Friday, April 29, 2011

Advice From Ian Before Taking Our Pictures.

1. Use any digital camera and save pictures as jpegs.
2. Take multiple shots from the same location in case some are blurry etc. This will save going back for a reshoot if there is lots of  spare footage.
3.Might also be worthwhile to have a basic lesson about learning to hold a camera steady, framing a shot and not shooting into the sun to avoid lens flares etc.

Link on framing a picture:

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Scratching the Tip of the Collaborative Iceberg

I am quite astonished by the interest our app project is generating.  This leads me to stand back in awe of the world my students and I are now living in. In the past, if  I was to develop a "media unit" for my class, I would scramble to find resources, select the least out of date articles from our reader and use them as the basis for our learning.  We would complete a media project that the class would see and that would be that. My students would learn as much as I knew and then we'd move on.

I no longer have to work in that way.  Through twitter, my students have access to a highly skilled app developer (amongst other things -I  read your bio Ian!) to guide them through the process.  Our project has been spotted on twitter by Cynthia Jabar, a picture book author and illustrator experimenting in digital storytelling forms, collaborating and transmedia.  She has offered her skills to my students and to that end they will be Skyping with her to learn about digital media and design. They have the opportunity to learn first hand from yet another expert. I'm not doing any "teaching", I've become a facilitator and a networker working on behalf of my students. And this is just the beginning. My students and I have inadvertently scratched the tip of the collaborative iceberg. We've been given a wonderful glimpse into the future of learning in the 21st century.   I really, really like the view!

App Planning: Locations are Selected

This morning we looked at our work from yesterday. The students made a few corrections to my post concerning which students had suggested which ideas.  They are excited that their work is generating discussion on twitter and that others are interested in their project.  Unexpected offers to help are being made.  It is so pleasing to know that there are a number of individuals from different parts of the world who really want to see Class 62 succeed with this task. Thank you for your interest and expressions of support.

We revisited possible location choices and the class agreed that some places were of less merit than others.  Pizza Pizza might be a favourite place for pizza, but it won't necessarily attract a tourist to our town.  After a brief discussion about handling disappointment the class decided that the best way to decide location choice was to determine what each person actually wanted to photograph.  We went student by student.  There were a number of students to whom it didn't matter. We left their choices for last.

As we went through the selection process,  the entire class was well aware that certain students really wanted to photograph certain locations. This is a kind class. No one claimed places that other's truly wanted. The Peak was left for Ryan who had expressed the greatest interest in it. The town hall was left for Taylor.  The community centre and memorial were left for Kyle. Danielle was able to claim the Driving Park. Austin and Kris claimed District - a school with a reputation for being haunted.  Everyone was satisfied with the process. Well done Class 62.

Sites are selected!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

App Planning

Excellent discussion today and yesterday with Class 62.  A beginning list of possible locations to include in the app was generated.  It was interesting to listen to what grade 6 students consider important about their town. For example, the waterfalls that I expected them to suggest because they are spectacular were not the first choice for some of my students.  They prefered to include the less spectaclar falls where they are able to play and slide down.  Places to eat also figured prominently in the discussion. For other students it was the beautiful historic buildings and for some, the great places to play. A few wanted to include their own homes.

List of possible places to photograph

Today we began to gather ideas for the actual layout and design of the app. We had a very thoughtful,  engaging and at times intense discussion about what needs to be considered.  There are no shortage of ideas in this class!

In order to design the app, students must determine audience.  They recognized that an app designed for an elderly person would look very different from an app designed for a teenager.  Who then is our market?  After much discussion, the class decided that the app should be designed for the largest possible audience: families.

The class also decided that if people were going to take the time to download the app, it should be useful - it needs to be more than just a fun activity for us to do.We discussed the merits of turning the app into a story with something happening at each location; this idea hasn't been entirely ruled out yet, but students are reflecting on whether this would have broad enough appeal.  The class wants people to want to download the app. How then do we make it appealing for adults and kids? If we had more time I would include market research. 

This flow chart displays our discussion and ideas

This led to discussion on the actual layout and design. One student, Ryan,  advanced the discussion by getting up independently and drawing a possible layout.  The main page could include two buttons - one for adults and one for kids.  Lively discussion ensued as to whether this is a good option. Ashley, a master of efficiency, stressed that the app needs to be simple and easy to use otherwise people might get too confused and not use it.   Rebecca suggested that each group of photos could have text aimed at younger kids and text aimed at adults.
Another Ryan pointed out that when the text is written, it must be done in such a way to entice people to want to go to the location.  Carlie suggested that we include a fun  puzzle at each location for younger children. Ryan thought maybe a secret code to solve would be fun.  All students seemed to like the idea of making it interactive in this way. There were many other great suggestions and unfortunately, I didn't record everyone's names when they were made. I'll do this from now on.

The greatest concern at the moment, however, is who is going to get to photograph which location. Several students are claiming rights to "The Peak", for example. How then do we assign the locations?  This is a problem for the class to solve.  There were several good ideas on how this might be done, from random selection, to whoever "called it" first, to seeing who actually wants to photograph each spot and then forming partnerships.  (Hunter's idea). We will have to make a decision by Friday.

Justin asked an important question, "Are you going to cry about it if you don't get what you wanted?" Which really is asking the larger question, "How do we handle the disappointments in life?"  We will have to talk about this before we proceed with location choices.

What was truly notable about this group of students is that all ideas were treated with respect. These students understand how to disagree agreeably.

Thank you Emily for uploading pictures of today's work.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Questions For Ian

1. Do we have to get the GPS marker when we are taking our pictures or can we get it afterwards? (Taylor)
2. Once we've taken 2-3 for the GPS marker can we move around the location and take more? (Taylor)
3. If I want to begin designing my own app separate from this what's a good place to start? (Nicole)
4. Can we meet you via Skype? (entire class)

Monday, April 25, 2011

Test App Is Working!

Ian has created a test app to show to my students tomorrow.  A picture of Dundas Central was sent to Ian in Australia along with our approximate GPS location.  When I point my iphone towards Dundas, an image of my school appears on the screen. The school is 4.1km from my home.

  When I touch the picture of my school, detailed information appears.

Icon Design

Ian has suggested we visit the following sites to learn about icon design.

Test App

This weekend my husband and I did some preliminary work to launch this project. Under Ian's guidance, we took a few pictures of my school, Dundas Central, and found its GPS location  using this site:
We then emailed the pictures to Ian so that he could create a test app. 

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Let Them Learn

I've spent a great deal of time this weekend thinking about Class 62's app project. A vision is slowly developing in my mind of what it might look like. I'm picturing buttons, locations we might include, layout, font, colour choices ....

And there lies the problem.  It's not my project. This project belongs to my students, to class 62.  If I am to truly serve as a facilitator of learning, every step along the way has to belong to them.  I could so easily hijack this project and simply slot my students into tasks in order to meet our goal. My job will be to back off and let them figure this out for themselves.

Which makes me realize just how often I take over and direct learning in order to reach a goal that I have determined to be essential.  Sometimes it is necessary.  If my students' writing is incoherent, it is my job to  address writing skills.  Sometimes, however, I do this for expediency's sake. There is so much to cover and it is easiest if I plan the course of learning and then push my students through it in order to tick off curriculum expectations or prepare them for EQAO.  When I do this, I deny my students their autonomy.

I view this project as an opportunity to carefully examine my role and to consciously develop balance. I will deliberately step back as much as possible so my students can engage in rich, deep learning. I will intervene only when necessary and only where my assistance is truly required.

How do I do this?

To begin, I  must ensure that every student has a very clear understanding of what we are trying to accomplish.  If they know the goal, they should be able to see where they fit in and determine for themselves how they can best contribute.

Tuesday, then will be a day of exploration. My students will play with the Watch Us Grow app to learn how augmented reality works.  Our guided groups this week will revolve around understanding the technology and the purpose of tourism websites. 

Friday, April 22, 2011

Augmented Reality Research Time

When Ian suggested the AR app, I had no idea just how cutting edge this project is.  Now that I've had a chance to visit several AR sites and try out AR using my daughters Ipad2,  I am just so excited.  This is truly at the leading edge of uses for smart phones and tablets. I can't believe we are able to participate in this project!

Watch this link on YouTube to see a demonstration.

We tested Ian's Australian Augmented Reality Tourism App

from our dining room in Canada.  Below is a picture
from an iphone. As we shift the phone images pop up based on their GPS location.  In this case, if I walked 16 125 km across the earth at 269N I will arrive at at the Buxton Trout and Salmon Farm!  When I touch the picture, information on the farm pops up. With Ian's help, Class 62 will be designing a similar app for the town of Dundas.
Fun! Fun!  Fun!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Project Planning Begins

I introduced the app project to my class today. It wasn't news to everyone because one of my students had visited my blog last night.  As I was introducing the project to the class, he had already found examples of Ian's apps on his Ipad and had them ready to show the class.  This gave everyone a good idea of what we are aiming for.

Questions and suggestions immediately ensued.  Students had several ideas of what they might photograph for the Dundas travel app.  The idea of making this useful to people who actually visit Dundas arose, a few of them recognized that they must consider audience when designing the app.  The idea of a 360 degree view had them thinking and it was clear logistics are a concern.   They had great questions, questions for which at this point we do not have any answers.  What impresses me is that the questions and observations are in line with what adults might have if engaged in a similar task.

I really want this to be my students work, so I am taking a back seat at the moment.  I see my role as support person to what they wish to accomplish. Students with natural project planning abilities are stepping forward with suggestions.  Some are a little nervous, because this is real work.  They understand that the bar has been raised and wonder if they will be able to follow through to completion.  Their work will be public.  This is new for them.

On Tuesday we will create a project planning board to begin breaking this down into manageable steps and I will begin visually documenting our process. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Real World Learning

When you work in a Web 20 world, the most unexpected opportunities appear out of nowhere!

Our validity unit has come to an end, and if you read my previous post,  you know that things have been somewhat unsettled in room 208 with  EQAO looming over us.  My students have two major units they are working on: one is to complete a work of fiction, the other is to complete an inquiry on exploration.  Standardized test practice is interwoven.  While what we are doing is interesting, the atmosphere does not approach the level of engagement that my students had during term 2.

That is until today.  Today my student's first real-world learning project has been dropped into our laps thanks to Ian Chia in Australia.  Ian has been following our work via my blogs and twitter.  He has been inordinately helpful in pointing me towards excellent resources, interesting people and tools for curating my links. This week Ian has offered to work with my class.  From Australia, he will guide them through the process of designing an app for their Iphones and Ipads that will be available for download.  My students will be participating in a real world project, one with application beyond the four walls of the classroom.  We will be designing a tourism app for our town, Dundas, Ontario.

Neither Ian nor I know how this project will unfold.  It is new territory and we are both curious.  The work my students will be doing is real.  Teaching in a  21st century classroom means that we no longer need to invent activities that mimic the real world. I can't wait to see how this will alter their approach to learning.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Thank You

When I began this blog in December, I was at a turning point in my teaching career.  I knew that I needed to make changes to my teaching practice if I was to continue being relevant and effective. I began this blog as an exploration, a way to document my learning as I transitioned into a teacher for this millennium.   I hoped that perhaps a few people might visit.  I didn't even anticipate that someone might want to comment back.  That part of blogging was not in my schema.  My blog began as a personal piece of writing, done for myself to help clarify my thinking and mostly to help me understand how to use blogs as a tool for my students.  When I began,  I had no idea how blogging was going to change my life.

As the 5000 page visit was passed this week, it is time for me to reflect on what has happened and to extend an enormous and very humble thank you to ...

Class 62 my homeroom and classes 61, 63 and 5/6G.  You are exceptional students. I have learned so much because of you.  Thank you for jumping on board and being willing to take risks as we explored new ways of learning.  It has been exciting and at times chaotic. Not everything we've tried has gone well, but you've stuck with me and shared your insights which I've been able to pass on to others.  I don't think the level of energy and engagement has ever been as high as it has been this year.  My blog could not be written without you!

My colleagues at Dundas Central.  You've been receptive and willing to visit my blog, discuss and even challenge what I've been attempting to do.  Most of all you've been so very, very encouraging.  Your questions and suggestions have sent me farther down a path of  learning.  Dundas Central has an exceptional staff. I am privileged to work with you.

My developing global network. This I never, ever expected.  I had no idea that a blog was not writing in isolation, but a multi-directional conversation.  Through Twitter, Classroom 2.0, Linked In and Facebook I've met truly exceptional people who are unbelievably generous and willing to share all that they know.  This is the difference between the private sector and education.  Nothing is proprietary. Every single good idea or resource or skill is readily shared.  Without this network to answer my questions and provide fantastic  resources, my blog could not have developed the way it has.

My readers. Every single one of you who has taken time to visit, read, comment, share insights, make suggestions, further develop the conversation and  share my words with others ... you have no idea what this has meant to me  ... thank you.

To those colleagues who've quietly let me know that they have been inspired by my work, that what I am doing is causing them to reflect on their own practice, that my writing has meaning, thank you.

To the pioneers, the trailblazers, the educators who are taking risks and pushing the envelop because they know there is a better way and who are sharing that push for us to follow ... thank you.

To my husband who has been a sounding board for my ideas, who has asked the provocative questions, who   wired my classroom so that I could have multiple computers, who gave us a scanner, routers and a laptop so that Hub21 could happen,  who shows up to fix things that stop working ... thank you.

To my daughters whose eyes glaze over now when I mention the word "blog",  who've had to cook many a meal on their own as I devoted hours to figuring out how to use Web20 resources ... thank you."

To my sister, Karen Siwak,  my other sounding board ... an exceptional one ... who said, "You know, I really think you need to be on Twitter."

To Jared Bennett who got me started on this road ... I know ... where was I three years ago ... when you were diving into this technology and we were teaching partners?  I'm here now Jared, blogging away.  Thanks for giving me so much of your time to explain yet again how things work.

It has been a remarkable journey so far, I can't wait to see what comes next. Thank you folks!

Friday, April 15, 2011

When I Am Not Learning, No One is Learning

Things went dead in my classroom this week. Even my desire to write has been compromised and I've found myself with nothing to blog about which,  for a writer is ... uncomfortable.

This is particularly disconcerting because I have had much to write about over the past few months. This has been an exceptional year in my classroom.  First of all because I have an exceptional group of students, the kind that cross your path just a few times in a teaching career.  Second, because in my attempt to reinvent my teaching practice it has been a year of discovery and wonder - thanks in large part to a global group of educators who have helped point me in the right direction.

Why has it fizzled?  This question has been plaguing me all week, but I think I finally have a handle on the problem. What I know about teaching and learning has crashed head on into provincial needs to assess skill levels of students.  EQAO has become a determining factor as I recognize I must now focus on teaching test writing skills.  The deadline is looming and whether teachers admit it or not, we teach to the test because when those test results come out in the fall, it is upon the grade 3 and 6 language and math teachers of Ontario that the burden lies.

And yet, there are still so many interesting and rich ideas to pursue that I now must drop in order to prepare my students for the test.  This is painful for a teacher. Knowing that this deadline is looming, I have floundered while attempting to prioritize and see my way forward.

Added to this, technology has been uncooperative and downright spiteful. Documentaries from Learn 360 that we used to be able to download, can now only be streamed. Thirty seconds of video followed by fifteen seconds of pause, while the voices continue do not a rich learning moment make.  I've had to drop many of the technology-based activities that I had planned on pursuing because they are not directly relevant to the 'test'.  There hasn't been a focus to what I have been attempting to accomplish and I've been unable to  balance competing interests.

Uncertain how to proceed, I have fallen back on old habits.  I've pulled out activities from previous years and begun a teacher directed program.  I keep thinking back to Marshall McLuhan's "the medium is the message".  In this case, the medium is the test, and the message is, "Be quiet and follow instructions."  Which is not necessarily a bad thing.  Following instructions is a life skill.  I've broken too many appliances trying to just figure them out rather than read instructions to deny the value of  this. Taking time for quiet focused test practice is in some ways a pleasant change.

All of the above is just the back channel however, as I've realized that the real reason why my classroom went dead is that I haven't learned anything new this week. I've attempted to rely on and assign activities that were developed for students in a previous year rather than continuing to let my students lead the learning. I've committed the pedagogical crime of pseudo-teaching and as a result my students have been engaged in pseudo-learning. They've jumped through a few hoops in order to please me rather than  being actively engaged in real learning. I've relied on what I already know rather than being passionately excited by something new.  We've all just been going through the motions; we've been playing "school".

And the sad truth is that when I am not learning, none of my students are learning. It is as simple as that.  School becomes dull. Lifeless. Meaningless. And it was reflected in my students reactions. We were back in traditional teacher mode: assigned seats, teacher directed lessons. Because I have amazing students they took it in stride and completed what I asked them to complete, but it was not done with enthusiasm. I could feel their resistance and the beginnings of resentment.  And I can't say that I blame them.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Augmented Reality Classroom

Imagine your students being able to interact in 3D with any concept you are trying to teach. The possibility exists now. Have a look at this video and wonder!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Peeling the Onion

I feel that I am an onion rapidly shedding layers.  Each layer is something that I used to believe about teaching that no longer applies. When I reach the core, I will retain only those layers from the past that are truly valuable to teaching in the digital age as well as a whole host of new beliefs about learning.  When the 22nd century rolls around - those teachers will shed layers that I helped develop! 

The Mercury Generation

In trying to clarify for myself  an image of  this new group of  learners in our classrooms, I think I've got it:  the Mercury Generation.  Just try to pin them down to a linear lesson once ipads are in your classroom and you'll understand what I mean.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

What's Your Discipline System?

I read this question in a discussion forum and it really threw me:  "As a teacher, we all know the need for a discipline system in your classroom. What do you use to discipline the students? How do you reward them for the right behavior? Do you reward your students? How does that play a role in your classroom?"

This threw me as I realized I don't have a system.  Early in my career I remember using systems to attempt to manage and control student behaviors.  At one time  I did use points and groups and prizes and even threats.  That has long since faded away.

If you really want to know, I don't have a system, but I do have a secret that I'm willing to share: your students are not your students, they are fellow human beings on a journey and very, very worthy of your respect.

Be interested in them as people.

If you can recognize this, then you won't need a system.  Instead, you will foster an environment  that students feel as soon as they walk in the door.  They will sense that they are welcome.  The need for "discipline' will disappear and you will find that what you are really doing is relationship building.  Once you've built a relationship of trust with your students, then real learning can begin to happen.  

All you need to have is ...

Respect for the voices of your students.
Respect for the needs of your students.
Respect for the differences in your students.
And ...

Laughter ... a great deal of it ... about yourself, each other and all that happens in the classroom.

And you also must ..

Listen and understand where your students are coming from.  Recognize that for some of your students, just getting to school that day is a reason to celebrate.   Realize  that sometimes forgetting a pencil or receiving a poor test result is really not that important in the grand scheme of things.   Be so approachable that students come to you with issues and ask for assistance in solving them. 

Let them know that you are learning as much from them as you hope they are from you.

Admit when you are wrong, when you don't know, when you're not sure. 

Listen. Listen. Listen. 

Help them develop language to articulate their feelings, fears, issues and frustrations.
Help them develop a plan to deal with those issues and when they fall off the track work with them to get back on - again,  and again and again and  ...
Accept them.

There will be many times when things do not go well in the classroom. There will be times when you become annoyed or upset with them.  That's OK. They are just children. You are just a teacher.   Let them be children.  Don't be hard on yourself.

 Figure it out, pull things together and help everyone move forward. The way you move forward today may not be appropriate for tomorrow.  Adapt to their needs.

I don't have a system. I am not perfect. I make mistakes. What I do have is an attitude and by having this attitude   I believe that I have the respect of my students.  I don't know for sure. You would have to ask them. 

Sunday, April 3, 2011

As I Build My Global PLN I am Aware of the Differences

I connected with a colleague in a country where I know communication is monitored and where a mis-choice of words could put a life at risk. For the first time ever I need to think about censoring my words.

It brought home just how privileged I am to live in a country where I am free to question and challenge my government. It brought home the responsibility I have to ensure that these freedoms continue.  It brought home the need to pay attention to what is happening in my own country as well as in others.  Rights and freedoms can so easily be chipped away at until they have all but disappeared.

Most of all, it made me even more aware that by continuing to establish global web-based connections and share our ideas and experiences we  are participating in building a better world.  

Friday, April 1, 2011

Participatory Teaching

My foray into gaming with myself as student (see Blog 2 ) and through discussions with Ian Chia  an idea is percolating.  I don't quite have a handle on it yet, but I need to toss it out there.  What if the best role for educators is not as teacher, deliverer of curriculum; not as facilitator of learning,  but as participant learner?  What if the teacher was actively demonstrating how he or she was learning? What if the teacher kept metacognitive journals, wrote stories, conducted research, and shared this process openly with students.  What if students saw educators not as teachers, but as learners?  What affect would that have on education?


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