tommarch.com/files/ict.htm.
@jackiegerstein suggested a site that encourages communities and groups to host their own Ted Talks - http://www.ted.com/tedx.
@AngelaMaiers suggested a site that professes to be a place for professional development for teachers and librarians. She sold it as "a great resource for tech and literay" - http://eduscapes.com/tap/index.htm.
And I can't remember who Tweeted this one out - http://cooltoolsforschools.wikispaces.com/Tools+at+a+glance.

I also read a blog from @wfryer that gave me an interesting idea as a way to run a public meeting -http://www.speedofcreativity.org/2009/04/23/advice-and-wisdom-on-school-public-relations/.

In just 30 minutes of reading microblogs on Twitter; I have more professional resources collected than I collected from an entire school year last year before I heard of Twitter!

Now Twitter I'm turning you off and turning back to my work; curse you for being so useful!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Reflecting on EC&I 831


Part 5: Reflections on EC&I 831


EC&I 831 (cool video at this link) has surpassed my wildest dreams for a class. With non-traditional assignments and self-directed learning, it has opened a world to me that has allowed me to grow professionally and spawned a desire to learn more. It has made me into a 21st century teacher and learner! I have created a personal learning network that is a true professional learning community and I have opened a world far richer than any library can provide. My learning has been so great that I can’t possibly summarize it all in text. I began by trying to summarize my thoughts about the class using MindMeister. This grew into an idea to make a video to summarize my thoughts using a SmartBoard, a tool I had never used before. The quality of the video I made though was not the greatest as I worked on it alone and still have much to learn about making a quality video. I also had problems uploading it due to its length which I actually now consider a blessing as I decided not to use it and accept the fact that the 3 hours I put into making it and trying to download it taught me about Smart Boads and the importance of setting up properly when producing a video. I elected instead to make a series of Jing videos to summarize my learnings in the class. These can be viewed by visiting Stephen King's E-Portfolio.

I decided to submit an E-portfolio as my major digital project for the EC&I 831 class with Dr. Alec Couros for several reasons. It is a compilation of my learning over the last three months, as well as, a venue to house 2 of the 3 parts of my project. The first part is actually a Moodle Class, Career Ed. 7, that I created to use with a group of Grade 7 students I teach. Part 2 is a Wikispace that I have created for the benefit of the staff of La Loche Community School; it includes scheduling, important dates, and numerous links that teachers will find beneficial. It is not complete; it is a space that will continue to be developed and improved upon. The next phase of the site will be to develop teacher video tutorials using Jing for school programs like MAT (mark and attendance program). Finally, the third part of the project was to learn about WordPress for the purpose of teaching e-portfolios to High School students. I decided that to make the experience meaningful I would make my own portfolio; this WordPress blog pulls together the other parts of my major digital project and it includes aspects of almost all of my learning through the EC&I 831 class.

I hope those who visit my major digital project find at least one thing in it that they can learn from; it was my pleasure sharing my thoughts and learnings with you. And the next time I blog, it will be done entirely on the belief that I am not being evaluated and simply because I had something to share. Thanks to all who have helped me get to this point!

The more I know; the less I know! (ProCon.Org)




Confucius said, "Real knowledge is to know the extent of one's ignorance." This is a concept that has rolled around in my brain for years, although I never said it so succinctly. When I was in my third year of University, I remember realizing that the more I know the less I know because there is so much more to learn that I still do not know! Make sense?

I'm not even supposed to be working on this blog because I'm trying to finish off my obligations for the EC&I 831 class that I am taking, but I stumbled across a site as I was browsing through some of my the unread blogs in my Goggle Reader account that really illustrated the point above. I visited the blog, Free Technology For Teachers, and specifically a blog titled, "ProCon -Helping Students Evaluate Controversial Topics." It looks like it would be a good tool for students engaged in researching controversial topics in school. However, it is a site that illustrates just how much there is that I do not know; I'd never heard of it before this morning and now I'm writing about it. I've never used the site and would have to take some time navigating around it to know its full capabilities, but because I do not teach a lot I doubt I will use it. However, I do think there are teachers who could use the site and so I'm sharing my latest discovery yet again!

The sad part is I have over 300 unread blogs in my Reader account; how many more gems have I missed because of time? I guess though in a way this is the power of EC&I 831; it forced my to learn a lot, but in doing so made me realize there is so much more that I do not know! Nevertheless, it has given me the tools to learn more and independently. I am a better educator as a result!


I have attached two images (click on them to make them larger) above for those interested in ProCon.org; might be enough information there to get you to have a look for yourself.




Source of Confucius Quote: Inspirational and Motivational Quotes @ http://quotations.about.com/cs/inspirationquotes/a/Knowledge4.htm

Friday, April 10, 2009

Major Digital Project - the end of the beginning!

My Major Digital Project for EC&I 831 is an E-portfolio. It is a compilation of my learning over the last three months, as well as, a venue to house 2 of the 3 main parts of my project. The first part is actually a Moodle Class, Career Ed. 7, that I created to use with a group of Grade 7 students I teach. Part 2 is a Wikispace that I have created for the benefit of the staff of La Loche Community School; it includes scheduling, important dates, and numerous links that teachers will find beneficial. It is not complete; it is a space that will continue to be developed and improved upon. The next phase of the site will be to develop teacher video tutorials using Jing for school programs like MAT (mark and attendance program). Finally, the third part of the project was to learn about WordPress for the purpose of teaching e-portfolios to High School students. I decided that to make the experience meaningful, I would make my own portfolio; this WordPress blog pulls together the main parts of my major digital project and it includes aspects of almost all of my learning through the EC&I 831 class. I hope you enjoy your visit and please feel free to leave me your comments; I really appreciate feedback!

My Major Digital Project is now nearing completion, at least as far as evaluation is concerned, and I am ready to share it with my colleagues and the world. I just have one piece left to add (my final thoughts on the class) and I hope to have it in place either today or tomorrow.

If you would like to see what I've been working on over the last three months, you can visit the site by clicking on the link here. You can also hear more about it by watching the YouTube video below that I produced using Jing Pro.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Is it me or is my memory getting better?

I wish my memory was getting better! I'm happy if I can remember what I had for breakfast at the end of each day. But I'm not really speaking of my memory today; I'm more interested in talking computer memory and our ability to handle vast amounts of data. Today, I have a shoe box full of 3.5 diskettes filled with information from my days in the classroom in the early 90's. Some are marked and some are mystery disks that I have to find a portable disk drive to view because the new computers just don't need them anymore. Most of them have not been viewed for more than a decade! I haven't taken the bold step to throw them away yet, however, with my latest purchase I just might. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

My first home computer was the beautiful, MacIntosh Classic, with an astonishing 40 MBs of memory on the hard drive! I was in heaven as I had the option of saving on the hard drive and backing up with 3.5" disks. I never imagined that I would ever need more computer. And with a printer, my purchase of the classic only set me back $2200 (tax included). It still works today and I refuse to get rid of it because it has files on it that I no longer have access to with the technology I possess.

My current work computer is an Inspiron 9400 with 120GB of memory and I never dreamed that I would need that much memory. I refer to it as my portable filing cabinet! Sound familiar? Well I've been making noises in my office that I NEED a better machine. It needs to be faster.

Well, I recently got back from a quick medical trip to Saskatoon with a short stop at London Drugs to purchase a portable hard drive. This is my second drive. My first drive was a Maxtor 80GB drive and about 10 days ago, it informed my (rather rudely I thought) that it was full! How could that be? I was only backing up documents and music and pictures; oh yeah, and video clips, but could it really be that much stuff?

My new drive is even more beautiful than the last; it has a small plastic stand and it compliments the silver of my Inspiron in a way that makes me think they were meant to be together! It is an iomega 500GB Prestige Desktop Hard Drive; I can't imagine that .... no forget that thought. The salesman almost had me with the terabite model, but I resisted the temptation.

I'm now reflecting on the changes that have occurred in less than two decades. I entered the teaching profession in a time when gestetners were still in use and I did not know anyone, but my technologically gifted and rich oil industry employed brother who even owned a computer. Few teachers knew how to make the Apple IIe's do their magic. Today, we are in an age where we are storing tremendous amounts of information on our computers, largely because of digital photography, digital video and digital music, but we are also in a time when we can store the information we need on servers accessible through the world wide web. I wonder if the day is coming when our own personal need for memory on our business machines will decline as we gain trust in storing and retrieving information from the internet. Three months ago I would have thought no way; today, I see the possibility and from experience I know the things I know are constantly in a state of change and if it is possible, it will happen.

Nevertheless, we are not at the point yet, and I know I will have a terabite one day soon. I won't have a choice.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A Bump in the Road






Up until today, I've had very positive experiences with social networking, but my first foray into an EdtechTalk show did not leave me thirsting for more. I listened in on Teachers Teaching Teachers this evening @http://www.edtechtalk.com/live, but found myself confused. Like a good student I tried to get in a little early, but heard nothing. A quick Skype call with Darren revealed that he was having the same problem, so I re-tried and nothing. I tried several times using several different buttons and nothing but a black screen with the words [no video] (see top photo). Finally, I heard sound, but I'd missed the introductions in my back and forth stuff. Then I could not figure out how to do the back channel chat because all I had was a black screen (see picture) and the panel was making reference to the chat and links they were inserting. I knew I was doing something wrong, but with no previous experience, I was floundering. I even turned to Twitter for some help from a classmate, but alas she was not on! I finally tried to open a 2nd window to the techtalk (see photo) and I was finally able to participate in the back channel chat and hear the discussion. However, because I missed a bit I did not feel connected and felt almost unnoticed. I was very frustrated with the lack of clarity in connecting!



I had Skype capabilities, but no one explained how that feature worked or what needed to be done so I essentially was voiceless. To make matters worse, the audio seemed to break up at times and I missed chunks of the conversation; I'm not sure if others had the problem, but it was very frustrating to be listening for something only to lose a portion of the point being made.

I also felt somewhat of a disconnect from the content because I did not have prior knowledge of what we would be doing and there was no agenda to follow as near as I could tell. Fortunately, it was not all a bad experience as there were things being talked about that were leading me on in my quest to understand more about practial applications of technology in school. This session was lead by what sounded like English teachers (at least originally) who were using technology to engage kids. They spoke confidently about the connections being made between literacy and technology. Much of the discussion revolved around what are the qualities we look for in a learner? I felt totally unprepared to answer this question, but the responses made me realize they were speaking from the point of view of the learner in a tech. environment. I did grasp that the leaders Paul Allison, Susan Ettenheim, and Gail Desler talked about all students needing to be teachers, learners, people who share, and people who publish. Allison sounded like he had some cool things going on with kids and social networking.
They also spoke of digital storytelling and publishing. 'Sprout' (see photo) was mentioned, but I had no idea what it was and the leaders assumed this was a known application by the listeners. I now know it is a "quick and easy way for anyone to build, publish, and manage widgets, mini-sites, mashups, banners and more. Any size, any number of pages. Include video, audio, images and newsfeeds and choose from dozens of pre-built components and web services." I also know it is a site I will want to return to.

Not a lot of links were provided at this particular session,but they did mention Clarence Fisher, and I felt good that I knew who they were talking about. I even pasted a link to his website. The links mentioned were: http://www.needleworkspictures.com/ocr/blog/?p=439 which is a blog site by Matthew Needleman called Creating Life Long Learners, a link to something called Youth Voices that I could not get to connect to during the talk, edtechtalk.com, and teachersteachingteachers.org.

In conclusion, I would have to say I was not adequately prepared for my first Edtechtalk; I won't say it is the last time I will visit, but I think I would like to be better prepared for the technical struggles so that my experience is not tainted by my own lack of familiarity with the process. I have added two of the speakers to my Twitter account as people to follow because I realize these people have a lot of worthwhile things to share with people who are willing to take the steps to learn more about their craft!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Tiny Chat and Hashtags


Sometimes the unplanned leads to the best learning. Tonight, a few of us from the EC&I 831 class were searching for our beloved prof., Alec Couros, because we believed we had a class. He believed we had an e-mail with instructions for what we were to do and some actually received it while others were wondering what was going on. Anyway, I tweeted out that if anyone had an alternative way of getting a hold of Alec to let him know that we were wondering where he was. In the responses, it was suggested that we have class without him; @Capohanka suggested we meet in a bar, but considering the distance between us that was not a realistic option. She then suggested I do a hashtag and find him that way. Having no idea what a hashtag was I had to ask her to explain it to me. The conversation went as follows:


@capohanka explain the hashtag thing please

@Kicode hashtags are a way to tag tweets and then search for them as a group.

@capohanka okay so you attach it to the end of a tweet?

@Kicode yep. then you can search for the tag. Search for #itsummit.

starting a new hashtag - where in the world is courosa "witwi@courosa"

@capohanka it would like my last tweet?

@Kicode yes, but you put a "#" in front of it. He was at the #itsummit today so he prob just got home.

@capohanka Okay - learned something today ! Thanks for walking me through it! #witwi@courosa


I now understand what those comments were on Twitter but I was too shy to ask about! Thanks @capohanka!


During this conversation @bbcrfc (DLowry) suggested that our class meet in Tiny Chat. I had never heard of it before and told him I would have to check it out. I wasn't going to at the time, but something pushed me to check it out and I quickly learned that it was a very simple chat room that can be limited easily to only people you invite. However, I did a tweet with a link and was pleased to be joined by @kimcottini, @gracemcleod @bbcrfc @capohanka @leannemerkowsky @dslink and @courosa! Yes, we finally found him! The nice part though was that some of us in the EC&I 831 class had a sustained chat on Twitter that involved a few others from outside of the class including @bbcrfc @capohanka and @shareski! Some of my classmates added @bbcrfc as someone to follow on Twitter and we all got to learn a little more about each other while I got to learn about Tiny Chat and hashtags. Not a bad way to spend the evening!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Ning


I was introduced to Ning this weekend by Shelley Deck, a teacher at LLCS. She has set up a Ning network for our school and invited me to join. Ning is a social networking program with a difference. It allows you to control membership by invitation! Why is that a positive feature? I think the power is that for those who are reluctant to participate in a forum where everyone can see what you are doing, it provides a forum where only those invited can participate. It also allows you to customize the site to include a variety of widgets to suit the purposes of the network.

I like what I see of it so far, but wonder if there are disadvantages to the site. Nevertheless, in the spirit of learning as much as I can, I have established a site for the Community Based Master's Program - La Ronge cohort in hopes that our class can remain connected even after our program is completed.

For anyone in the class that has not yet received an invitation (and there are some whose E-mail addresses I am missing), please contact me through Webct and share your e-mail address.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Video Blogging or Vlogging

Ever get tired of typing? Ever want to say something instead of writing something? Well I thought I would experiment a little this evening as I just purchased a small web cam Creative Live!Cam ($36.97 @ Walmart) to experiment with. I had my first Skype Camera call earlier with my wife and now I want to see the movie making capabilities of the camera. Hope you enjoy my efforts.


A Fortunate Meeting and a Fortunate Discovery

I have been in North Battleford for the last couple of days and today was hi-lighted by a chance meeting with Leanne Merkowsky from North Battleford at Anthony Muhammad's presentation on PLC's. It was nice to be able to put a face and voice to a person that was known to me only through the the EC&I 831 Class. She was also able to meet Guy Penney, Jackie Durocher, and DD MacCullum who were also in attendance for todays professional development opportunity.

Anthony gave us a lot to think about as far as changing the culture of schools goes. The main thing is that he establishes the idea that there are things that can be done to turn schools around even in situations where it may not feel like it is possible. It is a hopeful presentation, but a presentation that forces educators to consider their own role in the failure of students; I would be lying if I didn't admit that the message forces you to recognize that what you may consider to be enough of an effort is not good enough when you have students failing. I know I will be reflecting on his message in the weeks and months ahead.

Anyway, I really wanted to blog about a new tool (at least to me) I discovered last night accidently as usual. The program is called MindMeister; it allows the user to make a web of their thoughts. It would be a great tool for English teachers teaching essay writing, it would be a great tool for students to use while preparing material for an essay, debate, or presentation of some sort, and it is a tool I will use for organizing my thoughts about this class for my final blog. For now, I have done a quick example of some of the things I have done with my AR project to give you an idea of its power (sorry the quality is not great for the space provided by the blog). I have to confess I actually considered not sharing this find as the evil competitive side of my nature reared its ugly head. Fortunately, because of the good example set by so many on Twitter, through blogs, and comments on blogs, I realized the right thing to do was share the resource with others. I hope it is something you think you can use.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The road that should not be taken!

























I've been browsing the web and trying things here and there, but this was truly a fun application for me to experiment with.


Atom Smasher allows you to change the text on signs as I have done in the picture. I have always complained about the road in north west Saskatchewan for its many potholes especially between Buffalo Narrows and La Loche. I frequently make the comment to my family when we see a sign that says caution rough road ahead that they really should have a sign that says, "Caution paved sections ahead." Well this application allowed my to make my commment visual! What sign have you always wanted to see? Give it a try!

Blogging with benefits!

When I began the EC&I 831 class back in January, I had a very vague idea about what blogs were, but I really was not sure how to find them on the internet and, therefore, largely ignored that realm. What I knew, I learned back in the fall before I started this class. I had met Alec Couros and I was certain he would expect us to take up blogging so I started to experiment with writing my own thoughts before the class began; I had no idea or expectation that much of what I would be learning in his class would be because of the blogs of others. At first, I was only following a few blogs, but when I realized the power of Google Reader and discovered links to blogs through Twitter, I quickly jumped at the opportunity to follow more. I am now following 45 blogs including 21 from my class and another class; I also have several others in the back of my mind that I may yet follow. I sometimes find myself reading and writing comments for several hours in the evening and I want to do more! I am not being mark driven; I am knowledge driven. There are so many people sharing ideas and tips about how to do things or where to find information that I have to put off some things that I would like to know about. Even with my efforts, I still have some 306 blog entries to read not including archived blogs. Obviously, learning to be selective in what you read and even who you read is an important skill to hone.

I have found out about many different applications that I have tried as a result of blogging and microblogging (Twitter). I am also getting comments from people who are thanking me for sharing what I've learned from others which leaves me with "warm fuzzies" by the way! I am being entertained and educated at the same time. I have found the experience of reading and reacting to what I read in a public manner to be a huge step in my own thinking. Ironically, I think I am becoming a more positive person as a result of being a critical reader and responder. I now have a better understanding of what it takes to put yourself out there in print and even if I don't agree fully with what I read, I find myself reacting positively. I share my thoughts on the topic and compliment the writer for stimulating discussion.

On the down side of blogging, it can be hard on the ego. You strive to put something in print that you hope others will see and react to, but often you end up with only a few comments and in some cases no comments (and sometimes after spending hours drafting your blog). The reverse is true as well; sometimes you get a comment from someone you don't know and you realize there are people paying attention and reflecting on your words.

I am now trying to learn more about the things that make a blog something worth reading. On Tuesday, March 10, my class was lead by Will Richardson who has been blogging since 2002 and is known for being a "trendsetter in Education."I asked him what does he consider to be the qualities of a good blog. First of all he did not define a good blog; he answered the question by giving the qualities of blogs that he likes to read. This is roughly what he said, " I like to read people who are willing to test their ideas who are not coming out saying this is the way the world is..., people who write well, who read widely and who have a certain amount of passion in their voice ..., people who are asking questions and engaging people in conversations, who make it about ideas..., people who provoke thinking and conversations ..." To hear Will himself you can visit the Elluminate session here. I liked his response; despite his experiences blogging, he framed his answer from his own perception and did not pretend to represent all readers of blogs. His humility is remarkable considering his achievements.

I often feel like I take more than I give online. However, when you consider the wealth of information available, I suppose we all take more than we give. Blogging is changing me into a contributer though, and I am enjoying writing in way I've never experienced before.

Update March 21, 2009

I found this blog on what makes a blog good and thought I would add it to this posting. It also includes a good activity for student bloggers. Thanks to Clarence Fisher for the excellent ideas.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Wordle


This has been a hard blog to write because I really did not know what to say about "Wordle" other than, "Cool!" I actually began thinking about blogging on this topic back in mid-February when I was experimenting with JING to capture an image, but...it just didn't feel right to use the program, but not reflect on its value. Sure I was impressed by the colour and composition, but I did not really see a purpose behind the application. Therefore, I hesitated knowing that one day I would return to the topic.


As things go, I began to share the program with teachers in my school and it was not long before others were using "Wordle." I guess I didn't consider the impact on students; students enjoy being creative and Wordle allows for creative use of the written word. It is also popular with second language students because the order of the words is suddenly not important (they cannot be wrong). It is a program that isolates significant concepts in larger print allowing viewers to identify major ideas being presented by the text that created the Wordle. Finally, students like it because it creates a polished piece for publication.


Teachers are also impressed with Wordle for many of the same reasons as students. However, they would add that it is a program that they can turn to for an assignment in an effort to engage students more. Just today, an Alternate High School teacher I shared the program with immediately saw uses for her students who are struggling with English and she left with the program address in hand. So if there is no other value to the program than it engages students in an activity that is focused on print, then it belongs in the tool box for the 21st Century teacher.


For me as a student, it allows me to look at text differently (for example the Wordle above was created from one of my blogs). Major concepts become clearer which helps me understand what the focus of the print is about. I am now looking at using Wordle to put together some major concepts that emerged from my journal over the last two years in an effort to help me focus on the lessons I learned while working on my Master's project.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Husband, father, teacher, cartoonist!?

\A Mr. King Christmas\

I was reading from the Lifetime Learning Experience blog and noticed an entry called "New Tools this week."that mentioned a program called Toondoo.

I had always wanted to experiment with a animated type program and thought why not. I'm glad I did; it is simple to use and allows you to embed a cartoon you create into your blog as I have above. I can see using the program myself to illustrate concepts and I can see using it with students to allow them to express themselves in a more creative way. It is also a forgiving program; you can go back and edit it if you chose and it can be edited by others as well. You can also publish it so that all can see, you can keep it private, or you can share it with friends by sending it to their e-mails.

I expect I will make some cartoons using Toondoo that I will use when it is time to present my project in May. If there is a negative with the program, it would be the time it takes to launch it. I know there are other programs out there and I'd be interested in hearing from others about their favourite cartoon making programs. Be careful though, once you start playing with it, it is hard to quit.

Friday, March 6, 2009

I should have a career in Moodling

It seems like everyday I'm learning something new in Moodle. Today, I was determined to insert a sound item into the resource list for the first lesson I prepared for a Career Education class in Moodle. I felt I had to do this because some of the students are not yet fluent in English and need assistance with reading longer passages. Fortunately, I remembered reading Kim's blog about Vocaroo and decided I would try it; needless to say, I succeeded on my first try! You can listen to my recording of a piece from the Saskatchewan Grade 7 Career Education curriculum titled, I'm a success (see Vocaroo icon below).

With this success under my belt so easily, I decided I would tackle the issue of moving the resources around. I quickly learned how to move the tasks to the right but I struggled with moving them up or down. I finally noticed a button I had not tried when editing and my problem was solved.





Update: If you visited this site earlier, you would have realized you needed a password to hear my reading of "I'm a success." It turned out to be a very tricky operation to link Vocaroo to my blog once I had a password. For some reason, Vocaroo would not let me copy the full HTML link and post it in the blog even when I was not logged in. I wonder if others have had a similar experience; I have not had a problem posting it into moodle and have done so successfully on two occasions, but now I wonder if others can listen or will they too need a password. If others will need a password, I will need to be setting up a different account just for Vocaroo. Simple to record using it though!


I am a Success. Click on the play button to hear recording.









Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Sharing


Despite having a day dealing with some very emotional kids, I had a day that left me feeling like a true professional. I was sharing with colleagues while colleagues were sharing with me. I met with four teachers today to go over what we had been learning about Moodle; I shared my experience with registering students and then assisted them in trying it out. It worked! I then had a Science teacher show me a Chemistry 30 resource that he was using with his class; I was amazed and then I learned the source was from Centralischool! I was dumbfounded as he showed me the resources in the site; I had heard of it before, but didn't realize you could see whole courses without being a registered student so had never bothered visiting it before. Do I feel sheepish? I feel like a missed a memo or something. What a tremendous resource for teachers!

I also had a moment of clarity as far as the internet and social networking go. The online world of educators that I have become a part of advocates strongly for sharing and I have learned of some tremendous resources from that professional community. Yet today, I learned of a resource from people I work with and have known of it for years, but hadn't shared it with me or other colleagues because ... it never came up! What a shame! The f2f world has some catching up to do with the online world. The amazing thing is that none of this would have happened if I had not been exposed to the the culture of sharing that I am learning about with my personal learning network which has pushed me to share with my colleagues. Ironically, it seems the tweets on twitter are now reaching the ears of those who haven't yet taken the time to see its true value.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Aboriginal Youth Losing Hope! Does Canada care?

I write this with a heavy heart. On Saturday morning, a 17 year old girl from my school killed herself; it was the morning after a 21 year old was laid to rest after killing herself the weekend before. She was the fourth student from my school to do this since June 18, 2008. In addition, our neighbours from the reserve lost a student to suicide in December and one of our feeder schools lost a student in August. We are reeling as we hear of more and more attempts! It is becoming normal to deal with a grieving student while at school; it certainly does not fit in with the continuous improvement framework that we are hearing so much about but are unable to attain. I keep asking myself why is this going on? Unfortunately, this reality is not unique to this community; other aboriginal communities are suffering in similar ways.

Where is the hope? These communities have been ravaged by the long lasting negative effects of colonialism and to this day continue to be victimized by a society that appears not to care. These kids that are killing themselves are/were loved; in fact, were good people. Yet, the conditions that bring them to the brink are being largely ignored by mainstream society. Aboriginal people in this country continue to be the most disadvantaged people in our society and yet politically it appears to be o-kay with most Canadians as there is no outcry that things need to change.

As Canadians, we need to look at our shameful past, we need to acknowledge the wrongs that were done to our aboriginal peoples, and we need to empower aboriginal communities to work with their youth to give them hope. It won't be cheap; services need to be brought to the communities, and healing has to happen on so many levels. We have to do something or the history books will be painting us no better than that of our ancestors who at times deliberately infected aboriginal communities with the smallpox virsus causing dramatic reductions in aboriginal populations.

To find out more about aboriginal suicide visit:
http://www.nandecade.ca/article/aboriginal-suicide-statistics-71.asp http://ca.news.yahoo.com/s/capress/081207/national/sask_northern_suicides

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Reflections on "Did You Know"


Karl Fisch's presentation Did You know is a must view for educators. One slide states, ...


"We are currently preparing students for jobs and technologies that don't exist ... in order to solve problems we don't even know are problems."


Kinda makes you reflect on global warming! Unfortunately, we are trying to prepare students using an outdated model based on the industrial revolution (I think I got that idea from Shareski - if you can confirm or correct me I will update). Today, while going through the stacks of paper that accummulated on my desktop I was frustrated to find a large package of photocopied Career Education resources based on 2002 information with a note from a well intentioned consultant saying, "It should still be useful". The "yeahbut" inside me screamed as I recalled a website (District School Board of Niagara)I had visited the night before that had all kinds of links to Career Education resources as well as other resources for their students. I wondered where are the visionaries? I am in a system that still relies on sharing information with paper when there are much more effecient and effective ways.


However, complaining is absolutely useless; I am fully aware that sometimes change is more likely to come from individuals than it is from bureaucracies. With this in mind, for the last little while I've been kicking things up at school by engaging as many staff as possible into discussions about school and technology. I would be lying if I said I was being greeted with enthusiasm. Comments range from "we need time" to "kids learn better in face to face settings". Don't get me wrong though, there are those who see the need to learn more. I have two other teachers who have joined me in trying to learn the intricacies of "Moodle" and I have a session with interested staff on Thursday's to explore different web applications available and to discuss their use in school; in two sessions, I've been joined by about 15% of a teaching staff of 32.


Unfortunately, the obstacles or perceived obstacles are compounded by failures in the technology. My last session bombed because our internet was slow! We had long waits for websites to download and my laptop seemed to be possessed with gremlins; things that had worked earlier in my office refused to cooperate in the lab.


Nevertheless, I am passionate in speaking to staff about incorporating technology into their classrooms and I think I know a resource that will help me at our next staff meeting on March 3. You see, I watched the Youtube video, Did You Know, this evening and was even more impressed than I was with the ShiftHappens video that I watched last spring. I have been telling High School teachers (this is my vision of Education in the Future and no doubt influenced by Stephen Downes) that if they don't become comfortable working with technology, there is a chance they will be considered redundant in the educational system. I strongly believe that High School teachers will be expected to know how to prepare courses that can be delivered either face to face or via the internet or some combination of both within the next 10 to 15 years if not sooner. Fisch's video highlights the need for educational systems to change; hopefully, it will also help pursuade some teachers that they also need to change.
Image from: Ruminate which took the image from ShiftHappens.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Still learning!


I've been strangly silent this last week, but with good reasons. First of all, I spent three days on the road for a total of 19 hours of driving; my only thoughts were couldn't Scotty beam me from La Loche to Regina and then back! And then I was having a great time exploring tools I have always wanted to learn, but used "the lack of time" as an excuse to avoid; I've learned some, but I also lost some momentum with blogging.

I am pleased to announce major progress in my experimenting with Moodle (photo shows some of the work). I can now insert video and pictures, I can change the background, and I have a good working knowledge of the basics of Moodle; I actually think I have enough knowledge now that I could create an online class. I have also started a small professional learning community of teachers in my school interested in becoming moodlers! We are meeting on Tuesdays; today, we took a major step towards understanding ways to enroll a student. If all continues to go well, I might even be able to "teach" a class with it as early as Thursday. Not too bad for a week of asking myself, "What does this icon do?"

I also had a session with staff interested in learning more about technology last Thursday; seven of us met and I introduced the others to Google Docs. It was refreshing to talk about something we can do and use to be more effective teachers; I actually felt like I was a teacher leader instead of being the person to react to the crisis of the day. And the staff involved gave me faith that many of us in the profession are still learners! I'm thinking about exploring Twitter on Thursday.

I have also begun to play with making movies using Jing. It is actually quite simple except for one small problem; the free version of JING saves the movie files as a shock wave flash which you cannot import into moviemaker. All is not lost though as a visit to Twitter gave me several possible conversion programs that I can try that are free; I also got a response from Dr. Couros and he recommends purchasing Jing Pro for $15 for a year as it will save the file as a mpeg allowing a user an easier time with editing. Unfortunately, I have tried several different free programs and I have been frustrated time and again. Yet, the positive is that by sending a tweet I had 6 different people attempt to come to my aid. It is amazing that there are that many people out there that are anxious to help with no expectation for something in return. This network of people is as close to a utopian world as I have seen; people are positive, helpful, appreciative, and kind. It is a world I am now a part of because I want to be not because I have to be for an assignment. In fact, I'm not really sure what is evaluated and what is not being evaluated; it actually does not matter because I am getting something out of the experience and I am learning continuously.

For example, when I tweeted out that I was looking for a program that would convert shock wave flash videos to mpegs, @plind suggested http://www.zamzar.com/. It did not do what I wanted it to, but I learned if I wanted to convert a gif image to a jpeg I could with Zamzar. Zamzar does many conversions and I suggest if you are trying to convert a file that you try it first; it may save you a lot of time. I would also suggest that if you haven't used twitter to solve a problem, try it; there are a lot of helpful people willing to share.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The New York Times asks, "Do we need a new internet?"


Thanks to D. Lowry (@bbcrfc on Twitter) for bringing this article from the New York Times to my attention through Twitter, Do we need a new Internet? Just yesterday, while visiting a moodle tutorial site, I had a Norton's anti-virus offer pop up on my screen. I didn't think much about it as I closed it and went on with my tutorial; once I was finished viewing the lesson, I took a much needed break. When I returned to my computer, I was surprised to see Norton's telling me my computer's status was still good and that I now had a Norton's Icon (see attached image) installed on my desktop. Is this related to the New York Times Article? I have to admit I am apprehensive about it at this time. (If anyone knows, please comment!)

The article suggests we need a new more secure internet that would force us to accept the loss of some anonymity for the sake of security. Is this a bad idea? Those of us involved in social networking are giving up a certain amount of our privacy already so if it is a trade off between a more secure network and a loss of some personal information, I'm not sure it is bad. On the other hand, those who argue it should be protected make me wonder what are they hiding?

I guess the other side of the coin is what happens when when we have abusive forms of government that use information posted by individuals punitively? In such situations, the ability to hide your identity in the electronic world might be the difference between life and death. What is the answer then? How do we protect our personal identity and ourselves online?

I understand so little about how virus' get started and about how to protect my computer from them. It seems like the anti-virus programs are only somewhat successful in protecting our machines; and it seems like there are malicious individuals in the cyber world who are ready to make people miserable by abusing the system and the people who use it. I know if this were our telephone system, governments around the world would be anxious to fix it; there would be a public outcry to do something to eliminate the hidden hazards.

I thank god we have some very intelligent people working to oppose the abusers; where would we be without them? I also think, maybe, the time has come for a new internet. I know I'd be prepared to sacrifice some of my identity for the sake of using the internet the way it was intended without the needless fears that we are warning children about, but fall victim to ourselves!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

19 Minutes that could change your thoughts about School

Several weeks ago I noticed a link in my EC&I 831 course readings regarding creativity. The link was to a speech given by Ken Robinson who asks do schools kill creativity?

I put off watching the video because it is a longer one (19 minutes) for youtube which has got me thinking, "What's happening to my attention span?" But that's another blog! I also have to admit I don't consider myself to be the most creative person in the world and arts education usually leaves me feeling uncomfortable. I'm not a singer, dancer, or artist; I think if I had the opportunity, I could have enjoyed life in drama. So, in a nutshell, I believe I avoided the video because I believed it was about something I was not very good at doing.

However, after listening to Ken's speech, I really wonder what education has done to me and what do I perpetuate as an educator! I wonder if the education system imposed on me reflected Ken's ideas of encouraging creativity, would my life had turned out differently and been more rewarding (at least to this point). Even in this text, I indentify myself as not being creative, yet now I have doubt. It could be that my creative side has been "educated out of me" as Ken speaks of in his speech.

There is so much in the speech that I will likely re-watch it. For me the key concepts were: school is educating creativity out of students, school is preparing students essentially the same way it did during the industrial revolution, and school is stigmitazing being wrong.

I encourage my readers to check this video out; I guarantee you some laughs if you do, but, more importantly, I think you will come out of it with some really tough questions about what is school doing to young people.

I also have to thank Ken for a great line. It goes something like this, "If a man speaks his mind in a forest and no woman hears, is he still wrong?" Watch it! It will make you think!


Friday, February 13, 2009

Internet Ethics or Couros Causes Concern!




I've been thinking about internet ethics as a result of the discussions during Alec Couros' EC&I 831 class on Tuesday, February 10, 2009, titled Popular Issues in (Digital) Media Literacy. My thoughts actually began the night before when I noticed a blog that closely resembled another (I am not prepared to identify them here) and I began to ponder the idea of plagiarism on the web. With the cut and paste world we live, it is simply too easy to "borrow' writings from another person and claim ownership by making it look like your work. Don't get me wrong, I am totally fine with someone valuing my words enough that he might want to use them, but give credit or provide it as a link to your thoughts on the topic. I know many of my ideas for blogging have sprung from others, but I make sure I credit those who got me started.

Anyway, the class on Tuesday was timed appropriately for where my thoughts were going. I had begun to question the idea of ethical internet behaviour. From my point of view as an educator, I believe there is a higher standard for me. I wonder if all users should be held accountable, but I realize the reality is that you cannot police such a thing. Nevertheless, I wonder how many people consider themselves to be ethical in their use of the internet especially the social networking aspects when in reality they are involved in what may be considered unethical behaviour. For example, during class we were shown a video titled "David after Dentist" that was posted by the child's father. Some people were quick to condemn the father and I admit I was leaning that way myself until someone mentioned that it could have been posted for grandparents. But because of anonymous viewers sharing what they saw, the video gained popularity and spread throughout the wired world. While I am still suspicious of the father's motives for posting the unflattering video of his son, I am now wondering more about the ethics of us, the viewers who made it go viral. There is no doubt that the child in the video will have to live with this event his entire life whether he likes it or not and some really caring conscientious people in the world have helped make it possible by passing it on. Is that ethical behaviour for a person to share something about another person that could be potentially devastating? If the father is wrong for posting it, we are just as wrong for spreading it! I'm glad my most embarrassing moment(s) as a child were not captured on film and shared with the world; would people take me seriously now if they saw me in moments I would like to forget?

The next pictures in the presentation of the Oswald murder (see pictures above) awoke a memory of a former student that I taught over 2 decades ago. She had told me a story how some bullies had pasted (with glue) her face onto a nude picture and were showing it around town. She was humiliated and felt shame even though she had done no wrong. Flash ahead to the world today; photo manipulation in the digital age is easy to do and is happening with and without the knowledge of the person in the photograph. I actually am not against it if it is done by the person with rights to the photo or with permission from the person with rights to the photo, and if the person in the photo has agreed to let their image be altered (I gave permission here) and published. However, when you take a picture of a murder and you manipulate it for laughs, have you crossed a line? I immediately was struck by the manipulated image of the Oswald murder and I thought of his family. Do people consider their pain? Do people consider themselves as being disrespectful of life in general by laughing at a tragedy? Does the voyeuristic nature of the internet have us doing things we would not do if we were there? Are lives being ruined by maliciously altered images?

My consciousness about the internet and its potential harm was raised on Tuesday. And if I have advice, I will refer you to THE CORE RULES OF NETIQUETTE and rule number one, "Remember the human."
The image of me with many arms was created by Shelley Deck @http://www.shelleydeck.com/








Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Another example of a PLN at work! Can you help?

I wasn't planning to blog tonight, but thanks to Sarah Hill I learned something that I didn't know about Google Docs. Furthermore, because I've been playing around with Jing I can show it to you. In the picture to your left, you can see a corner of the Google Docs page and you will see under 'new' the word "Form." If you click on it, it allows you to create a questionnaire that you can post in a blog or onto a wiki (and probably other stuff that I don't know about yet); you can even e-mail it. I was just amazed and immediately began to think of possible applications this tool could have in my practice, but I'm really not so sure how it will work. So in the interests of my own learning and because I am a man and refuse to look for directions (yet) I am asking you to participate in helping me understand this google feature. Simply click on the where are you from Google Form and answer the two questions attached. Then submit your answers.

While you are at it you might want to visit Sarah's blog and complete her Google Form. You see if you participate in this little experiment you become a part of my personal learning network (PLN) and if you visit Sarah's site WE have become cogs in her PLN. This is the power of social networking; we can learn from one another and we can help each other when we are need. If you need more convincing, you haven't been paying attention!

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Promise of Yesterday! A Paperless Office!











A colleague of mine some years ago (the first part of the last decade of the previous century) and I had conversations about what lay ahead of us due to advances in technology; one of our beliefs was that with advances in computer technology we would see much less paper on the job. Boy were we wrong! I have been swamped my more and more paper in my work as an assistant principal as you can see by the photo on top. Today I disconnected from the internet, rolled up my sleeves and began to make sense of all the paper in front of me. I worked for hours sorting and filing and, oh yeah, swearing (you didn't hear that mom).
And as I worked, I thought back to last night when I was looking at my Google Reader Account. It was a mess and needed some organizing. Well in a matter of seconds I clicked on 'manage subsciptions' and I had the 22 blogs I follow organized into 4 folders; it was sweet! If only I could do that in my office!
Well as things unfold, you come to knew understandings and it occurred to me that perhaps "Google Docs" could be the answer. Do you think it is possible to get every administrator and teacher working collaboratively on documents posted in Google Docs? Do you think we could persuade the thousands of people who want our attention or access to our students to use Google Docs as a way of sharing their information with us? I dream...I dream...I dream.