When the first new Cohort members showed up on Saturday morning we knew we were in for a great year ahead! Brent (@bunderflap) and Tim (@trollwag) had made it down safely from Lakefield, Jennifer (@talkteachlearn) from Ashbury (Ottawa) had caught her flight the night before, and Bob (made it all the way from Albert, and the list goes on and on of how dedicated and committed our members are.
Our first session got underway with 3 new facilitators (@celestekirsh, @mrcaplan, @jen_bibby), and tons of great examples from last year’s cohort. On that note, it was really special to know that many of last year’s cohort members were on twitter keeping up and contributing and encouraging our new members! Once in the Cohort, always in the Cohort!
After extensive community building, and getting an understanding of where people are in terms of their comfort and use of digital tools, we dove right into discussion around the trends in education: from 1954 with BF Skinner’s Teaching Machine, all the way up to Sal Khan’s concepts of education in the 21st Century. When asked “Where do you Stand on the role of Education in the Classroom?” there was a diverse range of feelings and reactions to these two videos. This questions, and few others, created a creative and inquisitive tension in the room around what 21st Century education means and the role that technology plays in it. Garth Nichols underscored that character, effective and positive social skills have never been more important than now, when kids are more social and powerful, and reachable, than ever.
The bulk of the day was spent getting hooked up with the Cohort 21 Toolkit. This introduced the members to WordPress blogging platform, and blogging etiquette and best practices. Then to Diigo, a social bookmarking tool that we use to stay connected and educated on articles, information and data about teaching. Then to Twitter where we learned about following, #’ing and @ing, as well as #edchats. These are two great tools that will help us all stay alert, connected and supported throughout the year. Already @cohort21 and #cohort21 are hopping with great resources, inspiration and ideas, so check out our Twitter List, and follow along! Finally, it was to Google Apps. Cohort 21 is very google friendly, and so our newest members were given a tour of Gmail, Drive and Google+. Google+ is going to be key because we are going to be hosting several Hangouts throughout the year to deepen the work that is being done, and provide more support for our members. All members now, and from last year, are encouraged to join our Google+ community!
One of the most exciting pieces of the day, was launching our partnership with MaRS through Joe Wilson (@joeatmars), head of MaRS’ Education arm. He explained the value-add piece that the Cohort can bring to his work, and visa-versa HERE.
We finished the day with immersing ourselves with 21st century voices. The first was from Education 2030, an ongoing series from Steve Paiken’s Agenda (@spaikin) where we heard student voices about what they want in their education, followed by an interview with Tony Wagner, a provocative educational guru (@DrTonyWagner)! We really did walk the walk as we experimented with Twitter back channel chats, and completed an exit card using Socrative. It was a really important experience, that was captured by Celeste Kirsh best when she posed the question: “How can we expect to teach our students in this paradigm shift if we haven’t experienced it ourselves?” All in all, it was a very positive and energetic experience for all, and this energy has continued into recent member blog posts, and tweets. Even though it is just getting off the ground, we are excited about what has been happening thus far, and what the potential is.
This momentum was also present when I presented to the CIS Ontario’s Curriculum Leaders’ Conference at St. Andrew’s College on Wednesday the 23rd. My presentation was not so much an explanation of Cohort 21, because over 70% of the room knew about it very well, or had a teacher in the Cohort this year (the good word is spreading!), but rather information for how the curriculum leaders could best work with their members of the cohort. It was very well received, and it makes us excited about the in school benefits throughout the participating member schools in CIS Ontario.
So, if you haven’t already, build your own toolkit and follow us, tweet to/at us, and be sure to join our community of exciting, curious and engaged educators of the CIS Ontario schools.