Collaboration & the Impact of Different Technologies

Collaboration is a big word these days in education. It shows up frequently in Tweets, literature, promotional videos, and branding including 21st Century Learning.

I often hear, “when my students can have 1:1 technology or BYOD, then they will be able to collaborate”. Although that might be true sometimes, I think we need to be careful. Like any tool, it is all about how skilled the users (students and teachers) are at using the tool.

It is interesting to see how the choice of tools seems to impact group behaviour. Silly things like the size of the screen and who controls the mouse seems to greatly impact the group dynamics and the learning.

The embeded video shows my experience with 1:1 technology, BYOD, Ipads and SMARTBoards (IWB’s).


Invited to speak @ BETT on the Collaborative Classroom

I’m invited to speak at the British Educational Tech Tradeshow in London at the end of January. Looking forward to talking about the collaborative classroom of the future in the SMART classroom. Hoping to visit old technology at Stonehenge and see what problems I can bring back to my physics class.

Using Math Tools in groups to study Waves

So I took this course from SMART Technologies called Math Tools. When I talked to someone about it they gave me a false answer. They said, oh, you can make graphs easily and that is about it. Boy were they wrong. Yes it is true that it is easy to make graphs from points. I can see it being very useful for younger grades, but not so good for me. If this is it, it is not worth the money.

FORTUNATELY, it was not it! The first thing that got me was that it reviewed some tools that come pre-installed with Notebook. I was able to have students create very nice and accurate diagrams of double slit diffraction. This topic requires precise geometry which had always previously eleuded me. I had to resort to using a digital pic. But there is something special about making it the diagram infront of them. It slows me down and allows students time to process. It allows students a chance to watch it develop. Small but important nuances.

Then the course started talking about how I can put two equations of lines on a graph. It was so perfect for showing collision questions in kinematics for physics. We call them “When Harry Met Sally”.

Then what is magical, is when I finish a long question of math that took most of the period and it ends in a quadratic euqation. The students are frustrated and then being to work out the equation on their paper. It takes them a couple minutes. But magically, I was able to use Math tools to “cheat” and solve it with the SMARTBOArd. A student exclaims, “it IS a SMART Board”!

Very useful course and tool.

Uncertainty, play and science

This is what school should be like. This is what science should be like. There are so many cool things about this. But you cannot write a concrete outcome, a specific essential learning or create a test before you start for the whole class. Report cards and standardized curriculum get in the way. Congrats to the teacher who was willing to take a chance. Kids are asked to take chances all the time, but we teachers are expected to know all.

There are so many pedagogical good things here that remind me of the GRAND Projects that we used to run at RHS, the brain child of TIm Beatty.

But from a logistics point of view, this is so good because it is simple, the materials are relatively easy, the research is real, the answer is valuable, and there is no right answer. The trick is to find other examples that are not pre-fab, standardized, pre-packaged, out of the box. This is something to aspire to, and the younger the grades..the better. It reminds me of Preston Middle School activities with their animal guzzler.




Personalized Learning

How Do You Personalize Learning With Multiple Types Of Technology Including The Iwb With Tablets, Etc.?

Even though I have been teaching for many years, and have been part of many PD sessions, I am just starting to wrap my brain around how to personalize my classroom for my students? Now, I am starting to have some lectures to get the ball rolling, some labs for the hands on learner, some video for the lost, late, or absent student, online notes, and online quizzes for the student who wants repetition. My experience is starting to understand some of the neessary steps that requires scaffolding and still other content that are wonderful detours. It takes a while to figure out the difference here.

The essential learning and the wonderful detours require an asynchronous classroom. I am working towards a situation where some students can work on this and other students can work on that. NOTEBOOK files are starting to provide a perfect way for small groups using their own Smartboards or individuals at laptops to walk themselves through a short lesson to scaffold them for the next activity. It allows them to have a follow up formative quiz so that they know if they are ready for the summative assessment, in whatever flavor that might be.


How to make Future Classrooms a reality…

I recently watched number of “the future is wonderful” videos. One by Corning Glass, another by Microsoft’s Partners in Learning and this one my Smart Tech.

I love the clean lines, the cool tech and the innovative uses of tech. But that is NOT what gets me the most. The biggest thing is the “what the do”. Much of the things we would like to do, can be done now! It is often less of a technology question and more of a tradition, a curriculum, a status quo, an avidance of radical. We have been talking about project based learning, student centered, portfolios, community, 21 Century, Free schools, since my dad was teaching in the early 70’s. Yet we still have bells, report cards, standardized tests, grades, and columns of courses with a strict curriculum.

Technology can help makes some of these changes easier and manageable, but hot spots have been doing these long before our ICT age. My Dad’s wisdom lives in the Garth Brooks song, Standing outside the Fire”

We call them cool

Those hearts that have no scars to show

The ones that never do let go

And risk the tables being turned

We call them fools

Who have to dance within the flame

Who chance the sorrow and the shame

That always comes with getting burned

I am not suggesting being reckless. But I am suggesting a few things.

#1. Seriously question why we do some of the things we do? There used to be a very good reason why we do many things. Are those still good reasons today? Maybe yes , maybe no.

#2. If I cannot say “yes” to the above, am I willing to be a bit of a fool? I ask my students to take risks all the time and celebrate responsible fails. Am I willing to take a chance and be left with a scar? What is the worst thing that can happen if this goes sideways…really? Am I willing to let go of old because it is comfortable and known? or did someone a long time ago figure this out and I should learn their wisdom?

#3. Try it. I wait until I failed TWICE before I seriously evaluate it. If I get it perfect the first time, it might not have been a big enough change. When I have failed twice, then I willl consider if this has a good foundation that needs some band-aids, duct tape and TLC, or if it is flawed and needs to be bulldozed to the ground.

There are lots of superficial scars failing, duct taping and bulldozing. But there is a whole new world to create out there.

Invited to Attend C21 Canada Summit for the 2nd Year

I have just been invited to attend the C21 Canada Summit for the 2nd year in a row. Last year it was Summit 50. 50 people by invitation only. I was lucky enough to be 1 of only 2 classroom teachers in the crowd, surrounded by CEO’s, ministers, Faculty of Ed, and politicians. This year it is Summit 100, and the Hon Paul Martin will be giving a talk. Now to find the cash to attend.