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 if 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.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

When the Invisible Needs to be Visible

Yesterday I discovered this video about three Norwegian guys who constructed a device that uses light (80 LED lights) and long exposure photography to 'see' the invisible wifi signal fields.  (Shout out to William Stites' blog for this one.)  Their question that prompted this invention was one that we all have; why does the wifi signal vary in intensity from one spot to another?  Their work (two years ago already) revealed the network of wifi signals in our urban landscape.  (Their fab photography is copyrighted so I can't share them on this blog but click here to enjoy them on flickr.)

Later on that same day and over lunch with a friend, our conversation explored the health concerns developing over the effects of wifi signals on the human body.  It would seem that the jury is out on this one according to Health Canada.  If school administrators are worried about the effects of the wifi networks on teachers and students, they should first begin by warning about cell phone use.  (The radio frequency exposure from wifi is less than 1% as compared to a cell phone.)

Wouldn't it be great if teachers had a device that rendered student learning visible?  Wait, I think it's called authentic assessment.  Thoughts for another day.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Symbaloo for Curation and Sharing

Today I learned something new about Symbaloo thanks to MMartin JMT's YouTube channel.  I can make tiles for individual Google docs, videos I store in Google drive and other applications I use like Educreations, Slideshare and Prezi.  Check it out!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Malala & Sarah Kay

Today is the first day of my summer vacation; ok, this afternoon marks the beginning of that sweet time that belongs to me. The first thing I did was watch the YouTube video of Malala Yousafzai speak to the UN assembly on the occasion of her 16th birthday and the inaugural "Malala Day". This amazing 16 year old Pakistani teenager who survived a brutal attack on her person by the Taliban for the crime of going to school, humbled me with her words and gave me goosebumps as I listened to her invoke the great leaders of history who fought for dignity and freedom with only words as their 'weapons'.
"One child, one pen, one book and one teacher can change the world." I will take those words with me throughout my vacation as I reflect on my teaching practice this year. I will remember her words and her voice when I begin classes in September.

Still thinking about Malala's words and listening to Krista Tippett's interview with Sarah Kay, the spoken word poet (featured on TED), I scoured the local garden store for whatever was left to plant in my sorry balcony garden that I have neglected since the traditional planting weekend of May 20th.  I found something amazing; the intersection between Sarah Kay's 'rediscovery of wonder', her love of words and Malala's message of the power of young voices to change the world.
 These two young women, Sarah Kay and her mission to help the young find their voice in spoken word and Malala who understood that the Taliban's bullets will never silence the voices of women and children bring me joy.  If you take the time to listen to either of them, and if you have the privilege of being a teacher, I hope you remember them when you walk back into your classroom.  Words matter.  Voices count.  "One child, one pen, one book."

Friday, February 8, 2013

Pictures that Speak

What if you could attach an audio recording to a picture and then share it with your friends and teacher?  Photobabble lets you do that easily.  Simply upload a picture from your computer, or from Facebook or by inserting the URL.  Choose a theme (or not) and then record a 60 second comment about the picture.  Sharing is a cinch and as you can see below, can easily be embedded on a blog.

I can imagine how much fun this would be to use in a language class or in any learning situation where students would like to add an audio commentary on an image. Download the free app from the App Store and enjoy!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Google Drive for Easy Collaboration

This year many more teachers are using Google docs for creating word documents, presentations and especially for collecting work from students.  Here is a video that I made "on the fly" for one of our teachers who will be organizing her French class with Google folders.  Actually, I was showing her how to use Screen-Cast-O-Matic but it turned into an impromptu session about Google docs and shared folders.

 Sorry it's only in French.  If you would like an English version, leave me a comment and request!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Art of Fly Teaching

I love metaphors. Some of my favorite metaphors for teaching evoke images of growing, planting and playing but at a recent retirement party for a dear colleague about to leave a 32 year career in education, I added another to my 'favorite' list; teaching is like fly fishing. Thanks to Jamie who shared his text with this blog. See for yourself how this metaphor fits your experience of our noble profession.
The Art of Fly Teaching

The master fly fisherman carefully prepares alone at home. So does the teacher.  In an endless pursuit for excellence, the masterful fly fisherman devotes years to perfecting the art.  He carefully researches and goes to his repertoire of tools to design and tie the perfect hook to reel in the fish – the student.  He practices his casts on the lawn and anxiously waits for the season to open when he can once again go stand alone in a new stream and gracefully cast a line in the wind towards a tranquil pond.  The day finally comes. He waits for the right moment; a light breeze, he gracefully waves the fly rod to extend the line, and casts the perfect arching line right where he wants it.   He allows the hook to float in a tranquil shady bay and tugs a little on the line - back and forth - and waits for the bite.  He gets a bite; snaps the hook, and reels in the cherished prize.  

The masterful fly fisherman always practices catch and release and is privately rewarded with the knowledge that he caught the fish.  Once in awhile, he will take a picture like a school yearbook - but always releases the fish to hopefully come back to be caught again by another fisherman.  He is after all, a learner for life.   

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by dennisbehm

My good friend, Tom, a masterful fly fisherman, always talks fishing.  Fly fishing is his passion.  He explained how he cuts the barbs off his hooks before tying them. This way, it is more difficult to keep a fish on the line, but it allows for an easier catch and release.  You see he cares about the fish and wants to ensure that his children and grandchildren will be able to practice his art.  I see how his passion was similar to the passion of the master teacher.  Put master teachers together and they talk passionately and incessantly about their art.  The masterful teacher teaches without barbs.
Some fishermen fish from boats.  Others trawl a line and hope that something may jump on the line.  Some simply drag a line along the river floor and hope to hook one in.  Some red-necks fish with dynamite!  The masterful fisherman - fly fishes. The master teacher practices his art –catches and releases - one student at a time.

What do I plan to do with my retirement” I plan to ask my retired buddy Tom to teach me how to fly fish.

I am sure that the readers of this blog will join me in wishing my colleague the very best in his retirement years.