ASB Unplugged Reflections pt. 1 – Twitter Ramblings

Below are some thoughts that I threw out on Twitter during ASB Unplugged; some instant reflection as it happened! I’m still working on some more coherent thoughts about the entire experience…

Leadership and Change

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Capacity, Connections and Camp

Another Learning 2.0 event has come and gone. I think I’m finally getting over my conference hangover – after such a full-on weekend my mind just sort of went blank and kept racing at the same time! – and can look back at all that I learned and shared. It’s hard to believe that I was skeptical about this conference when I first heard about the new cohort/unconference format. I’m so glad Simon May convinced me to go to Learning 2.010. Now I don’t think I’ll ever think about missing one as long as I’m in the region!


As a member of the Technology Learning Leaders 1 cohort it was great to get to know Charlotte Diller and George Couros. The two big points of emphasis from them were “Start with the why” and “Build capacity.” This really reaffirmed the work that I’m trying to do because, while not stated as eloquently, these have been foci 2 for me over the past year. UNIS’ work on the Learning and Technology Plan, while not complete, is exactly in place to answer the “Why?” question and my focus on coaching and teacher-led workshops is about building capacity.

In our mini-sessions during cohort time, I took part in some great discussions about blogs and portfolios. A school-wide blogging platform is something that I have been pushing for a while and it was great to get so many perspectives at once on how they can be utilized effectively. There is no “right way” and so it is important that the “Why?” is discussed first! I also learned a lot about the various coaching models that are put into place at different schools. WAB seems to have a very strong model of offering skills-based coaching within the school day. IST puts a strong focus on self-assessment of needs and abilities. This year I am trying a system of working first and foremost with the new faculty by identifying one of the NETS Standards for Students and Teachers as points of emphasis. I’m hoping that we can shift the focus from an emphasis on technology skills to one of pedagogy, curriculum and best practice.


It sounds really corny, but Learning 2.011 felt a bit like coming home. There are so many people in Asia that I interact with online; #learning2 gave me a chance to catch up with a lot of them and meet some of them for the first time 3.

I was really honored to be one of the 20 teachers highlighted in Jabiz’s keynote. It’s amazing to think that it was only one year ago that we met at Learning.2010.

I was really excited to revive Twitter for Teachers with Keri-Lee. We ran this as an impromptu unconference last year and had a good response. We decided to run it as a workshop this year and it apparently was pretty popular: we were asked to run it a second time as well! My Twitter stream is overflowing with all the new connections that I made.


Thanks to Alec and George Couros for giving rise to one of my favorite hashtags of all time: #summercamp4life. With the ease of communication and collaboration, it is so easy to translate those conference promises of “Keep in touch” into actions. While Learning 2.011 may have officially ended on September 11, the conversations and the learning can go on forever. #summercamp4life.


Welcome! by Clint Hamada licensed under CC BY NC SA
My Tweeps
by Kim Cofino licensed under CC BY NC SA
#summercamp4life by Clint Hamada licensed under CC BY NC SA


  1. Apparently they use the term “Leader” quite loosely!
  2. Math teacher!
  3. I wish I had the time/space/memory to list out all the great people I got to chat with. It really is an amazing list!

Twitter for Teachers #learning2

Keri-Lee and Clint met on Twitter in 2008 and have since spent numerous holidays, along with their families, together across Asia. Cross posted at Tip of the Iceberg.

To help facilitate our Twitter for Teachers session at Learning 2.011, we have decided to post the general outline of our presentation and any resources on both of our blogs. We’d love to hear your feedback and how you are using Twitter to interact with your PLN. Feel free to leave your Twitter name in the comments as well!

(Mis)Perceptions of Twitter

We’ve all heard the “I don’t care what you had for breakfast!” diatribe against Twitter. We’re curious to know what the perceptions our participants have about Twitter.

How We Use It

Twitter, like anything else, is simply a tool. Use of that same tool will vary widely from person to person and Twitter is no exception.

Top Tips

For those just starting out in the Twitter game or for those that started an account years ago but never really got into it, here our some of our top tips for using Twitter to expand your PLN:

  • Public, Personal, Private – Just as we would tell our students, it is important to understand the distinction between public, personal and private information.
  • BPLBio, Photo, Link. It’s hard for others to separate the gold from the spam when you don’t fill these things out!
  • Tear Down That Wall! – Don’t protect your tweets! Again, it’s hard for others to decide to follow you back if they can’t see what you’ve added to the conversations.
  • Go Beyond Basic – While Twitter as a service is fantastic, Twitter as a website is less than desirable. Try a Twitter client like TweetDeck, Hootsuite, or Echofon (just to name a few!) that allows you to separate your Twitter feed into easy-to-monitor columns.
  • Lists – Twitter lists allow you to create groups within your Twitter stream. You can even include people that you do not personally follow. Even better, you can follow lists that others have meticulously created. (Kim Cofino has a great International Teachers list.)
  • Hashtags#learning2 #edchat #scichat #mathchat #kinderchat These are all examples of hashtags. Hashtags make it easy to group and search for tweets about a specific topic. Using a Twitter client like Tweetdeck, you can even use a hashtag to create an easy-to-follow column in your client. @cybraryman has a comprehensive list of education-related hashtags.
  • Search For It – Is there something that you’re passionate about? Chances are there are others on Twitter who are passionate about the same thing. Use the Twitter Search function to find people who are talking about your hometown, your favorite sports team or anything else you might be interested in.
  • Lurking (aka Legitimate Peripheral Participation) – One of the best and easiest ways to learn Twitter etiquette is to lurk amongst some of your favorite lists or hashtags. Once you see how things work, it’s a lot easier to join in!
  • Retweet and Reply – For some, the highest compliment you can pay them on Twitter is to retweet them. For others, they prefer the conversation that comes along with an @reply. Either way, it is a great way to engage others and to add followers to your PLN.
  • Conversation is King – Twitter, first and foremost, is about connecting with people around the world who can help you grow as a teacher and as a person. This happens through conversation and through getting to know one another as you would a fellow teacher on your campus. Sometimes these professional relationships develop into personal friendships that last a lifetime!
While it is extremely well-used and on the verge of becoming cliche, the best metaphor for your Personal Learning Network is that of a garden. It takes time and energy and patience to cultivate a PLN. But if you stick with it, it can be a very beautiful thing!
Image Credits:
Squawk! by Kevin Collins licensed under CC BY NC
Looking Up by Louise Docker licensed under CC BY

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!

Trans v. Inter Disciplinary – A Visual Guide

I’ve been busy preparing for my upcoming MYP workshop in Mathematics and I’ve been getting all ‘Presentation Zen‘ on the slides. Yes, it adds to the amount of preparation (I could just use some ‘canned slides’ for all workshop leaders) but this way

  • gives me ownership of the content
  • makes me really think about what I’m presenting
  • allows me to make something that I’m proud of
  • will be more helpful to my participants (I hope).

One of the ideas that I was really struggling to present was the difference between transdisciplinary and interdisciplinary teaching and learning. I realized it was because I didn’t fully understand the nuances of them myself!

So, with the help of Twitter (@klbeasley, @amichetti, @stangey especially) and our Curriculum Coordinator, I came up with the following visual metaphors for monodisciplinary, multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary teaching and learning. I wanted something that people could recall in their head to help explain the differences between these terms.

All of the original images used were found on Flickr and licensed under Creative Commons. Please feel free to use or reuse them as you see fit!

I have included some brief explanations on the Flickr pages (each image links back to its Flickr page) for each image but have purposefully left them off here. I wonder if those images clarify, to you, the differences? If you go back and read the explanations, does that help?

Any comments or suggestions, either on the content or the presentation of the slides, are greatly appreciated!

Thoughts on the IB Virtual Community

The IB Virtual Community (IBVC) has just been launched and is currently rolling out to IB schools who request access:

The IBVC offers IB stakeholders the ability to connect, communicate and collaborate with one another. Tools offered within the IBVC include blogs, wikis, discussion forums, file uploading (documents, images, audio and video), individual profiles, the ability to form groups and other social networking functionality.

I’m very curious to get a look at how it is laid out. Thanks to Adrienne, I’ve got a minor interest in design and usability so it will be interesting to view it from that lens. Personally, I think anything will be an improvement over the current system the IBO has for sharing best practice and connecting with others.

The day before the IBVC was launched, ReadWriteWeb had an article on 5 Ways Tech Startups Can Disrupt the Education System. Way #2?

2. It should encourage grassroots adoption

Along with the right price comes the right marketing and adopt ion strategy. As such, many disruptive education technologies are aimed at the individual teachers and students themselves, rather than at the districts-as-a-whole. This is important as this grassroots approach means that the tools pass the “smell test” of teachers in the classroom, meaning that the tools are usable and useful. With a multitude of free tools to chose from, however, interoperability will be key so that educators don’t find themselves locked in to one product or service.

Or, as @surreallyno said on Twitter:

I certainly hope not. I think the IBVC offers a great opportunity for IB schools, teachers and students to connect to one another.

My hope is that this will make it easier to connect, much like facebook made it easier to stay in touch with long lost friends/acquaintances or joining a Ning made it easy to find people with the similar interests. I think this has tremendous potential in increasing the amount of collaboration between schools that, while working within similar frameworks, tend to do a lot of work in isolation.

My fear is that, because of this (hopefully) ease of access, teachers will not share their knowledge or experiences in more ‘traditional ways’ with teachers outside of that community, kind of like how people now post all of their personal updates on facebook and would never consider blogging or Flickr or Twitter. Because the IBVC is not an open community, this might mean that a lot of good ideas will only be shared behind that wall of the IBVC. I’m also curious to know what the terms and conditions for use are. The IBO is quite strict with respect to copyright and I will be interested in knowing their stance on materials that are posted by community members.

How do you feel about the IBVC? Is this something that you or your school will join?

Thing 2 – What is Web 2.0 and (Why) Does it Matter?

idn_web_rots by Rodrigo Vera.I have a confession to make: When looking over the 23 Things, there are only a handful of things that I don’t already feel like I have some sort of comfort with. I blog, I tweet, I wiki, I have a Personal Learning Network that I am continuously cultivating to suit my needs and interests. And I have firsthand experience as to how the collaborative nature of the read/write web has changed me as a teacher.

As an L^3 (LifeLong Learner; I’m a math teacher, give me a break!), I harness the power of Web 2.0 on an hourly basis. If I have blog questions, I tweet an Edublogs guru. If want to talk politics or pedagogy or sports or the joys of international living, I connect with intrepidteacher or MsMichetti. And I’m constantly reading the thoughts and blogs of some of the most influential 21st C. educationalists around. To say that I learn more from the people in my computer than the people in my building would be a gross understatement.

As a teacher, wikis allow me to encourage collaboration and independence between my students. Creative Commons licensed photos allow my students to ethically find images to support their work. YouTube gives me a library of media that can be used for business or pleasure.

Web 2.0 is just awesome (boom de ya da, boom de ya da!).


image: idn_web_rots by Rodrigo Vera

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The Edu-Matrix

Morpheus came to UNIS last weekend…

You remember The Matrix, right? (If you don’t, maybe we shouldn’t be friends. It’s only one of the best movies ever.) Morpheus shows up in Mr. Anderson’s life, dazzles him with some crazy out-of-this world stuff, and then offers him a choice:

Neo, this is your last chance. After this there is no turning back. You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.

Jeff Utecht dazzled the UNIS Middle School/High School staff with some pretty out-of-this-world stuff: wikis, podcasts, chatrooms used to take class notes, Chris Lehmann’s Ignite Philly presentation, interesting new brain research (and lots more) as well as, most importantly, a vision of what education can (must?) become in order to remain relevant.

I’m excited to see how many of my colleagues are taking the red pill. The Twitter population at UNIS has quintupled with people willing to give it a try. People are buzzing about external wikis and blogs (as opposed to our in-house SharePoint wikis and blogs). I don’t know how many have been created over the last 24 hours. I’m planning on hosting another “Tablet Support Group” meeting this week to allow people time to debrief and reflect. (While we did try to build in some reflection time in our days a la Learning 2.008, it just wasn’t enough!) There is a flame that has been lit and I’m hoping it turns into an uncontrolled Five Alarm Fire that consumes classrooms and students and teachers.

Of course, there will always be those content to take the blue pill and continue believing that what they are doing (which is the same thing they were doing 2, 5, 10, 20 years ago) is relevant and best-practice. What do we say to them? What can we say to them?

I wish, in this poor metaphorical exercise, I could say that I was Neo. I doubt that I am. I’m probably more like Tank or Dozer. But I’ve got my eye on a few who could be The One

I don’t know the future. I didn’t come here to tell you how this is going to end. I came to tell you how it’s going to begin. – Morpheus

(In future posts, I hope to dissect my role in presenting a few session at our PD weekend. I also reserve the right to use “Edu-Matrix” in the future, just in case. I just like the sound of it: Welcome to the Edu-Matrix.)

Questions from a Blogging Neophyte

I’ll admit it: I missed the boat on this whole blogging thing. 

But now that I’m here, I got some questions that need some answers. This list is by no means exhaustive, but it’s all I could write while my Grade 8s were taking their Algebra Skills Assessment:

  1. How do I use those footnotes like dan?
  2. Are there any support groups for my addiction to Google Analytics and ClustrMaps?  (Note: I’m not blogging for the numbers, I just like the cool visuals.)
  3. What are the benefits to self-hosting as opposed to using Edublogs? How much would it cost me?
  4. Other than ‘borrowing’ Jeff Utecht’s list, is there a decent primer on how to use all these cool widgets, tools, plug-ins, etc.? What are all the cool kids doing?
  5. How many widgets, plug-ins, etc. does it take to cross over into the “excessive” and “distracting” categories? Is there a general school of thought on blog design and layout akin to using PowerPoint?
  6. How much time do you put into writing/editing/uploading content?
  7. Is Twitter the blogging equivalent of methadone?
  8. How do I explain my newest interest to my wife?
  9. Where do you find the time?