Friday, January 30, 2009

Reflecting on the journey with thanks to Ulises Mejias

EC&I 831 Computers in the Classroom has already been an incredible journey for me; I have seen corners of the internet that I didn't know existed and I have plunged myself into an "electronic social world" that is becoming something of an obsession. I'm checking Twitter and my Google Reader Account regularly to see if the people I am following are live on Twitter or if they have posted a new blog. People that I've never met are sharing things with me (and others) on a personal level, while at the same time they are sharing things on a professional level. Current events are discussed and quirky news items are circulated. I can't remember where I read it but someone referred to Twitter as being like an electronic staffroom; I didn't understand it then but now I see the parallel. You really never know what you will talk about once you enter.

So the question then is how do these social networks affect learning? I know my experience has seen my horizons broadened and I am constantly finding myself reflecting on my beliefs and attitudes. If it has such power on individuals, surely it should be an easy sell as a new tool for teachers to use with students.

Well consider the words of Ulises Mejias who wrote in A Nomads Guide to Learning, "It is relatively easy to incorporate new technologies into the learning process if the goal is to merely replicate the traditional ways of doing things without significantly disturbing institutional values." The thing is social networks by there very nature are more self-directed and in a school environment it would mean a teacher would have to sacrifice the director's role leaving students more and more responsible for their own learning. Mejias went on, "But what is more difficult, and for this very reason perhaps a more worthy exercise, is to introduce new technologies while we step back and question the pedagogical principles that inform our educational models." Social networks are changing the way people learn and who they get there information from; the notion that the teacher and the prescribed curriculum as they are written today controls the content would be gone forever. Social networking when used responsibly is already a challenge to current pedagogical principles; the building of personal learning networks may become a normal activity at schools and learning how to build a personl learning network will likely become a part of the curriculum.

Mejias also looks at social networking as a way of personalizing e-learning, "What social software can do is to reintroduce the social back into the learning equation, while preserving some of the advantages in personalization that e-learning and flexible learning have introduced." If it has this kind of impact on e-learning, it would seem that more and more learning may be done through the world wide web. Even as I write this I am learning and yet it my choice about how much I write or even what I write about; the assignment expects me to choose my own learning path. This class essentially requires the students to define their content; it is the processes that matter. If this is the future of education, we are heading for some radical innovations in education in the years ahead; we are questioning our 'pedagogical principles'!

Attention Community Based Master's Students

I know many of us are feeling the strain of work, a new class (for me EC&I 831), and an action research project that is due this spring. I have this nagging voice in my brain telling me, "You gotta get going!" I am hard on myself, but I feel like I'm procrastinating. Well I decided to check procrastinating out on Youtube just to see what I could find; and I found this beautiful little clip that I now use when talking to students who delay getting to their responsibilities. It's a good laugh I hope you enjoy it.

So many ideas; so little time!

Where do I begin? I find myself a enthusiastic disciple of Couros (not intended to be sacrilegious!) and in the days that follow a class I am positively bubbling with enthusiasm as I try to spread the Word of Tech! It's interesting how uncomfortable some get when I start preaching from the Book of Couros et al! I keep hearing, "We don't have time!" Yet, some of those people are the ones who are gone before 4:00 and don't have the added strain of course work to contend with along with job responsibilities. How is it that I can find time and they can't! Anyway, I see shadows of hope and I am finding colleagues who are interested in learning more. I spent an hour with our Information Processing teacher on Wednesday after class and even she sees a need to learn more in order to keep up with the changes. I dangled the possibility of auditing the EC&I 831 class next week and I hope she is up to the invite. I really do want to see the staff I work with as enthusiastic about the possibilities technology offers as I am.

I also had a wonderful experience this morning by allowing myself to be interviewed by another Grad student in an Arts Ed program with the University of Victoria (my old turf). She is working on a project about teacher image and asked me many questions that I am still reflecting on, but in the interview I commented that I am frustrated that the most used piece of technology in our school is a piece of chalk with a chalk board! In hindsight though, the reality is probably the photocopier. The world of Web 2.0 appears to be a long way off.

Nevertheless, I feel a synergy building as my excitement is creating dialogue with my peers, my colleague's project has teachers talking to teachers about teaching, and I know there are people on staff taking little peeks into this world and thinking about its implications on them. I talked to four different staff about my Major Digital Project for the EC&I 831 class and I made overtures that I might be interested in working with them if they were interested in being involved. Planting seeds you know!

Monday, January 26, 2009

A Vision of K-12 Students Today

bjnesbitt's Vision of K-12 Students today ( got my attention. For one, I thought it was ironic that, aside from the opening images, the text of the video was done using white boards only. Most of the text was man made print, yet the point made is that students are 21st Century learners. I appreciated the irony. I also felt some frustration as the ideals of bjnesbitt's vision seem so far away in public schools today. Maybe that was his point for using the white boards.

Seeing the concept of 21st Century learners sort of jarred me as I have been so used to thinking of the 20th Century that I haven't quite shifted into thinking that it is a Century in the history books. And I'm embarassed to admit that I still don't know what a podcast is or what they are used for; that will be something I have to explore in a later blog.

I also appreciated the fact that the material is referenced at the end; it is just not thrown out as fact. Too often we see things or hear things in popular media that is not referenced and it is accepted as fact. It also reminded me of a Youtube video that I thought was very powerful that I first saw thanks to my friends at called ShiftHappens. It is a longer video (7+minutes) but the music is good! It can be viewed at It also paints a picture of a world undergoing rapid change; well worth watching. Come to think of it, I should use it with a career ed class I teach.

I have attached this picture to remind those of us who came out of the 20th century just how far we've come. This picture is of my sister checking out my dad's new word processor - errrr - electric typewriter (just so the kids know what it was called). Incidentally, the typewriter was new and the year was 1980 (the year I graduated from High School). My how the world has changed!

Trying to make sense of Twitter

I sat and viewed the Video: Teaching With Twitter - that I found in the EC&I 831 "Reading List" and found myself understanding that to Twitter effectively you need to connect through your telephone and become a proficient "Texter". David Perry, a professor at the University of Texas, talks about using his iphone but I wonder about using any cel phone. This is something I will need to explore much more. So far after a little more than a day I've learned that Alec Couros has just returned to Regina from a conference and 'rhysatwork' in the land down under caught a mess of fish yesterday. I also learned that Alec has some strong opinions about some of the things that are wrong in school - teachers who yell and buildings that provide a place for kids to watch adults work. Good points I thought though I can't image kids not meeting in face to face schools. Interesting though that a couple of thoughts that Couros Twittered on made me pause and reflect. I have one more question before I go to bed; what is a twitter and what is a tweet or are they the same thing?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

A Youtube Rookie makes the jump!

I have resisted setting up a Youtube account for some time now although I love going to Youtube for ideas to support teaching and learning. I'm not really sure why I resisted but .... maybe it goes back to the fear of putting too much of myself out there. Yet, now that I've posted a biography of myself on Youtube I know I will be checking it to see if people are viewing it; I also hope that some long lost friends stumble across it.

Setting up the Youtube account was painless and downloading my first video was even less painless. Using MovieMaker to make the video was a nightmare. The program froze on me frequently and would not allow me to have two different sound tracks at the same time. I wanted music in the background, but couldn't make it happen unless I recorded myself with the music playing in the background. I tried it but found myself making too many mistakes like recording with the music too loud. I really want to get ahold of a good movie making program, but I'm not sure what is out there yet. Anyway, I now know I can do this!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Block heaters work better in mild conditions

I sometimes wish I was more skilled with my hands and had the ability to manuafacture things because every now and again I get an idea of a product the world needs, but I lack the skill to make it happen. For example, the time has come to build a better block heater cord. It seems like every year when the really cold weather comes (-30 or colder) my block heater cord breaks. Now the idea of block heater is to keep the oil warmish in the engine block in brutally cold weather; does it make sense that this cord breaks so easily in cold weather? Absolutely not! Because of this technological failure, I have a big blue ice cube on my hands!

Now my choice is to get up early and run my vehicle so it can't freeze up or walk and wait until things warm up. It doesn't help that my pipes froze last weekend and I've been without running water since last Sunday; I can't wait for spring!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Normalization of Technology mixed with the joy of Teaching!

Today was, as usual, a busy day at school for me. I taught two classes this morning and the rest of the day was a blur as I tried to plug holes because of staff illnesses. I didn't think about it much during the day, but when I got home I thought about how technology affected my day at school. As I reflected on it, I realized that in many ways technology is a normal part of my life at work. I used Word to make some posters about the Saskatchewan Departmental Exams which began today, I used a PowerPoint lesson on paragraph writing with two grade 8 Language Arts classes I covered, I used MAT (Marks and attendance Program) to locate a phone number of a parent, my superintendant communicated a message to me regarding Math resources through e-mail, I received information about a student's flight to Ottawa coming up on the weekend through e-mail, I printed an application form for a student wanting to take an online class next semester, and I responded to an e-mail from a student taking an online class. That was the school business side; I also checked my own e-mail, checked my blog and was pleased to see someone in Rochester had responded to one of my blogs. I also noticed two student council members handwriting quotes about love to decorate the school with and I sensed some frustration on their part at the time it was taking; I suggested a copy and paste solution that they had not thought of and they ended up working on their project until six. It was just another day.

I hadn't planned to stay at school that late, but my daughter was involved in decorating and they needed a staff member to stay with them. Some complained that they were hungry so I called my wife and had her drop off some pop and chips which allowed us to sit and chat informally; it felt right. I was working, if you can call it work, with kids! I was happy and in a way didn't want the decorating to end so I prolonged it byI entertaining them with a previous blog of mine that contained a Youtube video that saw people running into a huge puddle that had been created as a practical joke.

I now realize that though I do enjoy working with technology, it is the people I am in contact with that leaves me feeling fulfilled. I enjoyed a short conversation in the hallway with a teacher about the differences between two grade 8 classes with the same course content; comparing notes about teaching, when you spend most of your time in administrivia, is actually quite refreshing! Calling a worried parent and letting her know I finally had her son's flight information was far more satisfying than finding the e-mail in the first place. And seeing students happy while doing something for the good of others and themselves on their time was somehow a joyful event. Today was a reminder, I am a teacher first and I am thankful that I was called to be one.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Goggle Reader and Labels

I dabbled into Goggle Reader last night and added the blogs of those in my class to Goggle Reader. Well today I played around with it a bit and learned that as I read through blogs that people had posted the number of blog entries to read automatically decreased. I was able to read through all the blogs of my classmates (ok - some I scanned) and I now know there is nothing left for me to read in their blogs as of 11:59 p.m. I now understand why Alec Couros was encouraging us to use Goggle Reader; I do not have to go to the participant page on the EC & I 831 Wiki ( to find the blogs of my classmates and that can save a person quite a bit of time. I am wondering how to organize folders in Goggle Reader; I will have to visit the course tutorial and see what it says.

I am also wondering about the labels that we can attach to our blogs. I just started adding them to my last couple of blogs and I noticed I got more feedback from others on the web. I'm guessing by adding labels I make it easier for web surfers to find my writing with a goggle search. I think I'll do a search to test my hunch!

Challenged but Connected!

Wow 8 comments on my blog from last night! I'm sitting here in front of my computer with a silly grin because some people thought they needed to speak their piece back at me; little ol' me! It's an interesting feeling that people from Saskatoon, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Australia, and Buffalo Narrows all connected on words I wrote. Suddenly, I don't feel like I'm talking to myself when I write these words. I have mixed feelings though; part of me is going yahoo I'm sharing and another part of me is thinking I better think things out carefully before I publish. I'm still smiling though and thinking that this could become addicting.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

I've been Elluminated

It seems like I'm constantly being exposed to programs that open up the world of possibilities to me. For the last three Tuesdays, I've been 'attending' an EC&I 831 class with Alec Couros through the power of Elluminate! I'm not even really sure who everyone in the class is because it is an open class; that is, anyone in the world with access to the Internet can participate. Today, we had people on from New Zealand, Australia, the United States, Luxembourg, and yes even Canada, including someone from Toronto; I believe we had 32 participants today and many of the visitors contributed valuable ideas to the discussion. It was a powerful demonstration about the power of a Synchronous ("Live") Session and highlighted the idea that we can learn from anyone in the world if we can arrange times and forums in which to meet. Elluminate is one such forum that gives learners a place to meet with teacher guides; it also is one program that proves you do not need mortar and bricks to have a place to educate people.

Tonight, our session was on an Overview of Connectivism (George Siemens). Siemens made the point that people are interacting differently because of technological advances. He also made the point that Web 2.0 is just another advance in a long line of technological improvements. It was a good connection to last week's session on the history of technology in Education that can be found by clicking on the link Introduction to Educational Technology (Richard Schwier & Jay Wilson). However, as good as the formal presentation was, the idea I heard tonight that I am most interested in came from an Aussie, 'rhysatwork', who wrote about the idea of the 'attention economy'. It intrigues me because I sometimes wonder if the world wide web is little like television; I mean televison is very good at commanding attention but often for meaningless programs while educational programs get little attention. Is this the Internet today? Programs like Facebook and Bebo grab a lot of attention as people share often insignificant details of their daily lives while the opportunity to learn meaningful lessons like the one we had today are largely ignored by the masses. It seems to me that those who are able to grab attention are those that influence popular culture and even political opinions!

I'm not sure we are at the point that George Siemens suggests we are; that is that 'people' are communicating differently and the PR spin campaigns are no longer controlling opinions as they once did. I think we need to qualify people with the word 'some'. I believe there is a movement, perhaps a significant movement, of people headed this way, but at the same time I know there are still Luddites among us and many Internet users who are just seeking information. They are non-participants in the exchange of ideas on the web. I know this because I was one of those people who lurked but held back. Maybe the day will come when it changes globally; right now I believe it is mostly a western world phenomenon that excludes people living in totalitarian countries, those who are poor, and those who are disadvantaged. Though the numbers of participants on the web continues to grow, we need to emphasize that only some people are buying into the world of Web 2.0 at least for now. I do agree though that it is only going to grow and the influence of Web 2.0 is going to change life as we know it today. For some, the change has happened.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Web 2.0 The Future of Education?

I read a blog a couple of nights ago that I've been mulling over for a couple of days called Web 2.0 Is The Future of Education ( It did get me wondering where technology is taking us and is it even a positive change. I know my experiences in Northern Saskatchewan leaves me struggling with a school system that despite the efforts of hardworking teachers is working for less than half of the students that attend. Content and processes are being taught in ways that cannot compete with the same effectiveness as the wired world we operate in. Many of our students are social networking and attending to other sources of information and entertainment while learning is supposed to happening. Even my classmates in my Master's program have multiple windows open on their computer as they jump from conversations with people at home to searching a name mentioned by a professor or viewing a text message on a cell phone while in class. Technology has a hold of learners today in many ways. However, I do not jump to the conclusion that technology is THE future of education; I believe though that technology has a place in education now and into the future.

Steve Hargadon makes point that there is "a tidal wave of information" being produced; he claims that there are 100,000 blogs created daily and MySpace is signing up 375,000 users everyday. I'm not sure how he found this information (and I do think we need to be adding links to factual claims like these), but I do think it is probably true. He makes the point though that to deal with the information overload we need to know how to "produce more content" so that we can understand the information we find on the web. Essentially, when we have over 100, 000 blogs being created a day, by knowing how they are created we better understand the reliabilty of the information. For one, by knowing how to blog you will realize that blogs are essentially personal editorials and narratives placed on the web; you can learn from them and be misinformed by them. Reader beware. So by asking the question where did the statistics in Hargadon's blog come from (he does make a reference to John Seely Brown in Educause Magazine earlier), I have instantly made a connection that some of what I am reading may actually be a fabrication. I certainly do not think it would be a credible source for a formal research paper. Nevertheless, the point he makes is valid, and if we accept it as valid, then we have to conclude that education needs to include the teaching of the technology of the day. The question though is that all school will be? We also should not forget that technology is constantly changing and as I learned in the presentation in my EC&I 831 class last night ( go to and click here), I have to believe that even Web 2.0 will become obselete and outdated; it to could be viewed much like a gestetner.

His assertion that Web 2.0 is the Future of Education is strongly stated. I accept that Web 2.0 will need to be a part of an education for students, but let us not forget the teachings that are not technology driven that still belong in the life of a student. I think we would all agree that Physical Education is being made even more important because of the time we spend being inactive; we also have to think about the arts, the Practical and Applied Arts, and the socialization and social networking of students at all levels.

Steve also made me realize with his blog just how much change has come about with the internet. He emphasized that essentially it began as a "one-way medium" and now it is much more interactive. I hadn't really thought of it that way before and it made me realize the significance of the change. Those who are participants in the world wide web are now much more engaged as participants and creators. Good or bad; it is what it is and we (teachers) have a responsibility to help learners navigate safely in this rapidly evolving medium.

There are of course questions about how will Web 2.0 be incorporated into curriculum. Will English curriculum writers (as well as other subjects)be mindful of the impact of Web 2.0 as they renew and rewrite Language Arts Curriculums? Will governments fund schools to allow for greater access to computers and the multiple of tools that accompany them? Will parents resist having their children exposed to the web in a way that gives an entire planet access to their images, ideas, and possibly personal information? Will teachers who resist change adopt the Web 2.0 stuff and learn it?

Steve Hargadon is a visionary and he has made some excellent comments about what education may look like in the future, but there is much work to be done in public schools and in Ministry of Education offices to make the world he foresees a reality.

Monday, January 12, 2009

You just have to fool around!

The title might have grabbed your attention, but now it is my job as a writer to keep it! I've been experimenting tonight with the settings on my blog and I learned it is possible to place an image on the title bar of the blog. I'm not happy with the image I've posted as a trial run and I hope to change it before long once I've learned a little more. I also learned how to add a gadget, although after playing the first sudoku puzzle to show up on my blog I wonder if I selected a lower quality game to attach. I'll try another version later I think.
I've been viewing other blogs and wikis with images in the titles and I am wondering how do they do that? I've been really impressed by the quality of some like the edtechposse logo and the head with an opened lock logo used on and others. It ads a special dimension to the look of the blog and it suggests that the creator has some special talents with technology. If anyone can share with me how to make a unique logo using the power of the internet, please let me know.
As I was writing this it occurred to me that capturing an image from someone else's blog or wiki is a relatively easy thing to do. It also made me wonder if there are unscrupulous bloggers who try to pose as someone they are not by using the logos of another. Maybe, this is the privacy concern that many of technologies nay sayers are flooding us all with coming out. I guess I will always be somewhat cautious about what I put on the internet about myself, but I wonder if I've already shared too much for one wanting to steal an identity.
I have also allowed my image to be used by a teacher friend and artist for her Master's project on teacher identity. She surprised me with a dress the administrator page that left me dumbfounded in the staffroom. I laughed from the soul and at the same time I wondered would the use of my head on a man's body dressed only in boxers be seen as inappropriate conduct for an administrator. You can check the site out at if you are curious. I decided it was obviously humourous and allowed the page to remain possibly forever in cyberspace.
If this is my 15 minutes of famethough, I feel cheated.

Friday, January 9, 2009

RSS Feeds

I viewed RSS in Plain English on Youtube today that I found by exploring the tutorials section of the EC&I 831 Blog and decided to experiment a little. I'm not sure I completely understood everything as I set up a g-mail account for myself ( and I explored Google Reader. And I'm not sure I had to use reader to benefit from RSS. However, I think I understand that when you use reader, it will let you know when the sites you are interested in get updated; I suspect the more I become familiar with reader the more I will see its benefits.
What I discovered about RSS though, was it acts much like favourites when you use the feeds or RSS button next to favourites. A small discovery, but nevertheless a discovery!
I can't say enough about learning from Youtube; the above mentioned site from Youtube helped me understand that Google Reader will save a person time when they are attempting to keep up with the news from multiple sites. I have lots more to learn here though.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

EC&I 831: Computers in the Classroom

Well today (actually yesterday - it's late) was the beginning of a new journey for me and the beginning of the last class of the Master's program I am enrolled in. Today's class came at the right time as in just two days back in school I've lost two teachers to extended sick leaves and a new teacher we hired quit on the spot today! I still have to figure out what to do with the class tomorrow, but that's a new day! When I received this news it was like oh my God! What next! We do not have qualified substitutes here and when a teacher disappears it means internal coverage. I'm not sure I can completely comprehend what this means to our school yet, but I digested the information for about an hour as my principal and I discussed the various scenarios that we could employ to at least temporarily keep the kids without teachers meaningfully engaged in school and then I remembered a resume that I got just before Christmas and made a call. The long and the short of it is we are doing an interview tomorrow evening to try and fill a position for the third time this year; yes, it is ugly.

I then scrambled to get home for the first class of EC&I 831; and quickly gobbled down a delicious meal my wife had prepared while I learned the basics of Elluminate (thats why I didn't try the camera today)! Sweet and sour wings are messy! Anyway, the joy of learning new things made me forget the issues in my school and allowed positive energy to return to me far more quickly than anything else could.

I've already tried a few things out tonight (worked on the wiki participant profile, investigated subscribing to the course blog, and re-watched a part of the presentation from this evening) since getting off line and I do not really want to stop except I do need to sleep and I really need to think about the needs of a Grade 8 class. However, before I go that way I need to reflect on a few things regarding my own thoughts about technology.

I love learning through technology; it is engaging and stimulating. I find myself more likely to spend a significant amount of time working on a project when I can include technology. I get excited by learning programs that I can employ to make my work life easier. For example, I found a program online to assist teachers with keeping marks on students that students and parents can access online (Engrade). I also have learned how to work with Adobe Pagemaker to produce newsletters. I am dabbling in Wikis and the possibility of having an electronic staffroom ( for our school. It has not been well received yet but my principal asked me about it today and if he gets interested than I expect the staff will come around!

I have even taken my interest in technology to this master's program as I am investigating what an administrator can do to support online learners in a school.

The school I work in has a significant problem with student attendance and I am ultimately interested in finding ways of incorporating technology with the learning program of the students. So in a way I guess I am a technology crusader who is encouraging staff to look at technology as a fantastic tool for working with students. This is not to say I believe in technology over people though. I believe that the technology requires teachers who build relationships with students while facilitating learning.