Self-discovery through Technology

I have still been too shy with my posts here on the blog and elsewhere as is obvious to the few people who may have been reading along.  I am finding that posting – the act of putting your ideas out there into the world requires two things, a want for an audience and a desire for your message to be seen in the printed word – is not at all natural for me.  Like any other person I want my message to come across clearly and in order to make that happen I must know what my message is.  I have jumped in my posts from being excited to start in an extended professional development session to asking questions of technology and its role in our classrooms and along the way have tried many new things that have hopefully helped students get more out of their education.

I have also had the action plan that we need, not just for Cohort21 but for our everyday approaches to teaching, rolling around in my head without extreme articulation of it.  I like to be explicit and have yet to post in any uncertain terms what my action plan is here on this blog.  I have settled on one but before I write it below I must say I have grown again a great appreciation for students that are told to express themselves when they aren’t sure who they are yet.  Self-discovery takes a bit of time and I never figured on working on it this long!

My action plan has become and still is trying to assess what types of technology help students both access and remember the skills, concepts and content that are driving their lessons in classrooms.  I started with using sharing platforms so that students could see what the other students are doing and draw from it towards their own learning.  We have used Google docs and Padlet so far in our class.  A visual idea of my action plan can be seen here.

I know this is just scratching the surface of shareware and types of platforms students can interact with but it is a start nonetheless.  I have seen greater cooperation and teamwork in class but the critical question still remains; did they learn something they can retain more by using the technology we used?

. . . I am still working on that one.

Acting on a Plan for my Classes

Cohort21 teachers today came together at MaRS and discussed their action plans for their classrooms.  I have been a bit stuck on one single action and am only now, after a day of fun and engaging sharing, climbing out of the rut of inaction.  The idea of 21st century learning has been discussed and presented to us through several different lenses and finding the kernel of direction as all of the ideas percolate through my wee little brain has had me focusing on technology.  As I ended my previous post with a ‘how will technology help this?’ I have realized that maybe I have been focusing a little too much on technology.  21st century learning is not, by definition, learning with/through technology.  In fact, I am sure there is more to my question on reducing relearning than just a software solution.  I will do the following over the next few weeks:

1. Elucidate a plan with weekly actions

2. Post my findings here and on Diigo and Twitter (the dark realms I have been too shy about delving deeper into up till now)

3. Create a collection of my findings and identify the next step

It has been a good day with our all-star cast of colleagues and I hope that the next time we meet I have something for them that both intrigues and inspires.  Of I go to study . . .

Relearning – a colossal waste of time?

I have come back on our Cohort 21 site and am noticing a rash of activity over the past day or two as our deadline for action plans approaches tonight.  I am glad to see that I may not be the only one who has taken a wee bit of a hiatus from posting.  I have been less than faithful to my blog over the past couple of months and must do something to remedy that.

In thinking about an action plan that would be engaging for me I have kept coming back to using technology in formative assessments.  There is an interesting website for languages, Duolingo, that uses an algorithm where students get reminded of topics they were weaker at or haven’t looked at recently.  I think there are so many topics for my senior science students that they learn and then forget about again (maybe even over the hour-long lesson) that there must be something I can do about it.

So when I think about an action plan and I let myself feel the freedom that has been granted us by our Cohort21 co-conspirators I am still, in all honesty, left wondering if I should be asking a question, musing about or creating a concrete task for myself.  As I can’t write algorithms and am still working on my blogging abilities I think my best approach for now may be asking a question . . .

Is there a way to maximize learning and retention while minimizing relearning and information loss?  How can technology help with this?

. . . let’s see where this takes me.

 

In Defense of Blended Learning

Taking my previous post into consideration I thought it would be good to turn the tables back in favour of Blended Learning.  According to Research Data Centres of Canada (an interesting report on the digital divide in Canadian schools and homes  from 2003 – it’s a bit dated http://www.publications.gc.ca/Collection/Statcan/81-597-X/81-597-XIE.pdf) almost 100  percent of students use some form of digital media.

The obvious point to be made is that our students need to be able to learn with the tools that people use nowadays.  As for the Scientific American article http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=reading-paper-screens&page=2 in my last post that stated reading from books to be more conducive to retaining content it leads me to believe that we need to pick and choose the media we use in class not based on convenience, wow factor or popularity.

A case in point: in a recent Cohort21 Google hangout https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O3xQt6clFmY there were some questions asked on how Twitter could be used for student learning.  Some obvious points were raised about student Twitter tags and content of the tweets.  Assuming that we are not choosing Twitter because it’s convenient (most everyone has easy access through cell phones and of course online), the wow factor (comments are immediate) or its popularity (over 500,000,000 reported users http://www.statisticbrain.com/twitter-statistics/) then we would want to use Twitter to help our students learn how to communicate articulately and succinctly all while maintaining digital responsibility.  See fellow Cohort21 educator Alan MacInnis’ post for another idea on using Twitter http://cohort21.com/alanmacinnis/2013/11/16/to-tweet-or-not-to-tweet/ .

There are lots of opportunities for learning these skills but by no means are they the only skills to learn or the skills that students need to focus on every lesson.  This is where blending comes in.  And it is an educator’s job to make sure the ratio of digital to analog learning environments benefits our students’ development.

Therein lays the simple answer.  It is neither one nor the other but the blending of both books, poster making, writing by hand and the use of digital media online, word processors and in applications.  I would love to see more recorded on the ratio of blending and which methods are chosen for what reasons and how our students’ performance was either enhanced or inhibited.  It’s a very exciting time to be in education!  with lots more to come . . .

A Trepid Salvo on Blended Learning

So Blended Learning http://www.christenseninstitute.org/blended-learning-3/ is this idea that students are now learning through not only textbooks and library resources but through digital media systems as well; kind of exactly what Cohort21 is all about.  I found an interesting article from Scientific American that describes a discrepancy between information read from books and information read from a screen http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=reading-paper-screens&page=2

As I mentioned briefly in a previous post ‘Learning in the Clouds’ we have plunged into the digiverse and we certainly don’t want studying on computers and incorporation of the internet in our classes to be the Thalidomide of education.  You know, we think it’s all great and then in a few years we find that it is more detrimental than it is helpful.

I have bounced around on my initial few posts here from playful poetry, to fanciful foods, and what it means to have a name and a digital address/footprint and have been struggling with my own much more public presence.

I get the power of technology and I love it!  I am learning more and more every day about the amazing things that educators and students and quite frankly, most everyone online contributes to our learning.  I feel the potential overflowing!  I hear stories of great impact being made and new approaches being found for old problems that may lead to new solutions.

And all of this is revolving around some brand of blended learning – students using technology to build skills.  So this Scientific American article (link above) that talks about information retention being more effective through books because it is easier to focus on pages that aren’t changing uncontrollably before your eyes with pop-up windows and message threads gave me moment to pause.

Educators today talk about skills and life-long learning as opposed to content mastery and packets of information input and output.  But skills are not just learned through doing or seeing or hearing they are also realized through reading.  If our students may retain something less from reading from a digital source what kind of responsibility do we have to compensate?  Or regulate? Or to be more active in our reporting of what is working and not working.

I know there is a mountain of information being posted online all the time and for education I have seen most of it for GREAT something-or-others.  But for the few people who may actually read this, I challenge you to post on your blog or twitter or Diigo or whatever network you are using an example of what has NOT worked for you in education and technology.  I like the Bandwagon but Devil’s Advocate has value too.  I’m wondering if maybe we need a few more dregs to appreciate the wine . . . and to make sure we are indeed getting it right for our students.

What’s in a Name?

Looking through various different sites and resources online I recently came across November Learning at http://novemberlearning.com/blc-education-conference-2014/.  I don’t know much about the educational conferences they run but the organization seems to have been started by a man named Alan November.  How fitting, Mr. November running November Learning being found in November.  It begs the question of what our names have in them for us.

The name Bohte is read ‘bo-tay’ but is read most often by people as ‘boat’.  This innocent mistake has a lot of potential.  There is of course, education on a boat at http://www.picton-castle.com/bosun-school.html .  There is the fact that the analogies that could be drawn with life and learning are never-ending; life is like a journey at sea, the tides push and pull our boats of life or our life boats to and fro, we live and we learn as we sail and we yearn, etc.   I should probably look to capitalize on the ‘boat’ of my name more often.

There has been the odd reading of my name as ‘bow-tie’.  This fateful misnomer may be slightly more unfortunate as it leads only to inevitable fundraising events and out-dated fashion sense.  Either way, I end up needing a new wardrobe of speckled bow-ties.

So what is in a name?  Well, as we all live and learn, I guess we will find out.

Learning in the Clouds

Bloomberg Businessweek recently published an article by Devin Leonard entitled ‘The iPad Goes to School’.  http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-10-24/the-ipad-goes-to-school-the-rise-of-educational-tablets  Technology, it seems, is the only natural next step to educating our future citizens.  The proof seems to be out there; students learn with more access rather than less.  Our children can learn to be responsible citizens both in the digital world and in the ‘real’ world, whatever that is.

There is one thing that has been rattling around in my head since I started getting access to some educational threads, feeds, tweets, blogs and sweets on line – just how much control do we really have over our digiverse selves?  I am writing on this blog page and for the first time my voice is out there.  Some of my students the other day mentioned they had Googled me and found my blog with a silly picture of me in front of a lot of food.  I tried unsuccessfully to let them know this is what is hip these days. . . then I had to explain what ‘hip’ meant.

Hmmmm . . .

Planning and Patriotism

As a teacher may, I was taking a look at the curriculum, making sure all the t’s were crossed and the i’s were dotted, and I was reminded of requirements to let our students know about famous Canadians.    I was reminded of a Nobel-winning scientist originally from Germany who moved to Saskatoon many, many years ago.  For those of us who aren’t aware that, yes, many significant things happen in the prairies, here is a link to a true story that speaks to love, passion for science and brilliance.   http://www.science.ca/scientists/scientistprofile.php?pID=8  will lead you to Gerhard Herzberg, a man who said, “You shouldn’t do science just to improve wealth — do science for the sake of human culture and knowledge. There must be some purpose in life that is higher than just surviving.”

Fringe Benefits of Learning on any given Saturday

 

 

So one day has passed since my first exposure to a bunch of educators who are interested in the future of education and learning more about what they can do to be an active part of it . . . first they talked, then they ate and after that they talked some more.  As you can see from the picture below, they talked more than they ate and I was left with a table full of leftovers (so much for my waistline).

photo

 

The Cohort21 preoccupation with raising the bar for ourselves and our students seems to be a good way for me to get an extra meal.  Thanks for the food Justin and Garth!  I owe someone a dinner.

Cohort21 Begins . . .

After my first day in Cohort21

and I feel as though I have won

a free ride on a roller coaster

through a wet mist holding a toaster

plugged in to yesterday

flying through today

if I hold on and make it through

I may know more of what to do

in a class with students who care

students who don’t and/or

students who want more!!