Saturday, November 14, 2009

Just another rant...

The following is a two-fold response to the synchronicity that occurs in life from time to time.

This week both my masters class and my Administrators Discussion group asked for reactions to Dan Pink's Ted Talks video...

Be forewarned, the rant begins..

I must admit that I am not feeling the love for this week's video by Dan Pink. Here's why.

Pink, in his 2009 Ted Talks video, begins by explaining that we need to think outside the box to solve the issues that are plaguing the business world today. He carefully lays out for the audience the idea that the “sweeter carrot” and “sharper stick” motivation currently in wide spread use, cannot, and will not, work in today's economy. Further, Pink declares, at 12:27 of his video, that the solution to the aforementioned crisis is to be found within “a whole new approach”, one given to us by 'scientists'. Pink then outlines his three elements of this grand, magnificent “new operating system”.

He's kidding right?

No, I am not disagreeing with Pink's assertion that intrinsic motivation is certainly a desirable attribute for all learners in the classroom. No, the difficulty I have with Punk's sales pitch is twofold: Intrinsic motivation is not new nor is it as simplistic as Pink portrays it to be!

The study of factors of motivation with which an educator can inspire students to be masters of their own learning has been around since the 1970's, as educational psychologists began to combine the theories of Weiner, Bandura and others(“Intrinsic,” 2006). Indeed, by the late 1970's researchers such as Howard S. Adelman were beginning to take the concept of a student's innate need to feel competent and applying that theory to learners with special needs. The notion that intrinsic motivation is a new fangled 'fix' annoys me to no end.

Distressing as Pink's claim of a 'new panacea' may be, it is his assertion that the 'new operating system' is so very easy to implement that truly sends me around the bend. If simply knowing that we should find our motivation from within was all that was required, educators would most certainly have told the students seated before them this fantastic piece of information, thereby avoiding the last thirty years spent disciplining students, imploring learners to reach for new heights and repeatedly insisting that 'Yes, this assignment really does need to be completed'!

The notion that simply by releasing individuals from their required duties and creativity will spring forth, that unbridled passion will be the result of free time, leaves me, well, utterly gob-smacked. Engaging students takes time, effort, and lots of planning. It is a grave injustice to all hard working teachers to claim that intrinsic motivation can come simply and easily to the classroom. This notion undermines the effort required as anyone who has spent any time in the education of children will tell you that the factors that contribute to the ability to motivate children is truly mind boggling. Each student brings with them into the classroom a unique background, both culturally and genetically. No two children are really alike, no one motivational strategy will work for all learners.

The harsh reality of the current educational system in place today is that confined within the walls of the average classroom is a wide divergence of student abilities combined with an overwhelming amount of curriculum that must be taught, a truth that is neither pleasant nor preferred. Yes, teachers strive daily to encourage and enable all their students. Yes, many strategies are implemented with internal motivation as the ultimate goal. No, unfortunately, not all learners will ever share the same drive and determination as others in the classroom. No matter what the salesman declares, snake oil is just that, snake oil...

Adelman, H. (1978). The Concept of intrinsic motivation: implications for practice and research with the learning disabled. Learning Disability Quarterly, 1(2), 43-54.

Intrinsic Motivation. (n.d.) Retrived November 12, 2009, from the Psychology Wiki:

TED Talks. (2009, August). Dan Pink on the Surprising Science of Motivation. Retrieved November 8, 2009, from

Sunday, October 11, 2009

...Part of the Path I have trod as a Teacher

What follows is a short video story of my experience with teaching and web 2.0 tools.

Wanted to share the experience, but was not sure how. Hope this gets some of the ideas across.

As my good friend @JohnFerg told me, this is really nothing more than a conversation starter...and that is really all I can ask for!

So, volume one done...looking forward to the rest of the trip!

Thanks, Banks out...

Monday, September 21, 2009

...Recharging the Batteries...EC&I 831 - Personal Introduction

Well, September started with a bang, in so many ways, and I am feeling somewhat drained...a worry this is, as there is still more than 9 months left to go in the school year.

However, I do believe that help is on the way!

EC&I 831, the open class run by Dr. Courosa, has started again. It is a sheer joy to sit in on his class and learn without the stress of 'making the grade'. It is also very good for my own teaching, as I am reminded that we all find ourselves on different places of the knowledge continuum at different times, reminding me that I need to adjust my own intentions, and make sure that I monitor all students for understanding.

In the spirit of the cohort, I decided to make my own intro vid. I have used Jing before but tried Camtasis Studio as an editor. It is what it is...

Banks out

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Is the third day too optimistic?

I followed a link provided by my PLN on Twitter to Pixton, a cartoon making site, gave it a try and here is the result.

The app seems fairly easy to navigate and I was able to create something without having to read the 'how to' pages, always a good sign for me, as I believe students will always try something first and then decide if it warrants the time and energy necessary to understand all that an application can do.

I think I may try this out with the staff on the first day, perhaps to introduce the 'How to get a Sub' issue...

Will see how this goes,


Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Coffee for a Buck

Well, here goes a ramble...

The school year just ended and I finally have a moment to sit a reflect. And the first thing I realize is that I am not a blogger by nature. I do really enjoy the experience when I force myself to sit and type...but...oh, yes, that is the issue for me...typing...yikes, no wonder I sympathize with some of my students as they shudder when I say it is time for the lab...

This spring I team taught with Yvonne Mason from South Carolina, using a ning to reach 124 students from Alberta and S.C. while covering the Orwell novel 1984, a move that infused so much passion into my teaching as to leave me totally exhausted, yet so fulfilled...I am very thankful that I had this opportunity to grow as an educator as well as a person. I am also grateful for the very supportive PLN that surrounds me daily - Thank you all!!!

My good friend John and I were asked to deliver a 5 week 'What tech can do for you in the classroom' session for CARC this fall, using Moodle as an instructional platform...exhilarating yet terrifying too. We both despise the sit and be talked to type presentation, the kind that throws a hundred buzz words at the audience, leaving those still awake wondering what they are doing wrong, feeling left behind and out of the loop...we are really trying to infuse hands-on learning into the sessions. We are hoping to use Moodle to give the participants a forum to guide their experience, from pre-reading, to posting questions during the mini-course, to a forum for continuing the learning after the cohort has finished. New experience for me, but really looking forward to it.

John and I were also asked to host a session at our district PD day,as well as one at the Leading and Learning conference this fall in Red Deer. This one really makes me excited, as the great Dr. Alec Couros will be there. I hope that by then John and I will have enough experience to make this one session engaging and sustainable!

So many wonderful events this past year, it seems hard to believe that it has only been 180 teaching days since fall began. My eldest daughter has turned 18, graduated, and has been accepted to a performing arts program this fall...last time I will have her in my classroom, very bittersweet indeed. Hard to think that time can move so slowly some days yet so quickly in terms of years...

I was humbled this spring when I made Vice-Principal. Again, one of those terrifying yet thrilling chapters of my life. I am looking forward to the challenges this new role will bring, and am counting on my friends to keep me grounded and focused. I really hope to bring about some consistency for the staff, and feel that my biggest role will be one of getting a routine in place, one that both the staff and the students know and understand.

As I sit here watching the young white-tail buck in my front yard, I think that the summer is just what I needed to get some energy back. I do have a tons of projects to take up my time, including writing an article for the NCTE English journal with my dear friend Yvonne, to planning out the fall sessions with John, but somehow, just sitting here with a coffee looking at the velvet antlers of the young buck makes everything alright...peace it seems has come home again...this is after all what summer is to teachers I think...

Friday, April 17, 2009

Speaking of specifics....

Again, I seem to be having difficulty answering the prompt for this week's required blog posting.
Explain the critical organization and management steps and tools I would employ when implementing a PBL.
I am sure I have answered this question more than once this week, what with two discussion postings,four replies to four fellow student's postings, a 700 word reflection paper and the normal, day to day doings of a front line teacher...
Plan, envision, query PLN, plan some more, implement, reflect, assess, adapt, modify, reflect, reassess, and finally evaluate the entire process, making notes of ways to improve the project for 'next' time.

This is impossible, as each assignment is individualized for the content area, the grade and the make up of the students within the classroom. The PBL demands classroom management, but so to do all teaching lessons. Introduce the concept, ensure that the students understand the intended outcomes through various assessment practices, including verbal conferences and written rubrics. Set up the type of summative assessment strategies to be used, modify as required by the ongoing assessment. Reflect at the end of each day as to progress of the groups and adapt the teaching lesson for the next day. Use a variety of instructional techniques, so as to encompass as many different learning styles as possible, and keep the project open-ended to allow the incorporation of multiple-intelligences into the culminating project. This is as specific as I can be without planning a specific PBL with a specific curriculum outcome in mind for a specific grade level and knowing the specifics of the makeup of the classroom.

Specific enough? Probably not...but it is all I have at this specific point in time...

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

One week, two blogs...Part duh?

Okay, perhaps twelve hours straight at the computer may have fried my mind a bit, but I am really struggling to answer part two of this week's blogging requirements. I just seems that the notion of explaining how web 2.0 tools and the six student standards go together is like trying to explain why peanutbutter and chocolate go together...some things are just made for each other...

Well, to make my point for me, the NETS were made specifically for the emerging Internet, as the ISTE states that the NETS surfaced in 1998, just as the education world was becoming very aware of the impact that technology would have on the modern, new millennium classroom. So, if the NETS were designed, modified and updated because of Web 2.0 applications, explaining how Web 2.0 tools can help students meet standards created in response to the use of the Internet and the applications utilized by said Internet, seems , well, somehow circular...

Yes, creativity is limited only by the imagination of the teacher and student, yes, communication between classrooms across the world has never been easier, yes, research skills must be taught, yes, thinking skills are absolutely required, yes, responsibility for one's footprint is paramount and yes, all users should have some understanding of how the technology works...what more needs to be said? Is it necessary to list applications and the potential use of each tool? Seems redundant and poor use of the limited resources I have left...

One week, two blogs...Part One

So, choose one application from each of the three groups and explain how I would use it in the classroom...only one problem, I make use of these applications already in my classroom. Okay, not a major problem, and perhaps I do not use all of the sites from the list, but I do incorporate the vast majority of these web 2.0 apps into my daily teaching. However, I do believe that any of the required sites I do not use is simply because I have found different applications to facilitate the same intended outcomes.
I have used Delicious for several years now, and am very familiar with how this bookmarking application works. I do have a Diigo account, and have used it, but sometimes the familiar is just easier, more comfortable and requires less mind to operate. Diigo does have some fine features, but when introducing the concept of bookmarking in the clouds with my students I find that I revert to what I know best. I use Delicious as a way to introduce the concept of 'vetting' web sites. I have the students begin a project, this term it was Hamlet, and then let them start hunting for resources about the play. After a few minutes I ask how it is going, knowing full well that the class is overwhelmed by the sheer volume of response that have poured forth from the google search they all have been doing. We then begin to explore tags in Delicious, and the fact that each tag has been added by someone that had taken the time to read and tag a site. Naturally we also discuss that this does not mean that all tags have been done correctly, but it is certainly better than a open-ended google search. The concept that all bookmarks can be accessed anywhere anytime is also enlightening for the students, as is the fact that they, as a class, can now share their tags, making the research task a collaborative exercise as well.

One of the best ways I have found to help assist students with new applications like Delicious is to do a instructional video. I use Jing, and then upload it to Screencast, and embed it into the class wiki. Easy, quick and effective for demonstrating the basics to the majority of students. Otherwise, I tend not to answer too many questions of the 'how do I do' variety, as sources like Youtube seem to have a video for every occasion.

Social networks are really a natural way to invite collaboration between students. I have written before of the potential challenges that may occur with a ning in the classroom. However, in the short time our ning has been open to the students involved in the Ideas without Borders project, I feel a positive 'vibe', as the students are sharing pictures and comments with each other, even outside of class time! Our school is closed this week for spring break, but right now as I write this there are three students, two Canadians and one American, using the chat feature to talk about the novel they have to read, 1984! Takes so little to make me happy these days...

I have used Voicethread to great success, if I may say so my, not really. Last year I used this application when teaching peer-editing to my grade 12's. Please see Wish for an example of just how powerful student voices can be if we as educators allow for creativity in the classroom. It is important to note at this juncture that I inform all my parents as to what is happening in my classroom via my wiki. This is in addition to the F.O.I.P. And Internet usage forms that are signed by parents in the first week of school. No form, no Internet, really simple...

Wowa, long winded today it seems, and I still have one more blog to pen...well, off to see what Part Two brings...what, you thought I planned these blogs? Please...really...

Friday, April 3, 2009

Words have wings...

My masters class question this week centres around the challenges of using a global Project Based Learning approach in the classroom. I am thinking this question will be so much easier to answer in about four weeks as I will be well into my own co-teaching across borders attempt by then!!!

One of the issues I was concerned about as my teaching partner and I began to set up this project was access to computers and web 2.0 tools to facilitate the collaboration and communication between the American and Canadian students. This has proved to be a non-factor. I am truly blessed to work in such an open and progressive thinking jurisdiction! I have had assistance from my tech department and approval from my administration team, as well as encouragement and support from my fellow staff members, known as my PLN Entourage .

What I have encountered so far in the beginning stages of our project is more in the area of management. Between the two classrooms, we are teaching 124 students. This is fantastic, but also somewhat overwhelming. Every member of our ning must have their profile checked out, to ensure that the basic rules of F.O.I.P. have been adhered to. Additionally, the members had to be put into groups and then these groups needed to, collaboratively, come up with a appropriate name for their group. These names must also be approved. Time consuming, but necessary. What I believe to be the most important aspect of this facet of the project is that we as a team have discovered that by open dialogue we can solve any and all problems that come our way. Lots and lots of open communication!

I must admit that I am looking forward to the next few weeks and the problems that may arise. I take great pride in the fact that I believe my partner and I are more than up for the challenges that might occur and believe we can handle anything thrown at us. Now, I just hope I haven't just jinxed us...

Friday, March 20, 2009

Just another EDIM502 blog, really it is nothing, really nothing...

So, the question of the week is what pedagogical rationale is there for using a Problem Based Learning method? My answer has to be that it addresses the issues of metacognition, multiple intelligences and differentiated learning styles, with the aim that the students become life long learners.

My curriculum states that I must engage the students in metacognition. To quote the program of studies “Essentially, metacognition involves reflection, critical awareness and analysis, monitoring, and reinvention.” This most certainly fits the initial research I have undertaken as to the constructivist approach described in the edutopia website. The whole idea of students reflecting on what has worked, and just as importantly, what has not worked, is a vital component of my teaching philosophy. The ability to make mistakes and learn from those mistakes is not just good teaching practice, it is a skill much needed after High School ends. A summative examination with no chance for feedback gains the student very little, robing them of an opportunity to acquire important real-world based knowledge

Other classmates have already pointed out the obvious pedagogical tie-in with Gardner's multiple intelligences. This is a driving force with our Curriculum and Instruction Department, and a foundation of the Unit by Design template we, as a division, are encouraged to incorporate into all our unit planning. I really see the value of introducing this concept to my students, and watching them begin to reflect upon who they are and what really matters to them. Differentiated learning styles means that each student can direct the planning of the PBL to better suit their own needs, be they auditory, visual or tactile/kinesthetic. I have had students begin a project, one where they are to teach a concept to other classmates, by polling the group as to their preferred method of learning. Powerful use of thinking I would say. These two approaches really do maximize the chances that the student will have a better than average chance of constructing meaning from the project.

One of the most important goals of education in this century has to be desire to have all students become life long learners. This means taking what they have previously learned and using that repository of information to tackle all problems thrown at them in their chosen areas of employment. The fact that students have the chance to leave High School having been engaged in learning that they planned, as well as being exposed to reflective practises that illuminate who they are, must certainly give them the confidence that they can continue to grow and prosper regardless of where life takes them.

While the PBL model of instruction cannot be used for all types of learning situations, when used properly it can be an effective method of instruction for achieving Wiggins and McTighe's three fundamental goals of education: the acquiring of important information and skills, making meaning of the content and transfering of that knowledge to new situations.

Friday, March 13, 2009

You say Tomato, I say Tomato..oh, wait a minute here..

I thought going into this class that I would most likely emerge a fan of the PBL model of instruction. After reading the required three articles, I began to understand that I may already be a huge supporter of this teaching method. Indeed, the concepts of student choice and the importance of continuous assessment bare a striking resemblance to the idea I know as Rich Assessment Projects.

The idea of giving students a choice in the direction that an assignment may take is a very empowering presence in a classroom. True, it can also be terrifying to begin with, especially for the linear, 'just tell me what I have to do to get an A' student. However, once these students understand that they can design the project to suit their leaning style, the fear seems to dissipate. I really like the openness of designing units with a clear end point in mind but with built in flexibility as to how we, as a group 'get there'. I have found that this approach has lead us as learners to places we never envisioned ourselves going, as the questions raised or the interests sparked through research takes the project in an entirely new and unexpected yet productive path.

This ability to optimize student interest also manifest itself in the aspect of feedback. I am certain that a carefully phrased question that provides an opportunity for the student to reflect upon their own knowledge is a key component of the student driven project. I am amazed at the previous learning that is employed when a student begins to build a project,encounters difficulty and solves the issue by drawing upon a set of skills previously learned. I must mention at this juncture that I teach Senior High English Language Arts grades ten through twelve. This is a huge advantage, as I am able to begin introducing content and concepts to the tens with the understanding that I will be able to incorporate this 'previous knowledge' into my senior assignments. Feedback can also occur at any stage of the project and this has proven to be very constructive, as students are able to learn as the project progresses,as opposed to the traditional method of deliver content and then give a summative final exam. These tests usually only supply a 'mark', rather than a break down of areas of strength and areas that may need improvement. Additionally, with a summative exam, learning seems to end, rather than be a continuous act. With a Rich Assessment Project, the student is being consistently monitored and receives formative assessment at all stages, from initial design through to completion.

As confidant as I may sound about my understanding of the intricacies of Project Based Learning, I must confess that I have many questions yet to be answered. How can I incorporate more of the real world into my projects? The question also has arisen as to whether the English Language Arts curriculum can be adapted to answer real life problems as easily as the math or science subject areas seem to be able to do. Is it easier to do a PBL at a lower grade level? It appears perhaps so, as the ability to blend subject areas together in a project can be done in Division 1 and 2 but becomes almost impossible in Division 4. Is a Rich Assessment Project really the same as Project Based Learning?

Tomato, Tomato? Or apples and oranges? I look forward the coming weeks and the learning that I am positive will occur!



Sunday, March 8, 2009

Project Based Learning for the Easily Distracted English Teacher

So, I am learning that to blog takes time for me, perhaps more than for others. I do find that I am consistently thinking of thinks that I want to say, but somehow...

Anyway, this blog is about the concept of PBL, or Project Based Learning. I am not sure if what I have been doing is really PBL or not, but am very excited to learn what the ins and outs of this teaching method are. I hope that by the end of the grad class I will have grown enough to be more than just dangerous...

I am quite concerned that I may have some difficulties in finding a project that satisfies the requirements of the class and meet my needs in an English High School classroom. The initial reading that I have done indicates that the end result should answer a question, solve a problem or create a solution to a difficulty. I may, most likely am, wrong on this count, but more than willing to continue to explore the concept of PBL.

I am now in search of online examples that others are willing to share of their work with PBL in the English area. I am not a creative individual,but one that can adopt or mashup other's ideas into something that can be used in my classroom. On that note, I really enjoyed this Larry Lessig Video that just came across my T'deck...perhaps this helps eplain why I have trouble writing blogs...but I digress...

Some can come up with the ideas, others can put them into use...

The quest for knowledge continues...



Saturday, February 14, 2009

Wish I had half this talent...wish I could take half the credit for this student's brilliance...

The following exemplar is one that I had to share. This particular student went above and much so that I will readily admit that I was influenced by the material and therefore I believe that I may not have been very objective when I reviewed the project for grading purposes. 

In retrospect, I should have watched the Voicethread and then walked away for a while...hindsight, always perfect...ahhh, who am I kidding, he nailed it...

The instructions were quite simple:

a) -Read Night, by Elie Wiesel and complete your required personal journals (tumblr).

b) - As a class, watch “Band of Brothers “– episode Nine- ‘Why we Fight’

c) View class set of Holocaust pictures.

d) -Brainstorm and complete a rich assessment project. See Rubric
Your project must be able to be embedded in to a Voicethread.

You will make three Voicethread entries:1 will be your project, 2 will be your rational for 'why you did what you did' and 3 will be your response to the critiques posted by your fellow classmates.

e) -Review and critique the Voicethread projects your fellow classmates have completed.

Remember the guidelines we have established for analysis and of course the Golden Rule: Respect at ALL times!

With those instructions, this student produced the following Voicethread. Not an essay, not a poster, but a song, because in his words "I get more of what I want to say out when I play."

This project met the following Alberta Program of Studies General and Specific Outcomes:
GO-1 > 1.2.2 GO-2 > 2.2.1/.2 >2.3.1/.2/.3 GO-4 > 4.1.1/.2/.3/.4 GO-5 >5.1.1/.2/.3

This blog entry and the contents are licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.
Please respect this human's right to their IP

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Jump Ship, This One Over Here Does It All! or Should I stay or should I go?

Okay here goes, a personal reflection on my experiences this week using Diigo and Picnik. Frustrating, that is the word. Not in the sense that the applications were difficult to manipulate, but rather in that the more I learn of web 2.0 applications, the more I realize that for the foreseeable future I will be exposed to new, better, and more powerful programs, as well as the same unanswerable question: Should I stay or should I go?

I have used Delicious as a social bookmarking application since July 06 and have grown accustomed to how the application works, so much so in fact, that I find I tag without realizing it. Now I do not mean to imply that I use all the power that Delicious has to offer, nor do I always tag and bundle as I should, but I know where everything is on my toolbar and that is a comfort. This week working with Diigo I explored the basics, enough to have imported my Delicious boo
kmarks, tagged some new sites and setup a Webslide, complete with audio. But is it better than Delicious? I do not know at this point.

The story of Picnik echoes that of the Delicious saga above. I find Picnik to be comparable with the majority of online photo editing tools available. Lucas King has put together a fine list of open source applications, complete with annotations. Yet again the question surfaces; a what point do I turn my eyes from the twitters announcing the latest, greatest, “my, you have to see this application...”.

Without doubt, these applications can and do have real value in the classroom. I use Delicious with my high school classes to great success. I look forward to those
times when students start sharing their bookmarks, and realize that other classmates have different resources tagged. The whole “Wow, I do not have to find everything by myself” ahha moments...why we teach sometimes.

Online photo editing applications are also of increasing value, as the cost of site licence based programs can be prohibitive to some school districts. So the question is not one of benefit, but rather one that asks how does one know when to change applications? Yes, sometimes there is no choice but to search out a new application, as the favourite standby has disappeared, or worse yet, become one of those 'upgrade to get the good stuff' sites.

This frustration will no doubt last for some time to come. To migrate to
another app or stick it out and be content without all the newest bells and whistles heralded by the next generation of up and comers in the web 2.0 world.

Preference is a consideration indeed, but to make an informed decision one has to invest time and brain power to learn a new program, and these commodities are in short supply here. Yes, I wish I knew what others feel about this issue. What do other web 2.0 users think of the newest offerings, is there a strategy in place, did I miss a memo again?

Friday, February 6, 2009

To Twitter or Not to...

Edim510 paper

Using Twitter (essay due Fri)

Write a 1-2 page paper outlining your experience with Twitter during this week. Include ways you see that Twitter can benefit your own professional development and/or how it may be used to effectively support instruction.

My reply...yes, a risk indeed...

masters attempt - Get more Business Documents

Friday, January 30, 2009

These are the Rollercoaster days of our lives...

This blog is a collaborative effort between John Ferguson and Stephen Banks

The rollercoaster of the week ends with a high!

But as with a rollercoaster we've also had a few lows.

Over the past year we've had discussions on the ineffective personal development activities associated with technology. When presenting 20 different apps and programs in 2 hours often leads to a state of overload, which then puts us into a position of making people feel they are 20 apps behind, when in reality we might actually only use 2 or 3. Why would someone ever get on the ride then they think everyone else is soooooo far ahead of them? We were asked to do a presentation (at a staff meeting of all places) on how we've used technology in our classes this year. Now, this captive.....errrrr....captivated audience now had to sit through 3 colleagues’ and the division tech guru present examples apps/programs. Between the four of us we probably did at least 7 apps and at least 20 jargon words. You can imagine how we were so inspired and proud of what we accomplished after this "forced" technology presentation. I'm sure the High School p.e. teacher is going to go out and do a collaborative technology infused project with his students next week. Not sure on how or why we stooped to this low. Maybe the familiarity with this form of presentation, the setting and our own bad habits set in, but it happened and we must learn from it.

So the high...spent Thursday in my room with two fellow staff members, one who has not been overly accepting of the change that technology can bring. Overwhelmed is the sentiment most often expressed by this teacher, and fair enough, as we all handle our life loads in our own way. But on Thursday something changed, not with bells and whistles but with small steps and shy grins of accomplishments. This person ended the day by working on her new twitter account. We then had a invigorating discussion about how we can now twitter each other during class, as we will be teaching the same section (Social Studies 10-1) during the same block. This led to an exploration how we can have the students twitter both teachers and other students in the opposite classroom...not exactly flattening the world but as they say, all journeys begin with a first step...

The journey the two of us have been on has started paying dividends in our school beyond the boundaries of our class walls. Other teachers are realizing that our collaboration is working for us and our students. It is an example for them and they're starting to want on.

It is OK to collaborate and work together. We don't have to be individuals in the school; we can truly be members of a team. (a little background...we are a k-12 school and often we are the only people teaching the subject). This is a good way to end this week and start a new semester on Monday and now we must maintain the momentum and continue to convert the others to take a "Ride".

Thanks for reading,

John and Stephen

picture courtesy of:

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Convergence and the podcast

So...finished my second writing assignment for my grad class and thought I should share this, but simply just copy and pasting seemed too after many hours of trial and error, or shall we say error and error and, well, you get the podcast of sorts can be found below...

This essay/podcast was inspired by John Ferguson's recent blog.

The mind map I spoke of can be found at mind42.

The Jeff Utecht's graph can be found here.

Musical accompaniment by The Box

Please enjoy, and as always, feedback welcome.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

What do the shy do online?

This thought just needed to come out...

With the proliferation of web tools that make social networking so easy, what happens to people that are shy?

Please let me explain, if I can...okay, so I am sitting here working on the laptop, getting connected to the web world and I see my twitterfox twinkling with new twitters. Today, most were from people at Educon, twittering about people they were meeting or sessions they were attending, adding tiny urls to photos of presenters or places they were staying, or eating at, or going to or from...

Now apart from the jealousy factor, as they where twittering away about the fun they were having and I was looking outside my window at the birds frozen stiff at the feeders, which really is a sad sad site, I thought to myself would I be the kind of person that would twitter my every move? Would I share my day with others, those that stalk, er follow me? Then I thought about blogging and tumblrs and Google Docs and the many other ways teachers have to get students to post thoughts to the web so others may read these writings and share feedback for the betterment of the student.

Long way to get here I know, but the next question that struck me was what happens to those students that are not open people? What about the ones that are not ready to put themselves out there for others to 'see', so to speak. I know that we as educators try to insure that all student information is confidential, and that only pen names are to be used, but if a student fears criticism, getting it under their real name or a pseudonym is not much of a difference. I wonder if sometimes we are asking something of our students that they may not be ready to commit to.

I really have no answers, not even guess at this point. I am planning my next semester and am hoping to incorporate many web 2.0 tools in my classroom. I will need to keep this in mind...



Sunday, January 18, 2009

Everybody get together right now

What follows is a reply to a very very good blog by Jeff Utecht.

I am so impressed with his battle plan to conquer the fear I need to build on this idea and find a way to let my IT department know that the world is really moving away from the lock-down attitudes of the 90's. Free the students and we free the future...


Thanks so much for this excellent rant! I was just informed that our IT department is currently constricting, um, constructing a policy that would mandate which web 2.0 applications are allowed in the classrooms...and for all the same reasons you stated above.

So, how do Information Hippies change the world? What are the digital equivalents of Sit Ins? Protest Marches?

"Come on people now, smile on your brother, everybody get together right now:"

TheYoungbloods -


Friday, January 16, 2009

Thoughts inspire thoughts which beget further thoughts...

So tonights words are brought to you courtesy of a thought inspired by Will Richardson, and his blog entitled “Web 2.0 Not for Everyone (?) . Richardson relays a discussion he had with a former colleague that when coupled with a few other facets of his life caused him to arrive at the following:
In short, all of it’s got me thinking about how Web 2.0 technologies cater to a certain group of abilities or intelligences more than others, and it’s got me wondering about the consequences.”
I realized as I read this that I too have been wondering about my approach to Web 2.0 and if I may have been missing the mark with some of my students. I have read the comments back and forth on the blog in question, and believe that I understand the many different perspectives being shared. I like the comment from Kelly Hines, as I too think we need to teach using all of our best strategies, and that we must also try to give the students an opportunity to learn the tools necessary for, today...
As for the collaborative nature of the web, it is not something I struggle with. I get that!!! As a matter of fact I have been the recipient of some excellent collaboration myself this week, as I have worked on two different projects with fellow staff members, both which resulted in deeper understandings for all least that is the impression I have of the events.
No, where Richardson's comment hit me the hardest is with me personally, as I am not sure I have all of the tools required to be successful in the new web 2.0 world. I read well, and love to discuss what I am learning, but therein lies the rub...I am a better orator than a typer...and yes I know if I only practice I can become a proficient typist...a line I am positive students all over North America have heard year after year. But the fact is that some of us lack certain fine motor skills. It takes me a long time to compose thoughts using a keyboard. As it is for some of my students. And that is the important lesson for me here.
What I really like about the readings I do every day is the messages that I take back to the classroom, and this one resonates with me...I am thrilled with this learning process and the implications to my teaching...always making me think and rethink what am I doing and why am I doing it!
I love the web, and love my G'reader,

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Good Teaching outshines Good Technology

Okay, quick post here…trying to get down some thoughts before I lose them in the drifting snow…

I was very impressed with last night and the EC & I 831 class that I was privileged to be a part of. This online class was a treat for me!!1 I cannot thank Alec Couros enough for allowing me to partake in this extraordinary event. If I am not mistaken, I think that the two presenters, Dr. Rick Schwier and Dr. Jay Wilson, were broadcasting from the University of Saskatoon, while Alec was at the University of Regina. Myself, well I was at home parenting, cooking and doing dishes! I also believe that many other people in attendance were also at places other than the Uni of Regina.

Miles apart yet all together! Fantastic!!

I must admit that I found myself watching these presenters with a rather removed perspective at times, as I noticed that I was taking mental notes regarding the techniques used to present rather than the content being delivered. This is in no way a slight, but rather kudos of sorts, as I kept asking myself why it was that I was so engaged with this type of classroom. After watching for a bit, it dawned on me that these two fine gentlemen modelled excellent teaching strategies: humour, knowledge of the material, and a sense that they really cared about what they were delivering. It was not the technology that was fascinating, but rather good teaching strategies being used by two good teachers! Perhaps good is understating it…

Anyway, being a bit of a propeller head, the technology drew me in, the teachers kept me engaged…is that not the way it should be?

Thanks again Alec for letting me be an interloper,



Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Wouldn't it be nice...

I am including the complete text of a blog that struck me a hard, mind-numbing blow as I read it.

The blog comes from Will Richardson's Weblogg-ed post entitled "Teacher as Global Celebrity". Included is Will's reaction to the idea put forth by Chris Anderson.


I’m not sure this will ever come to pass, but talk about standing the world on its end. Chris Anderson of Wired and Ted answers the question “What Will Change Everything” with this: “The Web Empowered Revolution in Teaching“.

For one thing, the realization that today’s best teachers can become global celebrities is going to boost the caliber of those who teach. For the first time in many years it’s possible to imagine ambitious, brilliant 18-year-olds putting ‘teacher’ at the top of their career choice list. Indeed the very definition of “great teacher” will expand, as numerous others outside the profession with the ability to communicate important ideas find a new incentive to make that talent available to the world. Additionally every existing teacher can greatly amplify their own abilities by inviting into their classroom, on video, the world’s greatest scientists, visionaries and tutors. (Can a teacher inspire over video? Absolutely. We hear jaw-dropping stories of this every day.)



The reason this hit home for me is that in a month's time I will have a fourth year education student starting their final practicum in my classroom. I know that this student is bright, technologically literate and more than competent, but is unsure of what the future holds for teachers... wouldn't it be nice to have this idea to hold up as motivation...



Sunday, January 4, 2009

On the way to recycle...

While driving to the 1. 4 million waste transfer site, (an irony here to be sure, as the building is almost useless, inconvenient and will most likely require renovations before it celebrates it's first anniversary) I heard an advert on the radio that made me wonder about the public perception of the net.

The ad in question stated that if you search the 'Internet' for framing, you will be directed to a site that advocates the framing of others for all your evil actions. This ad was complete with sinister voice and unpleasant intonations. Of course this biased bit was followed by a sweet voiced man extolling the virtues of the yellow, because if you search these benign pages you will find a family framing business, one ready to frame those family Christmas photos. I did a quick google search under framing and much to my surprise I did not come across any web site that promised to “cover my tracks”!

Anyway, all digressions aside, this insipid interruption into my peaceful drive thorough the countryside caused me to question whether people really do still think that the net is full of stalkers, ready to spread porn filled viruses and high-tech Bond-like spyware! Dum dum dum dum dum dum(theme from Jaws, not sure of the phonetic spelling for the lyrics now running around my head)

You see I have been reading blogs, twitters and actual books that are all centred around the concept that the web is a good place, a place that will and must become second nature, if not already, to all up and coming students. It came as a bit of a surprise that the idea of the web being a scary place is still used as a propaganda tool to sell a product. Perhaps I need to open the blinders a bit? Expand my readings? Is it still a bad neighbourhood, full of desperadoes, deviants and delinquents? Yes, it has been, can be and will be again for some, but to such an extent that the web can still be marketed as a virtual Sin City?

I know not...

And another thing, after the aforementioned ad, the song In the year 2525 came on, and that got me thinking, hey, Jetson, I want my Jetcar!