Tag Archives: Collaboration

Everything Means A Lot To Me

This project grew organically from a quick exchange of ideas on Twitter with Paula, John and Ari, and now it may have become the cornerstone of my Learning 2.0 presentation on digital storytelling. I am not only excited about the process to generate this story, but I am also thrilled by the possibility of what something like this might look like in my classroom.

Started like this:

Ari was excited about using #visualwritingprompts. He began to experiment with the form on a blog for his Freshman Comp students. I mentioned that he should take a look at what John has been doing on his blog for #visualwritingprompts. We began to discuss the possibility of students finding their own photos, adding texts and creating their own prompts. Perhaps, one student could find the photo, while another added the prompt and a third student did the actual writing. We then thought maybe a fourth student could Digitize the text. (Create a digital story)

We quickly divided up the roles:

Paula suggested a few photos she had taken herself. John chose this one:

He added the prompt:

To which Ari added the text:

Finally, I digitized it:

I used the Cartoonatic app for my phone to record the footage and added simple voice over of  Ari’s text and layered it with Creative Commons music–Feeling Dark (Behind The Mask) by 7OOP3D which I found on CC Mixter.

What’s next:

Paula and I will be starting a new unit soon about societal ideas of what it means to be normal, and we will use this process to help students visualize and critically analyze  aid theme. Here are some skills that I think this a project fosters:

  • Metaphorical thinking
  • Ability to fluctuate between text and imagery
  • Ability to create mood based on text, imagery and digital storytelling
  • Ability to build ideas and construct meaning based on ideas of peers

I am sure there are more. But I will ask you to help ask and answer these questions:

What does this all mean? How does this sort of collaborative interplay between photography, text and digital story telling help student writing? I am not sure, and honestly I have had a crazy day, so I will leave it to you to extrapolate on this project in the comments below.

Final thought– 

Once the process has been completed, perhaps the participants can switch roles. So someone else adds a new prompt to the same picture, or another member writes the text, and yet another person creates a new digi-story?

What do you think Paula, John and Ari? Want to switch this up? Who is doing what? That means you too reader. Take the photo, change the prompt, write a text based on the existing one, make a different digi-story–join the party.


Let’s Form An Alliance

It’s hard to believe the chatter about #beyondlaptops continues. For those of you involved in the conversations, you know how intense and hopefully fruitful it has all been. I hope that, like me, you have been challenged and pushed and forced to think, defend and articulate your ideas. More importantly, however, I hope we can agree it is time to move on. Time to look at the now what. Or like Adrienne said,

Sitting and talking and planning and sharing is great, but what comes next?

I have been hoping to clarify some of my ideas all week, and so here I am to do it. Before I begin, I have three disclaimers:

  1. This post and the ideas it is proposing is not meant to be a debate about the merits of said idea. If you feel that what I am about to propose would not be useful for your school, then please simply ignore it. I see no need to re-hash this conversation. If however, you would like to get involved and help shape what it can become, then by all means please push, pull, criticize and help make it what we all want/need it to be.
  2.  I am moving to a new school and my role as educational technologist and decision maker will be greatly diminished. I am not even sure that I will be able to implement any of the ideas I am about to propose. I have yet to speak to my new team. (New team: if you are reading this, please don’t feel the need to comment now, just use this idea as a starting point for conversations next year.) I have a very faint idea of what is on the ground at my new school. I could show up and realize that nothing I am about to say is relevant or even possible. Having said that, I’ve never found relevancy or possibility important enough obstacles to  impede the dreaming and brainstorming stage.
  3.  Most of what I am proposing is for international schools in Asia, I hope that others will benefit from our conversations, but in order for it to work, we really need to have a small group of schools from similar backgrounds and working with the same sort of students. Perhaps this idea will be useful in a framework that mirrors your own and you can follow the process.

Okay, enough stalling. Let’s get to it.

I am proposing an Alliance–an agreement or friendship between two or more parties, made in order to advance common goals and to secure common interests. I am hoping we can create a confederation of international schools in Asia to share ideas, create shared resources and develop a broad understanding of what it means to use technology in existing 1:1 environments. These ideas, resources and understandings will be co-created and shared under an umbrella for all members to use, adapt or modify for their own individual schools.

Nuts and Bolts:

What can this look like? Where would it happen? Kim has suggest that we make the Beyond Laptops blog collaborative. I think this is a great idea and  fine starting point, but I was thinking a bit more in terms of wider use of tools under the “Brand” of whatever we call this thing.  (Thanks to Kim for offering the blog, but because of the sensitive nature of  previous conversations, I am not presuming to use the #beyondlaptops tag) I would love to keep going with #beyondlaptops or #waybeyondlaptops, which has risen to the top of the dialogue, but the name is unimportant right now, what is important that there is a name to our alliance and our work is tagged and curated accordingly.

Perhaps we have:

  • A shared Google collection where a variety of (group created) documents, that are in progress, can be shared and stored.
  • A Google site or Wiki to keep track of completed documents, presentations, and other useful resources
  • A blog, like Kim suggested, for reflection on the process and discussion

Let’s stop for an example:

Many of the people I regularly speak to are blogging at their schools. Some are using blogs as ePortflios, some are using them to help build community, others to create authentic audiences for their young writers. Different schools use blogs for different reasons, but there is a core understanding that blogs– should do something. We have a shared understanding of what a “good” blog should include. I am suggesting that rather than individually create these understandings, scope and sequences and rubrics of an effective blog, we create them under the banner of this alliance.

We have causally done this sort of collaboration, in the past, with disparate Google Docs, (remember the Blog Alliance) but why not have a K-12 blogging scope and sequence, complete with permission slips, rubrics, expectations etc… in a shared collection, on a wiki or a site for all of us to use. We create it together. Set up action plans and timelines. Delegate responsibilities and timelines and build it. These resources need not be one-size-fits-all. If an adjustment needs to be made for an individual school, then so be it.

The blog is just one example. I am sure we can brainstorm several other common goals and interests, that would be fertile ground for collaboration.  We share many common goals and interests, and by sharing what they are, we can help each other create something, someplace, useful. Some other ideas:

  • Digital Citizenship materials*
  • Professional Development materials
  • Community building and Cultural materials

* materials can include: documentation, posters, scope and sequence, standards, criteria, letters, rubrics, media, presentations etc…

As I mentioned earlier, I am not even sure if I can be involved with something like this at my new school. I need to get on the ground and get a lay for the land, but I have had too many casual conversations about something just like this at every conference I have ever attend. I think there are a core group of schools that could benefit from an alliance.

If you are interested, please leave a comment on this post or email me directly. I will compile a list of people who are interested and get back to you next year. Perhaps Learning 2.012 will be a good time and place to sit and layout a framework. We can consider Brady’s model or work out a different one. Maybe this is still too vague for you and you will wait till something more substantial is in place. Fair enough.  Just, think about it over the summer, and let’s regroup next fall. Maybe you simply feel this is not for you or your school. Fair enough. This is my pitch, if you are interested, please get in touch.


It’s About Acculturation

Monday morning. Just got back from Yokohama/Tokyo and the Beyond Laptops Conference put on my Kim Cofino and the great people at the Yokohama International School. I have a million things to do, but I know that if I don’t pin this blog post, right now, onto some kind of solid wall in Cyber Space, it will will melt back into the ether with a million other thought and ideas. I need to strike the hammer while…..end cliche.

Conferences are exhilarating. Conferences are exhausting. They are empowering and frustrating. They can make you feel invincible, while somehow soul crushing at the same time. Before I continue, let me state that this post is not a criticism of the conference or Kim. She did an amazing job trying to satisfy a diverse group of people and our needs. She continually reached out for support and ideas before, during and after the conference and was more than flexible through the two day event. I had a great time and I learned so much. Thank you to everyone at YIS and all the participants. But you all now me well enough to know that I have opinions, and since I was not in the mood to elaborate in the feedback survey, I wanted to share my thoughts in the form of this post. I want to end on a positive note so I will start with the griping.

Not sure if you have heard, but technology is not about the tool. It’s not about devices or software. It’s not about numbers or proof. It’s not about, well apparently it’s not about a lot of things. We are all very good at pontificating what it is not about! Yet somehow, even though it is not about the tool, and even though we create smaller, more intensive conferences for people who realize that it is not about the tool, to discuss what it is about…we end up talking about the tool. We talk about BYOD, iPads verse laptops, or PD models based on– yes,  you guessed it, how to use the tool. We are very good about talking about the tool, while saying that technology is not about the tool. Hence the frustration.

My second gripe was data driven. I am an English teacher. I hate numbers. I hate statistics. I hate quantifying the unquantifiable things in life, like poetry, like nature, like learning. After speaking with so many IT directors and school administrators, however, I can understand the need for numbers to justify budgets to school boards hungry for charts and graphs proving that the millions of dollars they spend on computers are amounting to something, but that is not where I want to spend my energy. My problem is that the only thing I hate more than numbers and charts are budgets and money. I got into teaching to inspire kids, to create authentic learning communities and to change the world. I want to go to conferences and talk about these types of things. I will leave the graphs and charts to other people.

These are my gripes and by no ways reflective of the mood or organization of the conference.  Anyone who has ever organized any kind of PD, workshop, or conference know that you can NEVER please everyone. The small-group, hands-on, conversational tone of the conference was refreshing. It felt great to be able to express my viewpoint with so many of the decision makers from the major schools in Asia. It was valuable to be reminded that assessment of a program either for evaluation or justification has value. It was equally important for me to be the voice of a more qualitative look at the role of technology in our schools.

Throughout the conference, I was approached by several people who said they appreciated my frank, open and holistic look at educational technology. I want to spend the rest of this post trying to articulate just what that looks like. If technology is not about the tools, if it is not about data, then what is it about? How do we know it is “working?”

cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by superkimbo

We are immersed in a new culture. It is fluid, it is changing, it is evolving, it is breathing and dreaming and waiting for our input, and for the first time the we is all of us, the our is mine and yours. The involvement with, the creation of, the influence from, the participation in this culture is what concerns me. Acculturation is my focus. We are on a frontier. Pressed up against a fast moving edge to places we have never been before as a society. This understanding is what educational technology should be about: What does this culture look like? How does it affect each of us? How do we participate in it. Learn its language? Learn from it? Teach it? What happens to the me in we? What happens to you in the us? Where are we going? How did we get here? What does school look like in this new culture?

You want to see numbers right? How can we measure and quantify participation in a culture that is still forming? How do we know teachers and students are using technology to learn? Let’s start with the Horizon Report:

The NMC Horizon Project charts the landscape of emerging technologies for teaching, learning, research, creative inquiry, and information management. Launched in 2002, it epitomizes the mission of the NMC to help educators and thought leaders across the world build upon the innovation happening at their institutions by providing them with expert research and analysis.

Much of the work of the NMC Horizon Project takes place in a wiki where international experts across all different educational sectors openly exchange ideas and engage in insightful discourse. In this sense, the NMC Horizon Project represents a new ideal in education: free, open forums that facilitate global collaboration and encourage smarter discovery and dissemination of emerging learning approaches. All NMC Horizon Project reports and papers are published as open content, under a Creative Commons Attribution License, so permission is granted to replicate, copy, distribute, transmit, or adapt the content freely.

Not a bad place to start right? We spend so much time discussing the things that technology is not (a tool) that we never really talk about what it is. There is a nebulous list of 21st century skills that everyone seems to be referencing, but even that term is becoming laden with the heavy baggage of jargon. “Arghh, can we stop saying 21st century skills, it is 2012 already!” is the new “It’s not about the tool.” So what are we doing here? What are we talking about? Back to the Horizon Report. You can read more about the NMC or download the report on their website. I want to distill the key points from A Communique from the Horizon Report Retreat, January 2012. (One of many great resources from the Beyond Laptop reading list.) I have taken the already brief points and carved them down to a few free-standing words:

  • Global  
  • Collaborative
  • Diverse
  • Mobile
  • Access, Efficiency, and Scale
  • Redefining Literacy
  • Information Everywhere
  • Openness
  • Ownership and Privacy
  • Change

This is what our new culture looks like. This is what we need to prepare ourselves, our students, our teachers and parents, for. The question stops being about iPads or PCs, and becomes– Is your school a global, collaborative, diverse, mobile environment with access to people and information? Are you helping to redefine literacy, showing your stakeholders how and when to access information that is everywhere? Are you showing them what to do with it, once they find it, in an open community of learners who understand  the power of ownership and privacy? Most importantly is your institution not only ready for change but seeking it? Are you on the edge of your seat with your nose pressed up against the moving frontier or are you running to catch up, weighed down by stacks of charts and graphs justifying giving students and teachers access to a tool that is so unimportant that it doesn’t even warrant mention? Too simple? Perhaps, but if I could work at a school that understands these concepts and is working toward creating an ethos that values them, I would be a happy camper.

You want to know if your 1:1 program is working? Forget about in-house surveys and data, take a look at the ethos of your school, it’s online presence, its openness and connectivity?  Take a look at the list above, how many of those concepts are you actively promoting and preparing for? Are they part of your vision statement? How much of your professional development is skills-based training and how much of it is cultural understanding? Are these ideas disrupting your school in a good way? Are you embracing them? Are you redesigning existing traditions like reports, timetables and content management to make room for them?

My suggestions for the next Beyond Laptops is that we focus on this new culture. Sorry, Kim. I know this is too little too late, but I had to go through the conference to realize want I needed from it. How do we create schools that are relevant in the age we live in and beyond? How do we teach the Web Kids? How are we all participating in this new culture?



Building A Culture

When I first start teaching DC101 a few weeks ago, I had no idea what to expect. I could not have anticipated the level of reservations and anxiety teachers would have about writing. I didn’t not realize the effect that past experiences many of our staff would bring to the table in terms of writing and sharing, furthermore I never imagined the influence these experiences would have on how they view digital citizenship. It goes without saying, that I have learned a lot in the last three weeks.

In short, I am beginning to see that for many teachers with a limited understanding of connected learning and life online, opening up and publicly sharing (blogging) is a much larger obstacle to overcome, than the fear of insufficient technical skills needed to run a blog. The latter are pretty basic and can be learned with some time and training, but the paradigm shift of understanding online life is a much bigger issue. It’s as if people are realizing that running a blog is not very complicated, but writing one is. Perhaps, the early development should focus on writing, on learning, on sharing. Leave the tech stuff for phase two.

I am seeing that many people still struggle with the notion that their voice matters. People feel that they don’t need to add to the noise. Why would anyone care about what I have to say? Is a common question I see. I get the sense that due to time, stress and administrative expectations, the notion of reflections, sharing and writing about their teaching feels superfluous. What if we gave teachers time to blog throughout their work week? We spend so much time and energy on reports, what if teacher reflection and blogging was considered as important to the administration of schools? What if we allowed our teachers the freedom to be learners? Created supportive communities of fellow teachers, who could blog during school time? What if this wasn’t considered a luxury, but an expectation?

At our school, we are trying to work toward a learner based coaching model. We want to encourage inquiry from our teachers as well as our students. In the realm of technology, we are trying to move away from the traditional notion of training and moving towards a more holistic understanding of how technology influences our personal and professional lives. We are not interested in transferring technology skills, but of building a culture of sharing and learning. An open community, where all members have a space (blogs), where they can feel comfortable collaborating and sharing ideas, creating content, communicating and connecting to each other through the use of various tools on a platform we are calling e-hub, which at this stage consists of a system wide multi-user WordPress platform and The Google suite for education.

When I began, I thought that DC101 would be a way to give staff members the tools they needed to access e-hub, but half-way through I am realizing that we need to start with understanding the why first. Once we have e-hub up and running, and every knows how to access it, then what? Trouble is that I find myself in a chicken-and-egg scenario: We need blogs and a basic understanding of how blogs connect ideas and people to build community and culture, but we cannot understand the power of these networks without using the blogs to connect people.

cc licensed ( BY ND ) flickr photo shared by US Embassy New Zealand

Having said that, things are going well. The conversations are starting. People are feeling challenged I hope, and they are  having conversations about things like Creative Commons for the first time. It will, however, be a long road. Culture is not created overnight. This understanding is important for schools hoping to implement blogging and expecting kids and teachers to magically use them authentically. It is not very difficult to set up a few class blogs, or even to implement blogging school wide. It is also not very difficult to train students and teachers to write posts, add hyper-links, add photos, video, etc… but creating an organic system where teachers openly share their ideas without fear, where they read the work of their peers and comment, collaborate and create together is a much more time consuming situation. If you are interested in blogging with your class or in your school, you may want to have some pretty big discussions before hand.

It is clear that we can create blogs as portfolios and have students upload post-after-post of homework. We can create class blogs, which teachers use as administrative tools to share curriculum with parents and students, but is this enough? Is this blogging? Of course not this is content management. You might as well use Moodle or Studywiz. Blogging has to be more than content management. So what next?

I am not sure. We have only been doing this for two months. I should be pleased with what we do have so far, but as always I want it all and I want it now, to quote Jim Morrison. Perhaps, you can share some of your ideas. What does blogging culture mean to you? What can it look like at a school? What do you do at your school that promotes a culture of sharing? How do you get teachers and students to write authentic posts, not just upload assignments? As you can see there are many questions, but very valid ones I think, before we assume that since we have blogs at school that we are really blogging.


Learning 2.011 Presentation

Originally, I had wanted to write a brief blurb to accompany the presentation I gave at Learning 2.011, but time and crazy preparations have made that difficult. For now, I have included the slides and the brief write up I asked each participant to write, below in this post.

I hope to write more about the basic philosophical ideas that drive the presentation, but for no, the gist of my talk is that when you open yourself up, honestly and passionately, you will be amazed at the opportunities made available to you, but more importantly I wanted to highlight the relationships one can build with amazing people across the world. There is so much talk about Personal Learning Networks (PLNs) but I wanted to show that it does not happen overnight, there is no one way to do it, and that it takes time and hard work to build relationships. Trust takes time and is most often aided by honest reflective vulnerability.

It is a simple Pecha Kucha style presentation, which means that there are 20 slides each for 20 seconds. I hope that I conveyed my story as a learner through the people that support, challenge and teach me everyday. A big thank you to everyone who helped. I know it was a creative stretch and big risk taking task for some.

Here are the slides including the blurbs I asked each person to write. All the photographs were taken by the person in the picture themselves. I just asked that they take a well thought out portrait that somehow included me in the frame.

I also hope to reflect on the process of creating the presentation, the fact that 20 seconds goes by really quickly, and the reaction from the audience soon, but I am late for breakfast and we have another full day starting now!

Thanks again for all the support from the audience, #ds106, and of course the people in the slides. There are so many more of you that should have been included. You are all very important to me. Thank you.