Learning 2.014 Asia Reflection

L2-world-logos-7xWell I finally made it.

Learning 2.0the educational technology for learning conference that everyone wants to attend. I was lucky enough to have moved to the city where it was being held and further convince my new employer of the value of sending me. As the new Director of Technology I did my best to arrange for others at the school to be sent along as well. All who attended raved about the experience and vowed to help raise the technology game in their classes.

Screen Shot 2014-10-25 at 9.08.46 AMHaving completed Jeff and Kim‘s Certificate of Educational Technology & Information Literacy (COETAIL) program I am already a big proponent of the collaborative, active learning style also employed at #learning2 events. Instead of a room full of people taking notes while one person stands at the front lecturing, the style of this event is about hands-on, collaborative learning. Yes, one person stands up front directing action and sharing good practice, but there are constant prompts for participant feedback and opportunities to jump right in and use the tools addressed. I often learn as much from peers in these sessions as from the person up front. In fact, another impressive point worthy of mention here is that these session leaders are not afraid to say, “Hey, does anyone know how to..?” proving that co-construction is just the way it works. Sorry for the self promotion here but this sits very well with a guy who runs an educational technology website with the tagline, “With technology we are al learners!”

cropped-COETAIL-RGB-1000pxWhile the leaders of sessions (pre-conference whole day, extended, one-hour workshop, “unconference” or cohort follow up) are expected to be knowledgeable experts of the topics addressed, much of the learning is participant driven. Everyone has something to share and, naturally as the conference has a technology focus, much of it is done so through cloud-based services making material readily available after the fact.

Unlike many other conferences, participants are able to direct there time to tailor it to their individual needs. In my case I was able to go to sessions focusing on areas I am working towards introducing in my own school as well as attend some sessions as brush-ups hopeful to get some takeaways on areas I personally present on.

Screen Shot 2014-10-25 at 9.11.34 AMThere was an array of topics on offer from 3D Printing to Visual Note Taking, Design Thinking to Presentation Tips touching on segmentation theory and the dopamine effect. As my habit is to no longer take notes but produce webpages on my educational technology site I am able to not only go back to all the gems I gathered over the course of the conference but to further develop my personal learning network (PLN) and raise my site’s stats through sharing right from the start. (Sorry, some of the sessions were far to labour intensive for webpage creation!)

No reflection on an L2 would be complete without mentioning the networking. You won’t find a better opportunity. And what a place to catch up with like-minded educator friends you’ve been collecting over the years. Cohorts from COETAIL in Japan, Apple Distinguished Educators met in Bali, International Baccalaureate Educator Network co-inductees and previous co-presenters from Beijing… Talk about when worlds collide! Refreshing these relationships further helps keep your connectivist world vibrant and alive.

If there were something I would like to see improved it would be the ability to realize that, hey, I have made a mistake and this is the wrong session for me and move to something more valuable and suited to my situation. I understand the logistics of something like this must be challenging. Some participants, however, have a difficult time making it these conferences. Some have to foot the bill themselves which can be quite expensive coming from another country and staying in a hotel. Maximizing learning is imperative. I sat in on one session that, despite the skill and knowledge of the presenter, was just not right for me. I participated whole-heartedly and feel my contribution was helpful. I learned of a few new tools I may be able to use as well. I just wish I could have quietly left to join the other session I had considered and, having spoken with a colleague who attended it, would have benefitted from more.

Screen Shot 2014-10-25 at 9.31.50 AMI have been to workshops all over the world for well over a decade now. I have learned from scores of incredible educators.  I have worked hard to collect accolades and special qualifications. I love presenting, networking and constantly developing myself professionally. Since I took the COETAIL course I have a renewed energy and vitality for my career. I need to get involved in this conference somehow. I will attend again but hope to contribute in any capacity from working a desk to offering workshops to giving an L2 Talk someday. (Forgive liberties taken in photo)

All told, the experience lived up to the hype. I am better off than when I went. The pink shirts (L2 support staff) were helpful and friendly at every turn though they must have been tired and a special kudos must go out to Clint Hamada for his superior efforts at helping me out on day one.

If you haven’t been to one of these you need to go.

I have embedded my COETAIL final video here for those who are considering the course (DO IT!) The original blog post is here.

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The Nature of Technology: Could we change it if we wanted to?

We spend years interfacing with technology. Clearly if you’re reading this, you have access to the internet but what of electricity, cars, books, hammers and wheels? It all qualifies as technology. In terms of digital technologies, this volume of interaction seems certain to increase for the foreseeable future.

But what is this technology we spoke so regularly of?

We want our children to blog and learn code, develop personal learning networks and create with 3D software and printers but where do we stand on how it impacts on us? We are analog, social creatures. Though we talk at great lengths of the marvel of our evermore connected world, possibilities for collaboration and connectivism, the truth is that these are not the same sort of humanistic interactions that necessarily result in greater personal relations and connection. Working with emerging technologies to learn how they work and support us creatively does not address the human context in which they are operating. What about the bigger humanistic and societal questions?

  • Do we need all of the technologies we have?
    • How do we decide?
  • How are these technologies developed?
    • Who decides?
  • Does our growing reliance on digital technologies change us?
    • Does it change how we interact with others?
      • For better or for worse?
        • How so?
        • Could we change it if we wanted to?
  • Do we drive the technology or does it drive us?

Since our technology has always been a reiterative force on human thinking and development how does its ever-increasing pace of development impact on us?

Metaphorical Nature of Technology

This post is not about the evils of technology. Far from it.

It is about understanding:

  1. the nature of technology (Thou art that), and;
  2. the reiterative nature of our relationship with our technology

The Nature of Technology

Technology moves fast. This is a fundamental part of its nature. It is reiterative. Recursive. Present growth increases the rate of future growth. It snowballs… avalanches. With each new technology we further strengthen the metaphor of the human need to use elements of our environment to further manipulate it and take our metaphorical development ever further; Be it a physical manifestation enabled by our abstract thought processes allowing us to cure polio or something more completely abstract helping us create expressive art through digital manipulation of light or sound, each new expression compounds on previous creations producing a synergy that spurs continual progress at an increasingly faster pace.

This growth has risen to such a pace as to render it impossible to keep up with it. It has altered the course of human history, giving way to new epochs from agrarian to industrial to information ages. As the advent of the printing press removed the dominance of memory and oral traditions to authorship and the written word, so too has the pace of knowledge creation demanded we bow to and embrace connectivism and other means of managing something as basic as knowledge!

While technology comes from us it also acts on us and changes the landscape of human activity and even the way we live and learn. Should we perhaps now pause and wonder if the cart has jumped ahead of the horse? At the very least, should we not be considering what it means for the future of human interaction? Would we not be better served by planning for these social changes by trying to understand them even as they are taking place?

In many ways, society doesn’t just happen, it is made. If the technology we must create has now tipped the scales of influence in our symbiotic relationship in its own favour we must consider what this means at the micro level if we ever hope to extrapolate wider trends.

It is time to enact curriculum that asks tough questions like, “How can we design new technologies (metaphors for us) before deciding which new one to learn?” By thinking in this way we take back the control to some degree and are less swept away by the last iteration.

Or, more simply put, how important is it to understand how the technology we create, in turn, affects us?

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Integrating Synergy

Our Grade Five class just wrapped up a unit on Advertising & Media. As the technology integration specialist my role was to support students in the creation of a collaborative website demonstrating their conceptual understanding of the Central Idea as it related to the Transdisciplinary Theme of How We Express Ourselves.


The idea was to have students take turns with each of the identified content areas. Week after week each student added content to their assigned page. Before final publishing the student page editor (who claimed a page at the start of the process) had final say on layout referring to previously developed visual literacy skills (derived from C.R.A.P. Design and other common elements of digital story telling).

The volume of skills touched upon in the unit was amazing. I have given a taste of it from a technology perspective to this point but honestly, I wish I had had more time to further harvest this opportunity. Actually, I took more.

As an extension my colleagues were flexible enough to give me time to use the publishing of the site to inquire into the power of networking, social media and online promotion. I introduced Twitter, Search engine Optimization (SEO) and other social media outlets.

In the first week we did no promotion. Today I sent out the first tweet, sent out both Google+ and Facebook posts and am now writing this blog post. In all of them I have asked people to share it along in their own Personal Learning Networks (PLN) to help demonstrate how far it can go.


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How To: Develop your PLN and Up Your Online Presence

I produced this slideshare for a number of reasons. First off, I was introducing a class to digital-age promotion using social media. I also wanted to support those who are interested in developing their own personal learning networks or take them to the next level. I also thought I could use it to share my free pdf Ebook, Deepen Your Digital Footprint: A Beginner to Intermediate Guide to Increasing Web Traffic & Online Presence.

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Meaningful Online Search Techniques

I made this to support students and teachers at my school. I hope it can help others too.

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2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 5,000 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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New YouTube One Channel

I just completed the YouTube Creator Academy course.

Very easy, then again free. Also very useful. I am quite pleased with my new channel. YouTube has, to this point, basically been a repository for me. I put videos up on it. It was a mess but I could use it as a platform from which to embed videos I found and made.

Now, however, it is part of my “promotion and sharing arsenal.” My channel art (read banner), icon (read thumbnail) are now part of my brand as they are the same as my Google account and website. I have links overlaid on the banner to my blog, Twitter page, SlideShare, LinkedIn and Google+ accounts.

I have added a short intro video based loosely on a PowToon template (pretty flashy) and have doubled my number of subscribers. I am now in the process of convincing the school to let me make a proper, branded page for student work and promotion as well. Take a look at my “sandbox site” to get the idea.

If you get the chance you should take this course. I am not certain I will get the “certificate” since I have received no notification. I could have missed some small part, I wasn’t that careful. Either way, I have more skillls and a pimped out new ride…

Ask me any questions and please, subscribe to my channel!

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The Role of­­­­ ICT in the PYP: Collaborate to Integrate

I just finished delivering this workshop at the regional IB event held at Canadian International School, Hong Kong, an expansive and well-connected campus full of enthusiastic and dedicated educators from September 13-15, 2013.

Screen Shot 2013-09-17 at 4.27.50 PM

I was blessed with 23 teachers interested in learning more about effective implementation of technology within their Programmes of Inquiry (POI). Naturally, there were many who were also interested in developing their understanding of digital-age learning practice in general as well as looking to develop skills with the technology.

All were open-minded and generous in sharing and learning with and from everyone else. They particularly appreciated the Unconference opportunities to learn more directly from their peers. There was a particular group, however, (well two, really I suppose) that were grappling with how to best schedule and plan for collaboration in order to maximize the results for their students.

I promised them this blog post so here we go.



It doesn’t happen by accident. You need dedicated shared planning time. But it goes further than that too. Ideally, the collaboration starts in the planning session but continues in the classroom. Technology specialists are best utilized when they are working alongside teachers in the classroom. Students benefit from greater opportunity for one on one input as needed and the classroom teachers benefit from the professional development of learning on-the-job.

We then turned to the problems of how best to plan and how best to execute.  Is it ok to focus on skill development? Does everything need to be done in line with the POI?

A Word on Inquiry and ICT
One of the things that drew me to technology as a PYP practitioner in the first place was the natural connection between digital-age learning and inquiry.  While using Web 2.0 tools to further develop & uncover understandings and skills in your unit work you further have access to the simultaneous development of skills & knowledge in this realm.

Whether you decide to focus on your Summative Assessment Task or some other area of your curriculum, be it Math, Science, Language, anything, given the fact that these are already integrated into your units of inquiry the connections to higher order thinking and conceptual learning are already there, ready to be exploited and magnified through careful planning & execution.

When dealing with younger students, or those who have limited prior knowledge of basic skills, as with some other elements of your curriculum, these skills will need to be taught explicitly and that… is… ok.

So where to begin?
While it is natural to look for connections to summative assessments (and incorporate formative assessment strategies on the way there) any connection to the unit, concepts and/or lines of inquiry will support students in developing deeper understandings of the transdisciplinary theme.

Time is of the essence. Instead of one class/week with a class it may be more effective to choose units from all classes that you teach to see where a technology connection seems best suited. For example a teacher with 18 contact hours across three year levels with 6 classes each can only see each class once/week. Perhaps they will would be better served by a different approach.

Screen Shot 2013-09-17 at 4.13.40 PM

Now all students can benefit from access to technology twice/week at an opportunity with an authentic fit with the curriculum. They learn better and no one has any less instructional time. Their skills with the tools improve alongside there Approaches to Learning skills and support them with their development of the deeper understandings planned for by their teachers.

What do you think? Please leave a comment for me and my class.


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The Impact of Digital Media on Knowledge Creation

Did you ever wonder how “they” produce updated dictionaries? Groups of academics are supplied with word lists to research. They go through journals, news articles and so on to compare previous meanings to apparent new connotations in contemporary use. If there is a prevalence of new meaning, the dictionary changes. This is an oversimplification but it serves to make the point. What I am sharing today is an explanation of how people change meanings and co-create knowledge and how the “they” is becoming more of a “we.”

This is a more academic topic than I usually tackle here. It is a topic that we do not often hear about. While we are all aware of the prevalence and growth of the Internet as an information sharing tool and many have come to grasp the shift from our previous era of top down media consumption flow, the depth of change resulting from the concomitant leveling of the means of production and distribution has yet be to fully grasped by most.

More simply put, the nature of collective knowledge creation has changed.

Pre-Internet Dissemination of Knowledge Flow

Screen Shot 2013-06-16 at 8.57.57 PM

The Changing Nature of Knowledge
George Siemens suggests in his book, Knowing Knowledge, that those who have in the past formed the privileged elite writing books and documentaries for one-way mass consumption are now becoming the dinosaurs of the digital age. We now have legions of interested, capable individuals able to not only comment on this sort of work (and immediately) but to produce work of their own adding to, commenting on, or outright contradicting the opinions of those who, in the past, would rarely be the subject of such public scrutiny outside of their professional circles.

Production Comes to the Masses
Through the advent of the internet and the digital tools that have been developed alongside it, anyone with a computer now potentially has a voice, or at the very least, an entryway into the conversation that was previously unavailable. The quality of what one has to offer is itself largely impacted by the level to which these new authors participate in ongoing conversations they have through some of the very same digital tools they are using to impact on the very same knowledge they come into contact with through.

Distribution Available to All Through Social Media & PLN
While all these new authors have access to the multi-directional information matrix of the Internet, the quality of what we have to say remains the judgement of those receiving. For that matter, the ability to find interested parties and to link with them is a fundamental new skill in this new knowledge creation paradigm.

Twitter, LinkedIn, even Facebook all offer the opportunity to find and connect with those interested in the same subsets of information that form part of our intentionally created connected world. By learning how to use social media for professional development and engagement and spending time developing our Professional Learning Networks (PLN) we can become more effective communicators and knowledge brokers ourselves. To the extent to which we find and connect with intelligent, informed others and are able to effectively communicate our thoughts on information that we have either created or come across (often times a combination of the two) we are able to join in the construction and dissemination of meaning in the digital age.

As the image below relates, those not actively participating in effective PLN’s are missing out on many facets of interaction that would lead to more effective distribution of their ideas which would, in turn, lead to greater construction of individual understanding through engagement and impact on the constructed meanings and knowledge of others in this reiterative process.

Screen Shot 2013-06-16 at 9.30.18 PM

Some NEW Basics for Schooling (Visual Literacy, Networking & Distribution)
We have now seen how the top down nature of the knowledge for consumption era is coming to an end. We have explored at a very surface level how individuals may participate in more meaningful ways with the knowledge that is being disseminated and, in fact, become more meaningful co-creators of knowledge themselves. With all of the information and knowledge traffic created, however, just adding to it is not necessarily of value in itself. Here is an oversimplified illustration that shows you what’s happening:

Pace of Information Growth

In just a week, there will be 250 times more information then there was in all of human history. Again this is over simplified and not entirely accurate but the point is that information growth is completely out of control.
Source: http://www.lamarca.ca/blog/too-much-information/

Directing one’s own learning in this environment of information overload in order to come into contact with information we are likely to need becomes a vital skill in this new order. We must learn the new basics if we wish to remain relevant and wish to be heard ourselves. In our schools we must now also impart visual literacy, networking & distribution skills.

Visual literacy refers to principles of basic design (like C.R.A.P.) and the production of effective infographics all the way up to the grammar of cinema.  Fundamental networking and distribution elements have been touched upon here but should also include blogging and the ability to create websites and to link these to other sources of information and even the skills to embed digital information in all forms into websites created as part of developing and controlling students’ individual digital footprints.

In the end you may ask, “Is this really important enough to be embraced by schools and inform curricula? There is so much to cover and more information added by the minute.”

Business schools the world over have taught a simple message for years, “Influence, or be influenced.”

What sort of individuals do we want leaving our schools? Influencers or the influenced?

Let me know what you think.

Deepen Your Digital Footprint
A Beginner  to Intermediate Guide to Increasing Online Traffic and Web Presence

More on Connectivism

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Supporting Students with the MYP Design Cycle

Design CycleUse of the design cycle is the focus of MYP Technology classes.

It can be difficult for students accustomed to a final assessment project style (as is partially the case in the PYP) to grasp that the manner in which they create products or solutions is more important to the course than the actual products or solutions themselves.

The design cycle is quite involved with a number of sections, each with its own purpose. To support students I made this slideshare to break it down into steps for them.

I also put together this page where I add new insights and direction as inspiration hits.

Every part of the design cycle builds upon the previous so the Latin finis origine pendant, The end hangs upon the beginning, is extremely applicable. I made this poster to illustrate the idea to my class on how the solutions to the problems as identified in their design specifications then can be used to form some of their test questions which become fundamental to their final Evaluate section of the cycle.

Design Cycle FIRE Image-ifiesThe reason for this focus on the design cycle I tell my students is simplicity itself. We use it for every unit for one good reason. Getting in the habit of addressing problems in this way is simply engendering good habits that will stick with you for the rest of your lives. And after all, as Picasso said, you need to:

picasso break rules

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