Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Season of Conferences

7 days and 3 conferences.

  Good thing I took my vitamins!


This has traditionally been my favourite pro-d of the year, and this year it did not disappoint.  John Oliver Secondary in Vancouver played host to one of the busiest, most jam-packed conferences I have attended.  This year, I had the pleasure of helping to organize the conference as part of the executive, however Ian Jukes was a compelling keynote speaker.  I really thought he did a great job of using data to support his views.  I am sure the teachers in the Okanagan and other districts that streamed the keynote found it equally riveting. 
Gary Toews of Abbotsford did a workshop on the iPad in Abbotsford classrooms, and somehow 60 people managed to jam their way into the room! But, for me my one big take away was the presentation by Carolyn Durley and Graham Johnson on the flipped classroom.  The flipped classroom doesn’t mean using technology as the focus of the class; it’s about using technology like screencasting to change the way you spend your face-to-face time with students.  If students spent their time at home watching your lessons in video form, how would you spend all that time you used to spend lecturing differently?

Microsoft Connected Learners Conference

This is an invitation only conference for Canadian educators and IS staff that takes place once a year.  This year it was in Woodenville, Washington, near Microsoft headquarters in Redmond.  I was really glad it was so close, as I was able to hitch a ride down with our manager of IS, Brian Kuhn.  The conference was in a great hotel, and I don’t think I saw the outdoors for 2 days.  I just went from my room, to the conference room, to the sitting lounge for meals, and then back into the conference room.  The content was mixed between educational uses of technology, to much more technical issues. 
Some of the take-aways I have from this conference include
a)Students in Washington state have access to a statewide Microsoft certification program for applications, such as Word and PowerPoint.  This is something a lot of industries want, including the application from Google for an analyst position!
b) Windows 8 looks great on a tablet, and decent on a desktop. The windows RT does solve some problems we have with using the iPad in schools, such as supporting multiple users, having conventional hdmi and USB, and I like the interface.  The apps aren’t there yet, but I think they will come in time.
c) Kelowna is the second district to leverage cloud computing with Office 365.  This means their teachers and students can take advantage of a lot of great apps and storage – free.  They informed their parents with waivers, and things seem to be going well for them.  I hope our district can follow suit.

ERAC District Contacts

This was a great conference where we discussed the difficulties around using cloud services, and I am of the opinion that waivers will satisfy FIPPA requirements for using services in the US.  BC has the strictest laws against privacy, and in some ways I am very glad about that.  However I think that informing parents and students should be enough to make educational use of some great services such as Office 365.  I know many teachers want to use Edmodo, but what if our district could offer Wordpress/Buddy Press websites hosted on our network?  That might offer an easy to use, aesthetically pleasing alternative to SharePoint.  This is what Delta school district is doing, as you can see at DeltaLearns

Having been through these great learning experiences, I am excited to think of what I can bring to my learning teams now that meetings are underway.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Teachers as Learners

Teach Your Teacher Something

My school district are in the process of purchasing district license for some professional quality multimedia software.  This is good news, as not only will teachers be able to use professional quality tools to produce their teaching materials, but our students will too.  Granted, some of our younger students may not need such powerful tools, but one of my colleagues pointed out, we need to give tools to kids that scale up, and do not limit their creativity, just because we perceive kids to have limited abilities.
I was concerned that I am going to have to learn an awful lot about an awful lot of software titles.  I mentioned one task I was interested in learning how to do with the new software.  Our Information Services Manager, Brian Kuhn said he needed to learn something too, but got his info from a 14 year old kid on YouTube. 
As I left the building I thought, “Hey, I know where I can find 14 year old kids who know something about technology”.  I pulled into the high school next door, and started asking teachers to keep an eye out for kids who display talent and initiative with using technology. 
I would like students to provide professional development around technology for teachers.  I am proposing that kids create screencasts for teachers, illustrating ways that teachers could use technology in class, perhaps in ways they had not previously considered.
I would like high school kids to get Graduation Transitions credit for it, or possibly create an Independent Study course for it.  Perhaps I can turn it into a contest, and offer some “swag” for the best screencasts.  Stay tuned…..
Not only would I be tapping into the capacity of our students, and building a useful library of how-to videos, but I would also be creating opportunities for kids to show alternatives to the traditional essay as homework.  Furthermore, we would be living up to one of our core beliefs in our district – that we are all life long learners. 
Kids as teachers, teachers as learners. 

Follow up:  I think I will call it "Another Way to Show What You Know"  - make it about students and about their learning.