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 :-)

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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.

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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 :-)

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Teacher Feature #38 – Pupils, Photos & Privacy

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My older son shared the following photograph with me recently. It was shared as a entry on “theCHIVE” entitled “Little known facts that you likely never knew” on April 18, 2014.

bizarre-facts-7

Admittedly, I was not sure how accurate this information might be. However, in researching this quotation, I was amazed at how the number of photos taken is estimated and more importantly delighted with the wealth of powerful photos that have been captured over the years and shared through the following sites:

  1. How Many Photos Have Been Taken Ever?
  2. 40 Of The Most Powerful Photographs Ever Taken
  3. How many photos have ever been taken

However, the following quotation, from the third site, got me thinking about our pupils and their privacy.

… but this year people will upload over 70 billion photos to Facebook, suggesting around 20% of all photos this year will end up there[7]. Already Facebook’s photo collection has a staggering 140 billion photos, that’s over 10,000 times larger than the Library of Congress.[8]

If today’s students are actively using social media and apps such as Facebook, Flickr, Instagram and YouTube, they are indeed socializing and sharing photos. We need to help our pupils understand that once the door to one’s private world is opened, it may be difficult to close.

This idea prompted this month’s Teacher Feature remix.

Teacher Feature 38 - Alan Dershowitz - 400x300

Teacher Feature #38 – Alan Dershowitzi – April, 2014

Once again my older son shared the following stats from yesterday’s “theCHIVE” post entitled, “Mind blowing stats popular websites pull each minute”:

  • YouTube users upload 72 hours of new video every minute
  • Facebook users share 2,460,000 pieces of content every minute
  • WhatsApp users share 347,222 photos every minute
  • Instagram users posts 216,000 new photos every minute
  • Vine users share 8,333 videos every minute

True, I realize that many photos can be shared or uploaded that do not reveal any private matters. In fact, our younger son use Instagram to showcase only his best digital photos. He tends to use this social networking application as a digital portfolio to display his creativity.

However, these questions need to be discussed with our students to help them protect their privacy:

  • What is privacy?
  • What is your digital footprint & what does it look like?
  • As an employer, would I hire/fire you after Googling your name?
  • Are your sharing information that you consider private?
  • Are you sharing information that others may consider private?
  • What steps would you go through to have a picture or comment removed from the web?

In closing, I will leave you with two quotations from MediaSmarts – Canada’s Centre for Digital & Media Literacy. In the article entitled “Online Privacy, Online Publicity: Youth do more to protect their reputation than their information”, Matthew Johnson states:

… young people may not care that much about what we think of as privacy, but they care very much about control – control over who can see what they post, over who can track them digitally and, most especially, over how other people see them.

and …

Canadian youth do care about privacy, and are willing to learn and use tools for managing it. Their poor understanding of data privacy, however, leaves them vulnerable to privacy invasions that they may not even be aware of.

As educators, we do, indeed have an important role to play.

Take care & keep smiling :-)

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Teacher Feature #37 – Video Viewpoints

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How can we move students from being passive consumers to active producers? One way is to provide students with the opportunity to create videos. Students, that I have worked with, are eager to demonstrate their creativity through digital storytelling and the power of pictures.

This month’s Teacher Feature remix was inspired, by the following tweet, shared by Dean Shareski.

Teacher Feature # 37 - Dean Shareski

Teacher Feature #37 – Dean Shareski – March, 2014

As a teacher and technology consultant for the Prairie South School Division in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Dean was always about sharing and connecting. Currently Dean is the Community Manager for Discovery Education Canada.

Dean has motivated me, and many other educators world-wide, with his willingness to share resources and educational insights through his Ideas and Thoughts blog. In the Videos section of his blog, Dean feels that “as teachers we have become text prejudice. We focus so much on reading and writing and forget that most of what our students take is in the form of video”.

I have maintained that educators learn best when they first explore software or create a digital story for their own personal needs. Regardless of whether one creates their first Excel spreadsheet to record game data in their child’s soccer league, or a PowerPoint presentation for a wedding reception, or a digital story to share at the passing of a loved one, the learning effort invested in this meaningful,  personal task will eventually move to one’s classroom to engage and benefit students.

This personal approach is evident when one peruses Dean’s approach to digital storytelling or creating videos. Many of his video adventures are created outside the educational arena. Whether it is was the Happy Birthday Alec Couros lipdub or a I Have Cancer (as a series of cancer victim videos), or a Mother’s Day Tribute, Dean practices what he preaches through creating and sharing his amazing videos. In addition, to creating powerful, educational videos like Sharing: The Moral Imperative as a keynote presentation for the K12 Online conference, Dean often creates informative “behind the scenes” videos. For example, The Making of Sharing: A Moral Imperative gives viewers many important tips and strategies that can be used to improve their own video creation techniques.

I must admit that I was inspired to  choose Dean’s quotation as part of this month’s Teacher Feature remix because yesterday I had an opportunity to read Dean’s latest blog entry. For Dean’s 50th birthday, Alec Couros and Diana Williams decided to utilize social media to play a prank entitled “Let’s Sock It To Dean Shareski”. Recipients were encouraged to send, via snail mail, a pair of socks to Dean’s home address. At last count, Dean received 86 pair of socks from all across North America and even, as far away as, Australia.

I wasn’t surprised at all to see how Dean acknowledged receipt of the various pairs of socks in his #Socks4Dean post. True to form, he created a Google Map showing where his various “sock senders” live, a time lapse video with Dean and his dogs opening all 52 packages, and a SlideFlickr presentation showing Dean together with each pair of socks.

In closing, I encourage you to allow your students, like Dean, to express their passion and creativity through digital storytelling and the making of videos.

Take care & keep smiling :-)

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Teacher Feature #36 – A love of reading

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February is “I love to read” month. As an experienced educator, I realize just how important a skill reading can be. In fact, one of the greatest gifts teachers can share with their students is a love of reading.

To pay tribute to this important idea, I chose to create the following remix. The two youngsters below are not only sharing a book but are also sharing B. F. Skinner’s important message.

Teacher Feature #36 - 400x332

Teacher Feature #36 – B. F. Skinner – February, 2014

I admit that I enjoy reading. I often delay visiting a theater to take in a popular show until I have read the book which inspired that particular movie. My reason for this approach is that I like to form my own mental images while reading the book, rather than be initially influenced by the movie director’s interpretation.

Yes, I do enjoy a good book. However I must admit that, this was not always the case. As a rather naive junior high student, I remember in English class being forced to read a “great book” of which I had little interest. In frustration, I remarked to a friend, “When I finally graduate from Grade 12, I will never have to open or read another book!” Thankfully, my outlook changed as I enrolled in university and later graduate courses where research and reading were definitely required. However, because I had some choice in the direction of my research, I soon appreciated how important reading was as part of my overall knowledge acquisition. In fact, I began to appreciate reading more and more as I grew older.

As Francis Bacon stated, “Age appears to be best in four things; old wood best to burn, old wine to drink, old friends to trust, and old authors to read.”

Take care & keep smiling :-)

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Teacher Feature #35 – Curiosity

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“Information at your fingertips” can be a detriment to teaching. Don’t get me wrong. As an educator, I appreciate the ease at which Google, and other search engines, serve up results to the inquiring minds of today’s students. However, I believe there are times when students, who are engaged in a problem-solving task, should have to struggle to find the answer. Too often, students who need to hone their problem solving skills are too ready to give-up and search for the answer on-line.

Some of my fondest memories of classroom teaching involved activities where students struggled to find a solution to a problem and explored a variety of paths before selecting a final outcome. I still remember the glint in their eye as curiosity motivated students to seek out a solution.

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Teacher Feature #35 – William Arthur Ward – January, 2014

Over the next few weeks, I hope to be able to share with you some problem solving activities which I believe will engage your students. Undoubtedly, you will have to insist that all your students turn-off their cell phones and refrain from going on-line in an attempt to solve these challenges. However, it is my hope that you, too, will ignite the flame of curiosity in the eyes of your students.

Take care & keep smiling :-)

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Teacher Feature #34 – Holiday Thoughts

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Today, K-12 students are on their winter break in Manitoba. Tomorrow, many of our students’ families will celebrate Christmas. As a result, a good number of our youngsters will return to school, in the new year, having received gifts which employ the latest technology.

What impact does such technologically-enhanced gifts have on our students and, more importantly, what impact will it have on our teaching?

Teacher Feature #34 - Marc Prensky - 400x300
Teacher Feature #34 – Marc Prensky – December, 2013

I suggest that there are two actions that all teachers can take.

First, we reduce asking factual questions that can easily be found through a simple Google search. Rather we must challenge our students to use higher order thinking skills (HOTS) and, where possible, encourage them to complete activities and projects in a collaborative manner.

Secondly, we must focus on teaching students digital citizenship and how to protect their digital footprint.

For example, one of my favourite research activities demonstrates how creative teachers can challenge students in new ways. Gretchen Offutt, a grade 5 teacher in Bellingham, Washington, designed this innovative research project for her students. I contacted Gretchen and asked for her permission to share her creative activity in the December 2001 issue of my “Bits and Bytes” online newsletter.  The article was entitled “HOW TO … engage your students in meaningful research”.  Twelve years later, this innovative project still has extreme relevance for today’s teacher.

Rather than ask her students purely factual questions such as:

  • “In what year did Ferdinand Magellan sail though the “Straits of Magellan?”
  • “Off what continent is this passageway located?”; and
  • “What were the names of Christopher Columbus’ three ships?”

Gretchen challenged each student to use higher order thinking skills and teamwork to research and defend:

  • “Under which captain, be it Christopher Columbus, Ferdinand Magellan, or Sir Francis Drake, would you have preferred to serve and why?”

Thankfully Gretchen shared this amazing resource with her students and other educators by creating an Internet web page called “Explorers Homeport”. Although these links might be rather slow, I can assure you that they are well-worth any delay for readers to experience this well-crafted and thought-out research activity.

The fact that my “Bits and Bytes” online newsletter and Gretchen Offutt’s “Explorers Homeport” are no longer available for perusal from our respective school district’s servers, leads us into the second action of teaching students “digital citizenship”.

Many Manitoba educators, who are infusing “Literacy with ICT” into their classrooms, find it easier to focus on the five “Big Ideas” within the Cognitive Domain. For example, “Plan and Question”, “Gather and Make Sense”, Produce to Show Understanding”, “Communicate”, and “Reflect” are all steps that teachers employ when teaching using the Inquiry process.

However, it is my feeling, that teachers find it more difficult to deal with the four “Big Ideas” within the Affective Domain. True, “Collaboration”, and “Motivation and Confidence” can be introduced and practiced in most classrooms. However, “Social Implication” and, in particular, “Ethics and Responsibility” are two areas that may not be dealt with sufficiently.

Yet, with the increased access to technology that students have outside school, they need to be taught how to use it in a responsible way. Although Flickr, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube are blocked in many of our schools, students need to be taught or modeled on how to use such social media in responsible ways. I feel that students need to know how to maintain their privacy and how to protect and preserve a positive digital footprint.  After all, once a photo or login name, which is associated with one of our students, is shared or created on the Internet, it is there forever!

As I wrote this month’s “Teacher Feature”, I certainly learned first-hand how this “publishing forever” concept could damage one’s reputation.  Although I’m sure both Gretchen and I are proud to share what we have uploaded or created on the Internet, this may not be true of all our students. For example, it has been 12 years since Gretchen created her “Explorers Homeport” and my last issue of “Bits and Bytes” was uploaded to the world-wide-web in June, 2007. However, if today one was to attempt to link to either of the original Internet addresses (URL), one would get an error message stating “The page you requested no longer exists” or “Server not found”. For a student who may have uploaded an inappropriate photo or had perhaps made some caustic remarks online, s/he might be extremely happy if the original indiscretion could no longer be located where it was shared online. However, more than likely that picture or comment has been transferred or shared on other servers and it cannot be totally removed. Even if it has been deleted from the original site, and has not been replicated elsewhere, the Internet archiving “Wayback Machine” may bring it “back to life”.

For me, the “Wayback Machine” is a useful tool to retrieve information that I may have published several years ago. For example, in my last post, I couldn’t remember when Rod Brown and I first came up with the idea to create a “Let’s Get Connected” contest. However, each June, I created an index of the topics and information shared in my newsletter during the previous school year. So I simply entered the following URL, for a specific June issue, into the “WayBack Machine”:

http://www.wsd1.org/bitsbytes/0203/bbjun03/default.htm

The “Wayback Machine”, without my knowledge, archived “snapshots” of my newsletter “12 times between January 1, 2003 and October 4, 2006.” I simply had to click on a black bar on the timeline (e.g. the last bar in 2003) and click on any blue circled date (e.g. August 3, 2003) to view much of my newsletter contents together with links to additional resources.

Students need to be taught that there exists applications like the “Wayback Machine” that can use to highlight indiscretions that one may have thought were deleted.

In summary, teachers need to create authentic learning activities which engage students using technology to which they have access. In addition, such learning must better prepare students to be responsible online digital citizens.

Take care & keep smiling :-)

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Teacher Feature #33 – What was war?

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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.

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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?

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Teacher Feature #32 – Assessment Today

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As an educator who taught junior and senior high students (Grades 7-12) Mathematics and Computer Science, I was proud of my assessment strategies. The percentage mark that appeared on each of my student’s report cards was extremely precise. In fact, it was so accurate that I never had any difficulty explaining to parents the mathematical formula that I used to determine each grade.

Teacher Feature-32 -Irmeli  Halinen

Teacher Feature #32 – Irmeli Halinen – October, 2013

However over the years, K-12 assessment has moved from my somewhat analytic procedure to a more anecdotal process to better capture the essence of the individual student’s strengths and weaknesses.

One of my past serendipitous learning opportunities, led me via Twitter to Joe Bower’s thought-provoking blog “for the love of learning”, which was subtitled “Assessment is not a spreadsheet — it’s a conversation”. I was so impressed with this assessment quotation, that I emailed Joe asking who was the originator of this powerful idea. He replied that he had heard this awesome statement from Irmeli Halinen who was Head of Curriculum Development for the Finnish National Board of Education. For more background, Joe recommended I read his blog post entitled “Irmeli Halinen on Finnish Curriculum”.

As I was writing this post and reviewing Joe’s blog, I was once again, by chance, exposed to a powerful assessment question entitled “Who Will Pack Your Parachute?” by Cherra-Lynne Olthof.  For those, like me, who used to feel so confident with our formula-driven, assessment procedures, this parachute packing anaolgy might causes us to think differently. Do you not agree?

Take care & keep smiling :-)

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Teacher Feature #31 – Ask Questions To Learn

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Today’s “Teacher Feature” remix has a special connection for me. I have been lucky throughout my educational career, both as a student and as a teacher, to have usually felt confident enough to ask questions if I did not understand. For some students, this can be a challenging task. However, with human knowledge currently doubling every 13 months and, with IBM predicting in the next couple of years, knowledge will double every 12 hours, it will be impossible to know even a small amount of all the answers.

Ask Questions to Learn

Teacher Feature #31 – Chinese Proverb – September, 2013

Although I am able to increase my knowledge and tap into vast resources of information on the Internet, it is still my friends and colleagues in my Personal Learning Network (PLN) who help me find meaningful answers to my questions.

As teachers we should foster collaborative activities in our classrooms to encourage students to ask questions and learn as much as possible from their classmates.

Perhaps Bruce Lee said it best … “A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer.”

Take care & keep smiling :-)

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