Thursday, November 28, 2013

Learning "From" Versus Learning "With"

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In his video "Self-driven and Classroom-based: Professional Development in the 21st Century," Konrad Glogowski makes a very important distinction between "learning from" and "learning with."

He points out that he does not learn with people in his Twitter feed, but learns from them, since connections in many social media spaces involve observations through reading or watching. Usually the material or people we interact with online would have little thought or consideration about our own particular teaching environment.

Additionally, Glogowski is critical of much of the professional development that can simply become trends or buzzwords since it is delivered in an approach that views educators as "implementors" of certain tasks or strategies. So while a teaching strategy or the integration of technology may have worked in one class, we have to ask ourselves, will it work for my students in my class?

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Providers of Insight?

Marshall McLuhan
From Wikipedia
When considering Marshall McLuhan's 1959 lecture "Electronic Revolution: Revolutionary Effects of New Media," the notion of "fast-moving and flexible media" has indeed as much, if not more, significance in the 21st century. The evolution of technology in our society can be seen as both breathtaking and disconcerting. Inventor and Futurist Ray Kurzweil discusses the rapid advancement of technology which he argues will "blur the line between human and machine."

I think the role of "the teacher" in the learning environments of the 21st century is best illustrated when we consider McLuhan's observations about the electronic revolution of television: "The electronic revolution of television has made the teacher the provider no longer of information but of insight, and the student not the consumer but the co-teacher, since he has already amassed so much information outside the classroom."

Monday, November 11, 2013

Initiatives, Isolation and Mr. D

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A few years ago I was heavily involved in a cross-curricular literacy initiative in our school. The initiative was in conjunction with the District, and at one point I received a call from a representative from the Department of Education with a very interesting proposal. They wanted to see if any of our teachers would allow the Department to capture some of their best practices on video as they taught students in their classes. The answer? It was a resounding no.

None of the teachers, including myself, were overly excited with the idea of being captured on video. Assurances were made that only the best practices would be used and any other material would be edited. Yet we could not be sold on the idea and once one teacher declined, everyone else fell like dominoes.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Social Networking, Knowledge Management and the EPSS

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It appears that many characteristics that are inherent in social networking platforms would greatly enhance and perhaps even challenge the traditional view of the purpose of the Electronic Performance Support System (EPSS).

Deborah Alpert Sleight discusses what is meant by an EPSS in her article "What is Electronic Performance Support and What Isn’t?". She describes a two part characteristic of EPSS which is, firstly, "access to the specific information and tools needed to perform a task," and secondly, "access to the information and tools at the time the task is to be performed." Both parts need to be present for it to be a characteristic related to an effective EPSS. She continues her discussion that the specific information can be provided in various media, including textual, visual, audio, computer programs/tools, along with advice or guidance.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Considering Performance Tasks

When considering my performance in teaching and administrative tasks, the first challenge was trying to decide what I would consider administrative versus what I would consider teaching. Many times the two categories intersect and blend together and can be difficult to separate. Below are two charts illustrating how I decided to separate the two, accompanied with the factors involved for each category.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Plentiful Picasa Pleasures

How many words is it worth?

If a picture is a worth a thousand words, then using software like Google's Picasa for photo sharing and collaboration must be worth a billion. Well, maybe not a billion words, but given its capabilities it certainly exceeds a thousand.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Tiptoeing through Social Media

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Utilizing social networks (or social media) has been a bit of a struggle for me - both personally and professionally. I was not drawn to social media. So, initially, when sites like Facebook were banned in our school district, it did not cause much of a concern for me. However, over the past few years I have started to get my toes a little wet in social media. I have yet to create a Facebook account, but I have dabbled a bit in Twitter and have been quite surprised with the results.

Regardless of my small efforts to engage in social media, I have been troubled with what I see as a lack of a concentrated effort to prepare our students not just for "life," but also their digital life. I have started to make some attempts to discuss what it means to be a digital citizen and allow my students to explore issues such as Internet privacy, safety, cyber-bullying, and how young people use social media and mobile devices.

But when it comes to full immersion in social media... it is still only the toes that are wet.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Web 2.0 Implications: Personalized and Learner-Centred Experiences

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Two terms that have been churning in my head recently have been "personalized learning" and "learner-centred environments." The article "Web 2.0 Tools for Learning in Higher Education: The Presence of Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, Microblogs, Facebook and Ning" (Shih & Waugh, 2011) explores these terms and the article's discussion on Web 2.0 tools has lead me to consider how I could be using Web 2.0 tools differently in some of my courses, particularly Broad-Based Technology 9 (BBT 9).

The BBT 9 class I teach explores various Web 2.0 tools. There has been a move away from using software that is isolated in an individual computer to
introducing students to a range of Web 2.0 applications for collaboration and online publishing. Additionally, the cost factor has also played a part, since most Web 2.0 tools have little to no cost associated with them. For example, students can now explore photo editing and manipulation without schools needing to invest in a large number of licences for specialized software. In fact, the problem now is trying to determine which Web 2.0 application would be most effective for the learning objectives, since there is such a wide variety of choices. 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

What Tangled Webs We Weave...

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In his article "What Is Web 2.0: Design Patterns and Business Models for the Next Generation of Software," Tim O'Reilly provides a Web 2.0 Meme Map that includes descriptors which I think mirror what most teachers want to accomplish when working together in regard to knowledge management and professional development. 

One such descriptor is the "the right to remix." One of the first words of wisdom I received in my first year of teaching was to "steal" as much as I could from my colleagues. Of course, calling it stealing was a joke, because, in essence, it was a way to share information with each other. Many Web 2.0 applications allow not only for the sharing of information, but also give teachers an opportunity to apply and remix the information to their specific situation and they then, in turn, can share this remix. Thus, the knowledge database grows offering various ways for information to be utilized.

Monday, September 16, 2013


Spock's Vulcan Mind-Meld from Star Trek.
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PrĂ©cis of Storing the Mind, Minding the Store 

This is an online article at The article is a synopsis of a discussion held by a panel of experts in information technology and knowledge management. This panel discussed the value of knowledge management and how to effectively achieve knowledge sharing in organizations. 

Barriers to knowledge management and sharing knowledge were discussed, including job insecurities and the breakdown of communication between employees and employers. Employees have to feel secure in the idea that sharing knowledge is beneficial to both them and the organization. Suggestions on how to create a culture of sharing knowledge included reward systems, building climates of trust, and reinforcing similar values so employees can bond and realize there are 
mutual benefits in sharing information. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Data-driven Knowledge?

Simply put, knowledge is the ability to apply information in a manner that displays your skills and/or understanding of that particular field or area of study. This would fall in line with the constructivist approach of knowledge where one selects the necessary information and then is able to "construct" their knowledge to display their understanding. In knowledge, information "comes alive" since it is applied to help solve a problem, address an issue, create alternative solutions, etc.

Data is an essential element for creating information and producing knowledge, but on its own it is simply symbols, words, or numbers waiting to be applied by the practitioner. For example, I may be presented with a list of literary terms. This list would be the data. I then can research the terms and discover their definitions and begin to see how they can be meaningful to my learning. This is information. Now, if I learned the terms and definitions by heart, it may appear I am knowledgeable of literary terms. However, recall is not really knowledge. Additionally, recall in the 21st century does not appear as impressive as it might have ten or twenty years ago (although it works well in Jeopardy and Trivial Pursuit). But if I was then asked to apply those terms to an analysis of a poem or short story, that is when the information "comes alive," and where I would illustrate my level of knowledge of those terms.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Reflection: Online Collaboration and Web 2.0

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Many of the online courses I have taken require group work. The prospect of creating a group in an online course can be stressful. I know when I introduce a group work activity in my classroom, you can see the students deciding on the strategy they will use to form their desirable group. Sometimes it has more to do with who they prefer to socialize with as opposed to which of their peers will make for the best group to do the work. Nevertheless, the forming of a group, I think, is an important part to the whole process of collaboration and cooperation. I seldom assign students to groups, unless there is a history of conflict between the students.

Reflection: Online Professional Development

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This past semester I was part of an online professional development for Media Studies 120 and Journalism 120. Each curriculum went through a much deserved revamp, and the purpose of the online professional development was to become acquainted with new material, new ideas and hear from some teachers who shared best practices in the classroom.

That previous summer a similar onsite session was held, and I had planned to attend, but was unable to attend due to some other commitments. The onsite session had been videotaped, so part of that was included in the online session.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Constancy, Immediacy and the Online Moderator

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From my own experiences with online learning, which started about two years ago, I think one difficulty for the online moderator  is the fact that all the material and resources are immediate and constant and the expectations this can create with the students. I know as a student when I log in, I will usually have immediate access to everything about the course. There tends to be, even as unrealistic as it is, this expectation that the moderator should be constant and immediate as well. I think this extends to many areas of our lives because of technology and the desire for an immediate answer or solution to any problems or issues that arise. One obvious advantage to online learning is the ability to access the material and resources anywhere at anytime. If the web server is down, or if it is running extremely slow, you quickly see how much we rely on the constant and immediate access that online learning experiences bring. We have become conditioned to it. So when the immediate and constant resources and materials are not enough, and we need to speak to the moderator, we run into the reality that human beings are still part of the process.  

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Encouraging Digital Discussion

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The paper "Evaluating Students' Participation In On-Line Discussions," explores how students can be encouraged to participate effectively in online discussions and also discusses how these discussions can be assessed. 

Participating in online discussions is defined as "the process where learners and educators are actively engaged in on-line text-based communication with each other." Effective on-line participation, should lead to a deeper understanding of the course material.

The purposes of on-line discussions are categorized in two ways: on-line discussions act "as the locus of shared knowledge and practice" or "as a forum within which diverse and (sometimes) conflicting beliefs and values can be articulated and negotiated."

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Shifting Gears with Mobile Learning?

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The article "Mobile Learning: From single project status into the mainstream?" takes the position that mobile learning is a "subset" of e-learning. The study explores whether mobile learning is a new generation of distance education or, quoting Peters (2004), an "educational paradigm shift." The article discusses the growing use of mobile devices and the fact they offer world wide access to people in developing countries and isolated, rural locations. 

The researchers conducted an international survey amongst distance educators and collected their data in 2006 and 2007 with 88 responses from 27 countries, with the majority from South Africa, Germany, Canada and Great Britain. Fifty nine percent of the respondents were from institutions that offer "both face-to-face (contact-based) and distance learning programs (mixed-mode/hybrid)." 

Friday, June 14, 2013

What it Means to be a Teacher...Point Form

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Tom March's online article "The 10 Stages of Working the Web for Education" challenges teachers to consider how to use technology, particularly the Internet, to not only acquire new information and skills, but to "transform" that knowledge and to "construct new meaning" while fostering a learner centred environment in our classrooms. Below are my thoughts, in point form, on what I think it means to be a teacher given my own experiences on using technology in the classroom. Obviously this is not an exhaustive list, and I hope it is not exhausting to read:

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Traditional, Blended, E-Learning, Results and Digital Natives

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The study "Comparing Effectiveness of Traditional versus Blended Teaching Methods: Efforts to Meet the Demand of Students in a Blend 2.0" illustrates that when designed appropriately for the learning situation, a blended learning environment is as effective as a traditional learning environment. This study asserts that students are "craving technology in the classroom." While this may generally be the case, it is clear from this study's results that there were no significant differences in overall effectiveness of a blended environment versus a traditional one.  

Perhaps this conclusion may illustrate that if a course is designed well, regardless of the approach, it will be effective. In fact the study acknowledges that the instructor had been dedicated in making "the two sections of the class as comparable as possible" and the instructional design for both classes included a "media rich environment." Thus, it is important to note that technology played a significant role in both learning environments, even though one environment is called "traditional" it did not exclude the use of technology.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Unconventional Approaches to Web Design

First of all, I would be remiss if I did not include a shout out to the first website created in 1992 which was made available again for viewing in April of this year. It was interesting to read and hear some of the comments made about the design of the page. Some people have commented how they love the simplicity of the page with clear links and no distracting images, scrolling ads and flashy video content. The site can be called many things, but overwhelming, in comparison to current websites, is not one of them.

A Quick Look at Six Effective e-Learning Design Elements

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In the article "Elements of Effective e-Learning Design" by Andrew R. Brown and Bradley D. Voltz, the authors introduce six elements of design in e-learning for K-12 where they consider "e-learning" as teaching and learning "delivered, supported, and enhanced through the use of digital technologies and media and may involve "face-to-face, distance, and mixed mode or blended delivery models." 

They use  examples from the work of The Le@rning Federation (TLF). 

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Putting the "I" Back Into Writing

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A few weeks ago I was having a discussion with a colleague of mine. We were chatting over different writing styles we see in student work, as we both teach the same students. I teach them in a writing class, and she teaches then in an English class. She mentioned how she finds it very difficult to teach "voice" to students. An instructor can go over many conventions and strategies as well as provide different writing activities to help students develop voice in their writing. But she said some students just seem "to have it" while other students really struggle. It is almost like it naturally and almost effortlessly flows from some students into their writing.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Grazing, Gaming, Changing, Creating and Crystal Balls

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Jamie McKenzie's 1994 article "Grazing the Net: Raising a Generation of Free Range Students" reads a lot like articles today that discuss the importance of digital literacy. Moreover, his metaphor of information as food is one that has recently been discussed on TEDtalks by technologist JP Rangaswami in March 2012. 

The future that McKenzie writes about, in his insightful and entertaining style, is here. I would further argue that it is not only here, but has gone beyond some of his insights. Not only is there are a major push to teach digital literacy in our schools, but some are arguing that digital literacy includes the ability to code programs. On an episode of CBC's Spark author Douglas Rushkoff argues that young people should learn to code to understand the bias of digital technology. He states that "programming is the new literacy of the digital age." The question becomes whether "we direct technology, or do we let ourselves be directed by it and those who have mastered it?" 

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Considering WebQuests

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When I think about doing WebQuests in my own classroom, I keep coming back to an observation from that states, "The amount of information available to everyone will grow at an accelerating pace; much of it will come directly from a growing number of sources without filtering or verification."

This is a fact that continually resurfaces in my Journalism and Media Studies courses. Media corporations tend only to be concerned about their bottom lines and the need to fill space. So they pitch endless amounts of information and title it "news." This is what Drew Curtis likes to call "Fark," passing off crap as news. (A cautionary note: the Fark site is quite "blunt" in some of its language.)

PBL: Questioning, Acting, Assessing, Reflecting and Celebrating

Learning by doing is one of the recurring themes in Project-Based Learning. makes reference to John Dewey who challenged the view of the student as a "passive recipient of knowledge." The quote from Dewey that is cited, "education is not preparation for life; education is life itself" is a very powerful quote with many challenging implications for both educators and students.

A few years ago, in the school where I work, the students were excited over some of the new courses that were being offered. These courses included Welding and Power Recreation & Technology. Taking the advice I had heard (and which is also mentioned on to "start small"), I decided to try to take advantage of the students' enthusiasm, since many of the students taking the new courses were also in my Media Studies course. Their driving question was how do they promote and make the larger community aware of what was being offered at a smaller rural school. In working groups, they decided the best medium was video. I was lucky enough, through a friend, to connect with Terry Gadsden who works in animation and film as an instructor at NBCC-Miramichi.

Monday, May 20, 2013

The "E" in E-Portfolios Does Not Stand for "Easy"

Relics of the past?
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When I did my education degree back in 2001, we were required to create a portfolio. For many years after I continued to add student work or other items to my portfolio. When I was hired as a long-term supply, my district had implemented the use of portfolios, although the implementation was very standardized with every teacher receiving a binder to create their portfolio. It was not taken very seriously. And for good reason. For practically every job interview I did, no one asked to see my portfolio. I would offer it, and I think once they told me to leave it behind and pick it up the next day. I highly doubted anyone looked at it.  

The article "Conflicting Paradigms in Electronic Portfolio Approaches" discusses the different, and sometimes conflicting, views of the e-portfolio's purpose. I think within my experience with the traditional paper-based portfolio the stage of being conflicted over the portfolio's purpose did not even develop, because it seemed like there was no initial agreement on what potential purposes might actually exist. Portfolios just appeared to be the thing to do because they were in fashion. 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Cults, Brains and Education 3.0

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The article, Education 3.0 and the Pedagogy (Andragogy, Heutagogy) of Mobile Learning, both excites me and makes me uncomfortable! It excites me because it recognizes the power of technology, and how it can be used in the classroom to enhance the learning experience. But it also makes me uncomfortable because I find it follows a very bizarre notion that has become popular lately that, simply put, children are now adults.

Granted, the author does observe that "it is not as simple" as stating an educator "uses one teaching orientation over another." For example, I did a fair amount of training on Project-Based Learning and have applied it to some of my courses. But at one session I was forced to ask the "expert" on the topic (the facilitator): is Project Based Learning for every course or every student? The answer, unsurprisingly, was no, it is not. What prompted that question? It was this overwhelming tide of enthusiasm that PBL (I hate acronyms!) was going to transform our schools. Now, don't get me wrong, my experiences with PBL have been overly positive, but why is it when a new approach, new theory or new model is introduced and promoted, a cult-like atmosphere appears to develop among educators? There is sometimes this all or nothing attitude. So to see an acknowledgement that one philosophy or one approach is not the end all or be all and "educators need to examine what they are teaching and the population to whom they are teaching" is very refreshing.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Different Routes in Teaching and Learning

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When I read over summaries for the five different teaching perspectives, I was struck how I saw myself more in the nurturing role than the other four. I was surprised because the running joke among most of my peers is I should become a guidance counselor. It is a running joke because I spend little time getting wrapped up in the personal lives of my students, and I seldom have students come speak to me one-on-one about their problems. So I never considered myself a nurturer.

So relating to that description and then having my results from the survey confirm my initial thoughts, I started to consider why this perspective was the strongest (albeit not off the charts, and there are two contenders right behind it - Developmental and Apprenticeship). I think it is the strongest because within the learning environment I want my students to do the best they can and feel confident in their work. I thought of two courses I normally teach, Journalism and Media Studies, when I read the statements. Normally the students that come into these courses at the school I teach are not the "strong academic" types. The courses are normally set against academic courses. So I usually get a fair share of students who are not strong writers and are not always that inclined to use technology for overly productive activities. Absenteeism runs high and many of the grade 12 students taking the courses do not even need the credits to graduate. It is strange when you have a system that allows students to get to second semester of grade 12, and they may only need one or two courses out of the five they are taking to receive their diploma in June.

Thinking about Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom: The Storyboard

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One of the topics of instruction that comes up quite often in my classes is the ability to storyboard in preparation for video work. Whether it is for Journalism 120, Writing 110 or Media Studies 120, the students do different types of video work, from news videos to how-to videos, to taking the written word and transforming it into "moving pictures." Part of the process is planning, and part of the planning is creating a storyboard - a plan of action which considers camera shots, text, audio, etc. Taking into consideration the nine different intelligences, below are some examples of how they could be used to teach the concept of storyboarding.

Verbal-Linguistic - Have students consider: What words will be used to convey the message? Most videos carry a message through the visual effects along with sounds and music. Many times few words are used. But the words that are used have to pack a punch and leave the audience with a lasting impression. Which words will be most effective and memorable for the audience and complement the visual and sound effects?

Monday, May 13, 2013

Learning Styles Versus Multiple Intelligences

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Looking at learning styles and trying three different learning style assessments, I was surprised to discover I am an auditory learner. I had always assumed I was a visual learner, maybe because I once heard that the visual learner is more common than the other two (and that in itself could very well be an inaccurate statement). I think this is why I tried three different inventories, because I was not totally convinced of the results. 

But upon further reflection, I can see why the results would indicate that I am an auditory learner. Even when I look at my daily routines, I rely a lot more on audio for news and information (podcasts and radio streams) than I do the written word. I always figured it was because listening to news and information, as opposed to reading it, allows me to do other activities at the same time (like drive a car). 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Naturally Intelligent?

According to the online assessment I completed on my multiple intelligences, I am not brimming over with strengths in any of the areas. The highest a person can get on the assessment is five, and I was a 3.86 in Naturalist Intelligence, a 3.57 in Intrapersonal Intelligence and 3.43 in Interpersonal Intelligence.

If these were grade point averages, I would be ecstatic.

However, sitting here typing this with some soil still stuck under my fingernails from taking care of some roots and seedlings this afternoon, I cannot argue that I love working outdoors and do possess a fair amount of practical knowledge in the areas of gardening and landscaping. I also enjoy walking and hiking and taking photos of nature. So maybe it is not that surprising that the Naturalist Intelligence is my highest area. I think since this was my highest intelligence, my learning environment would include time outdoors to explore patterns in nature.