Thursday, May 16, 2013

CONNECT 2013 Reflections and Big Ideas

It's been a full week since the Connect 2013 conference in Niagara Falls and I am just now sifting through the big ideas and new learning.  Though I was unable to attend every session--they were all so good--I really feel that what I did attend had a positive impact on my thinking and the collective thinking of our YCDSB team.

Funny story. The first day of the conference, a fellow (new Twitter acquaintance Mitch Champagne)  asked if I could take his picture with the Twitter Eductator-celebs Alec and George Couros and I quite literally forgot how to use an ipad to take pictures.  Here is the pic I took.  I felt so stupid, that I sent them a message explaining that I really was tech savvy. 

I think one of the great things about attending the conference (apart from meeting dynamic speakers) is the fact that my online Twitter community--educators I respect and "follow" literally came to life; in addition, I connected with many new educators from across the province.   The time spent with my own colleagues (and our adopted colleague from Bishop Strachan) was filled with passionate conversations, the sharing of ideas, and strategic planning sessions.  We wondered why we were so exhausted at the end of each day!

Here is a brief overview of the sessions I attended:

Blog as Portfolio

George Couros  Parkland County, Alberta (@gcouros)

 I was originally slotted to go to a session called Literacy and Technology which I'm sure would have been excellent, but I ran into George Couros in the hotel lobby en route to the conference and he was quite convincing that I should attend his session instead.  After the ipad debacle, I thought I might redeem myself.   I am certainly glad I did.  Two (of many) big ideas about blogging I took away from his presentation:
1.  We owe it to our students to help them create a positive online presence to take with them into the world.
2.  Educational leaders need to blog not just to share our insights and experiences so others might benefit, but more importantly, so that we consolidate our own learning through reflection.

Here's his digital portfolio project.

Seven Degrees of Connectedness 

Rodd Lucier  Komoka, Ontario (@thecleversheep)

I had met Rodd at the TCDSB 21st Century Learning launch and had great conversations there.  His session really reinforced the idea that we need to foster our professional connections and learning networks.

Dynamic Assessment

Zoe Branigan-Pipe Hamilton, Ontario (@zbpipe)

Using Minecraft, Urban Planning for Project based Learning.
Having students monitor their own projects

Take your Classroom Global!

Taking IT Global (@takingitglobal)

Connecting educators to other educators and issues. 

Paul Yip @darthgooglemac Connect 2013 Recap and Reflections

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Voicethread in the Classroom

Since I first discovered Voicethread a few years ago, I've been trying to introduce it to teachers in my Board.  Why?  The Growing Success document (Ontario policy on Assessement and Evaluation) has a pronounced emphasis on Assessment FOR Learning.  That means, that we need to find a variety of ways for teachers to assess student learning to inform instruction. Voicethread provides three (free) ways for students to respond to you and to one another:  text, audio, video.   Even after learning about new, awesome tools, Voicethread is still my favourite.

So often, we try one tool and have it quickly replaced by another with better features. Voicethread works for our students in applied courses and with ESL learners. Quite frankly, it would work well for any learner.

This is a tool that is NOT a passing fad. 

Because it's been around for a while, there are so many ideas already out there for using Voicethread.  Check out this shared document called 25 Ways to Use Voicethread in the Classroom  and a collaborative effort posted by Richard Byrne: 100 Ways to Use Voicethread in the Classroom.  Collette Cassinelli has a great slideshare presentation about the advantages of using Voicethread to collaborate and create--check it out on the sidebar.  There is also a Wikispace dedicated to Voicethread which has hundreds of shared projects.  The Browse pages within Voicethread itself provide a wonderful cross-section of examples.  Their virtual Guides are useful and easy to follow.

Voicethread for ESL students 

I have been co-planning and co-teaching with an ESL teacher.  The students were very shy at first, but appreciated the fact that they could re-record their voices until they were happy with how they sounded.

First, we explicitly taught the kids the features of Voicethread using a sample Voicethread.  There are a variety on the website.   What we really wanted, was for this very small class to fee CONNECTED to other students in the Board.  We created an Introduction to Voicethread VT which would allow for students across our school board to connect with one another.  Here is a copy of what this looks like.  The actual VT has only been shared within our classes.

We also spent some time talking about what online posts (oral or written) should look like (net-etiquette) which is an absolute MUST.

The students are enjoying the tool so much that the teacher has since created two other lessons using Voicethread, and for their CPT, students will create a Voicethread portfolio.  Can't wait to see what that looks like!

What are some media messages about women and what can we do about them? 

The lesson explores a variety of texts that show negative media messages and focuses on a poem.  Students are then encouraged to write a letter to a company to express their opinion about the negative media messages they are sending.  The Voicethread provided us with the opportunity to gauge whether or not students understood how to interpret meda texts and how effectively they were making inferences.

What is it like to be homeless?

This lesson explores a poem by Dionne Brand and the Voicethread consolidates students' understanding of imagery.  The Voicethread itself uses a poem  by Raymond Souster.

Lesson and link to Voicethread

"What are the environmental costs of a sinking ship?"

This Voicethread, explores the Costa Concordia cruiseship accident and what the potential for further tourist exploration in the Arctic might mean.  Though this was never actually taught as a lesson, it is an example of how we can use current events as a springboard for discussion.


The possibilities are endless.

Using Voicethread for Professional Development

Professional Development has moved towards virtual platforms such as Adobe Connect as a cost-saving measure.  School Boards, quite simply, cannot afford to release teachers as often as might be warranted. 
A viable alternative for collaboration and sharing can be the use of Voicethread.  Voicethread provides a medium whereby participants can share ideas, as well as provide feedback; in a more personalized approach.

There are many ideas already out there for using Voicethread for PD.  Check out the Support Resource available for reference.  Kristen Swansen co-created a Voicethread about using Twitter in Education.  There is a Wiki for Education, created by Colette Cassinelli which has many examples of this as well--this collaborative Wiki is a great place to share your own ideas as well.
I have used Voicethread in two different ways for Professional Development:
  •  sharing lessons planned 
  • collecting feedback

Sharing Lessons

When a group of educators got together to share the resources we had created, we did so at the end of the year which meant that many teachers couldn't attend. 
When sharing, have the teacher speak into a microphone and thus record the ideas in the teacher's own voice.  Then, when the link is shared, particpants feel like they were there.
Here is an example of what that looks like: 
PLC Sharing

Getting Feedback

Teachers are so busy!  For this reason, asking teachers for feedback on our Professional Learning Cycle happened virtually.  Teachers could record their ideas, observations, and wonderings from the comfort of their own workroom.
Here's an example of what that looks like:
PLC Feedback

If you are interested in the PLC model, here's an example of what that looks like in our Board:  Prezi