Sunday, February 13, 2011

#otf21c - Pushing the Lines in the Cybersand.

The OTF Teaching and Learning in the 21st Century conference this weekend in Toronto was a resounding success.The goal of the conference was "to inform teachers on current ICT using an inquiry-based approach", and to provide digital fluency and resources and sound entry points for practice. It delivered.

Garfield Gini-Newman kicked it off with his thoughts on deep thinking as he questioned the authentic use of technology and the internet to foster inquiry and rigor, while at the same pushing his learning with presentation tools and an intense interest in how teachers are using the tools in their classrooms.

I've had the pleasure of speaking with Garfield over several years and our conversations always start with motivations of the teachers who give up their valuable time to come to these conferences. Words like risk-takers, and innovators, and creativity are always part of those conversations.

Day 2 brought Will Richardson who challenged our comfort levels about our online digital footprint, and the risks inherent. His opening remarks "I want my kids to learn from strangers" are intentionally provocative, especially for educators who are entrusted with the safety of our students. His words fly in the face of much of what we are told about cyber-safety. Yet research is supporting that the biggest threat to our students is cyberbullying, and therefore shouldn't we as teachers be stepping into their world, modelling appropriate behaviour and helping them establish boundaries?

During Will's sharing, he visited Steven Downes' and George Siemens' open online course on Connectivism through Eluminate. Intending to show the power of Twitter, Will linked in through a tweet that George had posted. As I had used Eluminate before I have to admit I wasn't paying utmost attention. But Will had me at #cck11 !  That is MY course and I was late for MY webinar. Madly clicking on my email link, I realized it wasn't working. So off to Twitter I went to get that link that Will had used. Digital problem-solving 101.

Day 3. Minds on Media. Now it was our turn. Featuring many Ontario educators with proven understandings of how to harness the power of technology to create opportunities for inquiry, and comfortable with the vast harvest of links and research that social media offers, we rolled up our sleeves and spent the day demonstrating, discussing, listening and facilitating. The discussion we had around my table did not focus on the technology. Bitstripsforschools , or as I now call it,  the Little Tool that Could, is user-friendly and a great entry level for rich curriculum exploration. As we wound down from 3 intense, mind-bending days, Lisa Bruce @lbruce2005 dug deep, left it all on the cyber-highway and expressed herself thusly.

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