Two Days in Yokohama

I’m currently sitting in one of my old haunts – Starbucks in Kichijoji, one of the places where my now-wife and I use to hang out when we first met!

I’ve just spent the past two days at Yokohama International School working with and getting to know a good number of their teachers as they prepare for their Connected Learning Community this coming August.

We spent a lot of time discussing blogs, Google Apps, portfolios, assessment and good teaching practice. I even managed to get involved in a few MYP discussions!

I’ll have a lot more to say on the experience over the next week or so but my fingers are currently getting numb as I sit out on the patio enjoying the blue sky (and cold wind!). Thanks again to Kim Cofino for the chance to work and learn with a great bunch of teachers. And welcome to some new teachers in my PLN, including Brian Farrell, librarian; Adam Clark, counselor; Adam Seldis, Econ and Humanities teacher.

Expanding My Horizons

Excuse me for some gratuitous self-indulgence. It will be brief, I promise!

I’m so stoked to be heading to Yokohama International School in about a week to help with their in-house professional development on:

  • reverse instruction
  • developing a networked classroom through the use of Learning Hub blogging portal
  • understanding how to mix and match web 2.0 tools
  • authentically embedding technology in an MYP environment.

It will be amazing to work with Kim and to spend a day watching and learning how technology facilitation/coaching is implemented in other settings.

I’ve given plenty of workshops to my colleagues at UNIS, but this is my first time working with another school. Needless to say, I’m both a bit nervous and extremely excited!

Image Credit: A Perfect Morning By Extra Medium licensed under CC BY NC ND

A(nother) Learning 2.010 Reflection

Last weekend I was lucky enough to spend a few days in Shanghai at the Learning 2.010 conference. It was a fantastic experience for a variety of reasons:

1. I got to meet up with a lot of my twitter friends: @klbeasley, @intrepidteacher, @dearlibrariann, @mscofino, @kurisuteen, @courosa@dkuropatwa, @megangraff, @betchaboy, @brianlockwood to name a few. I’m certainly not the first to say it, but those connections are worth more than a thousand keynote speeches.

2. One of my colleagues, @lissgriffin, jumped on the Twitter train with both feet and now is a Twitter force-to-be-reckoned-with! Beyond that, it was so rewarding to watch her realize that, as much as she may try to tell you otherwise, she’s on top of this ‘teaching with technology’ thing. Some of the ideas she’s coming up with are mind boggling. One day soon I’ll get her to either a) start her own blog about what she’s doing in her classroom or b) guest post here.

3. My cohort was pretty amazing. Led by Kim Cofino and Darren Kuropatwa, we explored the Future of Learning. The idea was to work in small groups to explore this topic in more detail after a few introductory discussions and activities. In just over 90 minutes my group cobbled together a presentation we called ‘Bridging the Gap’. The focus was on what we felt the future of learning is and what can we do now to put us in a position to be ready for that future. It was a good experience to be thrust into the role of the students, if only for 2 days. Working under a deadline in classroom conditions to create a product that you must then present to your peers: something many teachers take for granted that students can do. It’s hard work and we need to make sure we give them the time they need to create products they can be proud of.

We also had to contribute a slide to the Great Quotes about Learning and Change Flickr group. Here’s my submission.

I’ll have more to say about what I learned in my cohort in a later post.

4. Facilitating unconference sessions was very rewarding. I volunteered to facilitate a session on Tech Integration in a 1:1 School. I didn’t suggest the topic, but I figured it is my job and I do work at a 1:1 school so I was pretty well qualified to at least lead the discussion! Keri-Lee and I also ran a Twitter for Teachers unconference session, mostly because of conversations that we had with other teachers the previous night about the “banality of Twitter.” Needless to say, we disagreed. Twitter is only as useful as you make it, that’s true. Some teachers just need a little help in seeing how to make it useful and I hope we did that. (As an aside, is there another community of professionals that is using Twitter as actively as teachers?)

I was at the Learning 2.008 conference as well. I will be pushing hard to make sure I can be involved with the next iteration too!

Social Networking for Parents

Michelle and I had our first PD session (Parent Development) this morning and had about 25 parents show up! It is by far the biggest crowd I’ve ever had for one of these technology sessions. Our plan was to pick a hot-button issue to get more butts in seats and boy did it work. At one point, we didn’t have enough computers in the lab to accommodate all the parents!

We started with quote from Prof. Helen McGrath (.pdf):

Young people on the other hand see technologies (and especially the internet) as a vital part of their social life and the building of their identity. Mobile phones seem to be the key to young people’s social lives (ACMA, 2007)… (T)he most significant milestones towards adulthood are now acquiring a mobile phone and joining online social networking sites. [emphasis added]

Social networks are now a fact of life and won’t diminish until something bigger and better takes their place. As parents we have the choice to ignore it (not recommended!) or to get involved with our children’s interactions.

We then showed the awesome Common Craft video Social Networking in Plain English

I love the ideas behind this series; I wonder if we could contact Lee and ask him if he could make a ‘student-friendly’ version?

When discussing the benefits and drawbacks, the focus from parents was mainly on the negatives, including:

  • time wasting
  • devalued meaning of ‘friend’
  • online dangers
  • damage to one’s image and the idea of a digital footprint

As we have a very international population, a lot of parents recognized the benefits of staying connected to ‘home’ and to friends across the globe. This did not, however, have as a big an impact as I thought it would.

We spent some time introducing parents to Club Penguin (most had never heard of it) and going through some of the more controversial aspects of the Facebook Terms of Service. Like their children, most parents with Facebook accounts had never actually read the Terms of Service and were a bit shocked to see language such as this:

You specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (“IP License”).

We ended by talking about what parents can do to help encourage discussion with their children about social networking. They included:

  • Set boundaries
  • Be interested! Ask questions, just like you do with their F2F friends.
  • Ask to be shown their profile page … tomorrow.
  • Ask to be their ‘friend’ with an understanding that you will not actively participate.
  • Remember: Most kids really do use social networks just to communicate with their friends.

I had hoped to spend some time going through specific privacy settings but we ran out of time. I will include the related links in our weekly school newsletter however.

Overall, we tried to stress that social networking sites are the cordless telephone and mall of the current generation. It’s how they communicate and  it’s where they sometimes hang out. When one parent said something about children creating Facebook accounts behind their backs, I related it back to watching R-rated movies: If she’s told her child that s/he cannot watch a certain movie, how does she know s/he won’t just go watch it at a friend’s house? What’s the difference?

Thanks to Kim Cofino and Jeff Utecht for sharing their previous experiences on this subject. It helped us a lot in preparing for our session!

I’ve embedded the slides from our presentation here. I’ve also got an hour’s worth of audio that I will try to sync up to the visuals at some point…

Keep Your Eye on the Blog

I’m not normally an internet meme kinda guy. But I like the idea of spreading a little love and knowledge…

Thanks to Maggie at Tech Transformations for the recommendation as a blog to keep an eye on. Actually, I believe the term she used is “Vale a pena ficar de olho nesse blog,” an initiative to highlight, well, blogs to keep an eye on!

Learning on the Job is an attempt by me to document my thoughts and experiences as I work my way through my new position. It is becoming my de facto portfolio, one that I would happily point any prospective employer towards as it is equal parts reflective and celebratory. It also serves as a sounding board for my thoughts and ideas; just taking the time to write them down help clarify things for me.

Of course, I don’t work or live in a vacuum and I am constantly inspired, motivated and encouraged by my blogging colleagues around the world. Here are 10 of them, presented without commentary:

Keri-Lee at Tip of the Iceberg.

Jabiz at Intrepid Teacher.

Kim at always learning.

Jackie B at Continuities.

David at Questions?.

Dina at The Line.

Adrienne at create. connect. question. (not hugely busy ATM since she is in the middle of her Master’s Degree) and her MYP Language A blog for Triple A learning.

Maria at Teaching College Math.

All the folks at 1 to 1 Schools.

The good folks at Boing Boing.

If you haven’t had a chance to read some of the blogs above, please do check them out. And if you are one of the bloggers listed above and you choose to play along, here are the rules: Copy the picture, link back to here, and recommend 10 blogs of your own for people to keep an on!

Get Your Geek On!

When my principal approached me in November about organizing a technology-in-the-classroom showcase, I knew just what I wanted to do: Speed Geeking. I first heard about speed geeking from Kim Cofino (who I later found out learned about it from @FrznGuru).

First, I sought out seven volunteers willing to share something cool they’ve done in their classroom. By cool I mean creative, innovative, engaging and effective. It was pretty easy to come up with a list of teachers to approach since I’ve been trying to track who’s been doing what with Google Forms. The tricky part was finding new faces to act as presenters. One of the criticisms of previous sessions like this (rightly so, I might add) is that it is always the same people showing their goods. Instead of asking for volunteers, I strategically approached people from different departments who mightn’t have otherwised stepped forward.

Then I divided our staff (Middle/High School only) into 7 groups. This worked out to about 6 or 7 teachers per group. They were a mixed bag in terms of gender, department, comfortability with technology, age group taught, etc. I wanted the groups to be as diverse as possible.

On Wednesday each presenter gave a 7 minute presentation, including time for questions/discussion. I found this great online countdown timer to help keep track of the time. Then all the groups rotated through every other presentation. In under one hour all 50 teachers saw all 7 presentations and were able to ask clarifying questions to suit their own needs. Here’s what it looked like in practice:

(BTW, the music in that video was remixed by one our grade 10 students using ACID Xpress 7.0 and showcased in one of the speed geeking sessions.)

The feedback from teachers has been extremely positive. A quick sample of comments received:

  • Timing helped listeners and presenters – 5-7 min was enough for brief questions and to pique interest to prompt a teacher to further investigation. Teachers were forced to ask only VERY pertinent management questions, and could go back to the expert later if interested.
  • Loved it- enough time to see what some great ideas without needing to hear lots of detail that I can’t absorb quickly.
  • I really enjoyed just getting a snapshot of what is happening in other parts of the school-I was amazed at what kids are actually doing!
  • 7 minutes at each section was so effective
  • Lovely job done by lovely people who were each quietly modest about the cool things they’ve been doing.
  • Good, quality presentations – how to implement, what it can do for the kids, thoughts of where you can use it, and possible drawbacks (ie: tech difficulties you would have to sort out or live with). Beauty.
  • Very real and meaningful examples that were inspirational. This was PD like it is supposed to be.
  • Thanks a lot. Its a really good set up. Can we do it again next Wed?
  • This session came at a good time and was the right type of duration for a Weds afternoon – too much focus on technology can be overwhelming, but it’s good to see what others are doing and what’s working well. Thanks
  • Most effective tech. session this year, for me, by far. It was enough to really get a sense of the great things people are doing and gave me lots of ideas.

Perhaps most telling for me: when asked to rate their willingness to do this again, 21 of 27 rated it 5 out of 5. Everybody rated it 3 out of 5 or higher.

The fast pace did not suit all participants and there were 2 comments reflecting that, but I think the overall feeling was that this was a good thing.  Also, it was suggested that there be two rounds of speed geeking so that the presenters from one round would be able to view presentations in the other round. I think this is a great idea but it would have been difficult to manage in the one-hour time slot I was given.

If you’re looking for a great way to share ideas, I would definitely recommend speed geeking!

Moving Up a Weight Class – From Coaching Light to Coaching Heavy

I first heard the terms ‘Coaching Light’ and ‘Coaching Heavy’ when I was reading a post on Difficult Conversations over at Always Learning. If you haven’t heard the terms before, they come from the book Coaching: Approaches and Perspectives by Jim McKnight in a section written by Joellen Killion. She

assert[s] that there are two kinds of coaching – coaching light and coaching heavy. The difference essentially is the coaches’ perspective, beliefs, role decisions, and goals, rather than what coaches do… Coaching light occurs when coaches want to build and maintain relationships more than they want to improve teaching and learning. From this perspective, coaches act to increase their perceived value to teachers by providing resources and avoiding challenging conversations. (p. 22)

Coaching heavy, on the other hand, includes high-stakes interactions between coaches and teachers, such as curriculum analysis, data analysis, instruction, assessment, and personal and professional beliefs and how they influence practice… Coaching heavy requires coaches to say “no” to trivial requests for support and to turn their attention to those high-leverage services that have the greatest potential for teaching and learning. Coaching heavy requires coaches to work with all teachers in a school, not just those who volunteer for coaching services. Coaching heavy requires coaches to seek and use data about their work and regularly analyze their decisions about time allocation, services and impact. (p. 23 -24) (emphasis added)

I have started looking further into this idea of Coaching Heavy. I read the first chapter of the book on Google Books. I found another article by Joellen Killion on the same topic. I found another instructional coach who is making this same transition. After reading the distinctions between the two, I knew that Coaching Heavy is where I wanted to be.

But now comes the hard part. How do I make that transition? How do I engender the required sense of collaboration and preparation required not only by me but by the rest of the staff? How do I impose myself and my new-found interest in Coaching Heavy on those around me? How do I make Technology Integration a priority for others as well as myself?

The first thing I need is a plan of action that takes into account the questions above as well as the culture of my school. When I get to that stage, I’ll let you know. In the meantime, if you have any suggestions or comments please feel free to let me know.

(Note: I just read that the Laptop Institute is soliciting calls for proposals for their 2010 Institute. Is this something that could work as a workshop?)

Image: Watching the Detecto by massdistraction licensed under CC BY NC ND

23 Things – Week 2

I’ve managed to convince 4 of our teachers to sign up for the 23 Things Online Workshop. (I’m not actually participating, I’m acting solely as a coach.)  I’ve also managed to convince them to meet once a week after school at a local cafe to discuss what we’re exploring each week. The first week didn’t go wrong but didn’t go terribly well. There was a lot of discussion but without much direction.

One of my big gripes about meetings at school is that they don’t seem to utilize time wisely. I did not want that to be the same with our PLC meetings as well! I decided to adopt the Final Word protocol as a result of reading Kim Cofino’s blog post about it. It seemed to be exactly what I was looking for: a way to help facilitate a conversation based upon the interests of the participants while remaining conscious of time factors (we’ve allocated one hour every Tuesday).

While our implementation of the protocol wasn’t perfect (we didn’t always stick to time if the conversation was good and we didn’t always remain focused on the leader’s passage), it certainly felt like a more productive dialogue and a better use of our time. I hope that as we use the protocol more we will be able to strike up richer conversations.

And for the record, Prensky’s Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants theory (Pt 1 Pt 2) was the hottest topic. I’ve made my feelings known on that matter already.

Image Credit: barbara kingsolver and coffee at pix by cafemama licensed under CC BY NC SA

Technology Facilitator: My New Role

A few days ago, Kim Cofino was wondering about the variations in job titles amongst people doing similar work at different schools.

What is it about technology in education that makes it so difficult to define roles that everyone can agree on and understand? Even though we’ve had technology in schools for decades, it still seems like we’re making it up as we go along.

I missed her original Tweet calling for the different titles or else I would have added my very own brand new title to the mix: MSHS Technology Facilitator.

We’ve been back at school for the better part of a week now and I still am trying to come to grips with what this fancy new title means. Here’s what’s been bouncing around in my head to date:

What I am:

  • I’m there to support teachers, both in the classroom, with ideas on how where our current technologies fit into their curriculum and the best ways to integrate the two, and out, by providing training and support.
  • I’m there to support students by providing co-teaching and out-of-class support.
  • I’m there to support parents by offering workshops to help them understand what their children are doing in our 1:1 school.
  • I’m a filter between the teachers and the tech director.
  • I’m an observer, trying to monitor how teachers and students are progressing with their technology integration and finding ways to advance that integration based on what I see.

What I’m not:

  • I’m not Tech Support (no admin passwords, sorry!) though I’ll try my best to troubleshoot.
  • I’m not a classroom teacher any more.
  • I’m not THE expert.

So far, I’ve been running around putting out fires as teachers get back into the swing of using their Tablets. I’ve also been running some in-house PD on using Outlook effectively and efficiently as well as guiding the staff on what they will need to be showing our students on Day 1 (tomorrow!) when grades 8 – 10 receive their tablets for the very first time. I’ve also run an intro session for our batch of student helpers so that they can help me fight fires over the first few days.

I am absolutely thrilled to be the first person to occupy this position at my school. This position was created because our Admin saw the need for it as a direct result of Jeff Utecht‘s visit last November. I only hope I can fill the already-high expectations placed on this job.

I’m also a bit confused: after 10+ years of getting ready for students on Day 1, I’m not doing that this year. I’m not sure how I feel about that yet…