We’re all in this Digital World together!

This week’s topic is very interesting to me. I’m on the fence about digital privacy. First of all, I believe that I have to be professional and ethical when I am using public online networks and if I am not, then there should be some accountability there. Also, just like in a physical community, there needs to be a sense of values that are established, upheld and modeled within online communities in order to make these communities strong and safe. In this case online activities should be monitored to an extent. At the same time, just like in a physical community, people need to have their privacy too. So how do we accomplish this?

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D. Stokes Photography via Compfight cc” class /> Photo Credit: D. Stokes Photography via Compfight cc

The example of the Michael Phelps scenario in the “Beware: the internet could own your future” article demonstrated an example of what can happen, but in my opinion, this has little to do with digital privacy. The real cause of what happened to Michael Phelps was someone from the physical community who set out to hurt someone. Why? Who knows exactly, but this wasn’t Phelps using the internet in an unethical way. It was someone else. As a teacher, this does need to be considered, since really, our actions could be recorded at any time. In my opinion, our digital footprint is a reflection of who we are, so let’s all be a good community members and then we’ll have nothing to worry about. Those who are wanting to use technology to set out to hurt people, well that is a discussion for another post.

Since becoming an international teacher, the internet has become a necessity to stay in contact with home and be a 21st century teacher. I use Facebook to communicate and as a teacher I think it’s always on the front of your mind to stay very professional. The Job Hunting? article by Suzanne Lucas discusses how potential employers can find out a lot about you even if your privacy settings are very high.  Whether we like it or not, we are expected to model a high standard of values in and outside the school. So this needs to be considered on a daily basis as we frequently add to our digital footprint.  

Just Stay Positive

I’ve been an international teacher for over six years now and since then I have needed to increase my use of digital technology for a few reasons. To stay in touch at home, to stay in touch with people I meet in different places and it was a very necessary part of the process for transferring jobs to a new school in a new country. With these things being said, I feel it is entirely necessary to become digital, which I guess can only leave a digital footprint. How can it not?

After looking at the main idea of course 2, I Googled myself and saw a few things come up about me. Two images related to my teacher profile, mine and my wife’s teaching website, my COETAIL blog posts and my Facebook profile. All looked pretty positive to me, but still, it’s a little weird to think about how much information is out there about me for anyone to access.

After having a look at How Recruiters Use Social Networks to Screen Candidates, it’s pretty clear that your digital footprint can help or hinder you during a job search. Especially, considering 70% of potential employers are using this system and almost 50% of them are making decisions without even meeting people. Welcome to the digital world.

Photo Credit: TechGenStaffer via Compfight cc

Thinking about this a little more now, I personally need to put more time and thought into positively shaping my digital footprint and to help students understand this as well. We have done a couple of sessions with the middle school students as a whole group, but I think that loses it’s effect when not discussed again for a year. Although, I don’t think my 12 year old students need to worry about being recruited for a career at this point, it would still be to their advantage and benefit to start getting used to this idea, since it will no doubt be a big part of their future. Some ideas I like from the article, The power of a positive digital footprint for students, that I am currently using with the students that I could give focus to this idea are the blogs, web 2.0 applications and online competitions. Helping the students document these skills and achievements responsibly and helping them understand why would be a great start.


Let’s Discuss the Physics of Sport

The unit I have chosen for my final project is our grade 7 ‘Introduction to Physics Unit’. This Science unit focuses on Newton’s Laws of Motion and Forces. During this unit, students learn and investigate these concepts through many hands-on activities and through a final cumulative project where the physics is see through the context of sports. The reason I have chosen this unit is that it offers many opportunities for the integration of purposeful technology and it will allow students to collaborate effectively with online learning communities where I believe there is high interest in this area of Sport Science.

We began this unit two years ago in correlation with the Sochi Olympics because we noticed that the students seemed very interested in this event, through random conversations they were having in class. We were in the middle of our physics unit, so we put two and two together and figured out that we could have these same discussions and learn about physics at the same time! So we came up with our Idea of ‘The Physics Olympics’.

This year we are staying with the same theme, by keeping our final project as sports physics, but we are implementing some other components to add to the idea of collaborating with online learning communities and using technology in a purposeful way, which directly relates to what I have been learning through this first COETAIL course.

First, we can do this by adding an online resource called ‘Curiosity Machine’ which I have discussed in another post. This resource was introduced to me by a colleague (@jancey5 on Twitter) and I immediately thought that it was a perfect way to begin integrating what I am learning through COETAIL. This resource will offer the students the opportunity to seek information and feedback from a group of online mentors instead of only their teacher and peers and will open the door for collaboration in an online learning community (It should be noted that the online mentor has an annual subscription which is something we’re working on having for the students very soon). Also, we are using an iPad app called ‘motion shot’.

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image of ‘Motion Shot’ app

This app will allow students a purposeful way to make a short film of themselves and others performing in a sport and use single still picture feature to break down and analyze their movement and the forces being used in that situation. This will be different than using normal video recordings that were created by some students in previous years.

So let’s get started!

I’ve been hearing the terms 21st century learning and 21st century skills again and again over the past six years now, but I have yet to really witness a notable change in how schools run. Obviously this is a hard switch, from traditional school to what all the research is saying, but you would think it would move a little faster. I’m on board with teaching students these skills as a priority over content. It’s pretty common sense to me considering I had to learn almost everything I needed to be who and where I am after I had finished my BA, all in which involved these skills.

Since becoming a Math/Science teacher at AIS-R I’ve been very lucky to have surrounded myself with great, forward thinking teachers and administrators who have basically encouraged me to be the most effective and innovative teacher I can be. This has given me the chance to implement new ideas in my class, all of which I’ve learned through workshops and online. For example, the primary focus for student learning in Math class is to learn the true meaning behind numeracy and what numbers mean. After a great conversation with one of my colleagues not long ago, what he basically had me conclude by the end of it was “yes, I try to teach Math as a language”. I’ve implemented problem-based learning and I’ve followed and tried a lot of Dan Myers stuff over the past few years and the video from this week’s part of the course basically summarized everything I am trying to change in my Math class.

In Science a lot of people question me about why students don’t have a textbook. I have access textbooks in my classroom that students can use any way they like, but the textbook doesn’t really offer students much inquiry. They just provide a lot of good information and don’t allow students to get into the ‘why’ part of Science, which is what I feel is most important. Some ideas I am working with instead, are giving students access to online learning communities and other professionals in this field of study that can give the students their opinions and feedback. Two ways I am doing this are by implementing a virtual Science fair into class and by using curiosity machine. Both of these tools will give students exposure to online learning communities and will allow them to collaborate with other peers and professionals. We will also be doing something similar in Math where students will be going to collaborativemathematics.org to solve problems posted online and share their solutions back to the site. I am excited to see how these projects will generate interest with the students and possibly even some 21st century skills.

Me vs. Tech

Week four’s main ideas come at a very good time for me to reflect on this topic since I am in the middle of a battle to get caught up on all the new technologies I need to have set up in my classroom for students, myself, for parents and for school wide initiatives. This is the first year that I have felt like this and am wondering if it’s going to get increasingly overwhelming as technology exponentially evolves.

I can visualize it now. How smooth everything will be running once I finally get all the things I want to do set up and running. It seems however, that I have been visualizing this eutopic classroom structure of mine now since I started teaching six years ago and it’s never really come to fruition. Why is this? Well, what I am starting to notice that what I am visualizing now will most likely not be the ideal, innovative, modern, classroom setup it was when I was first reflecting on what it should look like. By the time things are coming together, there will be new initiatives to try and keep up with the best schools.

If this is the case, and someone please help me out if I’m missing something, then what is the solution. I get why we need to be doing all this because it all makes sense to me. In enhances collaboration, it is becoming the primary ‘institution’ for student culture, it prepares students for the future, it increases student engagement, etc… However, does this mean we just do it and do it to the point of trying to keep up with technology companies? I don’t think this realistic and as mentioned in ‘Shaping Tech for the Classroom’ “For true technological advance to occur, the computers must be personal to each learner. When used properly and well for education, these computers become extensions of the students’ personal self and brain. They must have each student’s stuff and each student’s style all over them…” I think it goes back to what I have been reflecting on in my previous posts. Students don’t need teachers and schools to integrate and select technology for them. Maybe, integration as a guide, but if a student wants to use a laptop instead of an iPad, is that not okay? Or do they need to have a strong foundation on the iPad, just like schools think students need have a strong foundation for all subjects?

Here is my thought that I would like people out there to give me some information on if you have any. How long is it from the time new technology is created until I have my students effectively using it in the classroom? And in that time isn’t their new technology already out there that could and should take over? I know one answer is that parents, teachers and administrators resist change. This obviously inhibits the process, but what else? What do I need to do to keep up or get ahead?

Hooked on Self-Directed Learning worked for me!

I was first introduced to inquiry-based learning in teachers college about 5 years ago and the whole idea really got me thinking about the potential of how this more open way of thinking could benefit kids. Immediately I started changing my practice in my classroom bit by bit and, although it was quite messy at first, I could see how much more engaged the students were.

After reading through the article this week,
Living and Learning in New Media, it’s looking to me like self directed learning is the new lingo in the educational world and although it’s directly linked to inquiry learning, it almost seems like inquiry-based learning on steroids. The difference I’m seeing is that inquiry-based learning is still mostly teacher driven. Teacher poses questions, guided by curriculum, teacher gives feedback, teacher created assessments, etc… Through self-directed learning, I see the teacher completely leaving the stage as the information  and structure provider and allowing the students to pursue their own interests and passions and learn from a wide range of online communities in a way that works best for them. In this case then, the teacher becomes the person who helps students ‘learn how to learn’ and provides time and resources needed for students.

Since I’ve become a teacher, I’ve often wondered what the children at our schools would be capable of if we stepped out of the way and allowed them to focus on their own passions and interests. Where could they go and how far could they go within this timeframe of being in school if they were to focus on a passion of interest for an unrestricted amount of time? Is Doogie Howser fact or fiction in this new world of technology?

I have a recent example of my own self-directed learning adventure that I would like you readers out there to weigh in on. In mid November of last year I went to a music shop and picked up a guitar. I always wanted to do this and I decided it was time to give it a try. This was a huge interest of mine and after I strummed my first proper G chord I learned from one of my many online instructors, I was hooked. I am now at the point where I am practicing with an actual band and feel that I am not as far behind these other guys that have been playing for a long time as I thought. How have I done this? I have probably practiced and researched theory for an average of about 30 minutes a day for almost the past year. Throughout this online learning experience, I have had access to endless amounts of online instructors and musicians as well as online articles and blogs. I have not had one single face to face guitar lesson with anyone. My first actual feedback towards my progress came a week ago when I noticed many remarks of surprise that I have only been working on this skill for a little less than a year. Including, basically the whole summer off.

My big questions is; “Would I have been able to accomplish these same results by having a face to face instructor?” Along with this, I’ve been only “messing around”. I’m not even at the point of “geeking out” yet, according to definitions. How much further could I take my learning if I fully become involved with an online community where I am producing knowledge and getting more regular feedback from others within the community? My other questions are:

  1. Is having single teacher for different content areas benefiting or hurting student potential in learning?

  2. Is it really necessary for students to take all subjects in school within a structured time?

  3. Can traditionally set-up school make this shift in learning?

To Structure or not to Structure?

As a general manager for a fitness company in Canada, my interview and hiring strategy for sales reps was always based on an investigation of a candidate’s social network. In doing so, my club would get way more membership sales. Even if I had other candidates who had a much stronger sales background, it didn’t matter. More connections meant more possibilities and it worked.

I recently received an email from a parent of one of my new Math students. By looking at her child’s standardized MAP test scores, she was curious of strategies we could use to improve her child’s abilities in skill areas where they were low.

This email was actually perfect timing since I have been questioning the structure of my class and course lately. It has become obvious to me over the past year, that the most unstructured (in relation to standards etc…) Math and Science activities I do in my classroom are the most engaging and promote the most interest to the students. This leads to a lot of discussion and questions from the student that would ‘normally’ continue this learning. Unfortunately, at times, this inquiry is cut short due to the curriculum that, more importantly, needs to be addressed and assessed.

Reading the articles for this week’s materials and researching more into George Siemen’s ideas has made think a lot more about implementing this type of ‘open learning’ connectivism idea. I really like it. The thought that this parent is is emailing me about helping her child is pretty obvious but, think about it. This parent and child is basically dependent on me and only me for enhancing their Math skills this entire year. Now, don’t get me wrong. I enjoy my job and see solid learning in my class, students enjoy my class, parents give me positive feedback and my colleagues and administrators seem to think that my pedagogy is relevant. Through technology and the idea of connectivism however, by me being the only influence towards enhancing this child’s math skills, are we inhibiting this child’s possibilities by inhibiting his connections in this academic area?

I’m just at the beginning of my COETAIL journey, but I am already realizing what a facilitator of learning really is. I’ve implemented new ideas in my class to attempt this shift but, I think it will be a very difficult task to do what teachers in the near future will be expected to do. The most effective skill teachers in the near future will have is to be able to develop the ‘Networked Student’ by guiding students towards more connections and possibilities. Now that I’m realizing just how fast this idea is approaching, I will be implementing an ‘open learning’ time in my Math and Science class and I already have a pretty good idea how I can set this up. Many of you out there have heard of the NESA Virtual Science Fair and I’m thinking that this will be a great way to begin this. It is a technology based Science fair where students have the ability to connect to amazing professors and college students in the US. As for the Math situation, could I use this students MAP data to help guide him towards technology and other connections to help him in these areas? More importantly, can I help guide him on a Mathematical journey towards what really interests him about the subject and encourage him to ‘dive in’ as far as he can? Even khanacademy is a great resource to allow students this opportunity if set up by the teacher effectively.

A question that I am really pondering at this point is, “will the best teachers of the future, be the best in their content areas, or will they be more effective as a ‘technology focused facilitator’ who can help students create networks and filter information appropriately?”

I guess the obvious answer is both. Any other thoughts?

My Initial Thoughts

After reading Jeff’s article ‘Reach’ I am already excited about how I can begin implementing some of the ideas involved with this technology. There were two big ideas that stood out to me in this article. First, was simply the analogy of newspaper vs online blogging. I never actually thought about how much online blogging provides us with unlimited conversation about issues and ideas we couldn’t have in everyday, school life.

An example of this lies within my own classroom. Ever since I have become a teacher, I have always encouraged my students to work together and have discussions to enhance their learning. Problem based learning in Math is an idea that I have been implementing into my classroom and I have witnessed some great results by doing so. By having students solve challenging problems in an unfamiliar context together, I have witnessed a large increase in mathematics discussion in my classroom; sometimes to the point of a large scale debate. Although this increase in engagement and discussion has made me feel victorious at times, we are still a “little collaborative math community”; and I’ve never thought about how our community is limited to within the classroom walls. After reading ‘Reach’ I’m realizing that there is an enormous online group of communities which my students could benefit from. Online, students have the ability to connect with others whose similar interests, ideas and explanations could allow them to learn at an entirely different level.

This brings me to idea number two which involves myself and the idea of connecting and networking with others with similar interests, and ideas from all around the world. This would do the same for enhancing my learning and professional skills. Have you ever brought an idea to your professional team and it was not as accepted as you thought? This is often disheartening; however online communities provide a huge network of other professionals. More than likely, there is someone else out there who would want to build off your idea, or maybe that very conversation has already begun! My goal now is to put myself out there, not as a “lurker” but, by really becoming involved with other online communities. To do this effectively I will need to become visible and active within the communities I become a part of.

Diving In!

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Welcome to my first ever blog!

I’ve been playing with the idea of having a blog for my classroom for a while now but, have hesitated for all the reasons Jeff mentioned in his article “Reach”. I do not consider myself a writer and I’m often not sure if my thoughts are interesting or relevant to others. This COETAIL journey will be the perfect way for me to get over these insecurities, which is why I had to jump at the chance to put myself in this situation.

Here we go!