UnPlug’d: Meaningful Messages in Education

Food for Thought, Professional Development, Reflection No Comments »

As a new school year begins I pondered over the topic of my first September blog post. Should I research and list various educational activities and resources that teachers could use at the start of a new school year? Would it be beneficial to share how some educators are using Google Docs to set up their classes to collaborate and share online?

No … rather than focus of the “mechanics” of teaching, I decided that I would share some “meaningful messages” in education. I believe that teachers can learn so much from visionary colleagues who are willing to share short, focused messages that are supported by poignant and passionate videos. For three days in August, 37 innovative educators from across Canada, who use technology in creative ways to engage their students and enhance their professional careers, actively participated in an UnPlug’d Canadian Educational Summit. By unplugging from their highly networked personal and professional lives, these passionate educators were asked to focus on what matters most in teaching and learning.

Manitoba was well represented by the following six innovative educators:

Participants were challenged to reflect on their educational experience and arrive at this unique professional development session with a short, 250 word story entitled “Why ‘blank’ matters!” At UnPlug’d, participants shared their educational stories, gained feedback, and through peer collaboration these stories were edited and improved so that they might be shared as a powerful online document. These printed stories, together with poignant, supporting story-telling videos, are being shared throughout September at: http://www.unplugd.ca/unplugd11.html

The week of September 26, 2011 has been set as a target deadline for the final online publication to be released in ePub and PDF formats. I encourage readers to review the currently available multimedia products and submit comments (at the bottom of this post) regarding which documents and/or videos had special meaning.

I can guarantee that readers will find a story and/or video which will resonate with them and, should they choose to take action, will help them become a better teacher.

Take care & keep smiling :-)

Credit: Flickr Image “UnPlug’d 2011 Delegate Photo” by unplugd

Additional Resources:

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K-12 Online – Acknowledging the Archives

Application or Web App, Professional Development, Read/Write Web, Tutorial 1 Comment »

In this blog post, I will review two K-12 Online Conference presentations from the past year’s archives. My reason for focusing on the past sessions, rather than the present, is based on the following professional development assumptions.

Some educators, that are new to the K-12 Online Conference, may peruse this year’s presentation descriptions and perhaps feel somewhat intimidated by the sophistication and knowledge of the presenters. However, I have always maintained that all educators, like their respective students, are travelling along their own personal learning continuum. As such, it is important to find professional development sessions that meet each individual’s current needs. Perhaps, equally important, is that the learning opportunity arrives “just in time” or when the learner is most receptive. When one finds timely, professional development sessions with a “good fit”, there is a much better chance that such opportunities will help educators move forward in their learning and encourage a willingness to try new strategies, applications, and resources.

As I indicated in my last post, the K-12 Online Conference provides professional development opportunities through a powerful instructional video mechanism which facilitates investigation when the individual learner is “ready”. Furthermore, unlike a traditional keynote speaker who delivers his/her message and then exits the stage, these video learning opportunities are conveniently archived for review as far back as 2006. Such wide ranging video learning opportunities can be perused, played, and even paused (to note a particular interesting web resource address) as one extracts the relevant and meaningful message. In addition to the archived videos there are also very important supporting resources and applications that should be investigated as well. True, you might think that when you review a video presentation created for the 2007 K-12 Online Conference, that you are three years “behind the times”. Not so …, I contend. Regardless of one’s position along their personal timeline, one doesn’t stagnate when one tries to implement new ideas. Furthermore, when one reviews a K-12 Online Conference video and related resources created in 2007, one can be assured that the message still has applicability and the related computer applications have improved dramatically over the past three years and now have so many more educational features.

Now that these assumptions have been identified, I will continue by briefly outlining two rather interesting, archived, K-12 Online Conference presentations from the past.

K-12 Online Conference theme for 2008
“Amplifying Possibilities”

I chose to look at an introductory or “Getting Started” keynote entitled “How Can I Become Part of this ReadWriteWeb Revolution?” I was immediately set at ease as I watched three educators, Alice Barr, Cheryl Oakes and Bob Sprankle, sitting outdoors, sharing their educational insights with their video audience in a rather down-to-earth manner. As they talked about introducing technology to students, each educator held up a “flip video” and captured the dialogue and expressions of their colleagues in a very conversational manner.

They agreed that VoiceThread was an excellent mechanism for helping educators begin to learn about technology and utilize web 2.0 applications with their students. I liked Bob’s comment, which I am paraphrasing, when he stated that …

bringing in these technologies (e.g. flip video units) has a transformational effect that can help educators move out of their comfort zone and patterns of what they have been doing for years. When you hand out a flip video to your students, you no longer control learning and no longer are you the gatekeeper of knowledge.

These three educators have formed a professional learning network called the “seedlings” and I encourage other educators to connect with them.

K-12 Online Conference theme for 2009
“Bridging the Divide”

Each of the video presentations in the K-12 Online Conference is filled with a wealth of pedagogical information. Indeed, some use amazing techniques to get the message across to the audience in a meaningful manner. My favourite instructional video presentation has to be last year’s “Getting Started” keynote by Joyce Valenza entitled “The Wizard of Apps” which is embedded below:

Joyce uses a very unique video presentation to share her message in an entertaining and informative manner. I encourage readers to view Joyce’s additional “Backstory to the Wizard of Apps” where one can appreciate the collaborative endeavour that went into producing this remarkable instructional video. Undoubtedly, the creation of this video engaged students who were passionate about performing and producing this polished presentation.

This 'new tools workshop' wiki resource, is a 'one stop shop' for educators ...

However, learning is not limited to the actual K-12 Online Conference video presentations. Rather, dedicated presenters like Joyce Valenza often provide a wealth of extensive additional resources. Not only does Joyce supply links to her presentation slides, she also supplies a link to her “new tools workshop” wiki which provides a plethora of possibilities for educators who want to explore the potential of using web 2.0 applications in their classrooms.  This “new tools workshop” wiki resource, is a “one stop shop” for educators wishing to explore applications that will engage students and enhance classroom teaching. With this presentation and her accompanying resources, Joyce and her students, have set the bar high for future presenters.

I trust that I have demonstrated that the K-12 Online Conference archives of 2009, 2008, 2007 & 2006, contain relevant educational ideas and resources, that interested teachers can learn from, long after the video presentations were first shared online.

In closing, let me challenge readers to take action in the manner suggested in Dean Shareski’s 2010 keynote “Sharing: The Moral Imperative”. When we find educational resources that help us to better “teach and reach” students, we make time to share these ideas with others. I just did … and I trust you will too.

Take care & keep smiling :-)

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Privacy Issues & Resources

Activity, LwICT No Comments »

As I was preparing and researching the previous blog entry entitled “Privacy, Pedagogy, and Pizza”, I found a series of resources that I thought educators might find useful. Rather than extend the previous blog entry with an extensive bibliography, I thought it might be better to provide such resources for educators in a separate list. In addition, I would hope that if the reader finds additional resources that educators can use when discussing privacy issues, s/he will share them. If one clicks on the title of an individual blog entry and then scrolls to the bottom of the article, one can use the Comment Submission form to provide feedback or share additional privacy resources with me. I will then add such submissions to this privacy bibliography so that our community of like-minded educators can all benefit. aTdHvAaNnKcSe

Lesson Plans/Activities:

  • “Privacy Playground: The First Adventure of the Three CyberPigs” (for students aged 8 –  10) from the Media Awareness Network – http://tinyurl.com/dd8vvr
  • “Privacy and Internet Life” (for Grades 7 & 8 students) from the Media Awareness Network – http://tinyurl.com/3xg3rb8
  • “Who Knows? Your Privacy in the Information Age?” (for Grades 8 – 10 students) from the Media Awareness Network – http://tinyurl.com/2v3hkde
  • “The Privacy Dilemma: Lesson Plan” (for Grades 9 – 12) from the Media Awareness Network – http://tinyurl.com/2vjmjx7
  • “CyberSmart! Safety and Security Online – Social Networking” – Lesson plan resources – http://tinyurl.com/26wfqg3
  • “Feel-Good Friday” – Classroom activity to simulate social networking and video from the Primary Bits and Bytes blog – http://tinyurl.com/29qz8kh
  • “Social Networking Resources and Planning Notes” –


Web Sites:

[FYI: In order to utilize less space in this blog entry, I have used the TinyURL (http://tinyurl.com) web resource. This product takes long, complex web addresses or Uniform Resource Locators (URLs) and reduces them to a shorter, more manageable, coded addresses to the same web sites. Readers my find this tool useful whenever they need to send email containing long, complex web addresses (which may wrap into additional lines and tend to be unreliable when copied and pasted into one’s browser.]

Take care & keep smiling :-)

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