I sense a change…

A few weeks ago I had the honor of attending and facilitating a Minds On Media session at the 3-day OTF conference Teaching and Learning in the 21st Century. This summer version was a repeat of a conference in February that filled up in minutes (I wrote about that day here).

The conference had and amazing vibe. An hour after starting there was an active twitter back channel conversation and a collaborative google doc sharing ideas. There were less technical difficulties and the internet worked well. The buzz was palpable.

I have a few theories about why the atmosphere at the conference was so wonderful. I think OTF along with Peter and Brenda have created an amazing package including Garfield Gini-Newman covering critical thinking, Will Richardson doing personal learning networks and then a Minds On Media event to wrap up and personalize the learning. This combination seems to me magical.

Maybe it also had something to do with the timing. Many participants were on a waiting list from February. It was summer so folks who were there were really interested in attending and brought their own computers instead of work ones.

Whatever the reason, the vibe was amazing and the learning productive. The participants took amazing risks and we really pushed our learning.

Minds On Media – The learning continues

Today we had a Minds On Media event with at least one teacher from every school in our board (105+ schools). We held two half-day sessions. Our best guess is that the morning session was attended by 80-90 educators (teachers, administrators, consultants) and the afternoon session about 50-60 educators. The enthusiasm in the room was contagious. We were lucky to have Peter Skillen and Brenda Sherry, who created the Minds On Media model for professional learning, join us for the day.

One of the things that stood out to me today was how many people from our school board joined in to support the learning:

  • The IT team was there for both sessions with technicians and engineers supporting teachers and helping us with equipment and set up. They also joined into a number of sessions. All of these things were way above and beyond and demonstrated their 100% commitment to teachers and education.
  • Superintendents and other administrators joined in and learned along side with teachers
  • Consultants (instructional strategy, special education and student success) helped out and joined in the learning
  • Privacy and Information Manager joined us and held impromptu conversations with teachers about working in an online environment with students
  • A teacher created all the required signs for the day in addition to prepping and running a station
  • 10 teachers led amazing sessions for the entire day. They took the time to set up and put resources on the wiki and prepare wonderful sessions. This point goes to show how many amazing educators there are in the county who are willing the share and go over the top to support and share with other teachers
  • Custodians and office administration facilitated the registration, room set up and sign in for the day, saving the organizers from last minute frenzy and disorganization
  • Communication department documenting and posting updates to share our learning with the community, in addition to providing material to post on our wiki that supports teachers with social media

Without the participation of each member of this team, our Minds On Media session would not have been successful. In addition, this joining of forces really reminded us all that while we all work in different areas and specialties, we are all working towards the same goals. Student learning.

While I am still in brain overload from the day, one overwhelming observation that resonates with me from today is how engaged everyone was. Teachers took risks to learn something new, made connections between new technologies and their curriculum and talked about shifts in education. My favorite conversations were with a few teachers throughout the day about “how do we build capacity for this type of change in our schools?”. Those conversations were amazing because they really helped me realize how the culture is shifting and developing in our county. We have spent the year trying to “decentralize” or “delocalize” the learning and knowledge and empower educators to share, collaborate and work within families of schools. Having these conversations where teachers were actively thinking about how they could build these networks was incredibly encouraging.

A HUGE thank you to all educators who participated in todays Mind On Media session. It requires a big shift in participating in a session with so little direction where you are all of a sudden in charge of your own learning. Your risk-taking is greatly appreciated. Thanks to all!

Here is a podcast created by Sean McGaughey as part of todays podcasting session: http://mcgaughey.edublogs.org/files/2011/05/mindsonmediacalder-1diahvs.mp3

The wiki for todays session can be found here: www.scdsbmindsonmedia.wikispaces.com

Prepping for Minds On Media

Next friday (May 20th) our school board is hosting a Minds On Media session for one teacher from every school. We’ve worked with the “makers of” Minds On Media, Brenda Sherry and Peter Skillen in the past to run a small pilot at one high school. The response was overwhelmingly positive, so we’ve decided to do it with a teacher from each school (with permission and wonderful support from Brenda and Peter). I wrote about the small pilot here and here.

My concern with this fridays MoM event is that we are working with one teacher from each school and then sending them back alone. That is always difficult when you don’t necessarily have the support and collaboration when you return. In this instance, we do not have the option to release two teachers from each school because our system is so large and there aren’t enough supply teachers to cover that many releases. Our work around for this is to help support collaboration among Families of Schools. This has been a year-long goal and the hope is to continue developing local support systems.

Back to Minds on Media… in planning for Friday we have created a wiki as a place to store links, resources and share ideas. We have booked a million laptops and projectors. We have put a call out to get as many extension cords and power bars. This is going to be our biggest barrier yet – getting enough power to support the stations and teachers neediing to power up. We are lucky that our big conference room has power drops in the floor at regular intervals. This will help tremendously. We’ve also got our hands on chart paper to put on the walls as projection screens (makeshift solution). The IT department knows about the day and graciously offered to have technicians and technical folk on hand for the first part of each session (we have 2 half-day sessions).

We have chosen stations that look at tools that are universally accessible in our school board. For example, voicehtread, blogging, networking (twitter, evernote, livebinders), pod casting, digital storytelling, WordQ and SMART technologies (focus on the notebook software which is on every computer not the hardware which isn’t available in every classroom) and ABEL/Learning Connections (we have a board-wide ABEL license so every teacher can access ABEL or Learning Connections).

One teacher is creating signs for the stations, we have an opening message that will include the guest wireless password and link to the wiki, we have an exit ticket (google form).

Any suggestions? Have I missed anything?

Life of a Pedagogista

A pedagog… what?
This past weekend I had the honor of being a pedagogista for the Minds On Media session at the OTF Teaching and Learning in the 21st Century.

I’ve written about Minds On Media, the brainchild of Brenda Sherry and Peter Skillen, before. I am a big fan of this model of professional development. Created for ECOO, there are multiple stations around one large room. Teachers go wherever they wish. They learn whichever technologies they are interested in. If you get bored, you move. If you find something you want to go deeper into you stay at that station the whole time. It allows for teachers to choose tools that are useful and accessible to them and connect it to the learning goals they are trying to facilitate in their classrooms. It provides all the things we like to talk about being good for our students; differentiation, multiple access points, choosing the best tool to reach the goal and the teacher as a facilitator of learning instead of the holder of all knowledge. The day I co-lead a mini-Minds On Media session with a group of educators I learned more from participants than I “taught” for sure. Very collaborative.

Brenda and Peter have written about the role of the pedagogista here. Basically, our role was to circulate and help teachers step back from the technology and have discussions about the critical thinking, developing learning networks and inquiry-based learning. In addition, when someone wanted a little one-on-one time we helped out.

Throughout the day I had some great conversations with amazing educators. Many of them started with the educator saying “This is all so awesome, I just don’t know where to start”. After a full day with Garfield Gini-Newman around critical thinking and another day with Will Richardson doing the personal learning network blitz, we had all seen so many excellent ideas, tools and strategies. The struggle was to choose a starting point that fit for them. The question “what are the learning goals you would like to work on?” usually led to a discussion that allowed the teacher to narrow down their choices to a few tools. Then some more investigation allowed them to choose the right tool(s) and get started creating their lessons, focusing in on the critical thinking they wanted to reach. I learned more in these discussions than I have from many other professional development sessions combined. The previous day with Will Richardson had opened a whole new world for many of us in the room, and the value on networked learning was incredible. The room was buzzing.

There were also conversations that were just pure fun… One teacher was looking into beefing up her learning network and wanted to start blogging before she went to China to teach for the summer. She wasn’t a facebook user but wanted to share photos and experiences with family and friends while abroad. At first we started to create a blogger account, quickly questioning whether or not it would be available in China (unsure if Google is accessible freely in China?). She knew that she would have email, but unsure of which social media sites would be available. That led us to a posterous blog where she should simply email a photo or blog entry and it would be posted. As we wrapped up updating her twitter profile with a picture, I started to get that nagging feeling… Great fun, but we needed to get back to the critical thinking… 🙂 Just as I was thinking this, she said… “so… I could do this with my English class. They could…”. We then started into a great conversation about how blogging could be used in the classroom.

I’m not sure how many educators get a chance to observe classes or sit along side a student while they learn, but this day was absolutely fascinating. Having the time and purpose to observe and question was wonderful for my own personal learning. One thing I began to notice was that after about an hour or so, teachers started to navigate to the tables in the centre of the room or settle in at a media station. After browsing the stations they either went to a place they could begin to design, build and construct with support people around them or settled into a station to go deeper into a media. Mali Bickley nicknamed these areas “creation stations”. This is ideal in my mind. How many times have you left a PD session and had all sorts of great ideas, but never found the time to actually get started. These teachers left with that project started. The biggest hurdle overcome.

Lots of great educators have blogged about this OTF session.

* Peter Skillen has the entire twitter feed from the session here
* Brenda Sherry blogged about it here
* Barbara McLaughlin
* Colin Jagoe
* Doug Peterson
* Danika Barker

Thank you Brenda and Peter for a wonderful opportunity and weekend!

Follow-Up to Minds On Media

I had the most amazing experience this morning. I went into the school where we did the Minds on Media PD Day (see previous post) a few weeks ago. I went in to do some follow-up work. The Extended French teacher wanted to digitize her students children books. We set up a wiki where students could share voicethreads of their scanned in illustrated story books with narration en francais and then comment on each others work en francais.

While I was there, another teacher stopped me to explain their student-created interactive element websites for chemistry. One teacher asked me to brainstorm some ways to support some of our students who get between 50%-59% in grade 9 applied mathematics, so they are prepared for grade 10 applied mathematics. A teacher decided to work with the law teacher to do a lesson on Creative Commons and legal aspects. The Student Success Teacher talked about moving to an electronic communication method for supporting at-risk students. When I went to search for equipment (headphone/microphone headsets) that had previously sat around gathering dust, they were out BEING USED! 🙂 Lastly, one teacher who has been integrating tons of wonderful tasks into her class has now looked at her assessment practices and decided to improve the way she tracks and marks to be more holistic and appropriate. This type of love of learning spreads beyond simply doing a “tech” project, but infects us with a great desire to be better teachers.

Creativity, innovation and risk-taking is spreading like wild fire through the school. I mean, they were a radical bunch to begin with 🙂 , but I think the Minds on Media PD Day combined with Teacher Notebooks in hand have certainly helped empower this passionate group. The positive energy is palpable – a great staff.

It has made my day! Now to go battle the snow covered roads for a drive to the next school on my list today. 🙂

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