Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Pump Up The Volume

Image Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/53611153@N00/2337887067   
No, this post isn't a tribute to the eclectic 80's band MARRS, although their tune was mighty catchy.  Those of you that know me likely assumed that this post had something to do with music, as I have been known to spend too much time and money on live music - but no, you won't find that in this post either ;-)

This post has grown out of some reflecting that I've been doing over the summer about media literacy and the increasing need to make sense of the wealth of information and content that we're bombarded with on a daily basis.  The times, they are a changin', and we need to really think about how we are preparing ourselves and our children to embrace these changes...

I haven't spent a whole lot of time at home this summer and my adventures have taken me through many diverse landscapes.  Through photography, I've tried to freeze all of these moments in time to preserve my memories of the places I've been and the people I've seen.  I've really played the role of a tourist well - I've had my camera by my side every step of the way. 

5 weeks & 4300 images later...

What do I have to show for all of these adventures?  Far too much to fill an old-school photo album.  But I do have plenty of material to create some captivating photo slideshows.  My wife has a tonne of quality images to use in her digital scrapbooking.  I can produce, upload & share videos of our adventures, or burn DVD's chronicling our summer holidays for family and friends.  All of these things require the use of the media that we've been acquiring along the way.

It hasn't always been this way...

You see, we got a new camera.  Our first digital SLR - a Canon Rebel XSi.  We've decided that although we're both amateur photographers, we're ready for more than we can get out of our standard point and shoot cameras.  My wife and I both love this new camera and we've done a great job of 'breaking it in' by shooting a tonne of photos.  But 4300 shots - really?  There's no need for that!  To me, this just exemplifies the way our lives are changing as a result of the media-rich culture in which we live, work & play.

Rewind about 13 years...

Image Source: http://sajidgidda.com/life/the-descent-of-the-photographer
This was it - my first digital camera, a Sony Mavica.  I fell in love with this camera instantly for the ease of use and convenience of seeing and sharing my photos instantly.  This was before memory cards & USB cables were commonplace.  All I did was insert a 3.5" floppy disk and start shooting pics.  I could get about fifteen photos onto a floppy disk before I had to eject it & copy the images onto my desktop computer but, hey, it worked.  I carried a stack of floppy disks in that camera bag anywhere I went because I knew I'd need them ;-)

Diluting an art form...

My wife's uncle is a professional photographer.  He's spent much of his life making a living through photography.  As much as I praised the merits of my Sony Mavica digital camera, he simply turned up his nose at it.  He sneered at the thought of digitizing photography.  I vividly remember a conversation we had before the turn of the century about how digital cameras were killing the art of photography.  According to him, digital photography ruined the art because anyone could take perfect pictures.  We set up our shots and snap our pics - if they don't turn out the way we want them, we try again.  We frame them a little differently, we capture our subject in a slightly different pose, or we change the lighting a bit.  The instant feedback that we get from shooting digital photographs can turn all of us into professionals by arming us with the ability to perfect the photos we capture.  This uncle resisted for many years and finally bought his first digital camera about five years ago.  Now, it's all he shoots with ;-)

The way it was...

Remember when you used to have to drop off your rolls of film at the 'photo finishing' store to get them developed?  You'd pick up your prints and excitedly open the envelope to see what you captured.  In most cases, you'd be delighted to find a few shots from a birthday party a few months back, a couple of pictures highlighting a family trip and a few photos featuring friends and family.  One little roll of film could span a few months of your life.  Now, we can easily shoot a hundred images in an afternoon...

The evolution of digital photography really reflects what's been happening with every aspect of technology.  It's crept into nearly every aspect of our lives and we see evidence of it everywhere we turn.  Through digital photography, we now chronicle our lives in far more detail.  Every little experience is captured and preserved.  And we have far better ways of sharing these images than simply tucking them away into albums and putting them up on a shelf.  But with this increased volume we have to have better means of 'filtering' the photos we capture and share.

We're still learning the filtering process.  We're looking for better ways of managing our digital photographs.  We need to find more effective ways of archiving our images so that they can be easily retrieved.  In most cases, we choose only a random sampling of our photos to share through sites like Flickr - so what do we do with all of the other images that don't get shared so publicly? 

Who teaches us how to do these things?  More importantly, who teaches our kids how to manage their digital artifacts?  These skills haven't traditionally been taught in our schools or our classrooms, but they need to be...

Monday, June 28, 2010

A Transformation

Over the weekend, I participated in a very powerful community celebration.  Approximately 250 people of all ages pitched in to transform a school's playground in one day.  This transformation will have a tremendously positive impact on the students who attend Brooklands School in Winnipeg, and the reach goes so far beyond the school itself - their re-designed school grounds will prove to be a focal point in the broader community for years to come.

The process of re-designing the Brooklands School playground has been months in the making.  The school principal, Rex Ferguson-Baird, worked tirelessly to secure grants, line up resources & assemble a dedicated team of volunteers to turn his concept into a reality.  Rex secured a grant through Let Them Be Kids, an organization that is dedicated to building one hundred new play structures a year in communities across Canada.  The $75,000 that Rex raised toward this project was matched by Let Them Be Kids, which meant that the school had the opportunity to spend $150,000 on this project.

Throughout the day, volunteers worked tirelessly to bring about a complete transformation of the school yard, including:
  • two new play structures
  • a butterfly garden
  • removal of brush
  • repair of existing baseball diamond
  • beautification of gardens and planters
The school grounds were abuzz with activity, with teams of people turning Rex's vision into a reality. From the students and staff to the parents, grandparents and alumni, everyone played a role in bringing about this radical transformation.  Everyone had a part to play and they all did it with gusto.  The following images will provide some insight into what transpired throughout the day:

Not only did Let Them Be Kids support this project financially, they also promoted the redevelopment  of the Brooklands school grounds on their website.  Harnessing the power of technology, they featured live streaming video of the day's festivities on their website.  We had dozens of viewers from around the globe watching the action on uStream as it was unfolding in real time.  Not only could people participate at a distance, but we've also archived a great deal of content that was recorded throughout the day.  We conducted interviews with students, teachers, parents, administration, former principals and city councilors.  Highlights of the day can be accessed by scrolling down the LTBK uStream page.

In addition to snapping photos and assisting with the live video feed, I thought it would be interesting to create a time lapse video of a play structure being assembled throughout the day.  I set up a camera on the roof of the school and captured a photo every 30 seconds.  As you can see in the video clip below, there was a lot happening throughout the day - and it was only through the dedication and commitment of our tireless volunteers that we were able to pull it of.

The transformation that took place at Brooklands School on Monday is significant for a lot of reasons.
  • It's a positive change that benefits everyone and will continue to do so for years to come
  • It started with a vision and it could only be pulled off through hard work and dedication
  • It's an attempt to rethink how we make the most use out of our spaces within schools
  • Everybody got on board to turn this dream into a reality...
One of the things I've been mulling over since driving away from the school late Saturday afternoon is that this transformation is symbolic of a larger transformation that still needs to take place within our schooling system.  We know that there are many things that can be done to ensure that our schools are effective in creating learning environments that motivate and engage our students emotionally and intellectually.  We know that we must all work together to help bring about this change.  And we also know that everyone must be on board to turn this dream into a reality.

We pulled together over 200 people to transform a school's playground in one day.  That's radical.

How many people will we have to pull together to transform our schools so that they more suitably meet the needs of today's students?  And how long is this process going to take?

That's an even bigger challenge...

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Bringing History To Life

Do yourself a favour and drop everything you're doing for the next eight minutes.  A friend and colleague just shared the following story that aired on CBC Radio this morning.

Matt Henderson is a Grade 5 teacher in Winnipeg, and he's engaging his kids in some amazing learning experiences.  He brings the curriculum to life in his classroom in very meaningful ways and, by doing so, he is developing a genuine love of learning within each and every one of his students.

I've watched Matt teach and seen the way the kids hang on his every word.  He puts tools in the hands of his students and encourages them to use these tools in interesting and innovative ways.  He challenges his students to really think about issues that affect them and he guides them toward answers to their questions...

The other day, Matt invited a guest speaker into his classroom to share stories with his students.  Mary Courchene visited his classroom to share her experiences from attending residential school.  This proved to be an opportunity that the students will never forget.

Sit back and have a quick listen to the lessons that were shared.

You can't find this in a textbook.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Dabbling With Data

Image: "I'm not keen to shift the blame"

To begin with - excuses... 

I've been neglecting this space a little as of late, and I have a few reasons I must share to justify my absence.

First of all, Blogger is no longer supporting the hosting of their blogs on custom domains.  I've hosted the TECH Talks blog on my own site, mckiel.ca, for a couple of years and kind of enjoyed the freedom to have my own piece of the pie.  Alas, all good things must come to an end, so I've finally rolled the content forward and now have a slightly less unique URL for the TECH Talks blog - 
 If you're new to this blog - welcome!  If you're revisiting this blog following my delayed absence, you may want to re-subscribe to the blog on the right, as the feed may not behave as expected following the move...

Secondly, as seems to be the trend with several of the edubloggers whose thoughts, rants & ramblings I subscribe to, I've taken to condensing many of the ideas & information I used to share through this blog down to 140 characters or less.  Twitter has become the mortar in my PLN, and I find that it's often the first place I stumble upon news, trends & resources.  By the time I get around to browsing through my blog reader, I feel as though there's a lot of old news sitting there.  Through the people I follow on Twitter, I get links to new and noteworthy blog posts and I end up reading them as they're posted, not a week or two later through my RSS aggregator...

Thirdly, I sometimes question who actually sees the things I share here.  I'm not very well established in the blogosphere, and I really have no way to appreciate my reach.  Sure, I closely follow many bloggers - reading and commenting on their posts - giving back to my network.  But I don't have a lot of 'discussion' taking place on my blog.  Sure, I see some red dots popping up from across the globe on my clustrmap, but I sometimes question the value of saying things if there's no-one listening.  Audience matters & we all have a need to be heard.  In an era where collaboration is celebrated, we all want to feel connected and we value the conversations with (and feedback from) our peers.

And lastly, I've been kinda busy.  As is the case with educators everywhere, I occasionally feel the crunch from juggling too many projects and facing too many impending deadlines.  This sometimes leaves me struggling with what I share on this space.  I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about how I use my online spaces - I'm feeling the need to de-clutter and maximize the use of the online spaces that I have available.  I'm still in the process of re-thinking my primary vision for this space so that I can share things here with a little more clarity, rather than presenting a broad spectrum of ideas and information.

On that note, my current thought is that this space should be used to highlight and showcase some of the work that I'm currently involved with - projects & presentations - that sort of thing.  With that in mind, the following slidedeck was used to support a session that I presented and facilitated at the recent Riding The Wave of Change conference in Gimli, Manitoba.  Overall, this year's conference was fantastic, with lots of great sessions and opportunities to network and collaborate face to face with many members of my PLN :-)

If you're interested in finding out a little more about the focus of my presentation, you'll find a few more resources on the Dabbling With Data wiki that I utilized during my session to demonstrate the ability to embed Poll Everywhere polls and Google Forms surveys.  You'll also find links to a few tools that can be used to visualize data with (and for) your students.

Thanks for stopping by the TECH Talks blog :-)
I'll start writing here a little more frequently to provide you with a reason to come back soon!

Friday, March 19, 2010

TEDxOntarioEd - The Winnipeg Satellite Event

Looking forward to the upcoming TEDxOntarioEd event?

If you're anywhere near Winnipeg and would like to participate along with many other like-minded individuals, please register to attend this event in person.

Of course, you could take in most of the content while eating popcorn in your pajamas. However, you'll miss out on some of the rich virtual & F2F conversations that will be taking place at the Winnipeg Satellite event and many of the other TEDxOntarioEd Satellite events that are taking place synchronously around the world :-)

There is no cost to participate in this event.
And - we'll have refreshments & prizes!!!