Friday, March 25, 2016

Genius Hour and MakerSpaces

My last post was 5 years ago, which in cyber years is about 1 million years, but there are just too many great things happening in education not to be blogging. I considered starting a new blog after all this time, but I enjoy the homey feel of this little space and  I rather like the name "Reflective Leadings". It mirrors my career path, which is considered and intentional, but I allow events and interactions to lead me, often choosing the many roads not taken.

So what's all the excitement? Genius Hour and Makerspaces are my passion right now and both reflect my core beliefs of education. Engage, Ignite, Innovate, Create, Express

At Westwind (a K-6 public school in Ottawa) we have engaged our students using the concept of Genius Hour for two years. Here is an informative overview of how it works:

Networking with other OCDSB schools, we have in our second year of Genius Hour quadrupled the number of classes involved and student and parental feedback is a resounding thumbs up. What emerged this year was the number of Maker projects. Many students struggle with the idea of freely choosing their own topic, and tend to resort to a research type of project, interesting and informative indeed. But during our Genius Fair, the lines of students waiting to see, touch, smell, taste and hear the Maker projects were long and enthusiastic. The excitement and passion of our authors, sewers, knitters, bakers, song-writers, robots-masters and coders as they explained their projects gave definable evidence that when students create their own world of learning, their understanding and ability to organize and demonstrate that understanding to others is sound pedagogy.

Which brings me to our MakerSpace, which will be the thrust of these postings in the next few months.

Check out this link for a way better explanation of a MakerSpace than I can give:

We are in our second year of "Making a MakerSpace", and it has been somewhat of a slow-boiling pot. We knew intuitively it is a great idea, and our library technician, Cindy MacLean was not only on board, but a leader in this initiative. However, we struggled with lighting the tinder under this endeavour. Slowly, by introducing activities such as card-making for seniors during Kindness Week, setting up a Coding Corner using Scratch and expanding my classroom walls by bringing my students during non-circulation days to engage in activity centres of their choice, all curriculum-related, we began to imagineer a change in the culture of the library. We asked students and staff what they would like to explore in the MakerSpace and we invited all to contribute.

We are now poised to light up the fires of passion and energy, and truly move forward with our MakerSpace. Over the next posts I'll detail what activities we are doing, what works and what doesn't, how it all can hold up to curriculum scrutiny and why every child deserves a chance to find his or her passion.

This journey cannot happen without collaboration and reflection and I welcome your comments and insights. Where is it leading? I'm not sure but I just can't get the word MakerFaire out of my head today.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Moving Day in the Cloud

Please come visit me at my new address 
Moving a blog is not done lightly. For 33 posts my reflections and connections have resided  here at . Now I rather like that name still, it represents who I am as an educator, thoughtfully listening and gathering information, making connections and letting those understandings lead my journey.

But I have outgrown this space. My learning path is collaborative in nature and many of my connections and key understandings happen during the workshops and presentations that I am privileged to facilitate. This summer I will be collaborating on three different such professional gatherings and I need a place to house links and information for participants.

So I’ve moved to a new address,

 bringing with me that what I value, and excitedly starting to set up my new house in the clouds.

BTW the header is the beautiful water gardens at Kew in London, taken with an RCA flip. Love the idea of the connected network here. #cck11 Looking through the lilies you can see the reflection of the ceiling of the conservatory and the clouds above.

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.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Cloud Generation - Is Your Cybersense Tingling?

I came across this discussion on advertising in a Science News article - Study on Effects of TV Ad Violence on Kids Has Super Bowl Implications

It discussed those famous Super Bowl ads and how their advertising messages are received by today’s youth. Many ads push emotional and judgment limits to capture audience; by definition advertising means “the activity of attracting public attention to a product or business, as by paid announcements in the print, broadcast, or electronic media.” In Latin to advertise means to turn towards, direct one's attention to, attract.

This is not anything new. From the admen (yes, predominantly men) of the 60’s, back through time to snake oil and magic potion sellers, entrepreneurs have needed one thing to succeed, consumers. However, people like Marshall McLuhan had a prescient understanding of the media and its influences, and public awareness of campaigns against subliminal messaging still go on. We need these people on watch, and never more so than for The Cloud Generation. Our children are bombarded with messages in the Cyberworld, and they need help decoding and interpreting their impacts. In essence, we need to ask them - Is your Cybersense Tingling??

The Science News article suggests that what is needed is active mediation - where parents discuss media thoughtfully with their children. I would add into that discussion, teachers and community, and a pointed relevancy to the reality of youth culture. Ontario has a strong Media Literacy component to the curriculum, and much of the focus is on Media Awareness. Overall Expectations 1, 2 and 4 all relate to reflective interpretations of media, and prior to any constructions (e.g. digital stories, reflective writings, commenting) it is logical to have discussions about impact, audience, point of view. In fact, while Media Literacy is defined discreetly in our documents, it is just another component of Literacy. Media Awareness is as much a part of Reading, as is picking up a book.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Talking 'bout Cloud Generation

The Cloud Generation

Much has been written about Baby Boomers, Generation X and now Generation Y. Defined as 20 to 30 year olds, Gen Y’s rule the cyberskies. They are the first generation of true Digital Natives and Nick Shore, head researcher at MTV, calls their attitudes and beliefs the Millennial Edge, defined by invisible boundaries. They demand quick-twitch media, biting wit and provocative situations. They don’t know where the behavioural lines are because they have never been drawn.

For the most part though, Gen Y has gone through a traditional, paper-based educational system, emerging to live and embrace a loud and busy on-line world. Following right behind is The Cloud Generation, growing up with smart phones in hand and established digital footprints. They arrive at our schools adept at cyber connections and new ways to communicate. How do we accommodate their multi-intelligences and cognitive knowledge, and access their great capacity for deep learning? How can we be more than Ground Control, keeping them safe as they hurtle unguided through the cyber skies?

Let’s just start with the basics. Common Courtesy 101. That’s a clear line we can draw in their cyber-sandbox. Right next to respect, appreciation, acceptance…you get the idea.

Presently throughout the educational world there is much debate about blocking, filtering and restrictions, designed to keep students cybersafe at school, and on task. There is no doubt the home computing environment may be quite different, so we must model appropriate behaviour online while that invisible fence is still in place. We’ve discussed Edmodo as a safe social environment, and applications like Kidblog and Bitstrips as moderated spaces for reflection and comment. Here’s what one grade 5 class’ interactions looks like. Agreement or disagreement is done respectfully, goes beyond community talk, and the underlying tone is one of courtesy.

As professionals we acknowledge appropriate communication in our online connections, as demonstrated in this dialogue from a collaborative Google Docs created by a group of educators at Educon 2.3 on the topic of “Why Digital Writing Matters”. The style and tone remain courteous, collegial and contribute to the common purpose. You can see a note in the margin at a certain point. What a great way to give immediate feedback!

By appropriately connecting with our students, colleagues, parents and community online, we leverage the wonder and possibilities of today’s world. The cloud generation may ultimately not be defined by date of birth. Be careful what you write; your grandmother may be your Friend!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Safe Social Classroom Sites

Your students are at home, Facebooking and Youtubing away, participating in online behaviour that is socially, emotionally, and for the most part, appropriately engaging.

You would like to capture that intrinsic motivation and need for autonomy (Drive; Daniel Pink, 2010) in ways that connect with your students’ interests and create opportunities for rigour,and deeper thinking.

How do you compete with the lure of an external multi-media environment, where your students, and you! can upload quick, emotion-laden commercials to mainstream television (e.g. those cute DisneyWorld vacation ads where the kids don’t know they are going till the last minute)? Pretty compelling!

Soon we'll be tweeting the cast of Glee, live! Except for Sue Sylvester, you know she doesn't go in for that kind of thing.

There are an increasing number of blogs, animation editors, comic generators and websites that are offering controlled educational spaces for teachers and classes. So far we have discussed and Bitstrips for Schools which offer user-friendly teacher/class set-up and development. Both sites offer opportunities for writing for purpose, reflective thought and appropriate feedback. Two sites in an endless stream of possibilities; it’s a good idea to find one with which you feel comfortable, and get some fluency with it. Lesson ideas tend to flow the more familiar one gets with a particular media.

A different online environment which emulates Facebook, is which  allows the teacher to set up classes, post assignments on a calendar, provide feedback and comments, send alerts and notes, and create polls. Teachers can interact with students, and with other teachers in the same school, district and beyond. Privacy controls are extensive and teachers can control communication between students, if that is desirable. You can choose to be notified when assignments are submitted, or students post comments. There is a shared library for uploading files, videos and links. Maybe it’s not quite getting published on TV, but students could upload their own videos to Edmodo and share their thoughts on the creation process. Gr. 5 Oral Communication 2.3, 2.4, 2.7

Click on the image below. When you arrive at the site, click on the “What is Edmodo?” sticky for a link to an explanatory video.


Heady stuff this Connectivism CCK11 !

Who knew I was going to revisit Behaviourism, Cognitivism, Constructivism and subsets thereof? So knew that undergrad Economics degree wasn't going to pay off!

But funny things happen when you are intrinsically motivated to learn. You keep dialoguing, keep making meaning, keep reflecting on that meaning, and keep moving up that scaffolded ladder. I thought those behaviours embodied Constructivism, and that lovely ZPD.

However, I agree with George Siemen's comment in Jan 21st's  seminar that there are many branches of constructivism and as such, as a theory, it becomes somewhat less accessible, both in entirety and as counterpoint to other education learning theories. If I had to pick one, Social Constructivism seems about right, but in light of today's brain and cognitive research, can we dismiss Cognitivism outright? I have seen students with major cognitive overload as they are bombarded with incoming facts and hierarchical supports, with no time to reflect, internalize and make connections to prior knowledge.

Connectivism intrigues me. After all, I am an active online learner, connecting with many people through Twitter, blogs and Facebook to further my craft. But I seem to have a "tilt" factor built in, when I have to draw back, recharge and reflect. I thought perhaps this was a cognitive overload of information, and I think to some degree that is true. But this article is telling:

The social network: How some brains come hardwired for friendship

So it is with great interest that I say hello to George and Stephen, and my fellow learners. I look forward to listening, reflecting, expressing opinion, asking questions and furthering my understandings,

Oh yeah, best take away by far from the first week....Stephen's explanation of "What is knowledge". To paraphrase, "Knowledge is that what you cannot unknow. Once you've found Waldo, you will never be able to unfind him".

So true.