Tuesday, October 25, 2011

CUEBC 2011 - Fabulous Opportunity

I had a great experience at CUEBC (Computer Using Educators of BC).  I had a great facility to teach in (thank you Dave McCristall and Dennis Wong).  Terry Fox Secondary in Port Coquitlam offered not only an easy to navigate school, with some pretty interesting workshops to attend.

The keynote speaker David Warlick showed me how today's kids don't have a ceiling (or walls) around their learning anymore - except the ones schools place around them.  Ouch! But he has an interesting point.  I am on twitter with another educator who has challenged his kids to create examples of 21st centruy learning, but not use camera phones.  I think this might be failing to recognize the camera phone for what it could be.  I will politely raise this issue with him, and hope he will have a discussion with me.

I also attended David's workshop where he drew the analogy of his own professional learning network as being like a garden.  What I took from this very well crafted presentation (although there were a few technical glitches) was the need for me to do some more professional reading - reading more blogs of other teachers.  I came away from his workshop thinking that in order to progress in my profession I need to read what other great educators are doing, comment, write more myself and then find some way to share what I am learning.

During an awesome lunch, I did something I had not planned on. I volunteered for a position on the executive.  The position involves putting out a newsletter for CUEBC and promoting awareness of CUEBC and the work of it's members, or issuses surrounding technology in education to a broader audience.  CUEBC has a twitter account, so I think this is where I will begin.  I think this will force me to carve out time to do more professional reading - so I can pass it along.

My second afternoon session was with Orwell Kowalyshyn as he showcased some of the exciting things happening in our province's largest district of Surrey.  They have distributed over a thousand iPads to teachers, and he showed some of the apps that teachers were using.  My district distributed laptops to almost a quarter of our teachers.  I wonder about the differences between putting an iPad into teachers' hands vs. putting a laptop in teachers' hands?
I enjoyed the chance to talk to vendors.  None of them pressured me, all just wanted to talk.  I thought the demonstration of SMART technologies gave me a lot to think about.   How does this SMART table fit into classrooms?  How can SMART boards be better used by students and teachers alike, and transform people's teaching styles because it can do things a regular white board cannot?  This is a device that the majority of teachers I work with on learning teams are exploring.

It was my fifth trip to CUEBC, and I look forward to going again next year.  I hope some of you will join me.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Getting Comfortable with Discomfort

In my new role as a learning team facilitator, my job is to not tell teachers what they need to learn about technology, or tell them how they need to teach in class.  I don't know how all the technology in the world works; how could I?  Instead, I have to help teachers focus on an inquiry.  We must ask ourselves "How does this use of technology impact student learning?" 

When I have listened to teachers in our Learning Team meetings, I hear them say "We are really concerned that we won't learn enough of the 'how-to's' when using technology (be it interactive whiteboards or SharePoint classroom websites)."

  I have to send the message "You don't have to know everything - just enough to jump in with both feet, and start swimming". 

To create some of the resources I am providing for teachers, this month I have had to learn to use two new pieces of software, Camtasia (makes screencasts and edits video) and SnagIt (grabs pictures of your screen and edits them).  I have recieved no formal training in either program, but my co-worker and mentor Martine showed me how to get started.  Then I had to figure out not only what I was going to say or teach in a tutorial about different pieces of software (Outlook for email or MS Word), but I had to learn how to use the software as I went.  This made me feel uncomfortable, as I wondered "Am I doing this right?  What if I have to redo this?  How long will this take?!?"

Techsmith sent me some emails with links to screencasts showing me how to use different features in SnagIt, such as how to search efficiently through your screenshot library.  When I got the email I thought "Oh no....I don't have time for this!  I am way to busy! How long will this take?!?" But then I clicked it, and it only lasted about 5 minutes.  I got the idea, and began applying the skills right away - not perfectly, but good enough to get the idea across.

This feeling of discomfort was the feeling of me learning something.  I have to get comfortable with this feeling of discomfort because this is what my colleagues feel each time they begin to learn something new with technology, and in this way I can relate to them.  I must have faith that each time I learn something new about technology, it will benefit me somehow, and I must be patient even if I can't see the "when" right away. 

I'll just start using it, and see what happens.