Saturday, August 23, 2014

Teaching in Colour

I have a colleague who often says, "Eat in colour".  She's passionate about healthy lifestyle choices, vegetarianism, promoting ecological activism and so much more.  Last year, in her Environmental Biology class, she inspired her students to make small gestures to bring small change that yields HUGE results.  Some became vegetarian, some lost weight but all understood the impact of their habits and choices.

Inspiration by Example

At the lunch table yesterday, I leaned over to inspect her plate; a salad with rice, beans, kale, peppers and seaweed. (We were at an iPad workshop and of course, she brought her own lunch!)  Today, as I prepared my own version of her salad (minus the seaweed - ugh), I found myself thinking about the power of example and the tremendous opportunity that teachers have to effect change.

Your Words Matter

"Eating in colour"
We might think they are not listening but they are.   As parents we know this to be true.  Our children become adults and one day we hear them speaking and sounding like us.  Our students graduate and then tell us how much our encouragement mattered.  Your words are powerful, especially when they ring with the truth of lived experience, passion and compassion for your students.

Your Actions Inspire

What we do everyday, our actions and behaviour towards students and colleagues matters even more than our words.  As teachers, we know this to be true and have experienced the deep satisfaction that comes with discovering the impact we had on a student's life trajectory.  My colleague, who eats in colour, also lives her life's passion authentically.  Students see that, and while not everyone will be changed by her words or actions, they will all learn about integrity, passion and personal responsibility.   To be a teacher is to have the opportunity to make a difference to students and to eat and live in colour.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Take Your Students on an Oceanic Odyssey

Mylène Paquette
Have you heard of this amazing young Canadian, Mylène Paquette?  She is crossing the Atlantic Ocean in a rowboat - by herself!  She left from Halifax on July 6 and will row 2,700 nautical miles (or 5,000 kilometers) to Lorient, France where she expects to arrive approximately 100 days after her departure.   Why is she doing this?  Listen to this video (in French) and at 3:13 she tells us that it is important for everyone to realize that anything is possible and we can live differently on the planet.

Rowing across the Atlantic, Solo from Canada to France from Mylene Paquette on Vimeo.

Ms. Paquette uses social media to communicate in real time her experience of this trans-Atlantic crossing.  She is eager to reach out to the public and raise awareness about the ocean's ecosystems.  Find her on Twitter, read her tweets and enjoy the pictures, listen to her phone calls (from the sat phone) in both of Canada's official languages and read her blog posts.  Your students will love to follow her progress on the map and her ground team supporting the communications is ready to connect your class to Ms. Paquette in real time!

Send the students to her FAQ page to read about how she eats, sleeps and manages to row 12 hours every day.  She uses her iPad to tweet, to take pictures and send out distress calls if the need arises.  Ms. Paquette takes pictures and tweets them out, asking her followers to help identify what she sees.

This is a fabulous opportunity for students to learn some BIG lessons about courage, challenging ourselves, about effort, about using science and technology to accomplish our goals, both big and small and all of that in both languages.  Listen to the video below to see the technology she uses to communicate with the world while she rows towards France.  She really is a remarkable person and our students should know about her adventure.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Curation: A Skill for the 21st Century

If information is the currency of a democracy (Thomas Jefferson's words), then curators are important agents in that democracy.   In an age when information is ubiquitous and students, turn to Google as a delphic oracle, it seems to me that teaching curation skills is an essential part of learning about digital literacy.  Students need to learn good search skills but what is the value of the discovery is they are unable to evaluate the credibility of what they have found?  Curation skills presumes search capabilities.

Curation and sharing are quickly becoming the default mode for this century.  If 'content is king', then curation must the the throne on which the king sits.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Top Ten Reasons to Teach Curation

I have been thinking about curation lately.  Last year at Alan November's BLC conference in Boston I sat in on a session with the completely amazing Joyce Valenza.  I had been following her for a while but to read her posts and then listen to her in person is like the difference between reading about riding a horse and actually mounting a fabulous steed for the ride of your life.  I was in awe at the breadth and scope of this woman's grasp on important issues for 21st century learners.  I learned so much from that one session and my interest with curation crystallized then.

gcouros flickr stream

In preparation for a workshop I will be giving soon at the Future of Education/L'avenir de l'éducation conference in Montreal August 19-21st, I have put together a quick and dirty list of my top ten reasons for why I think that curation is an essential skill for the 21st century.

Top Ten Reasons Why

Is An Essential 21st Century Skill


1.  Curation is the antidote for hoarding data.

2.  To curate means to consider your audience.

3.  To curate is to give a context and meaning to data: to construct knowledge.

4. To curate well is to focus on the salient amidst the clatter of ubiquitous data.

5.  To curate means to exercise higher order cognitive skills - analysis, evaluation, reflection.

6.  Curation gives students an editorial voice.

7.  Curators are valuable filters for their circle of learners.

8.  To curate is to bring value to a circle of learners.

9.  To curate is to contribute to the ‘global brain’.  (Robin Good)

10.  If information is the currency of democracy (Thomas Jefferson), then curators are essential agents of that democracy.  Curation makes sense of data and learning to curate is a democratic skill.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Pushing and Pulling Information Flow with IFTTT

It's time to take RSS feeds to the next level and we can do this easily using ('if this then that').  Think of channels of information that ebb and flow around you.  Ifttt creates 'triggers' or 'if this then that' statements that trigger a certain action to happen.  If you subscribe to a blog, or any website where there is new content, you receive some notification when new material is posted.  You can create your own triggers and channel your information flow to suit your needs.  Ifttt has sixty eight channels that you can trigger with different 'ingredients'.

For example, you can tell ifttt to send you a text message every morning reminding you to do your sit ups!  Simply select the date/time channel and the 'ingredient' you want, which in this case would be date or time.  Then select the text message service, enter your phone number as well as a message for yourself about the reminder.

At first glance ifttt might seem a bit intimidating but play around with it for a while and browse the recipes others have shared.  Try one out for yourself and see how you can use this service to stay (or become) organized.  

I will be using ifttt in my classes this year and helping my students be informed about the latest materials I bookmark for the anthropology class.  I have included the video (in two parts) for extra help and information.  
 Use ifttt with Diigo & Twitter

Use ifttt with Diigo and Gmail

If you find this useful, please comment, either on the blog or my YouTube page!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Networks: Power With vs Power Over

A long time ago, when I was a university student, I was fascinated by how context can change understanding and perception.  The philosophers, theologians and thought leaders that I studied were all shaped by a particular historical context and in order to fully appreciate their work, I needed to understand their context.

The Network Shapes and Creates

Today I understand that the context has a context; it's the network.  I first became interested in networks after watching Nicholas Christakis talk about the hidden power of networks.  I bought the book and read it twice.  Afterwards, serendipity (actually it was CBC's Nora Young's interviews with Luciano Floridi and David Weinberger) brought me "Too Big to Know" by David Weinberger.  From this book I learned how the network (the web) is actually changing the shape of information, as well as how we interact with it, understand it, curate it and do everything else we need to do with all the terabytes of data that we create everyday.

Finally, I found Albert László-Barabási, the Hungarian physicist who explained in language I could understand the structure of networks and how they create everything from economies, terrorism, neural maps, epidemics, the world wide web and virtually anything you can name. In fact, he maintains that any two web pages are connected by no more than 19 clicks.
See Barrett Lyon's OPTE project for the history of this
amazing image mapping of the internet

 I listened to his book "Linked"  and then went back to Christakis and Weinberger with some of my own ideas about effective school administration, bringing change and reshaping the school culture.

I am convinced, in a visceral way, that school administration can become more effective in leading the change we need when we understand the power of networks.  I presented these ideas at a retreat of the Quebec Association of Independent Schools (QAIS) heads of schools back in April of 2012.
The slide deck below needs to be updated to reflect how my thinking has evolved but still, it offers the bare bones.

Power with vs Power over

The network maps and explains the movement of information, ideas and power.  If we think of power as "power with" instead of "power over" then we can begin to understand how harnessing the network and its hubs is an organic and highly effective way to bring the change we need to our schools.  The change is already happening at the post secondary level.  Ten years ago, MIT began the Open Course Ware movement and today we have MOOCs (massive open online courses) potentially challenging the debilitating financial investments necessary for university degrees.  It is inevitable.  The network will change the secondary schools too and you can participate in this paradigm shift by joining a hub of educators and thinkers who understand that "power with" is the logic of the network, of learning and of this century.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Twitter for Teachers & Storify

I will be giving a workshop in the upcoming Future of Education conference this August 19, 20 & 21st in Montreal.  This will be the second time I give this workshop and hope to get more teachers onboard with using Twitter for professional development.

Storify is powerful tool for curating content from Twitter (as well as other social media networks). While there are other apps that curate into slick magazine formats, like and Flipboard, I like Storify's annotation feature.  Each element that I drag from the social media feeds into my storyline can have an annotation.  This is especially important for adding context and insight into the story/narrative that we build and share.  Here is an example of one that I have been working on for the upcoming Twitter for Teachers workshop: 

Storify could be used in the classroom for teaching media literacy and real time search techniques. Students can demonstrate their knowledge of evaluating sources as well as choosing the most relevant and interesting feeds to build their stories of breaking news events.  In today's media landscape, students are not just consumers of content; they are creators and curators as well.  Storify is a useful tool that will help students shape and organize the media that they want to share with their networks.