Monday, May 31, 2010

Accounting for the billion - G20 or Alberta Education

Last week I found a copy of Using Technology to Support Real Learning First in Alberta Schools via Joe Bower's blog. I see other Saskatoon bloggers like Tim Comfort are blogging about it, too. I think the report looks at the problem through one specific lens, but is generally an interesting read. On page 5, it lays out Somekh's technology senarios as a framework for understanding technology uses in schools.
  • Scenario 1: Policymakers at empt to “shoehorn” technology into the existing regulatory framework governing curriculum and assessment, thereby augmenting the government’s bureaucratic, centralized control over schools.
  • Scenario 2: Policymakers and educators acknowledge that infusing technology into schools is a complex and uncertain process. To encourage innovation and research at the school level, they relax controls and accountability mechanisms.
  • Scenario 3: Schools deploy technology as a way of reconceptualizing the curriculum. For example, teachers may use technology to help students understand how their community fits into the global context and what it means to be a responsible citizen.
  • Scenario 4: Policymakers undertake a series of initiatives to integrate technology into schools, all of which fail. In the end, the teaching–learning process largely reverts to what it was before.

The report argues that Alberta has taken a largely Senario 1 approach. I contend that Saskatchewan would also fall into that category, in that choices outlined on page 8 are virtually identical in Saskatchewan although there is less funding to support them. The remainder of the report argues that Alberta needs to move towards Senarios 2 and 3, and that provicial accountability measures get in the way of that.
According to the report, Alberta $1.5 billion on technology in last 15 years (that's enough to fund a whole second G20 summit). Like the Summit, which has a million a minute price tag for the leaders meeting, it is unclear what great gains are being made for the dollars invested. The loaded language of the report places Alberta technology spending in the same category as G 20 security - way too much money for the difference in makes in real terms.
I think the issue rests with a lack of alingnment about what we are trying to do. If the focus is efficency and augmenting trantional education with additional but similar options, Alberta has done what it has intended. If the goal is using technology to transform student learning, Alberta's investment would be the subject of a scathing report by the Auditor General. Mind you, so would the technology practices in most schools throughout the continent.
If our goal is to use schools to prepare students for a knowldge economy and to be 21st Century citizens, we need to change how we teach, not just add Smartboards. If our goal is prosumers of learnign instead on consumers, then we need to also change how schools are structured. Both of these are massive changes that are virtually imposible to create centrally, and require massive investments beyond infastructure.
Ultimately we need to ask ourselves why we are spending the money in the first place. If the latest G-20 yields what other meetings have, the million a minute price tag is indulgent, offensive and wrong. But if it were actually to yield say lasting environmental change (yes, I know it won't) the price tag is a spectacular investment.  So the question is, what is the goal? Safety and efficency or a changing world?
Once we have the goal in place and everyone actually agrees it is the goal, technology to support learning becomes possible. Before that, it can never move beyond what it is now. A report like this comes out and we bloggers champion the need for change. That's not enough. We need agreement from all parties to actually move forward.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Why people do things like edit Wikipedia?

Ah, serendipity.

I was reading The New Learning Commons (check out the wiki) today and came across an image that really articulated the thesis of the work I have been doing this year to steer us towards web 2.0 technologies. It is easy to see which model connects more easily to learner engagement in general, and motivated, life-long learners in particular.

Then over lunch, I was reading an article in Wired (like that new digital format) that was a conversation between Dan Pink and Clay Shirky, both of whom I have blogged about before.

Related posts:
Pink and Shirkey start their conversation by talking about why someone might contribute to Wikipedia:
Pink: A few days ago, I was talking with someone about Wikipedia. And the guy shook his head dismissively and said about the people who contribute to it: “Where do they get the time?” We both think that’s a silly question.

Shirky: It is. People have had lots of free time for as long as there’s been the industrialized world. But that free time has mainly been something to be used up rather than used, especially in postwar America, with the rise of suburbanization and long commutes. Suddenly we no longer lived in tight-knit communities and therefore we spent less time interacting face-to-face. As a result, we ended up spending the bulk of our free time watching television.
Pink: The numbers on that are astonishing.
Shirky: Staggering. Someone born in 1960 has watched something like 50,000 hours of television already. Fifty thousand hours—more than five and a half solid years.
Pink: You’ve just described our boyhoods.
Shirky: Yes, sitting in front of the television.
Pink: Passively watching Gilligan’s Island and The Partridge Family.
They go on to discuss how time spend passively receiving content from TV is now spent actively creating content as well - and that the quality of that content is no different than the quality of conversation we used to have about TV. Some is great and compelling, much is not. However the act of creating and sharing what we are thinking means the conversation that is great and compelling now has play beyond our living rooms.

This thinking about who owns ideas and earns the right to share them has shifted in the way our educational system must. If we want to engage students, we need them to actually be the people who help to write the story. Publishing on Wikipedia isn't an act of stupidity - billions of school children every year write down what they have learned on a topic. We think it is a worthy activity for them, even though they only have an audience of one, the teacher. How does doing work that will be used by many and having others build on your thinking suddenly make it less worthy? (especially compared to Gilligan's Island)

As teachers, we need to start by thinking of all of our students as people with the potential to learn and grow, not as fixed entities that we need to measure. And when we think that way, it's clear how we want the technology we use with them to function. Pink notes:
I think our nature is to be active and engaged. I’ve never seen a 2-year-old or a 4-year-old who’s not active and engaged. That’s how we are out of the box. And if you begin with this presumption, you create much more open, flexible arrangements that almost inevitably lead to greater satisfaction for individuals and great innovation for organizations.
Strong, motivated learners want to share their stories with others, and strong schools create flexible, open arrangements to help them engage in doing it. The serendipitous relationship between current technologies and student engagement is just too powerful to ignore.

Friday, May 21, 2010

A Good Day

Every once in a while you have a really good day because you know the work you are doing is making a difference. Last year when I was teaching, I'd have a student come in once every couple of weeks to tell me that or have a class go so well that I felt wonderful. In this PD role, that happens less often.

A big push of my work this year has been to support SITLs and TLs is working with teachers on how and why to use technology in their classrooms. Part way through the year, I started getting unsolicited feedback. Two of my SITLs started sending me links to share out with the division. I watched the hits on various web applications I was teaching climb, and I saw our libraries develop virtual presence. The most significant thing was the number of teachers who were trying digital storytelling, mindmapping and more effective research methods with students, thanks to the support of the SITLs and TLs. I also got invited to work with large groups of teachers, like English teachers.  Each of theses things was part of evidence that the learning I was working on was making a difference in Collegiates - my big reason for wanting to do it. However, the really exciting thing was an email I got this morning:
I just found out (from what I understand about my teaching assignment next year) that I'll have every other morning in semester 1 free of classes. This means I can spend a morning working with teachers in either school. I'm looking forward to this great opportunity to transform classroom practice. I shall be going over the book club selection you chose this summer.
I hope that we can send someone else to IT Summit next year. It was really exhausting after two days of that conference - I was wondering how I could even get started. Get started I did. I started my personal blog on May 3rd and opened up Delicious and Evernote accounts. I've been using Twitter more now and I use all of these tools in my classes this semester (except for Comp Sci). I now realise what power these tools bring and how they relate to AFL. Blogs and wikis are an ideal way to allow students to practise continuous improvement. The power of sharing things in a social network might be a way to build community (not limited to just the classroom). It occurred to me that I could RSS feed my Delicious bookmarks in a virtual classroom like this on the bottom of my AFL Science portal. Instead of cutting out newspaper articles, this is an easy way to create a bulletin board of current events in science or history. I'm just wondering about how to segregate the feeds now.
This year was the most useful for PD in technology I've ever had. I now understand more of your question to me last year about the "why" rather than the "how". Thank you for all your great work this year.

Thanks Leslie, for that uplifting email. I am so delighted to see all the great things you are thinking about as you connected them to your life in your blog. And as you start to work with teachers in a support role in mornings next year, I think you'll get the pleasure of seeing other teachers learn as you learned this year.

Sometimes as a facilitator of teacher learning, it is easy to feel like you don't have much to offer. Leslie knows was more about programing, networks, and computer repair than I do - how could I possibly offer him something in the area of technology? The answer lies in the fact that great people are always growing, sharing ideas, and looking for possibilities to make a difference for others. So I can make a difference with Leslie this year, and he'll make a difference for others next. Every bit of feedback, especially the feedback designed to help me grow, is useful in getting closer to making that difference.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Digital Citizenship and Reputation Management in Learning

I recently wrote about my  reflections on the focus of our professional learning around technology this year.  I was working with SITLs and TLs on what we accomplished this year and what we were going to work next year.The group said next year they want to work on:
  • digital rights
  • digital citizenship
  • digital footprint.
Then today in my blog role, I saw an interesting presentation from Dean Shareski on Reputation Management (it is licenced under Creative Commons so you can use it as you like).  It is absolutely worth your time to watch, and it got me thinking about how we'll work on it and why.

Dean's work talks about how you don't really control the message now that coffee row is posted in the public. His point is that working together create the social media message with teachers and students makes a lot of sense. (Many of Dean's ideas are a part of Don Tapscott's Growing Up Digital if you'd like to do some reading on the re-thinking businesses, politics and schools are doing). Dean identifies 5 shifts in communicating, which I read about in Here Comes Everybody. You can watch Shirky's TED talk to get the basics:


So the questions I am left with as I think about the implications of Dean's presentation are two fold:
  1. How can we harness social media to engage our student and professional learners in things worth doing?
  2. What issues do we need to be aware about as we think about social media and education?
Let me know what you think. . .

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Our Technology Story - Water and Sun

I have been working on a draft version of the story of the work around technology that happened this year in Collegiate Renewal. Yesterday, the SITLs and TLs looked at it and made some revisions as we prepare to add it to the board report. I am also working a wix page (in progress) to go with it an augment the story with background information.

As I sift through evidence, I am always thinking about what it is telling me about what went well and what next steps we need to take. In particular, I am thinking about what we need to do to grow the seeds we planted this year. I had just finished a personal blog post on all the perennials I am excited about in my yard, when the following serendipitous video came up on my blog feed:

As I watched it, I thought that it embodies many of the things I'd like to be able to say next year about Collegiate Renewal and Technology after I have looked at our evidence of growth.

As I sifted through the evidence from this year, I was excited all the possibilities created by the learning our SITLs and TLs did this year, and by the initial work of the technology grants. I continue to see the potential for a rich harvest, but I am also worried.

As I watched this video, I waited and waited, because community net (the way in which Saskatchewan schools get Internet) started throttling our streamed video access last week, causing the video to lag. I wanted to send the video to others and extend the conversation the group had yesterday about how we will grow the learning in Collegiates next year. But I didn't, because of a basic barrier like connectivity.

In order to grow technology use, we need to address pedagogy and understanding to shed light on what we can do. We also need the flow of hardware, software and connectivity to allow that light to turn into fuel in our classrooms. Water and sun are basic necessities for a good story of growing our learning.

I feel like the classic Saskatchewan farmer - even as I am excited about the bumper crop I am shoveling into bins, I am worried about what the weather may bring next year. I don't have control of the weather, so I need to make my best predictions about the things I can control and continue to be hopeful. As I am revising the story and planning for next year, I am excited that I am from Saskatchewan, and have a good cooperative of fellow planning and instructional leaders to work with. It's nice celebrate to have a community harvest.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Forward Failure

I often enjoy Joe Bower's blog, and the video he posted today is no exception. I have spent the last week or so doing some reflection about the results of the year as I write up my materials for the Collegiate Renewal board report. As I am writing, I am reminded of the concept of growth mindset once again. I am finding some fantastic successes, but being me, I mostly see where I didn't hit the target or there is opportunity for growth.

As I looked over the goals I had for the year, I was able to say that I met a number of them, but there were just as many that I got part way to or made no measurable progress on.

So what does this mean?

From a fixed mindset position, "those I worked with did not do enough, I was unlucky, there were barriers that were too big and the whole process is stupid. " From a growth mindset position, here is what I learned:
  • I would set the goals collectively next time, so they are more shared
  • The lines from professional development to student engagement need to be clearer (Reeves and Guskey).
  • Feedback needs to be a greater part of the process at all levels
Like always, I actually look forward to the opportunity to try some more and get closer to meeting the needs out there. I am also really excited about each and ever success and look as closely at that as I do at the failures/learning opportunities. I think both are all about how to move forward. I liked the video (minus the fact that it was so American) because it reminded me how much failures are stepping stones just the way success is.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Laughing though my tears

My husband is a huge Sting fan, and I sometimes think he believes there is a Sting lyrics for everything. Laughing through my tears (from I'm so happy, I can't stop crying, which is actually about divorce) was exactly what I did when a former student of mine named Jennifer sent me this rubric for competencies in humour this morning. I followed the links and realized that Microsoft has a rubric for virtually ever possible work place competence, including ones that are diametrically opposed to each other (check out ambiguity and priority setting).

I am all about student and teacher competence, but I don't think Microsoft and I mean the same thing. As I look at the rubrics (an oft overused educational tool), I began laughing. I think I may have slid just a tad into hysterical. Here are my three salt-encrusted reasons:
  1. A rubric is designed to be a series of steps, and each step is supposed to describe what specific things you need to do to improve. These rubrics don't do that, they are just metrics for describing what you aren't doing. Classic and ironic, given what they are designed to promote.
  2. Who thinks you can evaluate humour on a rubric? I know we are geeks in the computer community, but could we deviate a little from the worst stereotypes about us?
  3. When you are actually competent, rubrics are useless to you, because you understand something with more depth and complexity than can be expressed in a rubric. Ah, the irony of measuring competence in a way that shouts that you don't have it.

Jennifer's email was entitled "I can't stop laughing" and she writes ironically that "apparently there are rubrics for everything." Thanks for helping me take competence/measured acceptability and evidence a little less seriously just before starting my work day, Jennifer. I think all educators could use that, and if they couldn't, there is always this rubric to measure their lack of competence .

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Tool duel - I wanted TPack

One of my big criticism of technology presentations is that they are sometimes a random collection of tools embedded in a dialogue about how technology can change the word but hasn't yet. That has been the case for at least a portion of many of the sessions I went to today. This last session was pretty much there for the whole time. Dean Shareski and Will Richardson (both of whom had sessions I enjoyed earlier) showed a series of tools:

  • Picnic for photoediting - many glog-like features. I have used it and like it.
  • Map a list to turn spreadsheets into maps. I haven't played much with this, but really like the idea. I have only used it twice before.
  • We emailed Posterous as group. It is an online place that functions as a repository for images, text etc.
  • Tube chop allows you to take a video off youtube and keep just a section of a part of it. You get a URL with a part of the video
  • Geogreeting sends a message using letters and a map. Dean called it a niche tool - I think it is a non-tool. No thinking here, so I scorned it by not linking it
  • Big Huge Labs is for creating things using images. Makes callendars, trading cards, posters etc.
  • Evernote - like Onenote, it is a tool where you store notes, links, audio and pics for you to file. Superior to one note because on a variety of platforms like your phone). I like this one.
  • Skitch is a screen capture tool that allows you to edit the image and posts it to skitch, flickr or in Evernote. I have used this quite a bit.
  • Jing is a screencapture tool that captures what you are looking at on your computer and you can turn it into a movie. Then you can talk and your video camera tapes you and adds it to your video. I use Screenr, but Jing is good.
  • Mindmeister is a standard mindmapping tool. It allows you to make a map and collaborate or share it. You pay, though, which is why I don't promote it.
  • Instapaper marks something to read later on kindle, paper, computer etc.
  • Readability is a good tool for striping out adds. I use the Firefox add-on, so I linked to that
I had used all of these tools before and wished that a bit more time was taken to connect these web 2.0 tools and student outcomes. It is easy to use a variety of tools and still make no impact on students. I think I am a bad audience for this sort of thing because I am not a geek - I don't like technology for the sake of technology. Technology, pedagogy and content knowledge (TPack) must be married.
I stopped blogging for the last several items each of them raised, and they ended on talking about the value of the iPad. Will said you need one just for the racing game. Yawn, I have no need for tech speed. However, it seemed to be invigorating for all the tool men out there :-)

Presentations... It's About The Narrative

Wendy James, Curriculum Renewal Technology Consultant and soon to be Coordinator of Curriculum and Instruction for the Saskatoon Public Schools, presented  at the IT Summit on the Power of Presentations.  The following are some of the great points from her presentation.  I just couldn't type fast enough for more!

She showed us Google Search Stories, which took only minutes to learn and create, allowing the students to concentrate on the narrative.  After placing a series of search terms, Wendy suggests working from a big Idea to a more specific idea, I video is created.  Students can search the web, images, maps, news feeds, blogs products and books.  Goggle Search Stories can be found at:

Wendy stress with students to think about what the main idea I am trying to get across and how am I going to get this idea across clearly.  Google Search Stories works well to keep these concepts in mind.

Wendy uses ShareTabs to provide handouts for students.  This way students always have the materials on hand and can not lose the handouts!  The ShareTab for this session is located at:

Having a backchannel, like, allow students to provide their thoughts and prior experience while a presentation is ongoing.  Students can then review this material.  Teachers and see which students contributed, allowing for Assessment for Learning feedback and evidence of learning.  Wendy does recommend keeping a copy of the work generated so it is not lost, whether it be copying and pasting or taking a screen capture.  Some other backchannel options include and  When using a backchannel, it is important to refer to it during the presentation or the information located on the backchannel is not utilized effectively.  While shifting every 15 minutes, usually from the individual to small groups to the large group is a commonly suggested structure, this may be a dissatisfier for those students who want to dig deeper.  Backchannels allow a blend of these groupings.

Consider who the audience is.
The traditional model of a presentation is for the audience to face the presenter.  We are conditioned to sit and listen to the speaker in this environment.  But, with a computer in front of the audience members, Continuous Partial Attention can interfere with learning.

Creating a rapport with the audience.
You need to show that you are ready. You need to show respect. Audience members do not feel respected if they are forced to speak but not asking questions lowers learning in a presentation by 32%.  A balance needs to be struck to maintain respect. Also, audience members want to know they are taking away new information.

Google Jockey
Having a Google Jockey allow someone in the room to fill gaps and additional provide information.  Even if it is only a photo of what the presenter is discussing, the material provided by the Google Jockey will increase the audience's recall by 50%.  With Google, various new search options, such as the Wonderwheel and the Timeline are powerful tools that can be encorporated by the Jockey.

Clearly articulating your message.
Images do generate interest and allow us to bring our prior knowledge to the topic more quickly.  We pre-process the concept.  The image can take us to a specific area of a topic.
Noises and flying words are a distraction.
Full sentences should not be used. 
There can be too much information on a slide.
The most powerful position is the top left and should be reserved for important information.
The maximum number of bullets on a slide should be 3 to 5.

Image Pitfalls
Complex Images.
Too much cognitive effort.
Distracting or misleading.
Not appropriate.

Points to consider for your Powerpoint.
No more than 30% of your content should be on your PowerPoint (max.  5% would be great)
At least half the area should have anything on it (Chunking and whitespace).
Keep a consistent look
Most importand points should be highlighted.
Keep your layout audience appropriate (more text for over 40, more images for younger students).
Pause more for older audiences.  They are more apt to write things down and need the time.
All detail should be verbal.

Copyright Issues
When using a photo from the web, Wendy posts a link to the original photo.  She also suggests using a site like Flickr where photos listed under a Creative Commons Licence can be specifically searched.

  • Label
  • Expand
  • Evidence or Examples
  • Tieback to main point
Often, when speaking, we skip the Expand step.  To practice meeting all these steps, record yourself with talking with a slide you are going to use for a presentation.

Hand Jestures
People often have a hand jesture that is distracting to the audience, but there are jestures that can help, along with moving forward to emphasize a point.  This is a heavily researched area in sales and politics. Destracting jestures create a version of white noise.

Loaded Language
Putting the subject at the beginning of a sentence is 3 times more persuasive than having the object at the beginning.  Another way to be persuasive is to incorporate larger concepts to draw in your audience.  It can create emotional appeal.

Wendy provided a ton of great ideas and concepts for presentations, both useful for presenters and as points to teach students.  I only was able to record a few of her points.  I would encourage you to check out her handouts from this session (and maybe even book her to speak at an event).

Welcome Will Richardson

This is 4th time I have seen Will present, and I have been encouraging my division to work with him as a part of our professional learning next year. I tell you this up front, so you know the perspective from which I am writing. While I am at it, I'd like to thank Scott St. Pierre who posted yesterday to the blog, and has posted in the past. Will and Scott are both a part of my community of professional learners, and I have read Will's blog for a number of years.

Will's keynote is called Why the Read/Write Web Changes Everything. He start with an example story about a blind gamer and talked about how this is an example of how kids function. While he is very excited about technology and thinks it can change everything, he thinks schools have changed little: "There are few real examples of transformative change." Will cited one of his favorite quotations:

If you think that the future will require better schools you are wrong. The
future of education will call for entirely different schools.
- Knowledge
Works Foundation

Will sees a couple of really critical, "tectonic" shifts because of the Read/Write web:

  • If you have an interest, you can find others with that same interest
  • People can hold a a conversation and make it real for crowds long after the media moves on (Richard uses the example Iranelection)
  • You can't be a politician, a publisher, etc. in the way you used to 5 years ago. When people have choice, they compel changes like interactive content, choice and sharing of ideas (I wonder if that will impact schools, what with the lack of choice).
  • Copyright is in flux - people can steam things they go to, creative commons allows sharing of ideas. Media is changing.
Will acknowledges that schools haven't changed but feels that schools will be compelled. Kids use the tools to connect socially (they are fine there without our help) and in interest-based ways. Will thinks that this is the place where there is a key role for us as educators. We know that connecting to others is very powerful and makes many of us uncomfortable.
Public is the new default. - Erick Schonfeld

Will talked about how most of the pictures of his daughter online are posted and tagged by someone else. We need to teach students to manage their reputations online (for those new to this idea, take a look Joyce Valenza's writing on the subject of digital footprints). Then he showed a map of those who read his blog from all over the world. He has nearly nearly 50,000 hits from the US alone, and over 5,000 from Canada. He says in his children's lives, there is only one reader, the teacher. He wants diversity of passionate listeners for every kid.

Now Will is repeated one of my favorite refrains, that we want our student's learning to be found and we need to teach them how to do it well. He is very negative about walled-gardens, although he is approaching the idea tangentially in this presentation. He is showing us how MIT's content is available on-line and just showed us the Khan academy online.

Will asks: "What changes will this sort of thing online?" He argues that Harvard became popular because it has the biggest library. He also notes that many of our professional learning around technology is misguided. He says we should stop teaching teachers how to use technology and start teaching them why to use them. This is also a favorite refrain of mine.

Will is saying how his kids are still waiting in school to be told what to learn, how to learn it and when to learn it. They don't get to choose how they show what they have learned. Then they come home and have complete freedom. He says this disconnect is a problem.

Now Will is making himself deeply unpopular by arguing wikipedia is a good source. He asked how many people teach kids to use wikipedia and I am one of the "12" who put their hands up. Will notes that all of us know our kids use wikipedia and then he shows all the errors from print texts. I agree that teaching kids how to back track wikipedia is a really important thing, but I think Will may have crossed over into a rant that is making the audience feel badly.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Creating Engaging Online Courses

Peggy Lawson is an instructional technology consultant from South East Cornerstone School Division. She shared her own reflextions in the area of developing online courses that are robust and provide a compelling reason to be engaged in their learning.

What does it mean to be in an online class? It started out as being mostly text-based. Basically, it was the old correspondance material posted to the internet. Peggy then posed the question, "What is Engaging?". Her philosophy on engagement is extremely close to the conversations that have been occuring in Saskatoon Public Schools. She links engagement closely with authentic learning.

Peggy lists a variety of challenges when creating an online course that is engaging. In comparison to post-secondary education, where there are teams of developers, in the K-12 system, the teacher is the developer. It is important to start with small steps then build onto the online course each time the teacher delivers the material.

Best practices to keep in mind include keeping in mind different learning styles and providing materials in a variety of ways. Peggy feels providing online office hours is an important support. Some suggestions are Skype conference calls, systems such as Adobe Connect, or even text messaging. It does, however, have to be manageable for the teacher.

Feedback is crutical for the online learner. This feedback may be written, through a video, or may take the form of an audio file. Marking up student work on a PDF or using the comment features of Word are options for written feedback. This session reminded me of Rolph Polan's presentation on using Acrobat to provide audio feedback to students (featured earlier on this blog). Jing is a free resource that can be used for video feedback. For audio feedback, Audacity is an excellent, free resource. Even a checklist, letting the student know that their assignments have been received is a great satisfier and lowers potential frustration levels associated with online courses.

Content delivery methods depend on whether a synchronous or asynchronous format will be used. In general, students prefer interactive activities as well as virtual tours.

Peggy shared a variety of uses of technology in transformative ways, leading to engaging environments. Complex examples included use of Adobe Connect but she also showed Powerpoint being used in transformative ways.
It was interesting how many of her discussion points paralleled Dan Shareski's presentation on the 10 Worst Practices in Educational Technology. Shareski's ten points were discussion points that existed within Peggy's presentation, when planning an engaging online course. An example is "gated" vs "open" environments and the pros & cons of each.

SETA might have misplaced their keys

I worked with the PD committee of the Educational Technology Consortium for a number of years and watched it gradually disappeared for a variety of reasons after I had left. SETA, the Saskatewan Educational Technology Association, appears to have replaced it. The board chair describes the main focuses as a hub for distance learning, infrastructure, and supporting effective use of educational technology in a variety of ways.

Part way through this session, I realized I had lost my keys. They have a hook on them and are usally attached to me, but I decided to go more professional and less janitorial today. I had no sooner realized they were gone than Scott emailed he had found them.

Ironically, before I had lost them, I was thinking about the keys to transformative uses of technology I learned about while researching for the old ETC. We learned a lot about how important it is to support professional learning and tie software to student outcomes. I was looking forward to hearing about how this young organization would address these things.

Then I got confused. The chair said the focus was on education, so membership does not include the stakeholders the ETC did, like STF and LEADS. They will offer training sessions, like one on Smart next Wed. and training sessions on Microsoft hardware and software. SETA mentions that you can email Shelley Lowes about IT sessions you are interested in.The presenting group was particularily excited about getting a province-wide Microsoft agreement. It will cost about $75.00 per student.

I must admit, I am concerned about the model SETA is moving forward with, because some key pins in the educational technology lock will not be turned given the key they have cut. It seems pretty focused on the business side and doesn't have teacher reps, which might make it difficult to keep a focus on the instructional side. They don't have a web site yet, but have been talking about high value targets for software licencing. They gave us a handouts for a variety of types of software they are exploring based on suggestions from technical coordinators in school divisions. Sorry, no links, so I can't post those for you, but Adobe, Atomic Learning and Inspiration are some of the big names offering bulk purchasing. This whole presentation was mostly focused on bulk purchasing, so I wasn't the intended audience. My focus is always on what student outcomes we want and supports we need to help educators get them there. This was not really the focus of the presentation.

On the upside, Donna and Scott found my keys, which I lost when they fell out of my jacket in Dean's session. Since Scott already emailed me and I'll get them back before I head home - I barely even had time to worry. I'll bike home in peace. As I am getting ready to leave, a member of the audience pointed out my exact concerns about all stakeholders being involved. Maybe this will help SETA find its keys, the way Scott and Donna helped me find mine.

Dean's Debate

After Dean's big ISTE win, it is unsurprising to see that the room is packed for his session. Dean works as a digital learning consultant and his presentation reflects his curriculum focus, and I am a regular reader of his blog.

One of the things I like about Dean's presentations is that he is one of the few presenters I see where I think the slides are powerful. He often has a simple image and a sentence or few words for each of his ideas. Another strength is being responsive to where the audience is going. That will be a challenge for him this time, since this room has twice as many people in it as it really fit. Dean's presentation is about 10 technologies that are often misused. Here is his list:
  1. Smartboards (Dylan Wiliam, Hattie etc. agree with Dean on no educational impact) Smartboards are used because they are easy and support current practice. Dean's question: Is easy a goal of technology?
  2. Powerpoint - Dean's question: Why do we so many bad Powerpoints? What strategies have been effective in eliminating bad PPTs? Answers of the group: People try to read off the presentation and don't think about why they are doing what they are doing. JAIME
  3. Digital Camera - Dean's question: Are they used for more than just taking pictures? Answer: We don't know how to use images to tell a powerful story or as a tool for feedback. Dean notes that lack of standardization around editing and optimizing images is also a barrier.
  4. Walled Gardens - Dean asked when a password protected space is necessary and when it hurts the learning. The group discussed security issues and advantages of safety and the loss of opportunity when connectivism is prevented. We discussed how students are online and need to be taught how to do it well and safely. We also talked about how sharing is important, but people are worried about copyright.
  5. Computer Class - Dean's question: Do we need the special place for computers? Interesting. I love the Hookanson and Hooper article that compares computer class to segregation and Dean asked if we need pencil labs. Ah, shades of Rick Schwier. The group noted that there are some strengths including not looking for wireless, things like video editing that require solid machines etc.
  6. Cell phones - Dean asks if we are not using computing power we could. As schools, we don't know what to do with them. There has to be a mid-point between banning and abuse.
  7. Keyboarding - Dean's question: Do we want to spend our computer instruction time learning to type in a certain way?

The three we didn't get to: Drill and Kill vs Games, Searching (is still bolean as best), and audience choice (they suggested printing and hand editing, texting etc.).

It was interesting to watch the audience want to defend practices. There were strong advocates for each of Dean's 10, and really good discussion. I think it is great for us to do some critical thinking on the subject. My favorite session so far since it was a debate. I am so predictable .

Ruo on probeware and motion capture

The second session I attended at Summit was Leslie Ruo's session on probeware and motion capture. I have seen Leslie present before - he was the SITL when I started teaching in Saskatoon at Walter Murray Collegiate.

Leslie prepare a set of resources that are really helpful for learning to use the Vernier probes. We have some sample videos, labs and other resources, in addition to links and docs from a variety of sources. I think I would have found it helpful if Leslie talked a bit more about what why we do this sort of capture with students and what type of thinking skills we are trying to promote (like what Bernajean Porter was talking about this morning re headware and hardware).

One of the things that strikes me about the probeware is the fact that students can easily visualize things like slope and compare multiple data sets. Students can spend much less time gathering data and much more time understanding what it means. I think that is a good thing. Gathering data is an important part of lab work in the Sciences, but sometimes it is easy for gathering to take so much time that students have little left to use in the analysis. This strikes a nice compromise.

I liked having the time to play with multiple videos and really enjoyed what Leslie shared about his results in his class using standardized measures like the TUG/K.

The second thing Leslie showed us was how to use the motion sensor to collect data. We learned how to set the time, and collect the data. I was walking as a part of the data collection with my partner, Karen. She accused me of drinking, then Leslie helped us figure out we needed to have me walk towards the go-motion probe. We got to play with the rest of the resources on the DVD for the remainder of the session.

IT Summit starts with Porter

I am IT Summit again this year, and am looking forward to the key notes in particular. I am presenting tomorrow on the subject of creating powerful presentations - yup, no stress with that topic. It is probably Jay's fault that we picked that topic. Some resources for the presentation include the Prezi, some Sharetabs and a handout, but I am hoping the talking is the interesting part.

The first keynote today in Bernajean Porter, who is speaking which technology practices are high-yielding. Porter starts with the back channel link, gives us the wiki link, and then moves on the examples. Her first is a sample of high school Science, and we are supposed to score it low, medium or high for its rigour (boy, I hate that word. It sounds like the idea has died). The room is pretty equally divided. I thought there was no really content and was worried that I missed something. Turns out no - Porter's point is that how we use technology is much more important than what technologies we are using.

Porter talks about the headware, which is the deep and enduring learning we want for students. She notes that the hardware changes but the headware stays the same.

Porter goes on to provide a series of examples to prove that technology, especially hardware and software, does not impact achievement just because you have it. She says certain focal points(she doesn't name them yet) actually impact life long learning. Porter notes that the biggest deficit in student understanding around technology is the ability to find credible and reliable sources. To applause of a TL in the audience, she comments that teacher-librarians are one of the 3 key indicators of student competence.

I think I would have appreciated more examples about how powerful instructional strategies are leveraging the tools. She gave one example of writing, which is one I am familiar with. Porter talks about how integration is just re-framing traditional teaching. A pod cast is an on-line lecture, an old story reframed. She argues we need new stories.

I first encountered Porter's HEAT spectrum last year, and it fits well with ISTE standards and the Technology Infusion Matrix I have been using with the technology grants this year. Ultimately, all of them require constructivist pedagogy and that is the place where I keep struggling. Helping teachers change pedagogy is the most challenging thing I have ever done in my career (check out Peggy Ertmer's writing on second order barriers) and using new technologies just makes it more complicated.

I really enjoyed the Flashlight activity where we categorized our things happening in classrooms. It was good because we were all engaged in thinking and interacting, and it helped us move to deeper understanding. I think I made be able to build on our SITLs and TLs hearing this in our session in May on Planning and Instructional support.