Wednesday, November 30, 2011

#K12Online11 - Telling My Story

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.  

Friday, November 11, 2011

An Arctic Adventure

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

I hope you'll follow along :-)

Friday, October 21, 2011

Telling My #unplugd11 Story

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'...

Friday, September 2, 2011

Hackin' the Radee-o

Yesterday marked a first for me - broadcasting live over a mainstream radio network along with my old buddy & new co-worker, Darren Kuropatwa.

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.

You can have a listen to the broadcast here:

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?

Friday, August 19, 2011

Unplug'd - it's a long story...

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. 

Our collective stories need to be heard.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Managing Online Circles

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...

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Magical Moments

I had the privilege of attending TEDxPhillyEd yesterday and I was blown away by what unfolded before my eyes.  I've been a live participant in a couple of TEDx events already this year (TEDxManitoba & TEDxJuanDeFuca), so I knew what to expect going into this...

At least I thought I did.  The two other TEDx events that I attended were great.  The speakers were all world class and I walked away with so many ideas to pick apart.  But as I walked away from TEDxPhillyEd yesterday, I couldn't help but think that the experience wasn't just great - it was magical.  

Everything about this event was perfect - from the venue and the speakers, to the hosting city and the sponsors. The organizing committee deserves a huge round of applause for crafting their vision for this event and bringing it to fruition :-)

There are so many things that transpired throughout the day that I really can't articulate them all succinctly in a blog post.  But there are a few ideas that I'd like to pick apart here that have got me thinking.  One of the most significant things that made the day so special for me were the connections.  

I connected for the first time in person with a number of the people I'd only ever known virtually.  Seeing your network come to life in this way is a very satisfying experience and one that will stick with me for a long time to come.  

All of the talks throughout the day were so well connected, from the featured speakers, to the students and the emcees.  Everything about the content and format of the day was so well designed.  The TED videos that were shown throughout the day were directly connected to speakers who were in the room, which served to complement the live event perfectly.  

Even the hospitality area where participants networked during the breaks was connected to the content of the sessions, providing all of us with the opportunity to see, first-hand, the passion for learning that was so clearly articulated throughout the day.  I loved how participants even had the opportunity to test out their new Echo Smartpens that were given to each and every one of us by one of the event sponsors - THANKS for your generosity, Livescribe!!!

I'm not going to go into any detail about the individual talks - suffice to say, they were all brilliant.  I tweeted incessantly throughout the day about my own take-aways.  I tweeted more yesterday than I've ever tweeted before, and I tagged all of my tweets with the hashtag for the event - #tedxphillyed - a hashtag that proved to be used by so many people that it was trending in Philadelphia yesterday...

If you want specifics, you really need to find them for yourself.  You can follow the discussions with the hashtag listed above.  You'll also want to check the TEDxPhillyEd website for the archived videos - they will all be made available soon and I know that I will be revisiting each and every one of them!

I do, however, have one lingering thought about the day.  When asked how many people in the room were Twitter users, I was surprised to see about half of the hands shoot up.  And I was also astounded by the sheer number of iPads in the room - clearly tablets are taking over as the device of choice among educators.  
But where were all of these people on Twitter?  Sure there were a LOT of tweets contributed to the feed, but there were really only about a dozen of us in the room who were using the hashtag to track the conversation.  There were also a number of people who were contributing to the dialogue from abroad.  

As I looked around at all of the iPads in the room, I noticed that many (most?) users were recording their reflections using Notes.  Not that there's anything wrong with that, but I think there's SO much more power in sharing our reflections in transparent ways.  I know that if I were using Notes to record my thoughts and ideas, they'd live on my iPad and I'd occasionally review them to refresh my memory about what I felt was important at the time.  Nobody else would benefit from me capturing these highlights in this way :-(

When an idea resonated with me, I tweeted about it.  On many occasions, other people retweeted my tweets to show consensus.  Several times throughout the day, I engaged in side conversations surrounding these topics with different people in different places.  I thought much more deeply about the content as a result of the continuing conversations.

The whole idea behind any TEDx event is to make a difference.  To bring together a group of like-minded individuals and push them to think about the things that matter.  TEDx is all about spreading ideas and information - to encourage people to create and innovate.

Moving beyond TEDxPhillyEd, all of us have a responsibility to keep the message alive.  By attending this event, we've all made an informal commitment to spread the word within our own learning communities.  How do you plan to keep the message alive?  How will you share your own take-aways from this event?  How will you make a difference?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

WoW! - Writing on Writing

I just completed a really interesting chapter in the story of my life and decided I need to use this space to share it.  In a way, I was contracted to do some writing and I really didn't know what I was getting myself into.  I've written a lot of content over the years, but I've written it primarily for myself and the limited number of people who visit my blog.

I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to join the Edmodo Featured Blogger Team.  There were five of us from around the world that were asked to post to the Edmodo blog once a week for the past ten weeks.  I was humbled by the opportunity to write alongside this amazing group of educators!

I've been overseeing the implementation of this secure educational social networking platform within our school division.  As a result, my posts provided a 'view from the district' and they were all related to various aspects of implementing Edmodo in our classrooms and schools.

Knowing that the readership of the Edmodo blog is significantly higher than the number of readers I see here, I really felt as though I had to pay close attention to the words I wrote.  I spent a great deal more time than I usually do reading and re-reading the sentences and paragraphs that I wrote, because it was important to me that each word was used for a reason...

In looking back over the ten posts that I submitted to the blog, I'm proud of my accomplishments.  I can see how I've grown and changed even over the last couple of months.  I find it fascinating to reflect on how my story over the last ten weeks unfolded as I built upon my preceding posts from one week to the next.    

I though it might be interesting to link to my Edmodo blog posts here, in the event that you're curious as to the story I've told.  If so, you may want to go top up your cup of coffee, find a comfy chair to curl up in and settle in from the beginning ;-)
  • Week # 1 - getting started...
  • Week # 2 - professional development...
  • Week # 3 - it's all about connecting...
  • Week # 4 - sharing 'pockets of innovation'...
  • Week # 5 - technology infusion & the BYTE Challenge...
  • Week # 6 - breathing new life into an old system...
  • Week # 7 - why use Edmodo with your students?
  • Week # 8 - spreading the word...
  • Week # 9 - get out of the way...
  • Week # 10 - the end, or a new beginning?
Thanks, Edmodo, for this amazing opportunity!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

When Learning Becomes An Event

I had a fantastic week of connecting, sharing and learning with many colleagues from around the province of Manitoba as I attended the Riding The Wave conference out in Gimli. It's always a treat getting together face to face with like-minded educators, and I often find that (for me, anyway) some of the richest learning experiences take place between sessions as participants reflect over a cup of coffee and extend their own learning.

I was invited to present a couple of sessions at this year's conference. You'll find one of these two sessions below - 'When Learning Becomes An Event'. I've been thinking a lot about how I learn and how our students learn. This session proved to be an opportunity to take participants on a little journey to explore the idea of extending the learning by celebrating even the little things that happen in our classrooms and in our schools.

There's been so much talk in recent years about '21st Century Skills'. It's time for less talk and more doing. Teachers and students need to see tangible ways of incorporating social media into the teaching and learning that takes place in their classrooms.

If you just want to poke through my slidedeck, you can find it posted on Slideshare. However, I think you'll find that the content just isn't complete without the narrative. For that very reason, I recorded a screen capture of the actual presentation which you can watch right here...

If you're willing to take the time to view my presentation (about 70 minutes), I hope you'll take two extra minutes and post your own reflections, questions, comments, etc...

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Making Our Learning Transparent

I had the opportunity to attend my second TEDx live event just a few short hours ago and my head is still spinning.  As I drove away from an amazing day of sharing, learning and networking at TEDxJuanDeFuca, my mind was reeling.  Such a diverse array of speakers and each of them rose to the occasion in a very big way.

I've been reflecting on each of the speakers I saw and I must say - they were all brilliant :-)

But I've also been thinking a lot about how I learn.
And how I make my learning transparent.
And how I learn best by sharing.

One of the ways we all learn best is through sharing.

Yesterday: I shared some of my learning through tweets and images.  I talked about my learning.
Today: I'm writing about what I've learned and how I learn.
Tomorrow - (or another day...) - I'll share my learning however and wherever I can.

How do you make your learning transparent?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Safety Net

I fell off the horse months ago and made the mistake of not climbing on again right away.

I'm amazed at how easy it's been to ignore my blog and voice my thoughts, ideas & opinions elsewhere (in 140 characters or less).  All of the things I'd traditionally use my blog for have been replaced by micro-blogging - sharing current projects, highlighting resources, networking with colleagues.  I never intended to remain silent for so long on the blogging front, but I find some comfort in the fact that I'm not the only edublogger who's ever taken a little reprieve from publishing in this format.

But the time has come to break my blogging silence.  And the reason is simple.  I have a favour to ask of my professional learning network.  You are my social net and, in this case, I'm hoping that I can count on you as my safety net as well - in place to catch me if I fall ;-)

Image Credit: 'Greekadman'
In just a couple of days, Darren Kuropatwa and I are being put to the test.  We've been tasked with educating a live audience of 200+ for three hours on the opportunities and challenges that exist with social media in a classroom setting.  While we're thrilled about the prospect of taking this audience on a journey and challenging them to try new things and see new possibilities, we can't shake the fear of having our plans backfire.

That's where you come in - the social network, the professional learning network.  You see, we've structured the afternoon in such a way that our virtual attendees could get just as much out of participating as our live audience will.  In fact, with increased virtual participation, the participants in the room will get that much more out of their experience.

The entire afternoon will be streamed live over the web and you can catch the Livestream on the Create Faire website.  The focus for the afternoon will involve having participants work together to create content which, ultimately, could be re-purposed in any number of ways down the road.

We'll be encouraging participants to tweet throughout the afternoon using the hashtag #createfaire - this will serve as their feedback and provide them with an opportunity to voice their opinions or concerns.  Participants will be asked to tweet with the prompts 'I like...' or 'I worry...' with regards to the social media opportunities and challenges that are raised throughout the morning.  If we could have you tweeting with these same prompts, or using the #createfaire hashtag and engaging some of these Twitter newbies by pushing back a little, that would be fantastic :-)

A portion of the afternoon will involve participants (did I mention we'll have students in the room along with teachers & administrators...) using their mobile devices to snap some pictures and e-mail them in to us for inclusion in a collaborative slideshow.  All photos will be auto-tagged and licensed under a Creative Commons NC-AT-SA license.  We'd love to include your pictures as well - just send them to:
So, I've filled you in on the basics, but there's so much more in store for everyone who is part of Create Faire.  We'd love to have you take part in this event in some capacity.  

Please consider joining us virtually for Create Faire this Friday afternoon, March 11th, from 1:00pm to 4:00pm CST.  Darren and I are confident that (if everything works according to plan) this will be a professional learning experience unlike any these folks have ever had the opportunity to participate in before.  And, with your participation, it'll be that much more meaningful for everyone involved :-)

Please leave a comment if you'd like to participate virtually and I'll make sure that all relevent information is shared with you...