I've participated in the K12 Online Conference every year for the last handful of years. I look forward to this online conference each year, as there is a wealth of information posted on a daily basis that's free for the taking.
While I've worked alongside several of the people who make this virtual conference happen every fall, I've never done more than subscribe to the presentation feed in iTunes and catch most of the presentations each year. I know many people who have presented and keynoted K12 Online Conference strands over the last five years, and this year I felt as though participating from the sidelines just wasn't enough.
When asked if I'd submit something for the 'Story Time' strand for this year's conference, I jumped at the chance. I spent many hours thinking about what I'd present & how I'd share. I had all kinds of great ideas for an innovative presentation that would challenge me and inspire those who took the time to sit through my presentation.
Then, all of a sudden, the K12 Online Conference was upon us and my session wasn't complete. Having taken on too many projects this fall, I was forced to just "git 'er done" instead of creating the kind of presentation that I had envisioned.
Although my first time presenting in this amazing conference didn't turn out the way that I had initially envisioned, I'm still happy with my submission. I don't know that anyone will walk away from this presentation thinking 'that was absolutely spectacular', but I do think that the folks who take the time to watch my presentation will be inspired by the idea of celebrating the little things that happen in their classrooms and schools on a daily basis.
We are shaped by our experiences, as are our students. If you're willing to take the time to watch "When Learning Becomes An Event", you'll find that it's all about living in the moment - capturing and highlighting the learning experiences that are occurring all around us.
In exactly 24 hours, I'm hopping on a little plane to fly from Winnipeg up to Churchill, Manitoba. While I've lived in Manitoba over half of my life, I've never had the opportunity to travel this far north before. Not only will this be my first time visiting Churchill, but the way that I get to take in the tundra will be very different than the way most people get to experience northern Manitoba.
I've been asked to join Polar Bears International and Edmodo to assist with facilitating several days worth of webinars and video conferences. I'll be working alongside a panel of world-renowned scientists and researchers as they study polar bears in their natural habitat. We'll be witnessing, first-hand, the impact of global climate change as polar bears congregate along the shores of Hudson Bay to await the formation of the sea ice.
I know that there will be a lot of 'work' to do as this adventure unfolds, but this really is work worth celebrating! Connecting with hundreds of classrooms around the world to answer the questions of teachers and students alike. Connecting with zoos and universities to provide real-time updates about what we're seeing during this year's fall polar bear migration. And capturing every aspect of this adventure through lenses so that all of the details can be archived.
The morning after I arrive in Churchill, our team boards Tundra Buggy One - this is the same vehicle that streams live video of polar bears over the web via The Polar Bear Cam. We'll roll about 40km over the icy tundra toward Cape Churchill. This is where we'll find Tundra Buggy Lodge, a series of Tundra Buggy's that have been converted to a portable base camp that our team will call home for a few days. Between Tundra Buggy One and Tundra Buggy Lodge, there will be nothing but a thin sheet of metal separating me from dozens of polar bears in the wild.
This is sure to be an adventure that you'll want to follow as it unfolds. I've set up a website so that I can share my stories, pictures and videos as they are captured. If you want to feel as though you're right by my side aboard Tundra Buggy One & Tundra Buggy Lodge, you'll want to check out Chilling with Nanuq.
Last night a bunch of educators from around Manitoba gathered at the King's Head Pub for ManACE's annual preSAGE event. This year's theme was 'Telling Our (Digital) Stories' and one aspect of the evening saw the Manitoban #unplugd11 participants sharing their reflections on the Unplug'd experience.
This was my first time racing against the clock with a five minute presentation set to auto-play through the slides. Any chance I can get to talk about the impact that Unplug'd has had on me is a great opportunity to reminisce about the experience.
If you've got five minutes, you may want to check out 'My #unplugd11 Story'...
Yesterday marked a first for me - broadcasting live over a mainstream
radio network along with my old buddy & new co-worker, Darren
This was an awesome experience for me on a number of levels. I'd listened in a couple of times in the past when Darren was being interviewed by Richard Cloutier on CJOB radio and I knew that we'd be in for a great conversation. Sitting beside Darren while he waxed poetic about various aspects of the current state of our education system was nothing less than thrilling.
Richard Cloutier was a great facilitator and he's a master of his craft. Along with Mark, the young & gifted sound engineer for the Richard Cloutier Report, this 'Dynamic Duo' sure knew how to ask the right questions and push all of the right buttons to keep the conversation moving forward. Whether fielding questions from callers or quickly locating and queuing up 'teacher' tunes for use between commercials and guest spots, both Richard and Mark were gracious hosts.
But what really set this experience apart for me was the sense that we
were trying something new - pushing the limits just a little. During the frequent sponsored breaks, weather reports and news updates, we kept the conversation going. Through both Twitter and Today's Meet back-channel conversations, we were able to engage with our live audience and connect on a much deeper level with the CJOB listenership than we could have if we were simply fielding e-mails and phone calls.
Sure, we responded to a few callers through the two hour broadcast, but we were able to connect with many more of our listeners in real time through our back-channel conversations. Not only did they ask some critical questions, but they also provided us with some valuable answers. It was all of our collective knowledge that made for a much richer conversation.
At one point during a sponsored break, Richard even commented about how they needed to find new ways and better ways of keeping the conversations going during all phases of their program. Sure, they have to hand the airwaves over to their sponsors for a portion of their time, but this shouldn't kill the conversation. From behind the glass wall at the back of the studio, we could already hear Mark's wheels turning as he pondered the many ways he could put a Twitter account to good use during future broadcastings of the Richard Cloutier Report...
Our conversation turned in many different directions, and we covered a lot of ground. We discussed assessment, mobile devices, textbooks, spelling and so much more. And our dialogue caused listeners to reflect on many of their own beliefs about where our education system is today and where we need to be tomorrow.
The opportunity to share ideas and information through mainstream radio has me thinking more deeply about the societal changes we're seeing all around us as a result of the technologies that are now commonplace. We know that textbook companies need to give themselves a facelift to maintain their appeal in this day and age. We've seen our major newspapers strive to update their image to maintain their relevance through the information age. We've witnessed a dramatic shift in the role of the record companies who once owned the ability to bring our favourite music to our ears. And we're still seeing the need for radio networks to put themselves in closer contact with their listeners.
This is something that was really brought to my attention earlier this summer when I attended Unplug'd. Although I'd heard a bit of buzz surrounding #ds106radio prior to my arrival at Unplug'd, I really didn't know much about this grassroots broadcasting platform. I didn't know that #ds106radio was as mechanism that had been developed by Grant Potter where anyone, anywhere could broadcast live from their computer or mobile device. But the power of #ds106radio became immediately apparent to me when I witnessed Bryan Jackson conducting a live broadcast with Danika Barker, Dean Shareski & Alec Couros (and so many more) aboard the Unplug'd bus...
The Unplug'd 'buscast' was a real eye-opener for me because I saw how Bryan tapped people on the shoulder to share their wisdom and how the Twitter network responded in real-time. This dynamic has huge potential and really brings the power of the audience to the forefront...
I've started listening casually to the #ds106radio feed and heard many of my Unplug'd friends taking over the airwaves the share their songs and their stories. I've even had a couple of opportunities to broadcast with others on #ds106radio over the last couple of weeks and it's really opened my eyes to the possibilities that exist with this medium. I'm extremely grateful to Alan Levine for taking Chris Harbeck, Darren & I under his wing and getting us on the the radio as he wound through Winnipeg this summer on his North American odyssey.
There's power in this medium and I need to take more time to explore it more fully. Any advice that you can offer me when it comes to hackin' the radee-o?
Earlier this month, I was one of the lucky few who had the privilege of participating in Unplug'd - the inaugural Canadian Education Reform Summit. Like many of the other participants, I've encountered some difficulty in articulating what this experience has meant to me. When asked about my experiences 'unplugging', I really don't know where to begin. I've come to realize that the reason I'm challenged with a response is that I want to tell people EVERYTHING about the experience.
It's not enough to say that I really connected on so many levels with 36 other amazing individuals. And I can't simply state that I've deepened my relationships with passionate educators from across the country that I've only ever known through my various online networks. To leave it at this would cheapen the experience.
Telling people that each and every one of the stories I heard and shared have shaped my thinking doesn't even begin to convey the impact these stories have had on me. These tales were so raw and powerful that they evoked a wide range of emotions in all of the participants. Whether they were shared in a whole/home group meeting, over a meal, around a campfire or in a canoe, these stories often brought forth either tears of joy or pain. They struck different chords for all of us, depending on our role within the system and the experiences that we brought with us to Algonquin's Northern Edge.
These stories will stick with me for many years to come. And they will flow through me - ready to be shared at any given opportunity so that others can benefit from the value of these yarns.
I firmly believe that it's the stories - OUR stories - that made Unplug'd such an overwhelmingly positive experience. The stories that we've told, the stories that we're telling and the stories that we've yet to tell.
The full impact of our stories can't be grasped when they're told in isolation or without context. Sure, each and every one of our narratives is powerful and will have a ripple effect when shared with others. But we'll really make waves by sharing our stories as a collective.
We came together to share our stories and, even after parting ways, our stories continue to be told by us and are beginning to be told more widely through our networks. We've planted the seeds and now we want to watch them grow. But we know that it's not enough to sit back and wait for this to happen - we must tend to our seeds and nurture them to ensure that they flourish.
The 'slow release' of our collaborative writing project, "Why _____ Matters", is a fantastic way to keep the conversation flowing. The anticipation of what's to come will keep all of us coming back and each of us will bring a bunch of friends along to share in these conversations.
To the organizers of Unplug'd - THANK YOU for your vision, your passion and your guidance in bringing us this far... I can't wait to find out where our efforts will take us :-)
And to the many friends, new & old, that I've met along the way - THANK YOU for sharing your stories... they've shaped me in more ways than I currently know. I'm deeply humbled by the opportunity to work alongside each and every one of you and I look forward to all of the future collaborations that will stem from our Unplug'd experience...
When I talk to others about my experiences participating in Unplug'd, I share your stories. Whether your stories come in the form of your personal narratives, the pictures you've shared, the tweets you've sent or posts that you've published, it's your stories that people want to hear.
With the advent of Google+ coinciding with the arrival of my summer holidays, I've been feeling a little out of the loop over the past few weeks. I typically try to 'unplug' a little over the summer so that I can recharge my batteries for new projects & collaborations as another school year begins. This means taking a bit of a breather from most of my online connections. Not completely removing myself per se, but limiting the amount of time that I engage with these tools.
But now that Google+ has been introduced, I've felt the need to dabble - to connect with different people in different ways, to create new social circles with my online connections. Well, not really new social circles, but more social circles...
Herein lies the problem for me. With all of the online communities that are available to participate in, I'm beginning to find that it's becoming increasingly difficult to 'manage' my participation in each. Is regular participation required in each of these communities in order to make them meaningful?
I participate in a number of social networks and I find that I use each one in a slightly different way - each tool has it's own purpose for me. I like each of the social networks to which I belong because of that sense of community. And when new social networks arrive on the scene - especially networks that have been developed by the heaviest hitters in the online world - I don't hesitate to jump on board and explore the features and possibilities.
I know a great many educators who shun all aspects of connecting & collaborating online. You and I both know that these teachers are doing themselves a great disservice by avoiding the use of these tools. For some of these teachers, they refuse to take the plunge because they feel that they've always been fine without the use of these tools. For others, they feel that they have nothing to contribute. But the excuse that I hear more than any other is the lack of time - they feel that they just can't afford the time that it would take to participate effectively in an online community.
It's a shame that we still have so many educators who have not realized the potential that social networking has to offer. But, to be honest, I'm starting to see where some of these teachers are coming from. It takes time to manage your participation in these learning communities. Is it worth the effort? Of course! But it can be tricky to juggle your online circles. I've begun to wonder just how many balls I can keep up in the air without dropping them...