Wednesday, July 11, 2012

#DigiFoot 12 - Lead Detective: Tweet Me Case

Shortly after attending ConnectEd Canada in May, I was contacted by Verena Roberts, a teacher in Calgary that I met at the conference.  When we met she had shared this idea she had for creating a MOOC (Mass Open Online Course) for anyone to get involved in that dealt with digital citizenship and understanding online spaces.  Verena attended my Twitter in the Classroom session at ConnectEdCa and asked if I would help lead the course for the week dedicated to learning with Twitter.  Since I am passionate about getting educators using this social network for professional learning, I gladly accepted the offer.  Did I mention this was in June?  Any of you teachers out there know how incredibly busy June can be and this was certainly no exception.... so my commitment was stored at the back of my brain until the calendar flipped to July and I could think about something other than work!  July arrived and panic set in as I realized the amount of work Verena had put into planning the course outline and setting up the first week with the various activities!  The bar was set high, so with little time to prepare, I began pulling a few Twitter resources together.

Initially I had thought, "introduce Twitter",  how hard can that be? While planning the activities and my presentation, I began to consider my audience...which, to me, was completely unknown!  I knew that over 100 people, mostly educators, were signed up, but their entry level to the topic was a guessing game.  So I decided to do a little data hunting and threw a google form up on the wiki to see how comfortable people were with Twitter, how they used it and what they wanted to learn.  Less than half of the participants have responded at the point of writing this blog, however I feel it's safe to say that we really have a mixed group of participants at various stages and comfort levels with social media and Twitter specifically.  The preparation began to feel very similar to life in the classroom with diverse strengths, needs, and interests to develop.

So began at the beginning.  What does a new user need to know?  My early perception that this would be easy was quickly altered as I realized all the lingo, tech terms, and number of uses for Twitter.  Half of my audience are proficient Tweeps, so clearly I needed to think of my "Detective's Guides" (inspired by Verena's Detective/case study approach to the course) in two parts; one for newbies and a second one for experienced users.  It also became apparent that there are Tweeps involved in this course that have knowledge and experience on Twitter that I have not yet developed.  This made me feel like there should be a third installment to the Twitter Detective Guide that I am not equipped to create (at this point).  So I have put a call to action out for DigiFoot participants (and anyone else who knows some advanced Twitter uses) to collaborate to produce the third guide.  I will gladly publish the collaborative work once the information has been collected.  It will be interesting to see who might take me up on this challenge.  If you're interested, add your idea to the google doc.

One of the resources being used in the DigiFoot12 course is MightyBell.  This is a service that I have not seen before but I am becoming a fan early in my exploration.  I can see this being an essential tool to use for collaborative group work.  I love that you can share links, videos, files, images, comments, ask questions, post conversation topics, and schedule events within your group.  I decided to try it out for our week two Twitter topic and so far it has worked very well.  This is definitely a tool that I will use again.

I presented during my first Blackboard Collaborate session as a moderator for this course!  On Tuesday, July 10th, I used the slides embedded below to introduce my story and experiences with Twitter to the participants of this course. I believe there were about 45 people that participated in the session and the recording has been shared with the course participants that were not able to make that time commitment.

During our first meeting to kick off DigiFoot12, reference was made to The Seven Degrees of Connectedness post and infographic recently created and shared by Rodd Lucier (will collaboration from Zoe Branigan-Pipe and Silvia Tolisano).  This infographic (seen to the left) became a basis for great discussion about developing your PLN and using Twitter.  It naturally fit with my presentation when considering my own path to learning using Twitter and social media; from being the hesitant lurker, to branching out to share and connect, to making meaningful contacts, and then on too deeper face to face relationships.  The recording of the meeting can be viewed HERE!
I am feeling very connected after reflecting on my Twitter use for this course.  You've heard me say it before, but I'll say it again....Twitter has changed my life! Digi foot12 tweet me
View more presentations from Gill-Ville

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

#ConnectED Canada

This past weekend I had the pleasure of traveling to Alberta for the first ConnectED Canada conference. There were so many different events and people that impacted me greatly that it's difficult to process it all and get it into words...however, I will try!

First off, a big hats of to Erin (@erincouillard), Neil (@neilstephenson), and George (@gcouros) for all of their work co-ordination, organizing, preparing, and running the conference and related social events. As someone who spends a great deal of time coordinating events such as Family Math Night and EdCampWR, I am fully aware of the dedication and work involved in taking on a project this size. Kudos to these three fearless leaders and to the staff and students of the Calgary Science School that opens the doors to their classrooms to provide us with a window into their learning.

I was most impressed with the manner the students presented themselves, their pride in demonstrating their work, and their genuine interest (and ability) in communicating their learning. I can't help to be a little envious of their learning spaces, with wide open areas, couches, and non-traditional classroom furniture that promotes collaboration and invites learners to move to a place more suitable and/or comfortable for the task at hand. It was interesting to see the students working in a 1:1 mobile device set up, with students using iPads, cameras, and laptops to research, record, and present their learning.

 Having this access to technology has really helped them take their learning to the next level and share it easily. I enjoyed seeing the QR Codes posted on the walls so that others classes can see what other students are working on. In fact, I was blown away by how much the student tour guides knew about what other grades/classes were working on. You really got the sense of a learning community. When students are involved, they frequently steal the show, and in this case, there was no exception! They were definitely a highlight of the conference for many attendees.

The Saturday break out sessions were very thought provoking and included some great debate and sharing.  It always amazes me the conversations that occur when you place passionate educators together in a space and let them talk.  The "educon/edcamp" model for these sessions allows people to connect, collaborate, and become active participants in their learning.  This usually only occurs during breaks and lunch time at regular conferences.  By switching up the format, these discussions are taking place everywhere and are not limited to brief gatherings in the hall.  It allows educators to personalize and control their own learning, a choice that we value when working with students and appreciate even more when applied to ourselves.  During Tom Fullerton's (@tomfullerton) session we had great discussions about professional development that is driven from the top down and how effective this really is.  I loved Tom's analogy of "PD being like shoes" with "value coming from a variety of models".  Not only did he win over the women in the room, but he makes a valid point about the time and place for different forms of PD.  With educators entering the conversations at different starting points, it becomes increasingly apparent that various levels, forms, and models of PD are needed to address the diversity of teacher learners' needs.

 This was very evident during my own breakout session on using Twitter in the Classroom.  I had to admit that I was a little stressed out about the format of my session prior to it beginning.  I have not attended Educon but have been involved in edcamps, and I was a little concerned that my session involved too much "showing" and not enough "sharing".  This fear went out the window as soon as I asked the participants where they were in their own social media use and with respect to using Twitter professionally and with students.  After polling the audience, only 5 educators were on Twitter (three of them had just joined that day) and NONE of them were using Twitter with students.  Although this hinders my planned discussion about how people were using Twitter in Education, it allowed me a chance to start fresh and introduce a new concept to this audience.  That excited me.  So, my session became more of a "presentation" but I am OK with that because it was where the group was "at".  It was also great to hear the feedback from session participants that claimed they were "wowed" by my students' use of Twitter and social media.  Thanks Verena Roberts (@verenanz), Julie Gummesen (@juliegummesen), Fiona (@fina_bro), Laurie Besenski (@besenski), and Preet Dhaliwal (@tweetteacher) for taking the time to talk to me specifically about my session.  Your feedback was much appreciated!

I would be remiss if I failed to mention the new additions to my PLN over the course of the weekend.  I think I received over 150 new Twitter followers over the 3 day conference!!  It's always exciting to meet people face to face that you've been following for a while (such as my new lilac loving buddy, Michelle Baldwin - @michellek107).  There were many opportunities for this, especially with my western colleagues.  I thoroughly enjoyed the online and live dialogue with new friends, Aaron Akune (@aakune), Steve Bloom (@teckteach), Wayne Deptuck (@wdeptuck), Robert Wielgoz (@rwielgoz), Rosalind (@rozgoldsmith), Valerie Irvine (@_valeriei) and Lindsay Bingley (@lbingley).  I look forward to continuing these conversations online!  I also found it ironic that I had to travel to Calgary to finally meet Ontario Tweeps, Tania Sterling (@taniasterling) and Brian Harrison (@bharrisionvp).  All of these new connections have lifted me up and will help sustain me through the last few days of this school year (and beyond).

The one theme that kept popping up, session after session, discussion after discussion, and during the social events was that of RELATIONSHIPS.  Relationships matter!  I also took some time to nurture existing relationships with friends from the Unplugd Summit, reminiscing about the event and the relationships that developed from the experience.  It was a great pleasure to take some time to spend with Zoe (@zbpipe) hearing about her adventures in Jerusalem and touring Banff with Rodd (@thecleversheep), and most importantly, my amazing travel buddy, Alanna (@banana29) who took care of me every step of the journey.  The Unplugd Summit had a huge impact on me both professionally and personally.  So much so that I just couldn't resist attending Zoe and Rodd's Unplugd session.  To hear what you missed, check out my livescribe pencast recorded that day.

This conference was such a full and rich experience, from start to end.

One thing you won't hear from this cat is "I attended #ConnectEDca and all I got was this waterbottle!"

Thanks ConnectED Canada! 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Edcamp Waterloo Voices

It's been over a week since Edcamp Waterloo Region. I think it's taken me this long to come down off my "edcamp high" and gather my thoughts about the event. As an organizer of the event, lots of time and energy went into the planning and preparing for Waterloo Region's first ever edcamp and to see it come and go is a little surreal.

When I set out with this idea of hosting an event on my "home turf", I had this lingering question of "if you build it, will they come"? I am a firm believer that the people that are meant to be there, will be. It is the participants that really drive events such as edcamps. The attendees of EdcampWR were second to none, with representatives from eleven different Ontario school boards! As our guests arrived early on a Saturday morning to dive into the intricacies of educational issues, I couldn't help to note the number of familiar faces from my own PLN, known through twitter avatars and/or face to face networking. It was fantastic to come together to share, discuss, debate, challenge each other, and continue the online conversations that often fuel our edu-passions. It is the quality of these participants and their contributions that made EdcampWR the success that it was.

In noticing those that joined us for EdcampWR, it seemed a meeting of like minds, like we were speaking to the converted. I couldn't help but notice those missing from the edcamp conversation and wondering how do we get others involved in these important discussions? I believe it's important to express opinions and consider various point of views on educational issues...including the technophobes, the anti-gamers, and those anywhere else on the spectrum of technology use. These voices are important to provide balance and context to current challenges facing innovative teaching practices. These voices are necessary to move forward, to change.

There were registrants that admittedly decided against attending and some that left early because they were intimidated by the conversations, topics, and even evident PLNs. As an educator, I find this very concerning. I feel somewhat responsible to make sure everybody is welcomed and invited to contribute (in what ever capacity) and to meet learners new to concepts "where they are at". How do we make sure our techno-babble and edu-speak doesn't hinder or make the conversation inaccessible to some participants? Do we need to be more aware and respectful of various entry points? How can we make our messages more accessible to newcomers?

I also feel that these individuals have a responsibility to take action to make sure their needs are being met. If a conversation is "too out there" or "above your head" then a decision needs to be made; will you move out of your comfort zone and learn something new (as we ask our students to do daily), or will you choose to get involved in a different conversation (that better suits your interests and needs)? There's always the argument that none of the sessions applied to a specific individual. To those, I challenge you to start a new conversation, one that you feel passionately about, one for which you can feel good about contributing. Like many things in life, what you put in is directly related to what you get out. We don't allow our students to disengage so why would we accept this of ourselves?

I recognize that there are all types of learners and that participation in edcamp-styled events often requires a risk-taking, self-directed individual. To those that fit this description, I applaud you for getting involved, sharing your stories and voices, and continuing the sometimes messy learning journey. To those that aren't comfortable with this, how can we include you in the conversations and hear your voices? It's YOU that I want to hear from the most!!!

If you would like to see what over 150 online participants were saying in the backchannel on Twitter, check out Edcamp Waterloo Region Tweets.

Student Showcase at Edcamp Waterloo Region

This is a cross post from the Gill-Ville Class blog.

On Saturday, March 31st most of the students in Gill-Ville attended Edcamp Waterloo Region, our areas first ever edcamp! The students were involved in a technology showcase session where they each presented a project or tech tool to other students in the session and teachers that were attending the event. The Gill-Villeans represented us very well and impressed educators from eleven different school boards across Ontario. It is safe to say that they stole the show! If you are a Twitter user you can check out the #edcampwr hash tag to see what educators are saying about our students and event. Our students shared social media sites such as Twitter, Edmodo, and blogging. Some students shared iPad apps and multimedia projects like our Pan-Canada ePub project. The Gill-Villeans rose to the challenge and inspired educators to learn and try new technology tools. You can learn more about our class showcase sharing by reading a blog post written by a well known Ontario Edublogger, Doug Peterson, who came to see us the day before and wrote all about us!

The students also had a large part in helping prepare for the event. In the days leading up to Edcamp Waterloo, the students were eager to show off their baking skills as they made a variety of muffins, cookies, scones, and other treats. They were such a big hit that many educators have tweeted us looking for recipes to some of our goodies! The lemon Oreos that Miss Broderick taught us how to make were quickly devoured and made us famous!

The students in our class also invited Edcamp Waterloo participants to bring donations for the Spring Food Drive. Attendees rose to the challenge and we collected 76 items!

The students that participated received special event T-Shirts from Smart Pen Central and apple swag from one of our sponsors. To show our appreciation, the students created Thank You messages that we sent digitally. Check out the student blogs for their recap of the event and special messages to our supporters.


The students in Gill-Ville have been learning about various ways to help the environment and reduce our carbon footprint. After learning about the polar bear migration and issues with climate change on their habitat, the students felt a call to action! One thing we decided to do was to raise awareness about the waste humans create. Our class already shows leadership for the school recycling and composting programs, so we decided to go to the next level and learn about eWaste. We also challenged Edcamp participants to bring their old electronics (pictured above). During Earth Week, we will also invite the Ryerson community to drop off their eWaste! Read our eWaste blog posts here:

Jacob’s post:
Emilee’s post:
Bailey’s post: