Minds On Media at PSS

After today, Minds on Media, the brainchild of Peter Skillen (@peterskillen www.peterskillen.org ) and Brenda Sherry (@brendasherry http://www.brendasherry.com) is officially my favorite way of starting with teachers to integrate technology. Brenda and Peter created it for ECOO and it is always a big hit. Minds on Media involves having centres around in one room with facilitators covering a wide variety of topics. Participants bring their own laptop and visit the stations they wish and move around as they wish.

A principal asked me to come in and support their school on a PD Day to work on integrating technology. My mind started reeling – how could we run something that would allow each teacher, all starting in very different places to access and learn while moving the school along with their school improvement plan? The only thing they all had in common was that they had all just received the same HP Mini Teacher Notebook computer.

I started to think about having separate break out groups in different rooms and then I remembered the Minds On Media session Peter and Brenda ran for iEARN Canada’s conference this summer in Barrie, ON. A quick tweet to Peter and Brenda asking if I could copy their idea resulted in permission to use their logo and ideas and most importantly, overwhelming support. The only debate was with Peter as he went back and forth trying to decide which of his websites I should use when giving credit. 🙂 Oh, and trying to figure out Peter and Brenda speak as they started referencing the Roger Waters phenomenom as in a post by Peter a few years ago. I thought they might have actually created their own language…

To start our versions of Minds On Media, we created a wiki to post links for teachers as they floated around from station to station. We found a handful of EXCELLENT leaders from within the school to run the stations.

Today was the day for Minds on Media in Penetanguishene and it went GREAT! Below are some of the reasons why.

Reasons Minds on Media is good for teachers:

  • accessible by all. Each teacher was met where they were. For beginners, there was a station about “personalizing your notebook” where we spent time showing teachers how to connect their notebook to a projector and how to make a video play full screen. We didn’t call this the “for dummies” station and respected EVERY question. Everyone felt comfortable. We threw in some tricks of the trade to make the tiny netbook easier to work with (getting rid of tool bars on Internet Explorer, changing how the mouse track pad works, moving the windows start menu to the side instead of the bottom). These tricks of the trade intrigued seasoned computer users who came over and ended up coaching others as well.
  • work at own pace
  • choice, choice, choice – valuing their professional judgement
  • choice of going into depth at a station or skimming through them all
  • watching others to see the possibilities that technology can bring (especially for those who are not “techies” as they say)
  • great discussion about best practices
  • learn from the station leaders AND other teachers at the same table
  • personalized learning

Reasons administration liked Minds On Media:

  • every teacher eventually engaged. Some started by hovering around stations afraid to jump in because they were intimidated, but they eventually found a station they were comfortable getting started at
  • some teachers who wanted support while creating lessons or activities, sat down and created right then and there with facilitators to help
  • some teachers who are comfortable integrating lots of different technology floated around and gathered ideas then took those ideas and adapted them to work for their own classes
  • developed leadership in the station leaders in a non-threatening way. It took those teachers who were using the technology and put them in a low-risk situation where they could lead others without running the whole show
  • built capacity among schools own staff. In the future when teachers want support with a technology, chances are they will go to one of the teachers who led the stations instead of automatically calling the board support staff
  • teachers were asking for MORE! Some staff connected with others and made plans to work on projects together. Some planned action research projects
  • developed a culture of collaboration. Teachers asked other teachers how to do things, teachers shared stories, teachers shared links and resources, everyone worked together to make sure everyone at the table could keep up

Things to keep in mind when planning something like this:

  • lots of chairs and tables including a few in the centre at a “non-station” to allow those who get into a project a space to work quietly if they need for a few minutes
  • we had 8 stations for 35-40 people and that worked out well
  • lots of extension cords for projectors, SMART boards and for teachers to plug in and power up
  • screens or walls to project onto – remember lights will be on so test projectors
  • send out info about stations ahead of time so teachers can mentally prepare themselves
  • it is important to have someone helping organize who knows the staff of the school so leaders can be drawn out and encouraged
  • choose station topics of varying degrees of complexity – some very basic stations as entry points and some more complicated ones to engage your “techie” teachers 🙂
  • all stations must be in the same room so teachers can see what is going on across the room and get up and move whenever they wish. This ability to float and move is important
  • Open the invitation to lead a station to all teacher so you get topics they are interested in
  • lead and follow-up with discussions about how different technology uses are supporting the school improvement plan. What is the ultimate goal (what are the learning goals)? Technology is just the tool…

THANK YOU BRENDA AND PETER!!! Thank you for your ongoing encouragement, sharing and mentoring me to set this up.

Peter Skillen – @peterskillen www.peterskillen.org
Brenda Sherry
@brendasherry http://www.brendasherry.com

Livescribe and privacy

I’ve had a new fancy Livescribe pen for a few weeks now. I love it. I moved into a consultant role this year which equates to even more meetings. Some formal, some impromptu crazy brainstorming sessions where you finish with your head spinning in a million directions. I began the year taking my laptop to each meeting. When I got bored or disengaged or felt pressured for time I worked on other projects (planning, communication, video editing). My boss took notice and started giving me “alternative” tasks to complete during meetings. To “use my powers for good not evil”. I started to wonder how many things I was missing? I was spending most of my day absent from what was happening right in front of me. That bothered me.

In comes my new magic pen. Now I can take notes with or without audio recording and they can go directly into my Evernote with all other things I do. Tagged and organized. I’m more present and personal again in meetings. I’m not using my screen as a shield. One problem I ran into is that I still need to be connected to look something up, check a calendar or find a file. So, the iPad or iPhone has to come along. But for me it’s no where near as distracting. For me this works. I can review the parts of a meeting where my mind wandered. Sometimes the laptop is still needed, but less often. Sometimes i still choose the laptop if i know its going to be really boring 🙂 I just wish the notes imported into Evernote with the audio right in them. I’m having trouble getting the audio in at all. Any solutions?

Two things I’ve learned:

1. Be VERY aware of the conversation, let others know that you are recording and turn it off if the conversation slips out of the professional zone.
2. I need to write neater and stop doodling to make the writing to text feature more effective.

I can imagine many good uses for this in a secondary math class in group work and creating electronic BANSHOs. For me in my current role I’m loving how it allows me to remain a little more present. I just need to remain aware of privacy and work on my handwriting. I’m having flashbacks to elementary school where I was given remedial work for my handwriting and enrichment in math. My brain worked differently even back then. I wonder how a livescribe pen could have helped?

So… How do you feel about being recorded at meetings?