Teacher Feature #52 – The Value of Teachers

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As a youngster in elementary school, I thought that only students looked forward to summer vacation. Once I became a teacher, I realized that teachers often looked forward to their holidays with even more enthusiasm than their students.

However, in about two months from now, the first day of a new school year will draw closer. It’s funny that as the remaining days of the summer vacation decrease, the appreciation that many parents have for teachers, often increases proportionally. True, over the summer, individual parents are engaged helping to plan and organize activities for their limited number of school-aged children.  However, when you mutiple this smaller number by a factor of 10 or 15, most parents begin to appreciate the patience and dedication of teachers who facilitate learning within much larger classrooms of students.

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Teacher Feature #52 – Unknown Author – June, 2015

To those readers who are educators or parents, I wish you a happy Canada Day tomorrow and I encourage you to spend time over the summer connecting with your family.  May I be so bold as to suggest that you do your utmost to disconnect from the pressures of your daily lives by leaving your cell-phones and pagers turned off.

Yesterday, I visited our family cottage to help my sister clean up some fallen trees that had recently come down on her propertry. This cottage has been in our family since the 1920’s and fosters many dear memories of family life. Whether it was the chores of going to the pump at the corner of the street to fill a pail with water or cutting the lawn, the cottage was, and continues to be, a place that fosters important childhood memories.

Perhaps times were simpler then. We never had TV in the cottage. Rather we’d stay up until midnight playing cards or board games with family members. We’d read novels, go for long walks along the beach, build sand castles, and chase frogs. We didn’t need the Internet, iPad, laptop, Netflix, smart-phone, Nintendo, PlayStation or Xbox to connect with others or entertain ourselves.

To those who are starting your summer vacation, I urge you to follow the wise words of Arianna Huffington who stated “Disconnecting from technolgy to reconnect with ourselves is absolutely essential.”

Take care & keep smiling :-)

Larger Image: Brian Metcalfe’s Teacher Feature “photostream”
https://www.flickr.com/photos/life-long-learners/sets/72157625102810878/

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How heavy is a glass of water?

Food for Thought, Reflection, Tip No Comments »

On Valentine’s Day, I attended a function where Doreen Blackman, another retired teacher, handed me a piece of paper containing the following story and suggested I might enjoy the message. After reading it, I knew I wanted to share it through a blog post. When I got home, I searched the web and found a variety of similar posts to the following:

glass-H20-400x600-TA professor began his class by holding up a glass with some water in it. He held it up for all to see and asked the students, “How much do you think this glass weighs?”

“50 grams!” ….”100 grams!” ….. “125 grams!” … the students answered.

“I really don’t know unless I weigh it,” said the professor, “but, my question is: What would happen if I held it up like this for a few minutes?”

“Nothing” … the students said.

“Okay what would happen if I held it up like this for an hour?” the professor asked.

“Your arm would begin to ache,” said one of the students.

“You’re right, now what would happen if I held it for a day?”

“Your arm could go numb, you might have severe muscle stress and paralysis and have to go to hospital for sure!” ventured another student and all the students laughed …

“Very good, but during all this, did the weight of the glass change?” asked the professor.

“No” was the answer.

“Then what caused the arm ache and the muscle stress?”

The students were puzzled.

“What should I do now to reduce the pain?” asked professor again.

“Put the glass down!” said one of the students.

“Exactly!” said the professor.

Life’s problems are something like this. Hold it for a few minutes in your head and they seem OK.

Think of them for a long time and they begin to ache.

Hold it even longer and they begin to paralyze you.

You will not be able to do anything.

It’s important to think of the challenges or problems in your life, but EVEN MORE IMPORTANT is to …

“PUT THEM DOWN” at the end of every day before you go to sleep.

That way, you are not stressed, you wake up every day fresh and strong and can handle any issue, any challenge that comes your way!

So, when your day ends today, remember my friends to …

PUT THE GLASS DOWN!

I must admit that, as someone who can be somewhat perfectionistic at times, I often spend hours trying to complete a task to my high standards. My wife says in some cases, I may in fact perseverate when I cannot solve or complete a task to my self-imposed benchmark. I recall when I was an Educational Technology Consultant and was editing and writing my monthly “Bits and Bytes” educational newsletter, I often got home from work at 2:00 or 3:00 am. Such 18 hour days often occurred at the middle of each month when my newsletter submission deadline approached.

A colleague often asked me “When is the job good enough?” In other words, could I submit the newsletter after working a 10 hour day knowing that it was not still not up to my standards. I admit, that in those days, to use this water glass metaphor, I was reluctant to spill any water regardless if it would reduce the stress I was feeling.

When I look back at the efforts of our Educational Technology team, we were amazing, worked long hours both in the office and at home and were motivated from within to complete all tasks to the best of our abilities. We didn’t take short cuts, we didn’t spill any water, and and we rarely “put the glass down”. Now that I’m retired, I must take care to put the glass down each night, so I can focus on any time-consuming tasks with a fresh, new outlook each morning.

Take care & keep smiling :-)

Credits: The above anecdote is modified slightly from the post “Put the Glass Down”.

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Happy Fifth Blogging Birthday

Food for Thought, LwICT, Reflection No Comments »

My “Life-Long-Learners” blog started as a New Year’s resolution on January 1st, 2010. My first blog post was entitled “Life-Long-Learners and the ‘3Rs’”. In it, I shared my thoughts about the “3R’s” … not the traditional “Readin, ‘Riting, and ‘Rithmetic” but rather “Resolution, Retired, and Re-wired”.

My New Year’s resolution, five years ago, was to begin sharing my educational ideas and resources through my brand-spankin’ new “Life-Long-Learners” blog. After three years of retirement, I missed the important interaction with educators and students that had motivated me during my forty years as a K-12 teacher and Educational Technology Consultant. In fact, Manitoba Education’s recent implementation of the K-8 “Literacy with Information and Communication Technology (LwICT) Across the Curriculum” helped re-wire my focus on how educators needed to change and how technology could enhance learning in all disciplines. Will Richardson stated that “… we as educators need to reconsider our roles in students’ lives, to think of ourselves as connectors first and content experts second”. This profound idea resonated with me five years ago and even more so today. In fact, throughout the past five years of blogging, I have tried to foster “connections”, share ideas and resources, and model Michelangelo’s famous statement “Ancora Imparo!” which he made at 87 years of age.

However, as I reflect on my 5th blogging birthday, I think the following “Creative Commons” licensed photo captures the way I feel.

Five cupcakes in a row 400x266

On January 1, 2010, when I wrote my first blog post, everything was in focus as I embarked on this new learning adventure. Not only was I learning WordPress and finding new ways to engage my mind, the “icing on the (cup)cake” was my ability to share ideas and resources with other educators. Furthermore, the individuals, who took the time to provide me with feedback through posting comments, made my life special and helped me to be a better life-long-learner.

However, as my years of blogging continued, the focus, like the picture, became less intense and began to blur in the background. Lately, I’m finding that I lack the necessary “connections” with the students and teachers that have inspired me to write. When working as an Educational Technology Consultant, I always found the questions that were asked by educators to be the stimulus I needed to write an article which shared ideas and resources.

This is not to say that there have not been opportunities to regain my focus. For example, my excursion into the world of “Digital Storytelling” through the innovative on-line DS106 course was an opportunity that engaged me and fostered an exciting, new way of learning.

However, now that I have been retired for 7.5 years, I am struggling to find innovative ideas and perhaps, more importantly, time to write blog posts.

True, I continue to regularly attend MAETL meetings and ManACE TIN nights, where I always get energized by the innovative ideas that educators and students share. The DS106 “Daily Create” is emailed to me and provides a daily source of inspiration. However lately, I seem to be too busy to tackle these activities that are supposed to take about 15 minutes to create.

In the past years, I seemed to regularly post between 3-4 articles per month. Lately, I’m finding that the end of the month creeps up rather quickly and I seem to be creating a “Teacher Feature” on the last few days of the month. One might say “Who cares?” but I have made a commitment to myself to post one “Teacher Feature” each month. However, when one looks back over the last dozen or so of my blog posts and finds only “Teacher Features”, and few ideas or resources that might immediately be useful in a classroom, one has to wonder if my blogging days are drawing to a close.

Perhaps I’m just tired. I recently joined a mens’ Barbershop Chorus called the Winnipeg Golden Chordsmen and I am certainly enjoying the camaraderie and the singing. I am finding that at my age, I am not learning the lyrics as fast as I might have when I was in university. Furthermore, I know that I am a sight learner and as such, I don’t internalize the melody as easy as my colleagues who are aural learners. When asked to join the Executive, after only eight months as a “newbie”, I decided to give it a try. This venture has provided me with a new learning opportunity and I have been busy helping out the organization in a variety of ways.

Although I have always thought of my blog as a vehicle for sharing and reflecting on K-12 education supported by technology, perhaps I may broaden my perspective somewhat. I suppose I could still share ideas but also consider how my new experiences with music and singing have inspired me. In fact, I have always tried to explore and foster “connections” through the lens of an educator. Perhaps, I am learning to focus in new ways and make new connections, as I engage in my new choral singing experience.

Rather than end this post with the singing of “Happy Birthday” in four-part harmony, I have decided to share the following quotation by Brian Eno:

When you sing with a group of people, you learn how to subsume yourself into a group consciousness because a capella singing is all about the immersion of the self into the community. That’s one of the great feelings – to stop being me for a little while and to become us. That way lies empathy, the great social virtue.

Take care & keep smiling :-)

– Flickr – Creative Commons image “Five (No Jive)” by Gerry Dulay
– https://www.flickr.com/photos/gerrysnaps/4131141430

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Teacher Feature #46 – Sharing the Light

DS106, Food for Thought, Reflection, Social Networking, Teacher Feature 2 Comments »

As the current year draws to a close, I have been pondering what message I might include in this month’s “Teacher Feature” remix. I must thank Kevin Hodgson, a talented Grade 6 teacher, for inspiring me. Yesterday, Kevin entered the following comment in my previous blog post:

This is the kind of reflective practice that I cherish in DS106 and all of its assorted connected cousins. Thanks.

Teacher Feature #46 - Edith Wharton - 400x300
Teacher Feature #46 – Edith Wharton – December, 2014

Wanting to learn more about this individual, who graciously took the time to read and comment on my blog post, I did some research. I was delighted when I clicked on his hyper-linked name at the top of his comment.  Not only did it take me to his “Kevin’s Meandering Mind” blog, I also found his Dec. 23rd blog entry entitled “Annotating a Connected Song”.

His animated music video “Writing on the Wall” resonated with me because Kevin created this song as a tribute to all those who have influenced him over the past year. Furthermore, I was delighted that he took the time to share the important “behind the scenes” steps that he takes when creating a song. So often in education, we are overwhelmed by a student’s finished product, be it a well-researched blog post or essay, a musical composition, a thought-provoking poem, a complex computer program, a sculpture, or a collaborative video. What we often fail to recognize are the steps and revisions taken to create the final product. Kevin, through this reflective process, demonstrates the “messiness” that is part of the creation of his animated music video tribute.

Kevin caused me to reflect on my sharing, as well. I must admit when I was an Educational Computer Consultant, working with students and staff in K-12 schools, I generated a number of educational resources which I willingly shared with others. It was the day-to-day interaction with educators that provided me with the motivation to produce and share ideas and resources. Now that I am in my seventh year of retirement, I find that I no longer have the daily requests for help and, as such, do not create as many relevant resources to share.

To reflect on the “Teacher Feature” message above, I find that my educational role is becoming less of a candle and more of a mirror. True, I may no longer produce up-to-date, step-by-step resources like I once did, but I still can share the light. I would hope that through my connections with a very dedicated PLN of educators, my serendipitous discovery of new ideas and resources, together with my innovative colleagues in DS106, I can reflect and share their creative ideas with my readers.

With such connections … the educational future looks bright indeed!

Take care & keep smiling :-)

Larger Image: Brian Metcalfe’s Teacher Feature “photostream”
https://www.flickr.com/photos/life-long-learners/sets/72157625102810878/

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Teacher Feature #42 – Inspiring Teachers

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With students and teachers starting back to school in two days, I searched for a powerful quotation that I felt might motivate teachers. I was very pleased when I found the following William Arthur Ward’s description of the different qualities of teachers. Next I used Flickr’s Advanced Search to find Creative Commons licensed pictures of students and a teacher that I could  “modify, adapt, or build upon”.

Imagine my delight when I found a picture of Kathy Cassidy, a dedicated Grade 1 teacher from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. Not only does Kathy inspire her primary students, she “invites the world into her classroom” through the use of a classroom blog and other social media.

Kathy Cassidy - Inspiring Teacher - 400x300

Teacher Feature #42 – William Arthur Ward – August 2014

As I began creating the above “Teacher Feature” poster, I started to revise my initial thoughts. I must admit that when I first positioned the above quotation beside the picture of Kathy and her student, I was thinking about how we, as teachers, can tell, explain, demonstrate, and inspire … students. However, when I started searching for links to Kathy’s personal and classroom blogs, her Flickr photostream, her personal and classroom Twitter streams and her “Technology in the Classroom” and K12 Online Conference contributions, I realized that not only does Kathy inspire students, she also inspires other teachers.

As the new school year gets underway, perhaps each one of us should think about how we might, not only inspire our students, but how we might also inspire other educators. I believe that by sharing, and connecting with others, the potential to inspire exists.

Have an exciting and fulfilling school year!

Take care & keep smiling :-)

Larger Image: Brian Metcalfe’s Teacher Feature “photostream”
http://www.flickr.com/photos/life-long-learners/

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Teacher Feature #41 – Never Stop Learning

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I first began teaching Mathematics to Grade 7 & 8 students more than 45 years ago. I must admit that I was convinced that all the learning on which my students focused, would be found in the Mathematics textbook that each student was issued  at the start of the school year. Somewhat naively, I thought that the vast majority of the students’ learning would come to a grinding halt over the summer months as the books were forgotten and holidays started.

Today, upon reflection, I realize just how much students learn outside the conventional classroom and just how many opportunities there are to learn over the summer months.

 Learning Over Summer-400x300
Teacher Feature #41 – Unknown – July, 2014

I am convinced that as adults, we should take more time to explore those magical “teachable moments” with the children in our charge. Whether it be … how to catch and fillet a fish, how to throw a football, or how to ride a two-wheeler, these are rare opportunities to teach interesting skills that may be retained long after the student has forgotten, for example, how to solve a quadratic equation.

Learning to downhill ski was important within our family. Although our two boys enjoyed competitive downhill racing in Manitoba, they eagerly looked forward to their school Spring Break holiday in March. This was when our family drove out West to ski in the mountains in Fernie, British Columbia. Our boys often wondered why other Manitoba ski families seemed to always arrive in Fernie before us, although we often left Manitoba on the same day. In that my wife was also a teacher, we often spent time “learning along the way”. Other families might travel in the most direct route between point A and B but we always took side trips to explore other interests. Whether it was exploring the life of the North-West Mounted Police at Fort McLeod, discovering the Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, or investigating Canada’s deadliest rock slide at the Frank Slide, our family took advantage of these holiday opportunities to learn more about the history and related stories that may not necessarily have been found in the textbooks that our sons were studying in their respective classrooms.

I think back on these amazing opportunities that our family shared and I know our sons are richer for these additional learning experiences.

Perhaps Jiddu Krishnamurti captured the essence of this “Teacher Feature” when he said:

There is no end to education. It is not that you read a book, pass an examination, and finish with education. The whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning.

Take care & keep smiling :-)

Larger Image: Brian Metcalfe’s Teacher Feature “photostream”
http://www.flickr.com/photos/life-long-learners/

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Teacher Feature #40 – The year in review

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For many schools in Canada, the school year ends this week. Both students and teachers are eagerly looking forward to holidays. However, before closing the books for good, I suggest an important exercise to engage both staff and students is to reflect on the past school year. What classroom activities worked best? Which projects really engaged students? Were there other ways that concepts might be introduced which would improve learning?

Reflection - June 2014
Teacher Feature #40 – Peter Drucker – June, 2014

Many educators, at the end of the term or the year, ask their students to provide feedback through either a paper and pencil exercise or through an on-line survey. Some teachers find it beneficial to ask students, at the year end, to write a note to the next year’s students suggesting how best to succeed in this particular grade or class. Such peer-to-peer proposals can be very effective when these tips and strategies are shared with your new class of students in September.

Several year-end feedback activities are provided below:

Before concluding, I think that I should take a moment and reflect on my own past year. As a life-long-learner, I am so pleased that I have had the following opportunities:

  • To reflect on my own 60 years in the classroom as student, teacher and K-12 Educational Technology Consultant. My thoughts were shared in the December 18, 2013 post entitled “Educating With Technology: Changes for the Better”.
  • To attend the Manitoba Association for Computing Educators (ManACE) “Technology Information Nights” where I learn so much and get to meet such dynamic, and dedicated educators who are so willing to share.
  • To continue to be a member of the Manitoba Association of Educational Leaders (MAETL). With representation from nearly every school division in the province, the members of this organization continue to share technology implementation strategies as well as best practices to implement ICT throughout the K-12 continuum.
  • To attend the “Riding the Wave of Change” Conference in Gimli and my face-to-face meeting with Alan Levine (aka “CogDog”) who was my Digital Storytelling DS106 mentor.
  • To experience the innovative professional development that took place at EdCampWinnipeg
  • To learn and share through the powerful Wednesday night educational Twitter chats known as #mbedchat
  • To network and share ideas and resources with so many educational professionals. You know who you are … and for your friendship, I am ever thankful.

I think Henry Ford said it best …

Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.

Take care & keep smiling :-)

Larger Image: Brian Metcalfe’s Teacher Feature “photostream”
http://www.flickr.com/photos/life-long-learners/

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Teacher Feature #39 – Start Today

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I admit it … I procrastinate. Even this month’s “Teacher Feature” is being posted, as evidenced by the above date, on the last day of the current month.  As a teacher and Educational Technology Consultant I found that the classroom structure and my commitments kept me focused on making deadlines. However, now that I am retired, I find it more challenging to regularly write and share ideas in a timely manner.

When I serendipitously came across Karen Lamb’s powerful quote below, I knew I had to share it with readers as it has particular relevance for both students and teachers.

Start Early - TF#39 - 400x300

Teacher Feature #39 – Karen Lamb – May, 2014

As the school year draws to a close, many students will be faced with completing major projects or even writing final exams. As a procrastinator, I often played “visualization games” with myself, whenever I prepared for exams or when I had to finish a major project or assignment. I would try to visualize what needed to be done to achieve my goal. For example, if it was June 1st and I had an exam or major assignment due on June 10th, I would pretend that today was actually the day before I wrote the exam or my project/assignment was due. In other words, I now had only 24 hours to prepare. I then would ask myself what were the critical tasks that needed to be done. In addition, I considered that, if I had more time, where should I have focused my energies? This strategy always helped me determine what was critical and what additional tasks would improve my final evaluation. It was then that I could imagine how lucky I was, to not have only 24 hours to prepare but several days to implement my necessary tasks. Regardless the key to such success was starting immediately.

When I was teaching a class of students, I was lucky that I could focus on the curriculum. However, today’s teacher has so many other responsibilities beyond the curriculum. Not only are they using technology to effectively engage their students, they are often so busy with many additional tasks which I will simply categorize as “administrivia”. It’s no wonder many teachers today lack the heart to try new initiatives or to attempt to learn with their students to use technology in new engaging ways.

However, I want educators to examine Karen Lamb’s statement and ask yourself …  Is there one additional change that I might implement which will improve my teaching or engage my students better next year? For example, I recently asked Zoe Bettess (@zbettess) at the “Riding the Wave of Change” Conference, what one technological innovation did she think had the most impact on her elementary students. Zoe felt that creating a classroom blog, using the free Kidblog, application, provided her students with a very powerful new learning tool.

So, as the current school year draws to a close, I ask my educational readers to reflect. I believe that reflection is a very important process that educators need to go through each year. Although there is only one month of classes left for most students in Manitoba, I encourage you to reflect on ways this year might have been made better. It’s unlikely that with only one month left, you will be able to make significant changes or improvements. However, I want you to play your own “visualization game”. Pretend it is June, 2015 and you have had an exceptional year where you and your students have learned together in a wonderful, supportive “family atmosphere”. What changes did you make during the 2014-15 school year that fostered such improvements? Were there any other changes or strategies that you could have employed to improve the learning even further?

The good news is that rather than having only one month to make these changes to improve learning in your classroom, you indeed have an entire school year.

The key is to start thinking about it today so that “a year from now”, it will be reality.

Take care & keep smiling :-)

Larger Image: Brian Metcalfe’s Teacher Feature “photostream”
http://www.flickr.com/photos/life-long-learners/

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Educating With Technology: Changes for the Better

Food for Thought, Info, Professional Development, Reflection 7 Comments »

After 60 years in the classroom as a student, teacher, and K-12 Educational Technology Consultant, I have seen many changes. I maintain that the changes, particularly as they relate to the infusion of technology into K-12 classrooms, have improved the lives of both students and teachers.

I plan to address how technology has changed and improved education over the years. First, I want to make sure that the reader is aware of what drives educators. Regardless of whether a teacher uses the latest technology or the more traditional blackboard, I believe that what matters most, can best be described in Kathy Davis’ quotation:

Teacher Feature #3 - Kathy Davis 300 x 225

Since the child is the most important ingredient in the educational process, I thought that I would use the letters in the word “child” as an acrostic technique to frame my thoughts regarding educational change.

C is for: Computer Science & Change

I began my teaching career in 1967 teaching Grade 7 & 8 students Mathematics. In those days, my only form of technology was a spirit duplicator, a hand-cranked calculator, and my slide rule that I used to determine report card marks. I must admit that when I taught Mathematics, I assumed that all students solved problems using the same strategies and algorithms that I used and taught.

A few years later, I proposed teaching Computer Science to Grade 11 & 12 students. In those days, my Grade 11 & 12 students either used a school keypunch or pencil-marked optical cards to create a program on a deck of cards. I maintain that they were better programmers than today’s student because they only had “one run per day”. In other words, they flow-charted, traced their code extremely thoroughly, and assembled their program(s) into elastic-enclosed decks of cards which I drove out to the university each evening and ran through the U of M mainframe. The next day my Computer Science students would be waiting eagerly at my classroom door at 8:00 a.m. when I arrived. I would distribute their print-outs wrapped around each program deck of cards. There would be those who whooped with delight if their program ran successfully and printed out the correct answers. Others would frown as they carefully searched their print-out for the easy-to-spot syntax errors or the more challenging coding flaws in logic. It was while teaching programming to high school students that I had a real epiphany or change.

Teaching students Computer Science ... brought about four important changes in my teaching:

I remember reviewing an assignment and noting that while most students solved this one particular problem using the same logic that I would use, there was one student who tried a different approach. Although his print-out provided the correct answer, he took a rather unique approach in his logic. Perhaps it wasn’t the most efficient program because he used more lines of code but the important thing was that his coding showcased for me that not everyone thinks the same. In teaching junior high Mathematics, I had always assumed that all of my students would problem solve using the same algorithms or steps that I demonstrated and taught. Furthermore, I was quite proud that no Mathematics students could ever stump me and that I could solve every problem in the textbook to arrive at the correct result displayed in the answer key.

Teaching students Computer Science, and how to program computers, brought about four important changes in my teaching:

  1. The revelation that not everyone solved problems using the same methods or steps that I used;
  2. No longer did I feel as confident in always being able to solve all programming problems using the framework or existing coding proposed by each, and every student;
  3. Teaching programming helped me realize that I was no longer the “gatekeeper of knowledge” and that students often learned so much from their friends; and
  4. I learned how important it was for me to be able to say “I don’t know …”, but I always quickly followed this remark by stating “… but, when you figure it out, please show me.”

I have to agree with Steve Jobs who stated “Everybody should learn how to program a computer because it teaches you how to think”.

 

H is for: Help, Hand-outs & Hardware

Teaching a brand-new school initiated Computer Science course in the early 1970’s had its challenges. Unfortunately there was no one from your own school to mentor you in computer-related problems. Rather, you had to search out others who were, like you, introducing Computer Science to their Grade 11 and 12 students. Long before the Internet, we had to phone one another or meet face-to-face to gain help and share resources. Whenever I used the school’s ditto machine to duplicate Computer Science hand-outs, tests, or resource pages, I always ran off 10 extra copies. Each of these copies was carefully filed into a large manila envelope addressed to another educator in our city or province that was also teaching Computer Science. When the envelopes were filled, I would “snail mail” my resources out to my 10 Computer Science colleagues. I eagerly looked forward to the arrival of similar “hard copy” resources that I could modify and share with my students. Long before the acronym “PLN” became popular, we thrived and survived thanks to a willingness to support and share with one another.

In the late 70’s, the Apple II, Commodore PET, and Radio Shack TRS-80 microcomputers entered the market place. I bought my own Commodore PET 4032 with its cassette tape drive on which I stored programs. Within a year, I purchased a Commodore dual floppy disk drive to speed up access and to improve reliability. Undoubtedly, lower prices and increased storage capacity have dramatically changed over the past 30 years. For example, my first package of 10 Dysan 5.25” diskettes cost me $70. In other words, in those days, I had to pay $7 for a mere 170 KB of diskette storage space. Today by comparison, one can buy an 8 GB USB flash drive for the same $7 which can store the equivalent of 49,344 of my old Dysan floppy diskettes. Furthermore, today’s cloud storage has become very inexpensive with Flickr, for example, offering new users one free terrabyte of data storage. To put this in perspective, this free offer of storage capacity compares to the equivalent of 6,316,128 of my Commodore PET diskettes. Storage capacity and hardware improvements have definitely improved immeasurably over the past 30 years and with it improved ease of use for today’s educators and students.

 

I is for: Internet, Initiatives & Innovation

During the 80’s and early 90’s, my home and work computers were used in isolation. During those years, most of my computer use consisted of exploring computer assisted learning software, creating word-processed documents, managing databases, and manipulating spreadsheets. With the Internet came connection to other like-minded individuals and the excitement in education exploded as we learned and shared electronically. As access speeds increased, so did our capabilities.

When I first became the Educational Technology Consultant for the Winnipeg School Division in September 1981, I realized that I would be challenged to keep current with this technological explosion and to inform educators and students in our 80+ schools. To facilitate such sharing, in October 1984, I created a monthly educational newsletter called Bits and Bytes. In October 95, I started sharing my newsletter on the Internet as well as continuing to distribute it to each school through a limited number of printed copies. Teachers were delighted when this newsletter appeared on the world-wide-web as now many more readers could gain access to this resource. Furthermore, many teachers liked the fact that they now could quickly search my “Bits and Bytes” web site to find information rather than have to visit their school’s library and flip through past archived hard copies. Although “Bits and Bytes” is no longer available on our school division server, the Internet distribution undoubtedly facilitated the ease of sharing of information and resources during the majority of this newsletter’s 23 year existence.

In the fall of 1995, as the Internet and the Netscape web browser were evolving, Rod Brown and I came up with an innovative plan to run a “Let’s Get Connected” contest in the Winnipeg School Division. Schools were challenged to demonstrate how their staff and students were collaborating as they used technology to enhance learning. This innovative contest was scheduled in May 1996 and I asked other Computer Education Consultants, from nearby school divisions, to help judge the creative applications. These adjudicators were so impressed with the concept, that Richard Burkett, a Computer Education Consultant from the River East School Division, and I teamed up to expand this initiative to schools throughout our entire province. The goal of all “Let’s Get Connected” activities was to “connect” teachers and students in learning opportunities using technology. Not only did the Minister of Education declare May 12-16, 1997 as “Let’s Get Connected Week”, we also encouraged educators to design 32 innovative technology-related activities that engaged students. Through Internet connectivity with other innovative educators, we were proud to be able to facilitate a “Let’s Get Connected” learning adventure for four years in succession.

Without the Internet, the following powerful and inspirational initiative would not have blossomed.  Laura Stockman, a ten year old girl, decided to save her December’s daily allowance of $1.00 to donate to a worthy charity on Christmas day in honour of her recently deceased grandfather. I (@bkmetcalfe) shared Laura’s story in a blog post entitled How to Make a Difference in December. Chris Harbeck (@charbeck), a dedicated middle school colleague in the Winnipeg School Division, shared this idea with his students and challenged other educators and students to do the same. Chris’ UnPlug’d 2011 video entitled Why Digital Citizenship Matters celebrates how Laura’s initial idea caught on with his students. Three years later, thanks to Internet connectivity, I was enrolled in an innovative Digital Storytelling (DS106) open, online course. Our instructor, Alan Levine (@cogdog), challenged us to create a video describing an unexpected positive outcome after sharing something openly online. My Sharing is Caring video describes Laura’s inspirational story and how Internet connectivity facilitated the sharing of this inspiring initiative.

Clarence Fisher (@glassbeed) of Snow Lake, Manitoba and Heather Durnin (@hdurnin) of Wingham, Ontario have embraced the Internet and demonstrated innovative teaching with technology. Although these two middle school teachers and their classes live in two different provinces and are separated by 2700 kilometers, they have effectively used the Internet and social media tools such as Google Docs, Twitter, Skype, virtual bulletin boards and WordPress blogs to build a caring community of learners. The Idea Hive is where the collaboration between the students in the two different schools occurs and their powerful online learning takes place. Using different technologies, these two educators continue to explore innovative ideas and exciting ways to engage their students.

Undoubtedly the Internet has facilitated easy communication, so that educators and their students can benefit from the innovative ideas and resources that are shared by both master teachers and master learners.

 

L is for: Literacy with ICT & Leveraged Learning

In 2006, after much research and working closely with educators throughout the province, the Manitoba Education, Citizenship and Youth produced a state-of-the-art model entitled Literacy with ICT Across the Curriculum.

“Literacy with Information and Communication Technology (LwICT) means thinking critically and creatively, about information and about communication, as citizens of the global community, while using ICT responsibly and ethically.”

The inquiry-based LwICT developmental continuum continues to be updated with many resources including the LwICT teacher handbook, parent handbook, posters, and web-based support.

This remarkable initiative continues to foster dramatic learning opportunities in Manitoba classrooms as teachers infuse technology to engage students on their journey to becoming responsible digital citizens.

Today, “just in time”, real-world, learning is the key. The Internet, together with its various social media applications makes learning so much easier. Not only can teachers search for and share engaging lesson activities but educators can also get inspired. No longer does one need to travel to expensive conferences to hear well-respected individuals.  Rather, one can stay at home in one’s pyjamas and become inspired by watching TED Talks presentations. Certainly one can learn from amazing presentations like Sir Ken Robinson’s How schools kill creativity. Similarly, Matt Henderson (@Henderson204), a high school teacher in Winnipeg, also presents his inquiry-based teaching model at the TEDxManitoba. Matt’s passion for inspiring and engaging his students is aptly shared through his powerful Teaching Ourselves to Last Forever presentation. Educators are encouraged to examine the powerful and creative conversations of the learning communities that Matt facilitates by visiting his Henderson Hallway blog.

Andy McKiel (@amckiel) has been an amazing catalyst to foster learning. As an active executive member of the Manitoba Association for Computing Educators (ManACE) and the provincial BYTE Conference, Andy has created and archived a multitude of online learning resources. Undoubtedly, one of his most exciting learning opportunities was the week he spent in Churchill, Manitoba studying polar bears. Working with scientists, Andy learned many important aspects about polar bears and their habitat which he shared with students and teachers world-wide via his blog Chilling with Nanuq.

Moving from bears to birds, we find Andy active tweeting (@amckiel). To facilitate learning amongst Manitoba educators, Andy has been collecting the Twitter “handles” of Manitoba teachers. He then uses the Paper.li content curation service to collect daily tweets of Manitoba educators and display them in The Manitoba-educators Daily. If you want to find out what Manitoba educators are tweeting, you need to investigate Andy’s online newspaper.

With Twitter becoming so popular, three Manitoba teachers, decided to create a process by which educators could use this social networking tool to connect and chat about topics of interest. Zoe Bettess (@ZBettess) from Thompson teamed up with Winnipeg educators Georgette Nairn (@GeorgetteNairn) and Tanis Thiessen (@tjthiessen) to organize the “Manitoba Education Chat” (#MBedchat).  Every Wednesday night from 9:00 – 10:00 CST, interested educators filter tweets using the hashtag #MBedchat and provide answers to five questions related to the evening’s topic. Past chats have focused on our provincial SAGE Conference, the new Manitoba report card, the connected classroom, picture book month, and sharing strategies to support EAL students. All tweets are archived on the Manitoba Ed Chat blog so that others may learn. This #MBedchat educational chat provides great learning opportunities as ideas are shared and connections are made between like-minded educators. I encourage readers to sign up for Twitter, explore tutorials, utilize an interface like HootSuite, TweetChat, TweetDeck or another client which allows tweets to be displayed in columns, and join in the learning and fun.

For years, John Evans (@joevans) has been a prominent sharer of educational ideas and resources. In fact, his Why Sharing Matters video, in which he uses an apple basket metaphor as a measure of teacher wellness, imparts a powerful message to us all. John starts each weekday by rising early and sharing a wealth of educational ideas and resources through Twitter. Not only does he distribute educational information through his The Tech News Daily online newspaper, he also uses the Scoop-it online publishing tool to curate news, reviews, and resources which he shares through his online iPads in Education. However, John is perhaps known by more educators as the champion behind MAPLE – the MAnitoba Professional Learning Environment (MAPLE). This new Manitoba Education social networking service can be used to connect Manitoba educators to each other, to curriculum content, and to a variety of professional learning opportunities. This unique endeavour will provide Manitoba educators with new ways to connect with their curriculum, communicate, collaborate and learn.

 

D is for: Devices & Dedicated Dynamos

Lately there has been much discussion over the “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) initiative. Starting in 2010, Dakota Collegiate, in the Louis Riel School Division, was one of the first schools in Winnipeg to facilitate this endeavour. As one of the school leaders, Roy Norris (@Roy_Norris) teaches English in a 1:1 environment where each student brings his/her own technological device to school to enhance his/her learning. When visiting Roy’s class, I was astounded by the variety of devices that the students in the classroom were using. Some had Mac laptops, other classmates were using Windows netbooks, while others were connecting wirelessly using smart phones or tablets. My initial two thoughts were …Wouldn’t it be simpler, if all students in the class had the exact same device; and, as a teacher, is Roy expected to know everything about how each of these different devices work? From observation and discussion, it was clear that Roy empowered his students and encouraged them to collaborate to find solutions to both technical as well as subject-related problems. Furthermore, despite the variety of technology employed by his students, it was evident that they were all engaged in the learning process.

Some of you might wonder “what changes when every student has a computer in class?” To investigate such opportunities and challenges, I invite you to explore Roy’s wiki where he reflects and shares his thoughtful insights into his teaching in a dynamic BYOD classroom.

The leadership team in the St. James-Assiniboia School Division implemented a division-wide initiative to place devices into the hands of all K-12 students. The school division purchased about 3000 iPads which were distributed to every student in grades 6, 7 and 8. Students in lower grades will share 6 – 8 iPads in each classroom, while the senior high students will be encouraged to bring their own device from home. Undoubtedly the digital learning team of Andy McKiel (@amckiel), Darren Kuropatwa (@dkuropatwa), and Joan Badger (@jbadger) were extremely busy implementing this well thought-out plan.

As one would expect, the leadership team conducted a number of workshops and one-on-one mentoring to help teachers implement their school division’s Digital Learning Project’s 5C’s of: Communication, Collaboration, Creativity, Critical Thinking, and Citizenship. However, I was impressed with the attention to detail with other tasks that needed to be addressed. Right from the start, the middle school parents were informed of this iPad 1-to-1 initiative through a Learning in the Digital World presentation. Additionally, a Parent Information Page was created on the divisional web site to further inform parents about Technology Acceptable Use Policies, Creating an Apple ID, the iPad Take Home Agreement, and Caution Fees.

Other school divisions in Winnipeg, and throughout the province, are watching to see how this Learning with an iPad endeavour progresses and the benefits that these devices bring to the domain of learning.

The previous two references demonstrate what can be accomplished on both a school-wide and a division-wide basis when devices are introduced to each student. With such wide-spread support and effort, one would expect success. However, it is equally important to showcase the work and effort of individual teachers who encourage their students to learn in new and exciting ways. I have selected innovative ideas from Early, Middle and Senior Years environments to demonstrate how dedicated and dynamic educators can inspire and engage students.

What innovative learning can be implemented in two Early Years’ classrooms with the acquisition of two iPod Touches? Erin Clarke (@erinbrie) and Jeff Hoeppner (@bluebomber6), of the River East Transcona School Division, applied to the Manitoba Association for Computing Educators (ManACE) for a grant. Their application was supported with a rather creative Haiku video. These two teachers created a monthly Instagram challenge which presented a different word or theme each day. Teachers, students, and classrooms from across Manitoba (and beyond) shared their creative photos based on the theme of the day. Their #eduphotoaday blog traces their innovative journey as well as shares useful tips on photo apps, or important considerations such as Public vs. Private Instagram. Their November challenge was particularly interesting as they attempted to improve students’ picture taking by using daily prompts associated with photography such as “rule of thirds”, “birds-eye view”, and “reflection”. Erin and Herb, together with their students, demonstrate how technological devices used with dedicated dynamos can bring about engaged learning.

At the Middle Years level, Miles MacFarlane (@milesmac), from the Seven Oaks School Division, encourages his students through innovative ideas and projects. His students are engaged learning History as they create ancient civilizations using the Minecraft program. Furthermore, Miles’ blog entries and comment conversations are a powerful learning resource. Miles is the consummate blogger. Regardless of whether he is sharing his parenting thoughts in TeacherDad or his teaching journey through his Miles’ Tomes blog, his learning is transparent and genuine. How many educators do you know who would risk sharing online their Annual Reflection on Learning for all to see and comment upon?

This past June, Miles organized the first EduCamp – Winnipeg which was an “un-conference” where participants planned their day and learned and shared ideas and resources in an open environment. Not only does he have a busy teaching day, Miles is also engaged in online graduate work at George Washington University. Sharing his instructional workshop package for delivering a Creating a Twitter PLN definitely helps other educators “make connections with a global professional community using Twitter”. Although Miles and his family will be shortly leaving our province for a teacher exchange in Australia, we know he will continue to share with us through his Teacher Exchange blog. With Internet access, educators like Miles, can connect and share world-wide.

Phil Taylor (@ptaylorsjr), a Senior Years’ teacher at St. John’s-Ravencourt School, has always been one to share. Not content to only focus on sharing through his Learning Technologies blog, Phil is passionate about micro-blogging through Twitter. He uses a variety of applications to curate and distribute resources through such channels as Phil’s Learning Technology News, Trending Ed Tech News or his RebelMouse feed.

To facilitate and share learning, Phil created the SJR Learners wiki. For the past two years, Phil has been exploring Google’s 20% time concept with his students. Others may know this initiative as Genius Hour where students are given a portion of school time to explore, with the help of technology, any area of interest to themselves. As Phil states, it is remarkable to witness the time and effort that students will invest when focusing on an area in which they are passionate.

Like his students, Phil is passionate about sharing with fellow educators. As an early adopter of the Diigo personal information management system, Phil maintains and publically shares nine Diigo lists ranging from Android, Google Drive/Docs – Resources, Student Digital Footprint Guidelines, to Tablets in Education. However, the one which resonates most for me is his list of bookmarks shared in Building a PLN. I believe the key to survival in today’s fast-paced teaching environment is for educators to get connected and share through a Personal Learning Network or PLN. I have attempted to address the power and potential of a PLN in my own blog post entitled My PLN: A Teacher’s Treasure.

PLN-Get Connected

Having showcased dedicated Manitoba teachers in the Early, Middle and Senior Years areas, I thought I should finish with a brief look at the contributions of a Manitoba educational curriculum coordinator. Knowing that this last section focuses on the acrostic “D-words”, many readers might suggest that it would be a true oversight, if I did not include “Darren”.

Over the years, Darren Kuropatwa (@dkuropatwa) has been an inspiration for many educators looking for ways to integrate technology and improve student engagement and learning. Undoubtedly his scribe post, which he developed with his high school Mathematics students, continues to be an innovative learning process. Those unfamiliar with the background and benefits of this endeavour are encouraged to listen to Alan November’s interview of Darren about the specifics in Student Scribes 1, Student Scribes 2, and Student Scribes 3.

As a founding convener of the K12 Online Conference, Darren has provided educators world-wide with an opportunity to participate, share, and learn together. Darren is a well-respected international keynote speaker who is a dedicated, sharing, professional. Not content to research and keep his learning private, he shares his creativity and new-found knowledge with everyone. With more than 1000 slides displayed through Slideshare, Darren continues to enlighten educators with the wealth of powerful ideas and resources. For example, some of his creativity includes:

Lately Darren has shifted sharing his thoughts and ideas on his A Difference blog to a new video blog mechanism. He has now uploaded and shared more than 100 #WhileWalking YouTube videos where he poses questions and shares his thoughts about improving education in short, articulate video messages.

Clay Shirky states that “The change we are in the middle of isn’t minor, and it isn’t optional.”  Darren realizes this and does everything in his power to help educators adapt to this change.

In closing, it is obvious that changes in education have increased dramatically in my 40 year educational career. However, teachers today have so many more ways of connecting and sharing resources with other like-minded educators.

The key, I believe, is connectivity! Teachers today, who want to connect effectively with their students, must connect with other educators.

Connect or be Side-lined

One way that educators can improve is to examine the wealth of information that is being shared by these Manitoba educators. Take time to learn about your colleagues and investigate the related hyperlinks that I have identified. I purposely have listed each one’s Twitter “handle” in brackets following their names. For example, if you were to enter into a Google search field “Twitter @bkmetcalfe” (without quotes), regardless of whether you subscribed to Twitter or not, you would be presented with the particular educator’s real name and Twitter profile. In many cases, you would learn a bit about the educator and possibly gain access through a hyperlink to his/her blog. Below this information, one can see the number of tweets s/he has generated, the number of individuals s/he follows, together with the number of individuals following the particular educator. In addition, you would be able to scan the past tweets shared by this educator and gain a sense as to whether you might benefit from the information s/he was sharing.

Regardless of where you are in your journey to use of technology to enhance learning, it is important to remember that it is the “Child” that should always be your focus. Perhaps this final acrostic might summarize this post:

C onnections

H elp

I ndividuals

L earn

D ifferently

Take care & keep smiling :-)

Credits:

– Flickr – Creative Commons image “A hundred years from now …”  by Brian Metcalfe
– http://www.flickr.com/photos/life-long-learners/5200425803/

– Flickr – Creative Commons image “Get Connected!” by Paco Paco
http://www.flickr.com/photos/metaweb/4345676181/

– Flickr – Creative Commons image “Expand your Global Connections” by Langwitches
– http://www.flickr.com/photos/langwitches/5119205490/

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Teacher Feature #33 – What was war?

DS106, Food for Thought, Reflection, Teacher Feature No Comments »

Today’s “Teacher Feature” focuses on remembering. I have been reflecting on which moments in my life have left me with an indelible memory. For me, there are important images that come to life such as when I first met my wife, being present at the births of our sons, certain classroom “teachable moments”, outstanding family get-togethers, and images linked to various vacations.

Teacher Feature-33-What was war - 400x300

Teacher Feature #33 – Eve Merriam – November, 2013

Today’s remix was inspired by an unforgettable memory that I had while cycling through Holland. Although this experience happened more than 43 years ago, it left me an important memory and message that seems fitting to share with readers prior to November 11th. I encourage readers to view my YouTube video entitled “Are two minutes, too much, to ask?” to learn about my most unforgettable experience.

 [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=77TKyIU02gM]

What will you be doing … this 11th month, 11th day, 11th hour?

Larger Image: Brian Metcalfe’s Teacher Feature “photostream”
http://www.flickr.com/photos/life-long-learners/

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