Thursday, July 4, 2013

ISTE 2013

For the second year in a row, I went to the ISTE conference. It an exercise in the overwhelming, that's for sure: hundreds of concurrent sessions, posters, playgrounds, a trade show that borders on the ridiculous, big name keynotes and almost 30000 educators gathered together.

The first day, I am like a deer in the headlights.  Then, my eyes just glaze over with information overload.  And finally, I step back and try to establish one or two key take-home ideas......generally over a glass of wine at the airport on the way home!

Here is what I learned:

  • Google is the technology leader in education right now.  Everything that can be done in the classroom can be done with a Google solution. 
  • I do not know how you can teach K-3 without an iPad.  It offers so much in terms of developing fundamental skills. 
  • LEGO Education is the newest mover-and-shaker in technology.  In response to such a big emphasis on tinkering, engineering, coding, and robotics in education, LEGO teamed up with MIT Media Lab and great things are happening. 
  • Scratch is also very very cool. 
  • Buzz words and phrases are everywhere. I found myself saying, "Well, that sounds great, but what the heck does it ACTUALLY mean?"  Hashtag-this and i-that, and solutions for everything. Connected, connecting and connectedness. 
  • Students should create not just consume. 
I geeked out and made a graphic of all the right "words" to use in ed-tech in 2013.   Here it is:

Crowd-sourcing design

I decided to crowd-source a design for my company logo.  It is not like I really need a logo, but the opportunity to have multiple designers submit and compete for an idea that represents "me" and "my work" was intriguing.  The enjoyment I got out of the exercise was worth the $300 alone.  Using, I ended up with over 120 designs from about 20 different designers in just four days.

The result?

Here is the winning design......

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Future Work Skills 2020

The Institute for The Future in California recently published a research article (2011) about the kinds of skills that students will need in the future.  Actually, I think they need these skills now.  Their list of ten skills really resonated with me as an educator.  I wonder how they can be integrated into everyday learning experiences at all levels?

  1. Sense-making - ability to determine the deeper meaning or significance of what is being expressed.
  2. Social (and emotional) intelligence- ability to connect to others in a deep and direct way, to sense and stimulate reactions and desired interactions.
  3. Novel and adaptive thinking - proficiency at thinking and coming up with solutions and responses beyond that which is rote or rule-based.
  4. Cross-cultural competency - ability to operate in different cultural settings.
  5. Computational thinking - ability to translate vast amounts of data into abstract concepts and to understand data-based reasoning.
  6. New-media literacy - ability to critically assess and develop content that uses new media forms, and to leverage these media for persuasive communication.
  7. Transdisciplinarity - literacy in and ability to understand concepts across multiple disciplines.
  8. Design mindset - ability to represent and develop tasks and work processes for desired outcomes.
  9. Cognitive load management - ability to discriminate and filter information for importance, and to understand how to maximize cognitive functioning using a variety of tools and techniques
  10. Virtual collaboration - ability to work productively, drive engagement, and demonstrate presence as a member of a virtual team.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Longing for the classroom

I have been out of the classroom for over two years, and it's almost killing me.  Almost.  The deep, irrational longing I have for managing a classroom, designing instruction, and watching kids light up with learning and inspiration reminds me that this season of "other things" is just that.....a season.  The good part is that I also love the new opportunities coming my way.  I still get to design learning and engage with the profession at the front end as a university instructor.  Working with new teachers and outstanding colleagues is an honor and privilege.  I love my consulting work at SAIT, getting to lead the design and re-design of whole programs at the post-secondary level.  And the great thing about teaching, is that I can always pick up and day or two of subbing back in the classroom, which I indulge in from time to time. Sometimes it's hard to believe they pay me for it.

By why the doctorate?  I actually have a love-hate relationship with my EdD. Some days it feels like an ultra-marathon that will never end.  And sometimes I resent that fact that it has taken me away from the classroom.  But ultimately, there is something pure and exciting about formally searching for answers to the big questions I have about education and learning.  It just seems like the natural thing to do, like I am setting an example in pursuing knowledge and truth. I am not much of an academic but I do get jazzed about research philosophy and such.  You know, the -ologies and -isms.  Maybe I am a bit of a geek.

People ask me what I am going to do when I done.  The proper thing to do would be continue with academia, look for a high-level administration job, grow my consulting business, publish, or seek a university tenure.  I'll probably just wind up back where I started, in the classroom, a little over-qualified but doing what I love most - teaching.  It is a hard, but soul-fulfilling and honorable profession.

On teaching kindergarten

I have a healthy fear of small children, especially the collective "consciousness" of 17 of them confined to one room in a school.  You are either created to teach kindergarten, or you are like the rest of us 99.99% of the world who are not.  So, it is a small miracle that I survived my afternoon of subbing in a kindergarten class.  "How bad could 2.5 hours be?", was my rationale for taking the job.  And I need the money.  Actually, it wasn't that bad.  I learned a few things.  My necklace impressed the girls.  They oo-ed and ah-ed at it's sparkling properties and wanted to touch the thing that reminded them of "lovely jewels".  Except for that one girl who could spot a knock-off for a mile. "That's not real jewels - it's fake.  I bet it is made from beads", is what she proclaimed across the classroom.  
Another kid said I talk funny, but I get than from any class I teach. Apparently I just could not quite say Ethan's name properly.  "It's Ethaaaaaan, Mrs Pen".  I knew I should not have told them my name rhymed with Pen.   I was also told I teach differently.  You CANNOT mess up the schedule and read a book before song time when the board says otherwise.  I asked my special helper to change the board, which made everyone a bit nervous.  I wonder what stunt this Mrs Pen is going to pull next?  I managed to dash the hopes of those dreamers twice when most of them decided they didn't like the name stickers I made.  Actually, just one kid didn't like them and the others just decided to copy.  I heard the word "copy cat" used a lot today.  And I told them I had a special surprise at the end of the day.  I should have said special visitor because they all assumed I had edible, candied treats.  Shaunna the Sheep was not quite as good as they were expecting. I had the sheep stuffed in a bag and let them come up one by one to feel inside and guess what it was.  That's means EVERYONE has to have a turn..... except for the girl who was so scared that my special visitor would be 'ouchy' and would bite.  She started crying when I called her name, even though her hand was raised.  When I pulled Shaunna out of the bag, one kid in the front yelled out, "that's not a sheep, that's just a stuffy. That's not a very good surprise".  I think the crying girl was relieved and so I let her hold the stuffed animal while I read a book about sheep. And finally, my sister was right - it really does take 20 minutes to pack up at the end of the day.  There are zippers to zip and mitts to unfold and envelopes to stuff, while simultaneously stopping one boy from head butting the sweet girl in front of him with his helmet, and another boy from climbing on the furniture, with a girl clinging to my legs in adoration and another expressing how glad she is that her "real" teacher will be back tomorrow. 
Seriously, it is one thing to control a kindergarten class and to design activities for them to do.....but to TEACH them???   That is something else altogether and requires seriously mad skills (and A LOT of patience).  Mostly my eyes just glazed over as I walked around and watched them try to print letters and write their names.  I was just glad they were sitting quietly and not peeing their pants or picking their noses.  There was a lot of nose picking. To actually sit with one child and help them form letters properly and hold the pencil while 16 others go a little crazy around you......that just seems impossible in the eyes of this high school teacher. A huge cheer goes out to all those amazing kindergarten teachers.