Saturday, July 27, 2013

Using Technology in Early Primary

While travelling back and forth to Texas twice, with Haiku Deck and the images in my iPad camera roll, I created this mini slide deck of some of the ways my grade one students are using technology for learning.  I hope it sparks some new ideas for you to try with your students too.

Created with Haiku Deck, the free presentation app for iPad

Sunday, July 21, 2013

ADE Institute North America - Austin Texas 2013

I’ve spent the past week at the most incredible professional development of my career.  You see, a few months ago I found out that I was chosen to be a part of the Apple Distinguished Educator Class of 2013 (ADE Class of 2013).  To be a part of this special program I had to go through a rigorous application process which included four essay questions, and the creation of a two minute video.  There were only 50 spots available in Canada and I know many equally deserving people had applied.  So when I found out that I was chosen the significance of it’s importance was not lost on me.  It is a true honour to have been chosen.
Landing in Austin 
Fast forward a few months, to this past week at the ADE Institute North America in Austin, Texas.  Wow! There isn’t much more than I can say.  In true Apple style I was blown away by both the calibre of people and the quality educational opportunities that were presented to me. Having never experienced anything like this before there really is something special about ADEs. 

Each day was jam packed with  sessions.  In terms of Apple software I learned more about iBook Author, iTunes U , Keynote, Final Cut Pro X, and Motion. Much of what I learned was way over my head, but the ADE family and the actual software creators were extremely patient with me.  We had keynote sessions from  Nancy Duarte, Rebecca Stockley, Sarah Herrlinger, and Bill Franks and Laura Heald. I was also able to meet several of my favourite app developers during the Meet the Developers session.

In addition each day I was able to attend "creative agency" sessions which were small group drop in sessions.  Here I learned more about photography, iBook Author, Final Cut Pro, and Motion.

Keynote Speaker Nancy Duarte and her Story Visual
Meeting Book Creator Dan
Meeting Reshan Richards of Explain Everything
The brain exploding learning was only one of the highlights of the week. If you know me at all I am all about the people and the relationships that I build.  The ADE Institute amplified this for me over and over again.  First off  I was extremely happy when I found out that not one but three of my friends from #1stchat were chosen to be ADEs too.  The institute allowed us to meet face to face for the very first time.  Being able to sit and learn with them for five days straight was a dream come true.  And it went way beyond learning.  We supported each other when we were totally over whelmed, laughed tons, and shared personal stories.  I still smile when I think about our time together and how lucky we were to be together so much.
Kathy and Kristen meeting F2F for the first time.
 #1schat gang Kristin, Kristen, me, and Kathy 

I also had the opportunity to connect and collaborate with many other inspiring educators as well.  My official ADE personal learning network included my incredible #1stchat crew along with Maury, Elaine, Robyn, Liz, Rich, Myrella, and Katie.  These people listened when I had questions, and encouraged me when I needed it.  They are the people who are providing me feedback on my One Best Thing chapter. They are all incredible educators too and I am so thankful to be learning with them as well.
Gillian, Kathy and I 

I also loved all the other ADEs and Apple staff that I met while in Austin.  The generous sharing of knowledge was beyond anything I have seen before.  And what really stuck for me was how incredibly generous and supportive everyone was.  Unlike at other conferences where I felt that there was a bit of a class system of the “cool kids” and the “less cool kids” I had no feeling of that at the Institute.  Every single person I met was genuine and supportive of me and what I’m doing with my students.  Every single person!  I can’t stress that enough.  It was like I had finally met the people who really got me.  It was over 300 people that really got me.  And I understood them too.  I was surrounded by incredible brilliance, yet everyone was humble and supportive. There was no ego, just knowledge, support, and sharing.
Kathy, Kristin, Kristen, and Robyn - some of the amazing rockstars in my ADE PLN.
Although our time was very full I still managed to sneak away to see the bats fly out from under the Congress Avenue Bridge, snuck in a mini run around the University of Texas, and walked around Austin.

The bats flying our from under the bridge.

Texas State Capital Building
University of Texas Clock Tower
(aka view from my hotel room)
Now that I'm home it's time for me to get started on the one project that I am required to submit to Apple - my One Best Thing.  Over the next few weeks I will be working on a chapter in iBook Author which focusses on starting with choice in a primary classroom.  My chapter will focus on the why, and how of providing choice.  My hope is that my chapter will help support those who would like to offer their students more choice but just aren't sure where or how to start.  In addition I hope that it will shed light on new and innovative ways to provide choice as well.   I have many ideas zipping through my head, including some incredible video footage of inspiring educators who are providing more and more choice in their classrooms. It will be a labour of love.

Now, I can't end this post without thanking the incredible team from Apple.  They went above and beyond in so many ways.  I am extremely grateful for the opportunity that I was just given. THANK YOU!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Using Video Conferencing for Oral Language Learning

I recently wrote a blog post for the International Reading Association (IRA) that is about using video conferencing for oral language learning.  If you're interested you can read that blog post on the IRA site here.

My First TV Interview

This morning I was asked to be a guest on BC/AM Global  with Jill Krop.  She was interested in hearing about how my students are using social media for learning.  Here's the complete 7 minute interview.

Friday, July 5, 2013

ISTE 2013 Reflection - Part 3

I spent Wednesday morning at the poster sessions taking in information and learning with teachers. But before I got there I ran into the ADE Digital Story telling people at the digital playground and I was so impressed with what they were sharing. On the inside I was smiling too because this is a very special group that I am now a part of too. It's all a bit surreal but in a super exciting sort of way.  I'll meet many of them in person at the Apple Institute in Austin later this month.

Back to ISTE. I liked all  the poster sessions I attended because it allowed me to ask my questions, or listen to the presenter share their journey.  It is here that I learned that I can easily e-mail blogger posts to my blogs and it also reminded me that I need to check out what's available on the blogging platforms that I use (blogger and kidblog in particular). It is great to see what people are doing in their classrooms, and it also helped reassure me that I am doing good things in my room too.  It made me think that I could, legitimately, apply to have a poster session at ISTE too.

I also spent part of the morning in iOS Mobile Storychasing with Wesley Fryer and Dana Owens. What was funny to me is that they encouraged us to e-mail blogs to the blog they created for their workshop. I giggled because I had just moments early learned how to do this.  Their session was interesting. My class and I share a fair bit of our stories on line but their session had me wondering how I could involve the parents of my students a bit more. Perhaps they could start contributing to our class blog too, via e-mail, from home.

The conference ended with the most amazing keynote presented by Adam Bellow.  I was extremely fortunate to talk with Adam a few times over the week. On the occasion I have met "twitter" people face to face and as excited as I am to meet them, they really seem to care less about meeting me. I get that because I'm sure they have a ton of people coming up to them wanting to meet them although I'm not saying that I agree with it. But not once did I get that feeling from Adam at all.  What an incredible, bright, engaging, genuine, real person.  Seriously. This guy is the REAL THING.  If you haven't had a chance to listen to his keynote I highly recommend you do. It's in the video below and starts around the 22 min mark.

So with that keynote the conference was officially over.  The funny thing is I think I stood outside the ballroom for close to an hour chatting with a variety of people I met and connected with over the  weekend.  As completely exhausted  as I was I didn't want the experience to end.  What was also nice is that I spent time talking with some local people from my part of the world. I like that because those face to face conversations can easily continue.

ISTE was an incredible experience for me and I can't stop smiling about it.  But what now?

Here are a few more of my reflections.

In so many ways ISTE was the best place  for face to face connections and was the main reason why I was excited to attend the conference.  And as I've now been home for about a week I realize that there were so many people  that I never had the chance to meet and chat with.  But what bothers me is that there were some educators that I tried to meet with little luck.   In fact I was pretty much ignored by people. It made me feel like my voice was not important which I know is not true.  So as much I was warned in advance there there were cliques at ISTE I'm sad that I had to witness that.  Thankfully I did have enough people that I did know (or meet) that did enjoy spending time with me but it does bother me that people treated me that way.  I'm hoping with time they will take the time to get to know me a little better too.  We all have important stories to tell.

The ISTE conference is as over whelming as they say. There are sessions on everything and those sessions can take on so many different formats.  My goal when I arrived was to meet people and I'm really happy with how I did in that department. I met some incredible people face to face who will continue to have a huge impact on my learning and sharing.  The sessions however were not nearly as inspiring as I would have hoped. I know to present at ISTE is an extremely competitive process so I wonder if it was just the sessions that I attended, or that I already have so much trusted freedom to explore innovative ways of teaching with my students, or that I am a connected educator and so I've seen, read, or have had conversations about a lot of what was presented in the sessions I attended.  And I tried to attend sessions that I didn't know much about - like augmented reality, or innovative ways of teaching with new technologies. I'm not sure what it was exactly but it did surprise me.

I tried to take part in far too many evening events.  One night I could have been in eight different places at once and as much as I hate missing out on anything I think I should have narrowed down what I did do to even less. What ended up happening is that I spent very little time at each location and so as much as I had quantity visits I lacked many quality ones.  That's very me though and something I need to work on. I hate to settle on one thing because I don't like to  miss out on anything.   I dabble in a lot of different things and not necessarily master  anything.  As a generalist at heart, with so many curiousities and questions in a variety of areas,  I'm constantly trying to find answers. I am a life long learner for certain.

Since I've returned many themes continue to spiral around in my head and these include...

How can we get more "classroom teachers" to ISTE. I learn with a fantastic group of educators from #1stchat but I was the only one at ISTE. I also know that a ton of teachers from my district would have loved to have been there but it's way too costly for us to be released from class and to be so far from home for close to a week.  I was lucky this year because I won the award and I know that but how powerful it could have been to have other elementary classroom teachers from my district with me. Maybe this can happen next year when the conference takes place when we are not in session.  As it is though I'm thankful I was there with some of my district's helping teachers as it allowed me to get to know the a little better, and for them to get to know me a little better. I'm hoping this strengthened connection will better able me to help them out in their rolls. I am a voice from with in the classroom environment.

What other ways can I help my young learners show the world what they are capable of doing? Any chance I get I will advocate for my young learners, or I will find ways for them to advocate for themselves. This conference made me realize that we aren't doing it well enough. There is so much the "big" people could learn from my little people. I my little people to be heard.

How can I improve my communication with parents, particularly for those who are not comfortable accessing information on line.  This year I made the effort to keep our class blog up to date, and my students shared a lot on their individual blogs. Any working parent could access this information 24/7 but I'm not sure how often they did.  ISTE gave me a few more ideas to try for next year. I think with the change in school I'll be more willing to give up the "what we always do" mentality and explore new options for communicating with parents.

How do I inspire my staff to reflect on their teaching practice and be willing to try something new while at the same time making sure that I am being mindful of where they are in their own personal journey?  As many of you have read I am leaving my school after 18 years. The reasons are many but this is certainly something I've struggled with the past couple of years. As I embark on a new school with a new staff I want to make sure I am there as a support, and not a threat. I know that we all do great things in our own ways and I want to make sure that I very clearly embrace that.  But I also want to inspire my new staff to reflect on their teaching practice and be willing to try something new. It will be a very tight rope to walk and I hope I can find ways to do it successfully.

And before I forget a question that came up over and over again from my on line peeps that were not at ISTE is why didn't I tweet more? The reality was as good as the wifi was for 18,000 people, there were many times when it failed miserably. After waiting for what felt like forever to have a tweet send, the novelty of sending a tweet wore off completely.  

Thanks for taking the time to read all of this.  If you've missed my Part 1 and Part 2 reflections you can find them by clicking here.

ISTE 2013 Reflection - Part 1
ISTE 2013 Reflection - Part 2

If you were at ISTE I'd love to hear about your take aways.