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!