Thursday, October 30, 2014

Finishing Up Connected Educator Month, or Is It the Beginning?!

As I've mentioned in a previous post, October is Connected Educator Month. Yesterday, I had an experience that reminded me of the power of sharing, making connections, and opening up the door to possibilities.

For the last two years, my district has been involved in looking at what our schools will look like in the years to come. We have done studies at the Birth-Grade 5 and Secondary level, and have some pretty cool projects underway.
Yesterday, the Communications department sent out a link to a video they created to share one of the shifts in learning, personalizing learning.

I decided to ask for some feedback on the video from Will Richardson, who was the keynote speaker at our district kickoff a few years ago, and someone whose opinion I respect. What followed, was a good back and forth conversation that I captured in Storify below:

So I went and checked out what Michael Schneider had shared about the "Mosaic Collective." Talk about student centered learning! Check out the video below:

Pretty amazing! And done in a public school. I think this is one of the more innovative programs I've seen. I quickly shared that site with some of our administrators, to help form some of the work we are doing.

Then I took a look at what Jake shared about the Pacific School of Innovation and Inquiry. A private model, but similar philosophy.

I loved how my reaching out to Will led to connections with Michael and Jake. By being a connected learner, I have been able to gain some new insights into what is possible, and share that with others. While Connected Educator Month may be coming to an end, my hope is that last night's conversation will be the beginning of some successful connection and collaboration with Michael and Jake in the future.

On Tuesday, we had the first meeting of our Edina-Hopkins Teaching and Technology cohort. The first class is titled Collaboration for Community with a Global Perspective. One of the goals of the class is to help the students develop connections with other educators around the world, and to grow their personal learning network. I hope this serves as a model to the possibilities as they move forward in their work.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Connected Educator Month: Paul Oh-Connected Learning for a Connected World

Paul Oh
On October 10, 2014 Paul Oh, from the National Writing Project, presented a talk on Connected Learning at the University of Minnesota. I had a chance to interview Paul a few years ago for an EduWin Podcast, and it was great to finally meet him in person and hear his thoughts on connected learning, and education. The event was co-sponsored by the Emma Birkmaier Critical Literacy and Urban Education Speaker Series, the Learning Technologies Media Lab, the U of M Department of Curriculum and Instruction, and the Minnesota Writing Project.

Oh started out his talk asking two questions:
  1. What was an interest you had as a young person that you were passionate about? 
  2. Was that interest recognized in the school you attended?

The room was evenly divided as to whether they had the opportunity to pursue their passion in school. 
He provided examples where people have taken an interest in a topic and followed their passions outside of the typical school curriculum. 

  • For those younger, was it related to “Harry Potter.” HarryPotter Fan 82,000+ stories from 37,000+ young writers. The statistics on the right show just how popular this site is with people interested in writing.
  • How many were able to listen to "You Can't Touch This," in school? How many were able to write their own hip-hop lyrics, or create their own dances?
  • Could you play “Super Mario Brothers” in school? Oh asked us to guess how many units of the game have launched? 40 million +! Few made it into schools. Videogames were not for school. How many schools ban video games now?
  • In an ode to Minnesota and the upper midwest, Oh asked, "how many got to make hot-dish in school?"
For Paul, his passion was Comic Books, specifically, Spiderman.
He loved the stories and the illustrations, and tried to emulate them in his writing and drawing. He loved the rhetorical methods authors used to create “cliffhangers.”
He went to some conventions with his friends, and met people even more passionate than he was, dressed in the costumes of their heroes. Together they were trying to guess what would happen in the comic book story, and share a common bond.

Today, online, sites like Comic Book Resources, allow people to connect and share ideas and ask questions about comics. There were 27,000+ posts since April just about Batman. How many places can you find that much writing about a given topic? 

Networks allow us to connect and collaborate over our passions.

Minecraft is another example. Every 24 hours, 6,000 people sign up for Minecraft.

Oh quoted Will Richardson, who shared how his son had a problem using Minecraft and developed a group to solve problems and share ideas.
Most of these passions are explored outside of school rather than inside of school.
Oh talked about how these passions were often looked on as distractions from the “real” purpose of learning. He noted that who owns and directs the learning can have a big impact with this:
Teacher Led vs. Student Led

Oh asked, "What if we deeply understood how people learn today: curiosity, experience, connections?"

In our district, we have tried to set up some opportunities for students to follow their passions and interests through projects like the Apathy Project, the 9th Grade Government Service Learning Project, the 10th grade Pre-AP English Passion project, and May Term. While the basic framework for the tasks is teacher led, students have autonomy regarding the topics and how they will design and demonstrate their learning. Adding the component of the student taking action and developing a shared purpose is what  Service Learning is all about! 

What if we designed for learning in a connected world?

Oh believes that education is struggling to learn its role in this connected world. This world needs Connected Learning, an approach to learning that is at the heart of the digital media learning initiative:
Goal: Give young people the ability to take advantage of the affordances of the networked world.

  • ·  Massive number of connections exist across networks
  • ·  More like a matrix where people change jobs and move in different paths
  • ·  Current education model is only designed for a single path
  • ·  School is the only node In most people’s ecosystem
Peer groups, social media, employers, videogames, interests, Websites, civic institutions, Mentors all play a critical role outside the school to factory model. How can we connect these?
Connected Learning attempts to make these connections between the places where learning happens, even in school, under the support of a mentor.
Oh believes public schools are still a critical part of this network.
Connected Learning
In School………....Out of school
Online………….....Real World
Connects Learning

Connected Learning is NOT:

  • About shiny digital places.
  • Don’t Fetishize the gadgets!
  • It’s about the learner and a mindset about ethnographic research.
Learning is experience connected to the world 
Connected Learning is…

Institute of Play- Student Charles Rabin photos showing that everyone is unique. Systems thinking. Learning can happen anywhere!
Take charge of your own learning, follow your passion!

Note in the video that there WAS a mentor assisting Charles. Charles also mentions the value in the act of publishing, not just taking the picture, but publishing to a wider authentic audience.

Oh mentioned a book he has been involved in, Teaching in the Connected Learning Classroom.
“Educators need to see themselves as designers of learning context!” 
-Christina Cantrill
Examples of educators doing this:

Oh argues that a critical piece is the pedagogical shift toward connected learning in a connected world.
Expanding the notion of what it means to be literate today
Oh is hopeful that the Connected Learning Movement is truly showing signs of having an impact.
·         #WHGameJam is an example.

“We need to equate lifelong learning with lifelong playing, just like we equate classroom reading with lifelong reading.” 
-Chad Sansing

Educator Innovator-a network of networks working to connect educators around the world.

It was great to connect in “real life” with Paul and hear his thoughts during Connected Educator Month.  He concluded by sharing how higher education has moved towards connected courses-such as Howard Rheingold and Mimi Ito's Connected Courses: Active Co-Learning in Higher Ed as an example.

Oh ended by encouraging us to be an “intelligent medium for action!” quoting John Dewey from 1885!

Q and A

  • Oh mentioned the Trust Challenge, an effort to solve the problem of student data privacy and legal ramifications. The challenge is open till the beginning of November.
  • What is the relationship between connectivism and connected learning? Connected Learning recognizes many pedagogies that incorporates several principals of connectivism by co-constructing knowledge. Connected learning differs in that the focus is more on elements like civic engagement and shared purpose, which isn’t necessarily a component of connectivism.
  • What makes a great Makerspace? A great Makerspace would have many types of tools to play with and construct based on their interests, an chance to iterate, and  Time and space to reflect. 
  • How do we assess what happens in MakerSpaces? Often, it’s hard to pause in a maker space. Are there automatic things such as video/images as you’re making. Many times you are itterating after you’ve made it. (Has Apple ever had a "summative" evaluation of the iPhone? Will there always be ways to improve it?

Thursday, October 2, 2014

October Is Connected Educator Month: Connect For Yourself...Connect For Your Students!

These six Educational Competencies above have been identified as the core of the Next Generation of Edina Public Schools, the district I work in. When I look at each of these competencies, I believe that if we want our students to leave our district with these skills, we as educators have to have them as well. I believe that they are also the qualities of a "connected educator!"

October is Connected Educator Month, an opportunity for teachers to communicate, collaborate and share with other educators around the world in a variety of formats: chats, webinars, book studies, discussions and social media venues. Every day, the calendar is chock full of opportunities for learning and growing in all of the educational competencies above. This is the third year of Connected Educator Month. This year, it is being jointly sponsored by the National Writing Project's Educator Innovator.

Below are examples of how connected educators I know are demonstrating the educational competencies above. I encourage you to "get connected," and in turn, connect your students!

Effective Communicator & Collaborator
At South View Middle School, Dean Dahl and Meghan Haselbauer have collaborated on a Google+ Community and Hangouts on Air they call "Teachers2Teachers" where they focus on " the technology tools that support best practice, in our 21st century classrooms." These two connected educators have collaborated face to face with staff in their building as well, sharing what has worked for them in their classrooms. Here's a sample of their discussion on using YouTube in the classroom.

Responsible-Engaged Citizens
This past summer, several staff participated in an online course we offered, where staff could earn Digital Citizenship certification from Common Sense Media
For his projecct, High School Social Studies teacher, Nickie McKeever developed a series of lessons on Digital Citizenship for his World History and Geography course. He recognized that, "Since we do so much of our work online in this class, this will be an essential early-year activity to make sure we are setting appropriate expectations."
Ultimately, he has the students develop a "World History Digital Citizenship Bill of Rights." By taking advantage of online learning opportunities himself, McKeever is able to model responsible use when connecting with students. Here is his initial presentation and activities. McKeever noted that the lessons were successful, and he felt it didn't take that much time out of his regular instruction.

Innovative Thinker and Creator
Last year, Kindergarten teacher, Angela Gadtke was a member of our Teaching and Technology Cohort in Edina. During the Authentic Assessment course, Gadtke came up with a great way to flip her instructions for students on performance based math assessment. She took it one step further and had the students actually create digital artifacts of their math learning, both with pictures and video. Here is her reflection on the activity, and here is an example of what her students created:

Through her work, Gadke has connected with the developer of one of her favorite educational Apps, and now beta testing the app and is part of a consulting group for the company.

Globally Competent
Our district has defined "globally competent learners" as those who:
  • Possesses a diverse and informed world perspective,including understandings of world geography, history,economics, social issues, cultures, political structures, and environmental conditions
  • Communicates effectively in at least two world languages, one of which is English
  • Embrace individual and cultural diversity and actively seek multicultural interaction
To me, by communicating and collaborating with students in other countries, students can demonstrate effective communication in another world language and meet that component of "globally competent." As we move forward, we need to continue to provide experiences like this one, and this one, that allow students to collaborate with people around the world. The map below shows where viewers to this blog come from.
Based on statistics on the blog, I've been pretty big in Ukraine lately! I hope someone there is reading this and comments on the appeal!

Motivated Life-Long Learner
Helping our students become motivated, life-long learners is a lofty goal. One of the ways we can do that is by modeling that competency ourselves. You CAN be a "motivated, life-long learner" and never become a connected educator, but then in all likelihood, only you will benefit. By modeling for others, you can share your passion for learning and make it go viral! Here's an example of someone I think exemplifies this, our Superintendent, Ric Dressen. He is passionate about learning, and recognizing his role as lead-learner in our district, has worked to become connected and utilize those connections to encourage others.

Well Rounded Person
Balance is a very important thing in today's 24/7 bombardment of information and access. Taking time to put away devices, and get out to enjoy nature and those that matter to you is very important. It's also important as you become connected to have balance as well. Your Personal Learning Network should be just that, Personal! I started by following people only associated with Educational Technology I admired. That was good to a point, but then I started also following people with similar interests, and others related to hobbies or passions. Here is an example of individuals and organizations that showed up in my Twitter stream as I wrote this:

Many of these folks are in EdTech, but many aren't. I'm a Packer fan, former math teacher, science nut, news hound, and father. The people I follow reflect that, and provide balance to what I might connect with.

As I was writing this post today, another great example of connected learning popped up! Andy Richter, who is one of our band directors, is working with composer, Alex Shapiro on a specially commissioned work. Today, he and his students Skyped with the author to give/get input.
By becoming a connected educator, developing a Personal Learning Network, and connecting our students, we will be helping them meet core competencies they will need to be successful moving forward. I invite you to participate! Check out the calendar of events, and look for ways you can grow your Personal Learning Network to help improve your craft and connect your students to the world around them.